Chapter Thirty Two

Merry Christmas

Mr. Emrys had a Christmas tradition. He closed the shop at exactly three on Christmas Eve. He felt that employees needed to be home early getting ready for the Holiday. It was one of the many little nice things that Mr. Emrys did for his employees. In many ways Sarah equated him with the character of Mr. Fizziwig in 'A Christmas Carol'.

Garrett had said the car would be at her house to pick her up at six. It was nearly three thirty when she arrived home. The house was empty; Karen and Toby were delivering cookies to friends. Her father was still at office, but would arrive by five. Sarah went up to her room and drew a hot tub for herself. She was going to take her time, wanting to look extra special this evening. She didn't have to worry about what to wear. Her mother had come though big time for her. The dress she'd sent was absolute perfection, a 1940's styled creamy coloured satin dream. The dress had come yesterday with a card apologizing for missing yet another holiday.

Sarah had looked up hairstyles of the era, finding one perfect for her thick hair. She took time to even make her makeup look as if she'd stepped out of film noir. Having an actress for a mother often came in handy. She'd gotten great tips on applying makeup from makeup artists on sets. At a little before six she was ready to go down to the main floor for her family to see the final results. The sliver dance heels and the long opera gloves, added to the mystic. She slowly descended the stairs to her father's open mouth and wide eyes. Karen took pictures as she came down the old staircase. Toby ran into the salon and pulled a small box from under the tree.

"Sarah, Sarah!" he rushed up to her as she stepped off the last stair. "You have to open this now. You need this now."

Sarah looked at Karen who nodded. Opening the little box she found a silver owl in flight pin. She looked at her little brother and bent to kiss his forehead. "It's perfect."

Carefully she pinned the silver piece to her shoulder strap. Turning to her father she asked. "How do I look, Daddy?"

"Like a princess." He kissed her forehead, just as she'd kissed Toby.

Karen insisted on taking Sarah's picture in front of the decorated tree. "I know your mother will want one of these." She gushed and fussed.

Sarah posed, having a bit of fun. During one of her poses her father opened the door expecting the driver of the car Garrett was sending over. However it was Oliver Bowen who sauntered though the door. He looked at Karen taking pictures of the vision in the white gown. Looking at Robert, he asked what Sarah was all dressed up for.

"She's been invited to a party at one of her Professors." Robert said proudly. "She is becoming quite the social butterfly among the academics."

"How nice," Bowen said, in a quiet tone. His eyes devoured the vision of Sarah. His mind raced on the thoughts he kept to himself, thoughts of having his way with the winsome creature.

Karen turned when she heard his voice. "Oliver, how nice of you to stop by."

Sarah didn't feel it was nice, she didn't like the way he looked at her. No, she didn't like it at all. The look was far too much like the look Fairchild had in her dream. Sarah came out of the pose, feeling it was too suggestive with this depraved man standing there looking at her.

Bowen came into the salon. "You look beautiful Sarah."

"Thank you." She said in a dry voice.

Toby glared at the man and went to stand in front of his sister. Sarah looked down on the blond head, and placed gloved hands on his shoulders. He looked up, there was fire in the young eyes, a brave protector.

Robert slapped Bowen on the back, "Eggnog, old man?"

Bowen nodded, not able to take his gaze from the vision in white satin.

Karen called Toby to the kitchen for his dinner, he glared as he left his sister alone with their father's law partner.

Sarah moved to pass him in the hall. The car would be here soon, and she needed the red cloak from the closet. "Excuse me."

Bowen leaned closer, taking hold of one arm as she moved past. "So beautiful in your dress. Even more out of it I'd suspect."

Sarah turned and pulled her arm free. "Don't talk to me that way."

Bowen gave her an evil smirk, "I'd love to be the one who undresses you tonight."

Sarah slapped him, just as her father entered the room. Robert stood back for a moment unseen. Bowen grabbed the girl and pulled her closer. "Oh the things I could do to you, you silly girl."

"Take your hands off her, Oliver." Robert ordered. He placed the eggnog down on the table next to him in the hall. "Are you drunk? What do you think you're doing?"

Bowen released the woman in his hands, enjoying the way she cowered. "I'm sorry. I must have had too much Christmas cheer already. Forgive my inappropriate remarks Sarah."

Robert moved to where he was now between the shaken young woman and the man who was still looking at her like she was candy. "I think you should go home, Oliver. Sleep this off." He walked the man out the door. "Don't ever talk to my daughter that way again." Sarah moved to the newel post of the stairs, gripped it to keep standing. Robert came to her side. "He's gone." Her father reassured her. He promised he'd stay there with her until the car arrived.

Moments later an uniformed driver stood in the doorway ready to escort Miss Williams to her car. Sarah placed the cloak on, picked up her evening bag and the little gift box she had sitting by her purse. She gave herself one last appraisal in the mirror and bid her father goodnight. The driver opened the door for her, making sure she was settled, then closed the door. Sarah felt like a princess, sitting in the back of the limousine. She decided to not let the words or the actions of Bowen ruin her night. She was dressed like a princess going to a ball, and wanted to enjoy it.

The printed invitation had read the party was going to start at seven. Garrett had said he wanted her to arrive before the others. That pleased her. He had made her feel very special. In her hand she held the little card that would announce her arrival at the party. She also held the box containing the Christmas gift she'd gotten for Garrett. She hoped he'd like it.

