Curious Allure (FT excerpt)

The Professor’s room was ransacked, someone was obviously looking for something.
“What ever they wanted it looks like they got it.” Flex     announced.
“Well I may have messed up some twenty-fifth century Super String Theory negotiations but I stopped a twenty-first century thief by hiding my instrument in here.”
He reached into the bottom panel of his bookcase and pulled out the gyroscope that he considered had something to do with the entire affair.
Flex took it looked at it with amazement, “You know professor, you may be right about this not having much to  do with the dimensional attraction but the waves may have been altered enough to throw off the calculation, and then there is of course, Ernestine. They needed to get her out of the way — they chose a perfect way.”
“What do we do now?” the professor asked.
“When Ernestine has completed Marta’s story there will be an opportunity for you to take this machine to the hospital room, That is when I will leap and hopefully we will be in the same place at the same time, including Simon.”
“When and where, shall I wait?”
“Unfortunately you are going to have to become Ernestine’s best friend and remain by her side, when I leap Arnold should be back and I am sure he will be here quickly and you will explain this all to him. However, I am sure Petra has filled him in.”
“That’s all, a vigil?”
“Yes, but let me escort you over there, we don’t want to loose that machine. See that little indent over the face of the timer? That is what Simon is looking for.”The professor stood at the bedside of Ernestine he thought about Flex and the amazing ability he had to touch her mind and realized what she needs to come back to them. He  had made it safely to Ernestine’s room with the gyroscope  with the assistance of Flex. He had a bad feeling however, and erred on the side of caution by placing the object behind the hose in the fire box just outside her room. After staying with her for a few hours he started worrying about  the actual sequence of events he was going to have to     maneuver to assist Ernestine along. Then he thought better of it and took the instrument and wrapped it in a Johnny inside the waste bin. He was going to go insane.
When he got back to her bed a very familiar voice spoke.
“Professor, what brings you here?” Stev the linguist stuck     his head in the door. “Well it looks like you finally came to     your senses and had her admitted. Is she having problems?”
With all the shifting, jumping and activating he decided to     trust no one at this moment. “Yes, I actually told Mildred and Louis I would wait till they got here.”
“Hey the toy, you had for the … transfers you tested. Do     you still have it?”
“The professors guard went up. No, why do you ask?”
“Oh, I don’t know, just curiosity. It was kind of cool.”
The professor was shocked that Stev would use that phrase     — he wouldn’t, it is probably some twenty-fifth century jumper who googled (I’ll have to ask Flex what they are calling it four hundred years from now) “common  twenty-first century catch phrases” and came up with that.
“So, Stev you wouldn’t believe what I’m thinking is going     on.”
“What is?”
“What is what?” the professor was getting playful.
“Oh the reason for all that? To change the alignment of the     string.” he answered quite casually.
“So who would be able to do that?”
“Why Repo of course. Are you playing with me?”
“Stev, of course not. I’m just getting tired of waiting here.”
“Don’t, I’ll stay.”
“Would you do that for me?”
“Of course, man. You know I would.”
“You know what, if this was the first incident, I would leave, take you up on your offer, but … I did give them my word, I better stick around.”
He proceed to pull a chair up next to Ernestine’s bed. He     watched Stev look around the room. He walked over to the     window picked up some things and put them down. He even had the nerve to look in her closet.
“Well, I’m out of here.” Stev announced.
“Ok, see you tomorrow.”
As Stev left the professor shook his head and couldn’t wait to tell Stev the words that came out of his mouth.

Ernestine sat up recognized the professor and slumped right back down again. He ran over to her side and whispered her name. She opened her eyes and looked at him, but she was in some kind of a semi-comatose state. She smiled and tried to whisper Arnold’s name. He told her he was on his way and what should he do for her.
“Can I see the instrument?”
“Of course” the professor replied as he reached in and unwrapped the gyroscope.”
As if she had built the instrument herself she opened the small panel and pulled and turned a tiny knob and gave it back to him. He wrapped it back up and put it back in the laundry basket.
“Keep it safe, give it to Arnold.” she said and then went back to sleep.
He was glad for the fact that Flex was right, but was dismayed to see her unconscious and helpless.
The professor heard footsteps moving quickly down the hallway and stood out of sight just behind the door. When he saw it was Arnold he took his mood to be serious and moved with speed and followed his lead. Arnold grabbed Ernestine and the professor grabbed the johnny-wrapped gyroscope and they disappeared down the stairwell.
“There here,” were the first words Arnold spoke.
“Arnold, is that you?
“Yes, hello — sorry about that but we have little time. The professor stopped him and showed him another way out, he had been a student here after all and knew all the ins and outs of the place. The professor had them wait on the landing and he disappeared through the door and was back in minutes with keys to one of the emt trucks.
Once in the parking lot, Ernestine was comfortable on a stretcher in the back and Arnold and the professor were driving out of the lot, the professor suggested Arnold find the sirens while he drove, “I don’t think they would expect us to be making so much noise trying to sneak out of here.”
“Good idea, I like the way you think.”
“Where can we go that would be safe? They don’t have any device on Ernestine do you think?
“How about a weekend in the Berkshires?” Arnold asked.
“If you want me to drop you off, I will but they may look for you as well and ask questions.”
“All right, I’m in for the weekend.”
“You’ll never guess where I’ve been,” Arnold smirked.
“Twenty-fifth century or thereabouts.”
“Yes, when I got there Petra was quite upset with me. Then when she realized I wasn’t Flex, she was even more angry then I ever saw Ernestine.”
“Our job is to keep Ernestine safe, and away from them.”
“Yes, I was getting quite nervous, Ernestine actually woke up and turned the knob on the contraption and then fell back to sleep.”
Arnold told Edward he was going to change his mind about where they were going so as not to have anyone trip them up. “Tell me what Flex will do.”
“This is even better, he pulled out of his pocket a chip the size of a button and told the professor that it was a device to hear what Ernestine was going through, she should meet Flex along the way.

