It is Friday which means another installment of Serial Novel The Girl in the Woods This is a regular feature for 2016, our until the story ends. If you’ve missed any of the installments please go to the Girl in the Woods page (check the sidebar or click HERE.) I started writing this story years ago when I had babies, but haven’t looked at it for years, until now. We are rediscovering this story together. So enjoy. Happy reading.
An Engagement Party
Alexander lived in an ancient stone house about a half mile behind the Royal residence. He had lovingly restored his home into a lavish, yet comfortable 20 room retreat. He wanted a place to entertain and to be alone when necessary. Lori helped him hand pick a staff.
He was in the kitchen picking out the wine. The best was from the “Two Brothers” vineyards. Their specialty was deep full bodied reds that Logan described as “Better than sex”. He made a note to himself to make sure to tell Logan to stop there on his trip with Justin Snowhawk.
Jeff was in the dining room decorating and arranging for the evening. Alexander watched his little brother move around. Little brother. The idea made him smile. Jeff was six years his junior but three inches taller. Jeff wore his usual causal uniform when off duty from being a public figure of white shirt and well worn brown leather pants. He was handsome, as handsome as Alexander. Jeff looked so much like their father. Looks were where it stopped.
“Would you rather be the man to break an enchantment or find your girl in the woods?” asked Alexander watching Jeff fussing over the silver flatware.
“If Dare Crow can’t break an enchantment, what makes you think either one of us could?” snapped Jeff.
“What’s with the attitude?”
“When are you going to announce your engagement to Candi?” asked Jeff with a snippy impatience that put Alexander’s nerves on edge.
“I don’t know”, Alexander snapped back.
“Do you have a ring for her yet?” Jeff asked impatiently.
“I haven’t even thought about it.”
Jeff pulled a piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and handed it to Alexander. “I didn’t think so. I took the liberty of talking to my jeweler. I know yellow diamonds are traditional with our family but I’d recommend white or even pink for Candi. Oval or round would suit her best. I drew up some sketches for settings. Take a look.”
“Jeff, these are beautiful. She’d love any of them, especially the one with the hearts on the sides. Have you ever designed earrings for anyone?” Alexander asked thinking of the earring he’d found.
“I had some made for Addie.” Jeff said quietly. Jeff’s relationship with Addie was always a touchy subject.
“What did they look like?”
“A single lily in gold with tiny pearl accents.”
Jeff had to smile. “Only you Alex would think of ferns. Addie has a thing for lilies. Are you thinking of earrings for Candi? I would suggest roses but if you want ferns I can come up with something she’d like.”
“Uh, no, maybe for Glenda, after the baby is born. Glenda would like ferns and it would remind her of me, and you of course, if you designed them.”
“You spoil our sisters.”
“It’s in my job description.”
“Obviously putting on grand parties isn’t. I can’t believe you’re having almost 20 people over tonight and you haven’t even started to think about your table setting. Do you still have those table runners Granny gave you? The white on white with silver fringe?”
“Sure, ask the staff, they know where everything is,” answered Alexander not really caring what runners they used.
“Don’t tell me you want to use the green plates for this? No, absolutely not. Use the white ones with the silver around the edge. White candles. I have more at home I’ll have brought over. You definitely want to bring out the silver candlesticks. Use those magnificent antique ones from the Crystal Mountains, the ones Simon brought back for you. What are you doing about flowers?”
Alexander answered knowing he’d make his brother happy. “I ordered pink and yellow roses for the entry. You know how Candi likes her pink and yellow flowers.”
“Good thinking. I’m proud of you. I suggest white roses with ferns and wild white iris at the table.”
“Where are you going to find wild iris this time of year? They don’t bloom for another month or two.”
“I have my sources. Expect a delivery around 3:00.”
Jeff fussed over the dishes, the silver. He was impressed by the menu, wine list and guest list.
“You know baby brother,” said Alexander, “ I entertain almost every weekend. Why are you so flipped out about tonight?”
