About the complicated timeline in Candy Candy Final Story, there are different theories out there, and I base my story on my own interpretation. You don’t have to accept my timeline, but I hope you will like this chapter, the longest one yet. The positive feedback and comments have motivated me to keep writing, so thank you very much for your eager support! 😀
Note that the flashback of the previous chapter has not ended, so this chapter continues from where it left off.
Candy could hardly believe her eyes when Albert was the only one waiting for her, carrying a large bouquet of flowers. When he spotted Candy and her chaperone, Mrs. Watts, he waved his free hand with genuine happiness in their direction. Then Candy heard Mrs. Watts gasp, “Wow! What a beautiful bouquet!”
Only then Candy knew for certain she wasn’t dreaming. When they got closer, the sweet scent of the flowers wafted into her nose, and Albert said to her with an irresistible smile on his face, “For you, Candy. I picked the flowers myself.”
It was a bouquet of amaryllis, orchids and stephanotis. She was more than puzzled. He had seemingly changed, but what exactly she couldn’t quite pinpoint it. Moreover, the moment she received the bouquet from him, he gave her a peck on her cheek, saying, “Thank you for agreeing to come.”
Before she could respond, he gave a small present to Mrs. Watts and thanked her for taking care of Candy. “My pleasure, Sir William. Miss Candice is a very nice girl.”
Mrs. Watts was a recent widow, losing her husband to the great war early last year. She was the daughter of Madam Elroy’s friend, and she had so much free time that she enjoyed being a chaperone occasionally.
So when she asked about Madam Elroy, Albert explained why his aunt had decided not to come to Miami, “She is not feeling well, and she didn’t want to travel this far.”
“Has Archie arrived yet?” asked Candy, now composed herself.
Albert shook his head, smiling nonetheless. “No, he said he had some last minute issues to attend to.”
“Really?” she replied, raising one of her eyebrows questioningly. She had a strong feeling that was Archie’s excuse. She knew he had not planned to attend this opening party since the beginning. The Leagans had been one of the strong opposition voices against his engagement to Annie after all. “And where is George, Granduncle William?”
He understood she had to address him as such in public, but he never liked it, so a frown appeared between his brows, but only briefly. Then he answered, “Oh, George is exceptionally tired. He said he would rest early tonight so he can go to the opening party with us tomorrow.”
Having said that, he carried their luggages and led them both to the waiting carriage. During the ride, he told them he had reserved a table for three for dining at a restaurant in the hotel, but Mrs. Watts politely turned him down, “I’m sorry, Sir William. I’m going to meet with my friends here in Miami.”
Albert was slightly taken aback. Mrs. Watts further explained that she thought her duty was over. She would accompany Miss Candice again for the return trip.
He nodded at her and then turned to smile at Candy. “So just you and me then. Will you give me the honor, Candy?”
How could she say no to him?
They rested for about half an hour in their hotel rooms before Albert came to pick up Candy for dinner. He had booked three rooms, one room for George, one room for himself, and one suite for Candy and her personal maid. Despite being invited to stay in the new resort owned by the Leagans, Albert had declined.
After ordering their dishes, Candy and Albert spent the entire dinner talking and talking for they had endless topics. Soon he brought up the reconstruction progress, and she was pleased to hear that the preparation and design phase was going well. They would not touch the chapel, and they planned to add a new room reserved for guests, so once again, she expressed her deep gratitude with respect, which troubled him. In a haste he said, “Candy, I want you to have peace of mind. You won’t stay at Pony’s Home forever because you will eventually get married, but you can always return to visit them.”
At the sight of her wide-opened mouth, he promptly cleared his throat and changed the subject, “When I was in New York, posters of Hamlet presented by Stratford Theatre were everywhere. It was already their fourth run. I heard they would perform in London this coming spring.”
