So....I am doing a thing. And because the internet is my work and personal world and it has been my only tool for promotion, I want you to do a thing with me. No. Not that thing. Pervs. lmao I have finished editing Rapunzel for about the four hundreth time and before I make it live on amazon, I want to give a few people the chance to read and review it, to offer suggestions on how it could be better, and to give me general feedback. Now, if you haven't read Beauty and the Beast and it does not interest you at all, you can still read Rapunzel and understand Rapunzel's story. Also, Rapunzel is quite different from Beauty and the Beast in so many ways. Many people classified Beauty as a paranormal romance (I didn't totally see it as such...there were many elements to the book and love was one of them...). While Rapunzel has her fair share of flings and one great love, she is a loner. She is also an orphaned vampire with very little contact with the other vampires in the series (which is how you can read it alone if you choose) and there is much she does not know and many things about being a vampire that she had to learn on her own. There will feel as if there are things going on in the background of the story that you don't quite understand if you have not read Beauty and the Beast (which is exactly how I felt when I was originally writing it over a decade ago because I did not get the full story myself until I was writing Beauty and the Beast...lol) but the main story isn't affected by it. Because Rapunzel is different from Beauty and the Beast, I wanted to give everyone a preview of Rapunzel so they have some idea of the story in hopes that people who read Beauty aren't disappointed and everyone has a small idea of what they can expect. I will break it up by chapter (because I do not believe in small previews...lmao) over the course of a few posts. If you are interested, get a hold of me at my e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on facebook and send me an e-mail address that I can mail the preview to. I only have a PDF copy. *Sigh* Without further ado....
“If thy mother knew thy fate, her heart would break with grief so great.”
-The Brothers' Grimm
My name is Rapunzel. Though the truth of my legacy has been lost to time and most who knew it once are now long dead, my name lives on, known to little girls the world over as a synonym for love and happy endings. I suppose the carrying on of that name, the twisting of the truth of my life, started nearly a thousand years ago when my father’s serfs and my husband’s kingdom heard of my ‘death’. So young, so spirited, so in love…They couldn’t let it end that way. They invented instead a tale where I lived, where I got my happily ever after, believing in that way they would keep me alive forever, never guessing that the strange devotion of another had already ensured my immortality. The sentiment was sweet. Their intentions were good but this princess has yet to get her fairy tale. It was not my prince but rather me who wandered blind, I who wanders still, partially banished, partially trapped. But I am ready to tell my story, to set the record straight. This is not a tale to tell the children in their beds. You’ll find little hope, no magic here. But that’s just as well, isn’t it? Who the hell needs a fairy tale?
In the beginning of my long life I had absolutely everything the mortal world could offer me. My father was an English lord that befriended England’s King Henry and Henry’s beautiful wife, Eleanor. It was a friendship that survived some mad times for the country and the royal family. It was also their friendship that led to the marriage of my parents who were introduced by Eleanor, an acquaintance of my mother’s and mother’s hostess during her first trip to England where she was visiting from her native Germany. As far as I know mother never saw her homeland again. She and my father were married just months after that fateful introduction. I was the last child born of six, the only daughter, and one of only two to survive infancy. I may not have been born a princess but one wouldn’t have believed me to be anything less by the way my father treated me. Mother blamed him later when I became impossible to control, unpredictable in my behavior. She was a good woman, my mother, but she never figured me out. She never realized that the spark inside of me, the one that made me wild, could not have been subdued by even the firmest hand.
That same spark in me existed once inside of England’s third-born princess, Joan, and as children we were more than the best of friends. We were kindred spirits. Most of the trouble we got into in those days we got into together and boredom was usually the main source of it all. So it was with the first time I ever bore witness to a passionate embrace. We were no more than children then, ten years old perhaps, and I knew as soon as she ran into the Great Hall where I was listening to the dry lessons of my tutor that she had something great for the two of us to get into. Impatiently we waited for our chance to run and we did just that at the first opportunity. “So what is it? You have that look in your eye. Come now, what have you found?” I questioned as soon as we slowed to a walk.
