Juliette’s Book Club: Exceptional Liars

Exceptional Liars
by Marla Todd

Excerpt from “To Elizabeth With Love.”

This book was written as a love letter to my wife Elizabeth Hobbs Atkinson. She was brutally tortured and killed by a man who had once been my friend. Her body was never found, but her legacy of love will still be here.

From the day Liz vanished I prayed for her return and for hope. The day she was pronounced legally dead I lost all hope and thought I too would die. Only my faith in God and the love Liz and I shared kept me from going off into a black abyss of hopelessness and grief.

My comfort comes from my faith and my knowledge  that Liz is in a better place.

~ Gregory Atkinson

“Son of a bitch.”  I put down my glass of wine and threw the book across the room.

I’m surprised the bastard hasn’t been struck by lightning. What a crock of crap and lies. Any poetic justice of my situation had gone down the drain at that moment. Greg is walking and talking and writing bestselling books about me and about our marriage… and I’m still dead… saved by a serial killer, no less. God save me and have mercy on my soul and on that abusive lying son of a bitch Gregory Atkinson. May he rot in Hell. But he did get his wish. I am in a better place. A much better place.


Alex Goldstein has a thriving law practice with his wife Tasha Alexander. Life is is good. Well, except for the fact that he drinks too much, and his wife regularly cheats on him. To keep his mind off of his problems Alex writes about by serial killers. His most recent obsession is The Killer of Virtue.

Liz Hobbs is born into a large family of sneaky manipulative children with an unhealthy fear of God only ranks second to the fear of their narcissistic parents. Unfortunately she falls in love with Greg Atkinson who is far more sneaky and manipulative than she could ever imagine.

After misreading the phone number of a women’s shelter Liz ends up in office of Alexander and Goldstein. Alex helps her build a new life as his own life falls apart.

Exceptional Liars is a roller coaster ride of a book – full of unexpected twists and turns, witty dialogue and interesting characters.

Exceptional Liars is now available in both electronic and paperback versions on Amazon.

Exceptional Liars was written by my writing collaborator Marla Todd.

As my friend author Mandy White said: I’ve read this book, and it’s a phenomenal story. It’s part drama, part thriller, part romance, and maybe a bit fantasy, for anyone who ever wanted to escape their life and start fresh. I highly recommend it. Read it!

Warning: this book contains violence, adult situations, and bad language.

Happy Reading. Wear a mask. Stay safe. Talk to your kids. Check in on those who might need extra help or company. And as always, kiss a Vampire.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Girl in the Woods (Serial Novel, Part 21)

Girl in the Woods is a regular 2016 Friday feature on Vampiremaman.com

This is a serial novel based on a fantasy romance, written when I had a baby, long before I knew what a blog was. Anyway, if you’re coming in for the first time please start from the beginning. CLICK HERE for the full story, or go to the side bar for a link.


Girl in the Woods

Part 21

Home at Universal Technologies

Simon sat back at his desk. He watched the clock. Right on time Annie came in.

“Olivia was in Allegory,” she said, anger in her voice and on her face.

Simon answered her calmly. “It was imperative that Alexander bring her there to show the population that he means business when it comes to the equality of women.”

“You lied to her.”

“I simply omitted information.”

“You’ve changed Simon. Ever since Alexander became involved with Princess Candi, you’ve become almost ruthless. What is going on?”

“Alexander promised me Olivia would be safe and so she will be. He is a man of honor and a man of his word. Don’t worry about Olivia. She can take care of herself.”

“She’s not well.”

“She’ll be fine.”

Annie leaned against the desk, “No Simon, she’s gone downhill over the past few months.”

Simon was about to use the excuse that Olivia was just over extending herself as usual but then thought better of it. No his friend had gone downhill.

Annie kept going. “How long do you think she can keep it up. The last thing she needed was the pressure of going someplace where they want her dead.”

“I can’t do anything about it now. No doubt Olivia is safe and sound in Alexander’s arms.”

“Simon, he’s bethrothed to Candi.”

“Not yet. He’s free to find love in the arms of any woman he wishes to be with.”

“The last thing she needs is Alexander’s attentions.”

“Maybe it’s exactly what they both need. Come on Annie, think about it.”

“You sent her on this trip in order to get Alexander laid?”

“No, that isn’t what I said.”

“Look what happened when you fixed her up with your friend Richard Long. He used her, then threw her away. She loved him and he stabbed her in the heart. What makes you think Alexander won’t do the same thing?”

“Alexander would never use Olivia. He is nothing like Rich Long.”

“What if he kills her.”

“Kills her? Don’t be dramatic. Alexander would never …”

“No, not Alexander. You know who I’m talking about. The enchantment. Robert.” Tears welled up in Annie’s eyes.

Simon took a deep breath. “I won’t let that happen.”

“You can’t stop him Simon.”

Simon said nothing. Ellie had told him the same thing over and over. There was no way to stop the madman who wanted to own Olivia’s soul. Simon’s plans had gone horribly wrong. Now both of his friends were in danger.


~ To be continued



Girl In the Woods (Part 20 – Home Front)

Girl in the Woods is a regular Friday feature on vampiremaman.com

This is a serial novel so I suggest you start from the beginning. Click here for the entire story.

Girl in the Woods

Part 20

Home Front

Blessedly home from the cesspool of Allegory, Dare sat in his office at the palace thinking about Olivia. He knew everything about the woman the prince had asked about. Her likes, her dislikes, every bit of background from the day she was born, her family history, her financials, even her lovers, but he’d never met her.

He knew the scars that marked her body but not the scars that must have been on her heart. A heart he was sure was as hard and cold and slick as polished obsidian. Easy to break and in turn, easy to turn into a sharp edge that could easily cut a man’s heart out, without regret or remorse.

Simon was openly hostile to anyone who would tarnish the unblemished reputation of his business partner. For that matter, Simon was openly hostile to almost everyone and everything that didn’t fit into his ideal of a perfect world. Had Simon been behind this? Had he finally committed the ultimate defiance to authority and orchestrated a meeting to advance his own power?

Dare looked through the images, choosing carefully the ones he’d send to Alexander. She smiled in most. Odd that anyone with her burdens of shame and guilt and pain could smile so sweetly. It was amazing to him that she ever left the house, much less looking so put together and confidant. Then again, she was a wizard. Wizards always prided themselves on their appearance, even if they didn’t practice the craft.

Her files were sealed order of Florien, but it was no secret to Dare. He’d asked Florien about it when the request had come in. The king had told him “Keep my son wondering. It will be good for him not to get all the answers for a change.”

Over the years Dare had kept his watch on her through his spies and sources. He knew things that even Simon couldn’t guess. He knew about her late night meetings with Crystal Mountain expatriates and mercenaries, he knew about the men in her life, he knew about her haunted tormented nights in her mansion in the woods. He knew the small details of where she got her clothes, her habit of making lists, the way she devoured books, the small sketches she made while sitting in restaurants and bars with friends.

She’d been systematically and without her knowledge kept away from Alexander.

“She’s been kept away from me as well.” He said aloud. “The game is up Miss Snowhawk.”

He thought about what it would be like to dance the dance with Olivia Snowhawk. He studied her image looking at her face, her body. He thought of her kiss in Allegory. It took everything he had in him not to take it to her bed.

He never took advantage of women, but seduction of Olivia Snowhawk would be the ultimate conquest for this wizard. She’ll be a challenge. Women were so easy and casual with Dare. No string or heartbreak, just fun and games. This one would be different because he hated the very idea of her existence.

The door opened and a dazzling sight greeted his eyes. Princess Candi was all in form fitting pink lace and diamonds.

“I’m going to some clubs, you know, like the clubs you like to go to when you pick up on women. Would you care to join me?” she asked, all girlie giggles.

“I have to work.” He said still surprised she was there, looking like a powdered sugar confection good enough to lick.

“Or, if you don’t want to go clubbing, my friends and I, well we could go to your house and party there. I know where you live. Nice place.”

“Are you high?”

She laughed. “You’re cute and built and all my girlfriends want you to come with us. They say you’re a real pleaser.” She giggled then took a deep breath. “Come with us Dare. Pretty please with sugar and ripe red cherries on top!”

Dare was lost for words. Candi’s invitation was so random and unexpected. “Not tonight, I have to leave early tomorrow, before the sun comes up,” he said, suddenly not feeling like himself at all.

She leaned over the desk and gave him an air kiss and flashing a good bit of cleavage. “Party pooper. Dream of me tonight.” Then she turned with a twirl and headed for the door.

“Princess Candi, I want to ask you something,” he said, making her spin around with a smile.

“What do you think of Alexander’s change of plans?”


“He is now traveling with Olivia Snowhawk. Does that bother you?”

