Thank you for following this story! It’s my imagination based on the events written in the second volume of Candy Candy Final Story (CCFS). More than one of you have pointed out that Sarah possibly made her speech in front of family members and/or relatives. However, it wasn’t clear how many people the Leagans had invited to the opening party of their luxurious resort.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading this longer chapter; it has taken me a while to write this time. If you like it, please leave a few words to let me know what you think. Appreciate your support!
“Miss Candice?” asked Mary, pushing open the door to the ladies.
“Yes, Mary, I’m here!” responded Candy aloud, being the only soul in the huge shower and changing room at this moment. Before this, upon seeing the reflection of herself in the mirror, she had been taken aback, wondering why Albert hadn’t told her the truth. There was no way she would walk back into the ballroom looking like this. Plenty of her hair strands had come loose from her chignon, curling riotously against her neck. Little did she know that her tousled hair actually gave her the out-of-bed look, reminding Albert of their precious moments back in the tiny apartment.
When Mary came in, Candy had already wiped her makeup clean. She was yanking the last pin from her chignon, letting her hair cascade down her shoulders. Despite being clueless why the girl had to change her hairstyle, Mary happily greeted her, “Miss Candice-”
The young lady interrupted her at once, “Please, Mary, just call me Candy.”
Mary hesitated. The poor orphan who had come to the household of Leagans as a playmate many years ago had blossomed into a princess-like woman. Though she wasn’t a classic beauty, many people found her charming smile unforgettable, and because of her sparkling eyes, she would often get second glances from passersby. Now, with her long tresses down, she looked even more breathtaking than before. “So, Miss Candice-”
“Mary!” the girl protested, slightly pouting. Mary sighed and conceded. “Ok, Candy. What can I do for you?”
Candy then showed Mary what she got inside her purse, the hairpins with tiny emerald gemstones, a hairbrush, a lipstick and a couple of eyeshadows, but she wanted Mary to fix her hair first. While brushing her hair, they began reminiscing their good old days, and Mary later told her about Mr. Whitman, the Ardlay’s gardener in Lakewood whom Anthony had befriended. “Oh, Mr. Whitman moved to California? Do you have his new mailing address?”
Mary said she would write to Candy to give her the address. Mary realized that the young lady hadn’t changed much in terms of her personality. Even as the adopted daughter of Sir Ardlay, she’d rather help out at the orphanage, taking care of the unfortunate kids who had lost their parents. In short, Candy was still the same adorable girl.
While talking and laughing, Mary determined to make Candy as beautiful as her hands could possibly do, so instead of pulling all her hair back, she gathered only the sides of her blond hair and braided her locks into a bun, adorning her braids with the emerald hairpins. After twisting the bun in place, Mary let the remaining ringlets fall over Candy’s shoulders, making her look more like a fairy than a princess. Admiring the nubile girl in the mirror, Mary understood why Master Neil had helplessly fallen for the orphan whom he used to scorn and bully.
As Mary proceeded to apply makeup on the girl’s face, she observed, “Candy, your rosy cheeks don’t really need any makeup, but I’ll highlight your eyes and lips.” Then Mary related to Candy about what she had done to Neil prior to the engagement party, and Candy burst into laughter. “Laxative? In his tea?”
“Yes, I did,” Mary admitted with a wink, but a sigh escaped her lips after that. “Too bad it didn’t work.”
Smiling, Candy thanked Mary wholeheartedly. Mary knew Candy had truly disliked Neil. Candy then remembered how Albert had saved the day. If not for his timely intervention, she wasn’t sure what could have happened to her then. Would Great Aunt Elroy have locked her up due to her insolent behavior?
Talking about Albert, Candy let her mind wander back to her most intimate moment with him. She was dying to know what had gone through his head just before leaving the garden together. When he had gently threaded his fingers through her hair, he had fixated his gaze on her, his breathing getting heavier every second. Hypnotized by the sensation of his warm breath brushing against her cheek and the intense glint in his blue eyes, she had felt butterflies in her stomach, and anticipation had also crept into her. However, the romantic mood had been shattered when a frown had suddenly swept across his face, causing him to abruptly pull himself away from her. Hence, confusion and disappointment had suffused her after that.
