Two fathers, determined to forever link their friendship and estates,
seek to forever unite their children to each other, to continue their destiny
together for every generation…
Frederick Rehnsworth, III, Lord of Ravenslair, vowed never to see any harm come to Charissa Kinkirk, the little girl he called his own by staying as far away from her as possible for the rest of their lives. Now the murder of his father, five years ago and the sudden death of his father's best friend, Baron Robert Kinkirk, two years later threatened to undermine that vow as he is named Charissa' guardian in the complex and intricate Will his father and hers left him.
Charissa Kinkirt had waited all of her life for Frederick to come and make her his forever, as her father always told her he would. But Charissa knew only one thing, Frederick had avoided her since she was twelve years old and was convinced he hated her and did not want her. Upon her father's death she learns he is now her guardian. Torn between still loving him and the knowledge he will never feel the same, she plans to leave him the first chance she gets but soon she is in his arms and more confused about him then she had ever been in her life…
The child he vowed to keep safe is now the woman who stirs a fire in him that cannot be put out. How can he keep her safe from his greatest enemy and his greatest fear, honor his love for her and honor the Will that will either bring them together forever in a love written in time or destroy them both…..
Classes at Chambers boarding school were suspended for the warmest weeks of the year. For the young heir of Ravenslair that meant a couple of things; one that Frederick Alton Rehnsworth, III had to deal face to face with his father the Earl and the by-yearly visit of his father's oldest friend Baron Robert Kinkirt; and of course the Barron's young daughter, Charissa. For a nineteen year old boy just learning about the world and all it's glory, the presence of a twelve year old on your heels was a daunting thought. It was not that he did not like the child but the little minx did have a way of getting under his skin and on his nerves. He did feel sorry for her though. The poor thing was having to learn to live without her mother; the woman having died of a fever just last winter and Frederick knew that pain. His own dear mother left him alone when he was nine; as childbirth took her and his unborn sister. Charissa, or Rissa; as he called her from the moment she was born, was like the sister his mother had died trying to give him. Back then his mother was his world and upon learning that he would soon have a sister or brother to share her with was surprisingly thrilled. He had always wanted a younger brother to play with; and to take him away from the demands that his father had already begun to put on him. He also knew that he would not have minded having a sister so when Rissa was born he promptly told his father she was his and should live at Ravenslair. His father explained that although that would not be possible and she was not his Baron Kinkirt did not live much further than Edinburgh and Frederick would see Rissa often.
But by the time he was sixteen, little Rissa, seemed to always be around and though he was away most of the time at Chambers when he returned home, the two times a year he was permitted, she was there. She began her endless stage then of driving him crazy. His father tried to tell him that one day she may not want to follow his every move and then he would want her too but to a young man rebelling the Earldom he would one day inherit and all it's responsibilities all he could see was a child on his heels and pestering him constantly.
This summer holiday more than ever he did not want her hanging around him as he had brought a friend home with him. Edward Charlotte was one of the few friends he had made at Chambers and the only one who was not destined for title and position. Edward was not from a titled family but his father worked as grounds keeper at Chambers so he was able to get an education as part of his father's salary. Edward was fun to be around and always wanted to do the least responsible thing and that appealed to Frederick more and more. Their latest venture was horse racing. Being too young to gamble they had both started racing their horses in the tournaments at school and against each other for bets from the other students. Frederick was always proud of himself for being the winner. Edward did not seem to mind though as he was always going from one adventure to another. Edward was fast becoming the best friend Frederick ever had.
Hearing the child's laughter coming from the kitchen Frederick took Edward out another door so as not to be seen. He was also avoiding his father this summer morning as the Earl kept insisting that he had to talk to him before he returned to Chambers and his vacation was almost over. Frederick knew his father wanted to discuss the new racing mare he had purchased and Frederick knew instinctively that his father was not happy about the things Frederick spent his allowance on. For years the Earl had been trying to teach Frederick that title and wealth held responsibility and although Frederick knew this he also knew he was not Earl of Ravenslair yet and when he would be things would be different around here.
