NY Times bestselling author, K.N. Lee presents a dark twist on a classic fairy-tale that asks the question: what if the beauty was the mortal enemy of the beast?
Raised in fear of her power. Sold and betrayed by her lover.
Allyn escaped the hunters once before. As a witch, she risks capture every day.
Now, she lives in the slums of the opulent kingdom of Elastria, where the Winter Winds are brutal,and force everyone into their homes for the entire season. When one of her best friends receives an invitation to the end of season Winter Ball, Allyn would rather sulk about her boyfriend leaving her instead of partying at the most exclusive club in the kingdom.
A chance encounter with the crown prince of Elastria sparks hope for a brighter future, one where she might find true love. All hopes are dashed when she's tricked by her ex-boyfriend and turned in for the bounty on her head.
Now, a prisoner in an eerie castle where the servants are...peculiar, the walls whisper, and the prince's mysterious twin brother struggles with the decision to keep or kill the witch he's hunted and once lost, Allyn struggles with the desire to tame the beast within the prince, or escape to freedom.
The curse of the castle is strong. But, the magic hiding inside Allyn might be more powerful than she or the prince realized.
Discover an enchanted world of witches and a cursed prince in this steamy modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
I was delighted to be able to include NY Times bestselling author K. N. Lee in the Witchy Bundle. Academia of the Beast is a dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast, telling the tale of Allyn the witch and her magical, steamy adventures. – Simon Kewin
"Wow, I think is the best interpretation of Beauty and the Beast I have ever read."– Kristin, Amazon Reviewer
"Since I am no longer a child and have not been for many years I am all for adult stories of my favorite ones. Both times the show has been on I have watched it so when I run across versions I grab them. This one intrigued me the most so far."– Denise Van Plew- Top Amazon Reviewer
"Forget what you've known about the beauty and the beast, this story takes a twist, a great one, and makes it into a much better version. Magic, fairies, wolves, ghosts, and witches, what more could you ask for? How about a woman dead set on making it through the whole ordeal?"– Katie Perry Rogers
"I got some really good feels from reading this, and I love the plot line and rendition of Beauty and the Beast. Twisted with the author's unique story-telling, the world has had one too many world wars between the humans and supernaturals. One clan took over as the new rulers, and for generations, they were able to suppress the defeated and scared. Fast-forward to the present, and everything is still same but with kingdoms set in place. How cool is that?"– Kole Reads
"This amazing novel is a dark retelling of the fairy-tale Beauty and the Beast. This book is creative, enchanting & very well written. The story-line is compelling. This is a twisted tale with the authors unique story-telling."– Sophie Koufes
IT ALL STARTED with a rumor.
"I heard there is a witch in this village. You know that the Wolves are still hunting and executing them, right?"
Allyn didn't want to believe the truth her boyfriend spoke. Such danger had threatened her since the night of her birth. But, if she hid her ability…she would survive.
That's what she'd thought.
Byron had grabbed Allyn by the arm and made her face him. "Tell me. Are you the witch?"
"No," Allyn said, hoping her green eyes didn't reveal the truth. She wasn't lying to him. Allyn wasn't a witch. She was something else. But try to tell that to the hunters searching for anyone with magical powers.
She'd kept her secret this long. Why reveal it now? Her people were a dying breed, and she was not ready to offer herself up as the next tabloid villain—the next public disgrace to be executed for all of Elastria to see.
"Don't lie to me. I know everything. You can trust me to protect you."
"Quiet," she'd said, glancing back at the wooden cottage where she'd been born and raised as a swift wind blew her black skirt up around her slender, white thighs. "My father is home and he will hear you."
She'd tried to break free from his grasp, surprised that he had learned her secret, but he held tightly, his brown eyes looking at her with love and not the fear or judgment she'd always expected.
"They will find you. And they will kill you." The stern look that filled his eyes had sent chills through her body as he held her hands out behind her house in the woods. "Let me take care of you. Let's leave and start a new life together," he'd said.
That was last winter when she still thought he loved her more than any girl in the world—before he gambled all of her life savings away.
That was before the Wolf sniffed her out at the festival and she'd fled for her life. As Allyn cleaned her tiny apartment, dusting her bookshelves and sweeping the vinyl floor, she tried to forget the fear of being hunted. The same fear haunted her at night, warning her that the hunt was not over.
She remembered the first time she'd heard of a young woman being sniffed out by the Wolves and how that woman ended up publicly executed.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, Allyn wiped her brow and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror over the short bookcase. There were tears in her green eyes. Her wavy red hair was a stark contrast to her porcelain white skin splattered with freckles.
She squeezed her eyes shut and turned away from her image. She hated her face and the red hair that was so rare that she'd suffered constant teasing as a child. The only reason she didn't dye it another color was because it reminded her of her mother, and how much she loved it.
A knock on the front door startled her. She froze, her face paling as she held her breath.
She didn't move a muscle, afraid that one tiny squeak of the wooden floor would make the landlord aware of her presence. They were behind on their rent and any day now they would be forced out onto the streets.
"Allyn," a muffled female voice called from the other side.
Relief washed over her when she realized that it was just Aude, her closest friend.
She crossed the room and unlocked several bolts on the door, then threw it open.
Aude's big blue eyes widened. "Goodness gracious. You look like a freaking ghost!"
"Shush, Aude," Allyn said, pulling her in by her hand. "I do not." She shot a glance down the dark hallway outside before closing the door, pleased that the landlord was nowhere to be seen.
