The Entrance Hall:
Upon returning to the manor a short while later, Kyra noticed how quiet the building had grown. Out of respect for Cassandra, the festivities had come to an abrupt end for the day. Most of the Ryder party guests had adjourned to their rooms, leaving the first floor quiet and empty.
Standing in the hallway, she stared at the vase and dishes that had been shattered. Their remains still littered the stone floor. Her cheeks reddened in embarrassment as she remembered the appalled gasps from the guests when she'd sent the contents flying from the table. She felt ashamed for having destroyed more of Caleb's valuables.
Feeling the need to amend her actions, she slowly bent down and began picking up largest shards of ceramic. It was just another thing to add to her growing list of mistakes since arriving here. Looking at the size of the mess, she couldn't believe she had caused so much damage. She hadn't meant to destroy so many things. All she had been thinking about was gaining Caleb's attention at the time.
"Miss? Oh, Miss," a maidservant rushed forward at last. She appeared flustered to see one of Caleb's family members down on her hands and knees. "Let the help get that. You needn't dirty that pretty dress of yours."
Hearing the distress in the woman's voice, Kyra paused for a moment looking down at her dress. She knew it was only fair that she pay some price for her stupidity today. The loss of one dress seemed fair, if not slight, retribution.
Ignoring the woman, she continued with her task. When a warm hand gently pressed against her shoulder, she vented a little exasperation. Why was the maid being so insistent, she wondered angrily. As she looked up, the breath caught in her throat. The person standing over her was Caleb.
She slowly clapped her hands to remove the dust and stood to face him eye to chin.
"Why are you cleaning this up," he asked softly.
Swallowing guiltily, she shrugged and picked up another shard from the floor. Looking up into his eyes, she was relieved to find that he didn't look angry. Still, she found it difficult to hold his gaze for long. In time, she felt certain he would come to hate her for causing all of this trouble.
Seeing her turn away from him once more, Caleb wondered what was going through her mind. She should be feeling ecstatic for having saved Cass from being raped'possibly even murdered. Instead, Serena said Kyra somehow blamed herself for the incident.
Finding himself in a rather quiet mood, he softly remarked, "You have no need to feel guilty about what happened to Cassandra, Kyra. You aren't responsible for anything that bastard did to her."
Kyra refused to hear him. She knew the truth of it all. Her eyes flew to his angrily. Nodding her head violently, she pointed to herself. It was her fault, she knew. Tears filled her eyes until she finally shook her head in defeat. She should never have left Cassandra alone. It had been unforgivable.
"It was not your fault," he insisted. "Maybe you saw something suspicious in Phillip's manner, but so did I! I do not see your eyes accusing me of any wrongdoing. What does that matter in any case? Whether you believe it or not, you saved Cassandra from a very awful fate. She could have been harmed much worse than she was."
For a moment she stared at him knowing he must have spoken to Serena. Angry for a reason she did not understand, she pointed to the shattered remnants of the vase on the floor, then poked herself in the chest.
'I did that,' she tried to tell him.
A sigh of aggravation escaped him then. "Damn it, Kyra," he argued. "You were trying to make me listen when I would not. A vase can be replaced, a person cannot. You saved Cassandra's life!"
Kyra closed her eyes for a moment, shrugging helplessly. Unwilling to accept it, she turned away from him for a moment. It seemed like she had been nothing but trouble since her arrival here. Swinging back around to him, she pointed to the broken vase once more and then to the upstairs. It seemed she destroyed everything she touched.
Caleb was frustrated. He caught her meaning and asked, "The things you broke upstairs? You're worried about that now?"
Thinking he was mocking, she handed him a few pieces of ceramic and flicked her fingers together in a sign for money. Then, she pretended to pull out her empty pockets.
'Where on earth will I get any money to pay for these things,' she tried to ask him.
Caleb lowered his head for a moment. He took in a deep breath before explaining, "Those things you broke upstairs were an accident, Kyra. I would never expect you to pay for them. Everything you broke'including the vase that was on the table here'were virtually worthless trinkets."
Worthless, she shook her head incredulously. She could hardly believe that was true of the vase that still remained broken in shards at their feet. Her expression told him that she was certain he was lying.
"Kyra," he reasoned impatiently, "do you think I would be foolish enough to leave valuable things lying within reach of greedy hands? The servants' children made those things you broke upstairs as hobbies. They were pretty, yes, but not expensive. And, although my mother would have probably raised the roof in anger over this vase, I am not about to react to the loss of a piece of art one of our cousins made fifteen years ago."