“It’s extraordinary but I can’t tell you or you might run back home. I just hope they’re still there. I thought that old biddy would never turn her back on us! They may have gone in the time it took to get out of there. You have to be quiet and slow down when I do just in case they’re still inside. We’re sneaking into one of your father’s barns and you cannot make a single sound!” She replied, her French accent thickening in her excitement.
I had many questions but I followed her silently, slowing down when she did and obeying her when she told me in a gesture not to speak. I could hear strange sounds coming from within the barn even before Joan carefully pushed aside a loose bit of wood for the two of us to crawl through. As soon as my eyes adjusted to the dim light of a single candle burning above us in the dark structure, I was caught between a giggle and a sigh. In the loft one of my father’s serfs, a married man named Jack, was naked from the waist down with his pants around his ankles moving in a way I recognized only because of a primal instinct behind a serving girl named Mary. The serving girl’s dress was pulled up, the material good for hiding a portion of her face even if it seemed to muffle her screams not at all. I knew her well. Her mother had been part of my household staff longer than I had been alive and when Mary got engaged the month before there was talk over her declaration that she would not give up her position on our staff after she was married. She said outright that her intended could find another bride if he could not accept her working for us. Her firm decision was unheard of in that time and I respected her for it. Still, the wedding date was set and though she was doing something I previously believed only married people did with a man who was not her fiancé, she would be the wife of a tavern keeper by year’s end.
I suddenly felt as if I understood a great deal about life that was previously a mystery to me. Looking at Mary’s face, hearing the sounds she made, I felt like I knew at last what made women give up everything they were as people to become wives and mothers, creatures with no identity of their own. Mary was risking her future marriage, her reputation, her employment, all that she had in life, for lust alone and in that embrace she seemed to care not for anything else. So if that was what lust could do to a woman, how bad might love be? I didn’t know and I did not intend to find out. I left that barn very changed from the girl who went in. Though I was too young yet for marriage, it was only a matter of time before men would come to my door asking for my hand, hoping I had a good dowry to bring to them. The child who understood nothing might have been thrilled at this idea but the girl who went home that day made a promise to herself. I would never marry, I would not love, and no man would touch me as I saw Jack touching Mary. There was no man alive that would take from me the best of who I was. If I had to become a nun, I would. I would break my parents’ hearts and die an old maid alone. But Rapunzel Winchester would never be any man’s wife.
By the age of seventeen I gained a reputation as something of a hell raiser, as one would say today. Suitors came and went. I ignored them. I had no use for their offers as my mind had not changed on that subject. I drank like a fish, I cursed like a sailor, and I disappointed my mother time and time again. That wasn’t my intention but merely an effect of my nature. To tame me, to make me a proper lady, my mother recruited etiquette teachers and headmistresses said to be the firmest in the country. I ran them off as quickly as they came. Each day that passed I grew more restless as if I was waiting for something to open my eyes, to carry me away, and all the while I went on without noticing.
It was at this time that my brother’s good friend, Prince Richard, older brother to my beloved Joan, sent a note saying he was coming to visit my family on his way to the Aquitaine. I hadn’t laid eyes on him since my ninth birthday but I had once adored him. My last memory of him was of that day, the party thrown in my honor, where I followed him around like a faithful puppy despite his protests. At that time I believed he was the most amazing person I would ever know. He was six years my senior and graceful as hell. Even at fifteen he commanded respect. So when my brother Robert interrupted dinner one night holding the parchment that announced this approaching arrival my heart fluttered in my chest. The girlish memories I had of him mingled dangerously with a young woman’s desires and as I tried to sleep that night I couldn’t decide if I should anticipate this visit or dread it for the havoc it could create with my convictions.
He arrived a week later but the two of us were not properly introduced at the door when he came as we should have been. Instead he came in on a shouting match between me and the latest headmistress of my mother’s choosing giving a gentle rap at my door. Uninvited he twisted the knob and I was left speechless by a man so blessed with charm and good looks that all I could do was stare. He dismissed the older woman with a kind word and a smile. As he closed the door behind her, I stood alone and caught off guard by this man I recognized as my long lost Richard.
