For the two of you who are following this…
Girl in the Woods continues. This is a regular 2016 Friday feature here at Vampire Maman. Note: This is an epic romantic adventure I wrote a while back when I was up at weird hours with a new baby. I’m bringing it back out for 2016 – just for fun.
Secrets and Lies – The Engagement Party Continues
Alexander mingled with his friends. The group was close. They had shared everything together, including more than their share of tragedy. Tom, Simon, Miles, Freddie and Alexander had grown up together as close as any brothers. Malcolm and Jeff had been close and shared their artistic passions even as children.
Six years before Miles and Ellie had lost their sister. Kazia was murdered while on a trip. She had been engaged to Logan. She vanished without a trace. Her finger and the engagement ring he’d given her were sent back in a box. Logan never got over it. Miles still refused to believe his sister was dead.
A year earlier Simon’s sister Lilly had died. Lilly had been Laurel’s closest girlfriend, despite Lilly’s physical problems.
Malcolm’s parents were murdered the same year Kazia vanished. Some wondered if there was a connection. A year later he was thrown again when his wife divorced him in a nasty bitter scandal ridden scene leaving him with a baby daughter to raise. Freddie Greene, who’d become an admired architect and his wife Miranda were brought into it as well.
Addie, Tom’s sister, had been engaged to Jeff’s closest friend Marcus. They had grown up together. Marcus was like Jeff, a gentle soul, an artist and scholar. A week before the wedding he hung himself, leaving a long letter behind. Addie was a pillar of strength, but she went into her own world. She refused to accept love from any man. She blamed herself for his death. She threw herself into her business, with Simon as a mentor. She eventually became Malcolm’s manager and had a small musical empire of talent. She had a knack for finding technology as well.
Alexander seemed to get over breaking up with Viola, but his friend’s all knew the public explanation was nothing like the personal.
Graham seemed to be the only one who’d never been directly touched by tragedy. He seemed charmed at times.
“They make a handsome couple.” Remarked Graham to his cousin Simon as they looked over at Alexander and Candi.
“They’re both vain enough,” said Simon.
“Oh come on, he’s perfect for her.”
“Unfortunately she’s not perfect for him.”
“Sure she is. Candi is beautiful and sexy.”
“Alex needs a woman who will challenge him. Candi just rolls over like a submissive puppy.”
“It’s not always a bad thing when a woman does that.”
“”You know what I mean. I want him to have what I have with Ellie.
“Not everyone can marry Ellie.”
“Fortunately you’re right about that one. But I know there is someone else out there for Alex besides Candi.”
Graham downed his wine. “A wife isn’t everything. Some men take mistresses. I prefer entertaining my friend’s wives. Don’t worry, I haven’t seduced Ellie, at least not yet.”
“Don’t waste your time trying, she’d never have you.”
“I’ll take that as a challenge. I’m sure after all those years with a little guy like you she’s bound to be restless.”
“Your insults aren’t going to rile me Graham.”
“You pretend to be so innocent Simon. I know who keeps your bed warm when visit the Capitol.”
“Give it up Graham. You can’t get to me anymore.”
“Yes, Olivia Snowhawk keeps your bed warm just like your mother kept Florien’s bed warm. So many nasty little secrets Simon.”
“Go to hell.”
Graham started to laugh. “I can’t believe how smug you are. You think you have Alexander under your thumb, in your confidence. You’ve been in Meadow Creek too long. You don’t know him anymore. He’ll marry Candi.”
“Over my dead body.”
“That can be arranged cousin.”
Graham saw Alexander almost every day, but he was never as close as Simon was to him. Simon and Alexander were linked in an unexplainable bond. They grew up together as neighbors, went to school together, both fell in love with Ellie.
Dare Crow showed up for about an hour. He had business to work on. Graham looked uncomfortable. Six years before Dare has stolen his mistress away. His beautiful, sensual, submissive mistress. Graham thought of Jane in disgust. She was so bland, so correct, so nice. Where Denese had a fire and passion unlike any woman he’d ever known. Dare got his just reward when Denese dumped him weeks before their wedding.
