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The Royal Evasion
I felt numb as I sat in that too-plush chair, Mother and Father sitting in front of me, a young man, maybe five or so years older than me sitting to the right of my chair.
"This is Lord Reynold Carpenter, your betrothed," Father had said, looking at the young man approvingly.
My betrothed. I detested those words. As the oldest daughter of King Samuel, I thought I would be able to take the crown without a husband in this modern day, yet I was wrong.
I shut my eyes, willing for the situation to go away. I took shallow breaths, my entire body on fire from disbelief and rage.
I did not focus on what my parents were saying at all. I looked up to the painted ceiling, streams of light coming in through the curtains. Century-old dust particles moved about, visible in the light.
I did not respond.
"Maura," my Mother's normally soft voice brought me out of my daze.
I looked at her. She was flushed, embarrassed at my insolence.
I turned to my betrothed, and looked at him. He'd dropped his smug smile the instant my fierce blue eyes found his.
He wasn't that bad looking. He was an average weight and height, nothing too special about his stature. His hair was a dull brown, cut uniformly and brushed back. He was stuffy.
The friendly, soft part of me thought, it's your duty. But the determined, incredibly more dominant part of me thought, fight for what's yours.
I gave him a look that made it clear that I hated him, and that this was not happening.
"May I be dismissed now?" I asked Father with a sweet smile.
He broke a little, I saw it in his eyes. He sighed. I smiled, acknowledging my win, and I promptly stood and walked out of the unbearable room. I made a point to shut the door with certain finality. The guards flinched, and I gave them an apologetic smile.
"Celia!" I called to my younger sister, only three years younger than I at fifteen. She looked like she was on her way from the library with a book in her hand.
She noticed the urgency in my tone, and immediately became concerned.
"Maura, what's happened?"
"Not here," I whispered, taking her arm and dragging her to our wing of the palace.
"Maura, you're worrying me," Celia said in a quiet voice. "What has happened?"
I turned to face her and took a breath. She was a clone of me, except more gentle than I ever have been or ever will be.
"Mother and Father have committed me to a marriage," I said, hardly keeping the disdain out of my tone.
"They what?" She asked. Her face suddenly became very red.
"To Lord Reynold," I sneered.
"They promised they would never!" Her voice rose and I crumpled to the floor.
"He's awful! He's stuffy and boring and I'll be damned if I marry him!" I wiped furiously at my eyes, refusing to cry.
"Not here, Maura, not here," she offered her hand. I took it and we continued to my bedroom.
"Have they already signed the papers?" She pushed a button near the door to signal to a butler.
"I didn't stick around. I wouldn't know," I huffed.
Julius, a familiar old butler knocked and appeared.
"But I bet Julius would."
Julius grinned in his pleasant way, but noticed something wasn't right when he saw me.
"What's the matter?"
"You probably know," I smoothed my wavy golden hair, "but I am betrothed by power of my parents."
Julius did not keep secrets, he only simply nodded his head.
"I am aware that this was to happen," he nodded, "but I did not know it was to happen soon."
"Do you know if the papers have been signed yet?"
"Well, not by your ladyship," he motioned to me.
"I have to sign them?" I asked, incredulous.
"Julius, could you bring us some tea? We need time to process."
"Of course, Your Highness," he bowed his head and departed.
"You're obviously not going to sign the papers," Celia said, hope in her voice.
"No, obviously not...but there seems to be a catch. What could I be threatened with?"
"I didn't think of that," she huffed, dropping on my bed.
"Do you think Mother and Father would even go as far to threaten me?"
"No. Do you think someone is threatening them?" Celia asked.
I shook my head, confused about everything. We were only just playing a guessing game.
"Maybe there's something in it for you?" Celia suggested.
"There is nothing in that for me," I scoffed, "but maybe his family is important or something."
Julius and a footman came in and served us tea.
“Your Highnesses, I have a message for you both from your parents,” Julius said, presenting us with a folded card on a platter.
Celia’s eyes met mine.
“Well I don’t want it,” I said, shaking my head.
Celia took the card with her fingertips and I sipped on the scalding tea. I didn’t feel it.
“We’re going out to dinner tonight,” she giggled.
“So I wont make a scene?” I rolled my eyes.
“Exactly my thoughts,” Celia winked.
I grinned at her.
