Girl in the Woods is a serial novel, and a regular 2016 Friday feature here at Vampiremaman.com. This is the uncut and unedited version of a novel that has nothing to do with the rest of this blog. If you are new to Girl in the Woods please start from the beginning (Click here for all installments or see the side bar on the home page.) Like I said, it is a novel – an epic adventure of sorts. Have fun.
Part 16: Allegory
The Road to Allegory
A few hours after leaving Jake’s Alexander and his fellow travelers took the main road going west. They came to a small wayside inn. Around it were guards and soldiers.
A few men in odd clothing mingled around, they were members of the Allegory Redemption cult.
Tom went inside. Olivia could see him talking to some men inside. He came out and took Alexander and Charles aside.
“Olivia, Michael, we’ll be making an additional stop.”
“Not to Allegory I hope,” said Michael eying the strange looking men.
“I’m sorry,” said Tom “we’re going to Allegory on official government business.
Alexander locked his eyes on Olivia. “You’ll be in Allegory with us as an official member of the royal delegation.”
Olivia glared at him, “No, absolutely not.”
“The Redemption cult” said Michael. “The town is run by the cult. They’re anti-technology, anti-magic, anti-popular culture and they hate women, especially successful women with the last name of Snowhawk.”
“A few of the citizens might be a little backwards, but that is no reason not to go there. You’ve been in far more uncomfortable places than Allegory,” said Tom
Olivia shot a chilled look at Tom “You know about the stolen shipments and highway robberies targeted at Universal Technologies and other technological companies based in the area, not to mention robberies of shipments from the mills in Lockwood and fashion houses in Meadow Creek. The stolen goods were traced back to Allegory.”
“Robberies happen everywhere, as you well know Olivia” said Tom. “This is the first time I’ve seen you seem to be remotely bothered by it.”
She turned to Alexander “Prince Alexander, as you may recall, last year at the Education and Technology Conference in Meadow Creek the Lord Mayor of Allegory sent a delegation to disrupt the meeting. They attempted to vandalize the Universal Technologies facilities and broke into the offices of the Meadow Creek Recorder.”
“It was never proved the Mayor had anything to do with the disruption or the break in to the newspaper.” Said Alexander
“No of course not.” Olivia snapped sarcastically. “Richard Long, the owner of the Meadow Creek Recorder received a charred decapitated dog body with my name carved on it after he printed an article suggesting the Mayor of Allegory was behind it. Everyone knows the Mayor of Allegory was involved but nothing was done about it.”
“I’m aware of that. Due to that sort of threatening activity, we are keeping such a close watch on Allegory.” said Alexander quietly. “You and Richard Long aren’t the only ones who have been targeted by such activity.”
“I know that. Nobody I know, including you, is safe there. If you feel you must go to Allegory, then go with my prayers, but Michael and I will go ahead to Two Brother’s. You can meet us there.”
“Those people are no better than trolls,” said Michael under his breath.
“A regiment of the Royal Guard will be there for your protection,” said Tom, ignoring Michael’s comments.
“I don’t care if you have the great wizard Darious Crow himself standing guard, I will not participate in this farce,” said Olivia.
Alexander gently took Olivia’s arm. “Miss Snowhawk, need a word in private,”
Alexander led Olivia into the park next to the inn. They walked to a small grove of oak trees. He motioned to the others to stay back.
Olivia stood alone with Alexander, trying not lose her temper. Her eyes burned with anger. “Simon will be furious when he hears of this.”
Alexander brushed his hair out of his face and looked her in the eye for a few moments before speaking. “Don’t expect Simon to rescue you. He already knows about the detour to Allegory.”
A touch of panic entered Olivia’s voice. “You don’t understand. Simon would never do this to me.”
“Maybe this is his way of getting you back for not telling him about the meeting with your lover the day before yesterday?”
“Excuse me?” Her face went flush.
“Shadowford,” he answered.
“My relationship with Alaric Shadowford is none of Simon’s business or yours. I will not go to Allegory and that is final.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“Losing my life for start.”
“I doubt that’s true. I’ve seen you throw a knife.”
“A knife won’t protect me against those people.”
“Olivia, I promise, I will guarantee your safety. You have my word on it”
“Alexander, I will not…”
“With you by my side as my equal, it will show them that we are serious about changing the situation. Your presence will send a clear message that things are about to change.”
“Your equal? Who do you expect to believe that? These people traffic in women and girls. It is the mainstay of their economy.”
“When I made arrangements with Justin and Simon I was promised full support from the Universal Technologies team.”
“What else did they say I’d do?”
“As I recall, they didn’t say anything about you at all. You’ll come with me as one of my advisors. I could use your insights, however skewed they might be.”
She was about to speak but he cut her off. “You always have to get in the last word don’t you? I want you with me in Allegory. We are leaving now. That is the end of this discussion.”
“I need to make arrangements…”
“It’s been taken care of.”
“I’m sure it has been.” She answered sarcastically.
“We have another small matter to discuss.”
“What else?” her head started to throb again. She took a deep breath.
Alexander’s eyes narrowed, but his voice was calm and controlled. “When we’re alone you can spit all the venom you want, but don’t you ever disagree with me in front of the others. Do you understand?”
“Are you still afraid I’ll make you look bad?”
“I’ve come to realize there is nothing you can do or say to make me look bad. Now, back to the question. Do you understand that you are not to disagree with me in the presence of others?”
“Yes. I understand.”
“Good. Thank you. Now everyone won’t think I’m traveling with a fool.”
“Oh go screw yourself. I’m sick and tired of being bullied by you.”
“Everything I’ve done has been for your own good. So stop fighting me. You won’t win.”
The pain in her head sharpened. She involuntarily winced with pain. Another headache. He wondered again what was wrong with her.
“Are you alright?”
“You don’t look fine.”
“There is nothing wrong with me.”
“You aren’t the woman that Simon has described to me over the years. What did you do, kill the nice Olivia and take her place?”
“Very funny. Ha ha.”
“Go ahead and finish. Call me an asshole. You want to don’t you?”
“Fine, you win. I’ll go to Allegory. I’ll play nice and be a perfect example of diplomacy and professionalism to everyone I come into contact with. Are you happy now?”
They looked at each other in silence. He wasn’t going to let her off the hook. Had she been a man he might have handled her differently. He knew he wasn’t handling it well, but she infuriated him. He had gone out of his way to be accommodating yet she openly showed her loathing and contempt for him.
Her pain and discomfort was obvious but she wouldn’t admit any of it, not to him. She just kept going. He gave her a grim smile and motioned the way to the others. “Miss Snowhawk, shall we go?”
She put her head down for a minute holding her left temple. Her hand clenched into a fist. She was in obvious pain. He said nothing and waited. He could wait all day if necessary. She looked up, her eyes glaring. “Let’s not keep everyone waiting,” she said in mock respect.
Alexander watched as she joined the others. Showing no emotion, the woman simply told Michael that they would go to Allegory as part of the diplomatic mission. Michael said nothing, as if there was an unspoken language between the two.
The road into the town of Allegory looked like it had been recently graded, but it was a half assed job. Holes and ruts in the road made the going rough. Abandoned buildings were on the outskirts. Some boarded but most just falling down. Signs advertising brothels and live sex shows lined the side of the road.
A large three story red building stood next to what used to be a city gate. On one windowless wall was a large elaborately painted mural graphically advertising the sexual services available inside. A quarterly auction for willing freaks, middle aged virgins, and feminine men was advertised, as well as nightly live sex performances in a nearby theater.
The place was busy, with at least a dozen men waiting by a fire pit on the front porch. The men were being entertained by women in elaborate low cut orange and yellow dresses.
