Girl in the Woods, the serial novel, is a regular 2016 Friday feature on Vampire Maman. If you’re new start from the top. I recommend you start from the beginning. CLICK here for all of the installments.
Girl in the Wood: Turning Point (Part 12)
Alexander was in his office reviewing trade agreements with the government of the Moonbeam Mountains. He couldn’t help but think of Viola and her betrayal. She had been perfect in theory. Candi was also perfect in theory, if she’d stay faithful.
It had been two weeks since his party and the attack on Logan. It had almost been a week since he’d spent a night out with Princess Candi. He’d met her for lunch and attended an afternoon music recital with her, but nothing else. Even those few short times seemed like an eternity and he couldn’t seem to get away from her and back to work or the quiet of his own home fast enough. He didn’t have time to go to clubs or attend the never ending invitations to parties thrown by people he hardly knew. Candi seemed to be happily entertained day and night without him so he wasn’t too worried about hurting her feelings.
Another lovely young woman was on Alexander’s mind. He couldn’t stop thinking of things Candi had said about Annie Hawthorn. Everything the Princess had said about Annie was true, but it was the hateful mean spirited manner in which Candi said it. From what Logan and Simon had told him, Annie had worked hard and smart to get where she was. Unlike Candi’s circle of pampered friends, not to mention his own, nothing was ever handed to Annie Hawthorne, yet she defied all odds and was at the top of her game, both professionally and personally. She was a jewel, as far as Alexander was, in the crown of his country – an example for all young women to aspire to. She was one to be truly admired. If only he could marry a girl like Annie. She was brilliant, kind, beautiful and well, dating his brother.
Jeff, the one who seemed to treasure only beauty managed to get the smart girl, and Alexander was left with the Real Princess, no matter that she as dumb as a box of rocks with the tact of a five year old. Enough he thought trying to get his mind back on his work.
“I can teach Candi the social graces she needs,” Alexander said to himself.
He put his hand in his coat pocket and fingered the earring. The delicate shape was branded in his memory. It had been a week since he’d found the golden fern shaped earring near his home. She was the woman he thought of when he closed his eyes at night. He couldn’t see her face but he could imagine the touch of her hands, the delicate clean smell of her hair as it brushed against his face and chest, her lips kissing his. In turn he imagined she needed him and longed for him as much as he needed and longed for her. It was his secret and his alone to savor and to be tortured by. But one day he’d wake with her head on his shoulder, her bare leg wrapped around his legs, the feel of her breasts…
“You need to review and sign all of these by this afternoon.”His office manager Marrianna interrupted his revelries with a stack of papers.
“Thank you,” he told her with a glance up.
“You need to sign and date everything or I’ll bring it back.” She was serious. Marrianna ran his office like an army post.
After signing everything he rolled his shoulders then ran his and through his hair. “I’ll be leaving early today.”
“Anything I need to know about?”
“Lunch with Simon, maybe a drop into the stationery store and a few other stops, nothing of importance.” He’d planned on finding out who was buying the same paper as he was. If he went by himself, confidentially his inquiries would be kept quiet.
“I can go to the stationery store for you or send Andrew for you later on today.”
“No need to send anyone. I need some time…” he faded off trying not to spill his guts to one of his loyal staff.
“I understand, you need some time to yourself. I’ll get you some cool compresses for your eyes. You look tired.” It was her job to let Alexander know how he looked. She knew appearances were everything with him.
“I am tired Marrianna.” Old and tired he thought. “But you’ve been with me long enough to know.”
“You’re a hopeless workaholic.” Marrianna scolded him coming back with a cool scented cloth and putting it over Alexander’s eyes.
“I’m dedicated to my people,” he said taking control of the compress and resting his head on the back of the chair. He waited a few minutes then took it off, feeling slightly better, but more so from Marrianna’s attentions.
She was still there, ready to continue her scolding. “I don’t want you dropping dead before your 40th birthday. You’re filling your time because you don’t want to go home to an empty house every night. That will end as soon as you have your young bride waiting at home for you.”
“You never know.” He said giving her a wink. “I doubt if any young bride will appreciate me these days.” He stood up and headed over to the wall mirror.
