A Dangerous Encounter
Secret Garden, Damon Manor:
Downstairs, Kyra was finding that as she ventured through the various hallways it might not be so difficult to find her way around place after all. Without counting the number of stairways, it seemed there were two main hallways on each floor with small corridors that led to the rooms. It was much easier to find her way around than she'd first thought. When she reached the first floor, she glanced up the hall to the back of the building. There were no doors that seemed to lead outside the manor. She decided to search the floor with some semblance of order, starting with the room to the left side of the hall.
The first was a huge dining room with three enormous tables all lined in neat rows. Each one must hold thirty people at least! She imagined how full this room must get during meal time.
She then left to open a large door across the hall in front of the staircase. It was a large ballroom with a grand chandelier high above the center of the floor. There was a large balcony that spanned across the top of the room where the musicians would play and small tour groups could perform plays when the Marquess was entertaining guests.
There was a door leading out to the side yard, but she couldn't get to the garden from there because of the ferns blocking the way at the back of the building.
After searching through an entertainment room and a large sitting room, she almost gave up. There were so many rooms, but none with any doors that led outside to the garden. About to give up, she saw a smaller door at the far end of the hall. It looked like it led to a linen closet, and on the door a sign was posted that read, 'PRIVATE'. Never being one to heed any warnings, Kyra opened the door. The darkened hallway and was immediately assaulted with bright sunshine. Inside the room was a small library that held no more than a few hundred books. At the far end of the room was a wall made almost entirely of glass.
Two drapes hung open on each side of the large window. As she neared it she realized it was actually a door, not a window. It was beautiful! She could feel the fragrant breeze coming through the half-opened door and she couldn't resist stepping out onto the wide terrace floor. Why this sight was hidden away in such small lifeless room was curious. This place was so beautiful that she would've placed the doors at the end of the entrance hallway.
No matter the reason, she'd found it! Now she couldn't be held back from exploring this marvelous sight. It was so serene and peaceful.
Birds of many varieties fluttered about the garden, singing their praise to the gardeners. The songs they sang seemed somehow different than those of the birds at Tyler Hall. The sound was almost elegant, so harmonious in nature.
Without conscious thought she began walking forward until she reached a white gate that open up to the dirt paths. With a flick of her wrist she unlatched the gate. In minutes she was drowning in the vibrant colors and scents that carried her deeper into this mysterious world. The bushes and flowers were twined so high from the ground that soon she could no longer see the mansion. Somehow in this place, she felt lost from the worries of life. It was impossible to believe that anything could harm her here.
Then she heard it. A snap of a twig and the brush of the leaves underfoot.
She turned around wildly to see what was hidden by the thick growth of plants. A second twig snapped and she froze in place. A third...
Then she saw it. At first only a nose was visible, then a head peeped out from behind a tree. It was a deer!
Her heartbeat slowed to its normal rhythm and she bent sown on one knee to beckon the animal forward. She had some crackers in her pocket from the long trip here to Damon manor and she held them out to the deer in an attempt at bribery.
The deer slowly crept towards her with measured steps and finally it leaned out a cautious nose to sniff the food. Obviously it didn't care for the crackers but it didn't move away. The deer remained and moved closer to sniff her.
Kyra lowered her hand to the ground and dropped the crackers there. Then, ever so cautiously, she reached out to touch the animal. Uncertain of her, the deer backed away. She held her hand still until it stepped forward once more. With careful movement it sniffed the top of her hand and dipped its head to smell the underneath. She wished she could speak reassuring words so it would know she meant no harm. But, maybe the animal sensed it in her movements, for it finally stepped close enough for her to caress it gently on the cheek.
"What do you think you are doing!" A harsh voice roared from behind.
The shout frightened the deer. It scampered off into the protection of the thick growth of the bushes. Kyra flew to her feet and twisted around to see the man. She saw only the glint of steel gray eyes as she backed away as uncertain as the deer had been.
"I asked you a question. You are not a gardener here. They all know better than to feed the deer. Who are you?" His voice demanded an answer, but she could give him none.
Her eyes frantically scanned two nearby paths looking for an escape. The man's voice knowingly mocked her. "We are alone in here so don't even think of trying to run. You must already know that I've memorized this entire place. I could find you anywhere in here."
Why should she know that, she wondered in confusion. Perhaps he was the gardener who had built this place, she reasoned. He wasn't dressed as a gardener should be, but perhaps they did things differently here than at Tyler Hall. After all, she hadn't been here that long, so how should she know how the Marquess dressed his hired help? Her mind strangely noted that he was by far the cleanest gardener she'd ever met.