“My mom says Miss Snowhawk is a strange bazarro bitch. And she’s old, like almost your age. I mean not that you’re old but it’s different with men. You can be hot forever. What bothers me is the fact that Alexander decided to go off and take Andrew and Charles with him. Now you’re going too. No fair all the good looking fun men are gone.”

“You’ll have plenty of fun on your own Princess Candi.”

“Yes I will. Goodbye Dare. Have fun.” She grabbed his collar and before he could respond the princess planted a lingering kiss on his lips.”

“Goodbye Princess,” he said not even knowing what to think. And he was left alone again. He’d been totally disarmed by the girl. Sitting for a while Dare tried to clear his brain and get back to business on hand.

Princess Candi and Olivia he thought. They weren’t even the same species. He would have liked to tell someone the amusing story of Candi’s visit, but who could he tell?


~ To be continued


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 (Part 14, The Journey Begins)

Welcome to The Serial Novel: Girl in the Woods, a regular 2016 Friday feature. For those of you who haven’t been following this story please start from the beginning (Click Here.) I started on this epic adventure when I had a small baby who was up at all hours. This is by no means an edited or polished manuscript. I’m just sharing a story – an epic fairy tale full of magic, technology, romance, adventure, and a lot of sharp twists and turns. So have fun, as the story continues…

Part 14: The Journey Begins

Alexander and Tom left early in the morning. Their first stop was in Meadow Creek. They spent the night at Simon and Ellie’s home. Simon had already gone on to the meeting place, but that didn’t stop them from having a lovely evening visiting with Ellie.

In the morning she told them to take a short cut through the woods, past Annie Hawthorne’s house, and then past Olivia Snowhawk’s estate.

As they finally passed the Snowhawk estate Alexander stopped to look. “This place is amazing. I could live here.”

Tom gave a knowing smile “Just your style. I think you’d like Olivia. You have a lot in common.”

“Justin’s sister. Impressive. I’ve been thinking of building a place in this area, any idea who the architect is?”

“Is this a honeymoon cottage you’re planning?” Asked Tom lifting an eyebrow

“No, it’s not Candi’s taste.” Replied Alex in disgust.

“You’re not completely sold on this match are you?”

“Over the past few months I’ve felt absolutely suffocated. You can’t imagine how glad I’ll be to get on the road and away from everyone and everything I know. I need to figure out how I can bring Candi into my life as a partner, and a friend. It is an almost impossible task, but I shall endure.”

Tom tried to change the subject of Candi. He could hadn’t heard that kind of fear in Alexander’s voice since they were teenagers, facing the wrath of their father’s over yet another one of Simon’s stupid pranks. “Freddie Green designed the house. He does most of Olivia’s buildings.”

“I should have figured. Candi can’t stand Freddie.” Alexander added quietly, going back to his misery.

“I’m sure the feeling is mutual.” Tom started to get back on his horse.

“Should we stop for a visit? You’re friends with Olivia.” Alexander looked at his friend with a glimmer of hope in his eye. A distraction would be welcome.

“Looks like she already has company. Let’s go.” Said Tom, trying pry Alexander away from the view. A dark, luxurious carriage stood in front of the house. It looked like it belonged to the Ambassador of the Crystal Mountain Republic. It made sense he’d be there.

“I think that’s Alaric Shadowford’s carriage.” Exclaimed Alexander, starting towards the gate. Tom was now starting to get annoyed He knew the stop at Olivia’s would be unwise. The less Alexander knew about her the better.

“Then all the more reason not to stop. Let’s keep going Alex. We’ll stop by on the way home.”



Their first stop would be Jake’s Place, a large entertainment complex at main fork in the highway between Meadow Creek, and the towns of Riverbend and Allegory.

Jake’s consisted of two inns, twos indoor stages, an outdoor stage that could host major musical festivals, a camping area, several pubs, and meeting rooms. Malcolm frequently played there, as well as all of the popular acts. Jakes was a favorite meeting place for business and most of all for pleasure. Jakes’s also hosted three recording studios.



Alexander and Tom went into the inn. They were familiar with the place. Since they were teens it had been one of their favorite spots. Always a party or entertainment.

They were greeted by Jake the proprietor, a tall skinny guy with a perpetual smile. Men found him friendly, women for some odd reason found him irresistible. Not at all what one would expect in a cross roads such as this. He knew everybody and everything that happened in those parts. He was a little older than Alex and a great friend of Logan’s. Jake had started the place when he was twenty years old and built it into his own small music/entertainment empire.


The wind picked up around the inn, and the cold came late that afternoon.

The plan was to meet with Simon Oliver, Annie Hawthorne, and Justin Snowhawk about the trip and general business before the trip.

Alexander said hello to Annie and Simon then went to see Jake. After three days on the road he needed to relax. He left Tom to sort out the details and contracts.

Jake and Alexander visited in the large parlor by a roaring fire.

“So how’s Logan doing?” asked Jake

“He still can’t use his arm very well but all in all better than I imagined. He’s definitely taking advantage of the situation. Every time I see him there’s a different woman waiting on him.”

“It’s sad to see a strong man like him so helpless” said Jake with a grin

“Yes, he’s not up to riding his four legged mare yet, but he’s defiantly being ridden by the two legged variety”.

“That’s the Logan we know and love”.

“You haven’t said anything about Princess Candi.”

“Jake, she’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve never met a woman so sweet and seemingly untouched.”

“Then you’re happy.”

“I suppose I’ll be happy enough. An exquisitely beautiful and willing princess is hopelessly in love with me. What more could I ever ask for?”

“You’re a lucky man Alex.”

“So I’m told.”

Alex saw a rider outside the door on a large black horse. “Is that Justin Snowhawk?”

“No, he never travels alone. That is his darling twin, Olivia. She almost always solo. Come out with me. I’ll introduce you.”


Alexander stood by Jake as a woman in a green cape and hood hauled a large pack off the back of a huge black horse. The wind whips strands of brown hair out from under the hood.


She turned around with a grim look. Jake ignored the look and gave her a hug, nearly lifting her off of the ground. She gave a slight laugh then got back to business.

“I tried to contact you. Most of the communications, both image and voice have been down for two days.” she told Jake,

“They’ve come back up here about an hour ago. I understand things were fine in The Capital.” He answered passing her horse to a groom.

“I’m none too pleased about it.” She replied angrily “I’ll get to the bottom of whatever or whoever is behind this. It practically shut down operations.”

“Annie, Michael and Simon are inside.”

“Good. Has Prince Alexander arrived?”

She turned and almost ran into Alexander. She stopped and took a step back, then regained her composure.

“Prince Alexander” said Jake, “I’m honored to introduce my dear friend Olivia Snowhawk, President of Universal Technologies”.

“So we finally meet” Alexander said with a smile.

“Yes, we finally meet” Olivia replied almost as if she was taken aback, then she gave a slight bow of her head. “I’m honored that you could make it Prince Alexander”.


So this was Olivia Snowhawk, Simon’s long time friend and business partner. Her eyes were hazel; her brown wind tangled hair fell midway down her back. Who would have thought that she was the powerful Olivia Snowhawk? He’d seen her image before in magazines and in the papers, but in person she wasn’t at all what he expected. He had imagined her to be tall like her brother, formal and elegant, not the small, road weary and obviously agitated woman before him. She was about eight inches shorter than his six feet, making her a little below average in height. He might have passed her on the street.

He thought it odd that she was traveling alone without staff, servants and security people. A woman of her status traveling alone on a trip like this was highly unusual.

The voice was what really made him take notice. Underneath her lilting Crystal Mountain accent, it was a smooth sultry voice, the kind that would be welcome for hours in a lecture hall or better yet, hours in the bedroom.

“Miss Snowhawk, this is a pleasure indeed. Simon has spoken so much about you over the years, but sometimes I doubted if you really existed.” Alexander said as he took her gloved hand, not knowing if he should kiss it or not. He decided to forgo the kiss. She smiled slightly and held eye contact with him. He felt as though he’d known her for years, then as soon as the warm feeling appeared she turned away wincing in pain, putting her hand to her forehead. Jake mouthed the words “don’t say anything” to Alexander.

Olivia turned back and as if nothing had happened continued their introduction.

“Yes, Simon has done a wonderful job of keeping us apart. But here we are, finally, face to face.”

The attraction was immediate for Alexander in an odd and unsettling way he couldn’t explain.

“Yes, we finally meet, face to face.” he answered with flirtatious smile.

“Come on let’s go in, the others are waiting”, Jake motioned as he picked up her bag. Alexander noticed the way he put his hand on Olivia’s back, almost a caress.

Jake smiled and practically purred “It’s good to have you back darling.” then he looked at his friend and motioned towards the door “Alexander”.

Alexander looked at Jake and wondered if he was sleeping with her. No, Jake would have said something. He’d ask anyway before they left.

