Short Story Sunday: Off To See The Wizard

Druce had just pulled his toasted seed and dried berry bread out of the oven when his friend Morcant came through the door carrying a basket.

“What do you got in there?”

“Smoked salmon, a bottle of squid ink, and dried salted kelp chips.”

“Nice.”

“I see you’ve made your famous berry bread. That will win over the hearts of the coldest stone.”

“We can only hope. I’m paring it with a jar of honeycomb, and a jug of my best mead.”

Druce wrapped up the bread and took a look at his friend. Morcant wore a soft seal skin over his shoulders. His tunic was sleeveless showing off his muscular arms. Today Morcant’s black hair was worn down around his shoulders framing his handsome face. Druce never wondered why all of the women in their village and the surrounding area sought Morcant out even if it was just to look.

The seal skin was that of Morcant’s sister who’d died in the past summer season. She and Morcant were Selkies. On land they were human, and in the sea they were seals. They guarded their seal skins with their lives, for if anyone stole their skin they would be trapped as humans, and in bondage forever.

Morcant’s brother-in-law never took his wife’s skin, but celebrated the fact that as a Selkie she had come to him of her own free will. Her love was free, and her husband was devoted to her. They had that rare true love that so many seek but never find.

One day while they were out fishing, his sister still in her human form, they were overcome by a great shark and dragged to the bottom of the sea as dinner. Morcant, as customary for Selkies now wore his sister’s skin to stay close to her spirit and to have her love with him always.

Druce looked into his mirror and brushed his sun streaked brownish blonde waves with his fingers. He was smaller than Morcant, and not quite as handsome, but the ladies still liked him too. And of course he liked them more than they could imagine.

“So, Druce,” said Morcant, “when exactly did this Wizard guy come into town?”

“Last week, under the darkness of the night.”

“What’s he like?”

“Personally? I don’t know. I hear he was sleeping with his sister. Nymue told me that. She also said he used to stalk her, asking her about her magic and getting all sappy and trying to sound mystical about it. One day she showed him a sword she was going to give to the next king and he said I’ll show you my magic sword. She kicked him out and told him she’d put a bad enchantment on him if he ever hit on her again. And I mean bad, you know, guy bad, like his sword won’t work for a year or two. Like a blade of grass.”

“Sounds like a creeper.”

“A real mess if you ask me. Anyway, that was a while back so maybe he’s changed. Gotta give a guy some doubt that he has grown up since his misplaced youth chasing ladies in lakes and all of that shit.”

“OK so I don’t get it Druce. You’re the Worlock around here. What’s the difference between you and some Wizard dude, except that you’re better looking and are better with women.”

Druce laughed. “As a Warlock, I can, how can I put this so it won’t sound weird. As you know I can harness and control spirits, demons, and other’s who aren’t human. I can’t make them work for me. I also control their evil so that they can’t harm people. I take their energy and do good with it. I can also do other magic and tricks through my own will. I deal with both sides of the world, that of the dead and that of the living. That of the physical and that of the spirits.”

“And what about Wizards?”

“Wizards learn their craft. They are gifted in the ways of magic, but their magic comes mostly from the use of potions, and the channeling of their magic through a staff, or wand. They can scare spirits and demons but they can’t control them. And Wizards are giving Warlocks a bad rap. I hear that in other parts my kind are being hunted down and burned to death. They think we’re minions of Satan.”

“That’s bull shit. Then why the fuck are we going to greet this guy and bring him gifts. He sounds like a freak to me.”

“Because he is working for the King.”

“The Kings is an idiot. He is obsessed with some old cup, and everyone knows his wife is sleeping with his best friend.”

“Hey, I didn’t put him into office. Blame that on Nyume. The Lady of The Lake should have minded her own business and …”

There was a scream and in through the door came a whirl of gray, which stopped and materialized into a woman. She smiled showing lovely white teeth, but her eyes were black and crazy. No harm. Just their friend Milen, who was also a Banshee.

“Milen,” said Druce, as he blew her a kiss. “Thanks for coming. I have fresh venison stew in the pot there over the fire. I put the eyes in there for you.”

She grinned and put a long fingered hand into the boiling stew and plucked out an eye, the popped it into her mouth.

“Hey, Milen, we should be gone just a few hours,” said Druce. “I’m so glad you could watch the baby for me.”

“Ohhhhhh of course,” she said as she went over to a baby unicorn who was curled up asleep in its tiny bed made of soft sea grasses and dried fragrant flowers.

“Alright then, we’ve better get going, if we’re going to go,” said Druce, and they packed up their gifts and went to meet their new neighbor.

The new Wizard had chosen and old Roman camp on a hill as his new home. The buildings were already there and in fairly good shape. It was also about a five day journey from there to where the King lived. Or at least the king the Wizard worked for.

The two friends arrived at the home of the Wizard and were greeted by a tall man with a brown beard flecked with gray. His eyes shone blue like spring wildflowers, flecked with gold.

The Wizard welcomed them in and introduced himself as Merlin, the Wizard. There was something sort of sad about him, like someone who had a lot of friends, but nobody he was really close to. Druce wondered if Merlin could pick up on emotions and sadness like a Warlock could. Or like a woman could.

Merlin thanked them for the gifts and asked them to come sit. He led them to a room where the walls were covered with tapestries and the chairs with lush textiles and furs.

“The seal skin you wear is beautiful. The finest I’ve ever seen,” said Merlin to Morcant.

“This is my sister’s skin. She passed six moons back. I wear this skin in her honor.”

There was a pause in the conversation and a bit of weirdness.”

“Morcant is a Selkie,” said Druce.

Merlin looked surprised. He was surprised. He’d never met a Selkie before. It seemd, as they talked, that there were a lot of things Merlin had never done.

Still they visited and had polite small talk. Druce and Morcant of the village and the surrounding peoples, and those who were not people. There was also a lot they didn’t tell him. When the sun began to set Druce and Morcant bid their host goodbye.

They started the walk home in silence but then Morcant spoke.

“Merlin was nice. Not much of a bro, if you know what I mean, but nice. But dude, he has more demons than you’ll ever have.”

Druce gave a sad smile, “At least I can control my demons. Fuck, they aren’t even my demons. Merlin needs more sunshine, and he needs to divorce himself from his dysfunctional family and friends. I always tell everyone that it isn’t demons that are bugging them, it is their toxic friends and family members that are getting them down. He needs to let go.”

“True,” said Morcant. “Are you going to tell him about the unicorn?”

“Hell no,” said Druce. “I’m not telling him where the dragons are either.”

As they passed a cottage on the edge of a field of grain a woman stepped out and greeted them. “Morcant, will you stay the night with me? I could use your love, and I’ll have plenty to give back.”

“Go,” said Druce. He knew Morcant had been seeing the Widow Cath for few months. Her elderly husband had died leaving her a large farm to manage, a task she did better than most men. Morcant had always been fond of her, but now it was becoming a bit more than fond.

At home Druce found the Banshee Milen sleeping with the tiny unicorn baby in her lap. She’d taken on a physical form, that of a woman of a certain age who had a well earned beauty earned from a life well lived, at least before she had been betrayed and murdered by her husband. He put a blanket woven of the softest flax over them.

He poured a glass of beer and pulled a stool outside in his garden, out under the stars. He could hear the waves of the ocean. Maybe later he’d go down to the beach and see what spirits were among the sea shells and boats tonight.

But now he sat and thought of the sad Wizard. Then he thought of the women he knew and how it would be nice to have one of them in his bed that night, skin against skin, and a special kind of magic that came when two people came together in desire of both the body and the soul.

Then he thought about how dragons had become so endangered due to the trade of dragon bones by Wizards for their wealthy clients. Everyone with half a brain knew that dragon bones powder did nothing to make one’s manhood larger.

Then he thought of women again.

Milen the Banshee came out with a stool and sat next to him. He told her about his visit to Merlin. She said it was sad when one was so full of power and so lost. Then she said she was glad her husband had been hanged after she’d died. She always mentioned that. Druce didn’t blame her. She hadn’t planned on being a Banshee.

Then she put her hand on Druce’s. “Darlin, I’ll be in human for for another hour or two. Let’s go inside and take advantage of that.”

And like any good Warlock who knew what was good for him Druce kissed her and took her inside.

~ End

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Charade

Welcome to Short Story Sunday. I’m so happy to feature this story from 17-year-old author Adelia Hoff. Thank you so much Adelia. This is a real treat.

Charade

by Adelia Hoff

The black haired male saw her light. The white haired female saw his silhouette. His red eyes darted over her small campsite. Her blue eyes issued an unspoken challenge.
“May I join you?”
“Please do. It’s been a while since anyone has.”
He moved over, sitting opposite of her.
“Your face seems familiar. Have we met?”
“I . . . don’t think so.”
They both knew this was a lie. They knew who the other was, yet they kept up this mask of familiar newness. The silence was comfortable. The male caught her eye with a soft smile.
“If it’s not too rude, why are you here?”
She returned the smile.
“I’m looking for someone.”
“Heh, so am I. What’re the odds of that?”
She grinned, laughed slightly, and adjusted her hairband. He fiddled with the hair tie obscured by his high collar. They knew they should confront each other, take revenge, but they continued with the act of strangerdom. Neither said anything, fearing speech would shatter the illusion. He was sad, remembering the days when it didn’t take lies to bring them together. She was happy, remembering how long is had been since they were close.
“How long has it been?”
“Hmm?”
“Since you saw the person you’re looking for.”
He shrugged, a look of indifference crossing his face.
“Stopped counting a while back.”
They both knew this was a lie. They counted every year, month, day, hour, minute, second since each fight, each new parting of ways. He pursued her, they fought, she fled. They loved to hate each other.
“It’s rather nice here.”
She looked around, making no move to answer for a few seconds.
“It is.”
He looked at the moon, at its position in the sky.
“It’s late, I should go. Thanks for letting me stay.”
“It wasn’t any trouble. Good luck.”
“You too.”
And with that, he turned away and walked, transforming back into a silhouette. As he drew farther away, the masks began to fall off. She took out her hairband, freeing shoulder length hair. He took off his hair tie, short hair falling to frame his face. She pulled bundled cloth out of her shirt front, becoming male. He unclipped a band from under his shirt, becoming female. The black haired female lost sight of his light. The white haired male lost sight of her silhouette. Despite all this, a single question remains:

Which persona is the charade?

 

Short Story Sunday at Vampiremaman.com

Short Story Sunday at Vampiremaman.com

Short Story Sunday: Pixie Dust

“You have to sing to them Max.”

“I’m not singing to a demon.”

“They’re not that different from angels.”

“I don’t sing to angles either.”

“Would you sing to a lover?”

Max a slight smile with a bit of fang. “Absolutely not. They sing to me.”

Andy rolled his eyes at his elder brother. “I’m sure they do.”

A chorus of high-pitched giggling could be heard from a cross the room. Max turned around to see what it was. “My God Andy, what self-respecting Vampire allows Pixies in his home?”

“I do.”

The two Vampire brothers finished their goblets of blood in Andy’s elegant sitting room, then moved out to the garden with a bottle of wine.

The Pixies followed in a shower of multicolored sparks and sat among the twinkle lights in Andy’s  trees. They giggled and straightened out their tiny pink and silver skirts.

Andy looked over at his brother Max, the great Vampire warrior, enforcer, hunter of Vampire Hunters, and general bad ass. He was what people thought of when they thought of a sexy, powerful, alpha Vampire. Andrew on the other hand was an opera singer with a life driven by beauty and love.

“Look how cute they are Max. You really ought to make friends with them.”

Max looked disgusted. “They bite.”

“So do we.”

“I already have Selkies and Werewolves invading my life, not to mention Demons. I don’t need Pixies.”

“Everyone needs Pixies Max. And if you’re nice they won’t bite.”

The conversation moved on to other things like wine, art, gossip, and women. The Pixies listened, then went on to their own quiet conversations, then fell asleep in the branches of Andy’s trees.

And the brothers watched the sunrise, in the quiet summer morning, knowing that the fireworks the next night would be much larger than Pixie dust but not quite as charming.

~ end

 

 

 

 

Girl in the Woods: 2016 Serial Novel, Part 19

Each Friday in 2016 brings a new installment of the serial novel Girl in the Woods. If you are new to this romance/fantasy/adventure please start from the beginning. CLICK HERE for previous installments. And remember – you’re getting the unedited rough version. Have fun and happy reading.

 

Girl in the Woods

 

Girl in the Woods: 2016 Serial Novel, Part 19

Three Brothers Vineyard: The Past That Haunts

The road to the Trinity Valley turned from wooded areas that surrounded Allegory to orchards and vineyards. Dare Crow had vanished to parts unknown. Olivia could hear the younger men, Michael, Andrew, and Charles laughing from inside of the carriage. She rode her own horse alongside Alexander and Tom. The group of a dozen guards, led by a man called Captain Wallford followed.

Bob, Roy, Dan and Bob’s wife Alyssa ran the Three Brother’s Vineyards and Winery. Olivia waved at Roy who was out in the field with some workers. She looked forward to seeing her old friend later. The Three Brother’s Estate, including the main manor house, and guesthouses stood absolutely beautiful among the vineyards.

There would be several days of meetings, public appearances, and parties. But all Olivia could think of was maybe an hour or two to herself in an attempt to refocus and heal. It was difficult to feel any excitement over the upcoming events with the ever present headaches and the phantom visits from her nemesis. Such was the life of Olivia Starfire Snowhawk. She scanned the others, then tried to smile, as they arrived to the open arms of their hosts.

After a lavish dinner and a bottle of wine to toast the evening and coming days, was smiling and laughing.

In Alexander’s room was a basket containing recent magazines. There was the issue of business monthly with Simon, Olivia and Annie on the cover. The entire issue was nothing but a love letter to Universal Technologies. Logan had said that Annie was the master at public relations getting them on the cover of just about every magazine in the country a month before the River Conference. Interest in Universal Technologies had skyrocketed in anticipation of their latest breakthroughs. He’d read the article before he left home and congratulated Simon on the good press coverage.

He set his eyes on Olivia’s picture. She was the most prominent in the grouping, showing a completely secure in-charge business leader. The woman described in the article wasn’t the woman he was traveling with. “Why are you so agitated and angry? Your health? Your relationships? Your traveling companions? Don’t blame me for your bad mood Miss Snowhawk. I wasn’t the one who volunteered you for this trip.”

The last few issues of Fabulous Homes were in there as well. A few months before his own home had been featured along with a complete diary of the restoration. He made him cringed thinking of the accompanying editorial saying that the home was incomplete without a wife. He picked up the latest issue. It must have just come out. He didn’t remember seeing it before he left home. There was Olivia again, on the cover. This time she was on her front porch dressed exquisitely casual, smiling with a large black cat in her arms, as she stood in front of a massive door covered with carvings of a fern grotto. The cat could have been a double for his own cat Rufus. He stared at the image scanning Olivia’s smiling face for some resemblance to the woman he’d met just a few days before.

He ignored the rest of the features and went directly to the spreads of her home. The kitchen was warm and inviting. It was huge with high ceilings. Her own recipe for an elegant vegetable soup was in a side bar. She grew her own herbs and had a vegetable garden.

Her main living area was warm and homey, filled with shelves of art pottery and books. The rug on the floor was almost exactly like the one he’d had custom made. Large windows overlooked her famous gardens. He saw the famous crystal dragonfly chandelier in the formal dining room as well as a comfortable guest room. The centerfold out spread was of her home library. “Wow” he said aloud. It was smaller than his but equally impressive. It said that built in bookshelves also lined the upstairs hallways. He could live in that house. It was spectacular. It was Fabulous. He looked more. No pictures of her bedroom. He wondered what her bedroom looked like. No, he wondered whom she entertained there.

Alexander made a mental note to himself to ask Rich Long to dig up something. Rich knew everyone and everything in Meadow Creek. He’d know who Olivia was spending her time with.

She was quoted in the article next to a picture of her in beautiful green dress, her arms full of flowers. “This is the only place I’ve ever called home.”

He turned the next page and froze. The next article was pink. Metallic pink letters splashed across the page. Princess Candi at Home. Solid pink with touches of cream and yellow finished it off. He felt flushed and slightly uncomfortable. Beautiful Candi was lounging on a pink fur covered fainting couch in a low cut pink gown, her perfect mouth formed in a sweet smile. The sight of it was slightly childish and slightly erotic. It was embarrassing.

“She can’t actually live there in all that pink.” he thought.

The headline read “Candi Just Can’t Get Enough Pink!!!”

Alexander scanned the article.

When asked about Prince Alexander, Princess Candi replied, “Alexander is so absolutely handsome. Sometimes I just have to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.” Then the darling princess giggled in her lovely bell like little laugh and clapped her hands together.

He continued to skim the article passing over her remarks about fashion. He stopped skimming when he saw his name again.

“What sort of decorating plans do you have for after you marry Prince Alexander?”

“His musty old house is like an old hunting lodge so I’ll HAVE to redecorate. Unfortunately I don’t think Alexander will let me have pink all over so just the ball room, and my sitting room will be total pink paradise.” she pouted with her famous perfect pink lips. “The rest will be golds and whites and bright sunshine yellow. I might let him have a really masculine red and black bedroom for when he’s feeling really naughty, I mean amorous, whoops, you know, romantic, I mean a girl can wish can’t she?”

Did she really say that? First of all his house wasn’t anything like a hunting lodge. He’d have to have a serious talk about her when he returned. He made a note to have his public relations staff approve any future interviews she did. No, he’d personally approve all of her interviews for print. He could see in his mind the pout, the puzzled looks, tears, then the kiss filled apology.

Alexander let the flash of anger roll over him. It wasn’t worth getting angry about. She could be trained. He was a master of damage control. He’d dealt with all the other woman in his life, Candy wasn’t that much different. In fact she’d be easier than most. Still, he knew most of his friends would call it off at this point and start dating again. Unfortunately that wasn’t a choice he could make.

He flipped back to the pages with Olivia’s house, then back to Candi. The contrast made him almost feel sick. He dropped the magazine on the table.

 

He went downstairs to find the others. A small blue lantern was lit on the porch. Olivia sat alone in the clear cold air, bundled in her coat with several bottles of wine next to her. There were several glasses on the table and a wine opener. He hadn’t seen her all day and noticed she’s been quiet at dinner, excusing herself early then vanishing.

 

“Expecting someone?”

Olivia looked up with a slight smile. “Not really. They always have wine out in the guest quarters, this being a vineyard and all. I’ll pour you a glass.”

“What’s up with the blue lantern?”

“Old wizard’s trick to ward off bad magic.” She didn’t tell him she was afraid of the night.

“Come inside. It’s freezing.”

With a quick glance at the outdoor hearth a fire blazed up. She gave him a quick smile and unbuttoned her coat. She’d become comfortable openly using her magic around him. Alexander sat next to her on the couch. The air around them quickly warmed up.

“The heat feels great.”

She stretched her legs in front of her. “I’m so used to the cold sometimes that I forget…” She trailed off not finishing her sentence. She glanced at the fire. “I sit outside a lot at home too, to see the night sky.” She added in an attempt to break the uncomfortable silence.

“I saw your house in Fabulous Homes. You’ve done a great job.”

“Thanks, they did a nice job of the spread. I saw your home in the magazine last year. You did a great job at restoration. I like your style.”

“It’s a lot like yours.”

“We’ll have to go shopping together sometime.” She said with a smile, then looked away.

He was surprised she didn’t mention the article about Princess Candi and her juvenile decorating taste. “You live alone.” He said.

“That information wasn’t in the article.”

“I pried it out of Simon. Who takes care of your place?”

“I employ a married couple who live in a cottage on the grounds of my house. Mac manages the grounds and stable staff. Daisy takes care of the household staff. Sometimes she helps me with special projects, like party planning, organizing and domestic stuff. They’re dear folk, really and I like having them around, but not in my line of sight.

In the evenings and weekends, it’s just me and my cat in the big house, unless I have guests. I entertain almost every weekend so it’s not as if I’m not a hermit.”

He thought again about who her guests might be. “Sounds nice.”

“It is. When we get done with this, business of ours, I’d like you to come over, as my guest.”

“I’d like that.” The tension started to ease out of his neck. It would be nice to visit Olivia’s house, walk the grounds, cook with her in the big kitchen while listening to her rattle off stories in her Crystal Mountain lilt. He wanted to see her library, her art collection, and the famous dragonfly chandelier. The thought of seeing her bedroom made him slightly uncomfortable.

