Girl in the Woods: 2016 Serial Novel, Part 19

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

 

Girl in the Woods

 

Girl in the Woods: 2016 Serial Novel, Part 19

Three Brothers Vineyard: The Past That Haunts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexander scanned the article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

“Expecting someone?”

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

“What’s up with the blue lantern?”

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

“Come inside. It’s freezing.”

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

“The heat feels great.”

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

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

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

“It’s a lot like yours.”

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

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

“That information wasn’t in the article.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you really want Olivia?” He asked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am not self-centered.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I want you to stop asking me questions.”

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

“Alright, ask away.”

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

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

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

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

“What about Alaric Shadowford?”

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

“Is it over because of Simon?”

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

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

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

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

“Oh that. What else did he tell you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Simon and I aren’t lovers.”

“Not since you were young.”

“You know then?”

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

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

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

She crossed her legs and pulled her jacket tight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Alexander, please.”

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

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

“Who was it? ”

“I killed them. All of them.”

“Olivia, don’t lie to me.”

“I’m telling you the truth. ”

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

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

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

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

“Oh come on…”

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

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

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

“Why not take Justin?”

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

“That’s insane.”

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

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

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

“You don’t trust me, do you?”

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

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

“No.”

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

“I can’t.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s that bad?”

“Promise me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who told you that?”

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

“It scares me.”

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

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

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

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

“Who filled your head with ideas of romance?”

“Nobody,”

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

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

“Stop it.”

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

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

“I’m not ugly.”

“You’re sure as hell not pretty.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go to hell.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s my friend.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that the Baroness? Alexander asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexander took in a breath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t let them hurt me.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You could kill me now?”

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

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

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

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

“What?” She gave him a blank look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you safe with him out there?”

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

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

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

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

“Nobody else?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are you going?”

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you know about enchantments?”

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

“Do you know anyone who is enchanted?”

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

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

“Darious Crow is too much like Alaric Shadowford.”

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

“No thank you.”

“Don’t give up on love Olivia.”

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

“You have to do something about this.”

“There is nothing to be done.”

“I’m going to talk to Ellie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are you going?” asked Michael

“To bed darling, to sleep.”

 

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

 

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

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

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

Michael knew he couldn’t accept that.

 

~ to be continued

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Girl in The Woods (Serial Novel, Part 13)

Serial Novel Girl in the Woods, Part 13

Girl in the Woods is loosely based on the old princess and the pea story, but it goes beyond a simple fairy tale. It is a story about a quest for perfection, or more the rejection of perfection the reality sets in. Because we all know there is no perfections, especially when it comes to love.

It is mostly about a circle of friends. As adults living their own lives, they are still connected.

What you’re getting is the rough story I wrote years ago when I had a small infant who kept me up at all kinds of weird hours.

Girl in The Woods is a regular Friday feature on Vampire Maman. I strongly suggest you start from the beginning as you would with any novel – especially an epic adventure like this one. CLICK here for previous chapters.

 

Before The Trip

Shadowford

Alexander was had a law degree, a minor in poetry and a masters degree in History. The history he really wanted to know was from the Crystal Mountain Republic. The country was hidden away from the rest of the world by mountains as high as thirty thousand feet. The people never left. They never let anyone into their country either.

The culture of the Crystal Mountains was built upon an obsession with both traditional mythology and traditions, mixed with an obsession with technology. Whether they stole it from the Starlings or built it themselves, the technology rarely left the country. He’d used the communications technology and seen the amazing medical technology. He’d also seen the almost magical toys and even heard that they could fly without creating noise or pollution.

At the same time the people of the Crystal Mountains were incredibly superstitious and socially backwards. Most of all they were violent in almost every aspect of their lives. They mated for life and only parted with death. There were no marriages, only personal of vows of love that lasted forever. Violence against woman was common even after the revolution that had dethroned the Wizard Lord Robin Nightlander.

Alexander had founds bits and pieces of his mother’s Crystal Mountain past from Logan, Simon and Alaric Shadowford.

Shadowford was a new comer to Alexander’s life. The Ambassador from the Crystal Mountain Republic, War Hero and 4th cousin.

His mother’s maiden name was Shadowford.

The son of intelligence officers in the rebellion army, had almost single handedly ended the war. At he age of 17 he’d killed Doran Nightlander, master wizard and the youngest son of the Nightlanders. Doran was thought to be the end of the Nightlander line. It was over.

Alaric never basked in the status of hero as would so many young men. He refused to speak of it, saying it was an effort of a people in which he played a small role.

Alaric’s life was blanketed by secrets like most people from the CMR. It was know he’d partnered with a woman who was critically ill and died a few years later. That had been ten years before he taken the ambissordship.

Doran Nightlander was known for his cruelty, which was in contrast to his almost angelic face and gentle public persona. He “dismantle” people, bury them alive, any sort of torture and spell was used to get his was. He’d started to take an interest in long forbidden weapons technology. He was a master at mind control and could read minds. He had long thought that his magic could kill, but it was an art he’d never mastered. Only the Nightlander women could do that and there hadn’t been a Nightlander woman for over 100 years.

