The Ryder Townhouse:
“Father, I don’t think being an hour further away would really make that much difference,” Kyra reasoned openly against him in Catherine’s room.
Sitting in a chair close beside her mother, Kyra warmly clasped her mother’s hand as she continued to try and goad her father into coming to the manor for a month-long visit. The idea that he would be living so secluded in the townhouse for the rest of the winter was a dismal thought in her mind.
“My Dear,” he shook his head sympathetically. “I am grateful to know you want me there, but I’ll really be fine here while Blake and your mother are gone.”
“Hey, why all the seriousness in here,” Blake chimed in as he entered his mother’s bedroom.
“Blake,” Kyra sighed in relief. “Would you please help me convince Father that he’d be much better off coming back to Damon Manor with us when we all leave tomorrow?”
“Well sure I will,” he nodded with a smile towards his father. “Why don’t you do that, Dad? You’ll probably get to see the baby born if you go.”
Scoffing slightly, Stephen shook his head with greater certainty this time. “An hour long trip out in the snow doesn’t appeal to me in the least. I hate the cold—and you know it, Blake,” he scolded with a fair warning regarding any further interference from him. “Dearest,” he returned to Kyra, “I can’t take that much time away from here while Blake is out of the country. I may be on the verge of retirement, but I’m not retired yet. The duties of being Earl still fall on my shoulders so long as I’ve not officially passed the title down to Blake. The idea of vacationing at your home sounds appealing, of course, but it just isn’t possible right now.”
Kyra had been ready to argue the point a bit further, but at that very moment she was caught off guard as the baby suddenly lurched forward, intent on performing summersaults in her stomach. For the first time since entering the room, she released her mother’s hand to hold the arm of the chair for support. For a long moment, she literally felt her own world spinning in response. Her breathing grew shallow of its own accord, sending stares of concern her way from both Blake and her father.
Releasing a long breath to try and calm herself, she was thankful when the baby finally stilled its startling movements. “It’s a bit like rolling downhill full speed at times,” she gasped brokenly as she worked on regaining some of her equilibrium. Still, for all the discomfort of it, she couldn’t help smiling in a wide grin. Whenever she felt the uncommon strength of the baby’s movements, she was always reassured that it would surely be born healthy and strong.
“Kyra,” Blake asked with a frown. “Should I go and get Caleb?”
“No, no, no…” She shook her head adamantly.
“Get Caleb for what,” rose the deep question of concern from the open doorway.
Turning around sharply, Blake merely laughed a bit with a shrug in Kyra’s direction. “Oops,” he apologized lightly to see her shrinking in her chair.
“Caleb, it’s just the baby moving,” she objected mildly. She could see the immediate concern in his eyes, growing ever more passionate each day as the baby’s impending birth grew closer. “I’m just getting hungry and that always seems to make the baby more active,” she reminded him.
Realizing she was right, Caleb raised a brow in her direction and gestured that she should accompany him downstairs to find something to eat. The look he was sending her way made her smile, for she really did know better than to wait so long to eat. At times she was still amazed how Caleb’s attentive nature tended to affect her. Even when he appeared stern or cross with her, she couldn’t help finding him so incredibly adorable—although she’d never in a million years tell him so.
“I’ll keep your mother entertained while you’re gone,” Stephen assured her, implying indirectly that she really should go. He knew part of the reason she’d come was to spend as much time with her mother as possible, but the health of his unborn grandchild took greater precedence.
“Thank you,” Kyra smiled as she braced her hands on the arms of the chair for support. Before Stephen could move a muscle, Blake stepped forward and deftly bowed to help lift her up. She’d been about to thank him for his assistance, but the words caught impossibly in her throat. She fairly stopped breathing as she stared in wonder down at her mother.
Everyone noticed the immediate change in Catherine—all except Blake. It was only when he felt her slight hand touching his arm that he suddenly turned, caught in a moment of shock himself. Like the explosion of a spark into flame, the woman who had sat so emotionless in the room all that time suddenly burst forth into tears, whispering his name as though on the wind of a prayer.
“Blake,” she desperately breathed, reaching for his hand as though he might suddenly disappear right before her eyes.
The surprise of hearing her speak his name melted his heart as the love in his eyes took in the sight of her. He dropped down to one knee before her and took her hand deep within both of his. Reaching up to caress her cheek with the back of his hand, he bent forward to kiss her with true love.
“Mother, I’m home,” he promised, as he smiled proudly at her. The miracle of witnessing her awakening happened so seldom that when it came, it was a completely wondrous sight to behold.
“I have no idea how you do it,” Stephen whispered with a mystified shake of his head. He had always known the affect Blake’s presence had on her—it had always been so between the two of them. But, to see it happening before their very eyes after she’d been sitting so lifelessly in that chair for so long… He could only marvel at it in wonder of how it was possible.
