Royal Pain in the Ass

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Chapter 3

James made a quick call before sitting behind his desk. “While we wait, should we get to know each other a bit?”

I shrugged. I was still feeling a bit shell shocked. “Who are you?” I gestured to the room we were in. “Like, who lives like this?”

James nodded. “Technically, I’m considered a duke. My family has been a part of the English nobility for some time.”

I nodded. “So, you’re like rich and powerful?”

James chortled at that. “Something like that. I serve in Parliament with the house of Lords.”

“So you’re a politician?”

James nodded. “That I am.”

I nodded. I didn’t have much experience with politicians, but the one I did get acquainted with wasn’t a good one. “So, how’d you end up there?”

“I wanted to help people. It was also approved of within my family. Given my lineage, there were a limited number of professions I could choose from.”

“Why?”

“Given who my family is, I was groomed to go down a certain path and diverting from the path wasn’t an option. My father wasn’t the sort of man you could disappoint.”

“Why not?”

“He wasn’t a man who allowed people to disobey him. If you went against him, you’d regret it. That was something he made a point of.”

I nodded trying to wrap my mind around it. My mother had taught me to be who I am, don’t let anyone else try to force you to be something you’re not. It seems my father hadn’t been raised with the same school of thought. I finished off my water and set the glass down. “Not to be imposing, but do you have anything stronger than water?” I asked, hopeful.

“I have a bottle of scotch that a friend brought me when she came back from a business trip.” James offered as he stood to retrieve the decanter. He put three ice cubes in each glass and poured us each a drink.

I gratefully accepted. I downed it faster that I probably should have, but I knew it would be at least a few drinks before I felt the effects. At that point there was a knock on the door and there was a man in a lab coat that came in. He swabbed the inside of my cheek and gave James the same treatment and left as quickly as he came.

“Would you like another?” James asked indicating my empty glass.

“Please.” I agreed handing it to him.

“You can sip it.” James joked as he refilled it.

I laughed nervously and shrugged. “I guess I’m hoping it’ll take the edge off.” I admitted. “I mean, holy shit, you might be my father.”

James nodded. “I believe I am your father.”

“We’ll see, won’t we?” I shrugged. “How long does that take?”

“I think we’ll have results by tomorrow.”

I nodded. “What now?”

“Why don’t I show you to your room and you can get settled in?” James suggested. I nodded and followed him out of his study. He led me through the house and it didn’t take long to be lost again.

The room he showed me to was done in reds and golds. It looked very regal, but didn’t feel lived in. The air almost smelt stale, like people rarely ventured in here. But everything was immaculate, fresh pressed linens and I didn’t see a spec of dirt on any of the surfaces. The walls were a warm tan that were neutral but complimented everything else. The bed was at least a California king and looked antique. The feet of the bed were clawed and it was a four poster with ornate carvings up the posts. The headboard looked carved as well, but several plush pillows were situated in front of it. The dark wood was polished, but almost dull. The comforter was a deep wine red with a gold pattern embroidered into it. The floors were dark hardwood with several thick, plush rugs that matched the bedding around the room. The vanity and dresser were the same dark wood the bed was made up. There was also what looked like a leather chair and matching ottoman by the window and a small cream colored couch. Between the two there was a small coffee table in a similar style of wood, but more modern. It matched the two bedside tables next to the bed.

“I hope the room is to your liking.”

I nodded. “This is…so much more than I expected.” I was at a loss for words. This room was half the size of my home.

James left me to get unpacked. My luggage had already been brought up and was neatly stacked next to the dresser. I saw two doors other than the one I’d come in with. I opened the first and it was a massive closet. Every stitch of clothing I owned would surely fit in here with some space left over.

I closed the door and padded my way over to the other door. It revealed a massive bathroom. The floors were a beautiful white marble with gold veins running through it. There was a large clawed tub next to the far wall that looked straight out of the 1800’s and I had to remind myself that it very well may be. It looked to be made out of the same marble the floors were made out of. Tucked in the corner next to the tub was a glass shower with a beautiful design frosted into it that reminded me a bit of the bedding or maybe a crest of some sort. The sink matched the tub, though I’d wager on porcelain rather than marble. It looked a bit more modern, but modeled after the antique look. The plush towels were red with golden E’s monogrammed. The mirror hid a cabinet that had been fitted into the wall. It was more luxury than I’d ever been exposed to and it felt weird.

I didn’t feel like I belonged here.

