It is Friday – time for the next installment of the rough cut Epic Fairy Tale/Adventure/Romance “Girl in the Woods.” More fun characters are introduced and the plot gets thicker.
Please check the side bar on this blog or the bottom of this post for earlier installments.
Part Three: Annie, Logan and Jeff
A Few Weeks After the Party
Annie Hawthorne, Vice President of International Marketing and Public Relations for Universal Technologies, was in black today as an intentional contrast with the current rage of pastel prettiness of most of the women in The Capitol. She used her height to take advantage of the latest high fashion from Meadow Creek (which everyone knew was the fashion capitol of the universe). On the outside she wore a long blackish-green overcoat made of the most buttery of leather. Underneath the overcoat was a long black lightweight wool jacket that hit just past her knees with a high exaggerated collar and large cuffs of black brocade. The open jacket was layered over a form fitting vest in the same brocade with silver buttons shaped like arrows. Her blouse was white satin with a high collar that complimented the jacket. She skipped a skirt in favor of skin tight black leather pants with low heeled black boots coming just over her knees. On her right hand she wore a ring with a large square emerald. Her nails were a high gloss pink with black tips. At her ears were small emeralds accented with dangling pearls. Her glossy pale blonde hair was cut blunt at just below her jaw line. Spiky bangs framed her face. She looked trendy, hard edged, successful and amazingly cute.
After graduating from the Royal University with a Masters in Business, Annie had joined Universal Technologies in Meadow Creek to escape what she saw as the inevitable trap of mundane lower-class associations she’d grown up with in The Capitol. It was the chance of a lifetime relocate in always trendy Meadow Creek with a large population of artists, musicians, writers and fashion designers, which seemed so far away from her dreary upbringing.
Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that in 6 years she would be where she was, running public relations and marketing for the Universal Technologies International. And never would she have imagined that her mentors would be non other than the President of Universal, Olivia Snowhawk and the Director of Operations, Simon Oliver, 12th Earl of Greenwood.
When the representatives from Universal Technologies International were at the University looking for the brightest graduate students, Annie went on a whim. She knew employees were expected to sign oaths of secrecy, but on the bright side employee turn over was practically non existent.
Universal Technologies was founded and mostly owned by foreigners, strange secretive people from the Crystal Mountains who excelled in invention and technology. They were also said to use a fair share of wizardry but nobody outside of Universal Technologies had many details. She also knew that the owners of Universal Technologies treated their employees well. If anything was to happen to her or her family they would be taken care of.
After being hired fresh out of graduate school Annie climbed up the ranks and flourished.
Never in her former life had Annie had never met anyone like either Simon Oliver or Olivia Snowhawk. Simon was the first real royalty she’d ever met. He was brilliant with numbers and business. Olivia was creative and worldly with her musical accent and strange foreign habits. She was also a wizard, something Annie had never even imagined knowing, much less being friends with before she came to Meadow Creek.
In the beginning Annie had a hard time understanding the close relationship between Simon and Olivia. At times it seemed they communicated without even speaking to each other and when they did it was often in their own language of code. Born on same year and day, they were a well-tuned machine that always worked. The pair took Annie to their hearts and she welcomed the unlikely friendship. It never mattered with Simon or Olivia that Annie had come from a family connected to murderers and uneducated low life. They judged her by who she was and where she was going, not where she had come from. These two were more than her friends, they had become her family.
For the past 4 years, at least twice a month, if not more, Annie was in The Capital to do business with Prince Logan. Today she was on a mission. She left her overcoat with the receptionist and headed up the stairs to his office. She could hear voices as she approached Logan’s office, but that didn’t stop her from going in unannounced.
“Logan?” she barked as she rounded the corner. Logan was sitting back casually with a foot on his desk. Another man was looking out the window. As he turned she realized it was the Prince Alexander. Alexander smiled as those famous emerald green eyes looked right at her.
She could feel her heart skip a beat and her breath stop. It was bad enough dealing with almost mind numbing physical attraction she had to Logan, but Logan and Alexander in the same room was almost too much. She felt 16 again and star struck. “Composure Annie” she thought.
She had met with some of the most powerful minds in the world, but this was different. These men were not only powerful but absolutely gorgeous and the leaders of HER country. These were not foreigners, they were HER princes. And without missing a beat, her fantasy was replaced with business.
Logan took his feet off the table and stood to greet her. “I was hoping that would be you. Please come in.” He took her hands and kissed her cheek. “Alexander, this is Annjanette Hawthorne, Vice President of International Marketing and Public Relations at Universal Technologies.”