“This is your pre-engagement party. It is the first time you’ve had all of your friends and Candi over at the same time. This is important Alexander. What are you wearing?”
“The new jacket. The green one with the fabric from Lockwood.”
“Great. It will bring out your green eyes.”
Alexander thought his eyes were already “out”, as bright and dazzling green as emeralds. Nobody ever forgot his eyes unless they were in the Crystal Mountains where almost everyone had dazzling green eyes.
Alexander watched as Jeff fussed over silver napkin rings. “My staff could have taken care of this Jeff.”
“It has to be perfect. This is a big night for romance. Setting the mood is everything.”
“Speaking of romance baby brother, I hear you’ve been seeing Annjanette Hawthorne.” Alexander said with a smile. He’d been impressed with Annie’s style and spunk that day in Logan’s office.
Jeff smiled. “She’s exquisite.” He didn’t mention that he couldn’t stop thinking about her. ”I’ve taken her to a few gallery openings and to the opera. My friends can’t say enough good things about her.”
“Very good” Alexander thought about Jeff’s trendy artistic friends. “It’s about time you started seeing someone.”
“Are you going to do the mural for Universal Technologies?”
“Of course I am.” Said Jeff as he continued to arrange the table.
“Are you bringing Annie tonight?”
“No, she had a family function she said she couldn’t miss.”
“You should have gone with her.”
“She didn’t want me there. She said she wasn’t ready for me to meet her family.”
“I don’t blame her. Of course it couldn’t be as bad as meeting our family for the first time” said Alexander, pleased with his little joke.
“Things are sort of complicated with her family. Her mother has issues.”
“I know.” Said Alexander. He knew all about Annie’s nightmare of a family but had a difficult time connecting the self assured young woman he knew to what was in the security files.
“So, are you and Annie having sleepovers yet?”
Jeff scowled at his older brother. “You just can’t resist taking everything down to the lowest level can you?”
“I’m just giving you a hard time. You are such a prude.”
“You don’t deserve Candi.”
“You’re absolutely right. I don’t deserve her. No man deserves to marry a woman he doesn’t love.”
Jeff stared at Alexander. It was as if he had been slapped in the face. “I can’t believe you said that.”
“You have no idea how I feel about anything. I’ll marry Candi if I have to, but it won’t be the romantic fantasy you have running through your quixotic brain.”
“What is wrong with her?”
“I never said something was wrong with her. I just don’t love her.”
“Since always. I’m not sure this is the right thing.”
“You don’t love her yet, but you will.”
“I’m sure over time I’ll have feeling for her, but I can’t guarantee it will be love. I feel fondness, lust, amusement, frustration, guilt…but right now I don’t feel anything remotely close to love for her.”
“Are you sleeping with Candi yet?”
“No.” Alexander answered a little too quickly.
“How unusual, considering your record for sport.”
“Excuse me? It’s been almost a year since I’ve even touched a woman.”
“What about…” He thought about that ambitious and pretty newspaper reporter Alex had been so fond of. “Lilly Hamption.”
“No, it didn’t happen. I gave her a great interview but that was it. She was already sleeping with Dare Crow.”
“Oh. I didn’t know.” Jeff didn’t know. Nobody ever told him anything. “You’ll break Candi’s heart if you drag this out any longer than you have”, he said to his brother, trying to get back on subject.
“No, as long as I’m nice to her and she has plenty of pretty dresses and flowers, she won’t notice care how I feel. I suppose it doesn’t matter to you how I feel. Oh yes, I forgot, you’re the sensitive one. I’m only supposed to feel honor and duty.”
“Are you thinking about calling it off with Candi?”
“No. I mean, I don’t know. Jeff, what if someone else is out there? What if I marry Candi and realize it was a mistake? Divorce isn’t an option for me. Once I’m married there is no turning back.”
“Father won’t stand for this. You’ve been engaged once, almost twice before this. The sooner you marry Princess Candi the better for both of you.”
“You don’t have the balls to back me up on this do you. I can’t count on you for anything can I?”
“That’s not fair.”
