Girl in the Woods

A free serial novel for 2016

It is time for another chapter or two or three of the rough cut edition of “Girl in The Woods.” Yes, this is part of the 300,000 word epic tale. Posts will be added to the “Girl in the Woods” page on my sidebars. 

This is a rough story that I’ve been playing around with for years. It is fantasy and kind of a fairy tale, but more than that, it is a story of friendship, family, and finding one’s place in the world.

Feel free to skip this one if you’re not up to it. I’ll be back to my usual Vampire Maman postings tomorrow, or maybe even later today. Thanks for dropping by.

 

Part Two.

Click HERE for the first part.

 

The Girl In The Woods

Chapter 2

The Fairy Tale – Northwestern Kingdom

Once upon a time there lived a King and Queen and their four children. Youngest, the Princess Glenda, was a fun loving soul and the gift for healing. The third child, Jeff, was a fair gentle son with the gift of art.

The second child, a daughter called Julianna, was beautiful beyond words with the political mind to match any man. The eldest child, a son was called Alexander.

Alexander was a handsome man of 39. He had dark hair and stunning expressive emerald green eyes. He was a gifted leader and a brilliant mind. He was known for his sense of adventure and his sense of humor. Everyone loved Alexander, especially his three younger siblings.

He’d spent the past few years wondering if he’d ever meet a perfect princess – a Real Princess. He had found two Real Princesses but both had left him for other men. He’d had an affair with a third Real Princess but she too was now engaged to another man. At this point in his life he was resigned to the fact that he might never meet her. His Granny, her mother before her, and her mother before her were all Real Princesses. His mother, was also a Real Princess. Right now, he thought there might just be too many Real Princesses in my life.

So what makes a Real Princess you may ask? A Real Princess is beautiful, cultured, charming and sensitive.

How sensitive? So sensitive that she can feel a teeny, tiny, little pea which has been placed under 20 mattresses (no box springs) and 20 down quilts.

Alexander’s sisters were also Real Princesses. They were also beautiful, cultured and charming BUT, they were also funny, loud, and anything but sensitive.

Glenda the youngest had married a prince. This prince called Alan, who was also funny and loud. They moved to a kingdom by the sea and were living happily ever after.

His sister Julianna was a great beauty with a brilliant mind. She could sleep like a bear in hibernation on the ground, yet she was stylish and refined. She was as beautiful as any princess ever born on earth, until she opened her mouth and sounded like a true leader.

The youngest son, Jeff was another story. Jeff would have made the perfect “Real Princess”. He was beautiful, cultured, charming and sensitive. In fact, if Alexander didn’t know any better he would have labeled his brother as a sissy.

Alexander and his sisters could never take Jeff camping or drinking or sporting of any kind. Jeff would try, but he always ended up sleepless, sick or injured. Jeff was the kind of man that motherly type girls liked to “take care of”. Unfortunately Jeff didn’t want to be “taken care of”. Jeff wanted to find a REAL Princess and rescue her from any and all enchantments or other bad situations she might be in. He wanted to be the perfect romantic hero. Unlike his elder brother, Jeff wasn’t required by custom to marry a “PERFECT” princess, but he wanted to more than Alexander had ever imagined.

 

Chapter 3

One day a few months after Alexander’s 39th birthday his mother, the queen said, “Dear, we have to talk”.

She patted the elegant, hand embroidered couch and motioned for her eldest child to sit next to her. “My darling child, as the custom of this land dictates, you need to get married. And you need to get married to a princess. A Real Princess. A princess who will pass the test.”

Alexander gave a deep sigh “Mom, we’ve gone over this. She doesn’t exist.”

“Then where did I come from?” said the queen in a condescending tone.

“Dad found you in woods. You were the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen and it was love at first sight. He rescued you and in turn you fell in love with him and lived happily and faithfully ever after. It hasn’t been that easy for me mom. You weren’t even a princess, not really.”

“I was a Real Princess. I still am a Real Princess.”

Alex raised an eyebrow “What about Granny? I mean, sometimes I find it hard to believe she’s a Real Princess. She can sleep on anything.”

“Granny is a Real Princess too.”

The test is was this: A Real Princess would be so delicate and sensitive that she could sleep on 20 down mattresses and 20 down quilts and be able to feel a tiny split pea underneath it all. Granny didn’t get a wink of sleep all night. Alexander always had a hard time believing that story. Granny was less sensitive than his sisters.

“Maybe Granny was allergic to peas.” He said.

“It’s more than just the peas and you know it. Alexander, this is important. You must listen to reason.”

“Oh mom, there’s nothing reasonable about this. I don’t want an arranged marriage. I want to marry my best friend. I want to marry my soul mate.”

The queen stood up with anger in her eyes “Well fine, then marry Simon. He’s your best friend and you’re as close to soul mates as two humans can be.”

“Can’t mom, I know he’s not a Real Princess.”

The queen scowled at her son’s joke. “No, but he’s married to one. You let Simon steal her from you and never said a word to stop him.”

“Don’t throw Ellie back in my face. You know it would have never worked out.”

The queen spoke “Be it Ellie or another Real Princess, I’m serious Alexander. This is your duty. You must make an effort.”

“Mom, I don’t want to discuss it…”

“No, we will discuss it. I can’t even count the times you have had your heart broken by women who didn’t deserve you. Right now your reputation is that of a chronically bored suitor. Two weeks with a woman and you’re history. I know your reputation of never caring enough to try to make anything work.”

“I’d care if there was someone I could care about.”

“Women only sleep with you so they can brag about it to all their friends.”

“That is unfair…” He cringed as he listened to his mother’s harsh but true accusation.

“Hush, Alexander! You have made a complete fool of yourself and passed up chance after chance.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

“I too find this completely distasteful but I’ve arranged a meeting.”

“Oh great, a blind date.” Alexander rolled his eyes. His mother glared at him. “Gee” he said sarcastically “She’s got a great personality, but what does she look like???”

“Alexander, this is more than a blind date. She is a Real Princess” the queen said to her son, trying to sound reassuring.

“I’m sure she won’t mind making love in the dark because she’s so ugly that I can’t stand to look at her.” He scowled at his mother.

“I’m going to ignore that comment. The princess you are going to meet is sweet, sensitive and exceptionally beautiful.”

“Do I know this mystery woman?”

“No” said the queen, now smiling again “but you’ve heard of her. She is Candi of Lavender Forest.”

“Candi with an “i”?

“Yes, Candi with an “i”.” Replied the Queen, obviously not amused by her eldest son’s sarcastic tone of voice.

There was a hush.

“Well”? Asked the queen. “Why so quiet”

“Does she put a little heart over the i ?”

The queen looked disgusted.

Alexander spoke again “Actually, I’m impressed mom. I know who she is. I’ve never met her, but no man I know has had a chance with her.”

“My dear son, you aren’t just any man. She is perfect, and from what I hear, perfect for you.”

Alex was intrigued. A perfect woman willing to play the part. It was too good to be true.

The queen continued, “She’ll be here next week. You need to make preparations. And Alexander?”

“Yes mother.”

“You’ll need to be on your best behavior. This is a Real Princess, not like the women you usually associate with.”

“Meaning, Princess Candi is not interesting or entertaining?”

“No meaning, not loud, forward or ready to take her clothes off for the asking.”

“Oh, yeah like my sisters”

“Alexander, enough or I’ll have you banished.” The queen turned to leave the room. Alexander watched her go. He still thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

“I don’t know where you get your information about my reputation. I don’t even remember the last time I went out on a date, much less…”

“Keep it to yourself.”

“I have a question for you darling mother.”

She turned with flashing impatience in her green eyes “What is it?” she snapped.

“Are you still in love with dad?”

“More than life itself. He is my heart and our children are my soul.” And with that, she left the room.

——————————————

Later that day Alexander found his Granny reading in the garden. Granny Jewel was still an attractive woman at the age of 82. In fact she was a knock out and she knew it. She was also fun. Her grandchildren loved her with all their hearts.

“Granny” the prince started “What makes you a Real Princess?”

“Alexander, sweetie.” She said to her eldest grandchild” I’m a Real Princess because your grandfather loved me.”

“What about the pea?”

Granny gave him a serious look and put her and on his. She stroked he cheek with the back of her hand and smiled. “Don’t tell a soul, but I lied.” She said, “I knew all about the pea story. Your grandfather and I were in love. We didn’t want that to end because he had to marry some delicate brood mare. So I showed up one night in the rain claiming I was a princess and his mother fixed the famous bed for me. The next morning I claimed I never had a moments rest, but I wasn’t complaining. Your grandfather had hid in the bed. Your father was born 9 months later.”

“It’s alright Granny. I don’t need to know anymore.”

 

Chapter 4

It was a busy day at the royal household. Princess Candi was due to arrive in a few days. The queen had to make sure everything was perfect. The queen in fact, personified perfection. Considered the most beautiful woman in the entire country, perhaps the most beautiful woman in the entire world, she was admired and loved by all. She did more for children, education, and the arts than anyone in the ruling family had ever done before her. But rather than being soft and sweet, she was all business and no nonsense. Nothing was done without her approval. She wouldn’t put up with pettiness or nonsense from anybody. But at the same time she showed great compassion to those who were hurting or in need of help. She was also distant and let few into her true inner most thoughts and feeling. She was a woman who let few into her soul.