Curious Allure (part fifteen Poppa)

A sen-night passed, and her brother hadn’t arrived with reinforcements. She didn’t want to leave her parents while there was still hope. She had been banished to her room where her father thought was safest, tempers were rising and there were isolated acts of violence.

The word finally came that the enemy was being welcomed into the Great Hall to talk of a truce, which meant the Count gives them everything that is not nailed down.

“Poppa is not nailed down, Gui. We must hide her.”

“I don’t think it wise Countess, they know of her existence. If she is there — out in the open, it may go better than if his thugs go up to her chamber and drag her down.”

“They will take her first Gui, then they will take everything else as well.”

“You have to trust me, we cannot hide her.”
“You will not have to hide me.” Poppa announced as she walked down the stairs in her customary “boys” clothing.

“Believe me Poppa, that is not the disquise you think it is.” Gui smiled.

“Oh father, it’s because you know me so well, I promise it will fool them.”

The adviser notified him that the representatives from the barbarians that held the fortress under siege, were at the gates.

“Are we expected to feed them? Our supplies are low as it is.” the Countess announced.

“We will dine like there is no tomorrow, because there probably won’t be one.” the Count decided.

The Count and Countess sat at the head of the table and the unwanted guests were invited in. Poppa sat on the stairs with the people who were stranded inside the fortress, and had lined up to see the spectacle.

The men that entered were massive and angry looking. They carried weapons and were asked to leave them at the door to the great hall.

All but one agreed. “I am Ganger Hrolf Rognvaldrson and I don’t leave my weapon anywhere.”

The Count stood up and raised his arm in welcome. Poppa fumed and stomped her foot. The giant warrior looked over in her direction and she evaded his stare.

“Our demands,” Ganger Hrolf started. We want all the gold we can carry, jewels as well — and your daughter.”

The Countess gasped, “Anything but my Poppa.”

“How do you want the goods delivered?” the Count asked.

“That is very wise of you Sir Gui. I want the gold and jewels in large barrels brought to the gate and the girl brought to me now.”

The Count took a deep breath. “I cannot give you my daughter.”

“All right then,” he hesitated.

The Countess breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’ll take that boy, sitting there on the steps. I am sure no one will miss him.”

Everyone gasped, including the barbarians Hrolf brought with him.

The boy jumped up and ran. The barbarians stood up and dared anyone to move. Hrolf ran off after Poppa.

He broke down her chamber door. She cowered on the floor between her bed and the wall. He reached in and grabbed her and pulled her up by her arm. She kicked and scratched until she had nothing left. He just held her at arms length and waited.

“Okay, I give.” Poppa admitted.

“Well I finally meet you. I have seen you out and about, I recognized your distinctive style of dress.”

“I thought I was being clever,” she admitted. “How do you speak so well? I thought you were all illiterate.”

“Obviously we are not, some of us will be rulers of Normandy.”

Poppa laughed. “You are sacking your own territory? That doesn’t sound very smart to me. The King will never agree to that!”

‘Yes, well I was remiss in stopping the ruin of the Baron of Bayeux’s estate and they killed him as well. I wasn’t there, but it is in my jurisdiction and I must take some blame. Charles will certainly want to have those kinds of accidents stopped.”

“The Baron is dead!” Poppa cried, she experienced a second wind and started pounding on him again.

“You have to stop that.” Hrolf insisted.

He pulled her on top of him and looked into her face, she inadvertently gazed back at him.She couldn’t avert her eyes this time.