As they entered the lobby she slipped off her heavy cape off and Alex saw a tempting curvy leather clad figure. “Don’t even think about it,” he thought to himself. He worked with women all the time, he reasoned with himself, but sometimes reason flew out the window.

He was amused by the haphazard way her hair fell over her shoulders in windblown tangles. Light freckles scattered over her face, another imperfection, like her dusty windblown hair, the freckles worked to make her even more feminine and vulnerable. Her only adornments were delicate silver hoops in her ears and an elegantly simple moonstone ring on her right hand. But there was certain flamboyance about her. She wore a form fitting black jacket that flared at the hips and fell to her knees. Underneath was a maroon colored shirt with touches of delicate lace at the collar showing just a hint of cleavage and a thin white scar peeking out. The lining of her long cape was a wild black on gray print of twisted ferns and birds. Her black leather boots were up to her thighs with more fern patterned delicately tooled down the sides along her legs. She wears ferns he thought to himself. Under different circumstances he would have been charmed. Now it only brought back unpleasant thoughts of Candi redecorating his home in pastel pink and yellow.

“So, you’re the elusive Olivia Snowhawk of Universal Technologies” he thought to himself making a mental note of her beautiful textured clothing. At least she had good taste.

There was something familiar about her, more than just her images in the press or pictures he’d seen in Simon’s office and home. He knew he hadn’t met her, but it was as if he already knew her. That was common with well known public figures he supposed. Everyone in the country thought they knew him personally.

She took her bag from Jake, something Alexander found odd. “I know you’re busy. I’ll settle in myself.” She kissed him on the cheek.

“I’ll see you both at dinner then.” Jake winked and went back down the hallway.


Alexander noticed that Jake hadn’t given her a key. She was obviously a regular here. “Miss Snowhawk?” he said quietly as she walked beside him down the long hallway towards the VIP suites.

“Please, call me Olivia” she said rubbing her left temple again. He took note of how she furrowed her brow in pain.

“Let me take your bag for you.”

“I’ve got it,” she said with the smallest bit of a smile.

He wondered what she had in there that she wouldn’t let go of. Knowing she was from the Crystal Mountains it could be anything from expensive boots to a severed head. He decided to lighten the mood with small talk then. “You’re from the Crystal Mountains. We don’t see many people from my mother’s homeland.”

“No, we don’t get out much… that is out of the country.”

Over the years he had met a few others from the same region beyond the Crystal Mountains. It was a place of unmatched natural beauty, but with a violent past and guarded present. People who came from there spoke in hushed defensive tones about their homeland and shared little with outsiders aside from the technology they exported. Few visitors made it into the strange land.

“How did you end up so far from home?” he asked, already knowing she’d come to run the largest technology business in the country.

She answered as if reading from a well rehearsed script. “I was already running the international side of business so it seemed natural to relocate on the other side of the mountains so to speak. Next thing I knew Simon had talked me into locating the headquarters in Meadow Creek.” she hesitated, and paused for a second, her tone changed to quiet and personal “I come from a very harsh and violent place. Things are better there now, since the war…but” she stopped and took a deep breath “I don’t choose to live there anymore.”

“You’ve been here twelve years now. That’s a long time to be away from home.” the prince started

“My home is here, not in the Crystal Mountain Republic. Please, let’s not talk about it. Not tonight.” she whispered, her hand briefly went to her right temple as if in pain again. Thunder cracked outside. Alexander felt a chill down his spine.

She continued in totally emotionless voice.” I’m going to freshen up before our first meeting. It’s been a long ride.” Then she paused pulled her gloves off, then took his hand. Her hand was like ice in his. “Funny isn’t it that we’ve never met. That’s what you’re thinking isn’t it?” She said with a slight smile.

“I suppose I was. Why haven’t we met?” he brought her hand to his mouth and lightly kissed it.

She didn’t take the bait to talk more, to open up. She gave his hand a squeeze and let go of it. “It doesn’t matter why our paths have never crossed, what’s important is that we’re both here now. I’ll see you in about 30 minutes.” She bowed her head slightly and turned towards the stairs. He had to smile at her. The mystery was finally over. She was right. They were both here, finally.

“That bag looks heavy. Let me help you at least up those stairs.” He called after her not wanting to let her go yet.

“Thank you but, you aren’t going my direction. I can handle it.” She turned again and headed to her rooms.

“When is Justin arriving?” Alexander asked to her back.

She stopped at the foot of the stairs and turned, heaving her bag up to her shoulder. “Never, or at least not for a while. Not here with us. No today. I’ll be taking his place.”

Alexander might as well be hit with a door. “I don’t think I heard you correctly. When will Justin be arriving?”

“I’m sorry, Justin can’t make it. He’ll meet us at the River Conference in a few weeks.” She answered slowly as if speaking to a small child or an idiot.

“Where is he?” Alexander demanded.

“Who knows at this point. The high mountain passes are still snowed in. The road crews have been blasting but it’s a slow process at 18,000 feet. The risk of avalanche is too high to go any faster. Of course attempt to get out over the mountains was completely out of the question, so he decided to scrap the whole deal and made other plans. Why he didn’t tell me earlier I don’t know, but I’ve barely had two days notice. I’m sure you can imagine how I’ve had to scramble on this. Despite the last minute change of plans I’m looking forward to working with you and Tom. I’ll see you in a bit.” She impatiently heaved the weight of her bag from one shoulder to the other then took a step up the stairs.

“Why wasn’t I told?”

She dropped the heavy bag her feet. “I tried to contact you but as you probably know already, most of my voice communications have been down for the past few days. I sent word to Logan as soon as I found out. Didn’t he tell you?”

“No. he didn’t.” he snapped back at her.

Her expression softened. “I’m sorry, I told him to pass my message on to you. So I guess Simon didn’t tell you either.”

“No he didn’t tell me anything.”

“I see. Have you met with the others yet?”

“Yes, briefly, but they didn’t say anything either.”

“I’m sure they assumed you knew.”

“So it seems, Ms Snowhawk” Alexander all but yelled at her. He was at his wit’s end. This couldn’t be happening. Not to him, not now. He had to put her off of the idea. There was no way she could go with them. “I hope you realize this isn’t exactly a safe or comfortable trip we’re going on.” he told her trying to talk some sense into this woman.

“Your highness”, she said calmly, almost too calmly, “I beg that you forget all generalizations. I’ve made this trip many times by myself. If you stay clear of Allegory, it is safe and exceedingly comfortable. All the arrangements have been made for your comfort and security. Your business is my business, very lucrative business I might add. I have close ties in this region that will make this little adventure well worth your while”. Alexander furrowed his brow. She seemed impervious to his show of disgust. “I am at your service. I promise you won’t be disappointed.” Olivia showed him the first sign of a genuine smile. He could get used to that smile under different circumstances, but not here, not now.

Oh God, he thought, this is going to be a long trip. On top of it all would be explaining to his parent’s and Candi the change in circumstances. This wasn’t going to go over well with any of them.

“This will never work.”

“Never is a word I try to leave out of my vocabulary. I recommend you do the same. I’ll see you in thirty minutes.” She bowed her head slightly and picked up the bag again.

Who did this woman think she was? Alexander kept calm, trying not to show his temper at her infuriating attitude. “Stop. Who’s idea is it that you take Justin’s place?”

Olivia answered calmly “Logan suggested it after talking with my brother. Simon and Tom agreed. They insisted I drop everything and join you. There was no other choice, other than cancel the mission.” She bowed her head and said “Prince Alexander, I am truly glad we finally have met and I’m looking forward to traveling with you. I will see you in half an hour.” then headed up the stairs.

“We’re going to talk about this now.”

“We’ll talk later. I’m tired, I’ve got a headache and I’m sure a million tangles in my hair, so let me have a few minutes to myself, please.” She continued up the stairs leaving Alexander to watch her vanish up the dark hallway.

“Miss Snowhawk, your tangles can wait.”

She took a deep breath and gripped the stair rail. “At the moment.” She paused for a few seconds. “At the moment, Your Highness, I am in a great deal of pain and must take care of myself before we discuss anything. I promise you, later, we’ll come up with a plan that you and your associates will agree with…that you’ll be able to live with. Alright? Please?”

“I’ll see you in thirty minutes Miss Snowhawk.”

“Prince Alexander.” She turned without another word or change in expression and climbed the stairs.


He’d expected Justin and found himself about to embark on the trip with a stranger who was not only ill, but had a bad attitude to match. In his wildest dreams or nightmares, this wasn’t what he expected, not at all. Still trying to digest the information she’d just given him he went to look for Tom. Apparently nobody from his party was available. He found Jake in his office going over paperwork. Alexander asked him about business and upcoming concerts. He wondered again about Jake’s relationship with Olivia Snowhawk.

“Has Olivia Snowhawk discussed my trip with you?”