Nevertheless, his gesture had evidently been more than friendly, which had strengthened her hope that he had developed special feelings for her. With hindsight, she wondered if he had remembered his guardian role at that very instant and thus smitten by his conscience. If that was the case, she began to grasp the extent of his inner struggles, and empathy rose inside her as she knew first-hand the pain of suffering from forbidden love. In fact, when had he become aware of his feelings for her? Before or after his recovery?
This reminded her of the burning questions in her head that she never had the chance, perhaps courage, to ask him. What had motivated him to hide his recovery from her? For how long? Could it be that he had wanted to continue living with her in the House of Magnolia? But what had been the primary reasons? Reluctant to return to his old life? But he had resumed working already, hadn’t he? Their neighbors had seen him dressed in black with other men in dark suits, like mafia members, right?
Since Candy had unexpectedly turned quiet, even looking a tad pensive and troubled, Mary asked, “Candy, you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she answered, a slow smile spreading across her lips. Then she noticed that Mary was putting her cosmetics back into her purse. “Thank you, Mary!”
“My honor and pleasure, Miss Candice!” Mary uttered with a wink. Just then, the door was swung open, and Mrs. Leagan’s voice came before her person, “Mary, are you here?”
Mary hastily bid Candy goodbye and scurried to the door. She apologized, “I’m sorry, Madam Sarah. Sir Ardlay said Miss Candice needed my help.”
Then Mrs. Leagan murmured something to Mary, who answered, “I’ll be right there, Madam.”
Mary was badly needed because the banquet was starting, and the steward had informed Mrs. Leagan that Mary had left her post, going this way, soon after talking to Sir Ardlay. By the time Candy came out from inside the ladies, Mary was gone. Mrs. Leagan was waiting for her however. Candy sincerely asked Mrs. Leagan not to give Mary a hard time, and when Mrs. Leagan concurred, Candy went on to thank her for denying the rumors for her, to which Mrs. Leagan put up a very polite smile. “Only because it was Granduncle William’s order, Candice.”
The young lady nodded in acknowledgement. Then Sarah told her that the dining tables had been set up for all the guests. As Sarah directed Candice to her assigned seat in the banquet hall, she secretly appraised the girl’s appearance. Mary’s experienced hands had amazingly made Candice look rejuvenated. Not only that, her youthful skin was practically glowing. What has Mary done to achieve such effect? Unbeknownst to Sarah, it was the aftereffect of a loving embrace with a certain man that made Candy’s face shine.
When Candy came to the table, she realized she would be sitting together with the Leagans and Albert. With hesitance, she raised her questioning eyes to Mrs. Leagan. Sarah cordially reassured her, “You’re going to sit beside me, Candice. It’s Raymond’s idea.”
Then Mr. Leagan joined them and confirmed, “Yes, Candice. Sarah was right.”
Candy weighed her options; it would be rude to turn them down now. Maybe Mr. Leagan wanted to make amends to her for their mistreatment in the past. Noting that the Leagans’ employees whom she was familiar with were all tied up and neither Albert nor George was around at this moment, Candy braced herself and thanked them both for the honor.
Sarah then took the seat beside her, asking, “Candice, Granduncle William was looking for you. I believe he found you at last?” Sarah recalled Mary’s words. In fact, ever since Sarah had been informed that Sir William had personally talked to Mary, Sarah had been on pins and needles, wondering if Candy had overheard anything.
“Yes indeed, Mrs. Leagan,” Candy affirmed, smiling at her. “I was in the garden when a gust of wind blew some dust into my eyes. Granduncle William kindly guided me back inside, asking Mary to help me.”
Upon hearing Candy’s account of what had taken place, Sarah was horrified, and for a split second, a look of guilt and angst crossed her eyes. Thus, in order to appear nonchalant, Sarah diverted her eyes to her lap to brush some invisible dust off her impeccable gown.
