Home > Lured into Love (Blossom in Winter #2)

Lured into Love (Blossom in Winter #2)
Author: Melanie Martins

 

Prologue

 

 

Rotterdam, August 20, 2020

Tess Hagen

 

 

“Tess, they are ready to start,” Carice announces from the doorway of the terrace.

Standing alone in the living room, I check my appearance once more in the mirror as I stretch the hem of my beige blazer. I’m not sold on the color though—with my blonde hair, I don’t think it suits me. Nevertheless, Carice kept insisting that Von Der Leyen—the European Commission president—was wearing beige on TV and she looked flawless. Well, in my opinion, Carice spends too much time watching the news and flattering politicians. But that’s her thing—Carice is an observer, picky to the bone with details, and the best lawyer we have at my nonprofit. She is also my friend, my adviser, and the shoulder I lean on to cry when days are too hard to handle. “I’ll be there in a minute,” I reply before she returns to the terrace.

Turning fifty-three in ten days is no easy task, but it’s even worse when your only child has been in a coma for nearly six months, while you are here living—or surviving—on the other side of the Atlantic.

Oh, my little angel…

It’s hard not to give up, not to fall into a deep state of depression like the one I was in after I found my daughter in March, lying in bed, unconscious, somewhere between life and death. The steep pain I felt in my chest is still there—and it’s just as intense, raw, and merciless. Since then, I’ve been able to visit her in Bedford Hills only once a month, and under close supervision of the two men I despise the most. Mind you, from the global pandemic to the riots, they’ve tried all the excuses in the world for me not to travel there. But a deal is a deal: I’ve flown private and have managed to see my daughter at least once a month. Despite it all, I don’t lose hope. One day, my little angel will wake up. One day, I’ll see her big blue eyes again. And one day, Van Dieren will be gone. Petra will live a happy, healthy life—a life far away from him. But for now, I can’t let my depression come back to haunt me. Advocacy and politics are good distractions—and interviews like this one too. Taking a deep breath, I leave the living room and head to the outdoor terrace where the TV crew, Kenneth—the reporter—and Carice are waiting.

It’s a warm, bright summer afternoon, and the natural light is fantastic, but I don’t see any fans around to bring a much-needed breeze. Although the sun keeps beaming on my face, I take a seat in front of Kenneth, while an assistant pins the small microphone onto my blazer.

Oh, he is only wearing a shirt, maybe I should ditch the blazer. I look at Carice briefly, but her face tells me nothing. She likes this blazer so much though. Trusting her as I do, I decide to keep it on.

“Are you still sure about this?” Kenneth asks me once more, appearing more anxious than I am.

“Yes, of course.” I disguise my torment with an assertive tone and find myself smiling at the glass of water sitting on the table.

Kenneth grins too. But I know it’s because of the interview. After all, he hates Julia and the Van Dieren family as much as I do. Kenneth is one of those rare souls that isn’t corrupted or impressed by money, status, or power. In fact, he couldn’t care less about those things. I wish Petra would be more like him—less impressionable. As an investigative journalist, Kenneth has uncovered pretty scandalous stories and brought many influential people to account for their crimes. Let’s just say he’s our country’s version of Ronan Farrow. Now his focus is on the Van Dierens and everyone surrounding them. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to give him a hand.

“It’s recording,” informs the man behind the camera.

And here we go…

“Ms. Hagen, many thanks for having us on your beautiful property.”

“Thank you, Kenneth. It’s a pleasure having you here.”

“As one of the most—if not the most—influential activists in the country, you’ve recently been in a court battle advocating justice for Leonor De Vries—wife of the prominent industrialist, Jan De Vries—who was victim of marital rape. Thanks to your help, the court sentenced him to two years in jail, but unfortunately the penalty is now suspended as he appeals to the court of second instance. Given the fact that this case is now in the hands of the most conservative judge in the country, do you believe we will still get justice for the victim?”

“To be honest, I’m particularly worried. It’s definitely not a good idea to give such cases to judges who have a tendency to overlook facts and to conclude that there isn’t enough evidence. I just hope Julia Van Den Bosch won’t withdraw the penalty imposed on the assaulter. This is a serious case of domestic violence, and the judiciary system cannot take it lightly.”

We both smile at each other. Yes, I did it. I just called out the judge I despise the most on a TV interview that will be broadcasted nationwide this evening. And while it seems like a small thing, no one in this country has ever done that before. Judges like Julia are untouchable, protected by their powerful families and allies. They are also unknown to the public eye—they live in the shadows, in total anonymity.

“Indeed, the country is in shock. With elections coming up next year, would you urge the next government to make reforms to the judiciary system? Especially when it comes to cases related to domestic violence and violence toward women in general? After all, you’ve been the most prominent voice in this field.”

“I’d definitely urge the future government to elect first and foremost a Minister of Justice and Security who understands the society we live in and the need for reforms,” I tell him. “According to a report conducted by AD, suspects of rape are rarely prosecuted, and those who are, often get away with a low sentence. On average, a convicted rapist spends one year and five months in prison. This is living proof that we urgently need to bring new policies in force.”

“Wow.” Kenneth does a quick fact-check on his iPad. “That’s disturbing. Do you have someone in mind to occupy such a position?”

I ponder his question. “I don’t have anyone in particular, no. But it has to be someone who protects the victims rather than the assaulters to begin with.”

Kenneth lets a smile escape at the corner of his mouth. “If I may, why not you, Ms. Hagen?”

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Bedford Hills, August 27, 2020

Alexander Van Dieren

 

 

“So…” I let the word trail off as I look at Petra’s left hand and then at her flushed cheeks. “How does it feel?”

Sitting up in our bed and nestled in my arms, Miss Van Gatt keeps staring at her hand in absolute awe.

“Feels fucking amazing,” she states bluntly. “But it’s not a discreet ring.”

I can’t help but chuckle. “Definitely not discreet. The whole world will know you are engaged from miles away.” Then, my smile getting wider, I add, “And just in case you forget to whom, my family name is engraved inside.”

She lets out a quick giggle before resting her head on my shoulder, her joyful expression switching into a thoughtful one. “Are we gonna have an engagement party?”

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