Simon’s business partner Olivia Snowhawk had been there when Alaric killed Doran Nightlander, but she wouldn’t speak of it to Simon. Rumor was that she and Alaric were an item. There had been a few pictures in the social sections but nothing he’d been concerned about. Alexander had never met the woman. Simon never spoke of it. Then again, Simon always kept his business and personal life separate.

As children Aleric and Logan had spent a lot of time together. Alaric met with the Queen often behind closed doors.

Alexander spoke the language but truly understood the culture.

He’d invited Alaric to the party, but as with a lot of social invitations he never accepted.

“I’m sorry Alexander, I cannot attend your party.” There was no explanation. That drove Alexander crazy.

“I’m sorry as well. I was looking forward to seeing you there. You know, Olivia Snowhawk was going to attend, but had to bow out at the last minute. I was looking forward to meeting her. She’s an old friend of yours isn’t she?”

“We’ve been friends since childhood. “ Replied Alaric. And not another word. There was another pause.

“You dated her for a while didn’t you?” Alexander asked. “I hear you were pretty serious.”

Alaric gave him a smile. “Do you know her?”

“No, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her. Funny considering she’s Simon’s business partner.”

Alaric gave Alexander a slight and rare smile “I’d love to talk all day about all of the beautiful women we’ve known but my business today is much more serious.”

“What’s up?”

“I’m finished with my assignment here. My business here is over.

Alexander was shocked. Alaric was doing such a great job. “You’re kidding, what about the refugees and everyone you’ve been helping.”

“There are others who will take care of that.” Said Alaric flatly.

Again no explanation thought Alexander. “What others? Come on Alaric, nobody could have the connections and expertise you have.”

“Consulate staff, Universal Technologies connections. Your mother. They’ll all fill the void I’ll leave.”

“I’ll be sorry to see you go. Could you talk Justin Snowhawk into taking your position?” Alexander asked. Justin Snowhawk was the brother of Simon’s business partner Olivia Snowhawk and one of the owners of Universal Technologies, the largest technology company in the entire world. Alexander had met Justin a year before and they’d hit it off like old friends. Unlike Alaric, and most Crystal Mountain natives, Justin was warm and open. He actually had a sense of humor and a worldview.

Alaric’s answer was unexpected. “Justin Snowhawk thinks you’re all barbarians.” Alaric smiled breaking the ice. “He doesn’t trust the people of the country who stole away his twin sister.”

Alexander decided to just get to the point. “Alaric, tell me what’s going on. Why are you leaving all of the sudden?”

“I’ve accepted a position with Justin. He’s in line to be the next president of the Crystal Mountain Republic. He wants me head up his International Relations staff. I’m also leaving on moral grounds. Alexander, I can no longer live here and live with myself.”

Alexander was in shock over that announcement. “On moral grounds. For the love of God, what moral grounds could you be leaving on here? We’re positively bland compared to the Crystal Mountain Republic.”

“Betrayal is a way of life here.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Love between humans is a strong and binding force not to be taken lightly.”

“Is this about Candi? You sound like Simon.”

“No, this is about your mother who would betray all that she is and all that she has ever believed in to force her son to marry a woman he doesn’t love.”

Alexander raked his hair back with his right hand and looked at Alaric in shock. “Nobody is forcing me to do anything least of all my mother. I’m courting Candi of my own free will.”

Alaric gave him a sarcastic mean sort of smile. “Don’t fool yourself cousin. For you the marriage is a legal contract. For those of us from the Crystal Mountains it is fire and passion that does not need jurisdiction of any government. It is a solemn oath between a man and a woman. A vow of love that is never broken. We don’t divorce. Once a vow is made it is forever.”

“Marriage is based on love,” said Alexander in defense.

“Cousin, listen to yourself and look at your own life. Do you love the silly princess?”

Alexander smiled “Give me time. I’m sure will, eventually.”

Alaric looked at him sadly. “Will it be a love of endless passion like that of Dare Crow bound to an enchanted woman who belongs to another? Or the love of two old souls who grew as children but grew apart in their passion only to come together again explode in a flame of need and desire. It can’t be as with your parents, a love a first sight that has never stopped even after 40 years. What will it be with you and your Real Princess?” Alaric’s green eyes sparkled. His face was serious.

“I’ll be right back. Alexander said and went to his bedroom to retrieve the poetry book.”

When he returned Alaric was looking none too pleased. He spoke again before allowing Alexander to say anything. “Unless you can give your soul to this Candi woman you will never find the true love you seek.

Alexander held out the paper he’d found at the fern chapel to Alaric.

“What do you know about this?” he asked Alaric.

Alaric looked at Alexander, he was calm but Alexander saw a hint of recognition in his eyes.

“The woman who wrote this is enchanted isn’t she?” Alexander continued.

Alaric turned the paper over in his hands, and then spoke in his native language. “Aye, she is indeed. The pictures are beautiful. She has a mind that can’t keep still.”

“Who is she?” demanded Alexander switching to the old language of the Crystal Mountains.

Alaric didn’t answer. He looked the paper over and over, gently touching his hands over it as if was a personal love letter.

Alexander pulled out the earring and put it on the table. “I found this too.”

