Shortly before eight, I left our apartment and walked towards the bar.
Conveniently, the bar was only five minutes by foot from the apartment – one reason why Amie worked there.
After arriving, the doorman recognised me immediately and opened the door for me.
“Welcome, Maggie! Nice to see you. You haven’t shown up for quite a while.” While speaking, he winked at me, smiling.
“Thanks Liam! Maybe we’ll see each other later at the bar?”
“I like to come back to that.”
Right after entering the crowded bar, Amie happily waved at me from behind the bar and pointed at an empty barstool across from her, in front of which a small ‘reserved’ sign had been placed.
I waved back at her and took the place intended for me.
“Maggie! I am glad that you are here. What can I do for you? A Gin-Tonic, or do you prefer something different?”
I quickly shook my head. “No Alcohol for me, for now. I’d like to have a coke zero and a huge helping of nachos with cheese dip. I’m hungry as hell!”
Amie laughed out loud. “Did they put you on a diet in the castle?”
I had to laugh as well.
“No, I was in such a hurry to get here, that I simply skipped dinner. When is your break? I need to talk to you in private.”
Now, Amie’s curious look became very serious.
“You do realise, that you’re going to kill me with my curiosity, one day? I’m going to have a stroke, because you kept me waiting for the latest news until my break… By the way, which doesn’t start any earlier than half past eleven…”
That made me laugh heartily.
She put the coke right in front of my nose.
After calming down a little, I retorted: “But so far, it has always been worth the wait!”
Amie rolled her eyes. “The nachos will be here in a minute!”
Then she turned to take the order of another guest.
When she put the nachos right in front of me on the counter a little later, I gluttonously grabbed a hand-full and stuffed it in my mouth.
A guy came over to the counter, stood next to me and smiled at me. “I like it, when women have a big appetite and aren’t afraid to tuck in.”
I looked at him annoyed and replied, still with a stuffed mouth full of nachos: “And I like to eat my nachos in peace – without exception.”
The guy looked at me angrily and seemed, like he wanted to reply something, when Amie answered instead: “Steve, please leave my friend alone. Better look for something in your league, or shall I inform Liam about you molesting his most favourite guest?”
Steve looked at Amie with wide eyes, before leaving the counter and sitting back at his table with his friends.
Amie shook her head and explained: “Steve… He tries to screw anything with a heartbeat…”
When I finished eating, Liam joined me at the bar.
We skirmished about silly things. So the time passed in a flash, until Amie suddenly stood next to us and interrupted us.
“My break will only last half an hour. Now, or never! Sorry, Liam!”
She took my hand and pulled me off the barstool, away from the counter towards a high table not far from the kitchen.
“Before I forget: Darius is fine. Since he is at the castle tomorrow, anyway, due to an important meeting, at which your family clan is supposed to be present, he will inform you then about his confrontation with Adrian. Only that much: He seems to be very regretful and he is terribly sorry… But we should come to the more important part. On the phone, you mentioned that you would sign some sort of contract with James. Now, don’t let me die in slow torment.”
I nodded and said: “What I’m going to tell you, is strictly confidential, therefore I beg you to handle this information as such and don’t interrupt me, till I have finished, okay?”
Amie put her hand theatrically on her chest and replied: “You know how to build the tension. My mouth is sealed in all respects. I give you my word of honour.”
I gave a short giggle, then started with my explanations: “I’ll start slowly and increase my pace… So: I agreed to renounce my claim to the throne for the benefit of Malachy and his direct descendants.”
Amie’s eyes grew wide and she raised a hand into the air, in order to interrupt me, but I shook my head and spoke further.
“In contrast to this, I get to keep my position as head of Clan Fleur de Lys and Clan Romanov is going to raise above Clan Rophos, thereby becoming the most powerful Clan of the royal ‘house of warriors’. On top of that I will be granted full access to Clan Stuarts resources and in further consequence Clan Romanov will have these resources at their disposal, as well. But there is a condition.”
Amie moved closer to me with every word I spoke, while looking at me with eyes as big as saucers.
“Malachy insists, that Darius will take Adrian’s place as the next head of Clan Romanov. Otherwise there won’t be resources nor a climb to the top of the ‘house of warriors’ for Clan Romanov. The reason behind this requirement is Adrian’s attack on me.”
Amie interrupted me: “What? That is unbelievable! What about you? What do you get out of it?”
“Amie, I’m not done, yet!” I cut her brusquely.
“Sorry!” She murmured meekly.
“I am going to have a partial veto right against Malachy’s decisions. Together with three heads of the most powerful Clans, we can overrule and…”
I hesitated for a moment, breathing in deeply.
“After the official proclamation of Malachy’s and mine engagement, I’m going to have full access to resources from Clan Stuart as well as Malachy’s private resources.”
Now Amie took both my arms and looked at me with eyes so wide, they threatened to fall out of their sockets.
She shook her head, searching for words.
“Did you sign?”
I pressed my lips together and nodded.
She looked at me worriedly, then she pulled me into a tight embrace.
“What on earth is going on here? I have a feeling, that you have replaced one devil by another. How could you sign such a contract? We’re talking about: forever and ever, until death do us part…”
She looked at me in disbelief.
I wasn’t expecting her to react this way.
I freed myself from her embrace and went back a step, while answering sheepishly: ”I had a choice: Either with him, or against him.” I let my head fall down, which led my hear spill over my shoulder and sealed off my face like a thick curtain.
Amie carefully tucked my hair behind my ears and replied with a worried expression on her face: “You know, that you don’t owe the Romanov’s anything and Darius wouldn’t want you to sacrifice yourself for him.”
She pulled me back into her arms and put my head on her shoulder.
