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Froggy StyleA F***ed-Up Fairy Tale
By J. A. KAZIMER
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2013 J. A. Kazimer
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Bullshit," I said to the gin-soaked fairy godmother standing next to me in the Royal Tux-We-R Shoppe. She shrugged her massive shoulders swaddled in pink chiffon. "Come on, Elly," I added. "No one lives happily ever after."
Elly smacked me in the back of the head with her wand and scowled. "Hush your mouth. I happen to know for a fact that fairytales do come true."
I rubbed the back of my neck. "Not this one. I don't love her and I never will." The wand rose again, but I danced away, nearly colliding with an overly well-endowed mannequin.
"Johnny, why do you want to marry her, then?" She paused to look down her long, pointed nose. "In a week."
"Ten days!" Ten days. Ten frogging days. "And you damn well know why. And don't call me Johnny. My name's Jean-Michel. Jean-Michel." How many times did I have to tell her that? I hesitated, considering my fairy godmother, a woman who'd spent the last twenty-two years of my life annoying me as much as fairyly possible. "Never mind. Are you sure she's the One?"
"What do you think of this? For your wedding tux?" Elly picked up a baby blue boutonnière from a rack of rainbow-colored boutonnières. "It matches your eyes."
Baby blue? Was she kidding me? If anything, my eyes were a manly indigo, maybe even sapphire, in the right light, with enough mead. "Don't change the subject," I said. "Are you sure Sleeping Beauty is the princess from the pond?" I shuddered, remembering my meeting with the sticky, drool-coated child. She'd broken my curse, sure, but what eight-year-old boy wanted his first kiss to be with a drooling, pint-sized princess? And it wasn't even a real kiss.
The girl had tried to eat me!
I had the scars from her tiny teeth on my forehead to prove it. Elly's voice drew me back to the present. "Of course I'm sure, Johnny." At my evil look she amended her words, "Jean-Michel."
"I mean, really, how many twenty-six-year-old blond princesses with a frog fetish could there be in the City?"
"What?!" I snatched the matching baby blue bow tie from her large, almost manly hands. "Are you saying that you don't know if this is my princess? Are you crazy?"
Elly patted my arm, leaving red welts on my olive skin. "Relax. I'm ninety-five percent sure." She hesitated, her head tilting to one side. I wasn't sure if she'd stroked out or was thinking. Either way, I didn't want to interrupt. "Eighty-seven percent, if we factor in her ... affliction."
Affliction, my ass. I had a term for the affliction where a healthy princess suddenly fell asleep at the drop of a tiara: laziness.
Ah, poor tired princess needed a nap.
What a hard burden to bear.
Her "affliction" didn't bother me much, though. After all, I'd spent the last thirty years of my life doing absolutely nothing worthwhile or even a tad bit noble.
Just the way I liked it.
"We'll know for sure if she's the One after we meet her this afternoon," Elly said with a smirk. "Now try this on." She handed me a black tuxedo made by none other than Geppetto. The fabric felt stiff, almost wooden, under my fingers, but I nodded and did as Elly ordered. Mainly out of fear.
My godmother packed one hell of a curse.
"I'll be waiting right here." She motioned to a tuffet next to the dressing room. Oh goody, I wanted to reply, but again, my survival skills kicked in.
I was in bad enough shape without adding another curse. The one I already had was plenty. It went something like: Poof, you're a frog. Shazam, a princess, albeit a slight one, gave you a kiss. Then, whammo, if you don't marry said princess on the day you turn thirty (which I would do in ten days), you'll be turned right back into a frog.
Or so Elly warned me at least ten times a day.
Hence my hasty marriage to the sleepy princess I'd never truly met, unless one counted that time she'd stuffed me in her mouth.