She merely nodded in silence. Awkwardness suddenly filled the air, and he regretted broaching this topic. During the days when they had lived together, she had been able to tell Albert everything, but ever since she had discovered his true identity, he sensed that she had kept secrets from him, like she had intentionally put up a wall between them. For one thing, he was extremely busy once he had undertaken his responsibilities as the chief of a business empire. Yet, whenever he had a chance, he had attempted to reach her, but she wasn’t as open as she used to anymore. For example, she rarely, if ever, mentioned Terry or Susanna again. In other words, the discovery of their legal relationship had inevitably driven them apart, and no matter how hard Albert had tried to make amends, Candy had remained somewhat angry or defensive with him. At times she had deliberately pushed him away by calling him Graaaanduncle William or treating him like an old man even in private although she was fully aware that would upset him.
At this point, Candy broke the uncomfortable silence, “Miss Eleanor Baker sent me an invitation last summer to see Hamlet in autumn.”
It was the first time he heard about this. When he cocked his eyebrows in astonishment, she told him that Miss Baker had sent the letter to Candy’s old address, and the landlady of the House of Magnolia forwarded that letter to Pony’s Home. Then she added, lowering her eyes, “I thanked her in my reply but explained why I decided not to go.”
“So you didn’t go? Why not?” Albert couldn’t help asking. He was dying to know if Candy still had remnant feelings for Terry, now a renowned actor in Broadway, or if her feelings for him had rekindled somehow.
So Candy related her reasons to Albert, that if she had accepted the invitation she would be tempted to talk to Terry, but because of her promise to Susanna, it was better for Candy not to go at all.
Then Albert asked a valid question, “What if you had never made such a promise to Susanna? Would you have gone to Broadway?”
He knew what had happened in Rockstown, that Candy had seen Terry with her own eyes how miserable he had been, but Candy hadn’t even talked to him then. Had it been her promise to Susanna that had stopped her then?
Nonetheless, neither Candy nor Albert had mentioned Rockstown with each other even now.
Candy appeared thoughtful as she averted her eyes to the window, lost in contemplation. Just when Albert believed her long silence was a “yes”, she spoke up, firmly shaking her head, “No, I won’t go. I have no intention to disturb Terry’s life again. I’m honestly happy for his tremendous success in his career. Besides, Susanna needs him more than anyone else.”
Candy remembered very well the content of Susanna’s only letter to her. Susanna had mentioned “Terry is my life” and thanked Candy wholeheartedly.
On the other hand, Candy’s words in her diary resurfaced in Albert’s mind. Before leaving London, she had written in her diary, ‘I love Terry more than anyone else.’
Even though it had been years since their breakup, it didn’t necessarily mean Candy had completely got over Terry. Was she still clipping his news? The fact that she had avoided talking about Terry worried Albert, like why hadn’t she told him a word about the invitation from Miss Baker? Because of that, Albert never had a chance to ask Candy how she would react if Terry would appear in front of her one day for any reason.
Then Candy’s voice cut into his train of thoughts, “Enough about me, Albert. How about you?”
“What about me?” he asked, apparently clueless.
It took her a long moment before she could gather every ounce of her courage to ask this, “Are you seeing someone in particular?”
“Seeing someone?” he echoed dubitably, considering her question for several seconds. “Are you asking if I’m in courtship with anyone?”
She bit her bottom lip and nodded, bracing herself for the answer. To her surprise, he burst out laughing, and she grumbled, “Albert!”
Albert attempted to stifle his laugh, which erupted again with another few snorts. Candy blushed profusely, feeling the curious glances from people around them, but finally, Albert collected himself and covered his mouth to cough. Then, with all seriousness, he looked her in the eyes and uttered, “No. I don’t even have enough time to sleep, let alone having time or energy for any enjoyment in life.”
She was rendered speechless, and he added sincerely, “Though I must say this…”
He paused, casting her a soft glance. She stared at him with anticipation, waiting for him to resume. He said earnestly, “I try to squeeze some time in between my tight schedule to visit you whenever I can, Candy.”
Indeed he had dropped by Pony’s Home from time to time or keeping in touch with her. He didn’t know how much his words had stirred her soul, and right at this moment, he suggested, “Shall we go, Candy? You must be tired after the long trip.”