“Margarete Fleur de Lys, you really are the most insane, crazy, big-hearted and brave person, that I know!”
After that, she shook her head in disapproval and added: “And you are wrong, if you think, that I would let you be on your own in this!”
She glimpsed at her wrist watch.
“But now, I have to get back to my shift. We will talk later!”
She moved away from me and towards the bar, before stepping behind it.
“Do you want to have something stronger, now?”
I shook my head, again.
I didn’t see the necessity. On the contrary, I saw the contract closing with Malachy neither as a cause for celebration, nor as a reason to mourn. It was simply a contract, that represented the interest of both sides.
Amie’s shift ended at three in the morning.
By then we were both very tired. I helped her to clean up and polish glasses, after the last guests had left the bar.
Half past three, we closed up the bar and got on our way to the apartment. Amie was still stunned by the fact, that I had agreed to a political marriage with James.
“Maggie, just because you spent a wonderful night with him, doesn’t mean you have to bind yourself to him for the rest of your life. Marriage with the Aristocracy’s Regent does not provide for divorce…”
We arrived at the lobby of our apartment building and took the elevator to the second floor.
When we walked along the narrow hallway towards the direction of our apartment, we stopped our conversation. Something was wrong.
A few meters from our apartment, we noticed that the door stood open. We looked at each other in concern.
I took a step ahead and carefully opened the door a little further with my foot.
The picture we saw, left us stunned with naked horror. The entire apartment was vandalized.
Slowly, we moved into the entrance area and started to make our way into our living room.
The cushions of the couch were scattered everywhere, mixed with books, and magazines.
Strangely, our flat screen TV was still at it’s usual place and the game console was untouched, as well. The cabinets and cupboards in the kitchen and the bathroom had been opened and their contents had been scattered all over the floor in front of them.
However, the true scale of devastation only became apparent in our bedrooms.
No stone was left unturned here. All cabinets had been emptied of their contents and the drawers were scattered all over the room. The bedside cabinets had seemingly been lifted up and tipped out. On top of that, they were thrown through the air in a high arc.
In my room, even the pictures had been ripped off the wall and my mattress had been sliced up.
What made me frown at that moment was, that I could find my laptop under my desk. What was the burglar looking for?
My worthless trinkets could be found in disarray everywhere on the floor and my jewellery box was there as well. The only thing that seemed to be missing, where the heart-shaped diamonds neckless and the matching earrings, as well as the tiara and bracelet with the lily cross-shaped diamonds.
‘Shit! I should have already given them back to Niklas…’
When Amie stepped into my room, she gasped for air.
“I thought the degree of vandalism in my room was bad, but here pretty much everything seems to have been trashed. What were the thiefs looking for?”
Amie trembled all over and leaned herself on me for support.
“My diamond jewellery from the debutant-ball is missing. Niklas is going to kill me!”
Amie looked at me stunned. “Is this your only problem? What about, luckily we weren’t at home when they came. Who knows what would have happened if we were… We need to call the police!”
I agreed with her. I took my mobile phone from my jeans pocket and dialled ‘911’ to report the burglary.
The officers arrived about thirty minutes later. They listed up the damage and asked us, if we had seen or noticed anything suspicious.
They wanted to know what had been robbed. I told them about the diamonds.
The officers looked at each other knowingly, then concluded: “It appears to be a deliberate robbery. Obviously, somebody knew, that you had precious jewellery in your apartment. Do you have pictures of the diamonds and serial numbers, so we can trace them?”
I pondered for a moment, then replied: “Unfortunately not here, but my father most likely has these sort of documents. After all, the jewellery are family heirlooms.”
The officers nodded. “Fine. In that case we ask you to provide us with the documents tomorrow, whenever you have the time to bring them to our department, so we can initiate the necessary steps.”
Now, the policemen’s eyes turned serious.
“If I may give you some advice: I suggest, you spent the next couple of days in a different place. Experience has shown, that it often happens, that burglars who made a big haul, tend to visit the scene again. Do you have a safe place, where you can stay?”
Again, Amie shook her head in bewilderment and wanted to say something, but I cut in ahead of her.
“Yes. We’re going to drive to my fiancée’s manor. It is only thirty minutes by car from here and we are safe there.”
I took Amie’s hand and pulled her towards our coffee table, to offer her a chance to sit down. She looked dangerously pale.
The officers started to leave us, when I stopped them.
“Do we simply close the door behind us, when we leave?”
Somewhat astonished, the police officer gazed at me, then stopped and replied: “I think we can help you with that. We can wait for five minutes, until you have packed your necessities and leave the apartment together with you.”
Apparently he noticed my hands, which were shaking uncontrollably.
“Do you think, you are able to drive, or shall we bring you two to your finacée?”
Slowly, I shook my head. “This is a very gracious offering, but not necessary. I will be able to drive the distance, myself.”
I turned to Amie.
“Amie, come my dear! We don’t need to take anything. Everything we need, we’ll find at James’s. Let us simply take our handbags and leave this place as soon as possible!”
Amie nodded absent-mindedly.
I took her hand and pulled her behind me. I stopped in our small entry hall to get both our purses.
Both police officers closed the apartment door behind them, which had been damaged a little by the burglary, but was still closing properly.
Arriving at the street, we said our goodbyes to the policemen and got in the MINI.
Amie was still pale as a sheet.
“I’m going to drive to Malachy, now.” I spoke more to myself, than to her.
She nodded in silence and sank deeper into the car’s passenger seat.
I started the engine and drove towards castle ‘Green Willow’. Meanwhile, it was after five in the morning.
So we would reach castle ‘Green Willow’ shortly before six. I sincerely hoped, that enough maids and other personell was awake, to let us in.
I had no key – what an absurd thought in this situation…