Going off to track down one of the grooms Frederick left Edward at the stables not knowing that his rouse to get away from the prying eyes of Rissa had not worked. So upon racing into the stables it was not Frederick Rissa was running into but Edward.
"Frederick come see what cook has made today!" Charissa shouted coming into the barn; only to find Edward instead.
Edward grinned wickedly as he turned to answer the young girl; who at twelve looked more like sixteen with her unusual height for a girl her age and the fact that she had began the process of becoming a woman. Edward thought he'd have a little fun with her and scare her into learning to leave boys alone; especially Frederick. Edward was not immune to the fact that Frederick got irritated easily with her; and he could not really blame him. She was a beautiful child and would soon make a beautiful woman but she was still a child. He thought for a moment about treating her nice and maybe one day she would look at him the way she looked at Frederick but then he laughed realizing that she was a Barron's daughter and would never look twice at a poor boy with no title. He was looked down on at school because of that fact and if it was not for Frederick he would have no friends there. Of course he was also aware that once Frederick came into his inheritance then he would treat Edward just like all the other ones did; with contempt.
"Well, well, look who we have here. Come to play with the big boys?" Edward grinned slowly advancing on her. Rissa took a step back until she was against the stable wall.
"Sir Edward I did not know you were here." she said; not realizing he was not titled.
"Sure you did. Now that Frederick's away…let's play." he said; inches from her.
"Play." she said; not knowing what he meant.
"What are you doing?" Frederick said coming up on the frightening scene. He had seen that look on Edward's face before when he was stalking a girl from the ladies version of Chambers when they came for dances. He knew what it meant and it sickened him. Both because she was a child; and did not know what he meant and because she belonged to him.
"Hey Frederick. Little Charissa here was saying something about the cook. Isn't that right Charissa?" Edward began. Frederick saw Rissa's confused look and panicked.
"Rissa go back in the house." Frederick said; a little rougher than intended.
"But Frederick I came out here to find you. Cook….
"Rissa now. Go." Frederick shouted louder; his eyes never leaving the grinning Edward.
Charissa bolted and raced back to the house. Edward laughed. Frederick was furious; he grabbed Edward by the shirt and flung him against the wall. Edward stopped laughing.
"Easy Frederick, I was just playing around." Edward pleaded.
"She is a child you fool. I know what kind of playing your about." Frederick hissed.
"You think." Edward half laughed. "Frederick get serious of course she is. I would never…
"You are damn right you'll never. If I ever see you come with in an inch of that child, now or ever, I will peal the skin from your body. You understand?" Frederick hissed.
"Yeah. Sure Frederick. Hey, she's just a child anyway. Let's not let this end our friendship. Come on, Frederick." Edward pleaded; knowing he would never get some of Ravenslair's money if he blew it now. Frederick let him go and backed up. Edward straightened his clothes.
"Sorry Edward but she's like a little sister to me. I do not know what I would do if something ever happened to her." Frederick said not realizing he said too much.
"No problem. Hey, if I had a sister I'd be the same way. Friends?" Edward held out his hand. Frederick took it.
"Friends. Now let's go get something to eat from cook. No doubt that was her excitement and then take these horses for a good run." Frederick said then led the way.
"Yeah. We'll put that new mare to the test." Edward offered.
"Perhaps." Frederick replied half listening. He was worried about Rissa.
Charissa was just then running up to her father and the Earl who were sitting on the porch on the side lawn; having one of their serious discussions.
"Papa. Papa." she exclaimed jumping on his lap. The Baron laughed
"And what are you up to this fine morning my girl?" Robert replied.
"Papa Frederick yelled at me." Charissa said crossing her arms over her young breasts.
"Now child I told you to stop bothering that boy. He is older than you and does not want a child following him around and he has a guest this holiday. Now be a good girl and go play with your dolls." Robert chided his child.
"Do not worry Charissa, one day Frederick will follow you around. Now go see if cook has some of those special fruit tarts you love so much; I am sure that will heal the hurt. I promise he will play a game of chess with you later. Okay?" the Earl replied.