“It is an honor to finally meet you Miss Hawthorne,” said Alexander coming forward and taking her hand. “Simon has spoken highly of you on many occasions and so has Logan.”
“The honor is mine Prince Alexander,” she said with a bow of her head.
Alexander met her blue eyes with his own green. He took her hand and gave it a light brush with his lips. “We’re all very proud of you Annie. It is no small feat to join the top ranks at Universal Technologies, especially as one of us.”
“Annie puts up with Simon, and she’s done an amazing job at eluding me every time I want to meet with Olivia Snowhawk”. Logan said to his nephew as he gave a flirtatious wink at Annie.
“Thank you for your kind words” she replied still holding Alexander’s hand and ignoring Logan’s comment about Olivia. Alexander smiled and kissed her hand again.
Logan sat on the edge of his desk “So when do I get to meet Olivia?”
Annie shot him an annoyed look. She was here for business, not to be Logan’s personal dating service. “Logan, I need to ask you about Prince Jeffery”
“See she already changes the subject of Miss Snowhawk” Logan shrugged as he glanced at Alexander.
“Jeff is still single,” Alexander announced “and available” he added.
“But do you think a smart woman like Annie would put up with him?” Logan asked his eldest nephew.
“I’m not sure. He’d be a fool to pass up the opportunity. She’s absolutely darling.” Alexander said to Logan.
“I’m sorry, what are you talking about?” demanded Annie, wondering what sort of game they were playing at.
“You and Jeff. The possibilities. Beautiful little blonde, blue-eyed children. I’d be your favorite uncle.” Logan said with a sweet smile.
Alexander brushed an errant strand of hair out of her face. “Best, of all you wouldn’t have to be a Real Princess. If you were, then you could marry me.” He looked in Annie’s eyes as if to tempt her an impossible wish.
“Alexander, what did you say?” Logan, asked acting both shocked and amused. “Look, you’re making her blush. Annie, on behalf of my brainless nephew and the royal house I apologize for our offensive behavior”.
Alexander still kept his eyes on Annie’s. “If you say anything about this conversation Annie you have to pay the consequences and give each of us a kiss.”
Annie took a deep breath. “Apologies accepted gentlemen. You won’t have to kiss me.”
Logan stretched his long legs in front of him. “What a pity. I was looking forward to savoring those lovely, luscious lips of your.”
“Logan”, interrupted Annie, “Universal Technologies International would like to commission the Royal Studio to paint a mural in the lobby of the new information and education center near our headquarters building in Meadow Creek. Since we’ve been working together for so long, Logan, and since you owe me favors, business favors, I thought you might introduce me to Prince Jeffery and Princess Laurel.”
“Have you contacted the studio directly?” Logan asked raising an eyebrow.
“Several times in writing and several times using voice communications. I even sent one of my associates, Michael Taylor, my Public Affairs manager, over in person. As always Michael was polite, diplomatic and business like. After waiting for over two hours he was told, by some prissy little receptionist, that His Royal Highness Jeffery wasn’t available for weeks. He was then told that Princess Laurel was also unavailable and furthermore, Michael was told that your sister does not paint murals, which I know for a fact is untrue. I’m leaving town tomorrow and must have an answer. My friend Marie-Claire spotted Prince Jeffery last night at the theater so we know he’s in town.”
Logan stood up with a smile, “Get your coat. I’ll take you there. There’s a path through the woods, a beautiful hike. It’s only about a mile.”
“Sure. Why not? I need to see my sister anyway. Alex, do you mind?”
Alexander smiled warmly “No, not at all. Tell Laurel that I’ll be by tomorrow and tell her thanks for the sketches.” Alexander took Annie’s hand again. “Annie, again, it was a pleasure to meet you finally. And remember, never give Logan anything. Make him earn it.”
“Oh she does that already nephew.” Said Logan with a sly smile.
“Annie, Logan, have a lovely walk,” said Alexander with a bow and a dazzling smile as he left the office.
“Well, don’t just stand there all star struck” said Logan hands on her shoulders turning her towards the door” Let go”.
Annie had been working with Logan for the past 4 years. It started out formal but he eventually got the best of her. Sometimes he would take on the role of big brother and at other times, like now, he was outrageous tease.
Logan was dangerous when it came to women so she was careful to keep her relationship with him platonic. Always on the prowl, he had a reputation of never making a commitment and never falling in love, at least not any kind of real love. She had to admit to herself that when she was with him she felt as though she would burst with sexual tension.