All the handsome estates in the area were decorated with taste and grace. The new fallen snow seemed the perfect touch to a magical night. Sarah stepped from the car with the aide of the driver who bowed to her as if she really were a princess. She raised her gown slightly so it would not get wet. When she stood at the door, it opened and she entered. Glisten greeted. "Good evening, Miss Williams. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas Glisten," she returned. The man took her cloak and handed it to a boy who was in charge of taking care of the coats. "Follow me, Miss Williams. Professor King wants you to join him in his study." Sarah followed making sure the ribbon on the little gift had not gotten crushed. At the door of the study Glisten entered and announced her to the master of the house and the guest that was already with him.

"Miss Williams, sir."

Sarah entered the room and smiled shyly at Garrett who was approaching her with out stretched hands. "Good Evening." She said pleasantly. She could barely take her eyes off him. Standing there in the exquisitely styled and fitted Tuxedo, it had been clearly designed just for him.

Garrett took hold of her gloved hands and look unabashedly at her. "Good Evening, Sarah. You look beautiful." He raised one gloved hand to his lips. "Come, I've someone I want you to meet." He moved to place her hand in the crook of his arm and brought her to stand before a man who had risen from one of the leather chairs. "Sarah Williams, I'd like to present Aubrey King, my father. Father this is the young lady I've spoken of, Miss Sarah Williams."

Sarah looked into blue eyes that danced with pleasure at her approach. "Mr. King." She curtseyed and found her hands being taken into hands that were every bit as beautiful as Garrett's.

Aubrey King was even taller than his handsome son was. His wavy sandy coloured hair had gone gray at the temples. He wore a trimmed beard and bore himself with the bearing of a regal being. He was clearly more than at ease with himself, he was comfortable in his own skin. He looked every bit a king dressed as he was in the evening garments. His smile was warm, and cordially given. "A great pleasure to meet you, my dear." He said as she rose to her feet. "I see for once my son has not exaggerated. You are beautiful."

"Thank you." Sarah blushed and wondered what Garrett had told his father of her.

King senior smiled. "Come my dear, let us become better aquatinted." He led her to the settee, and took a seat beside her. "My son tells me you are one of the most brilliant young women in his class."

Garrett tapped his foot, impatiently. "Father."

The elder waved him off. "So tell me, what plans do you have after your education is complete?"

Sarah smiled; she liked the older man and his easy way. "I'm hoping to receive word that I've been accepted for a program to finish a decorate in England." She was still clutching the little gift.

Garrett sat down on the arm of the settee and looked down at Sarah. "She has done some brilliant work, Father."

Sarah looked over and up at him. "Thank you." Looking down at her hand she raised the small gift to the host. "Something for under your Tree."

"Sarah, how sweet. I've a gift for you, but I'd like to give it to you a bit later, if you don't mind, my darling." He took the gift, "May I open it now?"

Aubrey snickered, "He was always impatient about opening gifts my dear. Tell him he can open it or there will be no peace tonight."

Sarah giggled. "Yes, do. I had wanted to see your reaction." She turned in her seat and watched as the professor pulled the pretty ribbon off and handed it to her.

Garrett opened the little box, and gazed at the stickpin in wonder. "Sarah." He picked the piece up and looked at her. "This… This is just amazing."

"It has a wonderful history too." She said. "It was commissioned by a bride long ago. A girl named Sorcha in Ireland."

Garrett turned the pin, on the back was engraved the words 'Sorcha' and 'Garrett'. "Did you look at the back, darling?"

"No. Why?" She leaned toward him as he lowered the pin for her to see.

"It's engraved." He then placed a hand under her chin. "Did you know that Sorcha is Gaelic for Sarah?" The long elegant fingers raised her face and he lowered his lips to hers for a brief, sweet kiss. "It carries our names, my darling." He looked at his father. "Didn't I tell you she was a wonder?"

Aubrey held out his hand and inspected the stickpin. "A very beautiful piece. A griffin, a regal beast, with a crystal sword… Do you know the story of the Crystal swords?" He asked Sarah as he passed the stickpin back to his son.

"The lady who sold me this piece said there was a tale of a crystal sword given to a Fae king by The High King." Sarah turned back to the older man. "But she didn't say much more than that. She didn't say there were more than one."

Aubrey King looked at his son. "You must ask Garrett to tell you the story sometime. It was his favorite bedtime tale."

Sarah smiled, "I can't image him as child. What was he like?"

Aubrey laughed. "Not much different than he is now." He looked at the younger man. "He's not my only child, but he is by far my favorite."

Garrett bowed, "Thank you, Father." He had placed the stickpin in his lapel

Glisten tapped at the door. "Sir, the guests are arriving."

Garrett stood up. "And we must receive them." He held a hand out to Sarah. "Will you do me the honor of acting as my hostess this evening?"

"I'd be honored to." She rose to her feet, taking the arm offered to her.

Aubrey followed them out of the study, taking his place on the other side of Sarah as they took their places for the receiving line in the ballroom. Glisten announced each name as the guests came though the door. Garrett greeted each of his guests with a personal comment, and presented Sarah, who in turn presented Aubrey King to the guests.

Garrett touched Sarah's elbow and pointed out William arriving with a very beautiful young woman.

"Is that the bird?" He asked softly.

"Indeed it is, and she's more lovely than her photo." Sarah replied.

"Mr. William Pratt and Miss Celia Townsend." Glisten announced.

William with his beautiful lady on his arm seemed far less brash then he had in class. Of course the evening garments he wore were a far cry from the usual sporty outfits he'd choose. He bowed curtly to King. "Professor King, may I present Miss Celia Townsend, my fiancée."