They opened the bottle of wine and made small talk about Freddy Green’s architecture and the events of the day. Conversation came easily.

His mind kept going back the fact that she lived alone, unmarried, away from her family. She was famous and her face in the press almost as much as his own, yet she kept her private life almost completely closed off to the public eye. He wanted to know how this woman who headed up the largest private company in the country seemed like such a mystery to him.

“What do you really want Olivia?” He asked

“More wine always.” She smiled then looked at his serious face. “I guess I don’t understand your question.”

“In life. What do you want for yourself?”

“I want that dress Roy wore the other night.” She laughed, “Actually, I have everything I need.”

“That’s not what I asked. What do you want? Worldwide domination of the technology market? “

“I’ve already got that one wrapped up.”

“Then what’s next? Power? Fortune? A castle and your own personal army?”

She wasn’t sure if he was being humorous or on the attack. “Personal army? I’ve had enough of fighting to last ten lifetimes.”

“A woman of your influence might need a bevy of well built young men to protect you, or at least keep you entertained.”

“Oh you make me laugh. As my business grows, I want Universal Technologies to be instrumental in bringing beauty and hope into lives of those who lack hope. I want to teach more. I want to continue to provide a work environment that encourages free creativity and innovation. I want to contribute to the well being of my community and give back a hundred times what it has given to me.”

“Admirable goals for someone who is insidiously self-centered, manipulative, sarcastic…”

“I am not self-centered.”

“I stand corrected, you are not self-centered. All kidding aside, what do you want outside of your work?”

She spoke deliberately choosing her words carefully. “I have everything I want. Despite what you read in the society and gossip sections of the newspaper, like you, I treasure my quiet evenings at home with my books or with a few friends gathered in my kitchen. I like a good party or a night out like anyone else, but I guard my privacy and my independence. I’m not in this for the notoriety.”

“I’ve found a kindred spirit. Olivia, marry me tonight.”

“I wish I could dear prince, but we have a busy day tomorrow. I’ll be needing my sleep.“

He had to smile. She’d made a flirtatious joke back in response to his. “Seriously, do you want a family of your own? A husband and children to share your home?”

“I want you to stop asking me questions.”

“After your interrogation of me last night you owe me. Just one more.”

“Alright, ask away.”

He looked at her comfortably on the opposite end of the couch with her feet tucked up underneath her, her hair falling haphazardly over her shoulders a slight smile on her lips. Despite their differences he found himself again oddly fascinated by her. “You are so different than anyone I know, but that isn’t a bad thing. You’re absolutely lovely. Why hasn’t some man enchanted your heart?”

Most woman would have swooned and been in his arms with that statement. Olivia stretched out her legs and leaned back into the pillows on the couch. “Enchanted is an odd word to use.”

“Don’t you want someone to share your life with?”

“I have plenty of people to share my life with.” The smile vanished from her face. He knew he’d put her on edge. He decided to nudge her over.

“What about Alaric Shadowford?”

“Oh please…” she rolled her eyes at him in disgust. “I haven’t been involved with Alaric for over a year.”

“Is it over because of Simon?”

“Simon has nothing to do with it. Alaric didn’t just want to be my partner, he wanted to dominate and own me. He kept watch on my every movement and track of every man I spoke to, yet he took other women to his bed every chance he got. I got tired of the drama and dumped him.”

The confession sat cold with Alexander. He suddenly saw her in a different light, not as the aggressive seductress of his embarrassing fantasies, but as someone he could relate to. “He cheated on you? Why?”

“Because he could. You’ve seen the man. He’s gorgeous. Then kick in the war hero mystique and women line up to be with him.” There was a pause. Alexander looked intensely at Olivia, not saying a word. Not asking a question. She looked out over the vineyard. It was obvious she had been hurt by the man. “It was horrible.” She added quietly.

“Simon told me about the Spring Ball.” Alexander said quietly, trying not to be obvious about setting her up again.

“Oh that. What else did he tell you?”

“Nothing except the fact he doesn’t want you to be around Alaric.”

“This is embarrassing. I know you wonder why I ever got involved with Alaric or stayed with him as long as I did.”

“I don’t know you well enough to even speculate. I suspect you were alone and he was available. That’s what usually gets me into trouble, you know, being alone and available.” He smiled at his own joke. Olivia gave a weak attempt at a smile.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Alaric and I grew up together during the war. Our parents ran the intelligence units for the rebellion. We lived in the same, it’s hard to explain, um, the same compound, or I guess you’d call it a camp of a sorts. Justin and I moved around a lot more but we stayed with the same group of families more or less. Alaric and I always ended up hanging out together. He was one of the only kids who wasn’t all flipped out that I was a wizard, and well, different from the others. I think he took me under his wing get into my father’s good graces. Anyway, to make a long story short, when we were just teenagers I saved Alaric’s life. Then, right before I moved here, he saved my life. That makes a bond that ties us together for always, at least it does at home, in the Crystal Mountains. Stupid tradition if you ask me, but then again when it came to Alaric my opinion never did matter. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

When Alaric took the position as ambassador to the Northwestern Kingdom, we reunited. It all happened so quickly and I thought…it doesn’t matter what I thought. Now it is over and done with.” She sat for a moment not saying a word. He had her flustered and off guard. Alexander waited until she was ready to say more.

She spoke again, quietly still looking over the vineyards. “To make matters worse my dear misguided brother begged for me to make it work. God knows what sort of future Justin and Alaric had planned for me. The one thing I do know is that their vision meant I’d have to leave my life here and turn my back on everything and everyone I’ve come to love.” She turned her face to Alexander and looked straight into his eye. “I won’t do that, not for any man. I’m never going back to the Crystal Mountains. Never.” She turned away from him again and poured another glass of wine. “This wine is absolutely wonderful. I could drink an entire bottle in one sitting.” She wanted to change the subject.

“I’m sorry to hear they had such dismal plans for you. I’m sure you already know that Alaric is a distant cousin of mine. I thought it was odd that he never brought you around to meet me.”

She looked disgusted. “Alaric is too possessive. Within a day of introducing us he would have accused me of having an affair with you.”

“Like when he accused you and Simon of being lovers.”

“Simon and I aren’t lovers.”

“Not since you were young.”

“You know then?”

“It’s no big deal. It was a long time ago. So why are you still in contact with Alaric at all?”

“I told you, we have a history. Our families, our pasts are connected.”

“You were with him the night he killed Doran Nightlander.”

She crossed her legs and pulled her jacket tight.

“I was there. What has Alaric told you about it?”

“Nothing really, aside from the fact that you were there and you saved his life. He isn’t one for details so that’s all I know.”

“It wasn’t a high point in his life, or mine for that fact. We don’t talk about it.”

“I’ve always wanted to know what really happened. Seems odd that a seventeen year old boy would kill the most powerful wizard in the Crystal Mountains all by himself.”

“I understand you’re quite the historic scholar. I don’t blame you for wanting to know everything, but sometimes it is better if history is not investigated too deeply.”

“You know Olivia, it would be easier for you to tell me about how Alaric killed Doran, and how you saved Alaric now rather than to have me pry it out of you later.”

“Alexander, please.”

“Why are you protecting someone who physically and mentally abused you? Alaric didn’t kill Doran did he? Someone else was there that night.”

She squinted her eyes at him. “The official story was that Alaric killed Doran and his men. The fact is that it didn’t happen that way. You are correct in your assumption that someone else killed Doran and his men.”

“Who was it? ”

“I killed them. All of them.”

“Olivia, don’t lie to me.”

“I’m telling you the truth. ”

“Doran was one of the most powerful wizards alive. You were just a girl.”

“I’m also a wizard, a very powerful wizard at that, remember?”

“You couldn’t handle Dare Crow back in Allegory. How do you expect me to believe you could neutralize Doran Nightlander, much less a dozen other men?”

“Believe what you want. I’m so sick of the lies and pretending. If it had been my brother I’m sure you would have believed him.”

“Oh come on…”

“The truth of the matter is that the meeting with Doran wasn’t accidental. He had been searching for me for years. He planned to …just forget it. You’ll never understand what I went through much less believe me.” She started to stand but Alexander caught her hand.

“Doran was looking for you? Why would he want you?”

“Why wouldn’t he want me? I’m Jonathan Snowhawk’s daughter. One of the chief ways to get to your enemy is to take what is most precious and turn it against him.”

“Why not take Justin?”

“Because I was the rare female wizard child, in a time when most wizards in the Crystal Mountains had been eliminated by the Nightlander clan. If both parents are wizards that will guarantee their children will all be wizards. As far as anyone knew I was the only known female wizard of any power left in the country. I was the key to passing on their magic for future generations. They wanted me for breeding.”

“That’s insane.”

“Everything was insane.” She crossed her arms and leaned back into the corner of the couch. “Since you don’t believe me, just forget I said anything to you about it.”

He gently put his hand on her knee. “If you’re telling the truth then show me your memories. Memories can’t lie.”

She brushed his hand off of her leg. “Forget it. You either believe me or you don’t.”

“You don’t trust me, do you?”

“Not anymore than you trust me. I’m not letting you into my head.”

Alexander had to laugh. “We can’t go on like this. We need to have some amount of trust between us. Show me what happened.”

“No.”

“Show me. I know you’re not lying but I need to understand.” He stared into her eyes for what seemed like an eternity. The bright teal color flecked with gray was as cold as the northern sea.

“I can’t.”

“You can. You will.” It was an order cold and clear. “Olivia, do it now.”

“Dare Crow said he would lock me up if I ever did any magic around you.”

“ I will handle Crow. Show me what happened with Doran Nightlander. You know you want to, otherwise you wouldn’t have told me about it in the first place.”

“Promise on your word as the Crown Prince of the Northwestern Kingdom that you’ll not tell a soul what you see or take any action against me for what you are about to see.”

“It’s that bad?”

“Promise me.”

“I promise you, Olivia Snowhawk, on my honor as Prince of the Northwestern Kingdom that I will not speak of what you show me tonight, nor will I take action against you for anything you did that night.” He gave her a warm smile that would have melted any other woman and almost for a second melted her.

Out of control again, she wanted to smack Alexander’s face but she kept calm. “Fine, I’ll show you but don’t blame me if you have nightmares for the next year.” she said scowling at him. “Give me your hands, palm down.”

He brushed his hand through his hair and put his hands out for her to take. He’d done this with Ellie when they were younger. She’d show him her memories of places she’d been and things that had happened in school. Over the years Dare Crow and others in law enforcement and government had shared brief images of events he needed to understand. It was an odd experience to say the least but thrilling too.

“This isn’t a good idea,” Olivia said.

He smiled at her. “I know you want to show me what happened.”

She stared at him again with a slight squint in her eyes. He locked his eyes on her and wouldn’t let go. He’d rarely seen anyone holding back so much anger.

“I’ll show you everything,” she said, “Just be prepared. It isn’t pretty.” Olivia closed her eyes for a few seconds then looked at Alexander. “Don’t judge either Alaric or me for what happened. It wasn’t your battle to fight and I don’t know if you can understand yet that our lives were not the same as yours. We didn’t go to school or have carefree teenage years filled with parties and dances. We were trained to fight and survive. We wanted to be children but we didn’t have that luxury.”

She looked at his hands and rubbed the tops with her thumbs, almost a lover’s caress. Unlike her touch, the sound of her voice was cold and distant. He could feel a slight warmth moving from his hands up to his arms and shoulders. A wizard’s touch.

“Stop me anytime you feel uncomfortable.” She sat in front of him and held his hands. He felt a slight tingle in his fingertips. Olivia closed her eyes for a few moments and took a few deep breaths. He suddenly had an overwhelming wave of desire for her. He leaned over to brush his lips to hers, when she sat up straighter, away from his face, opened her eyes and spoke in the old language. “I haven’t done this in a while, so I can’t guarantee how well it will go. It is important for you not to ask any questions or talk until I’m done. Relax. Close your eyes. Don’t let go of my hands until I let go. Alright, here we go.”

 

Vivid images, sounds and smells entered Alexander’s mind. Dusk in the woods. The trees were gnarled and tangled. Snow was deep on the ground. He could feel and smell the bite of the cold winter night. Two teenagers with packs on their backs hiked along. The tall young man was Alaric, about 16 or 17 years old. The other teen was smaller, a lot smaller. Two long braids hung out from under a cap, falling a few inches below her knees. He saw the face. She was just a baby, maybe 14 at the oldest. It was Olivia, with a freckled unadorned adolescent face. A dull pain throbbed in her balled up, almost useless right hand. The girl was crippled and in constant pain.

Olivia looked at Alaric; she was in love with him. Alaric never noticed her that way.

Next he saw an ancient stone structure with a high tower. The snow fell harder. They made their way to the locked door. Olivia held her hands over the rust covered lock. It clicked off and with a glance from Olivia the heavy door opened with a groan.

Alaric removed his heavy coat to reveal the broad shoulders covered by a heavy sweater. His dark ringlets curled over his shoulders and down his back. He already had the arrogant serious look that he wore as an adult. However Alaric’s fresh young face could have been that of any teenage boy who was lost, tired and trying to hide that he was also frightened.

She lit a blue light. Dropping the big coat Alexander saw she already had her luscious curves. Those curves were a burden for a girl so young. She wore a dark well-worn and patched sweater pulled down over layers of skirts and heavy scuffed boots. An untied knit scarf hung from her neck. Her ears were already pierced with three small studs in each, two in her ear lobes and one at the top curve of each ear. She wore a dozen beaded bracelets on her small wrists that were her own handiwork made from discarded and broken jewelry she’d found and squirreled away in secret.

There were weapons in the trunks. Odd highly destructive and illegal weapons. It was unlike anything they had ever seen. It looked as though nobody had been there for months or even years.

“I’m never going to hear the end of it from my dad.” She knew what Jonathan was worried about. She’d freeze to death in the snow or worse lose her virginity to Alaric. He and his brothers already had reputations with girls. She’d told him time and again that she could take care of herself but Jonathan never listened.

Alaric went to work checking their surroundings. He surveyed the room like an experienced soldier. “Did you set any spells yet?”

“Sure, I locked the front door. I also made footprints going back out into the forest. They aren’t great but it looks like real feet.”

“Why don’t you do more magic? You could enchant everyone in the Baron’s army.”

“Who told you that?”

“I over heard the adults last week. You scare the shit out of them.”

“It scares me.”

“You’re so useless. If any other girl was here instead of you…”

“You would have been up her skirts and forgetting how lost you are. Dick head.” She rubbed the dust off of an elaborate old mirror and stuck a few poses.

“Think you’re pretty?” Alaric asked with a look of disgust.

“One day, I might be pretty and fall in love with a handsome wizard.”

“Who filled your head with ideas of romance?”

“Nobody,”

“Well, don’t get your hopes up because you’re so freaking strange and ugly only things any guy will be looking at will be your big tits.”

“Asshole.” The mirror glass exploded sending glass flying in his direction. He ducked under one the open trunks.

“Stop it.”

“Why are you so mean to me?” tears brimmed in her eyes.

“Just shut the fuck up and get some heat in here.”

“I’m not ugly.”

“You’re sure as hell not pretty.”

She already knew why he didn’t like her. He resented the fact that she was a wizard and she could throw a knife better than any of the boys in their group. He wanted to be a great fighter and ended up as a baby sitter to the weird wizard girl. Now they were lost and it was his fault. She made a ball of smokeless flames in the old fireplace. It wasn’t much but it would heat the room.

“Hands,” she demanded holding out her own to him. He pulled off his worn gloves and took her hands. Heat radiated through his body.

“Thanks,” he said, and then turned to look more at the weapons.

They talked of staying the night. It was another 5 or 6 miles to the safe house. It was already dark and snowing hard. She thought of making a snotty remark about his insistence on taking a short cut but thought better of it. She didn’t want to make him mad. Even if he was an asshole, he was the most handsome boy she’d ever met. All the girls worshiped the ground he walked on.

She started chatting away about the weapons in an attempt to impress him with her knowledge when without warning Alaric pinned her to the back of chair she was sitting on and kissed her. She tried to push him back but he continued, his hand went up her sweater working quickly to get at her bare skin. Despite her attempts to push him away he continued work on getting her clothing undone. “Relax. You’ll like it. I promise.” He kissed her again. She turned her head away from him in a panic.

“My dad will kill me if he finds out.”

He stood up in disgust. “Your first kiss and you’re worried about what your daddy will think. You want to die a virgin Livy?”

“Leave me alone.” Tears blurred her vision as she got up and headed to the door.

“You’re fucking crazy. Any other girl would be begging me to be making out with her right now.”

“Go to hell.”

As she reached the door it flew open almost knocking her to the floor.

The next image was a blinding flash of yellow light. Wizard light. Three men grabbed Alaric. Two were giant muscular men with long dark hair. Third was smaller and looked like a rat wearing a coat richly decorated in bronze and copper colored embroidery. He was obviously someone important.

A fourth came through the door, the Baron’s youngest son Doran Nightlander. He was in his early thirties. The most beautiful man she’d ever seen. His hair was the same color as Olivia’s, brown shot with auburn, long and silken flowing down his back. His eyes were golden brown like jewels. At the time he was the most powerful wizard in the Crystal Mountains. He seemed to know who Olivia was.

He approached her holding out his gloved hand. His smile was warm and inviting. His voice was calming. “So, here you are my little wizard girl. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Do you remember me? No? I’m not going to kill you. In fact, you’re in for a real treat.”

Doran glared at Alaric. “How dare you treat her with disrespect.” Alaric screamed with pain inflicted by some invisible hand.

The wizard took Olivia aside and made her turn around for inspection. “You’ll clean up nicely,” he told her. “You have the sweet face of a girl but already the body of a woman.”

 

He took her hand and led her up the stairs and unlocked the door. “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to help. I’m your friend. Remember that.”

At the top of the stairs was a chamber with a large bed. It was an elaborate lush room made for comfort. Doran closed the door. Olivia heard the click of the lock behind her.

“This is where my mother used to meet her lovers. After her sons were born she needed assurance she was still desirable.”

He picked up a picture. “This is mother. Words can’t express how much I miss her.”

She’d seen pictures of her before, the Baroness Nightlander. The woman was stunning. Olivia had never known anyone could be so beautiful. She could see the resemblance in Doran.

“You look like her,” Olivia said, barely able to get the words out. Her heart was pounding fast. She was terrified and uncomfortable with his talk about his mother’s lovers, but trying to keep calm.

“Yes, I look like her. My dear departed brother Robbie looked more like our father. And my other brother…he was a traitor, now he’s a dead traitor.”

Olivia held the picture in her hands still looking at the lovely face. “She died in childbirth,” whispered Olivia. That much she knew of the Baroness.

“That is what we tell everyone, but it isn’t true. My mother gave birth to my beautiful little sister, who died a few minutes after her first breath. My father suspected the child wasn’t his and stabbed my mother in the heart. She was exhausted from childbirth and too tired to use her magic to defend herself. He later found out the baby was his. You can’t imagine how angry I was at him. I’ll get even with the old bastard eventually, then I’ll be the Baron of the Crystal Mountains.” He smiled at Olivia and took the picture of his mother in his hands. “One day soon you’ll be as beautiful as she was.”

He took a dress out of the wardrobe and handed it to her. “Put this on. I’d love to watch but I’ll turn my back for you.”

Olivia stood motionless clutching the dress. Doran lowered his voice in a demanding tone. “Put the dress on now.” He turned to the window with a smile.

Frightened, she quickly stripped off her worn clothes and put on the dress. Never in her life had she felt fabric so soft or touched anything so beautiful. It fit her as if it were made for her.

“Turn around” Doran told her. He gently unbraided her hair and fanned it out over her back and shoulders. It fell almost to her ankles. Look at yourself he turned her again towards a full-length mirror. “This is your future.”

She gazed at herself. Her serious face cracked a small smile. The teal color of the dress matched her eyes.

Doran lifted her chin and looked into her face. “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to rescue you my love.” He held her gaze. Everything became quiet. She was frozen as if in a trance, unable to move or see anything outside of Doran. “You’re going to be my partner. You’re going to vow to love me forever, even after death and in turn I shall worship the ground you walk on.”

Doran kissed her. Not like a hormone crazed boy but like a man, slow and sensuous. She’d never imagined how wonderful a real kiss could be. He held her close in a gentle embrace. Olivia felt so warm and safe with his arms around her. She could hear his heart beating slow and steady. He stroked her hair and gently spoke to her.

