We just have to accept the fact that some people are going to stay in our hearts even if they don’t stay in our lives.
Over the course of the next few months Ewan was again nominated for and received two more awards. During his acceptance speech for the second he took the chance to – in true theatric Ewan fashion – propose to Cassandra in front of the whole world. Ever the showman.
Naturally she said yes.
Enter the latest Del Sol Valley power couple.
Both successful young actors, both stunningly attractive, both born loving attention and the camera and it loved them back.
And both made it very clear that a wedding was nowhere in the immediate future, nor were kids. Career first. For many more years.
In the meantime the trio had travelled home a few times to celebrate enagagements and weddings. Hannah’s older brother Bryan had met the lady of his life in Marlee.
Gage got married to Yvonne.
Hope O’Connor, Stryker and Briar Rose’s oldest daughter, fell fast and hard for an aspiring artist and rebel like her, Hannah had a hard time keeping up appearances when finding out he was the late JP Chevallier’s grandson.
A few weeks after their break up JP succombed to a heart attack at his villa. Hannah was confused about her feelings for a long time after that, and seeing his grandson when the greeting card from him and Hope arrived – naturally the two rebels had eloped – made her feel all strange.
And alone. Despite her friends being there for her.
Melancholic and depressed.
Ewan noticed, so he took her under his wing, despite her protests he dragged her out to parties, to clubs and all sorts of things with him often.
One time when it was just Hannah and Ewan at a club, a guy approached her, who had been staring at her from across the dancefloor for a while, then sat next to them at the bar for some more time before finally working up the courage to talk to Hannah.
“Hi!” he said, then just smiled at her. Poor sucker, Ewan thought. ‘I remember those days.’
“Hi!” Hannah replied and right away Ewan could tell she was interested by the way her face lit up.
She was pretty, guys hitting on her was not unusual, but Ewan could read her facial expression like a book. Most of the time it read ‘thumbs down!’ and then usually he made quick work of the hopeful suitor.
“Hi.” Ewan just interjected to mess with the poor guy’s nerves.
“Sorry. I didn’t know you had boyfriend.” the guy now said with a thick accent.
“Nah, we’re okay, bro. Not the boyfriend. Just uh … friends” Ewan told him.
“Didn’t mean to interrupt friends.” the guy smiled a heart-shaped-pupils-kinda dumb grin at Hannah and she returned the same dumb smile. Ewan rolled his eyes before he answered.
“You’re not. You do us all a favor if you focus on this one, God knows she needs to get laid by someone who’s not with one foot in the grave.” Ewan chuckled, just having to poke the bear.
“Moron!” Hannah told him with a ‘one-false-move-and-I-will-peel-the-skin-off-your-face’ glare, before diverting her attention back to the blonde guy.
“I noticed a light accent. Where are you from?” Hannah put on her best smile, while trying to ignore Ewan completely.
“Oh, I know you are being nice, my accent is bad, thick like blue whale. I am from Stockholm, Sweden, but moved here two months ago. You are pretty. Like woman in magazine with no dress on beach for photos.”
“WHAT!? You perv!” Hannah was shocked, while Ewan just laughed.
“Hannah! I think our buddy here means you look like a swimsuit model, right? Because you are so tall and pretty.” Ewan helped, smirking.
“Yes, yes. Model. Beautiful tall woman with perfect skin on beach with … what do you call it when you have almost all clothes off?”
“What? Like … uh … porn?” Hannah was still confused.
“Bikini.” Ewan assisted again.
“Right that. Bikini. Are you?”
“Am I what?” Hannah was completely confused now, since her mind was only semi-functional, the rest of it was skipping through flowery fields hand in hand with the Scandi-hunk.
“A model, you blonde! Pretty sure he knows you’re not a bikini. Ouch!” Ewan chuckled while Hannah nudged him.
“Sven, why don’t we got sit over there and talk a little more uninterrupted?” Hannah suggested.
“After you, mylady.” Sven smiled broadly now.
Ewan’s smile faded. Yup, buddy made the inner circle. Good for him. Good for Hannah. God knows she needed that type of love in her life again. The kind that Ewan couldn’t give her, and not for lack of interest on his part.
Ewan knew he felt a lot more for Hannah than you should for a distant cousin and best friend. Of course he should not, could not and would not act on it. That one slip up when he was drunk some months ago had proven not only that she didn’t feel that way about him, but also that any further attempt could move her even further from his reach. Better to at least have her friendship. And not upset the whole family. And Cassandra.
He glanced over at her laughing at something Sven must have said and it was obvious that this was the beginning of something.
As much as it stung Ewan to watch this, he cared too much about Hannah to not wish her happiness. After the JP debacle, she deserved and needed someone who hopefully would appreciate the inner and outer beauty, love her for herself.
He thought of Cassandra. Yeah, he loved her. Enough to having proposed to her. She was a great girl, especially considering she was an accomplished actress in Del Sol Valley. Most of those were to be handled with extreme caution.
Over the following weeks Hannah and Sven Johansson, the Scandinavian hunk she met at the club, became an item and were sickeningly happy and all over each other. Most definitely an item, especially when she even introduced him to her parents. To Ewan that meant she was dead serious about him, so he offered him to move in with Hannah, Cassandra, Eric and him. Sven accepted.