Hours later, I found myself at a fancy restaurant an estimated thirty feet from the palace gates. The place was humming. People blatantly stared. I sat, very bored, across from my Mother and next to Celia.
“This place is certainly alive, isn’t it?” Mother asked cheerfully.
I looked around, smiling politely at a few onlookers. Suit-clad guards lined the walls and some were undercover as patrons. This place was extremely expensive, and I knew a lot of these people from balls and parties. One face, however stood out. He walked in a few minutes after we arrived, sitting at a table with the Duke, Lord Gregory, and his wife, Lady Allison. He couldn’t be their son? I sipped at my ice water.
“Did you see—”
“Yes,” I said, cutting Celia’s whisper off.
He was very attractive. His skin was a light golden color from the sun. His cheeks looked a tad burnt, but nothing bad. His hair was a light brown, but lightened from the sun. I could hear his deep voice from where we sat. His lips were full and he smiled a lot.
“That’s Lord Murphy,” Celia turned to me, looking like she solved a puzzle.
I felt my eyes widen before my brain told them to. Lord Murphy Hollingsworth was the son Lord Gregory. He used to attend balls and such when he was younger, then went south for school. We hadn’t seen him in years. He looked well.
I looked over at his table again, and he looked up as well. We made eye contact and he sent me the slightest of winks.
Mother and Father finished their own silent discussion and turned to me.
“As you may or may not have already figured out, you have yet to sign the papers for your betrothal,” Father sighed, sounding tired and old.
“Yes,” I smiled and nodded. “So what now?”
“You are going to sign them,” said Mother.
Celia and I looked at each other, confused and slightly amused. We were trying to be civilized and not defiant, though it was difficult.
“I can’t do that.”
“You are being unreasonable,” Mother frowned.
“What?” I whispered harshly. “I’m sorry I do not wish to marry a boring man that I am not in love with. What is he to me? Not a thing.”
“He is everything to you and your future,” Father urged.
“Excuse me, but I’m not following.”
They shared a look. I honestly couldn’t figure out what was going on with them. Here were two extremely powerful leaders that had broken a promise to me. I wasn’t sure what to think of them anymore.
“Lord Reynold Carpenter and his family own all of the farmland,” Father said, his eyes sad.
“And what does that mean for me?”
“It means that they have total control over our entire country’s food supply,” Mother looked at Father accusingly, like he’d been too blunt.
“So that’s what I am to you? A peace offering?”
They both looked at me, looking much older than they actually were. I took a beat, and took a deep breath. I could not lose it here. No way.
“Tomorrow is our masquerade ball,” Mother said. “Lord Reynold will be your escort.”
“So I am of no worth to you,” I barked a laugh. “That’s good.”
“You both went back on a promise,” Celia said softly, looking at my parents with such fervor. They both looked taken aback by it.
“I am leaving,” I said. When they looked as if they were about to argue, “It is either leaving or creating a scene.”
“I’ll accompany you,” Celia stood with me.
I made eye contact again with Lord Murphy. His smile had secrets behind it.
Celia and I ate dinner in my bedroom that night, tossing ideas back and forth. Many of them silly due to the ridiculousness of the situation. How did no one notice the Carpenters had bought all that land? What would be the reason to have it all?
“Give him hell tomorrow, Maur,” Celia said as she departed the room to sleep.
My last though before slumber was just that.
I slept deeply that night, and awoke refreshed and ready to tackle what would be thrown at me. The entire day was spent prepping for the party to come. Mother and Father were wrapped up in interviews and such, so I had to stand by to sign for certain things. The ballroom was immaculate and draped in white and gold. I checked that Lord Murphy was on the guest list, and was pleased to see his name.
At around five, my maids began to dress me. My hair was pulled into a bun. My tiara was left in its case since it was a masquerade and identities were supposed to be secret.
My dress was gold in color, embellished with pearls around the neckline. My mask was white, trimmed in gold and pearls. I looked elegant, too elegant for the sloth I was supposed to marry. I was called out of my private time to the foyer to meet said sloth before the ball began.
I didn’t speak to him.
When people began to filter in, we became part of the crowd. Of course, Mother and Father revealed their identities since it was their party, but I enjoyed the reprieve.
The sloth took my hand firmly when the music started and took me to the dance floor. I grit my teeth, agreeing to one dance.
“A shame we can’t reveal our identities,” he said.
“Why’s that?” I asked, rolling my eyes.
“So people can’t see that I am with you.”