He was observant. She was exhausted from the grueling trip, which had taken days and nights since she had set off from Pony’s Home, but she had missed talking with him. Though she nodded in acknowledgment, she actually preferred to keep talking.
On their way up to her hotel suite, he related to her that his aunt had wanted him to bring a partner to the opening party, but he had managed to convince her that he would bring Candy instead. “Because I really don’t have anyone in mind even though I have attended many social gatherings for business purposes, so if I randomly select a lady, people will start speculating things. The last thing I want in my life right now is to give false hope to a lady I don’t even know. Hence, I’m so glad you have agreed to come, Candy. You have saved me from lots of unnecessary troubles.”
She returned a smile at him with mixed feelings. On one hand, he essentially affirmed that he didn’t have any close relationship with any lady at this moment, but on the other hand, she wasn’t really his ‘partner’. She was still his adoptive daughter to the public eyes.
By then, they had reached her door, and he leaned forward and kissed her lightly on her forehead. “Goodnight, Candy. You can sleep as much as you like, and I won’t disturb you until late afternoon. George has hired a personal maid for you, highly recommended by a local family here, and her name is Stacy. She will arrive tomorrow noon.”
Candy was relieved to be all by herself tonight, and her eyelids were already heavy, so she bid him goodnight as well and added, “Thank you so much for the wonderful dinner, Albert. I’m happy we could talk again.”
His face broke into a joyful grin. He thought, I miss the times when we lived together. I miss your hugs and complete trust.
But aloud he only said, “Same here.”
He wouldn’t blame her. He himself hadn’t given her enough attention in the past two years due to his frantic schedule, but things had improved a lot lately. He was getting more efficient at work, and he had learned to delegate tasks to capable subordinates.
Thus, Albert could foresee allocating more time for Candy. He was even contemplating a big decision in his life, just in time for her twenty-first birthday. In fact, he had wanted to do that last May when she had turned twenty, but back then, he hadn’t felt ready. First, he had respected her wish to help out at Pony’s Home, but the long distance between them had been an obstacle to their relationship, so they hadn’t been able to see each other as much as before. Besides, the subtle change in her attitude towards him had been bothering him, and he had to face the hard reality that he wasn’t the same Albert to her anymore.
Above all, she had appeared happy and content with her lifestyle, that she’d rather lead a simple and carefree life than being a real lady, so if he did confess his feelings to her, it might scare her away or turn her world upside down. Did she want to sacrifice her freedom to be his lifelong partner? Was she willing to endure the strict high society protocol and the rigid family rules and traditions for him?
Nonetheless, his hope had somewhat renewed when they had talked animatedly like equals up on a tree after their first dance during the engagement party of Archie and Annie. She had cared about him and enjoyed being with him, and he had felt the connection with her once again. The bond between them hadn’t weakened as he had thought, so he must have somehow misconstrued her previous behavior. Therefore, he had decided to venture out, regardless of the outcome.
Candy slept past noon the following day and didn’t open her eyes till Stacy woke her up. “Miss Candice, I’m sorry, but we have to start preparing for the party this evening.”
Though Candy had troubles adjusting her body clock, she obediently pulled herself up and gobbled down a meal brought to her in bed. “Is that it? I’m still hungry, Stacy.”
The maid was a little older than Candy, possibly in her mid-twenties. She shook her head in disapproval. “Sorry, Miss Candice. You can’t eat too much or else you won’t look great in your gown.”
Candy stuck out her tongue in a silly manner, and Stacy ignored that and said to her, “Your bath is ready, Miss Candice.”
Candy never liked being helped when bathing and undressing, but in this situation, she knew she had to let Stacy assist her. A thought slithered into her mind then, this will be the first as well as the last formal party in my life.
Yet, her conversations with Albert last night had baffled her. She believed he was telling the truth when he had said he had been too busy in his life to be seeing anyone, but he would try to visit her whenever he could. However, at the same time, Miss Pony’s voice rang in her ears, Candy my dear child… don’t forget, he’s the only heir to the Ardlay’s clan…
Candy knew from the bottom of her heart that Albert didn’t care about a person’s background as much as his relatives or peers. He had used his authority to stop the oppositions from his aunt and the other relatives and given a compassionate speech before approving the engagement between Archie and Annie.