On that rainy late winter morning, she directed that 20 mattresses and 20 quilts be put on a special bed in the most elegant of bedchambers. She could hear the helpers whispering in the corners of the room as they turned her way “Yes, our Queen was a Real Princess. Do you think Candi could be as beautiful as our Queen?” and “everything about the Queen is still a mystery”.

The Queen felt a rush of sadness engulf her soul. “Lori, please take over in here” she said to her longtime assistant and left the room.

“What a barbaric ritual” she thought to herself as she walked down the large portrait filled hall. Most of the portraits were of family members painted by the queen herself. Her talent as an artist was unrivaled. Her portraits showed extraordinary beauty and sensitivity in the subjects, even in portraits of people normally considered ugly.

She had to be alone. Her heart felt as though it would break. She fought off the tears as she made it to her studio.

Her studio was her safe haven. It was the one place she did not have to be “The Queen” or even a “Real Princess”. Here in her own space she was the artist. The girl named Hyacinth who came to this place one dark stormy night 40 years ago.

At 58 she was still extraordinarily beautiful. So much in fact, that it was difficult for most people to take their eyes off of her.

She sat at the window seat of her studio and cried alone as the rain fell outside. How could she marry off her son to someone he didn’t love for a barbaric ritual? How could she compromise his happiness? How could she be such a hypocrite?

This was the sort of thing that she was raised to despise. She hated herself for being a “Real Princess” for in fact; the girl named Hyacinth was not a princess at all.

One dark stormy night 40 years before, Prince Florien had found a beautiful emerald eyed, golden haired girl in the woods. She sat at the base of a tree with two small dark haired children clutched to her chest wrapped in a woolen cape. All three had the same bright emerald green eyes shining out through the rain. She tried to stand but fell in exhaustion. The children cried and grabbed at her shoulders and arms. She looked up at Florien and said in a soft lilting accent “Please sir, take me to the wizard Jasper. Tell him that that Princess Hyacinth is here”.

Hyacinth Shadowford had grown up in a land far away – the Crystal Mountains. It was a land ravaged by war waged by petty and cruel warlords and an evil wizard baron. Despite the hardships there were pockets of reason and hope. From such a place the girl named Hyacinth came.

Her father was a professor of literature and history at the University. Her mother an artist. Their house was on land that had belonged to the family for hundreds of years. No warlord or wizard dared take away the land or the ruins of the castle that was on the hill behind the family home. The house was always filled with intellectuals and artists. Song and laughter filled the air. In a land of little hope, the home was always filled with love. And it was a safe haven for those who were persecuted for their ideals.

Hyacinth adored her parents with a passion. She also loved with a passion her baby sister Laurel and young brother Logan.

When she was only 15 the evil Baron’s men came in the night and took her father away. The next day friends of the family cut her father’s body down from the gallows and scattered his ashes at the edge of the castle ruins on his property. The sound of her mother crying still rang in her ears.

Hyacinth ‘s mother fiercely protected her children, but she could not escape the Baron’s persecution. She was taken to the Baron’s castle one night and the next morning she was dumped in a bloody and broken heap on the doorstep of her house. A large initial R was carved into her shoulder. R for the Baron Robin. Hyacinth knew then that her mother had been raped and her mind destroyed by he evil Wizard Baron. She told Hyacinth “If it ever need help, go to this man” and she handed Hyacinth a weakly scrawled note with a name “Jasper” and directions to his home far away.

Jasper, Hyacinth remembered, had been of her father’s students, a young wizard with a foreign accent. She remembered his unusually short flaxen hair, big laugh and funny stories. His pet name for her was “my Princess Hyacinth “.

That night her beautiful mother died in young Hyacinth’s arms.

Alone, Hyacinth took care of the babies. She made good money painting portraits for anyone who would pay, including cronies of the evil baron and the warlords. On the surface she was calmness personified and showed no fear but inside she grew sick with worry and dread.

Little Logan and Laurel grew to be healthy and strong. People often stopped to stare in public places at the exquisite young woman and children. Everyone said they were like a family of angels.

When Hyacinth turned 17 she met a young man named Jack. She remembered being immediately attracted to the tall and handsome young man, with emerald green eyes like her own and dark thick hair that fell in spiraled curls down to his waist. He always made her laugh. He made her feel warm and safe. Jack was also a passionate lover who made her feel alive.

There was also something reckless and dangerous about him. She found herself oddly attractive to the darker, secret side of Jack. It was a side that he would never freely share with her.

He encouraged her to go back to her studies at the university. There she studied history, languages and art. Despite the looming signs of revolution and war, Hyacinth’s world was starting to make sense again. Once again it was filled with love and hope.

Laurel and Logan also loved Jack. He was like an uncle or even a father to them. Though they were not his own, most people thought he was their father. Jack and the children shared the same dark curling hair and emerald green eyes.

For two years they’d been a family but it all came to a sudden and frightening end. One night after she had put the children to bed and dozed off she could hear Jack and with Robbie Nightlander, the heir to the Baron and his younger brother Doran.

The brother’s were both powerful wizards who’d been friends with Jack from childhood. Since she’d been with Jack, Hyacinth’s best friend was Aurora. Robbie Nightlander’s partner. Aurora was pregnant and full of hope of a new and promising future for the country and for her child. Hyacinth had always tried to see hope in the elegant Nightlander brothers. Hope that Robbie and Doran wouldn’t follow the ways of their tyrannical father, but that they would use their wizardry and lead the country into a time of peace and new hope, but it wasn’t to be.

 

Robbie leaned against the window still was on edge with excitement, his handsome face glowing in the candlelight. “Doran, Jack has some news to tell you.”

Jack looked at Doran, who now looked as excited as Robbie. He was almost as beautiful as Hyacinth with an angelic face and eyes the color of the Northern sea. “Hyacinth and I gave our vows to each other a few weeks ago.” Said Jack.

Doran smiled. “She’s yours now Jack, you know what you have to do.”

Jack took a serious tone. “I know, but I don’t think it will be necessary.”

Doran kept the smile on his face. “You need to mark her as your property or she’ll get the upper hand on you.”

“Consider her parents. She spent her youth with the ideas of the rebellion. She is potentially dangerous, unless, you do something about it.” Robbie added in.

“Give me a night with her and I’ll empty her head.” Doran said to Jack, almost commanding him.

Robbie stepped in, stopping his little brother from saying to much. “A tempting idea dear brother, but she isn’t any good to us without her mind. Jack, don’t be blinded by Hyacinth’s beauty. I know the subversive thoughts her parents drilled into her head. She’ll turn on you if you don’t cut your name into her flesh. You need to make it clear to her that you are in total and complete control.”

“Cut her face.” Said Doran.

Robbie put up his hand to silence Doran again. “We’re dealing with perfection Doran.” He turned again to Jack. “Don’t touch her face. It’s a weapon we can use. One day Hyacinth will wield power as will her children, I had a vision of it. But you must make sure she is on our side and the only way you will succeed is to show her that she must submit body and soul to your every wish.”

Doran spoke again “Go get her. You can do it now, with Robbie and I as your witnesses.”

Robbie snapped. “Shut up Doran. They’ve said their vows. It is a solemn and private ritual for a man to mark his woman.

“Tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow.” Said Jack

Robbie gave a smile of understanding. “I’ll take the children. They need to be indoctrinated into the ways of the Nightlanders, especially Logan. The boy is a natural clown but we might make a killer of him yet. If not, sorry Jack, he’ll have to be disposed of.”

“Logan isn’t weak. He knows how to use a knife better than most his age and he’s smart. I’d think he was a wizard if I didn’t know better. His problem is that he is taken in by any kindness shown to him, sort of like a stray dog.”

“He’ll grow up to be a slobbering romantic. You don’t need that on your hands Jack. Either fix the problem or get rid of it. I’ll give you a month, then we’ll do it my way.”

“I’m fine with that. Take him now if you want. The kid is a pain in the ass as far as I’m concerned. In the meantime just let me take care of Hyacinth.”

Unable to move, much less breath, Hyacinth listened on. She soon found out that Jack as evil as the Baron and his sons Robbie and Doran. This couldn’t be the man she’d vowed her love to. He had said he’d love and protect her and her brother and sister. Now it was all a lie.

She crept to the room where the children slept and gathered them up. She fled back to the ruined castle behind her family home. There she took a small trunk from under the bed and her leather portfolio, a few clothes and she fled. To Jasper she had to go.

The little children, six year old Logan and three year old Lauren, were like obedient angels as she packed them up and took off into the night. She tried not to think of Jack and how she had loved him. Only weeks before they’d vowed their love to each other forever in the sacred ceremony of her country. Forever had turned out to be a lie along with everything she’d ever known to be good or safe. Her only hope for herself and the children was to escape.

After traveling for what seemed like months she knew she was almost to Jasper’s, but she was too tired to go on. Ill with fever she sat down to rest, holding the sleeping children to her chest and she fell asleep in the pouring spring rain.

Waking from an evil dream, she felt a warm hand on her forehead. She looked up into two beautiful blue eyes. She thought she had died because he looked like an avenging angel with his broad shoulders and blonde hair. He had a slight smile on his handsome face even though his brow showed worry and his eyes concern. She said “take me to the Wizard Jasper. Tell him Princess Hyacinth is here”.

From Jasper she learned the man who found her in the forest was Prince Florien, future King of the Northwestern Kingdom. He had stayed for 3 days and nights at Jasper’s, holding her hand and brushing her fever-dampened hair out of her face. When she started to recover Hyacinth discovered that Florien was a frequent visitor to Jasper and his pregnant wife Monique.