While Hannah and Ewan were spending time out on dates with their respective partners, Eric had Charlotte over. They had to meet in secrecy.
She was in town again and trying to sneak away from her father and fiance to see him was complicated, she and Eric had set many dates and she had to cancel nearly all of them. Not today though. Finally.
The kiss felt like water to a man lost in the desert.
“I missed you so much Eric. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice and so haphazard. Not very romantic, I know.”
“Of course. Anytime. I was going crazy without you. How long are you in town for?”
“Flying back out tomorrow. I tried to come up with great excuses to stay longer, but dad has cases to hear on Monday and just will not leave me without a chaperone. Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. I know you don’t like this any more than I do. Maybe if I tried to talk with your father, man to man …”
“Trust me, dad isn’t even the biggest problem, my mother is. And there is nothing you or I could say to her to make her want to sit down with you to discuss ‘us’. ”
“Let’s go sit down. We need to come up with some sort of plan.”
“Yeah, we need to talk. I have something to talk to you about too. I have been avoiding it for too long.”
They sat down on the couch, when Charlotte inhaled deeply before she spoke.
“Eric, things are getting real. The engagement will be made public soon. No way out now. I probably should have made this clear to you, but my fiancé is not just any man, but a public figure. Once the engagement has been announced, it’s set in stone. I am truly stuck now, sold to the highest bidder like cattle. Just like medieval nobility.”
“What does that have anything to do with anything? You’re a young woman, not a child. If you do not want to be engaged, nobody can force you. It’s the 21st century. If your parents don’t get that, their loss, they obviously do not care about you.”
“I would agree with you if everything was normal. I have no formal education that would guarantee me an income, you know what I mean seeing how you graduation with a Fine Arts degree yourself and now work as a cop in a city filled with artists. My path was carefully chosen that way by my parents, I was prepped for something like this since birth I am sure. It wasn’t until I met you that I even questioned any of it. Brainwashed. My father is a presiding judge in one of the largest metros of the world, my mother is a high-ranking senator and my fiancé is Crown Prince Phillip to Mountbatton-Wharton. All that complicates things tremendously. ”
“The prince? The Del Sol Valley royals? So that’s why you are here so much now.”
“Yeah. The guy in the hotel room was Phillip. Trust me, none of this is even remotely as romantic as it may seem. Rigid rules, Phillip is basically a stranger, he would never let on but I can tell he is about as happy about all this as I am. Like me, he is stuck with our parents’ decision, and he is also his parents’ only child. I am here so much to learn all the rules, there’ll be a bunch more trips like this, and trust me, that is a full time job in itself. Whenever the tailor gets done, I won’t even be able to pick out my own clothing anymore.”
“That’s ridiculous! How can this still be going on nowadays?! So they want you for their breeding efforts, basically? You are gorgous, good genes and good background.”
“Pretty much what it boils down too, yeah. Romantic, huh? Isn’t that every little girl’s dream, to marry a real prince? Too bad only that the price and I have nothing at all in common, I’d wager we don’t even like each other much. I have been sentenced to a life at the palace to be a breeding mare to a man I do not know the first thing about and probably never will? Luckily we will have separate bedrooms. And luckily the Mountbatton-Whartons have a long history of fathering only one heir. Generations of near inbreeding left the Wharton men a bit low on ammunition. That’s what I will be looking forward to. Jealous yet?” Charlotte sounded desperate and cynical, very unusual for her.
“I AM jealous. I do not want you marrying another man, separate bedrooms or otherwise! Just stay with me! Leave it all behind! I am sure Ewan and Hannah wouldn’t mind. You can live with us and … I’ll take care of you. I don’t make much money, but we can get by. Ewan would not let us starve. He is constantly trying to share his wealth with Hannah and me, we just don’t want him to.”
“Eric, that would never work. It really is too late now. If we did something rash like that now, I guarantee you, my parents would pull up the big guns, and even if we were to hide well enough, they may take aim at your family, so you would never get to see them again, without getting them all into trouble legally and otherwise. I could, or would, never ask that of you, no matter what you tell me. This would never be the fairytale ending like in the movies.”
Charlotte would remain right about that as Eric would find out over the next week. First while watching the news.
A few days after that at work Eric was called into his Chief’s office at the precinct.
“Close the door, Cameron, then have a seat and keep your mouth shut. What I have to say to you I will say only once. There will be no second chances, we do not do ‘oopsies’ here, copy me?”
“Yes Sir.” Eric affirmed as he shut the door behind himself and took a seat facing his superior.
“I got a call, a pretty uncomfortable one, concerning you. You had your hand in someone else’s cookie jar and rattled some cages that really should not be rattled ever again, unless you want to find yourself unemployed and in some serious trouble. Have I made myself clear?” the chief told him.
“Yes, son. The cookie jar named Charlotte Seymour. You were a very promising cadet and for a greenhorn you are doing an impressive job, but it was very sloppy of you trying to be covert while leaving traces about your affair everywhere. Starting with phone records and unexplained long absences on her part. You should have known better. Her father put two and two together, his wife, Senator Seymour lit a fire under my butt. I am still hurting from that tongue-lashing I took on your behalf! Trust me son, whatever you think this is, it ain’t worth it. I hope you are smart enough to known when to call defeat. Now back to work with you, Cameron.”
Eric left the office feeling like someone had kicked him in the crotch.