Sometime later, after Kyra entered the sanctity of her room, a hesitant knock sounded on her bedroom door.
She was sitting at her vanity table trying to untangle some of the mess her hair had become from that man's harsh yanking. A soft spot at the back of her head still felt extremely tender, but she tried to ignore it long enough to gently brush the long auburn strands of hair. Her lips were still stinging as well, and she knew why every time she looked in the mirror. Her lips were still red and puffy.
The knock at the door sounded again. She wondered why Serena was even bothering to knock. She knew Kyra couldn't call out to admit her in.
With slight impatience, she removed her shoe and threw it at the door as her only answer to the knocking. She was too busy with her hair to bother answering it.
She heard it open and waved her impatience at Serena without turning around.
When she'd come in several minutes ago, Serena had insisted that Kyra should sit down while she went to get some ice chips for her lip. Trying to explain the cause of her appearance had been a chore. Amazingly, she had actually been able to convince her friend that it was all a simple accident of having been hit by a book. It seemed odd that Serena had already returned already, but she had been extremely upset when she left. She must've run the whole way.
Irritation set in when she realized that Serena was hovering in the doorway. When she turned to vent her exasperation, she gasped and jumped to her feet. The chair she'd been sitting on flew back and almost tipped over before she realized he was there to right it.
Kyra shrank back from his terrifying size. Tears quickly filled her eyes when she realized they were alone again. This time there was no escaping him.
Why did he persist in bothering her? She hadn't done anything to him. She hadn't meant to venture into his garden.
Caleb pushed the chair from between them when he saw she was going to cry. He felt a need to say something of comfort, but he hesitated when she stepped further back. He silently berated himself when he saw her eyes close out of fear.
"Please don't be afraid of me, Kyra. I will not hurt you." She shivered and opened her eyes slightly to peer up at him. He could see that she wasn't convinced.
"I really am sorry for what happened before, please believe me." His voice sounded sincere enough, but Kyra wanted to test him.
She tried to sidestep him and he let her. In as casual a manner as she could muster, she slowly backed up to the door and rested her hand on the knob. As she slowly turned it, he said, "It won't do you any good to run you know." His voice produced the desired effect and she halted her movements. She raised her head in question and he answered, "Even if you don't talk to me now, you'll have to face me eventually. It is unavoidable."
Her eyes remained defiant. They told him that as far as she was concerned he would never see her again if she could get away from him now.
"It will be more difficult to avoid me than you might think," he reasoned lightly.
We'll just see about that!
A knock sounded on the door just then. Kyra was grateful for the opportunity to finally escape from his perceptive eyes. She quickly swung around to open the door.
Serena was startled when the door opened so abruptly, especially since she still had her arm half raised to knock. "Why on earth did you come to the door? You knew I was coming back'" Her voice broke when she caught the gleam of familiar eyes. "Well, if it hasn't been years. Lord Damon, it is pleasant to see you again."
Kyra's legs nearly buckled as she swallowed convulsively. Her eyes flew to see his face. This was Caleb Damon?!
Caleb nodded at Kyra with calm assurance and then smiled down at his young cousin. 'Serena, you have grown since I last saw you. How old were you anyway, fourteen? Fifteen?" His questions were only asked with half-interest. It was apparent that he was happy to see his cousin, but her interruption was untimely.
"Around that age. Oh," she remembered, turning to Kyra. "I'm sure he's already introduced himself to you, but this is Caleb Damon, my third cousin. I suppose now that you've met him you can stop worrying about living here."
Serena, my worry hasn't even begun, she agonized pensively.
"Well, I suppose Caleb hasn't come to your room to socialize with me." It dawned on her that Caleb was none too pleased with her entrance, so she was anxious to take her leave. "Perhaps I should be going so he can speak to you in private."
"No!" Kyra signed harshly. Her movements caught Serena's eye, as she was about to turn and go.
"What do you mean, no? He obviously hasn't come to see me, or he would have come to my room." She was speaking out loud, not understanding Kyra's concern.
"Serena," Kyra signed with greater urgency. She stepped in front of her friend to block her exit as she spoke. "He can't understand my signing language. How am I supposed to answer if he asks me a question?"
"You seemed to be doing fine before I arrived," she insisted.
"Excuse me for, uh' interrupting you," Caleb broke in. "But, what are you doing?"