One night before he left Florien took her in his arms and kissed her. He told her that he loved her and never wanted to let her go. She made love to him that night with passion unlike anything he’d ever experienced, causing him surrender his very soul to her. Hyacinth feeling that her heart would burst with joy told Florien that she loved him and would love him only forever even after death.

A few weeks later Hyacinth was invited to spend the night at the Royal household. Monique told her “no matter what happens, when they ask you how you slept, tell them that you had rocks in your bed”.

“Rocks in my bed?” asked Hyacinth, wondering what sort of strange country this was.

“Do you love Florien?” Monique looked deadly serious at Hyacinth.

“Yes, I do love him with all my heart and soul. But he’s a prince and I’m the daughter of political dissidents”.

“Don’t tell anyone who you are or where you came from. That doesn’t matter anymore. I know for a fact that Florien loves you and that you belong together. It is fate that brought you together. True love like this is too rare to throw away. Play the game. Pretend you feel something like a rock in your bed and he’ll be yours.”

 

Monique had sewed Hyacinth a beautiful blue dress of damask with thistle flowers and ferns in the pattern. Out of her little trunk Hyacinth took out a singularly beautiful necklace of diamonds and sapphires. It was a necklace of a princess. After her mother had died, she found a box under a rock at the old castle filled with ancient jewels. Now was the first time she had shown them to anyone.

When Hyacinth arrived at the royal household she was lead to a bedchamber. There was a bed with 20 mattresses and 20 quilts. The queen said “This is where you’ll sleep tonight my dear”.

Florien’s mother, Queen Jewel was a pretty perky blonde, who was big on the bounce and small on the brain. But she what she lacked in brains she made up with her warm heart. Hyacinth could see the resemblance in Florien, at least physically.

Hyacinth climbed the ladder into the bed. It was wonderful and soft without any rocks at all. Monique had told her about the “pea”. It was a big secret, but being the wife of the official wizard, and a wizard herself, Monique knew all the secrets.

Beautiful Hyacinth didn’t sleep well. Her dreams that night were of Jack and of the evil Baron Robbie laughing over her and pawing over her. She saw her father swinging from the gallows as they laughed.

The next morning Queen Jewel asked “How did you sleep angel” and Hyacinth answered truthfully “It was one of the worst nights of my life”.

And so that was how Queen Hyacinth, mother of Alexander, became a “REAL PRINCESS”.

 

Chapter 5

Queen Hyacinth sat alone in her thoughts for the next hour, watching the rainfall outside the window. The silence was broken by the sound of someone running down the hall. With a bang, the door flew open. A young woman with wild dark hair came running into the room!

“Have you seen the mattresses?” she called ” I can’t believe it. I’ll tell you what, you would never get me up there in a million years”.

The queen looked at her youngest child with loving eyes and held out her hands. “But sweet Glenda, I already know that you are a Real Princess”. She hugged her daughter and then took Glenda’s pretty face in her hands. “I’m so glad you came tonight. Your brother needs his family around him right now.”

“Mama, is he really going to go through with it?”

“Yes, that is the way is has to be”.

“All the better him than me.” Glenda giggled, “So do you still love handsome Prince Florien?” more giggles

“Yes, I still love your father with all my soul. And I love him all the more for giving me such a silly little sprite of a child named Glenda. And speaking of funny little sprites, how are you feeling?”

Glenda put her hands on her very pregnant belly “My little sprite told me that she can’t wait to see her grandmamma”.

The queen smiled. It was so good to see her child so happy with a wonderful young husband and baby on the way.

When Glenda and her mother went down to see the final bed, Granny Jewel was inspecting it closely. The covers were the softest cotton and silk in the most beautiful pastel colors imaginable. The bed curtains were embroidered with a field of roses and lilies. They all agreed that it was perfect.

“Perfectly awful” thought Glenda, giggling to herself.

Leaving her mother and Granny Jewel behind to attend to final details, Glenda made her way to the library where her siblings were waiting. She threw her masses of black curls over her shoulder and hitched up her dragging skirt. Pregnancy had its magical moments, but moving quickly in a formal dress wasn’t one of them.

 

Chapter 6

The royal household was bustling. All of Hyacinth’s children had come home to see the spectacle.

It was like old times. All four of the children were there. Laurel would soon join them and Logan was expected later that evening.

The storm beat against the windows of the library as Alexander’s sisters and brother speculated on his future.

A case of wine sat on the floor. A big board of bread, cheese and fruit was on the table. He could tell it would be a long night. It had been almost a year since they were all together. Glenda was married and living several days journey away. Julianna was busy as the governor of the Aurora Lake District. Jeff and Laurel were partners in a large art studio and often preoccupied. Logan had been traveling for their father on government matters.

“So” said Glenda pouring a glass of wine for her eldest brother “How does it feel to be sacrificed to the gods of tradition?”

“Hey Alex, do you think Princess Candi is as pretty as you are?” asked Jeff, as his sisters held their sides laughing.

The three youngest had often joked to Alexander that he was shallow and vain. He knew he was handsome and openly used it to his advantage. Why not? Use what you have he always thought.

“Maybe” said Alex to his younger brother, giving him a friendly shove, “But we all know she could never be as pretty or as sensitive as you Jeff”.

Julianna looked at her older brother. “So now that you’re down to the wire Alexander, how do you really feel? Do you have any regrets about your past? Any about your future? Are you in the least bit scared?” she looked into his eyes and grabbed his soul.

He thought of how many times he could have avoided this day. But then again, he was ready for something new. “No,” he answered “No regrets. No fears. I’m ready to dive in and do my duty”.

“Dive between the sheets with Princess Candi,” giggled Glenda

Jeff grabbed the wine and passed it around to Julianna and Alexander. He then took a serious look at his brother and asked “Are you still feeling any remorse over Viola?”

“Jeff, below the belt” hissed Julianna

“No, Jules, let him get it out”. Said Jeff looking straight at Alexander. There was always certain hostility between brothers when it came to women. They were so very different. Night and day. Alexander was attracted to the thrill of the hunt and passions of relationships. Jeff was a hopeless romantic. He secretly wished he was the one who had to marry a “Real Princess”.

“It serves you right you right. I’m glad Viola chewed you up and spit you out. You treated her like dirt. No wonder she fell for somebody else.”

“You don’t know anything about it.” Replied Alexander, trying to blow his brother off .

“Where do you get off saying he treated her like dirt. He loved her.” Said Glenda.

“He was indifferent, that’s the same as dirt.” Jeff glared at Alexander. “What will you do if Princess Candi walks out too? What would that make it, the fourth Real Princess to dump you?”

“Jeff, that’s enough,” said Julianna. She knew how Alexander had loved Viola. But his love for her was too formal, too reserved. Alexander was too involved with his own work at the time to see she had slipped away in the arms of another man. He had been involved with other women before and after Viola, but none touched his soul and his heart like Princess Viola of the Moonbeam Mountains.

In a small quiet voice Glenda asked, “Do you still love her? Would you go back to her if she asked”?

Alexander looked at his baby sister and shook his head “It’s over with Viola. It was over three years ago.” He shook his head and ran his hand through his thick hair. “I have a big day tomorrow. I’ll say goodnight now”.

Seeing his brother distressed Jeff felt a slight twinge of satisfaction, then a wave of guilt and sadness. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up.” He got up and gave his brother a hug. Julianna and Glenda did the same. “Stay. Let’s talk more”.

The four stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, laughing and talking. They avoided all talk of Princess Candi or marriage. As they laughed and joked with each other, they all knew that nothing would ever be the same again. They felt as if they were going to lose their own Alexander forever.

 

——

Chapter 7

Princess Candi of the Lavender Forest and her entourage arrived just as the sun settled. Her mother the Beautiful and powerful Princess Kitti was there, along with a bevy of servants, advisors and assorted friends and relations. Candi’s handsome and plesant father was there as well, hiding in the background as most fathers do in these situations.

Alexander could see his three closest friends across the hall. They’d grown up together, with well-placed, high-born parents.

Tom, who was now Alexander’s closest advisor, once joked that they fit all of the hair color options for the choosing. Tom was a tall and lanky with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes. Miles, The son of the Royal Wizard Jasper and his wife Monique was a pale blonde with dark brown eyes rimmed with thick lashes. Alexander had dark almost black hair and the same dazzling green eyes as his mother. The shortest and best looking of the group, Simon Oliver, the Earl of Greenwood always stood out with his, auburn hair and ice blue eyes. Simon was Alexander’s closest friend and married to Ellie, who was a wizard and a Real Princess. She had been Alexander’s first love and first Real Princess.

Simon stood by his beautiful wife Ellie, clutching her hand with almost white knuckles. He had a look of disgust on his handsome face. He hated the idea of Alexander being forced to marry a woman he’d never love.

“So this is it.” said Simon. He started to feel sick knowing he could have prevented this from happening.

“We can’t let this happen.” Ellie whispered to her husband reading his thoughts.

He squeezed her hand. “I love you my darling Ellie.” He said. “We won’t let this happen. Not to our country and not to our friend.”

 

Alexander noticed Simon whispering something to Ellie. She smiled slightly and replied, then put her head on his shoulder for a moment. They were perfection together, the kind of relationship Alexander could only dream of. Catching Alexander’s glance Simon mouthed the words “Don’t do it.”

