It was the night of the banquet and all of us were running around like chickens with out heads cut off. I could hear Tristan banging around in his bedroom down the hall looking for his cuff links. Kayden was downstairs cursing up a storm because he couldn't find his favorite knifes and I was getting all flustered because my maid couldn't do my makeup the way I wanted it and I was having some issues hiding my brass knuckles somewhere that was easy to get to but where they didn't stick out…
Finally, after what seemed like hours of chaos I was ready to go. Tristan and Kayden had left half hour ago because we were going to appear separately because number one, it would be inappropriate for me to be staying with two men and so if we arrived separately no one would suspect and secondly because it helped us appear more trustworthy- like we were just some friends who happened to meet on vacation.
My heart was about to beat out of my chest as I made my way up the stairs to the door of the huge glittering mansion where the banquet was going to be held. Each step closer I got, the more and more I wanted to just turn around and go hide somewhere- I had never in my life done anything like what I was about to do, it was almost too much for me. I mean I was part of a potentially deadly mission, and according to Tristan I would play a big part in helping resolve it. And the second part, the part that for some retarded reason scared me the most, was that for once I had tried everything within my power to bring attention to myself and make myself look as beautiful as possible. I know, this sounds stupid but you have to understand- I spent my whole life trying to minimize my beauty because I wanted others to love me for something other than the way I looked.
As the butler opened the door for me I looked around at all the twinkling lights and swirling dresses and couldn't help but feel like I was in a dream.
"Your name, Miss?" asked the butler. I paused, in all my planning I had forgotten to pick a name for my new disguise.
"Miss Swan….Miss Darcie Swan." I said quickly piecing together a name.
"Miss Darcie Swan!" Announced the butler, tapping his staff. I started walking down the stairs to the dance floor when I heard a few gasps. I looked around trying to figure out what had gone wrong, but I didn't see anything- except that everyone had stopped what they were doing to watch me. I smiled, feeling the almost uncontrollable urge to burst out laughing. I looked for Tristan and Kayden as I made my way to the host but I didn't see them- I was disappointed they didn't get to see my grant entrance. I introduced myself to the host as the niece of so and so who had invited me up for the season- it wouldn't have mattered what I said because I'm sure he didn't process a word of it. All he did was stared and nod his head.
As soon as I had finished talking to him I left to find Tristan, it was weird, people would just stop talking when I walked passed and watch me but no one seemed brave enough to actually engage me in conversation but that was alright with me because at the moment I was more concerned with finding Tristan- I was starting to think something went wrong. I turned the corner and saw Kayden walking away from me,
"Kayden!" I called, hurrying to catch up with him. He turned around and gasped, taking a step back.
"Dear god Deirdre!" He whispered after a few moments.
"Shhhh! My name is Darcie Swan now!"
"Oh…." "Why are you looking at me like that? You don't like my dress?" I teased.
"No, I like it…its just that you hardly look human."
"You are…you're, damn I can't believe I'm actually saying this- it should be Tristan's job or something…"
"Just tell me, Loser!" I laughed.
"You look too beautiful to be real, I mean I always thought you were beautiful I mean I never even considered you could do anything to look more beautiful…I mean damn, you're gonna kill someone!" He said then quickly looked down, like he was embarrassed. I smiled and walked up next to him.
"Kayden Michaels! I think that was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me!" I laughed and lightly pushed him, "So why aren't you out enjoying the banquet? Hmmm?"
"Maybe I didn't feel like it!" He said in a falsely angry voice.
"Right, whatever. So where's Tristan?"
"He's talking to a friend of his in the study…do you want to dance or something while we're waiting for him?" I laughed,
"You dance Kayden?"
"Haha, who's forcing you?"
"Well it would be really rude of me not to when I'm one of the only men you know here- unless you already have a waiting list."
"Nope, I'm all free. They all seem to scared to say a word to me."
"That's completely understandable, well lets go get this over with."
"Oh shut up! I am that horrible that one dance is like hell for you?"
"Yes, you definitely are!"
"Ah, I hate you!" I laughed and punched him in the chest.
"I hope you enjoyed that because you're not gonna be able to do that when we get out in front of everybody."
"Mhmm, we'll see about that!" I said as I took his arm and he lead me out onto the dance floor. He bowed to me and I curtsied with a giggle, this was the same man I had wrestled with in my nightgown… I was surprised at how graceful a dancer he was, he lead me through complex twirls and spins with ease- I couldn't help but laugh as we spun around and around. Everyone had cleared the dance floor and was watching us, but I hardly noticed until the music stopped. We both stopped, looking at each other for a moment before stepping away.
"Excuse me, Miss Swan." Said an obviously nervous voice, I turned to see a tall handsome man with a big, muscular build, "Miss Swan may I have the next dance?" I smiled as sweetly as I could manage.
