The ride to London was long and tiring as the coach made its way along the main road at a steady pace. Kathryn was sitting opposite Christopher with Dodger lying next to her on the seat, resting his head comfortably in her lap. Kathryn’s eyes were getting heavy for they kept slowly closing with her head tilting to one side nodding with every jolt of the coach.
Christopher watched her for quite some time before he finally reached over and scooped her into his arms and pulled her over to his side of the coach much to the displeasure of Dodger, who groaned and opened up his droopy eyes and shifted his position on the seat, without Kathryn.
“What are you doing, Christopher?” She asked, drowsily.
“Don’t fight me, sweetheart. You were falling asleep and about to fall off the seat at any time if I hadn’t moved you,” he utterly briefly. He laid her down on his seat and rested her head in his lap, almost identical to the way Dodger had been lying with her and then he chuckled to himself. As he gazed down at her, visions of the night he shot her came to mind. She was lying in this same exact position where he’d tried to stop the bleeding from the wound in her shoulder. He had been fascinated by her delicate features for he had studied them intensely while they made their way to the roadside Inn. She still had the scar on her shoulder but it had heeled up very nicely. It wasn’t that noticeable as a matter-of-fact, he thought for it didn’t mar her beauty in any way.
Nightfall had come when they made the final turn down the street where the Steele townhouse was located and Christopher gently shook Kathryn awake. “We’re here my little bandit,” he said when he saw her open her eyes.
“We’re where?” She asked, sleepily, yawning as she blinked her eyes open.
“At my townhouse, of course”, wondering why she would ask such a stupid question. He stepped out of the coach and stretched his arms in the air, glad to be out of the cramped confines of the coach before he assisted Kathryn down.
Dodger made a dash for the front door as soon as he saw Kathryn disappear inside, almost knocking Christopher off balance. Cursing, he turned to his male servant. “Charlie, take the dog for a walk. I believe he will need to relieve himself.” Christopher stated bluntly to his valet, who had ridden up top the coach with Henry, the coachman, all the way from Dartmoor. Charlie grumbled something under his breath because he couldn’t believe his lordship would actually make him do such a menial task as walking the dog.
Kathryn came fully awake when they entered the main hall of his townhouse where they were greeted at once by his housekeeper.
“Amanda, this is Kathryn, my wife,” he said, introducing his long time housekeeper to Kathryn.
A big smile came across her old face and she thanked her lucky stars that he’d finally gotten himself a wife. Maybe now his reputation won’t be so black anymore, she thought hopefully. He had always been a wild one. Now that he was married, he would have to settle himself down and become respectable.
“Take Kathryn upstairs and show her to her room,” Christopher ordered the housekeeper before he sauntered into his study, leaving the two women staring after him as he closed the door behind him.
“You must be very tired after such a long journey, your ladyship.” The housekeeper said as she accompanied Kathryn upstairs and led her to the master bed chambers.
Kathryn stared at her in amazement for she had called her, your ladyship. No one had ever called her that before. As she pondered this, she realized she was now married to a Marquis which would make her a Marchioness. She would have to get use to this new title, she thought with awe.
Amanda opened the door to the bed chamber with Kathryn following her inside. “No one has slept in this room since his lordship’s mother passed away,” she said, eyeing Kathryn closely.
Kathryn viewed the décor of the room. It had a large four poster bed that stood against the wall in the middle of the room with a rosewood nightstand on each side of it. The coffer was on the far side of the room along with a dressing table which was made out of the same rosewood as the nightstands. There were two comfortable rose hue velvet chairs that sat in front of a fireplace on the wall opposite the bed. “What a beautiful room this is,” she murmured aloud.
Amanda was standing by the adjacent door that led into the master’s bed chamber where she looked at Kathryn with a knowing nod of her head.
Kathryn became very self-conscious with the housekeeper continuing to stare at her. “Is there something wrong?” Kathryn finally asked with a growing concern.