Simon knew it was a long shot, but deep in his soul, he knew there was another woman for Alexander and he knew exactly where to find her.

Simon looked over at his parents. His mother, gave him a chilling stare with her glacier blue eyes. He looked back and shook his head. Lydia Oliver knew how her son felt about this union. He protected his friends with an unsettling fierceness. She also knew the damage of gossip. Almost 40 years ago it had been rumored that Florien had been Simon’s father, an unfounded fact that almost broke up her marriage. Then nineteen years later Simon stole Ellie’s heart from Alexander. The rumor of the affair with Florien surfaced again with the pending arrival of Princess Candi, and again there was gossip that Simon might really Florien’s firstborn son.

Lydia lightly put her and on her husband’s arm. Her husband was the finance minister, head of the country’s banks. Her husband’s brother was married to Florien’s sister. Her husband glanced down at her small form and said nothing.

Tom hoped a marriage with Princess Candi would work for his friend. He had heard from that Candi was a gentle sweet sort of girl. She’d bring some light to Alexander’s life and get him out of the office or out of his library.

Two years before Tom had married Rachael Oliver. She was the niece of the king, both Simon and Alexander’s first cousin. More important than her lineage was the fact that she made him laugh and he couldn’t live without her anymore.

Miles stood with his parents The Royal Wizard Jasper his wife Monique. He thought of Viola, the powerful Princess of the Moonbeam Mountains, Alexander’s former betrothed. She had betrayed Alexander and ripped his heart out. Like his sister Ellie, then his college girlfriend Misty and Viola after her, Miles knew Candi might be wrong for Alexander. But he also knew that finding and being with your true love were two different things. He’d spent the past 15 years loving Princess Julianna but and she was still unwilling to make a real commitment.

Miles was tired of being alone in his castle by the sea. For the past decade he spent 6 months a year in Aurora Lake living with Julianna and six months working for Princess Viola’s father at his position as Royal Wizard in the Moonbeam Mountains. The situation worked out well, but wasn’t the same as being married. He wanted children. He wanted a commitment. Sure, there had been other women over the years, but it was Julianna who kept his heart. It always came back to her. Tonight he would ask her, again, to marry him. Maybe this time she would say yes.

Alexander’s cousin Graham Oliver stood with his lovely wife Lady Jane and their three flaxen haired children. Graham was Rachael’s brother and Alexander’s staff advisor. He’d grown up in Riverbend. His mother was Florien’s sister and his father was Simon’s father’s brother. He eyed Simon in contempt wondering how the little shit had gained so much power and influence both over the economy of the country and over Prince Alexander.

 

Horns trumpeted and the large entrance doors opened. Alexander and Jeff both openly gasped when they saw Princess Candi ender the great hall. She wore a flowing pink gown; her golden hair cascaded down her back with ribbons and flowers. She was an angel personified. Her skin was translucent flawless ivory and pink. Her full pouting lips held a sweet smile and begged to be kissed. Her eyes were as blue as a tropical sea. Her voice was like the most beautiful music ever heard. Her delicate little hands looked as if they had never been used. She was perfect.

Alexander approached. He held out both of his hands and Candi took them in her own.

“Princess Candi, welcome to my country and my home.” He said gazing into the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen.

Princess Candi smiled and said, “I’m so glad to be here Prince Alexander. You’re more handsome in person that I thought you would be.”

They walked down the hall and lead the guests to the festivities. A lavish feast was held in the Great Hall of the Royal Palace hall. After that there was music, including a beautiful song from Princess Candi, which brought tears to the eyes of most who attended. After the wondrous concert there was more music as Candi was introduced to the guests.

Alexander had little time with his potential bride to be, but he was clearly enchanted by her beauty and talent.

Logan, Queen Hyacinth’s younger brother looked upon the spectacle in disgust. “What a hypocrite.” he thought glaring at Florien and Hyacinth who seemed to be beaming with over the prospect of their eldest son marrying Princess Candi.

An arranged marriage for Alexander was one local custom he couldn’t abide by. He’d argued with his Hyacinth on the matter without luck. Even in the violent dark country of the Crystal Mountains people picked their own partners based on true love and only true love. Heaven knows he’d fallen in love and married more times than he cared to remember, but at least it had been on his own terms.

Looking around the hall for something to get his mind off of his family, Logan and spied his friend Lady Rosalee Woods. Rosie was gorgeous, unromantic, and unsentimental and one of the nastiest women he’d ever been with – making her exactly what he needed on this cold winter night.

 

Chapter 7

At Another Party

Ninety miles to the west of The Capitol, in the city of Meadow Creek, Richard Long, owner of the second largest newspaper in the Northwest Kingdom, was still steamed because he didn’t receive an exclusive invitation to the reception with potential Real Princess Candi.

The only invitation to a member of the press was given to The Capitol World, the largest and oldest news organization in the country. Richard scowled, knowing the spoiled, socially challenged daughter of the owner of The Capitol World, Miss Paullina Norbell, would attend.

Paullina had the social graces of a cow, the table manners of a pig and the fashions sense of a cheap whore. Then there was her laugh. It was like a cat coughing up a hairball mixed with vibrating high-pitched screams of something possessed by demons. Pity Prince Alexander if anything even slightly amusing happened at his big event.

For what seemed like forever, Richard had actively discouraged Paullina’s empty-headed fantasies that one day she and Richard would combine their efforts and create a newspaper empire together. His steady rejections to the woman’s advances did nothing to stop her. In fact, it seemed to make her try even harder. The idea of having anything do with her made him nauseous to say the least. Then to top it all off the woman was all sickening sweetness to the public – a public who seemed to adore her. She was called “Joyfully genuine” and “a woman with her own unique style.” Sure he thought unique was a polite way of saying tacky.

Despite his public contempt for the woman, Paullina aggressively pursued Richard. The memory of her at major media events rubbing up against him in her size too tight dresses and inch thick make-up made him cringe. What was worse was how she’d manage to get her hands under his jacket or in his hair every chance she got. He’d never dare sit down when she was around in fear she’d try to plop her tacky bow covered butt into his lap.

Just a week before she told everyone who was anyone that she and Richard were lovers. Richard contacted Paullina and told her that he’d rather take a vow of celibacy and live out his life in a rat infested cave than spend a single minute alone with her.

The following morning he received a package of less than modest images of him and some of his more recent female companions, with the suggestion that if he didn’t play his cards right his fashionable female friends would be more than embarrassed. Richard was always discreet when it came to his private life so he did what he had to do.

That afternoon he’d made sure that all of the top fashion houses and technology firms in Meadow Creek and The Capitol would slam their doors in the face of any Capitol World reporter. He then published the pathetic account of how the putrid Paullina tried to blackmail “a well known, respectable Meadow Creek man” into a physical relationship. The next day a Meadow Creek judge signed a restraining order against her to stay away from Richard, and an order for all of the damning images to be immediately destroyed.

Unfortunately, Big Daddy Norbell had come to the rescue of his precious daughter and the reputation of his newspaper. Underestimating the long standing clout of The Capitol Word with certain members of King Florin’s staff, Richard’s invitation to the reception was retracted and all requests for him and his staff were ignored, except for one miserly press pass which was to be used specifically by his Capitol Bureau fashion and society columnist the lovely and popular 70 year old Kendra Catskeller. It was a hard blow to Richard, who considered himself a model of journalistic integrity and ethically superior to the owners of The Capitol World. He told Kendra to watch her back and made sure she was fitted in a stunning dress that would make her look 10 years younger than her actual age.

Despite his stellar record in support of Alexander and the Royal Family, even Simon Oliver, who was one of Richard’s closest friends, couldn’t get him an invitation to Princess Candi’s reception, but then again Simon Oliver wasn’t always in the good graces of the Royal Family.

All across the Northwestern Kingdom people were holding “engagement” parties in honor of Prince Alexander and his potential bride. The good news was that Richard had been invited to the most exclusive and fashionable party in Meadow Creek. This was the party his close friend Simon Oliver, the 12th Earl of Greenwood, had planned to attend. That was before Simon and his wife Ellie were summoned by King Florien and forced to attend the reception for Princess Candi.

Tonight Richard would be at Olivia Snowhawk’s fabulous party in her Greenwood mansion on the outskirts of Meadow Creek. Miss Snowhawk was Simon Oliver’s friend, next door neighbor and business partner. She was also President and owner of Universal Technologies International, the largest and fastest growing technology company in the Northwest Kingdom.

As with her business, Miss Snowhawk’s parties were always on an enormous scale, with an enormous budget, always successful and always talked about for years.

Having acquired an advance copy of the guest list, Richard was pleased to see that everyone who was anyone outside of the royal inner circle was going to be there. It was a mix of artists, writers, politicians, fashion designers, scientists, technology experts, business people, educators and a smattering of expatriates from the far ends of the globe. There were also an unusually large number of wizards. Six to be exact, including the hostess. It was going to be great.

Another discovery was that the hostess had managed to steal away Prince Alexander’s very own personal chef for her own use, a fact that didn’t set will with the Prince. If nothing else, the food at the party tonight would be incredible. Along with the food it was a known fact that Olivia Snowhawk had the best wine cellar in Meadow Creek, something Richard had taken full advantage of over the years.

