Outside the manor:
Sitting with Cassandra, Kyra could not imagine why Caleb hadn't wanted to marry her. Cassandra seemed like such a kind and gentle woman. There was an air of innocence around her. Though she often appeared confident as she sat, it was obvious from speaking with her that she was basically shy and uncertain about many things. Kyra felt certain that Cassandra must have led a rather sheltered life.
It was curious how Cassandra was capable of nearly reading her thoughts. Though Cass did not know the signing language, she intuitively picked up on Kyra's every gesture. She seemed to have no trouble understanding Kyra at all. Kyra almost imagined that Cass could actually hear her thoughts at times. It was almost eerie.
They were much alike, she realized. She had been born with a gift for reading the honesty or deception that was mirrored on a person's face. She often used that insight to predict whom she could and could not trust. Still, she had never mastered the art of actually predicting another person's thoughts. Cassandra seemed to do so quite naturally. With little effort, Cassandra managed to help Kyra hold a decent conversation, and Kyra honestly enjoyed that.
Sometimes, Kyra thought she could sense something troubling in Cassandra's eyes. There was a hint of sadness that lurked from deep within.
Earlier Cass had briefly spoken about her home life. The subject was not very serious at the time. She had just finished explaining why she came to stay at Damon Manor so often, and she laughed as she described some of the ridiculous reasons her father had come up with over the years. But, even as she laughed, her eyes remained somewhat passive'almost bitter. Cass was unaware that it showed. Kyra grew curious, though there was no way she could put such a question into words. She simply continued to listen and observe her.
Smiling at Cassandra, Kyra realized how much she cherished this new friendship. Cassandra was easy to get along with, and Kyra found herself laughing often as they sat watching the other guests. Just when it seemed the day was beginning to brighten, she cringed in disgust as she looked up.
A wiry man named Phillip Redmon was approaching them from a distance. He stumbled around a few chairs in the middle of the room as he headed towards them.
Caleb had cordially introduced her to this man outside. The moment she'd been greeted by him, she instinctively felt there was something about him that was not to be trusted. Though he had smiled and bowed to her graciously, she had sensed something very cold in his stare.
As she'd set eyes on him, she disliked him immediately. Something about him just gave her the shivers. His red coppery hair and cool green eyes forced her mind to once again flash an image of the evil man from her dreams. She could see his face as clear as day. Phillip's eyes were too inquisitive and his movements to slick. Even now, it was barely two hours into the party, yet he was already quite intoxicated.
He made his way to their seats and she felt like running off in disgust. Out of respect for his nobility, she remained seated where she was. The closer he came though, the more she was certain that he meant no good.
"My dear ladies," he greeted strongly, despite his inebriated state. "Have you not noticed that you are sitting here quite alone?"
Kyra frowned in offense of his pointless question. Surprisingly, she could see Cassandra was not put off by him. It seemed she was enchanted by his attempt at being cute. In return, she playfully asked, "Then perchance you have an idea to rectify the situation?"
The fine mint Kyra had just swallowed left a bitter taste in her mouth. Cassandra wasn't honestly inviting this man to join them, was she? This surprised Kyra. As intuitive as Cassandra was, she was not perceptive enough to sense this man's unpleasant manner. Kyra wondered if she was displacing her anxiety over the dream onto this man, mostly because he vaguely resembled the man in her nightmare. It was a curious thought, but it did not offer her any comfort. She disliked him all the same.
"Well, My Lady, perhaps I just might... Or'" he glanced around in feigned nervousness, "is there someone I should know about?"
Would it matter, Kyra wondered derisively. She kept up a facade of politeness by smiling as brightly as possible. Inside, she was contemplating a way to rid themselves of his company.
"There is no one," Cassandra replied shyly. In answer to his query, she offered, "We would be glad for your company, wouldn't we, Kyra?"
Would we? Quietly Kyra sat watching this exchange with disbelief. Couldn't she see the leering in his eyes? It was a wonder when he managed to lift his eyes from her chest. How was Cassandra so oblivious of it?
"Well, only if you insist." Before either of them could object, he sat in the chair between them, blocking Kyra out of the conversation entirely.
He continued with his attempt to be humorous and Kyra felt the urge to spill her drink over his head. Maybe that would change his tune about sitting with them. But no' Knowing it would only cause a spectacle, she sat listening to him for another minute, hoping he would finally leave. Kyra sat and sipped on her wine, but she soon grew tired of waiting for him to leave. Cassandra was giggling at some dumb comment he'd made. Kyra fairly threw her hands up in disgust before deciding it would be best to slip away and leave them alone to talk. Cassandra had all but forgotten her anyway.
