I don't know how many fairy tales you've read recently, but perhaps you remember a few hair-raising bedtime stories from your childhood, or perhaps you're a fan of the TV shows Grimm or Once Upon a Time. As stories go, fairy tales aren't always romantic and they can be rather gritty. They often include danger, death or destruction, trickery, magic, evil beings and innocent victims. In fact, I'd say those are almost prerequisites for a good fairy tale! But for a romance story, unless it's Urban Fantasy or Paranormal, not so much.
When I was assigned the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, The Blue Light, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the romance. The king tosses the soldier out of his kingdom and in return the soldier has a dwarf kidnap the princess and forces her to do menial cleaning for him! Later, he marries her but it's more a tale about revenge against the king than it is love for the princess. And for a romance, that angle just won't work.
I found it better to put the hero in a tighter spot! Make him a beta wolf of a werewolf pack, stuck between duty and pack rules, and his ongoing need to protect his love interest. The danger, death and magic all came from other individuals – two witches and a dwarf, plus the alpha wolf. Rising against those forces won't be easy for the beta wolf, but then, he's no innocent victim. The Paranormal touch added the right kind of darkness to the story's re-telling so that it matched that "fairy tale" feel. The romance got pumped up and yes, I included some smexy stuff, 'cause what's a great romance without that? All in all, the re-telling had a more modern-day feel and I like to think it's more entertaining than the Grimm version. See the original version of the story here:
My version is called Darkest Magic.
Nik Epperstein's alpha lost his mate two years ago and took an evil witch as his new bride. Ever since then, Eli's leadership has become violent, bordering on insane. When Eli attacks him, Nik's healing powers mysteriously vanish. He can't defend himself, nor protect the wolf he secretly loves. Only through the help of a foul-mouthed witch and an overly-dramatic dwarf will he save her – but their assistance comes at a price.
Caroline has tried for two years to lure Nik into her bed and can't understand his hesitation. After all, she senses their mating bond loud and clear. Then Nik disappears. She confronts her father who tells her Nik is dead, and she's next on his chopping block. Without Nik to protect her, she flees the pack and is kidnapped by a man half her size.
Reunited at last, the young wolves have one last chance to ignite their bond. But love must wait when battle looms. Eli and his wife attack, and aren't above using dirty tricks to win. If Nik and Caroline survive the battle, the dwarf and his wife will require them to make a promise that will change their lives forever...
"Nikko," Eli soothed, using his favorite diminutive for him—a name he hated. "We need to talk, and I thought it best we do so out here."
None of the other wolves sat. All remained at attention. The hairs on his neck didn't just stand, they marched. Every nerve he possessed readied for a fight. His wolf clamored to get out. He kept his eyes low, his speech careful. "What's up? Is the pack in trouble?"
"Trouble?" Eli threw his head backward and his massive chest out and laughed. "There's no trouble. In fact everything's perfect." He motioned toward the smaller, red-coated wolf beside him. "Petrina's pregnant."
The only sound he heard was his own long inhale. None of the other wolves moved or twitched. Why was it a big secret? "Congratulations. I'm happy for you."
Eli nodded and smiled as he closed the distance between them. "And it's time for you to go."
"Go? Go where?"
"You're done, Nikko. I don't need you anymore."
He flinched at the hand clapped on his shoulder. Though they'd been close as brothers while the alpha's first mate was alive, things had deteriorated steadily since her death. This was probably the first time he had simply touched him and not hit him in over two years. It struck him as weirdly unreal.
"You're out of the pack. Get your things and go."
His brain went into freefall. This makes no sense. "But...I'm your beta."
"Were. I don't need a second anymore, Nikko. Petrina's child will be my successor. He will rule by my side."
A pack without a beta? Who had heard of such a thing? Or did Eli fear he'd one day try and take control, if things got bad enough with the Eli and Petrina circus? Oh hell, that's it. He's worried about maintaining his power. He knew in his heart the alpha was right. If he had the balls, he'd challenge the alpha and get it done and over with. An even more insane Eli was the biggest threat the pack faced. They'd unravel bit by bit from the inside, not be done in by an attack from a neighboring pack. Still, he found himself shaking his head, his loyalty as a beta too ingrained to simply let go, his allegiance to the pack too solid to let him up and walk away. Besides, he was a born follower, not a leader. He had no ambition to run the pack himself. Eli had to listen to reason. "He's not even born yet. Without a full-grown second, the pack will be vulnerable, unstable. You need me—now more than ever."
"Untrue. Petrina has assured me we will be safe, and these men have already sworn allegiance to my son. I've got it covered, bro."
A slippery feeling crept up his spine as he risked a glance at her malachite wolf eyes. The change in their leader had started when he'd mated her two years ago, bringing her into the pack suddenly and unannounced. An outsider, no one knew of her or the pack she claimed to hail from. Though her unknown origins weren't a serious problem, her demeanor had always made him wary. He trusted her about as much as a knife at his throat. But his allegiance continued unbroken, for better or for worse. "Look, if you want me to swear a pledge as well...?"
"Not necessary. You're gone, Nikko. Time for you to get on your way." The wolves padded forward silently to hover at the alpha's side.
He wasn't scared by the obvious act of showmanship. He'd faced off against most of these wolves before, knew their strengths and weaknesses. But the fact his own Alpha thought he needed them here caught his attention. Eli was the biggest wolf in the pack. He didn't require the other wolves' protection. Therefore, they were there to convince him to go peacefully. Why?
Nik sniffed the air and caught a hint of scent, one he'd kill to protect. Caroline. From the faraway quality of her smell, Caroline was currently at the compound. With her father acting strangely, was she safe there any longer? Worry skittered through him. If Eli was crazy enough to make his as-yet-unborn child beta, what would he do to his daughter by his former mate? He raised his eyes to his alpha, his protective instincts for Caroline surging to the surface so fast and hard he could barely contain them. He'd touched her, damn near held her in his arms and kissed her, a few hours ago. The memory burned through him with a new intensity that wrenched his heart.
Eli's nostrils flared, his pupils glinting with the golden hue of his wolf's rising ire. He wasn't one to stand for even an iota of defiance.
He gritted his teeth and all but thrust the unspoken claim to her resting in his heart into the open. "What about Caroline?"
A flash of cold, dark ice went through Eli's eyes and Nik's concern for her welfare ratcheted to stark fear. He instantly knew her fate would be death. The alpha would kill his unborn son's only rival to ensure his complete, everlasting rule. His stomach twisted into a knot as a strong hit of adrenaline flushed him hot.
"She won't be needed either."
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Eva Lefoy writes and reads all kinds of romance, and is a certified Trekkie. She's also terribly addicted to chocolate, tea, and hiking. One of these days, she'll figure out the meaning of life, quit her job, and go travel the galaxy. Until then, she's writing down all her dirty thoughts for the sake of future explorers.
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