Entering Damon Land:
Nearly ten years had passed since Kyra had come to live with the Tyler family. Throughout that time the only person who failed to be won over by her charm and beauty was Baron Sherman Tyler.
He was now in his late forties and still as bitter about her presence in his home as ever. He persisted in the belief that she had no place among his family, and he made no effort to disguise his feelings on the subject.
From their very first meeting, the baron's temper flared over the fawning attention she received while imagining his own daughter played alone in a corner. He would have managed to succeed in sending Kyra to that institution if it had not been for the saving grace of his wife. Had the Baroness not fallen in love with her, she would be locked away to this day, living at Master House.
It was unfortunate though that to this day, she still couldn't speak. It was ultimately determined that, because of the abuse she had suffered, her voice was irreparably damaged. No amount of therapy had been able to cure that. The doctors she saw also surmised that one of the blows to her head had rendered her with permanent amnesia. But even with those apparent maladies, most of the family and friends that she'd made had to agree that she was quite an intelligent young woman.
Sadly enough, nearly ten years later, she still had no idea what had happened to her the night of the storm. At first she had driven herself crazy trying to remember where she had come from. But then, after a number of months, she finally started to put it off into the back of her mind. The frustration and anger she felt every time she let herself dwell on the past would almost consume her when she let it. So, in a lot of ways, she was thankful that she didn't remember very much about that day. Whenever she started to push herself to remember she would always get the deepest feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach that told her she didn't really want to know the truth of her past...
But, from time to time, she still wondered about it. She still wanted to know who she was. When the days came that she could think of nothing else, Isabel would always manage to distract her so she could forget about it again, at least for a little while.
Isabel had been the only one who had ever helped her feel as if she truly was a member of the Tyler family'that she did belong with them. It was so easy to believe at times, except when she was in Sherman's presence. But, over these past few weeks, he'd made it crystal clear that she was no more than a nuisance who had interrupted his home life for far too many years.
Two weeks ago, Isabel had died in her sleep. It had been a long time coming. Everyone had known for months that the baroness was ill. The doctors had done all they could to try and save her, but in the end there was nothing to do but wait for the good Lord to take her back home. Serena and Kyra sat faithfully by her bed night and day. Then at last, her suffering was over.
Kyra could scarcely fathom the level of cruelty Sherman Tyler was capable of only hours after Isabel took her last breath. It was then that she saw how heartless her adopted father could really be.
Sherman Tyler wasted no time in having her removed from his home. Without allowing her even a short mourning period, much less time for preparation, he'd ordered a servant to begin packing her belongings. Then, during the eulogy he offered at Isabel's funeral, he coldly announced to the guests that she was up for adoption. Anyone who needed a good servant should contact him at once. Kyra nearly died of embarrassment as the people whispered and pointed. But, not one person stepped forward to offer her housing that day.
If it wasn't for Serena, he might have thrown her out in the streets all together. That night, after the servants had retired for the evening, her adopted sister pleaded with Sherman to allow Kyra to remain long enough to find a suitable new home. With a deceptively calm smile, he assured his daughter that he had already found a place to send her.
Serena had become hysterical. She began crying about how devastated she was by her mother's death. If she now had to give up the woman who had become as a sister to her, she would die herself! Uncertain of how else to preserve his daughter's sanity, he allowed Kyra to remain for one week longer. Still, he refused to rescind the dictate that she leave his home when the week was over.
It was apparent to Kyra how much Sherman despised her then. He didn't seem to care how hurt she was by the loss of Isabel. He cared even less that she knew who her new overlord would be. The only reason he allowed her to stay was to help make the loss of his wife easier for Serena to bear.
In shock over losing Isabel, Kyra hadn't even thought to ask about the man who was going to become her new guardian. Was the Marquess a short and stocky man like Sherman? Did he have a bad disposition with a face to match? Would he treat her like dirt as Sherman had? God! Why had she agreed to this?
Because you had nowhere else to go, she berated herself in answer.
It had occurred to her many times since the night of Isabel's death that she should just leave the family altogether. She could just go and try to find her own life without their help.
But, Serena squelched that idea immediately. She had pointed out that there were few who would hire a mute girl without some sort of reference, and there was no hope that Sherman would consent to give her one.