I started unpacking. I checked my phone while I did and quickly sent Amanda a message on Facebook letting her know I’d landed safely and I’d let her know more info when I could. I went to plug my phone in and realized I needed a different charger. With a sigh I shut my phone off and set it aside.

My clothes felt like they clashed with the room. I felt like I clashed with the room. I flung myself on the bed and started thinking.

Mom, I hope I’m ready for this… I thought to myself.

Suddenly I woke up staring at a strange ceiling. I had to think hard. I looked around the room I was in. How’d I get here again? I looked around. I was alone in a strange bed. Alone is good. I sat up and started taking everything in. Where was I? This was too fancy of a hotel for me to afford…

Then it started coming back to me. After twenty-one years of accepting my father was some sort of an abstract idea, I might have found him. Or rather, he may have found me. Holy crap.

I saw my phone on the table next to me and turned it on. It was about one in the morning here and it would have been about nine o’clock back home. I was a night owl and nine o’clock at I would usually still be at work. I threw the covers off and tried to orient myself. How did I get myself into this? I looked around the room again.

When I managed to find a lamp and turn it on my breath caught in my throat. It was just as beautiful as before. Personally, I was more of a purple girl than red, but there was no denying the regal and powerful feeling the room gave off. Like it almost knew that important people lived here.

Now I wouldn’t exactly call myself stupid, but sometimes, when I’m bored, I’ve been known to make a foolish decision now and then. Actually that led to two of my tattoos. So, the bright idea I had was to look around. Don’t ask me why, even I don’t have a good reason.

I found my black converse and shoved my feet into them. I opened the door and the hallway was silhouetted by the moonlight streaming in through the few windows. I turned on the flashlight app on my phone and started down the first hallway I saw. This place was huge. It looked massive from the outside, but the inside seemed bigger somehow. I was lost after a few turns and stopped keeping track. I wouldn’t be finding my way back on my own unless it was by accident. Somehow, that just didn’t seem that important.

I was beyond excited when I found a secret passage. It had soft lighting so I could actually see where I was going. Halfway down one of the hallways I ran into someone.

“Hi.” I smiled.

“Hello there. Who may I ask are you?” asked a girl with blonde hair pulled up in a loose bun. She was wearing a straight black skirt that fell just below her knees over black stockings and a long sleeved black tunic shirt. She had an armful of folded sheets.

“I’m Juliet.” I offered my hand and quickly dropped it realizing she couldn’t shake it.

“Oh? So you’re the one everyone is talking about.” She had a coy smile playing across her pink lips as her cinnamon brown eyes glinted in the low light.

“Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s not my place to say. What are you doing up at this hour?” She asked as she snuck a peek at her watch.

“I’m not used to this time zone. I’m wide awake.”

“That would explain it.”

“What’s your name?”

“I’m Gwen.”

“What are you doing up at this hour?”

“I’m preparing the bedding for the morning. Why are you in the servant’s corridors?”

“Is that where I am?”

“Are you lost?”

I nodded. “Yes. Pretty hopelessly, if I had to guess.” I laughed.

Gwen burst out laughing. “Would you like help getting back?”

“Actually, could you just show me around?”

“I can’t right now, but I can later.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m working.” Gwen laughed.

“Of course, my bad. I’m sorry, I’m holding you up, aren’t I?” I felt bad. I knew what it was like to be behind at work. “Never mind, sorry.”

“It’s alright. How about I show you to your room?”

“That would be awesome.”

Gwen laughed as she led me through the servant’s corridors to the hallway my room was on. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll be finished with the laundry at ten. I can come find you after that.”

“That would be amazing.”

Gwen laughed at my reaction. I felt more at ease speaking with her than I had with anyone else I’d met this far. “Alright, well, I have to get back to work. You should try to get some sleep. I’ll see you around.”

I went back into my room and pulled myself into bed. I checked the time on my phone and it was nearly four now. I cuddled into the sheets and felt sleep pull me under.

I woke to a soft rapping on the door. “Miss Benn? Are you awake? It’s time to wake up. Breakfast is served at seven o’clock sharp.” I heard someone call through the door.

I let out frustrated groan. “Are you serious?” I did not do well on three hours of sleep. I was so comfy. The last thing I wanted to do was get out of the warm next of blankets.

“I’m afraid so, Miss Benn.”

“What time is it?”

“Six-thirty.”

Scratch that, two and a half. “Can you come in here?”

The door cracked open and a small fragile looking woman entered. She was pretty in an understated kind of way and didn’t look much older than me. She had her ginger hair tied back in a braid and was wearing a uniform similar to Gwen’s. The only difference I noticed was this girl had a white apron tied around her waist. “Yes, Miss Benn?”