“Oh no, your ladyship. I was just curious to see what kind of woman that Lord Christopher would fall in love with, that’s all,” she replied simply.
Kathryn started to tell her that Lord Christopher didn’t marry her because he loved her but she stopped. There wasn’t any reason to disappoint his old housekeeper with the truth.
“Is there anything I can get you, your ladyship, to make you more comfortable perhaps?”
“No Amanda. I’m fine. Thank you anyway,” Kathryn said politely as she watched the housekeeper leave the room, returning a few minutes later with Henry, the coachman who carried in her baggage. Amanda immediately opened it up and began putting Kathryn’s things away and then she laid out her toiletries on the dressing table.
Kathryn took her mantle off and threw it across the bed and sat down and removed her traveling boots.
“How long have you and his lordship been married?” Amanda asked, curiously after she had finished putting Kathryn’s clothes in the coffer.
“Actually, we were just wed yesterday,” Kathryn said, shyly, lowering her lashes.
Amanda gave her a startled look before pulling out a night dress and wrapper from the coffer.
“So you’re newlyweds then,” she chuckled at Kathryn’s embarrassed expression.
“Don’t fret with me, Lady Kathryn. I’ve been waiting for so long for his lordship to wed, there’s nothing for you to be embarrassed about. I think it’s wonderful,” she said with a gleam in her eye.
Amanda assisted Kathryn with changing her clothes while she jabbered on about Lord Christopher’s wildness.
Once the housekeeper left her alone, Kathryn sat down at the dressing table and began brushing out her hair. The long locks reached well below her waist for it took her some time to get it thoroughly brushed out to her satisfaction. She heard the door open, expecting it to be the talkative housekeeper again, she laid her brush down and turned around to face her.
To her surprise, standing in the doorway was Christopher, with Dodger at his side, standing there quietly staring at her. “I thought you would like Dodger to join you in your room Kathryn, seeing that he wasn’t allowed in at your father’s house,” he said, softly.
“Oh yes!” She exclaimed as Dodger trotted across the room and nuzzled his nose under her hand, wanting to be petted.
Christopher stepped in and closed the door and watched with amusement at Kathryn’s joyous mood at seeing the dog. He sat down on one of the rose hue chairs in front of the fireplace and bid Kathryn to join him there.
Slowly she rose from the dressing table and made her way over to where he was sitting and lowered herself down in the chair opposite him. There was a low crackling sound from the fire that was burning in the fireplace, which had been started just before Kathryn had entered the room.
Christopher saw the light from the fire flickering across her face while they sat there in total silence for several long minutes.
“Why did you run away, Kathryn?” Christopher asked seriously. “Were you planning on never telling me who you really were and that you were carrying my child?” He queried, staring into her eyes waiting for an honest answer.
Kathryn returned his look. “When my memory returned sir, I couldn’t tell you who I was because… I was afraid you would take me back to my family… then they would know for sure that I had been with you out in Dartmoor all that time. And… when it became obvious that I was with child, they would know exactly who the father was. Honorably, you would have been made to… marry me,” she said, hesitantly.
“Madam, no one could have made me do anything that I didn’t want to!” He bellowed. “You still haven’t told me why you didn’t inform me that you were carrying my child!” He shouted angrily at her.
“I didn’t know how you would have reacted to that information, your lordship. I thought you wouldn’t have believed me and maybe would think someone else was the father,” she said, slowly.
“Madam, you seem to forget that I know you were a virgin that first time I took you,” he stated bluntly. “I have no doubt what-so-ever in my mind that I’m the father!” Seeing the tears that were welling up in her eyes, he took both her hands in his. “Kathryn, I married you because I wanted to, not because I was forced to. When Emma told me everything, I decided at that time, I didn’t want a child of mine being born a bastard. That’s when I came to Glastonbury to marry you,” he said more tenderly.