Hoping to relieve some of her friend's fears, Serena tried to reassure Kyra that she would like Caleb Damon. She pointed out that Lord Damon had made several trips to their home over the years and he seemed like a very pleasant man.
When Kyra was still reluctant to go, Serena offered to make the trip with her to stay for a few days until Kyra became settled in her new home. Kyra knew that with Serena along she would have the courage to make the trip. Ultimately, though, she really had no choice.
At some point, it briefly wondered why Sherman had allowed Serena to make the trip with her. Obviously, he didn't care whether or not she would be able to adjust to her new life at Damon Manor. She could only assume Sherman wanted to see his daughter temporarily removed from the depressing atmosphere that had descended over Tyler Hall. Seeing how much brighter Serena's complexion appeared today, now that she was away from the morbidly oppressive hall, Kyra was pleased to know that at least one good thing would come from this trip.
Kyra knew that Serena's motive for taking this trip was more than the simple need to get away from Tyler Hall and the memory of her mother's death. It was also a means for Serena to find a small reprieve from the drama that was nearly about to unfold at Tyler Hall.
Serena was about to be wed to a man whom she had been promised to at birth. She was one of the luckier young women in these times. It seemed that most of the women pledged away to men were never happy in their match, but Serena seemed content with Andrew for the most part. Still, the fact was, the date of the wedding was approaching quickly. Without her mother's advice and guidance to fall back on, Serena was more nervous than ever about its impending arrival. Leaving Tyler Hall wouldn't really postpone the wedding for Serena, but it did make the event feel further away than it actually was.
Kyra tried to remain a passive bystander whenever the subject of Andrew and Serena's marriage was brought up. To all appearances Andrew Brady seemed like a pleasant man. Serena's entire family seemed to believe he'd be a wonderful match for her. Kyra, however, remained quiet throughout each visit he made to Tyler Hall. She was able to sit quietly when he was visiting, observing him unhindered as she watched his mannerisms when he spoke. Sometimes she found his presence rather disquieting.
His manner seemed to be a facade over the real person. His smile always seemed forced. It never really reached his eyes. And, there were times when she'd felt so uneasy in his presence. Kyra often worried that Serena might one day find herself feeling out of place in a home, living with someone who was so strangely devoid of any real emotion.
Serena might act brave and strong for the sake of her friends, but Kyra had seen her in weaker moments. She knew that Serena could easily be hurt, and the suspicion remained that Andrew would remain unable to offer Serena the emotional support she needed and craved.
As Kyra watched her friend sleeping on the seat across from her in the coach, she smiled to herself. What a lovely bride Serena was going to make despite her fianc'.
She could easily picture Serena with her luxurious golden-blonde hair flowing down beneath the train of her white gown, her eyes so pale blue as she gazed up at the man she loved. Too bad it would never come to pass that Kyra would see it all happen. Before leaving Tyler Hall, Sherman had told her in no uncertain terms that she would not be returning for the wedding.
The coach came to a halt as Kyra released a small sigh of regret. Serena immediately awoke from her light sleep to see Kyra glancing out the small window in the door. Serena could see the anxiety already appearing on Kyra's face as she looked over the four-story mansion set beside them. From her position, Kyra was unable to see the entire width of it as she strained her neck in either direction. Damon Manor was an intimidating sight to behold.
"Don't worry," Serena placed a supportive hand on Kyra's shoulder. Sitting back in the seat, she said, "I promise they will treat you well here." Kyra was wringing her hands nervously as Serena admonished, "You'll worry yourself ill over naught, and then realize how silly you have been once we're inside."
Kyra's eyes shot skyward at those words of wisdom. Unable to sit still, she opened the door without waiting for the driver to help. As she stepped down, she took a gasping breath of fresh air.
"Everything will be fine. You'll see." Serena encouraged. "Please don't wrinkle your dress so. It will only make you appear haggard."
Kyra immediately dropped the hands that were worrying the fabric of her dress, but she couldn't help clutching them together. She was so frightened she thought she might faint.
Serena stepped down from the carriage seconds later with the help of the coachman. Kyra stood there unmoving, warily taking in the sights as Serena came to stand by her side.