Sometimes Richard felt sorry for Alexander and the stuffiness of court. The Prince would have enjoyed this party with the lavish libations and brilliant mix of guests. Aside from that, the mansion itself was build for over the top entertaining and comfort. The thought crossed Richard’s mind that Alexander had never attended any parties given by the hostess. It was odd considering she lived right next door to Simon Oliver, the 12th Earl of Greenwood, who also happened to be Alexander’s best friend and it just happened, Simon was Olivia Snowhawk’s closest friend as well.

Meadow Creek, the fashion and technology capitol of the country was the perfect place for Richard Long. It was where the smartest and best looking people in the country resided. He considered himself to be in both categories. In fact for the past eight years he’d been on the most eligible bachelor list in “Stylish Lifestyle” magazine. To top that off he was also on the best dressed list every year since he’d graduated from college. He’d also received more journalism awards than he could count and interviewed most members of the Royal family, including the King and Queen, dozens of times. Aside from being oddly snubbed tonight by the Royal Press Secretary, he was always a smashing success.

He’d dressed in opulence for the evening in the perfect shades of blue to match his eyes. His golden sun kissed blond hair was tussled just so in a way that made most women wants to fuss with it. With his sparkling baby blue eyes and dimpled smile Richard Long was boyish charm personified. At 40 he was feeling at like a man in complete control of his life.

Richard’s date for the night, a tall shapely, dazzling beauty named Jaxey Devine, clearly adored him. Her red leather dress fit like a glove. He slid his hand over her amazing backside knowing, as usual, she had nothing on underneath. At age 26, Miss Devine was the same age as Princess Candi. Richard smiled knowing that Alexander would never get from perfect Real Princess Candi what his perfectly luscious date was willing to give.

Jaxey Devine had made a name for herself in the Adult Entertainment market. She wasn’t just another great body. She would and could do things that shocked and delighted her audiences unlike anyone else in her field. But she was more than just a professional exhibitionist – she was good with numbers. Jaxey had invested wisely and made a fortune investing in the financial markets. She’d be able to retire an obscenely wealthy woman by the time she was 30.

Jaxey was overjoyed to be Richard’s date to the classy party. It was an invitation of a lifetime for her and a way to be with people who might have the chance to discover that she was more than just an erotic artiste. Richard had to smile at her excitement. She was so sweet and tasty, and for now, all his. Maybe Jaxey wasn’t Miss Right, but she made a great Miss Right Now.

As they approached their destination Jaxey marveled at the house awash in twinkling lights suspended by wizard’s magic. Richard told her he couldn’t wait to see the new the chandelier, which was rumored to be made from a thousand luminous crystal dragonflies.

Olivia Snowhawk greeted him at the door with a kiss on the cheek and warmly welcomed Jaxey to her home. The hostess’s soft lilting accent both surprised and delighted Jaxey, who had rarely met anyone from outside the country. As they followed Olivia to the ballroom Jaxey looked around in wonder at the wide hallway lined with wooden panels carved like a living forest.

The hostess was dressed in a backless sparkling moss green dress with that showed off every great curve on her body. Her dark hair was piled on her head in careless ringlets, dotted with diamond stars. Richard was tempted to kiss the back of Olivia’s lovely neck, but restrained himself and just admired her glow. Pointing the pair towards the bar, Olivia told them to mingle, she then, as if by magic, disappeared into the crowd of “Engagement Party” guests.

During the small talk with other party guests Richard never questioned the Real Princess tradition. It wasn’t something people talked about. Everyone accepted the fact that the prince would marry a Real Princess the same as they accepted the change of seasons or major holidays. In private, Richard did wonder why Alexander never got his head out of his ass and found a woman on his own. Sure that cheating Real Princess Bitch Viola had broken his heart, a fact not made public, but there were a lot of great women out there who’d be happy to put up with Alexander.

In contrast to Viola, everything about Princess Candi seemed right. She was absolutely gorgeous, sweet and simple. Perfect for a prince who seemed to have lost his passion for romance ever since he broke off the engagement with Viola three years earlier. Alexander could do whatever he wanted with Candi, including ignoring her, which seemed to be his pattern with most women he became involved with lately.

One night about a month previous, while dining and drinking a little too much with Simon and Richard, Prince Alexander had mentioned he wanted a woman who challenged him. He wanted a woman with passion. He wanted a woman who could take him to the edge and back. If anyone could take Alexander there it would be Olivia Snowhawk. Sure, take the Prince to the edge and over the brink to hell.   Forget challenges, passion or going to the edge or getting back, In Richard’s opinion, Prince Alexander really needed someone nice and simple like Candi. Someone he could marry and live happily ever after with.

Richard looked around the crowded house for Olivia but only caught glimpses of the sparkling green dress as she made her rounds to the 80 or so guests. A smile came to his face when he saw that most of the women were wearing black arm bands in sorrow that the charming and oh so handsome prince was soon to be engaged. That had to be Olivia’s idea. She was always one for fun and practical jokes. He caught her eye from across the room. She laughed then turned away and was once again lost in the crowd.

Richard and Olivia had been close friends for years. They’d found themselves in agreement on almost all social and political issues and formed an alliance in their shared passions. With her help he’d scored some of his greatest journalistic triumphs. As the owner and president of Universal Technologies International she’d been generous in giving him exclusives on breaking stories about communications and medical technologies, not to mention volumes of juicy information for the social and fashion pages.

Olivia was free with information but drove a hard bargain on exclusivity. When she and Simon gave Richard information he used to it the advantage of all of them. Simon was especially protective of making sure the Meadow Creek Recorder reporters received the information before any other media outlet, including The Capitol World.

Due to their outspoken views against the militant cults still allowed to flourish in the western regions of the country, and other social issues, Richard and Olivia had recently received threats in the form of mutilated animals left on their doorsteps, threatening letters and break-ins at their offices, plus attacks on their employees. Despite this he never stopped doing what was right, exposing injustices and small minded backwards thinking.

Despite the fact that any kind of violence scared the shit out of Richard, he continued to put his opinions to paper. As a mere man, he freely acknowledged he was a coward but as a journalist and a publisher he was invincible.

Catching a glimpse of Olivia talking to a young well-built male guest Richard’s stomach flipped. He had loved Olivia. He’d even told her he loved her. Hell, maybe he still did love her. In return, she told him almost everything he wanted to hear except the four words he wanted to hear the most: she never once said “I love you Richard.” Never once.

Olivia had been his friend for twelve years, but she had always been a mystery. Then one magical night, after a carefully planned perfect romantic evening, he finally got her into his bed – then got her to talk.

After making love to her, a sweet memory he’d never forget, he gently coaxed her into telling him the truth of her past. It was a nightmare. He learned she had come from a dark scary place and lived a life of dark scary secrets.

Looking at the angelic woman who lay sleeping quietly in his arms he thought in horror “she’s killed people.” People as in plural persons she’d put to death either with magic or by her own hand.

On her 17th birthday she had been more or less marked for death by the dark forces of the Crystal Mountains and by rival factions of the new Crystal Mountain Republic leadership. There was no place for her to go but out of the country. She took with her the ugly physical scars of her own close calls with death and worse scars on her soul. Everything this smart, caring, funny, flirtatious woman had told him about her past life in the Crystal Mountains was violent and vile and frightening. It was terrifying nightmares of death and betrayal beyond anything he could have ever imagined.

He didn’t know what was worse, who her family had been, or what they had done to her, or what they planned on doing to her, or worst of all, what they might do to him if he continued the relationship.

He’d written and researched stories on violence against women and abusive families but nothing compared to her story. Like most abused people he’d known or interviewed over the years he was never sure if he was ever getting the entire truth. The one thing is known for sure was that his old friend Olivia Snowhawk was living a huge lie and doing a hell of a good job at it.

He’d never tell a soul what she had shared with him. He couldn’t. He’d break her heart by leaving her, but he’d never betray her trust.

Yes, now that he thought about it some more, he did still love her. But then again, he’d rather set his hair on fire than live with her past looming over his head.

Richard’s curious nature made him want to know more. Taking what he already knew, he investigated a few inside sources, and found Olivia had a disturbing connection to the Queen that could land him in a dungeon for the rest of his life or worse. As much as he liked to print the most scandalous, exciting and breaking news, Richard prided himself in his ability to keep secrets, even if it meant keeping those secrets to the grave

 

Chapter 9

 

The party was better than Richard could have ever imagined.

The guests knew that whatever went on at Olivia Snowhawk’s parties stayed at her parties. They also knew that they could trust Richard. In the interest of protecting his sources Richard made sure the press was always kind to this elite social group.

She stood at the far end of the ballroom, holding a crystal goblet of red wine and gave a speech the musical lilt of her Crystal Mountain accent charming everyone there.

“Where I come from we don’t have marriages which involve laws and contracts. Love between a woman and a man isn’t something to be legislated or confined to written rules of order. We choose a partner, vow our love forever, in private, and live together for the rest of our lives. It isn’t a public event. Friends and family aren’t involved. It is a bonding of two hearts and two souls for as long as they live, or even longer. It is the truth in its most pure form. It is absolute trust. It is complete and unconditional love.

I’m happy to say that most of my many married friends here in the Northwest Kingdom take their vows as serious as if they came from The Crystal Mountains. I toast to the commitment and happiness of you, my married friends, on this night of celebrating love and a hopeful happy future for Prince Alexander.”

Everyone cheered and downed their glasses. More wine was passed around. Olivia continued her speech.

‘However, before you cheer me more, I must say a few words about what is happening tonight in The Capitol.

