They needn't have worried about the master interrupting their show. Prince Adam sulked at the table in his study in the west wing thoroughly consumed with his own misery. Tentatively he pressed his hand to his cheekbone, but hissed at the pain. He hated his father more in this moment than he ever had before, which, given the less than amicable relationship he had with the man, was saying something. He contemplated life as a commoner, looking out of his window absentmindedly. He often wondered if his father felt any real affection for him, and his father's threat echoed in his mind as the answer.
A knock on the door interrupted his self-pity, momentarily.
"Go away!" he thundered. He was embarrassed enough to want his privacy, yet childish enough to wonder what had taken the servants so long to check in on his welfare.
"Please your highness," a female voice called, accented with bucolic french that somehow managed to sound sultry rather than simple, "I must attend to your wound."
Adam recognized the voice as that of one of his favorite servants, but his pride kept him from answering. After a moment of protracted silence, he heard the click of a door handle turning, and the swish of the massive doors to his living quarters swinging open. Adam waited as his servant walked through his bedroom and turned the corner to find him at his desk. She hesitated, than approached, carrying a basin filled with warm water and a rag.
"Mon pauvre prince," she cooed, setting the basin down on his desk. Adam admired his maid's ample bosom as she leaned over to wring the cloth and then bring it to his face.
"Are you in pain, your highness?" Babette asked, her full lips pulled downward into a frown.
"I barely feel it," the prince responded, appreciating how his maid's uniform clung to her in certain places, and all but fell off of her in others.
"You are so strong, your majesty," Babette replied, her gaze glancing ever so slightly downward to the swell of muscle just visible beneath Adam's thin linen shirt. Adam suppressed a smirk and looked her over, far more obvious with his desire than she. He needed a distraction from all of the unpleasantness of this morning and the previous day, and Babette was always a welcome diversion. As she leaned over him, gently wiping his face with the cloth, he held her gaze and slowly untied her apron. It fell gently to the floor like a feather, and Babette raised an eyebrow.
"Attend me," the prince ordered quietly. Babette paused in her administrations to the prince's wound.
"Am I not attending you already, your grace?" she answered, widening her eyes, adept at the art of the tease.
The prince responded by taking the ends of the laces of her bodice in his hands, twisting them playfully around his fingers. Babette pulled away. Of course they both knew what the outcome of this exchange was going to be, but she also knew that the prince preferred a conquest to surrender.
The prince stood from his seat and stepped closer to her, as though challenging her to leave. Her gaze travelled slowly up his toned form to his face. Their eyes locked, neither making any secret of their intentions. Babette descended slowly to the ground while the prince watched her. She paused, staying crouched on the floor, and glanced up at the blue eyes that were fixed on her bosom. The prince brought his hands to his waist. Babette observed him as he began playing with the laces to his breeches and slowly tugging on them. Babette sighed, reached for her apron that lay beside her on the floor, and slowly stood.
"Should I leave you to rest, your highness?" Babette asked, "You've had a difficult morning."
"Does it look like I want to rest?" the prince scoffed, wresting Babette's apron from her hand and throwing roughly aside.
"Should I bring you something?" Babette persisted, walking backwards away from the prince as he followed her, his step predatory, "Some tea? Water? A poultice for your bruise?"
The prince laughed, then suddenly grabbed Babette as though he were a beast lunging for his prey. He brought his mouth to hers, and she returned his kiss passionately.
"Please, your highness," she breathed, pulling her mouth away from his but leaving it tantalizing close as the tendrils of her accent curled prettily around her speech, "I am your servant, what if someone were to catch us?"
"Did they catch us any of the other times?" the prince asked, now urgent in his handling of the laces on Babette's bodice, bringing his mouth to hers once more as her dress cascaded to the floor. He grasped her full derriere, the bottom of which was exposed beneath her garter belt.
"I should return to the kitchens," Babette exclaimed, extricating herself from his embrace, and bending over to retrieve her dress, further revealing her backside to the ravenous prince. The prince admired both her curves and her skill at the chase. Babette wasn't just a pretty face. She knew how to titilate, how to seduce, how to build tension though the final outcome was inevitable.