Quietly excusing herself, Kyra left the dining hall to see what Serena was up to. She saw her friend hobnobbing with a pair of gabby twins near the entrance in the hall. They were another couple she'd been introduced to earlier. At the moment, she found no pleasure in being reacquainted with them either. They were almost as appealing as Phillip Redmon. Their identical noses fairly hit the ceiling as they stared down at her with their doubly snobbish eyes.
Perhaps Jacob would'no... He was engaged in conversation with Caleb and the blond haired man. She had no desire to meet up with that man again either!
Letting out a depressed sigh, she thought it was just as well. It was probably time for her to adjourn to her room anyway. She had made enough of a spectacle of herself for one afternoon.
Heading for the stairs, she passed the open door of the ballroom. The musicians had set up on the balcony in the back of the room. She paused for a moment as they started playing a slow song that she had heard once before at a Tyler Hall social gathering. It was an enchanting piece that caught her attention.
Many of the guests had already left to be shown their rooms, but several older boys and girls had chosen to remain downstairs. They had wandered into the ballroom, enjoying their first tastes of freedom away from their stuffy parents. A few of them danced sloppily while others giggled and watched. The air in the room was quite charming and she couldn't keep herself from entering the room. They turned and glanced at her curiously as she walked into the room a short way, but she smiled at them kindly before they returned to their imitation of dancing. She couldn't help watching them with some envy.
They were having fun and she wished for a moment that she could join them. She had never managed to master any dance. That was due to the fact that there weren't many boys who had ever dared to ask her to dance. She'd had very few friends as she grew up. None had ever played with her as these children were doing.
A light tap on her shoulder brought her out of her increasingly depressed mood. She turned and tried not to look affected by the pale blue eyes staring down at her.
Blake stood behind her. She turned around, curious to know what he wanted. If he only wanted to tease her some more, she'd already had enough.
He bit lightly at his bottom lip as he looked away momentarily. He was unsure of what to say now that he had finally gained the courage to speak to her. From afar, she had seemed so approachable. She'd smiled easily at the children dancing in the room. He had thought it would be the perfect time to apologize, since she seemed to be in a receptive mood. Up close, her questioning eyes disarmed him. For Blake Ryder, it was a strange experience to be speechless around a woman. He who always had the perfect lines to start a conversation was struck into dumbness by the uncertain look in her eyes.
Her inability to speak didn't put him off, but he felt a bit uncomfortable nonetheless. He'd been sure to ask Caleb if she was a little more simple-minded than other women. The question had come as a surprise to Caleb who never seemed to have given it a thought. So far as Caleb knew, she was quite intelligent, he'd said.
In the past month he had been interested in nothing about the fairer sex. In his opinion, they were all deceptive and overly emotional fools. He'd been so carelessly used throughout his last relationship that he had sworn against ever getting to know another one. He had managed to keep that vow until today. He'd not so much as spoken to another woman since.
Perhaps it was the apparent innocence in her eyes, or the curious fact that she couldn't speak. Something was piquing his interest about her. It wasn't often that he managed to deny his impulsive curiosity about such things.
"May I trouble you for a moment, My Lady," Blake managed to finally ask.
She nodded slowly. She'd been studying him as he hesitated, if she were to discard all of the suave things she had heard about this man she might honestly believe he was nervous. Then again, men were always nervous when they met her. Why should Blake be any different?
He laughed, a bit embarrassed at his lack of confidence, and said, "I'm sorry to appear a bit off. Usually I have no quarrel when it comes to speaking with such a beautiful young woman. It's not often I find myself at a loss for words."
Hearing the compliment in his apology, she blushed in disbelief. No man had ever told her she was beautiful... Not even Caleb, when she wore a new dress'
"Then again," he continued, "I don't normally blunder so badly when I introduce myself either. I do want to apologize for insulting you earlier. My comment was only meant to tease. It seems I am quite well known for that, you see? Still, had I known you really had no voice, that comment would not have left my mouth, nor might I add, would it have entered into my head."
He seemed sincere as he spoke, and Kyra basked in the trouble he went through to cover every last detail of his apology. She listened intently to his every word, but in truth she had already accepted his apology from the first. It was apparent that he felt remorseful for having insulted her. His effort to make amends over such a silly mistake showed he had good character.
He stood there awkwardly waiting for some show of emotion from her. He almost wondered if she was even angrier until her mouth broke into a wide grin and she outstretched her feminine palm faced down. He accepted it graciously, bowing his head in a humorous attempt at chivalry.
"Thank you, My Lady. I honestly feared I would forever walk the earth knowing a beautiful woman thought me none but a cad. I would be no more than a fool to have lost your friendship before it began."