“You can call me Juliet.” I offered as I sat up. “Most people call me Jules.”

“If you prefer.” she looked almost nervous about it.

“What’s your name?”

“I’m Laurel.” She answered, blinking her brilliant green eyes from behind her black, wire rimmed glasses.

“It’s a pleasure.” I dragged myself off of my bed and offered my hand.

She shook it looking at me like I’d sprouted an extra head. “Indeed.” She offered as she dropped my hand. The look of bewilderment on her face told me I was not what she was expecting.

“Hey, I want to get a quick shower. Is there anyway someone can show me to the dining room is?” I asked hopeful. The last thing I wanted to miss was food.

Laurel smiled. “Of course. I can wait for you if you like.”

“That would be amazing!” I hugged her and she stiffened up. “Thanks it’ll only be like ten minutes!” I promised as I raced over to find the toiletries I’d packed.

I turned on the shower and the water felt amazing. Once I’d scrubbed myself clean I quickly realized I’d forgotten my clothes in my room. I dried myself on one of the towel that was as soft and fluffy as it looked and wrapped it around myself not wanting to drip water and slip. I snuck back into my room only to find it empty. I wondered where Laurel had gone as I went to find a pair of jeans, one of the few pairs I owned without any rips or tears, and a plain black t-shirt. I had a funny feeling that most of what I packed wouldn’t exactly be celebrated.

I shrugged and decided that it shouldn’t matter and that it didn’t matter. I ran a brush through my still drying hair. If I left it to its own freewill, it usually made pretty waves and I was feeling especially lazy today. I didn’t usually wear makeup, and when I did it wasn’t much, just enough to hint. One of the things my mom used to tell me was when you have to wear make to be pretty, you aren’t. Though she may have just said that to make me feel better for not wanting to wear it.

I sighed and looked at myself in the mirror. The eye liner always made my grey eyes pop and with a hint of silver on my eyelids, it drew attention to my eyes immediately. I knew how I looked. My black hair was cooperating and drying into loose, almost beachy waves. I smiled and took in my appearance. This was probably the closest I ever came to lying low.

I didn’t know or understand why I felt like I did today. It wasn’t like me. I usually didn’t give a damn about what people thought of me, but somehow I was feeling the slightest bit insecure. Okay, maybe more than the slightest bit. After twenty-one year of accepting my father was just an idea, more of a figment than a reality I really may have found him.

I opened the door to see Laurel waiting patiently for me.

“Are you ready then?”

“Yeah. Were you waiting out here the whole time?”

“Yes, you asked me to wait for you.”

“Oh crap! You could have waited in there. I would have hurried more, I’m sorry.”

Laurel looked at me with that same bewildered look. “There’s nothing to be sorry for.”

“Oh, well okay then.” I shrugged. “Do you know what time it is?”

“It’s almost seven.”

“That’s not bad, even for me.” I grinned. Getting ready was something I could do in a jiffy if I had to.

Laurel fought back a smile and quickly schooled her features back to a neutral face.

“Why fight a smile?”

Laurel looked taken aback. “Pardon?”

“Just now. If you want to smile, smile. Don’t fight it. Smiles are precious and you should get to enjoy every one.”

That earned me a small smile. “The dining room is this way.”

She led me through the maze of corridors and hallways twisting this way and that and like last night, it didn’t take much to get me lost. She ushered me to an archway. Through which James was sitting at a table, so was Angelica, and another woman I could only assume was Millie, his wife. She looked like she was in her early thirties, but she had to be older. Angelica was at least sixteen. Probably older, but you wouldn’t guess based upon the way she acted.

“Good morning.” I offered as I waved to everyone. They all looked up. James smiled, but he was the only one. Millie looked much older when she scolded, I immediately added at least ten years to her.

“Breakfast is served at seven o’clock sharp.” Millie scolded.

I pulled my phone out. “Sorry I’m five minutes late. I kind of got lost. This house is a maze.” I joked. Millie’s eyes were a warm honey brown. Before that moment, I’d never seen such a warm color look so cold. “I’m sorry if I offended you.”

“Don’t be silly.” James smiled. He shot his wife a warning look. “Come, sit, join us.”

“What are you wearing?” Angelica sneered and I looked down.

“Pretty sure you call these clothes last time I checked.”

“Don’t tell me you actually go out in public dressed like that?”

“Yeah.”

Angelica shook her head and scoffed.

