It wasn’t the kiss that woke her. His thoughts arrived long before the thorns were trampled. A touch of his mind, and her chains fell open.

The prince’s lips were soft, but Beauty read her future in the taste of him. She saw the wedding and the brood, the trap behind his rescue. Her fingers twitched, reaching for the sword at his hip.

It wasn’t the kiss.

The princess rode from prison on a stolen steed, dressed in the mail of a dead man. Her triumph rang in the beating of hooves, a discordant music that sounded terribly like freedom.

Frances Pauli writes speculative fiction across multiple genres. Her anthropomorphic tales have won two Leo awards and one Coyotl award. She lives on the dry side of Washington state with her family, her pets, and far too many houseplants.