22. Ice Elves are not Adorable

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If you're going to retch, there are several socially-acceptable receptacles—a misshapen bush in a dimly-lit area outside a bar, a toilet (voted #1 best place by people with noses), an airplane sick bag, your bed, (if you're under the age of six).

But one place on the "not recommended list" is on the lap of your lying, cheating husband (who happens to be an all-powerful prince), inside of a hot, enclosed carriage. Not only is the smell horrendous, but this scenario could also result in an all-access pass back to the pillory.

She wished she could disappear from this entire reality.*

But since inter-dimensional travel wasn't an option in fairy tale times, Ashley did the only thing she could think of on the fly—pretend to choke and collapse on the seat to feign death. The gagging and holding her throat part went great. For a moment, a glimmer of empathy passed through Charming's stunning amethyst eyes. But the falling over part—not so good. Pain exploded in her head as it smacked against the golden armrest. Bright lights swam in her eyes. She strained to hold on to consciousness and prayed her pretend death wouldn't turn real. Although a temporary coma would be welcome, she thought, the moment before cold, blissful darkness swallowed her.

"Wake up, man!" Charming shouted, shaking her so hard, her bones jangled. It also didn't help the pain in her skull. Her mouth tasted like an acid punch the Grim Reaper might serve at a "Welcome to Death" barbecue. How long had she been out? Through her closed eyelids, she detected a ghost of milky Forbidden Forest sunlight. Still daytime. Still in the Forest. Outside the carriage, a cacophony of raised voices, clanging tools, and hurried footsteps meant they were in camp. "Did you hear me? I command you to wake up! No one is allowed to die in my carriage without permission!"

Ashley lay as still as a coffin. If she did otherwise, it would mean facing the fact that she had thrown up on the prince and possible questioning about why Charming got "ill" right after she delivered his morning grog.

A large, calloused hand covered her mouth and nose. Ashley held her breath. The best part about not breathing? She could no longer taste her mouth stench.

The hand retracted, and Ashley risked a tiny breath. "God's bones!" Charming cried. The carriage door slammed open. Her heart lifted because this meant he believed she was dead. And assuming he didn't want to hang out with a corpse,** he'd most likely dump her to the ground. At which point, she would be thrown into the woods to be eaten by house-elves or ogres or orcs or whatever else dwelled in a Forbidden Forest, and she could finally escape. "Guard!"


"I will need a change of clothes and some smelling salts. And a moist towel."

"Yes, Your Highness. Be right back," the guard said.

Ashley held back a groan. Charming hadn't bought her "faking to be dead" story after all.

Laces snapped through eyelets. The prince must be unfastening his royal jodhpurs. Ashley couldn't stop her cheeks from turning pink, imagining his shriveled purple bits. The question was, why didn't he seem to care? Maybe the potion hadn't worked after, all and the woman who left his tent screaming was playing hard to get or something. Ashley needed confirmation, which meant risking a peek. She barely lifted an eyelid. Through the forest of her lush princess lashes, a giant amethyst eye, an inch away, peered back at her. Ashley shrunk away and screamed. "What are you doing?" she said.

It turned out Charming was fully dressed, still in vomit clothes. He'd only pretended to remove them.

"Knew you were faking."

"Did not."

"Did too," Charming shot back. He tapped a finger against her cheekbone. "Your eyes ..."

Ashley gulped. "What? They're just eyes."

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