“Anyway…” I looked around the table. James was the only one paying attention to me. Millie’s shoulder, which had been a graceful arch before she saw me, held tension in them. I also noticed her jaw was clenched and she seemed downright angry with me. “So, what’s for breakfast?”

“Whatever you like.” James offered with a genuine smile. “The cooks we have here are really phenomenal. Eleanor!” he called. A plump woman, looking to be in her early thirties came in, a warm smile on her face. There was something about her that just screamed ‘Mom’ at me. She just had this maternal heir about her.

“Yes, sir? What can I get for you?” she asked.

“When will my eggs be ready?” Angelica demanded.

“They’re coming, miss.” Eleanor smiled. I cocked an eyebrow. If someone had just spoken to me that way, I wouldn’t be smiling. Then again, I just met her, maybe she wasn’t always like this.

Somehow I doubted that.

“Juliet, what would you like for breakfast?” James asked.

“Um, I’m good with whatever.” I shrugged. “Maybe some French toast?” I asked.

Eleanor flashed a smile at me. It was different from the one she gave Angelica. This one seemed genuine. Interesting. “Most certainly, my dear. Would you like some tea?”

“Sure! That’d be great. Anything with caffeine would be greatly appreciated.”

“Anything else?”

“I’m good with that.”

“Very good. Sir may I get anything else?”

“No, that’s all. Thank you, Eleanor.”

Eleanor disappeared again and I was left sitting at the table, feeling awkward. This was a new feeling for me. Another servant came in and whispered something into James’s ear.

“Ah, I have an important call I have to take. I’ll be right back. Everyone play nice.”

I watched James leave the room.

“I’m Juliet, it’s nice to meet you.” I offered my hand to Millie.

“Yes. We know.” Millie offered, a sneer on her face. “And I am the Duchess Mildred Agatha Harrison Eastgate.” I responded coldly.

“Well, then.” I cleared my throat and dropped my ignored hand. “Pleasure.” The silence was thick. I started taking in the dining room since no one wanted to talk to me. It was done in yellow, tan, and green earthy tones. It was overall a comfortable room, despite the currently cold atmosphere. We were seated at a large ten seater, and it seemed almost forlorn with only the three of us.

Millie and Angelica seemed to be having a silent conversation with their eyes. Honestly, I was surprised they weren’t talking about me right now in front of me. I couldn’t wait to hear what they would say behind my back.

“Well, isn’t it delightful chatting with you? By the way, what should I call you?” I asked Millie. “I know James calls you Millie,” I saw her visibly flinch. “, and I’d imagine Angelica calls you Mom. So, what would you like me to call you?”

“Your Grace would suffice.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “Your Grace?”

“Yes.”

I tried to fight back a laugh but sniggered anyway.

“What is so humorous?”

“You’re serious and I just can’t.” I laughed. The look on her face was priceless. I saw her shoulders hunch and the look of raw indignation on her face. I’d seriously just insulted her. I forced myself to stop laughing and gained control over myself. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it.”

“Why are you even here?” Angelica demanded.

I shrugged.

“We aren’t stupid.” Angelica continued.

Eleanor picked that moment to bring in everyone’s breakfast. Angelica had ordered fried eggs with toast and Millie some rye toast. When Eleanor set my French toast with powdered sugar in front of me, my mouth started watering.

“Thank you Eleanor!” I beamed.

“Would you like syrup?”

“Yes, please.”

“Maple or blueberry?”

“Maple, please.”

“I’ll be right back with that.”

“I’ll be right back with that.”

Eleanor was almost out of the room when Angelica made a noise of disgust.

“Excuse me!” Angelica hissed. “Didn’t I tell you to make sure my yolk was not runny?”

“I’m sorry, miss,”

“Sorry isn’t good enough!” Angelica screeched, cutting Eleanor off. “How hard is your job? Or Ferdinand’s for that matter? I give you one simple order and you can’t even do that right!”

“Will you chill out?”

“What did you say to me?”

“Don’t talk that way to her that way. I’d say her job is pretty difficult if she has to put up with you every day. And if it’s so easy, as you claim, let’s see you fry an egg.”

“Who do you think you are? You can’t speak to me that way!”

“Well, I’m not going to just sit here want watch you scream at her when it’s not her fault for starters. Secondly, it’s not that big of a deal, and thirdly no one else is going to stand up for her.”

James chose this moment to walk back in. He saw me glaring at Angelica, who had quickly put an innocent look upon her face. Millie was giving me a scathing look.