Some measure of patience within him was beginning to wear thin. He refused to stand here all day defending Kyra against her own recrimination of herself. It almost amazed him that he would stand here doing so. It amazed him, because he had spent hours awake in the night, arguing over the facts of her possible deceit. He still had no idea what to believe about her and he needed to know the truth.
Grabbing the rest of the pieces from her hands, he threw them to the floor. Taking her by the shoulder, he said, "Come with me into the library."
Kyra felt an odd change in the air as he beckoned her to follow him. She allowed him to take her hand, but warily followed him as he led her down the hall to the back of the building. His eyes held a serious light now, almost as though he had come to a decision about something. Fearing he might have decided it would be best if she left Damon Manor, Kyra shored her courage and followed him.
When they reached the room, Caleb allowed her to enter it before closing the door behind himself. The curtains were drawn in front of the glass doors leading out to the garden. Thankfully, the sight of it didn't momentarily distract him, as so often was the case.
He passed by her into the room and walked over to stand before the desk. For a time he faced away from her, wondering how to begin. He honestly wasn't certain. Now that he had her alone, he realized there would be no one to translate her thoughts for him should she wish to speak. It could prove awkward.
"Kyra," he began thoughtfully, his eyes beginning to turn away from the curtains. "I am glad you have come to live here at Damon Manor." He turned around slowly and let his eyes envelop her as he spoke. She was watching him curiously. Taking a quick breath, he added, "It's so refreshing to have such an innocent and honest person living under this roof with us."
She stood there silently, listening to the strangeness of his words. He seemed to be complimenting her, yet oddly enough, he wasn't. Caleb was beating around the bush with calculated phrases. She was sure of it. His words were too carefully chosen to be trusted. She could only wonder what game he was playing.
He raised a brow upward as he continued, "You wouldn't believe how many consorts I have found to be fraudulent in the past. It almost makes one wonder if there are any honest people left in the world. Do you know what I mean?"
Her head shook hesitantly. She peered up at him, waiting for the punch line. She could see that he was avoiding whatever the real issue was.
Feeling no humor, he smiled mockingly. "No, of course you do not. You wouldn't know about such things as deceit and treachery, would you?"
Each time he posed such a question, he measured the look in her eyes for some sign of surprise or defense. He saw no emotion other than confusion there. Her eyes seemed to question him, even as he questioned her.
Impossible, he scoffed. He refused to believe she could have a voice and not know it. She had to be lying about it! Maybe she had spent so many years hiding the truth that she could lie about it without so much as blinking. But, there was still one way to be certain. He would push her just a little and see if he could break through her defenses. He would know by her reaction whether she was being honest about her silence all these years.
He knew she had voice. That was not something he needed to prove. It was the look in her eyes that he wanted to see when he put the final proof in front of her. He would know then if she'd been lying to him. Wanting to test her will, he moved ever closer.
Inches away from her, he raised a hand and caressed her cheek softly. For a moment, he allowed a stray finger to trail down the length of her chin. The sudden glossiness of her eyes caught his notice. Each fractional movement of his fingers caused her eyes to widen slightly and he found himself wanting to see more.
Feeling a little crowded, Kyra breathed in deeply. She pulled back from him nervously. Her eyes questioned his intentions, but he offered her no answers. When she would have turned away completely, he touched her upper arm and gently encouraged her to come closer. Her breathing grew rapid, the length of each intake shortened. She was aware of his every movement as he pulled her close.
Frightened now, she wanted to push against him, but the look in his eyes held her still. She was reminded of that day in the garden. His intense stare almost frightened her. Fearing this moment, she sent him a pleading look that spoke volumes. By the look in his eyes she thought he might be angry again. His stare was intense and determined.
Caleb knew she was frightened. Her eyes had grown wide as she stared up at him. He felt compelled to reassure her as his deep voice softened to whisper, "I will not hurt you." The promise was given as his free hand framed the side of her face, caressing the tender skin of her cheek.
Her mouth opened slightly as she took in another nervous breath. His eyes were gently roaming the beauty of her face. She could see that he intended to kiss her. Where this moment had sprung from was a mystery to her. Since their torrid parting last night she had not seen this side of him again. Why had he chosen this moment to renew his passion for her? It was confusing, because only an hour ago she had practically let a good friend of his die, yet none of that seemed to matter to him right now.
She shivered in response when his hand reverently sifted through the free falling hair at her back. The hand on her cheek moved down to hook under the cleft of her chin. She moistened her suddenly dry lips with the tip of her tongue, unaware that for Caleb the gesture wrought havoc with his mind.
