After he had arrived in his official study, James took a seat at his desk, opened his laptop and let it boot up.
Even if it wasn’t easy for him today, to focus on other things than Maggie, he still had a few things to get done.
He tried to concentrate on the current report, created by his secretary Xaver, when Andre interrupted his thoughts by clearing his throat.
“Sire, according to your request, I bring you Mr. Marqouise.”
The butler stepped aside and let James see the man behind him.
Samuel Marqouise was a tall, imposing man. His dark hair was perfectly trimmed, according to the latest fashion and he wore a tailor-made suit in a dark maroon brown.
Confident and with a sly grin, he stepped out from behind the butler into the study. He walked slowly towards James, until he came to a stop, six feet from the desk.
Then, he bumped his heels lightly together to make a clicking sound with his shoes and bowed, while keeping his gaze constantly fixed on James and grinning charmingly.
“Regent” was the only word that came out of his lips in greeting.
James, who had watched the staged self-portrayal of Samuel without twisting an expression, could not suppress an amused, broad grin.
As he got up from his chair and slowly stepped around his desk, his grin turned into a real laugh.
“Samuel! How long has it been since we last saw each other?”
He walked up to Samuel and spread his arms.
Samuel did the same. The two men hugged each other warmly in greeting and patted each other loudly on their backs, Neanderthal style.
As James broke out of the hug, Samuel answered his previously asked question.
“It’s been too long. For some time now, you’ve only been surrounding yourself with beautiful women and you had hardly any time left for your old friend from college days...”
At these words he gave a slightly offended look.
“But I can understand. Daina Arone is the most beautiful woman, I have ever seen. It’s a shame that you claim her for yourself, even if you’ve recently had a feast for the eyes as a fiancé, as I’ve heard...”
James grinned and shrugged.
“Daina is my advisor - nothing more. You should ask her on a date.”
With these words, some images from yesterday’s interlude with her in his living room, went through his head.
“I’m surprised that word of these latest events has already got around to Landar, considering the fact that nothing is official, yet.”
Samuel replied, slightly ironic and with a raised eyebrow:
“Pardon me, James! Even without belonging to the house of influencers, I have enough pretty eyes and ears, scattered everywhere, to keep me up to date on interesting things.
Although I should perhaps mention, that you also have used these pretty spies several times and not just for intelligence purposes. ”
Now James smiled thoughtfully, meaningfully...
“Yes, it was like that. But first, we should make ourselves comfortable.”
He pointed with his hand at the small group of three comfortable armchairs, which stood around a small coffee table.
“What can I offer you, Sam? I’d start with something innocuous while we talk about business and then we should have a drink. You have already mentioned the female topic...”
Samuel started laughing out loud.
“James Malachy Stuart, you ladykiller...”
Moving in the direction of the wing chair, he opened his jacket before sitting down, crossing his legs and bringing his hands together in front of his body, in a praying position.
“As soon as I have told you about this project in Aragua, which will make both of us richer men, than we already are, you will tell me everything and won’t leave out a single detail.”
At these words, Samuel grinned so hard that the dimples in his cheeks seemed to spin like little spinning tops.
Then, Samuel explained to James exactly, what the deal in Aragua was all about and how he envisioned this investment and their general collaboration.
“My extremely capable and sexy secretary will send you the documents, so you can read everything in peace.
But now, let’s come to the really interesting topic of today: your fiancée.”
When Samuel brought this up, James nodded slowly.
He raised his hand to interrupt Samuel and to draw Andre’s attention at the same time.
“Andre, please bring us 2 glasses, a bottle of whiskey and a carafe, filled with water.”
Addressing Samuel directly, he added: “You don’t have to drive anymore today, do you? I assume that you will stay here overnight, as usual.”
Samuel laughed out loud.
“That bad, huh? I don’t have to drive today anymore, but I can’t stay either. My driver is waiting in the courtyard, to take me back to my helicopter.
I have an important meeting, tomorrow.
However, if Daina would have a place for me in her bed, for whatever reason, I could fly back to Landar at any time tomorrow morning...”
“I’m not in your way. On the contrary, you have my full support!”
These words made Samuel prick up his ears.
“Oh sure, just your advisor, my ass ...”
At that moment Andre came back with the drinks.
When he had served everything on the table, James asked him to leave the two of them alone.