“Ladies, what did I miss?” James asked, immediately sensing the tension.

“James, darling, this girl just started screaming at Angelica out of no where. I wonder if it was wise to invite her here.”

“Juliet?” James asked, eyeing me closely.

I sighed not sure how to phrase this. “James, I’m sorry, but your daughter is kind of a brat. Yes, I yelled at her. I yelled at her because she was yelling at Eleanor about a little bit of her egg yolk being runny. It’s a simple fix. Where I come from, civilized people don’t talk to one another that way. Maybe things are different here, or maybe you guys just have a different opinion than us Americans of civilized. Either way, I don’t like watching other being publicly berated, especially when it isn’t their fault.”

James nodded slowly, his face stern. “Juliet, please come with me.” He asked quietly. I stood and followed him out of the room. Great, between his wife and daughter I was already at odds. Now I’d just alienated James too. Maybe I should just go home. James led me down the corridor. “First of all, I would like to apologize for my daughter’s behavior.”

I was taken aback. He wasn’t taking her side?

“Angelica is, as you put it, a brat. She has a flair for the dramatic, and a tendency to be over dramatic. Sometimes her reaction is a bit out of proportion. Please don’t think ill of her. She can be that way, but she can also be a sweet, loving, sensitive girl. She is spoiled, but that tends to go with the lifestyle we lead. I ask you not to judge her, at least not yet.”

I nodded not believing there was a lot more to Angelica than what I’d seen so far. “By the way, I do have the results of our test from yesterday. That was what the call was about.”

I nodded. “Well? What did it say?”

“I haven’t opened it yet. I felt you should be there for that.”

“Okay…” I had the distinct feeling James was stalling, and honestly, I was grateful. I was nervous about it. “Should we open it now or wait?”

James swallowed hard. “Would you like a tour of the grounds first?” James offered.

I nodded. “Sure, that sounds great.” I agreed. I was scared of the answers in that envelope, and it looked like James was too.

“Then it’s settled. Let’s finish breakfast then I’ll show you the grounds.” James led us back into the dining room and I happily ate the French toast, Angelica and Millie were nearly finished and left not long after James and I returned. We ate quickly forcing some small talk before James started showing me down from the house to the stables. I thought it was big before I started exploring, but that was an understatement. Eastgate Estate is huge! The entire grounds span for acres and are truly a thing of beauty. I walked in and loved every moment of it. I’ve always loved horses, I grew up around them. James had two horses ready for us when we strolled up. The stable boy was quite the looker. He had curls that fell around his head like a chestnut halo. His eyes were a warm honey brown, that reminded me of someone I couldn’t place, and his skin was a lovely golden tan.

“Master James.” He bowed his hand as he handed James the reins to one of the horses.

“Thank you Ben.” James smiled.

“And I’m sorry, I haven’t had the pleasure.” He smiled at me.

“I’m Juliet.” I smiled back as I offered him my hand. Instead of shaking it, he lifted it to his lips and kissed the back of it. I felt my cheeks flush. “It’s-it’s a pleasure.”

“I assure you, the pleasure is all mine.”

James cleared his throat and gave us both a look that I wasn’t sure how to take. Ben dropped my hand and led me to a black gelding. “This is Zeus. He’s the gentlest horse we have here; he hasn’t a clue how big he is.”

James easily mounted his white mare. “Thank you, Ben.”

“Would you like a leg up?” Ben offered as he cupped his hands. I looked down at my converse. They weren’t exactly made for riding, but oh well.

“That would be lovely.” I let him boost me up and it took me a moment to get situated. I’d learned how to ride western, there hadn’t been a need for me to learn to ride English back then. I figured I’d just go with it.

“Thank you, Ben. That will be all. I’ll take it from here.” James said. His tone was curt and despite the friendly look on his face, it was clear that it was an order.

“As you wish.”

I watched Ben disappear into the barn and turned my attention back to James. James began to show me around the grounds, where the gardens were, the riding trails, the lake. James stopped his horse abruptly by the lake. “Juliet,” James started. It seemed like he was trying to find the right words to say.

“Yes?”

“You are so much like her.”

“What?”

“Your mother. You are so much like Rose.”

“I have a question for you.”

“What is it?”

“Why didn’t you try to get a hold of me sooner? Why wait over twenty years? Why did you wait until after Mom…” I couldn’t finish that last sentence. It hung in the air for a moment before James could answer.

“I didn’t know.” There was a raw look in his eyes. “Apparently Rose had it in her will to have a letter sent to me upon the event of her death. She must have written it years ago.”