He was 14 years her senior but still in her opinion devastatingly handsome. And he flirted with her shamelessly. His rich baritone voice sounded like pure sex. She knew he was just playing with her. Beside, he wasn’t her type, not for the long term. She really wasn’t sure what her type was, but she knew anything with Logan would end in disaster. She loved working with him. They could deal and plan like no others. She couldn’t think of a better team, with maybe the exception of Simon and Olivia.
As they walked through the woods Logan pointed out the rare winter wild flowers. They made small talk about family and mutual friends.
“I hear your brother made Captain. Your parent’s must be proud. He’s a fine man Annie.”
“I’m very proud of him. He’s worked hard to get where he is.” She answered thinking of her older brother who told her there was more to life than their own parent’s sorry existence.
“He’ll go far Annie. He’s been noticed by important people.”
“Yes, I know. You went to the Royal Military Academy and were part of it all, and Alexander was in the military for a short while, how about Jeff?”
“No, Jeff might have done alright, but he’s more suited to the arts. In fact I think art is the only thing Jeff is suited for.” Logan said with a smirk. Annie had heard him make less than flattering comments about Jeff before. She always knew better than to comment on it or repeat any of it. After all, they were the royal family.
“Are you artistic?” she asked Logan.
“A little, but my sisters and Jeff have the real gift. You’ll be amazed when you see the studio. Laurel and Jeff have done a phenomenal job. They have 40 employees now.”
“I didn’t realize it was such a large operation. I’m impressed.”
“Their styles are different, Laurel and Jeff, but they work so well together. Those two are gentle kindred spirits in our family.” Logan said with a smile. Personally he thought his younger sister and nephew were off in the clouds.
“I saw that you’re going to the River Conference.” Annie had been waiting for the right moment to ask him about the annual business and technology show.
Logan gave her a sly grin, “Yes, I received my invitation to the Universal Technologies party.”
“I can’t give away any information, but the party Universal Technologies is hosting, well, let’s just say people will be talking about it for years to come. Both Justin and Olivia Snowhawk will be there.”
“The famous, or should I say infamous Snowhawk twins. How did you get both of them to come down from the mountains at the same time?” commented Logan sarcastically.
Annie ignored him and continued “Meetings will be set up for you and Alexander, plus the rest of your delegation.”
Logan put his arm around Annie’s shoulder “It’s already done.”
Annie stopped walking and indignantly stepped away from Logan “Already done? By whom? ”
“I’ve been in touch with Justin Snowhawk for a while. He’s meeting me at your headquarters at Meadow Creek before the conference.”
“Wait, wait, wait. Logan, Justin would never set up anything with you and not tell me.”
“It’s a secret. Nobody knows.” Logan whispered as if mocking her. He was amused at the disgusted look on her face. It was time to give her the real news. “Justin and I are taking time off and traveling the back way to the River Conference. We’re taking the Old North Road through Lockwood and meeting Olivia in Riverbend.”
“You and Justin? Whatever for?” asked Annie, still thoroughly confused.
“Business and diplomatic opportunities. They’ve been neglected by my family for a while. A quiet unpublicized royal visit is needed. We’ll hit the Universal facilities and then some. The opportunities are immense. It will be a great partnership. And before we get to the River Conference, we’re spending a few weeks fishing near Riverbend. Did you know both Justin and I have cousins in Riverbend? In fact my cousin George is infatuated with Olivia, though I’m surprised my dear cousin Graham hasn’t nailed her yet. God knows he has talked about it over the years.”
“Stop, wait slow down.” She stopped walking “How long has this been going on?”
“George’s infatuation or Grahams perverse fantasies?”
Annie scowled and put her hands on her hips. “No, your new found friendship with Justin and this trip?”
Logan could have kissed her, she looked so cute and angry. He casually told her the plan. “The trip has been in the planning for about 6 months. I met Justin last year through a mutual friend, Alaric Shadowford, the Crystal Mountain Ambassador. Later Justin contacted me about a paper I’d given at the last conference on new business alliances in agriculture. We hit it off and everything fell into place from there.”
“You’re friends with Alaric? I thought your relationship was strictly diplomatic.”
“Annie” Logan said gently trying to calm the exasperated Annie, “my given last name is Shadowford. I was Logan Shadowford before I was adopted by Florien and given the title of Prince and the last name of Byron. Alaric and I are distant cousins.”
“I had no idea. Olivia never mentioned your relationship to Alaric or the trip with Justin.”
“No she wouldn’t would she, especially considering her recent rather nasty breakup with Alaric. You know better than anyone, those Snowhawks are a secretive bunch.”
Annie rolled her eyes “Believe me, I know.” They had had this conversation many times. The Snowhawk clan avoided Logan’s family like the plague.