“I am a prize to you?”
He only grinned.
“I think we will have a very pleasant life together,” he whispered excitedly. “Just think of it…all of our children running around the palace.”
He repulsed everything in me. My movements became very stiff.
“I need a drink,” I pushed against him.
“Stay here,” his grip on me tightened.
“I give the signal, and you are removed by guards,” I threatened through clenched teeth.
“Very mouthy to the man that controls all of your country's farmland,” he squeezed tighter.
At that moment, a stranger bumped into us rather roughly I felt the lightest tug on my arm. I let the stranger pull me away from the creepy sloth.
“Ah, good. Lord Murphy,” I sighed, thankful.
“How did you know?” he grinned, still leading me.
“Hair,” I answered simply.
He snagged two flutes of champagne from a passing waiter. We still walked on.
“Want to see the garden?”
“More than anything.”
We walked quickly, though we didn’t draw any attention. Wherever we were going, I completely trusted the familiar face. Anticipation pulsed through my veins.
“You may want to hike up your dress a bit more, Your Highness,” he smiled.
I didn’t question it. I did as suggested. We were headed to the stables. I looked back at the party, wondering if my absence was missed or not.
“Don’t slow down. We’ve got to move!”
We stepped into the stable to find a stable hand and Celia standing in her beautiful dress.
“C?” I asked.
“No time. Here, take this,” she handed me a leather backpack.
I took it from her. The stable hand lead out two saddled horses I didn’t recognize. Celia hugged me and took off my mask.
“I was honestly just told all of this, but Lord Murphy will fill you in when you get to your next destination,” Celia smiled.
I laughed out of bewilderment, and mounted one of the horses before Lord Murphy even did. He grinned widely.
“That’s my horse, but I appreciate your quick action! Let’s go.”
I cast another look at Celia before I followed Lord Murphy out of the barn. His horse eagerly galloped after the other. I was glad my dress didn’t spook him, though it didn’t make me feel any less ridiculous.
It was hard to see, and the air was cold. Tears steamed out of my eyes. We were headed the back, overgrown way to the Duke’s house. The Duke and his wife would still be at the ball.
We skidded to a halt near their smaller, though equally nice, stable. Two stable hands met us there and took the horses from us. I followed Lord Murphy inside.
“Now could you tell me what’s going on?”
He helped me take my backpack off and emptied its contents, which was a change of clothes. He promptly left the room. I changed, finding him when I was finished.
“Alright,” he grinned, “now I’ll tell you what’s going on! You’re going to take a trip with me and all of your problems will be solved. We need to leave now if we’re going to meet our jet on time. I’ll explain on the ride there.”
“Lead the way, Lord Murphy.”
“Alright, then. I’m Just Maura.”
The ride to the airport was short, though I received a lot of information from it.
The Carpenter family was guilty of fraud, though they hadn’t been caught.
Murphy knows how to get proof.
My disappearance would distract everyone.
We were currently headed to an island off the coast where Murphy bought a villa under a false name.
I would be free of my arranged marriage.
I honestly could have kissed him.
“Why are you doing all this?”
“Besides the fact that I don’t want the country ruled by some fraudulent creep?”
He was silent for a moment, mulling over his words.
“Alright, you know when you are so sure of something, you can't stand it when someone tries to tell you different? It like you don't even care if its wrong. You just cannot think any other way.”
“I am so sure of you and what your future looks like. You're the only thought that's been consistent with me, the only constant figure in my childhood. When I knew what was going to happen with you, I couldn't stand it.”
“Why did you move for so long?”
“When we were fourteen, we were pre-betrothed. I'm not sure if you know that. The Carpenters knew, and that interfered with their plan. So, they cornered me. They wanted me out of the picture. They made a bunch of threats that I couldn’t ignore, so I begged my parents to send me south for education.”
“But you found dirt on them,” I smiled.
“I now have a ton of connections,” he grinned, “I have lots of dirt.”
The private jet ride was not long. Murphy told me stories of school, and the friends he met there. He had me double over in laughter one minute and then attentive and interested the next. His shockingly light hazel eyes would brighten up when he told a story, a small trait in his that warmed my soul. He was simply authentic and genuine.
"Here we are," he said, looking over my shoulder and out the window.
I turned and looked out. The small island was beautiful. I'd been here several times, though now it seemed new. Instead of just a destination, it was a sanctuary. It was my escape.