“Olivia? No, she hasn’t. I didn’t know she’d be here until this morning. I haven’t spoken to her in maybe three or four months.”

“You seemed pretty cozy with her. Is she one of your girlfriends?”

“You know I never kiss and tell.”

“You always kiss and tell. Is she one of your weekend girlfriends?” Alexander was digging himself a hole, something he rarely did, but the news of traveling Olivia had thrown him completely off.

“No, unfortunately there’s never been anything with Olivia and me except a lot of hot and heavy flirting. The last thing she needs is a pervert like me to complicate her life.”

Alexander had to smile at that comment, then he was back on his mission. “Olivia said Justin won’t be in the country until the River Conference.”

“What a shame. I was looking forward to seeing him again too. The man has an amazing voice. Too bad he couldn’t make it. I’d hoped to talk him into getting up on stage tonight.”

“Does she sing? Olivia?”

“God no, at least not in front of an audience.”

Alexander decided not to let Jake see his agitation. “Justin isn’t much like his sister, is he?”

“Olivia is all fire and ice, no in betweens with that one. Justin is like nice warm comfortable bath water.” Jake pulled open a folder with his busy calendar. Talk of Olivia was now over. “Hey, when are you going to get Princess Candi out here on my stage?”

“For you Jake, I’ll make it happen. We’ll have Malcolm and Addie set up show while I’m traveling. It will keep Candi busy and give you the kind of publicity you’ve only dreamed.”

“That would be fantastic.”

“Don’t advertise Candi but bill her with someone popular who will bring in a full house. Make it a surprise to the audience. Book it with Addie. I’ll take care of the extra security. Don’t spare any costs. Whatever you need to get the job done and bill me for it. That goes for Candi’s personal comfort and security and whatever Malcolm and Addie need.”

“This will give your pretty little princess a distraction while you’re off traveling with Simon and Olivia.”

“Simon isn’t going with me. Ms Snowhawk just told me will be traveling in Justin’s place. This was supposed to be a male only party and now I’ll have to explain why a girl just popped out of the cake.”

“Ahhh Olivia. Don’t worry about her. She’s a workaholic the same as yourself only worse. She’s as sexy as they come but she won’t be thinking about you a bit.”

“The press will have a field day with this one.”

“Olivia and Simon can manage the press. They’ve helped me out a time or two or three. You’ve got Charles along don’t you.”

“The voice of reason”

“There you are. Nothing to worry about.”

Alex imagined that most of their talk that evening would be about business. That was fine with him. He felt his personal side had been drained by the shallow courting of Candi. It was another half hour before their meeting. He went to his room to change out of his traveling clothes.

On the way down to the meeting room he stopped in the hall. He could hear Simon’s voice in one of the side parlors. Simon was angry, but his voice was controlled, like a parent scolding an errant teenager. Alexander hesitated and listened.

“Alaric Shadowford was in your house. What were you thinking? But of course, you never think when it comes to him, do you?”

”It is official business of the Crystal Mountain Republic.”

“Bull shit. I know what he wanted.”

“It has nothing to do with you.” Snapped Olivia.

“It has everything to do with me. I don’t want you alone with him again, ever.”

“Fine, then you tell him to stay away from me.”

“Don’t even go there…”

“No Simon, let’s go there. It’s none of your fucking business who I spend my time with.”

“Like hell it isn’t.”

The conversations trailed off into a whisper.

Alexander headed to the meeting room. Tom, Michael and Annie were already there at the large table. His young assistants Andrew and Charles sat together looking serious and somewhat overwhelmed. No sooner had he greeted the others when Simon and Olivia made a grand entrance through the door. They smiled and greeted everyone, relaxed and slightly amused as if they had an inside joke they weren’t going to share. Nobody would have guessed that this was the couple Alexander had heard arguing just a few minutes ago.

Olivia had cleaned up quite well, having brushed her straight brown hair to a glossy shine and changed into a pretty black lace blouse.


Annie stood to greet them, giving Olivia a quick embrace.

“Olivia, I thought we’d lost you. Did you speak with Logan?”

Olivia gave a wicked smile, “Yes, finally. When I explained the situation he laughed and asks me if I’d brought along the dress I had worn to the opera.”

“It will be interesting when you finally meet him in person.”

“Yes, it will indeed be interesting.”

“You’ll like him.” Annie added suggestively.

“I’m sure I will Annie. I’m sure I will, unfortunately not in the way he’d like.”

“As always Olivia, you are right.” Annie said with a grin and a slight laugh to herself.

Olivia turned towards Tom “It’s always good to see your friendly face. I saw you and Prince Alexander ride by my house. You should have stopped. We could have ridden in together.”

He took her hands and kissed her cheek. “You had company.” He whispered in her ear.

“It’s not what you think.” She whispered back.

Tom made introductions with Andrew and Charles. Olivia charmed them with comments about how proud their families must be of them and how their skills would be an asset to their mission.

Alexander took note of how Olivia had changed from the cold to hot on a moment’s notice. So like Simon he thought.

She turned towards Alexander and took his hands in hers. “We’re honored to be here, joining you on this journey of goodwill and discovery. Alexander smiled and bowed his head slightly to her. She gave him a warm smile but her eyes were cold like her hands.

“Shall we get started?” she asked Simon with a genuine smile. Simon smiled back and took her hand, giving it a quick squeeze.

This was Alexander’s first real look at Simon at work and the true inner workings of Universal Technologies. The chemistry between Olivia and Simon was unmistakable.

Olivia stood and gave a brief introduction “On behalf of everyone at Universal Technologies International, I welcome you.” She started.

She continued on to say how she appreciates the last minute changes, Alexander taking Logan’s place, Tom putting his schedule on hold to come as well. She acknowledged Annie’s role of public relations and how Michael would help Annie in dealing with the press. Then she said a few words about Logan and what a shame it was he couldn’t join them until the River Conference. She was delighted at the prospect of a lasting partnership which will benefit all of them. Then she mentioned that the people of this territory are looking forward to seeing Alexander again.

“So much has been planned in your honor” she told him. “There will be some elegant formal receptions, but most will be more humble. Everything from children’s singing recitals and amateur theatricals to factory tours and town hall meetings.”

She continued to describe the first part of the trip that Logan and Justin had planned, up until they would part ways with Tom and arrive in Riverbend. She commanded the room with grace and elegance. Her voice showed excitement and infectious enthusiasm.

When Olivia finished, Alexander noticed the thick white scar across the palm of her right hand. It couldn’t have been comfortable. She caught his eye and closed her hand in a loose fist, palm side down to the table.

A lavish spread was brought in for dinner. Jake joined them.

They talked about business. Stories were traded. Two hours pass by. Alexander noticed that Olivia had hardly said a word, but listened intently to every word said by the others. When they are finally through, Annie, Michael and the boys headed off to see a hot local band in the other side of the resort, Tom and Simon head for the private club. Olivia requests a few minutes alone with Alexander.


After they were alone Olivia stood up and drew a dagger out from under her coat and put it on the table. Another old Crystal Mountain tradition. It showed she expected his trust.

She leaned against the edge of the table. “We discussed the first leg of the trip with the others. We now need to discuss our eight weeks in Riverbend.”

Alexander replied, glancing at the dagger. “Logan said all the arrangements had been made.”

She ignored him. “I have an office with Universal Technologies in Riverbend, plus I’m scheduled to lecture at the University. I know you’d planned on working with my brother, Michael and my cousin Marigold Snowhawk. Now you’ll work with Marigold and me. Since I’ll be busy with my classes and students, I won’t be able to spend that much time with you during the day. Honestly, Marigold and Michael have control over everything so I doubt if you’ll really need me. That shouldn’t be too much off the original agenda.”

“I understand Marigold has been in the country for almost 15 years.”

“She came to set up the Riverbend Universal Technologies sales and support office and fell in love with the country, and a man. Marigold is a Northwest Kingdom citizen now. Did you know that?”

“No, but I’m honored.”

“Of course, Michael is my right hand man, more like my shadow really. I’d be lost without him. He may just seem like another trendy 20 something young man, but underneath that trendy exterior he is absolutely brilliant.”

“Where is the rest of your staff?”

“My staff?”

“You arrived here alone. Where is your staff?”

“My staff. At home, doing their jobs. Michael and I travel light. It gives us more flexibility. Our own private communications technology affords us that luxury. Aside from that, I already have staff at the Lockwood Mill and my offices in Riverbend. We also have a warehouse and distribution center in Ravenswood I’ll be stopping at. Universal Technologies International have a huge delegation at the River Conference of course, at least 120 people, if not more, plus about 20 people are coming in from the Crystal Mountains.”

“What about your maid?”

“I don’t need a maid. I can do my own hair.”

“You don’t have any security.”

