"Take care of it on your own!" The growl that burst forth from Caleb's mouth thundered up to the rafters.
"But, My Lord'"
"I told you to go deal with it yourself! That's what you are paid to do. I cannot see why you feel the need to bother me with every detail," he protested angrily.
Brent, Caleb's steward, shrank out of the library on the tips of his toes. When the door closed Caleb immediately felt a stab of remorse. He knew it wasn't the servant's fault that he was in such an irritable mood this morn. That honor belonged solely to the traitorous girl who had still not emerged from her room upstairs. It was the supposedly mute woman who intended to make Damon Manor her home for the next few years.
When he awoke several hours earlier, Caleb finally realized what had gone unnoticed in the heat of the moment last night. It was astonishing that he hadn't seen the truth of it while he was struggling with Kyra in her bedroom, but he could remember it clearly now.
During the moments when Kyra was at the peak of fear she had most certainly spoken aloud... Out of fear, under the mysterious hold of her dream, Kyra had screamed and cried out loud. And, now that he was finally aware of what had happened, he recalled that after she awoke, Kyra had verbally wept in his arms as he held her on the floor. He tried to ascertain what all of this might mean, but he came up with nothing but more questions.
Caleb stood up from his desk and walked over to the glass door that stood slightly ajar. Bright morning sunlight filled the quiet room and the smell of sweet flowers pervaded everywhere. This morning he was blind to it all.
There was only one explanation he could fathom to make sense of it. For some reason, Kyra was feigning the muteness and the amnesia. Why she had done so for nearly ten years was anyone's guess. He assumed that her reason for living such a lie must center around the Tyler family. Pretending to have no voice must have been the simplest way for her to remain in their house without letting them learn her true identity. They had never been able to ask her any questions and that had kept her safe. If she couldn't speak, there was little chance she would be caught in a complicated lie. Then, when Isabel had begun devising the hand language, Kyra must have added the pretense of having no memory. Still, the idea of Kyra being capable of such deceit was hard to accept. It didn't make sense.
Why would she continue with this charade for so many years? What could she possibly gain after all this time? Was she continuing to hide away at the Tyler's home out of fear, or was there more to it than that? It was hard to believe someone could be so motivated by greed to pull off such a great hoax as Kyra had, but the fact remained. Kyra was not a mute woman as she'd claimed to be all these years.
One thing that bothered him though was the complexity of the drama she'd created around herself. How could a girl so young think up such a twisted scheme? If she was working in collaboration with someone on the outside to devise such a clever plan, what could she have hoped to gain from it? Sherman wasn't that wealthy of a man. Surely money could not have been her ulterior motive. There had to be more to it than that. Whatever it was, he didn't like the idea of anyone bringing such deception into the heart of his home.
There was only one fact that troubled him. Yesterday, when they fought in the garden, he had frightened her. He knew he must have. The way he'd acted would have been enough to send any woman screaming in fear. Yet, throughout it all, Kyra hadn't even whimpered in protest. Why wouldn't she have screamed for help or begged for mercy if she were able to? He had no idea how she'd managed to hold herself back.
He wished that he had paid more attention to Sherman's mysterious guest years ago. When he had visited Tyler Hall on occasion he'd never taken any notice of her. He had only called on the Tyler residence when business matters arose. He had never taken any interest in their personal lives. If he wanted to learn anything about her now he was going to have to ask Serena. She was the only one close enough to Kyra who could tell him what game she might be playing.
A soft knock sounded on the door. He called out abruptly, knowing who it would be.
The timid steward peered his head around the door to see if Lord Damon might be waiting with a sharp weapon in hand. The wooden door creaked as it opened more fully and Brent's silent footsteps greeted Caleb nervously.
"Come in, Brent! You act as though I might be waiting to cut off your head."
"No, no, My Lord. I would never think such thoughts." Perhaps, that was why Caleb ran the manor so well, Brent pondered. He was always able to read his opponents thoughts so easily. Obviously, he had already forgotten their recent conflict and had no notion why Brent was so anxious.