This man was clad in a gray suit trimmed with black and silver. His suit clung tightly to his muscle corded body. The pants that defined his hips and thighs were tucked neatly into polished black boots. Tied around his neck was a long black velvet cape, held in place by a thin chain. The cape perfectly matched the shade of his hair, but his eyes were a stormier shade of gray than the suit.
Those eyes could practically kill with just one look. Threatened by the sight, she found that she wanted to run from him as fast as she possibly could. But, it wouldn't matter fast she ran. He certainly must know these paths better than she, especially since she no longer remembered which direction to run for the gate to the manor.
What could she do now? She realized she should have paid more heed to Serena's warning.
"If I do not get an answer to my question, I'm not going to be responsible for my anger."
His statement seemed ludicrous as she watched him. If this wasn't anger...
"You are a defiant little witch, aren't you?" As he spoke, his voice dripped with an emotion so violent that she swore he might explode with the sheer force of it.
Caleb Damon was dangerously close to a level of anger he'd never experienced before. Not once in his many years as Marquess and before that, son of a Marquess, had anyone dared to incense him as this woman was intentionally doing. He could see it in the way she brazenly studied his appearance, while having the audacity to silently pretend she had no idea what he meant. That any servant of his would ever dare to ignore his will and refuse to answer his question was more than he could tolerate.
On top of that, this woman had dared to consecrate this sacred ground with her presence. No one, save the gardeners, had dared to step foot on this part of the land since his wife died two years past. Yet, this woman did so with ease. Perhaps she had intended it as a joke, but no one disobeyed his orders and saw the light of day again.
Everyone living at Damon Manor knew that these grounds were forbidden! And, they all knew why. From the way she had been watching him it was obvious what she wanted.
Over the past year he'd been offered solace by many of the young women who lived on his land. Some had let him know in the most creative ways what they wanted and of course this woman wanted the same. She wanted him to bed her. She wanted him to show interest in her, thinking his grieving period for his wife should now be over. She wanted to become his wife and become one of the most powerful women for all others to drool over.
Oh, but did she have a surprise coming. If what she wanted was his body, she would have it all right! She had played a dangerous game by coming here today. He felt the urge to teach her such a lesson that she might soon run home and tell all of her harlot friends. Perhaps then they might leave him be!
Caleb took a menacing step forward and she took a terrified step back. He advanced again and she stepped back once more. Every step she took backward led to her ultimate entrapment for she was finally stopped by a thorny rosebush.
"Are you finding this amusing? Because, I assure you, I am not." His words were punctuated when he poked her soundly on the chest.
She rubbed the spot, and then held her hands up in defense when he took a final step forward that brought him chin to forehead with her. Kyra had to crane her neck to see his eyes clearly. Her hands were held up in defense against him. She lowered her eyes quickly when she caught the intense glint in his eyes. He was staring at her with a strange leering. An unexplained flush crept up to her cheeks as she wondered what to do next.
Never had she been so close to a man, at least not a lean virile one with piercing gray eyes. It brought a sensation to the pit of her stomach she'd never experienced before.
Finding her courage she pushed against his massive chest in an effort to force him back. It didn't work. Trying to push him was like trying to move a mountain.
Caleb grabbed her wrists and effortlessly twisted them behind her back. He held them both with one hand while his other reached up to grab hold of the hair at the nape of her neck. He pulled roughly and forced her head up to face him. His arms forced her intimately closer.
"Were you hoping to get my attention," he asked harshly. "Did you think I might take pity on you because of your sex? Because you are a woman?" When she only stared up at him in confusion, he grated, "Don't play games with me! I don't like games."
He had not been so close to a woman in a very long time. It stirred his passion even as his anger flared and forced him to push her.
His hand at the back of her hair dislodged the pin that held it in place. It tumbled down, trailing over the front of her neck to rest above the bodice. Her reaction was to shiver as she tried to twist away in fright. His hand continued to yank mercilessly at her hair until she stopped struggling. Her mouth opened as though she would have cried out in pain, but she didn't.
Damn she was a tough one!
"What's the matter? Isn't this what you wanted? Isn't this why you dared to step foot in this garden? Didn't you want to draw my attention? Well, you have it!"
Her head shook violently in protest and his hand tightened in her hair, demanding the truth.
"Don't lie to me! This is exactly why you came out here. And, if this is what you want, then I'll gladly give you what you want…"
His words ended when his mouth descended on hers with vicious punishment. The kiss was brutal as he crushed the tender skin of her lips beneath his.
