Young, street-smart Annabelle is living a life of petty crime to stay alive when she’s kidnapped by a group of mysterious men. She’s fully human, so she’s shocked when it’s revealed that she is the fated mate of Phoenix, one of the men who took her. Phoenix is her soul mate and ferocious alpha of his werewolf shifter pack, and she is to become Luna (female leader) of his pack, ruling equally beside him. Annabelle struggles to fit into her new circumstances, but she can’t deny the connection she feels to Phoenix…
Content Warning: 18+ (Child Abuse, Kidnapping, Violence Against Women)
Belle’s Beast by Bernie R. Jones is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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He watched her with his predatory gaze as she walked, he had no idea why she was out at such an ungodly hour or why she brought out the primal instincts he fought so desperately to suppress.
He watched the small brunette start to speed up.
She looked over her shoulder, at him, her gaze not at all frightened but confused. She sped up, and he chased. Catching her sweet honey and lavender scent.
She enticed him, he wanted her.
And now, he was going to have her.
The cold November air whirled around the almost barren streets. The sun had long passed set, and the girl should have been home hours ago.
Her apartment was two streets away, less than ten minutes if she sprinted. Her calves were burning as she continued to run, she wouldn’t last much longer in her current state.
She never had been athletic in the slightest, it was a massive disadvantage. Especially since she was outnumbered, five to one.
She had sensed a presence following her a few blocks back. Little did she know it was more than one man that had been tailing her.
She had no choice but to fight back, as four brawny men all tried to grab her. At that moment, for the first time in a very long time, the girl had felt complete and utter fear.
She had one advantage: she knew the layout of the city like the back of her hand.
She had lived in the run-down outskirts of London for four years; she knew the ins and outs of the sorry excuse of an area.
She ducked into a small alleyway, flipping over a trash-can with ease, knocking them over as she ran away. The decision to make noise proved fatal.
Instead of help, she was rewarded with the loud thudding of heavy booted feet as they followed the sound.
Her legs were screaming out in protest as they began to slow down, panic filling her.
She didn’t want to stop because the moment she did, it could be her last. Living in such a dangerous place she knew never to let her guard down unless she was behind closed doors.
Anything could be out there, if you let your guard down for even a second, it could be your downfall.
That was how she lost her best friend. She wouldn’t make the same mistake.
“Come on, love, I really don’t appreciate you taking us on a tour around this shit-hole,” a man called out, his voice deep and gravelly.
It was scary yet somehow inviting.
She trembled as she could hear them approaching.
Turning down another alley, she kept her gaze locked behind her trying to spy her pursuers. But she had already made her mistake.
She soon found herself backed against a cold brick wall. She tried to think where she made the wrong turn and what was on the other side of the wall.
The thick barrier of fear clouding her mind made it impossible for her to think straight.
She could only think about how the sound of footsteps echoed around her. Or how her shallow breaths formed around her in white clouds, like screams in the eerie midnight air.
By the time she realized that she was in the alley behind Giovanni’s pizza place, connected to the intersection, one block away from her apartment; it was too late.
The man grabbed her wrists trapping her, and she tried to pull away yelling at him to let go.
Deep down she knew her resisting was futile. In this neighborhood everyone looked out for themselves.
No one would come to her aid, even if they could hear her cries.
They dragged her to the dark car on the corner, she could feel a foreign feeling invade her body. It was like her stomach dropped to the floor.
Any light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel was becoming dimmer with each passing second.
There was the resonating sound of a door slamming and then silence. She could feel warm wetness on her face.
The silence was broken by her gasping for air as more broken sobs left her mouth. The car was completely silent apart from her sobbing.
She was overwhelmed with the onslaught of emotion that she felt. She hadn’t felt such raw emotions in so long, she had learned to block it all out.
But now all at once, she could not stop the liquid feelings that were running down her face, no matter how hard she tried.
She had not cried this hard, not when her real home was turned to ash.
Not when the orphanage gave her to that monster.
