romance versus relics chapter 11

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  • 1.
    Welcome to chapter eleven! You have seen the relics and a glimpse of the romance, but now it's time to delve a bit more deeply into the personal aspects of Nellie's life. Yes, there will be adventure, but there will also be more drama, along with a bit of mystery, in this chapter. Hopefully, you are up for that! Well, without further ado, I give you the next chapter in Nellie's life . . . .

    " Thank you for coming so quickly, Mademoiselle Blye"the Special Merchant smiled. " The former groundskeeper of the Landgraab estate, Willard Leroo, kept a journal that, I believe, may contain first-hand information about the disappearance of Anastasia Necteaux. Please journey to the shack, located on the grounds of the Landgraab Chateau, and recover his journal for me."
    Although Nellie was not too keen on going, yet again, to the Landgraab house, she was relieved to know it was only to the grounds keeper's shack. Besides, she was curious about Anastasia Necteaux as well.

    Finding the journal was easy enough. It was in a chest just inside the door of the shack. Nellie grabbed it and took it to the Special Merchant.

    " Blast! The journal is locked!"Francois complained. " It appears this won't be as easy as I first thought. Willard's daughter, Beatrice Bonnet, lives in Champs Les Sims. I'm confident she has a key to this journal. Speak to her to obtain the key. Telling her it will aid the town may convince her to help us."
    Nellie took the address Francois Lambert handed her and was on her way.

    " By giving you the key, I'll help the town?"Beatrice asked thoughtfully. " Of course I'll help you. Oh no! I'm not one to miss an opportunity either. I will need a favor first. My current collection of jewelry has gotten quite old. I need something new, something fresh! Go find two pieces of gold and bring them to me. Hurry along now if you want the key!"
    Nellie already had one piece of gold in her bag, but she needed another, so she hurriedly found one. When she returned, there was a small crowd gathered around in front of the house.

    Nellie had been unaware that Gustav Delven was a housemate to Beatrice and Colette Bonnet and was stunned to see him there. She nodded a brief greeting at the newcomers and handed the gold over to Beatrice. She became slightly uncomfortable as Gustav's gaze burned into her.
    " This metal is of excellent quality!"Beatrice exclaimed happily. " You really do want this key, do you not? Just one more favor and you will have it."The woman's eyes gleamed as she gazed at Nellie. " A nice band is nothing without a fantastic jewel on top. Please, find an Amethyst and bring it to me. I will trade the key to my father's journal for the gem.

    Nellie smiled and reached into her bag. She had found an almost perfect-quality Amethyst in the Secret Garden under the river. When she handed it to the older woman, her eyes sparkled greedily. " I absolutely love jewelry! I think this stone will be perfect!"
    As Beatrice beamed over the gem, Nellie's skin tingled as Gustav continued to watch her with his intense gaze. She wanted to be done with her business quickly so that she could flee. Beatrice's voice broke her from her thoughts, " You can have the key to the journal, though I would appreciate it if Francois Lambert would return the key and the journal to me when finished with it."
    Nellie snatched the key, thanked her, and then turned to go. " Nellie, wait"she heard Gustav call from behind her, but she pretended not to hear.

    Gustav sighed sadly as he watched Nellie disappear from his sight. Frustration welled up inside him at all the missed opportunities to spend a bit of time with the woman. The longing to get closer to her nearly overwhelmed him and had been a source of agitation for weeks.
    " Have your sights set on another one, I see"Colette remarked once their meddlesome neighbor, Claudette, had moved on down the street. Gustav said nothing and turned to go inside as the woman glared at his back. He was not going to get away from her so easily, however, so she followed quickly behind him, catching him just inside the door.

    " Are you ever going to learn, Gustav?"she asked harshly. " You are always getting involved with these foreign women, and all it ever does is cause grief and heartache, for one or the both of you!"The woman's eyes flashed angry daggers at him when he remained silent. She sighed in annoyance. " Can you not leave well enough alone, this time?"she added quietly. " Can you not find a nice French woman with whom to settle down?"
    Gustav's gaze finally met hers. " It will be different this time"he whispered hoarsely. " I will do things differently and make it right. You will see."