He jumped up and threw her down on her bed. She lifted herself up just long enough to see him dispensary through her shattered chamber door, kicking debris out of his way as he departed.

She lay there in amazement, not knowing quite what to do. She waited awhile and then quietly made her way down to the Great Hall.

The barbarians had gone and the Count announced he had one day to gather all the goods. There was nothing said about her. The Countess looked at Poppa for any signs of damage.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that mother, he did nothing to me, he just wanted to see me. If anyone has bruising — its him.”

Gui grabbed her and hugged her, his mind so relieved.

“You do have to fix my door though father.”

Curious Allure (part fourteen – Poppa)

Although Poppa was the daughter of the Count of Senlis it didn’t stop her from dressing up as a boy and traversing the French countryside in complete freedom. She could take care of herself to some extent but she enjoyed the freedom of just being herself — while dressed as someone else.

Change was in the wind. There were raids further down the coast toward Paris. The Northmen were a savage lot, and Poppa’s ventures were becoming considerably more dangerous. When she returned to  Bayeux her father hugged her and expressed how he was so worried about her, the enemy had landed and they were preparing to defend the fortress.

They were soon under siege . The food supply was limited and the enemy were building siege weapons and the nervous tension was building.

“Paris had been fortified and the siege lasted months. We cannot survive that long.” the Count admitted.

“Gui we must hold them off as long as we can, perhaps we can work out a treaty. If they attack we are doomed.” his adviser claimed.

Alone in her chamber Poppa prayed, her uncomplicated life was about to be ripped apart. She hated the pomp and circumstance of being the daughter of the Count of  Senlis and she hadn’t been “out” in society. She should have been last season but begged for more time. Now she worried that she would die before ever getting her first dance.

She was angry with herself for caving so easily. Maybe she could sneak out unnoticed. She normally just walked out, but never actually tried to sneak out. She decided she would take a walk around the castle looking for ways to slip away with no notice from within or without.

Hours later she returned to her chamber. A bath had been ordered and while she waited she placed a satchel on her bed and put a clean set of boys clothes and a simple muslin over-gown and mantle inside. She could not be late for the evening meal, she would arouse suspicion and she also needed to hear first hand about the dilemma they were in. She took the tight knot out of her hair and it cascaded down her back as she submerged herself into the tepid bath.

With the help of her servant she got dressed and put her hair up in a simple twisted fashion and looked more like the daughter of Gui de Bayeux Count of Senlis. She had gathered much information in the bowels of the castle and at least now she didn’t smell like it.

Her parents greeted her and were pleased at the sight of her, a little more appropriately dressed than usual. The Count thought her appearance would do much to appease the people of the castle and at least give the impression that everything was under control.

“Father what have you decided?”

“We are advised to stay calm for another week, and then we will ask for a treaty.”

“Oh no father,” Poppa argued. “They will take our home.”

“I doubt they want this old fortress, they want gold and jewels.”

Poppa’s mother began to cry. Her father tried to calm her.

“They’ll want you my dear.”

The sobs grew louder and the crowd had become tense.

“Countess, please we will not let them take Poppa, Bernard will come to our aid.”

“Give them the gold, what use is it if our dear Poppa is harmed?”

“That will be our first and only concession, rest assured.”

Poppa looked through the crowd to see if the young man that she had noticed lately had been trapped inside the castle. She wondered what the events of the coming weeks would mean to the budding romance. She excused herself and went in pursuit. She decided to go back to her chamber when she found no sight of him and plan more for her escape.

When she passed a group of young men that she recognized as friends of her beau, they caught her attention.

“Simon, have any of you seen him?”

“Oh, he’s the lucky one, he had stayed behind in Oise before the siege, we are not so lucky.”

“How about taking pity on a dying man? You are headed up to your chamber? Simon has told us of your passion.”

Poppa hit the cochon and kicked the man next to him for good measure. “Simon wouldn’t never say that because that would make him a liar. And if I saw you lying in your own blood I would spit on you, that would be the extent of my pity!”

She turned and ran up the stairs.

Curious Allure (part thirteen)

All eyes were on the couple as they entered the dining room. The food had already been served and the only seat available was one at the far end of the table. Peter picked up the over stuffed chair and placed it next to the solitary chair on the end.

The atmosphere in the room changed. That was so … unexpected, Peter had Marta sit and he sat in the luxurious living room chair next to her. It was quite comfortable and he paid no mind to the impropriety of it.

Cinda and Lotta came back into the room and served the late comers, who weren’t completely famished as they had been served quite a bit of food upstairs.

“Peter, we have been batting around a question, we’d like to know where you come in on this?” Ivan mentioned.

“This is not the time or place for matters of state. I have just solved a very large crisis myself and I am weary.”

All eyes turned to Marta, and she blushed.

“That is a very … appropriate gown you wear.” Alex complimented.