Alaric picked up the earring and studied it. “The earrings belong to someone of great wealth. She could also be the lover of a man who values her beyond all measure. A man who would think nothing of taking her away by force to have her as his own. A man who’s passion she could never comprehend or appreciate. A man who can control her and keep her from her foolish ways. It has a fern pattern, like something you’d pick out. What is it about ferns that you like so much?”

“You know her. You gave her the earrings.” He was going to say they belonged to Olivia Snowhawk but Alaric spoke first.

“No, the object of your desire didn’t get them from me.” Said Alaric.

“The owner of the earrings is not my object of desire. I don’t even know who she is.”

“You’re intrigued, I can see it in your face. You’ve thought of since you first picked up the note.”

“Like you, I’m curious. That is all. Where did you get these things?”

“ I found the earring and paper at the fern chapel a few weeks ago.”

Alaric handed the paper back to Alexander. “Your mother is the only other one I know who has jewelry of that stone, jewelry she brought with her from the Crystal Mountains. The jewels from her castle.” He put the earring down on the table. “Ten years ago, before my diplomatic career I had a partner. A woman I’d vowed my love to. She died of an illness of the heart. There was nothing any wizard or physician could do to stop it. She owned a pair of earrings with stones like that. It’s fairly rare, from the mines of the wastes of the Northern Boundaries. The green stones are favored by the Starlings. I gave them to her the night we vowed our love. She wore them the day she died.”

“I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I never knew you had a partner.” Now Alexander, who usually knew everything about everyone felt like a fool.

“Our life together was quiet. Much different than my life now. Surprised aren’t you.”

“Yes, I am. You never mentioned her.”

“We were together for only 3 years. I don’t speak of her, but she is always in my thoughts and my heart. Some day maybe there will be another. Until then I keep my grief private.

I with to you as your kinsman and as your friend that you shall find the same happiness that I have found.”

They spoke; Alexander got the story of Alaric’s woman, a green eyed, raven haired beauty. She was a quiet loving woman, the daughter of a religious leader. Not the type one would think of with Alaric.

They discussed the new ambassador from the Crystal Mountain Republic and Justin Snowhawk’s political prospects.

In a country where just 24 years earlier nearly half of the population had died from the violence of war, starvation or disease the country had come back as a powerhouse of industry and technology. Alaric was indeed needed at home.

“Alaric have to ask you about your experiences during the war. I know you don’t like to discuss them, but you are credited into killing Doran Nightlander, who at the time was one of the most powerful and evil wizards in the Crystal Mountains.”

“You’ve been looking at old history.”

“Of course I have. Come on Alaric, you were only 17 and killed a man who might have been the most powerful wizard in the world.”

“It was nothing really. We were caught in a storm. Olivia Snowhawk was with me.”

“Were you childhood sweethearts?” Alexander asked.

“Not then. We were close. Friends. Olivia was serious, even for Crystal Mountain standards. She hated the way we lived. There was always a wild part of her ready to bolt and run away. Her father never left her alone in fear she’d run and fall into the hands of the Nightlanders.

We took shelter in the old tower, not knowing what it was. It was a sweet moment, the first time I kissed her. She was so pure and lovely, as beautiful as any princess. Such a pure and innocent moment was taken away by the arrival of Doran’s men. Doran took Olivia to the top of the tower. I fought off the attackers and was able to rescue Olivia, but it almost cost me my life. Unfortunately I don’t remember much of it.”

“Tell me about Doran Nightlander?” asked Alexander, knowing that Doran Nightlander was a wizard of almost mythical reputation.

“Doran was imposing like the wind personified. Powerful and beautiful. He lit up the room, literally. He owned the world around him and everyone in it.” Alaric went to the fire and warmed his hands then he crossed his arms as if protecting himself from an unseen enemy or trying to find comfort. “After it was over all I remember is Olivia holding me and keeping alive. She wouldn’t tell anyone what actually happened, no matter how they tried to pry it out of her.”

“Never?” Asked Alexander, who never took never for an answer. “ Couldn’t you have had a wizard read her memories?”

Alaric shrugged. “Most of our wizards were dead. Those who were alive wouldn’t go near her not knowing what Doran Nightlander might have done to her. Doran Nightlander’s magic is strong, even after his death. Disturbing the memories of his death could have hurt Olivia more than it would have helped anyone.”

Alaric pulled his collar aside, showing Alexander a scar on his neck. “It’s the only time in my life I lost memories. She saved my life. For that reason I will not ask her to bring back the nightmare.”

“Sounds like you saved her from Doran in more than one way.”

“Maybe. Maybe not, but she survived without any physical marks from him. He tried to tempt her with the promise of sex and luxury to go over to his side. When she refused him he punished her by trying to kill me. That cost him his life. “

“You were only 17. I’m not sure what I would have done at that age.” Alexander remembered he was spending his time with Ellie, without a care in the world.

Alaric smiled warmly, changing the mood drastically. “Come to the Crystal Mountains with me and you can see the country for yourself and meet the people. You’ll understand the history of our family, but more see what we’d done to build a better place. Understand our culture.”

“I’d like that.” Said Alexander.

“You won’t be able to open your eyes wide enough to see the beauty of the mountains, or the beauty of the women.”