“I figured you’d have a zillion guards with us so there wasn’t any need for me to bring anybody else along. You and Tom are light on staff as well. I was glad to see that. It will help us be more flexible in our schedule.”

“Exactly when will Justin be joining us?”

“I already told you, we won’t see him until the River Conference. It’s not just the weather. When he couldn’t get though the pass he went home to take care of other issues he needs to deal with – medical issues and family. He sends his apologies and will be contacting you in a few weeks.”

“Medical? Nothing serious I hope.”

“He’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it. I know you and Justin had planned on doing some fishing and exploring before the River Conference, but rest assured you’ll still have opportunities for, well, a little adventure.”

“So I won’t see Justin until the River Conference?”

“No, you won’t, but when we do see him, I’ll personally make sure you’ll have as much time as you want with him. He’s staying on for another month which will give you ample time to take care of whatever business the two of you had. He’d even suggested a side trip to Aurora Lake if you’re up for it.” She ignored his look of disgust and continued. “I contacted your cousin Graham Oliver about the stop in Riverbend. As you know he’ll be joining us there.” she threw the dagger at the map on the wall and it impaled the town of Riverbend. “Graham said he is looking forward to…”

“You know Graham?” He unintentionally looked her up and down wondering if she’d be the type Graham would try to seduce.

“I’ve known Graham for years. Don’t look at me like that. I’m not one of his sluts.”

“You know about his indiscretions?”

“Indiscretions is a polite way to put it. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, or any concern of mine. I spend 3 or 4 months a year in Riverbend. I know everyone there, including that particular branch of your family.”

“You seem to know everyone in my circle.”

“Yes, and you know just about everyone in mine.” there was an uncomfortable pause in the conversation. Olivia glanced out of the window at the storm, then back at Alexander. “Any questions about the agenda?”

“Annie Hawthorne is working with Logan as Universal Technology’s liaison in government relations. I usually work with Simon when I have business with Universal. Where do you come in?”

“I own the company.”

He crossed his arms and took a long look at her. “Why haven’t I ever met you before?”

She closed her eyes for just a second too long and started to put her hand to her temple then put it down. “I don’t know Alexander, it really isn’t something I’ve had much time to think about.” She paused again. “Justin and Logan had planned on using my Riverbend cottage when it was just a trip for the boys. The cottage is small and intimate, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for you to stay, well, alone with me. There are also security concerns. George wants you to stay with him but…”

“My cousin George is the most annoying person in the world. There is no way I’ll stay with him.”

“I thought of that already. Poor George. He really does mean well, but anyway, your staff has arranged for you to stay with your cousin Roxanna because she has more security and privacy at her home, and unlike Graham’s place, her house is in the center of town near the regional government offices. You could also stay with your Aunt, but Roxanna begged for you to stay with her. I know you’re especially close to her. There is also room and privacy at Roxanna’s if you plan on inviting Princess Candi or other friends to join you.”

“So it’s settled.” He ended her sentence for her.

“Yes, it’s settled, as well as it can be on such short notice. Michael and I will be in Riverbend for our business. You’ll have an official state visit, and the people of Riverbend will be absolutely overjoyed to see you. The opera season is opening so we’ll be well entertained. And best of all you’ll still get to do some fishing. There’s a great spot my friend Don showed me last time along the river just south of town. Nobody goes there and the fish are real fighters. It’s all catch and release of course, but I hear that’s your preference anyway. It’s absolutely beautiful. I’ll take you there if you like.”

“Sure.” Alexander answered flatly, folding his arms.

“Fantastic. Oh, and I just found out some exciting news, the new dig site on the old castle site has been opened and they’re quite excited to have you up to see it. I hear you’re quite involved in archeological sites. On the way, in Ravenswood we can take a hike up in the hills to the ruins where your great Uncle Alexander fell in love with the Baroness Starfire. I’m sure you’ve seen them already but I have some new information about some of the stone carvings. It’s such a magical place. I can’t wait to share…” she trailed out seeing a disgusted look on his face. ”What’s wrong?”

Alex sat back in his seat and shook his head. “You have this all planned out don’t you?”

“All of the details have been taken care of for you. You don’t have to do anything but relax and enjoy the ride.”

“Not all of the details”.

“Is there a problem? If there is you need to tell me.”

“Yes, there is a problem. This is not what I expected.”

“Aside from my brother what were you expecting?”

“That’s it. I was expecting Justin. No offense, but not Justin’s twin sister, not you. I have confidential matters I need to discuss with your brother.” He fingered the earring in his pocket.

“Justin and I don’t keep secrets in our business.”

“This is personal.”

She said nothing. For the first time that night she didn’t know what to say.

He added under his breath. “I wasn’t expecting anything remotely like this.”

“Yes, you don’t need to tell me again. I wasn’t expecting anything like this either, but I’m not going to sit around and pout about it”. She suddenly felt sorry for him. A man forced into too many unpleasant situations. Sooner or later something was bound to snap. “I hear the past few months have been rough for you” she said quietly.

He stared at her without a comment.

“Simon told me you would welcome a break from the pressures of your impending engagement”.

“My love life is none of your business”.

”It is if you let it interfere with my business.”

“You are out of hand Miss Snowhawk.”

She leaned against the table. “I have your best interests in mind. That is NOT being out of hand Prince Alexander.”

“What is it with you? Don’t you give a damn how this looks? I’m traveling with you, while Princess Candi waits for me at home.”

“Is that what this is about? I would never do anything to compromise your honor.”

“You don’t have to do anything. Just look at yourself in the mirror. People will talk. People will assume…”

“What? Assume that we’re going to …oh don’t even say it. I can’t even start to express how offended I am by your assumptions about my character or my physical attributes.”

She had him cornered. He tried to explain. “Candi, is young and doesn’t understand the world of business. She’ll see you as a threat.”

“She’s got a lifetime ahead of her seeing you working with other women. Tell her to grow up and get over it.“

“The press will be even less kind at seeing us together 24/7.”

“I can handle the press. I’ll leave you to handle Princess Candi and her insecurities.” Olivia took a deep breath and shook her head in frustration. “I understand the delicate nature of your situation, but let me assure you that this is business, not a pleasure trip.”

“Is that all you think about? Business?”

“Universal Technologies employs 4000 people. 1200 are outside of the Crystal Mountain Republic. It is my responsibility to all of those 1200 people to make sure they have jobs to go to each Monday morning. It is my responsibility to make sure their families are safe and taken care of. It is my responsibility to make sure that our technology is used for the good of all people, not just the privileged few. I take that very personally.”

“Nice speech, but step back off of your lofty mountain and imagine my position. I have not 1200, but 10 million people to think about.”

“Would you like to call this off?” she asked defiantly.

He glared at her. The thought of going back to The Capitol would only accelerate things with Candi. He decided to turn things back on Olivia.

“No, I’m not letting you out of this.” he said pushing his hand through his hair.

“Are you sure that is what you want?” she folded her arms across her chest and narrowed her eyes.

He took it as a challenge. “Too much has gone into the planning of this trip. People are expecting me. As their prince and servant, I need to be there. I want to be there.”

The corners of her mouth turned up slightly. “Yes, they are expecting both of us. You’re not the only one who draws a crowd in these parts.”

“I’m sure you draw quite the crowd.” He answered in a slightly condescending tone.

Olivia’s hands fisted then relaxed. “My influence extends far beyond Meadow Creek. You’ll find that I can take you places you’d never be able to get to on your own, even as a prince.”

“Don’t be so sure of that.” His tone grew cold. She saw the anger in his green eyes saying “don’t go there”.

She wasn’t going to back down. She’d be damned if she let him off easy. “I know these people. Unlike you, I spend time with them, on their level.”

“You have no idea what I do. No prince has ever been more in touch with his subjects than I am.”

“You spend your days surrounded by pretty faces and pleasantries. You don’t know your people. You haven’t taken the time to know them. Do you even comprehend or appreciate the loyalty and the love they feel for you?”

“You’re out of bounds Miss Snowhawk.”

“Am I, Prince Alexander? Am I really? Aside from Simon’s interest and the rare visits from Thomas or Graham, most of this region is blatantly ignored by the diplomats and higher ups in The Capitol. The local officials feel cut off and rejected. The people who live between the rivers couldn’t give a rat’s ass if you marry a Real Princess or a whore. They want to know what is being done about their children’s education and their unique economy. They want to know what’s going to be done about the cults living in Allegory and Hammers Woods. They want to know their voices are being heard. ”

They stood looking at each other in silence. Neither wanting to back down. Alexander wasn’t about to let her get the best of him. He wasn’t about to let her win this one.

“Are you finished?” he asked looking down at her.

“No, but you seem to have heard all you want to hear.” She snapped back.

