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PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2015 8:41 pm 

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“That’s fine,” Ewan replied, choosing to not mask the disappointment in his eyes. “Yes, I agree – we need to wait a bit longer. Aeronwen’s passing was fortuitous – but we shouldn’t be too hasty. Instead we should focus on killing my brother.” He gave her a serious look as he took another sip of his wine. “Yes, we should work on the King himself. If we can pull that off, I can get myself named Regent.” He allowed that idea to sink in before continuing with a smile. “If that happens we are home free. His brats will never see puberty.”

“Oh, and speaking of puberty – Alexander will need a wife soon, or else he will find one himself. Send me your short list of potential wives. I will let you know which ones have fathers who might support my claim. We need to think ahead to these things, my dear.”

Whether she agreed or not, once their discussion was complete Ewan finished his wine and stepped closer to her, slipping one hand over each cheek.

“My darling, not a day will go by when I will not think of you. You are my sun, my moon, stars and sky. When you make love to him, think of me,” he asked before moving in to deliver a passionate kiss. “Now, I must away,” he added as he leaned in so that their foreheads met. “My love…”




Allena, still wiping tears from her eyes, snuck back into the servant’s area behind the palace kitchen. In the corridor leading to a storeroom was where her and other kitchen girls had their cots strung up. She quietly stepped over to her space and located what she was looking for. Quickly she rustled around inside the wooden box that held all of her worldly goods until she found them: a tied-up bundle of letters from Alexander. Still blinking away the moisture from her eyes, she stole back down into the kitchens and approached the hearth. In the fireplace the evening’s blaze now smoldered, casting long shadows on those young men who slept in that chamber. Without any hesitation she cast the bundle of letters into the fire which quickly began to crackle and alight again. Not wanting to be caught somewhere she shouldn't be, Allena then hurried away as quietly as she could.

Her presence was not missed, however. After she had left one of the young men got up, reached into the fire and quickly pulled out the burning documents. He smothered the flames and tucked the packet away for review later. Someone, somewhere, might pay for those letters, he thought.

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Last edited by TinMan on Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:31 pm 

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Ewan might have said it was fine, but Victoria didn't believe him. She could see the disappointment in his eyes. She didn't blame him, she was disappointed too. This was not how she planned to spend her rare night with Ewan. She nodded her head and smiled when he suggested they focus on Richard instead.

"Yes, I believe something terrible should happen to Richard and his little brats."

Ewan was very correct that she needed to marry Alexander off soon, very soon. She didn't need a repeat of the little whore maid.

"I plan to talk to Henry about it right away. Alexander will have a good proper bride, a noble bride. I will send you a list of potential brides right away."

It would definitely benefit them in the long run too if her children were married off to the children of nobles that would support Ewan someday becoming the king. One of the things she loved about Ewan was that he was intelligent and could think ahead.

Victoria finished her wine and told Ewan with a smile.

"I always do."

She always imagined Ewan when she had to perform her wifely duties with Henry. She returned his kiss and told him.

"Farewell, for now."

A part of Victoria was sad to see him go but she knew for now they had to be apart. After all, good things came those who waited. Especially those shadows that in the darkness dwell.

-----------------------------

Little was said on the trip back to New Haven between Victoria and her children. Alexander was heartbroken for being used by Allena and Katherine was still thinking about catching her mother with another man. She promised Victoria that she would not say anything but she didn't like the idea of keeping things from her father. She just didn't want to upset him. When the carriage brought them back to Montgomery Manor, Victoria easily found the rest of her family. Eugenia was reading a fairy tale to Rebecca, who was sitting at her feet, while David slept against her chest. A mother who truly loved her children would have surely wanted to take over reading the story herself, or at least want to hold her little baby, Victoria did neither. Instead, she told Alexander and Katherine to unpack their things. Neither objected, Alexander was ready to go burn all the letters Allena had written to him and try to forget she ever existed.

Eugenia told Victoria that Henry was out back, playing with Adam, Nicholas, and the dogs. Dogs...Victoria hated those little beasts. The bloodhounds were loud and dirty. They slobbered all the time and got mud all over her home. But they were the one thing Henry insisted on having. He took them hunting less and less, the dogs were becoming more house pets then anything else. Since he had didn't have a mistress and, other then liking his wine too much at times, he did very little to embarrass her in the social circles, she let him have his little beasts. It kept him happy and he didn't argue with her much.

Henry was a good father, he seem to truly enjoy the children. He didn't do as much as Eugenia did with the children but, as a man, he did more then what was society expected of him. Adam and Nicholas were laughing with Henry as the dogs barked in excitement to play. Victoria barely greeted her sons before she told Henry they needed to talk. Obviously, she didn't tell him everything that had happened on her visit to Greenmor but she told him of what their son had done when they were alone in their bedroom.

"...We need to pick his bride right away."

"I thought we weren't going to start looking until after his birthday."

Henry replied. He hadn't seen the need to rush marriage on Alexander before Aeronwen's funeral. A part of him didn't want to see his firstborn leave the home. He wasn't sure he was ready to acknowledge how grown up Alexander almost was. Not that he'd tell his wife that, she'd just think he was even weaker then she already thought he was.

"After what that little whore tried to pull, waiting is not an option, Henry."

Victoria replied angrily. Henry looked down at the floor and nodded his head.

"Yes, you are right, dear wife. I am sure you will find a fine bride for our son."

He knew he would have very little say in who Alexander would marry. He just hoped it would be a girl his son could grow to love.

----------------------

Two and half years later....


Victoria had made it her personal mission to find the best bride possible for Alexander. His bride was a pure girl, a girl of noble birth. Also, a girl whose father did not object to the idea of Ewan being Regent of their kingdom if a terrible tragedy befell on King Richard. The girl's name was Gwendolyn. She was the daughter of the Baron of Westchester. It was a actually a few steps down in nobility, after all, a Baron was barely above the commoners but at least Gwendolyn was not a little whore maid.

Alexander had been courting her for almost two years before their wedding day. She was a kind of plain girl. She had average looks, mousy brown hair and hazel eyes. But she was a very nice girl, even if she wasn't as educated as him but..She was nothing like Allena... Alexander should be over her by now, he thought as he got ready in a room of the cathedral. Today was his wedding day and he was still thinking of the maid that had been the center of his young dreams. Dreams that came crashing down when his mother told him Allena was using him. He wondered if she had given birth to a child. He wondered if she found some other young man to fool or if....If Mother had been wrong and Allena had been true...It didn't matter. Allena was gone and Gwendolyn was the girl he would be promising his life to. He was fond of the nice girl. Someday, he told himself, he would love her. He had been trying but it was hard to make a heart love someone. Especially, when someone else broke it. Surely, it would be different once she gave him a child.

