Through the halls of Damon Manor:
"What do you mean no one has seen her," Caleb asked the maid, his voice filled with impatience as he spoke.
For nearly an hour he had been searching for Kyra. She and Jacob had been absent from the evening meal. He couldn't have cared less to see Jacob missing from the table at the time. His brother's remarks to Cassandra had been completely out of line, and that had dampened her enjoyment of the evening throughout dinner. He was actually relieved that Jacob had decided to eat elsewhere. He had been curious to know what kept Kyra from the table though. This was the second meal she'd missed that day.
His first instinct was to check her bedroom. When he found her room empty he began a systematic search of the manor, asking anyone if they'd seen her. No one could say that they had. He reasoned that she must have been concerned about his earlier hostility towards her. He'd made no effort to disguise his displeasure of her visit with Cassandra. Believing that must be the reason for her avoidance of him, he felt a little remorseful for it.
It wouldn't do to have her hiding away after every little transgression that occurred between them. She might as well move out now if she was going to stop dining with them every time she upset him. It seemed to be a growing problem and he sought to try dealing with it, rather than ignore its existence.
The thought that she would rather starve than speak with him was not a pleasing notion. He would much prefer to hear her speak her mind and declare her anger. If she must speak through Serena to vent her feelings, then so be it. He was going to tell her so when he found her. He disliked this silence between them immensely. There was silence and then there was silence. He could tolerate the fact that she might refuse to speak, but he would not stand for her preference to avoid him entirely. It was not a way for them to live civilly.
Not one servant could attest to having seen her though. With each passing minute he grew ever more resentful of the fact that he had to search for her. It made little sense to waste his time continuing the hunt. Yet once again, he walked through a hall on the second floor scratching his head as he stared into each room on passing. He had already searched this hallway twice. Where on earth could she have gone?
Suddenly, at the end of the hall, he saw a flutter of green skirts and long auburn hair flying past a crossing corridor. Caleb was fast on her trail, trying his best to maintain a dignified pace. One thought remained in his mind. If those long legs and locks of rich hair didn't belong to Kyra, he would give away his estate!
As he turned the corner, he could see the flip of a skirt rounding a second corner in the distance. When he reached the end of the hall he saw that it was indeed Kyra. She was trying to open a door with her arms filled with small bundles. He couldn't tell what she carried, as he was watching from a good distance away.
The room she entered was one that had been locked off for years. Surprisingly enough, she freely opened the door and hastily disappeared inside. He stood where he was for a moment, watching to see if she would come out again. As he stood waiting, he remembered that this room was one his mother had used for sewing. What would she be doing in there?
Curious, he stepped up to the door and listened for any sound from inside. She was moving about, rustling something, but he could not tell what. It sounded like she was shuffling through pages. Realizing the position he was in, he began to feel a little foolish. He stood with his ear pressed against the door like a spy. He might just as well have crouched to the floor and peeked under the seam. If anyone had seen him, they would never have guessed he was the overlord of this manor. For the sake of all that was good, if he wanted to know what was happening, he had every right to open the door and enter the room! Why on earth was he standing there like an imbecile?
Even with that grand mental speech, he couldn't bring himself to open the door. He didn't know what to make of the situation. He had every right to enter the room, yet he stood back from the door, debating whether or not he should knock. How could he heed his father's advice at this point? How could he wait for an explanation from Kyra about this? His overactive imagination was already running rampant, jumping to conclusions.
Would his father argue that there was no reason to suspect her of anything, just because she had rushed in and shut the door? The door must have been locked. Kyra could not have a key. So, what was she doing inside the room? If she had resorted to pilfering the lesser rooms of the manor, he would have to confront her. At this point, he honestly believed that was a good possibility. Perhaps she had been disguising herself as a mute all these years to steal small treasures from her home. It wasn't beyond thinking, and she had no permission to be in this room.
Weighing the odds, he finally came to the only sensible conclusion. Decision made, he reached for the doorknob and was on the verge of entering the room when Jacob called out to him from behind.
"Hey," Jacob was laughing obnoxiously. "Caleb? What are you doing?"
Not expecting the interruption, Caleb nearly jumped out of his boots and rounded on his brother defensively. "This room is supposed to be locked at all times. Is it not?"
"Why sure it is? Why do you ask," he snickered and shrugged. His voice sounded slightly wary.
Perceptive as ever, Caleb picked up on Jacob's nervousness. Caleb could see that though he was dressed lightly, Jacob was beginning to sweat.
Oh, Jacob thought, he should never have agreed to keep quiet about this. Never! Kyra had just looked so distraught, and he was such a sucker for long faces. But, Caleb would never understand it. Rules were rules, and this room was supposed to remain closed off. This sewing room was not to be used by anyone, and that was that.
