Disclaimer: I don't own it.

Chapter 3

She took a deep breath then walked bravely towards the group of teenagers chatting animatedly by the swings.

"Hey, guys, Sam's coming, look!" Tim said his entire face lighting up at her sight. He was secretly in love with her but didn't have the guts to confess his love.

"Hey, girl, happy birthday!" Dora, an African-American curly haired sixteen year old squealed rushing to hug her friend.

"Thanks, Dora!" Samantha said hugging her back.

The others took turns hugging and congratulating her and she struggled to keep on a happy face.

"Okay, now spill" her best friend, Deen, ordered.

"Sorry?" she pretended not to understand.

"I can tell something's off, so what is it?" the other girl wouldn't budge.

Samantha sighed. If there was one person who knew her better than anyone it was Deen. She was her best friend, her soul-sister and they were so much alike ... They had known each other since they were in kindergarden and had remained friends. To Samantha, Deen was the bridge that linked the orphanage's stern looking main building to the fancy villas in Montecito and the teenaged volunteers eating hamburgers and pizza on the grass in the backyard to the young 'princes' and 'princesses' dining at the Orient Express ...

"Guys ... um ... there's something ... I have to tell you ..." Samantha said not really looking them in the eye.

"We're not invited to your party, we know" Dora said with a wink.

"Yeah, Sam, it's okay, we understand" Tim said giving her a heartfelt smile.

She smiled weakly. She wished it were that simple, because she knew they could understand that one. But ... how about what she was about to tell them?

"Thank you, guys ..." she said. "But it's not that ... I ...um ... I'm ... leaving ..."

"Leaving?" Dora shrugged.

"I just got my birthday present ... a trip around Europe ..." Samantha said her voice barely a whisper somewhat ashamed to even hint her family's financial status to her less wealthier friends.

"Do you want me to kick your ass, girl?" Dora asked. "You're sad 'cause you're going to travel to Europe? Gee, kiddo, try some enthusiasm!"

"Yeah, Sam, it's not like you're leaving for good ..." Tim told her forcing a smile.

"It's for a year, you guys" Samantha said and everybody went quiet.

She looked at Deen unable to face the other two.

"Wow, um, a year it's ... um ..." Deen started.

"A lot?" Samantha offered and Deen nodded. "Yes, my point exactly" she continued. "And then, after a year, I can pick one of the university I'll be visiting and go there, if I want to. So, you see, this one year could become ... more ..."

Deen shook her head as if to get rid of an unwanted thought.

"IF you want to. See, there a big 'IF'" she said, but Samantha sighed.

"You don't get it, I'm expected to want to ... And I don't know, maybe I'll like it but ... just the idea of ..." the beeping of her phone interrupted her. "Sorry" she mumbled as she reached for it in her purse and flipped it open. It was a text message from Katherine.

"Aunt Kelly thinks you should get your skinny behind home if you want your hair done in time for your party.;)"

"Um, I have to go ... " she said apologetically.

"When can I ... we see you again? When do you leave?" Tim asked bolder than ever.

"Not for a couple of weeks, I think. I'll still come to work on Monday" she reassured them all.

"I guess I'll see you tonight" Deen shrugged.

"Yeah, see you" she nodded, then turned to Dora and Tim and hugged them briefly whispering quick goodbyes.

Countless memories of another blond girl's birthdays invaded C.C. Capwell as he watched Samantha - Eden Wainwright - Capwell descend the stairs her pale green dress whooshing slightly with every step she took.

For a brief second he wondered weather Eden's daughter had the same grace and elegance as her goddaughter ...

"Hey, grandpa, came to escort the princess to her ball?" Samantha asked and hugged him.

"You look so beautiful" he complimented her.

"Grandma picked the dress" she said.

"Maybe, but the dress would be nothing without the model" he chuckled.

"Thank you. So, shall we go?" she asked.

"Actually, I have to wait for your grandma and Aunt Kelly, but William is here to escort you" he answered her and winked. Then he informed her "He's waiting for you in the study".

"Oh, um, thank you, I'll go greet him ..." she answered faking enthusiasm.