The prince grabbed her again, this time from behind. He held her tightly against his body with one arm, while his other hand roved over her. He began kissing her neck, and she sighed contentedly, craning her head to the side to offer him easier access. She flinched as his teeth dug into her and his hand slid between her thighs.
"We shouldn't," Babette gasped, attempting to wriggle free.
"Is this about Lumiere?" Adam breathed into her ear, tightening his grasp around his maid.
Babette was surprised to feel her stomach sink at her lover's name, and frowned. Adam felt her body slacken and began to kiss her neck with increased fervor, stroking the wetness between her legs. Babette closed her eyes, her lips parted as her body succumbed to sensation. However, Lumiere crept back into her thoughts, ruining her pleasure, and she felt genuinely torn. No longer teasing, she again attempted to pull away. Adam tightened his grip on her until she felt like she was being crushed.
"Please," she gasped, her tone now pleading, "Your highness…"
"You think Lumiere thinks of you while he's fucking Angelique?" the prince scoffed into her ear, "I've caught them en flagrante and I promise you, it's not your name he's shouting."
Babette froze, unbidden emotions seizing her more strongly than the prince. She knew she was not the lone recipient of the charismatic maitre d's attention. He radiated charm and women were drawn to him, moths to a flame. She knew this, had sworn to herself she would not allow herself to feel anything deeper than flirtatious interest in Lumiere. It wasn't as if she suffered from neglect, a shrinking violet starved for attention. So why then, as she stood in her under garments in a handsome prince's strong arms, his hardness pressed against her, was she thinking of how it felt when Lumiere's fingers grazed her hand?
Adam, now impatient, expertly undid the laces of her stay and tugged it off of her. Babette, not at all shy about her body, felt strangely exposed, and her eyes rested on the fine curtains that hung from the ceiling to floor windows in the prince's quarters. As his hands roamed over her, taking in her bosom, the swell of her hips, her thighs, Babette's eyes traced the contours of the pattern that scrawled across the fine fabric like cursive on paper. She again closed her eyes, ambivalent. Then she felt the prince's finger enter her, and she gasped, her thoughts shattering like glass dropped carelessly to the floor.
He withdrew his hand and whirled her around to face him. He removed his shirt, and paused so that Babette could take in his broad chest, his toned abdomen. Then he pulled her into him, kissing her gently, pressing the heat of his flesh to the smoothness of her skin, like hot wax to paper. He undid her bun, causing her thick auburn hair to fall like rain around them, and he ran his fingers through it as he kissed her hungrily. Babette sighed and surrendered to him, as she always did, as most women did.
After a wonderful breakfast, Belle's attention returned to her present situation. All it had taken was a little charm and flattery for the servants to grant Belle a tour of the castle. She was determined to learn as much about her new environment as possible. She took in her surroundings carefully as Cogsworth and Lumiere led her through the castle, looking for anything she could use to her advantage and possibly as part of an escape, should things come to that.
She feigned great interest in Cogsworth's lengthy descriptions of the castle's architecture and décor. The more she appeared fascinated by his explanations, the longer he let her look around, linger, explore. She had to admit, the castle was stunning. The drapes, tapestries, and carpets were of the finest quality and bore intricate detail. She wondered how many hours it had taken countless weavers and seamstresses to dress the prince's home in such splendor. The architecture and furnishings were magnificent, the marble floors, vaulted ceilings, and stained glass windows a symphony of light and color. However, it was the priceless artwork that graced the endless rooms and corridors of the castle the Belle truly envied. The paintings were exquisite, she could have spent hours looking at only one of them.
Cogsworth and Lumiere continued the tour, leading Belle through the corridors of the cavernous castle. Guards and male servants would turn to better appreciate Belle's beauty as she passed and Cogworth would shout at them to continue their duties. Belle wandered over to a sweeping staircase, looking up in an attempt to see what was in that section of the castle. Cogworth and Lumiere rushed to block the mademoiselle from walking up the staircase, which only succeeded in arousing her suspicion.