Victoria sat next to Henry in the cathedral as Gwendolyn walked down the aisle to meet Alexander. Her eldest child was getting married and she was happy. He had married the girl she had picked for him, without a fight. Granted, she had hoped that Alexander would marry a princess but after his dalliance with the maid, Baron of Westchester's daughter was a suitable option. At least her grandchildren would be of noble blood on both sides. She was sure the Baron was pleased, his daughter was moving up in the world. Alexander would inherit New Haven someday and become its next Duke. Victoria's dreams for a throne would not come true with Alexander. That ship had sailed. Although, she did have five other children...She looked over at Katherine, who was watching the ceremony. Her daughter had kept the secret and she was right at the cusp of courting age. If her and Ewan's plans didn't work out, being a queen's mother wouldn't be too bad.

Anyone who was anyone was invited to Alexander and Gwendolyn's wedding. After the wedding ceremony, carriages took the guests to the grand reception hall where Victoria had spared no expense to make it a perfect day for her son and to impress the nobles.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 9:16 pm 

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Prince Ewan strode into the reception hall impeccably dressed in his finest attire, a purple and black tunic and coat emblazoned with his family’s royal arms. While it was generally considered uncouth for anyone to wear purple other than the king, Ewan could care less. He liked to think of the outfit as a way of ‘foreshadowing’ what lay in store for the kingdom. Besides, he loved being the subject of conversation – either for good or bad.

He stepped into the grand foyer with a broad smile and his 2-1/2-year-old son Carrick hoisted up in one arm. The similarly-dressed child silently looked into the hall with wide-open blue eyes under a mass of partially combed blond hair. In their train were three servants and a nanny, each also dressed appropriately for the occasion. The Prince did not have a female escort for the event – in fact he had yet to remarry despite the constant nagging of his brother and family. They were met at the door by the mothers and fathers of the happy couple and their entourages.

“His grace, Prince Ewan; and his son, Master Carrick!” the herald shouted as they entered through a blast of trumpeted fanfare. Ewan extended his hand to Victoria first, then Henry, the Baron and his wife in that order. He kissed the womens' hands and shook the mens' vigorously.

"Deepest and most heartfelt congratulations, my dear friends,” he said genuinely. The Baron and his wife were indeed good friends of Ewans – and Victoria even more so. Henry did not know of any reason to dislike the Prince either – at least not yet. “They seem very happy, Lady Montgomery. I pray they continue to enjoy as much happiness as their parents have,” he added with a wink.

Once the initial courtesies had been offered young Carrick decided to play the game as well. He reached out his small hand to shake with their hosts, mirroring his father’s actions. The child wore a warm smile as he did so.

“Now Carrick, I told you that you may say hello but the hour is late. Please say goodnight to our guests and go with Ms. Smyth,” he said, placing the child on his feet. Instead of turning to the nanny, though, the young boy put on a devilish smile and took off like a shot into the hall. After a fast curtsy Ms. Smyth hiked up her dress slightly and hurried after him. Ewan only laughed as the boy ran off.

“Apologies, my friends. He loves playing hide and seek – and he’s good at it. I fear I spoil him too much,” the Prince explained as a sad look crossed his features. “I am trying to be both mother and father to the poor child, and I fear I am inadequate at either role.” Ewan laid on the false humiliy thickly, playing the part of the still-grieving widower to the hilt.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2015 10:45 am 

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Dear Henry, always so oblivious to the things around him. Victoria easily picked up on the fact that Ewan arrived at the reception hall wearing purple. Such a daring choice, considering only the king himself was supposed to wear that color. That was the Ewan she knew, he loved being talked about and putting in a little foreshadowing for their future. A future that Henry would not see if things went her way. Henry, of course, didn't pay much attention to all the strict little formalities and didn't pay much attention to what Ewan was wearing. Just like he never realized how very intimately Ewan knew his wife.

"Thank you, Prince Ewan."

Henry said, shaking the prince's hand and finding it hilarious that Carrick insisted on shaking hands as well. Victoria echoed her husband's thanks and smiled when he kissed her hand. She didn't find Carrick as amusing. She was a mother of six and she didn't find her own children's antics very amusing and could barely tolerate other people's children at all. Even the child of her secret lover. Not that she ever let people know what she really thought. Instead, she gave a laugh to Carrick that didn't meet her eyes.

"As I do, my prince."

Victoria replied and her smile was more genuine when she saw his wink on wishes for Alexander and his bride's future. She watched Carrick run off in annoyance. Ewan's son or not, he'd better not ruin Alexander's wedding reception. This was supposed to be a grand and formal affair. Her own children were not running around wild. At least, Eugenia had better be making sure the younger ones weren't. Henry wasn't fazed that Carrick run off to play. Children liked to play, he enjoyed playing with his own kids. A party was supposed to be fun.

"It is okay. Parties are meant to be fun."

Henry replied, he caught the icy look Victoria gave him. Parties like this were meant to impress the nobles, not have small children running amok. It was Alexander's day but Victoria had planned every thing perfectly, down to the last detail. She hadn't let the bride have much say in her own day. He added.

"I am sure he is a good boy and he will enjoy playing with mine and Victoria's younger children."

Children that Ewan might have fathered himself actually. Not that Henry realized that possibility. Victoria told Ewan.

"Yes, Nicholas or Rebecca will keep him occupied, if he happens upon them. Given what happened, you are doing an excellent job with him, your highness."

------------

Rebecca thought the wedding ceremony had been sort of boring, it had been a long, formal ceremony and at seven years old, it didn't hold her interest much. The reception was much more fun so far. There was lots of food, music, and dancing. Someday she hoped to get married. At her young age she didn't realize that Alexander didn't love Gwendolyn, no matter how hard he was trying or that someday their mother would pick her husband as well. She thought her own parents had married for love. She thought love and marriage in real life was like in the fairy tales. You married for true love and that's what her naive mind thought she'd get as well when she was older.

"David, dance with me."

Rebecca told David, her little brother who was three years old. He nodded his, his hair was dark blond like his sister's.

"Okay!"

Rebecca and David were trying to dance formally, like the lords and ladies invited to their oldest brother's wedding were doing but despite their attempt at seriousness, it wasn't working as well. They were kids and having fun. Carrick almost ran into them and other people on the dance floor and David told Rebecca.

"Mama be mad."