"Speak what you have come to say," Caleb sighed wearily.
Seeing the look on his face, Brent was a bit reluctant to add more problems to the Marquess' growing list. If he wasn't careful, Caleb was going to buckle under the weight of his aggravation and someone was going to be caught in the ensuing avalanche.
"My Lord, an entourage of guests is approaching the manor. Their messenger states that a party of fifty-five will arrive tomorrow."
"Tomorrow!" Caleb's roar nearly knocked the servant off his feet. "What buffoon would dare make that journey giving only a day for notice?"
Brent meekly crawled back to the table and squeaked, "His Grace, Blake Ryder, My Lord."
"Blake Ryder?" Hysterical laughter suddenly exploded from Caleb. Brent could only wonder whether to run now or stand in wait of a medicine man that would treat the Marquess for a nervous breakdown.
"Oh Lord! I cannot believe that old dog is going to step foot back on my land." A warm smile spread over his face and he clapped his servant on the shoulder nearly sending him down through the floor. "Go out and tell his messenger to ride back. I want him to inform Blake of our readiness to accept him."
Steadying his weak muscles, the servant walked back out of the room. Caleb followed him out the door and left to find Jacob.
Wait until his brother learned who would be arriving the next day. Blake Ryder, son of the Earl of Westmoore, had been a trusted friend to them throughout their childhood. He and the Damon brothers had been almost inseparable as youths. The three of them had wrought more havoc for their fathers than anyone could imagine.
Maybe things would lighten up a bit while he was visiting. The problems with Kyra could surely wait a little while. After all, she wasn't going anywhere soon. Instead, he would concentrate all of his energy to setting up a nice surprise for his old pal Blake.
Blake must think he was brilliant to pick the most inopportune moment to drop in so unexpectedly with such a large entourage.
What he had obviously forgotten was that Damon Manor always remained stocked with enough supplies to keep a battalion of thousands readied for war. The cupboards were kept full and the servants were in top form with the upkeep of the rooms. It might take a good amount of work to get the manor in shape for a social gathering, but it would not take more than a day to bring it together.
Blake probably thought this was sweet revenge for the last prank Caleb pulled on him. Years ago, just before Blake was called at the King's command, Caleb had set him up with a woman whom he'd claimed was of the utmost virtue. Actually, the woman was a prostitute who had been paid highly to overpower Blake and teach him the pleasures a woman could offer.
It was meant as a practical joke for his sixteenth birthday, because Caleb had posed her as a timid young girl who had never even seen a man outside of her own family. Blake was a big flirt with the ladies, and he enjoyed teasing the shy ones with his charm and charisma. He acted as though he was God's gift to the female population. He had bragged endlessly about the women that he claimed to have deflowered. Caleb knew he was lying and he developed a plan to prove that his friend was not as experienced as he claimed to be. Caleb and his brother had spied from the windows and they nearly died of laughter as they watched.
There stood Blake with flowers in hand and a score of servants waiting to impress the woman who stood in a sleeveless, knee-high, bright red dress. His mouth had dropped open and he glanced around quickly, wondering whether to allow the girl entrance. The outrageous woman practically climbed all over him to his embarrassment. Still, in the end, Blake had allowed the woman to earn her pay in the privacy of his room. But, his father had learned of the tryst and called on the King to enlist his son in the battalions.
Blake had been requested to come to the King's court within two weeks for enlistment. His stay there had lasted almost four years before he returned home to start learning the role he would one day inherit from his father. He had ultimately forgiven Caleb for all the trouble he'd caused, but he'd always vowed to get revenge one day when he least expected it.
For nearly ten years now, Blake had been attempting to carry out that threat. Caleb always managed to avoid his wrath and this time would be no different. It was almost laughable to know that Blake's prank wouldn't cause any problems.
The noontime meal was almost upon them. Caleb would have to move quickly if he was going to get this celebration ready. His problems with Kyra were in no way diminished, just put out of focus for the time being.
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