I heaved a sigh and adjusted the sleeve of the fashionable tuxedo jacket. The blackness of the tux suited my olive skin tone and jet-black hair that tickled my collar. Hair I kept longer than was in vogue. But what the hell. I was going to be hairless and a lot greener in a few days. I brushed back a wayward lock and smirked at the man in the mirror. "Mirror, mirror on the wall," I began. "Who is the finest damn prince of them all?" I didn't expect an answer, and was pleasantly surprised to hear:
"You are, sir."
I turned around, narrowly avoiding my servant, Karl, standing a hairsbreadth away. I stepped back and stifled a grin. Karl was all decked out like a jester in my royal colors of emerald and white. He wore a jewel-encrusted hat and bells on his slippers. The poor guy looked ridiculous, but by the pride on his face he was clueless as to how much. I grinned. Eagerness, loyalty, and stupidity were all traits to admire, especially in a servant.
For the last ten years, since my father hired him fresh out of the Butler Did It Academy, he'd kept all my secrets, large and small, lime and slimy. "I have your tunic and leggings, sir," Karl said, holding up a pair of avocado-colored leggings and an off-white tunic with a large "P" across the chest. As if the tights weren't bad enough.
"I'm not wearing that."
"But, sir, it's for your meeting with"—he lowered his voice—"the One. You have to look your best."
"I'm still not wearing it." I gave a slight laugh. "I don't care who I'm meeting. No man looks good in tights." Even a male specimen as perfect as myself. After all, poets wrote sonnets in my name while women swooned at the mention of my manliness. What could one lazy princess possibly take exception to?
"Forget it." I motioned to a rack of dinner jackets hanging like a little pig on a rotisserie. "We'll compromise. Go pick out a jacket and I'll wear it to meet the princess." I grabbed his arm as he turned to go. "Nothing green," I reminded him for the thousandth time. The very mention of the color sent chills down my spine. The taste of partially digested flies bubbled in the back of my throat, but I managed to swallow it down.
Karl nodded and practically danced across the room. I groaned. Marrying Beauty was becoming quite tedious. First, I had to beg her father, the king, for her hand, followed by the submission of proof of princelyship, in the form of three picture IDs and a long-form birth certificate. Hell, it was almost easier to hop across the New Never City border than spend five minutes with the tired chick.
I hoped all my trouble was worth it. If Beauty proved not to be the One, I was out of options. Still, the thought of marrying her or anyone, for that matter, grated on me. I should choose who to love. Who to marry. Who to frog for the rest of my days. Not some damn curse cast before I was even born.
"Suck it up." Elly swatted me with the pointy edge of her wand. "You'll get married. Settle down. Have some babies. And forget all this 'I don't want to marry her' nonsense. You'll see. She is the One, Johnny."
"Excuse me," said a woman standing next to Elly. She was young, maybe twenty, with auburn hair and a sweet cherub face.
I returned her smile, adding a wink for good measure. "Yes, luv?" I asked. "What can I do you for?"
She giggled prettily. Elly rolled her eyes. I waved off the annoying fairy godmother and took the young lady's hand. The warmth of her skin eased a bit of the tension lingering in my shoulders.
"Is it true?" she asked. "Are you really him?"
I nodded, bowing low. "Indeed. I am Jean-Michel La Grenouille."
Her eyes narrowed. "Who?"
"The Frog Prince, mademoiselle," I said in a perfectly affected French accent. "The Frog Pr—"
Before the last syllable left my mouth, the girl grabbed my neck and planted a kiss on my lips. Her mouth tasted of sugar and spice, but not a hint of wet dog or drool presented itself. A pity since my body reacted instantly, wanting more.
But she wasn't the One.
So after five hot minutes of saliva and groping, I gently pushed her away, damning the hack reporter from the New Never News who first reported on my "quest" for love's eternal kiss, an article nearly as poorly written as the recent exposé on a Cin City assassin with a fetish for flora I'd read this morning over my smiley face pancakes.
Ever since the story of my plight hit the airwaves, women practically attacked me in the street, longing to be the one who could save me from my greenish fate. Not that I minded the public displays of affection. A part of me liked to think that their attraction was due to my winning personality and stunning good looks, but the curse's promise of riches beyond compare might have had something to do with their interest.