“You’ll be coming down to eat with the family,” Blake asked as his thumb continued to reverently stroke her cheek. He wanted to hold her attention for as long as possible, unwilling to let her withdraw back into the nothingness of her mind just yet.
“Eat,” she blinked in confusion through her tears. Her eyes never left his, curious and questioning as she tried to focus on what he was saying.
“I’ll have Meredith help dress her for din—“
Blake cut through his father’s words as though he hadn’t even been speaking. Intent on imparting some of his strength and sanity into his mother at that moment, he whispered, “I’m going to take you downstairs in a few minutes for dinner. Father and Kathleen will be there,” he told her, hoping the use of Kyra’s birth name would somehow help empower her to stay with them just a bit longer.
Although she said nothing in response, Blake could see the strength of her stare, knowing that she was still with him in some respect. That was all he cared about at that moment.
Kyra watched it all unfold, feeling blessed to see her mother responding to the outside world so unexpectedly. She wondered if what her father told her earlier was really true. The doctors had been speculating for some time that the key to unlocking Catherine’s mind might lie in being reunited with the family she had not seen in many years. That was the reason Blake was taking her on the long trip back to London. It was hoped that bringing her back to the home she’d grown up in, reuniting her with the family she hadn’t seen in years, might help wake her up and ground her back into the world of reality. It was a miracle they were all praying for.
She understood why her mother was responding so openly with Blake, when she hadn’t so much as blinked the whole time she’d been sitting in the room with her. Sadly, she had been stolen away from her family nearly eleven years ago, only having reunited with them this past year. She’d been a young child named Kathleen Ryder when she’d disappeared, so vastly different in appearance from the woman she was now. Today she was virtually a stranger to her own mother, someone Catherine could not possibly recognize in the same way that she recognized Blake.
Though the pain of it had faded some over the course of the last year, at times she still found herself mourning for the loss of the woman she remembered from so long ago. It moved her beyond words to see now that some portion of her mother still existed and lived on. She never would have believed it possible just one year earlier.
As she stared down at them, she felt the rise of her emotions. She was haunted by the smallest bit of envy at that moment, though she knew it was wrong. Still, in the deepest recesses of her heart, she’d often longed to see such recognition burning for her in her mother’s eyes… Just once…
Out in the hall, Caleb patiently waited, sensing how overcome his wife was at that moment. She spoke of her pain so seldom these days, but he knew full well that it still lingered in places that she refused to speak about. When she finally seemed to be pulling out of her revere, he gestured for her to come out into the hallway and join him.
Kyra stared down at Blake and her mother a last time, then allowed Caleb’s to draw her away from them. Once in the hallway, he closed the door softly. Kyra was mindful of how close she’d come to tears just now. In an effort to try and control her emotions, she took a deep breath and straightened up some as she attempted to pass him. Caleb wasn’t fooled by it at all.
Placing a hand to her upper arm, he restrained her briefly from walking away, simply staring down at her as they stood there. When she started to shrug him away as though he was making far too big a deal of what had happened, he reached up to touch her face. The feel of such sympathy in his touch was her undoing.
As always, she had no ability to hide her emotions from him. Caleb sensed the moment she ceased the fight, raising a hand to stroke the hair at the nape of her neck as he drew her into his arms. Kyra had come such a long way during the last few months, but he knew she still had yet to completely heal after all she’d been through. Just as he had that very first day, he wanted only to be there to help her through it if he could.
“Caleb, I’m all right,” she whispered, her voice shaking though she tried control it. “It’s just the baby making me—“
“It’s not just the baby,” he insisted at once. Taking her hand in his, he started down at her with great certainty in the dark depths of his blue eyes.
Her next breath would be her last for several minutes as she lowered her head, hiding her eyes from him as her emotions finally spilled forth to overflow. Releasing a ragged sigh, she tucked herself deeply into his arms and allowed him to hold her as she cried for the first time in months over all she’d lost so long ago.
After so many years of separation and isolation, she had finally been found by her family early that spring. It meant so much to be with them again, but even after all these months she still felt so robbed of all the time she’d lost with them.
“I love you, Kyra,” Caleb breathed in her ear, knowing there was little else he could do to ease her suffering. It had been a long time since he’d seen her so overcome with emotion from it all.
Those words touched her heart in the midst of it all. Taking in a shallow breath, she pressed herself closer to him and sent a fresh prayer of thanks up to the heavens—to whoever had been responsible for sending this remarkable man into her life. If he had never come along in the first place…
“I love you too, Caleb,” she whispered when she was finally able to speak. “I really do…”
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