Book Owl Word Search 500th Post Extravaganza!

To celebrate 500 posts in The Princess Blog, I'm participating in the Book Owl Word Search (BOWS) along with many other talented writers. Each author has a secret word hidden somewhere in their blog. If you can find and collect all the secret words, you get a chance to win a prize! I'm on the orange team. You can learn more about the challenge on the Snowy Wings Publishing website. For my entry, I decided to release the bonus chapter from my book, The Stolen Slipper, which had only been published in the Kindle box set for The Stolen Trilogy until now. This chapter is from the perspective of James, the "Prince Charming" character from my reimagining of "Cinderella," who is also  Lily's brother from The Stolen Queen, the second book in the trilogy.  After you read the chapter, you will find a link to the next blog in this challenge. I hope you have fun learning about these talented authors and searching for their hidden words.

Book Owl Word Search Orange Team Book Banner

"James’s Reunion"

*This chapter takes place when James saw Ella again for the first time in many years.

When Krystal sent me to the stables, I had the distinct feeling I was walking into a trap. I had disliked her long before she tried to take over the kingdom. Lily and Charlotte were naïve to remain so close with her. Either that or they must have seen something I didn’t. Her erratic behavior between telling me that Ella lived in this manor and then sending me as far from its residents’ sights as possible did nothing to soothe my suspicions. Still, I wasn’t in the mood for an argument so I decided to satisfy her whims. If it was a trap, at least it would teach Lily an important lesson about who she should trust. Maybe she would finally exile Krystal once and for all.

When I drew closer to the wooden door, my ears were blessed with a song I hadn’t heard in years. It was the same song my dear Ella sang when she groomed the horses back at my castle when we were young. Maybe Krystal hadn’t misled me for once. I took a deep breath and pushed open the door. It creaked a lot louder than I had anticipated. The singing abruptly stopped with a fearful gasp, and the most beautiful woman I had ever seen locked eyes with me in surprise.

“Don’t stop,” I said. “It was beautiful.”

In some ways, she was the same girl I went horseracing with in my childhood, but in others, she was different. Though she was still petite and frail, her body had grown into a womanly shape. Her lovely copper locks rested in a pile tied over her head. What I noticed the most was the lifelessness in her eyes as if she had given up on happiness. I knew for certain in that moment that she had not abandoned me of her own volition. The state of her dress and smudges on her face were telling enough. She was being mistreated and forced into servitude.

“I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I thought you were my stepmother.”

I pet the muzzle of a large copper mare in the stable to her right. “Penny seems to have turned out well. I’m glad you kept her around.”

Her large tragic eyes lit up with joy. “James, it really is you! I can’t believe it!”

In the blink of an eye, her arms were wrapped around my waist. My heart raced. I couldn’t believe the only woman I had ever cared for had waited for me all this time. For years, I had imagined my letters to her getting buried amidst piles of gifts from other suitors. I even suspected that she was happily married by now, but none of my imaginings even came close to the unfortunate state I had found her in. She held me so tight that I could feel every curve of her body against mine. I brushed my fingers up her delicate frame until I reached her chin and gently lifted her head up to face me. Her eyes were puffy and red.

“What happened to you, Ella? You stopped responding to my letters. I thought you had forgotten me.” It wasn’t until I felt my voice tremble that I realized I was crying too.

“Oh no, I could never forget. Those were the happiest days of my life. I still had my mother, my father and you, James. But she took all of that away from me. She…She bribed someone for a…”

Her beautiful voice faded into a fit of coughs. On top of everything else, that awful woman had made her ill. I had to get her out of here. This was no life for a lady of her status. Thank goodness Krystal sent me here in time. Without thinking, I lifted Ella and placed her in Penny’s saddle.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Let’s get out of here. I’ll take you to the coach. We can ride back to my castle together. You’ll be safe there. I promise.”

“No,” she said, shaking her head and causing her golden locks to dangle like wind chimes. “It’s too dangerous. You don’t know what kinds of things she can do.”

“Krystal already told me she has a rune. My sister and brother-in-law have an entire army of mages back at the palace. I’m sure they can take on one madwoman.”

“But she has the power to—to—” Ella was interrupted by another coughing fit.

“I’ll get you to a healer right away.”

I placed one foot in the stirrup and lifted myself so my face was level with hers. She brushed a dainty hand across my cheek.

“You’ve aged well,” she said.

“Not as well as you have,” I chuckled.

Our faces drew so close I could feel her warm breath on my lips. Then our lips were touching. The horse whinnied, interrupting our kiss. I climbed up behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist.

“We don’t have to do this. If you don’t want to run away with me, tell me now. But I still want to at least bring you to a healer and get you out of this terrible situation.”

“I do want to go with you. More than anything in the world. I love you, James. I always have.”

I had dreamt of hearing her say those words for years. The dream I had been living in for so long was finally coming true.

“And you, Ella, are the only woman I have ever loved. Run away with me?”

“Yes,” she said, but there was a hesitation in her voice.

I tugged the reigns, and Penny galloped out of the stable. We were almost home free when a hideous old woman in an oversized dress led by Krystal shouted at us. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted her. At their side were two equally hideous young women.

“Cinderella! What do you think you’re doing? Get down here this instant!”

Surely that wouldn’t be enough to convince her. Ella loved me. She wanted to come with me. I couldn’t believe it when she stumbled down from the stirrup o fast that a loose brown slipper got caught and fell from her foot on the way down.

“I’m sorry, James,” she whispered.

Had this woman broken her spirit so badly that she couldn’t even say no if she wanted to? And why was she calling her Cinderella? I leaped down behind her and pressed Ella’s hands against my heart.

“Ella, you don’t have to listen to her,” I said. “Let’s get out of here.”

Her glassy eyes had turned so puffy it looked almost as though her irises themselves had turned red.

“You don’t understand,” she sobbed. “I can’t.”

“Cinderella, I thought we discussed this,” said the horrible woman. “You must never see that boy again.”

Without another word, Ella separated herself from me and ran back toward the manor. Had I only imagined it when she had told me she loved me mere moments ago? The situation was baffling. All I knew was that I had to save her. Maybe she would come back for her slipper. I picked it up and waved it over my head as she continued to flee.

“Ella, wait! Your slipper!”

But the love of my life continued to fade into the distance leaving me with nothing but a memory yet again.

Thank you for sticking with me for 500 posts about princess movies, books, events, and more. Did you like reading bonus chapter from The Stolen Slipper? You can read the full novella as a standalone on Amazon or purchase the Kindle box set of the entire trilogy that includes bonus chapters from all three books. My secret word is princess! The next author in the BOWS challenge is Melanie Hooyenga. I hope you enjoy learning about her books and finding her secret word!


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