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“Where are you going all dressed up like that?” Matilda asked her brother one evening as she passed by him in the main foyer. Parker was dressed in his finest designer suit with a red silk shirt underneath, unbuttoned slightly at the collar. He had tamed his mass of curly hair and gelled it nicely into place and Matilda could smell the subtle scent of cologne coming from her brother. Parker grinned and puffed himself up proudly.

“I’m taking Katie out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary,” he announced, his purple eyes glazing over as he got a lovestruck look on his face. “I can’t believe we’ve been together for a whole wonderful, amazing year. This is the longest relationship I’ve ever been in,” he mused.

“It’s the only relationship you’ve ever been in,” she pointed out to him. Parker frowned and sighed.

“Oh, quit being such a negative shrew, Mattie,” he chided lightly. “You won’t be so sarcastic when some guy sweeps you off your feet.” Matilda let out a very short, dry laugh that really sounded like more of a bark.

“Not likely,” she said simply before heading upstairs.

When Parker arrived at the Bistro, Katie was already waiting for him. He walked up to her and kissed her. “Happy anniversary, Sweetie,” he told her. Katie blushed and giggled, but then looked at him and frowned.

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“I didn’t realize this was going to be so fancy. I would have worn something nicer,” she mumbled shyly, looking down at her tank top and sneakers with disdain. Parker chuckled and pulled her close.

“You look beautiful, as always,” he assured her. Parker was a complete gentleman throughout the night, pulling Katie’s chair out for her, placing her napkin across her lap and lighting the romantic candles on the table himself before running inside to place their orders. He came out with Katie’s favourite; sushi, and for him, a good ol’ fashioned hot dog.

After the dinner, Parker reached out and held Katie’s hands in his, clearing his throat awkwardly. “Uh… Katie, I know we said we wanted to take things really slow in this relationship, and I still think that was a good idea, what with the press constantly invading my family’s personal lives and all. It also gave me a chance to fall completely and hopelessly in love with you before we rushed into anything else,” he added softly, stroking her cheek. Katie smiled lovingly at him. “After being with you for a year, I know now that this isn’t just some short-term thing that’s going to come and go. I know we’re going to last and I know I love you with all my heart, which is why I want to ask you if… you’d like to stay the night with me.”

There was a long pause in which Katie didn’t say anything. Dammit! I knew it was still too early! I just ruined this entire night that I tried to make so perfect! I’m an idiot!

“Yes.”

“W-what?”

“Yes. I’d love to spend the night with you,” Katie smiled, her purple eyes that were a reflection of Parker’s glittering in the soft glow of the candle between them. Parker grinned from ear to ear as he kissed her enthusiastically and paid the bill before calling a cab for the both of them. As they stepped onto the sidewalk, they were ambushed by a swarm of reporters.

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“Parker, out for a lovely evening with the girlfriend? What’s with the fancy ensemble? Is it a special occasion? Did you propose? When’s the wedding? Is it true your girlfriend used to be your maid?”

Parker just grinned and politely waved them off. He was about to step into the cab after Katie when he felt a tug on his pant leg. A little girl who looked to be no more than six years old stood there, blushing furiously.

“Lisa! Don’t bother the World Leader’s son! Come back here,” her mother screeched, marching over.

“It’s alright,” Parker assured the woman and knelt down to be at eye level with the little pig-tailed redhead. “What can I do for you, Lisa?” he asked. The girl blushed even darker at the fact that someone so famous knew her name and shyly presented him with a Hello Kitty notepad and a sparkly pencil. Parker chuckled and autographed it, handing it back to her. “There you go, Dear,” he smiled. Lisa giggled and scampered away to her mother.

“Mommy! He signed it! He signed it! He’s so nice! He called me ‘Dear’, too! I’m gonna marry him!”