“You’re too modest for such a handsome man.” She smiled knowing that it was to her advantage to feed into his vanity. As she started to fix his shirt collar, her very pregnant belly brushed against him.”I won’t have you going out looking like you’ve slept in your clothes.”
“I felt that. That was the baby, right?” Alexander asked as her belly moved against him.
“The baby is kicking all the time now. Put your hand here.” She said taking his hand and putting it down on her side.”
“I felt that. That was amazing.” Alexander laughed. It was amazing to feel her child with his own hand.
She smiled “Before too long you’ll have your own baby on the way.”
“Maybe,” he thought. Turning to the mirror he saw a weary reflection. Death warmed over he thought. There was gray hair he’d never noticed before. He looked back at Marrianna who hardly able to keep her balance. “You need to take it easy my dear. Where is Andrew?” he asked wondering where his assistant had been all morning.
“Out riding with Princess Candi. Remember you told him to start taking her on Wednesday and Friday mornings.”
Marrianna gave him a sad look and shook her head. They made small talk about the baby and her hopes and expectations for her son. The idea of his own son or daughter was too vague and far away for him to even consider.
On his way out Alexander gave Marrianna and unexpected kiss on the cheek then grabbed his coat and headed out for a lunch appointment.
The idea of a baby with Candi was someplace Alexander’s mind hadn’t traveled yet. She’d no doubt have the best of nurses and nannies. He’d choose the best teachers and tutors for the child. Their children would have his love of books and her love of music. It would be a perfect fit, or at least he’d try to make it perfect for his children, as perfect as he could.
On his way out he passed a group of women were talking by the courtyard fountain. The Minister of Arts, a judge and one of his father’s financial advisors. Three powerful women. They were all married to equally powerful men. All were mothers of well-adjusted and happy children.
“I need to get Candi more involved in her music career. She needs that confidence to mature and excel in what she loves.” he said to himself. It was a thought he was going to keep to himself for now.
As his carriage pulled up to the Universal Technologies building he looked up at the carvings on the front of the building. He’d always been amused by the Starling symbols carved above the doors. Simon came out of the massive doorway and down the stairway and climbed up into the carriage.
“I’ve always liked the Starling symbols on your building,” Alexander said.
Simon looked up. “Olivia likes the imagery. She said it stands for technology and truth. I don’t know about that but I do agree with her on the great designs. Then again lately it has been all things to do with the Silver Lakes with her. I’m sure you heard about the 5,000 crystal dragonflies she ordered from there for her ballroom chandelier. I swear to God, sometimes I wonder about her.”
It was uncharacteristic for Simon to speak about Olivia Snowhawk of Universal Technologies. Alexander had heard about the crystal dragonflies. Who hadn’t? It was excess beyond anything he’d ever done in his own home. “When do I get to meet your boss?” he asked Simon, not really caring if he ever met her or not.
Simon laughed “Soon enough.”
“I saw the cover of Business Weekly, the picture with you flanked by the lovely Miss Annie Hawthorne and Olivia Snowhawk. You’ve always managed to surround yourself with powerful, beautiful women.”
“That can be a dangerous thing,” Simon added with a smile. “You know how picture sessions go. They even worked me over like an Allegory whore before they got all the hair, make-up and clothing right for that cover. It took almost an entire day to get it right.”
Alexander reached in his pocket. “Simon, I’ve something to show you.” He unfolded the paper. “A woman dropped this in the Fern Chapel, the morning of my party.” He told Simon the story of how he’d watched her from the hill and found the paper and the earring. “Look at the drawing on the back.”
“Ferns. I should have known. Well, who is she?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t get a clear look at her face. There’s no name on anything.”
“I guess you’re out of luck then.”
“On the back, it’s written in Starling. And look at the letter forms, just like the symbols used by Universal Technologies.”
“We’re not the only ones who use Starling symbols. The hip young poets use them all the time. They don’t know a damn thing about Starlings but…really Alex you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
“She could be from the Crystal Mountains, but I can’t rule out the possibilities that she’s from here. The black marks are wizardry symbols. Read the poem. I think she’s enchanted.”