Not when her best friend was murdered right before her eyes.
Not once in her nineteen years of life had she let her emotions so out of control.
One of the men in the car picked her up and placed her on his lap cuddling her to his body. The warmth and comfort she felt from him startled her a whole lot.
Although her body craved his comfort, she pushed him away. Gritting her teeth as she fought to get away from his arms which caged her in.
This was the man who took her away from her home.
It wasn’t the best home, but it was the best life had been in some time and now because of him she had lost it all.
The life that she had begun here would mean nothing. And knowing the neighborhood nobody would notice or report her absence.
“Get your fucking hands off me!” She growled out through her tears, her voice was strong and commanding.
You would never believe she was crying if you couldn’t see her face. The man smiled at her; he was proud of her.
She will make a perfect Luna, he thought.
“But you are crying my love, let me hold you,” he whispered into her hair.
The girl was taken aback by his answer.
Did he not realize that he had caused her pain? This was a strange man; he had kidnapped her and now he wanted to hold and comfort her?
“I’m crying because of you!” she cried out in disbelief and anger.
The mysterious man seemed hurt by her outburst; his face turned stormy. He was angry.
He held her even tighter in his arms, her crying face buried in his chest. He sniffed her hair, the sweet scent seemed to relax him.
He whispered sweet nothings and false apologies in her ears in an attempt to soothe her. If he meant any of it then he would take me back, she thought sourly.
“You should sleep.” His voice was no longer soft as he spoke, it was dominant but somehow still enticing.
She glanced at him, scowling.
She resisted, unwilling to bend at his command, but her eyes disagreed with her protests. Her fight had drained her energy leaving her exhausted. Her eyelids were heavy with tiredness, on the brink of sleep.
There was a warm feeling surrounding her; she had never felt anything like it before.
As much as she hated to admit it, this strange man who had abducted her was holding her and it felt okay.
When she awoke, she was partially relieved to see that she was alone.
Her body was under a black comforter. It decorated a four-poster bed lined with black satin sheets. She felt so out of place in the regal room.
The bed was in the center of the room, two shady oak bedside tables adorned the sides.
At the foot of the bed was a beautiful white chaise lounge. The floor was decorated with a white rug that lay spread eagle in front of the stone fireplace.
Off to the left were two double doors, which led to a humongous walk-in closet.
Next to this was another door that led to the blinding white bathroom. The beautifully clean counters and rainfall shower only made the girl feel more out of her depth.
She was brought back to the present when a man came into the room, he looked to be in his early twenties from what she could see.
He was tall standing at six-foot-four, which towered over her measly five-foot frame. He had slight stubble on his face and his piercing gray eyes burned with a fierce intensity as he stared at her.
He was alluring with his beautiful sun-kissed skin.
The girl held his gaze with a challenging glint in her eyes, he was the man from the car last night…
Her head spun with possibilities: would he kill her? Use her? Sell her?
Her mind wandered to the worst possibilities. Growing up in chaos could have that effect- she only expected the worst in life – from an early age she had learned to do so.
She had not noticed that the man had spoken to her, asking her name, or if she had noticed she chose to ignore him.
“What do you want from me? Are you going to kill me?” She looked back into his eyes defiantly, both gazes strong and unflinching. Green to gray.
“I will never hurt you nor do I want anything from you, my love.” The man said, he had a deep masculine voice that made her stomach flutter.
It was an unfamiliar feeling, though she didn’t understand why.
“I only wantyou.”
She stepped back unsure of what he meant. “I don’t even know you.”
She didn’t understand why she somehow wanted to be near him, or how since she woke up her body had been craving his touch. She liked it when he touched her and when he held her, she wanted more.
She wanted to touch him too, and not in any way other than being innocent. She cleared her mind of such things, disappointed with herself.
“Please, I just want to go home!” she said, looking away from his beautiful face.
He chuckled. “My name is Phoenix, and you are now mine.”
He could see the instant alarm on her face as he said those words, he had just frightened her. It didn’t help that he was walking closer, caging her in.