Celia was about Sarah's height, but as fair as Sarah was dark. She had long cascades of dark golden hair, bright green eyes, a heart shaped face, and a cupid's bow mouth. She curtsied to her host. "Professor King."

"My dear, welcome." He looked at Pratt and said, "She's too good for you, you know."

William nodded, "Yes, I know. That's why I gave her that rock she's wearing. Thought it would sweeten the pot."

Garrett presented them to Sarah. "Sarah, Mr. Pratt and his fiancée, Miss Townsend."

Sarah took Celia's hands in her own. "Welcome." She smiled warmly and the girls embraced. Then Sarah looked at the beauty of an engagement ring the newcomer wore.

William shook his head, "I was afraid this would happen. Come on, now ladies."

Sarah and Celia didn't use words. Just clasping hands they had formed a bond. Sarah presented the young couple to Aubrey.

Garrett placed a hand at the small of Sarah's back and whispered in her ear. "They look happy."

Sarah nodded, thinking how natural the feel of Garrett's hand on her back was.

The Benson's had arrived, as had the other couples who made up the discussion group. Dr. Benson raised a questioning brow at Garrett for having Sarah as part of the receiving line, but Margo was thrilled and pushed her husband aside.

James Lawson entered the room, was announced and approached. He looked at Garrett with open envy, then took Sarah's hand into his and kissed it. He bowed to the elder King and went to join the other members of the discussion group.

Sarah stiffened a bit when Carol Towage and her date arrived. Garrett slid his hand over her back and she took a deep breath. Towage was staring daggers at her, as if she were doing something terribly wrong. Towage and her date were greeted by Garrett, who then presented them to Sarah, his hostess. Towage glared at the girl and whispered for her to hear only. "You've made a big mistake doing this, Williams. Dr. Matiland is not going to take kindly to this."

Garrett looked at the door. "Most of our guests have arrived." He offered Sarah his arm, "Time to do the mingle." Aubrey cleared his throat, and Garrett dropped his arm. "Oh fine, you escort her. Just remember Father, she's only on loan to you."

Aubrey winked at the girl wickedly. "We must keep him in his proper place." He moved with Sarah on his arm along with Garrett toward the group of professors who were chatting lightly.

Margo raised a glass of Champaign up to Sarah. "I toast you again my dear girl. That is a wonderful gown."

Garrett looked at Willis Benson who was quiet. "Something disturbs you old friend?"

Dr. Benson sighed, "You play a dangerous game boy." He looked at the young woman on Garrett's father's arm talking lightly to the others. "Matiland wants her head as it is."

Garrett tried to ease Benson's concerns. "Everything has been above board, and by the books."

Margo looked at the pair and moved closer. "Don't look now but here comes trouble."

Garrett turned and looked at the entrance, Elisabeth Matiland stood in a long midnight blue gown that hugged her body like a second skin. "Good God, what is she doing?"

"Making La Grande Entrance," Sneered Margo, sipping from her fluted glass.

Garrett saw Sarah turn at the announced name, he watched as she squared her shoulders, and raised her head. He saw his father moved to her right side. Garrett flanked her left side and placed a hand gently to her back.

Matiland narrowed her eyes at the young woman in the virginal white gown, and promised herself before this night was over she'd teach the little tramp a lesson not to be soon forgotten. She moved like a cat as she approached the host. Reaching one hand out to Garrett she moved forward to place a kiss on his cheek.

"Garrett, darling. What a wonderful party." She kept her voice even although she was feeling rage. She looked at Sarah, a trifle amused. "Miss Williams."

"Dr. Matiland." Sarah greeted the other, "May I present Mr. Aubrey King, Professor King's father."

"Enchanted." Liz cooed.

"Dr. Matiland." Aubrey greeted her but kept it cool.

Liz turned back to Garrett. "Really, darling, you should have told me your father was the guest of honor tonight. I'd have come earlier to meet him."

"And missed making that entrance?" Asked Margo snidely. "Now that would have been a pity." Looking past the woman she said to Sarah pointedly. "Sarah, I didn't notice your car parked here."

Garrett fiddled with the stickpin. "Sarah didn't drive tonight. I sent a car for her. I don't like the idea of her driving the slick roads alone at night."

Aubrey watched with an amused grin as the person introduced to him as Dr. Matiland struggled with keeping her face stony.

Liz looked at Sarah, "That was thoughtful." She looked at Aubrey. "Miss Williams is Garrett's star student."

"So I've been informed." Aubrey announced as he graced Sarah with a look of pride.

Glisten announced dinner and the members of the party moved from the ballroom to the dinning room. Garrett had placed Sarah to his right and his father to his left. The hostess's traditional seat, facing Garrett's from the opposite end of the long table, was empty, and no place had been laid there, a fact Matiland noticed immediately. She wasn't sure how to read that, with the inference at her entrance that Sarah was acting as hostess. Maybe the empty spot was a message to the girl and everyone else that she was making a fool of herself.

Garrett smiled as he told his manservant they could serve. He poured wine for himself and Sarah before passing the bottle to his father. Then he rose to raise his glass.

"Dear friends, fellow collogues, and distinguished students. I am very glad to welcome you to my home, for Holiday Season. My own Holiday made even better by the attendance of my Father, Aubrey King. I wish you all a joyous season." He sat down, clinking his glass to that of the one in Sarah's hand. "Salute."

Sarah raised the glass to her lips and sipped, aware that both Matiland and Towage were shooting arrows with their eyes at her. She nearly jumped out of her skin when a foot moved next to hers slowly moving in an up and down flex. Garrett was conversing with guests as if nothing was happening, and Sarah wondered how he did that.