However, Candy swiftly reminded herself that last night Albert had also said by bringing her along, he would have avoided all unnecessary troubles.
Before she knew it, Stacy told her it was time to get dressed. After drying her with a huge towel, the maid led her back into her bedroom. When her eyes alighted on the custom-made, dazzling evening gown laid out on the bed, her mouth dropped open. Something inside her stirred; she knew the cut and color of the dress had been chosen to flatter her features and petite size, and she was right. She found a note attached to the huge opened box:
‘Sir Ardlay has given me only one requirement. The gown and all its accessories has to bring out the color of Miss Candice’s emerald eyes and complement her curly blond hair. I sincerely hope my finished dress will do you justice, Miss Candice.’
Candy murmured the designer’s name at the end of the note, and Stacy commented, “He is one of the top notch designers in New York, Miss Candice.”
Candy swallowed hard. Albert had specifically hired a designer for her. Though her heart was pounding furiously in her ribcage, the designer’s name suddenly rang a bell. She recalled Annie and Eliza had mentioned this name before, but they usually just purchased whatever were available in the store.
As her fingers glided along the smooth satin material, the feel was good. The maid remarked, “The satin is definitely of high quality, Miss Candice. Also, I think the designer used the high-waisted sash to show off your svelte waistline, my lady.”
As Stacy slid the dress on the lady, she told Candy to take a deep breath before cinching it with the sash. Then, after strapping the matching high heels to her feet, Stacy led Candy to stand in front of a full length mirror and added, “Just as I expected, Miss Candice, the emerald colour of the gown perfectly enhances your eyes, rosy complexion and blond hair.”
The last time Candy had felt this dreamy was the first dinner with Great Aunt Elroy, Anthony and the rests in Lakewood right after the adoption. Back then, her elegant gown had attracted Eliza’s jealous attention.
“Where do you want me to put this necklace, Miss Candice?” Stacy’s question brought her back to reality. The maid was pointing at the badge around her neck, the only proof to Candy that Prince on the Hill had been real.
“Oh, please store it somewhere safe for me. It’s my treasure, Stacy.”
Stacy nodded and locked it in the drawer of the dresser. Then the maid slipped the necklace of a heart-shaped emerald pendant around the lady’s slender neck. She couldn’t help but exclaim, “How I envy you, Miss Candice! It shines just like your eyes!”
The young lady blushed even more; all the while she had difficulties getting Albert’s face off her mind. Why has he done all this to me?
The maid stepped away after fastening the earrings that matched the necklace. She said, “Miss Candice, it’s time to style your hair.”
The rest was a blur to Candy. She only remembered that she requested Stacy not to use too much makeup. When she asked why, Candy answered with a simper, “I’m a crybaby.”
Stacy managed to use just enough powder to cover most of her freckles and three shades of eyeshadow to embellish her already gorgeous eyes. When she completed her task at long last, she praised candidly, “My lady, I’m certain Sir Ardlay will be extremely proud to take you to the party.”
Not long after that, they heard a knock on the door. When Stacy swung open the door, Candy slowly pulled herself up from her seat, facing the handsome man before her. He stood in stunned silence, gaping at the young lady with undisguised admiration.
Candy had never seen Albert wear a black tuxedo before, and anyone could see that the colour of his vest and bowtie matched her gown. He looked incredibly dashing himself, his wavy blond hair nicely combed, and his height could easily make him the most outstanding man in the crowd.
The footsteps in the hallway awakened them both from their trance. George appeared and made a slight bow. “Good evening, Miss Candice.” He also nodded to the maid.
Albert quickly masked his emotions and approached the beautiful lady, extending his elbow toward her. She was a little hesitant initially, but she took a calming breath and slipped her gloved hand through his elbow, letting him lead her.