“You even sided with Viola after she tore my heart out.”
“After I finish the coordination of YOUR party, for YOUR friends so they can meet socially with YOUR future bride, I’ll go home and think about what a horrible brother I am.”
“Jeff, I’m sorry, I appreciate everything you’re doing.”
“I’m sure you do.” Said Jeff sarcastically. “I’m done here. I’ll be back this evening.”
“Thanks Jeff, for everything.”
“Sure. See you later.” Said Jeff slamming the door behind him.
Alexander ran his hands through his hair and wanted get on his horse and ride as far as he could.
The sun was starting to set when the bell of the great front door rang. Alexander went to get it himself. It was odd since the party wasn’t starting for almost two hours. There was Princess Candi, along with Dora and Cora. Each twin carried a large basket.
“Hello, welcome to my home”, Alexander greeted Candi with a warm polite smile. He took both of her pretty hands and brushed her cheek with a kiss. He nodded to the twins, giving them a flirtatious smile, just to unnerve them.
“Where should we bring these?” Asked one of the twins, Dora the blue eyed one.
“How lovely, thank you” said Alex as he showed the twins the way to the kitchen.
Alone with Candi, Alexander suddenly didn’t know what to do or say. He had to admit that she looked stunning in a form fitting lavender gown. It was cut on the bias so every perfect inch of her body was draped like a package waiting to be opened. Her golden hair was swept up in a small crown of diamonds, and cascaded in perfect curls behind her back. Perfect lavender colored crystals and creamy pearls circled her neck and hung from her delicately perfect ears.
“Well, Candi, how are you this evening?”
“I’m delighted to be here my prince.” She answered with a sweet smile and a slight bow of her head.
“Where’s Blake? He’s coming isn’t he?” Alexander had hoped Blake would come with Candi and keep any romantic pressures at bay. He actually liked Blake with his happy easy going manner.
“Blake is coming later. I wanted some time with you all to myself Pookie Pie.” She put her hand on his arm and caressed the sleeve of his jacket “This is beautiful fabric. Are those ferns stitched in?”
“Yes. My friend Simon brought me a bolt of the stuff from the mill he owns in Lockwood. He said he took one look at it and thought about me.”
“Why did it remind him of you?” Candi asked with a bat of her eyes and a slight giggle.
“Ferns are a favorite of mine. I suppose I could say ferns are my trademark”. He thought of the sketch he had found in the book that morning. He wondered again who the woman was who had left it.
“What makes ferns so special?”
Alexander didn’t want to explain. “Ferns are both beautiful and pure, like you”.
“Like me? No no nooooo. I’m a pretty rose.” She said enjoying her joke. “Ferns are wild and uncultured, like Logan”
“Wild and elegant like a mysterious woman”
“I’ll have to work on taming your taste, in plants and women”.
Wonderful thought Alexander, another woman wanting to change me. “I have excellent taste in both”, he told her.
“Then do you think I’m a beautiful flower or an icky old fern?”
“You are a beautiful flower. There isn’t a person on earth who would say otherwise. Would you like a tour of my home?”
“I’d love it”
In the large entry hall was a large stone table, original to the house. On it Alexander had placed a large vase containing dozens of yellow and pink roses in Candi’s honor. She smiled in delight upon seeing them and took a deep breath to capture the sweet fragrance. She giggled and clapped her hands.
Alexander led her into a large room, set-up for entertaining and filled again with flowers. She again giggled and clapped. They went from room to room while telling her stories of the remodeling and stories behind different pieces of furniture and artwork. She didn’t say much but just bobbed her head and smiled sweetly. Finally they entered the library, his pride and joy.
The large circular room was lined with books. Alexander’s large cherry wood desk was by the window. Another smaller table and chairs was in another corner. Two large comfortable chairs with a small table in between them were before the large fireplace.
“This is where I spend most of my time when I’m alone,” said Alex
Candi glanced at a book on the table. It was a volume of his Grandfather’s poetry he’d found that morning. He could see her disinterest.