“Yes, a friend let me borrow it. Since I have nothing that would compare to it — of my own.”

“Oh, it seems to me there was a lovely gown that was begging to attend this affair.” Alex challenged.

“I prefer this one,” Peter interrupted. “The other one got ruined when I … well sort of ripped it.”

Marta blushed and the guests at the table got back to the food that was growing cold on their plates.

“Touche, Peter you have won this one.” Alex submitted.

The atmosphere in the room grew less tense and Marta was able to have Peter’s full attention.

“You were married, Alex tells me.” she felt comfortable to say.

“Yes, and I have a son who doesn’t care much for me, but I haven’t given up on him.”

“What happened to ruin your relationship?”

“Too many influences, telling him one thing. Time and distance were factors as well.”

“You two are having a private conversation?” Alex noted. “Come on Marta, haven’t you learned how to share?”

“Actually no, I am enjoying his company.” Then she proceeded to beg everyone’s pardon.

The room grew silent only Alex’s laughter could be heard.

“Now do you understand why we get along so well? Let’s dance.”

Marta reacted by standing up and extending her hand.

“But there is not any music.” a stunned host admitted.

“We don’t need music.” Peter confirmed.

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to himself, she could hear the music plainly. He lifted her chin and bent to kiss her tenderly. They were on display for all to see. Alex thought there would be a connection but this was something only someone like Sir Issac Newton could explain.

As the night wound down and the guests started to leave. Marta finally had a chance to greet Darla and speak again with Vonna. “Well now I see for myself, how alluring you are Marta.” Darla admitted. “Alex tried to explain but there are no words.”

“I told you, she is one of a kind.” Vonna chimed in.

The six of them sat again at the table after it had been cleared, tea and whiskey were made available.

Marta excused herself to the kitchen and Peter followed, ducking as he entered the low ceiling toward the back of the Mansion. He immediately sat in order to keep his back straight.

“You followed me.” Marta stated the obvious.

“Yes, I wanted some privacy with you.:

“Oh, I was just helping myself to some cheese and crackers. I know where everything is — I work here.”

“I am aware. I just wanted to let you know that I have duties that will take me away for the next few months.”

Marta sat  next to him, losing her casual attitude toward him. She placed her hand on the table and he placed his on hers.

“This is …,” they both spoke at the same time.

“This is the end of a lovely evening.” she said.

“This is the beginning of a wonderful relationship.” he said.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Don’t say anything,” he leaned over and kissed her.

Alex stumbled in upon them, and coughed to break it up. “Ivan is ready to go. We have to make ourselves scarce, remember. The ladies are staying here while we are gone.”

“Duty calls.” Peter stood up and hit his head.

Marta laughed, threw herself in his arms and rubbed his head. He remained bent over so it was easy for her to tend to him.

“Are you two ever going to stop touching each other?” Alex feigned anger.

“Let’s go where I can talk to you in a less subservient manner.”

Then sneaked out the back door.

“A great excuse to hold you in my arms and try to keep us both warm.” Peter claimed.

“Now where the hell did they go?” Alex’s voice could be heard from inside.

The goodbye kiss lasted several minutes and they dashed back inside to get warm.

Ivan and Alex were ready to leave and Peter said goodbye to the most alluring the woman he had ever met.

Another Curious Break

I am continuing my pledge to write/blog everyday. I am re-writing one of my books. I am actually  trying to lengthen it. The Tea Room which I originally blogged on this site has the potential of being a better story by investigating all the points I previously thought about and only hinted about them in the story. I am enjoying how to manage this. I have had to reduce a story previously which was quite difficult without becoming choppy. Making the story longer has its own set of problems but it is a challenge.

What I am dying to talk about is my Curious Allure story, I am loving it. It is a common theme that has me so intrigued. My last few posts were only meant to be just enough to give a decent attempt at continuing the story but I have stopped to look that I had 900 words down and didn’t realize it. The Marta character is based on a real woman who has many gaps in the early stages of her life.

I am still amazed how when you are in the zone, the story happens and doesn’t always come out the way you imagined it when you sit to write it. That is my favorite part of writing.

I currently have eight queries outstanding, I check my e-mail several times a day, waiting for the reply. My novel Woven in Time is a great story, I read through it again in anticipation of getting the word to send the complete MS. I am sure we all feel the same about our stories, they need to be read. That is what keeps us going.

It was hard for me to announce my intention of getting my book published. I received so much positive feedback I’m glad I did it and now I have a whole bunch of people routing for me and my book.

I have a twitter account @snomakeo I am constantly picking up and dropping followers. I am trying to tweet daily as well as blog/write the encouragement that comes through the tweets is really inspiring.