With that comment Alexander laughed and for a rare moment thought Alaric was laughing along with him.

 

Family History

Alexander is getting ready to leave on his trip. He is looking forward to going out of town. He’d gone to the jeweler but ended up ordering something for his cousin Rachael as an engagement present. He never mentioned rings.

He looked at a portrait of Alexander and Starfire in the small sitting room off of the north tower. It was a place that was hardly used, a small library of old fiction and family archives.

He was tall and blonde like almost all of Alexander’s ancestors. He had the same build as Alexander. About the time he’d started college his father had the painting moved to this out of the way room.

Starfire was the glowing image of a woman in love but a woman of power. One of the greatest wizards who ever lived, she ruled her country with an iron hand. She also captured the heart of Alexander and he turned her heart of stone into flesh again.

She wasn’t tall. A woman with curves in the right place, shown off by the elaborate traditional clothing of her country. She was lovely, her beauty in a different way than Candi or any other woman he had known. Her hair was a reddish brown, not as dark as his.

Alexander sometimes felt as though she looked through the image at him, her eyes alive. He found himself drawn to her.

His father came into the room.

“Why didn’t you give Starfire’s diamond to my mother?”

“She wouldn’t take it. According to her the Nightlanders would get wind and come back for it. We’ll never hear from any of the Nightlanders again, thank God. Were you thinking of giving the ring to Candi?”

“No.” Absolutely no way in hell would he give something of so much value to someone who would never appreciate it’s history.

Florien didn’t comment but looked at his son as if contemplating his future.

“Dad, are there any heirs left of Starfire’s, any Nightlanders?”

“A few in the Crystal Mountains. I know what you’re thinking. Don’t try to find them.”

“I wasn’t, but now that you bring it up…”

“They’re reclusive and dangerous. They want to forget their past.”

“Robbie Nightlander’s children. They’re alive aren’t they?”

“Officially nobody knows. Unoffically, yes they are alive. “

“Where are they?”

“Robbie’s children are of no consequence.”

Do you think Justin Snowhawk would know anything about them.

“Don’t ask him. It will only bring up bad blood. His father killed Nightlanders for a living. I understand Justin Snowhawk is uncomfortable with anything to do with wizards or magic. It’s best not to bring anything along those lines up unless he does first. It will cause suspicion. If he does bring it up be skeptical about anything he says. He’ll speak like a puzzle, only giving you tiny bits and pieces but never the whole. It will drive you crazy.”

“I can handle people from the Crystal Mountains.”

“I know you Alexander, you always want the entire story. Spending time with someone from the Crystal Mountains will drive you crazy if you let it. Believe me, I’m married to one of them.”

“Do you think Justin would lie to me about it?”

“They never lie. They just don’t tell you the entire story. It’s just the way they are. It’s part of their culture.”

“I didn’t hesitate when Logan told me about traveling with Justin Snowhawk, but are you sure it is necessary for you to spend so much time with him.”

“He runs one of the largest companies in the world, and he’s the obvious choice to be the next president of their country. This is a prime opportunity for us to forge a strong and lasting relationship. We’re the same age, we have many of the same interests. I’m also sure that Justin will appreciate the fact than I’m not going to be out trolling for women every night. He’s a devoted family man. There’s almost a sweetness to him, sort of an innocence that you don’t see with many guys his age. He’s safe Dad.”

“Have you met his sister?”

“Olivia Snowhawk? No, I haven’t. God knows I’ve tried over the years, but the woman is a mystery to me. I asked Simon and Ellie to bring her to the party last week. She didn’t make it.”

“You shouldn’t have invited her.”

“I said she didn’t make it. What’s the deal?”

“Alexander, you need to take your duties to Candi more seriously.”

“Candi is a darling girl, but I’m not all together sold on the idea being married to her.”

“By the time I was your age I’d been married 17 years and had sired four children.”

“You were lucky to have found someone you felt so passionate about.”

“I know you haven’t slept with Candi. That isn’t like you.”

Alexander’s temper flared at the question. “I haven’t slept with Candi out of respect for the delicate and formal arrangement you’ve made with her mother. If she was someone like Misty or any of my other former and more mature former girlfriends I would have fucked her silly weeks ago. Are we done here?”

“I’ve set a wedding date. Six months from tomorrow.”

“Than you’d better unset it. I told Candi she’d be better off with Blake.”

“Blake?”

“The wizard. The man she’s been in love with for the past 10 years.”

“The man is nothing but a fashionable fool completely unsuitable for her.”

“He’ll be a rich and powerful wizard in a few years. Blakes’s perfect for Candi. God knows he’s as pretty and air headed as she is. A marriage between Candi and me would be a disaster. We have nothing in common. We have nothing to talk about. It’s a one way road to failure.”

“You will make it work”.

“What kind of life outside of the public pageantry could I possibly have with her?”

“Do you think your mother and I had anything to talk about? She could barely speak the language. She came from a culture so foreign that it was like living with a child.”

Alexander’s stomach sank. He’d never heard his father speak of his mother like that. “Than why did you marry her.”

“Because she was the most beautiful woman on the planet. She was wild and passionate and she twisted my heart with desire unlike any women I’d ever met. “

“Candi is beautiful and sexy but I need more. I need a lot more.”