Despite the cold, on an upstairs balcony two women stood, clothed in nothing but thigh high yellow boots and yellow hands painted on their bare breasts. Bright gold rings pierced their nipples. Their pale blonde hair was piled high in elaborate hair styles. They’d obviously come out to see the prince. Standing silent they smiled down on the procession.
Michael and Olivia watched in disgust from Alexander’s carriage. The Prince and Tom rode their horses ahead with the guards.
“Tell me again why we’re here?” Michael asked Olivia.
“To support Alexander,” she muttered holding her gloved hands clutched in her lap.
He’d never seen her nervous like this before. They’d been caught in a bar fight a year before and she’d pulled her knife and took a man twice her size down to the ground. She regularly dealt with foreign traders who were ruthless liars and called their bluff without hesitation.
Olivia had a past so violent that he was surprised that anything could bother her. She was fearless. She would stand up to anyone man or woman, wizard or warlord. He heard rumors that she’d even killed men. This time, here in Allegory with Prince Alexander, she was different. It wasn’t just diplomacy that made her give in, it was as if she’d given up.
Michael didn’t just wonder about Olivia’s unusual behavior. He also wondered about Alexander. He’d never in his life had he imagined this grim, unwavering side of his prince. Annie had bubbled over how charming Alexander was. Simon spoke of his life long friend with warmth and respect. The media projected him as a loving, open minded scholar who made everyone he came into contact with feel good. He was portrayed as anything but the hard line bastard who was treating Olivia with distrust and disrespect that she didn’t deserve.
Michael put his hand on Olivia’s. She squeezed it briefly and let go. She’d always been there for him, since showed up at her house the day before his 16th birthday.
It was eleven years ago when he first met her. She was overseeing the final stages of construction on her mansion. He was a skinny, outspoken kid with a passion for new ideas and a burning desire to show off his knowledge to the head of Universal Technologies. He stopped by uninvited to see the amazing building project.
They’d hit it off from the start. She was delighted and amused that he’d found her at home. She hired him on the spot as her assistant, sent him the University, and kept him on her personal team for the past ten years.
“There is no prostitution where I come from,” Olivia spoke in a low voice.
Michael thought of making her feel better by mentioning her native culture had a higher moral standard, but he knew that wasn’t exactly the case. In the Crystal Mountains, they had extremely formal and complex rules of behavior, but the natives didn’t think twice about using violence or sex to settle an argument. He’d had it on good authority that brutality against women was a way of life especially among the upper echelons of her native country. He suspected that attitude towards women was the main reason why Olivia left the Crystal Mountains.
Olivia spoke quietly, breaking Michael’s thoughts, “I can’t even think of a word for prostitution in my native tongue.”
“It’s everywhere Olivia, not just here,” Michael said matter-of-factly, hoping to make her see the big picture.
“I’m not naive, I know it’s everywhere, just not on this scale, not out in the open like this Michael. Not like this.”
A few minutes passed in uncomfortable silence.
Olivia spoke again; almost sadly as if she was talking about someone she loved. “I can’t imagine being one of those women who will do anything, no matter how perverse or degrading a man might desire, as long as he’ll pay. Alexander isn’t much different than those women up there on the balcony. He’s nothing but a whore, sold to the highest bidder and pressed into sexual service by his parents in the name of tradition.”
Michael looked at her in shock. She ignored him. The carriage stopped for a moment and Tom joined them. He mumbled something about the cold.
“Tired of the view?” She asked him with a glare.
“We’ll be at the town center in about twenty minutes. What do you think so far?” Tom asked.
Olivia squinted at the view out the window and looked back to Tom. “I am disgusted beyond my wildest expectations. Did you know Princess Kitti is a major investor in the Red House we just passed?”
“Olivia, don’t get started on that. I’ve gone over Kitti’s finances more than once and there is no connection.”
“The connection is with her partners in the South. Her books look clean on the surface, but she’s hiding mountains of dirt under her proverbial rug.”
“Where did you get that information?”
“I have reliable sources Tom. Sources that don’t care whose privacy they invade or who gets hurt in the process.”
“I find that hard to believe. Kitti is Alexander’s future mother-in-law. Florien would have known about any indiscretions,” Tom said.
“Florien is blinded by the prospect of his thirty nine year old son’s pending marriage to a twenty six year old Princess who will produce an heir within a year of their marriage vows.”
“You’ve been swayed by Simon’s jaded opinions.”
“Put on your blinders and let the country go to hell. Obviously Alexander doesn’t care so why should you?”
“What’s up with you and Alexander?”
“I thought you and Alexander would hit it off like you’d been friends forever. This open hostility isn’t like you my dear.” Tom had never seen either one of his friends act so disagreeable for what seemed like no reason.
Olivia turned towards the window with unfocused eyes refusing to acknowledge Tom’s comment.
Michael knew better than to say anything. This was going to be an interesting trip.
First Night in Allegory
Allegory was an old town consisting of a maze of narrow streets and mainly dark three story buildings with steeply peaked roofs. Most windows were covered with bars or thick dark curtains that shut out the outside world. The streets and ancient window boxes were almost devoid of any plant life. On the streets drably cloaked women with wide brimmed hats walked quickly in groups. Men hung around in doorways wearing garish colored winter coats waiting for Prince Alexander’s procession to pass by. The women stopped and bowed their heads. The men cheered. Occasional windows opened and more whores waved and flashed their painted bare breasts at the procession.
Alexander and Tom entered the city with an entourage of twenty guards, along with the their small staff of assistants, groomsmen and valets. The front guards held flags bearing the royal crest.
Riding in Alexander’s carriage, Olivia and Michael were trying to keep out of the eyes of the citizens of the town. Olivia ran the trips agenda through her head and worried about what might happen with this unexpected detour. She’d planned on picking up additional staff in Lockford so needless to stay the detour to Allegory threw her off.
She could understand the security. Simon had told her about the usual ridiculously large staff Alexander carried with him of servants and advisors. Even Simon had three times the personal staff she required. “I prefer to travel unencumbered and unwatched.” She told him when Simon scolded her for traveling alone. Her fingers involuntarily slid down to the dagger strapped to her leg as she looked out the carriage window.
They arrived at a well-guarded inn that catered to wealthy out of town guests. The inn had an outer wall with all the suites facing an inner courtyard. Alexander, Tom and their personal staff were housed in the large north wing, while she and Michael were tucked away in the Western wing near where the members of the Guard were to stay. No other guests were in the place.
Alexander and Tom immediately left to meet with a few local dignitaries. Olivia told Michael to join them, telling him that it would be good experience for him. There was no need for him to be subjected to her dark mood.
A staff employee led her to a large suite on the top floor of the western wing. The living room was a garish mix of patterns and textures she was sure the locals thought was fashionable. No expense was spared but it still looked cheap. Gold and white tiles shone with a glass like finish on the floor. Lush overlapping rugs of orange and pink floral patterns covered the tiles. The furniture was over stuffed in the same orange and pink with black and purple added to the mix. A bar was on one side, gleaming with carved wood in ornate forms of naked nymphs. She could see it was well stocked. A large stone fireplace centered the room, a fire already blazing. On the walls were paintings of idealized scenes from the local landscape. She wondered sarcastically why they hadn’t painted in all the dirt.
Making her way to what she assumed was the bedroom, she peeled off her coat and dropped it on a couch. Stopping in her tracks she looked at where she’d sleep.
Her suite was luxurious, expensive and spotlessly clean but hideously tacky with garish colors and too many different fabrics. It was the local’s idea of what outsiders would consider impressive. The large bed was a sea of yellow and black satin pillows. The thick quilted bedspread was a checkered purple and black with yellow fringe. Velvet ropes were wound around each bedpost. For binding arms and legs no doubt. Looking up above the bed she saw mirrors. The whole damn ceiling was covered with mirrors as well as two of the walls. Thick purple carpet covered the floors. The furnishings were high gloss wood covered in what looked to be an inch thick of varnish giving it an artificial look.