I did investigate the self-publishing idea and it seems like something I may try. As in all my other endeavors I will share my experience,

When I was pitching my novel Woven In Time I was told that it may be too long, I am not sure why rules apply to some and not to others, but different genres have expectations and types of readers that demand certain elements of a story be there. I am honestly waiting for a response to my recent queries to determine whether I will try to make two books out of my epic saga which will be another whole new challenge I am sure.

Thanks for your great comments, I appreciate the time you take to let me know what you are thinking.

Curious Allure (part twelve)

Alex waited downstairs for the signal that Marta was ready to come down. Darla and Vonna had arrived and were settled in the parlor.

An excited Lotta came down the flight of stairs and signaled Alex that it was time. He took the stairs two at a time.

Marta stood in her chamber with Cinda still fussing over her hair. Alex was silent. He had envisioned her in this dress when he went to purchase it for her. His friend will be taken with the vision of this woman, if he hasn’t been already.

As Alex led her to the top of the stairwell he felt a sudden grip on his arm and Marta had begun to sway. She had gone completely white, in contrast to her dark hair she looked like she was about to faint.

Alex escorted her into Cinda’s chamber which was the closest room to where they stood. After she was seated, she started to come around.

“I can’t do this, Alex I am sorry.”

“What can I get you?” Alex was dumfounded.

“All of a sudden, I felt like I was going to another one of those affairs my uncle dragged me to. I cannot be on display. I am no queen, Alex. I am a servant girl, I cannot believe I went along with this charade.”

“Marta, you are a beautiful woman, you deserve beautiful things.”

“Please Alex, understand.”

Alex couldn’t understand, he got up and left to go downstairs. He stood next to Darla and she noticed the change in his demeanor right away. Cinda and Lotta were doing a splendid job of carrying on not knowing what was going to happen.

The Prince Ivan arrived along with his brother Peter they were encircled by the crowd of Boyar who had a rare chance in a small gathering to get close to the future Tsars.

Vonna was sad to hear that Marta wasn’t feeling well and said as much to Peter, in casual conversation.

“Oh, she is here?”

Vonna expressed her wish to see her. When Peter looked around the room he saw that Alex and Ivan were deep in conversation and thought to steal away for a few moments.

Peter escorted Vonna upstairs and knocked on one of the servant doors. A weak “come in” was heard.

Peter extended his arm to express his wish to have Vonna go in and announce him.

Marta was wearing the gown Cinda had offered her. She stood and embraced Vonna.

“I am glad you still want to see me.”

“I am not the only one, his grace, Peter waits outside your door.”

Marta blushed to think the heir to the throne was standing outside her door. She went to the door and saw him standing there. There was a small sitting room upstairs and she invited them both to join her there.

“You don’t look ill to me.” Peter remarked.

“It’s a long story. Vonna, I had a flash back to the day we were presented at the Palace, it was so humiliating it hit me hard, I never want to be in that position again.”

“I’m sorry your grace.”

“Please, don’t apologize.”

“Marta you were so sweet to me, I will never forget you.”

“But what I told you turned out to be a lie.”

“You didn’t lie, they picked me for a long betrothal, that is all.”

“You were Ivan’s favorite, he told me himself. He was afraid of the woman my father selected.”

That comment completely broke the ice and they laughed. Cinda happened to come into the room bearing food and ale. She had heard their voices and decided to take care of their needs.

“Oh, thank you Cinda, you are too kind.”

Vonna followed Cinda out the door.

“I am going to leave you two here, I need to be with Ivan. I won’t tell a soul where you are.”

Vonna left and went downstairs to where the guests had been seated and she took the seat next to Ivan. He hardly noticed that she had been away.

“I am glad to finally meet you. Alex speaks so highly of you, I think I already know you.” Marta admitted.

“I can say the same about you, Alex says you showed up in a snow storm, like a vision.”

“Some vision, I was a sight for sore eyes, really sore eyes!”

They both laughed and continued their very relaxed conversation. Cinda came up again to check on them and replenished the wine. “They are asking for you your grace.”

“They can trouble Ivan. I am handling a crisis and cannot be disturbed.”

“As I explained to Alex, I am a serving girl, I am one of five who were orphaned. My sisters and brothers are older and I was sent to live with my uncle.”

“The one that sent you to the viewing?”

“Yes, and I hate him for that, and other things, like selling me to the first young officer who was willing to pay.”

“Yes, I assisted Alex in clearing up that mess.”

“Oh, no — how can I ever look at you eye to eye?”

Peter placed his hand on hers that had moved to cover her face in embarrassment. He pulled her hands away from her face and caught a tear with his forefinger. He was a charismatic devil.

“Come along, lets go downstairs. I will be proud to have you on my arm.”

Marta had no intentions of going down into the rumor mill that was waiting for such a thing as a poor, servant girl of questionable upbringing on the arm of the second in line to the Russian throne.

