I was up bright and early. Laurel was surprised when I was already awake when she came to wake me. “My, this is new.” She smiled.
“I’m excited!” I beamed. “If this goes well, they’ll ease up on me. Who knows, they might even let me out on my own.” I laughed.
“Are you going shopping today?”
“Xavier suggested an outfit that he deemed appropriate.”
“Of course he did.” I felt my mood flatten. “Show me.” I sighed expecting something stuffy or void of my personality.
I admit I was surprised when I didn’t totally hate it. The outfit consisted of a pair of flattering, dark blue, designer jeans, a neutral grey tank top and a black cardigan. It wasn’t me, but I didn’t hate it. To my delight he’d topped it with a pair of brand new black converse. I got dressed and was first down to breakfast for a change. Eleanor asked what I wanted and I told her whatever she thought would be good, so long as there was bacon. She laughed and promised me something delicious. I was sitting at the table when James came in wearing a suit and looking concerned.
“Good morning.” I greeted.
“What? Oh, good morning, Juliet. You’re up early.”
“I’m excited. Not to mention, Lana said she’d be here first thing in the morning and I didn’t want to make her wait.”
“I’m glad you’re taking this seriously.”
I shrugged. “I’m excited to do things on my own again. I haven’t had this much supervision since I was twelve.”
“Well, I don’t have much time to talk right now, but I’d like to speak with you tonight.”
James asked Eleanor to get him some dry toast to go and he was gone. Millie and Angelica were the next in. It seemed like they were starting to be less cold to me. Not that I’d call them friendly by any means, but they just seemed to hate me less.
“Good morning.” Millie replied stiffly. “Angie, I think today we should go and get our nails done for tomorrow.”
“Okay, I have an appointment at noon, want to get lunch then go after?”
“That sounds great. I’ll meet you at - ” Millie gave me a strange look. “I’ll text you when I make reservations.”
“God forbid I hear where you’re going to eat.” I laughed. “What if I come there too? Wouldn’t that be a shame?” I smiled sweetly as Eleanor came back in with my breakfast.
It was a breakfast sandwich of epic proportions. Since I’d been here Eleanor and the cooking staff had been outdoing themselves every day. Today they’d topped themselves once again. The bread was French Toast with the sugar on the inside, bacon, sausage, fried egg, and cheese. It was delicious! I attempted polite conversation with Angelica and Millie. Angelica was at least polite enough to respond. Millie still hated me. Not long after that, Xavier came in looking quite spiffy. He was wearing a charcoal grey button up shirt with a black tie and a pinstripe jacket and matching slacks and polished black loafers.
“I see you actually listened to a suggestion.” Xavier smiled. “I do like that on you.”
“Don’t get used to it.” I growled.
“Lana just rang me, said she’ll be arriving within the hour.”
At least Xavier and I were able to hold a conversation. Let Millie and Angelica have their secrets. What did I care?
“Today will be a challenge with you and Christine in the same place.” Xavier explained. “So Lana and I already have a plan. If we run into the paparazzi, we’ll split up. You come with me, Christine will go with Lana. Hopefully they’ll leave one of us alone. Given the two of you, we’ll probably be the ones who are followed. Either way, we’ve already arranged meeting places that we can meet back up again if that happens.”
“Wow. I didn’t even think about that.”
“This is why I am the advisor, and you listen.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”
“Are you ready?”
“Sure. Let me go brush my teeth and I’ll be good to go.”
I raced back up to my room only to find Gwen waiting for me.
“Hello gorgeous.” She smiled.
“Hey yourself! How are you?”
“I’m amazing and I have a message for you.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Harper wants to see you again. Soon.”
“Does he now?” I felt a smile curl across my lips. There was something about that boy that just made me smile, I couldn’t help it. I felt like an idiot, but I kind of liked it. I hadn’t felt like thing since…well since not long after Chase and I started dating. It had been a while and I wasn’t sure if I should like it or not.
“Do you have a message for him?”
I thought for a moment and nodded. “Tell him maybe.”
Gwen nodded. “Okay, but I do have a question. You’re not going to mind fuck him, are you?”
I shook my head. “I don’t want to do that to him.”
Gwen let out a sigh. “Just for the record, I love you, you’re my girl, but I’m going to tell you this up front. If you mess around with Harper’s heart for fun, I might have to hurt you. That boy if my best friend and I won’t let anyone hurt my friends. Even if that other person also happens to be a friend.”