She looked around like a cornered animal, but found no possible escape routes.
“I belong to no one,” she whispered, her green eyes burned with a fierceness, the will to survive.
Her knee shot out like lightning aiming straight for the space between his legs.
He had no time to react, he fell to the ground holding his groin while a pained groan escaped him. She dashed out of the room, not once looking back.
She heard a loud roar, which sent fear dancing up her spine, only pushing her to move faster.
On the landing, she could either go left or right, both options led to a staircase from what she could tell.
Turning right, she hurried down the stairs brushing past a woman and almost knocking her over.
She had no time to apologize as she kept moving fearing what would happen if the man caught up to her.
She found herself racing down another grand staircase. Turning corners into various corridors to escape, but she only made herself more lost.
She came to a dark wooden door; it was massive and intimidating in how regal it looked.
Could this be her way out? There was only one way to find out.
She pushed open the door, glancing over her shoulder briefly to make sure that no one was around. She stepped inside only to be met with nearly a dozen pairs of eyes on her.
She felt so intimidated with so many men staring at her, but she never let it show. Her gaze was firm but desperate as she looked at them.
The word died in her throat as she felt a presence behind her.
He walked around her body to behind the large oak desk that sat on the other side of the room.
“Leave.” His voice was commanding, she found herself unconsciously flinching at the sound.
She watched as all the men in the room quickly dispersed, their heads down, leaving them alone.
She stood gripping at the familiar sleeves of her worn-out hoodie. Besides that, she was no longer clad in her ratty old jeans but in a pair of boxers.
It was definitely his boxers.
She could smell his enticing scent covering the material, which oddly comforted her. Although she would never admit that she liked it so much.
His voice was no longer like when he spoke to her before, but it was that same commanding tone he used on those men.
She decided it was unwise to fight him anymore, he was still reeling in anger from her outburst. She complied, walking carefully toward him until she was in front of his desk.
She was nervous, she had made him angry and she didn’t know how he would react, would he slap her?
She could probably take it; it wouldn’t be the first time.
He made a come-hither motion with his finger, she walked around his desk even slower.
When she was an arm’s length away, he grabbed her and pulled her onto his lap. One hand went to her hip as he raised his other hand to her face to push back her hair.
Startled and expecting a blow she flinched away as much as she could while trapped in his embrace.
“I told you I would never hurt you, my love,” he murmured gruffly to her, pushing her brown tendrils behind her ear.
She gulped. Her face tingled in response to his fingers which brushed against her soft skin.
“Now love, tell me, what’s your name?”
Her voice was barely louder than a whisper as she looked up at him. Her green eyes wide, his steel-gray eyes staring back at her, capturing her in a heated gaze.
She felt a small tug in her stomach as he looked at her.
Something about that gaze told her that she would not be leaving this man’s side.
“Arabella.” He whispered in wonder, like whispering a prayer. “Well, Arabella, I’ve been waiting for you for a long time, and now that I have you, I’m not going to let you go.”
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The girl sat in silence, she had managed to get some distance between her and the mysterious man.
Much to her discomfort, his arms were still around her as she perched on his desk in front of him.
She was still reeling from what he said, this man—Phoenix—had been waiting for her? Why would he be waiting for her, she couldn’t see what made her so special.
Phoenix watched her in fascination.
He could already feel himself falling for the bold beauty sitting in front of him. He watched her committing everything to memory.
The way her eyebrows seemed to furrow as though she were having an inner battle. How her plump lips pursed, and how her fingers danced in nervousness on her lap.
As he continued to watch her face, he could already imagine their future. In a cozy house with a wraparound porch. They would sit under a weeping willow in the garden, and watch their pups play.
Then they would sit and eat together like a family. He could envision it and he found himself eager to be with his mate.
Arabella snapped out of her dazed thoughts and glanced over at the handsome stranger. She didn’t know whether to be amazed or frightened at the intense look he had on his face.