Your barbaric custom of marrying off your dear prince to the highest bidder, to a REAL PRINCESS is both fascinating and appalling to me. Of course the choice of a woman of appropriate education and breeding is expected from Prince Alexander, but it should be his choice. If he meets the love of his soul and she doesn’t pass the real princess test, then what? Do they spend their lives in misery apart wondering what might have been? Do they lead clandestine lives together in secret?

And what exactly is a Real Princess? Nobody knows, nobody questions. That kind of blind trust my friends, is what started the revolution in the Crystal Mountains. It is what made waste of the southern half of our world. It is what keeps the far northern territories under the siege of criminal warlords.

On the other hand, it is a quaint tradition meant to help a man, our Prince Alexander to be exact, find the woman of his dreams with little or no effort. I’ll have to admit that while my Human Resources staff at Universal Technologies isn’t involved in my love life, they can find the perfect employees. Maybe the Royal powers that be used the same dynamic matrix in finding Princess Candi.

But then again most of your traditions are barbaric to me. All of you beautiful men wear such sort hair that there is nothing for your women to grab onto. You dress so plainly and simply never expressing yourselves through your appearance. And when all is said and done you put your dead in the ground to be eaten by bugs. So I can hardly expect you to pick your mates in a reasonable way.

Another thing I don’t understand is the way the men in this country always look for an enchanted maid, a girl in the woods to rescue, a real princess. Maybe they should stop searching for a dream and find that their bliss is right next door with the girl who works in the library or the research lab. Love is magic enough without making it into a fairy tale.

Our dear friends Simon and Ellie have been in love for their entire lives and married in bliss for 18 of those years. I wish that same happiness for Prince Alexander.

But your tradition of not drinking enough will end tonight and so, before I make myself into more of a fool than I already have, I wish you all a lifetime of happiness and love.

I wouldn’t want anyone else as our Prince. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, ever. This is my home; you are the people I choose to be with. You are the people I love, heart and soul.

Now let us all toast true love, heart and soul.”

 

Then Olivia and her guests all held up their glasses and said “True Love” in unison.

Twenty minutes later Richard found himself alone in the private upstairs library with Olivia. Despite the fact that he’d come with Jaxey, he kissed Olivia a long perfect kiss full of passion and promises of what might come later. When she wanted more, he stopped and backed away. She said that she’d been under the impression that he still loved her. When he made a lame excuse she took his hand in hers. He could feel the warmth go up his arm and embrace him like a happy calming drug. Regaining he thoughts and his fear, he dropped her hand.

“I will always love you but I can’t do this.” He told her as he braced himself for a nasty scene.

Olivia calmly stated “No, you can’t can you. You’re a coward Richard. I should have known that from the start but I was so in…I was so wrong in my assumptions.” Her eyes glistened. She hugged herself and looked down. “There’s no turning back and no amount of remorse or magic can fix it. I’m done with you then. Go back to your silly girl and have a nice uncomplicated life.”

He’d screwed up worse than he had imagined and she’d locked him out of her heart forever. That hit him like a punch in the stomach.

When he returned to the party Olivia’s friend Annie Hawthorne gave him a look that could kill. His insides twisted up into a knot again. What was it with women? They always knew when you screwed up with one of their friends. Then they attacked with the ferocity of rabid mother wolves. No man was ever safe from the “girlfriends”. Waves of remorse passed over him, but like Olivia had stated it wasn’t going to fix anything.

He wished he could forget Olivia. He remembered the magical night she had told him that she needed him. She said she wanted to share her life with him. She shared everything with him, maybe in the hope that he, of all men, might be able to help her.

He’d never be able to help her, not in the way she needed help. The sick feeling came back again. Now it all made sense. Olivia seemed to be unable to figure out the key to her salvation, but he, Richard Long, had just figured it all out.

Richard knew what Olivia had to do to save herself. The only problem was that he was too much of a coward to tell her. Another problem was that if he told her what she needed to do he might risk loosing everything, including his life and maybe hers.

Returning to the party he no longer felt like socializing or being around reminders of what could have been. He took Jaxey’s hand and headed for the door.

“Come on Jax, let’s get out of here. I have plans for you tonight.”

Then he whispered something in her ear that made her giggle and purr, “Oh Richie baby, you’re such a naughty boy.”

He looked back at the house as he left. Olivia Snowhawk stood in an upstairs window watching him, their eyes met and then she turned away from him forever.

 

 

After the Royal Reception

After the Royal Reception, Granny and the Queen escorted Candi to the great bedroom. They bid her goodnight and said nothing more except maybe to have sweet dreams.

Candi was finally alone. What could be the test of a Real Princess she wondered? Would the handsome Alexander come to her in her sleep? Would she have mystical dreams? Would she wake with wisdom and knowledge? It was such a guarded mystery.

Her mother Princess Kitti of the Lavender Forest had sent spies to find out the secret but it was no use. She only found out what it was NOT.

It was not necessarily a good bloodline. It was not virginity. It was not intelligence. It was not multiple choice, an essay, a singing contest or the ability to dance. It was not knowing how to set a proper table or the ability to make amusing carry on small talk. It was not politics, money or education, which made Candi very happy, since everything to do with politics, money or education bored her to tears.

And even though all of the Real Princesses were beautiful or at least very pretty, that was not a consideration.

“Too bad” Candi said to her mother Kitti “because I’m the prettiest girl of all.”

“It’s not whom you know or where you are from,” said her mother Kitti “or that overly perfect Queen Hyacinth would have never passed”.

As a young woman of 15, Princess Kitti was took the Real Princess test and passed. Nobody told her how she passed the test, after a sleepless night on a strange bed, but she did pass. She was sure the gorgeous 22 year old Florien would propose to her on her 16th birthday but disaster stuck in the worst way imaginable. Hyacinth appeared in the woods like a drowned kitten, with two children in tow no less. Kitti never forgave Hyacinth for showing up and ruining HER life.

The one thing Kitti DID know was that if Princess Candi passed the test, she would be the 12th Real Princess to do so.

Alone in the bedroom Candi brushed her beautiful golden hair and thought of how handsome Prince Alexander looked. Then she thought of how lovely his sisters were. She would love to have Julianna and Glenda as her own dear sisters. And there was sweet artistic Jeff who looked just like their father the King. She knew that she and Jeff would be very close friends. Candi had instantly liked gentle Aunt Laurel who was almost as beautiful as her sister the queen. The only member of the Royal Family she didn’t like was Queen’s Hyacinth’s brother Logan, who reminded her of a dark wild wolf. He had openly snubbed her but she knew she would eventually win him over with her sweet natured ways and a flutter of her beautiful blue eyes.

Candi hummed a sweet tune in perfect tone. Even the crickets and frogs outside her window stopped for a few minutes to try to tune their own songs to hers.

Slipping on an ever so soft silken robe, Candi imagined that it was her wedding night, and not a test. She thought of Alexander as a perfect dimpled smile formed on her fair face.

With thoughts of Alexander’s sensuous lips every part of her perfect naked body Candi climbed into the beautiful bed. This will be heaven she thought. But wait, there was something in the bed!

She sat up and smoothed the bed with her hand. She lay back down. There is was again! This was awful. Why had they put such a delicate beauty in such a bed she thought? Is this some sort of cruel joke? She traveled for 5 days in the rain. Didn’t they appreciate her troubles? Why did they put her up in a bed full of lumps? She couldn’t complain. Real Princesses don’t complain. After tossing and turning for several hours she finally climbed down and tried to sleep on the couch by the fireplace. She still couldn’t sleep – it was full of lumps too.

She tried to think of her life with Alexander. She thought of slipping his shirt off of his strong broad shoulders. She thought of his lips on her lips, his hands expertly exploring her body. She thought of waking up every morning to a backache if she had to sleep in this damned place every night. She crawled back up to the top pile of mattresses, popped some painkillers, washed them down with a half bottle of wine and dozed off into a tortured sleep.

 

—————————

 

Julianna led Miles up to the seldom visited East Tower in the old part of the castle. When they reached the room at the top she told him “Close the door.” It slammed with a twinkling of purple sparks and a click of a lock. Ah the advantages of having a wizard for a lover.

 

She grabbed Miles and pulled his mouth to hers. “I’ve missed you.”

 

He put a spell on the stairs to keep people out.

 

“We can’t let Alexander marry Princess Candi.” Said Julianna to her longtime lover.

 

“I’m already checking into it. Listen, Jewels, there have to be more real princesses out there.” Said Miles.

 

“Or we could find a loophole in the system so that he could marry someone else.” She said hopefully.

 

Miles looked into the eyes of his own princess and kissed her with a passion only known to real true love. Six months out of the year they lived together, and six months apart. The arrangement had worked for almost 10 years, but he wanted more.

 

Julianna looked into his eyes “I love you Miles. I love you so much.

 

“Then marry me.”

 

She turned away.

 

His eyes grew dark, a light shower of small sparks flew around his feet. “It’s him again isn’t it. He’s not coming back. I’m real, I’m here. I love you. Jewels, I can’t compete with a fantasy.”

 

Julianna crossed her arms and put her head down. “It’s not a fantasy. He was real. He was my destiny.”

 

“No, I’m your destiny. He was just some guy who helped you find your way out of the woods.”

 

“I was the girl in the woods.”

 

“No you were a stupid 16 year old who couldn’t follow directions.”

 

“He rescued me.”