Mother would be mad if she saw Carrick running around. She had lectured them, Adam, and Nicholas to all behave today and not embarrass her or Alexander. Rebecca nodded her head and took her brother's hand. Eugenia was in charge of watching them but was helping Nicholas and Adam get drinks.

"You cannot run in here. Our mother will be mad."

She told Carrick when she and David approached him. She didn't want him to get in trouble with their mother. Victoria was not very nice when she was angry.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 8:27 pm 

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Carrick ran up to Rebecca and David with a sly smile on his face. He heard what Rebecca had said but it simply didn’t register in his 30-month old brain. Carrick had no mother of his own and didn’t know who Rebecca’s mother was. Instead he was focused entirely on the desire to have fun. Carrick looked over his shoulder at Miss Smyth who was hurrying towards him as fast as she could while still keeping a measure of decorum.

“We’re playing hide and seek!” Carrick explained joyfully, pointing at Miss Smyth. “Wanna play too!?!” he asked the siblings.

If they hesitated or refused the child would gleefully run away, or attempt to at least, in order to escape the clutches of his nanny.

---

In the antechamber outside, Prince Ewan smiled gratefully and appeared to become slightly misty at the kind words of his secret lover. The emotion was an expertly generated ruse intended to communicate a depth of genuine emotion and familial love which the man, in truth, did not actually possess.

“My lady, that is perhaps one of the kindest things ever spoken to me, or indeed any father. Thank you. Now,” he added, clearing his throat. “I should enter and allow your other guests to be introdued. I thank you again, and offer up my most sincere congratulations,” he said as he nodded respectfully to his hosts.

Once inside, Ewan began to schmooze with the other high ranking guests with his servants in tow. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Carrick running about and he chose to ignore it. The boy was having fun, and he didn’t care who that might annoy – even Victoria. He would find a way to make it up to her later if need be.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 9:42 pm 

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"Hide and seek fun!"

David said in excitement. He liked playing hide and seek with Rebecca. She and Nicholas played with him the most, they were closer in age to him the his other three siblings. He was only six months older then Carrick and the idea of playing hide and seek right now sounded very exciting. More exciting then just watching people talk and dance. He looked up at Rebecca with hopeful eyes.

"Please, Becca? We play too?"

"I..."

Mother would be mad. She told them to behave, but playing hide and seek did sound fun to the seven year old girl. She looked around and saw that their mother was focused on the guests. Maybe if they weren't too loud, it would be okay. Rebecca nodded her head.

"Okay, we can play but we have to be quiet. Mother will be really mad if we are loud."

Rebecca warned David, who nodded his head and told his new friend.

"You no want make me Mama mad. She scary."

He did think Victoria was scary. She rarely interacted with him unless it was to yell at him. He liked Henry, though. He thought his father was funny.

------------------------

Victoria had been coaching Ewan since the death of his young wife on the correct responses to give people in public. To the world he was a grieving widower. So heartbroken at the loss of dear Aeronwen, he had not remarried. Even almost three years later, he couldn't even imagine marrying another woman. A man who was trying his best to be both parents to his little boy. She knew none of that was true. She was sure his feelings for Carrick were similar to her own feelings for her six children. While she certainly preferred their company over that of other children, she had no deep maternal love for any of them either.

"You are very welcome, my prince."

Victoria replied with a smile and nodded his head that there were other guests to greet. Henry told Ewan.

"You are welcome and please, enjoy yourself."

While Victoria's goal was to impress the nobles, Henry's goal was truly for people to have fun at the reception. He certainly hoped his son and his new wife would.

------------------------

Katherine walked around her brother's wedding reception, mingling with the guests and dancing with others. Her mother had taught her well, she was a proper lady. She was at home in this world. Chatting up the people, remembering who was who, and why they were so important. She looked over at Alexander. She remembered well the night she had overheard her brother in the courtyard of Greenmor Palace with the maid. The night she discovered her mother had had an affair. Something she always kept a secret. It was also the last night her brother had ever really talked to her. She wondered how much he hated her. Gwendolyn seemed like a nice girl. She would be a good wife and mother, but she wasn't the woman Alexander had wanted to marry...

People were talking and some were dancing at the reception. Katherine was dancing with various male guests, wishing the man who held her heart was here. But, of course, Mother had not invited him. She would have never invited one of the gardeners of their manor to the reception. Katherine should have learned from her brother's mistake. Victoria's children were of noble blood and that woman would be damned if any of her offspring married beneath that. But the heart wanted what the heart wanted. Despite knowing how stupid it was, Katherine couldn't help who she loved. She just had to make sure that Mother never, ever found out. She had to be more careful then Alexander had been.

People were trading partners on the dance floor and Katherine ended up dancing with Alexander. It was awkward. Since the night of Aeronwen's funeral, it had always been awkward between them. They only spoke if they needed to and those were always very brief conversations.

"Congratulations, Alexander. I am sure you and Gwendolyn will be very happy."

Katherine said with a small smile, which Alexander returned with a small smile of his own. They had to be polite to each other, they couldn't embarrass their mother here, not today.

"Thank you."

He replied and got quiet. He knew, or at least thought he knew, what type of woman Allena truly was but it had been Katherine's fault that Victoria discovered them. Katherine bit her lip and thought the song was going to go on forever.

"Do you love her?"

Katherine quietly asked and Alexander glared at her.

"What kind of question is that? Especially on my wedding day."

"A simple one, really. Do you love her?"

Katherine replied with a glare of her own. Alexander looked down and replied.

"I am fond of her."

Alexander didn't know why but he couldn't lie to his sister about his feelings for Gwendolyn. Not that he'd ever tell his wife. She clearly loved him and he didn't want to hurt her feelings, even if he couldn't fully return them. Someday, he would....At least he hoped to.

"But you still love the maid?"

"She means nothing to me."

Katherine didn't fully believe him and said.

"I am sorry for that night. I was-"

"It does not matter, Katherine. You saved me from being trapped. I am with the woman I am supposed to be with."

Alexander knew why Katherine had gotten Victoria. If the situation had been reversed, he probably would have done the same. None of Victoria's children wanted to be on the receiving end of her wrath.

"I...Alexander, you courted her for two years. If love has not grown by now, do you truly think it ever will?"

Katherine asked as the song came to an end. Alexander was grateful the song had ended, he would no longer have to have this conversation with his sister.

"We will see."

He replied, he bowed to Katherine and took the hand of a noble lady who was his next dance partner. Grateful that the woman only wanted to congratulate him and wish him and Gwendolyn to be blessed with many children. He might not ever be ready to acknowledge the fact that while his life belonged to Gwendolyn, she may never hold his heart.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2015 1:54 pm 

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Carrick beamed as he gleefully ignored his new friends’ warnings and led them under the nearest serving table. He crawled on his hands and knees between one and then another, hiding skillfully beneath the long tablecloths that hung down on all sides, giggling as he went.