“Tell me about Olivia. What’s she like as a woman.”
“Remember a few months ago, I saw you at the opera. You were with Queen Hyacinth in the royal box.”
Logan grinned and ran a finger down her back. “As I recall, you wore a very naughty red dress.”
“It was form fitting. I wouldn’t consider that naughty.”
“Annie, you are such a tease.”
“Remember the woman next to me in the blue dress?”
“The curvy woman in that amazingly revealing blue dress and the hair almost to the ground. I lost sleep thinking about that one.”
“That was Olivia Snowhawk.”
“I know. I’ve seen her but we’ve always been ships passing in the night. Pity that Olivia rarely comes to The Capital.”
“She never comes here to see you.” Annie teased
“A pity for her. I’m sure I could take her places she’s never been.”
“I’m sure you could Logan.”
They walked a bit in amused silence.
“So Annie, do you have a special young man in your life?” Logan asked.
Annie shrugged. “Nobody special.”
“Why not? Someone as pretty and smart as you shouldn’t be spending her nights alone.”
“I have my dogs.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“What about you Logan? Are you seeing anyone?”
“I’m seeing everybody Annie, you know that.” He said with a wink.
Annie looked ahead out at the woods. “Logan you slut” she thought. He had been married three times and slept scores of women. She had often thought about what it would be like to make love to him. It would have been so easy to stop him and say “take me now, right here in the woods” but she didn’t. It would ruin everything.
Logan opened the door to Prince Jeffery’s studio. The entry was a large room with high ceilings displaying large paintings. In the center of the hall was a portrait of Alexander, Logan and Jeff painted by Laurel.
Alexander and Logan both with dark hair and emerald green eyes. They looked more like brothers than nephew and uncle. Jeff was on the far left, a sharp contrast to his uncle and brother. He was the image of his father the King, with pale blonde hair and sky blue eyes.
“Just like me” thought Annie.
The place seemed deserted. Logan led Annie to the main studio.
“Jeff” he boomed out “Jeff get your head out of the clouds and greet your guests!”
The main studio was a vast room with high ceilings and overhead windows. It was light and airy and pristine. Not at all what Annie expected from an artists studio. Several large canvases were set up. One looked like a mural in progress. A landscape was sketched out with horses and riders. Another was a large group portrait she recognized as the stars of the national opera company. Several smaller portraits were started on the sides.
“Where is everybody?” Logan said under his breath. “Jeff get your sorry ass out here right now. I have someone important to see you. ”
“Alright, alright I’m coming” called a voice coming from a side room.
“Jeffery where are you?” Logan yelled. “Do you have a woman in there? Get your pants up and get out here.”
“Logan, vulgarity is your middle name.” Out of the door came the Prince. His thick golden hair rested on the collar of his oversized white shirt, the sleeves were rolled up and he was wiping his hands on a rag. He had well worn brown leather pants that showed off his long well shaped legs. His eyes were the same shade of blue as Annie’s.
“Jeff, meet Annie Hawthorn, Vice President at Universal Technologies. She has been trying to make an appointment with you but that rude arrogant prick Willie Markley wouldn’t give Miss Hawthorne or her staff the time of day. He said you would be tied up for months. I’ll bet that little bigot thought she was just another damn foreigner, like your favorite Uncle Logan. I don’t know why you allow that little snot nosed fuck to act as your gatekeeper.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Miss Hawthorn.” Jeff said, ignoring his uncle as he attempted to get his hands clean.
“Where is everyone?” demanded Logan as he wondering around the room.
“Everyone worked so hard on the Botanical Museum exhibits, so we gave them the week off, paid. Laurel left for home about an hour ago.”
“Good. Then I’ll leave the two of you to discuss business. I’m off to see my darling sister. Annie, if he tries anything you just scream. I’m right next door.”
When they were alone, Jeff put down the rag and held out his hand. Annie took his right hand and he put his left hand over hers. “I apologize for not seeing you earlier. Had I known you had called on me I would have seen you right away.” He took a deep breath “I apologize for Logan’s crude behavior and bad language.” His blue eyes met hers in a serious gaze.
Annie had to smile. “It’s alright. I’d think Logan was ill if he acted otherwise”.
“Just for a change, though it would be nice if he and Alexander, would just act like civilized…but forgive me. How may I help you?”
“I would like to commission a mural for the new Information and Education building near the Meadow Creek headquarters of Universal Technologies International. Freddie Green will be the architect.”
“Freddie is one of my closest friends. In fact he designed this building.”