He took a deep breath to calm himself. “Before we start on our journey of goodwill, together, we need to get a few things straight.” He told her as calmly as he could. “If you plan to travel with me you’ll go by my rules.”

“Your rules?”

“You will go by my rules or this show is over. That’s it. No compromise. No negotiations. What I say is final.”

She just looked at him. At least he got her to shut up for more than 5 seconds.

“Sit down. Please. Sit, NOW.”

Olivia hesitated then sat with her hands in her lap. Alexander continued as he stood in front of her. “Rule number one. Respect.”

“Respect?” she asked.

“Rule number one. You will show respect for my position. I understand that you are not a citizen of my country and owe me no allegiance. However, no matter how powerful you might be as a business leader and social butterfly, you will show me respect. I’m not asking you to do this, I am ordering you to do it.”

She narrowed her eyes again, but didn’t say a thing.

He leaned on the edge of the table, still looking down at her. “Rule number two, don’t do anything behind my back. Everything is up front with us. No secret conversations with third parties, no back room deals along the way. There is to be no discussing my private life with others, including Simon. If you want to do or say anything concerning me, you are to bring it to me first. If I ask you about anything you are to tell me everything. And I do mean everything. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I understand.” Olivia answered quietly.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure.” Her voice was calm but her eyes burned with rage.

“Rule number three, anything said between you and me is confidential. Do you understand?”

“Yes, of course I’ll keep all our conversations confidential.”

“Good. Rule number four, don’t change the agenda without my approval.”

Olivia leaned forward in her chair “Meaning?”

“I will approve who I will be traveling with and where we are going and what we are doing, in advance.”

“Anything else?” She asked. He could hear the impatience in her voice.

“No more knife throwing. I don’t need the dramatic displays. Will you agree to those terms?” Alexander locked his eyes on hers. She answered his stare.

“Yes, I will agree to those terms.”


“I have a request of my own.” She stood up and stepped towards him.

He stood his ground. “Yes?”

“You need to trust me and respect my position.”

“I have great respect for your position. Give me reason to trust or respect you personally and I will.”

She looked at him with slight disgust. He stared back with an angry fire in his green eyes and brushed his hair back with his right hand. He couldn’t believe this woman.

“We have an early start ahead of us and I still have another meeting ahead of me tonight.” she said quietly. “Good night.” and with a bow of her head she left for her room, then she turned at the door and locked on his eyes “Your highness, I apologize for my bluntness and any perception of disrespect towards you. I assure you none was meant.”

“Apologies accepted. Goodnight Olivia. I will see you in the morning”. He said grimly.

“See you when the sun comes up.” She said in the old language and left him alone.



“What a self-centered bastard.” she said aloud to no one as she made her way to her room. “He was supposed to be charming but no he had to be a total and complete power-hungry asshole shit-head, damn it all to hell.” By the time she reached her room, she was furious. To top it off a monster of a headache was pressing on the front of her skull. From the minute she laid eyes on Alexander her head felt as if it was in a vice.

She pulled off her boots and lay down on her bed with her palms pressing her throbbing temples. She stifled back a scream. There was a tap on the door. Instinctively she grabbed for the handle of her dagger then remembered it was still in the map. “It better not be him” she thought as she jumped up and threw open the door. Jake stood outside holding her dagger in his hand with an all-knowing smile on his face.

“Jake” her blood pressure dropped. The headache vanished.

“How goes it darling?” he asked as he made his way into the room giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“The guy may be a prince, but, oh Jake, this is going to be painful.”

“You seem as if you’ll explode little one.”

“If you could have heard his condescending tone. I don’t think he has any concept of who I am.”

“He knows exactly who you are.”

“He has no appreciation of what I’m going to do for him”.

“You aren’t used to somebody else being in charge. You’ll snap if you don’t relax Livy. Now sit. Let me do my magic on you before you explode.”

Jake led her to the bed and began to massage her temples then moved down to her shoulders. Olivia felt as though she would melt. Sensuous chills then calm replaced the tension.

He pulled her hair to one side and kissed her on the neck. She gave a little gasp.

“I thought you’d like that” he said as he continued up to her mouth.

“You are pure magic” she purred and pulled him down on the bed and started to undo the buttons on his shirt. She moved her mouth on his and gave him a long sensuous kiss. “Stay with me tonight.” She whispered in his ear.

“I’ve been waiting years for you to ask me that, but you deserve better than a womanizing scoundrel like me.” He answered tenderly as he sat up and untangled himself from her. “I’ve known Alex since we were children. He can be a tad bit overwhelming…”

Olivia was annoyed that he changed the subject back to Alexander. “That’s an understatement. I saw what an arrogant controlling bastard he is.”

“Get to know him and he’ll be a true and loyal friend, unlike any you’ve ever had. ”

“Alexander couldn’t care less if I extend an offer of friendship. I’m just a pair of tits to him.” She sighed. Jake could tell she was physically and emotionally exhausted. “When you came to the door I thought it was him. If Alexander is the type who would use sex to get what he wants then I’m calling this trip off right now. I’ve had enough shit from men lately to last a lifetime. I’m not going to put up with it from him.”

“You’ll be safe with him. And if you’re worried about anything less than professional, Alexander would never cross those lines, unless of course, you wanted him to.”

“No I don’t want him to.”

“He’ll be married soon to Candi of Lavender Forest. He’ll be dreaming of her tonight and forget all about you.”

“Are you sure? I hear he’s not sold on that deal yet.”

“Your fragile heart and your business interests will be safe with our prince. Now get some sleep little one. I’ll see you when the sun comes up.”

“See you before the sun comes up.”

Jake gave her a hug. In return she kissed him with a deep passionate response. “Thank you for being here for me Jake”.

He laughed “Don’t tempt me like that or you’ll end losing all respect for me.” He gave her another long kiss and left her alone.

If he had stayed she knew they would have both regretted it in the morning. Dear sweet Jake. The encounter with Alexander now seemed so strange. She lit a blue light in the lantern and waited for her next visitor.


Girl in the Wood: Turning Point (Part 12)

Girl in the Woods, the serial novel, is a regular 2016 Friday feature on Vampire Maman. If you’re new start from the top. I recommend you start from the beginning. CLICK here for all of the installments.

Girl in the Wood: Turning Point (Part 12)

Alexander was in his office reviewing trade agreements with the government of the Moonbeam Mountains. He couldn’t help but think of Viola and her betrayal. She had been perfect in theory. Candi was also perfect in theory, if she’d stay faithful.

It had been two weeks since his party and the attack on Logan. It had almost been a week since he’d spent a night out with Princess Candi. He’d met her for lunch and attended an afternoon music recital with her, but nothing else. Even those few short times seemed like an eternity and he couldn’t seem to get away from her and back to work or the quiet of his own home fast enough. He didn’t have time to go to clubs or attend the never ending invitations to parties thrown by people he hardly knew. Candi seemed to be happily entertained day and night without him so he wasn’t too worried about hurting her feelings.

Another lovely young woman was on Alexander’s mind. He couldn’t stop thinking of things Candi had said about Annie Hawthorn. Everything the Princess had said about Annie was true, but it was the hateful mean spirited manner in which Candi said it. From what Logan and Simon had told him, Annie had worked hard and smart to get where she was. Unlike Candi’s circle of pampered friends, not to mention his own, nothing was ever handed to Annie Hawthorne, yet she defied all odds and was at the top of her game, both professionally and personally. She was a jewel, as far as Alexander was, in the crown of his country – an example for all young women to aspire to. She was one to be truly admired. If only he could marry a girl like Annie. She was brilliant, kind, beautiful and well, dating his brother.

Jeff, the one who seemed to treasure only beauty managed to get the smart girl, and Alexander was left with the Real Princess, no matter that she as dumb as a box of rocks with the tact of a five year old. Enough he thought trying to get his mind back on his work.

“I can teach Candi the social graces she needs,” Alexander said to himself.

He put his hand in his coat pocket and fingered the earring. The delicate shape was branded in his memory. It had been a week since he’d found the golden fern shaped earring near his home. She was the woman he thought of when he closed his eyes at night. He couldn’t see her face but he could imagine the touch of her hands, the delicate clean smell of her hair as it brushed against his face and chest, her lips kissing his. In turn he imagined she needed him and longed for him as much as he needed and longed for her. It was his secret and his alone to savor and to be tortured by. But one day he’d wake with her head on his shoulder, her bare leg wrapped around his legs, the feel of her breasts…

“You need to review and sign all of these by this afternoon.”His office manager Marrianna interrupted his revelries with a stack of papers.

“Thank you,” he told her with a glance up.

“You need to sign and date everything or I’ll bring it back.” She was serious. Marrianna ran his office like an army post.

After signing everything he rolled his shoulders then ran his and through his hair. “I’ll be leaving early today.”

“Anything I need to know about?”