“That was sweet of you,” Katie smiled when they were settled in the cab. Parker just shrugged. The truth was, he had a bit of a soft spot for little girls. It probably came from growing up around so many women and having a baby sister who almost didn’t make it into the world. He always turned to mush whenever a little girl on the street asked him for an autograph or a hug. Thanks to Celebrity Weekly magazine declaring Parker Charm as Handsome Heartthrob of the Year, he often got requests like that. He wasn’t sure why he was so famous. His mom was the Leader of the Free World, his sister was the heiress of the estate. He was just the extra kid they let stay in Charm Manor. Geeze, you’d think I was Prince Harry or something, Parker mused to himself. He’d never met the royal family himself, but his mother flew out to England to meet with them often.

They got back to Charm Manor and Parker immediately started to get nervous. I’ve never done this before. Is there some sort of ritual or etiquette to follow? Do I need to look a certain way? Is there like a rule-book or something on how to do it? They need to have a manual for this stuff!

Once Parker and Katie got to Parker’s room (which was his cousin’s old room), his worries melted away as soon as she kissed him and he just did what felt right to him.

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Matilda had a pillow over her head and her eyes screwed shut tight in her bedroom. I am not listening to my brother having sex. I am not listening to my brother having sex. That is not what’s happening here, she tried to tell herself over and over again, but the sounds Katie was making in the next room told her otherwise. Ugh! Why did he have to move into the bedroom closest to mine? She grabbed a pair of headphones off her desk and plugged them into her stereo, blaring her music until she thought her eardrums might bleed, though she wasn’t actually listening to it. She was thinking. Why is it so easy for him to trust someone that much? she thought. Tomorrow was her eighteenth birthday. She would officially inherit the Charm estate and not only that, but the duty to produce the next heiress. She didn’t think she could bring herself to do it. I’m still so afraid… she thought, biting back tears. Her rape had not only been physically agonizing, but emotionally crippling, as well. It had happened over two years ago, but the fear and pain were still fresh.

Katie woke up the next morning curled up against Parker. She smiled and kissed him before getting up, taking a sheet with her to cover her nakedness. Her clothes were thrown into a crumpled, wrinkled heap on the floor, so she rummaged through Parker’s dresser and found a baggy t-shirt and a pair of boxers of his to wear. Just as she had put them on, she felt his arms envelop her and felt him kiss her neck. She smiled. “I borrowed these from you. I hope you don’t mind,” she told him.

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“Not at all. I’m going to go shower. You should go downstairs and see if there’s anything for breakfast if you’re hungry,” he told her. Katie padded downstairs in her bare feet and headed to the kitchen.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Miss Katie Donald, fresh out of bed with a Charm,” a sarcastic voice sneered. Katie whirled around in surprise.

“Courtney!” she exclaimed. Courtney was another one of the Charm’s housekeepers. Her and Katie both worked for the same housekeeping company, but the two were not very friendly towards one another.

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“So what are you after this time? Money? You didn’t have to sleep with him to get that. We both know your little tendency to take things without asking,” she scowled. “How old did you tell him you were to get him to screw you, anyway? The kid’s only nineteen and you’re certainly no fresh young sprout.” Katie’s eyes flashed angrily and she balled her fists.

“I’ve never stolen a single thing from this family!” Katie snapped. “Nor do I plan to. Those days are over for me… and keep your filthy little mouth shut about my age! I’ll tell him myself. He doesn’t need to hear it from you! I suggest you get back to your chores. It looks unprofessional sitting around, chatting with the guests,” she said coldly.

Courtney looked as though she was about to retort with a nasty comment, but Parker walked into the room at that exact moment, his hair still damp from his shower. Instead, she snapped her mouth shut and curtsied to Parker. “Good morning, Mr. Charm. I trust you are well?”

“Very, thank you, Courtney,” Parker replied politely, completely oblivious to the crackling tension in the room. Courtney hurried off to help Mandy set up Matilda’s birthday party, scheduled to take place that afternoon.

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