Alexander picked it up. “My grandfather wrote that. My mother’s father.”
Candi gave him a blank stare.
Alexander tried to hide his annoyance and keep the conversation light. “My grandfather who wrote that book is the one I got my looks from. Laurel looks a lot like him too.”
“Then he must have been extremely handsome.” Candi responded with a giggle.
“Yes, he was. He was a scholar as well. It’s said his writings inspired the revolution in the Crystal Mountains.” She gave him the blank stare again. Alexander did his best not to show his feelings of frustration. “If you’d like to ever borrow any books or just hang out and read let me know.”
Candi smiled at him sweetly. “I like the curtains in here.”
“Curtains. Yes, these are nice curtains.”
“No wild nasty ferns in the pattern.” She pouted her lips and started to feel in charge. Alexander was sure she’d have his old house stripped and redecorated in no time. In her head she was already picking out wall paper and paint.
They wondered around the rest of the house. She made few comments about anything aside from smiling and nodding her pretty little head. She didn’t seem interested in the history of the structure or much else he had to say. When they got to his bedroom, she perked up.
Candi’s hands went to Alexander’s face. “Your eyes are so beautiful Alexander. I could look at them all night, unless you were asleep. Then they’d be closed.”
” I’ve always thought my eyes were my best feature.” Yes, I’m shallow he thought but I don’t really care right now.
She stepped to the foot of the bed. “So this is where you sleep and dream”.
Sleep and dream is about it he thought. It had been a while since a woman had been in his bedroom – almost a year. There had been a few since Viola, but nobody who wanted to stick around. Being involved with Alexander was a complicated matter and he knew it. After Viola left him he didn’t care.
She looked at the picture on the wall. It was the first glimmer of recognition he’d seen in her eyes. “The Girl in the Woods.”
“This is the original painting. My mother gave it to me…” he was about to say on his 30th birthday but stopped short of bringing up his own age.
“She doesn’t look much like your mother,” said Candi squinting up her pretty blue eyes at the picture.
“She isn’t my mother. Her name was Aurora. She was my mother’s best friend, back in the Crystal Mountains.”
“Your mother is called The-Girl-in-the-Woods because that’s where Florien found her, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. He said it was love at first sight.”
“Like when you first saw me.”
Alexander didn’t respond at first. He was looking at the earring and folded up note he’d left on his nightstand that morning. “I couldn’t help but be in awe of how beautiful you are Candi.” He said, telling the truth. She was beautiful and absolutely physically perfect.
Candi pouted and looked back at the painting. “She looks sort of like that woman of Simon’s.”
Alexander was brought out of his thoughts “Ellie?”
“No, his mistress, you know that woman from Universal Technologies, the one he works with.”
“Annie Hawthorne? ” The painting didn’t look anything like Ellie or Annie.
“No, not the blonde, the other one. I’ve seen her picture, in magazines and stuff. She’s as old as you and Simon. Brown hair, big tits, total fashion diva. Dora reads all her books. Come on, you know who she is. The one from the Crystal Mountains.”
Alexander felt suddenly shocked by her uncharacteristic description. “Do you mean Olivia Snowhawk, Simon’s business partner?”
“That’s the one. My mother said she’s Simon’s mistress.”
“Your mother is wrong.”
“Simon is just like his mother, that little Lydia woman. She’s such a little whore…and we all know about her reputation for entertaining other women’s husbands.”
“End of discussion Candi. Whatever vile rumors you’ve heard about Simon or his mother are untrue. No man has ever been more devoted to a woman as Simon is to Ellie. Furthermore no woman has ever been more devoted to her husband and family than Lydia Oliver. Do you understand? You are never to mention any of this to Simon or Ellie.”
“When we get married I want you to get rid of that painting.” Candi gave a pout and turned from the picture.
Candi made a noise like a puppy dog whine and put out her pretty lip again. Tears welled up in her eyes. Alexander decided to drop the subject. “Darling Candi, please don’t cry. You have to understand that Simon and Ellie are my closest friends. The thought of someone accusing either one of ever being unfaithful is extremely upsetting to me.”