She felt something she’d never felt before – desire for a man.

“Tonight you’ll become a woman and the world will be ours.” He kissed her again making her almost feel like jelly in his arms. “Such a pretty sweet thing.” His lips moved to hers again. Olivia closed her eyes and was lost as if in a trance. He was going to take her away from it all just like the stories she’d read about Hyacinth meeting the handsome Prince Florien in the Northwestern Kingdom, and they’d live happily ever after.

From his pocket he pulled a gold necklace with a large golden stone. Purple and blue light sparkled in it.

“This belonged to my great grandmother Starfire. You know who she was, a powerful wizard, the mother of our country. One day you too will be a great wizard like her. Consider this symbol of your future.”

He put the necklace around her neck. She could feel a surge of magic tingle down to her fingers.

“You’ve always felt like an outcast, haven’t you my little wizard girl? Tonight you’ll sleep in this beautiful bed, not on an old rug on the floor. You’ll be treated with the respect you deserve.”

He gently pulled her down on the bed and kissed her again. His hand drifted to her hip.

“Doran, if my dad finds out I’m here with you, making out…”

“I know Jonathan Snowhawk. We used to be friends. I know he’d approve.” He kissed her again “Clear your mind my beauty. Clear your mind of all the pain that has followed you for so long. Close your mind of all the horrible things you were forced to do.” He unfolded her fisted fingers. She pulled back in pain.

“Let me see. Poor darling.” Doran then kissed the palm of her right hand. The raised scar grew thinner and smooth. The cruel pain she felt in it for as long as she could remember vanished. She opened her damaged hand painlessly and with ease for the first time she could remember. He smiled at her. “This is the first of many gifts of love I’ll have for you. I’ll make you whole, I promise.”

She felt uneasy, unsure of what he was feeling or her own feelings. She was too young to understand why he spoke of love to her but she knew it was wrong. She knew she was too young. There was something else about him, something familiar. She did seem to belong with him. The jumble of thoughts and emotions confused her.

She lay back on the bed, trying to read his thoughts. Then she remembered who he was. She’d been sucked into his world through thoughts and dreams before.

This was the man who had caused hundreds of thousands of deaths of innocent people. He’d started the practice of disassembly – taking prisoners of war and political prisoners apart one body part at a time until they died. This was the man who is responsible for the slaughter of 90% of the Crystal Mountain wizards,including men, women and children. This was the man who had imprisoned her father Jack Snowhawk for over a year. This is the man she’d used her own magic against to keep him from further torturing and mutilating the woman Jack loved.

Olivia locked up that portion of her mind so Doran couldn’t get to her, giving him a sweet smile. Lies came easy to Olivia. It was the only way she could survive without going completely crazy.

“I’m only 14,” she said, trying to stall him.

“You’ll be 15 in two months time. Old enough to know the love of a man.”

His voice calmed her and made her want to completely surrender to him. She kept her composure and kept his magic from touching her. “I don’t know what to do. I’m scared.”

He sat up and pulled her up too. “We’ll get to know each other better. I will teach you. This is what I offer you.” He took her hands and showed her visions that astounded her, of what life with him could be. What surprised her was that she wanted what he showed her more than anything. She belonged in the world that he showed her. She belonged with Doran. He took away her pain. He showed her love. He told her that she was lovely, when everyone else around her viewed her as plain weird wizard girl.

 

There was a noise from below. He went to the door and called down   “Kill the Shadowford brat”.

Before Olivia could shout for them to stop, she willed them to die with her mind, with her own magic. The three men lay in a heap on the floor. Blood came out of their ears and noses. The smaller man twitched as his lifeless glassy gold eyes stared in her direction. The bodies went up in flames.

A chill of pure fear ran through Alexander. He could smell the blood and burning flesh. He involuntarily shuddered.

“Stay in there, I’m not finished.” Whispered Olivia, heat from her hands radiated through his body.

Doran pulled her back up the stairs and tighter to him then laughed. He didn’t care his men were dead. He was delighted by the fact that she could kill with the power of her mind. He laughed with joy. “This is better than I imagined. Olivia my love, you are such a rare and wonderful treasure. By the gods of the stars, this is the beginning of a new age.”

“I didn’t mean to kill them.” Olivia barely got the words out.

“Of course you did my lovely beautiful perfect little wizard,” he kissed her again and then laughed.

Olivia had a sense that Alaric was dying. She could feel his life slipping out of his body She tried to get down the stairs but Doran stopped her. “Let him die. He will be nothing but trouble to you.”

“He’s my friend.”

“That resentful adolescent bastard? Tell me Olivia, will you call him your friend when he beats you and belittles you in the name of love?”

Alexander went cold. It was a vision of what was to come. He thought of Simon’s hate for Alaric.

“Don’t go there Alexander, let’s stick to this story” Olivia said out loud.

Doran took Olivia’s face in his hands.” You’ll learn our ways. You’ll learn to channel your power. You’ll learn to love like you’ve never imagined. Tell me you’ll love me forever Olivia Starfire and we’ll rule the world together.”

“I can’t do this. What if I get pregnant?” It sounded so desperate. She sounded so young.

“My precious darling little wizard, don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of everything.”

Alexander heard Olivia’s adult voice speaking aloud but saw her violent memories in his mind.

Olivia spoke out loud. “I don’t know exactly what happened except that a surge of fear ran through my soul. I wasn’t thinking about Alaric. I was thinking about all the innocent people Doran and his minions had tortured and killed. I pulled myself together and smiled, making him think that I was willing to give myself to him. I leaned into him and kissed him.

She kissed him and whispered in his ear, “I’ll learn to love you Doran. I’ll be a real woman for you.”

He put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer. The passion of her kiss intensified. A low groan of pleasure came out of him.

She looked into his golden eye,s “I don’t want to wait. I want to know what it’s like to be with a man. Please, Doran, I’ll be yours now. Right now. Teach me now.”

“ It was the most convincing lie I’d ever told. Just as his hands started to slide the dress from my shoulders I slipped my dagger out of the sleeve and stabbed him. One upper thrust through the heart just like my father had taught me. Then I stabbed him in the neck. Doran just fell limp right on top of me, with my hand still frozen to the hilt of my dagger. It seemed like I lay there underneath him forever while all his blood drained out on me. It felt like someone was running hot syrup over me. When I finally pulled the knife out of Doran’s neck and pushed him off of me the blade of my dagger blazed up like a paper knife and was gone. God, it was strange.”

Olivia said nothing for a few seconds. Alexander looked at her sad expression. She gave him a quick glance.

“Doran Nightlander, the most powerful wizard in the Crystal Mountains was dead.”

She stood and backed away from the body and stared at him for what felt like hours. Then she pulled off his rings and took the medallion from around his neck. She emptied his pockets into her own. Next she went through the trunk that had belonged to the Baroness. Olivia jammed the love letters and jewelry into a bag. She took the small portrait of the beautiful and gentle Baroness, then sat on the floor and cried until she thought she would pass out.

Alexander suddenly saw a jumble of images and feelings. A woman in an elaborate blood covered dress on the floor, her face covered in blood, her arm severed just below the elbow. A man held by chains attempting to get to her. An unseen child screaming.

Is that the Baroness? Alexander asked.

“Crystal Fox, my…dad’s partner, Doran had her tortured, years before…I killed Doran for her, because of what he’d done to her and so many others. My thoughts aren’t on track anymore,” said Olivia. “I’m sorry, you shouldn’t have seen that. “ Olivia dug her fingernails into Alexander’s wrists. He was back in the tower, seeing the scene through Olivia’s 14 year old eyes.

“I scrambled down the stairs and found Alaric on the floor bleeding from a beating and a knife wound in his neck. He should have died of internal injuries, but I was able to save him with my own wizard healing. My abilities seemed to suddenly grow stronger in my fear.

I’d never known life without war. I’d killed before, with firebombs and thoughts, but this was different. It was with my own hands. There was nothing heroic or noble about it. It was ugly and sad. I knew he was evil, but killing Doran Nightlander left a hole in my soul that I couldn’t understand. I felt a strange bond with him. In a horrible perverse afterthought I wanted to be with Doran, to be his partner, his lover, to live in his world of comfort and luxury. I wanted the pageantry and ceremony. I wanted to be in a place where I’d never be cold or hungry, or in pain.” She paused to compose her emotions.

“I saved Alaric from bleeding to death, I healed him with my wizardry, but I felt like a traitor. Then I realized that was what Doran wanted me to feel. He wanted me to feel like I was one of them, like a Nightlander or one of their true followers. He wanted me to turn against my own family and friends.”

She caressed Alexander’s hands again but her attention was on her story. “When Doran died it was the beginning of the end. The Baron died a month later. The Nightlanders were more or less gone. Within a year the fighting stopped. Alaric was the brave young hero everyone needed.

Anyway, to finish off the story, Doran had six more guards posted outside the door, watching the woods. They had no idea what had gone on inside. I killed them the same way I’d killed his other men.”

Alexander took in a breath.

“I had to kill them, I had no other choice. It was them or Alaric and me. Later than night I contacted my dad. He was there by noon the next day.”

Knowing Alexander would ask she added, “I can speak to people in their dreams or come to them as a phantom while they’re awake.”

Alexander saw the 14-year-old Olivia again, still in the beautiful dress now covered in blood. She had been crying. Tears streaked her face. A 36-year-old Jonathan Snowhawk stood next to her, tall with broad shoulders, his hair not yet touched with grey. His handsome brow was furrowed with worry. Jonathan spoke to Olivia in a gentle voice. His emerald green eyes locked on hers. “Never tell anyone what Doran asked of you or that you killed him. Let them think Alaric did it. There are men, even on our side who will hunt you down and kill you if they discover what happened between you and Doran.”

“Dad, he was so beautiful. He kissed me. He said he loved me. I told him that I wasn’t ready. I told him that I’m just a girl.” She started to sob again.

“Did he take you as a man takes his partner?”

“No, almost but no. I killed him.” She buried her head in his shoulder crying even harder now.

“Don’t think about it anymore. Forget the night ever happened.”

“Don’t let them hurt me.”

There had always been people who wanted Olivia dead, who told Jonathan he should have killed her at birth because of her wizardry and odd ways.”

He held his daughter tight and told her he loved her more than anything in the world. He made her swear she’d never use her magic again. He promised her that he would do everything in his power to keep her safe. Olivia sobbed on not caring if she ever saw Alaric again.

“I’ve shown you too much,” Olivia said, still tightly holding his hands in hers. He could hear the sadness in her voice. Without letting him answer she continued her story. “My father was afraid to let me near wizards, even good wizards. He told forbade me ever to mention Doran Nightlander again or any other members of the Nightlander family. He watched me like a hawk around boys and men of any age.”

“Was he so afraid you’d become the woman Doran had promised you’d become.”

“He was afraid I’d kill again. That’s why the wizard community watches me. They don’t think I know, but they can’t fool me. I can feel them trying to get at me through their minds and their spies. It drives them crazy that they can’t will a heart to stop. I’m the only one who can do that. I’m the only one who can kill without leaving a trace.”

“You could kill me now?”

“No. It only works when I’m protecting someone else. I take no pride in killing. I did what I had to do to save Alaric and so many more. Doran was a monster. I had to stop him. Do you understand?”

“I understand what you had to do. You were brave. Most grown men wouldn’t have been so brave.” They sat in silence for a minute.

Alexander thought about how badly the young Alaric has treated Olivia. He’d bossed her around, called her strange and ugly then expect her to put out for him. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Doran had seduced her, but then she turned on him because she recognized his evil.

“You said Alaric saved your life later on,” Alexander said, knowing she’d been attacked right before she move to the Northwest Kingdom. Now he wanted to hear what really happened from Olivia.

“What?” She gave him a blank look.

“Earlier you said that Alaric saved your life. That was the bond that kept you connected.”

“It was a lot later. I won’t show you that.”

“Nothing could be worse than what I just saw.”

She gave a low mirthless laugh to herself “Sure it can. Twelve years ago, I was kidnapped and raped by a man. Someone I knew from my past.” She paused and looked away. “When I told my kidnapper I’d never love him, he went into a fury and almost killed me. I don’t want to share that memory with you or anyone else.”

“Olivia, I’m sorry.” Alexander reached for her hands but she quickly folded her arms preventing him from touching her.

“After I went missing, Alaric headed up the search to find me. I would have bled to death if he’d not been so relentless in his efforts. Six weeks later Simon met me at the border and I left the Crystal Mountains for good.” She was tired of his skirting what he did and didn’t know about her. “It’s no secret. You already knew about it before you even asked, didn’t you Alexander?”

“I knew there had been an attempt on your life by a former lover. I didn’t know the details. I’m sorry. I promise I won’t ask about it again.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Alexander was almost numb at hearing her story, just as Tom had told him in Allegory. It changed every thought and emotion he’d had about her. He had a million questions he knew she’d never willingly answer. She looked at his concerned gaze. “I’m fine now, really. Don’t tell me you won’t ask about it again because I know you will.” she said.

“Where is he now, the man who hurt you?”

“Somewhere in the wild lands north of the Crystal Mountains, but I don’t know for sure. That’s why I keep in touch with scouts, in case he shows up at the borders, I know to watch out.” she sighed.

“Are you safe with him out there?”

“I’m safe enough. Don’t worry about me.” She took a deep breath and looked down at her hands, rubbing the scar on her right palm. Looking up at Alexander, Olivia smiled.

“I never imagined I’d be living anywhere so peaceful, sitting on a porch drinking wine with a handsome prince, telling him about the nightmares I’ve lived. Let’s stop this ugly conversation. We should be talking about wine and what books we’re reading and gossiping about our mutual friends.” she paused and took a sip of wine.

“You’re very brave,” he said taking her hand again.

“Aside from my father, you’re the only one who knows the full story of my encounter with Doran Nightlander so I’d appreciate it if you kept it to yourself.”

“Nobody else?”

“Not even my brother.” She paused and took a deep breath. “There is one other person. During his interrogation, Detective Crow, damn him, dug part of it out of my memories.” She thought of when Darious kissed her and suddenly felt almost naked in front of Alexander.

“Why tell me all of this after all these years of silence?”

Olivia stammered, “I wanted you to hear it from me, and not from Crow. But that isn’t it, not really, Alexander, I shared my secrets with you because I feel safe in your presence. You have the background and understanding in these matters not to judge me for things I had to do. That’s what you wanted after all isn’t it, for me to trust you?”

“That’s not the real reason. Come on Olivia, after what happened in Allegory, you don’t trust me as far as you can spit.”

“I thought you’d understand…” she paused and took a deep breath, almost a sigh, then continued. “Oh screw it. I hear the respect and awe in your voice when you speak of Alaric. Doran was right in what he said about Alaric. He treated me like dirt, all the while knowing that I’d risked my life to save him. Alaric knows I’d never share our secret. He knows he could live the lie forever and get away with it. I know I’ll sound shallow and self serving for saying this, but it makes me sick every time I think of women practically waiting in line to jump into Alaric’s bed because he’s a hero. He uses it to has advantage whenever he gets a chance, whether it’s for diplomatic or romantic reasons and there isn’t a fucking thing I can do about it.”

“I’m glad you shared that with me, as bad as it is.”

“That isn’t the worst of it. Alaric’s plan was to come here for a few years then bring me home as a trophy. He’d tame the wild and rebellious Olivia Snowhawk and bring her back to the Crystal Mountains once and for all. It didn’t matter if he cheated on me and treated me like I owed him something. A hero should get whatever he wants, no matter if that wish is for me to become his personal property. Everyone I knew back in the Crystal Mountains thought I was crazy not to vow my love to him. He played into it too, acting like the broken hearted hero and enjoying their sympathies while living in The Capitol having more than his share of women. Damn him all to hell.”

“Do you plan on telling anyone else about this?”

“Not anytime soon. Like you, my dear prince, I don’t air my dirty laundry in public.”

“Unfortunately almost everything in my laundry basket eventually goes public whether I like it or not. ”

“No you’re wrong. What about Viola’s betrayal to you? Viola kept you out of her bed because she loved another man. She wanted your title and she wanted your name for her children but she didn’t want you. And in return you protected her and hid her actions from the public. You made it look like the break-up was your fault.”

“I still wonder why I protected Viola. I could have ruined her reputation. I could have prevented her from ever seeing her new lover again.”

“Because you chose to take the high road and be a better person than she was.”

“You took the high road with Alaric as well. Did you feel as bad as I did?”

“It was worse for you. You loved Viola with all of your heart. I wanted to love Alaric but now I know it was just wishing I could love him the way Simon loves Ellie.”

“We’ll love again, both of us. I’m sure of that.”

“You’re too sweet. Go back to being your usual rude self so I won’t have to feel so awful.”

She closed her eyes for a second. Alexander wondered if she was going to cry.

“Olivia, you didn’t do anything wrong. Not in killing Doran and his men. Not when you broke it off with Alaric. “

“Don’t tell anyone what I’ve said or what I’ve shown you tonight.”

“I gave you my word, as your friend and as your prince.”

She mouthed the words thank you, got up out of her chair and stretched.

“Where are you going?”

“For a walk. Come with me.” She reached out her hand for Alexander’s then dropped it on the sound of feet coming down the deck.

 

Michael and the boys came bounding down the steps to join them. Tom was in the house talking with Bob and Roy.

They walked down the patch and looked at the stars. She knew all the constellations and planets. She knew myths of many cultures. He told her that he’d take her to the observatory south of the capitol when they returned home.

Michael gave her a knowing grin. She swore he could read her mind as well as Detective Crow. Michael reminded her of her younger brother. It made her guilty thinking that she had missed so much of her younger siblings lives.

She didn’t know why she’d opened up to Alexander and shared her secrets.   She almost took his arm but decided against it. She noticed he was cold and suggested they go back. This was a temperate land where it rarely snowed in the capitol.

 

Five days before she had met Alexander. Less than a week. But then again she had met men at parties and fell for them the first night. But this wasn’t a party. It was business. He was unavailable and she might as well have been. She found herself telling him things she never had told anyone before. She felt herself feeling things she hadn’t felt in years.

 

What was it about him? He made her angry with his constant questions.

 

The physical attraction was clear. It almost took her breath away.

 

It was the easy way they talked. It was the odd little things like the ferns embossed on his portfolio and saddle. It was the way he was relaxed in the kitchen and how well he took the joke with Roy. She enjoyed watching the banter between Alex and Tom.

 

Alexander took her hands and kissed her cheek. She held her breath and closed her eyes for a moment. He lingered, his cheek against hers. It could have lead to more, but he let go of her hands.

“There’s something I wanted to ask you about the Crystal Mountain courting rituals.”

“We don’t get married in the way you do. Is that it?”

“No, it’s not that. Most of the really bad cases of enchantments, unbreakable enchantments of the heart, come from wizards of The Crystal Mountains. It seems to me to be almost a romantic ritual in some cases, connected perhaps to vows of love.

“An enchantment of the heart isn’t a romantic ritual and has nothing to do with vows of love, it’s a serious violent crime.”

“What do you know about enchantments?”

“I know it is extremely rare and dangerous. In most cases the enchantment is never broken. In most cases the burden of the enchantment is like a disease, eventually killing the victim by wearing him or her out both physically and emotionally.”

“Do you know anyone who is enchanted?”

“It isn’t something those who are enchanted readily share with others. Ask Detective Crow if you want population statistics. He’s the expert.”

He looked at her and smiled. “I think you and Dare would be good together.”

“Darious Crow is too much like Alaric Shadowford.”

“You’re wrong. Get to know him better.”

“No thank you.”

“Don’t give up on love Olivia.”

“Good night Alexander. I’ll see you when the sun comes up.”

 

 

Olivia went to the kitchen to fix some tea before she went to her room for the night. Michael was in the adjoining room looking at some maps. She thought about Crow for a second. The memory of his kisses still made her feel hot and nervous. Then her mind went to Alexander. She’d shared with him something she’d never shared with anyone. She had given him a bit of her heart and soul that she’d she’d never be able to take back. It was like being with a friend she would have forever.

What a manipulating charmer Alexander was, she thought to herself. Suddenly she was wracked with pain. She fell on her knees. Her head was being crushed in a vice. It was though a spear had been driven into her back. Her chest felt crushed. Michael came to her side. He knew what it was, she had never told him, but he knew. He had seen the prince kiss her cheek. He saw the way she looked at him. He put on some hot water, then he put a cold rag on her forehead. He had been through this before. Annie and Simon knew as well. Before he had left Simon told him what to do if she had a bad attack.