"Okay, Uncle Frederick." she said; bouncing off her father's knee and rounding the side of the house. Both men laughed heartily at her that the promise of a sweet and a game of chess with her Frederick could please the child so. Neither man realized they had a spy close by; listening to every word.
Leaving Frederick to deal with the servants Edward took a walk; only to come upon the Baron and the Earl getting an earful from the child. Luckily for him that was all she said. He was sure the two men did not know he was near. But he would soon learn that this was one conversation that he could not have missed for his future plans.
"Charming Robert. Absolutely charming, she grows more lovelier every year. Make no mistake Frederick sees it too; he is just so consumed with his schooling is all. Do not worry all will fall into place. Why he has adored that child since she was born. It is just the age. We remember that age do we not? Now mind you I do not like this horse racing or breeding or whatever he has gotten himself into but he will grow out of it." the Earl said.
"He will make a fine Earl; of both our lands." Robert chimed in.
"Aye, he will. He will. Must find out more about this Charlotte fellow though. I do not like him. Something evil in that young man. I can not figure out what yet but I will. Our plans will all come out alright. I am sure of it." the Earl continued.
"I know he will. And he will make a fine husband for Charissa. Although he does not know it yet." Robert added. The senior Frederick chuckled.
"Marry Charissa he keeps Ravenslair, and Claremore and …," Frederick began.
"And more wealth than the king himself." Robert conculed.
"Well, almost." Frederick senior added. Both men laughed. "The papers are in my office. All ready for your signature. Then both our children and our lands will be safe and secure. Then to deal with this Charlotte fellow." the Earl said.
Furious, Edward stormed into the stables not seeing the groom in the farthest stall. Edward's thoughts were racing a mile a minute. If the Earl got to Frederick then his plans of taking some of Frederick's wealth for his own were lost. Then, like a bolt of lightning, an idea came to him from the conversation he had just over heard. The Baron and the Earl wanted a match for Charissa; well he had a perfect one for her. He just had to get Frederick out of the way. With the heir to the kingdom not in the picture he could one day win the lady's heart and marry her and take the title and the land and take Frederick's "little sister" in the process. Peal the skin from his body, yeah right. There would be no Frederick to hurt him or his plans. Life may not have handed him the means but he would take care of what life had seen fit not give him. What good was the fancy education without the money and title to use it for anyway? He would create the title the child had given him earlier and be the gentleman that position had refused him.
With a plan in mind he looked around for the new mare. Not seeing the groom had saddled three horses he went to the mare. She was a beauty and not a purchase by Frederick but a prize won from one of their bets at racing in Edinburgh. It would be too bad to lose her as what he had in mind would probably mean she would have to be put down but what was one small sacrifice for the bigger picture. Soon he would be sure he had money to buy all the horses he wanted and have the respect of a title to go with it.
As he removed the blade he carried secretly in his boot he did not see the groom watching him curiously. He had just sliced the bridle under the horse when Frederick came in.
"Ready." Frederick called out as he entered.
"Let's do it. That's one beautiful horse you won." Edward commented; hoping Frederick did not see anything.
"Yeah but not like the roan here." Frederick said going to the large black horse saddled and readied next to Edward's mare. Edward realized it was saddled; and huge.
"Yeah, I guess. I thought we were taking the new mare out for a run." Edward wondered.
"Later. You just got here I want to show off Red Devil." Frederick offered.
"Red Devil." Edward said swallowing. Frederick laughed.
"Yeah, he's big and black like the dead of night. And I swear the first night I rode him I could have sworn that his eyes glowed red; like the fires of hell. So I called him Red Devil from then on. It's perfect really. Wait till you see him run." Frederick said.
"But… sure let's do it." Edward shrugged then mounted his mare as Frederick mounted Red Devil. Then suddenly Red Devil reared up and whinnied as Charissa came running in.
"Charissa!" Frederick yelled as he brought the roan under control. She drew in her breath.
