PAGE FIVE

“She stepped back from him, away from the pain and rage behind his once kind, hazel eyes. ‘Viktor, please. I thought the child would look like you.’

“He closed the space between them and wrapped his hands around her shoulders. Hard. And now, tears filled his own eyes. ‘What do you mean “like me”? Why couldn’t she look like you?’ His voice came out strangled and defeated. ‘What are you?’ He started to shake her. ‘WHAT ARE YOU?’

“And then, like glass breaking under pressure, her beautiful face shattered and crumbled into something even uglier than the monstrosity she had given birth to. Her beauty, all along, was a glimmer. A shade. A lie.

“A particularly large boil on her forehead burst—one of many on her squishy, lumpy face. The disgusting, putrid juices hit him in the eye.

“The man’s body, his every sense, filled with such horror, such terror at the sight and smell of her true face that he closed those large hands of his around her neck and squeezed.

“The woman—the monster—flailed and cried in his ever-tightening grasp. ‘Seven years together,’ she managed to cough out, ‘and my guise would have been permanent.’

“Tears clouded the man’s vision, something he was thankful for as he squeezed tighter and tighter and tighter, and still the monster would not die or even cease to speak. ‘LIAR! NO! NOOO!’ His heart beat faster, his pulsed raced harder. This was a nightmare. Why wasn’t he waking up?

“He pushed the horrid creature to the floor, hands still around its squishy, bloated neck. Another boil burst into his face, burning his skin like acid. ‘WHY? WHY?’

“The baby’s screams were endless. The creature continued to flap around beneath him, its thick, scaly arms thumping against the hardwood floor, sending fresh waves of disgust and nausea and fear through his system.

“The thing spoke again. ‘Viktor . . . I can find another donor. I . . . I can make this . . . right. Pick anyone you . . . choose. I . . . I will become whomever you want.’

“His voice was growing weaker now as he squeezed with all the strength he had. ‘No . . . no . . .’ What was he thinking, marrying a woman he barely knew? She had him under an enchantment. She was some kind of sorceress. A hideous, lying—

Another boil burst. The juices landed close to his mouth.

“A fresh surge of rage rushed through his body. ‘DIE, BEAST, DIIIEEE!’

“His frantic shouting quieted the wrapped monster on the bed. And finally, the thing on the floor quit thrashing and went limp.

“He sprang away from the beast at once. With hands shaking uncontrollably, he wiped the putrid juices from his face and turned his eyes away from his bride.

“Tremors wracked his body, weakening every muscle and bone therein. He slumped over to the bundle amongst the pillows. He’d just throw the beast off a cliff. He didn’t have the strength to smash it against the wall.