 

Change the subject he thought as he stroked her hair. He talked about going to the book dealer at Lockwood. That would get her attention. There was going to be a poetry reading. There were some new landscapes showing at the gallery, ocean scenes. He reminded her that she loved being near the ocean. They had to take a break. She gave him a weak smile for his efforts, then staggered to the sink and threw up. He held her hair back out of her face with one hand and rubbed her back with the other. He put his arm around her waist and got her back into the chair before she sank to the floor. She put her head on the table. He brought her a wet cloth to wipe her face. Blue light he thought.

“Olivia, can you light the lantern? Light the lantern.” He put a small lantern he’d found on the counter in front of her. “Try to light it,” he said gently.

She managed to sit up and hold her hands over it. A flood of pain came over her again. She held her head in her hands. Closing her eyes she grasped the small lantern. A small blue flame started to grow. She took a deep breath and pushed it aside. She started to shake. He put his arms around her and held her until she was still. “I’m alright now,” she said with a raspy voice. She cleared her throat “I’m fine”.

He wanted to yell at her and tell her that she wasn’t fine at all. She was going to let this thing kill her if she continued to close herself off. They shared a pot of tea.

 

“Thank you Michael” she said her eyes brimming over with rare tears.

“You have to do something about this.”

“There is nothing to be done.”

“I’m going to talk to Ellie.”

“She can’t help. Nobody can help. Just let me be Michael. ”

Tom came in. He could see her shaking and the sweat on her forehead and above her lip.

“She’s had one of her attacks,” said Michael

She glanced at Tom and staggered off to the sink again.

Tom went to her as she sank to the floor and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Especially not Alexander.”

Tom carried her over to the couch. He held her hand “Be strong.”

“I am strong,” she gasped then she closed her eyes tight as the pain shot through her body again. Out of Michaels hearing range she whispered again to Tom “Michael knows I get sick like this, but he doesn’t know why. You don’t need to tell him.”

Then she took a deep breath again, pulled herself to her feet and started for the stairs. “It’s over. I’ll be fine.”

“Where are you going?” asked Michael

“To bed darling, to sleep.”

 

After she had gone Michael turned to Tom. “She’s enchanted, isn’t she?”

 

Tom shook his head. “Go to bed Michael.”

Michael stood his ground. “I figured it out a long time ago. Every time she looks at Alexander she gets a headache. That romantic walk they went on tonight just about killed her. I’ve seen this before, but never this bad. We have to talk about it. We can’t continue on our journey like this.”

Michael wanted to talk but Tom shook his head no. “She’ll be fine. Just accept it.”

Michael knew he couldn’t accept that.

 

~ to be continued

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Girl in the Woods: Part 18. Leaving Allegory, and Business at Home

Friday is here and that means another exciting chapter of Girl in the Woods, a serial novel I’m posting right here in 2016.

If you are new here please start from the beginning (CLICK HERE). This is a novel, not the usually stand-alone blog post. And remember no editors were harmed, or even used on this post. It is your sneak peak into the rough draft mind. Warning: Twists and Turns Ahead.

Girl in the Woods: Part 17

Leaving Allegory, and Business at Home

Morning Continued…

 

After she had dressed, Olivia woke Lenora from the sweet dreams of a young girl.

The only clothing the girl had was the whorehouse dress she’d worn the night before, a low cut dress of worn cheap gaudy fabric that was cut tight across the girl’s slight chest.

They were the same height but the girl was still thin and undeveloped. Her skin was pale and blotched with red. She had welts on her wrists that looked like a rope burns. It disgusted Olivia to think how the Mayor had violated this child.

“When you get to Meadow Creek you’ll get a complete new wardrobe. I’ll make sure you have the latest styles that all the girls your age are wearing. Lavender is the big color this year. You’ll look great in lavender velvet with a touch of cream colored lace. A short jacket with matching skirt and your hair in ribbons. In the meantime I’ll give you something of mine. “

Olivia gave the girl a of brown skirt and a trendy long blue wool jacket with small flowers embroidered into the fabric. Underneath the jacket went a white shirt of the softest cotton with a blue lace collar and matching cuffs. The buttons were gold stars. Lenore stroked the beautiful fabrics and stars in awe. Olivia belted and tucked the clothing so that it fit the slightly built girl.

“I’ve seen things like this in the fashion papers along with your picture. I never imagined in a thousand years I’d ever ever meet you and be wearing your clothes.”

“You need something else.” Around the girl’s neck she put a delicate gold chain with a single pink crystal suspended in the center of a delicate golden flower.

“I couldn’t take this. It’s too beautiful,” said the girl.

“It is my gift to you.”

“I’m just an orphan.”

“Me too.”

“You, an orphan?”

“Yes, my parents died in a horrible war. My brother and I were adopted by a wonderful crazy man who had no business raising children. And do you know what? I turned out just fine. You are a bright and beautiful girl. Today is the start of your new life. You’ll have friends and you’ll be loved. You’ll go back to school and even to the University.”

The girl started to cry. “I’m not a bad girl, really I’m not. I didn’t want to do those things with those men.”

Olivia held her close. She clung to Olivia. “Nobody will ever hurt you again. You not only have my protection but that of Prince Alexander.”

Olivia looked down from the window into the courtyard. Kings Soldiers were there. She felt a sudden panic. She knew it was just a reaction to her upbringing.

There had been a raid on the town. Alexander and Tom would be the only bait to get them all in one location. Illegal arms, money and magic were being transported to fund the rebels. The cult had to be shut down.

“Why didn’t we know about this?” asked Michael

Olivia understood the reasoning behind the decision. She later explained to Michael. He had grown up in a city and town of strong women. It offended him as much as it did her.

Alexander came in. Olivia was sitting with the girl showing her needlework stitches. It wasn’t what he had expected. This was a woman he called a cold hearted bitch not two days before. He noticed that Lenore was dressed in what looked to be Olivia’s clothing. The girl’s long hair had been pulled back in an elaborate braid with golden ribbons. Not a trace of make-up was left on her pretty young face. It was a scene of domestic bliss. It could have been a mother and daughter.

The girl stood up when she saw Alexander and gave a deep courtesy. Olivia stood as well and gave a slight bow of her head.

Alexander took Olivia’s hand. “May I speak to you alone?” They went to the next room, a small cold parlor. Tea was set out on a sideboard.

Alexander closed the door behind them and locked the door. Olivia didn’t react as he’d expected her to. In fact she didn’t react at all. She looked calm and collected, perfectly groomed and ready for a day of travel.

He noticed her eyes quickly scan the room as if looking for someone else, someone other than him.

“Well, good morning, again.” He said in his most cheerful morning voice, hoping he wouldn’t annoy her.

“Good morning.” she answered with a slight smile, but her voice was cool. “So, what did I do wrong today?”

“I’m not here to chastise you.”

Olivia said nothing. Despite her anger over the previous nights events, she didn’t have the stomach for a fight today. Alexander sort of reminded her of her father with his early morning cheerfulness that made absolutely no sense what so ever. She had learned to live with her father and she’d learn to live with Alexander.

“Dare Crow speaks highly of you. He said you were extremely understanding and gracious last night. He was impressed how you cared for Lenora.”

“Lenora is a remarkable girl considering how much damage has been done to her. She’ll go far with the right care and guidance.” She poured herself a cup of tea, then spoke, again with almost no emotion. “It was an interesting evening, to say the least, with both Jet Gilroy and Darious Crow.”

Alexander gently put his hand on her arm. “Dare told me he’d met with you last night. He said he was pretty rough with you. Maybe too rough.”

She shrugged stepping away from him. “We came to an understanding.”

He took the cup from her hand and set it on the table. Then he put his hand to the back of her head. “Hold on, I’m just checking on something. ‘He stroked the back of her head. Her hair was smooth and finer than he thought. He could tell she held her breath for a moment. They stood close, her chest almost brushing his own. He locked his eyes on hers knowing it would make her uncomfortable. “You have bump back here the size of an egg.”

“I’ll be fine.” She gently put her hand on his and pushed it away from her head. Then unable to fight it any longer she turned on him. “If anything like this happens again I’ll…”

“What will you do? Send Simon after me?”

“Take me seriously Alexander. I have neither the time nor the patience for the type of stunts Crow pulled last night.” She looked down. “Under any other circumstances I could have had him arrested for assault. But I assume he had your permission to hurt me and treat me like a criminal. Be happy I didn’t kill him.”

Alexander looked serious. “I am glad you didn’t kill him.” He’d had enough of her bravado. A little questioning by Crow shouldn’t have warranted a death threat. “After the chandelier dropped I suspected it might have been your doing. Dare told me you dropped it out of spite. Then he told me he’d lock you up in the darkest dungeon he could find if you ever did anything like that again.”

“He has no proof.”

“You could have blown up the entire room if you wanted to. Why didn’t you?”

Despite Alexander’s calm demeanor she bowed her head slightly. This wasn’t going to be easy. “Your highnesses, I rarely use my magic outside if own home. What I did was wrong and I take full responsibility.”

He crossed his arms as the corners of his mouth turned up slightly. He reminded her of her father. “Relax, you’re not in trouble. In fact I wish I’d thought of it myself.”

She looked at him in disbelief. “It doesn’t bother you that I’m a wizard.”

“Not at all, that is as long as you use your powers responsibly, which you obviously do, despite what Dare Crow thinks. By the way, Lord Mayor is under medical care this morning. Apparently he had a night of graphically violent nightmares.”

“His nightmares are no concern of mine.”

“He is under house arrest and will soon be taken to a prison in an undisclosed location.”

“Don’t expect me to feel sorry for him.”

“I don’t. Did you cause his nightmares?”

“He got what he deserved.”

Alexander just smiled. “Crow said you’re the best, that is at sending bad dreams to bad people.”

“It was for Lenora. He raped and tortured her. He took a part of her soul that she’ll never get back.”

“I know.”

“Are you and Crow going to punish me for the unauthorized use of magic?”

“No, Lord Mayor was overcome with guilt which caused him to go mad. I’ve ordered Dare to do the same. Do you do this sort of thing often?”

“Of course not. Why the game with Detective Crow? Why didn’t you just tell me up front who he was?”

“He wanted to check you out.”

“He checked me out alright. He expected me to go to bed with him.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” He said calmly, hiding his surprise. Son of a bitch. He should have known better than to leave her alone with Dare Crow.

“Don’t trivialize the situation.” Olivia snapped at him.

“I’m not trivializing anything. I needed to keep you and Michael out of trouble, so I asked Crow for assistance. He reluctantly agreed, and I stress reluctantly.” The words came out sounding shallow and plain flippant. Alexander wished he could start over.

“Pray tell, what sort of trouble did you think we’d get into?”

“Case in point, your actions last night at the reception. Why were you so hell bent on crossing the room to see Dare, thus getting the attention of Lord Mayor? Was it because you knew Dare wanted to seduce you or did you have legitimate business with him?”

“That question is totally unjustified. If Justin had been here, he would have been treated with respect. Had you been open and up front with me we could have avoided any trouble last night.”

You and Justin are opposites. If I’d met you without knowing who you are, I would have never guessed you were related.”

“Spare me. I’ve heard it all before. Day and night, fire and ice, summer and winter. Justin and I are of the same mind and the same heart. But, Justin is a stranger here. Had Justin rescued Lenora, Lord Mayor would have been missing his balls and half the town would have burned to the ground.”

Alexander stopped and smiled. No little delicate female here. “Universal Technologies has a strong presence in this country, thanks to your family. Your brother would hardly be considered a stranger.”

“I head up the International Division of Universal Technologies, which means all Universal business in this country. I thought I made it clear to you at Jake’s. ”

“Still, Justin is the main force behind most of the new technology. The message would have more credibility if he presented that technology to those who can be helped by it.”

“Who fed you that line of bull? I know the technology as well as Justin. As for creating and explaining the real life applications for that technology in the six country alliance, I outshine him on every level.”

“I don’t doubt your abilities, it’s just that Justin…”

“My brother is a foreigner with an accent so strong most locals can hardly understand him. His culture and values are strange, if not somewhat unnerving to most people in these parts. I’ve spent the past twelve years traveling this road and working with the people who live here. I know how the government works. I know how the local business environment works. The people we’ll be meeting with are my neighbors and friends. This is my home Alexander.” She pulled out her dagger and slammed it into the table. “ How dare you insinuate Justin is better for this job than I am.”

“I never said Justin was better than you.”

“You might not have said it out loud but I know you’re thinking it.”

He pulled the dagger out of the table and calmly handed it back to her. “Hear me out Olivia. I have never doubted your abilities, after all you are the head of one of the most respected, successful and well run organizations in the country. I suppose that’s why I’m so shocked at how insecure and angry you are.”

“Excuse me? In the past 48 hours you’ve done everything in your power to undermine me, strip away my authority and belittle me.”

“Where does all of your anger come from?”

Olivia wished he had been accusing, but his tone and expression showed quiet concern. She wasn’t ready to answer that question or anything else. Her fingers itched to grab her dagger again and throw it at something.

“I’ll tell you where my anger comes from. Last night, it was just like being back in the Crystal Mountains. Last night I was knocked to the ground, by a strange man who then proceeded to hold me prisoner all the while hurting me for not giving him what he wanted. I thought he was going to …” she stopped short of saying she thought she was going to be raped by another wizard with powers that she couldn’t control. A flurry of blue sparks flew around her feet. “No.” she whispered, making her hands into fists. “I have done nothing to deserve this and I will not tolerate this sort of treatment from you, Crow or anyone else. Do you understand?.”

A thought flashed in her mind of when Alexander had held her hand at the reception the night before. A dull painful realization came to the pit of her stomach that he really was just like her newspaper man. She thought of the words of Darious Crow “No wonder he thinks you’re a cold calculating bitch. Not like the perfect pink fluff he’s used to.” A sharp pain shot through her head. She closed her eyes for a second, then took a deep breath. “Damn it I don’t even like him. Stop the headaches.” She tried to counter act the pain with reason.

Alexander waited a few moments in silence looking at the woman pressing her hand to her forehead. He wondered about what seemed to be constant headaches. He said nothing, but watched her trying to control her pain. Horses and wagons could be heard in the courtyard below. He’d blown it with her and wondered if he could ever gain her confidence again.

“Olivia?” he asked out of concern. The sound of his voice jolted her out of her own thoughts.

“You promised I’d be safe.”

This was heart breaking. He’d never felt so bad about anything in his entire life. “I am truly sorry for what happened last night.”

She put her hand to her side and locked her eyes on his. “My reputation and success speaks for itself. If you are unable to accept that, I’ll leave you to finish this journey on your own.”

“Work with me on this,” he answered gently.

“Believe me, I want to work with you.” Another wave of searing pain swept across her skull. She took a breath trying not to show another display of weakness. He never answered the question of why he didn’t want to work with her. It didn’t matter. She had to prove him wrong.

“I know you do,” he said in a low voice, even quieter than before.

They continued to look in each other’s eyes, neither one looking away. Neither one giving up control. Olivia knew she had to submit. “Dear God” she thought “I never thought I’d be in this situation again, ever in my life. Damn you Alexander.”

“Prince Alexander, let us make a new start.” Then she spoke to him in the old language a greeting of solidarity. “I promise I will be your loyal ally and in time a true friend.” She offered her hand. He took her small hand. Her palm was ice-cold over the raised scar. He suddenly wanted to kiss her hand to warm it up but he refrained, instead firmly held it in both of his hands as a sign of friendship.

“Thank you. I’m looking forward to the rest of our journey.” He said gently, still holding her hand. “I promise you that nothing like last night will happen again.”

She was nothing like the amusing woman Simon and his other friends had described. Nothing like the woman in the interviews and articles he’d read. She was fighting him and defiant, yet there was fear in her. His thoughts were interrupted by voices outside the door. Tom and Michael laughing about something.

Olivia glanced towards the door then back to him. “Alexander, I have a request.” she said, gently sliding her hand from his.

“What is that?” he asked cautiously.

“Stop being an asshole. I’m serious.”

“So am I Olivia. So am I.”

 

___________________________

 

Warm in Alexander’s bed, Candi lay cocooned in a warm happy drug induced state, wearing nothing but the diamond and pearl necklace he’d given her. It was a true feeling of perfection, better than a new dress, almost better than a new man.

Alexander had given her the keys and told her to take advantage of his library. Sure, like that was going to happen. She spent her time there in the big beautiful bedroom.

She purred as her lover kissed her face and mounted her. What for the third, maybe fourth time tonight? She didn’t care. She was floating in a warm sea of pleasure, oblivious to the demands of her mother and the burdens of being a Real Princess. She thought of Alexander for a brief second before sliding her hands through her partner’s golden blonde hair and pulling his mouth to hers.

He looked so much like King Florien. She reveled in the fact that her mother could only fantasize about a moment such as this – being so intimate with the men in the King’s family.

She laughed out loud as he brought her to climax. He came hard then lay next to her, his blue eyes almost glowing. God, he was so gorgeous, almost as pretty as she was. And he was so nasty. He did things to her she could never imagine Alexander doing.

“Can I still see you after I get married?” Candi asked in a childish voice.

“Sure, you can.”

“Did I tell you Alexander wouldn’t go to bed with me?” She did her trademark pretty pout, sticking out her bottom lip and furrowing her perfect brow.”

“Yes, you did tell me,” about a dozen times already. You can shut up now.

Candi ran her hands through his hair. “Alexander is such a prude. I can’t believe you’re related.”

“He doesn’t deserve a woman like you.”

“I love you Graham.”

He didn’t answer as he slipped another vial under her nose to inhale. She closed her eyes again and melted into the pillows, to a place where everything was pink and yellow and perfect.

 

Girl in the Woods

Check back next week for the next chapter in Girl in the Woods. To start from the beginning CLICK HERE.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Girl in the Woods (Serial Novel Part 17)

We’re finally up to Part 17. This is for the two of you who might be following the long and twisted (and unedited) adventure/romance epic Girl in the Woods.

The rest of you can click HERE or HERE for something else more along the lines of PARENTING or VAMPIRES. Or (yes there is more) check out the other two Friday posts, including Ask Juliette (Ask a Vampire – Advice for Everyone.)

If you are new to Girl in the Woods please start from the beginning (HERE.)

Note: Eventually this section will be in extreme editing but for now – well, you’re going to get all of the back story and odds and ends in one big jumble. And the plot thickens.

 

Girl in the Woods

 

Girl in the Woods (Part 17)

Allegory: The Reception

Alexander remembered when the stories of the civil war in the Crystal Mountains broke through. Tales of the Snowhawk clan and their violence against the ruling Baron Nightlander’s family didn’t set well with the people of Allegory either. They blindly supported the more violent followers of the Baron. The Lord Mayor’s father claimed that Olivia’s uncle had killed the remaining Nightlander children, the Baron’s grandchildren and fed their bodies to their dogs. An obscene fantasy was what Alexander’s mother Hyacinth had told him.

Ninety years ago the town had been founded by and still attracted members of a cult. It 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 against both magic and technology. The worshiped the divinity of the King and the rise of a male dominated society. Birth control 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. They ridiculed anyone who was different or foreign. Until recently infanticide and child neglect for children who were different was common.

Raiding parties were sent out as far away as Meadow Creek and Riverbend. At nearby Lockford women didn’t go out at night in fear of kidnappings. Eventually the army was sent in and the gates of Allegory were more or less locked to outsiders.

Things had calmed down in the past eighty years. The raids had stopped and all was quiet, according to the official press releases, but Olivia knew better. Olivia represented technology. She represented the independence of women. She was a foreigner. Most of all her name was Snowhawk. 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 Prince Alexander.

A reception was held at what was called the great hall. That night she dressed in a long skirt of black velveteen with a form fitting short black jacket of leather trimmed velvet. Michael was beside her, also in black. They looked somber and humorless among the loud party colors of the locals.

 

The reception for Prince Alexander was in a lavish hall decorated in gold and shining reds, orange, and purple lights. Tables were filled with food of every kind. Wine and beer flowed freely.

All who were there noticed that Alexander listened intently to each person who talked to him. He made eye contact, held a handshake just a little longer than necessary, smiled warmly. It was genuine warmth and interest.

When Olivia arrived he motioned for her to come up front with him. “Take my hand Olivia,” he said quietly.