"I hope it is up to your standards, Your Highness," he smirked.
"You better hope it is."
He laughed heartily. It was such a great sound. It reminded me how much I missed that curly-headed kid. I knew that when all of this was over, he would have to remain a constant figure in my life.
"Thank you," Murphy said, slapping a tip in the chauffeur's hand as he departed from bringing our things inside the villa. I had a large pair of sunglasses on, as well as a large straw hat. When the chauffeur left and I could safely reveal my identity, I took off the glasses and the rest of my disguise. I looked around the place. It was small, though very extravagant.
"This is so nice, Murphy."
"I am thrilled you like it. Come see."
I followed him over to what looked like a wardrobe. He opened the door to reveal stacks of paperwork and two laptops.
"Let me guess...financial papers?"
He placed his hands on his hips, and stared at the paperwork. He closed the wardrobe, and started towards the kitchen. He retrieved a tub of ice cream from the fridge.
"We'll start tomorrow," he took the plastic seal off the tub in a dramatic way.
"I'm fine with that."
We stayed up until wee hours in the morning talking about the years we missed on each other. We talked about his past relationships, and my lack of any. I was a Princess after all.
I realized that I could have been very content there forever. The only thing missing was Celia.
"Think they've noticed I'm missing?"
"Most definitely. They probably raised the alarm by the time our jet had lifted. Lord Reynold is most likely freaking out."
I smiled, causing him to smile instantly.
"Make me a deal," I said, looking out the window and to the dark ocean.
"Sure. Anything," he reclined back on his elbows on the plush carpet.
"If for some reason we can't find dirt on him, let's get married before we go back."
"Okay," he grinned.
"Okay? I'm being completely serious," I said, looking him dead in the eye.
"I know you are. I want to marry you, but I want you to marry me voluntarily, of course. It's how it's supposed to be," he shrugged.
"You're sure of that?"
"It's probably the only thing in my life I'm sure about."
I couldn't deny the way that made me feel. I was giddy. I felt thirteen years old with a crush. I was here in paradise, rescued by a charming hero, and I was happy. I thought he might kiss me, but he stood and offered his hand.
"We should probably go to sleep now," he said as he hoisted me up. "Come on, I'll show you to your room."
He gave me the master bedroom, and as much as I insisted he take it since it was his house, he declined. I took one of his button-up shirts to sleep in, and fell asleep.
The very next day, I woke up to the smells of food being made. Small stacks of papers were scattered all over the living room.
"You're a cook, too?" I laughed lightly as I walked down the stairs.
"Cook, evasion artist, detective...You name it, Maura," he winked.
He walked to a small outside table with the two plates he was carrying. I took the liberty to fill two mugs with coffee and bring them. We both sat and looked out into the water. I drew my knees to my chest and sipped at the coffee.
"What happens if we can't find it?"
"Hey, nice attitude you've got!"
I narrowed my eyes at him, causing him to laugh.
"Our chances are high. I have people working on it. A friend of mine will stop by this evening. I'm waiting for an email that will help as well," he said with a hopeful expression.
I picked at my breakfast. The food really was good, but I was just so nervous. I wondered how Celia was doing with all of this.
"Come here," he said, wrapping me in a hug. "It's going to work out. One way or another, this is going to work out."
Immediately after the embrace, his phone began buzzing.
"It's Celia," he whispered to me.
"Yes, we're fine."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, alright. Here she is."
I took the phone from Murphy and pressed it to my ear.
"Hi! How are you doing?"
"I'm fine," I looked at Murphy who smiled, "Actually, I'm more than fine. I'm great."
"Oh...is this due to Murphy?"
"Maybe. What's going on over there?"
"Well," she sighed, "Mother and Father are absolutely in pieces. They also know I know something. So, I'd like for you to talk to them."
"Can't security trace this phone?"
"No, the phone you're using is untraceable. I really need for you to talk to them."
I looked at Murphy and he shrugged like it didn't matter. I heaved a big sigh.
"Fine. I can do that."
"Thanks. I'll call when it's time."
After ending my call with Celia, I turned to Murphy, who was on his laptop.
"Here we go," he grinned devilishly.