It was something akin to longing and wonder.
She couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking about, if he was thinking about her.
She found herself disappointed in her thoughts, why should she care? She barely knew this man and he had abducted her from her home!
Her eyebrows furrowed once more.
Phoenix couldn’t resist the urge to run his thumb over her creased brow; he didn’t like to see his mate conflicted.
He enjoyed watching her. He wanted to see more, everything she could show him. He wanted to know everything about her and commit it to memory. As he watched her, he realized he had yet to see her smile.
Seeing her smile and knowing that he was the reason behind it, that would be his undoing.
His finger lingered, and Arabella found herself unconsciously leaning into his palm.
He enjoyed her comforted state, though he could tell she was trying to fight the urge which upset him.
“Do you want a tour, love?” Phoenix asked softly.
His hand caressed her cheek, leaving a path of flames as it traveled back down to her hip.
“Why would I need a tour?” Her voice held some amusement, she either couldn’t believe the house was so big or she was still in denial.
“Because this is your home now and you might want to know where everything is.” His voice hardened like he was commanding one of his men, daring Arabella to argue or disagree.
It surprised her how he could transform from warm to cold-hearted within seconds. She didn’t know what scared her more, the fact she wasn’t afraid or the fact that she found it appealing.
“Okay, I would love a tour.” She forced herself to smile, aiming to release some of the tension that had come between the two.
They had been walking around for an hour and the girl had begun to get restless.
She already knew she would get lost but tried to commit as much of it to memory as possible. Some of the knowledge might’ve come in handy in the future.
Phoenix glanced over his shoulder to gaze at the small girl lagging behind. He wasn’t sure if she was walking that slow to irritate him or if she was genuinely tired.
Either way, he didn’t like it.
He stopped abruptly and Arabella, not paying attention, bumped straight into his back. Phoenix made a swift turn and picked up the girl before he continued walking.
They came to a large door, the corridor looked familiar to Arabella. After walking around the estate, she found that most of the corridors looked similar.
The large wooden doors opened to reveal the room she had woken up in.
“This is our room, you can do whatever you want with it, if you don’t like anything, say the word and I’ll get rid of it.”
Phoenix smiled warmly at her as she walked further into the room. She was quiet as she continued to walk, stopping on the other side of the room.
“Say something, love, do you like it?” Phoenix baited, wanting to hear her voice.
“I don’t want to sleep in the same room as you.”
Phoenix raised his brow, so “our room” hadn’t escaped her notice.
He was a little hurt at her statement, but he knew that he would get his way. He always got his way, he made sure of it.
“Come with me.” His face was stormy, but his voice didn’t lose the gentle quality it had whenever he spoke to her.
He walked out of the room, waiting by the door for Arabella. As soon as she was within his arms reach, she was once again in Phoenix’s arms.
He continued walking and brought them to an open hall. There were tables everywhere, enough to hold a hundred people, and off to the left was a set of white double doors.
“This is the dining hall and through there,” he pointed to some doors on the left, “is the kitchen.”
“Why do you need so much space?” Arabella’s confusion was almost tangible.
She felt his body tense at the question and she wondered for a moment what she said wrong. He carried on walking ignoring her question, which annoyed Arabella.
“Are you going to answer any of my questions? And I can walk by myself, put me down!” She grew more frustrated by the moment, squirming in his grip.
“No.” He growled.
It was an animalistic sound that had Arabella reeling in fear, she stiffened.
He could smell it on her, her fear, then realized his mistake and instantly regretted using such a tone on her.
He gently put her to her feet, which caused her tense figure to relax.
He grabbed her hand still wanting some contact with his mate. He led her toward a glass sliding door and could see the instant excitement and elation on her face.
Even if it was a minuscule reaction when she realized they were headed outside.
He watched in utter fascination as the girl held a look of such wonder and peace on her face.
Arabella had never felt so free. She had never seen such beauty than the garden in front of her. The lush green grass, the kaleidoscope of colors that adorned the autumn leaves.