She held up her hand expecting him to take fingers in a formal hold. Instead he laced his fingers through hers and held her arm against his side. “From what I understand you’re in complete charge at Universal Technologies. I don’t know you well enough to have any idea what you’re like outside of work. “

“I’m in control,” said Olivia.

“Until now,” he winked at her and smiled. “I know this is difficult for you. ”

It wasn’t like Jet’s seductive tone telling her how out of place she was. It was a genuine admission of concern. Olivia felt herself involuntarily lean into him.

“You’re the only one I would have agreed to come here with,“ she stammered, uncomfortably aware of the warmth of his hand.

“You’re just saying that to be polite. You didn’t exactly agree to be here. In fact, I imagine you’re hating me right now for forcing you to be here.”

She was caught off guard. She didn’t know what to feel. “I feel safe, right now, here…with you. Well, relatively safe.”

”Good.” He quickly changed the subject. “How was your meeting with Jet Gilroy?”

“Odd to say the least. How well do you know him?”

They were interrupted by a visitor. He kept her hand in his, almost as if she was a small child or an elderly aunt.

He squeezed her hand, then let go but kept his hand lightly on her elbow. “We’ll be out of here by tomorrow morning, I promise. Olivia, no matter what happens tonight please keep calm and act submissive. Lord Mayor is on a rampage against you and looking for anything to fuel his fire. It will all be over by tomorrow. I promise.”

“I have done nothing to deserve his rage.”

“I know, but for tonight you must bottle up your pride and be a submissive little mouse. I wouldn’t have asked you to do this except it is only for tonight. After the reception you can go back to being your own strong willed and delightfully self assured in-charge self.”

“Got it.” She gave him a quick knowing smile.

She always has to get in the last word he thought.

 

Olivia didn’t speak unless Alexander spoke to her, occasionally asking her opinion. She answered conservatively with short answers giving no details or personal opinions. Michael stood next to them and politely smiled, while he observed and took mental notes of everything going on around him.

Olivia stepped aside for a few moments when a couple of Madams from two the larger brothels wanted to speak with her. The women knew of Olivia’s reputation as a fashion leader. They discussed the latest styles and asked about what houses to get the best fabrics. Olivia was fascinated by these women. She was used to strange people. She’d grown up with people who weren’t even human, but these women were different. They told her that like them she was better off unmarried, just taking lovers along the way. She had to smile. Had these women be in Meadow Creek running a different kind of business, maybe even in the adult entertainment business like Richard Long’s new love, she would probably be friends with them. She knew she’d never be friends with Richard’s new woman.

Scanning the crowd Olivia saw Jet and his companions. They were talking with some garishly dressed women with elaborate hair and too much make-up, obviously important madams and whores. The women were laughing loudly about something one of the men had said. Olivia was sure Jet would be spending the night with at least one of the whores. The thought of it made her angry.

The Lord Mayor sat in a large chair, flanked by his wife and another woman Olivia guessed was an important madam. A thin young woman sat on a stool by his feet. She was obviously wasn’t a wife or daughter by the way she was dressed. Her eyes were vacant and glassy. Olivia looked away in disgust.

 

Carlon Grey approached her. “Good evening Olivia. Don’t worry, Jet won’t go home with one of those women. A man like him never has to pay for it.”

“He’ll pay, one way or the other,” she said with a smile. “So good to see you again, Mr. Grey.”

“How are you finding things this evening?” he asked Michael.

“I’m not sure, then again it’s early isn’t it. Maybe we can get together over lunch tomorrow and compare notes,” said Michael.

“I’d be delighted, ” Carlon answered with enthusiasm then his attention shot back to Olivia. “Jet has done nothing but sing your praises.”

“I’m sure he has,” said Olivia.

“As far as I know he doesn’t have plans for after the reception,” said Carlon.

Olivia smiled sweetly. “Good for Jet. After such a busy day I’m certain he’d be glad for some time alone. I know I will.”

“It’s a cold night to be alone,” said Carlon.

“I come from a cold land. I’m used to it.”

“Don’t be coy Miss Snowhawk. You know what I’m talking about.”

“Yes I do.”

“Jet Gilroy’s offer from this afternoon still stands. I could give you the key to his suite.”

“I’m sure you could. Unfortunately I’m not sure Jet could afford my price. Good evening Mr. Grey.”

“Good evening Miss Snowhawk, Mr. Taylor.”

Olivia and Michael watched as Carlon Grey walked back to Jet Gilroy and his other companions.

“He was trying to set you up with Jet Gilroy,” said Michael.

“Yes he was. His boss wants to get laid and he feels obliged to see how receptive I’ll be. What an ass.”

 

It wasn’t worth the risk to go any further with Jet. After tonight she’d never see him again. Nonetheless she had to make her presence known. It wouldn’t be right if she didn’t give into the tease. He’d have to find somebody else to share his bed with but she’d make sure he’d be dreaming of her tonight.

Alexander spotted Olivia walking toward the man who called himself Jet Gilroy. Still entertaining a group of madams and whores, Jet looked at Olivia and smiled, with the look of a wolf about to go in for the kill.

He suddenly felt a small pang of jealousy. With Candi there was no real pursuit. The perfect, Real Princess was there for the taking, spread out waiting on a pink bed of roses. Jet and Olivia on the other hand were both flawed to the point of being completely broken, yet he could see Jet had already engaged Olivia in that age old game of tension and denial that could lead to desire and eventual surrender of both parties.

“No,” said Alexander aloud to himself suddenly feeling protective. He couldn’t let this happen to her. Not here, not tonight, not with Jet.

Olivia walked past Lord Mayor without giving him a glance. Lord Mayor grinned as he watched her come his way. Just as Alexander was ready to call Olivia to come back to him, Lord Mayor ran up to her and grabbed the back of her skirt.

She gasped as her body was jerked back in his directions, her heels sliding on the highly polished floor. She found herself looking at the large man’s chest.

The Lord Mayor was drunk as usual. He was loud and crude. He eyed Olivia all night. He knew she heard the lewd comments.

“How good to see you here enjoying yourself Miss Snowhawk.”

Gently pulling her skirt out of his large hand and regaining her composure she politely answered is question almost like a schoolgirl would. “It is an honor to be part of Prince Alexander’s team.”

“You don’t have to be shy with me,” he looked her up and down then reached around and grabbed her ass with a vice like grip. She stepped back regaining her balance, but without any show of shock or emotion. Michael put his hand protectively on her shoulder. She quickly scanned the room for Alexander.

“I told Prince Alexander that I haven’t had a foreign piece of ass for a while. How about it Miss Snowhawk? It will be your goodwill gift from Universal Technologies.”

“How dare you speak to Ms. Snowhawk like that,” Michael spoke up.

Lord Mayor pushed Michael aside.

Olivia spoke up. “That gift is unavailable right now, but I’m sure we can work out a mutually satisfying deal of a less personal nature,” she said, trying to get out of the situation.

Lord Mayor pulled at her skirt again. She pulled the fabric out of his grip.

He laughed. “You’ve got a dagger up there. Ready to cut someone’s balls off are you?”

She didn’t dare draw her other weapon or use her magic. She looked around for Alexander.

“How many men have you killed with that thing?‘

“I break hearts, but I try not to stop them.” Normally the comment would have been good for a laugh, but it fell flat.

She was aware of the crowd of hostile men gathering around Lord Mayor.

His voice suddenly boomed for all to hear.

“I hear you’ve been sending spies up to the northern territories trying to smoke out any Nightlander sympathizers. Do you think you’ll overthrow Prince Alexander like your father overthrew the Baron Nightlander?”

“Excuse me, I don’t understand your statement. “

“I hear your brother is going to be president of the Crystal Mountain Republic soon. Your old man made sure of that. Would you kill Alexander, like your father killed the Robbie Nightlander and his children so your friend Simon can take over here?”

“I would never harm Prince Alexander. I am a loyal subject of the Northwestern Kingdom.“

Lord Mayor and his friends laughed a mocking laugh as if in disbelief. Comments were made again about her father being a killer of children. They started to loudly chant “baby killer, baby killer, baby killer.”

“My father is no baby killer. The Nightlander children are alive and well.”

“Where?”

“Living quiet, normal lives out of government and out of the spot life. They are free children of the revolution. They are free of the shackles of the Nightlander clan.”

“You lying cunt. If they are alive they’re plotting to take revenge on your family and anyone else you’ve meddled with beyond the borders. Your revolution is a failure. Rather than fixing an unsettled government where the rulers were strong and women knew their place, your father opted to start a country ruled by pure evil and heartless technology that is running the very structure of our society. The Crystal Mountain Republic is a joke run by mutant Starling machine makers. Now your bring your vile and wicked culture here to pollute the ways of our citizens.”

“Come now” said Tom, doing his best to try to defuse the situation.

Olivia spoke up. “The war which ripped my homeland apart was a long time ago. Please put that bad memory behind us, if only for tonight.”

“Our fair Queen Hyacinth was the last good person to escape the Crystal Mountains. She is golden haired and beautiful like our own women. She is one of us. If it were up to me I’d never have let you in the country. You would have been hanged the first day you set foot in Meadow Creek”

“Lord Mayor,” interrupted Tom. “We’ve heard enough.”

Olivia turned to Tom with a slight bow of her head she spoke quietly “Thomas, forgive me for causing such a stir. Without the guidance from the Earl of Greenwood I find myself in an awkward situation. Please, I ask your permission to be excused for the night.”

Alexander rose, “Miss Snowhawk, you’ll stay here.”

Olivia turned to Alexander and gave a bow of her head. “No, Prince Alexander, I have made our host uncomfortable with my presence. Please, let me retire for the night and make amends in the morning.” She felt as if she was in some strange amateur play. Lord Mayor was obviously insane.

Alexander approached and took her hand. “You are excused Miss Snowhawk. I’ll escort you to the door”

Olivia’s hand was uncomfortably hot. Alexander made a note that there was no emotion on her face or in her voice. But after they’d turned their back on the room her eyes lit up in anger. She was ready to burn someone with her wizardry, or at least with her temper. Suddenly her hand cooled.

“Did you hear what he called me?” She whispered the words to him so that only he could hear her. She looked back up at the chandelier. It was starting to sway.

He held on tighter and led her to the door. “You’re on his turf.”

“He called me a lying cunt.”

“How did he know about your scouts?”

“Everyone employees scouts to watch their backs. I’d like to see your payroll for scouts and spies.”

“Lord Mayor knows something.”

“He doesn’t know shit. Your future mother-in-law sent her spies out after me last time I was in The Capitol. They saw me with some old friends, who happen to be scouts, and happen to do work for me. Kitti is tight with Lord Mayor. God, I bet they’re lovers.”

He looked at her not believing. “Princess Kitti did not have you followed.”

“Oh but she did. One of those creepy inbred twins followed me around for a week, hovering around windows, taking notes. As far as we know she could have been behind the attack on Logan.”

Alexander almost had to laugh at the reference to creepy twins, but he was too shocked. He’d take care of that later. Regaining his composure he got back to the subject of the outburst with Lord Mayor.

“Why did you mention the children of the revolution? You knew it would make Lord Mayor angry.”

“Alexander, I am a child of the revolution. I lived through it. Ask your mother about it. She was there too. She’ll tell you why I said it.”

“You said you know Robbie Nightlander’s children are alive.”

“You don’t know who they are? Of course you don’t. You don’t seem to know a lot of things you should know. Don’t look at me like I just sprung a second head. ” She jerked her hand out of his. “That bastard Lord Mayor wanted me to…I’m so disgusted I can’t even say it.”

“He already asked me if I could do him a personal favor and send you to his bed tonight. I gave him a Royal no.”

“I can’t believe this.”

“Take Michael and go to your rooms. Guards will escort you. Don’t open the door for anyone outside of our party.”

“What about your friend Jet Gilroy? I can’t believe you had me waste a day on him.”

“Don’t open your door for Jet or anyone else you’ve met in Allegory.”

“You couldn’t pay me enough to open the door for Jet Gilroy. What?”

“You gave me a scare back there.”

“I can hold my own”

“Not with this one. Stay in your rooms.”

“Like a prisoner.”

“Good night Olivia.”

“Where are you going now?”

“I’ve business to take care of. Good night.”

_____________

 

From the reception Olivia walked back to her quarters hardly noticing the two Royal Guards on either side of her or Michael who walked close behind. Deep in her own thoughts she was trying to make sense of the past 24 hours. The first day out the trip turned out to be a disaster. The place frightened Michael. She’d had a first hand look at a side of Tom she’d never seen. His loyalty to Alexander wasn’t what surprised her. It was her own reaction to it that threw her off. She wondered if she’d been used as bait to bring in all of Lord Mayor’s cronies. Why would Alexander come to this place?

Olivia’s mind was working overtime. She’d left Lord Mayor with a crash of the chandelier. It was a stupid thing to do but absolutely nobody would know it was her doing. Few people knew she was a wizard outside of her closest friends. Even Michael didn’t know for sure.

The Mayor was a pig. Without the help of magic, had they been alone, she could have taken his sorry ass out so fast he would have never known what hit him. She could have also have covered up the evidence so well that nobody would ever know it was her doing. Fortunately for him her dark days as a killer were in the distant past. She had to concentrate on the here and now.

Tonight Alexander had suddenly gone from a control freak to a compassionate protector. When he’d taken her hand it had been strangely comforting. Then he’d come to her aid, as she crossed the room to see Jet. Her face grew flushed just thinking about it. How embarrassing almost humiliating to have been almost caught showing interest in another man. No it wasn’t interest. She was just going to show Jet that she wasn’t just some weak helpless woman who would throw herself in his arms just because she was a little uncomfortable with her surroundings. How dare he even ensuniate that she couldn’t take care of herself. She’d been in situations that would make the visit to Allegory seem like a child’s birthday party. She’d totally lost it, that was for sure. Now all she wanted in the world was a glass of wine and a few hours of undisturbed sleep. She kept walking, still ignoring Michael and the guards. What a crappy night.

Jet Gilroy. She couldn’t clear the image of him from her mind. Not from earlier in the day or from the reception as he watched her all night from across the room with that seductive smile.

There was some underlying weirdness about Jet she couldn’t figure out. He was hiding something from her behind those dusk blue eyes. Those beautiful eyes like the sky just before the last glimmers of sunlight completely leaves the sky. Those blue eyes framed by gorgeous black hair, high cheekbones that perfectly balanced with a mouth that promised everything she ever wanted. She thought of how delicious he’d look with his hair long, past his broad shoulders, down his back, like the men of the Crystal Mountains.

Even over winter clothes she could feel the memory of the heat of Jet’s body against hers. Her skin tingled. She involuntarily closed her eyes and held her breath thinking of the sound of his voice, the taste of his kiss, his mouth on her neck, his hands on her bare skin. She imagined herself in his bed letting him fulfill the promises of giving her what she deserved and desired. With a sudden jerk of her head, Olivia opened her eyes to find she’d stopped in her tracks, trying to regain her balance. Don’t be an idiot.

She suddenly felt bitter cold pass through her body. Olivia had spent the first twenty seven years of her life in a cold harsh climate. Cold was a way of life, but here in Allegory it was a different kind of cold. It was the cold she’d always felt when she was afraid. Her knees felt like they were about to buckle out from under her.

Michaels arm was around her shoulder. “Steady boss.”

“Thanks. Must have been the wine.”

“You didn’t drink anything tonight.”

She didn’t respond. Caught in a lie. Her entire life now seemed like one big lie that was ready to snuff her out. How many lies had her faithful Michael caught her in.

“You’re not well Olivia.”

“I’m fine. You know I’m fine.”

He knew her better than anyone, even with all of her lies and secrets.

When they arrived at the entrance of her building she thanked the guards. Michael followed her up to their quarters on the third floor.

 

As they walked up the stairs Michael was unusually quiet. He kept looking at Olivia as if he was going to slam her with something serious. She thought about Jet again. Michael knew what was going on. He had to know.

“Alright Michael, spit it out. What are you thinking?”

“Remember Mayor’s whore, the young one sitting at his feet?”

“Mayor’s whore? What are you talking about?” It wasn’t about her or Jet.

“Pale, thin, light brown hair?”

“Sure, I saw her sitting there spun out of her mind. Looked like she had been snorting Dragon’s Breath. ”

“She looked at me and mouthed the words help me. ”

“Michael, please, do not ask me to get involved with this.”

“She also mouthed the words I was kidnapped. I asked Jet about it. He said it happens all the time around here.”

Olivia took a deep breath. “Oh for God’s sake. Why were you talking to Jet?”

“It was before you talked to Carlon. Come on Olivia, it doesn’t matter where I got my information. That girl needs our help.”

“I’ll talk to Alexander about it in the morning.”

“You’re always the first to help if anyone is in trouble. Why wait until morning?”

“Lord Mayor wants my heart carved out and served up on a plate. I would love more than anything to help the poor girl but I can’t do anything about it right now.”

“We could break into Lord Mayor’s quarters and rescue her tonight.”

“Are you out of your mind?”

“We know security systems and we don’t have to worry about wizardry here. You know how to use weapons. Come on Olivia. I’ve seen you fight.”

“No, you have seen me detain a man long enough for the police to arrive. You’ve never seen me fight, nor do you ever want to see me fight.”

“I’m willing to take that chance.”

“Breaking into a private home to kidnap a resident is illegal. Neither one of us can afford to add a public trial or jail time to our resumes, not to mention debilitating injuries or death. For God’s sake Michael, I’d be deported back to the Crystal Mountains.”

“How can you blindly stand back and watch this injustice…”

She cut him off “Start a revolution for all I care, just don’t do it on my time. I’ve already been there and it isn’t fun.”

Michael stammered and started to speak but she cut him off again.

“What has gotten into you?” she snapped. “Your most valuable assets right now are your reputation and sanity. Do me a favor and don’t loose them until after the River Conference”

“Maybe we can ask Tom or Alexander to, you know, ask to borrow the girl for the night. It would be a great honor for Mayor to share one of his whores.”

“Excuse me?”

“Alexander or Tom could ask to borrow the girl for the night for a little action?”

“Action?”

“Sex. They borrow her for the pretense of sex. Then we don’t bring her back.”

She cringed. “I guarantee you, sending for whores in the middle of the night isn’t an activity either Alexander or Tom indulges in.”

“Olivia, you’re always helping people.”

“In a safe normal and legal way, at least when I’m in this country.”

”You’ll regret it if you let this one go.”

“Listen if it makes you feel any better, I’ll send a message to Alexander asking if he can arrange for the Royal Guards take her from the Mayor’s home. They don’t need to give Lord mayor a reason. If she is there against her will, it should be no problem to have her removed from the situation. How does that sound?

“Do you think Alexander will do it?”

“”Yes, I do. Alexander is a good man Michael.” She felt her face getting flushed but showed no other feelings. Alexander had been so sweet and she’d made a fool of herself in front of him.

They stopped in front of Michael’s door. She handed him a small dagger. “Don’t leave your rooms for any reason aside from flood or fire. Don’t open the door for anyone outside of Prince Alexander’s staff.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Will you be safe?”

She smiled. “I can fight, remember?”

“You’ve killed before.”

The remark caught her off guard. She spoke calmly. “It is true Michael, I am a killer and it haunts me every single day of my life. Don’t bring it up again.” She crossed her arms, so she wouldn’t choke the young man she loved like a favorite nephew. “Alexander has posted a dozen guards outside of our building. You also have the dagger I gave you. It has magic in it so if you need to use it, then use it. Good night dear Michael. Get some sleep. I’ll see you when the sun comes up.” She gave him a quick hug and made sure he was secure in his rooms. Quickly waving her hand over the door she set a spell that would keep the door locked and let her know if anyone tried to harm him.

The guards were waiting at a polite distance to walk her to her own room on the next floor up. She wrote a quick note about the girl and asked that it be delivered to Tom. She then thanked the guards, two nice young men in their midtwenties, and bid them goodnight.

As she entered her own room an image of Jet flashed in her mind again. If he could play with her feelings and use her so easily today what could he do in the future? I’m not giving you that chance you arrogant bastard. She said under her breath as she locked the door behind her.

__________________________

 

Alexander walked across the courtyard with Tom to their quarters. Extra guards would be posted with orders to kill anyone who tried to disturb him. He glanced up at Olivia’s window half expecting her to be watching, but she wasn’t there. Just a pale light shone behind a closed drape.