I sat next to him and looked on his screen. Whoever had emailed him, said to look for transactions dealing with an "Orphan Charity," "Tax Returns," and the "Jonathan Fund." Supposedly, they raised money discreetly with wealthy businesses at the back end of business deals for a charity. The Carpenters sold lumber and coal. They promised to add an extra shipment if the business donated "x" amount of dollars if they donated. This was to make the money tax-deductible and this was the money that they used to buy the land with. These businesses never got their extra shipments, but there were never any contracts. Since the Carpenters already owned a lot of land for lumber and coal mining, they began to buy more with the "Jonathan Fund."
Murphy looked over to me with an excited look.
"This is it," he grinned, "This we can do. The crown will then have the power to seize the land. It could even go back to the original farmers."
He cupped both of my cheeks and kissed me. It was just a light kiss, but it promised more. It promised me that I would be able to have my future, and that it would be with Murphy. I took the initiative to kiss him on my own, and then stood to look at the papers. There was a knock at the door.
"My friend who will be helping us," he smiled, brushing the hair out of my face, "You may want to change...even though you look comfy in my shirt."
I blushed furiously as I looked down at myself. I skipped up the stairs and found the clothes I'd washed while I was sleeping.
"Okay, then we should probably start with the tax papers," a female voice said.
I know I shouldn't have, but I bristled at her voice. Murphy didn't say a female friend would be helping us. I instantly became embarrassed at my own thoughts. We weren't even together.
"Hi," I offered a polite smile to the newcomer as I walked through the doorway.
"Oh, Your Highness," she curtsied, "It's a pleasure to meet you. My name's Hannah Moorland." I racked my brain for that name in Murphy's stories. Ex-girlfriend.
I took a calming breath.
"Nice to meet you," I cautiously stepped over papers, "Where do we start?"
"These are tax returns here. It's a good place to start."
I pushed up my sleeves and sunk down to my knees. I picked up a stack, and began reading. It was tedious work, and it was awfully distracting when she kept looking at Murphy. It was also distracting to head them talk about past stories. I tried convincing myself that I was peeved that they weren't focused. But of course, that wasn't the real reason.
"I found something," I held up the papers.
Murphy and Hannah immediately flanked me. It described the tax deduction on 2.3 million dollars for a charitable cause.
"Oh perfect. Let's sit this aside," Hannah took it from me, "Well done."
I nodded, and moved on to another stack as she walked away. Murphy stayed sitting by me. When I turned to him, his eyebrows were raised and his mouth hinted at amusement.
"Stop it," he whispered and laughed. He kissed me full on the lips...right in front of Hannah. She looked down at her papers. I guess I was acting more peeved than I thought.
She seemed really focused after that.
"So Hannah," I started, "How do you know so much about the Carpenters?"
"My father's farmland is kept at a standstill now that the Carpenters own it," she sighed, not looking at me.
After hours of searching, we were finally able to find a trend. It was enough to prove them guilty of fraud. Strangely enough, Celia didn't call at all that night. Hannah left at around nine o' clock, after she'd eaten dinner.
"Something feels wrong," I leaned back into Murphy's chest as we sat on the back porch. I drew my knees to my chest and heaved a great sigh.
"It is weird that Celia hasn't called yet," he said, placing a hand on my arm.
I looked out into the ocean, trying to find out what the twisting in my gut meant.
"What if he forged my signature?" I asked, "I mean...he is guilty of fraud."
"Let's get married tomorrow. Legally," he said, spinning me around to face me.
"Is there a courthouse close by?"
"About ten minutes from here."
"What if they don't let us? I don't have my birth certificate or anything."
"On the contrary, Celia packed everything you need for that," he grinned.
"Were you planning on this?" I laughed.
"Well I planned for everything," he laughed as well.
"Let's do it, then. Let's get married at the courthouse tomorrow."
He suddenly looked upset, and he frowned.
"What?" I asked, in fear of another complication.
"This is not the wedding of a Princess," he sighed.
"No. It isn't," he shook my head, "But this isn't the real wedding. We'll simply tell the media we're engaged. We'll have a real ceremony and we'll still have to get married in the church. Besides...this is probably the only rebellion I'll ever get in my life."
"Fine," he laughed, "but we're picking out a ring before we get on the jet tomorrow."
"I think I'll be fine with that. Let's go to sleep."
Murphy helped me up and gave me a goodnight kiss. I slept soundly, though I woke up around six o' clock without meaning to. I woke up fully alert. I changed my clothes and still felt uneasy. Something was wrong. I felt it in the pit of my stomach.
"Murphy?" I called out.