"What's up there?" she asked. Cogsworth and Lumiere glanced at each other, and she read the panic in their expressions..
"There? Nothing of interest, dusty, junk, very boring." Cogsworth said quickly.
"May I see it?" Belle asked.
"See? Er, um, the master has forbidden this part of the castle to visitors," Cogsworth replied.
"Forbidden?" Belle asked, walking around the servants to proceed up the stairs "If it is as boring as you say, why would it be forbidden?"
"Eh, what I mean to say is," Cogsworth sputtered, running to again block her progress up the stairs, "Mademoiselle, please, perhaps you would like to see something else. We have exquisite tapestries dating all the way back to-"
"Later perhaps," Belle responded impatiently, again walking around the servant so that she could walk up the steps and satisfy her curiosity. Lumiere and Cogsworth exchanged frantic glances, knowing the master, who was already in a bad temper, would be furious if his newest charge burst unannounced into his living quarters.
"Perhaps mademoiselle would be interested in the gardens?" Lumiere volunteered, "Or the library perhaps?"
This appeared to pique Belle's interest. She stopped walking up the steps and turned to face them with an excited expression, her hazel eyes sparkling with interest.
"You have a library?!" she exclaimed, for a moment forgetting the trauma of the previous night and her lost freedom.
"Yes!" Cogsworth exclaimed, "With mountains of books!"
"Forests of books!" Lumiere chimed in, as the servants ran down the steps to lead her away from the West Wing and toward more innocuous areas of the castle.
"More books than you'll ever read in a lifetime!"Cogsworth continued, "Books on every subject!"
In their enthusiasm and relief, as they hurried away from the west wing to lead Belle toward the library, they failed to notice that Belle had not yet followed them down the corridor that led away from the west wing. She hesitated, then quickly turned and ran up the forbidden steps. She felt a little guilty, certainly, but also felt compelled to explore this forbidden area of the castle. Perhaps it was forbidden because it contained some secret or treasure or weakness that, if exposed, Belle could use to her advantage. She hoped she wouldn't get the servants in any trouble, but she could hardly ignore such an opportunity.
The staircase opened into a long corridor lined with mirrors, statues of angels, and various pieces of art. Though the castle was filled with beautiful and expensive things, the items in this corridor somehow conveyed a more personal and sentimental feeling, as though these objects were held in especially high esteem by the prince. Belle paused at a large painting that hung from the wall. It depicted a beautiful young woman in a pink dress with voluminous skirts that flowed over the settee and cushions upon which she was perched and spilled onto the floor. She had lovely blonde hair that poured over her shoulders like honey, and her eyes were a sea of blue and mystery. In the portrait she smiled, a book in her lap, her hand holding that of a little boy dressed in finery, a tiny jacket, vest, and breeches declaring his noble position. The little boy greatly resembled the woman, his hair also golden, his eyes a vivid blue. However, while the woman portrayed a certain open sweetness in her bearing and expression, the boy stood with his chin slightly raised as though he knew full well his position and the veneration due him. Belle looked more closely at the little boy's eyes. If she was not mistaken, she knew who this little boy grew up to become. Belle continued to study the portrait, considering the little boy. Unless there was some trick by the artist, the boy's eyes betrayed a look of mischief and precociousness that was somehow charming, despite the arrogance in his bearing.
Slowly, Belle moved away from the painting and approached an enormous set of double doors. Belle looked over her shoulder to see if the servants had followed her, but the corridor remained quiet save for her own footsteps. For a moment there was a struggle within her between guilt and curiosity, but curiosity gained the upper hand, compelling her to reach out and open the door.