To her relief, both William and Celia had seats to her right. She conversed with the young woman easily.

When dinner ended a small orchestra had set up in the ballroom and was playing softly. No one had moved to the dance floor, as the first dance had to be danced by the host. Garrett held a hand out to Sarah as they entered the ballroom. "May I have the honor, Miss Williams?"

Sarah blushed. "Of course, Professor King." She followed him to the center of the floor and moved into his arms.

The orchestra stuck up the first notes to 'Our Winter Love'. Garrett held her close as they began to sway to the gentle tune. He looked into her eyes. "There are words you know." She looked up at him; "Shall I say them?" She nodded.

Pulling her closer he whispered in her ear:

Love warm in wintertime warms

This heart of mine with dancing fires

Of sweet desires we've found our winter love

Eyes cold as fallen tears grow

Be chilling fears of loneliness --

How could I guess we've found our winter love?

Now armed, the world is warm, warm

Through cold and storm, we've found a fire

Of sweet desire --

We've found our winter love

We've found our winter love,

We've found our winter love.

When the music ended, she looked up at him, her eyes shining with more desires than she knew that she contained. He bent over her hand, kissing it lightly and led her off the floor. Others took to the floor, filling the room with movement. Garrett kept her hand clasped in his, as they moved round the room, playing the host and hostess. Aubrey motioned Garrett and he brought Sarah back to his father's side. Aubrey bent toward her and asked for the next dance.

Aubrey smiled at her. "Garrett is quite smitten with you."

"Is he?" she asked.

"Yes," he nodded, "and it would seem that you are just as smitten."

"Oh dear," she sighed, "I'm not too comfortable discussing this."

Aubrey nodded, "I just would like to say, I approve." When she looked up at him in surprise he smiled. "I could not have picked a better candidate for my son's attention. In time I would be very happy to address you as, daughter."

Sarah paused, "Thank you, sir."

Aubrey nudged her back into the steps of the dance. "You would honor our family by joining us."

Sarah saw Matiland corner Garrett, and wondered what the odious woman was up to now. Whatever it was, it didn't appear to be doing any good. Garrett stiffened, looking coldly at the woman in midnight blue for a moment, before walking away from her completely. . Sarah saw Matiland turn and glare in her direction, and stifled a sigh. She turned her attention back to Aubrey. "I wish I'd a Christmas gift for you. Had I know…"

"Nonsense child, you are the gift." Aubrey said kindly.

When the dance ended, Sarah walked over to the orchestra and had a word with the leader. He listened to her request and gave her a quizzical smile. He moved to the microphone and said. "Ladies, and Gentlemen, the next number is dedicated to Mr. Aubrey King, our hosts father. I present to you, Miss Sarah Williams."

Sarah stepped to the microphone. "Merry Christmas, Father." She nodded to the Orchestra leader who waved his baton to the musicians.

When the last eagle flies over the last crumbling mountain

And the last lion roars at the last dusty fountain

In the shadow of the forest though she may be old and worn

They will stare unbelieving at the last unicorn

When the first breath of winter through the flowers is icing

And you look to the north and a pale moon is rising

And it seems like all is dying and would leave the world to mourn

In the distance hear the laughter of the last unicorn

I'm alive, I'm alive

When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning

And the future has passed without even a last desperate warning

Then look into the sky where through the clouds a path is torn

Look and see her how she sparkles. It's the last unicorn

I'm alive, I'm alive

I'm alive, I'm alive

I'm alive, I'm alive

Aubrey King stood with tears shining in his beautiful blue eyes, tears that had not fallen. He looked at his son, who had moved to stand at his side. Both men were swayed by the deep feeling with which Sarah sang the song. Aubrey said softly. "Join with her, you have my blessings."

"Thank you, Father. But with or without, I fully intended to join with her. She is the other half of my soul," Garrett whispered.

Sarah stepped down and moved toward the men. "Merry Christmas, sir."

"Sarah," Aubrey kissed her cheek, "You do an old man's heart good."

Towage looked at Dr. Matiland. "Are you going to let her get away with this…display?"

Liz shook her head. "I'm about to put her in her place." She moved past the girl and went to Garrett's side. "I need to speak to you on an urgent matter. In your study if you please."

Garrett sighed, "Can this wait?"

Liz's eyes were shining. "No, it can not." she turned and walked in the direction of the study.

William had been keeping an eye on the situation and frowned. "Oh, that can't be good." He said to Celia. He took her hand and moved toward Sarah.

"Sarah!" he called out as he came near. "Barracuda alert." He pointed to Matiland moving with Garrett in tow toward the study.

Glisten approached, "Miss Williams, Dr. Matiland has requested that you join both she and Professor King in the study."

Sarah took a deep breath, "Thank you Glisten." She excused herself.

William looked up at the elder King. "Word of warning, Dr. Matiland hates Sarah."

The elder King looked concerned. "I see. I think I'll just go give her moral support. Why don't you ask Dr. Benson and his wife to join us in that study? I've a feeling they are going to be needed."

William nodded. "As you wish."

Aubrey King met up with the Benson's and together they moved down the hall to the study. They arrived to hear Dr. Matiland tell Garrett in no uncertain terms that she wanted Sarah gone, and now.

Garrett looked at the woman sitting on the settee with mild amusement. "Liz, I've already told you, you have no say in what I do, think, say or for that matter, in whom I'll date."

Liz stood up, "Perhaps I don't, but the board does. Sarah is a student, and there are regulations and rules in place."