Vonna stood up and clapped with glee when she saw the two emerging from the stairwell. Ivan looked at her reminding her of her position and she immediately sat, but still waved her hand and smiled brilliantly like any one and ten year old would.

 

Curious Allure (part eleven)

The next day A.lex returned to the house with a young woman who would replace Marta. Mrs. Davios and Cinda got her settled in her chamber. They met Marta who would work with her all day so she would be acclimated to the work and Marta can enjoy herself at the soiree. Lotta was a young girl from Germantown, she was pleasant enough but Marta didn’t think she was cut out for the job. Lotta followed her around and learned the routine. Marta had to go over some of the surfaces with her for a second and third time to remind her of the quality of the guests that would be at the house on the morrow.

“After noon time, you will be mostly serving and picking up. Mrs . Davios will be in the pantry, washing dishes and loading up trays of food. There will be a formal dinner, I will be able to remind you if you need assistance.”

“You will be attending the meal? How exciting, there will be dignitaries?”

“Yes, Lotta but you will see for yourself tomorrow.”

The two moved around the house cleaning every corner. They retired to their rooms exhausted. Marta had butterflies churning in her stomach. She dread the decisions of what to wear and how to pin her hair. Cinda came in to Marta’s chamber where she and Lotta had settled. She had some hair ornaments and a gown to offer Marta.

“Where do you get these clothes? The white fur ensemble was exquisite and now this?”

“I was a scullery maid at the Dombronsky Mansion, where Lotta is from. I made a good wage … but the Master was not an honorable man.”

“That is where I was headed before I got my direction confused in the snow and ended up here.”

“Alex won me in a game of cards.” Lotta was proud to announce.

“I found out that the Master was known for using his servant girls to entertain his guests, Alex rescued me as well, but not before I collected my belongings.”

Marta spoke of her experience at the Inn, she wondered why Mrs. Borgan would send her to such a man. She told them how she worked for her uncle after her father died.

“Perhaps your friend knew that you could take care of yourself.” Lotta surmised.

They could hear footfalls on the stairs and the three girls awaited the knock on the door. It was Alex with three packages.

“Good, you are all here, I have something for all three of you.”

Cinda opened her package first and pulled out a very smart uniform for the soiree. She hugged it to her chest and pulled out the coif that matched. Lotta was surprised to be receiving a gift already, having just arrived. She received the same uniform and left the room to go try it on. Marta was expecting the same gift, but when she opened it, she saw a lovely gown of ivory lace and light blue trim. She met Alex’s eyes and stared at him as tears formed.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s lovely, no one has every thought of me in such a fashion. It was a fortunate blizzard that brought me here, and it looks like I could say the same for Cinda and Lotta.”

She placed the gown gently on her bed and went over and kissed Alex on the cheek, just as Lotta returned in her uniform. She had the coif on as well.”

“Well, I may not be much of a maid, but I will certainly look like one, one of the best!”

They all laughed, and when Lotta looked at the dress draped over the bed in contrast to the sepia coverlet she thought it was the most beautiful gown she had ever seen.

“Fit for a queen.” she remarked.

Alex looked at Marta who had been lost in thought. “What,” she asked when the three were staring at her waiting for her reaction.

“Promise me you will let me see you before you come downstairs for the soiree.” Alex pleaded.

Lotta and Cinda excused themselves and left the room.

“You shouldn’t have gone through all the expense, Cinda had a gown I could have worn.” Marta suggested.

“I have a feeling that tomorrow is going to be the first day of a new life for you, I thought you should be dressed for the occasion.”

“Darla is a lucky woman. I can’t wait to meet her and see Vonna again! If she will still speak to me!”

“How’s the new kid going to work out?”

“She’ll be fine, she just needs to learn the Menchowkov way of doing things.”

Curious Allure (part ten)

The house was wild with excitement, even Mrs. Davios was of unusual humor. Alex had been gone for a week, and supplies were delivered on almost a daily basis. When the two soldiers appeared at the door, it was met with no real surprise. When Cinda realized they weren’t delivering something or taking something away she changed her demeanor.

“I’m sorry Sergeant, I wasn’t expecting anyone except the delivery boys.”

“We wouldn’t qualify for that duty,” the tall officer mentioned.

Marta was working her way through the main room with the mop and pail when she saw the Sergeant and paused.

“Kilkov, what are you doing here?”

“You know him?” asked a stunned Cinda.

“Not well enough for an uninvited visit.”

“Aren’t you going to invite us in?” Kilkov asked.

“This is not a good time.” Marta insisted. “We are getting ready for a soiree this weekend.”

“We are very busy,” added Cinda.