Does it mean Candice has overheard us? If so, did Candy tell Sir William any of it?
On the other hand, Candy was fully aware that Eliza and her mother had always looked down upon her with contempt, so what they had said about her out there hadn’t really deterred her from living her life the way they despised. As Miss Pony had taught her all these years, “No matter how awfully people treat you, never stoop to the level of exchanging insults”.
Hence, Candy spoke up, “Mrs. Leagan, no worries. I’m not planning to tell Granduncle William.”
Sarah’s head snapped up, catching Candy’s forgiving smile. Sarah had no trouble comprehending what Candy had implied, so Candy had essentially answered her unspoken question. The girl had indeed heard everything.
Feeling relieved at the girl’s promise, a flush of shame coursed through Sarah nonetheless. Sarah had always regarded herself as a respectable woman raised in a decent family, and yet, at this moment, Sarah must admit that the orphan, albeit born of an unknown origin, was in essence a better person with noble character.
At present, Eliza and Neil arrived one after the other. While Neil continued to avoid eye contact with Candy, Eliza fumed with sullen anger, thinking, what is the witch up to now? Why did she let her curly hair down?
Apparently, the orphan had loosened the tight bun in the back of her head to show off her silky blond curls that went way past her shoulders. Having not seen each other for many months, Eliza didn’t know that Candy had grown her hair this long already.
Just when Albert was thinking about George, the man came up from behind, “Sir William, dinner is serving now.”
“Thank you, George.”
As they headed towards the banquet hall that was connected to the ballroom, Albert asked George if he could change his schedule for the next few days. Before the young man could explain why, George raised one of his dark eyebrows, his lips curving into a knowing half-smile. “Sir William, may I ask if you’re planning to take Miss Candice home yourself?”
The young man wasn’t the least surprised. Nodding, his blue eyes sparkled, and he flashed a radiant smile at his loyal assistant. Who knows me better than George?
George contemplated his request. “Please allow me to go over the upcoming obligations first.”
“Of course, George. I appreciate that.”
George then led his young boss to the round table where the host family sat together. From a distance, Albert could see that there was only one empty chair left, and on its right was a beautiful blond-haired lady. He found himself at a loss of who she was and didn’t recognize her until he got closer to the table. He was glad to know she didn’t mind sitting beside him this time. He was unaware that it was actually his aunt’s order. In an attempt to attract more suitors, placing Candice next to her nephew would give the guests an impression that she was a very important member in the family. Therefore, the seating arrangement ensured that he, Candy, Mr. and Mrs. Leagan were facing the guests.
As the uniformed server pulled the seat out for the family head, the young man lowered himself down and leaned towards the lady a bit, whispering, “Incredible. What did Mary do to Candy?”
The lights in her green orbs glittered in response, and her face brightened up even more to his remark. The smile she gave him would have melted most men, and Albert wasn’t immunized either. He was mesmerized until the server’s voice brought him back to reality, “Sir, would you like Filet Mignon or Seafood Sampler?”
He picked Filet Mignon, and then the server inquired, “Red wine, Sir?”
When the server poured red wine into his glass, Albert greeted the Leagans one by one. Except for Candy and Eliza, everyone in this table had chosen beef for their main course. Throughout the dinner, Mr. Leagan was the one who talked the most, mainly to the family head about his current business prospects. He was also training Neil, who had proven himself worthy to be his son, etc.
At the tail end of the main course, as champagne had been distributed to the guests, Sir William approached the microphone and made a toast. When all eyes were on him, he appeared rather dauntless, if not completely at ease. Holding his glass at waist height, he had his speech memorized without the need of any note. His confidence and sense of humor drew people to him, and he was capable to make them laugh. Candy listened attentively with genuine admiration. She had never seen this side of Albert, and as a leader in a huge business empire, he must be accustomed to speaking to a large audience. After delivering an eloquent and engaging speech, the charismatic family patriarch lifted up his glass to his eye level in the direction of the Leagan family. “Let’s raise our glasses to Mr. Raymond Leagan and his wife, Mrs. Sarah Leagan!”
