Edited by Rose Caraway
“The Bells” and “The Doll” are included in this new anthology, available in both audio and ebook form!
Read on for an excerpt…
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Read an excerpt of “The Bells”:
Catherine remained still. The bells she wore about her ankles were permanent instruments, but it was the rest of the adornments that paled poor Helen’s face as she worked, her lips pursed tight when she drew the box from beneath Catherine’s bed and focused on the entirety of her lady’s body.
First, she circled her wrists with multiple strands of bells, creating bracelet upon bracelet of noise. The next strand she fastened around Catherine’s bare waist, the bells resting against her alabaster skin and jingling as Helen checked each one in turn. After came the clamps, which she held in the air with a wince before securing them to Catherine’s nipples. Immediately, Catherine felt the burn, the sting of teeth gripping her as Helen did what she’d been instructed to do every week prior—flicking them to ensure they made their respective and appropriate sounds.
Catherine closed her eyes. The clamps drove her mad, sending heat through her breasts and into her belly. Her heart pounded in ways neither Helen nor the King could possibly have anticipated—for they had all assumed after he walked in on her, catching her in her treachery, that this sort of ceremony would bring her the ultimate shame.
“Are you all right, my lady?”
Catherine opened her eyes with a nod.
The first time Helen had adorned Catherine, she’d spoken her instructions aloud. Her voice had quavered in the bitter tears of youth as she affixed the many bells to Catherine’s naked form. But Catherine had found irony in soothing the girl, finally cupping her cheeks in her palms and silencing her with the same sentiment she’d boldly pronounced at her sentencing.
“This is the fate I have chosen for my crimes, because I would never choose to die.”
Catherine knew the girl had found some solace despite the sorrow wrinkling her brow. But even now, knowing Catherine’s choice, knowing her fate, Helen held her face in the stubborn conviction of a girl foolishly protecting her former Queen.
“Well? Hurry on, then,” Catherine said.
Helen scooped the last of the adornments from the box: a single bell on a chain that Catherine was to wear as a necklace. This lone bell would make the most noise throughout the ceremony, but at this moment it rested, quiet and benign, aligned with the rising throb of her clamped nipples.
Helen gave Catherine her final inspection, then nodded in the grave way she usually did before calling for the guard.
“She is ready.”
Catherine held her head high when he arrived. The man opened the cell with a leer behind his mask, and yet he made no comment, no move to take advantage of her state. Instead he merely stepped back, careful of her bare feet as Helen took her hand and escorted her down the winding hall. The bells on Catherine’s body chimed with every step, the reminder of her crime and the next round of punishment to come. Her cheeks burned, but the weight of the clamps and the sound of the bells sent her heart clattering in wild bursts.
When they arrived on the platform, Helen arranged Catherine behind the curtains as she’d been trained to do: her arms and legs splayed, fastened to the far corners of the proscenium by long cords of bells that attached to her bracelets. This was temporary—because beyond those thick, velvet sheets, loud shrieks beckoned for a show. Theirs was a kingdom of eager viewers, crazed with a hungry fervor that sent chills through Catherine’s arms as Helen shifted her about. Her body vibrated with the energy of the arena, and her legs shook beneath her when Helen nudged her torso forward. The pitch of her chest allowed the bells to dangle from her neck and nipples so they would trill with each movement she’d make.
“Good luck, my lady,” Helen said.
And then she was gone.