He finally released her struggling hands only to use his free hand to pull her flush against him. He pressed her closer, unable help himself. Though he meant only to punish, it had been such a long time...
From the moment the kiss began, Kyra was too startled to fight back. The kiss was meant to hurt her and she felt tears coursing down her cheeks. She had never thought a kiss could hurt. The feel of this man's passion was frightening. When she realized what he was trying to do she caught hold of her senses and fought him with all the strength she possessed. It was blind fear that helped her to finally pull out of his hold.
In that one moment, Kyra wished she had the power to speak as she never had before. There was no telling what this man might be capable of if she couldn't scream for help. It was obvious that he was insane, because he made no sense.
Please, she prayed as she broke away from him and ran with the wind down the first path she saw. Please help me, somebody!
Suddenly, a huge obstacle darkened her path. She ran into it with the full force of her weight and expected to have the wind knocked from her lungs. But, the man who caught her jumped back as she hit him to counter the impact.
The gravity of her situation came rushing back to her with vivid clarity. She began to fight against the man holding her prisoner just as she stole a quick glance up at him. Jacob!
She ceased her struggling immediately. In a breathy voice, he asked, "What in the world is wrong with you? Has something spooked you?"
She didn't have the chance to nod, because at that moment a loud growl and crash came from less than twenty yards away. Panic stricken, Kyra again fought against Jacob, but this time she was trying to push past him.
Jacob gripped her to his side in frustration as he tried to remove his sword from its scabbard. He managed to still her movements long enough to raise his sword in the direction of the running stranger as Kyra gripped his middle in fear.
He was about to strike out in defense when he recognized his own brother, Caleb.
And he looked mad enough to pop a button!
In a quick move, he pushed Kyra behind him as Caleb rushed at her without seeing her protector. He made several grabs before he finally shouted, "Out of my way or by God I'll see you wrought in irons, brother or no!"
"I don't think so, Caleb." Jacob laughed, backing up two steps. He was shorter than Caleb by measurable inches, but at the moment he was also the one holding the sword.
"Do not interfere, Jacob. I'm warning you!"
Jacob felt Kyra clutch him tighter from behind and found that protecting her gave him courage. "No, Caleb. I am warning you. Stand back or I'll send you to your bed for a month if not more. You may be older, but I will not abide you in this. Now step back!" The sword was raised threateningly.
Caleb eyed Jacob with something akin to hatred. But, ever so slowly, Caleb began to step backward.
When Jacob saw that Caleb had moved far enough that he couldn't make a sudden move, he unwrapped Kyra's arms from around his waist and gave her a gentle shove towards the direction of the terrace gate.
She was reluctant to leave Jacob's protection, but she finally backed away as slowly as Caleb had. After a second step, Jacob didn't have to look to know that she was running as fast as her feet could carry her.
"What are the charges, Brother." Jacob asked with irritation. "Did she step on your tender feet?" The insult was uncalled for, but he couldn't help himself.
"I will see you removed from this house. I want you gone tonight." Caleb turned away from his brother in disgust. He was so sick of Jacob's antics. This was the last straw. This topped them all and he would never forgive him for this.
"Again I ask, Brother. What are the charges?"
"The charges?" He swung back on his heel. He walked up to Jacob and grabbed him by the collar. Jacob had already slid the sword back into its sheath so he had no defense against Caleb's superior strength. "That bitch dared to enter Elizabeth's garden! No one walks over this land but the gardeners and me. I asked her to explain her actions, Jacob. I gave her time to explain and she refused to answer. I had every right to punish her as I saw fit. So, don't you dare question my authority!"
In a spurt of anger, Caleb furiously shoved Jacob to the ground. Jacob scarcely blinked in reaction.
"So far," he was quick to retort, "I haven't heard any reason for your anger."
"Don't play dumb!" Caleb shouted. "Everyone living in this household knows that this land is off limits. And when I want the answer to a question, I will damned well have it," he hissed.
"For you information," Jacob began as he stood up and dusted himself off. "That girl whom you just scared to death doesn't officially live here yet. And, after today I wouldn't blame her if she keeps it that way. And secondly, she had absolutely no idea that you keep this beautiful garden a bloody memorial. And—" He added crossly, "the reason she wouldn't answer you is because she couldn't."
Caleb snorted derisively and asked, "What do you mean she couldn't? Of course she could. I wouldn't have gotten so violent if she had told me what you just did."
"That would have been about as simple as you renouncing your title." When Caleb looked up in confusion, Jacob announced, "That was your newest addition to Damon Manor, courtesy of Sherman Tyler. Aside from that, she's mute. She can't speak a word."