“You will marry Candi. The date has already been set.”

Alexander began to speak but his father cut him off “There is no getting out of this one Alexander.”

“What if I meet someone else? Do I keep her as a mistress like Graham would or just be myseriable for the rest of my life?” Alexander put his hand in his pocket and fingered the earrings. He felt numb.

“You’ve already proved that you can’t pick a suitable bride. From here on out the decision is not yours. Accept your fate. You will marry Candi in six months. That is an order from your king.”

 

Conversation With Candi

Simon spent the rest of the afternoon filling his friend in on business details for the trip.

Alexander rushed back to the palace to meet with Candi. He hadn’t told her he was to take Logan’s place yet.

He met Princess Candi at his house. She was already settled in the library when he arrived, late. Dora was reading a book by the fire in the downstairs parlor. At least somebody in Candi’s entourage read. He asked her about her book, a recent best seller about fashion. She seemed pleased that he noticed. He felt sorry for such a sweet girl like Dora to have to have spent most of her life being kicked around by Princess Kitti. At least if he married Candi, it would be good for Dora.

Candi ran to greet him when he arrived at the library. “Just like a puppy.” He thought. He gave her a light kiss on her perfect pink mouth. She smiled and led him by the hand to the window. The sunset was a brilliant glow of pink and blue on the large clouds.

“What a beautiful sunset. It makes me think of kisses and true love. I guess I’m just a romantic” exclaimed Candi

“What do you consider romantic sweet Candi?” Alexander asked wistfully, looking into what he had to admit were two of the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen.

“Being showered with flowers and jewels just because I’m pretty. Dancing at the ball with a prince, knowing he thinks I’m the most beautiful woman there. Having you treat me like everyday is my birthday. But do you want to know what I think is the most romantic thing of all?”

“What’s that?”

She gave him a pretty smile and batted her eyes. “Secret names”

Alexander leaned back on the window seat. Her idea of romance was a bit childish and self-centered , but he had to admit she was awfully cute. “Tell me, dear princess, what are secret names?”

“You know, special names. I think you should have a special name for me.”

“You mean pet names?” He asked attempting to hide his sudden disgust. This couldn’t be happening. He was trying to make it work with her, but this went too far.

She put her hands around his neck and leaned into him, almost in his lap. “Yes. Let’s have pet names for each other. I could call you Cuddles or Princely.”

“Candi, I don’t think we’re quite ready for special pet names yet.” His tone changed from light to serious. This is where he had to draw the line on too much cuteness.

“No?” she said with a childish frown.

“No, darling, I don’t think so. I’m not really a pet name kind of guy.”

Her arms dropped to her sides. Her bottom lip went out in a seductive pout. She mocked a little cry. He glanced at the sunset again and thought of the perfect pet name for Candi “idiot girl”.

Candi continued to pout at him. A flock of sparrows could land on that bottom lip. “Listen, Candi, sit down, right here next to me.” He patted the seat next to him “I have to talk to you, seriously.”

She sat close to him, their hips and shoulder touching, a little too close for his current comfort. “About our soon to be engagement?” she asked poised for a kiss.

He shifted to face her, adding a few inches between them. “Candi, I’ll be traveling for a few months on business. I’m leaving in three days.”

“To the River Conference? May I come with you? Please, please, please take me with you.”

“No, the River Conference isn’t for another few months. Remember when we talked about Logan’s trip.”

“At your party. He’ll travel with one of those odd Universal Crystal Mountain people.”

“The Crystal Mountain person you mentioned is Justin Snowhawk, one of the owners of Universal Technologies. Candi, darling, Logan won’t be well enough to travel, so I’m taking his place.”

“Can’t you send somebody else?”

“Candi this is a very, very important diplomatic and business venture. I need to be there.”

Candi threw her arms around his neck. “I’ll miss you so much. I want to go with you. Please, please, pretty please.”

Gently taking her hand, he looked into her beautiful blue eyes. “I’m sorry I can’t. It’s a guy’s trip. It will be all business, and when we’re not engaged in business we’ll be out fishing or hiking around forests and ruins. It will be far too rough and tumble for a pretty princess like you.”

“Announce our engagement before you go and I want a ring. A big ring.” She tightened her arms around him, in excitement, like a child on her birthday.

“Candi, I can’t do that.” He unlatched her arms and held her hands. He saw the hurt in her eyes.

“Why not? Don’t you love me?” she said in almost a whisper, her voice starting to crack as her blue eyes watered over.

Alexander shook his head. “Love isn’t easy for me Candi. I can’t rush my heart. I’m sorry”

She threw herself into his arms again and started to cry. He rubbed her back and stroked her hair like he would a crying child. He wanted to yell, “No, I doubt I’ll never love you. I’ve can’t wait to as far away from you as I can,” but kept his thoughts to himself and told her “I’ll be back in no time. You’ll be so busy you won’t even miss me.”

After a romantic candlelit dinner for two in the flower filled formal dining room, Candi was back to her charming and happy self. Over dessert he presented her with a diamond and pearl bracelet that seemed to make her happy.