After taking a sip of his champagne, Mr. Leagan held his arms high in a victorious pose. Then he responded by giving heartfelt thanks to everyone for coming and sharing their great joy, in particular to those who had to travel long distances, which earned him another round of applause.
The McPhersons sat only two tables away. Despite himself, Darren could hardly take his eyes off the round and lustrous ones of the young lady whom people had been stealthily gossiping about. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one who had known about the lady’s unusual relationship with her legal guardian. Before dinner, Darren had happened to eavesdrop someone saying to another that Miss Candice was such a lovely woman, and Sir William was a tall, virile man with handsome features. How could they resist each other? Then a third person had chimed in, saying that the two had lived together for years. They had sounded as though the two had cohabited, which was highly improper and unacceptable. Darren had frowned with puzzlement then, scratching his head, isn’t the girl supposed to live with the family who adopted her?
Meanwhile, Miss Candice, her delicate features framed by her luscious blond hair that fanned across her shoulders, appeared even more feminine and approachable to Darren, but there was something else different about her. He wasn’t exactly sure, and yet he could tell she was in a merry mood for the time being, like a dark cloud had been lifted off her heart.
After desserts had been served, Mr. and Mrs. Leagan went to the stage together to draw the door prize. When the man with the winning ticket left his table to receive the generous gift of staying in the deluxe suite of this brand-new resort for a week at no charge, Mr. Leagan congratulated the winner and also announced that dancing would be resumed shortly for those who were interested to stretch their legs.
Darren didn’t waste a minute and made his way over to the hosts’ table. He wanted to invite Miss Candice to dance again so that he could talk to her, letting her know that he was sincere in courting her in spite of her past, and that being in love with her adoptive father would only make her suffer, because it would likely get her nowhere.
However, the way Darren kept his gaze fixed on Candy didn’t escape Eliza’s eyes, and that set Eliza off. She lost her temper and hauled herself up from her chair so suddenly that she unknowingly pulled a part of the tablecloth with her. The wine glasses had no sooner clanged against one another than the wine spilled across the white linen as well as Candy’s bosom, which elicited an audible gasp from Candy and the people around her. She swiftly examined herself and realized the red wine had stained the rising curves of her chest plus the upper area of her bodice. She blushed profusely, feeling exposed, and just as her hands instinctively flew to her damp bodice, Albert gave her his napkin to conceal herself. Simultaneously, he shot a blaming glare to Eliza, who was blinking in disbelief and covering her mouth with her hand in shock. Neil quickly defended his sister, “Granduncle William, Eliza didn’t mean it!”
Sarah had arrived at the scene by then, questioning in a tremulous voice, “Neil, what’s happened?” She asked even though she guessed it already by simply looking at the mess.
When Neil related to his mother that Eliza had accidentally knocked over the glasses on the table, several uniformed servers were busy cleaning up. Raymond had also returned and heard the unpleasant consequence of his daughter’s action.
Amidst the commotion, when everyone’s attention was focused on Eliza, Darren had taken off his dark grey suit jacket, heading directly towards Candy, but Albert stood up and stopped him just in time, “Wait! What are you doing?”
Then Darren explained, “I just want to help. I’m afraid Miss Candice is cold and uncomfortable.”
The earnest plea in Darren’s eyes rendered Albert speechless. He recognized the young man’s face but forgot his name. In fact, different people reacted to Darren’s behavior differently. Candy was caught off guard, and her face burned even hotter. Neil sympathized with Darren, knowing full well his sister’s hope of getting Darren was now dashed. Eliza, who hadn’t yet given any verbal response, was boiling with resentment. Tears of jealousy and mortification were forming in her brown eyes when she reckoned that Darren had undoubtedly become another victim of Candy’s spells. Sarah read Darren like a book, so she was worried about her daughter’s feelings.