“Yes, I know. Constructions started on the building last week.”
They discuss the building briefly. Annie quickly sketched out the basic layout of the lobby where the main mural was to be. Jeff gave Annie a tour of the studio. She noticed out easy going he was – not at all what she expected.
Jeff pointed out the window to the two homes out back in the meadow. Laurel’s was a large traditional single story with a large porch around it. Jeff’s was multileveled with large windows and a deck on the roof.
In a light airy studio over looking the garden was a formal chair and a backdrop of the palest pink. Annie looked at the portrait. It was of an exceptionally beautiful young woman. Her blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders. Her skin look almost translucent. Her bright blue eyes sparkled. She was perfect. Annie, suddenly felt self conscience and brushed her hand over her own short blonde hair.
“She’s beautiful. Princess Candi of the Lavender Forest. The Real Princess”. Annie said in awe.
“A Real Princess. There are other Real Princesses out there. Candi just happens to be the one my brother will marry”.
Annie thought of the comment made earlier by Alexander “If you were a real princess you could marry me”.
“Is he really going to marry Princess Candi?” she didn’t dare tell him Simon’s negative opinions on the subject.
“She is perfect.” Said Jeff wistfully “I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t marry her”.
It was every girls dream to marry one of the Princes. Alexander had already been engaged to another real Princess and been seriously involved with several others. Logan had been married and divorced multiple times. Only Jeff, the youngest had remained completely single. He was said to be the romantic sensitive one of the group. Annie felt foolish to even think of it. No matter how high she rose in the ranks she was still the common daughter of an uneducated urban black smith.
Jeff led her to his private office. “I want to show you something special.” With great care he pulled out a well worn leather portfolio. “These are sketches my mother made when she was in the Crystal Mountains.”
Annie looked at the sketches in the old portfolio not saying a word. She wasn’t sure what to think. The works were beautiful yet disturbingly familiar.
“Who is this?” she asked looking at a sketch of a young woman. She knew the final portrait well, but said nothing to Jeff.
“She was a close friend of my mothers. Her name was Aurora. She died in the war, my mother uses Aurora’s likeness for her famous Girl in the Woods series.” There were many other sketches of Aurora. Annie picked up one of the woman from the back, looking over her shoulder. Annie had seen this face, the exact look in person, but she dared not say anything to Jeff.
“And this man, with the mustache, who is he?” she asked. The man in the sketch had intense soul piercing eyes. His dark hair curled down past his shoulders. He looked dangerous and proud.
“That’s an uncle or cousin I think. I don’t know much about him. My mother doesn’t say a lot about her family. I think his name was Jake or John. He looks sort of like my brother doesn’t he?”
“Is he still alive?” asked Annie
“I don’t know. My mother said he might have been killed in the war.”
Annie didn’t say anything. She knew the man was alive. Alive and doing exceedingly well and definitely not Jeff’s uncle.”
They walked back out to the main gallery. Annie saw Logan heading back from Laurel’s house.
Jeff glanced out the window at Logan then back at Annie. “Are you familiar with the Tansy Gallery?” he asked.
“It’s my favorite art gallery in The Capitol.” She said, her blue eyes lighting up. “I have several paintings from there in my home.”
“There’s an opening tonight, one of my young artists Larson Wood is showing a collection of his recent personal works. I’d love to have you come with me.”
Annie’s heart stalled for a second. “Yes, I would be honored.” She gave him the address of the Universal Technologies townhouse as she planned in her head what she’d wear.
Her head was in a spin. Not in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine she’d be going on a date with Prince Jeffery. He’d been so wonderfully sweet and kind.
Jeff watched wistfully as Annie walked away with Logan. He liked the way her pale glossy hair would swing around her face when she moved. Her trendy clothes amused him. Her eyes sparkled when she saw something she liked. Despite the time she spent with Logan, she was still untarnished and still showed a bit of girlish shyness that made her almost irresistible. She was an almost perfect gem hidden away for him to discover.
More to come next Friday….
Check the side bar on this blog or links below for earlier installments.
Girl in the Woods is loosely based on the old princess and the pea story, but it goes beyond a simple fairy tale. It is a story about a quest for perfection, or more the rejection of perfection the reality sets in. Because we all know there is no perfections, especially when it comes to love.
It is a fairy tale with a prince and a princess. But the main character is the President of an international technology company who just happens to be a wizard, and just happens to be enchanted.
It is mostly about a circle of friends. As adults living their own lives, they are still connected.
In 2016 I’ll post more each week, then list the links below. Click on the titles below to read. At the end I’ll put them all together.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman