Thanks to Aimee Duffy and Michelle Smart, I have some excerpts to share from their Once Upon a Twist Anthology. If you enjoy the excerpts, please use the order link to purchase a copy.
Excerpt: Glass Slippers and Combat Boots by Michelle Smart
Ella pulled the last of the rollers from Izzy’s thick auburn hair and scrutinized her work. She had not succumbed to the temptation of turning Izzy’s hair into a frizz-ball. That particular temptation had been tempered by Christell’s pet cat Domino, the ugliest, nastiest feline to have ever walked the land, guarding Izzy like a sentry. If Ella had made the slightest error, Domino would have gone tearing off to his mistress.
In any case, she didn’t want to sabotage Izzy’s night. Izzy might treat her as if she was a bad smell but she didn’t have the innate viciousness of her mother or sister. Somehow, her beatings were gentler too, rarely marking Ella’s skin. There were times, when it was just the two of them, that relations between them were almost friendly.
“What do you think?” Izzy asked.
Ella smiled. “I think you look beautiful. Prince Charming won’t be able to resist you.”
Izzy sniffed. “Rumour has it the prince has already found a bride.”
“Really? Then why go ahead with the Ball?”
“Who knows? It might be only a rumour. Still,” she added, suddenly cheering up, “I’ve heard that his Knights are very pleasing to the eye and there will be plenty of them in attendance. There is nothing more attractive than a man with an air of danger about him.”
So long as you keep your mitts of James, you can do what you like. Or do who you like.
An unexpected wave of compassion for her stepsister suddenly swept through her. She clenched her hands into fists to stop herself from squeezing Izzy’s shoulders and telling her she didn’t need to be the bike of the land; that true love was waiting for her.
The moment was lost when Ana came bursting into Izzy’s bedroom. “Are you ready? Mother says the carriage will be with us in five minutes.”
Unlike her sister, Ana had not trusted Ella with her hair or makeup, having not forgiven or forgotten the time when Ella had deliberately made her look like a clown.
Compared to Izzy’s willowy beauty, Ana looked like a man in drag. Of course, in Ana’s eyes she looked like the Belle of the Ball.
“Come, Cinderella,” said Ana, smiling malevolently, “We can’t have you missing any of the fun. I insist you wave us off.”
In a whirl of sickly perfume, Ella followed them downstairs to where Christell was waiting.
“Girls, girls, you look beautiful.” Her cruel pale-blue eyes then fixed on Ella. “Just think, by the time we return, one of your stepsisters may be betrothed to the Prince. I suggest you spend the evening practicing your curtseys. Now get in your cellar.”
The cellar door was soon locked shut, leaving Ella trapped alone in the bottom of the huge house.
When her father had been alive, a fleet of staff had catered to their every need. Christell had fired each and every one, unwilling to risk Ella blabbing to any of them.
Sinking onto the cold, stone floor, Ella hugged her knees.
Despite all her fears about the imminent arrival of the undead, she was feminine enough to feel a large dose of envy that the people of the land were gathering together for the party of the century.
More than anything, she longed to see James. She hated the idea of all those beautiful women at the Ball who were bound to spend the evening flirting and making eyes at him.
It had been only three days since she had seen him but she missed him dreadfully. She closed her eyes. She had known him barely a fortnight and already it felt as if he were a part of her. If she had been free she would be at the Ball with him, dancing with him, his hard body pressed tight against hers…
A wave of fury suffused her at all she was being forced to miss out on. Getting back to her feet she kicked the solid wood door.
“Damn you, Christell,” she howled. “Damn you to hell for killing my father. And damn you too, fairy godmother, for leaving me to cope with all this on my own. Where the hell are you?”
As if by magic – which of course it was – a puff of light appeared in the room. Seconds later, a plump, fluffy white haired elderly lady materialized before her.
It took Ella a few moments to comprehend what had just happened. She blinked to make sure her febrile mind hadn’t just conjured up her fairy godmother.
“Hello, dear,” Linda beamed. “You called for me?”
“I’ve been calling you for a year and a half,” Ella said, her initial joy quickly turning into petulance.
“Have you, dear? Did you shout? My hearing-aid’s been on the blink.”
“It’s what?” She shook her head in disbelief. “You said you’d be calling in to see me.”
Linda bristled. “Well, dear,” she said, an edge creeping into her voice, “I did have the small matter of ensuring Princess Rosamund didn’t actually die when she pricked her finger on that spindle – I did warn her father it was pointless banishing all spindles from the land but would he listen to me…?”
“You’ve got a suntan,” Ella accused, taking in the golden hue of Linda’s skin.
“Well, yes dear. After making sure your stepmother couldn’t kill you and then sorting out Rosamund, I was knackered so I took a nice little cruise.” Before Ella could voice her outrage, Linda hurried on, “Still, I’m here now. No harm done. What can I do for you, dear?”
Ella threw her hands in the air. “I’m sorry for sounding like a brat but Christell has put an enchantment around the cottage that keeps me trapped here. She’s sacked all the staff so I can’t blab about what she did to my father, she’s making me live down here in this horrid cellar and treating me like a slave, and tonight there’s a Ball in the palace and, and…” Her voice thickened. Before she could prevent it, a large tear fell down her cheek, landing with a loud plop on the concrete floor.
“I’m sorry for being such a drip,” Ella muttered, furiously wiping the ensuing tears away, “But there’s an invading army of undead heading for this land and I don’t particularly fancy being trapped and defenseless when they arrive.”
Glass Slippers and Combat Boots
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, the creatures are coming…
In a land run by misogynists, where fair maidens are deemed liable to fall in a dead faint at the sight of blood, Prince Charming is worried – the creatures that have destroyed their neighboring kingdoms are coming for them. He judges it imperative to get all the females to safety, but first he needs to break the enchantment enslaving his One True Love to her hateful home. Oh, and there’s the small matter of the Ball to get through too.
But when the creatures reach them ahead of their expected time, all plans are foregone. Can Ella break her wicked stepmother’s enchantment? Can she save her handsome Prince and the kingdom before midnight strikes? And can she show his soldiers what it really means to kick a monster’s butt? The clock is ticking…
Reunited With Red
Many, many years later…
When Ruby visits her grandmother in the deep, dark forest, she stumbles into a nightmare. Her grandma’s been attacked by a wolf-like creature, and an ancient disease that turned people into monsters is back… and so is the cold-hearted ex she walked out on a year ago.
Now she has to either accept Jeremy’s help or face becoming a monster herself. Fighting alongside the man she once loved isn’t easy, especially when she discovers there’s more to Jeremy than the cheating bastard she took him for.
As they fight to survive the disease and save those they love, can they keep from falling for each other all over again?