As the only child of a powerful and incredibly self-centered man, Carrick had little to fear from anyone in the kingdom. Ewan sensed that Victoria saw her children as mere pawns in her larger chess game of acquiring power and prestige, and therefore she had no compunction about ruling over them and their love lives with an iron fist. Ewan, too, was obsessed with power, wealth and titles, and would happily sacrifice his own family members to forward his ambitions. The only family member that he would not allow harm to come to in any way, however, was Carrick. Partly that was because Ewan did in fact love Carrick in his own narcissistic way – as he loved Victoria. More importantly than that love, though, was the fact that Carrick was his legacy.

Prince Ewan believed that all of the wealth, power and fame – or infamy – he managed to achieve would be pointless if he didn’t have children to pass them along to. This paternal sensibility and concern also extended to those children of Victoria’s whom Ewan assumed to be his – and whom he hoped to adopt someday. Of all of his legal and assumed children, however, Carrick was his one true heir. As such, the Prince was fiercely protective of the small child. Furthermore, as someone who thoroughly enjoyed breaking rules, the Prince was not about to stand in the way of letting Carrick have fun at the ball. On the contrary, Ewan hoped that the boy could evade Miss Smyth for as long as possible.

Miss Elaine Smyth was an attractive young woman of twenty years who had recently taken over as nanny for Carrick. As such she was petrified of making a serious mistake – as the previous nanny had been fired for. Carrick’s flight was likely to not place her in the best possible light with the Prince.

Under a table, Carrick suggested the other kids be silent when he saw her slippers approach. The Nanny flew right past the table, though, directly towards an alcove at the back of the chamber. Carrick could only cover his mouth to avoid giggling out loud.

That darkened niche did in fact contain a person, as she suspected – but it wasn’t Carrick.

“Gotcha master Car…oh… I am sorry,” she said, mumbling an apology after seeing it was a teenage boy crouching down in the shadows.

“It’s alright,” he whispered, his face blushing. “Please… don’t tell anyone I’m here,” he said. The teen was wearing peasant garb, though the clothes were clean and new and he appeared to have recently bathed. Even still, the tanned color of his skin and rough hands told Miss Smyth that he worked outside – perhaps as a gardener. Elaine was surprised to find him there and a little concerned about it.

“Why… should I not tell anyone you are here?”

“Because… because my love is in that room, and I am not allowed to join her. I was hoping to at least… catch sight of her. I’m sorry… you’re right – I should go,” the young man said, backpedaling.

Elaine put up her hand. “No, I didn’t see you. I have too many problems right now, just … carry on,” she said as she turned and walked away.

After another circuit of the room turned up nothing Elaine was beginning to get nervous. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted Lady Katherine and decided to enlist the young woman’s help.

“My Lady, apologies, might I have a word?” Miss Smyth asked tentatively. Once given permission Elaine continued.

“I am having trouble locating Master Carrick. I haven’t seen Master David either. Would you mind telling me where he likes to play? Perhaps they are together?” she asked with a pained expression of concern.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2015 10:41 pm 

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Rebecca and David followed Carrick under the table. Rebecca learned quickly it was useless to try shushing the younger boy. Unlike her and her siblings, Carrick had very little to fear. Victoria saw her children as pawns for her own plans and thus controlled them as much as she possibly could, Carrick was spoiled. Ewan let him away with a lot and corrected him very little. Rebecca thought it must be a fun life to not have a parent breathing down your neck like a dragon. She just hoped that she and David wouldn't get in trouble with their mother for playing with him.

Victoria had her best face on her for her guests but didn't escape her very watchful eyes that Carrick was running around like a little hurricane at the wedding reception. His nanny had better control her little ward. Of course, he was Ewan's son and she knew he spoiled the boy rotten. She disagreed with his parenting style but would never tell her secret lover that. He was fiercely protective of his son and she knew it would be unwise to criticize the child. Especially, if Richard and his own offspring all met tragic ends. Ewan would become king and she planned to become his queen. If she said anything ill about Carrick, she knew Ewan would dump her fast and he would ruin the plans for her own children's futures by exposing their long affair. No...She wouldn't risk what she wanted and she would do her best to bit her tongue about she thought of the toddler. Her own children had better behave themselves, though. She had noticed Rebecca and David talking with Carrick. She might not be able to make Carrick behave the way she thought all children should, but her own children had better behave or after the reception ended, they would be in trouble.

-------------------------------------

Katherine danced with a few more guests after she had danced with Alexander before she excused herself to get a drink. It bothered her a little that Alexander didn't love Gwendolyn. It wasn't fair to either of them....She felt awful. She had destoryed her brother's dreams that night and now he was forced to be in a marriage with a woman he might care about but may never truly love. Gwendolyn was a nice girl, she deserved to be married to someone who could truly love her back.

Katherine sighed, there was nothing she could do about it now. Alexander and Gwendolyn were married until death do they part. She saw Elaine and could tell the nanny was very anxious. She nodded her head at Elaine's question. Whatever the slightly older woman wanted to talk about would be a nice distraction from her thoughts about Alexander.

"Yes, of course, what is wrong?"

Katherine asked and frowned when Elaine said Carrick was missing. That wasn't good, Mother would be angry. Although she wouldn't dare take it out on the boy or his father. Not since Ewan was a prince. She could punish David, if her little brother was with him. Carrick would be spared from her wrath, but not David.

"He likes to play with my sister. I thought they were dancing."

She had seen Rebecca and David attempting to dance earlier. Eugenia was supposed to be watching them. Katherine looked around and saw Eugenia was making Nicholas and Adam help her search for her young charges as well. Victoria was going to be really angry if Eugenia and Elaine didn't do their jobs and keep the young children from ruining Alexander's wedding reception. Katherine thought a moment and asked.

"Does Master Carrick like dogs? My father has a six of them but my mother made him keep them outside for the party. Maybe David and Rebecca took him to see them?"

David enjoyed the dogs a lot, almost as much as Nicholas did. Maybe he got bored of all the dancing and convinced Rebecca to take him outside to play with Henry's dogs. It was worth a try.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2015 7:57 am 

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Elaine put one hand up to her head as if it might help her think of what to do next. “Yes,” She answered eventually to Katherine’s question. “Lets’ go see if they are there.”

Only a few steps outside of the ballroom they were called to from behind.