Graham had recently found his way back into her bed, a fact that made him feel superior to the great wizard. Despite the fact she was now blind, Graham was the one enjoying her, using her, owning her, making her do things his wife would never imagine doing.
Miranda slipped by Darious. She took his hand “How are you Dare?” He was about to answer when he knew she wanted him to read her mind. He read her thoughts “Help me. Graham has threatened to destroy my life. I have no one to turn to. Please help.” Miranda and Dare knew each other from her days in the Royal Guard before she married Freddie. He could feel the fear and desperation in her, but hadn’t been able to get a better reading on her.
Alexander looked at Candi next to him giggling and laughing at the amusing conversations. It seemed almost creepy for a moment. She looked so young. She was so young. He thought of kissing her upstairs in his bedroom and suddenly felt like a dirty old man. He wasn’t old but he was 13 years her senior. He looked around the room at the other couples. There were two years between Freddy and Miranda. Graham was 9 years older than Jane, who was closest to Candi’s age. In her defense Jane was elegant and reserved. She was still beautiful beyond description but she always seemed mature for her age, worldly and refined. Sometime he wondered why she’d married Graham. No doubt he’d filled her head with pretty lies or filled her father’s bank account. That wasn’t the kind of marriage he wanted. His mind went to Annie Hawthorne. There was a woman he could easily fall in love with. Annie Hawthorne was younger than him but she was also bright and successful. She was full of charm and independence. Thank God Jeff grabbed her up before I thought seriously about it.
It had been a while since Alexander had been surrounded by so many beautiful women. Alexander looked at Jane so elegant and cool. She wore a green dress that complimented everything about her coloring and figure. Her white blonde hair cascaded down her back like water. Her storm blue eyes were heavy lidded under a veil of long lashes and along with her full lips the combination gave her a sensual look, even when she was out riding her horse or playing with her children. She was like an elegant doll, without flaw. She’d been the perfect wife for Graham. Despite rumors of his infidelities he was always attentive and affectionate toward her in public.
Jane had once been a lot like Candi. The girlish 20 year old Jane had been so silly and excited about her engagement to Graham. He’d swept her off her feet with a shower of flowers and jewels, like any good prince should. Over the past 8 years she’d matured and refined. The transformation had made her unrecognizable as the sweet silly girl who married Graham. She’d received an advanced degree, had two children and been wrote impassioned articles about homeless animals. She’d also been by Graham’s side, doing whatever was needed to keep him happy and in good standing in the social scenes of three cities. She obviously adored Graham. He spoke of her often always fondly, saying how lucky he was to have a wife like Jane. The key was that she’d grown and matured into a wonderful almost serious woman. Compared to the others in the room she seemed reserved, but that was a nice change from all of the emotion charged females he was usually around.
If Candi could be like Jane that would be great. She could be Candi’s mentor, her friend. He could mould and shape his princess into being his wife and one day future Queen. He thought of his Granny Jewel and how silly she could still be, yet she had been so popular with the people when she was Queen. He smiled. Maybe he should propose in the next week.
Alexander saw Dare talking with Candi. What on earth could they be talking about? Graham joined them. It was a wonder the two men could be in the same room together. Alexander had taken his chances. He supposed Graham had matured since he’d married Graham as well.
It was a surprise when Graham had announced his engagement. He’d been involved for years with woman in Aurora Lake. An investigator for the Royal Guard named Denese. Alexander always enjoyed her company. She was funny and independent. A tall attractive woman with a wild mane of black curls. She’d restored the old tower by the lake where she lived alone. She’d become a close friend of Julianna as well. All Graham talked about among his friends was Denese. It was still unclear what had happened between them. An engagement to Jane was suddenly announced. Denese was devastated. Then six months later she had hooked up with Dare Crow. They were inseparable, like lovers in an epic romance, until she was enchanted and broke it off with Dare because she couldn’t break the spell. But there had been words between the two and rumor that there had been a fight over Grahams’ brutal treatment of Denese.