"Go back to the house." Frederick yelled; more frightened he could have hurt then than angry.
"But Frederick…" Charissa started.
"Charissa I said go back in the house. I mean now. Go." he gritted.
"Oh alright but your papa said you had to play a game of chess with me later." she persisited.
"Later. Now move." he hollered.
"Frederick why do you hate me?" Charissa asked. Edward laughed. Frederick sighed.
"I do not have time for this. Just do as I say Charissa now." he said; letting his irritation show.
Charissa did not respond and Frederick could tell by her quivering lower lip she was about to cry. She moved out of the way and Frederick decided to deal with her later and took off; Edward followed him still laughing.
As soon as they reached the entrance to the moors Frederick slowed down and pulling hard on the reins stopped the horse; Edward was still laughing.
"Will you stop? You are about as annoying as she is right now." Frederick said.
"Sorry but it is funny. Why do you put up with her anyway?" Edward said; his laughter dying down.
"You would not understand." Frederick responded; feeling guilty about her.
"Yeah, but she is not your sister and she is just a child." Edward retorted.
"No more talk about her. Let's ride." Frederick said then took off for the moors.
Charissa was left standing in the stable in tears. She could not understand why Frederick hated her so. She did not know what she had done. The groom came out from the stall and over to her.
"Milady are you okay?" he asked; she nodded through tears.
"You scared him milady that's all. That horse of his could have hurt you. Don't be sad. He'll be back and everything will be alright." the groom said then left the stables.
Charissa, however, was not so sure. She had to talk to him. She had to find out what she had done. She looked around to see what stall her mare, Daisy, was in and not finding her she almost started crying again when she saw the new mare Frederick brought saddled and ready to ride. Thinking the groom was right and he had saddle the horse for her she ran to mount him.
She was galloping full gallop when the startled groom realized which horse she was on. He did not know for sure what Frederick's guest could have done to the horse but like the Earl he did not trust the man Frederick called friend. He ran to the house to alert the Earl to possible danger.
Charissa raced to catch up to Frederick. When she caught sight of him she started calling for him. Both Frederick and Edward turned at the sound of her voice at the same time and Frederick did not see the look of horror on his friend's face when Edward saw the horse she was riding. Frederick was rapidly getting very angry that once again she followed him.
A split second later he heard her scream and saw to his horror the mare rear up and Charissa fell backwards. Frederick raced to her.
Charissa saw Frederick turn at her call and was so happy she sat up a little only to feel the saddle slip under her. She instinctively jammed her kid boots into the horse's sides to hold on and then the horse reared up. She felt herself falling backwards then blackness surrounded her.
Frederick jumped off Red Devil and knelt at her side. He went to lift her head and felt first a lump then wetness. Pulling back his hand he saw blood. He was just about to pick her up when his father and Baron Kinkirt came racing up. Edward was all but forgotten. The Earl and the Baron dismounted as Frederick took her limp body up in his arms. Robert was distraught and his father was very concerned.
"My baby! Frederick what happened?" Robert asked.
"She was riding up and then the horse reared. It all happened so fast. The horse must have got spooked." Frederick offered; unsure himself just what happened.
"I told you not to buy that horse." the Earl remarked.
"I'm sure it was an accident Frederick." Robert said to his friend.
"Is she alive?" the Earl asked.
"Yes, father." Frederick said as Robert mounted his horse to take his daughter from him.
"It is not the boys fault Frederick." Robert said taking his daughter from the young Frederick.
"I am sure." the Earl said glancing at Charlotte; who was still on his horse.
"Let's get her to the house. Son, come on. She will want to see you when she wakes." Robert said.
Robert Kinkirt turned and rode back to the house. Frederick; not looking at his father, mounted Red Devil and took off after the Baron and Charissa. The Earl glanced once more at Charlotte and then mounted his own horse and took off after them.