The front of the building was so immense. Battlements adorned the rooftop of the mansion. She could see guards lined in a neat array along the entire ledge surrounding the perimeter of the roof. The sight of it frightened her.
Their coach was parked before a wide set of double doors. The doors abruptly swung open and three men stepped out of the building seconds later. Two of the men were garbed in identical uniforms, which told her these two were guards who protected the man walking between them. She automatically assumed this must be Lord Caleb Damon. As he walked closer, Kyra began to assess his appearance.
He was dressed in a plain white shirt with gray cotton pants and black boots. He looked much younger than she'd expected, with wavy blonde hair and flawless skin. So casually dressed, he didn't look at all the way she'd envisioned a Marquess might look. Even with the huge sword hanging at his side, it was hard to picture this man leading a legion of soldiers through their intense training for the King's brigade.
The man stepped forward and greeted Serena first. Kyra's eyes remained on the kind set of his gentle green eyes when he spoke. If this was the man who would become her guardian, she knew she would get along well here. Her heart filled with renewed optimism over her chosen fate.
"Lady Tyler," he spoke respectfully and bowed his head. "Welcome to Damon Manor. I extend full hospitality to you for as long as you remain with us."
"Thank you, uh'"
"Jacob Damon, My Lady. I am Caleb's younger brother, second in command of this fortress."
Kyra's spirits were quickly dashed as Jacob introduced himself. He wasn't the Marquess. She crossed her fingers behind her back, hoping Caleb Damon might somehow resemble the man his brother was. She prayed for it.
"I apologize that my brother was not able to be with us for your arrival. An emergency has arisen which demands his attention. He has ordered me to see that you are made comfortable until he can join us this evening." As he spoke to Serena, he was regarding Kyra curiously.
As Kyra patiently listened to Jacob speaking, she had to fight releasing a soft sigh of relief. She was safe for a little while longer yet. Perhaps she'd be able to make herself more presentable by the time the Marquess met up with them. Hopefully a favorable appearance would detract from the fact that she had no voice to greet him with.
"I assume this must be the Lady Kyra," Jacob finally turned and spoke in her direction.
Kyra nodded in response and deeply curtsied her greeting to him.
Pleased by the formality of the title he'd given Kyra, Serena returned it in kind when she saw a frown marring his forehead. "Ah, Lady Kyra is not able to speak," Serena explained apologetically. "I pray you will not take exception to this."
Nodding then, his frown eased. "My apologies to you," he offered and slightly bowed his head for a moment. Laughing slightly, he looked back to Serena and remarked, "I must have missed that part when Caleb announced we were accepting your father's proposal to take her in." Looking back at Kyra then, he added, "It honestly makes no difference to me that you have no voice."
He was covering the awkward moment admirably, Kyra thought happily. She again curtsied for him in an effort to reiterate her pleasure of meeting him. But at the same time, Serena was thinking Jacob looked a little perturbed for having been caught off guard.
"I am delighted to make your acquaintance as well," he said, now interpreting her meaningful gestures.
Kyra smiled shyly at his quick recovery. She found his assessment of her greeting amusing.
Jacob turned back to Serena and a light came into his eyes as he looked down at her. "I'll have a servant show you to your rooms. I would imagine you are both tired from your trip." Without hesitation he turned to lead them into the manor.
If Serena seemed to smile a bit brighter now, Kyra did not mention it as they were whisked away into the manor. They were led slowly through a maze of hallways in search of their bedchambers to unpack.
Jacob walked beside Serena as he led them through the building, chatting with her pleasantly about their journey. For a fleeting moment Kyra thought to herself that a man like Jacob would have been a perfect match for Serena. If she could choose someone for her friend to marry it would be someone like him. While she knew almost nothing about him, and her initial perception of him might alter with time, Kyra instinctively felt Jacob was a man you could trust from the start.
Side by side, Jacob would be no match for Andrew in looks, but for a good honest first impression Jacob would win the contest hands down. It was sad to think Serena would never be available for any such match. She was already pledged to Andrew.
Lost in thought, Kyra quickly realized she should have been trying to memorize their progression through the halls. There were so many turns and stairways. If she lived here a hundred years, she doubted she would be able to find her way around this building alone. The thought that in a very short time she would be left alone in this place was too scary a thought to contemplate.
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