    " What is the matter with you? You never listen to a word I say!"she screeched furiously, losing the last bit of her self-control. " It is the same, every time! You always say it will turn out differently, but it never does! One of these days, you will find yourself in a situation too disastrous from which to recover!" Colette stopped to catch her breath, and then opened her mouth to continue, but Gustav spoke up first.

    " Just stay out this and mind your own business, Colette!"Gustav said in a dangerously quiet tone. " What I choose to do in my life should be of no concern to you."His eyes flashed angrily as his tone grew more threatening. " I desire to possess that woman and possess her, I will. She will eventually succumb to my charms, and then she will be mine. So help me, if you choose to interfere, I will make you sorry you did not mind your business and keep your nose where it belongs!" Colette was left, her mouth agape, watching his back as he stalked from the house, slamming the door behind him.

    " Excellent, I can finally open this journal!"Francois exclaimed when Nellie handed him the key. He began to leaf through it, " Let me see here . . . fascinating! It seems there was quite a ruckus many years ago. At one point, some shady-looking men dragged someone into the chateau. The famous James Vaughan went in to save the person who . . . yes, turned out to be Anastasia Necteaux.
    I found this key to the estate attached to one of the pages. Landgraab was the meticulous sort, which leads me to believe he kept notes on this incident. Head to the estate and see if you can find those notes. Be careful Landgraab was paranoid. His whole house is filled with traps and security measures!"

    Now you tell me! Nellie thought with a hint of wry amusement. She had already had many struggles where that house was concerned and now she had to go back?" I'll be careful"she assured him as he left her to take care of other business around town. Nellie sighed softly and then turned toward the middle of the room.
    A sharp gasp escaped her lips and her eyes grew as big as saucers. Was what she was seeing actually real, or was she having some sort of crazy daydream? She rubbed her eyes and looked again. The vision was still there.

    Nellie still could not believe her eyes, so she rubbed them again, but it did not change what she saw. He was really here! Her brow furrowed in confusion. What would Zhan be doing here in France, and why had he not told her he was coming during their last phone conversation? Nellie made her way toward him, still only half believing what she was seeing. She was afraid that once she drew near, Zhan's face would morph into that of a stranger.
    Finally, when she was standing almost above him, she said, " Zhan?"Her voice had been barely above a whisper, but the man was immediately on his feet and Nellie felt herself wrapped in the warmth of his embrace.

    As he pulled her body in close to his, he cried, " Nellie!"Zhan knew he would see his friend before leaving for home, but he had not expected to see her so soon. He was engulfed by joy and did not want to let her go. Often, he worried about her in her adventures and always felt great relief to see her and learn that she was safe. Finally, after several long moments, the pair pulled back from their tight embrace.

    " Zhan"Nellie sighed breathlessly, " It's so great to see you! What . . . what are you doing here, in Champs Les Sims? Shouldn't you be minding the store?"As she gazed at her best friend, all the love she felt for him shone in her twinkling eyes.
    Zhan laughed heartily. " Actually, I am minding the store . . .in a way. You see, the owner of the Food Farket decided to send a representative to France to negotiate a deal to begin importing Nectar and Pomelos into Shang Simla to be sold at the Market. Of course, I volunteered for the position, knowing that you were here!" He paused for a moment and then continued, " I have two days of meetings to attend, but then I have a free day all to myself for sightseeing!"
    " That's wonderful, Zhan!"Nellie exclaimed happily. " I know a place that is almost as peaceful as Han's Orchard. Maybe we could meet there and hang out?"Zhan agreed and she gave him the address and directions, promising to meet and catch up in two day's time.

    " See you soon, Zhan!"Nellie called over her shoulder as she headed to the door. It was late and she had to get some rest for her adventure tomorrow. She did not see Gustav Delven emerge from the bathroom.
    Gustav had been so annoyed by Colette's outburst that he had stormed out of the house and walked aimlessly around town for a while. When he saw that Nellie was inside the book store talking with Francois, he had slipped past them and gone into the bathroom, unnoticed, hoping to have a chance to speak with her when she was done with the Special Merchant. Instead, he had remained hidden in the bathroom and listened in on the whole exchange between Nellie and Zhan. Who was this Chinese guy with whom Nellie seemed to be so enamored?Once Nellie had disappe