"Oh course! I wouldn't think of dancing with anyone else!" I almost laughed to see the change in his face as he relaxed. I turned to Kayden and winked, "You know where to find me if you need to ask me anything." He nodded and walked away, I didn't have time to watch where he went because I was swept away in the huge arms of the tall man.
After no one seemed too scared of me anymore and I was swarmed by what seemed like hundreds of men. And I'm ashamed to admit I was secretly thrilled when a fight broke out between a few men who thought it was their turn to dance with me next. It was almost three in the morning when Tristan rescued me from the endless line of dancers and we all rushed into the carriage.
"Well? What did you learn? Sorry I couldn't really be of much help, I really couldn't get away." I said sleepily.
"You have no idea how much you helped! No one suspected anything and they were all way to entrance by your beauty, by the way you looked glorious tonight, to think of anything else. And you got us another invitation to a ball two days from now. That way I can meet with my friend again and hopefully have more information for us. Tonight he just confirmed what we already knew."
"Oh, okay well I'm glad I could help you both."
"You did amazing, darling!" Said Tristan, smiling.
"You know you're going to have the whole town in love with you now, don't you?" asked Kayden with a smirk, "That's a lot of flowers and chocolate! You're gonna have to practice defense twice as much so you don't get fat!" He teased.
"Yeah, right! Then I would have to spend more time with you and that's a fate worse than death….I'd rather get fat!" I laughed.
"Kayden! Don't call her fat!" Tristan said distractedly as he leafed through some papers.
"Yes dad…" Kayden mumbled as we both broke down into giggles but Tristan didn't even notice, he was absorbed in whatever he was reading.
I must have fallen asleep in the carriage on the way home because I woke up late that afternoon in my bed. The maid had taken my gown off as I slept and hung it up next to my closet so it was the first thing I saw when I woke up. I smiled and rolled over in bed, pulling the covers over my head to block out the sun- I definitely wasn't ready to get up.
I woke up a few hours later and decided I should get up, I was starving anyway. I made my way downstairs to the kitchen, I sat down at the counter and asked the cook to make me some eggs and toast. Tristan came in while I was eating.
"So you have fun last night?"
"I guess, I mean it was definitely entertaining having them follow me around and do whatever I wanted but I didn't really didn't feel like I helped much at all." I looked down, "Will I be able to help more next time?"
"Yes my love! I have something important for you to do- but I want you to know that you did an excellent job last night."
"What did I do? I just danced with a million people…" I laughed still feeling a little said that I hadn't gotten to do any real spying.
"What did you do? Well besides looking like a goddess and actually stopping the whole party when you walked in," He paused and laughed, "You caused such a distraction that no one even thought to question or even think about Kayden and I which is a great advantage because now they will just accept our presence. And you have a huge reputation now- speaking of which you have some mail- so we can use that to get invited to parties and other places we need to get to. You might not believe it but you really helped us a lot- but I have to admit it took a lot of self control to make myself concentrate on the job and not," He leaned in and kissed me, "You are just too much sometimes, I think I'm the luckiest man on earth." I smiled and kissed him.
"So what is that special job for next time?" I asked after a moment.
"Well, I have a list of maybe ten or eleven men who are connected with the list and I need you to dance, flirt and talk to them," I made a face, "No, listen- that's not all! I need you to question them about the list's location without them realizing it. God knows how but you're gonna need to use your charm to get them talking about work and stuff so they tell you about it. Come see me later today and I'll give you their names and descriptions so you can find them at the ball tomorrow."
"It's tomorrow?" I groaned.
"Yes, at 7:30. Why?"
"I'm tired," I laughed, "And sore! But I'll be good by then."
"You better be!" He teased, "Can you imagine Kayden trying to charm those men into giving him their secrets?" We both started laughing.
"Oh! And who sent me mail?" I asked curiously, I mean I had just got here.
"You'll see…" Said Tristan with a chuckle.
"Tell me!" I laughed, and punched his arm.
"Oh shut up! That didn't hurt!"
"What if it did?" He laughed.
"Curiosity killed the cat you know…"
"Good thing I'm not a cat!"
"Oh, just show her!" Laughed Kayden as he came in, "I can hear her complaining from my room."
"Shut up, Kayden!" I said trying to look angry.
"Okay, lets go!" Tristan grabbed me hand and pulled me in the direction of the sitting room.
"This is gonna be great!" Muttered Kayden as we go to the door.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Just wait for a minute and you'll find out!" Tristan said stopping me at the door. I could tell he was trying not to laugh, Kayden and him exchanged glances and Kayden started coughing.
"What's going on?" I asked angrily, I didn't know what was so funny but I wanted to be part of it.
"Calm down!" They both said then bust out laughing. I glared at them,
"That's it!" I said and barged into the sitting room and almost fell over- the room looked like a hot house. Every flat surface was covered with flowers.
"What the hell?" I whispered, looking around. Kayden and Tristan peeped in and started laughing again. I looked down and saw the cutest little puppy pawing at my robe, I smiled and picked it up.
"Seriously guys! What happened? Did the green house break that they had to more them in here? I mean really…." They both started laughing harder.
"Guys!" I said angrily.
"The greenhouse….explode! Ha!" gasped Kayden.
"Read the notes!" Said Tristan between laughs. Notes? I thought and looked around- that's when I noticed that there were notes attached to all the flowers, I was rubbing the puppies ears when I felt something. I looked down at him and saw a little envelope attached to his collar. I opened it up,
Dearest Miss Swan,
I hope you will except this gift a token of my affection and think of me every time you see him because I am always thinking of you.
With love, Daniel
I stared at the note, Daniel? Who the hell was Daniel? I shook my head, maybe I danced with him last night…then it hit me- all those men had sent me flowers! I just stared then started opening envelopes and reading, I looked at the room covered in flowers and I just started laughing.
"What the hell are we going to do with all these?" I asked Tristan and he shook his head. I looked back into the room, "Dear god, you were right Kayden!" I started laughing again and he just shook his head. Then we look through most of the notes and laughed at some of the really stupid ones- I few men even asked me to marry them.
After we had calmed down I had the maid come in and I asked her to distribute the flowers through the house and I told her if she or any of the other servants wanted flowers they were welcome to them because there was a ton of them. Then I had a bed made for my little puppy who I decided to name Dare in honor of my first disguise. He was really the cutest puppy ever and I almost wish I knew who Daniel was so I could thank him but he would probably take it the wrong way so it was probably better this way. Every time I thought about it I laughed, men… Anyway Dare had gray blue eyes and fuzzy gray fur- he looked like a little wolf cub, he was such an affectionate little guy always cuddling up with me. I loved him.
After lunch I met Tristan in his office and we went over all the men he wanted me to get information from, he said they all might not there but at least five would be. I hadn't really figured out how I would question them but I knew that I could figure it out once I started talking to them- I would have to ask different people different things. Most of the men where my age or a little older which would make it a lot easier. Kayden came in later to give me more information about each man but he didn't really tell me much- he didn't seem to be himself for some reason and when I asked he just told me to go kill myself. I left him alone the rest of the day.
I decided to take Dare for a walk before dinner but when I looked outside there were maybe six men just hanging out around on the sidewalk by our door, I stopped- my hand on the door knob- and stepped back. They all seemed to be trying to blend in, reading newspapers, looking around, but it was obvious that they were waiting for something or someone. They found us already! I thought to myself, those people Tristan said where trying to hunt us down, How had they found us so soon? I ran up to Tristan's office.
"Look out the window!" I gasped as I rushed in, Kayden was there too and they both looked up.
"Deirdre, What's the matter?" Asked Kayden, not making fun of me for once. I pointed to the window,
"There's a bunch of men out there, just hanging around trying to look unsuspicious. Do you think they found out about us already?" Kayden and Tristan both got up and looked out.
"They don't look dangerous or well trained…" Mumbled Tristan.
"I'll go check it out." Kayden turned and walk to the door.
"No! Kayden they could hurt you!" I cried, "Tristan don't let him go!"
"He'll be fine, my love." Tristan said and put his arm around me.
"Kayden!" I turned to look at him, I believed Tristan but I still didn't want to take any chances, "Kayden don't go out there, what if they attack you?!"
"Deirdre, really! Calm yourself, I'll be perfectly alright- there's only 6 of them anyway and I can take that many at once." He laughed, "Besides Dare can watch my back!"
"Kayden I serious!"
"So am I!"
"Tristan, explain it to her," He turned and left. I tried to run after him but Tristan wouldn't let me go.
"Darling, please calm down! He'll be fine, really. Even if they really were spies they wouldn't attack him out there in the street where everyone could see!"
"Yes, my love! Come on, we'll watch from the window." I nodded and followed him, holding tightly to his hand. I looked down just as Kayden walked out, all the men stood up and moved around him. They all were talking at the same time, Kayden just glared then started yelling- they shut up right away. He must of asked them some questions because they were answering and nodding their heads, he listened then shook his head and turned around. They called after him but he ignored them and slammed the door in their faces.
"DEIRDRE!" He yelled angrily up the stairs. I rolled my eyes and started walking downstairs.
"What?" I asked as I met him at the bottom.
"Why the hell do you have to be so damn beautiful?!" He sounded genuinely angry, I took a step back and just stared at him. What was he talking about?
"I don't get it…" I said after staring at him for a moment.
"They were waiting for you."
"What?" I was still confused…
"They had been sitting there all day wait to catch a glimpse of you, they all claim to be in love."
"You can't be serious!"
"I am, I mean damn if I would have known you would have caused this much trouble…"
"What's that supposed to mean? Like I can help it and its definitely not my fault that men are shallow!"
"That's not what I mean!" He replied angrily.
"Well what did you mean then?"
"I…" He looked down, then said quietly, "I don't know."
"Why are you angry?"
"Well for one because it will be so easy for anyone to spy on now because those stupid puppy dogs aren't going to leave anytime soon- I'm sure there will be some there every day."
"I don't see why you have to be angry with me! Its not like I wanted them here!"
"Yeah, except you had to flirt with them and lead them on- make them want to waste their lives waiting to catch a glimpse of you." He said in a bitter voice. I looked down, I felt like he was condemning me to hell.
"But that's what I thought you wanted me to do." I whispered, I wanted to cry. He stared down at me for a moment then took a step forward and put his hands on my shoulders and just stood there looking down at me. The tears started running down my face, I didn't even know why I suddenly felt so horrible.
"I want you…..I want you to leave here and get away from all this before you get hurt," He whispered, his mouth only inches from my ear, "I want you to go and make a life for yourself where you can be happy, happy and safe. But I'm not stupid enough to believe you'd do it." I turned to stare at him, he sounds so serious and intense it scared me. Why was he talking to me like this? Why was he saying these things to me?
"I can't, you know I can't. Not now that I've seen what life can really be….its too late for me." I whispered, surprised by my own honesty.
"It's never too late, I'll help you get away- he'll never find you."
"Kayden…I can't! Even if I didn't…even if I didn't love him I couldn't just leave."
"What makes you think you really love him?"
"I know I do! Why are you questioning me like this?" I asked angrily, stepping away from him. I didn't know what he was trying to do but it was freaking me out, especially when the image of me running away with Kayden leaped into my head. Why was he messing with my head like this?
"No! I don't want to here it! Stop messing with my head like this!" I practically yelled and ran upstairs to my room. I flopped down on my bed and punched my pillow a few times before just collapsing and laying there. I had in my room only about ten seconds when I heard Tristan and Kayden yelling at each other and then my door burst open and Tristan ran to my bed and sat down beside me.
"Darling are you crying?"
"No!" I sniffed angrily.
"What did he say to you, my love?" He said in a concerned voice, rubbing my back.
"Nothing," I mumbled into the blankets.
"Deirdre, you can tell me anything. You know that- now what did he say? I know it must have been bad for you to cry about it, you never cry." I laughed and turned over, I patted the space next to me and he laid down.
"All he said was that it was my fault those men were out there and how it was dangerous because we could easily be spied on now and we all could get caught and die. I got really upset because he was basically saying I was gonna get you killed, my love." I lied, and put my arms around him.
"Aw darling, he's just paranoid! We're gonna be just fine! You wait and see, now way don't you go wash your face in come cold water- you'll feel better, then come down for dinner." I nodded and kissed him quickly on the lips before I got up and walked to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and stared- I didn't look anything like the old me, and yes I know, obvious I had darker skin and black hair now but that wasn't it. It was something in my eyes, in the way I held my lips, I had become a different person since I had left home and I had only just realized it. I was right when I said I couldn't go back- there wasn't enough of the old me left to go back to. That thought scared me and made me happy at the same.
I sighed, they were waiting for me. I rinsed my face and rushed downstairs. Tristan and Kayden were already there but unlike usual they were silent, both staring at nothing. I stopped at the door way, then walked to my seat hoping this awkward silence wouldn't last for long.
"Kayden, I think you wanted to say something to Deirdre." Said Tristan after we had sat there silently for a few minutes.
"Do I?" asked Kayden with a hint of aggression in his voice.
"Yes, yes you do. You need to apologize to her."
"Apologize for what? For wanting her to be-"
"Kayden!" I said harshly cutting him off, "You don't need to repeat it! He mean you should apologize for telling me I was going to get us all killed." I stared straight into his eyes, hoping he would realize what I was trying to tell him.
"I'm sorry," He looked down at the table, "I didn't mean it that way- I was just upset."
"It's alright- I forgive you." I looked at Tristan, "Satisfied?"
"If you are." Tristan answered.
"Yes, I am."
"Then we're all good," Said Tristan with a smile and started cutting up his food. I forced a smile and did the same, I could feel Kayden staring at me but he followed suit after a minute and we finished the meal in relative silence.
I don't know why but for some reason I felt like it was extremely important to keep Tristan from knowing what Kayden had said to me- I had never not trusted Tristan with something before. But I knew he couldn't find out or it would go badly for every one- somehow I just knew it would…And it really bothered me to know that maybe I wasn't as safe with Tristan as I had thought and the worst part about that was I didn't understand why I felt this way.