Kathryn didn’t know what to think but all she knew now for sure was that the only reason he truly married her was because of the child. Well, if he definitely didn’t love her which was obvious, then she would just have to live with that fact and make the best of it. At least her child would have a father, she thought realistically.
Christopher leaned back in his chair for he had noticed for the first time there was a slight change in her and wondered why he hadn’t noticed it before. It had to be due to the child she was carrying, he thought for she seemed a little paler then before and that she seemed to get sick quite often. A thought suddenly struck his mind when he remembered other men talking about what it was like when their wives were with child. They had to restrain themselves from any lovemaking because it could injure the child. Could he have possibly caused any injury this morning when they had consummated their wedding vows, he thought horribly. He decided from this moment on, he wouldn’t touch her again until after the birth of their child. Rising up from his chair, he abruptly bid her good night and left her sitting there staring after him in total amazement as he walked through the adjoining door to his own bed chamber.
Kathryn was up early and dressed because she had been informed that Christopher wanted her to accompany him this morning on an outing. She had eaten a small breakfast that Amanda had brought up to her on a tray and was now ready to go. She made her way downstairs where Christopher was waiting impatiently for her, checking the mantle clock every five minutes for her arrival.
He grumbled something about her taking so long to get ready as he escorted her to their coach that was already waiting out front for them. As they traveled down Bond Street Kathryn was awed at all the activity on the street at such an early morning hour. “Are you going to tell me where we’re going, Christopher?” She asked, excitedly.
“Not yet, but I will when we get there,” he replied nonchalantly, wanting to keep her in the dark at their destination.
Finally they pulled up in front of the most expensive woman’s clothiers in all of London. “We’re here, sweetheart,” he uttered, watching a shocked expression come over her face.
“We’re going in there?” She asked incredibly, not believing his morning errand was for her.
“Why do you look so surprised, Kathryn. After all, you’re a Marchioness now and must have the appropriate clothes for your position. I won’t have my wife looking like a rag-a-muffin!” He quipped a little too harshly then he intended.
Some of Kathryn’s excitement faded when she realized he wasn’t buying the clothes for her but for himself so he wouldn’t be embarrassed by her attire.
He helped her out of the coach and entered the Shoppe where Kathryn saw bolt upon bolt of the finest materials available in all of England. She felt like a child being given a bag of candy for she couldn’t decide what dresses she wanted made out of what material. Christopher knew the woman in charge and went over with her what he wanted for his wife. A complete wardrobe he had told her along with all the accessories to go with it.
Kathryn was ecstatic when she heard what he ordered for her. The dressmaker stepped over and escorted Kathryn into the fitting room where she took her measurements. Kathryn informed her she was with child and that she would need some special dresses made for her to wear during this time, as the dressmaker smiled at her knowingly. When she was finished with her measurements, she showed Kathryn a number of drawings for her to choose from. Before she could answer her, Christopher came into the fitting room and answered for her. He knew fabrics and dress patterns better than she did and she stared at her husband in disbelief. It aggravated her that he didn’t even let her choose one dress for herself and then escorted her quickly out of the Shoppe when they were through.
“I have some other business to take care of so I’ll have Henry take you back to the townhouse now,” he stated firmly, before giving his coachman instructions where to pick him up later.
Kathryn was fuming when she finally stepped into her bed chamber. How could he just dismiss her so bluntly, she thought, infuriately. Like she was nothing more than just a servant for him or order about. Well she wasn’t going to take this kind of treatment from him. After all, she was his wife now, a Marchioness and he should treat her accordingly.
Darkness had fallen when Christopher entered the local tavern where he and his shipmates use to go while in port. He searched around the room looking for any of them that might be here tonight. At the far end of the room he caught a glimpse of Danny, the first mate on the Mariner along with several other of his ex-crew mates drinking at a table in the far corner. He made his way over to them as several of the serving wenches approached him with a gleam in their eye. He pushed them away as he finally reached the table where the seamen were.