She stood on the bed and checked out the mirrors. One way, thank goodness. She scanned the room looking for any peepholes or spying devices. It was clean as far as she could tell. She usually didn’t check but it was different here.
Olivia settled in her rooms alone. She ordered up food. When it arrived served by good looking silver haired man of indeterminate age. He could have been 35 or 55. She couldn’t tell. He pleasantly introduced himself as the manager of the place. He explained the many services, including services of one of their trained professionals in case she wanted male companionship. She politely declined.
“I can service you personally madam. You won’t be disappointed,” he added with a dazzling smile.
“Thanks but I’m kind of tired tonight.”
“A relaxing massage might do the trick. It would be my pleasure.”
“I just need to be alone right now.”
“As you wish Miss Snowhawk. Call me if you need anything at all.“
“Thanks for the offer. Goodnight,” she said with a warm smile. As disgusted as she was, she knew he was a trained professional, just doing his job. This place was insane. Then she slipped him a generous tip to assure she’d be left undisturbed and ushered him out the door.
Thinking she should have joined the others, she quickly changed her mind. She wasn’t in any mood to socialize with anyone. She checked her messages then tried to call Simon. There was no answer so she left a message for her best friend.
“I am in Allegory Simon, yes Allegory, and I am none too happy about it. And by the way, what the hell possessed you to tell Prince Alexander about my relationship with Alaric? My love life, past or present is none of his fucking business or yours for that matter. Thanks for stabbing me in the back.”
She turned off her machine still angry at her closest friend. How dare he tell Alexander about her most private moments? How could Simon, her own Simon, betray her like that?
She made another call to Richard Long, the owner of the second largest newspaper in the country. Again, she started to leave a message.
“Rich, it’s Liv. I’m in Allegory as part of Prince Alexander’s official delegation. You’ll get the full and exclusive story when we get out of here. In the meantime watch your back.” Her voice softened almost to a whisper. “If anything happens to you I… just be careful, alright.”
Richard answered sounding stunned. “Slow down. You’re in Allegory? For God’s sake get out of there before they kill you.”
Tears welled in her eyes at the sound of his voice. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath then continued. “You don’t understand. I’m with Prince Alexander, on his trip, you know, the trip he was suppose to be on with my brother.”
Olivia heard a sultry voiced woman in the background. “Who is it Richie?”
Olivia’s face grew flushed at the sound of the other woman’s voice. Resisting the urge to say something rude, she filled him in. “We left from Jake’s yesterday. I took Justin’s place. It was a last minute thing, that’s why nobody knows about it yet.”
“Can I print this?”
“No, don’t print anything in the next 48 hours unless you hear from Simon or me. Contact Simon in the morning. He’ll fill you in on the details. I’ll give you the exclusive story on the trip. Richard, I had to hear your voice. I had to make sure you were alive.”
Olivia heard the woman in the background again trying to coax Richard back to whatever he’d been doing with her. He snapped at the woman, telling her to back off.
“Just a second,” he said gently to Olivia. She could hear his footsteps as he left the room. “Olivia, baby, are you alright?”
“I’m with Prince Alexander and Tom, I’ll be fine,” she whispered as she held back more tears. The sound of his voice left her emotions raw. “I don’t want to be here, but I made a commitment to work with Alexander.”
“Forget Alexander, come home now.”
She cut him off. “No, I can’t. Just be careful Richard. I have a bad feeling something is going to happen…something isn’t right.”
“What? Tell me.”
“Add more security to your office and get more security on your home tonight. Please, just do it.”
“What is going on?”
“I don’t know. Listen, I have to go. I’ll call you when I get out of here. See Simon first thing tomorrow. Promise me you will.”
“Sure, I’ll see Simon in the morning.” There was a pause as they both waited for the other to speak. “Olivia, I still…”
She cut him off. “Your girlfriend is waiting. Be careful”.
She signed off not giving him a chance to respond. He called back but she didn’t answer. She went to the bathroom sink feeling like she was going to throw up. A chill ran through her body as she stood trying not to shake. Taking a deep breath she returned to the garish sitting room.
Olivia sat by the window alone, unable to concentrate on anything. She didn’t want to think about Simon or Richard or everything else she’d left behind before she rearranged her entire life to take this horrible mistake of a trip. There was no Jake to come in to sooth her soul and rub her shoulders. Hannah was miles in Ravenswood with her perfect wonderful husband. Annie was in Meadow Creek dreaming about Price Jeff. She tried to read but put the book down after a half page. Her thoughts drifted to Alexander. Despite the fact that she didn’t like him, Olivia thought of how awful it would be to have to marry someone you didn’t love.
She knew the living hell of being with someone who was physically beautiful but the thought of his touch repulsive. Did he love Perfect Real Princess Candi? He was defensive enough but it didn’t sound like love to her, more of a political contract than anything.
She wondered if Alexander and Candi had become lovers. Maybe, but what from what his friends said it sounded like he wasn’t overly thrilled with the prospect. But the papers had reports each day of their activities together. Images of the two smiling and holding hands were plastered across the front pages. It was enough to make a sane person want to throw up. It was enough to make any woman with half a brain want to scream, but it was all anyone talked about. Everyone was in love with Alexander, and Alexander was reported to maybe be in love.
There had always been lists of women Alexander might end up with, speculations and gossip. She knew several of his former girlfriends including Ellie, Princess Viola and Misty Barnes – all beautiful Real Princesses. All were successful women in their own rights. That’s why it seemed so odd that he’d be with someone like Candi,
She recalled the night Simon had told her about the match with Candi. She’d had him and Ellie over for cocktails. Simon and Ellie were both devastated about the news. Ellie had been in tears for most of the night, completely inconsolable. They’d even tried to get their powerful parents to come out against the union with no luck. What bothered them the most was the fact that Alexander seemed resigned to the fact that he would have to marry a woman that had been chosen for him by the King and Queen.
Olivia thought it was odd that neither Simon or Ellie had ever tried to fix Alexander up with anyone, but then again, aside from Alaric Shadowford, they’d always stayed out of her love life as well. Then again, aside from Alaric, they’d liked all of her former boyfriends, at least as far as she knew.
Olivia wondered who Simon would have picked out for Alexander. It certainly wouldn’t have been Princess Kitti’s simple, uncomplicated daughter. Simon would pick a woman who was tall, beautiful and confidant like Ellie. She would also be smart and politically successful with good connections. Most of all she would be of flawless reputation with nothing to hide. Olivia could think of a dozen women who would qualify. “Nobody like me.” Thought Olivia in disgust. “What an awful weight it must be to be perfect.”
An image came into her head of Alexander talking to the men from the Royal Guard that morning. He was their leader, in charge, in absolute control, with absolute confidence. His dark hair was swept off his face, each and every strand in order. Despite a day of traveling, his clothes were immaculate. His green eyes sparkled with excitement about going down that vile garishly decorated road to Allegory.
Then he had looked at her, a longer than comfortable, lingering glance that ended in a perfect mocking smile. She had smiled back with a mock sweetness dripping with sarcasm that only made him laugh. His laugh wasn’t a sneering laugh. It was full of fun and joy.
What was with this guy? One minute he’s flustered at having a woman along to spoil his fun and the next he’s the most confident, self-assured, in-charge man alive. She felt her stomach starting to cramp.
Her thoughts jumped to the party she had given the night of the arrival of Princess Candi. It had been a mock-engagement party for her well-connected politically liberal and not so liberal friends in Meadow Creek. She stared out the window, thinking about the toasts she made and her now infamous slightly drunken speech about true love and the barbarians. It was all in good fun, plus she’d gotten the reaction she’d wanted.
