Writing Group: March Prompt

Can you believe a month has gone by? I could not when our writing group deadline had approached. How is it March already? I sound like a broken record but this prompt was DEVILISH. It stretched our brains, but it was a challenge. I struggled for a couple weeks about where even to take it until I landed on the idea of (a take on) a fairy tale. It turned out kind of silly and super super long (I’m breaking every blog post rule there is to post something this long on here). The prompt — Abby flipped through the dictionary and picked five words at random, which we had to incorporate into a story. They are: Hubby (holy god, that was hard), revolving door, excess, untraveled and hypnosis. Happy March! xox bri (p.s. I will get better at posting now that I’ve finished my edits on Book Two. I swear!)

—-

New York City, 1913

Matilda Thorne was not a well-liked child.

Matilda was born to Theodore Thorne, one of the city’s first millionaires in the time before millionaire’s became thick on the ground. As a young man he’d scraped together enough money to open a small shop in Brooklyn. A few short years later, he was standing at the entrance of his newest department store — the biggest one on Fifth Avenue he told anyone who would listen — watching fashionable ladies and dapper gentleman sail out the revolving door with packages piled high in the arms of their servants.

He’d married the girl he’d loved from the minute she’d conked him on the head with an errant baseball pitch when they were five years old. He proposed back when he had only enough coins in his pocket to buy her a bowl of spaghetti at Mama Rosetta’s down the street.

His wife still liked to call him Teddy, or Hubby, if she’d had a few glasses of champagne.

Matilda Thorne had not inhered her father’s work ethic nor her mother’s joie de vivre that made the pair favorites of the New York social scene, even with their humble births.

Matilda had been a curious, but mean child, an unfortunate pairing for the legion of tutors her father hired for her. Few lasted more than a week.

One made it three months. Her name was Rose, a misnomer no one dared tease her about. She was a big-boned Englishwoman who wore her steel-gray hair in a tight chignon at the back of her neck. She’d had a man’s large, austere nose and thin lips that almost disappeared when she looked at or thought about Matilda Thorne. She ate an excess of onions — at times biting into them as if they were just apples — and always had the distinct aroma seeping off of her.

She was also the only person who had ever tried to discipline Miss. Matilda Thorne, for her parents, while loving and indulgent at first had turned wary and weary after countless battles with the strong-willed child.

It was the day that Rose sent Matilda to her room after a particularly trying lesson that she’d found her beloved tabby, George, laid out on her bed, dead of a broken neck. Rose left the next morning.

Matilda Thorne did not fly kites with other children her age. She would watch them from the windows of their large, isolated mansion on the west side of Central Park. But she had not interest in joining them, for which all parties were relieved.

Matilda Thorne’s parents died the day after she turned 21. The murder-suicide made the front page of all the papers, and made Matilda an irresistible prize to all the society matrons who wanted their gatherings to be the talk of the town.

Whispers circulated among the wealthy that the mother had been cuckolding her husband with Calder Westwood, a traveling practitioner of hypnosis. Westwood had come to New York in February from Paris, where he’d — he widely claimed — studied under Mesmer himself.

He dressed in all silver, and had gleaming white-blonde hair he grew long and tied in a tail that hung limply down the center of his back. He became a favorite of the wealthy women in New York who invited him into their bedrooms to cure them of their female hysteria.

The police commissioner, a slim whip of a man who was deep in the pockets of Tammany Hall, had to interrogate Matilda Thorne over the matter. Had she ever seen Westwood in the house when her father was gone? Did her mother arrange clandestine meetings? The poor, beautiful young thing had been so distraught he’d halted after only a few questions, not willing to put her out further when it was clear what had happened.

They never did question Calder Westwood, who most said headed West to San Francisco to escape the scandal his supposed affair had caused.

Matilda Thorne basked in the attention the sensation created. It was then she truly began her ascent up the ladder of New York City society. Her immense wealth and stunning beauty cleared the path. And her cruel, cutting wit, though dreaded by those who were easy targets of it, kept the jaded heirs and heiresses amused.

She had yet to marry. Spinster was the term applied to women who were less powerful and desirous than Matilda Thorne, but not a single soul would dare label her with the word. Matilda Thorne maintained discreet affairs, almost completely limited to the husbands of those who thought they were her close confidantes. There was a thrill in that Matilda enjoyed far more than the rutting efforts of the sweaty beasts.