The young wizard Blake Jones, Candi’s BFF (best friend forever) was delighted to be invited to the party. It proved that Alexander accepted him as a friend, not just one of the staff. He mingled with the group with comfort, amazed that they accepted him almost better than they’d accepted Candi.
Graham took Freddy’s wife Miranda aside. They both had an avid interest in the night sky so nobody thought anything of the two of them going to room where Alexander kept the telescope and star charts.
“I’ve missed you.” he said low almost a whisper. He stood close putting his hands around her waist and drinking in her golden eyes.
“Please don’t do this to me.” Begged Miranda.
“You’re so beautiful tonight. It took my breath away when I saw you come in the room.”
She said nothing, trying to keep her composure.
“Freddy will be in Meadow Creek next week. I will be here, waiting, wanting, the object of my every desire. Ah Miranda, only you can make me complete.”
“Graham it was a mistake. I was going through a bad time…”
“Don’t try to talk me out of it. You don’t have a choice in the matter.” Said Graham with a smile as he kissed her.
“We both know this is wrong.” She said.
Graham grabbed the back of her hair and gave a hard pull. “The lies you told Freddie about your past are enough to make him divorce you and prevent you from ever seeing your children again. If that isn’t enough to make him hate you, imagine how he’ll feel about you when I gave him the lurid details about the things we did together – things you’d never dreamed of doing with him. Shall I then tell him the precious words you said to me, how you long to escape, how much you love me, how you said you wish our affair would last forever?”
Miranda just stared at him too shocked to say anything.
“Wishes come true Miranda. I will have you forever.”
He kissed her but she didn’t respond. “Kiss me back,” he ordered. He lifted her up on the table and pushed up her skirt and started to unbuckle his belt.
She complied out of fear knowing what he would do if she refused.
Addie arrived at the party alone as usual. It gave her the opportunity to come and go as she pleased.
She meant to shock them all tonight with a complete transformation.
Her unruly head of frizz had been tamed to smooth shining waves over her shoulders. Her face was made up with natural colors. The usual heavy black eyeliner was replaced with soft brown. Her blue eyes sparkled. Aside from the childhood freckles she’d never outgrown, her skin was unusually flawless. For the first time since she’d broken her nose she actually looked pretty.
She wore a dark blue form fitting dress. Sleeves of blue lace came to a point that extended over her small freckled hands. On her middle finger was the 6 ct oval diamond she’d inherited from her grandmother. At her neck was the delicate blue diamond Malcolm had given her after his last concert tour. On her ears were the lily earrings Jeff had made for her years ago.
Alexander saw the tension between Addie and Malcolm. He would approach her, she would step away. They vanished for almost an hour on the library balcony. It was always business with those two.
Jeff told her how beautiful she looked. She didn’t say more than a simple thank you. Addie loved Jeff, but Alexander knew she could never love him the way he had wanted her to.
Alexander couldn’t tell if she was on the verge of one of her dark moods or not. She’d never been the same since Marcus died.
But tonight for most of the night she was light and fun. She even spoke with Candi for a while. Alexander figured they were talking about music or gossip.
The one thing Addie did have was a beautiful singing voice, as beautiful as Candi’s, as beautiful as the greatest stars in the Royal Opera. On rare occasion she would perform in public with Malcolm.
Addie was also a wealth of information. She was the queen of trivia, a human encyclopedia of facts and figures, odd bits of information she kept stored up until needed.
Addie was fragile, broken and well loved by everyone in the group. Business wise, she was a genius. She had a knack for blending the art and technology of music, not only for Malcolm, but for all of the musicians she represented. She could be ruthless when making a deal. She ran in all the right circles, she knew all the right people. It also didn’t hurt that she came from the third most powerful family in the country.
He thought about Addie and Malcolm, how well they worked together. They spent more time together than most married couples. She was almost a second mother to his small daughter. It was more likely to see Addie with little dark haired Iris than Malcolm or anyone else for that matter. Yet, aside from their long time friendship and the jewels he lavished on her, there was no indication Malcolm and Addie were involved romantically. She was a business partner and friend. Just like Simon and Freddy had a female business partners.
