Episode 1 - Onto A New Home
Entering Damon Land:
Nearly ten years had passed since the fateful day Kyra had arrived on the doorstep of Tyler Hall. In all that time, no one had come looking for her. It was both a blessing and a curse, she supposed.
She had merely awoken one morning in excruciating pain, lying in a home she didn't recognize. She was confused and frightened, yet there were kind eyes peering down at her as a soft voice attempted to soothe her. It was Isabel, the woman who would become an adopted mother to her. Some time passed by and there were questions being asked, yet she had no ability to answer them.
It was quickly discovered that she couldn't speak. The power of speech completely eluded her. The doctor treating her had been unable to say if it was caused by the abuse she'd suffered or from something that happened much earlier in life. He did suspect it was more than likely permanent, however. Before long, they also realized she was suffering from a severe form of amnesia. She didn't remember anything about the attack, which was a blessing, nor anything about her life before it.
"You can't remember anything," Isabel asked with sympathetic eyes. "Nothing at all?"
Taking a small, shaky breath, she felt overcome with nausea. She attempted to reach back into the depths of her mind, feeling herself beginning to perspire. The air was so thin… She couldn't seem to breathe… Her heart was pounding madly in her chest and it hurt!
Closing her eyes, she tried to think past the fear she was feeling. There was only one thing… The sound of a kind voice that had been speaking to her—and she recalled the word he had said, knowing it must be something important.
Over and over, she mouthed the word up at Isabel. She repeated it a number of times before Isabel could finally understand what she was trying to say.
"Kyra?" A curious frown passed over her face as she tried to make sense of the foreign word. "Is that your name?"
Was it? As she reflected on the voice that had spoken the word to her, it seemed to make sense. It had sounded like someone was speaking her name.
Oh, the feeling that washed over her in that moment was one of intense relief. A name! She had a name and she could remember it! It was the first solid thing she was able to cling onto in a world that seemed so strange. It felt like she'd just been given a King's fortune…
Then, she had met Baron Sherman Tyler and the ground literally swallowed her up whole again. He was in his late forties now and still as bitter as ever about her presence in his home. He persisted in the belief that she had no place living among his family and he made no effort to disguise his contempt of her.
From their very first meeting, Sherman's temper had flared over the fawning attention she received from Isabel while imagining his own daughter played alone in the corner. Just as she was beginning to recover from her injuries, Sherman had raged that she belonged in an institution, not in his home. He would have succeeded in sending her off to be locked away at Master House, but Isabel had insisted she should stay and remain with them. It was only for the love of his wife that Sherman dared to allow it.
Now, those days were long gone and Kyra's life was beginning to fall apart all over again. Just two weeks ago, Isabel had died in her sleep. It was no surprise, for the Baroness had been ill for quite some time. She and Serena sat faithfully by her bed night and day until at last her suffering was over. The morning she took her last breath, Kyra felt like she was taking hers.
It was impossible to fathom the level of cruelty Sherman was capable just a few hours later. It was then that she saw how heartless her adopted father could really be. He wasted no time in attempting to remove her from his house, ordering a servant to begin packing her belongings at once. He'd ordered her from his sight, allowing her to return to the main room only to observe the eulogy he offered before Isabel's burial. Her humiliation that day was a thing she knew she would never forget.
At the end of the service, Sherman turned to speak to the family and friends who had gathered together and announced she was being placed up for adoption. Anyone who desired a servant or handmaid should contact him at their earliest convenience. She nearly died of embarrassment as the people stopped to whisper and point in her direction, but not one stepped forward to offer her housing that day.
If it wasn't for Serena, he would have thrown her out into the streets altogether. After the servants had retired for the evening, Kyra sulked in the shadows as Serena pleaded with her father to see reason.
"Mother is gone! You can't make Kyra leave," she cried hysterically. "You just can't!"
With a deceptively calm smile, Sherman placed a hand on her shoulder to try and reassure her it was for the best. "I've already found a wonderful new home for her, Serena. Trust me, it's for the best. She will never be happy living here with us. She needs to find a new family of her own."
"Father! Kyra is family to me. Who will look out for her? Who is going to make sure they understand her—"
"She cannot stay here. I won't allow it," he declared in a voice that brooked no argument. "It has already been arranged. They are expecting her arrival next week. I assure you, she will be very happy at Damon Manor."
"How can you know that? I can't lose her too, Father! I can't! I just can't!"
The pitch of Serena's rising voice stung Kyra's heart. She collapsed against the wall and turned her face down into her hands, fearful to see her sister so distraught. The guilt she felt in that moment outweighed any fear she might feel about the unknown future ahead.