There was only man Matilda Thorne actually wanted at the moment. And what Matilda Thorne wanted, she got.

***

Fiona Colleen was the sixth O’Donnell girl to try her poor Papa’s heart. The third, Mary Brenna, is when they started hoping for a boy. Then the twins came. Siohban and Sorcha. Their tired Mama had asked God that night to not bless her with any more children. But that was not what He had planned for Mama O’Donnell.

Fiona Colleen’s father was a butcher who had the fairest prices in the whole neighborhood. Fiona Colleen would sit by the door waiting for him to come home so she could be the first in the noisy tenement house to greet her beloved Papa.

He would swing her up into his arms and toss her into the air. At night he would read her Yeats from a battered, yellowed book, his lilting voice tripping over the poet’s descriptions of the lush valleys and misty air of Ireland. She’d fall asleep in front of the fire dreaming of a place she’d never been but still thought of as home.

Fiona Colleen was a sensitive child who felt the great tragedy of the whole world with her very soul. She smiled at yellow butterflies and cried when she saw dogs out in the rain.

She was always called the baby — even when she had been long out of swaddling — and she toddled after Mary Brenna with a fierce loyalty despised by the elder sister, who had no need for the young tag-along. But the twins had no room for a third. So Fiona Colleen attached herself to Mary Brenna’s hip as soon as she was upright and followed her hero around adoringly.

Because she had spite in her heart for the injustice of having to watch out for the baby, Mary Brenna often told Fiona Colleen that she was a faery child. A sprite had placed her in Mama’s arms and would come to reclaim her on her next birthday. Fiona Colleen would cry and cry and Mary Brenna would laugh and laugh until she got her ears boxed by a Mama who had no patience for such games. Fiona Colleen was the baby, and the sisters should not tease the baby.

Papa O’Donnell died when Fiona Colleen was but 12. The laughter died that day as well. The girls who had not already been working — that was the twins and Fiona Colleen — went to work. Roarke Jennings took over Papa’s butcher shop and rose the prices by 30 percent.

Mary Brenna got Fiona Colleen a position at the shirt factory. They’d awake every morning together and walk the 15 blocks to the large warehouse where girls sat in rows and sewed until their fingers bled and their eyes blurred, but who knew they were the lucky ones to have such a job. The sisters would meet up after the long day and walk in silence back to the tiny apartment, where they would crawl into the narrow little bed under a single threadbare blanket and tell each other tales of faeries and sprites. Fiona Colleen no longer thought it would be such a bad fate to be taken away to a magical land on her next birthday.

On Wednesdays Fiona Colleen would take the long route home. Mary Brenna would give her a stern look but allow her to sneak off, promising to tell Mama Fiona Colleen had been held at work late again. Fiona would spend a precious half-cent on an ice cream or chocolate. She’d sit in the park and watch the fancy ladies parade by, on their way home to get ready for lush dinner parties.

And Fiona Colleen, the most untraveled lady there could be having never left the 20 block radius around her home, would assign each a story. Sometimes the lady had just been to Italy, sometimes Paris, sometimes as far as China. It was always somewhere other than here.

She would grant herself a full 10 minutes of indulgence before she’d hurry home to her frazzled Mama and tired sisters.

It was on such a Wednesday that Fiona Colleen’s life changed forever.

***

As the official spare, Anderson William George Dawson was paid little attention from the moment he was placed at his nursemaid’s breast until when, 9 years later, the official heir, his brother James Percival Charles Dawson The Third, died under the wheels of a runaway carriage.

From that tragic day forward, Anderson William George Dawson was the Prince of the manor, and treated thusly.

His mother was a frail, blonde gentlewoman from Cornwall who brought a pile of old money and a title to the family when she married James Percival Charles Dawson The Second. His father was from newer, but still old, Southern money, who moved to New York City when he realized the Yankees had discovered how to make a profit. He had been so enamored with the idea of lords and ladies, he’d married a woman without a personality and paid for it the rest of his life.

The Prince ran wild those first nine years, with just a nanny and a tutor to keep track of him. He swung from railings that were really masts on pirate ships, and hunted down the family’s cat who liked to pretend he wasn’t a lion. But the Prince knew better.

His nanny was prone to taking a snooze in the middle of the afternoon, and he would be able to sneak into the mansion’s small backyard and climb to the highest branches of the tallest tree and stand as a giant in a city of giants and yell into the wind and swear he would conquer them all one day.