“I can respect that.”
“Good, because I already gave him the same lecture.” Gwen grinned. “As long as you don’t intend on jerking him around you can do as you please. I care about both of you, and I don’t want to watch either of you get hurt, but I’ve helped Harper pick up the pieces once or twice.”
“Do you like him?”
“No, we tried the dating thing, but it doesn’t work for us. He’s better like my brother.”
“Tell him I want to see him again and as soon as I’m allowed out again I’ll come see him.”
“That’s my girl. I’ll take you out again soon.” Gwen got up and sauntered out of my room. “Take care gorgeous! I’ll see you soon.”
I brushed my teeth and ran a brush through my hair and headed back down to the parlor. Not long after I was in a limo, laughing with Christine, much to the disapproval of Lana.
“I’m sorry, Lana, but it is kind of funny.”
“I’m glad you both find this so amusing.” Lana grumbled.
“Oh Lana.” Christine laughed.
“Stop having a go at Lana’s expense.” Xavier warned.
“Oh, all right, I’m sorry, Lana.”
“Let’s just get this over with.” Lana huffed.
We pulled up to a dress shop and Christine shoved me into a dressing room and started tossing dresses over. For some reason Christine had some obsession with pink. Don’t get me wrong, pink is fine, but I don’t want to look like a piece of cotton candy.
“Christine, stop that,” I heard Lana hiss. “That dress is just cruel. Try this one on.”
Lana handed over a silver backless dress with a sweetheart top. I tried it on and looked at my reflection and couldn’t help but smile. “Lana, have I told you you’re amazing today?”
I came out and showed everyone. “That’s the one!” Christine beamed.
I did a twirl and heard a gasp. Lana’s hand was over her mouth and she was staring at me in shock. “What is on your shoulder?”
I started laughing. “Oh, right, you didn’t know yet.”
“So these two did?”
“Yes.” Christine admitted.
“As her advisor, it’s my job to know.” Xavier offered with a shrug.
“Do I have to put it back?”
“Don’t be silly, we’ll just have to get that covered up before you go out.”
“I don’t want a cover up!”
“You are going to have to get that airbrushed, it’s that simple.” Lana replied firmly.
“Oh, airbrushing, that’s okay then. I thought you meant permanently.” I smiled.
“Juliet, you are something else,” Lana sighed. “Well, if that’s the one, Christine and I have some other errands to run.” We said our goodbyes and Xavier took me to lunch.
“That dress is really quite stunning on you.” Xavier commented as he munched on a sandwich.
I nodded as I finished chewing. “I like it a lot. I’ve never worn anything like that, unless you count prom, which I don’t think that counts.” Xavier laughed. “So, what does one do at a charity ball?”
“Dance and mingle mostly. All the big wigs have already thrown a great deal of money around.”
“What kind of dancing?”
“You don’t know how to waltz, do you?” Xavier gave me a sly smile.
I shook my head.
Xavier let out a defeated laugh. “Why should I expect anything else? If it were any other way, I just might get bored. Can’t have that now can we?”
“Can you waltz?”
Xavier sighed. “Not very well, and I’m not a teacher. Let me make a phone call.” Xavier made a call to Lana who I heard tell him to figure it out himself. “Well, maybe someone at the house knows how to.”
“Xavier, call my father.”
Xavier dialed and handed me the phone. “Hello?”
“Hey, James, it’s Juliet.”
“Juliet, what’s the matter? Is everything okay?”
“Pretty much, except I’ve never learned to waltz, I was wondering if anyone on the grounds knew how to.”
James let out a relieved laugh. “Is that all?”
“Yes, there are many people on the grounds who can teach you, myself, and Angelica included.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tonight then,”
“Okay, goodbye Juliet.”
“Adios.” I hung up and handed Xavier back his phone. “Problem solved.” I beamed. “So, what are you going to wear?”
“I’ve already sent for my tux to be pressed.”
“Are you going to wear tails?”
“Come now, it will be fine. I’m actually supposed to be picking it up soon.” Xavier glanced at his watch. “It should be done by time we’re finished here.”
“I look forward to seeing you in a tux,”
“Don’t get too excited.” Xavier teased.
There was something about Xavier. When he wasn’t bossing me around he was easy to talk to, funny, smart, and he could be charming when he wanted to. He was easy to laugh around when he wasn’t doing business. It was like night and day when he was doing business. I was wondering if business was just his mask.