Stewart was responsible to give the guests a ride to the grand opening party. He was waiting for them at the hotel foyer, wearing the same chauffeur uniform the day he had come to Pony’s Home to pick up little Candy to be a playmate to Eliza and Neil.
Candy’s heart skipped a beat, remembering the hard time in her life. This also reminded her of her resolve to resist any temptation to continue her relationship with Albert. She had nearly forgotten about it after having a great time with him over dinner yesterday.
During the ride, Candy heard that Stewart no longer worked as the chauffeur for the Leagans. He had been promoted, now the manager of the front desk in the brand new resort. Although Candy was sitting beside Albert in the back, her spirits were dampened considerably. After tonight, for her own good, she would have to leave him no matter what happened.
When they had arrived, Albert got off from the rear seat before Candy, reaching out to offer his hand to help her alight. The moment his hand wrapped around hers, their gaze finally met for the first time today. She felt as though she was being struck by electricity, and her shock must have shown on her face because he gave her a questioning look. Yet, as soon as she stood straight, he planted a kiss on her hand, mocking himself, “How could I forget my manner?”
Only then she realized her mouth was hanging open. When she closed it, he tucked her hand through his extended elbow, leaning forward to whisper to her ear, “Candy, I must say I’ve never seen you more beautiful, but I prefer your natural look.”
She sadly thought, he has seen my worst moments in life, but he’s not scared of me… Even proposed to share my sorrows for the rest of my life…
However, she compared herself to Cinderella. With help from her fairy godmother, Cinderella was dressed up like a princess to attend the ball where she would meet the prince. Yet, when the clock struck twelve, everything would be back to normal for her after that.
Same thing should happen to Candy tonight. She must leave the world where she had never truly belonged. It had been merely a dream, so it was time to wake up.
Yet, deep inside, she was hoping to dance with Albert at least once. He had asked her to be his partner in the first place. However, almost right after they had entered the grand ballroom, Mr. Leagan introduced the McPherson family to them. The good-looking young man named Darren even invited her to dance.
She wanted to say no, but for courtesy’s sake, she couldn’t. After exchanging a glance with Albert, she understood she had to say yes.
Darren talked a lot about himself and later asked her questions about her adoption, but she simply smiled without answering. She had no interest in telling a stranger her relationship with Albert. She still had a hard time accepting that he was her adoptive father. Not only that, she began suspecting that this dance had been prearranged. Albert’s real intention of bringing her all the way to Miami was to let her meet other eligible young men.
Candy then found herself dancing with one man after the other, tall ones, short ones, skinny ones and strong ones, all except Albert. He appeared busy with other guests, sometimes dancing with ladies of different ages.
Then she recognized Darren, who came back and invited her to dance with him again. He began telling her about his late fiancée, who had been tragically hit by a car about two years ago. When he recalled the accident, he said, “In the beginning, I actually wished to go with her…”
He faltered and gazed off into the crowd, his brown eyes glistening with moisture. Then he sniffed and composed himself. “I’m sorry, Miss Candice. I shouldn’t have brought this up. Perhaps your green eyes…”
He looked downcast, his voice thickened. She felt genuinely sad for him, so in an attempt to cheer him up, she asked, “Did your late fiancée have curly blond hair too?”
The fact that she finally talked to him caught him off guard, but a moment later he shook his head and answered, “She had chestnut hair.”
Only then Candy noted that Darren had freckles near his nose just like her. He also explained why he had been avoiding social gatherings, “I don’t want to dance with young ladies when I don’t feel like doing it.”
She grasped the meaning behind his words, thinking, he isn’t bad at all, but still… I don’t want to get involved with anyone from the high society again…
Oblivious to Candy, Neil had been secretly observing her although he had been avoiding her as per his father’s advice. He must admit she had become even more attractive and ladylike since the last time he had seen her before moving to Florida.
Later, while they were both dancing with someone, their eyes met for a second. Neil immediately diverted his eyes to his dancing partner, a lady who was only half as pretty as Candy. Nobody would ever believe him that Miss Candice had been a tomboy.