Everything was perfect. Her new dress had come in the day before. It fit like a glove. She’d worked hard during the past year so she’d be able to wear dresses like that.
The chandelier in the grand dining room with a thousand crystal dragonflies was what she was so proud of. She’d had it custom made of her own design. It was a spurge but one she could afford and deserved. Rumors abounded about it – the design, the cost, and the dazzling display that out dazzled all others. And now, this party would be the perfect time to light it for the first time for all of her friends.
Then there was the food. She smiled knowing she’d stolen Alexander’s personal chef to work for Universal Technologies. The man’s wife worked for one of the large fashion houses in Meadow Creek so it only made sense that he come to work for Olivia. The spread was magnificent – it was almost too beautiful to eat.
One of her guests was her old friend Richard Long, the good looking, witty, 40ish owner of the second largest newspaper in the country, the Meadow Creek Recorder. Over the years of their close friendship she had often fantasized he might be the one she’d one day vow her life long love to. Several months before, after attending the theater, friendship turned in another direction. As they walked through the park on the way back to his carriage he had kissed her, long passionate take-your-breath-away kisses. Without shame or hesitation his hands had explored her body over the delicate fabric of her evening dress. He whispered promises of more to come. He told her he was falling in love with her.
An hour later she was in his bed. Under the pretense of caring he’d weaseled all the information he could out of her. Safely in his arms she’d told him her secrets. He kissed away her tears and made love to her again so slowly and yet so passionately that she thought she would melt underneath him.
They spent the weekend together immersed in each other. He told her that he loved her over and over. She couldn’t remember ever being so happy. Weeks passed and neither one seemed to have time free. She was dealing with distasteful legal business in The Capitol. He was traveling for the newspaper.
Finally they were both back in town, free to continue where they had left off.
The day of the party all she could think of was Richard. It had been years since she’d been so in love with a man. She had planned out every detail of that night’s seduction of Richard Long right down to her scanty lace underwear and the extra pillows on her bed. In anticipation she’d freed her calendar of everything for the rest of the weekend, except Richard.
Much to her surprise he showed up with a date – a tall gorgeous blonde, a well known professional model, with a sweet disposition and an exceptionally lewd portfolio.
Olivia was the perfect hostess, graciously greeting the couple without the slightest hint of her own feelings. With 80 guests she was able to avoid Richard most of the evening.
When Richard finally found her alone he told her “You are so sexy. I love being with you Olivia, but you’re too complicated. ”
She tried to reason with him but then he said, “I need a woman who is simple and easy, someone I can marry.”
She lied and with a smile told him that she understood. They agreed that they would always be friends. He gave her a brotherly kiss on the cheek, but three months later it still stung like a slap in the face.
The day after the party, the social column of the Meadow Creek Recorder gave a lavish account of the amazing event, including her new chandelier with over 5000 crystal dragonflies. He also mentioned how brilliant, beautiful and amusing the hostess was, no doubt as an attempt to placate her feelings. He wrote that it was the Meadow Creek social success of the season, a fitting tribute to Prince Alexander. The column dripped with flattery. In the pictures she looked happy and beautifully flawless. A day later the column, including her picture, was picked up by newspapers in The Capitol and other major markets.
Richard’s words came back to her mind again “I need a woman who is simple and easy, someone I can marry.” She couldn’t be simple or easy. She couldn’t believe she’d allowed herself to give her heart to Richard Long.
“You don’t deserve me you prick,” she said aloud, her eyes filling with tears.
Thinking again of the call she’d just made to him her face grew hot. She tried to him out of her mind but it was impossible. His smile, his laugh, the way he made the room light up when he came near her. Curing up in the chair, alone in a God forsaken town, trying to forget every man she’d ever known, Olivia Snowhawk cried herself to sleep.
Yellow sparks swirled in the fireplace. Engulfed in a phantom’s vision, Olivia stood on a tower looking at her beloved Crystal Mountains. Her traditional dress was the softest of deep blue wool with leather trim, formfitting with a plunging neckline. Her brown hair hung in loose curls down past her knees. The large ceremonial rings of her great-great grandmother were on her fingers. As always, Robert stood next to her, handsome and protective. Tonight she could see the faint white scar along his jaw line. Her finger ran gently across the old wound. He smiled and spoke to her in a comforting voice “From your newspaper man to Prince Alexander – they all want simple, easy, uncomplicated women. You’ll never find a man in your new country who will appreciate you. Come home where you belong. Come home to your rightful place in the Crystal Mountains.” He gently kissed her “Make love to me tonight, even if it’s just a beautiful illusion.”
She backed away from him. “Damn you, stay out of my dreams.”
Olivia woke in anger. Her tiny lamp had gone out. She got a drink of water and almost spit it out. Even the water in Allegory had an off flavor. “Everything about this place stinks” she thought.
Being here made her think too much about her past. The rest of the trip will be great, she thought trying to think herself out of her bad mood. She was looking forward to the other stops, especially the time in Riverbend. She couldn’t wait to lecture at the University and touch bases with old friends. She relit the blue flames in the small lamp and took it to the bedroom.
She woke well before sunrise, still wearing her reading glasses with a book open on the bed next to her. She’d managed three hours of sleep; enough to function in what she hoped would be a quick uneventful day.
Knowing nobody else in her party was awake yet she worked on an upcoming lecture she was schedule to give in Riverbend. Around 7:00 am a girl came to her door with a tray of tea and pastries.
“What else can I do for you my lady?” She inquired.
“Get me the hell out of here.” She thought as she smiled and thanked the girl with a generous tip.
As much as she missed him, Olivia cursed Justin for setting up this trip in the first place. She cursed Logan for not calling it off after his accident. But most of all she cursed Simon for asking her to be the replacement. Handling Logan would have been easy. He was familiar with Universal Technologies and he knew how they operated. Logan would have treated her like an equal unlike Alexander who seemed hell bent on turning her into his doormat.
There was so much that needed to be done. I don’t have time for this, she muttered under her breath, still furious about Alexander’s attitude. A panic swept over her. Her citizenship papers would arrive while she was out. Damn it to hell. She didn’t risk having them forwarded. She didn’t dare risk word getting out to her brother or father that she would finally be a citizen of her adopted country.
Wrapping her cape around herself Olivia walked across the long courtyard to meet up with Alexander and the rest of her party. She suddenly felt alone. Not the quiet solitude she longed for but a cold, heart-breaking, empty kind of lonely.
Her mind went back to that turning point in her life, when she was only seventeen, a few weeks after she arrived at the University in Riverbend. It was her first time out of the Crystal Mountains, a foreigner in a strange country. She walked across the campus in a long fur trimmed leather coat, with a bag of heavy books slung over her shoulder. Her hair, elaborately braided with ribbons, reached past her knees. She noticed the sleek wool coats and swept up hair styles worn by the local girls and suddenly felt self conscious. Not wanting to go back to her cold rooms alone, she slipped into the campus tea house for an evening with her books. Scanning the room for a quiet corner, she found the only available seat was in a small booth by the window occupied by an auburn haired young man. He was reading a large volume on economics. Despite his wire framed glasses he was extraordinarily handsome. Self-consciously she asked him if she could share the booth with him. He took off his glasses looked up with cold ice blue eyes, then melted her with his beautiful smile. When he mentioned her accent and the four earrings she wore in each ear Olivia was afraid he’d reject her for being different, but instead of rejection he invited her to join him. She had no idea who he was but soon found out he was the outcast son of one of the most powerful lords in the land. He learned she was the exiled daughter of one of the most influential men in the new government of the Crystal Mountain Republic.
They talked for hours and shared their stories of dysfunctional families and failures. She told him things she’d never dared to tell anyone else. Despite her thick accent he understood her and listened without judgment as she spilled out everything that she’d locked up so tightly in her young heart. He took her hand in his and told her not to be afraid of anything ever again.