"Well," Caleb remarked, "there happens to be someone inside. You wouldn't know anything about that, eh, Jacob?"
"No, of course not, Caleb," he shook his head. He attempted an innocent smile. "Who would want to be in there?"
"I haven't any idea. And, no offense, but you seem extremely anxious, Brother."
"Me, nervous? What an absurd idea," he said, scratching his chin. "I've never been nervous a day in my life."
"Exactly, which is why I want to know, what Kyra is doing in our mother's sewing room? You cannot tell me you didn't know about this. I can see very well by your expression that something is going on." Caleb had grown weary of Jacob's games. He wanted an answer. He wanted to know why Kyra was sneaking around in the sewing room.
"Kyra... She's in there? Why, I haven't the faintest, eh...Er'" His voice was becoming increasingly shaky. He hated lying to Caleb, especially when he was in such a humorless mood. There was no reasoning with the man when he was angry.
Caleb's icy stare leveled Jacob and he said, "That is just as well, Jacob. If you won't answer me then I will have to ask Kyra. It is amazingly clear that the two of you are up to something. One of you is going to answer my question."
He had no chance to grip the doorknob as Jacob grabbed his shoulder. Jacob boldly stepped in front of the door, shoving Caleb back as he moved. He regretted doing so almost immediately. Caleb was seething.
"Get out of my way," Caleb hissed.
"All right, wait. I will tell you, but not here." Jacob raised a hand to his brother's shoulder in an effort to draw him away from the room. He sent him an earnest look.
For a long minute Caleb stood silently. He was gauging the seriousness of Jacob's expression. At last, he conceded and followed his brother's lead, but he refused to allow Jacob the victory. As they walked down the hall, he added, "This had better satisfy my curiosity or you might both be looking for a new residence."
When they entered a large sitting room on the second floor, Jacob explained, "Kyra is doing nothing wrong."
Caleb snorted derisively. "After what we just went through, I am asked to believe this?"
"Give me a chance to explain," he pleaded. He knew Caleb was unreasonably angry right now. "When Kyra came to me with her request, she asked that you not be told. She was rather embarrassed about asking me, but she felt you would look down on her for being unable to provide for herself."
"What request?" Caleb's interested was piqued. He could not accept that Jacob would keep anything from him.
Jacob hesitated before saying, "When she heard about the social gathering tomorrow, she was worried. It seems she has no suitable attire to fit in with our society friends. She didn't want to burden anyone with her need, so she has decided to attempt making herself an appropriate dress for the occasion."
Caleb frowned deeply. He knew Kyra could not possibly manage to make a gown in one evening. "That task would take her days, even with the best of materials."
"Exactly. That is why I allowed her to use our mother's sewing room. At least she will find the necessary tools she needs to attempt it."
"No. I cannot allow this," Caleb objected.
"Damn it, Caleb," Jacob exploded. "Why do you think I allowed her to use the sewing room without telling you? I knew you would find some reason to dispute it. I will not let you stop her. You cannot allow her to dress in the rags she owns for the party. She has spent her savings to buy enough material, and she wants to make this effort. She knows the party is being thrown for the Earl's son."
In disgust of his brother, Caleb shouted, "What kind of odious barbarian do you take me for! Of course I would not be so cruel, and exceedingly so in public." That his brother thought he meant to demean Kyra in that way was insulting. "I meant that I will have a gown provided for her along with all the apparel that goes with it."
Silence ensued for a moment before Jacob said, "Pray forgive my outburst, Caleb. I misjudged you prematurely." He'd made the apology quickly, but there was true guilt in his voice. He had not been thinking when he'd criticized Caleb's intention.
Forcing his anger down, Caleb could not help wondering what opinion Jacob held of him. Did he honestly think he would have enjoyed seeing Kyra degraded? Shaking his head, he said, "Do not give it another thought. I concede that I am not well known for being generous towards anyone, save my deceased wife." Just as the thought was begun, a wry smile crept into his face. He had always been so eager to see Elizabeth happy. Returning his thoughts to Kyra, he said, "It never ceases to amaze me that a woman can be so proud about asking such menial favors."
Jacob shrugged in answer and said, "I did offer to have our tailors craft her a dress, but she refused the idea. She is serious in her desire to make the dress herself, and she did not want you to know about it. So, I hope you'll do me the favor of pretending you know nothing about it."
Biting the inner corner of his lip in aggravation once more, Caleb stepped from the room without another word. In that way, Kyra reminded him so much of Elizabeth. His wife would have done such a thing, but it irked him nonetheless. He would have preferred that she be straightforward with him about such things. Providing her clothing would be no chore. In fact, it was part of his role as her overlord. He could easily afford to buy her an entire wardrobe full of gowns if she wanted. Instead she would rather slave through the night on a hapless dress? It was impossible to reason. He decided to drop the pointless thought and left in search of his steward.
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