"Sarah was a student, and I was her instructor. During that time I could not date her. She is no longer my student as of yesterday." Garrett corrected the woman. "Technically she's a graduate student, working toward her doctorate."

A mysteriously bizarre smile caught up the corners of Liz Matiland's lips. It did not improve her looks. "She'd have to have earned her masters first. To do that she would have had to turn in a Thesis."

Sarah looked at the woman. "I turned my paper in back on the ninth."

Liz pulled the paper in question from a bag she'd had one of the servants bring to the study when she arrived. "Oh, you mean this lot of garbage and tripe?"

Sarah felt her mouth drop open, in Liz Matiland's hand was the very Thesis she'd taken to Dr. Benson's office. "Where did you get that?" Sarah heard her own voice, heard the anger, and the fear.

Garrett looked at the thesis in Matiland's hand. "Liz! You pilfered a thesis from another professor's office? That's interference of the worst kind."

Aubrey held his hand up, to caution the others with him to listen. Dr. Benson stood behind him also listening to the exchange in the study. Margo, just behind them listened with eyes flashing fire.

Liz laughed. "Oh Garrett you can not be serious. This is not a Thesis! It is a poorly written excuse for a fairy tale. This is my Christmas present to you, Garrett darling. I've saved your department from having to turn down this misguided child's delusions." She moved swiftly, and tossed the precious pages into the blazing fire in the study hearth.

Sarah saw the flames lap up the pages like a cat laps up cream. She could not believe her paper was being destroyed. The woman before her was laughing at her. "No!" She moved toward the flames. Hands from behind her pulled her back to safety. Her eyes glared at the woman laughing. "What gives you the right?"

Aubrey held tight the girl, for fear she'd try to pull the burning pages from the flames.

Liz looked down her nose at her. "Years of experience, child. That gives me the right." She looked at Garrett. "If she had not caught your eye, you and I would be celebrating our engagement this night. It would have been me you introduced to your father, and sent a car for."

"Never," Said Garrett quietly. He looked at poor Sarah. "Liz, you are not even her instructor, you don't have anything to do with the subject matter she was working on. It was a brilliant paper, some of the best work I've seen in years."

"Honestly, Garrett! I'd have thought you'd have debunked this idiot's hallucinations." Liz scoffed. "Instead you stand her praising her work. Have you any idea of what this fool thinks? Of what the subject of her paper was?"

Benson spoke up at this moment. "In Defense of the Goblin King." He said the title with conviction and a firm no nonsense tone.

Margo suddenly could see a turn of the worm, even before Liz realized Benson should not known the title as the paper had been destroyed before he'd seen it.

Liz turned to look at the department head. "How did you know the title? You've never set eye on the garbage, we saw to that."

Garrett looked at Liz with malevolence. "Sarah gave me a personal copy of the paper. After reading it, I was excited by the piece. I called Willis here to ask what he thought of the paper. He told me he'd not received a copy. Yet Sarah had told me herself that she'd turned it in that morning. Willis searched and could find not a trace of it, nor of Sarah ever having been in his office that morning. I walked my copy over to him and handed it to him personally."

Liz glared at the man she had just been professing devotion to. "You did what?"

Benson took up the torch now. "I then called Ms. Lancaster and we went over it. I read it, then she read it, and we discussed it." Benson smiled at Sarah, still being held back by Aubrey. "A most amusing play on classical themes and folk lore! We could not stop discussing it. Ms. Lancaster was very pleased."

Liz looked at them as if they'd all lost their minds. "It's the most stupid idea I've ever read." She was disgusted with the lot of them. "Little wonder you're being forced into retirement if this is what you promote!"

Margo gasped, "Willis is that true? They are forcing you to retire?" Placing a hand on her husband's arm she sympathized. "Oh darling man, no wonder you've been short of temper of late. Willis you should have told me."

He patted the hand of support. "It was not for certain… I'm sure Liz here will use her influence to make sure it is, now."

Sarah looked at Matiland. "How can you live with your self?"

Liz looked at the burning pages. "Very easily."

Garrett pulled an envelope from his desk. "Sarah, I was saving this until later, but I think you should see it now."

Aubrey kept one hand on her as she opened the envelope. "The Thesis was accepted, and I'm going to get the degree." She sighed in relief. Then she looked at Matiland. "You are evil, more evil than… I wish." She fought to think of something horrid. "I wish…"

Aubrey spoke, "Sarah." His voice was firm, "Let Garrett handle the rest of this. We've guests who we should see to, daughter."

Sarah turned her face up to him, "Yes, you're right…Father."

Aubrey looked at his son. "Take care of this." He turned to lead Sarah out.

"I don't understand you!" Liz said bitterly. "She's the child of a two bit actress who abandoned her and her father for the glitter of the footlights and an illicit affair with a younger man." The insult hit the mark as Sarah stood still in the doorway. "I know all about you Sarah Williams, and I will see to it that the board learns all about you as well."

"Learns what, Liz?" Garrett snarled his anger rising.

"They will learn how she's been stalking you, Garrett!" Liz was shouting. "How she insinuated herself into your life, and your discussion group. How she…"

"Did nothing wrong," stated Garrett. "All the discussion groups were chaperoned by Dr. Benson and his wife, Margo." He smiled easily. "I didn't even go with her to the Halloween gala. NO, my dear Liz. The girl did nothing wrong. And if you do bring her up on charges, you'll have to have me brought up as well."