After dinner he went to the wine cellar for something stronger. She was gone when he returned. He found a trail of flowers from the vase on the table leading up to his bedroom. This wasn’t what he’d planned on.

She lay on her back on the bed, legs spread, arms over her head. Her hair fanned out around her, the diamond bracelet on her arm. She wore nothing but her sheer lace stockings held up with jeweled garters. She reminded him of a high priced whore, or at least what he imagined a high priced whore looked like. It was sad.

“Put this on.” He said tossing her his robe.

“Don’t you want me?”

“I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t want to have sex with you this very second, but you expect me to love you in return and I can’t give you right now.” he told her, knowing if she had stayed, and if he’d made love to her that there would be no turning back.

“But ….”

“You’re absolutely beautiful. Please get dressed and meet me downstairs.”

He waited with a glass of wine and a headache. He wanted her so badly but it would have been wrong. If she had been another woman it would have been so easy to drop his clothes and join her in bed. And then what? Would they talk? What would they talk about? Another endless conversation about parties and social gossip.

It had been over a month since she had arrived. It had been an exhausting blur of parties and nights out on the town. Time with Candi always lead to conversations on redecorating in colors that only belonged in a whorehouse. After decorating conversation, Candi always wanted to talk about clothes and parties and gossip. It was like having a 14 year old girl around.

He handed her a box containing a necklace and earrings to go with the bracelet he had given her at the dinner table. She squeeled with delight. The damn things cost as much as the college education, but it was worth the bribe to get her leave on her own accord.

After she’d left, with her strange twins, escorted by members of his staff, Alexander felt drained and relieved.

He took out the earring he’d found in the Fern Chapel. It was nothing like Candi would have worn. He carefully unfolded the note and ran his fingers across the water stains.

“Two by love, two by faith. I will find you.” He said aloud.

He imagined the girl with the earring. She was a woman of unmatched beauty. Tall and elegant. She was calm and serene, never making demands, always giving support and comfort. She was intelligent and witty with a smile that would melt a man away. She would be Princess Candi with a brain. Upon their meeting he would release her from the enchantment that bound her. In return she would gladly become his wife. It would be clean and simple. They would live happily ever after.

He thought of past girlfriends. Starting with Ellie and moving on to Viola, all had been strong willed, enormously fun and exceptionally smart and beautiful. There was his college girlfriend, the exquisite Misty Barnes who was now the mayor of Ravenswood, and engaged to be married. There were more he had been involved with briefly. The joke was that he couldn’t last more than two weeks with a woman before he became bored with her. It was true. He had many female friends, but all were too smart to become romantically involved with him.

He’d been involved with three other Real Princesses, Ellie, Viola and Misty. Misty was carnal unlike any woman he’d ever known, but he only truly loved two – Ellie and Viola. Ellie was his first love. He had thought Viola was his true love, his soul mate, but it had been a lie. She had never loved him. Just like he would never love Candi.

He remembered Viola’s words. “I was never in love with you. I was in love with the idea of you.”

Candi didn’t think about ideas. In fact, most of the time it seemed like she didn’t think at all. Everything was clear cut and simple for her.

He picked up the book of poetry he’d found in the Fern Chapel and opened it to a random page.

“My wild unexpected love. You ambushed me, you attacked my senses, you took me by surprise, body, heart and soul.”

His grandfather had written that to his grandmother. That is what he wanted. What they had. He wanted what his parents had. He wanted what Simon and Ellie had.

Again he said aloud to himself “Two by love, two by faith, I will find you.”

 

~ To be continued. Next week: The Journey Begins.

 

 

 

 

Girl In The Woods: Meadow Creek (Part 7)

Serial Novel Girl in the Woods is a regular Friday feature for 2016.
For previous installments please CLICK HERE.

Part Seven: Meadow Creek

The day had been too long for the president of Universal Technologies. Olivia Snowhawk had left the capitol early in the morning, traveled all day, only to spend the entire evening in meetings and presentations.   It was almost midnight when she arrived home. The day was long, but it was good to be home, away from the politics of The Capitol. It was a relief to be back at her home office, around people who loved what they did and were good at it. The amount of talent she was able to recruit was impressive by anyone’s standards. She was proud of her business.

She lived alone in a big house on the edge of Greenwood, a 30 minute ride from the Universal Technologies headquarters in Meadow Creek. No domestics, family or friends lived full time in the magnificent house with her. She liked it that way.

Throwing her purse on the table, Olivia left her usual trail of her coat, bags, and jewelry. She reached for her earrings. One was gone. Damn it she thought. It had been one of her favorite pairs.

She thumbed through the mail. There was a note from an old boyfriend in Riverbend that made her laugh. “Daisy dumped me in a very public way. I admit I deserved it. She came to my office right in the middle of the weekly directors meeting, called me a cheating dog and slapped my face, then told me she never wanted to see me again. By the end of the business day, everyone, and I mean everyone, in Riverbend knew about it. You were right. I am a first class asshole.”

She finished his letter then picked up a magazine. There was her face, along with Simon and Annie on the cover – the power triangle behind Universal Technologies International. It was a formal portrait of the three. Blonde, brunette and a redhead. She looked pretty enough and Annie beautiful, which was sometimes hard next to Simon’s unearthly good looks. She took a breath and questioned her judgment on appearing at all. She liked being the center of attention, but until recently she’d made a point of keeping her picture out of the public eye.