Powerful women were everywhere.
Addie asked Alexander where the crystals were that he found a few months ago.
He told her to look in his bedroom, on the table by the bed.
Poor Alex, what a lovely room to stay alone in. She spotted the crystals on the table by the bed. One was a large orange arrangement of perfect cubes; the other was a classic quartz crystal completely clear and gleaming. On the table she spotted the earring he’d found that morning.
“No fucking way.” She said aloud. She knew the woman the earring belonged to. “When did he meet her?” But it made sense. She smiled. The owner of the earring was, well, perfect for him. She’d always thought. If it were true, if he was having an affair, it would be a good excuse to get rid of sickening sweet Candi.
Addie turned over the Crystals in her hand. Candi would never have been out on the trails looking for crystals. The pea brained princess didn’t have anything in common with Alexander. Poor darling Alex. She looked at the earring again “I can’t believe she left her earring here.” She said aloud “Damn, this is great.” She heard a noise. The light was on in the bathroom. Addie pushed the door open. “Hello?”
Someone was leaning against the wall. Candi turned around. She had a vial in her hand.
“Are you alright? Oh dear God, what are you doing?” Addie gasped. “If Alexander knew you were doing that shit he’d kick you out on your ass quicker than you could count to five. What the hell are you thinking?”
The princess stared at Addie with panic in her eyes. “Don’t tell him.”
On top of being stupid, she’s a drug addict. thought Addie as she grabbed the vial and sniffed “What is that? Oh Candi, this is bad. This is really really bad. This stuff will kill you, not to mention ruin your voice and your looks. I’m flushing this it.”
“No” Candi gasped. “I don’t do this all the time. I was nervous. I don’t think anybody likes me down there.”
No shit thought Addie Maybe if you’d show a little more interest in Alexander and a little less in yourself. “If you marry Alexander you’ll have to deal with all sorts of people who aren’t going to like you. Just sitting around and looking pretty is duty you’ll have to be concerned with.”
“I’m trying as hard as I can,” said Candi, almost like a kitten mewing.
Addie flushed the vial down the toilet. “I can’t fucking believe this. After all the shit with Viola put him through…Alex doesn’t deserve this from you.”
“You have no idea…you have no idea what a special man our Alex is. He’s downstairs telling everyone what a lovely woman you are, while you’re up here snorting dragon fumes.”
“Addie please…please don’t tell him.” Candi’s eyes brimmed with tears. “I want to marry him so much. At least ten times more than you ever wanted to marry Jeff. So even if nobody else understands, at least I know you can understand how hard this is for me.”
Addie looked at Candi in disbelief. How did she know about Jeff? How could she have known about him?
“I never understood what Prince Jeffery saw in you until I realized how beautiful your voice is and how smart you are. He’s so gorgeous, and you’re well, sort of like a little troll with your broken nose, bad hair, freckles, flat skinny chest and all the rest. I don’t know how you do it. I’d kill myself if I looked like you. You’re so strong Addie.”
“Go downstairs, NOW.”
A wave of pain and depression draped over her. “I’m not ugly, I’m not ugly, I’m not ugly. Take a deep breath. Candi doesn’t matter. She doesn’t matter.” There had to be a way to get rid of the perfect princess. She picked up the earring again. This could be the best thing that ever happened for Alexander.
Addie sat down on the edge of the bed and thought of the events of the past month. Everything was about to change for all of them. Candi had arrived, Tom and Rachael were married, the rest were going in all directions on new ventures. Malcolm was preoccupied with tutoring Candi. Right, like he had time for that, considering his upcoming concert schedule. Addie kept her opinions on the matter to herself, but it was like a slap in the face. Why are men so drawn in by stupid women? Jeff had told her about meeting Annie. Addie approved of the match. Annie was smart and edgy, not some ditzoid from hell like Candi. None the less, Jeff had spent the evening drooling over the pretty pink princess from hell. Alexander seemed like the only one who wasn’t totally stupid over the nasty little back stabbing bitch from the Lavender Forest. A tear ran down her face.