"Sorry," I said to the girl as I wiped a string of slobber from my lips. She promptly burst into tears and ran from the shop, the imprint of my hand on the back of her skirt. I stared after her.
Feelings I rarely allowed to surface did just that. My life wasn't my own. It never had been, nor would it ever be. Not until I was finally free once and for all from this curse.
Chapter TwoA half hour later, dressed in my princely finest, which included a dark blue suit jacket, freshly pressed trousers, and beyond-shiny loafers, I stood outside the bedroom doorway of the woman I would soon marry and felt true terror.
What if she wasn't the One?
I fingered the tie around my neck. This was it. I was about to meet my future bride, a woman who'd either ultimately save or destroy me. With the way my luck was running, my money was on the latter.
"Prince Jean-Michel La Grenouille." Karl announced my arrival in a shout.
"Who?" asked the crusty-faced butler.
"The Frog Prince," he began, and then quickly rushed on, "not that he's a frog. Or ever was a frog. He's just French. Not a frog!"
I closed my eyelids. Sometimes Karl went overboard in his quest to keep my past a secret. I couldn't blame him, though. My own father refused to accept my early tadpolehood, and instead claimed to anyone who'd listen that his son spent the first eight formative years of his life at charming school in France.
"I repeat, he's not a frog." Karl bowed low and motioned me into the room. "Never was."
I strode through the ornate doors of Sleeping Beauty's bedroom and grimaced. Not at the wasted opulence of the gold-plated ceiling or even the pink shag carpeting thick enough to drown a blind mouse, but at the woman sleeping on the silk sheets of a four-poster bed, the woman wearing enough flannel to make a lesbian jealous. Kinky flaxen curls sprang from her head in all directions, giving her the demented look of a troll after a visit to Fairy-Clips.
This was the One?
Elly must've read my hesitation because she grabbed my arm and tugged me deeper into the room. "Well hello," Elly called to the princess, who didn't seem to hear her. Instead, the princess let out a loud snore. "My lady." Elly tried again, adding a finger wave. "Yoo-hooo."
When we reached the edge of the bed the princess shot up and screeched like the Wicked Witch of the East after the fall of the housing market. I jumped back, nearly toppling over Elly, who now lay sprawled on the floor, her wings twisted underneath her.
"Wrong. Wrong. Wrong," Beauty shouted from her bed. "He did it all wrong."
I glanced around, unsure. Was Beauty sleepy and a wee bit crazy? The look on her face was a pretty good indication, but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. It was the princely thing to do.
Helping Elly to her feet, I raised my hand for quiet. Of course, Beauty continued to scream, her pale face growing a splotchy red. The screeching sounded familiar, like that of the four-year-old girl from the pond. That made me less than pleased. I didn't want to marry this crazy woman.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" I yelped after a particularly loud burst of squealing. Elly shushed me, and when that didn't work, she smacked me in the head with the sharp edge of her wand. I glared at her, but said no more.
"He did it wrong," Beauty complained again.
"Hush," chirped a voice from across the room.
Squinting into the harsh glare of sunlight drifting through the windows, I tried to place the voice. There, in the corner by the bookcase, a cockroach wearing a top hat and a monocle stood, arrogantly twirling an umbrella.
"My God. Jimmy?" Elly said in a whisper. "Is that you?"
"You know that ... thing?" I asked, nodding to the roach. Elly got around, sure, but a cockroach? Then again, who was I to judge? I was about to marry a cranky lesbian with bad hair. Did they make white flannel wedding gowns?
Elly leered at the roach and then turned to frown at me. "That's not a thing, but a who. Jimmy Cockroach. Marriage broker to the stars. If he doesn't find you suitable to marry Beauty ..." Ever the drama fairy, Elly hesitated for a second before continuing, "We're screwed."
"A roach decides my fate?" I gave a bitter laugh. "You've gotta be messing with me."