Making her way to the kitchen Olivia scooped up a large black cat in her arms. He purred and drooled until she had to put him down. “Ink darling, you’re ruining my sweater,” she scolded. In the kitchen she uncorked a bottle of red wine and poked around for something to eat.

From there she went upstairs to her bedroom with Ink at her heels and a glass of wine in one hand and the wine bottle, a newspaper and the magazine under her arm. Dropping her load on the bed, she unstrapped her dagger from her belt and put it on her night stand. She dropped her clothes on a chair. A knee length wool jacket with a moss green on forest green fern pattern, over a lightweight black sweater and black leather pants with low heeled black boots that reached up over her knees She wrapped herself in her favorite robe, a soft cotton and silk blend of blue, embroidered with soft green ferns.

 

Rummaging back through her coat pocket she found her reading glasses and settled in an overstuffed chair by the window. It had started to rain, but the house was warm and a fire was blazing. Ink curled up in her lap.

Scanning through the local newspaper she was always aware of how she used the press to her full advantage, keeping them happy with information and invitations. She thought of the owner of the Meadow Creek Recorder. That was someone in the local press she’d gotten too close to. He’d romanced her and played with her emotions to get what he wanted.

“Stupid self-serving bastard.” She said aloud, and then downed her glass of wine. It was a good night to indulge in the rare luxury of feeling sorry for herself. She’d thought of revenge on the man but gave it up realizing at her age she’d been a fool to be taken in by his sweet talk and handsome face. She still had years of use out of her professional relationship with him – something she couldn’t afford to loose.

She opened the magazine and read the article about the leaders of Universal Technologies International in full. To no surprise it rang favorable. She’d met with the author, a man named Geo Goodnight, in her Meadow Creek office. She had told him that she’d come to this country because of the opportunities and because she loved the people. He flirted, she flirted back.

She showed Mr. Goodnight the latest and most amazing developments at Universal Technologies. He was thoroughly impressed beyond his wildest imagination. When she gave him a tour of her home he was equally amazed.

She refused to give much personal information, aside from the fact she and Simon had the same birthday and the fact that she usually met him at his house for coffee before work each morning. She refused to show him the upstairs portions of the house, including her bedroom, but kept him amused at the thought of one day seeing it. It would be a cold day in hell before she let him into her private lair.

There was some mention in the article of her appearance during the interview; every detail of what she wore down to her jewelry and shoes was mentioned. Of course there was great detail, maybe too much, about her hair, a dramatic new style for the so-called queen of fashion. A normal style, she thought, brushing a strand out of her face.

There were flattering images of her and flattering words. She was now entrenched as both a business and cultural icon in her new country. It was good to be respected for who she was now, not who she was suppose to be, not for who she was born to be.

The reporter had also asked her about her past. She told him little aside from the fact that she had grown up during the war, being shuttled from safe house to safe house. She mentioned that she and Alaric Shadowford had been childhood friends and that her twin brother Justin Snowhawk was most certain to be the next president of the Crystal Mountain Republic. Of course no interview would be complete without mention of her father, a war hero, and the eccentric and brilliant mind behind Universal Technologies. The reporter pressed for more details but she gave none. Like all expatiates from the Crystal Mountains she rarely spoke of home. It was a closed country and the plan was to keep it that way.

Twelve years ago today she decided to leave the Crystal Mountains forever. It had nothing to do with business or the war or family. She stared out into the dark window, into the rain. Her thoughts went back twelve years to the place she had escaped.

She had gone to meet a friend on an isolated hilltop to view the stars. Her friend wasn’t there. Instead her worst nightmare was waiting for her, escaped from the self imposed exile where he had been gone years earlier for raping and torturing her. He was there with a group of his followers, waiting for her.

She tried to protect herself but her own powerful magic failed her. She was beaten until she couldn’t stand. She thought they were going to kill her. Then it happened. Something she could have never imagined.

Alone with her captor, his beautiful face was close to hers, she looked in his hazel eyes that were almost reflection of her own. As he bent over her, his hair made a curtain around her face. He caressed her battered body, then lightly kissed her eyes and her lips as he whispered that he loved her and would never leave her. He gently undressed her and healed her injuries with his magic. “You are mine,” he whispered as he took her. She tried to fight back but he blocked her magic with his own and overpowered her with his physical strength.

Next he filled the room with yellow light and enchanted her with four spells binding them together forever with his obsession and love.

It seemed so simple and final the way he explained it to her. They would start a new empire together. They would live with passion and power. She would be his alone. Their children would be heirs to a new world.

A vision entered her mind. She was on the shores of a foreign lake, far away where a warm breeze kissed her skin. A tower stood in the distance, lights shone from the windows of a near by cottage, a beautiful palace was behind her. The dark haired stranger held her close to him, under the starlight on the shores of a distant lake and vowed his love to her.

“ I vow to you, here and now, that I will always love you. You are my heart and my soul. I will never love another. Nothing will ever come between us. I will always be here for you, now and forever. Nothing will make me leave you Olivia, not even death itself”.