“Lady Katherine,” a familiar voice said in a polite tone from behind. Turning to look, Elaine saw he gardener that she had bumped into earlier. Now standing in the light she could see that the young man was about Katherine’s age and handsome. He wore a pleasant expression on his face as he addressed them, holding his cap in his hand in deference to their station.

“Forgive the interruption, but are you searching for your brother and sister? If so – they are hiding under that serving table there,” he added, pointing back into the ballroom. Elaine took one look at him and then Katherine before sensing that there was something going on there. If so, that could lead to Elaine finding herself on the wrong side of the Duchess. Instantly Elaine decided to excuse herself before she saw anything that might mix her up in a family dispute.

“Thank you Lady Katherine, and sir,” she said as she hurried past him and back into the ballroom. She did not look back, not wanting to know anything else about that situation – if there was anything to know.

“Forgive me, m’lady,” the Gardiner apologetically to Katherine. “I didn’t want to interrupt your evening – I just had to say… hello.” He flashed a smile that communicated warmth and incredible longing. Truth be told, the gardener was madly in love with her – regardless of the fact that they could never be together due to the difference in their stations. In his young mind, though, that didn’t matter as long as she would speak a kind word to him once in a great while.

Back in the hall Elaine raced up to the table and lifted the cloth enough to see three mischievous faces smiling back at her. Before she could issue an order to come out, though, she was taken aback by the uncanny resemblance between the three of them. Sitting together she noticed for the first time that they each smiled the same smile, and their eyes and the shape of their faces and color of their hair all seemed eerily similar.

“Wait a minute – are you three cousins?” she asked, suddenly more surprised than angry.

“No!” Carrick said out joyfully, “We’re friends!”

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2015 6:44 pm 

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Katherine nodded her head to Elaine, when she finally decided that seeing the dogs would be a good start. Of all her siblings, Nicholas was the most obsessed with the dogs, but David enjoyed them. Henry had six, one for each of his children.

"This way."

Katherine said, having Elaine follower her. She was surprised that they had barely left the ballroom when she heard his voice. The voice that made butterflies dance in her stomach. She knew she shouldn't be around him. It was dumb, she saw what happened to Alexander and his maid but she couldn't help herself. No matter how many times she told herself that her mother would pick her future husband, in her dreams, this young man was who she wanted. He was just a gardener for the manor, but it didn't matter. To her, he was perfect.

"We are, have you seen them?"

Katherine replied and looked over her shoulder, when he pointed that they were under a table. She got nervous, what if Mother had seen him? None of the servants, other than those needed to serve the guests, were allowed in the ballroom. Mother would be so angry. She looked over at Elaine and wished she could read minds. She saw the looks Elaine gave them and bit her lip. If she said something to Victoria....She prayed the woman would be more concerned that she found Carrick and did not anger the prince, then worrying about Katherine's personal life.

"....You are welcome."

Katherine replied, watching Elaine hurry off. She turned back to her gardener. She smiled at him.

"Hello. I am not angry, but she did not see you, did she?"

He would know who Katherine was referring to. She didn't think Victoria had seen him, at least, not yet. Her mother wouldn't be calmly talking to the guests if she had. Katherine wished she could spend every waking moment with him but she knew that wasn't possible. Not with Victoria around.

It was fun hiding with Carrick. Rebecca and David both looked up at Elaine when she found them. David giggled but Rebecca frowned at Elaine, confused at her question.

"Our mother told us that my great grandmother was a princess. So, I guess, we are distantly related."

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2015 9:34 pm 

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Elaine dropped the line of questioning and ordered the three of them to their feet.

“Come now, you are all with me. Please hold hands and walk together. That way if you please,” she explained in a firm tone as she pointed towards where Katherine was off speaking to the Gardiner, a young man named Simon.

Elaine realized that she had no authority to tell Rebecca or David what to do. However, she was sincerely trying to help them both by getting them out of the line of fire of the Duchess. If Her Grace did not already know what was going on with her children’s mischief, then she certainly would find out quickly if they stayed in the hall. Elaine’s plan was to give all three of them a stern talking-to with the help of Katherine, as the younger siblings would hopefully heed the older one.

Beyond the noise and activity of the great hall Katherine found herself alone with the young man. After making sure no one could see them he reached down and impetuously took her hand. Before she could argue he led her away towards a spiral stair nearby while holding one finger to his lips. Silently he led her to the darkened gallery above for a little privacy.

“I know – I know… I shouldn’t have come – but I couldn’t be away from you for one more moment. There is so much bustle here that I thought I could sneak in through the servant’s entrance. See? And I was right. We have this whole gallery to ourselves.” The noise below drowned out his whispering, giving them at least a momentary sense of privacy.

“Oh, and here,” he said as he withdrew a freshly cut red rose from his coat pocket. He used a pin to attach it to her dress if she would let him. “I cut this from the Duchess’s gardens. It was too beautiful to leave there – it belongs with you, the most beautiful woman here.”

Once the flower had been given Simon then took hold of both of her hands, his rough fingers holding hers gently in the dark. Smiling warmly, he slowly inched his face closer to hers in hopes of securing an innocent kiss from the woman he loved with all of this young heart. His eyes flashed in the distant candlelight with an expression of hopeful expectation tinged with the futility of their all-but impossible situation.

Back at the party Ewan made the rounds of the hall seemingly oblivious to the location of this son. Truth be told, though, he was keeping an eye on Elaine as he made the progression. He found it odd when she marched three children out of the ball, hand-in-hand. He would need to investigate at some point, he thought to himself.

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"Yes, Ma'am."

Rebecca replied to Elaine. She took nodded her head to David to what Elaine had told them to do. Victoria had trained them well, her children rarely questioned something a person they viewed to be in a position of authority told them to do. Besides, Rebecca didn't want her mother to find them playing and get angry at them. Victoria wanted today to be a perfect day. Not just because it was Alexander's wedding day, but she also had to impress all her powerful and important friends.

"David, take Carrick's hand."

Rebecca told her little brother, taking his hand. David took a hold of Carrick's hand and Rebecca, being the oldest of the three, led the way. Following right behind Elaine. She hoped that Carrick's nanny would be nicer then Victoria was when it came to disciplining them for playing in the reception hall.

----------------------

Simon was Katherine's greatest weakness. She knew this was silly. What happened between Alexander and Allena should have taught her that, but the young woman could not help herself. When he reached for her hand, she intertwined their fingers. She thought that Simon was just trying to steal a brief moment before she had to return to the party. She should head back in, find her little brother and sister before Victoria realized what they were up to. She'd be so angry at them.

