Beast:Part I

By: Ella James

An Erotic Fairy Tale





CHAPTER 1

Annabelle

October 2006



In all my life, I’ve never done anything crazy. It’s true, I’m only seventeen, but I’ve had a few occasions. Like when Mom brought home that sleazy guy named Joe, who tried to get into my bed with me. Or when Mom forgot to pay our rent—more than one month in a row—and we got kicked out of the apartment on Rhode Street, and we didn’t even have enough money to go to a motel. We slept in the Trans Am for four days, and I had to brush my teeth without water. And then right after that, my friend Rita gave me a baggie full of pot and told me I could start selling. There’ve been times in my life when I could have done some stupid things—and I didn’t. Because I’m responsible. Because I’m Annabelle.

Tonight, that’s changing.

Tonight, I’m not Annabelle. My fake ID says my name is Belle Hammond, and I’m twenty-one years old. I grin down at the gleaming piece of plastic, cupped like a jewel in my palm. This ID, made by my friend Julian’s older brother, cost me one hundred and fifty dollars. Practically a fortune. I was only able to get it because Holt, my Dad, put three one hundred dollar bills in the ash tray of my new VW Bug—along with a post it note that said, “Never use this ash tray.”

Yeah, that’s right. I got a brand new, super shiny, never-scuffed-up, good-smelling car three days ago, on my seventeenth birthday. Because my Dad is awesome. Even though he doesn’t live with me, and we only see each other sometimes, he loves me. He says I’ve earned a nice car. Why? No reason. Just because I’m me.

I slip the ID back into my denim clutch and step to the window of my room, so I can look down into the apartment complex parking lot and make sure my precious Baby Blue is still in her spot. I’m relieved to find she is, and giddy to behold her beauty from a bird’s eye view. The orangey sunset reflects off her royal blue roof, making her look like she’s been ordained.

She has, kind of.

Tonight, Baby Blue will be my chariot.

I flop down on my bed, hug my pillow to my chest, and pull out the magazine I keep tucked under the sheets. I thumb to page fifteen, where his picture is, and run my eyes over the face I know almost as well as my own.

I let out the breath I’ve been holding.

Suck in another one.

I hope tonight will be perfect.

I know my plan more than a little crazy, but that’s what being young is all about…right?



*



I leave the apartment at 9:45 and pick up Alexia first. She lives a few blocks from me, in a condo with her older sister, who just so happens to be spending the night with her boyfriend down in Downey.

Alexia saunters off the stairs and into the paved lot wearing butt-tight jeans and a white tube top, her long brown hair bouncing, stick-straight, around her shoulders. She glances covertly left, then right, as if she’s worried one of the neighbors will see her, then slides into the front seat and raises her eyebrows.

“Damn, girl.” She knocks her knuckles on the dash. “I can’t believe this is your ride.”

“I know.” I bite my lips to suppress a grin. “Me either.”

“Baby Blue, our pumpkin carriage on the way to the ball.”

I nod, struggling to keep a proud look off my face.

Alexia doesn’t have a car, and she probably won’t until she’s a lot older. Her sister is a secretary, her mom is dead, and her dad is in La Rosa—the prison where my dad works as a guard.

On the way to Carolina’s house, Alexia tells me about her sister’s latest Match.com disaster, and we make guesses as to what Carolina will be wearing.

Carolina lives with her mom and stepdad and her little sister, Danielle, on the outskirts of La Placita, in a little beige house with a nice, fenced yard. As I pull up to the curb in front of the front walk, Baby Blue’s headlights gleam against the smooth, yellow and red plastic of a Little Tikes car. Carolina’s stepfather manages the night shift at a nearby electronics factory, and her mother can’t sleep without Lunesta, so as long as Danni doesn’t squeal, she’s safe sneaking out. As if on cue, I see a shadow bounce against the left side of the house. Then Carolina is flying through the side yard, trailing what looks like pale pink silk.

She rushes to the passenger’s side door, and Alexia mutters a curse as she fumbles with the lever to make the seat pop forward. Carolina tugs the door open and practically sails over Alexia’s head, into the backseat.

I hear a ripping sound and then “shit!” She bobs up into my rear-view as I pull out onto the street, all curly blonde hair and huge blue eyes. She holds out one arm, confirming that yes, she is wearing a flappy, pale pink dress.

“I tore my sleeve! Does someone have a safety pin?”

“I don’t.”

“I might,” Alexia says.

As the two of them suss that out, I drive to the next neighborhood, where Anya lives. But when I dim my lights and pull up in front of her little gray brick house, I see the red plastic thing on her mailbox sticking up. It’s a signal that her dad is up late drinking, and she won’t be able to sneak out.

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