When the elevator doors had closed, Malachy removed his fingers from mine and took a step backwards, as far as it was possible in this cramped space.
He gazed at me with a look, that I couldn’t interpret and seemed to be lost in his thoughts.
After the elevator doors reopened again, he went straight ahead into the direction of the small bridge, which led to the isle with the pagoda, without waiting for me.
I followed him at a distance, admiring the picture in front of me.
It was full moon. The moon was reflected in the lake and it’s dimmed rays of light, let the water lilies look like little stars. I stopped in the middle of the bridge to admire the beautiful sight.
Abruptly Malachy’s cold voice startled me and by doing so, interrupted me from enjoying the sight.
“We can stop the charade, now. Nobody is watching.”
He made a short break, before continuing: “You should know, that I paid attention to you, only because it was required, due to your social status. As a member of Clan Fleur de Lys, you stand above me in the line of succession.”
While saying these words, he paced angry up and down, like a lion in a cage.
Then, he talked to me like a machine gun, without giving me the chance to justify myself. “You already had two opportunities, in which you were close enough to me, to reveal your true identity. Was that too boring for you? Did you need the big show for your entrance? Or was this the only possibility for you, to stand out and get my attention, because in reality you are a fraud?”
While speaking this, he moved one step closer and gazed at me with cold eyes.
I was dumbfounded, as so often this evening.
This circumstance surely but slowly got on my nerves and the only person, which I could thank for this, was myself. I hadn’t bothered to inform myself about the Aristocratic society. Not even about it’s regent.
Otherwise I would have recognised Malachy and this whole farce wouldn’t have happened. But I voluntarily behaved myself exactly as stupid and hollow, as the puppet, which daddy likes me to be.
Now, I stood there stammering and wasn’t able to answer one simple question, asked from Malachy, because I didn’t knew the answer myself. I struggled to answer him, while the words started to form knots in my throat.
Obviously my silence made him even angrier.
“What do you have to say to defend yourself? Nothing? You make me look stupid and let me march by your tune in front of the whole Aristocracy... And now you have nothing to say about this?”
He went and stood next to me and clung to the banister of the bridge.
I still kept silent, because I had no idea where to start. Considering all circumstances, it might have been better to bet on Daddy Niklas instead. Compared to a mad Malachy, Niklas seemed like a bad tampered puppy.
Ashamed of myself I asked: “Who are the Fleur de Lys?”
Malachy turned to me at lightning speed and looked at me, as if I had lost my mind. My inconsiderate question only seemed to fuel his anger.
He replied angrily: “You don’t mean that seriously! You come here, outing yourself as a long lost supposed member of Clan Fleur de Lys and you don’t even know, who you claim to be a part of?”
He pinched the back of his nose with his fingers, while closing his eyes, as one would do, to prevent a migraine attack.
“Until now, I thought you were naïve and calculating, but now I am not sure if you are simply stupid!”
I inhaled sharply, as if I had been given a face slapping. As if I was a minor, he pointed to the little bench in front of the pagoda.
I stubbornly remained glued to the spot.
Malachy seemed to have trouble to control himself. He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. Then he replied, obviously more in control of himself: “I am sorry. I violated the tone of our conversation. Please sit yourself down. We don’t have much time and we are in urgent need of discussing several things – respectfully, of course.”
He took his time to emphasise the word ‘respectfully’.
I hesitated shortly, then I moved towards the pagoda and sat myself on the bench.
Immediately Malachy started to explain. “The Fleur de Lys family was originally our most powerful royal Clan form the ‘House of Regents’. Since the beginning of time, the regents of the Aristocracy belonged to this Clan. If you are a part of Clan Fleur de Lys, you are above me in social rank.”
I wanted to protest, but Malachy went on with his explanation. “That is the first point on our agenda, that we have to agree on: I need to know, if you really are the person, who you pretend to be. Therefore, I want you to agree to another testing of your blood-serum. I can’t initiate a test without your consent. Will you agree to my request?”
I hesitated for a moment. Right now, Malachy’s request seemed absurd, but what if there was a legitimate doubt about the authenticity of my lineage? How high were the stakes, that I in particular, was the last descendant of a royal Clan?
Wasn’t it more likely, that Niklas changed the truth a tiny bit to his advantage, again? My father has proven more than once, that he wasn’t trustworthy. The real question here was: Could I trust Malachy? I replied firmly: “Okay, I agree. After this, there will be no doubt about my parental lineage.”
My approval seemed to make him more forgiving.
“Fine. I want you to stay by my side, until the test results have arrived. That’s the only way I can protect you.”
Scared, I looked at him with eyes as big as saucers. “Who do I need to be protected from?”
Again, he looked at me in total disbelief, while running his fingers erratically through his hair.
“I have lost you completely – you’re an enigma. Why don’t you know who you are? Surely you have seen your vial, containing your blood serum, haven’t you?”
I hesitated, again.