 

“He seduced you and left you alone in the woods.”

 

“Miles, I’m sorry.” Her stomach twisted into knots.

 

“So am I Julianna.” He started out the room but decided to stay. He always stayed, no matter how stupid it all seemed.

 

He had love her with a passion for almost 10 years. He’d known her all her life.

 

When Julianna was 16 she had accompanied him to Riverbend. He was going to visit Simon at the University. She was visiting her cousin Rachael. When the young princess went to gather wild flowers she became lost in the woods.

 

She was ready to give up when there she saw him. He was tall, with broad shoulders, long legs and narrow hips. Is reddish brown hair that fell to his shoulders shone in the rays of sun the fell through the tree tops. He was the most handsome man she had even seen. He looked about the same age as Miles and Alexander, but he seemed more of a man. What she remembered was his smile and his eyes. He smiled showing dimples and his eyes sparkled brown like jewels.

 

The young man spoke first in the old language, spoken in the Crystal Mountains, then switched effortlessly to the common language. He was gentle and kind. Even though he was a stranger she felt no fear.

 

He knew she was a princess. He said he was here to escort someone is sister back to his own land and he wanted to explore the flora and fauna of the woods. A small wild bird landed on his finger. He could talk to animals. She was entranced.

 

He spoke of his twin sister and the love he had for her. We’re like two halves of the same person. “I am light, she is dark dark. I’m the sun and she is the moon”. He said many young men in their homeland vied for her hand, and he was sure his sister would have a partner soon. Her life had been tragic, now she needed someone to take care of her.

 

She spoke of her family, of her brother Alexander and how she adored his friends, especially Miles the wizard boy.

 

He sat with her and held her hands. She spoke her heart. Of how hard it was to be a princess. How she didn’t want to be married off young to a “good match”.

 

She told him things she’d never dared to tell anyone else. She wanted to be a leader. The last thing she needed was to think of a man.

 

He told her she would be a great and powerful leader, like the legendary Snowfire. Then he said “If I loved you, it would be with all my heart and soul. We would be best friends, lovers and spiritual twins.”

 

He told her how he had lost so many people but he always had hope. He spoke of finding the good in people.

 

She told him “You’re as pretty as I am.” He just laughed. He said “There are only three other women in the world who are as beautiful as you.” She asked if his sister was one. He laughed. “Oh no, not my sister. The others are your mother, my father’s lover, and a little wizard girl named Ellie who loves your brother Alexander. She was shocked, he mentioned her mother and her best friend. How did he know about Ellie?

 

“But you said your mother was a fairy princess. “ Julianna said to him.

 

“She was to me”, he said. “She died when I was young. Don’t look so sad. I am sad that I have to leave you so soon.”

 

When she asked “Why can’t we be together.”

 

He answered “The political fallout would be more than either one of us could handle. Maybe if we were older, but not now.” He told her that one day they would meet again. Then he kissed her and she gave herself to him on the soft sweet moss of the woods. She awoke alone with flowers in her hair and a dream of love she’d hold on to forever.

 

Miles found her walking down the trail the next morning. He usually was sort of cute, but now he looked plain with his white blonde hair that always looked a bit messy, his muddy brown eyes and average bordering on skinny build.

 

Over the years Miles tried to figure out who this man was. Even his magic couldn’t figure it out. At one point he thought he knew who the beautiful youth was, but the very idea was too ridicules to consider. Now almost 20 years later the mystery man was still keeping him from happiness, but he never lost hope that one day Julianna would see reason.

 

He sat at the top of the tower steaming and wondering how Julianna had gotten her brilliant brain and steady heart so screwed up around some stranger she’d met 20 years before. The guy hadn’t even told her his name. He, on the other hand, had built a life with her. They had a future together.

 

As Miles sat brooding Julianna came up behind him and looked at the man she shared her life with. He was no longer the skinny kid. He was hard and lean and well toned. His hair was glossy and his eyes were bright and full of life. She slid her arms around his waist. “I’m sorry. I was wrong.”

 

He turned around to face her. “I have always been here for you. I will always be here for you.”

 

“I know my love. My own, my only true love.” She told him.

 

“Marry me Julianna.”

 

“After Alexander is married. Then it will be our time.”

 

—————————————————————————–

 

 

The next morning, before the sun came up, and the household was up, the Queen lay in bed with her arms around her sleeping husband. She listened to the rainfall and the chirping of the first waking birds. She remembered the first time he kissed her. She remembered the first time he told her that he loved her.

Florien had a fitful night of dreams. The first was of waking up, not next to his true love Hyacinth, but next to Princess Kitti. It made him wake in a cold sweat. The second nightmare was of a faceless man with long dark hair who came to take Hyacinth away.

Alexander was in his renovated manor house a mile away, also lying in bed listening to the rain. His black cat Rufus lay purring curled at the foot of the bed. He thought of all of the Real Princesses who had come and gone from his life. He thought of Princess Viola. The memories of their break-up still stung after 3 years. He thought of the amazing wizard Ellie, his friend Simon’s wife. His mind wondered to memories of his time with sharp witted sexy Misty Barnes, who was now the mayor of the city of Ravenswood. Then he thought of Candi. She was a tasty little treat. Then he thought of his siblings and their teasing.

“Tease all you want” he thought “and forget all the business about true love and soul mates.”

He had been with enough women to know that he could be happy with someone who was simply a decorative piece. Alexander was tired of being raked through the coals by women who couldn’t care less who he really was behind his title and birth. He was tired of the games and the lies. Now all he wanted was a woman who was nothing more than a Real Princess. More than that, he wanted perfection. Safe and boring perfection.

As he drifted off into the land of sleep, the painting on his wall of a girl standing in the woods came to life. She gave him a haunting look and whispered in an ancient language “Help me.”

Jeff lay sleeping with a smile on his face. Hid dreams were filled with Princess Candi. In his dreams he held her beautiful hand and sang sweet love songs with her. When she kissed him he didn’t feel any guilt or remorse, just pure ecstasy.

Glenda lay in bed with a smile on her face, thinking of the hand full of peas her Granny had put under the couch pillows.

Julianna lay naked curled up next to Miles. She looked at the peaceful sleeping face of darling man who was so much part of her life. She couldn’t imagine not having him around. Next her thoughts went to the woods outside the town of Riverbend where the real man of her dreams was waiting to sweep her off her feet, again after so many years.

 

 

 

The Real Princess

Lori was up early as usual with her pot of tea and her ledger of the day’s events. She had been the queen’s personal assistant for 20 years. She was one of the few who the queen totally trusted. As she checked off her list, Ginger the large orange cat sat purring in her lap. She thought of plans to keep Kitti out of the Queen’s way. She had to be diplomatic about this. Perhaps a visit to one of the top fashion houses or the standard tour of schools and museums.

Keeping Kitti away from the King was another concern. Lori could tell that Kitti was still infatuated with Florien after 40 years. She could see the fire in Kitti’s eyes and inner rage at the Queen. Lori had to protect Hyacinth at all costs.

Suddenly she heard someone screech her name. At this hour? The sun hadn’t even come up yet. Everyone should be asleep. A chill went down her spine. She lifted the cat out of her lap and went towards the great hall. There in the middle of the hall was Princess Kitti in a red hot rage.

“How dare you make my daughter sleep on a bed only fit for dogs and Starlings”. Yelled Kitti.

“Dogs and Starlings?” Lori replied in a deadpan voice only she could pull off in such situations. Dogs she could understand. But Starlings, the mysterious and reclusive race who lived in the Crystal Mountains? “Starlings? Ah yes” she thought, “This must be a direct hit on the Queen”.

“Princess Kitti.” Said Lori calmly and gently ” You must be mistaken. The bed is made of the finest and most delicate of materials”.

“Don’t lie to me madam” said Kitti with clenched fists “Get Florien at once or I will go find him myself”.

Lori ignored the comment made by the angry Kitti. “Dear Princess” she stared, trying to calm the angry woman down by using formality and respect, “I don’t think you understand”.

“What is there to understand, except my precious daughter is black and blue all over?” screeched Kitti.

Lori held her hands up in an almost angelic gesture. “What you don’t understand is that your daughter has passed the test and we now know she is a REAL PRINCESS”. And with that Kitti fainted right on the spot.

Lori looked down at Kitti. “Let the stupid bitch lay there” she thought, and went back to her tea, ledger and the big orange cat.”

 

——————————————————————-

Later that day

Princess Candi of the Lavender Forest was now a REAL PRINCESS.

She was to stay at the royal residence for several months as a guest and it was assumed future fiancée to Prince Alexander. Her mother would stay on for another week to help her settle in.

“That first bed was beautiful, but I’d simply die if I had to sleep on it every single night.” she said to her maids as the servants moved her to a different bedroom. A room with a normal comfortable bed.

Her room was spacious and light with a large balcony overlooking the formal flower garden. She liked the formal garden, opposed to the wild unruly cottage garden Queen Hyacinth kept outside of her studio.

She liked the feminine soft yellow and white bedding and curtains. She liked the neat gold furnishings, without a lot of ornate carvings to collect dust. She liked the large symmetrical flower arrangement on the desk and by her bed an elegant crystal vase holding one single perfect pink rose.

Princess Candi watched in delight as her dozens of trunks and boxes of clothes and accessories were unpacked. She brought at least 8 crowns, fifty pairs of shoes, almost a hundred dresses and gobs of jewelry and other accessories. Most of the clothing was new, made just for the trip. Oh it was so much fun being a REAL PRINCESS.