Liz looked at Sarah, "Everyone knows she just a whore like her mother. First the business with Pratt, then that man she did the dirty tango with….And what about that rocker she's been hanging out with…I found them in the garden at the Gala, Garrett…All cozy, playing touchy feelie in the garden."

Sarah looked at Garrett.

Garrett shrugged. "Sarah and that man have known each other for ages. And she and I were not dating. Why should I be concerned about past history?"

Aubrey took Sarah's elbow, "Come, my dear… Have I ever told you how fond I am of theater people?"

Garrett was grateful his father took the girl out of the room. He looked at Dr. Benson. "You were here Willis. Did you ever witness anything inappropriate pass between Sarah and I?"

Willis was now fully in the room glaring at Liz. "Never!" He stepped closer. "You took her Thesis from my office! I think the board will be more interested in that bit of information, then what we discussed here during our dinners. How dare you interfere with my students?"

Garrett looked at the fire. "I thought better of you Liz. I had no idea you were so petty."

Liz was shaken with fury. "Garrett, she's not worthy of you. She's a whore."

Garrett turned his back to her. "Get out of my house, Dr. Matiland."

Liz looked at the three people left in the room. Garrett with his back to her; Willis who was treating her like a pariah; and Margo, who Liz had never cared for in the first place. "Fine!" She walked to the door. "Don't say I didn't warn you Garrett. She'll disappoint you! She's beneath you!"

Liz took the hall quickly, not looking back toward the sounds of guests at the party. She headed for the front entrance, ordering the cloak room staff to get her things. She put her coat on and stormed from the house. When she reached her car, she turned looked at the house and spoke the words that changed her life. "I wish I could do something to get rid of you, Sarah Williams. I wish I could get rid of you!"

A voice that was easy, warm and cultured said from behind her. "We should talk."

Liz turned. The man who had tangoed with the Williams girl was standing behind her. "Who are you?"

"An ally Dr. Matiland. We should talk." The man held out a gloved hand, to the woman. "Come, my dear lady. Let us work together."

"What do you get out of working with me?" She asked.

"I get Sarah Williams," he said with an evil smile.

Chapter Thirty Two part two

Under the Mistletoe

Sarah stood with Aubrey speaking to some of the guests, trying to keep her mind off the study. The moments were dragging on like hours. Part of her wanted to go back to that room and rip Matiland's blond hair out by the dark roots.

Just a few short moments had passed, and Garrett joined them in the ballroom. He placed a hand to Sarah's waist, pulled her close and behaved as if nothing had taken place. He excused himself and Sarah from the conversation and led her to the dance floor. Once on the floor he looked at her and smiled.

At half past twelve the guests began to depart. Margo and Willis Benson were among the last to leave. Willis congratulated Sarah again on a brilliant paper, and told Garrett he'd be in touch during the break to discuss how to handle the problem with Matiland. Margo kissed Sarah on the cheek and told her to hang in there. Soon it was just Aubrey and Garrett and Sarah standing in the foyer. Aubrey leaned down and kissed Sarah on the forehead. "I'll say my goodnights now, children. I'm sure you'd like a few moments alone." He turned and went toward the stairs.

"Good night, Father," Garrett called softly.

"Good Night," Sarah called as well.

Garrett looked at the young woman. She still looked faintly troubled, even now. He cocked his head to one side, smiled and held out a hand to her. When she placed her gloved hand in his, he led her toward the solarium, where the tree was decorated. He closed the frosted glass doors behind him as they entered the room. Lowering the lighting so only the lights of the tree lit the room he moved toward her. Sarah looked at him and wondered just what he was thinking.

"Did I tell you how beautiful you looked this evening?" he asked as he neared her.

"Several times," she looked at his confidant features.

Smoky glass hid so much of his eyes from her. "That was very sweet of you, singing that song for my father." He took her hand and brought her to sit on a bench near the tree. "He's very taken with you, you know."

Sarah smiled. "Funny, he said that you were 'smitten' with me."

Garrett snickered, "Did he?" He began to pull at the bow tie and was having little luck. "Be a darling and get me out of this thing before I strangle on it."

Sarah laughed airily as her hands reached for the tie. "Silly, you have to undo these things gently. They have to be persuaded." A moment later she held the tie in her hands. "See?"

Garrett undid the button on his shirt, "I see." He took the tie and draped it over one of the boughs on the Christmas tree. Smiling, he crooked his index finger toward her and whispered. "Come here, Cookie." Sarah leaned toward him, and was rewarded with a long warm kiss. Garrett pulled back and told her to stay seated. He moved to the tree and removed a box that was sitting on the tree skirt. "Merry Christmas, my darling."

He handed the package to her and sitting down on the opposite side of the bench.

Sarah looked at him, "Thank you."

"Open it." He ordered.

Sarah opened the box, inside was a book. Sarah picked it up and let out a gasp. The title of the book was 'Music box Dancer' and the author was Robin Zaker. She looked at Garrett. "Is this what I think it is?"

Garrett nodded, "It's the only copy there is, Sarah. Its Robin's last book, his rough draft."

"My God, Garrett! No one in the world would have an idea of… how… how did you find it?" She could not hold back the tears.

"My father is on the board of his publishing company in London. I mentioned how much you liked Zaker's work. He told me they'd found this rough draft but that it was not what the publisher wanted to publish. Too bad, I read a few passages. It's a good read." He touched her face. "Do you like it, Cookie?"

"I love it… I love you." She leaned toward him to kiss his face.