Just then Mrs. Davios entered the room and welcomed them with her usual charm. “Okay, off with you. The Master of the House is not here, I don’t expect him until tomorrow. I’m surprised there is a mix up, he is usually …”

She was cut off and unceremoniously ushered into the kitchen and locked in the pantry. Marta picked up the mop and held it like she was brandishing a weapon. The Sergeant quickly disarmed her.

“There is no need for that. Get us a drink, we have a lot to talk about.” he insisted.

Marta looked to Cinda and nodded, hoping this would be quick, suspecting Phillip had something to do with this.

The Corporal sat down and insisted Cinda sit next to him while the Sergeant sat close to Marta.

“Alex has told me that Phillip and I are no longer married. I don’t know why he is wasting your time coming all the way out here to tell me something I already know.”

“Believe me, Phillip doesn’t know where I am, and if he had any pride in his manhood he would have come here himself. He did relay what a good wife you were at times and sorely misses you.”

Marta tried to stand and insist they both leave. Cinda hoped that one of the delivery boys would return and assist them out of this awkward situation.

“You are going to have to leave, finish your drinks, I will fetch Mrs. Davios. You are both very rude!”

“Not until, you give me a kiss.” the Sergeant requested.

“I’ll not be kissing you.!”

The Sergeant stood to stop her advance to the kitchen. Cinda had slapped the Corporal as the front door flew open.

“Alex,” Marta cried.

The Sergeant turned and saw the look on Alex’s face. He was somewhat acquainted with him. “Oh, I see what’s going on here. It didn’t take you much time to forget Phillip did it?”

The insult met with a scuffle and Kilkov found himself tossed out in the snow face down. The Corporal came out shortly there after — in the same fashion.

“If you know what’s good for you and your military career, you won’t be back to bother my girls!”

Marta blushed for the way that sounded, but she was so glad for Alex’s early arrival home. She ran to him and hugged him then ran to free Mrs. Davios who was fuming.

“The house looks fine, you girls worked hard.” Alex praised.

Mrs. Davios retired and Cinda went up to comfort her after her ordeal.

“I can’t say what would have happened, but I’m glad you came when you did.”

“I received a little forewarning, I do have connections, I keep telling you that, and speaking of which you have a day off. I don’t expect you to be working at the soiree I have invited you to.”

“I think we can have it all covered before then. I can always assist Cinda if need be, I will be very discreet.” she promised.

“Nonsense, Peter won’t let you out of his sight. He can’t stop talking about you. Also, I hired someone new, she starts tomorrow”

Marta was sure Alex was just playing a game with her again the towering figure of a man, hardly noticed her — she was sure of that.

Curious Allure (part nine)

Marta was a vision in the white fur hat and coat Cinda had insisted she borrow for her ride with Alex to the Royal Palace. The excitement in her face extended to her smile and Alex was happy to show her some of life’s pleasures that he was sure she hadn’t had the chance to experience.

He swore that he was not going to be the one to bring her one ounce of sadness. He believed that they were meant to be friends and he enjoyed her, even if it was just to look at her.

Inside the carriage was a foot warmer and plenty of blankets to wrap themselves up in. Alex made sure there was plenty of whiskey and vodka. He also thought to bring some food if there was any desire to eat.

She was animated, looking at the sights and the beauty of the snow when you are not trudging through it. The conversation was engaging and Alex learned that she was a lot more than just a pretty face. She had interests and opinions.

“Tell me of your betrothed, and when will I meet her?”

“Her name is Darya Mikhailovna Arsenyeva, I have arranged for her to visit when she returns to Moscow, she is away visiting relatives in Kiev. Actually, she will be returning with Vonna and will be her chaperone while she is here visiting Prince Ivan.

“When is your wedding?”

“We are going to set a date on this visit. I am going away as you may be aware.”

“I am not, where will you go? And what will I do while you are away?”

He smiled at the suggestion. “You will miss me?”

“Yes, I will, despite your less than casual attention toward me. I enjoy your company and this day is the best of many days I have spent in my life.”

“I am accompanying Prince Peter Alexeyevich when he goes on his campaign .”

“Will Darya be going with you?”

“No, but if you two get along, she will be staying at my residence, no impropriety if I am not there.”

“No, I guess not.”

“I just decided to have another soiree, I will invite Ivan and Vonna, you will meet Darya and I am sure you will both get along famously.”

“As long as we don’t talk about you!”

“I may be forced to bring Peter along, you won’t have an escort.”

“I don’t need an escort. and isn’t your Peter married?”

“He has divorced his wife. It was arranged and she was a shrew.”

“Alex, that is no way to speak of her.”

The conversation was put on hold as the carriage pulled up to the courtyard just outside the Royal Palace. He looked to Marta and offered his hand.

“I thought I would remain in the carriage.”

“I have changed my mind, but if you prefer to stay that is alright with me.”