Later that evening she took him back to her rooms. He lost his innocence that night and she regained hers. They helped each other heal their young hearts. They were too much alike for the chemistry to be there for a lifelong love affair, but they became the closest of friends. Their minds worked together like a machine or like magic depending on what their projects were. She wished Simon was here now to handle Alexander for her and calm her fears.
Taking a sideways glance at her reflection in a window she saw a pretty, well-dressed woman, but she knew Alexander wouldn’t be attracted to her. That was the last thing she needed. She was pretty enough, but definitely not Alexander’s type. From what she understood, he liked statuesque women with the kind of perfect flawless beauty that took one’s breath away.
She glanced at her reflection one last time. One look at my scars and he’d be totally emasculated. The way he stared at the scar on her hand at Jakes’ was enough to give her an advanced preview of that. She smiled grimly imagining the shocked look on his face if he saw her undressed. Oh well, there were more than enough perfect women around to fill his every shallow need and desire.
The smell of burning garbage floated through the air. There was nothing beautiful about the residents of Allegory. The town was populated by narrow minded mean spirited people, who would rather die than better their lives or those their children. Dog fights and brothels were the prime sources for entertainment. It used to be public floggings, rape and torture of just about anybody they could find who was different but they were forced to stop the practice. This place was an anomaly in a country with a culture of free ideas and equality.
Years ago the mayor of the Allegory had protested Florien’s marriage to Hyacinth due to the fact that she was from the technological advanced but socially corrupt country of the Crystal Mountains. Florien sent them the letter saying that he had found happiness and true love with a daughter of Starfire.
Olivia smiled when she thought of Starfire. When she was a child she dreamed of being just like her, a beautiful romantic vision, a leader of her people, a visionary, a woman who found true love. Starfire, the former ruler of the Crystal Mountains who over 100 years ago, set a spell so that all of the descendents of the Florien’s great grandfather would find true and lasting love. She wondered why Starfire didn’t set the same spell for her own dysfunctional family.
Hyacinth wasn’t a descendant of Starfire by a long shot, but it made a good romantic story. Besides, Hyacinth was declared a Real Princess so nobody in their right mind would even dream of questioning her marriage to Florien. Olivia could never figure out what that was about. Alexander was named after his great uncle, the man Starfire had loved with a passion that still burned bright 100 years after their deaths. How pathetic that he should marry someone like Candi who was nothing like Starfire.
Olivia had heard from friends in high places that the real reason Lord Mayor of Allegory had objected to Florien’s marriage to the mysterious Hyacinth is because he had wanted his distant cousin the beautiful 16 year old Princess Kitti of the Lavender Forest to marry the 22 year old Florien. Along with the ugly connections grew hate for anything out of the Crystal Mountains.
Stories of the war in the Crystal Mountains broke through. Tales of the technological genius of the Snowhawk clan and their push towards the equality of all citizens didn’t set well with the leadership of Allegory either. The men of Allegory blindly supported the more violent followers of the Baron and their brutal actions against women. An obscene fantasy, Olivia thought in disgust.
Ninety years ago Allegory had been founded by and still attracted members of the Redemption Cult. The group was started by a charismatic visionary who gained mental and physical power over his followers. He took their wives and daughters as his own. His followers were taught that both magic and technology were evil. They worshiped the divinity of the King and the rise of a male dominated society. Birth control and physical pleasure was dismissed as evil among married women, so brothels flourished. Sex and the degraded role of women became the center around which their culture moved. At the age of thirteen girls were chosen by the elders as either wives or whores, their fate sealed without question. There were few other respectable options for the women of Allegory.
To the citizens of Allegory, Olivia represented the evils of technology and the bad influence of independent women. She was a from the technologically savvy Snowhawk clan of the Crystal Mountains, a fact that could never be forgiven. Those were three strikes they had against her. Three strikes she knew they would use to attempt to bring her down in the eyes of their prince.
Her mind drifted to Michael. She was almost afraid to let Michael go out unescorted with his long dark hair and green eyes and trendy unconventional clothes. She told him to wear his tinted glasses and pull his hair back.
Olivia walked into the large conference room where Alexander and a large delegation of the Allegory leaders were assembled. As usual Alexander didn’t have a hair out of place. Beautifully dressed in shades of brown that highlighted his green eyes, he was almost perfect. He looked her way and with a warm smile beckoned her to enter the room.
She held her head high and an amused smile came to her face. It was show time. The self-confident presence of Olivia Snowhawk, President of Universal Technologies filled the room. She quickly spotted Michael was also in black leather from head to toe. His hair was tied back at Olivia’s request. The blue stone on his wedding ring sparkled in the torchlight.
Olivia gave him a quick wink. “Your stone is shining so bright because she’s thinking of you.” A big grin came to his face.
Alexander approached them, wondering what the smiles were all about. He couldn’t believe this was the apprehensive woman he had seen the day before. She looked like she owned the place.
“Olivia, Michael, I’m so glad to see you.”
Michael smiled and shook Alexander’s hand. Olivia gave a slight bow of her head and smiled sweetly. “I hate this place. The town motto should be Embrace Ignorance.”
“You do sarcasm so well my dear,” Alexander replied with a smile, he put her hand on his arm and led them to Tom.
Alexander then went to mingle with the Lord Mayor of Allegory, an imposing giant of a man, six and a half feet tall, with a massive muscular build. His face was angular and strong with squinting blue eyes. As the prince approached, he removed a garish floppy hat covered with red feathers, revealing pale short cropped hair. These people had to be the tackiest dressed society she’d ever seen. A wide grin, that made Olivia think of a frog, covered the Lord Mayor’s face when he saw Alexander. Olivia looked on in disgust.
Tom gently took Olivia’s hand and led her to the podium. “Alexander requested you give an introduction. You’ll speak after me.”
“No, I’m not comfortable here.”
“How many dozens of times have you been the keynote speaker at conferences? Come on, audiences love to hear you.”
“This audience doesn’t want to hear from me,” she answered quietly.
“It will show them we’re serious about women having an important place in leadership.”
“I don’t have anything prepared.”
“Not being prepared has never been a handicap for you. You thrive on this sort of thing.”
“Tom, this is not a good idea.”
“It’s an excellent idea. Come on Olivia, you’ll score big points with Alexander.”
“Alright, a few generic words.” She took off a bracelet of tiny silver bells and shoved it in Tom’s hand. “Hold this for me.”
Tom gave a quick introduction to the day’s events then introduced Olivia. She walked to the podium and stood beside it so they could see she wasn’t about to hid behind anything. The group before her was obviously not pleased to see her, a foreign woman speaking before them, on behalf of their prince. Despite the hostility she felt a rush of excitement. She was the center of attention and at that moment, in charge.
Olivia smiled looking over the group to Alexander. He gave a slight smile and a nod of approval. I hate you Alexander, she thought as she sweetly smiled back at him.
Alexander half expected jeers or disrespectful noise from the men of Allegory, as Olivia stood before the group looking as if she owned the place. The room was still and silent. In a strong voice without hint of an accent she spoke with an assured and confident tone that held the room.
Thank you Lord Mayor and to the esteemed counsel of Allegory for your hospitality and good will.
Twelve years ago, when I immigrated to this country, I had the honor of meeting with King Florien. He told me that his greatest joys in life were getting to know his people and sharing that joy with his children.
Prince Alexander is truly his father’s son, a man who loves his people. He embodies that love and respect as a man of honor and trust. Taking the lessons he learned from King Florien, Alexander has spent his life in service to his people, not just the people of The Capitol and the court, but to everyone in this land. He is a visionary who will honor your way of life, values and concerns.