Every night, following supper, his father and his mother would call him and James Percival Charles Dawson The Third to them and study the brothers as if they were insects beneath a magnifying glass. The Prince would stand in silence until they were summarily dismissed, and then run as fast as he could, through hallways with walls bearing the weight of all the generations of the past, and up the grand staircase, holding back whooping war cries until he hit the second floor.

But once the prince became the Prince, his roamings were put to an abrupt end. One tutor became five and he learned Latin and French and business and maths. He’d stare out the window on puffy-cloud summer days and wish he was still the spare. His tutor would rap him on the knuckles and he’d turn his attention back to the algebra lesson. His nanny was dismissed once her lack of oversight of the heir was discovered. He never thought about what happened to her.

As the Prince grew, the slight character flaw of selfishness that had been a seed in the child bloomed into a weed in the man. In a different world, it might have been avoided, but this was not that world.

It was not that the Prince was cruel or mean-hearted. But there was a certain self-centeredness about him that allowed him to ignore the suffering of those around him for the sake of keeping his own soul unburdened.  

It was because of that character trait that he could walk the aisles of his father’s factory and not see overworked faces on the women who toiled there. He let himself believe the foreman as he informed the Prince that cuts in wages were necessary and that the women would be able to easily survive without the amount it would take to keep the factory profitable. They were glad for them, in fact, for If the Prince didn’t make the cuts, the women wouldn’t have jobs at all.

The Prince nodded and smiled at the women, many of whom had flaming red hair. He didn’t see their eyes, which were mostly downcast, but he knew they would be smiling into his own if they looked up. The Prince told himself he was a benevolent owner, and that the workers loved him.

It was a Wednesday in Spring and it was unseasonably warm. The Prince was perspiring under his heavy jacket, and he longed to walk out the door into the cool, welcoming breeze he knew awaited him outside. But he continued to stroll the aisles with the foreman.

It was then that he first saw her.

***

“I know you,” the Prince said to Fiona Colleen, who had been basking in the fading sun of the day, her eyes closed, her face upturned so the light caressed her porcelain skin.

The Prince had never seen such loveliness in his life. His heart had raced in his chest when he had first laid eyes on her in the factory and it had all but halted in its tracks when he had seen her again sitting on the park bench. It was destiny, the Prince knew.

Fiona Colleen studied the Prince with shuttered emerald eyes. “I work in your factory, Mr. Dawson, sir.”

“Ah!” the Prince exclaimed, even though he had known that. “So you do. What are you doing out and about this late on your own?”

“Telling stories,” she murmured dreamily.

The Prince looked around. The closest person to the young lady was an old woman cloaked in rags two benches down “To whom?”

“Myself, of course,” Fiona Colleen said, standing. She was a small thing and she had to tip her head up to meet his eyes. The Prince thought he could lose himself forever in hers. “I must be getting home, sir.”

“May I see you there?” the Prince asked. “I could not live with myself if I sent you off by yourself.”

Fiona Colleen dipped her head in an affirmative before turning to walk toward the exit of the park. As she passed the crone, the Prince noticed she slipped something into the woman’s hands.

“What was that?” the Prince asked, curious.

“Just as much as I can afford to give,” Fiona Colleen said, simply. The Prince knew that would not be much and felt a strange pang in his chest.

“Do you always tell stories in the park?” the Prince said, shaking off the new and confounding sensation of guilt and admiration.

She peeked at him from the corner of her eye as they stolled along the busy sidewalks. “Oh no, sir. Not always in the park. Sometimes I tell stories at home as well.”

The Prince laughed at the imp. “But never at work.”

She sobered, and the Prince wished he had not teased her so, until she said, very quietly so that he almost didn’t hear her, “At work, too.”

“Who of us has not?” he said. “What are your stories about?”

“Far off places, sir,” she turned, her face alight with delight.

The Prince nodded. “I used to tell stories to myself in which I was a pirate in the Indian Seas nabbing merchant ships as they passed. Or a Viking warrior in the northern lands trekking across great expanses of ice and snow.”

Fiona Colleen stopped causing a commotion as the couple behind her had to pull up short to stop themselves from barreling into her. But Fiona Colleen paid them no mind “Did you really?” she implored, a hand on the Prince’s forearm.

“I really did,” the Prince said, smiling down at her.

“I thought I was the only one.”