"Serena, Serena," Sherman attempted to placate her. "What if you were to travel with her, eh? Hmm?" He sounded so sincere that Kyra's eyes rose at once praying it might be true. "Perhaps you could help her settle in there… See that she adjusts… That it's safe."
"Really?" On the verge of a shaky breath, she looked into her father's eyes with sudden gratitude.
"If it will make you feel better about things," he agreed solemnly. "It won't change anything though. Your mother and I never saw eye to eye on this matter. I suspect you and I never will either." He reached then to embrace her, despite the grief she was feeling. Still, his frosty eyes turned to regard Kyra with a hatred she knew she would never understand.
It was apparent to Kyra how much Sherman despised her that night. He didn't seem to care how hurt she was by the loss of Isabel. He merely wanted her out of his sight. He was merely making it easier for Serena to bear in allowing her to travel along.
In a state of shock over losing Isabel, Kyra hadn't even thought to ask about the man who was going to become her new guardian. Was the Marquess a short and stocky man like Sherman? Did he have a bad disposition with a face to match? Would he treat her like dirt as Sherman had? God! Why had she agreed to go along with this?
Because you had nowhere else to go… She knew it was the truth.
She had debated the idea of simply running away, but it was a fast and fleeting thought. Who would hire a mute girl without some sort of reference? How could she possibly hope to take care of herself without a guardian? No one would be able to understand her.
Serena had helped relieve some of her fears in the following days. She knew of Caleb Damon, the man who would become her keeper. He had made several trips to their home over the years. He was apparently stern, yet quiet in demeanor. That certainly suited her needs, it seemed.
She knew she needed to be strong about this for Serena's sake. Isabel certainly would have been. She needed to somehow embody that woman's spirit within herself, for she knew this was going to be as painful a transition for Serena as it was for her. Ultimately, there really was no choice in the matter.
Now that they were away from the morbidly oppressive hall, Kyra was happy to see Serena's complexion appear to brighten. She knew there was more to this trip than the need to escort her onto her new home. It wasn't even about escaping the memory of her mother's death—although that was certainly part of the reason for it. No, Serena was looking a reprieve from all the other drama that was about to unfold at Tyler Hall.
Having reached her nineteenth birthday, she was about to be wed to a man whom she'd been promised to at birth. Serena seemed content enough with Andrew, but the date of the wedding was approaching quickly. Without Isabel's advice and guidance to fall back on, she was more nervous than ever about its impending arrival. This trip away from Tyler Hall wouldn't postpone the wedding, but it made the event feel further away than it really was.
Kyra tried to remain a passive bystander whenever the subject of Andrew and Serena's marriage was brought up. Andrew Brady was known to be a catch and he seemed like a pleasant enough man when he visited them. Serena's entire family believed he would make a wonderful match for her. Still, she remained a silent bystander in his presence. She was able to sit quietly and observe him unhindered, watching his mannerisms whenever he spoke. Sometimes she found his demeanor a bit suspect.
The expressions on his face seemed to be a facade over the real person standing behind a mask. His smile aways seemed so forced. It never really reached his eyes. Kyra often wondered if Serena would wake up one day and find herself feeling out of place in a home, living with someone who was strangely devoid of any real emotion.
Her adopted sister acted brave and strong for the world to see, but Kyra had seen her in weaker moments. She knew Serena could easily be hurt. She wondered if Andrew would be able to offer her the kind of emotional support she needed and often craved.
As Kyra watched her sleeping on the seat across from her in the coach, she smiled to herself. What a lovely bride Serena was going to make in spite of her fiancé.
She could easily picture Serena with her luxurious golden-blond hair flowing down beneath the train of her white gown, her eyes so pale blue as she gazed up at the man she loved. It was sad to realize she'd never see it happen for herself. Before leaving Tyler Hall, Sherman had declared that she would not be returning for the wedding. It was just one more bitter farewell in the face of her defeat.
The coach came to a halt as Kyra released a small sigh of regret. Serena immediately roused from her light sleep to see Kyra glancing out the small window in the door. She could clearly see the anxiety already appearing on Kyra's face as she looked over the four-story mansion that sat beside them. From her position, Kyra was unable to see the entire width of the building as she strained her neck in either direction. Damon Manor was an intimidating sight to behold.
"Don't worry," Serena placed a supportive hand on Kyra's shoulder. Sitting back in the seat, she said, "I promise they will treat you well here." Kyra was wringing her hands nervously and biting her bottom lip as Serena admonished, "You'll worry yourself ill over naught, then realize how silly you have been once we're inside."
Kyra's eyes shot skyward at those words of wisdom. Unable to sit still, she opened the door without waiting for the driver to help. As she stepped down, she took a gasping breath of fresh air.