His head lowered to her slowly. He kissed her ever so slightly, with barely a fluttering upon her lips. Feeling her quivering, he closed his eyes and lowered his head again and again until she began to respond. Her hands moved up to hold his shoulders for balance. The softness of his lips replaced her fear with curiosity. At last she began to respond and Caleb moved closer.
He wrapped his arms more fully around her as she closed her eyes and rose up to meet him. With bold persuasion he finally claimed her mouth passionately, willing her to submit to him.
Her senses were heightened as she breathed in his heat. His tongue teased her closed lips and she gasped at the contact. A fiery sensation was shooting through her now, traveling downward to the very center of her being.
Caleb felt it too. Without knowing he did so, he reached behind her head to pull at the braid which held her hair captive. When it was free, he ran his fingers through the cascading mass that ran down her back. His hands rose through it to the back of her neck, pulling her ever closer.
Something unknown to him began to control his actions then. He found he could only submit to whim as his hand trailed lower down to the small of her back. It had been so long since he had felt these sweet sensations. So long... Once again he found that her closeness was something he desired. The need to possess her began to overwhelm him, just as it had on the terrace. He was pulling Kyra into him until they had only enough room to breathe.
When Caleb pulled her into him in that way, Kyra could feel a sense of excitement building within her. Innocent of it all, she began to move with him, finding the sensations it produced addictive. The need for this pleasure outweighed her better judgment. Her naivet' allowed her to do so without regret.
Even though he knew it was curiosity and desire that drove her on, rather than bold consent, he couldn't help continuing this torture just a little longer. Still, he knew it couldn't go on much longer. Though it nearly killed him to do so, he forced himself to slow down, stopping before he lost the last bit of conscience he possessed. Deep in his heart, he knew Kyra was too innocent to know what she was consenting to. He wasn't. He had to stop before it was too late.
Pulling his mouth away from her with a sigh, he hugged her to him fiercely. He couldn't believe how uncontrollable this all felt. He couldn't fathom how it was possible that she could so easily force him to lose reason this way. His ultimate goal had nearly been forgotten as he broke down to temptation, wanting only to fulfill himself within her.
It was impossible. Unable to completely withdraw from her, he held her close, his head resting atop of hers. He quickly realized his mistake. Unknown to the feelings he'd stirred within her, she began kissing his neck with tiny little nips. She had no idea that she was pushing him over the edge with every small caress of her lips on his skin.
"Kyra," he protested hoarsely. His eyes were rammed shut as he fought against his baser instincts.
The sound of his voice awakened her slightly. She stilled herself, burying her face in his shoulder. As the sexual haze faded from her body, she felt her cheeks flush. She realized he was ending it again and that upset her. Why did he continue to tease her in that way, she wondered in confusion.
Feeling hurt, she attempted to withdraw, but he refused to let go. When he wouldn't let her step back, her eyes flew to meet his. She stared up at him, unable to understand what he wanted from her. He stared back at her now with the most tormented look in his eyes. She could feel that he desired to be this close to her, and when he was kissing her, she wanted nothing more than to be near him as well. So, why was he denying it?
They breathed in unison and stood without speaking. The tension in Kyra's stomach grew tighter. If he was not going to let go of her, why wouldn't he kiss her, she wondered. The ache inside her might cease its endless torture then.
Unable to stand the strain of it, she made a bold move. Whether he thought her brazen or not, she didn't care. She raised herself up on the tips of her toes and tentatively brought her mouth up to his. Her kiss was hesitant and unsure as she tried to draw him to her, but his lips remained passive and unyielding.
Feeling him remain so unresponsive, she quickly dropped her hands to his chest and lowered herself from him. Her head turned down as she bade him to release her. Yet, still he refused to let her go.
Caleb saw the pained look in her eyes and he knew he should turn away. There would be no second chance for salvation if they continued. But, he couldn't. He couldn't walk away this time. He couldn't believe how affected he felt by her presence.
Forcing the moment of indecision from his mind, he caught her off guard. Instead of turning her loose, his eyes closed to all that was sane as he pulled her back up to him. He heard her gasp aloud when his mouth covered hers and the sound of it deafened him. He kissed her with more fire and fury than before, knowing his passion was burning out of control, but she was just so warm... So soft'
His mind screamed at him to stop, but his body was no longer listening. Soon, even his mind crossed the traitorous line as he remembered why this had all begun. No woman alive could possibly make love without uttering a sound. He had only meant to heighten her passion, but it didn't seem to be enough to push her beyond the edge of control. Though he was barely aware of the thought, he had to wonder, if he did make love to her, would she lose her control? Would she cry out to him? Even as his mind seemed to yield, he swore to himself that he would stop before it was too late. He would...
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