“When I heard tales of the daughter of Lord Duncan and Lady Greta breaking half the hearts in England I thought they had somehow produced another child. I thought to myself that it was impossible that these men were all mad with love for the same little brat who used to follow me around and pull my hair. It couldn’t be Rapunzel Winchester that all of these men wanted and could not have. Yet here I stand before you and I am in awe of the same girl I once shied away from.” He declared in my native English. It seemed he remembered that I couldn’t converse in his beloved French. Usually he refused to speak anything else. So stubborn was he on this point that even historians now believe he knew no other tongue. But it seemed he realized right off that being stubborn with me would get him nowhere.
“Yes, but you see, I am no longer a child. I follow no one now.”
“And I, my spoiled girl, am no longer fifteen. I, too, have grown up.”
I laughed at this. I was so nervous yet so determined to stand my ground against him. “Thank god for that although I highly doubt age has made a difference. I’ll bet that you are still just as wretched and arrogant as you were when you were fifteen. You came to see me without warning so you could taunt me just as you did then and that says everything.”
He smiled, no doubt in an attempt to disarm me. “Such things you say to your prince! Is that any way to talk to me?”
“Absolutely and unless there is an agreement I am not yet aware of, you are not mine.” I retorted, tongue in cheek.
He shook his head in protest even as he grinned. “No agreement has yet been struck but I assure you I am yours. I am yours as surely as each man you’ve turned out thus far. But I will not go away as easily as they did. No, I am far too determined to accept such rejection.”
I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks and I knew he saw the blush that was forming. In an attempt to steer the conversation away from these things he said that I didn’t want to hear, I asked suddenly, “How is your mother fairing in Salisbury? Is her captivity getting easier for her with time?”
“Of course not. Six years or six decades, it would make no difference. Time cannot ease the weight of it. She is a caged bird who was not meant for such confinement. It annoys her that all the news of the world must come to her from William Marshal and that my father is in control of her every moment spent there. But she’s in good health.”
I nodded as if accepting his words and before silence could truly fall between us, I asked quickly, “And Joan? How is she? I saw her a few months ago when she came to see if I had truly turned away a duke’s son when he came to ask for my hand. Her delightful husband allowed her just one week away from her own palace prison before he sent armed guards to bring her back. What a charming man he is!”
“I hope you gave her a good time while she was here with you. I fear my younger sister has little amusement in her life these days.”
“So I heard. I told her for the right amount of gold I could make her a widow. She promised to take the offer into consideration.”
He laughed in a way I almost recognized from years ago and I was so wrapped up in the memories that came to me with the sound that I had no time to field him off before he caught my hand in his. “What a delightful surprise you’ve grown up to be, Rapunzel. A beautiful, delightful surprise…I hope I will see you at dinner. I promised your mother news from Salisbury. Apparently letters are not being delivered as they should be. Henry seems to be denying mother even that. At any rate,” he winked as he gently released my hand. “I won’t tell your mother about this visit of ours if you don’t. I would hate to rob her of her chance to make a fuss over introductions.”
“Isn’t that what you’ve done exactly?” I questioned.
He only shook his head as he left me there alone, confused, and very near tears. “Oh, you bastard!” I found myself whispering as I washed my face and hands before dinner. “You bastard! Why have you really returned?”
I thought I knew the answer to that very well. He wanted me. Not because he loved me, not because he had always loved me, but because I had turned out everyone else. To a man who lived for the fight, that was everything. To a woman with a heart on the line she had no desire to let go of, a man like that was more dangerous than dynamite. So I ignored him in the days and nights that followed. At first I tried to combat his charm with insolence but this seemed to only spur him on. I felt like a fool, knowing enough about battle to know that his reaction would be just that to such a tactic. In a diary I counted down the days to his departure and when the anticipated event arrived, I awoke with a smile feeling as if my hell was but hours away from ending. But when dinner arrived he was still at my table laughing with my family as he drank our best wine. It was then that he announced an extension of his visit. “How long?” I demanded to know from my temporary place at the end of the table.
“Rapunzel!” Mother chastised.
Richard put his hand up, soothing her at once. “It is quite alright, Lady Greta.” He assured her before his eyes fell to me. “A month perhaps. Your father has assured me that I am not imposing…”
“That’s one point of view.” I countered, throwing my napkin on the table before storming out at once.