“You used to be Ellie’s boyfriend.”
“It lasted for one summer when I was a teenager. Simon and Ellie have been married almost 20 years. They still have the kind of love and passion for each other that most people only dream of.
Candi continued to pout and ran her pretty finger along the top of the footboard.
“What do you know about passion?” she asked looking up at him with big blue eyes, slightly parting her perfect pink lips.
“A lot.” He was at a loss for words, looking for a way to change the subject. Despite his annoyance with her, she really was stunning. Maybe she could change once he got her away from her mother. “I’m having a new bed made as we speak”.
The pout vanished as Candi clapped her hands. “Oh how exciting. What will it look like?”
“A golden oak with ferns and small birds carved into the posts. It’s hard to describe. I saw one like it in the furniture maker’s studio about 3 years ago and fell in love. It was a commission for someone else, so they wouldn’t let me buy it. So I had him make one similar for me. The original had butterflies and lizards among the ferns.”
“Ferns again. How woodsy. It makes me think of a hunting lodge. Oh well, at least you’re not having lizards put on it. I suppose you could put it in the guest room”.
Candi took his hand and put it on her small curved waist. She ran her other hand through his hair. She was tall, at least 5″10′. She was at eye level with him in her heels. Resist, resist he thought, but when her perfect pouting pink lips met his he couldn’t stop. They kissed slowly and passionately. Her hair smelled of roses. She ran her hands up under his jacket and up his back, then expertly slipped his jacket off of his shoulders. Her perfect fingers made easy work of the buttons on his vest and soon it had dropped to the floor as well. She helped him out of his shirt as well and soon was purring as she put her hands on his muscular bare chest. It would be so easy to just take her here and now. She wanted him and her touch on his bare skin made him forget the fact that he thought she was an annoying idiot. The guests wouldn’t arrive for at least another 45 minutes. He pulled her closer, kissing her perfect neck. She let out a sigh of pleasure as he let his hand slip over her well shaped bottom. He was almost certain she wasn’t wearing anything underneath. She took a step forward, pushing him against the edge of the bed.
It would be so easy. He could have her out of that lavender dress in less than a minute. His hands went to the buttons in the back…
“Alexander” a distinctly feminine voice sang out and slapped him back into reality. He stepped away from Candi, grabbed his shirt and ran to the stairs.
“Julianna, I’ll be right down. I was just giving Candi a tour of the place”.
Back in his shirt minus his vest and jacket he met his sister on the stairway landing.
His exquisitely beautiful sister had skipped wearing a dress in favor of thigh high gold stiletto heeled boots over gold leather pants and an elaborate long jacket embroidered in sparkling gold abstract patterns on a black background. Her neckline as usual plunged to the point of distraction, to anyone except her brothers and Logan. Her dark gold hair was swept up with a gold clasp in the shape of a shooting star encrusted with diamonds. She smiled up at him and he thought of how much she looked like their mother.
“Is she impressed by your fabulous taste?” asked his sister bounding up the stairs.
Alexander met her with a quick embrace and answered, “No, she thinks the place looks like a hunting lodge”.
“She likes pastels.”
“She doesn’t like ferns”.
“Is she good in bed?”
“That can make up for a multitude of bad personality traits”. She smoothed his hair where Candi had mussed it.
“I’ve never been to bed with her. And I’m not sure any amount of great sex could make up the way I feel about her right now.”
“Are you sure about that? Looks like I caught you in the act.”
“You saved me.”
“Oh, but she’s so sweet and perfect.”
“She’s dumber than a rock and twice as shallow as I’ll ever be.”
“Candi, how good to see you. That dress is stunning. You must tell me later who designed it,” said Julianna with a bright smile as the other princess came down the stairs to join them. “Darling brother, your guests are arriving. I’ve left Logan downstairs to greet them. Get down there before he offends someone. I’ll finish showing Candi around”.
See you next week as the party continues.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman