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Cassie Alexander

Transformation Trilogy E-book Bundle

Transformation Trilogy E-book Bundle

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"Beauty and the Beast" meets "Howl's Moving Castle"

🔥 Slow Burn / MF / Enemies to Lovers

🫦 Beastly Man x Virg!n Princess

😏 Agè Gap

📚 Mentor/Student

🪢 BĎSM

❤ HEA

Synopsis

True Love Hurts the Most.

Bend Her: A Dark Beauty and the Beast Fantasy Romance is the story of Rhaim the All-Beast, a cruel beast mage doomed to die at the hands of the woman he must protect at all costs, and Lisane, the sheltered Princess of Tears, who has been given into his care and who needs him to teach her magic so she can be free—no matter how much it might hurt her.

The intro follows . . .

Lisane:

My whole life, I had been a creature used to candlelight.

But I wasn’t accustomed to my own breath hot against my face, or the rough feeling of fabric against my cheek—or knowing that my wrists were tied behind my back, painfully tight.

The last thing I could recall was being in a carriage…We’d been running away from the Deathless . . .

And now I was here.

Wherever here was.

Tied up, in the dark, on the ground, with a bag around my head.

The very thing my father had been afraid of for me for my whole life—and the reason I lived in a gilded cage, only getting to leave the palace when I had throne-sworn mages by my side—had apparently happened.

I had been kidnapped.

◆◆◆

Rhaim the All-Beast:

Every mage gets one clear vision on the eve of their Ascension into their full powers, right before they get the brand of their mage-mark: you see the thing that will cause your absolute demise.

Some men see snowy peaks or waterfalls, others bucking horses, and some lucky few see themselves with old and wrinkled hands, passing peacefully in their sleep.

In all instances, we’re told, the reasoning behind the visions is the same: if you’re strong enough to be trusted with powers, then you must learn to accept the hand of fate, as surely as you’d earned it as your mage-mark.

You need to know, deep in your bones and now scarred on your skin, that while there are things in the world you can change with your powers, death comes for us all.

There is no amount of magic that can escape it.

And so, when a group of soldiers brought a bound and drugged woman to my doorstep, to bribe me to fight in their war, and pulled the bag off of her head and I saw her there—the woman from the vision at my Ascension, and who has haunted my dreams ever since—I knew it was the beginning of my end.

She had no idea who I was, or what we were to each other. She knew nothing about my fate or future with her, or how she was destined to kill me.

Which meant in the present . . . she was mine, to do with as I pleased.

And I wanted to see her crawling.

Read Chapter One

LISANE

I woke up to utter darkness.

That wasn’t so unusual—the women’s chambers of the palace were underground, to protect our quarters from the eyes of enemy mages—so my whole life, I had been a creature used to candlelight.

But I wasn’t accustomed to my own breath hot against my face, or the rough feeling of fabric against my cheek—or knowing that my wrists were tied behind my back, painfully tight.

I blinked furiously, trying to wake up and remember what had happened to me, and why I was trapped like this.

The last thing I could recall was being in a carriage, with Castillion the Spiked sitting across from me. We’d been running away from the Deathless . . .

And now I was here.

Wherever here was.

Tied up, in the dark, on the ground, with a bag over my head.

The very thing my father had been afraid of for me for my whole life—and the reason I lived in a gilded cage, only getting to leave the palace when I had throne-sworn mages by my side—had apparently happened.

I had been kidnapped.

My panic became a living thing inside me, scurrying like a mouse from my brain through my throat to my heart and back, making it hard to think and breathe in turns. My hands throbbed as all the blood my heart was pounding fought to get beneath the ropes that bound my wrists.

But I made sure to let nothing show, as I fought against every instinct I had to sit up and run.

I didn’t thrash, nor did I scream for aid.

I was a princess.

I would give no one the satisfaction of seeing me frightened.

No matter how dangerous I knew lying on the ground could be.

And so I lay still for hours.

Waiting.

For Deathless to crack open the earth and pour through. 

And when that didn’t happen, I waited for someone to come and check on me. To name their price. To touch me in ways they shouldn’t.

Only no one ever did.

I slowly moved to kneel on the cold stone floor.

My entire life I’d been told that I was precious. Too precious to see the sun unguarded, too precious to see the stars at night. It was what my father told me, and my brother, and the mages that guarded our doors, and my mother too, up until the Deathless killed her. 

I’d wanted to believe them with all my heart, but the ties that bound me—and my captor’s ongoing neglect—felt far more earnest and resonated with what I’d always feared to be true: that once precious things were put away, they were easily forgotten.

And if they’re forgotten long enough, nobody notices when they break.

* * *

Three days passed . . . I think.

I managed to wriggle the bag over my head off, but the knots around my wrists never slackened, not even after me twisting enough to make my skin burn beneath them.

There’d been a bucket of water down here with me, and I’d drank from it awkwardly, with my hands tied as they were. It only occurred to me that I might be better off drowning myself in it after there wasn’t enough water left in it for me to do so.

I even dared to use the one spell I knew, creating a small pool of light in my hand, hoping that it would attract someone’s attention—women weren’t allowed to learn much magic, lest it turn us barren or set us aflame—but no one came to chastise me.

In fact, no one had come to check on me all that time. My own waste was on my skirts; I was starving, weak, and whatever ill thoughts I had had about living windowless beneath the palace, well, now I knew how wrong I was. At least the palace had life and color and candlelight.

Water.

Food.

Whereas here . . . I was in a room made of stone just like my father’s throne room. Only instead of a room where half the space was taken up by a statue of a woman's face crying an emerald tear overlooking his massive, ominous carved throne, this room was small and ill-lit by just a weak gray light, which showed dull gray stones, a low uncomfortable wooden chair, the bucket of water I’d finished—yesterday?—and three stairs up to a door that never opened.

Until now. The door creaked open and I jerked up.

“Hello?” I asked quickly, then was instantly ashamed. Hello was what you called to someone you were friendly with, not a jailer. It was a peasant’s greeting from someone who was unsure of their place, not the greeting of a princess under dire circumstances.

I rocked to sitting, from where I’d been attempting to sleep on the floor. The space behind the open door was dark; the gray light didn’t reach that far, but I knew someone was there.

There had to be.

All of this was happening for a reason, wasn’t it?

I struggled to stand, balancing on stiff legs, dizzy and weak from hunger and dehydration, and I didn’t know what to do next, honestly. I had been traveling incognito, so there was a chance whoever had killed my mage and guards then captured me didn’t know my rank.

Was it better to announce who I was and claim my lineage, or lie and seem incapable of producing ransom if they knew no better?

Which approach was more likely to get me out of here alive?

I decided neither, more immediate needs were first. “I’m thirsty, I’m hungry, and I need to bathe.” I swallowed, staring into the darkness, willing something there to answer me.

“Do you think you deserve any of those things, Princess of Tears?” asked a low and menacing voice.

They knew—no, he knew—who I was. Drelleth, my homeland, was shaped like a teardrop, my dead mother was known as the Queen of Tears, and my captor was now mocking me.

I swallowed dry, my throat parched, as I grit my teeth and swallowed. “I would like to think that any human does.”

He made a thoughtful sound. “And what of your father, sending soldiers to fight the Deathless? Or his many wars before that? What of them? Or are his men, his humans,” he said, mocking me again, “only fit to die?”

I took a deep and steadying breath. “My father does what he thinks is best, at all times. And I assure you that he cares for his soldiers, perhaps as deeply as he cares for me. As for the war itself . . . he has the best men and mages working on it.” If he knew who I was, he knew how my mother died, and why my father fought so hard.

The disembodied voice watching me snorted, and I feared I was losing his attention. If he closed the door again and left me here, I didn’t know what would become of me. I couldn’t stand being trapped in these walls another moment, the pain of the sores opening beneath the rope around my wrists, or the stench of my own befoulment.

As scared as I was for whatever lay beyond it, if I stayed here . . .

“If you know me, you know my father and brother will pay good money for my safe return.” I tried my best to sound proud when I said it, but I wasn’t. I wanted to be stronger, and I was certain that three days prior I had been, that I would’ve spit at a captor’s eye. But now, my entire world seemed to be collapsing into the darkness outside the door, like a tunnel I needed to crawl through to find light. And when there was no response, when the thought of my station or my money wasn’t enough to guarantee my release, a part of me broke. “Please,” I asked my captor, not even sure what I was asking for anymore. I licked my lips with a sandpaper tongue. “Just . . . please.”