Hours later Charissa still had not awakened. The village doctor had been summoned and said that she should be fine; but if she was not awake in a few hours to send for him again. He was confident though that this was nothing more than a bump on the head and she would be fine. Robert was sitting by his daughter's bed side with the Earl. Frederick was pacing the library floor and Edward; the cause of it all, had retired to his room.
A short time later the Earl stood in the doorway of the library. He motioned his son to follow and Frederick followed him into his office. It was only on rare occasion he was in there and only when summoned; and never for anything good.
"What happened out there?" the Earl demanded once the door was closed.
"Father all I know is that I turned as she approached then the mare reared and she fell."
"You know if she does not awaken Robert will blame me." the Earl insisted.
"Father it was an accident." Frederick relied.
"Was it? Funny but since that Charlotte boy has gotten here you have had no time for the child you once demanded to live here and called yours. Well she is yours you know. Now she's up there, perhaps fighting for her life, and you are calling this an accident." the Earl stated.
"Father please… How does Edward fit into this?" Frederick persisted.
"How? What do you know about him Frederick? He is a nobody Frederick." the Earl stated.
"He is my friend." Frederick stated.
"Your friend huh. Well let me tell you something about your friend Frederick. Joseph came running here after she left to come after you with some crazy story about Charlotte messing with that horse before you left. Explain that." the Earl explained.
"What did he mean? Surely you do not think that Edward had something to do with this?" Frederick said.
"Do I not? That child lays up there and I know you would never hurt her. Would you?"
"Of course not father."
"And earlier she said you were yelling at her." the Earl said.
"Father that has nothing to do with anything." Frederick protested.
"Are you so sure? I know that at her age she annoys you but you have never yelled at her. That boy is a bad influence on you son. Wake up."
"This is not about Edward. This is about me is it not father? I am not turning out to be the son you wanted am I?"
"Do not be ridiculous son. You just have to watch who you chose as friends."
"Oh really father. Now you want to pick my friends out for me too. You have decided everything in my life. My title, my position in life, the education I receive and now my friends. Well, I will not have it father. I am going to talk to Joseph and prove to you that Edward had nothing to do with this. Then I am going back to school and be my own man, not your man. Understand?" Frederick stated then left before his father had a chance to say anything.
At the stables Frederick found Joseph and knowing the servant never lied reluctantly believed that Edward was at the new mare but never that he had done anything to the horse. Then he mounted a bare Red Devil and took off like the wind to the moors to find the horse they had left. The groom had not been told to go get her and he needed to anyway. When he found her he was thankful he did not have to put her down for she was wandering around the area they had vacated earlier. He brought Red Devil to a stop and dismounting made his way slowly to the animal so as not to frighten her. When he had her reins he started a careful search of the saddle. He found the half sliced bridle and swore under his breath. His father had been correct. Without a minute to lose he mounted Red Devil and taking the horses reins raced both horses to the village. In the village he found the village courier and had him ride to Edinburgh for the law. Edward Charlotte would not get away with this. His father had the power to make the man pay for attempted murder. He knew now that the bridle had been cut on purpose. What he did not know was why.
Back at Ravenslair, Frederick dismounted Red Devil and leaving him to Joseph raced to his father's office. Both the Earl and the Baron were in there and locking them in Frederick faced his father.
"How is she Uncle Robert?" he asked.
"Awake and asking for you."
"I'll see her later, I promise. Father were are your pistols?" Frederick asked.
"My pistols. What is going on son?" the Earl asked.
"I do not have time to explain father. I have sent a message to Edinburgh but until then we have a prisoner to hold." Frederick began.
"What did you find?" the Earl asked sitting behind his desk to unlock the drawer that held his best pistols.
"A cut bridle. But what I do not know is why?"
"Who knows son? Envy, greed, any number of reasons."
"But what would he have to gain?" Frederick asked.
"Perhaps Charissa was not meant to be on the horse." the Earl answered.
"Does any one mind telling me what is going on?" Robert interrupted.
"I will fill you in later Robert." the Earl answered his friend.
"Father this still does not make sense. How would killing me help him?" Frederick asked.