I locked my bedchamber door behind me knowing that if I did not, I would have to argue with my mother and perhaps my father and brother as well over my behavior toward their beloved prince. I had no heart for any of it. Richard had assured me his first night at my home that he would not be easily turned away and so it seemed he meant to keep that promise but as determined as he was to get this conquest before he left, I was far more determined that he walk away a loser. I simply could not afford the price of his victory in this case and I knew it all too well.
In time the estate around me grew quiet and when I believed everyone had gone to bed, I felt it safe to light my candles and write a bit before going to bed myself. I was deep in thought when I heard a strange sound outside my door and my hand froze over the word I was about to write as my bedchamber door came open. There stood Richard like a common thief with the small blade he had used to crack my lock and before I could scream and wake the whole house, he was inside, closing and locking the door once more behind him. “Get the hell out of my chambers!” I commanded.
“No.” He replied simply and just to prove his point, he took a seat in the chair next to my bed. “I want answers and I won’t budge until I get them.”
“And if I scream at the top of my lungs, claim you tried to force yourself on me, do you suppose that might wipe that smug look from your face?”
“You wouldn’t do that. You wouldn’t defame my reputation unjustly in such a way.” He countered, clearly calling my bluff.
“And what makes you so sure, Your Highness? I don’t give a damn about my own reputation. What makes you think I care so much for yours?”
Leaning forward, he whispered, “Because you may be changed, you may not follow me anymore, but you still care for me. Deny it with words if that makes you feel better but I can see it in your eyes, I can read it in each cold shoulder you turn my way. We could sit in a room and behave like two civilized people if there wasn’t this…mutual affection between us.”
I threw my head back and laughed. “Ah, always so fucking sure of yourself, aren’t you, Richard? Sure that I care, sure that I’ll believe this shit coming from your mouth, sure that I won’t see straight through your pretty words to the truth of the matter. Well, this is one time that you have no reason to be certain of your charms because I do see you exactly as you are and I do realize your true feelings toward me. Affection? What a pile of shit! You are right. I am changed, much changed, and the time has long passed where I will lie down and be your willing victim giving you what you want when what you want does not interest me at all!”
Sitting back as if my words were a blow, he asked in a dark tone, “What is it, exactly, that you think I want?”
“It isn’t a matter of what I think, it’s what I know. You want to complete your conquest. You want to be able to laugh over a pint with some of the men who were turned out by me and say that you took exactly what you wanted and you left me without a care. I am but one more feather in your cap if I give into you and like hell will I be the cause of your bragging rights! Some women may be flattered by that but I am insulted!”
I had tossed my journal aside and I was sitting up on my knees facing him as his gaze went from white hot rage to an icy glare. “That’s what you believe I came for? That’s why you think I stayed? How could you think so little of me? I was present at your Christening, for God’s sake! You truly believe I might think so little of you?”
“Yes, all of my life you were there and you detested me! What changed?”
“I was fifteen the last time I saw you! You were a child who wouldn’t leave me alone, a girl child at that! Of course I detested you! Your brother was my age and he detested you then as well as I did my own sister! It was our duty to treat you both that way! Good god, Rapunzel, how many stories have you heard of me bragging about women? How many of the gossips your mother has over carried to you stories of me traipsing through the kingdom spreading legs and breaking hearts? That isn’t the sort of man I am and if anyone has just cause to feel insulted, I believe it is me! I came because I heard of my sister’s visit and I wanted to thank you in person for your continued love and support of her. She was brighter in her letter to me about her time spent with you than I’ve heard her since she was all but sold into marriage to that bastard in Sicily and I appreciate those moments of happiness you gave her. I am partly to blame for her miserable condition. Henry, my father that is, he sent her off to punish mother and me after the revolt. He made sure she would be unhappy so I would have to shoulder that guilt and I do, every day. She has no friends left. Her husband forbids her from having anyone outside the family for visits and he rarely lets her leave. Many of the girls who knew her once are married and they were never so close anyway but you continue to support her. I wanted you to know how much that means to me. And I stayed because…” Suddenly he stood, knocking his chair over in the process as he paced the length of the room and cursed himself, me, something, in a fast stream of French.