Candy did notice Neil had tried to maintain a distance from her. Yet, at that very second, when her eyes met with his piercing ones, she observed a hint of solitude behind his penetrating gaze, something which she had never seen in Eliza’s.
Talking about her, Candy sensed that Eliza had been jealously pouting, sometimes shooting icy glares at Candy. Little did Eliza know that Candy was far from enjoying the party. The more she danced with strangers, the more she felt abandoned. Although she kept reminding herself that she was going to leave Albert for good anyway, her eyes, on their own volition, followed him around the ballroom. After his first dance with the mayor’s wife and then with Mrs. Leagan, he had begun socializing with business partners or relatives, taking small bites of hors d’oeuvres being served, exchanging small talks with the guests, and dancing with their wives or daughters.
A wave of despair washed over Candy then. Has he forgotten about me?
Before long, it was time to shoot family pictures. When Albert laughingly ordered Candy to stand beside him, she turned him down without second thought. Not only she was hurting inside, but she actually felt more comfortable standing next to Stewart and good old Mary. George was standing near them too.
After the unexpected speech of Mrs. Leagan, Candy was bombarded with waves of intense emotions, and standing alone by the wishing fountain in the vast courtyard, she was glad to be away from everyone at long last.
However, the resounding clacking sounds of high heels made Candy realize some people were coming towards the fountain. She instantly picked up her shoes and hid inside the tropical garden. She didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but she heard every single word. Eliza and her mother were not only talking loudly about her, but they jeered at her lowly background. Candy wasn’t the least surprised about that, but when Mrs. Leagan said her speech had been Granduncle William’s order prior to the party, Candy was moved to tears even though he had seemingly neglected her ever since they had arrived at the party. Albert still remembered the stories Candy had told him back in the House of Magnolia, and he had understood her feelings.
Candy waited until Eliza and her mother finally decided to return. However, she soon heard a male voice, asking about her. She believed that was Albert, but she didn’t want him to know that she had cried because of him.
Come to think of it, he had always cared about her, and without him, her life would have been drastically different. In spite of his social status, he never despised her like the Leagans did. He had adopted her on his own accord not long after their first encounter near the waterfall, giving her shelter, education and protection.
Perhaps that was why he had taken this opportunity to introduce her to others, dressing her up to show her best and clearing her name in front of everyone. Candy felt extremely grateful to him for putting her needs first, but that also explained why he had won her heart. Albert was the only man in the world who knew her inside out and yet accepted her as the person she was.
Despite her best effort, he discovered her whereabouts. She had yearned for his attention for the entire evening that at this very instant she had a strong urge to throw herself at him, begging him to stop treating her as a minor or his protégée.
But she exerted all her strength to stay where she was, uttering, “Albert, I… I think…”
She halted because she sounded more dejected than she meant to allow, so she promptly averted her eyes. She knew she would fail her mission if she looked at his face any longer. Whether intentional or not, she hadn’t rehearsed a farewell speech beforehand, and now she couldn’t think straight anymore. She had to organize her thoughts into a coherent speech first. Just then, she heard him, “Are you alright? I’m worried about you and have been looking for you-”
As usual, he was worried about her like she would never grow up or couldn’t take care of herself. She understood why he would never see her as a love interest. She also realized she had been dreaming of something unattainable. His words essentially woke her up from this prolonged dream, and she finally could smile genuinely for the first time since she had had her first dance this evening. Hence, she could look straight into his blue eyes, saying, “I thought you liked playing hide-and-seek with me.”
He was at a loss, unable to comprehend her mood swing. She actually alluded to the time when he had vanished for months but sent her a parcel from Rockstown. She still believed he had meant good, bringing her back to Terry then, but unbeknownst to Albert, Candy’s mindset had changed already. Even then, Albert had continued hiding. If there hadn’t been a forced engagement by Neil, how much longer would he have shunned her? Even to this day, she couldn’t ask him why he had to avoid her.