***

Matilda Thorne hated Fiona Colleen the moment she laid eyes on the creature.

“And who is this?” she purred at the Prince, her hand on his forearm possessively. The Prince shook it off gently, and rage burned in Matilda’s throat.

“Matilda Thorne, may I present my fiancee, Fiona, and her mother, Rowena,” the Prince said, not unkindly, for he knew Matilda Thorne had long been pursuing him. They would not suit, however, and the Prince wished Matilda would realize that.  

“How … charitable of you, Anderson,” Matilda said, walking away from the little group without exchanging even the barest of pleasantries with the peasants.

Matilda wanted to put out a cigarette on Fiona’s pure white skin and hear the thin scream sure to be pulled from her lips as the ash burned her. Matilda ran a finger over the delicate white pearls that decorated her slim neck and choked back her own scream of anger. Matilda Thorne did not act out in public, after all. She had appearances to keep up.

Matilda plotted, however. She plotted as Fiona Colleen smiled into the Prince’s eyes lovingly. She plotted as the Prince whispered secrets into the plain little miss’s ear.

“What was he thinking?” Dahlia Stanhope murmured to Matilda Thorne. “He pulled her straight out of a tenement house. His father must be furious.”

“His father deserves to be shot for not putting a stop to it,” Matilda managed.

“Oh, dear, he tried,” Dahlia assured Matilda. “Especially when Anderson decided to give wage increases at the factory at her urging. His father threatened to cut him off without so much as a cent. His mother took to her bed for three weeks.”

“It must be love,” Matilda replied, her blood red nails leaving painful imprints on her delicate skin where her fingers gripped together to keep from wrapping themselves around the girl’s throat.

Dahlia cackled, and Matilda Thorne thought of how unpleasant the sound was. Dahlia had her purposes though.

“Oh, Anderson,” Matilda led Dahlia over to her would-be lover. “You must introduce your fiancé to Dahlia here.”

The Prince threw Matilda a quizzical smile, but went through the motions. Dahlia Stanhope thought she was in on a conspiracy to mock the ill-bred child, but Dahlia Stanhope rarely knew what was really going on. Matilda dismissed herself once more from the group, brushing past Fiona Colleen as she did. “Sorry, dear,” she said, and stared down into the happy eyes of her rival.

“Think nothing of it,” Fiona Colleen replied, sunnily.

“I won’t,” Matilda Thorne said, but only to herself. She drank and chatted with her acquaintances and bided her time. At half-past eleven, she sidled up to the police commissioner. He was still thin, but his bushy ginger mustache had silvered and the hair atop of his head had made a full retreat toward his back. His bald skin glowed in the candlelight.

Matilda pulled him aside. “I would hate to be indelicate.”

The police commissioner who remembered the girl who had lost her parents patted her hand. “Now Matilda, if you have seen something you need to tell me about, you should feel brave enough to do so. You know I can be trusted.”

Matilda Thorne nodded, as if gathering her courage. “My necklace — it was my mother’s you see — well it’s missing.”

“You are sure you did not lose it?” the police commissioner had to ask.

She shook her head, tears gathering in her eyes, blinking up at him, as if trying to hold back the waterworks. “I do not want to believe it. But I fear it may have been one of the guests, someone used to living amongst the criminal population.”

The police commissioner had always had a weakness for beautiful, crying woman. He thought about it. “Anderson’s fiancé …” he said slowly.

Matilda Thorne gasped. “Never say so!”

“We’ll have to check everyone to be sure. Come now, you’ve been brave so far, my dear,” he patted her on the shoulder and imagined her bare breasted in his bed later that night.

Fiona Colleen did not hesitate when asked if she’d seen the woman’s pearls. But when the police commissioner searched her possessions he found them tucked into the girl’s hand bag. He held them out, letting each damning bead dangle in the light. Gasps filled the room, and Fiona Colleen’s eyes snapped to Matilda Thorne. “How could you?” she asked the woman.

“I believe that’s my line, dear,” Matilda Thorne murmured plucking the necklace from the police commissioner’s fingers. “You’ll summon your officers?”

The police commissioner nodded, and the Prince yelled out.

“No!” He stepped in front of Fiona Colleen, who was all but panting in her anger. “You’ve gone too far Matilda.” He turned angry eyes on her, and Matilda Thorne reveled in the passion she saw there.

