Of course, I didn’t see Darius that day or the days that followed.
The days passed extremely calm and uneventful. I got up early in the morning, ran my usual route, got ready for the day and ate breakfast.
Afterwards, I walked through the castle for long periods of time and calmly looked at the rooms in order to get a first impression, of where the rooms for the Regent’s new family were to be built.
In the evening, I had my daily lesson with Andre. He always made sure for there to be enough snacks and coffee.
In the meantime, I was looking forward to this part of the day, as it meant a little normalcy in my otherwise unusual new life.
By now, it was Friday morning and Malachy still wasn’t back from his business trip.
Even though I was angry with him and felt queasy about the inevitable conversation with him, I missed him.
I was starting to get the feeling, that he was deliberately avoiding me.
Hopefully I wouldn’t see him for the next time at our engagement ball in less than two weeks. These thoughts kept buzzing through my head as I jogged through the castle’s gardens.
I also remembered, that I had an appointment with the architect, today and afterwards, had to go to Ignis.
A ploy had to be prevented.
Daddy Niklas just kept trying and didn’t know when to stop.
Instead of rejoicing that Clan Romanov enjoyed a tremendous increase in power, he couldn’t get enough. Even though, he was no longer the head of the clan.
I arrived at Malachy’s official study just before 4 p.m.
The architect didn’t seem to be there, yet. So I made myself comfortable in one of the cozy wing chairs.
Shortly afterwards, Andre appeared with a tray filled with pastries and various soft drinks.
“Lady Fleur de Lys. You are already here!” He replied happily.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Hunter will be 15 minutes late. He was stuck in traffic in Atonia.”
He put the tray on the small table in front of me and went into the narrow hallway, which was in front of the study, to get some large rolls of paper.
He spread them out on the desk.
When he saw my curious look, he explained: “These are the floor plans of Castle ‘Green Willow Grove’. Mr. Hunter will need them, when you start planning the renovation with him.”
“Ah!” I replied and nodded. “Andre, can you bring me a cup of Earl Gray, please?”
“Of course, Lady Fleur de Lys.”
The butler hurried out of the room to get me my tea.
I poured myself a glass of water, got up and took it with me behind the desk, on which the floor plans were spread out.
I looked at them curiously. In the beginning, it was difficult for me to orientate myself, but after a short period of getting used to, I found my way around the plans.
Lost in the documents, I didn’t notice that I was no longer alone in the room. Only a deep throat clearing made me sit up.
When I averted my gaze from the floor plan and let it wander in the direction of the noise, I saw a well-dressed, tall man with short, dark curls.
As soon as our eyes met, he bowed to me and introduced himself in a deep, sonorous voice.
“Lady Fleur de Lys, it is an honour to meet you. My name is Gavin Hunter and I am here, to support you as an architect with the renovation work on this castle.”
“The pleasure is mine, Mr. Hunter.”
He walked slowly to the desk and stopped in front of it, to look at the documents, that lay atop of it.
“As I can see, you have already familiarized yourself with the layout of the castle. That makes my start easier. We can pick up on this, right away.”
I answered a little embarrassed.
“Making myself familiar is saying too much. To be honest, I still don’t have an overview of where to find what on the map. Perhaps you can help me, by pointing out our current position.”
“With pleasure, Lady Fleur de Lys.”
With these words he walked around the desk and stood next to me to take a closer look at the maps, showing the floor plans. After a short while, he pointed with his finger and said: “We are right here.”
I started smiling proudly.
“Wonderful. Then I wasn’t so wrong with my assumption.”
I turned in his direction and announced confidently: “I have used the last few days, to wander the castle’s rooms and looking for the right place, to where the new living spaces should be built. I already have an initial idea, but I don’t get the rooms combined with these floor plans ... What do you think of me, leading you to the corresponding position?”
I looked hopefully into his almost black eyes. “Would you follow me please?”
My words earned me a very sympathetic smile from him.
“I am always thrilled when the clients have prepared themselves and are enthusiastic about the construction. That makes it easier for me to find out, what exactly they want. Of course, I will accompany you. Go ahead, Lady Fleur de Lys.”
He walked back a little to the center of the room and let me go first.
When we were about to leave the study, Andre came towards us with my tea.
“Lady Fleur de Lys, I apologize for the delay. I was held up briefly. Sir Stuart has just arrived.”
He looked at the architect and greeted him with a nod and the words “Mr. Hunter”.
The architect nodded back.
Curious because we came his way, Andre asked: “May I ask where you are heading?”