Simon turned the paper over in his hands “Enchanted? Now that’s something different and exciting for you. So now you’re going to tell me you want me to help you find out who she is? I know you Alexander, I know how your brain works.”
“I can’t very well go asking around for a mysterious woman. Both my mother and Dare treated me as if I was crazy.”
“You showed this to them? Bad idea, you should have kept it to yourself, you know how controlling and opinionated those two are.”
“I know Dare can find out who she is but he won’t. His loyalties are with the King, not the King’s son.”
“You can’t stop thinking about your mysterious woman can you?”
“She is THE ONE. I know she is.”
“From your description she could be a romance writer who lost her notes.”
Alexander slipped his hand into his pocket again and took out the earring. “I found this too.”
Simon held the golden fern leaf earring in his hand and looked at the mark on the bottom. “Ferns again. So you think you’ve found your soul mate because you like the same plants?”
“Come on Simon, it isn’t like that.”
“Really Alexander? I know you too well.”
“Don’t tell anyone about this.”
“You’re secret is safe. Anyway, if I told anyone they’d think you were insane.”
“I can feel her Simon. She’s out there, waiting for me. Enchanted or not, she’s my girl in the woods.”
“What if you meet her and she isn’t what you expect?”
“What if I’m not what she expected?”
“I can guarantee you won’t be who she expects.”
“I’m the most handsome and charming man in the kingdom. What more could she want?”
“You’re full of shit. I’m the most handsome and charming man in the kingdom.”
Alexander laughed. “You might be more handsome but I’m a lot taller than you and I’m definitely more charming.”
Simon spun his wedding ring on his finger. He thought of his last conversation with Ellie.” In all seriousness Alexander, your mystery woman will want someone to love her unconditionally without fault no matter what the enchantment or what her past is. In return she must love you unconditionally with all her heart and soul. It’s the only way you can break a spell of the heart, if indeed she is enchanted.”
“Sometimes I feel as if I’m enchanted. I’m 38 and still looking for that perfect love that doesn’t exist, at least for me. I’ll have to be content with beauty and comfort.”
“So in light of your discovery of the mysterious woman with one earring, you’re still going to go through with it, marrying Candi?” he said in open disgust.
Alexander answered calmer than usual on the subject “Unless the mysterious woman appears in the next few months it seems I don’t have a choice in the matter.”
“Candi will ruin your life.”
“Please, Simon I’m tired of your constant criticism.”
“You have too many doubts about Candi.”
“Who doesn’t have doubts about marriage?”
Simon scowled at Alexander. “I didn’t. Then again, I married a Ellie.”
“Darling Ellie. How’s that working out? Does she have any plans on divorcing you soon? ”
“Very funny. Don’t expect me to be at your wedding.
“You’ll be there as my best man. Then you’ll give a glowing speech about how happy you are for me.”
“I’d rather speak at your funeral.”
“You married young. You and Ellie built your life together. My life is already set. Candi will fit into that life… ‘ Alexander had no idea what he was going to say. ‘Candi’s presence will enhance what I’ve already created.”
“Fine, talk yourself into it. Marry an accessory. Evenings at your house will certainly be dull.”
“If her kisses are any indication of how she’ll be in bed, I don’t think I’ll have any problems.”
“The girl can’t say three words to you without making you cringe. After a while the very thought of touching her will revolt you. Keep thinking about the girl with the earring. I’ll check around and see what I can find out. Just don’t mention it to anyone else, alright.”
“Thanks.” Alexander smiled weakly at Simon’s comment and fingered the earring in his pocket. “Where do you want to go for lunch?” he asked Simon, ready to change the subject.
They stopped in front of Logan’s house. “We’re here.”
Tom met them at the door when they arrived. Graham and Charles were there as well.
Lady Megan Gold was sitting with Logan, actually on his lap. She stood when Alexander and Simon came in. Megan had been around as long as Simon and Alexander could remember. Alexander sometimes wondered why Logan or Dare had never married her, especially now that she was widowed. Love never made sense.
“Prince Alexander. I’m taking care of Logan. Poor baby can hardly get up by himself.”