No sooner had he turned the corner, when Samuel began to speak.
“What’s happening? I’m on business for a couple of weeks and as soon as I have gotten back, I find out, that you’re engaged. And not only that.
With a Fleur de Lys, who’s not supposed to exist on this planet, anymore? And my last piece of information was, that said fiancée exposed and humiliated you in public...
So if you ask me, you should fire all of your advisors. Obviously they all have no idea, how to do their job.”
When he was finished, he looked at James expectantly.
The latter stared in front of him, lost in his thoughts, and seemed to fixate on an imaginary spot in the room.
“James, don’t let me force every information out of you!”
James fixed his gaze on Samuel, then began to talk.
“In this case, you can’t blame my advisors. I assure you, I had a few battles over my decision.”
He tumbled the entire contents of the glass down his throat.
“Since you have already heard of the incident, that happened in front of Clan Romanov, we can start at that point. To cut a long story short: I gambled and lost.
That won’t happen to me, again. For this reason, Margarete will receive adequate training on court etiquette and the applicable court protocol, as soon as possible.
In addition, I asked Andre to gather teachers, to familiarize her with the skills, her blue blood serum enables her. She is completely clueless, ignorant and untrained – quite unimaginable for a Fleur de Lys.”
Samuel watched James closely, as he spoke. When he was done, Samuel asked the question that was perfectly logical to him.
“Are you sure she is a Fleur de Lys? And if so, why do you want to marry her? You could have just kill her and voila ... problem solved.”
Speaking these words, he theatrically circled his hands in the air until his palms were facing the ceiling.
James, who had already topped up his whiskey, was just about to drink from his glass, only a little slower this time.
Samuel’s words surprised him so much, that he choked on the whiskey and gasped for air.
When he was back under control, he replied angrily: “Have you gone mad? That is not something I could ever do!”
He could stop himself at the last moment, not to say that he wouldn’t have the heart to do so.
Now Samuel looked at him curiously and leaned his head to one side.
“You feel something for the little Fleur de Lys. That’s closer to the mark, isn’t it...? She obviously seems to see this differently, otherwise she would not have sided with her brother. By the way, I also heard some very disturbing rumors, regarding their relationship.”
James didn’t like the direction, the conversation was heading.
He replied brusquely: “Rumors, nothing more. Let that be my problem, Sam. I thought about entrusting her with the task of renovating our common rooms.
So she is more than busy enough for the next 3 weeks and won’t have time, to come up with stupid ideas shortly before our official engagement ball.”
Samuel’s jaw dropped.
“I can’t talk you out of marrying this Margarete, can I?”
James shook his head.
“Not a chance!”
James himself had no idea, where this obsession with the wedding came from.
Samuel leaned back in the chair resignedly and made a face.
“Well. Then at least let me make it easier for you. Do you know Gavin Hunter, the architect/interior designer, whatever?”
“Yes, by name.”
“Well. He is the right man for the renovation work in castle ‘Green Willow’. He knows what he is doing and has excellent taste.
And to make the decision easy for you: The only thing, that interests him in women is their clothes or the possibility of getting to their men through them.
We don’t want to enlarge the list of your competitors, don’t we...”
James snorted and unobtrusively pressed a small button, which was located below the coffee table top.
Shortly afterwards, Andre entered the study again.
“Sire, how may I be of assistance?”
“Andre, do you know an architect named Gavin Hunter?”
Andre pondered for a moment, but couldn’t answer because James continued speaking.
“Just contact him and tell him, to call me back immediately. It’s about an important renovation here at the castle. I want him for the job. I will not accept a ‘no’ for an answer. The costs do not matter!”
Andre’s eyes widened at these very unusual words for James.
“Sire, are you sure...”
James let his head snap in the direction of Andre, raised his eyebrows and replied skeptically: “I beg your pardon?”
Andre took a step backwards, at James’ reaction and replied meekly: “Got it, Sire, I’ll take care of it, immediately.”
Then he turned and left the room as quickly as if the devil himself was at his heels.
James was rarely in such a bad mood, but when he was, you’d better politely avoid him.
Samuel also noticed the bad vibes, coming off of James.
He toasted with his whiskey glass, again, drained it and said his goodbye.
His curiosity was piqued.
Who was this Margarete, who had so obviously managed to wrap the ruler around her little finger?