He had thought of Olivia more than once that day. He had to get her under control if this mission was going to succeed. The meeting with Jet Gilroy had kept her busy but the promised outcome to keep her out of trouble obviously hadn’t worked. The bomb she dropped about knowing the mysterious missing Nightlander children was just that, a bomb. He didn’t know what to think. They Nightlanders could be harmless. Yet, if they were still alive and hungry to regain their power, they could threaten the existence of all free society, including his own country.

When Alexander and Tom arrived at their suite an envelope was waiting for him. It was from Dare Crow, detective and Master Wizard in the Royal Guard.

At Jake’s he’d send a message to Dare to send background information about Olivia Snowhawk. Alexander knew some of the basics but he wanted more than was public, and much more than she or Simon or even Tom would be willing to tell him.

The document was standard material.

Full name: Olivia Starfire Snowhawk

Father: Jonathan Snowhawk (legal)

Mother: Deceased. Undisclosed identity

Father: Biological Deceased. Undisclosed identity

 

He knew she was adopted as an infant, so it wasn’t a surprise, though he wondered why a young man like Jonathan Snowhawk, would take on two children during the war. He imagined Jonathan had found them on the street or in the shell of a burned out house. They could have belonged to a cousin or friend. They could have been Jonathan’s for all anyone knew. Getting answers was from anyone from the Crystal Mountains was nearly impossible. Almost every document from the Crystal Mountains was filled with unknowns or undisclosed. Every fact was concealed in a riddle or another question or half truth. He knew he wouldn’t get any information in these documents about her life in the Crystal Mountains.

 

Siblings

Brother: Justin Snowhawk (twin) age 39.

Brother: Tynick Snowhawk (parents Jonathan Snowhawk and Crystal Fox) age 21

Sister: Flora Snowhawk (parents Jonathan Snowhawk and Crystal Fox) age 16

Marital Status: Single, never married, no known CM partnership.

Children: None.

 

He knew she shared the same birthday with Simon and would be turning 40 the next month. His own 40th birthday was looming later in the year. The thought of Candi quickly passed through his mind and he just as quickly put it out of his thoughts.

His thoughts went back to Olivia. Marital status was always sketchy with people from the Crystal Mountains since there were no legal marriages. It was a closed society that didn’t share records or information of any kind with outsiders. There was no way of finding out anything aside from asking Olivia or Simon. He knew he wouldn’t get any information there.

Justin had talked almost nonstop about his partner, a woman named Heather and their two young children. Of course most of their conversations were about government issues and fishing.

They’d been fishing when the subject of sister’s came up. Alexander had shared information about growing up with Julianna and Glenda always tagging along. He’d almost said that Jeff could pass for a sister most of the time but he kept those remarks to himself. God knows he was prettier and more sensitive than most girls.

He remembered Justin’s fond words about Olivia in his strong lilting accent.

“You see, Alexander, these aren’t the eyes I was born with. I lost my sight when I was a wee child of six. Olivia took it upon herself to be my eyes until I got new ones.. She protected me like a mother wolf. I miss her dearly, but the knowing that she’s found such happiness in your land takes away some of my loss. To see her so content is a joy I can’t begin to describe.

Justin cast out his line and continued on about his sister with a fond smile. “I suspect one day my sister will come back to the Crystal Mountains to find a mate. Next time you’re in Meadow Creek you ought to look her up.” Then Justin gave a hearty laugh. “Not for romance mind you.” With that Justin snagged a fish and the subject of his sister was closed.

Again, Alexander wondered again about Olivia and Hannah. He could imagine how she could have been drawn to Hannah, so darkly beautiful with her sparkling blue eyes and child like laugh. Hannah was married but he didn’t know the particulars of her relationship with her husband.

He continued to scan the pages. Olivia’s place of birth was listed as Blackwood, Crystal Mountain Republic. Blackwood was the last outpost on the border of Starling territory. It was a close to no man’s land as one could get. There were no public records of her birth, so there was no way to easily check if she’d actually been born there or on that date. He noticed a copy of an odd almost cryptic birth certificate was attached. The names of the birth parents was left blank.

His patience was thin. How could she have lived in his shadow for so long without him knowing her or anything about her? She lived only seventy miles away but it seemed like she was in another part of the world. At the same time she was like a rat living in his walls, sharing his air, his friends and every little bit of his life without him knowing.

 

Education: 1 year at Royal University at Riverbend. Graduated from the Great University of the Crystal Mountains with Masters Degrees in Textile Technology and Art.

Current Employment:

Universal Technologies International – President/Owner

Royal University at Riverbend – Professor

Meadow Creek University – Lecturer

Lockwood Textile Mills – Owner

He noted that she never lectured at the Royal University at The Capitol. Again, he wondered how she could spend so much time in The Capitol on business but never become part of society, or again, why he’d never met her before.

 

Personal Property:

Meadow Creek home, 120 acres, 7,500 square feet. Architect – Freddy Greene. Her impressive home in Meadow Creek was next to Simon’s massive Greenwood estate, bordered with Annie’s 20 acres. It listed several other building on the Meadow Creek property which included stables, barns and three cottages. He knew about the historic ruins that bordered property owned by Annjanette Hawthorne, Simon and Olivia was included. There was a note about the ancient tunnels created by unknown people over 1000 years ago. The place was blocked off for safety reasons as well as historic preservation.

The Capitol: Townhouse, co-owner Simon Oliver. 3,400 square feet. It was two doors down from Malcolm’s and just a few blocks from Logan’s house, in one of the more exclusive areas of town. He’d been there a few times to see Simon. The interior was a dazzling showcase of the latest decorating trends and high tech gadgets.

Lockwood: A historic home of 5,000 square feet, on 20 acres, co-owner Simon Oliver. Architects – Freddy Greene and Prince Jeffery Byron. He’d heard of the place, a burned out shell Simon had decided to restore rather than tear down. He knew Jeff had worked on the plans for the interior restoration. Jeff might have met Olivia but he never mentioned it. Alexander thought maybe she had him sign a paper saying he’d never seen her. It wouldn’t have surprised him at this point. It was where Simon and Olivia stayed while doing business at their textile mill, the house he’d be staying at in 5 days.

 

Riverbend: Cottage, 1,200 square feet.

The property in Riverbend must have been what Olivia referred to as the cottage. It wasn’t worth much compared to the others and on a long narrow lot off a dead end road which backed up to the Royal University of Riverbend . He was familiar with the neighborhood. It was old and comfortable, filled with an odd assortment of cottages and a few larger homes. He noticed that she owned most of the ajoining properties as well, renting them out to professors and graduate students.

In addition to her homes there was a long listing of commercial properties and land she owned with Universal and Simon. He had no idea they shared so many holdings. Scanning down the papers he saw that her personal net worth was impressive. She was wealthy beyond most of his own class. In fact, she was one of the richest people in the country.

 

Citizenship: Crystal Mountain Republic

Then there was a surprise. She had applied for citizenship to the Northwestern Kingdom three weeks prior to the trip. There had been a request to keep the application confidential. Simon was her sponsor, no small surprise there. The request for citizenship had been accepted and signed by King Florien.

 

Immigration status: Asylum and permanent residence.

Asylum documents sealed, by order of His Majesty Florien the 2nd. The documents were sealed by his own father. That was 12 years ago. The documents from her college days were also sealed. What was she being protected from? Or more to the point, what was she running away from?

He would have to ask her about that, but with Olivia’s volatile temper timing was everything. He’d have to make it her idea and then gently coax her story out like a splinter, or take the easy way out and use his own authority to get the records. He could go to Simon, but there again, he knew Simon wouldn’t tell him anything.

This was all public data. He’d seen her image in the social sections of the papers and magazines along with Simon and other powerful business leaders. She was everywhere, except where he was.

The first picture surprised him a little. It was of Olivia at an event at the Meadow Creek Opera House with newspaper publisher Richard Long. She wore a form fitting lace dress with a plunging neckline. A jewel encrusted necklace rested above her breasts. Her hair was pulled back from her face and clipped with jewels. She was smiling at him. No, she was glowing, like a woman in love. A smiling Richard stood next to her, his dark golden blonde hair slightly mussed and his clothes the height of fashion. How was it that Richard Long always looked like he’d just rolled out of bed and dressed in a rush but still looked fantastic? Everything seemed effortless for Richard, including his nonchalant attitude towards romance.

Richard’s arm was around Olivia. Alexander’s eye settled on Richard’s hand resting on her hip. Olivia and Richard. That was a surprise, considering the nitwits Richard usually dated. His eyes went back to Richard’s hand on the curve of Olivia’s hip, then to the curve of her breast in the low cut dress.

It looked like there had been more to her concern about the threats by Lord Mayor against Richard that she’d lead on.

He thumbed through the articles and images.

A recent image was of Olivia with a group of friends outside the Royal Cultural Center in The Capitol. She was posing for the camera, showing off an exquisite dress, not as revealing as the dress she wore on her date with Richard Long. Her hair was piled high on her head, set with jewels. She looked content but not as happy as she’d been with the newpaper publisher. Tom and Malcolm were there, along with several other people he knew.

He looked at Tom, sitting across the room by the fire. “When was this taken?”

“We’d been to see Joss Harden, the historian.” said Tom. “You were supposed to come with us, remember?”

“Sure, his presentation on his research on the Southern Wastelands. I’m sorry I missed it.”

“You were doing something with Candi that night.”

Alexander remembered the evening. He’d asked her to attend the lecture with him, but she’d put out her pretty pink pout and said “We’re invited to a party and meeting with some of my friends. Malcom will be there.”

They ended up going to a trendy club where Candi was the center of attention. Malcolm never showed. By midnight they were at an after hours party at the fashionable home of a popular young musician. This was just one more night in a long series of pleasant evenings that revolved around trendy all night parties and his all too public courtship of Candi. When he woke up the next morning alone with a hang-over and message from Malcolm asking him where he’d been all night. His last memory had been of dumping Candi and her entarage off at the palace. Once again she’d begged for him to take her to his place for sex, but he gently and politely declined her offer, too annoyed and drunk to deal with her.

He looked down at the image and his mind went back to Olivia. She was fourteen years older than Candi and it showed. Not so much in her face, but in her personality. Olivia was worldly and demanding with years of education and professional success behind her. She wouldn’t have had to beg for anything with him, especially in that lace dress she wore out on her night with Richard Long.

What did Olivia want from her relationships? Obviously not what he was looking for. From what Alexander saw, she had no room in her life for marriage or children. Bad tempered and emotionally distant, she was no doubt driven to succeed at all cost, both to mentally and physically. She hid behind a veil of power that protected her from who knows what.   It was a little confusing find out about her relationship with Alaric Shadowford, then to see her with Hannah two days ago, the hint of something with Jet tonight, then the images of Olivia and Richard Long.

Alexander looked up from the image of Simon and Olivia. “Did Olivia have a date for Harden’s lecture?”

“No, she usually doesn’t bring anyone to these things unless she’s serious about him. She’s pretty private about her love life.”

“I don’t blame her.” He thought of the obsession the press and public had with his love life since he first dated Ellie as a teenager.

“So what’s her relationship with Richard Long?”

“Friends. Simon and Olivia have been working out deals with Rich for years. They give him the exclusive on stories and he gives them good press. They’re all part of the fashionable Meadow Creek social scene.”

Charitable contributions took up a dozen pages. Everything from stray children to libraries to helping sick children. Most were programs for children. She also sponsored several asylum seekers emigrating from various parts of the world. She’d been in court many times on the behalf of women seeking refuge from abusers.

The file was thick with financials, accolades, property records, transcripts, articles.

For all of her time in his country the woman had been without flaw. She was by all accounts a saint and friend to all.

A folded not with his name on is was inside handwritten by Dare. It was quickly scrawled a tone unusually personal for Dare.

 

Alexander,

After receiving your request for information I spoke with my sister Hannah about her close friend Olivia Snowhawk.  

Miss Snowhawk’s powers as a wizard are strong and extremely destructive. She is careful and secreative about the use of her wizardry and rarely shows any traces of it in public. Most of her friends and employees have no idea of this facet of her life. Should you ask her about it proceed with caution.

Like most of the population of the Crystal Mountain Republic, your traveling companion was trained to kill at an early age. If asked about it she will refuse to discuss or acknowledge it. She will kill and has killed, but only in defense of others. She is less effective when it comes to defending herself.

You asked if she is currently romantically involved with anyone. At this time I doubt it. All sources, including my sister, say they don’t know anything.

If you want more information about her private life and friends ask Tom. He’s closer to her than he’ll admit.

Hannah sends her love. She said you were absolutely delicious, whatever that means in the female lexicon.

Dare

 

Alexander read the cryptic note twice then handed it to Tom. Just like Crow to keep it confidential. It was unusual that Darious was so vague about the personal details. He was sure Hannah had something to do with it. She probably threatened him.

Tom glanced over the documents. “I could have told you everything in here, including the part about her being a trained killer.”

“I’m sure you could have.”

Tom continued. “She’ll kill me for telling you this, no pun intended. Olivia can blow things up. When she was a girl, around eight or nine she was told to blow up bridges and buildings. When she found out people were in the structures she refused to do it anymore.”

“I wouldn’t have guessed she built bombs.”

“She didn’t build bombs. She can blow things up with her mind.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No, Alex, I’m not kidding. Olivia is powerful. She can also visit other places out of her own body. When her father was imprisoned during the war by the Baron, she visited him as a phantom. She killed anyone who tried to harm him. She did the same for Crystal Fox. She saved Crystal from dismemberment and death. Crystal lost an eye and an arm before Olivia saved her. In order to get Jonathan Snowhawk to talk, Doran Nightlander had Crystal Fox brought into Snowhawk’s cell and dismembered one piece at a time. First an ear, then her eye eye, a cut on the face, then Doran chopped off her right arm just below the elbow. Olivia was miles away but she sensed her father’s grief and came to help, in the form of a ghost. Olivia stopped the hearts of anyone who tried to harm Jonathan or Crystal.”

“Where was Olivia? Who was taking care of her?”

“With the Starlings. Jonathan talked them into keeping Olivia and Justin.”

“Starlings”. It sent the hair on the back of his neck on end.

“They don’t help humans.”

“They’re close to the Snowhawks.”

“How many men did she kill?”

“I don’t know. She was only a child. She says she doesn’t remember.”

“She made herself into a phantom. Do you know how many wizards can do that? None in this country.”

“It’s a trait of the Nightlander and Tyhaven Wizard clans. She has blood from both in her, or so I suspect.”

“Tom do you know what that means?”

“Of course I do. She’s powerful, more than we can imagine. But when she used her magic she was protecting her father. She loved him. She did what she had to do, even in a child’s mind. There weren’t any other wizards around to help her, to mentor her. She was on her own. It was heart breaking. You’ve no idea what she went through. Don’t worry she only uses her magic to protect someone she cares about. She either can’t or won’t use it to protect her self. I’m not a wizard so I don’t know exactly how it works.”

“Is that why were her immigrations records sealed?”

“I don’t know exactly. It might had to do with the attack.”

“What attack?”

“A few weeks before she moved here a former lover tried to kill her. He stabbed her and left her to die. Alaric Shadowford was the one who found her bleeding to death, dumped in the woods behind her house.”

“Alaric never mentioned it.”

“They were childhood friends, maybe even childhood sweethearts, that is before their recent unfortunate affair. There again, neither one of them will talk about it with any of us outsiders.”

“So this old boyfriend tried to kill her, Alaric saved her and Simon brought her here.”

“More or less.”

“That explains the scar on her chest. Know anything about the guy who tried to kill her?”

He’s a wizard in bad standing with the Crystal Mountain clans. He escaped to the western wastelands. There’s no possibility of him leaving the Wastes but she’s still terrified of him. Alex, Don’t expect her to talk about it.”

“I’m sure it’s extremely painful for her to be reminded of something so horrendous. I suppose I shouldn’t expect her open up to me.”

“No, you shouldn’t, at least until you get to know her better. “ The both looked through the papers more. “Give her a chance, earn her trust and she’ll open up to you.”

“Why don’t you just tell me everything I want to know.”

“Her cat Ink is from the same litter as your cat Rufus. She likes red wine and art and poetry. In case you haven’t noticed, she has likes ferns, just like you. Neither one of you can keep out of book stores. You’re both fashion snobs, but she isn’t vain like you are. She likes flowers and entertaining and her privacy. She has worked hard for everything she has. She’s an excellent planner, can make a decision and is good with money. Her heart and soul go into everything she does. She is extremely caring and protective of anyone she is close to as well as anyone who needs her help. Anything else you want to know?”

“Why is she sick all the time? What’s up with the headaches? Tom, give me the real reason.”

“The attempted murder. He did more than just stab her. She was savagely beaten, tortured and raped. Other things happened as well, but the thing that matters is that she survived. She doesn’t want any pity or to make it anyone else’s problem. It isn’t public knowledge, so anything said between us on the matter stays private.”

“I understand.” It made Alexander sick to think of what she’d been through. “Who were her biological parents? Where were they during all of this?”

“Dead. They were a couple of unscrupulous wizards who couldn’t care less about the children they’d created. She has a portrait of her nameless mother in her house, but she doesn’t acknowledge that the woman is her mother, or the existence of her biological father.”

Alexander said nothing. He was feeling as though there was a conspiracy against him.

“So Alex, now what do you think of the woman you called a cold hearted bitch just 48 hours ago.”

“I’ll let you know in another 48 hours.”

“You haven’t exactly been Prince Charming.”

“Maybe.” he poured himself a drink. He wasn’t going to commit to any behavior towards Miss Snowhawk. He suddenly thought of Candi, so simple and sweet. So undemanding.

“Times like this make me appreciate Candi. There she is, the perfect simple, uncomplicated, undemanding woman handed to me without any work on my part. A lovely gift for my 40th birthday.” he said.

“My God, you’re shallow.”

“I’m practical. Plus I can’t fight my father on it anymore.”

“It’s too easy. I know you miss the thrill of the chase.”

“Perhaps.”

“How would you go about seducing Olivia”.

Alexander scowled at his friend. “I wouldn’t”

“You’ve thought about it.“

“She is involved with someone. A tall sexy brunette.”

“Let me guess, it’s Dare Crow. That would be a match made in heaven.”

“Hell more like it. No, it’s a woman Tom. Her partner is another woman.”

“No, you can’t be right.”

“The morning we left from Jake’s I interrupted their fond farewell. They were fawning all over each other, whispering sweet nothings. Then they left me to say their goodbyes in private.”

“So who’s the woman”

“Hannah Crow. Olivia introduced her to me as her partner. Partner, as in lover.”

“Dare’s exquisite sister? Simon would have told me about that.”

“Simon wouldn’t. Two good looking women as lovers makes for a great fantasy, but it isn’t exactly acceptable in most social circles. Not openly at least.”

“I think you’re wrong about Olivia and Hannah.”

“They were all over each other, hugging, giggling.”

“Hannah is married.”

“So is Graham but that never stopped him from anything.”

“Hannah isn’t like Graham. She takes her marriage seriously. Olivia doesn’t…not with anyone married.”

“I can’t help thinking about how Olivia and Hannah were together. I’ll just leave it at business. Nothing more than business.”

“You’re attracted to her aren’t you?”

“Who wouldn’t be. Hannah is absolutely gorgeous.”

“No, not Hannah, I mean you’re attracted to Olivia. I could see the chemistry between you tonight at the reception.”.

“Olivia despises me.”

“She’s intimidated by you.”

“She doesn’t like men”.

“She loves men. Did you see the way she looked at Jet Gilmore?”

He had seen the way she looked at Jet. His face grew flushed. “I wish I hadn’t.”

“They’d make an interesting couple.”

“Don’t even think about it. If he so much as touches her I’ll make his life a living hell.”

“Don’t worry about it. He’s a professional. He wouldn’t let sex get in the way of what needs to be done. Alex, seriously, the more time you spend around Olivia the more you’ll understand and like her.”

“I’m not sure I want to spend anymore time around her than I have to.”

“Liar. So given the opportunity, how would you seduce Olivia?’

Alexander had to smile. This was a game they’d played since teenagers every time a new woman came into their lives. “I’d lead her to the top of an ancient ruin and tell her a romantic story of long ago. Then I’d recite a love poem to her in the old language of the Crystal Mountains. When she was thoroughly speechless, I’d take her into my arms and softly say You are so amazing. There’s something timeless about you.. She’ll look into my dazzling green eyes then, softly sigh and say Alexander you’re full of shit.