“It is your little light-skirt who stole my dear departed mother’s prized jewelry, Anderson,” Matilda reminded him. He flushed at the implication that Fiona Colleen was his mistress. Matilda Thorne arched a brow at him, daring him to say more.

“Anderson?” Fiona Colleen’s quiet voice sounded behind the Prince.

The Prince swung around, grasping her shoulders to the point of pain. “We will figure this out, my love. Trust me.”

***

Fiona Colleen knew it was her own fault for letting herself dream she could be happy.  The day the Prince had asked her to be his wife, to travel the world with him, to come away on fantastical adventures to fantastical lands had been the most joyous of her life. Fiona Colleen knew better than to believe in happy endings though. Or she thought she had.

If that had been the highest peak of her life, this moment must surely be the lowest valley, for Fiona Colleen sat, furious yet despondent, in the courtroom with the harsh eyes of the judge boring into her. She kept her head high refusing to bow it under the scrutiny. The Prince sat next to her, his hand grasping hers. The press filled the back of the room, their noisy camera bulbs bursting in their attempts to get a shot of her downfall. There was nothing the press loved more than a rags to riches story, except when that newly rich woman was then torn back down to her rightful station in life.

The Prince had tried to buy their way out of a trial, but they had had the horrible luck to find the one incorruptible judge in the whole city.

The judge, who enjoyed making examples out of petty criminals and mob bosses alike, had just opened his mouth to deliver down the sentence when the courtroom’s door burst open.

Calder Westwood, the missing traveling practitioner of hypnosis, swept into the room in a cloud of artificial smoke and silver robes.

“Halt!” he cried out, his booming, yet silky voice, filling every inch of the space. He held his hand up as if the gesture alone could physically stop the words from emerging from the judge’s lips. “There has been a grave injustice done here.”

The room’s collective eyes snapped to the man who was now making his way toward where Fiona Colleen sat. He stopped in front of her, drawing a bow more suited for a European palace than a New York City courtroom, and pulled her hand almost, but not quite, to his puckered lips. “My dear. I am Calder Westwood, and I am here to free you.”

At that grand announcement Fiona Colleen smiled hesitantly into the man’s light blue eyes, which were the color of frozen water. The Prince gripped her hand tighter.

“What is all of this?” The judge finally found his voice. He was squinting at Calder Westwood as if he were a mirage conjured up by a witch.

Calder Westwood flicked him a glance. “All in due time, your honor-ship,” he said, and removed his shimmery cape in a swirl of motion.

“I am here to tell you a tale,” he began. “A tale most frightful. A tale most devious. A tale … of the evil Matilda Thorne,” Calder Westwood shouted the name, spinning to point to Matilda who had leapt to her feet.

“No,” Matilda cried out, real fear in her eyes for the first time.

“Order!” the judge barked. “Restrain that woman until we get to the bottom of this.”

Calder Westwood executed another elaborate bow this time to the judge. “So kind of you to listen your honor-ship. So kind of you.”

The judge flushed slightly, but waved a gnarled hand. “Get on with it then,” he said in a rough voice.

“Ladies and Gentleman,” Calder Westwood started, turning to address the courtroom as if it were his audience. “I traveled to your shores, a mere scientist, wanting to cure all kinds of ailments with my practice of animal magnetism. I found myself humbly welcomed in your fair city here. I helped hundreds and hundreds who, without me, had been facing down a dire fate of pain for the rest of their days. One such woman was Matilda Thorne’s mother.”

Rage flashed across Matilda Thorne’s face as titters rolled through the audience. A single photographer was savvy enough to realize where the story was headed and wasted a precious shot on the trembling Matilda Thorne.

“The viciously murdered mother of Matilda Thorne,” Calder Westwood emphasized, and Matilda buried her face in her hands as if overcome with grief. “And was it her father who took the woman’s life? Was it me?” One person in the back laughed nervously.

“No!” Calder shouted, then paused. “But I get ahead of myself.” The audience was enraptured, hanging on his every word. It groaned in frustrated unison when he didn’t reveal who killed Mrs. Thorne, but it seemed willing to follow him on his journey. “When I was so humbly accepted into the homes of the matrons of your lovely city here, there was a spate of robberies striking at the wealthiest women in society. These poor women were losing their jewelry to the hands of a sticky-fingered burglar. And do you know where the stash was found?”