By embarking on this journey of rediscovery, on the eve of his long awaited marriage to a Real Princess, Prince Alexander proves, once again, that the concerns and care of you, the citizens of this land, will always come first.
There was a round of applause and cheers. Trying not to look surprised, she paused and glanced at Alexander again. Her brain was drawing nothing but blanks. Now it was time to really spread thick the lies.
I can’t begin to tell you how pleased Alexander was when he announced this unexpected detour to Allegory and the chance to experience for himself the unique spirit of this truly invigorating city. On such a bitterly cold winter day, the enthusiastic welcome from the citizens of your city warmed the hearts of all in the royal party.
So to you, the esteemed citizens of Allegory I am honored to introduce Prince Alexander of the Northwest Kingdom.
As the group cheered for their prince, Olivia stepped back, Alexander lightly kissed her on the cheek and took center stage. This morning was uncomfortable enough without the warm touch of his lips lingering on her face. That was weird. She’d said a lot of generic glob about him and in turn he pretended they on warm and fuzzy terms.
Olivia heard Alexander start to speak but his words soon became mindless background noise. A brain splitting headache pounded in her head. Digging her fingernails into the palms of her hands she attempted to maintain her composure. From years of practice she managed to keep a slight relaxed smile on her face. She wouldn’t allow anyone to see her pain. As the throbbing in her head increased, she refocused her gaze on the Alexander’s handsome face. Her eyes migrated to his shoulders and the perfect cut of his jacket, then down to his well polished boots and back up to his shoulders.
He is perfect and he knows it, she thought, as her headache suddenly vanished. Glancing at the clock she noticed that almost an hour had gone by.
As the audience cheered their prince, he stepped down and went to Olivia. She hoped he wouldn’t ask her to comment on what he’d said.
“Thank you for the lovely introduction. I never knew you had met my father,” said Alexander.
“Your father, is a wonderful man,” Olivia sounded tired. Her accent came out stronger than usual
“Yes, he is a wonderful man. What happened to your accent when you were introducing me? You sounded like a local.”
“In some locations I’m more welcome if I sound like the native population. Some still tend be suspicious of outsiders.”
“You’re very good at it.”
“Ever try acting?”
“No, I’ve been told I’m too dramatic.”
He smiled at her joke, if it was a joke. She gave him a slight smile back. He wondered if she was going to finally warm up to him.
“What’s on your agenda for today?” he asked.
“Michael and I planned on doing a little exploring around this miserable dump, you know, sort of a study on how completely disgusting selected human societies can become,” she answered.
Alexander ignored her sarcasm. “Is that wise? This isn’t a safe place for outsiders.”
“I appreciate your over concern with safety but like you pointed out yesterday, I’m good with a knife,” she answered a little too cool.
Olivia was so sure of herself that it was maddening. Alexander was glad he had made plans to keep her occupied so she’d be both out of his way and out of trouble.
He stepped closer to her taking her always cold hand in his. He could feel her tighten up. “Olivia, before you go exploring, there’s someone you need to meet with.”
“I’m not interested in socializing with any of the good citizens of Allegory.”
“I’m wouldn’t dream of asking you to do that. This is strictly business. Jet Gilroy, a private security and communications specialist had planned on meeting with Justin and Logan. Jet does classified business with some of our government interests in the South. He’s here this morning. I’ve scheduled you and Michael to meet with him. I told Jet you’d meet him at the Dogwood Inn at 10:00.”
She pulled her hand away from his. “That is just fifteen minutes from now.”
“Then you’d better grab Michael and get over there. I told Jet you’d be more than happy to accommodate him. You can give me a full report on it tomorrow.” He saw her eyes narrow. “Don’t give me that damn you Prince Alexander look. Do this for me. I’ll return the favor later.”
“Returned favor or not, it appears that I don’t have a choice in the matter. Good day Alexander. I’ll see you tonight at the reception.” she said with a slight bow of her head. She ran her hands through her hair and shook her head slightly, then smoothed out her already immaculate coat as she left the room.
“Olivia.” he called back to her.
She spun around, anger flashing in her eyes. “What else?”
He winked at her. “You look great.”
“I’m sure I do.” She shot back giving him a look that could kill. Then she left in search of Michael.
What an odd one he thought. Even in Allegory she can warm hearts, but turns cold to me.
The Dogwood Inn was a comfortable three story establishment catered outsiders. It was the preferred place for out of town visitors, those not associated with the local government or the cult. Unlike most of the buildings near the main meeting center was that it was clean on the exterior, with beautifully carved doors, etched windows and an inside garden courtyard.
Olivia and Michael were met at the door of a private meeting room by a tall charming man who looked to be in his forties with a wild mane of glossy black hair streaked in the front with a few strands of grey. A thick mustache had more grey. His blue eyes were highlighted with fine lines that appeared to be laugh lines, if nothing else. His skin had a deep tan that set off his sharp features.
He looked thoroughly amused to see Olivia and Michael.
“Ms Snowhawk, Mr. Taylor, so good of you to meet us on such short notice. I’m Jet Gilroy,” he greeted them warmly with a pronounced Silver Lakes accent.
Jet led them to a back room with a large fireplace and large table. A row of small windows showed out to a tangle of old roses hedges. Two large, well dressed men stood to greet them.
“Let me introduce my associates Carlon Gray and Hal Rivers. Carlon is our expert in the personal security end of the business. Hal is our financial wizard, so to speak,” said Jet with a smile to Olivia and Michael.
Like Jet, both men were tall and muscular. Carlon Gray was in his late thirties, blonde, blue eyed and good looking in a rugged square jawed sort of way, with the build of a fighter and the signs of a once broken nose. A thin scar running the length of his chin made her wonder if he’d acquired it on the job. Hal Rivers was younger with short sandy blonde colored curls, wearing glasses with fashionable green frames accenting large his golden brown eyes. Hal would be a big hit with the trendy young women in Meadow Creek, Olivia thought to herself.
They made introductions along with the usual obligatory small talk as they settled around a large table. Olivia was feeling impatient to get started. Yes, the weather was cold, business was great, we’re excited about the River Conference, Prince Alexander is a great guy, whatever. Olivia took a deep breath and smiled. Yes, everything would be easy now that she was away from Alexander.
Jet explained his situation. “We have a client with outposts in the south near the toxic zones. We’d like to discuss what we might do for them. Perhaps some custom communication systems.”
Olivia allowed Michael to take the lead in both charm and technology talk while she observed the reactions of their host. There was something familiar about Jet Gilroy she couldn’t quite pin point. Aside from the unusually beautiful hair, he was nice enough looking, but there was something about the way he moved and the honey smooth sound of his voice that made him extremely attractive in an odd sort of way she couldn’t explain to herself. Maybe it was the Silver Lakes accent that most women couldn’t resist with all the promises of luxury and leisure that their refined culture so valued.
Her headache had come back making it was tough for her to concentrate on business at hand. Without thinking she studied the fabric of Jet’s coat. It was something she did when she couldn’t keep her mind on anything. The textures and patterns kept her mind off of the pain that no amount of drugs or alcohol could dull. One ear was still set with the discussion, but her mind went to the pattern on Jet Gilroy’s jacket..
Jet’s coat was a small black on black stripe with a hint of blue of some sort of finely woven expensive Silver Lakes wool. It was the finest wool in the world from sheep as sweet tempered and soft as an animal could be. Down the sleeves to the black trimmed cuffs, she noticed his well groomed hands. He’d had a ring on his right hand recently. Why did he take it off? She wondered if it had been of sentimental value or if it had identified him as the member of an organization. Maybe he’d recently broken up with the woman who had given it to him. A nasty divorce recently? It must have been. Most people in the Silver Lakes region wore their wedding rings on the right hand, rather than the left like everyone else. The wizard in her could sense a faint tragic tinge of a broken heart in him. She wondered what the woman looked like and if they had children together. Did the children look like him with black hair and eyes the color of a tropical sea? Did she break Jet’s heart when she ran away with a lover? Had she died a tragic and untimely death? No it wasn’t death or he’d still be wearing the ring. She’d more than likely torn his heart into shreds and left him alone and dazed, wondering what happened.