“Lunch with Simon, maybe a drop into the stationery store and a few other stops, nothing of importance.” He’d planned on finding out who was buying the same paper as he was. If he went by himself, confidentially his inquiries would be kept quiet.

“I can go to the stationery store for you or send Andrew for you later on today.”

“No need to send anyone. I need some time…” he faded off trying not to spill his guts to one of his loyal staff.

“I understand, you need some time to yourself. I’ll get you some cool compresses for your eyes. You look tired.” It was her job to let Alexander know how he looked. She knew appearances were everything with him.

“I am tired Marrianna.” Old and tired he thought. “But you’ve been with me long enough to know.”

“You’re a hopeless workaholic.” Marrianna scolded him coming back with a cool scented cloth and putting it over Alexander’s eyes.

“I’m dedicated to my people,” he said taking control of the compress and resting his head on the back of the chair. He waited a few minutes then took it off, feeling slightly better, but more so from Marrianna’s attentions.

She was still there, ready to continue her scolding. “I don’t want you dropping dead before your 40th birthday. You’re filling your time because you don’t want to go home to an empty house every night. That will end as soon as you have your young bride waiting at home for you.”

“You never know.” He said giving her a wink. “I doubt if any young bride will appreciate me these days.” He stood up and headed over to the wall mirror.

“You’re too modest for such a handsome man.” She smiled knowing that it was to her advantage to feed into his vanity. As she started to fix his shirt collar, her very pregnant belly brushed against him.”I won’t have you going out looking like you’ve slept in your clothes.”

“I felt that. That was the baby, right?” Alexander asked as her belly moved against him.

“The baby is kicking all the time now. Put your hand here.” She said taking his hand and putting it down on her side.”

“I felt that. That was amazing.” Alexander laughed. It was amazing to feel her child with his own hand.

She smiled “Before too long you’ll have your own baby on the way.”

“Maybe,” he thought. Turning to the mirror he saw a weary reflection. Death warmed over he thought. There was gray hair he’d never noticed before. He looked back at Marrianna who hardly able to keep her balance. “You need to take it easy my dear. Where is Andrew?” he asked wondering where his assistant had been all morning.

“Out riding with Princess Candi. Remember you told him to start taking her on Wednesday and Friday mornings.”

“Right. Sorry.”

Marrianna gave him a sad look and shook her head. They made small talk about the baby and her hopes and expectations for her son. The idea of his own son or daughter was too vague and far away for him to even consider.

On his way out Alexander gave Marrianna and unexpected kiss on the cheek then grabbed his coat and headed out for a lunch appointment.



The idea of a baby with Candi was someplace Alexander’s mind hadn’t traveled yet. She’d no doubt have the best of nurses and nannies. He’d choose the best teachers and tutors for the child. Their children would have his love of books and her love of music. It would be a perfect fit, or at least he’d try to make it perfect for his children, as perfect as he could.

On his way out he passed a group of women were talking by the courtyard fountain. The Minister of Arts, a judge and one of his father’s financial advisors. Three powerful women. They were all married to equally powerful men. All were mothers of well-adjusted and happy children.

“I need to get Candi more involved in her music career. She needs that confidence to mature and excel in what she loves.” he said to himself. It was a thought he was going to keep to himself for now.

As his carriage pulled up to the Universal Technologies building he looked up at the carvings on the front of the building. He’d always been amused by the Starling symbols carved above the doors. Simon came out of the massive doorway and down the stairway and climbed up into the carriage.

“I’ve always liked the Starling symbols on your building,” Alexander said.

Simon looked up. “Olivia likes the imagery. She said it stands for technology and truth. I don’t know about that but I do agree with her on the great designs. Then again lately it has been all things to do with the Silver Lakes with her. I’m sure you heard about the 5,000 crystal dragonflies she ordered from there for her ballroom chandelier. I swear to God, sometimes I wonder about her.”

It was uncharacteristic for Simon to speak about Olivia Snowhawk of Universal Technologies. Alexander had heard about the crystal dragonflies. Who hadn’t? It was excess beyond anything he’d ever done in his own home. “When do I get to meet your boss?” he asked Simon, not really caring if he ever met her or not.

Simon laughed “Soon enough.”

“I saw the cover of Business Weekly, the picture with you flanked by the lovely Miss Annie Hawthorne and Olivia Snowhawk. You’ve always managed to surround yourself with powerful, beautiful women.”

“That can be a dangerous thing,” Simon added with a smile. “You know how picture sessions go. They even worked me over like an Allegory whore before they got all the hair, make-up and clothing right for that cover. It took almost an entire day to get it right.”

Alexander reached in his pocket. “Simon, I’ve something to show you.” He unfolded the paper. “A woman dropped this in the Fern Chapel, the morning of my party.” He told Simon the story of how he’d watched her from the hill and found the paper and the earring. “Look at the drawing on the back.”

“Ferns. I should have known. Well, who is she?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t get a clear look at her face. There’s no name on anything.”

“I guess you’re out of luck then.”

“On the back, it’s written in Starling. And look at the letter forms, just like the symbols used by Universal Technologies.”

“We’re not the only ones who use Starling symbols. The hip young poets use them all the time. They don’t know a damn thing about Starlings but…really Alex you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“She could be from the Crystal Mountains, but I can’t rule out the possibilities that she’s from here. The black marks are wizardry symbols. Read the poem. I think she’s enchanted.”

Simon turned the paper over in his hands “Enchanted? Now that’s something different and exciting for you. So now you’re going to tell me you want me to help you find out who she is? I know you Alexander, I know how your brain works.”

“I can’t very well go asking around for a mysterious woman. Both my mother and Dare treated me as if I was crazy.”

“You showed this to them? Bad idea, you should have kept it to yourself, you know how controlling and opinionated those two are.”

“I know Dare can find out who she is but he won’t. His loyalties are with the King, not the King’s son.”

“You can’t stop thinking about your mysterious woman can you?”

“She is THE ONE. I know she is.”

“From your description she could be a romance writer who lost her notes.”

Alexander slipped his hand into his pocket again and took out the earring. “I found this too.”

Simon held the golden fern leaf earring in his hand and looked at the mark on the bottom. “Ferns again. So you think you’ve found your soul mate because you like the same plants?”

“Come on Simon, it isn’t like that.”

“Really Alexander? I know you too well.”

“Don’t tell anyone about this.”

“You’re secret is safe. Anyway, if I told anyone they’d think you were insane.”

“I can feel her Simon. She’s out there, waiting for me. Enchanted or not, she’s my girl in the woods.”

“What if you meet her and she isn’t what you expect?”

“What if I’m not what she expected?”

“I can guarantee you won’t be who she expects.”

“I’m the most handsome and charming man in the kingdom. What more could she want?”

“You’re full of shit. I’m the most handsome and charming man in the kingdom.”

Alexander laughed. “You might be more handsome but I’m a lot taller than you and I’m definitely more charming.”

Simon spun his wedding ring on his finger. He thought of his last conversation with Ellie.” In all seriousness Alexander, your mystery woman will want someone to love her unconditionally without fault no matter what the enchantment or what her past is. In return she must love you unconditionally with all her heart and soul. It’s the only way you can break a spell of the heart, if indeed she is enchanted.”

“Sometimes I feel as if I’m enchanted. I’m 38 and still looking for that perfect love that doesn’t exist, at least for me. I’ll have to be content with beauty and comfort.”

“So in light of your discovery of the mysterious woman with one earring, you’re still going to go through with it, marrying Candi?” he said in open disgust.

Alexander answered calmer than usual on the subject “Unless the mysterious woman appears in the next few months it seems I don’t have a choice in the matter.”

“Candi will ruin your life.”

“Please, Simon I’m tired of your constant criticism.”

“You have too many doubts about Candi.”

“Who doesn’t have doubts about marriage?”

Simon scowled at Alexander. “I didn’t. Then again, I married a Ellie.”

“Darling Ellie. How’s that working out? Does she have any plans on divorcing you soon? ”

“Very funny. Don’t expect me to be at your wedding.

“You’ll be there as my best man. Then you’ll give a glowing speech about how happy you are for me.”

“I’d rather speak at your funeral.”

“You married young. You and Ellie built your life together. My life is already set. Candi will fit into that life… ‘ Alexander had no idea what he was going to say. ‘Candi’s presence will enhance what I’ve already created.”

“Fine, talk yourself into it. Marry an accessory. Evenings at your house will certainly be dull.”

“If her kisses are any indication of how she’ll be in bed, I don’t think I’ll have any problems.”

“The girl can’t say three words to you without making you cringe. After a while the very thought of touching her will revolt you. Keep thinking about the girl with the earring. I’ll check around and see what I can find out. Just don’t mention it to anyone else, alright.”

“Thanks.” Alexander smiled weakly at Simon’s comment and fingered the earring in his pocket. “Where do you want to go for lunch?” he asked Simon, ready to change the subject.