The audience leaned forward, breathless in anticipation. “In the rooms of a Miss. Christine Blake.” There was a confused silence. The audience did not know if it should know who a Miss. Christine Blake was. Calder Westwood smiled at them, bending slightly as if he were about to tell a secret. “Matilda Thorne’s biggest rival of the season. Christine Blake had snagged the suitor Matilda had been pursuing right from under her nose.” He paused for dramatic effect. “Sound familiar?”

The audience sucked in a breath, and shifted to stare at Matilda Thorne who had gone completely white.

“A coincidence,” the judge proclaimed.

Calder Westwood nodded as if the judge had said something very wise. “True, you honor-ship. If I had no reason to doubt this woman’s integrity I would allow myself to believe that it was happenstance and nothing more. But I am not finished.”

“Once Christine Blake and family fled into the night to avoid the scandal, a new rose bloomed to take her place. A beautiful young lady named Francesca Plum. Would you like to know what happened to Francesca after a certain Mr. Nathaniel Hall, who had been courting Matilda Thorne until Francesca Plum arrived on the scene, took a fancy to her? You might recall, she was severely burned in a fire that overtook her family’s home in the middle of the night. She survived, but was so scarred she has never been seen in public again.”

Calder Westwood turned to the judge with a brow raised as if asking if that too was coincidence. The judge remained silent.

“It seems Matilda Thorne has been surrounded most of her life by death and destruction, has she not?” Calder Westwood continued. “It could be she is just the unluckiest of ladies. Or it could be that anyone who gets in her way is.” The audience murmured as they individually remembered the little cruelties Matilda Thorne had inflicted upon them. “Especially her parents.”

Calder Westwood paused — a true entertainer — letting it sink in. The audience took a moment to grasp it, then the courtroom erupted. A lady in the front row fainted and had to be revived with smelling salts.

Calder Westwood surveyed what his words had wrought, his hands clasped behind his back. “Yes, ladies and gentleman,” he yelled over the commotion. “You heard that right. Miss Matilda Thorne killed her own parents in a staged murder-suicide so that she could live off her full inheritance.”

There was pandemonium as Matilda Thorne tried to slip from the grasp of the guards holding her in place. The judge banged on the bench. “Order, order! ORDER. Mr. Westwood, these are serious allegations you are lobbing at a very powerful member of our city. How do you know all of this?”

“Her mother suspected the earlier accusations, and revealed her concerns to me, her physician. And for the latter, well, you honor-ship, I was there that night,” Calder Westwood said. It took the judge five minutes to calm the courtroom after that announcement. “I was administering Mrs. Thorne’s treatment when we heard Matilda in the hallway. Mrs. Thorne did not want her to know I was there so she shut me in her dressing room. I heard the shot a few minutes later, and then Mr Thorne came home. He was distraught to see his wife dying in front of him, but he was soon to join her.”

“Why did you not come forward earlier?” the judge asked sternly.

Calder Westwood hung his head. “I was a coward, your honor-ship. But I feared for my life. And I feared no one would believe me. I fled to New Orleans to continue to hone my craft. But once I heard of this latest treachery, I could remain silent no longer.”

The courtroom was dead quiet as the judge studied the face of the charismatic performer. The audience waited with bated breath. “In face of this, I do believe we have an innocent woman in custody. Miss O’Donnell, you are hereby released. Matilda Thorne, we will be looking into these allegations against you.”

Everyone in the courtroom shot to their feet as bulbs flashed and reporters yelled questions over the crowd, struggling to get closer to anyone — anyone – that had played a role in the drama. Fiona Colleen jumped into the Prince’s arms and he swung her in a full circle, his lips finding hers. They turned to find Calder Westwood smiling indulgently at them.

Fiona ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck in a fierce hug “Mr. Westwood, how can we ever thank you?”

“It’s not me you should be thanking, lass,” he said, as he shook the Prince’s hand. “It’s your fairy godmother. She’s the one who tracked me down, and … persuaded me to come here today.”

She glanced at the Prince uncomprehendingly. The Prince merely shook his head.

Fiona Colleen laughed, thinking it must be a joke, But Calder Westwood remained serious. “But Mr. Westwood, I don’t have a fairy godmother,” she said.

“You do, lass, as all those pure of heart do,” he replied with a nod of his head toward the open door of the courtroom.

Fiona Colleen followed his gaze and saw the old crone from the park shuffling out past the crowd. The woman turned at the last minute before she disappeared from sight and winked at Fiona Colleen.

 

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