Fingering her own moonstone ring Olivia felt the pain edging down her neck to her right shoulder. She wished she was in her own office at Universal Technologies, or better yet sleeping out the storm in her own bed. She imagined her cat Ink curled up at her feet, the sound of the rain on the roof, a pot of peppermint tea with a touch of honey. Or a long hot bath and a glass of wine with a good book, a mystery maybe, just watching the rain over the trees and gardens behind her home…
Michael’s voice jerked her back into reality. “What is your client’s exact business in the south?” he asked.
Jet answered in a calm smooth voice. “They need communications networks with medical resources with a high degree of security. The objective of this mission and name of our client is confidential at this point. Let’s just say its preventative measures to make sure things stay clean and legal. We feel Universal can combine technology with legal wizardry to create the customized systems we need.”
Jet looked at Olivia, a hint of a smile turned on the corners of his mouth. “Have you been to the southern regions Ms Snowhawk?”
“No.” she answered not elaborating on it. She’d had enough of travel in the worst parts of the Northern Hemisphere without taking her chances to the South. Jet asked her about shipping. She told him they could ship anywhere, and send technical staff to train their clients, even in forbidden areas, North and South. She wouldn’t elaborate on it. Universal Technologies operated in enough countries that they could do whatever they wanted. That was information she wouldn’t share with Jet Gilroy.
Centuries ago large parts of the southern hemisphere had been polluted by careless societies and ill thought technological advances. The Starlings had all but sealed the area off and disbanded any local government centers. It was now sparsely inhabited. There were a few towns, several large prisons, and nomadic tribes of traders, and of course the scientific research outposts, including several from Universal Technologies. Most wizardry had been banned from the area as well as. Olivia had dealt with most of the technology clients in that area as well as a few traders in unusual goods. She could understand at this stage why Gilroy had kept the name of his client confidential.
“Exactly how confidential is the name of your client? There is already a good chance it is someone we’ve worked with before, or at least have working knowledge,” Olivia asked.
It was quiet. Michael set down a pencil. It rolled across the table. Olivia glanced over, making it stop before it rolled off the edge. What a waste of good wizardry. “I can respect the wish for your client’s confidentiality, but if we do work for you, we’ll need to know everyone involved.”
Jet smiled. “When the time comes, you’ll know everything.”
“Is your client legitimate? Universal Technologies will only work with clients who are completely legal and in good standing with the licensing boards for the South.”
“They have high connections with the government of the Northwestern Kingdom.”
“Very well,” said Olivia. “I’ll look forward to meeting them.”
Michael pulled his laptop out of the bag and began pounding out options and calculations. Diagrams were drawn. Questions were asked. Olivia was impressed with the amount of knowledge and ideas from Jet Gilroy and his associates. She wondered if she could persuade any of them to quit their current occupations and join forces with Universal Technologies International. Occasionally she took notes and added to Michael’s comments but for the most part observed. From time to time Jet or Carlon got up to take messages from the outside. Olivia wondered what other business they had, but didn’t ask about it. Even though her head still swam in a pain induced fog but she’d learned over the years how to keep her ears open to key words and warnings.
Michael had run the routine systems and the latest technologies on the market.
After almost three hours of talk and an invitation to Meadow Creek to meet with some specialist Jet ordered food and drink for the group. The subject quickly changed from business to Allegory.
“Communications were down all over the region just a few days ago,” said Jet Gilroy.
“We’re investigating it,” said Olivia.
“Do you think it was sabotage?”
“Yes I do.”
“I read the expose yesterday in the Meadow Creek Recorder about the possibilities of the Cult here in Allegory being behind it. You weren’t quoted directly, but it was implied you agreed,” said Jet.
“Implied? I haven’t had time to read the paper much less speculate on rumors of my own opinion.” Olivia jotted a note in her native language to call Richard Long and tell him never to even hint at her opinions unless she gave permission in writing.
Jet leaned back with a smile “I understand you employ more than a few wizards to help with your special projects.”
“We do combine magic with technology to create a superior product. As you know, technology can be tampered with, but a good spell can last forever.” Again she could feel a twinge of something uncomfortable in him. Maybe he had problems with wizards.
“Wasn’t Master Wizard Hannah Crow contracted to do work on a project? No, that wasn’t it. Now I remember, you were writing a book together.”
“Hannah and I are working on a book. It doesn’t have anything to do with Universal Technologies.”
“I’m sure you aren’t at liberty to talk about that either. Hannah Crow is a talented wizard. Having her name associated with anything would be an asset.”
“She’s the best. I take it you’re acquainted with her.”
“I’m sorry to say the path of Jet Gilroy has never crossed that of the beautiful and accomplished Hannah Crow.” He smiled and said no more on the subject. “I’m surprised Prince Alexander and Lord Thomas brought you to this charming town of Allegory,” Jet then mentioned sarcastically.
“We are too,” said Michael, always ready to jump in with an opinion.
“Have you ever been anywhere so appalling,” said Hal, giving Olivia a glance.
Olivia answered, without giving Michael a chance to blurt out another blunt opinion. “Yes, I have, but that isn’t part of our discussion for today. Michael and I are not visiting Allegory in any official capacity with Universal Technologies International. We’re here with Prince Alexander, as official members of the Royal party.”
“I hear you were suppose to be in the Trinity Valley today.”
Olivia was surprised he knew this but didn’t show it. “Our plans unfortunately changed. With any luck we’ll be there tomorrow night.”
“The Trinity valley will seem all the more sweeter, now that you’ve spent time in Allegory,” Jet said as he leaned back in his chair, giving Olivia an amused smile.
“We’ve been talking for over three hours about the needs of your clients in the south. I’m still curious to know, Mr. Gilroy, what exactly is your business here, in Allegory? You could have met with us in a more desirable location,” Olivia asked back at him, not taking the bait to get personal.
“The Lord Mayor has hired us for our security consulting services. Of course, our interest in you and Universal Technologies has nothing to do with anything in Allegory. I’ve been in contact with your brother Justin for some time. Having the opportunity to meet with you is has been a more than pleasant surprise.”
Jet looked at Olivia in a way that made her feel undressed. She felt as though she gone into her soul and was looking for something. She quickly blocked out the thought. There had been too many changes and distractions. The past two days had been almost insane. Had it been another time or place she would have welcomed the sport but now was not the time or place to start into a flirtation.
“When did you meet Justin?” She wondered at the reference to her twin. Justin had never mentioned Jet Gilroy.
“Last year in Aurora Lake. We’ve kept in touch.”
“My brother never mentioned you.”
Jet shrugged with an all knowing amused look. He looked at her, straight in the eyes. “How do you like working with Prince Alexander?”
“It is an honor for Universal Technologies.” She answered with a warm smile, despite that fact that right now she felt anything but honored.
Jet lowered his voice. “I’m sure it is, but how do you like working with him on a personal level?”
She wanted to say she thought Alexander was arrogant, sexist and out of touch with reality, but she had to be diplomatic. “Prince Alexander is demanding to say the least, but always charming. I’m looking forward to helping him become reacquainted with the people of this region.”
“I was surprised the Queen let him leave The Capitol, considering his engagement to Princess Candi.”
“Impending engagement,” said Michael
Olivia glanced at her young companion in hopes he’d just stop talking. “Prince Alexander’s first concern is his people. That always takes precedence over his personal life,” said Olivia
Jet smiled at Olivia. “What do you think of his impending engagement?”