William - Randall Prescott was the only son of a wealthy Californian family and likely to inherit a fortune. He was a tall and handsome second year law student, good at sports and good with words who could have any girl wrapped around his finger in no time. He was also Samantha's worst nightmare.

He had been hitting on her ever since she turned sixteen a year ago, while her family (well, her grandfather actually, but he was the family that mattered) didn't refrain from hinting that he would be the right guy for her ...

Only Samantha wasn't that sure she wanted him for a boyfriend or any other guy for that matter . And for that reason she avoided him as well as she could but apparently he had found a way to reach her ...

"Hi" she greeted a smile too big to be real plastered across her face.

"Hello, Samantha" William greeted back kissing her cheek. "Happy birthday" he then added and handed her a square shaped present. "Open it" he prompted.

She tore the wrapping paper freezing at the sight of a dark blue velvet box. She opened it with shaky hands to reveal a pair of heart shaped diamond earrings.

"What ... what is this?" she asked looking at him.

"It's a birthday present" he smiled. "For my future girlfriend. You see, I asked your grandfather for permission to date you" he explained.

Samantha couldn't believe her ears.

"You asked ... What about me? My permission?" she managed to utter.

"I'm asking you now. And giving you some time to think" he said smiling triumphantly. "I'll wait outside". And with that he was out the door in a split second leaving a puzzled Samantha to ponder over what he just said.

She hated this. She hated when her grandfather liked something or someone that she didn't. Because she knew she couldn't disagree with him. He was the one who payed attention to her when her little brothers and sister took over her mommy and daddy. She was his princess and she couldn't disappoint him. Not when fate took his other princess away. Her aunt and godmother.

The high education, piano lessons, foreign languages, high society gatherings, traveling, European university, they were all meant to make her everything Eden Capwell had been and more. She wasn't stupid. She had figured that one out long ago.

She sighed, adjusted her dress and walked through the study door to meet William, the velvet box as forgotten as the face down photo frame on top of which it laid.

She never really liked parties that much. She wished she had a sister, or cousin, or someone, anyone with more developed socializing skills who would be able to divert people's attention away from her ... She had heard about how her Aunt Eden used to be so great with parties and socializing. And dancing. She was good at that, too. Unlike Samantha who's feet seemed to be made of wood every time she tried to dance ...

"Hey, there, birthday girl"

Samantha's head spun to the right. That voice, she would recognize it anywhere ...

"Brandon!" she squealed hugging the tall young man whom the voice belonged. "Oh, my God, you're here!"

"I missed you, too, kid" he replied breathing into her hyacinth perfumed hair.

He wasn't quite sure what it was that he was feeling for her. As children, they weren't that close and only seen each other occasionally. But Brandon looked up to his Uncle Mason, Samantha's father, and sometime while growing up spending time with his favorite uncle meant having his kid around, too.

Later, he grew fond of the shy little girl who was trying so hard to please the great C.C. Capwell, just as he used to do (and still did). Before going away to boarding school, he became her unofficial guardian angel, as she used to call him, ever since he pulled her out of the family pool during a failed swimming lesson.

Then, as he left for Europe to complete his education, they e-mailed each other almost every day even if sometimes it was just to say hi or have a nice day.

He could call Samantha his best friend. Only ... he wasn't that sure about his feelings for her anymore ... He couldn't tell when it happened but he started to notice that his little friend wasn't so little anymore. She wasn't a little girl, but a beautiful young woman. That is when he started to avoid her. In a strange, complicated way she was his cousin and he couldn't let his heart lead the way.

But tonight it was her birthday and maybe he could give into this just a bit ...

Sophia Capwell watched the interaction between Samantha and Brandon with a frown. She saw him almost startle her then engulf her into a brotherly hug. Only his eyes seemed to tell another story.

She watched Samantha accept his invitation to dance and for once in her life she looked like the dance floor wasn't going to turn into this huge black hole ready to eat her alive.

For the first time that night, Samantha looked truly happy.

A/N: So it wasn't really about the party, but I covered what I had in mind for this chapter.:) Adriana is next.

Thank you for reading!