I eyed him suspiciously. “How could you not know?”

James sighed. “Did your mother ever speak of me?”

“No, not really. Whenever I asked, she’d get a faraway look in her eyes and always had the saddest smile. She said you were her first love. She never mentioned your name. And it always made her so sad, so eventually, I just stopped asking.”

James nodded. “Please know, I did love your mother.”

“Then why didn’t you stay with her?”

James looked taken aback. “Pardon?”

“You broke her heart. You know that right? Seeming me everyday couldn’t have helped. Come on, the resemblance is uncanny. I look just like you.”

James looked up at the sky. “I was a fool. My father condemned us. I was blind and a fool. There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought of her. I tried to talk to her. I sent letter after letter. She never responded. I had no idea you even existed. If I had known-”

“Then what? You feel obligated? No wonder she didn’t tell you.”

A dark look crossed James’s face. “She had no right to keep this from me!”

“She had every right.” I growled back. “If you really loved her, you would have come for her. She didn’t want you to come back because you felt a responsibility to. She was a remarkable woman and I have the utmost respect for her and every decision she made.”

James pinched the bridge of his nose as he took a deep breath. “You are so much like her, but you are still a child.”

“I am not a child.”

James let out a low chuckle. “I really wish I had known. I would have liked to see you grow into the woman you are today.”

I eyed him suspiciously. “I don’t trust you.” I admitted after a moment of silence.

“Why is that?”

“I find it hard to trust someone that could let someone they claimed to have loved just walk out of their lives. Not only that, the circumstances are a little strange. Something in this equation doesn’t add up. I’m missing something. I don’t understand why out of the blue you would just invite me out here. You didn’t bother to come to me, you had me come to you. I feel like there’s a piece of this that I can’t see yet. That bothers me. So, until I figure that out, I won’t be able to trust you completely or this whole crazy situation. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I want to be honest with you.”

“You may be wise beyond your years. Trust is something many people give out too freely. I understand your reluctance.”

I didn’t know what to say to that, so I didn’t say anything.

“Please, tell me more about yourself.” James offered after our silence had stretched for a long moment.

I shrugged. “What do you want to know?”

“Whatever you’ll trust me with, anything you want to tell me.”

I shrugged again. “Um, I’m twenty-one. I have my own house and car. I surf. I manage a restaurant back home. I worked my way through college. I play cello. I like to read and paint. I really don’t know what else to say.”

“You’ve done all that?”

“Yes.”

“All by yourself?”

“Yeah.” I answered giving him a questioning look.

“That’s extraordinary.”

“Thank you.”

“You have a degree?”

“Yes.”

“In what?”

“Literature and Music Performance.”

“Are you planning on becoming a musician?”

I shrugged. “I haven’t really decided. I don’t know what I want to do. I mean, I auditioned and earned a spot in the Orlando Philharmonic, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to accept or not.”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t know if I want to commit my life to playing music. If I accept this position and I’m only half in it, I’ve taken it from someone who really wants it. Until I’m sure, I asked for a leave of absence.”

“You play cello?”

“Yes.”

“How do you like it?”

“I love it. It’s one of my favorite things in the world.”

“Then why the hesitation?”

“I play cello because I love it and because I want to. If I take this position, it becomes an obligation. I don’t want my passion to become an obligation.”

James nodded as he processed the information. “You are remarkable. I truly wish I’d had the chance to see you grow up.”

I felt my face flush a little. I didn’t know how to react to that. I wasn’t sure how I felt about James yet. I didn’t trust him and I couldn’t understand him. I couldn’t understand just leaving someone you were so in with. Above all else, I didn’t understand this sudden desire to know me. I didn’t understand why he’d go to all the trouble to bring me out here on a whim. I mean, sure, I might be his daughter, but he didn’t know that for sure. Especially when I was still in the States. His wife and daughter obviously had a problem with me being here, so my presence was putting a strain on those relationships and causing friction between them.

“Juliet?”

I snapped out of my daze. I hadn’t realized I’d drifted off into la la land just staring out at the water. “Hmm? Yes?”

“We should probably start heading back. Lunch will be served soon.” James turned his horse around and we headed back through the grounds. James took me in a different direction than we’d come and he showed me more of the grounds.

After we returned the horses to the stable and made our way to the main house James stopped. “Do you think we should open that envelope now?”

I nodded. I took a deep breath and held it as James opened the envelope. It confirmed what we both already knew. I was, in fact, James Eastgate’s daughter.

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Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.