Albert was the one who broke the uncomfortable silence that filled the air. With a rueful smile on his face, he said to Darren, “You’re right. Why didn’t I think of that?”
The wealthy man then removed his tuxedo jacket and wrapped it around Candy’s front, offering his hand to help her rise. Without delay, he murmured something to Mr. Leagan, who answered him aloud, intending for the onlookers to hear too, “Of course, Sir William. Please go ahead as you see fit.”
Then the host turned to the young lady next to the patriarch, “Candice, on behalf of Eliza, I beg your pardon.”
Finally, Candy got an apology from them, and as she nodded to Mr. Leagan, Sarah gave Eliza a nudge. The sulking girl exerted all her effort to suppress her bitterness and grunted, “It was an accident, Candy.”
Candice mustered up a strained smile. “I understand.” Her current condition was embarrassing enough, and if possible, Candy really wanted to leave with Albert. She gathered he had intended to do that, so she was running out of patience.
But Raymond was upset that Eliza was obviously far from feeling remorseful, and these people who were gathering around them would sooner or later figure out that his daughter hadn’t really apologized even though it had been an accident. On this joyous occasion, Raymond wouldn’t want any of his guests to remember Eliza as a spoiled brat.
Just when Eliza thought she could get away with this, her father demanded in a stern voice, “Eliza, you know that wasn’t enough.”
Her doting father was unexpectedly relentless this time, which threw Eliza off. She felt like he had just slapped her in the face, insulting her before all these prying eyes. How could Father push me to say sorry to the lowly orphan in front of the guests?
Tears stung her eyes then, and her lips trembled. She stubbornly bit her bottom lip, fighting back her tears. Thinking she had had enough of humiliation this evening, she stomped out of the crowd, leaving everyone aghast at her impudent behavior. However, Neil managed to stop his sister from going further, muttering something under his breath to her. Sarah and Raymond exchanged a fleeting look before Sarah placed her arm around Eliza, taking her away to calm her down.
As though many criticizing eyes were stabbing her back, Sarah could easily envision how the bystanders were comparing the two young ladies at the moment. Sarah felt grim and defeated, her heart swelling with wounded pride. Eliza might be superior to the orphan in birth or upbringing, but even Sarah herself couldn’t deny Candice had outshone Eliza in her manner and temperament just now.
When the guests were bewildered at this sudden turn of events, Sir William put his hand under Candy’s elbow and declared, “Please excuse us for leaving early. As you can see, Candice needs some rest.”
Getting no particular response from the guests around them except a few inaudible murmurs, Mr. Leagan spoke up, “Sir William, once again, thank you for traveling this far to come celebrate with us. Same to you too, Candice, and please take care and see you in the near future.”
As they both thanked Mr. Leagan for the hospitality, Darren surprisingly seized this chance to make a bold request, “Sir William, please grant me the privilege to give you a helping hand.”
With mixed feelings, Candy cast Darren an appreciative smile. She actually felt bad for this good-looking, sincere young man, but her heart had no room for anyone else, especially not after what had occurred earlier this evening between the most important man in her life and herself. Nobody understood her like Albert did, and at this point, she just couldn’t see herself in a close relationship with another man. Perhaps that was why she had been putting off working in a different town or hospital to meet other young men.
Meanwhile, Albert wanted to say no. Yet, Candy’s awkward state had impaired his normally sharp and analytical mind in handling difficult situations. Frowning in his effort to come up with a valid reason to turn down the young man tactfully, George came to his rescue, “Mr. Darren McPherson, your father wants to talk to you.”
Darren instantly looked over his shoulder. His father stood a dozen of steps away, staring at him with his brows tightly knitted in disapproval. Then the young man felt a heavy hand land on his shoulder from behind, and Sir William’s authoritative voice followed, “Mr. McPherson, I appreciate your offer. Candice and I actually stay in another hotel, so you need not worry. I’ll see to it that Candice will be well taken care of. Thank you for your kindness.”