"Everything will be fine. You'll see." Serena encouraged. "Please don't wrinkle your dress so. It will only make you appear haggard."
Kyra immediately dropped the hands that were worrying the fabric of her dress, but she couldn't help clutching them together. She was so frightened, she thought she might faint.
Serena stepped down seconds later with the help of the coachman. Kyra stood there unmoving, warily taking in the sights as Serena came to stand by her side.
The front of the building was immense. Battlements adorned the rooftop of the mansion. She could see guards lined in a neat array along the entire ledge surrounding the perimeter of the roof. The sight of it frightened her desperately.
They were parked before a wide set of double doors. They abruptly swung open and three men stepped out of the building seconds later. Two of the men were garbed in matching uniforms, which told her these two were guards who protected the man walking between them. She automatically assumed this must be Lord Caleb Damon. As he walked closer, Kyra began to assess his appearance.
He was dressed in a plain white shirt with gray cotton pants and knee-high black boots. He looked much younger than she'd expected, with wavy blond hair and flawless skin. So casually dressed, he didn't appear at all the way she'd envisioned a Marquess might look. Even with the huge sword hanging at his side, it was hard to picture him leading a legion of soldiers through their intense training for the King's brigade.
The man stepped forward and greeted Serena first. Kyra's eyes remained on the kind set of his gentle green eyes when he spoke. If this was the man who would become her guardian, she knew she would get along well here. Her heart filled with renewed optimism over her chosen fate.
"Lady Tyler," he spoke respectfully and bowed his head. "Welcome to Damon Manor. I extend full hospitality to you for as long as you remain with us."
"Thank you, uh—"
"Jacob Damon, My Lady. I am Caleb's younger brother, second in command of this fortress."
Kyra's spirits were quickly dashed as Jacob introduced himself. He wasn't the Marquess. She crossed her fingers behind her back, hoping Caleb Damon might somehow resemble the man his brother was. She prayed for it.
"I apologize that my brother was not able to be with us for your arrival. An emergency has arisen which demands his attention. He has ordered me to see that you are made comfortable until he can join us this evening." As he spoke to Serena, he was regarding Kyra curiously.
As Kyra patiently listened to him, she had to fight releasing a soft sigh of relief. She was safe for a little while longer. Perhaps she'd be able to make herself more presentable by the time the Marquess met up with them. Hopefully a favorable appearance would detract from the fact that she had no voice with which to greet him.
"I assume this must be the Lady Kyra," Jacob finally turned and spoke in her direction.
Kyra nodded in response and deeply curtsied her greeting to him.
Pleased by the formality of the title he'd given Kyra, Serena returned it in kind when she saw a frown marring his forehead. "Uh, Lady Kyra is not able to speak," Serena explained apologetically. "I pray you will not take exception to that fact."
Nodding then, his frown eased. "My apologies to you," he offered and slightly bowed his head for a moment. Laughing slightly, he looked back to Serena and remarked, "I must have missed that part when Caleb announced we were accepting your father's proposal to take her in." Looking back at Kyra, he added, "It honestly makes no difference to me that you have no voice."
He was covering the awkward moment admirably, Kyra thought happily. She again curtsied for him in an effort to reiterate her pleasure to meet him. Still, Serena thought he looked a little perturbed for having been caught off guard.
"I am delighted to make your acquaintance," he said, now interpreting her meaningful gesture.
Kyra smiled shyly at his quick recovery. She nodded once more in return.
Jacob turned back to Serena and a light came into his eyes as he looked down at her. "I'll have a servant show you to your rooms. I imagine you are both tired from your trip." Without hesitation he turned to lead them into the manor. If Serena seemed to smile a bit brighter as well, Kyra did not mention it as they were whisked away into the building.
They were led slowly through a maze of hallways in search of their bed chambers to unpack. Jacob walked beside Serena, chatting with her pleasantly about their journey. For a fleeting moment Kyra thought to herself that a man like Jacob would have been a perfect match for Serena.His smile seemed so genuine. If she could choose someone for her friend to marry it would be someone like him. He seemed like a person you could trust right from the start.
Obviously, Jacob would be no match for Andrew in looks, but for an honest first impression, he would win the contest hands down. Sadly, Serena would never be available for any such match. She was already pledged to Andrew.
Lost in thought, Kyra realized she should have been trying to memorize their progression through the halls. There were so many turns and stairways. If she lived here a hundred years, she doubted she would be able to find her way around this building alone. The idea that in a very short time she would be left alone in this place was too scary a thought to contemplate.They stopped and Jacob opened one of the doors, then he walked Serena across the hall to open hers.