“She’d be right,” Tom said. He absentmindedly pulled the bracelet of tiny silver bells from his pocket. “Olivia asked me to hold it before her speech this morning. Guess she forgot about it. Silly thing. I wouldn’t expect her to be wearing something like this.”

Alexander took the delicate silver bracelet. He knew the meaning of the bells. Women of the Crystal Mountains wore bells to symbolize the fact that they weren’t afraid and wouldn’t hide from any man. In Allegory, she was afraid.

“I shouldn’t have brought her here.” He said quietly. No wonder she turned to a sultry protective wizard like Hannah for love. No wonder Simon was so protective and suspicious of Alaric. He thought of the man who tried to stab her to death.

His mother had told him women suffered the most during the Crystal Mountain war. The ruling Baron’s warlords considered them property, to be taken, and marked and bound by magic. It happened to his grandmother, who was raped and marked by the Baron’s men. After the baron and his sons were dead and their followers disbanded, women began to wear bells to symbolize their freedom from fear.

_____________________

Tom went back to his room for the night. He was troubled with Alexander’s obcession with Olivia. He’d been friends with her for years. She was fun and interesting. He saw an ugly side of her he’d never seen before as well as a bad side of Alexander that he rarely saw.

There stood a shapely blond woman. Her hair cascaded across her shoulders and down her back. She smiled and slipped her robe off her shoulders. Except for long pearl earrings, she was naked and beautiful.

“Hello my Lord. I’m your welcome gift, from the Mayor.”

“Put your robe back on, please,” said Tom.

“Don’t you like what you see?”

“I appreciate the offer but you have to leave, right now.”

“Are you ill?”

“I’m married.”

She looked puzzled. “My father will be disappointed that you turned down his gift.”

“You’re the Lord Mayor’s daughter? You’re Claudia?”

“Yes and his gift to you for the night.”

“How old are you?”

“Nineteen.”

“Sit down. Pull your robe up. Wait, let me see your arm. Is that a brand?”

“It is the mark of honor. I’m well trained in the high arts of pleasuring. I’ll do anything you desire and then some.”

“I see. Put the robe on. Thank you. Claudia, did you ever think of doing something else, besides, what you do?”

Claudia looked confused. “I don’t understand.”

“Dear girl, have you ever thought of having some sort of career, besides whoreing for your father?”

“I don’t want to be a wife. Any other choice would make me unclean.”

“You have many choices Claudia. For example look at Miss Snowhawk. I wouldn’t consider her unclean.”

Claudia leaned forward and changed her expression from vacuous to interested. “What does she do?”

Tom thought of saying she was the president of a major corporation but decided to bring it down to Claudia’s level. It was like talking to a small child. “She designs beautiful wedding dresses.”

Claudia gave a little pout that reminded Tom of Candi. “My father said she is a vile blemish on the pure beauty of womanhood.”

“What do you think?”

“My father says…”

“What do you think Claudia?”

“I like her clothes. Lots of black leather.” Claudia made a purring noise in the back of her throat “Is she Prince Alexander’s whore?”

Tom was taken aback. “She is no man’s whore. She belongs to herself.”

“She’s not a wife?”

“They don’t have wives where she comes from.”

“Oh.” She gave him a confused look then leaned back on one arm. Her perfect lips formed into a sly smile “I can pleasure you in ways you’ve only dreamed of.” She put her hand to her crotch and started to rub herself.

“I’m sure you can. Please, stop touching yourself. Claudia, you need to go home, now.”

“You don’t want me?” She stood up and put her arms around Tom’s neck.

Tom gently stepped away. “Your offer is more than generous, but no. My heart and my body belong to one woman, and one woman alone.”

“I can’t imagine any man just wanting one woman.”

“I’ll tell you a secret. Her name is Rachael. She’s the first cousin of Prince Alexander. She is a REAL princess.”

Claudia smiled and clasped her hands over her chest. “A REAL princess. Then you must be faithful to her. I wish I were a Real princess.”

“Maybe one day you’ll fall in love with a man and he’ll treat you like a Real Princess. Maybe he won’t want to be with anyone but you forever and ever.”

Then to Tom’s surprise, Claudia began to laugh. “You’re too funny.”

Tom opened the door. “Goodnight Claudia. Think about what I’ve said. There is a big wide wonderful world outside of Allegory. Consider exploring it.”

————-

Olivia was starting to settle in for the night. Sleep was out of the question. She thought about Jet Gilroy. At the reception he mingled through the crowd but never approached her. At one point he looked across the room and smiled at her, a dazzling sexy smile. She could see his dark hair brushing the collar of his shirt, grown just a little too long to keep the cut, but just perfect enough for her to get her hands in it. He said nothing but returned her look for a little too long for her comfort. Then he shook his head as if mocking her. Oh yes she wanted him, in the worst way, but she wasn’t about to go running to him. Let him find himself a whore or another female traveler to keep him company tonight.

“If you want me Jet you’ll have to work for it. You’ll have to work long and hard.” She said aloud. “And for you Lord Mayor, if you want a piece of me you’ll have do get it off of my dead body, you disgusting piece of shit.”

Oddly enough, the only time she’d really felt safe the entire time in Allegory was at the reception with Alexander. He was so in control. It was almost comforting. A twinge of feeling came over her. He was charming and attentive all evening. She thought of the way he gently placed his hand on her back or would gently take her arm when he wanted her attention. Her face went flushed. She felt like a fool for all of her bitching and complaining. “What am I going to do?” she asked herself. “I can’t go home. I can’t let things go on with Alexander the way they have.” Sitting down at the desk she started to scrawl down a list.

 

What motivates him?

Common friends

Commerce

Vanity

Sex

Romance

Power

Fear

 

Fear didn’t seem to be a factor with him. She crossed out fear, sex and romance, then underlined vanity. Then she circled common friends and started a list. Simon, Ellie, Tom, Malcolm, Freddy…

There was a knock on the door.

She froze and pulled her dagger. Looking through the spy hole in the door she was releaved to see familiar faces. Opening the door she welcomed in Tom and Andrew.

 

“We received your note about the girl. Now I need a favor from you,” said Tom.

Olivia smiled. “Anything for you. Just say the word and I’ll put my life on hold. Wait, I already put my life on hold for Alexander. What’s up?”

“The little girl, with Lord Mayor tonight, she is barely fourteen.”

“Shit, Tom. How can something like this happen? I thought the age of consent with an adult was seventeen.”

“It is. When I got your message I sent in the Royal Guard. They said she we needed for questioning. Lord Mayor wasn’t going to question us about that. In fact, he told them to enjoy her as long as they had her.”

“Who is she? How did she get here?”

“The girl is an orphan, a thrown away child, originally from the Lavender Forest. Allegedly she was a servant in the home of Prince Manly but she was hired on later at the Lord Mayor’s home.”

“Isn’t Manly Alexander’s future bride’s brother-in-law?”

 

“I’m well aware of who he is. His household is large, I’m sure he never knew who she was, much less her age. ” Tom said. Manly had always been charming and a top notch business man. Tom was annoyed at Olivia’s allegations of anything less than legal.

“Slavery, child prostitution and rape are serious crimes,” said Olivia. “It wouldn’t surprise me that Manly or his mother Kitti could be involved.”

“The men who enslaved her will be dealt with as well as those who sold her and others like her.

“I know people in Meadow Creek who can help her. They’ll find a family to care for her.”

“The girl needs someone to take care of her tonight. She’s afraid of men. Olivia?”

“She can stay with me.”

Tom called down the hallway. “Lenore, come over here please.”

A slight cloaked figure came from around the corner.

“You’re safe now.” She put her arm around the girl and led her into the room.

“I know you’re disgusted. This place is being flushed out. It will all come to an end soon.”

“Sure, whatever you say. Goodnight gentlemen.” She opened the door and motioned for them to leave. Slamming it behind her she was alone with the child.

 

Lenora was a slim girl with long brown hair and large blue eyes. Her features were those of a pretty delicate child, but there was weariness in her eyes Olivia recognized. It came from years of abuse and hopelessness.

The girl told Olivia thank you at least a dozen times. Olivia helped the girl with a much needed bath. She washed the long brown hair and gently combed it. Bruises covered the girls skinny arms and legs. On her back side there were strap marks from some sort of belt or whip. Bruned into her arm was the freshly healed burned brand of a whore. It was something willing professionals took pride in, but she knew this girl had not been burned by choice.

Olivia took her own soft nightgown and gave it to the girl to wear. Lenora cried on Olivia’s shoulder. She held the child and stroked her hair, trying not to think of the horrors she must have gone through.

“You’ll be safe from now on my dear. I promise you that.” Olivia gently told Lenora. It was late and there was no need to say anything else.

After tucking the tired girl into bed she went to the next room and sat in a large chair by the window and cupped her hands over a small unadorned lantern. Blue flames glowed. The girl cried out in her sleep. Olivia put her hand on the girl’s forehead and set a spell. “ Only sweet dreams for my darling girl tonight.”

Lenora would have dreams of spring gardens filled with flowers. She’d feel like a child again, running down the garden path with a dozen fluffy kittens and clouds of butterflies. No fear would come into her dreams that night or any night in the near future thanks to Olivia’s simple spell..

Returned to the chair she closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. The book she’d taken out of her bag held no interest. Nothing seemed to help. It had been a long horrible day.

Thinking about Lenora she decided she’d personally make sure there was always someone to take care of the girl, get her help, make her safe. Revenge against the men who hurt her was a thought, but there was nothing Olivia could do that night. The only thing that mattered was that the girl was safe now and under Alexander’s protection.

For the countless time Olivia wondered how different her life would have been if she’d grown up in a normal family. She remembered the last time she saw her own mother, the woman she called Rorie. Dressed in a dress of the softest red leather, Rorie was the most wonderful woman Olivia had ever known. Her hazel eyes laughed as she watched her children play. She brushed Olivia’s hair and told her how much she had missed her and how much she loved her. Olivia turned and hugged her mother, never wanting to let go and begged her to stay. Less than an hour later Rorie was dead from the hand of the man she’d later learn was her father. Olivia was only six but she remembered ever detail of the night as if it was yesterday.

Dozing off in the light of the blue lamp, she was startled awake by the noise of a book falling from her lap. “I have to get out for a walk” she thought. Maybe she’d find Alexander and Tom and crash their party. Grabbing her cloak she headed for the door. There in the entryway was the silhouette of a tall man. There was the lusturous mane of glossy dark hair streaked with gray and a seductive smile. Jet Gilroy.

He blocked her way with his arm. “You’re not going out there.”

She started up. “How did you get in?

“It doesn’t matter how I got in. What matters is that you don’t go out.” he wrapped his fingers around a stray lock of hair that fell in her face.

This was the last thing Olivia needed. “This afternoon was a mistake. I’m sorry if I made the wrong impression.”

He stepped forward putting his hand behind her neck. “Actually you made a very good impression.” He leaned in to kiss her and lightly brushed her lips with his. As he reached around to pull her closer she backed away from him.

“Get out, now” she demanded.

“Make me.” Jet whispering to her as he kissed her ear, then moved his lips down her neck.

She pushed him towards the door. “Go away Jet.”

He laughed “Now Olivia, wouldn’t it be better if we found a more entertaining way to pass our time.” Stepping closer to her, he spoke to quietly “I sensed there was something magic between us this afternoon.”

Olivia’s temper flared. She’d had enough bull shit for one day. “Don’t flatter yourself. Get out of my way.” She tried to move around him and he grabbed the back of her vest and pulled her back towards the room.

“You’re staying here and you’re going do what I say.” He held her close almost an embrace.

Suddenly she thought of Alexander’s words to her at Jake’s “If I ask you about anything you are to tell me everything. And I do mean everything. Do you understand?” She tried to push Jet away.

He held her tighter “You were all too cautious when speaking of Prince Alexander this afternoon. Are you afraid of breaking one of his rules? He made things pretty clear to you at Jake’s, didn’t he?”

Jet could read her mind. He was a wizard. Suddenly feeling cold with fear, panic took over. Olivia reached for the dagger in her boot and Jet got to it first, throwing it across the room. She lunged at him with the one up her sleeve, cutting his hand.

“You little witch.” He gasped, letting go of her.

She ran for the door. With lightning speed he grabbed her wrist tight making her drop the dagger and pushed her hard into the wall. As she tried to push him away Jet grabbed her by the shoulders and slammed her to the floor, knocking the breath out of her. She took a second to realize what had happened. He straddled her, holding her arms by the wrists above her head. Her skull pounded with pain where her head had hit the floor.

Jet glared at her. His eyes were cold and unforgiving. “Jumpy tonight aren’t you. Are you afraid I might carve my name into your flesh? Don’t looks so shocked. I know everything about you.” He took both of her small wrists in one hand and wiped the blood off of his other where she had cut him “Damn you. You’re fast with the knife but not fast enough. I bet you would have killed me if you had the chance.”

“What do you want?” she gasped.

“I already told you. I’m here to prevent you from leaving these rooms.” She struggled as he held her with two hands again, one on each wrist. She tried a sleeping spell on him but he blocked her magic. Trying another spell to burn him, She scorched his sleeve, but he blocked her magic again and held her tighter. “Being out of control drives you crazy doesn’t it?” He said in a mocking tone. She took a deep breath as he readjusted his hands, holding her small wrists with one hand. Jet put a slick finger of his bloody left hand to her lips. “Don’t bother screaming, no one will hear you.” He noticed her eyes quickly scanning the room “Don’t even think about dropping anything on me or I’ll hurt you in ways you can’t even imagine.”

Olivia tried another approach. “What you’re doing is illegal. The Royal Guard will trace your magic and send Darious Crow after you.” She said trying to keep her voice calm, despite the fact that she could taste his blood on her lips.

He gave her a grim smile. “Don’t talk to me about illegal activities after that trick you pulled tonight with the chandelier. You’re a woefully undisciplined and dangerous wizard Olivia. It’s just one of your dirty little secrets. You have a lot of dirty secrets, don’t you?”

“Are you trying to blackmail me?” she asked defiantly.

“That’s not a bad idea. Let me tell you what I know and you tell me what it’s worth to you. You handle your booze better than most men, but you tend to drink too much alone at home. That’s a bad sign Olivia.

You spend an obscene amount of money on clothes and jewelry. Maybe that compensates for the fact that you never feel like you’re beautiful enough to coexist with the beautiful people you spend your time with? Despite your pretty face, you still see yourself as that plain freckled faced adolescent that boys never bothered to look at.

Yet, you’re a notorious flirt and a tease. Every time you go out men can’t help but notice that beautiful body of yours. You certainally enjoy showing it off don’t you? But you usually go home alone. Why is that? Too afraid of getting your pathetic little heart broken?”

“Get off of me.” she practically spat out at him.

He gave her a mocking smile and continued. “What else do I know? You’ve had eight lovers since you moved to Meadow Creek. I thought there would be more in 12 years, a lot more. Let me see, there were four in Meadow Creek and two in the Capitol and we can’t forget your childhood sweetheart Alaric Shadowford. Then there was your notorious five-year relationship with my old friend Dominick Jones in Riverbend. All smart, successful, attractive men but nobody you would want to make a vow to. A bunch of testosterone laden assholes I’d say. I’d hoped to be number nine, but that’s out of the question now. Your loss Olivia. Oh but look, you’re blushing. How sweet. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.’ he whispered, mocking her as he adjusted his grip on her arms.

“Prince Alexander will hear about this.” She said trying again unsuccessfully to free her hands.

He laughed. “What will he hear? That you were ready to make love to me this afternoon; a man you’d only be aquainted with for a few hours. Is that what you want?”

“If you tell him anything I’ll…”

“Don’t threaten me. You can’t even use your own magic correctly much less convince Alexander of your virtue. But back to what I was saying. What I don’t understand about you is that despite your passionate feelings for your former lovers, including that unfortunate tryst with Richard Long, you’ve never told any man that you love him. Well, except for the first man you loved, but he doesn’t count does he?”

“Get the fuck off of me.”

“You never give any man a chance do you? I’d just love to hear that sexy silky voice of yours say I love you Jet. Say it Olivia. Tell me that you love me. I dare you.”

She made a frantic effort of get away scratching his wrist with her nails. She dug her fingers into him burning his skin with her magic. He pulled away then slapped her hard. After the first shock of pain she tried to get out from underneath him again. He muttered something and she couldn’t breath. He let the spell go and she gasped for air. None of her own magic worked. A panic overcame her. This was it – he was going to kill her.

“I’ll break our arm if you try that again.” he said grimly grabbing her wrist and slamming her hand against the ground, then tossed his head to get his hair out of his face. Olivia cried out in pain.

“Do you do this to every woman who rejects you?”

A smile broke on his lips. “Dominick Jones said you had sex with him on the first date. Is that true? Oh, that’s right, it wasn’t really a date. It was a business meeting. You let him take you right there in your office on that great big desk of yours.”

“Do you get off by trying to humiliate me?”

“No, I’m just trying to figure out what motivates you to act the way you do. You take extremely well known and successful men as lovers, but you’ve always avoided any contact with Prince Alexander. Now that you’ve met him you treat him as if he’s your enemey. Why was that Olivia? What were you afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid of anything.”

“Really now? Why don’t I believe you? Aren’t you afraid he’ll figure out who you were spawned from and turn you away? Or are you afraid he’ll find out about a certain insanely possessive and dangerous former lover who still stalks you as a phantom at night. That’s what scared Richard Long off, wasn’t it?”

“You don’t know anything about it.”

“Ah, but I do.” He tightened his grip on her even more. “I know everything about your family, your friends, your lovers. Your biological father was the more powerful wizard, but I understand you resemble the sorry excuse you had for a mother. You were just thinking about her before I came in, weren’t you?”

The comment about her mother hurt. “You have no right enter my private thoughts.”

His blue eyes scanned her face looking for something else to break her spirit with. She hadn’t reacted the way he’d anticipated. “Poor darling. Look at you, the lovely and powerful Olivia Snowhawk, forced flat on your back, underneath a strange man, in a strange town. Most women would be hysterical by now, but not you. Not a tear. No begging or pleading either. No wonder Alexander thinks you’re an angry cold hearted bitch.”

She tried to pull away again. He found the weak spot he was looking for when at the mention of Alexander’s negative opinion of her. “You’re definitely not the powder pink fluff he’s used to,” he added as an afterthought, almost to himself.

She glared at Jet with pure hate. His hands held her wrists like vices, as his thighs clamped around her hips. Leaning down closer to her, his hair brushed her forehead. His lips were again close to hers almost a kiss. He could feel her breath on his face as she tried to catch her breath. There was fear in her, but also hate unlike he’d ever felt before.

“If you want to take me go ahead. I don’t care.” She said locking her eyes on his.

“You are a conceited little bitch. I don’t want you. Not like this.” He laughed. “You’re a piece of work aren’t you.”

“If you’re trying to confuse me and break my will you’re a fucking failure.” She growled at him.

“Language, language my dear. Dear God you’ve got a vile mouth on you. I don’t think there’s man alive who can break your will. Well, maybe Alexander could but you wouldn’t be worth his time.”

He heard a noise and spun around still keeping an iron grip on Olivia. She had tried to retrieve her dagger but she was too confused for the magic to work. He muttered a few words. The dagger hissed and went up in a ball of smoke with a flash of flame.

He turned to face Olivia again. “Nice try. If you had really wanted to kill me you could have. God knows, you’ve killed men before.” He spoke to her coldly and deliberately. He saw the shock register on her face. Another victory. “I’m surprised you didn’t kill Robert when you had the chance. Yes, Olivia, I know you’re enchanted. I know what he did to you.”

As Olivia struggled to attack him he held her arms even tighter. She tried to grab him to burn his arm but couldn’t get her hands around to his wrists. Any attempts to block his hold with magic failed. Her fingers started to tingle as his grip cut off her circulation. Panic swept over her. “Robert sent you here to find me, didn’t he?”

He tightened his grip. Suddenly his expression darkened. The Silver Lake accent changed to the high bred accent of The Capitol. “Stop fighting me. I want Robert dead as much as you do. My real name is Crow. Chief Detective, Master Wizard Darious Crow, of the King’s Royal Guard.”

Olivia looked him almost in shock. He let her in. He was telling the truth. “You’ve heard of me. You know my reputation. Trust me” he said.