Marta was curious about the palace and she was weary of the carriage and the long ride back.

“I will join you.”

Alex helped her out of the carriage and extended his arm to guide her inside. The foyer was nothing less than spectacular. The marble floors and columns, the size alone was remarkable. This is not the way they came in for the viewing so many months previously.

“We must have arrived in through the servants quarters.” she remarked.

“What was that?” Alex barely heard her.

They were asked to wait in a smaller room off the side of the grand stairwell. The servant requested their coats but Alex mentioned that they wouldn’t be staying.

Peter was pre-occupied when he entered the room. He took the missive that Alex had for him and mentioned his regret for such a long trip to deliver something so insignificant. Marta was stunned at her reaction to the young man who could be the Tsar of Russia someday. He had a presence that she had not expected, a warmth and humanity. This was a one-way observation however, she felt he hardly even noticed her. She was glad of that because her heart was racing.

Alex could sense her unease and suggested they head back and took their leave from Peter. Before they left the inner room however,  Peter called out.

“You know, Alex I think I will attend the soiree you have invited Ivan and Vonna to, I could use a little distraction before I finalize my plans for the trip to Finland.”

Alex cringed and waved his hand in agreement. He knew his friend and his fondness for beautiful women and Marta was all of that.

“Well, what did you think of my friend?” Alex broke the silence that was as thick as the fog over the snow on this unusually warm day.

Marta took a breath. “Nothing like Ivan.

“No, Peter has all the personality in the family.”

Curious Allure (part eight)

Alex was quite comfortable in front of the young Tsar who was next in line for the throne of Russia. Marta was amazed to find that Alex was the best friend of the Tsar’s younger brother. That explained the familiarity between the two.

“How is Vonna, your grace?” Marta took the liberty of asking.

“She is still in Kiev, with her family. We are to be married next year when she turns twelve.”

“That is still too young … ” Marta started to say.

“Well then how old are you?” Alex interrupted.

“It is none of your business.” the shocking reply was taken lightly.

Alex and Ivan both laughed.

“I take it you are not that much older.” Alex mentioned.

“I will tell you what I am not. I am not twelve.”

“Peter should meet this one.” Ivan laughed.

“No,” Alex responded. “He would steal her rught from under my nose.”

“I would love to stay and chat, but Cinda is doing all the work, If you want my company you should hire another girl to work the floor.”

With that she left the Tsar and Alex standing there, not quite sure what just happened. Alex watched her cross the room and kept watching her throughout the rest of the night.

When the Tsar had left and most of the guests had either gone home or were passed out in various corners of the rather large house, Alex tracked down Marta who had just sat with Cinda to take a breather, before the real work began.

“There you are,” Alex exclaimed as he sat across from the two girls.

“Yes, we just sat for a few moments …” Cinda was almost apologizing.

No, no, don’t get up, I was just sitting to chat.” Alex explained.

He put down three glasses and poured them each a whiskey.

“Oh, go ahead,” Alex demanded when the two girls looked at him in disbelief. “You both did a fine job tonight, this is just a little thank you — then its off to work for the both of you.”

“I know Vonna.” Marta admitted finally.

“Yes, I gathered, how?” Alex knew but he wanted to humiliate her, just a little.

“That dreadful, gawking ordeal.” She fumed and tears started to form.

“I am sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, I thought I was being ..”

“A boor.” Cinda interjected.

Marta stood, downed the drink, slammed it on the table and left Alex shocked and dismayed. Cinda shrugged and followed her out.

When the work was done and the bodies that remained where they fell, were covered with blankets, the girls had started upstairs. Marta however, decided to go back for a cup of tea and found Alex standing there staring at her.

“Oh, I’m sorry Alex, I didn’t mean to interrupt .. ” She stopped mid-sentence because she could see that she wasn’t interrupting anything, he was quite alone. “Well goodnight then.”

“I hurt you earlier, and I am sorry.” Alex mentioned.

“I am extra sensitive, I promised the child that she had nothing to worry about. Look what happened, she must hate me now.”

Alex walked over to her. “Let me make it up to you, come with me tomorrow, I am taking the carriage to the Royal Palace. I just need to bring something to Peter and I will be only a moment and we will drive right back.”

“In this?” Marta asked indicating the snow that was falling.

“My carriage is a sleigh.” he mentioned. “It is breath-taking, it’s a fast ride there and back, you won’t even have to get out.”

“You will be a gentleman?”

Alex was incensed, “I am betrothed.”

“What, how is it that you haven’t mentioned that until now?” Marta exclaimed.

“Because I am falling for you.” he admitted.

That shut her up for a long moment. “Alex, you and I would kill each other.”

“Yes, but I would die a happy man.”

She gave him a look that would kill. “I would love to go with you tomorrow.”