To Darren, Sir William had essentially signified that Darren was being far too concerned with Miss Candice. As Darren spun his head around, Darren felt like the millionaire was towering over him. Although Sir William’s voice and demeanor were gentle, he was a man with an imposing figure nonetheless. Moreover, the taller man had his arm placed around Miss Candice’s shoulder protectively as if he openly declared she was none of Darren’s business.
When Darren gawked at Sir William’s handsome face, Darren further perceived that Sir William’s move was a preemptive measure to deny Darren any chance of getting close to Miss Candice again. At this moment, the millionaire added, his firm countenance now replaced by a cheerful one, “Please continue to enjoy your evening, Mr. McPherson.”
George interrupted his young boss on his way out and said something to his ear. The young boss nodded and thanked his assistant. Later, Candy asked Albert what George had said, Albert replied, “George said Mr. Leagan had introduced some business partners to him at the party, and George wanted to stay and get familiarized with them.”
Soon after Sir William and his adoptive daughter were gone, Darren’s family decided to call it a night as well. Mr. McPherson hadn’t said a harsh word to his dejected son, knowing that the young man was unwilling to back off from pursuing Miss Candice, but Mr. McPherson didn’t know that his son was quietly forming a plan in his head.
Both Albert and Candy were quieter than usual during the ride in the carriage back to the hotel. They were immersed in thought after the eventful evening. Candy sadly reminded herself that she wouldn’t see Albert again, not until he paid his next visit at Pony’s Home in the near future. He and George had some business the next day, and she was supposed to leave Miami in the afternoon, taking a train to New York with Mrs. Watts, her travel companion.
For the time being, Albert questioned his own motives and regretted for acting too dominating, if not self-seeking, back in the banquet hall; he had flatly refused Darren without even asking Candy for her opinion. What was wrong with me? What made me assume she wouldn’t want Darren to come along? Was I subconsciously afraid that she would accept his helping hand?
Regardless, Darren’s actions gave Albert a wakeup call. Candy was undeniably attractive and at a marriageable age, and the more Albert reflected upon this matter, the more he felt it wasn’t justifiable for him, a long-term friend of Candy, to hinder her suitor’s advances. It struck Albert hard that he, even as her so-called adoptive father, had no right to make one-sided decision for her about whom to choose as her love interest. On the other hand, the vision of walking down the aisle as her guardian to give her hand to a young man for marriage tore his heart. Honestly, Albert couldn’t just sit by Candy’s side in silence and watch her fall in love with another man.
But since he played an intricate role in her life, he had to be cautious and take things slow. Not wanting to lose her as a close friend, he should seriously ponder how to act on the awareness that had sprung up from inside him, and he had to find out if what he suspected were right, that her affection for him was no longer fraternal.
For sure he wouldn’t allow himself to dawdle his time away, sitting on the fence. No matter what, he would let her know his true feelings and offer her his love. If she rejected him, so be it. She was worth the risk, or else he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself for the rest of his life.
Yet, when and where could they talk in private? How should he proceed from this point? What about the confession he was considering to make on her birthday?
Grappling with conflicting emotions, Albert didn’t realize the carriage was pulling to a stop. After paying the driver, he hopped out and helped Candy alight. While entering through the main entrance, some people, who were milling about the grand foyer, had stopped their movements to glance at the charming lady. The way she wore the oversized tuxedo jacket on top of her evening gown made her look odd to say the least.
As Albert and Candy began a slow saunter towards her room, he tilted his head and peeked at his partner, an amused smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. She caught that and chuckled. “What?”
“You look funny wearing my jacket, do you know?” he asked, his smile turning mischievous.
She sent him a mock glare and grumbled, “You don’t have to walk beside me, Albert.”
He laughed. They both knew she had no choice. The silk shawl that came with her gown could be worn over her shoulders, but it was near transparent and thus not thick enough to conceal the wine stains.
Then Albert held back his laugh, his expression transforming into one of seriousness. When she met his gaze, he ventured by popping a question to gauge her interest, “Would you like me to keep you company on your way back to the Pony’s Home?”