"Why everything my boy. Just about everything." the Earl said looking at his friend.
"Take the pistols. Hold him in his room until we get up there. Robert and I need to talk." the Earl said. Frederick took the pistols and left.
"Frederick what is going on?" Robert asked the Earl when the doors closed.
"Seems our young guest must have been somewhere listening to our talk earlier. I knew that Charlotte was trouble. It seems we must add one more stipulation to our wills Robert." the Earl began.
Two days later Edward Charlotte was on his way to Edinburgh under guard for the attempted murder of the Baron of Claremore's daughter. Frederick had lost a friend but gained two very important lessons. Never trust any one and that he had to stay as far away from Charissa Kinkirt in the future as possible.
He did not know why his father and the Baron were convinced that Charlotte had tried to kill him instead of Charissa and he could not figure out how that would help Charlotte with the heir of Ravenslair out of the way. None of this made any sense to him. But the one good thing was that Edward Charlotte could never hurt Charissa again. Many, many years in prison would keep him from her and keep her safe. Now it was up to him to make sure she was safe. He would stay as far from her as he could. He had other friends at Chambers; friends that could also hurt her if given the chance. The only way to keep her safe was never to see her again.
The only problem was how to explain this to Charissa. In the last couple of years she had taken to writing him at Chambers. His friends, except Charlotte, would tease him about having a girl friend but he never cared. Of course, he never bothered to tell them she was a child and like a sister to him but he knew he would miss her. Coming home to his intolerable father would not be the same without knowing that she would be coming for a visit. But it was for the best; for her. Whatever happened in his life he would know that she was safe; safe away from him. But how was he going to tell her. He did not even know if he should tell her. He had yet to keep his promise about seeing her and his father had told her that he would come before he left for school. She did not know about Charlotte and that was just as well. It was better for her not to know what happened. She would understand it less than he did. He made his way to her room and heard the low voices of her and her father talking. He hovered at the door to listen.
"Rissa he said he would come to see you. You know being the son of an Earl means he is busy when he is home. He will not leave without seeing you. He is so glad you are all right. He was so worried." Robert was saying. Charissa was crying.
"No papa he hates me." Charissa said and it broke Frederick's heart to hear it.
"No child, he does not." Robert urged.
"He does….. he yells at me…..tells me to go in the house all the time….. he does not want me around." Charissa sobbed.
"Child he is growing up is all. You are very special to him. You will see. Now can I get you anything?" Robert asked.
"Yeah, Frederick." her father laughed. "He will be here." Robert said.
"No he hates me." she insisted. Frederick walked away. It was better this way.
The carriage carrying the crest of Baron Robert Kinkirt raced through the streets of Edinbugh just as the sun was starting to set. The cobblestone streets echoed the horse's hoofs as the carriage ran at full speed down the narrow winding streets to come to a sudden stop in front of the constable's office. The man himself was just exiting his office when the noisy coach came to its rest. The bent, gray haired man froze as he saw the Baron's crest a second before the footman opened the carriage door.
The gray haired constable knew the portly balding man emerging from the carriage and knew this visit could not be good. The constable stood facing the Baron as he stepped up to him.
"Constable Jordan I imagine you know why I am here?" Robert started as the carriage door closed behind him.
"I do m'Lord. I 'spect you'll be wanting to see the sworn testimonies as well as visit the boy I suppose." Jordan answered.
"Inside man, inside. This business is not for prying eyes and hears." Robert protested; ushering the constable back in the office. Once inside the constable took the seat behind his desk but the Baron remained standing.
"You will it is all in order m'Lord." Jordan began handing the official papers to Robert. Robert would not take them.
"I do not find it in order. I find none of this to be in order. You have no right to hold the boy." Robert stated.
"M'Lord, I don't understand. He was seen leaving the public house just after the Earl's carriage departed. There could be no mistake." Jordan protested.
"Impossible. The boy was at Claremore Manor during the accident." Robert insisted.
"Beggin yo'r pardon m'Lord but we have these witnesses." Jordon argued.