"Oh, I am sorry," Serena apologized. "I meant no disrespect by leaving you in the dark. This is how Kyra communicates with us. My mother taught it to her. She has no voice, you know."
"I know," he assured her.
"If you want, I could teach it to you."
"No, but thank you. I'd rather not look so foolish in front of my friends."
Kyra and Serena both took exception to that comment, but neither made any remark. Who were they to argue if he thought their communicating looked foolish.
Serena again moved to leave when Kyra repeated her plea that she should stay.
"Kyra?" Serena didn't want Caleb to hear what she had to say, so she signed her words instead of speaking out loud. "If Caleb came here to your room, then he wants to see you, not me. I cannot disrespect myself by staying when he did not ask. Now, this is going to be your home. You must learn to deal with him even if you cannot bear him. But, don't mistake me," she asserted quickly. "He is a relative to me and I love him, but only when I am not in the same room with him for more than a few minutes. He is a little too overbearing from what I've seen. And, you heard what Father said. You cannot return home with me. You must make the best of this situation until you can find a better option."
It was hard for Serena to push her friend away so forcefully, but she had to make Kyra understand what was at stake if she didn't remain subservient to the Marquess. Caleb could make or break her future. Anything that might irritate him at this moment could put her new future in jeopardy. Serena wasn't willing to risk that.
Kyra knew she had already angered Caleb once for a reason she couldn't begin to fathom. At the moment he was being reasonable enough, so perhaps it was time to make a fresh start. She wasn't going to push her luck. It would be sheer folly to distance Caleb. But, she knew she would never fully trust him. His temper was too volatile. She would never forget that.
"You are right," Kyra conceded and stepped aside to let Serena pass. "I am sorry to have put in such a position. It was not my right."
"Kyra, asking for help is not wrong, but my assistance would only hinder your situation in this case." She gave her friend a hopeful smile and reached for the door. "I think this might be the perfect opportunity to lay some foreground with my cousin. Take advantage of this time. As far as I can remember hearing, it isn't often that he would venture up to his guest's room. Perhaps that is a good sign."
Or a bad one, Kyra added pessimistically.
Serena bid Caleb good day and left the room. The door closed and they were alone once again.
Slowly, Kyra turned and saw that he had wandered over to the window in boredom. The distance he'd created was a welcome relief.
Needing something to do, she walked over to the vanity table and looked over the objects Serena had brought. There was a small bowl filled with ice chips and a clean rag. Beside the bowl was a tin of cream, which would also soothe the pain in her lip.
She suddenly felt a warmth at her shoulder and her eyes helplessly rose to see Caleb's reflection in the mirror. Her heart picked up speed, as did her breathing. She felt as nervous as the deer in the garden had. It was sheer will power that kept her from jumping at his nearness.
His hand slowly rose to lightly touch her chin, compelling her to turn and face him. Hesitantly, she complied. The feel of his gentleness sent an unexpected shiver through her. The nervousness she felt pulled her eyes away. She became even more self-conscious when he lightly ran his thumb over the tender skin of her lips in concern. The gesture produced unexpected heat in her face.
Caleb too felt a strange emotion rise within. He found himself acting out of character with this silent girl. It was not like him to have forced himself on a woman. He hadn't meant to lose control with her in the garden and he found he wanted to ease her fear. He wanted her to realize that he was not a cruel man. He was drawn to show her a gentler side of himself.
"I'm sorry for this," he apologized softly. He bent to retrieve the cream from the table and asked, "Is your mouth sore?"
She shook her head quickly for fear of offending him.
"Do not lie to me," he grated irritably. "Just because I appear unfeeling at times, it doesn't mean I cannot see when I'm in the wrong. I know I hurt you, and I apologize for that."
His angrily spoken words were totally at odds with his actions as he dipped a finger in the cream and gently rubbed it on her bottom lip. He found the softness of her lips startling. Maybe he'd been too angry to notice before, but now he was realizing that she seemed to be soft all over.
Her long auburn hair floated around her like a band of fine silk and her eyes were the softest shade of green he had ever seen. He could feel the softness of her lips beneath his finger and the awareness of it began to disarm him. He knew so well that along with such softness there came fragility, and anything so fragile could easily be broken. He understood that now, even as he tried to gently wipe away the pain he had caused her.
