5. Damsel in Distress Syndrome

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The following morning, Ashley slowly woke to a jasmine-scented breeze drifting in from the open windows, the previous night's activities floating over her consciousness.

She relived the highlights—the way Charming tore off her panties, the thrill of the sweet nothings he whispered in her ear, his blissful moans, the way he shouted her name when he reached the pinnacle of pleasure. Well, maybe it wasn't really her name precisely, more like "my princess," but this was a term of endearment. Right? He hadn't forgotten her name per se. Had he?

Never mind. Of course not.

She ran her tongue over her lips, raw from Charming's kisses. Her lady parts were also sore from her husband's man parts, and she had considerable chafing on her cheeks from his unkempt "I've-been-on-a-lengthy-quest-with-the-boys-and-had-no-need-to-manscape" beard.

Everything was fine. Except of course, for the fact that it ended so fast. But it didn't matter. Proper ladies didn't enjoy sex. They endured it. Or so she'd been told.

As the pressure on her bladder intensified, she emerged from the fuzzy half-dream state, sensing something was amiss. For one thing, a mosquito circled her head like a vulture who's spotted some tasty carrion. She tried to swat it away. But as it turned out, she was still shackled to the headboard, which explained the spasms of pain rippling down from her fingertips, across her shoulders, and into her neck.

"Charming?" she said, painfully turning her head toward his side of the bed. But all she beheld was a prince-sized hollow in the sheets.

She pulled against the cuffs, but only succeeded in further digging the metal into her wrists. "Agghhh," she gasped.

Maybe Charming was nearby in his closet, or "man cave" as he referred to the dark room adjacent to The Vault.

She'd never been inside because one of the first castle rules he relayed to her was that this was a restricted zone. Only the prince had the key. She joked a time or two that the cave was where he kept the bodies, but he did not even crack a smile at her attempt at whimsy.

"Charming?" Ashley cleared her throat. "Could you please unlock me?" she beseeched politely and sweetly, as any good princess should. When the only response was the loud buzzing of the mosquito hovering closer and closer to her ear, Ashley went for a slightly more demanding tone. "Charming? Earth to Charming. Earth to Charming. Hello?"

"Bzzzzz," buzzed the mosquito.

Ashley's heart sank like a leaky boat. Where had he gone? Why had he left her in handcuffs? And how was she going to get out of them when she couldn't reach the key nor the summoning bell? She had no choice but to bellow for help, despite the fact that all she wore was a half-mangled feather corset with no panties. She suspected bellowing wasn't a princess-like mode of communication. But the burning desire to pee and the pain in her arms won over decorum. "Is anyone out there? Please? I could really use assistance," she shouted.

That's when she remembered she'd given her ladies-in-waiting the evening and morning off to recover from the extra work yesterday. Also, she had not wanted anyone in the anteroom when she was executing her Ultimate Plan of Seduction. Ugh!

"Bzzzzzz," the mosquito landed on her nose, interrupting her thoughts and forcing her cross-eyed. "Mmmm. Carbon dioxide. Mosquitolicious! Plus, thin skin. Best kind. So much easier on the old straw. Am I right?"

This was her first experience talking to a mosquito. Usually, they just sucked her blood without even a "hello." Now was not a good time for a nice big mosquito bite on her nose. "I've never sucked anyone's blood, so I have no idea. Perhaps you could ask a vampire."

"Hahaha. Those aren't even real."

"Look, could you maybe not bite me right now? My swatters," Ashley wriggled her fingers, "are indisposed, and it wouldn't be very gentlemanly for you to bite someone who cannot defend herself." When you have nothing else, appeal to a man's sense of chivalry. She'd heard her stepmother give this advice to Ashley's stepsisters.

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