The vision faded and she was back in the cold. She looked into the eyes of her captor and said, “I vow to hate you with all my heart and soul. I vow to hate you now and forever.” She hung on the edge of consciousness, trying to stay awake, starting at the man who had just enchanted her. Every cell in her body ached. Every emotion ran raw.

He saw her vision of the other man. Too stunned to respond he sat in silence wondering who would dare break his enchantments. But it was true. The unknown stranger, the imposter, was out there waiting for her.

He kissed her tenderly. “He can’t have you.”  

“You can’t do anything him or me.” She whispered.

Something inside him snapped. In a rage plunged his knife deep into her chest. “You can die if you think any other man will have you.” Leaving the knife in her chest, he left her to die, alone in the dark.

She heard his friend, someone she’d once known well say “Don’t leave her here. We can bring her with us.” Then her hearing failed and her mind went into a dark cold blackness.

As she lay close to death, feeling the heat drain from her body, she thought of her friends far away. If she lived, she would join them in their country and leave the Crystal Mountains forever.

Six weeks later, still recovering from her injuries, Simon was waiting for her at the border of her new country.

 

Olivia Starfire Snowhawk was now alone in her house in Meadow Creek. The only sounds were the beating of the rain on the windows and Ink’s soft purring. It was twelve years ago that day that she had almost died at the hand of a mad man. Twelve long years of exile and fear. Before she left her old home she’d told her father that she’d be fine, but she had lied. She would never be fine.

She lit a blue light in the small blue lamp by her bed. The blue lamp helped keep away the nightmares and the phantom that visited her at night. She glanced out the window and attempted to clear her mind.

Her twin brother Justin would be there in 3 weeks. She couldn’t wait. It had been hard living so far away from him. She’d finally meet Logan. She laughed thinking of what fun that might be. The man was a notorious flirt and so was she. She was also going to meet Prince Alexander for the first time, and no doubt Kitti’s idiot of a daughter as well. How was it that so many powerful and smart men like Alexander were such fools when it came to women? Anger rose in her as she thought about Kitti coming into her office the day before, demanding she sell her Lockford Mill. With any luck Candi would dump Alexander just like 3 other real princesses before her.

She could have been at Prince Alexander’s that night, making a scene in an eye popping dress and dazzling charm, but she wasn’t up to celebrating anything with Kitti’s daughter or Prince Alexander. “The poor bastard doesn’t know what he’s getting into.” She thought.

She’d stopped asking Simon why he didn’t do anything to stop it. There was nothing anyone could do about it. Alexander was a romantic but wasn’t the type to easily fall in love, at least not anymore from what she’d heard. From Ellie’s reports he wasn’t in love with Candi but resigned to the fact that he’d have to eventually marry her.   He had told Ellie that maybe one day he’d wake up to find himself content with Princess Candi. With any luck he’d find himself in love with someone else before the wedding.

Looking out the window she noticed a light in the woods. Her closest neighbors, Annie Hawthorne and Simon Oliver were still in The Capitol. Simon and Ellie had stayed to attend the party at Prince Alexander’s house. Annie was being the good daughter at yet another dysfunctional Hawthorn family gathering. She mentally checked the locks on her doors and windows. Under her breath she muttered a spell. She grabbed her dagger.

It was almost midnight. From the front library window she could see two men in dark clothing coming towards the house. They wouldn’t get in. When locked up the house was a fortress with unbreakable glass windows and impenetrable locks and security. They’d have to have her genetic code to get inside. Still, the house could be burned or vandalized.

She ran to call the sheriff, her friend Sean Crow, but the door of the library door slammed shut. She could hear them now at the front door, trying to get at the lock. They checked the outside of the house and attempted to break the windows. Without luck they tried to break the impenetrable windows again. She frantically tried to open the library door. She worked the knob, she tried spells. The door was shut solid.

The dark room lit up with a soft glowing light. She turned from the window and there he was, the wizard himself, the one who enchanted her, with his hands on his hips, smiling.

The sounds from outside stopped. The only noise was of her own heartbeat.

“Who are they? Are they yours?” she asked.

“They’re spies from Allegory or maybe the Lavender Forest. They’ve been taken care of.”

“Did you kill them?”

“You could have. Why didn’t you. Oh right. You don’t do that sort of thing anymore. No, but they’ll wish they were dead. Don’t worry about it.”

She looked at the wizard in front of her not taking her eyes off of him. She tried a spell to get him to go away but her magic failed her.

“Happy Anniversary darling. I brought you a little gift.” He put a magnificent necklace of diamonds and emeralds around her neck. He put his arms around her and kissed her in a slow lingering kiss.

“I hate you.” She whispered at him, her voice full of venom.

The necklace vanished, he pulled her robe open and traced his finger over the R shaped scar on her right shoulder, then cupped her breast in his hand. “I came here for a night of passion with the woman I love.” He leaned over and kissed her neck. She backed away. He grabbed her wrists.

“Come back to me.”

“Never.” She said.

“You’ve put a knife right through my heart. You know you shouldn’t do that.”

She said nothing then took a breath and braced herself for the punishment that was to come.