At this moment, a warm breeze caressed her face and hair as if to encourage her not to back out of her promise to Miss Pony and Sister Lane. She lifted up her face to say a quick prayer, but for some reason she felt cold, and her body shivered as a result. Naturally, she opened her eyes and wrapped her arms around her chest, and that was when Albert took off his tuxedo jacket. “Please, take this, Candy.”
When he was about to drape it over her shoulders, she unexpectedly took a big step backward from him, shaking her head violently. In response, he simply held the jacket over his shoulder in increasing bewilderment. “What’s bothering you? Did you come out to cry? Did Mrs. Leagan’s speech trouble you? Or did I offend you when I ordered you to stand beside me for the family picture?”
She shook her head to all his questions but managed to reply, “Please, I beseech you, Granduncle William, not to worry about me from now on.”
His thick eyebrows instantly knitted together in a puzzled frown. He glanced around before he asked, “Why so formal all of a sudden, Candy? Just you and me here.”
“Exactly, I’m tired of having to address you differently under different circumstances.”
Upon hearing this, shock painted all over his face, but she steeled herself and continued, “Granduncle William, I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness of inviting me to this party, and many thanks to you for asking Mrs. Leagan to clear my name. I will never ever forget your kindness to me-”
He collected himself by then and interrupted her, “What’s going on, Candy? What’s all this about?”
He couldn’t have sounded more perturbed, but she took a deep breath and said, “I’m old enough. I want to-”
“I got it,” he abruptly cut her off and turned on his heels, leaving her alone in the dark.
That completely threw her off balance. What did he mean? She hadn’t said her goodbye yet. Did he sense it anyway? Why did he leave without listening to her first?
No matter what her brain had been telling her all this time, her heart couldn’t accept this was indeed happening. Seeing him walk away with his head up, her thoughts raged as her heart shattered into thousands of little pieces. Had she acted like an ingrate? Had she been so rude that he couldn’t take it anymore? Was he fed up with her that he would walk out of her life as demanded?
Tears flooded her eyes in no time, and the next thing she knew, she cried out, “Albert, stop-!”
He ceased his steps right away, slowly turning himself around. She flung herself at him, causing him to drop his jacket on the ground. Then she wrapped her arms around his tapered waist as if she would not let him go, pressing her forehead against his chest. “I’m sorry, Albert. I never meant to hurt your feelings…” she paused, her voice choked with sobs.
“Shhh,” he mumbled softly, pulling her even closer to him and holding her tight in his arms. The fact that she melted into him without a hint of struggle filled him with a sense of relief. He recalled how strange she had behaved just minutes earlier, almost like someone possessed, so he had assumed she had drunk too much champagne. Rather than letting her continue to talk nonsense, he had decided to leave her alone for about ten minutes or so.
Therefore, this loving hug between them was more than a pleasant surprise to him. He didn’t realize how much he had missed hugging her until now. They hadn’t held each other like this ever since the night he had packed his belongings, leaving the House of Magnolia with a heavy heart. His big mistake back then had left a scar in their relationship, and he knew he hadn’t been able to remedy it.
Meanwhile, being captured in his embrace and enveloped by his body heat and male fragrance, she wished the time would freeze and the world would stop. The clutch of his strong arms around her, the grasp of his hands on her bare upper arms, and his warm breath on the crown of her head gave her the sense of security that nobody else could, and she had miraculously calmed down. Nothing seemed to matter to her anymore.
Other than the thudding sounds of their heartbeats and breathing, they could hear the orchestra music drifted from inside the ballroom that was far from them. They were so absorbed in this precious moment that neither of them was aware that someone was watching them from roughly fifty meters away. Darren had exited the staircase and stepped out to the courtyard. He had seen a lady throw her arms around a man, and when the man eagerly returned her embrace, Darren suddenly recognized them as his eyes had adjusted to the low light settings. They were Miss Candice and her adoptive father. Darren was first confounded and then aghast beyond description. Oh my God… are they in love with each other?
Note: Thank you all for your patience. I haven’t been feeling well lately, so I didn’t have much energy to write. If I have made any mistake or typo, please kindly let me know. Thank you!