She wasn’t going to give him the response she knew he wanted. With no emotion she answered Jet’s question. “I don’t know Alexander well enough to have an opinion about the matters of his heart.”
“Oh come on, you have to think something. Everyone is talking about it.”
“I’m not of your culture so my opinions will naturally be skewed towards finding real love rather than a real princess.”
“That’s right, you don’t have legal marriages in the Crystal Mountains.”
“In my native land we vow our love to each other in private. It is a matter of faith rather than the law. I don’t believe law and love should be mixed anymore than law and religion.”
“What about you Michael?” Jet asked.
Michael’s face lit up in a smile. “As a firm believer in marriage, I’m happy to admit that 8 months ago, I married for love. I hope Alexander does the same.”
Jet laughed. “I agree with both of you. It has to be for love. This business with Candi is all too easy. He needs to find his own girl in the woods, or better yet break an enchantment.” He looked straight again at Olivia. She coolly met his eyes and held his gaze until he looked away. She couldn’t help but smile at his romantic, if not misguided notions of what Alexander’s fate should be.
“You never know, stranger things have happened,” added Hal
Jet lifted his goblet and stood up from the table. “Here’s to true love.”
“To true love,” they all said in unison, except for Olivia who remained silent.
They took a break and stretched their legs. Hal and Carlon took Michael out to the courtyard to discuss new solar technologies.
Olivia found herself alone with Jet, but too tired to even think of clever conversation. She covered her mouth and yawned.
“Am I boring you?” Jet raised an eyebrow at her. “You seemed a little preoccupied earlier.”
“I’m just a little tired. I didn’t sleep well last night.”
“I’m not surprised. You’re out of place here Olivia. I’m sure it is dreadfully uncomfortable for you here.”
There it was again, like he already knew what had kept her awake. Like he knew her every thought before she said it out loud.
“It is uncomfortable, but I’m used to dealing with uncomfortable people and situations.” She stopped and changed the subject to avoid getting personal. “The next time you’re in Meadow Creek come by the Universal Technologies research facility. I’ll show you things you can’t even imagine in your wildest dreams.”
“I’m sure you will.” Jet said quietly, almost as if she’d propositioned him. “I hope I don’t make you uncomfortable.”
“No, not at all. Funny, it seems like we’ve met before, even though I know we haven’t.”
“I feel the same way, like I’ve known you before, in another time, another place.”
He took her left hand and kissed it then smiled. She suddenly went flushed like a young girl. Moving his hand on the small of her back Jet gently pulled her close. His lips lightly brushed hers. “I can tell you’re feeling unappreciated and alone. You’re a smart and beautiful woman Olivia. Prince Alexander is a fool to not appreciate the experience and expertise you bring to his mission.”
There again, it was if he could read her mind. He tenderly brushed his hand through her hair and smiled. His mouth met hers again, this time in a passionate lovers kiss. For a moment she lost herself in him. Her hands were in his hair. Her senses were flooded with him. She had lost control. “Who was this man?” She thought, but did nothing to stop herself. With one hand he unhooked the pin at the top of her blouse and ran his finger along her open collar.
She put her hand up to stop him. He locked his fingers in hers as a lover would do and held her hand to his chest.
“Don’t be afraid.” He whispered close to her ear. His mouth moved down her neck.
She could smell his hair, a mix of rare exotic woods with his own seductive masculine scent lingering in. Her body was taking control over her mind. She released her hand from his and put it on his chest but couldn’t make herself push him away. Closing her eyes she savored the heat of his body next to his.
“I can tell it’s been a long while since a man has touched you in the way you need to be touched.” He softly kissed her again. “A long time since you’ve been loved the way you deserve.”
Jet ran his hand across Olivia’s right shoulder. A cold chill set over an old scar, stabbing pain jolted through her. She jerked back into reality. Before she could move away Jet kissed her again, the pain vanished.
She was flushed and embarrassed. Her imagination was getting the best of her. She was running on three hours of sleep. Her judgment was shot. But damn it she did want more. She wanted to take him back to her room and tear his clothes off of him. How did he manage to get her to go down to that level? Everything in this journey had caught her off guard. Damn Jet, damn Alexander, damn Justin, damn every man she ever knew except Michael. It was freezing in the room. She hated this place and everything about it. Something was definitely wrong, very wrong.
“Why are you really here?” She demanded, pushing him away putting her hands on her hips.
Jet smiled. “Look at you, with your aggressive no nonsense stance.” He stepped closer to her. “I’m investigating for a private client.”
“Who is your client?”
“That is confidential information.”
“Lord Mayor of Allegory?”
“I have business with him as well, but it won’t conflict with anything that concerns Universal Technologies. I’m working with the government. That is all I can tell you.”
“Are you here to investigate me?”
He put his hands around her waist again pulling her close. Her knees almost buckled underneath her. Every time he touched her she lost control. “I wasn’t planning on investigating you, in a different way.” He gave her another long lingering kiss. “Spend the night with me Olivia.” He said softly, not as a question but as an answer.
“I can’t…” her lips found his. She was lost again. Jet’s hand moved to her blouse, expertly undoing buttons. “Please don’t,” she gasped closing her eyes and bringing her lips to his again.
He met her kiss then gently whispered, “your voice says no, yet your body and spirit say yes. Let me make love to you. Let yourself get lost my embrace, if only for a few hours. When I saw you I knew…” He trailed off not finishing his sentence kissing her again. She kissed back. He pulled her closer. The heat of her body surprised him.
Her mind said she had to stop but her body resisted. “I can’t,” she whispered, pulling away and grabbing his hand from her chest.
Jet smiled and kissed her again. “You can. I’m in suite seven. Come up after the reception tonight.”
“No. I’m sorry Jet. I can’t do this,” she gasped.
He dropped his hands to his sides. “You want to have sex with me in the worst way, but I understand why you can’t. As an official representative of Prince Alexander, it would be less than fitting for you to be caught in a compromising position. But it was fun for a temporary fantasy, wasn’t it?”
Speechless, Olivia was ready to step back, but he gave her one last long passionate kiss, just before Michael and the others came back through the doors. Michael was in his element, chatting away about what an amazing organization Universal Technologies was and what a fantastic opportunity it had been to work directly with Olivia. She brushed her skirt straight, checked her buttons and took another step away from Jet.
As they went back to the meeting room Michael put his hand on her arm. “Olivia, is everything alright?”
“Aside from wanting to sleep with a complete stranger, I’m just fucking great.” she thought to herself. Jet shot a glance at her, his blue eyes laughing at her. She felt her face grow flushed. “I’m just a little tired Michael, but thanks for asking.”
Four hours later when they finally disbanded. The weather had kicked up to an ugly storm.
Jet gently pulled her aside. “Olivia, be careful on the streets of Allegory. It isn’t safe for a woman, especially one as lovely and foreign as you.” Before she could spit out the last word he put a finger to her lips. “Don’t tell me you can take care of yourself, because you can’t. Not in Allegory.”
Michael and Olivia decided to go back to their rooms before the reception. Outside of the inn they were surrounded by a group of the Mayors men. They made obscene gestures towards Olivia and Michael.
They asked Olivia if her man had marked her yet. One grabbed at her cloak and skirt. Michael puts his arm around her shoulder in protection.
A group of Alexander’s Guards came and told the men to leave or risk arrest. Olivia looked back up at the building and noticed Jet watching from the window. Then he smiled at her and turns away.
~ to be continued.
Girl in the Woods is a serial novel, and a regular 2016 Friday feature here at Vampiremaman.com. This is the uncut and unedited version of a novel that has nothing to do with the rest of this blog. If you are new to Girl in the Woods please start from the beginning (Click here for all installments or see the side bar on the home page.) Like I said, it is a novel – an epic adventure of sorts. Have fun.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman