Bedtime Stories, страница 1
Table of Contents
The Frog Prince
The Courtship of Wali Daad
The Princess on the Glass Hill
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Beauty and the Beast
The King Who Heard a Joke
PRAISE FOR Jean Johnson and Her Novels
“Terrific—fast, sexy, charming, and utterly engaging. I loved it!”
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—Robin D. Owens, RITA Award-winning author
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“Jean Johnson has created a mystical world . . . very much like the great folktales we love to hear over and over . . . Delightful entertainment.”
“The writing is sharp and witty and the story is charming. [Johnson] . . . has created an enchanting situation . . . She tells her story with a lively zest that transports a reader.”
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Titles by Jean Johnson
THE SONS OF DESTINY
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2010 by G. Jean Johnson
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Heat trade paperback edition / April 2010
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Johnson, Jean, 1972-
Bedtime stories / Jean Johnson.—Heat trade pbk. ed. p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-18680-0
1. Erotic stories, American. 2. Fairy tales—Adaptations. I. Title. PS3610.O355B43 2010
I really have the coolest job in the world . . . and the best readers. You have all been very kind in taking the time to contact me and let me know what you liked, and even what you didn’t like, about my stories. (Yes, I include the didn’t-like stuff, because it can still be helpful in shaping my future works, particularly when phrased politely and thoughtfully.) So thank you very, very much.
Also, I’d like to extend a thank-you to all the editors and compilers of folklore, legends, and fairy tales everywhere, and to the many, many tellers of those tales over the centuries. I’m proud to be part of this long-standing tradition of entertaining people, and I’ll do my best to keep it up.
The Frog Prince
Author’s Note: Welcome, and I hope you’ll enjoy my versions of erotically revised fairy tales. Revising them erotically isn’t as strange as it might seem, either; I’ll bet you didn’t know that in the oldest German version of this story, the princess didn’t own a golden ball so much as she owned a golden ballus . . . which was a local corruption of the Latin word phallus. Puts a whole new twist on this classic tale, doesn’t it? In an effort to preserve the true spirit and meaning of this classic fairy tale, I feel it should be told in a way that honors that original, adult intent.
PRINCE Henrik was a frog. It wasn’t his idea, but he was one. There were worse things he could have been enchanted into, of course. The flies he ate, for one; it was bad enough how the wings tickled on the way down into his gullet, but to actually be a fly would have been horrible. A disturbingly short life span and an unnatural attraction to animal droppings were not at all on his list of must-have experiences.
Still, there was the mud between one’s toes; that wasn’t as bad as it could have been. At least, not on a warm summer’s day like today. It was soft and squelchy, and satisfying in a way he hadn’t felt since he was a lad. The only problem was, he wasn’t a lad, and feeling like a lad was what had gotten him into this predicament.
Prince Henrik was doomed to remain a frog, unless he either married the Fairy Tilda—who was more than twice his age, and Henrik just couldn’t bring himself to marry a woman who had been born before even his own mother—or found a young woman willing to fulfill the fairy’s codicils.
I shouldn’t have said to her face that I didn’t need a ��second mother.” That wasn’t well done of me. Nor did it help when my father’s chief counselor pointed out she was surely in the last gasp of her childbearing years and thus unlikely to bear a suitable heir . . . and I definitely should not have agreed, let alone concurred so wholeheartedly.
I also should have paid more attention to my geography lessons as a lad . . .
Part of the Fairy Tilda’s curse had been to translocate Henrik to a foreign land. Instead of the birch trees he was familiar with, this forest boasted a plethora of broad-trunked oaks. The only tolerable things about it were the mild weather and the large, tasty flies. One full month of li
If ever a frog could pray to the ears of the angels in Heaven, Henrik certainly tried. Every single meal, he offered up a prayer for deliverance. Every single mouthful, he worried he would never again be a man.
A strange, beautiful sound tickled his ears, or what passed for them. For a moment, the transformed prince wondered if he was hearing angels laughing. It was coming from the far bank of the river he had been deposited by, the river which was his temporary home. The near bank had a gentle slope to it, green and mossy, with the occasional thicket of bracken ferns. The far side was steep and clifflike; had he been a man, it would have been taller than his head, counting from the rippling surface of the water.
The noise echoed across the little valley again; his wide, blinking eyes swiveled and focused as three pastel-clad figures came into view. One of the three maidens—for they seemed to be young and lithe and full of laughter, though he couldn’t be completely sure at this distance—was holding aloft in one hand something gold and glinting. She twisted and turned in her attempts to dodge as the other two leaped and grabbed, trying to wrest it from her grasp.
Cries of “No, it’s mine!” and “Oh, please!” and “I just want to hold it!” echoed across the water, along with a particularly odd, almost lasciviously voiced, “Just hold it? I want to try it!”
Intrigued, but unable to make sense of what the golden thing was, Henrik cursed his amphibian eyes. They were good enough for seeing things clearly within a few yards, but not so good for viewing things at a far distance. Hopping along the edge of the water—he never went far from the water, as his skin seemed to prefer being moist—he twisted his eyes this way and that, trying to focus on the object in the dark-haired maiden’s hands.
The three of them dodged and grasped, laughed and shrieked, begged and protested, until an accidental bump and an unexpected trip sent the owner of the gilded whatever tumbling to her hands and knees. The gleaming object, flung free of her grasp, tumbled over the edge of the low cliff and splopped into the river.
The other two girls, with their brown hair and their giggles, caught themselves before they also fell. Huddled together, they gaped at the water, dark with the thick mud coating the river bottom. From the disappointed, rueful looks on their faces, he guessed they couldn’t see whatever had been dropped. The way they sheepishly backed up as the other maiden struggled to her feet told Henrik they weren’t about to help the girl look for her fallen treasure, either.
“Wonderful. Just wonderful!” the grass-stained maiden muttered as she dusted off her gown. “Well, don’t just stand there. Help me get down the bank!”
The other two girls warily eyed the muddy edge of the cliff and backed up. Henrik heard them muttering something about “chores” and “embroidery” as they shook their heads. Without further ado, they hiked their skirts and ran up the slope, heading deeper into the woods. The young woman they left behind dropped to her knees and stared glumly at the river below.
Mindful of the terms of his enchanted imprisonment, Henrik hopped into the river. Whatever the girl had lost, if he could help her find it, she might consider herself indebted to him. It was a slim chance, but the only one he had. All he had to do was find a golden, metallic object in the mud of the riverbed.
It didn’t take long to find it, since logic dictated the object had fallen straight in, given the heavy splash it had made. Though it hadn’t been swayed more than an inch or two from its trajectory by the river’s current—geometry had been one of Henrik’s favorite classes as a lad with his tutors—the bottom was very muddy at that point, giving him only a glimpse of polished gold. Orienting himself underwater, Henrik made sure he could find the spot again, then stroked up toward the surface.
His wide-swiveling eyes spotted the maiden gingerly picking her way down to the river’s edge several yards away. Letting the current carry him toward her, he watched her test the water with a hand, flinching at the chilly temperature. He was used to it, as it was one of the hazards of amphibious life, but she was clearly dubious about getting wet in search of her lost treasure. Leaping onto a head-sized rock at the water’s edge, Henrik cleared his throat.
“Ahem. Good afternoon to you, fair maiden!” he called out.
Startled, she lifted her gaze from the water. This close, Henrik could finally make out the details of her features, since as a frog he was woefully shortsighted. She had lovely light blue eyes and curly brown hair, a slightly turned-up nose, and a hint of freckles on her otherwise creamy complexion.
“Who . . . Who’s there? Who spoke?” she demanded, twisting to look up and down the bank.
“Down here, on the rock. The frog,” Henrik clarified. She turned and peered his way.
“The . . . what?”
Executing a courtly bow wasn’t easy in an amphibious form, but Henrik did his best. “Greetings, fair maiden. I am, as you see, an enchanted frog, capable of speech, including intellectual discourse and helpful hints.”
She blinked at him.
“I believe you have lost a golden object in the muddy depths of this river, yes?” he inquired politely.
“A . . . talking frog,” she muttered.
“Yes,” Henrik repeated patiently. “My name is Henrik. About a month ago, I said the wrong thing to a fairy—for which I am ever so sorry—and now I am stuck in the body of a frog. But I still have the wit and courage of a man. I noticed how you lost an item to the river, and I just happen to know exactly where to find it.”
She blushed. It wasn’t a shy, maidenly, becoming blush. It was a bright red, full-faced, all-the-way-down-onto-the-sternum blush, as revealed by the square neckline of her gown. Henrik wondered what could have embarrassed her so much.
“Would you like my assistance in recovering it?” When she said nothing, he prompted, “Or would you rather leave it in the mud and forget the expense of its fine gilding?”
She buried her face in her hands for a moment. “My mother is going to kill me . . . And a frog! A frog offers to help me!”
“A talking frog,” Henrik reminded her. A gnat buzzed into range of his tongue. Gnats were tasty, if not very filling. He carefully ignored it so as not to upset this maiden with too much froggish behavior. “Do you want my help, or would you rather splash around in the cold water and squishy mud, trying to find your lost item on your own?”
Face still red, she lowered her hands and gave him a tight-lipped look. Hitching up her skirts, she gingerly waded into the water. Henrik stifled the urge to point out that the knee-deep section she was sloshing through was a good eight feet or more from where she needed to be wading. Instead, he mustered his patience and waited. She finally gave up after several more minutes, shivering as she crawled out of the water.
“Oohhh! It’s no use! I’ve lost it forever!”
“No, you haven’t,” Henrik countered. At the sound of his croaking confidence, she started and glared at him.
“Haven’t you gone away yet?” she asked, struggling to wring out her skirt without baring too much more of her lovely pale legs.
“My offer still stands . . . if with a small price,” Henrik stated. “I know exactly where your lost item has fallen. In fact, it can be done in a mere handful of minutes, with the assistance of your belt. And I will gladly help you retrieve it . . . if . . .”
“If?” she asked warily.
“Well, first you should introduce yourself. I, as I have stated, am Henrik.” He left off the part about being a prince. Such things would be impossible to prove unless and until he was restored to his human form. “What is your name?”
“Gisette.” She lifted her chin a little, though her proud look was spoiled a little by her shivering. “Princess Gisette.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Your Highness.” Again he attempted a bow, though his stubby body w
Abandoning her hem, she rubbed her upper arms. “What . . . what sort of assistance?”
“That you take me home with you. That you treat me as your closest companion. That you let me eat off your plate and drink from your cup. That you let me spend an entire month as your constant, closest companion,” he clarified. “And . . . that you let me sleep in your bed with you.”
“Oh! Oh, how dare you! I am a princess, not some village trollop!” Gisette immediately protested. “I am an unmarried maiden of genteel birth, and I will not—”
“My lady, I am a frog. I can hardly endanger your chastity in this form,” Henrik said, chiding her dryly. “Now, you can either acquiesce to this simple enough request, or you can risk freezing yourself in this chilly, muddy river looking for something you haven’t the first clue how to find.”
She eyed him dubiously.
“I assure you I can be an entertaining, delightful companion,” he added. “You won’t regret it.”
“How will my belt help you retrieve my lost . . . item?” Princess Gisette inquired warily.
“I will take the end of it into the river with me, wrap it around the item, and allow you to draw it out without getting wet. At least, any more wet than you already are,” he added. “Once you have it back, you and I can travel back to your home where I shall be your companion for the next month. We shall eat together, sleep together, laugh together, and play together. Hopefully somewhere in there I shall be released from my enchanted state, whereupon I will go merrily on my way back home, and you shall be able to rest contentedly, knowing you have done a good deed in aiding me. Just as I will have done a good deed in aiding you . . . Are we agreed?”