One long fingered hand moved to her waist, as lips slanted over hers. His left hand moved to brace the back of her neck. His mouth moved down her throat, he but paused for a moment at the daring neckline of the stain gown. His hand moved to her back, as he began to kiss the soft swells of her breasts. His mouth moved over the satin bodice of her gown and she gasped. "Should I stop?" He asked with his lips buried in the material of her gown.

"No." she whispered. "Don't stop." She shook, and sighed in a ragged breath.

He continued kissing her through the gown. "Are you frightened Cookie?" He whispered huskily.

"Yes, a little," she confessed. "I've never… no one's ever wanted…"

Garrett raised his eyes to her. "They were fools, Sarah."

Sarah took a long breath, "Garrett, up until a few months ago, when I met you, there was only one person who…"

"That Jareth fellow?" He asked. "The one who confuses you?"


"Do I confuse you, Cookie?" His voice was as intoxicating as new wine.

"No." Her voice shook as she trembled. "You do all sorts of things, but you don't confuse me."

Garrett kissed her again, this time his mouth parted and he bit her lightly though the dress. "What sorts of things do I do to you, Cookie?"

Closing her eyes the young woman moaned, "You make me want things I never thought I could have. You make me feel things I never thought were possible."

"Do you want me, Cookie?"

"Oh yes, I want you." Her soft moans were like sobs. "OH God, how I want you."

Garrett sat up, "And if I were to ask you to come with me now, to my bed?"

The woman lowered her gaze. "Is that what you want?"

Garrett tipped her face up to his, waiting until her eyes met his. "I'd be lying if I said no. Yes, I want you in my bed. I want to wake up and see your face first thing in the morning. I want your face to be the last thing I see before sleep comes. I want to know every lovely inch of you, intimately."

Sarah listened to his words, but didn't hear the ones she'd hoped to. Her face became a mask, she didn't want him to see that she was hurt and disappointed.

Eyes behind smoky glass saw it all. "Sarah, I want your body, but not just your body. I want your body, your heart, your mind…and your very soul." His voice was tender as he spoke. "I want to know if you are ready?"

Was she ready? "I don't know if I can answer that." She said with truthfulness.

Garrett sighed. "You just did." He touched her face. "Don't look so sad. I'm not giving up. You are worth fighting for. And I hate to lose." He snorted lightly.

Sarah felt a need to say something, something more. "Garrett, I love the way you make me feel. But when it comes to the relations between a man and a woman, I'm lost."

His hand moved over her, down her throat and came to rest on her breast. "I can feel how much you want me. Just as I can feel your fears, love. Soon you will want more than you fear." He smiled, "Besides, it would be better if my father were not under my roof when I have my way with you…"

Sarah laughed, "Sometimes you are so lewd."

"Oh Cookie, I've not yet started to be lewd," he growled as he claimed her mouth yet again. "I'll show you what lewd really is soon enough, Cookie." His lips moved to her ear. "I'm going to be very wicked with you my sweet. Make you squeal in delight and beg for more."

Sarah slid her arms round him. "Tell me more."

"I certainly don't want my father walking in on us while I have my wicked way with you, Cookie." He teased, kneading the breast in his hand. "Knowing him, he'd want a share."

Sarah slapped his shoulder. "Stop that!"

Garrett looked up, saw the mistletoe, and pulled her closer. "I'm going to have to send you home soon…or I'll forget all about being a gentleman. But first, that's mistletoe above us, now pucker up Cookie."

Chapter Thirty two part three

Allies in a dark plan

Liz followed the dark and mysterious car, wondering if she'd lost what was left of her mind. She pulled behind the car when it at long last pulled into the long winding drive of the dark estate house. The man with the ocean blue eyes waited for her to join him on the stairs of the entrance. She told herself she'd listen to what the man had to say, if she didn't like it she could always leave, couldn't she?

Miles looked at her as she walked up the stairs. "You have nothing to fear," he said delicately. "My interest in you is purely an ends to my means."

"Why do you want this Williams girl?" She asked with unmasked hostility.

"That does not concern you," he informed her coldly. "All you need know is that once I have the girl your Professor King will be yours." He laughed to himself. Fooling the stupid woman was easier than he'd thought. Just the promise of Garrett King was enough to gain her trust. "Come, let us be comfortable while we discuss our business." He led her into the house, straight to the room full of erotic statues.

Liz looked about her surroundings, never in her life had she seen so many erotic statues. She blinked, not knowing the magic that saturated the room was already beginning to work on her. "These are magnificent," she stated in a breathy voice.

"Yes they are," he agreed. "I'm glad you appreciate them." He was amused by how quickly the woman was submitting to the power of suggestion in the statues. Sarah had been far more challenging.

Liz dropped her coat and walked in a trance-like state to gaze upon one of the more erotic pieces of the collection. Her hands moved up her body as she responded to the power in the room. "Oh God, it makes one hunger."

Miles found no reason he should not toy with the woman; she was just a mortal after all. She was not important, and she could amuse him for a few moments. "What do you hunger for Dr. Matiland?"

Liz turned, her face transfigured with sexual desires. "I hunger for Garrett King." Her fingers were lightly tantalizing her skin.

"Why Garrett King?" He asked wondering what it about that guise that had this woman desired him.

"He's a good match for me. Intelligent, rich, and powerful," she laughed lightly. "It does not hurt that he's handsome and sexy." She sighed deeply.

Miles considered her words. "You really think he's a good match for you? If that is so, I wonder why his attention was shifted to a mere chit of a girl." He enjoyed playing devil's advocate. "Perhaps you didn't use the right enticements." He now whispered in her ear.

Liz glared, "It's that little whore!"