"Oh posh. Witnesses can be mistaken and in this case they most certainly were." Robert countered.
"Yo'r Lordship several witnesses were witnesses to the argument days before at the same house between the boy and the Earl. Everyone knows they were always at odds and the boy is always drinking and causing trouble. Just ask anyone. Keeps his own flat here and everything."
"Never mind any of that. That is still not proof of murder; though I am sure it was just an accident. The coach driver was reckless." Robert said holding up a hand.
"The coach driver says the Earl was in a powerful hurry to leave that night; and very upset bout something." Jordan stated.
"But the boy was at Claremore so the Earl was upset about something else that night Jordan." Robert insisted.
"But your Lordship the sheriff is already in route. He will not take kindly to being summoned for no murder." Jordan said nervously.
"I will deal with Henry now you just bring the boy to me. We will be returning to Ravenslair this very night. If you still think it was murder then you should look into this." Robert said handing the constable a piece of paper with a name and address on it. The constable looked at it confused.
"A highwaymen just out of goal. Worth looking into do you not think. Now the boy." Robert said.
"M'Lord I'm not sure I should. The sheriff and all." Jordan said uncertain of what to do. The answer he received was both confusing and frightening. The Baron braced both hands on the constables desk and leaned in to glare at the little man.
"Now see here Jordan and make no mistake. That boy was at Claremore Manor during the carriage accident on the outskirts of Edinburgh; on the road to Ravenslair. The boy will be delivered to me at once or I will have your job and Sheriff Henry Norton will have nothing to say about it. Understand." Robert sneered.
"Aye m'Lord. It will take a bit to fetch him from the goal." Jordan said scurrying to obey.
"Hurry up man. I will be in the coach; send him to me. Remember to check out that name and address. I have good reason to believe the highwayman may be involved. The Earl had to deal with him many years ago; the reason he was in the goal to begin with." Robert offered following him out.
"That a fact m'Lord. Be sure I'll look into it. Be right back with yer man." Jordan said.
The sun was completely set by the time the door to the Kinkirt carriage opened again and a ragged, badly beaten Frederick Rehnsworth, III got inside. He looked at Baron Kinkirt.
"Well, son I must say you look a mess." Robert said and saw Frederick smile.
"I guess I do Uncle Robert. Thank you. I do not know what you did but thank you. That place was horrible." Frederick said; starting to relax.
"I imagine it is horrible son but it is over now. I just told the truth is all. I know you did not murder your own father." Robert said.
"How can you be so sure. The whole countryside says I did it." Frederick said.
"Because I know you son and your father. What the devil was he doing at a common public house late at night? That is not like the man." Robert said.
"I have not the slightest notion. I never saw him." Frederick said.
"So you were there? Do you think you left after he did?" Robert inquired.
"It is possible but I was there pretty late. I spent most of the night gambling the rest well you know." Frederick said grinning; he noticed Robert did not smile too.
"Did you see anyone in the club that could be watching or following you or your father?" Robert asked.
"Like I said Uncle Robert I did not know he was there. I never saw him and if anyone was watching or following me I would have known and dealt with it. Do you think they were after me and got father by mistake?" Frederick asked.
"No I would say they got their mark or you would be dead now. You sure you did not see anything or anyone you know?" Robert insisted.
"Why? Do you suspect someone?" Frederick asked.
"Perhaps. Tell me, have you seen this?" Robert asked handing him a newspaper article. Frederick started reading it.
"This came out two days ago. I was already locked up then. You think…." Frederick said handing the paper back and letting the question hang in the air.
"I think it is time to find out. I will do all I can to help but I have a very inquisitive seventeen year old on my hands. Besides you are Earl now, you will need my help to get things in order. Your father's remains are still in state at Ravenslair. I wanted you home first to bury him."
"Thank you Uncle Robert. Any help would be appreciated. I can not believe he is gone." Frederick said rubbing his head.
"Nor I son. But we will get you set up. You have been doing bits and pieces of running things your whole life now we can put the pieces together and help you understand it all; how it all works so smoothly that is." Robert explained.