That was a real pleasant surprise to her, and she couldn’t help giving him a resounding reply, “Of course I’d like that!”
The unadulterated excitement glinted off her eyes had certainly given him a boost, so he uttered, his face breaking into a grin, “George will check my schedule, and I’ll confirm with you tomorrow morning, alright?”
She asked enthusiastically, “Sure, around what time?” The fact that he had already talked to George made her feel even more elated.
They now reached her floor, and as they continued strolling, he suggested, “How about having breakfast together?”
She accepted his invitation with pure delight. Then she asked when he would want his jacket back. “You keep it for now, Candy. I can get it back tomorrow morning.”
She nodded with a bashful smile. She actually wanted to keep his jacket for as long as possible. From the corner of his eye, he searched her face for any clue to why she suddenly looked shy, but he found none. Nevertheless, they ceased their steps in front of the door to her suite, and he placed his hands on her shoulders and uttered in a regretful tone, “It’s too bad I didn’t even have a chance to dance with you at the party.”
Then he told her he had wanted to ask her to dance after the dinner. His heartfelt words flattered her. She felt like she was floating in the cloud, and the urge to comfort him and herself surged up from within her. Hence, she heaved a feigned sigh of resignation. “Albert, my poor feet can no longer tolerate dancing tonight.”
She simpered after this, and a guffaw escaped his lips. Shaking his head, he snickered, “Candy, you never fail to make me laugh.”
Yet, he tried to prick his brain into processing her words. Was she telling the truth? Or was she trying to make him feel better? At any rate, he figured her damp clothing adhering to her skin must have given her discomfort, so he should let her go so that she could get changed. Thus, he leaned forward and planted a peck on her forehead, but he didn’t pull back right away as he had always done in the past. Instead, his eyes lingered on her face for a couple of seconds, and she thought she saw desire flicker in his striking blue eyes.
Oblivious to her, the image of the red wine stains highlighting the soft mounds of her chest had slithered into his mind, and not only that, he wondered if anyone else had seen it before he had passed her his napkin to cover that up. In no time, he felt heat rushing to his groin. It wasn’t the first time tonight that his thoughts about her had run wild, and to hide his mortification, he immediately coughed aloud, removing his hands from her and pulling himself to his full height.
“Albert, you OK?” Candy inquired in her concerned voice, placing her hand on the crook of his elbow.
He pretended to cough some more, striving to compose himself. Avoiding direct eye contact, he assured, “I’m OK.”
Stacy heard the noises and responded from behind the door, “Miss Candice, is that you?”
As Stacy was turning the doorknob, Albert left a quick remark before bidding Candy goodnight, “I forgot to tell you that you look gorgeous with your hair down.”
At this, warm blood rose to her cheeks and ears, and yet he didn’t see it because he had left in a haste. Their prolonged standing by the door and his loud coughing had already attracted curious glances from people nearby.
Back inside his room, he went straight for a shower to clear his head. How long do I have to continue tormenting myself like this, repressing my strong feelings for her?
Albert recalled the days of sweet torture back in the House of Magnolia, living with Candy for about two and a half years. She had been so close yet so far. As a man, he had to summon all his willpower to keep his manly desires at bay, day in and day out. He couldn’t pinpoint when exactly he had fallen in love with her. It might have happened gradually, little by little, and by the time he had recovered his past memory, it had been too late. His love for her had been indisputable, deeply rooted, and powerful. Since then, despite his best efforts, he hadn’t been able to revert his feelings for her.
Neither of them was able to sleep much that night. There were still many unknowns and doubts, but both conceived that something had changed for the better after their memorable embrace near the water fountain. Albert wished he could take Candy somewhere else at this moment so that he could talk to her face-to-face, just the two of them. However, he knew it was impossible at this hour of the night. Even if he could do that, he dreaded his emotions would kick in again and take over. He had nearly lost his control hours ago when they had been alone, sitting side-by-side on a garden bench in the moonlight.