Thoughts of her siblings disappeared, as Katherine followed Simon towards the spiral stairs. She wanted to argue and tried to. But she kept silent. So many people could see them, Carrick's nanny had saw him. That might be a problem she'd have to deal with later. She followed him inside the gallery.

"I cannot bear to be away from you either, Simon. But I cannot stay long."

Katherine wished she could stay forever but that wasn't possible. Still, the brief privacy was nice. It was something they rarely had. Especially with the noise from the party, none would realize people were in the gallery. She smiled when she saw the red rose and allowed him to pin it to her dress.

"It is beautiful, thank you."

Her mother's garden was beautiful. Thankfully it was rather large and Victoria wouldn't miss a cut flower here or there. Katherine didn't mind the callouses on Simon's hands. It was a sign of hard work. Something she admired more then the smooth hands of the gentlemen she had been dancing with earlier.

"I wish we could always be together."

Katherine told Simon, leaning up to kiss him.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2015 8:59 am 

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When Elaine did not return with Carrick after a few moments Prince Ewan decided to investigate. Using the subtlety that came naturally to him, he waved to someone on the internal balcony overlooking the ballroom and approached the stairs that led up to it. On the way he asked his entourage to stay below as he ascended for privacy as he investigated his nanny’s actions. At the top of the stairs Ewan immediately turned and walked into the darkened gallery next door.

The kiss was innocent and gentle, with Simon taking great pains to not frighten Katherine with any overt signs of the passion he felt for her. Still, though, the depth of his emotion was betrayed by the quivering of his lips and the gentle touch of his fingertips on hers. It was all he could do to not swoop her off her feet in a fit of passion. The kiss lasted for what seemed like an eternity until Elaine could be heard calling out from below.

“Miss Katherine? Are you here? I have Mater Carrick, your brother and sister with me. I was hoping we could all talk about proper ballroom decorum. Miss Katherine?”

Simon broke off the kiss with an expression of agonized resignation.

“Damn it… I should go, m’lady. Will you look for me tomorrow? I’ll be pruning the hedge maze,” he added with a smile. He knew at the maze would provide the opportunity to continue where they had left off, if she was so inclined.

Later, once they had said their goodbyes, Simon hurried through the dark where he promptly bumped shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the guests who had been apparently lurking in the shadows.

“Please, begging your pardon sir!” Simon said in a low but sincere tone, taking his hat in hand. “I meant no offence,” he explained as he retreated – not wanting to be caught in that place and reported to the Duchess. Prince Ewan was silent as he watched the young man retreat, the older man sporting a wide grin. That was a useful tidbit of information, he thought to himself as he listened to Elaine speaking to the children off in the distance below him.

Elaine began the lecture by reviewing the importance of respecting the master of the house and all the work and preparations that went into events such as this one. She then moved on to mention how children who cannot follow their parent’s directions are disobeying the Fifth Commandment. For good measure she threw in how it was a privilege for children to be invited at all to these sorts of things, and I they were caught misbehaving they would never be invited to another.

“How sad would that be?” she asked the trio.

“Very sad,” Carrick said with a mischievous smile. He did everything he could to stifle a giggle but failed. He looked at his fellow compatriots with glee to see if the speech was also giving them the giggles.

Elaine put her hand to her head and looked to Katherine for help.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2015 5:11 pm 

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Katherine's heart was racing during their kiss. Simon was everything the young woman could ever wish for, although she should know she couldn't be with him. He was a gardener, her mother would never approve of the relationship. It didn't matter to Katherine, though. She wished she could freeze time in this moment. She didn't get to spend enough time with him as it was. For a brief moment, everything was perfect. Then Elaine called for her and the moment ended. Katherine sighed as she had to break the kiss.

"I have to go."

Katherine told Simon sadly. She supposed it was better that Carrick's nanny had found Rebecca and David instead of Victoria. If they were playing and Victoria caught them, there would be hell to pay. Rebecca and David were little, they didn't know any better. Elaine would probably be kinder to them. She returned Simon's smile and said.

"I will be there."

The hedge maze was were they often met. It kept them hidden from view and Victoria rarely visited it. She had it because it was something interesting to show off to visitors. It was a good place to spend some time together. Something they didn't get very often. She squeezed Simon's hand one last time, before heading out of the gallery. She left before Simon and had no idea that the prince had been spying on them.

Katherine arrived to find Elaine lecturing the three children. Rebecca and David had their heads hung in shame. While Carrick thought it was a joke, they did not. Young Carrick didn't know what it was like to grow up with Victoria as your mother. They both nodded their heads and kept apologizing to Elaine. When she brought up the Fifth Commandment, Rebecca swallowed hard.

"We were...I did not mean to dishonor my parents, Ma'am."

Rebecca replied and David nodded his head. He didn't know yet what the commandment was but Rebecca did. He looked up to his older sister and agreed with whatever she was saying. She knew was wrong to disrespect her parents, especially her mother. She had had that drilled into her head as long as she could remember. David nodded it would be sad to not be able to attend more parties. Rebecca agreed and asked.

"Are you going to tell my mother what we did? We were not trying to ruin Alexander's reception."

Katherine was taken aback at how much Carrick looked like her siblings. He and David were very close in age and they could have passed for almost twins. She had never noticed it before, not until today. It took her a moment to realize that Elaine was looking at for her help. Carrick was spoiled, Katherine didn't think he had much to fear and he wouldn't comprehend why they were in trouble. Victoria wouldn't dare punish him for the game anyway. David was looking down and Rebecca looked afraid. Katherine could understand that, she was scared of what Victoria would do if she found out. Katherine had grown up afraid of their mother too. She was scared what would happen if Victoria ever found out about her feelings for Simon.

"I know you were not, Rebecca, but you know playing at a party with all of Mother and Father's friends here is a bad idea."

Rebecca nodded her head, she knew wasn't a good idea but it had sounded so fun. It had been fun, until Carrick's nanny had found them.

"We were just trying to have fun."

"I understand that but there is a time and place for it and our brother's wedding reception is the wrong place."

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 9:07 am 

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Carrick became confused as his two compatriots suddenly looked guilty. The mischief evaporated from his expression as his young mind realized he may actually be in trouble.

“Alright, that’s enough excitement for today,” Elaine added, bending over to scoop up the youngest child in her arms. Carrick didn’t resist, and instead waved goodbye to his new found friends. “That’s right, say goodnight, Carrick.” Glancing over at Katherine she added, “My, the resemblance is uncanny, isn’t it?”

