Beautiful Monster by Rick R. Reed

Cover of Beautiful Monster with a picture of Rick R. Reed

Exceprt from BEAUTIFUL MONTER by Rick R. Reed, ©2024

When Hank awakened a second time, he found himself sitting on a ladder-back chair, its slats uncomfortable against his back. Abbott had looped clothesline around Hank’s chest and knotted it behind him. He’d bound Hank’s wrists on his lap, while each ankle he’d tied to a chair leg. A mirror on the table reflected his image. Hank’s skin was white, lips blue, and his red hair hung in dark clumps, lifeless, just below his ears.

Where was Abbott? Hank sat in a long, narrow room. A black wood-burning stove occupied one corner. A scarred wooden pedestal table stood to his left and beyond that, a cot, stripped bare, with a thin striped mattress upon its springs. Two narrow windows revealed a copse of pine trees nearly pressing against the glass.

Where was Abbott?

A white sheet covered him. On the floor lay its mate, positioned neatly under the chair.

Hank glanced into the mirror again, noticing how the red of his hair made his skin look even more ashen.

He cringed when Abbott neared, just behind. Hank felt almost as if he were back in the freezing waters of the lake, and couldn’t breathe. Abbott’s arrival sucked the air from the room.

“Like what you see?”

“What?” Hank strained to turn, and saw him standing behind. He held a pair of scissors in one hand, electric clippers in the other. “What are you going to do?” He tensed against the clothesline.

“You’re so gosh-darn good-looking, Hank. But I doubt I’m the first to tell you that.”

Hank peered into the mirror, surprised at the transformation his sudden terror wrought. His skin color had turned high, lips wet, and green eyes sparkling. He thought it amazing how fright and passion were not that far removed from each other in their physical expression.

“I bet you get a lot of compliments on your hair. Don’t you, Hank?”

He wanted to reach up and touch his hair, but could only stare at the red mane in the mirror. It was the only thing he really loved about his appearance. He’d always thought his smile too wide, and himself still the gangly, awkward boy from junior high. But his hair, his crown—on that, he’d always relied. It was thick, lustrous, and the color a deep, smoky red. His mom used to say he should model—he’d be a shoo-in for hair-care products. “What are you going to do?”

Abbott clicked the scissors once, twice, then sang out, “Snip! Snip!”

Hank found it hard to swallow. Lots of men these days buzzed their hair—and looked good. But none of them had his hair, his glorious mane. He jerked again. If only he could touch his hair… Just one touch, one final chance to run my fingers through it. Every muscle strained against the bindings, not for freedom, but for the chance to feel his hair once more. He knew it was silly and vain, but no, it wasn’t. What Abbott would do in the next few moments was a violation, an affront to both his physical and emotional self. He realized his self-image could use work, but this outrage would make things even harder.

Abbott came closer. “This is for your own good. That hair is part of the problem for you. One day you’ll understand.” With that, he lifted a lock and snipped it off. Another lock, then another, the scissors clicking rapidly as Hank’s hair fluttered to the floor, piling up on the clean white sheet. Abbott cut closer and closer to his scalp.

Hank closed his eyes, refusing to look in the mirror.

Finally, the scissors snipped close to his head, from which it felt like a weight had been lifted, strange and not at all liberating. He bit his lower lip, vowing to save his tears for later. He would not give Abbott the satisfaction.

There was a dull clunk as Abbott set the scissors on the table, then the buzzing of a thousand hornets as he switched on the clippers. It didn’t take long to shave away the remaining hair. Hank sat silently, except for an occasional wince when Abbott veered too close to his scalp and nicked him. But he vowed to remain stoic, regardless of the turmoil inside.

“All done.” The room went quiet as Abbott clicked off the clippers.

Hank wanted it to go on just like this, sitting here numb and staring at the inside of his eyelids.

“Look at your new hairdo, Hank.”

“I think I just want to go to sleep now.”

He laughed. “You need to see how you look.”

“It’s all right,” he whispered, barely able to find his voice. Imagination was torture enough. Couldn’t he see that?

His voice became stern. “Look, goddamn it!”

Hank took a deep, quivering breath, then slowly opened his eyes. He stared at his reflection. It seemed all of his facial features had been blown up and distorted. His eyes and ears stood out, almost protruding; his lips seemed fuller; cheekbones more prominent.

All of his hair was gone except for a little reddish stubble. He imagined how it would feel: rough.

“The men will really find you cute now.” He laughed.

Hank could say nothing in reply. He glanced at the mass of red curls covering the floor, then the mirror continued to mock him when he looked back.

Maybe it wasn’t so bad, he tried to tell himself. It certainly made his green eyes more prominent. There was an austerity to his looks now, something magnetic. In another world, he may even be able to use this to his advantage. In another world, he actually looked better.

No, he couldn’t—and didn’t.

Beauty was something he never had. Not him.

He bit his lip once more as tears welled, spilled over.

It was just what Abbott wanted to see. Hank could tell as he glanced in the mirror from his face to Abbott’s and viewed his blissful smile.


Hank Donner-Varian yearns for something beyond his perfect, but routine marriage. Forbidden fantasy beckons until a chance encounter with the enigmatic and devastatingly sexy Abbott Lowery turns curiosity into a dangerous obsession.

Hank’s unaware of the sinister depths beneath Lowery’s facade. When Hank’s flirtation spirals into nightmare, he’s thrust into a world of horror orchestrated by a man who once embodied his deepest desires.

In a heart-pounding race against time, Beautiful Monster immerses readers in a gripping tale of passion, deception, and survival. Can Hank navigate the treacherous maze of obsession and deceit before it’s too late? Or will the irresistible stranger prove to be Hank’s downfall, plunging him into a nightmare from which escape is impossible?


Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their two rescue dogs, Kodi and Joaquin.

You can also like Rick on Facebook at or on Twitter at . Rick always enjoys hearing from readers and answers all e-mails personally. Send him a message at

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