“I’m sure you’ve helped him solve that problem.””
“She certainly did.”
She kissed Logan in a long sensual kiss with no second thoughts of having the others in the room.”Logan, darling if you need anything at all, you know where to reach me.”
“Thank you,” said Logan, then he whispered in her ear. She smiled and laughed.
Megan turned to Alexander. “Alexander it was so good to see you.” She kissed him on the cheek and ran a hand over his behind. “Gentlemen it was lovely to see you.” She gave air kisses to Tom and Graham.
Then Megan smiled at Simon. “You’re so gorgeous it’s sinful. What I’d give for a just a small taste of you.” She kissed him full on the mouth.
“Love you too Megan,” said Simon. “Are we still on for lunch tomorrow?””
“Absolutely,” she said, and left the room.
After Megan left. Alexander looked at Simon. “What was that about?”
Simon shrugged. “She does a good bit of legal work for Universal Technologies.”
“Is it safe, for you to lunch with her, alone?” Alexander asked.
“She knows I’m a faithful husband,” said Simon.
“Too bad.” Said Graham with a smirk.
“Yes, too bad for Megan,” said Simon, then he turned to Logan. “Aside from your private physical therapy from Megan how are you doing?
“Feeling like hell, but better thanks to my many female admirers and some exceptional painkillers. Sit, please, everyone. You too Alexander. Dear nephew, I’ve had Simon bring you here to ask a favor of you.”
“Anything. Ask away,” Said Alexander.
“I’d like you to take my place, on the trip with Justin Snowhawk,” said Logan.
“As tempting as it sounds I can’t,” said Alexander.
“You can and you will”, said Logan
“The timing is off. I can’t afford 3 months on the road,” said Alexander.
“We’ve sorted everything out.” Said Graham. “Tom will go along as well and I’ll meet you in Riverbend. You can work on the road.”
“It will be the same as working from home,” said Logan.
“From Riverbend we’ll go to the River Conference and if you can make the time we’ll spend a final relaxing week in Aurora Lake,” said Simon.
“You’ve been working six days a week, twelve-hour days. You need a change of pace or you’ll wear yourself out,” said Graham.
“I’m expected to announce an engagement with Candi soon. I can’t run off and leave her,” said Alexander.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Remember you never had a problem having a long distance relationship with Viola.” said Graham.
Alexander scowled. “Viola was entertaining another man in my absence.”
“Candi isn’t Viola.” Said Graham.
“Candi is like a little dog. She can’t remember if you’re gone five days or five minutes. She’ll be excited to see you no matter what.” Added Simon.
“Enough Simon.” Said Tom. “We’ll spin it as your last trip before you get married. You’ll do some diplomatic work, kiss babies and pretty girls, attend local town hall meetings and cultural events, and go fishing with your buddies. After that, six weeks in Riverbend, then you’ll end it off with the River Conference.”
“The diplomatic opportunities are immense. Justin Snowhawk will be the next president of the Crystal Mountain Republic. You’ll be the next King. Now is the time to forge those bonds,” added Logan
It sounded good to Alexander. More than good. It sounded great.
“You hit it off great with Justin. You’re really a better choice than I ever was for this trip,” said Logan.
“Does Florien know about this?” Alexander always referred to his father as Florien or The King.
“We have his blessing,” said Logan.
“What did he say?” Alexander asked, starting to wonder if he had any control over his life.
“Your dad said you’re driving him up the fucking wall and he’d like to get you out of town,” said Simon.
Alexander tried not to laugh. “Seriously what did he say?”
“He said it was a brilliant move and it would be great for public relations,” said Logan.
“There’s the business in Allegory as well. I’m still counting on you to back up the operatives in that area.” They turned to see Dare Crow standing in the doorway.
“So Dare why not join us on the diplomatic mission and from Allegory continue the trip with Justin Snowhawk and me,” said Tom.
“Thanks for the invitation but no.” Said Dare. “I’m no diplomat. I’ll leave the matters of diplomacy, commerce and goodwill up to those who actually govern. I might see you at some point along the road but I’m visiting my sister in Riverbend for a week or two.”