She shook her head and smiled at his antics. She could see he was trying to make her laugh. There was no way she could hate him now.
The giggling of the children behind her made her turn around blushing. They quickly turned their eyes away from her and Blake, continuing on with their games. For a moment she watched them again as they laughed and giggled their way around the dance floor. She could almost imagine herself being that age, joining in on such fun.
A new song began from the balcony above, and suddenly Kyra felt as though a bolt of lightning had struck her. As she glanced up at the musicians, a thought flashed through her mind and it nearly blinded her to everything else in the room.
She could see herself standing in the center of this ballroom, staring up at the balcony with this same song playing in the background. She could feel her puffy white skirts swishing around her legs as she swayed to the music. The room was enormous and she danced in the middle of the floor with several young children all her own three-foot height. Hundreds of people were dancing about them and they moved as if in slow motion as the smell of a thousand different perfumes filled the air.
"Kyra," Blake's voice penetrated her deep thoughts. "Excuse me, Kyra. Are you ill?"
She sensed he was very distressed and she blinked rapidly against the images in her mind. Startled by what had happened, her wide eyes glanced about the room then peered curiously up at Blake. She sent him a questioning glance, but he had no clue what she was thinking.
He repeated himself in concern. "You are all right, aren't you?"
She nodded up at him, though she wasn't really certain at this moment. He didn't seem convinced of her honesty either. Hoping to divert his attention, she pointed to the children as if they were the source of her distraction.
"Ah, I see..." he realized fondly.'Yes, it does bring back memories to see children at play. Does it not?"
Yes, it did, she admitted. She felt certain that what she'd just experienced was a true memory. She could only recall that one tiny fragment. It was just the memory of herself at a very young age staring up at the balcony to the musicians. Still, the thought remained clear as day in her head.
Had she danced in this ballroom as a child? For a moment she tried to force more of the memory, but nothing more came from it. Had she been a guest in this manor as a child? Unable to resurrect anything more from her mind, she returned her attention to Blake. She would think more about it all later when she was alone in her room.
"Perhaps," he suggested quietly, "you wouldn't mind walking with me for a short while? You could show me around."
She looked at him inquisitively, wondering how she could show him around when she knew so little about this place herself.
He saw her uncertain eyes and remembered, "I had forgotten that you only just arrived here as well." He looked away thoughtfully, and then suggested, "You could walk with me anyway. After all, I was practically raised on these lands. I haven't been here for quite some time, but I believe I could come up with some stories to entertain you."
Kyra followed Blake as he walked out of the ballroom. She glanced up the stairs, wondering if she should bow out and adjourn to her room as she had originally planned.
The look of honest enthusiasm on Blake's face changed her mind. This might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. No one, at least not men, had ever wanted to spend more than a moment with her at most. It would either be stuttered and awkward, or it would be interestingly entertaining. Either way, she couldn't resist finding out. The thought of returning to the loneliness of her room suddenly sounded like a grim fate, not at all what she wanted.
She outstretched her arm politely and smiled up at him a bit shyly. He accepted her arm and together they ventured down the hall to the doors. He was certain he could find something of interest to amuse her. Hopefully she would think nothing more of his earlier comment at their introduction.
Caleb watched them from a distance. He was only half listening to his own companion as he tried to catch bits of their conversation. A bitter feeling that he thought must be wariness arose in his mind as he watched them walk away. He knew at once that he didn't like their friendship. It was surely out of protection for Blake. He wondered if he should warn Blake about her, before letting him grow closer to her. It was plain to see that Blake found Kyra enchanting. With a smirk of intense dismay, Caleb recalled Blake's earlier protest that he had sworn off women for good this time. He should have known better than to believe that ludicrous notion.
As much as he trusted Blake's keen intuition, he felt it necessary to offer him a stern word of warning about Kyra before their friendship delved much deeper. He didn't want to see Blake get hurt again and that was the heart of the matter, he insisted to himself. His longtime friend had had a rough time of it a month ago. He'd apparently suffered a deep blow to his pride after the torrid break-up with his former fianc'. So, until he could be sure what Kyra's motives were in his home, he couldn't allow Blake to get himself too wrapped up in her.
At that moment, Caleb's companion finally took off to seek a more attentive audience. That was when Caleb turned to find Cassandra talking with that snake Redmon. Every time he saw that man he felt an urge to either laugh or vomit. The man was constantly drinking when he wasn't trying to bait a woman. The thought of Cassandra being wooed by that man was sickening. She was so terribly na've, he thought with a sigh.
His problems with Kyra would have to wait a while longer while he took care of another forming problem.
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