She put her hand on her stomach and tried to smile. She would soon have her own changes to deal with, but for now pregnancy was her own private joy and her own private hell to deal with.
Logan and Freddie were glad to see each other. It had been too long since they’d been in each other’s company. The subject of the Snowhawks came up.
“I’ve never met Justin but his twin sister Olivia is a close friend of mine.” Said Freddy.
“Really now. How close? Vertically or horizontally?”
“ We’re close, but why ruin a good friendship with complications of the bedroom, plus Miranda is the only woman for me, that and the fact that she’d kill me if I cheated on her. You on the other hand, might enjoy the challenge. I’ll have to introduce you to Olivia next time she’s in town. She has fabulous weekend parties at her house in Meadow Creek. I’m surprised you haven’t been invited to one yet. “
“I was about a month ago, through Simon, but Candi’s arrival prevented me from attending. “ said Logan
“You missed a good one. Olivia turned it into an engagement party. We all drank a toast to Alexander and speculated on how long it would take for another man to steal Princess Candi out of his bed.”
“Poor Alex.” Logan signed catching sight of Ellie and Simon across the room.
“The hostess called us all barbarians.”
“We’re barbarians?” said Logan pretending to be shocked.
“Sure we are. We bury our dead in the ground. Our men wear short hair. We dress too plain. But worst of all we’re forcing our favorite prince to marry a woman he doesn’t love.”
“Being a barbarian myself, I’ll have to agree with the last statement. How long have you known Olivia?”
“About 5 years. We were bidding on the same lot of books at an auction.” Said Freddy, like Alexander, he was an avid book collector.
“Who won?” asked Logan.
“She did of course. But she took me out for drinks afterward.”
“She sold the books back to me at triple the price and donated the money to local charity. We’ve been great friends ever since.”
“We’ve had scattered business correspondences but meeting her in person has been impossible.” Said Logan wondering again if he was the only one in the world who had never met Olivia Snowhawk.
“How hard can it be, especially with your position?” asked Freddy.
“Honestly Freddy, I think Miss Snowhawk is avoiding me.”
“With your reputation with women I can’t blame her.” Freddy laughed.
“Usually Simon is the Universal contact with the royal family. All my own business dealings are with Annie Hawthorne. “ replied Logan in his own defense.”
“Olivia is quite proud of Annie Hawthorne, working so closely with the Queen’s handsome and brilliant brother.”
“Handsome and brilliant? She really said that?”
“Yes, she did indeed.” Said Freddy willing to keep throwing on more bait to his friend Logan. “Annie thinks the world of you Logan.
Alexander envied Logan for his trip. He thought about meeting Justin Snowhawk a year earlier. It was at a visit at Simon’s in Meadow Creek. They spent an afternoon fishing on Simon’s Greenwood property.
Justin’s good looks could even intimidate Alexander. In contrast his kind gentle nature had gained him a reputation as sort of a saint. It was Justin’s eyes that Alexander remembered. They were expressive and he always looked as if he could see inside of one’s very soul. The golden brown was almost metallic and distracting.
Alexander heard laughing and looked up to where his sister stood telling a tall tale, at his expense no doubt. He thought of Justin speaking of his own twin sister, in his musical lilting accent.
“Olivia took care me when we were small. While our father was away she protected me like a mother wolf. She saved my life more than once. As a small child I was not only blind, but walked with a limp. You see, Alexander, these aren’t the eyes I was born with. I got my first set when I was 6. I’ve had these for about 20 years. They aren’t human eyes as you can tell or even organic.
I miss my sister dearly, but knowing that she’s found such happiness in your land takes away some of my loss. To see her so content is a joy I can’t even begin to describe.
She’s a pretty thing. I suspect one day she’ll come back to the Crystal Mountains to find a man to partner up with. Too bad she’s in Riverbend right now, I would have liked for you to meet her. When she gets back you ought to pay her a visit.” Then he laughs at the idea. “Not for romance mind you. I’d never wish that on any of my friends.”