Miles snickered, "Do you really see Sarah as a whore? Take another look, woman. She's as innocent as the new fallen snow."

"Oh, please!" Matiland spat. "You want me to believe that a man as sophisticated at Garrett King is taken with a virgin?"

Miles sighed, "Virgins have an intoxication all their own." He looked at his living statues. "To be the first to open eyes to the pleasures of body and soul. To be first…" He lost himself in that thought.

Liz shook her head. "I don't believe that."

Miles felt a moment of pity for the mortal. "What you believe does not matter. You want Garrett King. As long as Sarah is free, you'll never have him. Once I've had Sarah, King will not want her."

"Then have her already! What are you waiting for?" Liz growled.

"It's not quite that easy, she has…protections from me…so I find I need a mortal to intercede." Miles looked at his statues. "I nearly had her once. The statues worked their magic, awaking desire in her. She was almost ready to give herself to me. I'm not sure why she bolted."

"What do you mean… you need a mortal to intercede?" Liz felt something buzzing in her head.

Miles looked at her, "Come now, you didn't think anything this pretty could be mortal, did you?" He laughed as the woman sank to her knees. "I've lived as an exile from my world in yours for a very long time. I'm only telling you this because you'll never remember any of this conversation. In fact you won't remember me at all, you foolish creature."

Liz leaned on the base of one of the statues that had started to move. She heard the sounds, saw the movements and looked up at Miles in fear. "What the hell did you do to me? How could you have drugged me? I haven't had anything to eat or drink!"

Miles shook his head. "Why is it when one of you does something truly stupid, you can not own up to it? It's always someone else's fault, or you were drugged? Really why would I waste my time? Had I wanted to have my way with you, I could have easily done that the moment you entered this chamber. I have no doubts as to why Garrett King is not interested in you, woman." He knelt down and taunted the fallen woman. "You might give a man a moment of pleasure, that is if you're not too busy pleasuring yourself. Sarah however has passion to burn for years with a flame that will devour a man." He patted her face. "Now, let us get down to brass tacks as you mortals say. I want to know how you knew about Sarah's paper. I want to know everything you know about the girl's comings and goings."

Liz gasped, "I had her followed. My student aide is one of her classmates." The buzzing in her head was becoming painful. "Help me."

"Of course." He waved a hand and the buzzing in her head seemed to lighten. "So you had her followed, now why didn't I think of that?" He stood up and paced. "Leave it to a mortal to go for the simple fix."

The faun crept in, sniffed at the woman and looked up at his master with expectations. "Mine? The pretty is mine?"

"Don't be absurd." He pushed the creature away from the woman. "This one is my ticket to getting Sarah. We'll find you another playmate."

Liz pulled closer to the base. "What is that thing?"

"That, Dr. Matiland is a faun." Miles was finding her discomfort great sport.

"And as long as you behave and continue to be so helpful I won't let him have his way with you."

The faun sniffed, "She would be good playmate," he said to his master. "Let me just tickle her a little."

"No." Miles snapped his fingers and the faun backed off. "Now, Dr. Matiland just whom did you have follow our little Sarah?"

Liz pulled as close to the base as she could. "Her name is Towage. Carol Towage." She looked up with pleading eyes to Miles. "Keep that thing away from me and I tell you anything you want to know."

"I'm sure you will," he said with complete understanding. Nothing was as intimidating to a mortal woman as a naked faun threatening sexual acts; "Now why don't we just call this Miss Towage and have her join us here? Then we can get her information and send you ladies on your way." Miles held a hand out to the woman on the floor.

Liz took the offered hand, and felt like a complete coward. "I have her cell phone number on my phone." She pulled the cell phone from her purse. "Carol, I need to speak to you. NO, now." She looked to Miles for the address, the told the aide where to come to. "Alone, Carol. I need you to come alone."

Miles took the phone and put it aside. "Don't worry, Dr. Matiland. I have no intentions of letting anything happen to you until I have Sarah."

"What is so blasted enticing about that girl?" Liz groaned. "You, Garrett, the Pratt boy, and that mad man at the Cristo."

Miles looked at her with renewed interest. "What mad man?"

Liz suddenly wanted to take the words back. "No one."

Miles clucked his tongue at her, "Now, Lizzy, if you start lying to me, I'll just have to have the faun persuade you to tell me the truth."

"No." she begged. "I don't want him touching me."

Miles leaned close, "Tell me, Lizzy, and perhaps I'll touch you myself."

Liz looked at him. "You'd touch me? How?"

Miles caressed her, moving his hands up her ribs to her breasts. "The way you want Garrett King to touch you." Miles knew that sometimes a woman needed to be gently persuaded not threatened with rape. "Come, Lizzy, give me the information I want."

"His name is Coin, Colin Montgomery." Liz warmed to the touch of the depraved Fae. "He and his sister run an occult store."

"Good girl." He lowered his lips and kissed her throat. "Now, go to sleep, pretty." She slumped in his arms and he placed her on one of the benches in the room. "One down, one to go."

The faun came back in, looked at the sleeping woman and shook his head. "You waste good time."

"I've had that kind of good time, it's over rated." Miles looked around at the living statues and the erotic acts being preformed. "I'm so bored with all of this. I look forward to some excitement, Stephens, tell the butler to watch for a woman named Towage and to send her in to me here. If you are good perhaps I'll allow you to have fun with that one…she's unimportant, just a student, and that silly woman's aide."

Miles stood alone in his hand was one of the gifts he'd received from the Fae Queen for services rendered. As long as he had this he would remain outside detection. He hoped.