They stopped in front of Logan’s house. “We’re here.”

Tom met them at the door when they arrived. Graham and Charles were there as well.


Lady Megan Gold was sitting with Logan, actually on his lap. She stood when Alexander and Simon came in. Megan had been around as long as Simon and Alexander could remember. Alexander sometimes wondered why Logan or Dare had never married her, especially now that she was widowed. Love never made sense.

“Lady Megan.”

“Prince Alexander. I’m taking care of Logan. Poor baby can hardly get up by himself.”

“I’m sure you’ve helped him solve that problem.””

“She certainly did.”

She kissed Logan in a long sensual kiss with no second thoughts of having the others in the room.”Logan, darling if you need anything at all, you know where to reach me.”

“Thank you,” said Logan, then he whispered in her ear. She smiled and laughed.

Megan turned to Alexander. “Alexander it was so good to see you.” She kissed him on the cheek and ran a hand over his behind. “Gentlemen it was lovely to see you.” She gave air kisses to Tom and Graham.

Then Megan smiled at Simon. “You’re so gorgeous it’s sinful. What I’d give for a just a small taste of you.” She kissed him full on the mouth.

“Love you too Megan,” said Simon. “Are we still on for lunch tomorrow?””

“Absolutely,” she said, and left the room.

After Megan left. Alexander looked at Simon. “What was that about?”

Simon shrugged. “She does a good bit of legal work for Universal Technologies.”

“Is it safe, for you to lunch with her, alone?” Alexander asked.

“She knows I’m a faithful husband,” said Simon.

“Too bad.” Said Graham with a smirk.

“Yes, too bad for Megan,” said Simon, then he turned to Logan. “Aside from your private physical therapy from Megan how are you doing?

“Feeling like hell, but better thanks to my many female admirers and some exceptional painkillers. Sit, please, everyone. You too Alexander. Dear nephew, I’ve had Simon bring you here to ask a favor of you.”

“Anything. Ask away,” Said Alexander.

“I’d like you to take my place, on the trip with Justin Snowhawk,” said Logan.

“As tempting as it sounds I can’t,” said Alexander.

“You can and you will”, said Logan

“The timing is off. I can’t afford 3 months on the road,” said Alexander.

“We’ve sorted everything out.” Said Graham. “Tom will go along as well and I’ll meet you in Riverbend. You can work on the road.”

“It will be the same as working from home,” said Logan.

“From Riverbend we’ll go to the River Conference and if you can make the time we’ll spend a final relaxing week in Aurora Lake,” said Simon.

“You’ve been working six days a week, twelve-hour days. You need a change of pace or you’ll wear yourself out,” said Graham.

“I’m expected to announce an engagement with Candi soon. I can’t run off and leave her,” said Alexander.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Remember you never had a problem having a long distance relationship with Viola.” said Graham.

Alexander scowled. “Viola was entertaining another man in my absence.”

“Candi isn’t Viola.” Said Graham.

“Candi is like a little dog. She can’t remember if you’re gone five days or five minutes. She’ll be excited to see you no matter what.” Added Simon.

“Enough Simon.” Said Tom. “We’ll spin it as your last trip before you get married. You’ll do some diplomatic work, kiss babies and pretty girls, attend local town hall meetings and cultural events, and go fishing with your buddies. After that, six weeks in Riverbend, then you’ll end it off with the River Conference.”

“The diplomatic opportunities are immense. Justin Snowhawk will be the next president of the Crystal Mountain Republic. You’ll be the next King. Now is the time to forge those bonds,” added Logan

It sounded good to Alexander. More than good. It sounded great.

“You hit it off great with Justin. You’re really a better choice than I ever was for this trip,” said Logan.

“Does Florien know about this?” Alexander always referred to his father as Florien or The King.

“We have his blessing,” said Logan.

“What did he say?” Alexander asked, starting to wonder if he had any control over his life.

“Your dad said you’re driving him up the fucking wall and he’d like to get you out of town,” said Simon.

Alexander tried not to laugh. “Seriously what did he say?”

“He said it was a brilliant move and it would be great for public relations,” said Logan.

“There’s the business in Allegory as well. I’m still counting on you to back up the operatives in that area.” They turned to see Dare Crow standing in the doorway.

“So Dare why not join us on the diplomatic mission and from Allegory continue the trip with Justin Snowhawk and me,” said Tom.

“Thanks for the invitation but no.” Said Dare. “I’m no diplomat. I’ll leave the matters of diplomacy, commerce and goodwill up to those who actually govern. I might see you at some point along the road but I’m visiting my sister in Riverbend for a week or two.”

“What’s going on in Allegory?” asked Simon, who was no longer privy to government information.

Dare took a seat by the fire and stretched out his long legs. “We’re finally shutting down the cult. Eighty years of organized crime, drug running, under aged prostitution and forced marriages, weapons running, extortion, you name it, and it has got to stop. If they want their own brand of religion or to keep the legal entertainment business going…”

“The whorehouses…” added Tom.

“The legal regulated brothels and other adult entertainments…if they want to keep that open fine. But the rest is going down,” said Dare.

Simon scowled. “You should torch the place and burn it to the ground. They bombed my office last year. It has cost Universal Technologies International a fortune in extra security costs. Not to mention the extra security costs Rich Long has had to put up with after they tried to set fire to his building. People in Meadow Creek were terrified and nothing, not a damn thing was done about it.”

“We know all about that and the dead dog on the doorstep and the rest. I guarantee you it will stop,” said Dare.

“Right. I’ve heard that before. As soon as they get wind of trouble they all have alibis and scatter like the wind. I know they’re the ones who tried to break into Olivia’s house a few weeks ago,” said Simon.

“There was no connection,” said Dare.

“Bull shit,” said Simon. “Someone from Allegory hired thugs to kidnap Olivia. And don’t give me any Crystal Mountain connections Dare, they were from here. None of us are safe until you plow the place into the ground and find out who their spies are.”

“That’s what we’re planning,” said Dare.

“Planning. What good will that do? You’ll never get Lord Mayor and his cronies all in one place,” said Simon.

“Simon, I’m going in as bait. If I’m there all of the top leaders will be there. I’ve sent personal invitations to all for a reception. It’s a trap. It overlaps with the trip,”

“Come with us, just to Allegory. It’s only a day away. With fresh meat like you we’ll be guaranteed all the top cult members will show,” said Tom. “I’m looking forward to seeing the looks on their faces when we tell them no to everything they want.”

“I wouldn’t set foot in Allegory unless they were holding one of my children hostage.” said Simon.

“Then skip Allegory; meet us in the Trinity Valley,” said Tom.

Simon shook his head. “I’ve already made the trip to the Crystal Mountains twice this year so I doubt if I’ll be traveling anytime soon. Four months away from my kids is too much for one year.  I need to be in Meadow Creek for a while. This is a diplomatic mission as well as a business venture for Universal Technologies. Graham and Tom are familiar with the area but it’s been years since you’ve been in those parts. Your perspective will change viewing it as more than a casual visitor. More than that. Justin Snowhawk is an expert in cults and dealing with them. Granted their methods in the CMR is a little heavy handed compared to ours but they’ve effectively dismantled most of the more destructive groups. Justin is going to be the next president of the Crystal Mountain Republic. You need to forge that bond. Despite the fact that it’s a closed country we need them. Their technology …”

Alexander could hear Simon talking but he wasn’t listening to a word he said.

His thoughts were on more personal matters. Justin Snowhawk knew Starlings as few people did. Starlings avoided anyone not of their own kind. They cut themselves off from people, and didn’t seem interested in anything except what benefited them. They were worse isolationist than the people from the Crystal Mountain Republic. Justin would know who wrote the note in the language of the Starlings. He’d know who this enchanted woman with the fern shaped earring was. It was also rumored that Justin was a wizard, so he’d know first hand about the references to enchantments and wizardry.

Justin’s sister Olivia might also have information but Alexander couldn’t ask her. From what he knew she was a workaholic who had no time for anything, much less romance or magic. Wait, he was describing himself. But asking her would be too much of an intrusion, of course unless it was his only options. He didn’t have time to make the trip to Meadow Creek to meet her and her trips to the Capitol were sporadic at best.

Princess Candi was beautiful and a Real Princess. He could make her into his perfect woman with the right amount of training and tutoring. He could hire the very best to help her learn to be the woman he wanted. He could easily do it but his heart said “No.”

He turned to his friends. “Gentlemen, yes, I’ll go in Logan’s place. Charles, you know what we need to do.”


~ End

The story will continue next week, right here at vampiremaman.com

For the previous sections – from the start – CLICK HERE


Oscar the cat - just because he is so cute.

Oscar the cat – just because he is so cute.

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Girl in the Woods