"Yeah, you do. Are you eating? Sleeping? Why haven't I heard from you?" Aude asked. She was dressed in a black coat and jeans, her blonde hair tucked in a green beanie Allyn had knitted for her.
She took it off and rushed to warm herself in front of the meager fire. Allyn watched her, not sure how long the wood would last.
"I'm fine," Allyn murmured.
"Whatever. Liar. I can see it all on your face that something is wrong. Have you left this awful apartment since I last saw you at the bakery?"
"I told you that I'm fine. I've just been staying inside and trying to stay warm."
"Sure. I can't blame you for not going outside. It's damn cold out there," Aude said. "I think the Winter Winds might be coming early this year."
Allyn chewed her bottom lip. She knew that to be a fact, but she couldn't tell Aude that she could feel the change in the air. Though they'd been friends for the past nine months, she still wasn't sure she could trust her with her darkest secrets.
"I need more firewood," Allyn said, opening the closet to get her coat out. "I think we can make it to the shops and find some on sale."
"I'm not so sure. They like to raise the prices for last minute shoppers. It might be too expensive."
Allyn's shoulders slumped. "I have to try. The power was cut off last week and I don't know how I'll survive without a fire in the middle of the winter."
Aude took her hands. "Come stay with Khia and I. Our electricity is paid for the rest of the year. You can even sleep on our bed. We'll make a comfy spot on the floor in the studio. It will be cozy."
Chewing her lip, Allyn considered it. It would be nice to be somewhere warmer for a while, but she feared that as soon as she'd leave, Byron would return and wouldn't know where she was. Even though he had hurt her numerous times, she still loved him.
"What do you say?"
Allyn shook her head and slipped on her coat. "But, what if Byron returns?"
"Come on, girl. Get over that scum. You know he's probably sleeping in another woman's bed right now…drunk or drugged to oblivion."
That stung. Allyn's cheeks turned red as she fought to disbelieve Aude's accusations.
"And, you won't be stuck. One of the designers Khia works for has passes to leave during the winter curfew. For once, we get to go to parties and events that only the wealthy go to. Maybe you can meet a man…a real man. With money."
"Enough," she said, feeling like an idiot as the words escaped her lips. She knew that Aude was right, but what would she do without Byron? Allyn crossed her arms over her chest. "Are you coming with me to get firewood or not?"
Sighing, Aude nodded, putting her hat back on. "Let's go before it gets dark."
Outside, the bitter cold assaulted Allyn's face. She wrapped her red scarf across her mouth and around her head. The wind roared down the black streets, nearly knocking her over.
She braced herself as she stood on the bottom step of the front entrance, and pulled her navy wool coat tighter to her body as her hair blew around her face. She stepped onto the icy sidewalk, careful to avoid slipping.
Allyn looked down at her gloved hands, feeling heat radiate from her palms—heat that could warm her and Aude—but too afraid to chance it.
She had enough to worry about with an eviction notice stamped to the door to the flat she shared with Byron. With a witch hunt plaguing Elastria, she had to be especially careful.
"Let's hurry before the shop closes," she said, taking careful steps. Her black boots crunched salt that had been sprinkled along the roads and sidewalks of the inner city. No amount of salt could keep the onslaught of snow that would soon fall from the perpetually gray sky, though. Winter in the magical kingdom of Elastria was a time of darkness and frost.
"Good idea," Aude said, as they walked down Gilded Street toward the largest indoor market in the entire kingdom.
When Allyn and Aude reached the market, the crowds were already lined up outside the golden doors, prepared to buy everything they'd need to survive the cold winter. Allyn checked her brass pocket watch that hung from her waistcoat. Like the others, she'd waited until the last minute to do her final shopping. In just a few days, all shops and centers would close, and the city would enter a form of hibernation. If she hadn't had to wait for her last check of the season to arrive, she might have been able to avoid the long lines.
She stood there at the back of the queue, anxious to get in and get out. "This is going to be fun," she said with a sigh.
Aude looked around, scanning the two separate lines that filed into Grand Castile Plaza.
"I don't see anyone that we know." Her shoulders slumped. "So much for cutting line. Could have saved us some time."
Allyn shrugged. "It's fine. I'm in no rush. I've been stuck in the house all day, cleaning, and trying to keep my mind off things." She put her hand to her forehead as all of her worries flooded her mind. With a sigh, she forced a smile. "I'm lucky to have such an amazing friend."
Aude hugged her. "Of course. You're literally the nicest person I know. You hold onto good people like you."
With a smile, Allyn pulled away and looked down at the ground. Such compliments were rare. Within such a short time, they'd become close, closer than Allyn had been with anyone back home. Back home she didn't have friends, just painful memories. There were good ones too, up until a point. She scratched a scar on her lower back through her clothes, wishing she could forget what caused it.
While the memories she fought to repress continued to haunt her most days, Allyn was determined to look forward.
"Everything is going to get better, sweetie," Aude said, smoothing Allyn's hair. "You have Khia and me and we both love you like a sister. There's no way we will let anything happen to you."
"Thank you. I really appreciate it."
They stood under the red awning as fat snowflakes continued to cascade from the sky.
Allyn glanced back at her house, her heart dropping when she saw a black police van pull in front of her apartment building. She clutched Aude by the arm.
"Oh, no," she whispered and Aude followed her gaze.
"What's wrong?" Aude asked, narrowing her eyes as she looked from the police to Allyn.
Tears burned Allyn's eyes as she watched another truck pull up behind the police. Four big men jumped out and followed the officers inside the building. She knew what was happening and there was no longer any use shopping for supplies.
"They've come to put me out of my home and take my things."