After the children had said their good-byes Elaine nodded in thanks to Katherine. “Good eve to you as well, my Lady,” she added with a small curtsy which she managed to deliver while holding Carrick. “Now we need to find your father…”

“That you have achieved, Miss Smyth,” Prince Ewan said as he began descending the spiral stairs from above them. He had heard the entire exchange.

“Pa Pa!” Carrick shouted gleefully with his hands outstretched. Once Ewan had reached them he took his young child in his arms. “Lady Katherine,” he then said with a nod as a formal greeting to the young woman. This was the one person he didn’t want to bump into this evening, he thought, wondering if she remembered him from that night long ago. “Rebecca, David,” he continued, nodding to each in turn. “It is a pleasure to meet you all.”

“My lord,” Elaine asked with a note of concern, “have you been here long?”

“No, I just arrived at the gallery looking for you both. I am glad everyone is well. I think, though, this little one needs some rest. Do you agree?”

“Of course my Lord,” Elaine replied, taking the child back from his father. “Come now Carrick, we must away…”

With one last glance in Katherine’s direction the nanny departed with her ward, leaving Ewan alone with the three siblings. He smiled down broadly at them, thinking how he saw a reflection of himself in the two younger ones. “Are you three enjoying the reception?” he asked them pleasantly.

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Rebecca looked up when Elaine gathered her charge. Perhaps Mother would never have to find out. She certainly hoped so. The brief fun she and David had with Carrick would not be worth it if Victoria found out. Katherine doubted that Carrick would be in trouble, but hopefully he would think twice before getting her siblings into trouble again.

Katherine frowned when Elaine mentioned the resemblance between her siblings and the prince's son. It was uncanny...She had never noticed it until tonight.

"Yeah, it is."

Katherine replied to the nanny and told her good night. Rebecca and David told Carrick good bye and looked at Katherine.

"Do we have to tell Mother?"

Rebecca asked, trying to hide the fear in her voice but not succeeding.

"If she asks, we must tell the truth. If she says nothing, then no. But do not do it again. Understood?"

Rebecca and David both nodded their heads that they understood.

"Good."

Katherine replied and was ready to take her younger siblings back into the reception when Prince Ewan found his son.

"Your Highness."

Katherine said to Ewan, giving him a slight bow, that her younger siblings mimicked. It was the proper way to address the prince. Katherine's heart raced a little when Ewan said he had been in the gallery looking for them. Did he see her and Simon? No, she didn't think so...She thought they had been alone. Katherine wondered why the prince was showing such an interest in Rebecca and David. It didn't make sense and her eyes narrowed when she saw how similar both looked like to him. Just like they had looked so much like his son. Rebecca and David, like all of Victoria's children, had a blond hair. However, their facial features looked so similar to Ewan's. David nodded his head at the question and Rebecca replied.

"Yes, the dancing is fun."

Rebecca wasn't about to say that playing hide and seek with Carrick had been even more fun. She did not realize how spoiled Carrick was and that she would not be getting him in trouble with his father.

"Are you having fun, your Highness?"

Rebecca asked and Katherine thought that she needed to compare her siblings to Henry. See if they shared any of his facial features. She never really paid that close of attention before. But now she was wondering.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:46 am 

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Rebecca’s pleasant response lit up Ewan’s face with a proud, almost fatherly smile. Of course he did not know if Rebecca was his daughter but he enjoyed imagining that she might be. At least, he thought to himself, she looks more like him than Henry! Ewan dropped down onto his ankle to make eye contact with the young girl before responding.

“Yes my dear, dancing is very fun. I’m so glad you are enjoying yourself. And yes; very much so,” he replied to her question about if he was having fun. “No one knows how to create a more grand celebration than your parents. I’m so happy for Gwendolyn and your brother. They are a handsome couple and I believe they will have a happy life together.”

Next Ewan turned to face David.

“And you my boy – David is it? I don’t know if we’ve been properly met. I’m Prince Ewan,” he said by way of introduction, extending his hand for the young boy to shake if he cared to.

This child, too, resembled him to his great satisfaction. A less narcissistic person might be concerned about the implications of that fact and what damage it might cause to his reputation – but not Ewan. He was just egocentric enough to feel that making Henry a cuckold was a positive thing – proof of his charms and virility. If the truth came out at some point it was Victoria who would suffer thanks to the unfair double standard of the day, he suspected. Be that as it may, Ewan genuinely loved Victoria and would never seek to cause her harm. However, they both knew they were playing with fire. If that fire burned out of control he supposed it was she who would suffer more than him. Not to mention, of course, that great harm would be extended to Henry and the children that Ewan appeared to take such an interest in – but all of that was beyond the Prince’s capacity for empathy.

After David and he had exchanged pleasantries Ewan stood up again and spoke to Katherine with a pleasant yet somewhat less enthusiastic tone. She was definitely Henry’s child after all. Furthermore this young girl could be the cause of all those great troubles if she had the inclination and courage of her convictions to go public about her mother’s escapade. Whether or not she could identify Ewan as her mother’s lover still remained to be seen, but still he decided to keep his conversation with her as brief as possible.

“Thank you for your help in setting Carrick and your siblings on the proper path to good behavior. I appreciate it, my lady,” he added with a nod. He then looked over her head back towards the ballroom and the lights and activity coming from there. “If you will allow me, I should away lest they send out a search party for me. I’m afraid I must bid you all good eve,” he added with a warm smile, nodding again at each in turn.

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Rebecca smiled back at Ewan. She had no idea his interest in her was because he pondered the idea of being her father. She just thought he was being friendly. Besides Rebecca was far too young and naive to realize that her mother and Ewan were secret lovers. Rebecca nodded her head that her parents had thrown a grand party for Alexander and Gwendolyn.

"I am too. I think they will have lots of kids and live happily ever after."

Rebecca didn't know, like her older sister did, that Gwendolyn wasn't the woman that Alexander loved. She was just the woman Victoria had told him to marry. She thought marriage and love was like in the fairy tales that she had Eugenia read to her all the time. That people married for love and lived happily ever after. Katherine sighed quietly when she heard what Rebecca told Ewan. People did not, especially not people born into nobility, got to marry for true love and live happily ever after. Rebecca wouldn't and neither would she...She touched the flower Simon had given her. She wanted to be with him, but it seemed impossible.

David shook Ewan's hand and replied.

"I David. Nice meet you, Prince Ewan."

David was a young boy and didn't have a full grasp of talking properly but he was trying. David spoke to him eagerly and Katherine realized she didn't like the prince. His interest in her siblings made no sense. She had spent many holidays as guests of King Richard in Greenmor Palace and he never showed much interest in any child other then his own. And even with Carrick, it was still the nanny's job to take care of him. He wasn't a father like Henry was.