Guilt washed through him, because he knew he had unjustly caused her such harm. If only he'd known... But he hadn't, and the past couldn't be changed. At least he could make up for it by looking out for her in the future. He owed her that much, even if it meant protecting her from his own vile temper.
As he continued his ministrations, he was awed for a moment by her beauty. A man would have to be blind not to notice.
It occurred to him quite suddenly that he hadn't noticed that sort of thing since his wife's death. There had been a few young women who had caught his notice over the past year or two, but they'd been strangers to him. They'd been faceless women who satisfied his needs from time to time.
Earlier when he had been walking through Elizabeth's garden, his mind was wandering over the old familiar trails of the past. That garden was the only place he had ever closed off from his people. He had a thousand other acres of land for them to traverse, but this was the one place that was his alone. After all, it was the one and only thing that his shy wife had ever asked him for. To let strangers trample it in the face of her death would be a mockery in his mind.
Elizabeth had died only a few days after he'd built the garden for her. Caleb hadn't had the heart to destroy the place that had brought such happiness to her eyes, but neither could he allow anyone else to enter it. Instead, he'd closed off the gates from the house by building the library around the glass doors, and he let it be known that the gardens were now off limits to the household. Anyone who disobeyed him would be brought up on charges and punished to the fullest extent of his authority.
No one was allowed inside but the men who kept the land flourishing. Up until today no one had ever protested that dictate.
As he looked down on Kyra's upturned face he sighed in frustration. Her eyes were still wary and begged for an explanation for his sudden kindness, but he had none to offer her. After all, how could she understand his barbaric treatment of her earlier, without witnessing how deep his love for his wife had been?
No, she would never understand his actions even if he could explain his relationship with Elizabeth to her. Kyra could never understand, because at her age she could have no knowledge of the kind of blinding love he'd experienced, nor what that kind of love could drive a man to. She was much too young to have ever known a love that deep.
Kyra watched as Caleb closed the tin and placed it back on the table. His face had mirrored an array of emotions just now and she wondered if she really wanted to know what he was thinking. She was caught between curiosity and apprehension where this man was concerned. While she wanted to try and learn more about him, his extreme mood swings frightened her.
"Kyra," Caleb asked as he turned away from her assessing eyes. "Have you ever known a love for someone? I mean a love so strong that it could blind you to all else." For all he knew, maybe she had loved someone like that. He momentarily forgot her muteness, and he turned sharply when she didn't answer him.
His question confused her, but she shook her head when she saw that he impatiently awaited her reply.
"I didn't think so." Venting his frustration, he ran his hand roughly through his hair and turned away from her again. He walked over to the window and leaned against it. Kyra soon followed to stand near him. When he turned, he could see the questions forming in her eyes.
"What happened between us earlier... It would be difficult for me to explain why it happened and at the moment I do not have the time to try. All I can honestly say is that I'm sorry for scaring you. I would never intentionally hurt a woman like that, but..." He broke off and turned around to face her directly. "I can only promise you that nothing like that will ever happen again." He knew she deserved more of an explanation than that, and he would give it to her, someday...
For a reason he couldn't fathom, he found it difficult to concentrate on what he was saying when she watched him with those confused and questioning eyes. He felt as if she could see straight into his soul. It made him uncomfortable and he berated himself for feeling so. After all, he was the Marquess of Damon Manor! He was the last man who should be disarmed by anyone. Yet, at this moment, he was.
Perhaps it was simply the guilt he still felt as he again examined the damage he'd done to her. Later, when she didn't appear so hurt and haggard, he would be able to stand up to the challenge of her questions. For now, he would let her rest and relax. He would have all the time in the world to answer her troubled questions at a later time.
As he walked to the door, he suddenly stopped and turned back. "For the time being we will postpone any discussion of your living arrangements here as my charge, including the unquestionable rule concerning the garden out behind the Manor. We shall discuss it... later..."
He left without further adieu, and that left Kyra's most eager question hanging in wait. Would he let her stay? She knew she had seriously offended him earlier in some way, but she wasn't sure if her life here had been jeopardized. He seemed civil enough now and he appeared truly repentant for his earlier actions. Still, did that mean all was forgiven? Could she forgive him for hurting her so deliberately? If so, did he forgive her for crossing his path?
The question that lingered foremost in her mind at the moment was by far the most desperate' Did she have a home?
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