Jimmy glared at me as if he'd overheard our heated exchange. Elly bowed low. "My apologies, Jimmy. JeanMichel's a bit nervous, as you can imagine. Meeting Princess Beauty has ... well, been a dream of his for a long time."
Now Elly got my name right?
"He did it wrong," Beauty repeated. "Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I won't marry him." She emphasized the "I won't" for good measure.
"What's she babbling about?" I asked the roach.
"There are rules, your lordship," he sneered. "Undeniable rules." His voice grew higher as he warmed to the topic. "In Beauty's tale, consistency is key. And you failed to follow the script. There will be no marriage. Not to you."
With that decree the little bastard jumped from the bookcase and disappeared into a hole in the wall. Beauty stopped whining and settled back against her pillow, a small satisfied smile hovering on her lips. "Have a nice life, loser," she sneered as she drifted off to sleep. A few seconds later a soft snore escaped her mouth.
"What the hell was that?" I spun to confront Elly.
"Shame on you, Johnny." Elly fanned her flushed face. The strong scent of gin wafted in the air between us. "Why, you broke the poor girl's heart. Now she'll never marry you and you'll turn back into a toad. Is that what you want? To give the ladies warts? She's the One, and you've ruined everything."
"A frog, not a toad," I reminded her. "What the hell happened anyway? What could I have possibly done so wrong? I didn't say a word to the chit, and yet, she called me a loser? Me? The frogging Frog Prince!"
Elly shook her head, sending her glittery silver hair bouncing in all directions. "It's not about what you said."
My brain began to ache. "Then what's her problem?"
Rolling her bloodshot eyes, Elly smashed her wand against the palm of her hand and glared. "Women want to be wooed. To be appreciated. To be wanted."
"Is that so?" I took a step toward Elly. "Sage relationship advice from a woman who's been married eight times. Thanks, but I'll pass."
Elly raised her eyebrow as well as her wand.
"Fine." I released a harsh breath. "I'll woo the chit."
"Too late." The roach reappeared, this time wearing a greatcoat with a ring around a rosy collar. "In Beauty's fable, her prince arrives and is stunned by her beauty, so much so that he drops to his knees." He tapped his cane against the floor. "You didn't. Hence you are not her prince. Now, if you'll excuse us, we have another applicant coming at three."
"This is ridiculous." I glared at the roach. "No one said anything about a cockroach, let alone some master script I'm supposed to follow." I lowered my voice to a dangerous level. "The king gave me his blessing to marry Princess Beauty last night. We will wed in ten days."
"Good luck with that." The roach snorted.
"Good day, sir." The little bastard spun on his Kenneth Cole heel and headed back toward the hole in the wall.
"Wait!" Elly yelled loud enough to wake the dead. Beauty let out another volley of snores. "Johnny will get it right. Give him another chance."
Jimmy checked the small watch on his antenna. "Fine. He has two minutes. Go!"
Who did this roach think he was dealing with? "I'm not dropping to my knees. Not for you or any man." I winced. That had sounded much better in my head. "You and your lazy princess can bite me." I nodded to Elly. "We're outta here."
I started to walk away, but inside I was seething. Beauty was the girl child from the pond. I was almost positive of it. She had the same golden hair and the same grape-colored eyes, and she smelled a little like wet dog. How many princesses could there be like that?
I couldn't just walk away. Not after I finally located my wayward princess. But I'd never bend, literally, to her will. I was the Frog Prince, damn it.
Elly's wand smashed into the back of my knee, and I dropped to the floor, grabbing at my throbbing limb. Manly tears burned my eyes, but I blinked them away. "What the hell did you do that for?" I yelled at the fairy godmother innocently picking lint from her dress.
"Do what, dear?" She batted her eyelashes.
I glared at her, a litany of curse words charged up my throat. But before I could utter a single one of them, a loud, choked gasp filled the room.
Excerpted from Froggy Style by J. A. KAZIMER Copyright © 2013 by J. A. Kazimer. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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