Growing up in the slums of London had made her even more appreciative of the sight that beheld her.
Even though she had been taken from her home, she was still somewhat glad. She had been thrown into a world of comfort and beauty, something she could have only dreamed of before.
“I guess I know where to find you from now on.” Phoenix smiled.
What surprised him was that Arabella turned around and smiled back.
A genuine smile.
It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
He loved her smile and wanted to see it more often, and most important to him, he wanted to be the reason behind her smiles.
“Are you hungry, love? It’s almost dinner time.” Arabella nodded slightly; she hadn’t eaten a proper meal for days.
Before she was kidnapped, she had to struggle to find her meals. She usually raided dustbins for morsels, Giovanni’s was usually a good haul. As if to prove a point her belly rumbled causing Phoenix to chuckle.
Arabella found the sound pleasant, she responded with a small embarrassed smile.
“Let’s go.” Phoenix held out his hand.
Arabella eyed it with suspicion, she ignored it and walked back toward the house.
Phoenix followed close behind her with a dejected look on his face. He hid it well as they approached the dining area.
Arabella was alarmed at the number of people which inhabited the room. There were nearly a hundred people, eating, drinking, and laughing.
She could hardly believe that so many people lived here or that there was enough food to feed everyone.
Phoenix led the girl to a large table. He sat at the head of the table but not before tucking Arabella in. She scooted in discomfort, not used to the kind action.
He reached over and piled food onto his plate, the small mountain was almost comical.
Arabella looked around hesitantly. She received countless looks from the other people around the hall, it made her feel awkward.
Phoenix sat obliviously; he was talking to a tanned muscular man who sat on the other side of him.
Phoenix frowned as he watched Arabella fidget in her seat, never once touching food. Her gaze was flitting around the room as if searching for an escape, on her lap her fingers danced.
It was very discrete, and to anyone else it would appear that she was looking around at the elements in the room. She hid her agitation well but from being around her before, he had come to realize it was a habit of nervousness.
He reached over and took her plate piling food on. He gave her an encouraging smile while simultaneously commanding his pack members to stop staring.
Arabella found herself relaxing slightly and indulging in the atmosphere of family. She had missed out on this for the last eight years of her life.
She simply watched, never actually conversing with anyone even when cajoled by Phoenix.
A man came rushing in, out of breath. He had blood on the side of his face coming from a long claw-like wound extending from his forehead down to his chin.
One word sent Phoenix into a fit of rage.
Immediately the room was in action, people getting up and walking swiftly to the door. There was a small sense of panic yet there was a semblance of order.
Arabella was filled with bewilderment as she looked around.
What is a rogue? Where is everyone going? Her mind was reeling as she tried to make sense of what was happening around her.
She looked over to Phoenix who seemed to be in control, his anger replaced with a relaxed demeanor.
“Where?” He questioned the wounded man.
“The Northern border.”
Arabella felt her heart soar, this was her perfect opportunity.
If there was one thing she was good at it was disappearing, she could use the confusion to her advantage.
Taking a step in the opposite direction of Phoenix, something within her made her halt in her actions.
Where would she go? How would she get back to the city? She didn’t even know her way back…
Did she really want to go back?
A part of her already knew the answer without even thinking about it. She hadn’t even been with Phoenix a full day, yet somehow, he managed to treat her better than most people she had met in her lifetime.
She knew that she would have to be crazy to leave all of it behind to go back to that shit hole she once called home.
Phoenix nodded before turning to meet his mate, he wasn’t going to risk letting her out of his sight. He had come to realize she was strong. She depended only on herself, so he presumed she would try to run in the confusion.
His heart ached at the thought of her leaving. He had only known her for less than a day, but he knew there was no way he could part with her. He didn’t want to.
“Belle, come here love.” He held his hand out to Arabella.
As she glanced between his hand and the door which would help her escape, she realized she didn’t want to run away.
She didn’t want to go back to the shitty apartment that she called home; she didn’t want to go back to having nothing.