She giggled when the eight cages were brought in containing all of her miniature dogs, plus a purse to carry each of the small quivering animals in.

“Oh pooches” she squealed “This is all going to be so much fun.” The dogs started to jump and yap along with her.

Any princess can have clothes and jewels but no other princess she knew of have the ultimate accessories, her own set of identical twins.

Dora and Cora were two hand picked identical twins of her own age. Candi liked the fact that they were a matched set. They were of average size and build. And even though their faces were a bit on the plain side; they had flawless skin and beautiful silky hair that flowed down their backs like pale gold waterfalls. The twins were identical but a small scar on Dora’s chin, caused from a childhood accident of unknown origin. Candi loved the fun of identical twins waiting on her hand and foot and had a wardrobe of identical dresses made for them in every shade of pink and yellow.

Dora carried a large case of lent removers, air fresheners, dusting devices, pill removers, cleaning cloths, smelling salts and stain removers, so that everything was always neat, tidy, orderly and sanitary, just as Princess Kitti had ordered.

After letting the maids unpack, Candi decided to freshen up and find her prince.

Candi chose to wear a flowing winter gown embroidered with pink roses and green leaves. It had a high waistline to accentuate her perfect, not too large, not too small breasts and beautiful neck. The twins tied her hair up in a bundle of pink and green ribbons. Next was a quick touch-up of the most subtly applied cosmetics to her beautiful face – the princess was almost ready to go. Candi looked in the full-length mirror and thought she was the vision of a country maiden.

Then she slipped on her matching shoes and rosebud earrings. Then the twins topped it off by putting a tiny gold and garnet crown on her head. “How do I look?” she said to the twins, almost laughing as she twirled around in front of them.

“Your highness, Prince Alexander will be smitten by you,” said Dora

“You look so lovely Princess Candi. The prince will think the goddess of Springtime has come into his garden,” said Cora

Candi looked out the window and saw Alexander walking into the garden. He sat on a bench and closed his eyes as the rare burst of winter sun warmed his handsome face.

“Oh my God” she gasped. “He is solo absolutely gorgeous. I just want to eat him up.” then she fell on the bed in a fit of giggles.

Alex was to meet Candi alone for the first time. He arrived in the formal garden a few minutes early, to relax. He didn’t know why he was nervous. He’d never been nervous around women before. But this was different. It was his destiny, or so he thought.

Alexander preferred the cottage garden outside of his mother’s studio, but the formal garden was large and he thought allowed more privacy.

He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, there she stood, Princess Candi, his Real Princess.

He smiled and stood to greet her. He took her perfect cream-colored hand in his.

She melted in his beautiful eyes then noted how well groomed his fingernails were.

“Princess Candi” he said, “Shall we walk? I’ll give you a tour of the gardens”.

“That would be lovely Alexander” she replied in her musical voice, as she took his arm.

The sound of her voice was enough to make Alexander smile. He imagined her saying “That would be lovely Alexander” as he covered her beautiful mouth with his own, but he was getting ahead of himself. This wasn’t just any woman. She was perfect and delicate and sensitive. There would be plenty of time later for less than delicate things. He had to get to know his future bride and gain her trust first.

They walked along the path and made small talk. Alexander pointed out the first cold weather flowers and other garden features. Candi hung on every word he said with glowing eyes and a perfect dimpled smile.

“So, Candi, what do you like to do?”

“Do??” she asked giving him an innocent look and a slight O shape of her rosebud lips.

“What are you interested in?”

Candi knew she had to be clever. She couldn’t tell him that she was only interested in wearing beautiful clothes and being told she was lovely by handsome young men and parties and kissing and playing hide and seek with her puppies. She had to sound deep and interesting. Weeks before she had studied up on all of his interests and found most of them boring or totally confusing. Fortunately she was able to find a few things to pretend to be interested in. She also had a few talents of her own, which she knew he would be impressed with.

“Music is a big part of my life. I’ve studied for years.” She told her prince.

“Last night your singing was wonderful. I’ve never heard anything so beautiful”. Alexander said with adoration in his voice.

“Thank you”. She giggled feeling a bit unsettled and excited. He was so handsome! “But tell me about yourself Alexander” she said, taking the attention away from herself, as her mother had instructed her to do. As they walked along he told her pleasant bits about his family, his education and his business interest. He told her that his personal interests were history, art and nature. He talked of his library and other tedious subjects.

She walked besides him smiling and glowing. Alexander’s words rattled around in her brain and she thought it was all positively mind numbing.

Intentionally, Alexander left out most of the details about his personal life. He didn’t say too much about his close friends. While his friends, understood the “Real Princess” issue, they had a hard time accepting the reality of it. He didn’t tell about his close ties with the wizard community. He didn’t say much about his skeptical catty sisters. He kept it sweet and simple. He tried to make it exciting for a pretty and innocent young woman.

Then she threw him off guard

Candi made a slight pout with her perfect pink lips and asked, “Have you ever been in love?”

He took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair “Yes, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

She felt a self-satisfying twinge of ownership.

“And you?” he asked

“No. I’ve been waiting for you” she lied, batting her pretty blue eyes.

“You are so beautiful,” he told her

“You’ll make me blush” she replied kissing him coyly on the cheek.

 

 

 

In another part of the royal household, Princess Kitti had a mission. A mission to be alone with King Florien and undermine his devotion to Hyacinth. She had dirt on the woman who stole her prince.

Kitti’s own blindly devoted husband was of no concern. The fool was oblivious to any affairs Kitti had. Yes, he was still an attractive man, and a decent lover, but he was boring. She had never felt a spark for him. She never allowed herself to feel a spark for the man she married out of convenience. Soon she’d be rid of him and his favorite child, her worthless daughter Patience.

Forgetting about her family, a wicked smile formed on her lips. When she was done Hyacinth would be gone and she would be Queen Kitti of the Northwestern Kingdom.

“Real Princess my ass” she said aloud as she looked on the wall at a portrait of the queen.

——————–

 

From a roof top perch, Julianna and Glenda watched their brother walk with Candi in the garden.

“What do you think of Princess Candi?” said Julianna, hardly concealing her disgust.

“She’s certainly pretty and exceptionally sweet. And from what I’ve seen, she’s just about as shallow as our brother.” Replied Glenda as she squinted through her binoculars.

“More so” said Julianna

“More pretty or more shallow.” Glenda shifted her pregnant self into a more comfortable position. “I suspect the poor girl is dumber than a rock. Have you spoken to her?”

“Yes, She’s dumb like a fox.” said Julianna pulled out her own spy glass “Definitely not interested in much, or at least not much more than herself, but she knows how to play the game. She listens and picks up on things. Most importantly, she knows how to make people adore her.”

“Good point,” said Glenda, shifting her weight again. “It’s a good skill to have if you’re going to be in the public eye.”

“Wait, look. I think he’s going to kiss her.” Julianna said in a loud whisper as she squinted to see better.

The two sisters held their breath.

“He didn’t do it. Just let her kiss him on the cheek.” cried Glenda. “He’s going to scare her off it he waits too long to make a move.”

“I doubt that. I think she just wants to be a pet. A toy. She wants to just look pretty and be admired forever for being pretty. Nothing more than that. In return she has to play hostess on occasion, sleep with our brother, at least for the first few years, and maybe give birth to a few children. ”

“I don’t think she’s the one.”

“It is the custom of the land,” said Julianna in a serious tone. “He must marry a Real Princess”.

“But does he have to marry THIS Real Princess. Does it have to be her?” said Glenda as she motioned toward the garden in disgust.

“You know his history. Who else would it be?” said Julianna quietly, trying to calm down her sister. “We can train her to be the kind of wife Alexander needs.”

Oh look, Candi is checking out Alexander’s butt. Look down in the garden. I’ll have to admit, he does have a great ass.” Glenda shifted again. She couldn’t wait to have this baby and be comfortable again.

Julianna ignored the comment about their brother’s butt and stayed serious “Glenda, I have to tell you something important. You have to swear to keep it to yourself.”

Glenda turned away from the garden “What is it?”

“Alexander asked me to see if there was something legally I could do to get him out of this.”

“Did you find anything?”

“Maybe, but I need to check back to the older archives.”

When did Alex ask you this?

“About a week ago. And the funny thing, was that this morning our mother asked if I could find the same thing?”

” Really?” said Glenda, now completely unconcerned with the activity in the garden.

Julianna continued “They both swore me to secrecy.”

“Does Jeff know?” asked Glenda, shifting again.

“No, and don’t tell him. He’ll get all bent out of shape over it. I love Jeff, but he can be such a pain in the ass sometimes. He can’t wait for Alexander to marry a Real Princess.”

“I swear upon my big pregnant belly that I won’t say a word.” Glenda said rubbing her stomach.

“Thank you darling sister.” Said Julianna as she put her arm around her younger sister.

“Your welcome darling sister. Well, I’ve seen enough. Help me up and off of this perch.”

Julianna helped her younger sister up and down the narrow stairs. “I still can’t believe that dad has a past with Kitti, of all women”.

“I’m sure it was nothing. Just a teenage crush. Women are still in love with dad.”.

“So what do you think of those twins Candi keeps?”

“They give me the creeps.”

“Me too.”

As the two women climbed down from the roof they missed

9 thoughts on “Girl in the Woods

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