“Damn it, Richard, I can’t understand you! Why did you stay?”
In just two or three large strides, he covered half the room so that he stood before me and he slapped my bedpost in a way that almost made me jump. “If I wanted you to understand it, I wouldn’t have said it in French! Forget all of this! I’ll go in the morning and leave you to your misconceptions about me!”
I grabbed his arm before he could go as I seethed, “Now is not the time for one of your epic tantrums! You started this! You came to me! Don’t you dare leave without coming clean! Why did you stay?”
Heaving a sigh, he was silent a moment before he took my face in his hands and declared with conviction, “Because the thought of leaving you behind cut me like a blade! I’m mad about you, you damned fool. I love you. If anyone here has been conquered it is me! I came expecting to see someone who was once like a sister to me and instead I found a beautiful, confident, woman who enslaved me with a smile. I don’t have time for this! There isn’t a place in my life for such love. Love destroys everything it touches. Look at my parents!”
I couldn’t believe the words I said even as they came from my own mouth yet still I whispered, “But it doesn’t have to. Look at mine. All of the years that have passed as husband and wife, the children they bore and buried, the daily duties, and still they cannot sit in a room together without touching hands. Love, like everything else in life, is what you make it. It is only destructive if you will it to destroy.”
Not only was I in disbelief that I had said this, I did not believe the words themselves yet when I touched my lips to his, when I felt that first kiss as it deepened and grew into something far bigger than an innocent gesture, I could have believed anything so long as it involved Richard. Suddenly he broke away from me, laying his head between my breasts as he whispered, “What do you want, sweet girl? I should go. It would be best if I went.”
“Best for whom? I don’t want you to go. I want what I’ve always wanted…I want you. Not just for this night, not just for this moment, but for all time. Can you give me that?”
The look of surprise on his face as he tilted his head up mirrored perfectly the voice within me. What the hell was I doing? One kiss and I was willing to betray myself and my promise? Yes. The truth was there in the trembling of my hands, the pounding of my heart. Perhaps my soul knew what my mind did not, that this man would never ask me to become a shadow for him, that he needed me to be exactly who I was to survive a life at his side. Or perhaps, and this is probably more like it, I simply didn’t give a damn in that moment what I would have to give up. Like Mary in the barn, I was willing to throw myself away for just a moment of bliss in his arms. “I cannot officially ask for your hand. There are things I must do first, people I must speak with. But between you, me, and God I will promise you that come whatever may, if you lay with me tonight I will return when I can with an official offer of marriage.”
I did lay with him that night and every night following for a month. By day we flirted when we could and at night we were lovers crying out in our embrace. I did not think of the future or of the weight of consequences for my actions at all. I thought no further than the next moment we could steal together. Always he promised me marriage and for each promise I assured him it was what I wanted. Only when he left me with the first rays of morning spreading across the sky did I think to myself that I might be weaving a web of deceit so thick even I was getting tangled up in it. In truth, I wasn’t sure that he would deliver on his promise any more than I was certain my response would be yes if he did leave and return to me asking for my hand. What I was doing was only a slight betrayal of my promise to myself but marriage, especially to a prince? What price would I ultimately pay for such a thing? I didn’t know though I imagined it would be steep.
I thought of Richard’s mother Eleanor in those moments of doubt. In my childhood she loomed, larger than life, with stories told of her strength as much as her beauty. Yet now she sat prisoner as much to her love for her husband as to the cold stone walls where he banished her after she organized a revolt against him. ‘That is where this can lead.’ A voice whispered inside my mind. ‘And you would surely die.’ Yet as soon as the castle slept once more around us he would come to me and all thoughts of Eleanor in her prison would flee my head. There was only Richard and me wrapped in each other’s arms, protected by the night. Then, two mornings before he was supposed to leave, I awoke feeling empty. At first I couldn’t understand this until I remembered that my lover had not come to me during the night. Softly I snuck down to his chambers. The door was open and all that was his was gone. Without a word, even a printed goodbye, he had gone in the middle of the night and for two months I heard nothing. As I grieved this loss believing he had lied I received my moment of clarity, knowing without a doubt that I would have married him had he asked. And it was then that I hated myself the most.