But she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be with this man.
This man who made her feel things that she never felt before, things she never thought she would feel. Deep within her, she knew what her decision was, and she could only hope that she wouldn’t come to regret it.
She hesitantly put her hand in Phoenix’s extended palm and stepped closer to him.
This time it was her choice and there was no going back now.
Arabella paused, realizing the weight of her action. Even if Phoenix didn’t recognize it (which he did). She had submitted to him; she had accepted him- and she didn’t even fully understand what she gave herself to.
Phoenix grabbed her in his arms, her feet off the floor as he walked out the door. He shifted her, so she was on his back in a piggyback position then he began to run.
Arabella closed her eyes as the wind whipped her hair, they were going at an impossible speed. She was astonished when they reached their destination within ten minutes.
He put her down but still held her close.
Phoenix was very careful. He made sure to deliberately hold her against his chest so that the girl couldn’t see what was happening.
He realized that his eagerness to ensure that she didn’t run had put her in a different precarious situation.
One that he wasn’t sure she would be able to handle.
“What are you doing on my territory?” Phoenix’s voice boomed through the space.
Arabella’s curiosity grew at his commanding tone; what did he mean territory? Who was he talking to, they were in the middle of a forest? What the hell was happening?
Of all the people to kidnap her, it had to be some kind of weirdo.
She craned her neck, managing to get out of his grip. She knew that she had chosen to stay in a sense, but it didn’t mean she had to do what he said.
Her eyes caught a glance at the scene. There were two other men standing beside Phoenix, both of which had been at the dining table earlier.
What surprised her the most though was the “people” that Phoenix was talking to. Only they weren’t people at all.
There on the other side was a small group of wolves!
Why was he talking with wolves!?
Arabella was frozen in shock as the wolves slowly morphed and changed into…people.
The horror was clear on her face as bones cracked and popped to reform human bodies.
She couldn’t stop the scream that escaped her, startling all in the clearing and the nearby creatures residing in the trees.
It came close to some of the worst things she had seen. Her life had been hell for a long time, making her privy to the cruelty of humanity.
She had seen people turn into monsters, but only in a metaphorical sense.
To see something like this was something on a completely new level. She couldn’t even begin to fathom what she had seen, far less what she thought about it.
Phoenix turned to her and made a move toward the girl, but she was too stuck by fear.
She found herself unconsciously stepping backward.
She looked to Phoenix who held a mixture of regret and guilt coloring his face. The look in his eye was enough to tell her that he was one of those creatures too.
“Stay back.” She held her arms out in front of her as though it would stop him from getting closer. “Stay the hell away from me.”
“Belle, love.” Phoenix took another step toward her. “Relax, it’s okay, nobody is going to hurt you.”
“Stop!” She shouted to him as he kept moving closer.
He stopped for a moment, though he kept a soft voice as he continued to soothe her with warm encouragement.
The thoughts in her head were swirling a mile a minute as she tried to comprehend what was going on. It was as if she had suddenly found herself in the middle of some corny novel.
She was cut off by Phoenix pulling her into his arms in a protective embrace.
She hadn’t noticed him get any closer. It scared her that she barely knew this man and he was able to get around her defenses so easily.
“Please, love, we aren’t monsters, let us prove it to you.” His voice was pleading.
Arabella thought of the kindness Phoenix had shown her since she arrived. How gentle and careful he was. How much he seemed to care about her even though she had only been there for less than a day.
She compared it to the monsters of her past that she had met. Though physically he was a beast, she had not seen a side of him that suggested he could act like one.
“I’ve met monsters, and you’ve been nothing like that.” Arabella sighed, “but this shouldn’t be possible, I mean werewolves aren’t real.”
Phoenix sighed a breath of relief; his one fear was miraculously proven irrational. He couldn’t help but wonder what she meant when she said she had “met monsters.”
He felt a surge of protectiveness for her and wrapped his arms a fraction tighter around her.
She was a mystery that he was going to unravel.
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