With that Justin snagged a fish and the subject of his sister was closed.
Dare Crow showed up for about an hour. He had still had business to work on that night.
Graham was always uncomfortable around Dare, but he wouldn’t show it on his face. Six years before Dare has stolen his mistress away. His beautiful, sensual, submissive mistress. He thought of Jane in disgust. She was so bland, so correct, and so nice. Where Denese had a fire and passion unlike any woman he’d ever known. But Dare are got his just reward when Denese dumped him a week before their wedding. A week before Graham had found his way back into her bed, a fact that made him feel superior to the great wizard. Now he was the one enjoying her, using her, owning her, making her do things his wife would never imagine doing.
Miranda slipped by Darious. She took his hand “How are you Dare?” He was about to answer when he knew she wanted him to read her mind. He read her thoughts “Help me. Graham has threatened to destroy my life. I have no one to turn to. Please help.” Miranda and Darious knew each other from her days in the Royal Guard before she married Freddie. He could feel the fear and desperation in her, but hadn’t been able to get a better reading on her.
At dinner the guests spoke of the Crystal Mountains. Simon had brought the candle sticks back from there. They had fern patterns on them.
Laurel mentioned that she didn’t remember anything about the place. Logan remembered a few things. He remembered his sister’s boyfriend Jack who was like a father to them but said nothing about it to the others.
Only Simon, Ellie and Miles had been to the Crystal Mountains. Simon because of business and the time he took Ellie and Miles along. Their father Jasper had been a student and friend of Hyacinth’s father.
It was an odd country, a place of unimaginable beauty. People dressed in lavish clothing and everything involved great social ceremony. It was a place of much formality. It was still a place of much violence and uncertainty. Human life was still undervalued. Nobody spoke of the war though signs were there. A third of the adult population had died. Old buildings had been torn down or restored. Only a few outsiders were let in each year. Those who did get in were welcomed, with some caution at first. Only Simon had met with some Starlings that the Snowhawk clan was close to. Simon was enchanted by them. They loved Simon and said he was sure to have starling blood in him. Odd since Starlings and humans rarely had offspring and those rarely survived. The technology there was amazing. The homes were connected up and everything worked like a charm. There were strange cults and strange habits. The murder rate was still frightening. Starfire was all but worshiped. People were extremely emotional and passionate about everything they did. Women were theoretically equal to men but there was a lot of fighting among them. There was a lot of violence against women that was ignored. Justin Snowhawk was trying to change that.
People dressed in elaborately decorated clothing. Layers upon layers were necessary for the harsh climate. Immense greenhouses provided food for the population. On formal occasions women wore elaborate head dresses. Men had long hair, which they wore on their shoulders or usually down their backs free falling or in braids.
On the last trip they had gone to the blessing of Justin’s baby daughter. It was in a great cathedral with much ceremony. Olivia had stood in elaborate headdress of her people as the baby’s protector.
Olivia’s brother had tried to fix her up with several local men. She broke a few hearts and threatened but came back to her new country.
The northwestern region of the country, the remote and inaccessible wastelands and forests had been taken over by those pushed out by the revolution. It was those who survived the slaughters and the outcasts. There were constant battles and uprisings.
Alexander looked at Candi next to him giggling and laughing at the amusing conversations. It seemed almost creepy for a moment. She looked so young. She was so young. He thought of kissing her upstairs in his bedroom and suddenly felt like a dirty old man. He wasn’t old but he was 14 years her senior. He looked around the room at the other couples. There were six years between Freddy and Miranda. Graham was 9 years older than Jane, who was closest to Candi’s age. In her defense Jane was elegant and reserved. She’d was still beautiful beyond description but she always seemed mature for her age, worldly and refined. Sometime he wondered why she’d married Graham. No doubt he’d filled her head with pretty lies or filled her father’s bank account. That wasn’t the kind of marriage he wanted. His mind went to Annie Hawthorne. There was a woman he could easily fall in love with. Annie Hawthorne was younger than him but she was also bright and successful. She was full of charm and independence.