“Well, we have much to do today,” Xavier paid the bill and we went to pick up his tux and then we went back home and he was laughing at my dismal attempts to learn waltzing from him. “Let’s try this again,” Xavier sighed as he picked himself up off the floor and offered me a hand. I was still laughing too hard to stand.
“How did we manage to do that?”
“You are very talented, obviously.” Xavier laughed with me.
“Maybe, you’re just a crappy teacher.”
“I believe this is a case of operator error.”
“Whatever, let’s try it again, hopefully neither of us end up with broken legs.”
Xavier helped me to my feet. “And one, two, three, one, two, three, one two three,”
“You’re rushing the beats.”
“And you’re so much better?”
“I’m a musician, I have to be.” I laughed.
“Just follow my lead.”
“We’ve tried that.”
I heard a laughing and looked to see Gwen laughing at us. “Wow, you really suck at that.”
“Thanks, Gwen,” I rolled my eyes. “I take it you’re so much better?”
Gwen nodded. “I really am, you’re thinking too much. Watch this.” Gwen cut in and gave Xavier a curtsy. “May I?” I watched as Xavier and Gwen waltzed around the room. “See, it’s not so hard, but then again, maybe it’s not all you…” Gwen’s hand cupped her chin and she looked pensive for a moment. “I’ve got it!” Gwen grabbed my hand and dragged me out down to the stables. “BEN!” Ben was dealing with a frantic stallion. Great, Gwen had spooked the horses.
“Whoa! Easy there!” Ben soothed as he got the horse to stop rearing. “Easy there, easy there. Gwen,” Ben turned to Gwen. “How many times have I told you not to come running in here or yell in here! People can get hurt.”
Gwen’s face fell. “Sorry, Ben. I just really needed your help.”
Ben sighed and shook his head. “Just be careful. What did you need? Hello Juliet.” Ben bowed to me.
“Hey Ben, what’s up?”
“You’re the ones who came charging into the stables, you tell me.”
“Ben, remember when I was little and you taught me how to waltz?”
“There’s some charity ball tomorrow and Juliet’s got rhythm, but Xavier’s a crappy teacher.”
“What is the meaning of this?” Xavier panted as he raced into the stables, which startled the horses all over again.
“Ben is a great teacher, he’ll show Juliet what you can’t.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Xavier asked as his eyes narrowed.
“Let me get these horses calmed down, and I’ll meet you outside. Go on, you lot, out now.” Ben ordered.
Xavier opened his mouth to say something but I grabbed his arm and started pulling him out of the stables. “We’ll be out here, Ben.” I called as I pulled a confused Xavier out of the stables, Gwen at my heels.
“What just happened?” Xavier demanded.
“Ben is going to teach Juliet how to waltz because you can’t.” Gwen replied with crossed arms.
“I doubt some stable boy can teach what I cannot.”
“Okay, Xavier, this servant crap has to stop.” I snapped.
“Yeah, you’re considered help too, just so you know.” Gwen replied as she stuck her tongue out.
“She’s kind of right,” I shrugged. “All the same, we’re all people.”
Ben came out and closed the stable doors. “Now what’s all of this nonsense about?”
“Ben, you have one night to teach Juliet how to waltz.” Gwen shrugged. “Okay, ready, go!”
Ben raised an eyebrow. “You’ve never waltzed?”
“I don’t know if I’m a great teacher, but sure, I’ll try. Let me finish with the horses and I’ll meet you up at the main house. I need another hour to finish up for the day.”
“Okay, thanks Ben, we’ll meet you up there.”
We headed back up to the main house with Xavier sulking.
“What’s his problem?” Gwen asked as she pulled out a package of cookies. “Want one?”
“Be nice.” I warned. “Of course, why wouldn’t I want a cookie! How do you always have cookies?”
Gwen shrugged. “Perks to being in the kitchen.”
Not long after, poor Ben had to deal with me. “Juliet, it’s simpler than you’re making it. Just let me lead. Relax, okay?”
“You have to relax.” I took a deep breath and forced myself to relax my back and shoulders.
“Good, now Gwen put the music on.” Ben placed his hand on my waist and took my other hand. “Close your eyes and just let me lead.” He whispered as we started spinning. Somehow my feet knew where to go. I opened my eyes and felt the grin spread across my face. “See, you’re a natural! You just have to think less. That was your only problem. Just relax and have fun with it.”
I saw Xavier sulking in an armchair. He was sitting in it sideways his face turned toward the back of the chair, his legs across the arm, his arms crossed.
“Xavier! I did it!”
“Xavier, why don’t you have the next dance with her?” Ben suggested as he led me over to him.
“You seem to be doing just fine on your own.”
“Quit being such a whiney sod.” Gwen snapped. “A gentleman doesn’t refuse a lady a dance. So get up and dance with the pretty girl. Why do I have to yell at you to make you do this? You should be jumping at this opportunity!”
“Gwen, stop that. If he doesn’t want to dance with me, it’s fine. He can sit in his chair and watch, but this is fun! Let’s do that again!”
Ben laughed. “Okay, Xavier, are you sure?”
Xavier looked over then settled into his chair. Whatever. If he wanted to be a baby, fine.
“Benjamin, may I have this dance?” I curtsied to him.
“It would be my honor, Lady Juliet.” Ben bowed and we laughed as we danced.
Somehow in the middle of it, Gwen was suddenly there dancing with Xavier. Don’t ask me how, but somehow we switched and then they were just gone. I don’t know how long Xavier and I were dancing but it was fun and we were laughing for most of it. When the music stopped and I looked around.
“I guess they went home.” I shrugged as I suddenly realized I was alone with Xavier.
“It would appear so.” Xavier sighed and he checked his watch. “We missed dinner. It’s late.”
“What time is it?”
“Let’s go down to the kitchens!”
“The kitchen staff will have been dismissed by now.”
“So, who will make us something?”
“You can cook?”
“Is it edible?”
“Not for you if you keep this up.” I warned.
“I don’t believe you. I have to see this.”
“Is this a bet?”
“If it is?” Xavier challenged.
“What do I get if I win?”
“What do you want?”
“I want a day where you don’t boss me around!”
“That is my job.”
“Okay, you can stop me from getting arrested or getting the royalty in trouble, but other than that I decide.”
Xavier narrowed his eyes. “What do I get if I win?”
“What do you want?”
“A day where you do as you’re told when you’re told, no arguments, no tantrums, just obedience.”
“You’re on.” I held my hand out and we shook. “What is our bet anyway? What are the terms of it?”
“You just agreed to a contract without reading the fine print?”
I looked around. “I know the gist of it, I just have to cook something edible right?”
“Edible and tasty.”
“You’re so on!”
It took us a good half an hour to find all the ingredients. “Hand me two eggs.”
“I’m not helping you, I want to win this.”
I shrugged. “Fine, it’ll just take longer.”
Xavier groaned but got up and got the eggs.
I took the flour and added this seasoning and that until it smelt good. Generally, in my experience, if the seasoning smells good, it usually tastes good. I was mixing the eggs with some milk to make a nice batter. I’d already cut chicken into strips.
“Aren’t you done yet?”
“Do I look done?”
“You’re taking forever. There should have been a time limit.”
“Xavier, stop whining. Do you want it done right or not?”
“I want it done now.” Xavier sulked.
“You’re whiney when you’re hungry.”
“I am not.”
“You’re sulking now, how cute.”
“I am not!”
“You totally are.”
Xavier turned away from me and leaned up against the island counter. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Fine,” I picked up a small handful of flour. “Then I don’t know how this happened.” I flung it at him. His face was priceless. There was flour down his shirt, it looked like a vein was about to burst in his forehead.
“Juliet,” he annunciated every syllable and his voice was dripping with anger. “That was not very wise.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
Xavier looked around and saw a bag of flour next to him. He took a handful and flung it back at me. I raised my eyebrows and stared at him. He’d just declared war. I picked up what was left of the milk batter and sloshed it at him. Xavier gave me a devilish grin and picked up two eggs, walked over to me and broke them over my head. I felt the stickiness ooze down. “Bad move.”
I grabbed the milk and splashed it down his front and grabbed a handful of flour and threw it at him. We started throwing everything within reach at one another and in the end we were both covered in various substances that neither of us could really name.
“I cannot believe we did that.” Xavier laughed.
I shrugged. “I can.”
Xavier let out a content sigh. “I can’t remember the last time I had a food fight.”
“Cleaning up is going to be a bitch.”
“You failed to cook something edible.”
I felt my eyes go wide.
“That means I win the bet.”
I let out a groan. “I forgot about the bet.”
A sly smile spread across Xavier’s face. “Oh this is going to be fun.”