"Seems I have been away from home too long." Frederick said softly.
"Every young man has to go through it all. Now it is time to settle down and run Ravenslair and next season I will get you set up in the position your father held for years in the legislature. Of course you do not have to hold that position it just comes with the title. You can appoint a man. I am sure your father explained all this to you." Robert said.
"He has here and there. I was never one to listen." Frederick said.
"I know that. So did he. That is why I am here. Your father would want me to step in and help you. In fact he asked me to. Part of his Will you know. Speaking of which, that will be coming in pieces." Robert explained.
"Yes. Legal stuff always does." Robert lied.
"But how will I know…" Frederick asked then the Baron cut him off.
"You are the heir my boy. No one will ever dispute that. The whole county knows that Beatrice had one son and one daughter who died in childbirth. Beside that is why you have me here." Robert said.
"Uncle Robert you and father have known each other a long time?" Frederick asked.
"Since we were boys. We even approved of each other's wives." Robert said and Frederick laughed.
"So I guess if you needed father to help with Charissa you would have asked?" Frederick asked.
"Well in a way. If your father were living and I now gone your father would be her guardian until she is of age." Robert explained; glad the conversation was turning to his daughter.
"Oh." Frederick said glad the Baron was healthy and strong. Charissa under his roof would not be a good thing for him; since she had been the one thing he could not get out of his mind for the last five years.
"Speaking of Charissa, you have not been to Claremore Manor in what five years?" Robert started and Frederick groaned inwardly; he did not want to talk about this. He nodded.
"Well, seems now you must start. I can not tell you how often Charissa has been disappointed by your ignored or declined invitations over the years. In fact just the night of your father's death she was having a small party of her friends and you never replied to her invitation."
"Never received one." Frederick lied. He did not tell the older man that was the reason he was out at the public house that night. He had drank himself to passing out in the upstairs bedroom where he kept his mistress and did not get back to his own flat until almost noon. He could not stop thinking about Rissa and wondering how beautiful she was now at seventeen. He knew her age. He could never forget it; as he could never forget her. His mistress, Yvonne, looked nothing like Rissa but it was Rissa in his mind every time he went to see the woman.
"Funny, I know she sent one. Insisted she have your flat number when your father told us you had taken one. No matter, you will come to Claremore soon enough." Robert stated.
"We will see." Frederick replied. "You have to see her eventually." Robert said.
"Eventually." he repeated; secretly hoping that day was her wedding day. But even that thought gave him no pleasure.
"I can send for her for the funeral. She loved your father very much." Robert offered.
"Thank you no. That is too long of a trip for her to make. Father would understand. Besides I have a lot to do being the Earl and all now. I will come to her, perhaps over the holdiays."
Robert left it at that; for now. The part of the Will Frederick would receive first was all title and land of Ravenslair and though it was not the largest part of the Earl's Will it was the main part for Frederick alone. The rest of the Earl's Will was tied up with Robert's and would not be disclosed for many years yet. A change of subject was in order. The outskirts of Ravenslair were coming into view.
"The newspaper Frederick; is it him?" Robert asked; already knowing the answer.
"It is." Frederick said with a wave of his hand toward the paper laying on the seat next to Robert.
"I have already started an inquiry about where he may be right now. I have my own reasons; not just your father." Robert said.
"Do not worry Uncle Robert if it is him who is responsible he will pay. I do not think a sentence at the goal will be sufficient this time."
"Be careful son. Remember your father was right about him." Robert suggested.
"Have no fear Uncle I know what to do. Chambers taught me a lot of things. One was all about him. But it also showed me how to use this title, position and wealth to get what I want. Now that I am the Earl of Ravenslair I will get what I want. No one, not even him, will stop me." Frederick declared as the carriage pulled up in front of Ravenslair Manor. Both men exited the carriage and the Baron led the way to the chapel where the body of the Earl of Ravenslair lay in state waiting his burial. Robert hoped one thing Frederick wanted was his daughter.