"You are very welcome, your highness."

Katherine replied. She never had forgotten the night Alexander had his heart broken and she had found her mother in bed with another man. Victoria had only talked to her once about it and forbade the girl for ever bringing it up again. Still, Katherine couldn't help but think about it from time to time. Her father was a good man and he deserved better then an unfaithful wife. Not that Katherine would ever speak those thoughts out loud. Victoria claimed it had been only one night, but watching Ewan talk to Rebecca and David made her wonder.

"Yes, of course. Farewell for now."

Katherine replied to Ewan when he said he had to get back to the party. She looked at Rebecca and David.

"Let's find Father."

Rebecca frowned.

"Do you think he will be mad?"

Henry was rarely mad. Katherine never recalled a time he had risen his voice. She shook her head.

"No, but I think he will understand and make sure you two and Eugenia do not get in trouble."

It was Eugenia's job to watch the younger children and Victoria would feel she had failed at it. Rebecca nodded her head.

"Okay, I do not want Mother mad at Eugenia."

Eugenia was so nice, Rebecca sometimes wished that she was her mother instead.

"Me neither."

David replied and Katherine smiled.

"I do not either. Come."

She told them and Rebecca and David followed. She was partly taking them to see Henry for Eugenia's sake. He would understand that children wanted to have fun but she also wanted to compare his facial features to Rebecca and David's. Katherine had been right, Henry was not angry at all. He actually found it silly that the younger children had nothing to do at the party. Talking and just dancing were boring to kids, especially young boys. Not that his opinion mattered when Victoria threw a party. He was told to dress nice and not drink too much. Katherine saw none of Henry's facial features in either child. Nor did she see any in Nicholas when he and Adam joined them with a very apologetic Eugenia. Adam had Henry's nose and chin, but Nicholas looked like an older version of David, who had looked like Carrick's twin...

-------------------------------

Victoria was glad that Carrick and her younger two children hadn't caused much chaos. She would have been livid if they had. She had no idea that the wheels in Katherine's head were turning. She was too busy mingling with the guests to realize she needed to get those thoughts out of her older daughter's head. Those were dangerous thoughts that Katherine was having. Thoughts that could not only ruin Victoria's dreams but also the current life she had. Henry was busy talking with Eugenia and the kids and she took the opportunity to steal a rare moment with Ewan.

"Are you and Carrick enjoying yourselves?"

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Ewan excused himself from speaking with the Earl of Somerset when he saw Victoria approaching. The Prince stepped away casually, navigating himself in a direction that placed him directly into her path without looking like he was seeking her out. As they met he flashed her a polite and somewhat knowing smile as she addressed him. He nodded politely at the formal greeting.

“Carrick most certainly enjoyed meeting your children. I’ve since sent him off to bed so that he wouldn’t be a distraction to them, guests or you. Thank you for humoring him as long as you did,” he said with a self-deprecating smile. “I, personally, could not be enjoying myself more,” he added politely. Around that time a servant passed with wooden cups of wine on a tray. Ewan took two and handed one to his secret lover.

“Shall we drink to the happiness of the young couple, my lady?”

Whether or not she accepted, the Prince took a long sip and allowed it to linger on his tongue, enjoying the vintage. Once the man had retreated Ewan folded his hands behind his back and continued speaking to her in a lower tone. There was still no one immediately near them.

“My lady, I have visited my guest chamber and found it satisfactory except for one thing.” He waited until she was taking a sip of her beverage before he continued. “The bed is too cold. I trust you can help with that?”

However she responded the Prince replied by laughing out loud as if she had told a wonderful joke. “Duchess, thank you again for a wonderful time,” he said. As he turned around he added in a whisper, “and I’m serious. Midnight. Make an excuse. We need to talk.”

Once she had replied the Prince disappeared into the crowd in order to not be seen as spending too much time speaking to a woman who was not his wife.

Sometime later he came across Katherine, who was the last person he wanted to see again that evening. At first he tried to walk past without making like he saw her, but it was too late – he had made eye contact.

“Good evening, Katherine,” he said again formally as he feigned a smile. “Are you enjoying the celebration?” he asked politely, hoping she would simply say ‘yes’ and allow him to move away.

_________________
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 12:12 am 

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Victoria did not plan a long chat with Ewan. She was the mother of the groom and the hostess of the party. She had to take the time to talk to her guests, after all. Of course, in such a public setting and with her husband not far away, it was a far more formal conversation.

"I am glad he did and you are welcome."

Victoria was very happy to hear that little Carrick was off to bed. Not that she'd ever tell her secret lover that she thought his son needed a far shorter leash. She would tolerate the boy and pretend his little antics were amusing. Even if what she thought was far from the truth. She smiled when Ewan commented he was enjoying himself.

"I am very happy to hear that, my prince. I agree a toast is needed on such a joyous day."

Victoria replied and accepted the glass of wine. To anyone looking, it would look like the Prince and the Duchess were just having a polite conversation. No one was close enough to hear what was being said.

“Your highness, I apologize for that. I will see what I can to make sure you sleep well tonight."

Victoria replied quietly back, knowing exactly what he meant. Of course, to make sure his bed stayed warm with her presence, she'd have to make sure that Henry was quite passed out from consuming far too much wine. Not that Henry was ever one to turn down wine. It wouldn't be hard to make him so drunk he passed out.

"You are very welcome."

Victoria said and whispered back.

"I will be there."

She wished the prince off and went back to attending to the guests.

--------------------------------

By the time Ewan had found her, Katherine had had more then enough time to think about things. Like what had happened the night of Aeronwen's funeral. Mother had lied, it wasn't just one night. She had been cheating on her father for at least a decade. Nicholas looked more like the prince then Henry. The younger ones too...She had just never noticed it before.

Katherine thought of confronting her mother but then decided not to. Partly because she was afraid of Victoria, but also because she wondered how deeply the prince felt for Victoria. Nicholas was nine, and there was Rebecca and David. Obviously he wanted more then just sex with her. Katherine could use this, she thought. If he loved Victoria, he wouldn't want the affair exposed. Being a man, he'd be protected mostly from the scandal. Especially since he was the brother of the king. Victoria, however...This would ruin her. If she threatened to ruin her mother's life, then maybe, she could have the life she wanted with Simon. It was well worth a try.

Katherine saw Ewan and made sure they made eye contact. She wanted to make sure he had to talk to her.

"Good evening, your highness. I am but..."

Katherine sighed for a moment. She lowered her voice and said.

"I am afraid I need to speak you on a quite important and very private matter."

_________________

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