“What’s going on in Allegory?” asked Simon, who was no longer privy to government information.
Dare took a seat by the fire and stretched out his long legs. “We’re finally shutting down the cult. Eighty years of organized crime, drug running, under aged prostitution and forced marriages, weapons running, extortion, you name it, and it has got to stop. If they want their own brand of religion or to keep the legal entertainment business going…”
“The whorehouses…” added Tom.
“The legal regulated brothels and other adult entertainments…if they want to keep that open fine. But the rest is going down,” said Dare.
Simon scowled. “You should torch the place and burn it to the ground. They bombed my office last year. It has cost Universal Technologies International a fortune in extra security costs. Not to mention the extra security costs Rich Long has had to put up with after they tried to set fire to his building. People in Meadow Creek were terrified and nothing, not a damn thing was done about it.”
“We know all about that and the dead dog on the doorstep and the rest. I guarantee you it will stop,” said Dare.
“Right. I’ve heard that before. As soon as they get wind of trouble they all have alibis and scatter like the wind. I know they’re the ones who tried to break into Olivia’s house a few weeks ago,” said Simon.
“There was no connection,” said Dare.
“Bull shit,” said Simon. “Someone from Allegory hired thugs to kidnap Olivia. And don’t give me any Crystal Mountain connections Dare, they were from here. None of us are safe until you plow the place into the ground and find out who their spies are.”
“That’s what we’re planning,” said Dare.
“Planning. What good will that do? You’ll never get Lord Mayor and his cronies all in one place,” said Simon.
“Simon, I’m going in as bait. If I’m there all of the top leaders will be there. I’ve sent personal invitations to all for a reception. It’s a trap. It overlaps with the trip,”
“Come with us, just to Allegory. It’s only a day away. With fresh meat like you we’ll be guaranteed all the top cult members will show,” said Tom. “I’m looking forward to seeing the looks on their faces when we tell them no to everything they want.”
“I wouldn’t set foot in Allegory unless they were holding one of my children hostage.” said Simon.
“Then skip Allegory; meet us in the Trinity Valley,” said Tom.
Simon shook his head. “I’ve already made the trip to the Crystal Mountains twice this year so I doubt if I’ll be traveling anytime soon. Four months away from my kids is too much for one year. I need to be in Meadow Creek for a while. This is a diplomatic mission as well as a business venture for Universal Technologies. Graham and Tom are familiar with the area but it’s been years since you’ve been in those parts. Your perspective will change viewing it as more than a casual visitor. More than that. Justin Snowhawk is an expert in cults and dealing with them. Granted their methods in the CMR is a little heavy handed compared to ours but they’ve effectively dismantled most of the more destructive groups. Justin is going to be the next president of the Crystal Mountain Republic. You need to forge that bond. Despite the fact that it’s a closed country we need them. Their technology …”
Alexander could hear Simon talking but he wasn’t listening to a word he said.
His thoughts were on more personal matters. Justin Snowhawk knew Starlings as few people did. Starlings avoided anyone not of their own kind. They cut themselves off from people, and didn’t seem interested in anything except what benefited them. They were worse isolationist than the people from the Crystal Mountain Republic. Justin would know who wrote the note in the language of the Starlings. He’d know who this enchanted woman with the fern shaped earring was. It was also rumored that Justin was a wizard, so he’d know first hand about the references to enchantments and wizardry.
Justin’s sister Olivia might also have information but Alexander couldn’t ask her. From what he knew she was a workaholic who had no time for anything, much less romance or magic. Wait, he was describing himself. But asking her would be too much of an intrusion, of course unless it was his only options. He didn’t have time to make the trip to Meadow Creek to meet her and her trips to the Capitol were sporadic at best.
Princess Candi was beautiful and a Real Princess. He could make her into his perfect woman with the right amount of training and tutoring. He could hire the very best to help her learn to be the woman he wanted. He could easily do it but his heart said “No.”
He turned to his friends. “Gentlemen, yes, I’ll go in Logan’s place. Charles, you know what we need to do.”
The story will continue next week, right here at vampiremaman.com
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