“Trust you? Why didn’t you tell me who you were up front?” she demanded. He said nothing. Olivia’s body relaxed underneath him, almost as if she had given up the fight. “Damn you, we’re on the same side. ” she said in a horse whisper.

Dare started to sense fear growing in her. “Are we on the same side Olivia? You could have killed someone tonight when you dropped the chandelier. You could have killed Prince Alexander. I swear if I hear of anything like this again I will lock you up in a dungeon so deep you’ll never see the light of day again.”

“I give you my word, I would never harm Alexander.”

“Your word doesn’t mean dirt to me. If you try any magic on him or around him you will pay with your freedom or your life. Now, I’m going to allow you to get up. If you try anything, magic or otherwise I will take you down again.” He climbed off of her and offered a hand up.

“Don’t touch me”. She snarled at him “I should have stayed home.” She said getting up and brushing off her clothes.

“Listen, I didn’t know you were even here until this morning. If it had been up to me you would have never been allowed to come to Allegory.”

Olivia was ready to scream. The man was exasperating. “Allowed? I didn’t ask to be here. I was ordered to come here by Prince Alexander.”

“He made the poor choice of thinking you would set a good example for the pathetic female population of Allegory.”

“ It’s a little too late for that.”

“Before you left Jake’s, Alexander asked me to supply him with information about you.”

“Why didn’t he just ask me?”

“You wouldn’t have told him anything he wanted to know.”

“You didn’t tell him about…”

“No, he doesn’t know about the enchantment or who your parents were. I certainly didn’t tell him how much you enjoyed kissing me.” He ran a finger down her front. “or how badly you wanted me.”

“You asshole.”

“Now, now, you can stop the name calling. I only gave Alexander the bare basic facts. Name, assets, place of birth, adoptive father, citizenship status, financials and usual dry statistical data. Your private secrets are safe. Well, most of them anyway. I can only imagine what Tom or Simon have told him.”

She rubbed her wrists and stared to pace the room. She reminded him of a captured animal. He took her by the shoulders. She started to pull away until she realized he was making the pain he’d inflicted on her body go away. A warmth filled her.

He let go and stepped back. “Don’t think about leaving this room.”

“Of course not, it would just give you another excuse to hurt me again.”

“If you hadn’t stabbed me, it might have gone easier.”

“If you would have told me who you really were up front and not assumed I’d just drop my dress for you…”

“The mayor has put a price on your head. You are in real danger. That’s why I couldn’t let you out.”

“If you’re my protection then I’ll take my chances outside.”

“That’s something about you I don’t understand – taking chances, going out alone at night, living alone, traveling alone. You’re going to get hurt.“

“Don’t talk to me about being hurt.”

“Fighting your enchantment has made you reckless.”

Olivia snapped. “Reckless? I live my life in spite of my enchantment. If you call that reckless then you can go to hell. You obviously know what Robert did to me.”

“I know that lately he’s been keeping a closer watch on you.”

“He has kept a close watch on me for the past twelve years. He comes to me in at night as a phantom. He makes sure I’ll never have a partner or a child of my own. He punishes me with pain if I so much as think of another man. Your kisses will cause me weeks of mind numbing headaches or worse. ”

Olivia realized her voice was shaking but she had to get it out. She hated Darious Crow almost as much as she hated Robert. He couldn’t understand. Nobody could understand what she had gone through. “As long as we’re on the subject, do you want to see the physical scars Robert left on me?   I’ll show you.” She started to unbutton the front of her blouse.

“Stop. Keep your clothes on, I get your point.” his voice turned quiet. “His spells have weakened your magic considerably but you’ve done remarkably well. In fact, you’re downright amazing.”

“Spare me the compliments.”

“Hannah told me about what you’ve had to endure. She’s my sister.”

“I know, I already made the connection.” Had she ever. For years she’d heard stories of Hannah’s younger brother Dare. Stories of how he and his partners using their magic to keep them all free from dark forces and renegade magic. The mysterious Darious Crow already had legend status in the public imagination.

He spoke to her gently. “If I could do anything about the enchantment that binds you I would. Unfortunately it’s beyond my magic. I’m sorry.”

She wanted to spew obscenities at him but she didn’t say anything. Nothing he said could erase the anger and pain she was feeling at that moment. She concentrated to block her thoughts to him. Turning away she fought the anger that made her want to kill Darious Crow then and there.

Looking out the window. A small group of local men had gathered in the courtyard below. She drew the curtains shut.

“Turn out the blue light. If the Mayor’s men see it they’ll be up here in no time. I’ll keep any harm from coming your way tonight. My magic is as powerful as Roberts’s. “

She glanced at the lamp and the flames went out. A panic hit her “Where’s Michael?”

“He’s well protected. Have a seat.” She turned her back to him again. He got up and turned her shoulders to face him. “Olivia, come sit down.” He said gently.

“We’re here to take down the local government and the local cult leaders. I’ve been in and out undercover for months. Then you show up and almost blow it. This morning you made them angry with your little introduction of Alexander.”

“I told Tom that I didn’t want to speak before the group.”

“He should have listened to you. By the end of Alexander’s talk they had decided to teach you some lessons, then kill you. It wasn’t going to be pretty either.”

“What had they planned? Tell me.”

“First and foremost the Lord Mayor would have a private session with you in his bed chamber. I’ll spare you the lurid details of what he was going to force you to do with him. When he was done with you, then his friends would have you, in other words you would be gang raped. Next they had planned to beat you until that pretty face of yours was unrecognizable and your nearly all your bones were broken. After that they were going to bury you alive, then just when you thought your lungs were going to fill with dirt they would have dug you up and tied a noose around your neck. But they weren’t going to hang you, not yet. Since you’re a wizard…”

“How do they know I’m a wizard? I don’t make that public.”

“They have their sources, just like you have yours. In your favor they don’t know that you could kill them all if you really wanted to. Not knowing that, they were going to cut your fingers off one by one, then string them around your neck, making a lovely little necklace. Next they would each carve their names into your back until they dug into your spinal cord, but just enough to paralyze you, not kill you. Then they would drag you by your neck from the back of a wagon until you were absolutely dead. Your naked broken body would then be delivered to the office of Richard Long at the Meadow Creek Recorder.” He paused. “It would be far worse than the dead dog they sent him last year. You can only imagine the trauma Richard would be subjected to seeing what was left of his former lover on his doorstep.”

“Why do they want me dead? And Rich? Have you met Richard Long? The man is afraid of his own shadow.”

“Give me a reason why they wouldn’t want you dead. You represent everything that threatens their way of life and narrow minded beliefs. Richard Long might be somewhat lacking in courage, but when behind the pen, the man is a giant bear, unwavering in the expression of his opinions. Another reason Lord Mayor hates Richard is that his editorials are pro-technology and favor complete equality for women.”

“We’re not the only ones who feel that way.”

“The difference between you and others is that you’re Jonathan Snowhawk’s daughter. They see your father as a villain, bringing down the Baron and spearheading the movement to bring technology out of the CMR.

They hate the fact that you are an independent and powerful woman. You are everything they don’t want their women to be.

“There are many independent powerful women in this country.”

“They have been harassed as well. Unfortunately for you being a wizard and a powerful business woman wasn’t enough for them. The most damning reason they want you gone now is the fact that you are traveling unchaperoned with Prince Alexander.”

“Unchaperoned? For heavens sake, I’m almost fourty.”

“The citizens of Allegory are big supporters of his marriage with the subservient, fertile and oh so perfect Princess Candi. They see you, an attractive, single and overtly independent woman, as a rival to the Princess.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous? Why do you say that?”

“Get real. I just met the man.”

“Reality is not a deciding factor in the thought process of these people. They see you with Alexander and assume you’re trading sexual favors for policies in your favor. Even worse, some speculate you want to have his child. Needless to say they plan to set you up as an example of what happens to bad women like you who tempt and use men.”

“I’ve never even touched Alexander.”

“No you haven’t. Unfortunately he touched you this morning when he kissed your cheek, after your sweet your introduction. Tonight, during the reception he held your hand tonight like an attentive lover.”

“He was protective of me, that’s all. I was, shit, I was looking at you.”

Dare had to smile at her admission, then got back to the subject at hand. “An innocent show of support from Alexander to Lord Mayor is proof of an affair.”

“I can’t believe this is happening.”

“In their cult all women are either submissive wives or entertaining whores. Their sole purpose is for providing either children or pleasure to their men. There is no in between.”

“So why are you here?”

“We’ve had an uncover operation going on for months. They’re stockpiling weapons, trafficking drugs and under aged girls. I came here two weeks ago to wrap up the job. It is finally time to shut the place down”. He told her what he could about the operation. She told him her plans for Lenore.

Leaning in towards him Olivia took his injured hand. She studied it for a moment. “I was looking forward to one day meeting you. Hannah spoke so well of her baby brother.”

“She always speaks well of me. My dear sister is an accomplished liar.”

Olivia had to smile as she continued to examine him. “You have nice hands. Too bad…” she hesitated.

“Say it, Olivia, too bad you’ll never get to find out how these nice hands will feel on your bare skin.”

She leaned forward, her lips close to his, her hand caressed his thigh. “You’re extremely attractive Crow. Too bad the idea of being with you makes me sick.” She continued to hold his hand.

“You can’t do a reading on me Olivia.”

“Shut up. I don’t want to know what you’re thinking. You’ll end up with an infected hand or a nasty scar or worse if we don’t do something about this.” She reached into her bag and took out a small medical kit. She gently cleaned where she cut his hand and wrapped it in gauze. “It’s deeper than I thought.”

“It will be fine by morning.”

“You stopped the bleeding on your own. I’m impressed. I couldn’t heal myself with magic even if my life depended on it.”

“I’ll teach you one day, when our paths cross again.”

Her touch was gentle and healing. The pain went away as she gently stroked the top of his hand. What a difference from moments ago when she tried to kill him. Without a word she cleaned off her own wrist that was covered with his blood from when he held her down.

Dare took her hands again gently in his own. “You could have easily killed me. Why didn’t you?”

She didn’t answer. It was a subject that was off limits, even to other wizards. She pulled her hands back and crossed her arms.

“Your magic is strong Olivia, stronger than you know.”

She looked at him in the eye. He held her gaze. “You know about my enchantment.” She said calmly, knowing he could feel how alone and isolated she felt.

“Everybody in the higher levels of the magic community knows about it. We’ve been keeping an eye on you, at a distance of course. Most thought the enchantment would have been broken by now.”

“There’s only one way it can be broken, and it’s never going to happen.”

“The love and faith of the man in your vision, combined with your own love and faith will break the spells.”

“It doesn’t matter what is suppose to break the spells. My vision was a cruel joke, just like your kiss this afternoon.”

He looked at her in silence. He thought of making a sarcastic remark about how serious she sounded but decided not to.

“Honestly, I thought you of all people would understand my enchantment. I do everything in my power to live a normal life. It isn’t easy, but this is my life. As difficult and isolating as it is, I can’t do anymore about it than you can.” She added quietly.

He knew she was referring to his own situation with Denese but didn’t comment.

“So now what do we do, Detective Darious Crow?” she asked sinking into the large chair by the window.

“We’ll wait here until morning. If all goes well, by the time the sun rises, the old ruling group will be rounded up and arrested. The cult will be history.”

“Aren’t you needed out there?”

“They’ll call me if they need me.”

 

He watched her nod off to sleep quietly curled in the large chair like a small child. “Sweet dreams” he said as a gentle lover would. He put his hand on her forehead to give her quiet dreams without unwanted intrusions from Nightlander.

She opened her eyes “Don’t even think about putting anything into my mind.” She drifted off again.

Olivia was such a bundle of contradictions to Dare Crow. When he got into her mind, the thought patterns he found were almost overwhelming. He’d violated all codes of wizard ethics and dug up memories she’d locked away in the darkest recesses of her mind, memories she’d tried to forget forever. It was worse than he could have imagined. Despite her threats he gave her a dream of gazing out over the beautiful water of Lake Aurora. It was the view from his own cottage – his one haven away from the world at large.

He covered her with a blanket, and then set her undamaged dagger on the table, next to her book. He’d expected something about business or finance but noted it was from a popular mystery series. Her delicate wire framed reading glasses sat next to the book. A folder contained notes for future meeting and talks on the trip. She had sketched detailed dress designs on the borders of the documents. He then examined the dagger more closely. It was sharp, double sided and deadly. One had a handle of intricate distinctly feminine floral designs.

He closed his eyes for a minute of rest, than opened them again with an uneasy feeling. He’d dozed off for three hours. Olivia was gone, along with her dagger. He looked in the bedroom. Lenora was sleeping quietly alone in the big bed. Laying a hand on her young forehead he explored her memories. If he could convince her to testify in court more than one head would roll. No child should have to go through what she had, not for any reason.

Dare went back into the other room. Tom was standing at the door. His face was white and drawn. He tried to speak but only a whisper came out.

“Alexander…he’s dead.”

Crow’s head spun. “Stop, give me the details. How? When?”

“Now, just now.”

“Are you sure Tom? Are you absolutely sure?”

“Olivia came into his room, to his bed…I would have never expected this from her…” he stopped. “She butchered him.”

Dare was sick. How could this happen under his watch? A wave of grief overcame him for his friend and anger towards the woman who killed him.

As they ran to the North wing of the building, to Alexander’s rooms, Tom started to talk “Alex said he was going to meet her. He wanted one last affair before he married Candi. Oh God, Simon warned him about her.”

“Warned him about what? She isn’t aggressive towards men at all.”

“For God’s sake, she hasn’t been stable for a long time. The enchantment has twisted her. When Alexander forced her to come here, to Allegory, she must have snapped. But, but, I want to believe it wasn’t Olivia. Oh God, I want to believe he’s still alive and…” Tom broke down.

How would he tell Hyacinth?

Dare ran down the corridor to Alexander’s chamber. In front of the door two guards lay dead on the ground, their throats slit. The crazy bitch had burned their eyes out.

Stepping over the bodies Dare and Tom made their way to Alexander. Blood was splattered on the bed curtains and the walls. The sheets were a bright solid red. The smell of death and burned flesh filled the room. Alexander lay naked on his back. His throat had been cut. A handprint was burned on the left side of his face. A hole, the size and shape of a female hand was burned deep into his chest leaving a jagged black outline. His heart was gone.

Dare put his hand on lightly Alexander’s forehead. He was still warm to the touch. A vision came to Dare. It was a few minutes before the murder. Their encounter had been rough and almost brutal.

She sat naked on the bed, sweat glistened on her chest and forehead. Alexander stood next to the bed with his hands on his hips. It was obvious that they had already been intimate and were now in a heated argument.

“If you tell anyone about what just happened I will ruin you.”

“I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone that you’ve just treated me like an Allegory whore. I’ll just send you a bill for services rendered.”

“Bitch.”

She stood and kissed him “I wish it had been different. I wanted you to fall in love with me, but that will never happen, will it?”

He pulled her closer but she pried herself out of his arms and backed out of his embrace. “Gotta go,” she said with a laugh, “I have a date with Jet Gilmore, excuse me, I mean Dare Crow.”

Alexander hit her hard in the face. A large gash started to bleed above her eye. She cried out in pain as he pinned her down on the bed. “You aren’t going anywhere.”

Blood ran into her eyes, as she kissed him and pulled him close to her.

Disgusted at what he saw, Dare tried to get to the murder but she’d used her own magic to wipe out all other lingering memories or visions of the crime.

Dare studied the gaping hand shaped hole in Alexander’s chest, and the scratch marks on his shoulders along with bites on his neck. Alexander’s dead fist clutched a clump of Olivia’s long brown hair that looked to be pulled out by the roots. What sort of madness had overcome them? Olivia’s ripped clothing was scattered on the floor. Dare couldn’t get a reading on anything. His eyes darted around the room. There was blood on the floor. He dipped his finger in it. It was Olivia’s and she was alive.

“Dare, over here.” Dare turned around to see Tom, now leaning against the wall, tears down his face. “His heart.” He whispered.

In a crystal bowl, surrounded by apples was a human heart. Dare felt a wave of sickness overcome him. Bile started up his throat. He gripped the table and tried to compose himself. “Get away Tom,” he said as he watched Tom sink to the floor in shock.

Hal came in dragging a bedraggled Michael. “He was trying to get away.”

“Where is she?” Dare growled, gripping Michaels shoulder like a vice, trying to get at his memories.

 

“I’m right here Darious.” her voice slowly sounding out his name in a thick Crystal Mountain accent, elongating the r sound and hissing out the s at the end.

He jerked awake in a cold sweat still shaking in anger. Olivia was still curled like a cat in the chair where she’d been sleeping.

“How dare you enter my dreams.” his hands went to her throat.

“How dare you come up here and think you can control me,” she growled back at him. Taking both of his wrists in her hands in an attempt to pry him off of her.

“Do you like it that way? Rough and painful?” He gave her neck a squeeze.

She sucked in as much air as he would allow her to. “Of course not. That was for your benefit.”

He knew she was baiting him. He got close to her face. His hand still held her neck. “You want me, admit it.”

“I’d rather die,” she said without flinching or moving back a bit.

He pushed her back, making her head hit the back of the chair. “I’ll give you credit for your crude little revenge on me. I’m impressed. Do it again and I will kill you.”

He pulled his arm away with sudden pain. She’d burned his wrists. The wound vanished as soon as it had appeared. Smoke curled around the burned edges of his shirt sleeves.

“Fuck you Crow,” she snarled, then curled up in the chair again and shut off her mind.

He looked at her in disbelief as she slept like a wild kitten who’d just caught herself a big rat. He’d never imagined the woman his sister had called “sweet little Livy” would be this foul mouthed, foul tempered woman in front of him. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d wanted a woman so much or the last time he’d hated one as much as he hated Olivia Snowhawk at this moment.

Putting his personal feeling aside he closed his eyes and slept a dreamless and guarded slumber.

___________________

The sun was not quite up. Olivia was still asleep. He studied the ferns on the setting of her moonstone ring. It was in an old style of the Crystal Mountains. He sensed the ring had been given to her long ago, by someone she loved.

He’d tried to stay angry about her haunting him with the dream last night but he saw it as a rare insight at what sort of magic she really had. His memory was still crystal clear and real, not at all like a dream. His arm was alright as well but his shirt was still burned, the brown black edges of the burned hole still crisp.

She was emotionally drained but she’d survive like the cockroach she was. Most people didn’t live well with enchantments, especially one as evasive as hers. Olivia’s enchantment had made her as bitter and angry as the man who had enchanted her. Dare tried to see who could break her spell. He had a slight sense of something, but any information was blocked by some twisted and intricate magic he couldn’t figure out. He sat holding her hand and trying to figure out the spell for over an hour. Then it came to him, the spell wouldn’t be broken by love at first sight or something as simple as a kiss. It would be a long difficult road for both Olivia and the unfortunate man she would allow herself to love.

He thought of her vision of slaughtering Alexander, his mind went to the real events of the night. Alexander had taken her hand ever so gently. She’d leaned into him, and whispered quietly and gently in his ear. They’d talked with their heads close together, ever so sweetly. Then on a wild impulse, just like a silly young girl, she’d gone across the room to meet Jet Gilroy, the bad boy who’d kissed her and completely destroyed any credibility she had with Alexander.

Olivia opened her eyes and found herself holding the hand of Dare Crow. She said nothing as she looked into his eyes trying to search his soul.

“Olivia, I’m leaving now. Someone will come get you and Lenora in an hour or so. Don’t worry, you’re safe now.”

“Safe? What is that suppose to mean?”

“Allegory as we knew it is gone.”

Olivia looked up at Dare. She was still angry. Pulling her hand out of his and she looked out the window to avoid his gaze.

Dare leaned forward in his chair. “I have to ask you something, but I don’t want you to get angry.”

She glanced back at him. “Ask whatever you want to know. I’m not going to fight with you anymore.”

“Any chance you have romantic feelings for Prince Alexander?” he asked gently.

She answered him quickly. “Of course not.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’d sooner fall in love with you and I guarantee THAT will never happen.”

He thought for a second that it was too bad he wasn’t the one to break her spell. Life with her would never be dull. He pulled on his coat and made his way to the door. “Watch your back Olivia.”

“Go away,” she said without so much as a smile. After he left she stared at the door trying to clear her mind of him. Parting the curtains and looking back out the window she saw Alexander in the courtyard talking to the wizard. Those are two men I could learn to hate with a passion she thought.

 

~ 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.