The moment between us stretched out uncomfortably long. If he closed the door again, I would die; I was sure of it. Then I heard him release a sigh. “Yes. You will have to please me. To survive.”

I felt his presence depart, but the door remained open, and I stumbled toward it.

* * *

The stone stairs leading up from my dungeon were sharp, something I found out when the rope binding my wrists suddenly released. I fell forward, out of balance, my shoulders in agony, and cut my palm deeply on the edge of a stone step.

I stopped myself before I cried out, though my eyes watered, and my palm sang in pain as thick blood poured down. I didn’t want him to know I’d been hurt. I already felt over-exposed to him—whoever he was—and I was quite literally feeble.

But half a flight up from where I’d cut myself, I found another open door, and inside of this one was a bathroom, easily comparable in luxury to any in the palace. It had a wide copper tub full of steaming water with soap at the edge, and there was a carafe that had cool clean water to drink on a wooden stool beside it. I wedged the door closed with the toe of one shoe then took off all the rest of my clothes, guzzled water, and slipped into the tub’s embrace.

I was in it until my toes wrinkled, recovering, feeling the warm water erase the knots of my days on the stone-floor. And then I scrubbed myself as I may never have before. My life prior to this place had been lived relatively cleanly, except for the times my brother and I roughhoused as children, throwing horse apples at one another in disgusting sport, under a mage’s protective eye. Now—I watched the water around me go from clear, to dingy, then back again to see-through.

Magic.

Someone here knew magic.

Of course they did.

I’d been kidnapped, after all.

I spent as long in the tub as I thought I could afford, knowing all the while that I couldn’t hide forever.

And then I got dressed, in the exceedingly simple gray dress that’d been left out for me, not much more than a knee-length cotton sack with a thin sash for a belt. I quickly braided my long wet hair, without a tie to trap the end, and I couldn’t bear to put my old shoes back on and so I didn’t.

My wrists ached, and my hand throbbed, but if my captor wanted me to drink, and wanted me clean, then surely I would get to eat—and the second I was out in the stairwell again, I smelled what I hoped was dinner.

I walked up at least two flights of stairs, tracing fingertips along the cool stone of one wall—how high was this place anyways? Surely higher than the palace!—and by the time I reached the final door, I was so hungry I wanted to run through it.

Then I saw the long and narrow room beyond and stopped. It was clearly a dining hall—a long, dark wooden table marked it as such—but there were only two chairs, one at each end. The one closer to me was placed behind an empty silver plate, whereas I presumed my captor sat behind the other, and his plate was full.

He was bigger than all but a few of my father’s guards, and looked sterner than most of them, with sharp cheekbones and a square chin. He had black hair to his shoulders, dark eyes, pale skin, and lips that seemed used to frowning, just like he was now. He was dressed in some sort of black leather shirt, I could tell by the way that it was draped on him, although the cuffs of it were folded back in a workman-like fashion, revealing a dusting of black hair and the stripes of several different scars on both his muscular forearms.

His eyes squinted and his nostrils flared at seeing me. I looked at his full plate—I didn’t think he’d taken a single bite.

Either he was exceedingly polite, or he’d arranged this display to continue my torture.

“May I sit down?” I asked, attempting courtesy, hoping it would be returned in kind.

“You may,” he said, gesturing to the table’s far side. I sat down in the only other chair and saw my wan reflection on the dull silver plate in front of me.

The second I sat, he started eating, and even though I wasn’t thirsty anymore my mouth watered. Perhaps there was a slim chance he’d forgotten that captives also needed food.

“May I eat?” I interrupted him when he showed no signs of slowing.

He ignored me, taking a deep drink of whatever was in his goblet, and then surveyed me with disdain as he set it down. “I haven’t decided yet.”

“What kind of answer is that?” I snapped before I remembered the importance of manners when placating strange men. My jaw clenched and my teeth ground, as he made a show of licking gravy off a knife in front of me, the corners of his lips just barely lifting up.

“The kind of answer you’re going to get, my drab little moth, until I decide.”

I watched him take several more bites, listening to my stomach rumble all the while. “I’m Princess Lisane.” I had a name, and I would rather he used it.

“Oh, yes, I know,” he said, rubbing a piece of meat around his plate with a fork, before putting it in his mouth and biting it free. “Your friends mentioned that when they dropped you off.”

I frowned, then I realized I probably shouldn’t show him any disappointment. “Those weren’t my friends,” I stated, pretending to be bold.

One of his eyebrows arched coolly. He was almost done with his plate now, but surely there was more food where it had come from. “What is the last thing that you recall?”

I’d spent half my time in his dungeon trying to remember, when I wasn’t focused on being hungry, or wondering how strong the stones on the floor were. I’d been in the carriage, and we were thundering for the border, away from the Deathless, and then . . . “We were traveling.” Was Castillion dead? He’d been one of my guards since I was a child. He would’ve never let anything happen to me. “Who brought me here? And who are you? Does my father know I’m here? Have you asked for ransom yet?”

He brushed away my questions with a hand as he pushed his plate away from him, then gave me a piercing stare. “Tell me, little moth, what is your pride worth to you?”

I blinked, distracted at once. “Excuse me?”

“Your pride. Do you hold it in high value?” He settled his silverware away. “I find myself suddenly curious.”

“I—” I began, trying to figure out his game, but also feeling angry. “I am a woman of high rank. And while I have no idea who you are, or why I’m here—I know that I’m well-loved. My father, my brother, and Ker Vethys, my betrothed and a Prince of the Seven, will be looking for me. So while you may have me at a disadvantage now, sir, trust that it is momentary, and you should do nothing untoward.”

His eyes lit up in clear amusement. “I would never, little moth. And you may trust that for as long as you’re trapped in here with me, I’ll never make you do anything that you don’t want to.”

“Good,” I breathed, relaxing slightly.

He watched me, and he laughed, shaking his head subtly. “Not really. Because I will make you want to do untoward things for me, moth. Eventually.” I swallowed and I frowned as he went on, “So let’s begin.” He circled the plate in front of him with a finger in the air. There were still several bites of meat on it, and vegetables, and his goblet must have been half-full. “Crawl over here atop the table, and eat this like a cat in front of me.”

I looked between him and his half-eaten food. “I would never,” I gasped, pushing my chair back, while he weighed me with his eyes.

“Is that so?” he asked. Mocking me seemed to be his favorite sport. “Because I believe you will, moth. Given time. Only the next plate, instead of treating you like a favored cat, I will treat you like a favored dog, and it will be on the ground.” He snapped his fingers and pointed toward his feet. “And the plate after that will be back in your dungeon, and then who only knows when the door will next open up.”

At the thought of being trapped back in that—that—place—“You wouldn’t,” I tried, searching for a way to reason with him.

“Do you know me?” he asked, sounding curious and leaning forward, but when no recognition fluttered in my eyes he sank back again. “Then perhaps you should assume I would.”

My heartbeat rushed, I could hear it pounding in my ears. “Is this a prank? To humble me?”

“Does it feel like a prank to you?” he asked, with a shrug, then grinned wickedly. “No? I’ll give you a few more moments to decide.”

I sat in the chair, aching, my stomach practically folding in on itself from lack of food.

What would my family think if they knew?

Would Vethys still want my hand if he knew I had crawled for another?

But . . . how would any of them ever find out, if I didn’t tell them?

Because surely, when they paid my ransom, I would make them kill this man.

I envisioned the moment my guards would cut off his hands and feet and feed him his tongue and he—whoever he was—would regret the moment he’d ever seen me and come up with this plan. He would be rendered helpless before choking on his own blood.

And in the end it was thoughts of violence and retribution that got me up onto his dining room table. Hands and knees. The hard wood of the table hurt to crawl on, and my poor cut hand was still throbbing; but none of that mattered anymore, because I needed to survive long enough for revenge. I hitched up the edge of the ugly dress I wore, so as not to crawl atop it, and I made my way down to his side of the table with vengeance in my soul.

A slow, cruel smile spread across his face as I neared, and when I reached his plate I pulled it toward myself. I started eating what he’d left on it with my hands. From up close I could see that he had also had several faint scars on his face, and he watched me with glittering eyes.

“Eat slowly, moth. You don’t want to get sick,” he warned.

I waited until I was three bites in and licking drippings off my fingers to eye him with venom. “I will kill you, in time,” I swore.

He nodded in solemn agreement. “Of that, I have no doubt.”

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