She found herself in the doorway of a huge room, so enormous that for a moment she felt completely disoriented, blinking and a little dizzy. She stepped into the space uncertainly, looking all around her in an attempt to get her bearings. She continued to slowly pace the floor of the room, noticing a huge four poster bed, a few wardrobes, animal skins, and other sundry. It slowly began to dawn on her that this must be the prince's living quarters. Why had the servants not said so? Belle could easily understand that the prince wanted privacy while in his bedroom. She turned to leave, but became aware of a noise that caused her to freeze. It sounded like furniture moving, a loud creaking and thudding sound. She discerned moaning, and she became concerned that someone was hurt. Belle took a few more steps into the prince's chamber to better hear the noise. She turned a corner to see, much to her horror, the prince en flagrante with a member of his household. The maid sat on a desk, legs spread, head thrown back, with the prince thrusting into her.
Belle yelled out in shock and accidentally backed into a table, which fell over, clattering loudly on the marble floor, the sound echoing off the vaulted ceilings.
The prince and the maid stopped, the noise alerting them to the presence of an intruder. The maid jumped down from the desk, frantically collecting her clothing, and the prince reached for his pants, hurriedly pulling them over his sculpted form in a belated act of modesty. Belle remained frozen with her hands pressed up to her mouth.
"YOU!"the prince bellowed, quickly discovering the source of the interruption, "What are you doing here?"
Just then Cogsworth and Lumiere came running into the room, having discovered that their charge was no where to be found. They had feared the worst and now, surveying the scene in the west wing, those fears were confirmed.
"Babette!?" Lumiere exclaimed in surprise, addressing the disheveled maid. The young woman still held all of her clothing bundled in her arms, having barely had the chance to collect them off the ground. She held the bundle against herself, trying as best she could to cover her exposed body. Her skin was flushed red, whether it was from her recent exertion or her humiliation it was difficult to say, but she stood in the study as crimson as the curtains. She stared at the ground, her shoulders hunched, doubled over, looking as though she wished to make herself as small as possible.
The prince was still glaring at Belle, and he gave off such an aura of unbridled rage that Belle backed away from him instinctively. Even in her shock and fear, however, she registered the prince's shirtless torso, took in the sharp scent of his sweat. She looked away from him, blinking, unsteady.
"I-I'm sorry," Belle stammered, and she was genuinely contrite, "I didn't realize-"
"Why did you allow her to come here?" The prince interrupted, directing his fury at the servants.
"We, we, we tried, we thought-" Cogsworth ineffectually sputtered. Passions raised and thoroughly finished with humiliations for the day, the prince made no effort to control his outrage. He tore a mirror from a wall and hurled it at the servants.
"Leave! Get out!" the prince screamed at his servants, continuing to throw whatever items were in reach at them.
"Please, stop!" Belle shouted, desperate not to see the men who had shown her kindness be punished for her own wrong doing. The prince pivoted toward Belle, allowing her fully see the untempered rage in his face. She backed away but he lunged toward her, grabbing her roughly.
"What must I do to teach you your place?" the prince demanded, shaking Belle so hard her teeth clattered.
"I didn't mean to-"
"Shut up woman!" the prince roared, inches from Belle's face. In truth he wanted to strike her, hard, as his father had done to him. Precious little was holding him back from doing so. He was dimly aware of Babette crying and the servants making various pleas for him to let her go. His eyes bore into hers and he saw real fear in her expression, which pleased him. As he glared into her face, he slowly became aware of how closely they were standing to each other. His grip and expression softened, his attention caught by her lips. Suddenly his anger flared again, stronger now, furious at her impertinence, her disobedience, her audacity. He blamed his attraction toward her on redirected passion, having not finished with his maid, and pushed Belle away from him, so hard she nearly fell backward.
"Promise or no promise, I can't stay here another minute," Belle exclaimed, as she regained her balance. Her skirts flared around her as she turned and ran as quickly as she could out of the room.
"Wait! Wait a minute!" Cogsworth yelled after her.
"Where are you going?" Lumiere called, but Belle did not slow her pace, barreling out of the castle and into the surrounding forest. The prince, still breathing heavily, stood in the middle of his room, his body shaking. All at once the tempest of his fury receded and regret came rushing over him. He buried his face in his hands, realizing his only chance to save himself from exile may have well just rode away from the castle for good.