Where should I start and more importantly, considering earlier: Could I trust him? Up to the point, when we left the elevator to go into the greenhouse, I had believed his show of kind manners and caring. Then, he showed his real face. The truth was: He still was a total stranger.
On the other hand, I had to admit, that I had already trusted him with more delicate information about me, than I did with anybody else. He could have used our fatal encounter in the ‘Collosseum’ to humiliate me in front of the assembled Aristocracy. But he didn’t. On the contrary, he even protected me.
I decided to meet him in the middle, by giving him a little of my trust, even if that felt like jumping out of a plane without a parachute.
I inhaled deeply, before replying: “Of course I have seen my vial. It was shortly after my transition was completed, which was approximately two months ago.”
That statement seemed to surprise him. He stopped pacing and sat next to me on the little bench.
I continued to explain myself.
“On the glass vial, the number 68 was written, which with the majority of my blood serum being azure, making me belong to a royal house. Otherwise there was the eye-catching fastener of the vial, which showed the same cross symbol as embroidered onto your tuxedo lapels. Amelie, who is Darius plus one and my friend, explained the meaning of this symbol to me. Of course I wanted to know more, that’s why I went to my father. He explained my parental lineage as follows: To him, nothing else but me being a Romanov, was important. At least that’s what he told me. He mentioned that my mother didn’t want me and therefore put me up for adoption shortly after she gave birth.”
I made a short break. “Supposedly, his intention was to protect me and to prevent me from being hurt... I guess that you and me were informed about my maternal lineage simultaneously, today.”
I raised my head to look directly into his eyes.
“I am not telling you this, because I want your pity. I will only agree to another test of my blood serum, if this will be kept from my father. According to my latest experiences, I believe that he is capable of lying about my true identity, to gain more esteem and power for his Clan Romanov in the royal ‘House of Warriors’. He needs to believe that he is in control of me at any time, to prevent harm, that could come to my brothers, Adrian and Darius.”
I held out my hand. “Do we have a deal?”
Malachy took my hand.
“Agreed. But there is one question left from my side: How old are you?”
I replied unsuspectingly: “26, why?”
He looked at me in astonishment. “In human years?”
“Yes”, I replied frowning.
Thereupon he shook his head and spoke – more to himself: “Considering this circumstance you are not stupid, but much braver than anyone I know... or just suicidal.”
“Thank you”, I replied outraged.
He shrugged. “At least it explains your lack of knowledge of absolutely everything, that could help you in your problematic situation. Your father put you as a new-born into a pit of snakes.”
He looked at his golden wrist-watch.
“We should go back. The midnight show will be over soon and then our absence from the debutant-ball will be noticed.”
He stood up and offered me his hand.
“Can I trust you?”
I put my hand in his and raised myself from the bench, as well.
“That depends on whether I can trust you. Not a single word to Niklas Romanov.”
Malachy grinned. Now his eyes sparkled with amusement. “You learn fast, Maggie. No word to anyone. The same goes for you.”
Then we both moved towards the elevator.
Shortly before we reached our destination, Malachy stopped. Without warning he turned towards me, pulled me closer to him and started to kiss me passionately.
At first I was overwhelmed by this gesture, but my body could warm itself quite quickly for his kiss. As if it was the most normal thing in the world, my lips parted, so Malachy could intensify our kiss. My hands slowly moved up his back and played with his hair.
The previous argument seemed to have been forgotten.
Malachy pulled me even closer to him and brushed through my hair, causing several strands of hair to fall out of my hairdo.
When the world around us seemed to no longer exist, he abruptly stopped his affections and brought physical distance between us. I looked at him in astonishment.
He replied coldly: “The attendees of the ball, who have seen us leave, were probably asking themselves where we went off to and what we did there. You are my chosen lady. We don’t want to disappoint their expectations, if we come back as neat and tidy as we have left.”
He loosened his tie a little and opened the top button of his shirt, before pressing the button that was calling the elevator.
I snorted meekly and not quite ladylike, while standing behind him. I had fallen into a trap, again...
After the elevator doors were closed, Malachy explained to me, that his chauffeur will pick me up tomorrow morning at nine o’clock. I should pack for a time period of approximately one week.
That was, how long it would take, until the results of my blood-serum test would be back and he expected me to stay at least that long in his manor.
This was a necessary precaution for my safety.
Margarete’s residing at Malachy’s manor gave him another advantage: Niklas Romanov had no uncontrolled access to his daughter, during this time.
When the elevator’s doors opened, both of them stepped out for everybody to see, looking a little tousled and showing off their good mood openly. They immediately stepped on the dancefloor to do a few laps.
Malachy was very happy with the way things had gone so far.
Not anything or anyone in this world, would have likely been able to prepare Maggie for this day.
But it was definitely time to change something about her attitude, especially the naivety.
Never again, did she want to be as stupid and dependent, acting as a game ball between power games of rivalling people.