He walked out into the hallway not seconds after I called him. By the look on his face, he felt that something was up too.
"What's that?" he asked.
I strained my ears and then ran into my room to grab my bag. I'd made sure all of our important information and evidence was packed away the night before.
"Helicopter!" I yelled as I ran.
I heard a strong of profanities leave his mouth before he grabbed my hand and led me down the steps in a sprint. The sound was louder now.
"We don't have a car."
"They're landing in the front yard," he said, "Let's go out the back."
We ran across the sandy grass to a utility shed. I shut the door firmly behind us. They shouldn't have seen us. I took in my surroundings to see a four-wheeler.
"Well," he barked a laugh, "Your coach awaits."
I heaved the door open just as he got it started up. I jumped on it behind him and wrapped my arms around his waist. He revved it and we sped over the beach. I laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation.
"Is this street legal!?" I yelled over the noise of the machine.
"I'm with the Princess, aren't I!?" he yelled back.
He seemed to know where to go, up a ramp from the beach. There weren't too many people out on the roads, but we got many looks from the tourists. I hid my face. We drove for several more minutes until we reached the court house. Someone was just unlocking the doors. The look on the woman's face was priceless as ran up. She haphazardly curtsied.
"We need to get married," Murphy said, breathless.
"And we need you to keep it a secret," I added, also breathless.
"Um...right this way," she eyed us, holding open the door.
Our hearts slowly started to pace themselves. She led us to an office.
"Identification and birth certificates," she said before starting up her computer.
I reached into the bag and pulled out everything she needed. Several minutes later, we were saying vows and signing many different papers.
"Congratulations," she smiled, handing us our marriage certificate, "I now pronounce you husband and wife."
Murphy kissed me, and we departed the courthouse, swearing her to secrecy. We walked out on the sidewalk and Murphy called a driver to pick us up to bring us to the jet.
"What happened to looking for a ring?"
"We'll find one in the capitol. I have a better idea than this."
On the way back home, we tried to make ourselves look as presentable as possible. We were prepared for a full security greeting. Our ideas were proven true when we stepped off the plane. I held my backpack close and Murphy held our certificate.
"Lord Murphy Hollingsworth? You're under arrest," said one of the guards.
"No he is not. He is my husband and committed no unlawful act," I said as Murphy presented them with our certificate. The guards' eyes bulged out of their heads and they looked stumped.
"However, we would both appreciate a ride to the Palace," I grinned.
"Yes, Your Highness," said a guard in an unsure voice.
I was laughing on the inside at how crazy this all was. I was married to Murphy, the warmth of his hand enveloping mine was physical proof. I held the key to saving my country in my backpack, and a secure future ahead.
Mother and Father awaited us just inside the foyer. I hugged them both, apologizing for having to put them through what they went through and promising it was important. Celia ran at me from a hall, tears streaming down her face.
"How did he get you to sign those papers!" she cried out.
"Celia, what are you talking about?" I grabbed her to settle her down.
"The betrothal papers. You signed them! Did he threaten you?"
"I never signed them," I looked at her and then to Murphy.
"I haven't signed anything since I signed for things for the...masquerade?"
Murphy nodded, "Maybe he paid off one of the employees to replace their forms with the betrothal papers."
"Oh, maybe that's it."
"Why are you not distressed about this?" Celia asked, wiping at her face.
"Well," I smiled at Murphy, "I can't possibly be married to Lord Reynold...because I'm legally married to Murphy."
Everyone's jaw dropped and I laughed. Murphy squeezed my hand.
"It happened this morning. Of course, we still need to have our church ceremony. The woman who married us is sworn to secrecy," Murphy began.
"So as of now, we will appear engaged. And also..." I pulled out the rest of the papers from my bag, "the Carpenters have committed fraud and tax evasion and we have proof."
It seemed as though no one knew how to react. They were stunned. Celia smiled and began to tear up again.
"Well..." Mother and Father looked at each other before Father started, "I'll call the lawyers in to look at it."
"And...I guess you're not in trouble," Mother said, raising her eyebrows.
By the end of that day, all members of the Carpenter family had been arrested, the land had been seized and given to the famers that worked it, the betrothal documents had been burned, as well as our contract with the florist that was paid off to get me to sign the wrong paperwork.
Two months later, Murphy publicly proposed to me in front of the fountain in town square. Unbelievably, my life had been saved and became anew.