“Of course, Andre! We are on our way to the castle’s wing, where my rooms are located. I would like to have the new premises built there and show it to Mr. Hunter on site.”
Andre nodded in agreement. “That’s an excellent idea.”
He clenched his right hand into a fist and raised it slightly in the air. “I wish you a lot of creative power. You will do an excellent job!”
With every word, he pushed his chest out a little more and looked proud as a rooster.
“Thank you!” I replied and smiled at him.
I felt a little like my father had patted me on the shoulder and encouraged me, to confidently go my way.
Gavin looked at the situation without comment and continued to follow after me.
When we got to the long hallway at the end of which my accommodations were, I stopped and turned to Gavin.
“We are here. I would like to have the new rooms built in this wing. We are intentionally on the first floor because it is harder to see in from the outside. In addition, we are far enough away from the castle’s public area, to be able to enjoy privacy.
If possible, I would like to take the floor above, as well, connecting them with stairs. I thought we could build a complete apartment with a kitchen and all the trimmings.
Since we are next to the external wall, we can attach a private elevator to it and I would very much like to have a terrace built at the end of this wing.”
I kept walking to my rooms and asked him to follow me. Then, I went to the window in my living room, from which we could see the large weeping willow.
“At precisely this side, I would want to have the terrace built - without access to the garden.”
The architect put a pad on the small table in front of the window to take notes and make the first sketches.
When he had finished, he looked at me with satisfaction.
“I see you have given a lot of thought about this. All your wishes can be implemented without any problems. We just have to talk about how big you imagine the apartment to be. Are a master bedroom with en-suite bathroom and three children’s rooms with an adjoining bathroom sufficient, or do you need more rooms. Perhaps you would also like to accommodate a separate guest area, a study, a billiard room...”
While the architect chatted on, my thoughts stopped at his suggestion of a separate guest room and then wandered straight to Daina.
There was another reason why I wanted the rooms of the Regent’s new family in this wing. They were as far as possible from Malachy’s bachelor rooms...
If he absolutely had to cultivate his love affair with Daina, then please as far away as possible from me and our children. She had no business in these rooms. I would make that clear to Malachy.
This way I was spared public humiliation, at least halfway.
This thought alone, made me fight against the rising tears. It wasn’t going to be easy.
Gavin’s voice tore me from my thoughts.
“Lady Fleur de Lys, is everything okay with you?”
Slowly and as if in a trance, I turned my head to him. “Yes, everything is fine.”
I put on a smile.
Since I couldn’t answer his questions, I put him off for the time being.
“Forgive me for my absence. I was lost in thought. Unfortunately, at the moment I cannot give you any precise information about the number of rooms.
I should speak to Sir Stuart about this. I believe him to have his own ideas about our common accommodation.”
“Of course!” He replied in a flash.
I looked at my watch and it showed me, that it was after six o’clock already. I still had a long two-hour drive to Ignis and under no circumstances, could I postpone this appointment.
“Wonderful. Then we should go back to the study. I don’t mean to be rude, Mr. Hunter, but I have an important appointment today, that I have to attend. Have we been able to clarify the most important key points for today?”
The architect nodded.
“Wonderful. I will then contact you in a week at the latest. That gives me enough time, to discuss the desired premises with my fiancé and give you precise feedback. ”
“That’s perfectly fine by me.”
Slowly, we walked back to James’ study.
On the way there, the architect repeatedly admired the magnificent rooms, but remained silent.
When James got to his official study to speak to Maggie, he found the room empty.
Several large papers with plans of the castle were spread out on his desk and on the right side was a cup with cold tea. Obviously no one had been here for quite some time.
As he was about to leave the room, he paused because he heard footsteps and scraps of words that grew louder every second.
A moment later, he recognized Maggie’s voice.
“Thank you again, Mr. Hunter, for taking the time, so I could show you the premises and my ideas on site. I will need a little more practice, until I can properly work with the floor plans.”
“It is my honour, Lady Fleur de Lys.”
The sound of her voice, warmed James’ heart and made him feel anxious in equal parts.
He had used the important business trip with Samuel to Landar as an excuse to avoid her for a few days.
The last meeting with Maggie at the breakfast table was marked by a freezingly cold atmosphere and mutual accusations.
Despite his staunch resolve to keep a cool head, he had become emotional. This behaviour was unusual for him and confused him.
After a few days of being away, he admitted to himself, that he had obviously developed feelings for her.
He could have had them all, but the only one he was drawn to, seemed to have eyes for her stepbrother, only.
Maybe this was payback for all the broken hearts, he’d left behind over the centuries.