For Candy, she was too flustered to fall asleep, being bombarded with contradicting feelings like apprehension, consternation, impatience, excitement, and hope. She was eager to know what lay ahead and intrigued why Albert had opted for altering his agenda the last minute in order to spend a few more days with her. Besides, she didn’t want to rest yet, replaying in her head every single moment with him during the opening party. With that, she also formulated her explanation for Miss Pony and Sister Lane.
Next morning, George had worked hard the night before and successfully revised the schedule, giving his young boss some time so that he could make a detour and stopped by Pony’s Home before going back to Chicago. George would take the first available train to New York and directly return to Chicago to deal with some urgent matter at the head office. Albert gave his loyal friend and assistant his complete trust, assuring George that he would be capable to handle whatever problems that arose. Hence, they took separate paths.
Albert’s eyes brightened in glee when he saw Candy in her suite. He was to inform her of the new plan, and he was touched to see that she had heeded his remark and let her hair down today. In fact, without wearing any makeup, her natural look was more endearing to him. Candy then related to him that she had asked Stacy to show her how to style her hair the way Mary had done, and it was easier than Candy had thought.
Sir William then paid Stacy generously to find someone who could remove all the horrendous stains on Candy’s evening gown. “It’s my gift to Candice, and I hope it wasn’t permanently damaged.”
“I understand, Sir! What a pity it was ruined!” the maid couldn’t have agreed more. She had kept the soiled part wet in order to keep the stains ‘fresh’, and she solemnly promised Sir William that she would find a professional to have the dress repaired and restored.
Regrettably, Albert had to meet with a business contact who was expecting George, so he couldn’t enjoy breakfast with Candy. “I’ll come back to pick you up. Let’s go to the train station together.”
Candy gave him an understanding nod before she waved goodbye to him. “See you later then!” She could barely contain her thrill, truly looking forward to spending lots of time with him for the next few days.
As commissioned, Stacy would take Miss Candice out for some sightseeing before bringing her back to this hotel to catch the train in the late afternoon. After that, her duty of assisting Miss Candice would be done.
Unfortunately, when Mrs. Watts reappeared at the train station, she courageously declined Sir William’s wish. Madam Elroy had issued a strict order to Mrs. Watts to stick with Candice all the way home. To prove her words, Mrs. Watts produced a brief note from her handbag, written by Madam Elroy in case this would happen,
It’s fairly inappropriate for Candice to travel with you alone even though you are her adoptive father. Please respect my wish to protect her reputation.
After putting much energy into shuffling his schedule with George, Albert was terribly chagrined, but he wasn’t surprised that his aunt had seen it coming. He sensed that she had remained skeptical of his true feelings for Candy. On one hand, he could have used his authority to dismiss Mrs. Watts, but on the other hand, his action would not only pique his aunt’s suspicions but also offend her unnecessarily. In fact, ever since he had officially taken up his role as the family head, he had been working hard to improve Candy’s relationship with his aunt, and the fact that his aunt had gradually softened her attitude towards Candy over time had been encouraging. Therefore, it would be unwise to make a hasty decision which might end up wasting all his previous efforts.
So Albert utilized his negotiation skills to influence Mrs. Watts, and she compromised at last. They would travel and dine together but not sharing the same private compartment on the train. Albert then shot a sorrowful glance at Candy, who was trying her best to mask her utter disappointment of having a third wheel with them for the entire journey.
Note: Thank you for your feedback and positive comments to the previous chapter, Agnès, Tiny 12, Vera García, QuevivaCandy, Reeka, Antlay, Evelyn, CKati, Gina Riquelme Orellana and You Ri Lee! To the silent readers, I’d like to thank you for reading too. Hope to hear from you one day.
I just realized that “Darren” is actually a character in another Candy Candy fanfic. It’s purely a coincidence I must say, because I named my character after my friend’s adorable son. 🙂 Anyway, this is the longest chapter yet, and if I have made any typo or mistake, please kindly let me know. Thank you in advance!