“Christopher, ya old seadog,” Danny bellowed when he saw him approach. “What brings ya to our old drinking establishment?” He asked, peering at his ex-captain through blood-shot eyes.
“I came to find you, you old swabby!” He replied and pulled up a chair next to him.
“Can I bring ya an ale to warm ya cold body up with, ya lordship?” One of the serving wrenches asked, not being discouraged easily and ran her hand through his hair.
“Yes,” he answered her abruptly and then removed her hand from his head and held it tight. Releasing her, she stomped off to fetch his ale in a huff.
“I remember the day ya would have welcomed her advances,” Danny said amusingly. “I guess ya got better tastes now that you’re a Marquis and all.”
Christopher realized he hadn’t even looked at another woman since he met Kathryn, he thought with surprise. He used to be the biggest womanizer in all of London and had the reputation to prove it.
“I heard about the sinking of the Mariner, Danny. What the hell happened?” Christopher demanded, changing the subject abruptly.
All the sailors at the table got real quiet. “I don’t know, Capt’n. I really don’t. Everything happened so fast, luckily I got Capt’n Jeffrey out in the nick of time. But I don’t know who would have jammed his door like that.” Danny said, speculatively.
“What about these two new hands Jeffrey hired on before you left port. Has anyone seen them?” Christopher asked, solemnly.
“Can’t say that we have, Capt’n. Come to think about it, we haven’t seen them since the night the Mariner went down,” he said with a creased brow.
“Where were they when you did last see them?” Christopher asked with rising concern.
“I had seen them up on deck, aft I believe.”
“What would they be doing there at that time of night?” Christopher said, questionably.
“Wouldn’t have any reason Capt’n, none that I could think of,” Danny replied, seeing what Christopher was driving at. “They could’ve cut the rudder and no one would be on deck to see them do it.”
Christopher and Danny stared at each other for they both knew now who probably caused the Mariner to sink and were also the ones who probably jammed Jeffrey’s door.
“Why would they want to kill Jeffrey?” Christopher asked, infuriated. “Did they have a grudge against him for some reason?”
Danny just shook his head. “No, seemed like they got along just fine with Capt’n Jeffrey.”
“I want them found, immediately!” Christopher bellowed. “I will offer a reward of a hundred pounds for information leading to their whereabouts!”
All the seamen almost fell out of their chairs when they heard their ex-captain offer such a healthy sum of money.
“Spread the word around, Danny. I can be reached at my townhouse here in London. You know where it is.” Christopher said and downed the rest of his ale and stood up. “I want to know who’s trying to kill my brother!” He spat, before he turned and pushed his way out of the tavern.
It was almost midnight when Christopher finally walked into the townhouse where he found Kathryn sound asleep on the settee in the drawing room, with a book still in her hand. Cursing under his breath, he crossed the room with long strides to her bed chamber where he laid her down gently on the bed. A slight moan escaped her mouth when he began unbuttoning her day dress. He didn’t want her to sleep in her clothes and it was too late to fetch his housekeeper so he decided he would have to undress her himself. He slipped her dress off and tossed it on the bottom of the bed as he viewed her exquisite body lying there so still in only a chemise. Gently he slid her legs under the covers and pulled them up over her breasts. Leaning over, he placed a soft, tender kiss upon her lips and took one more look at her before he entered his own bed chamber, feeling very frustrated. He could feel his desire grow while he pondered how this little snip of a girl could cause him this much torment. To have her so near but not to be able to relieve his passion caused him to curse under his breath. Will he really be able to keep the promise he made to himself that he wouldn’t touch her again until after the child was born, he wondered miserably before climbing into bed where he tossed and turned restlessly for hours before sleep finally overtook him.
The next morning Kathryn woke with a smile on her face for she had remembered the dream she was having just before she woke up. She dreamed she was wearing one of the ball gowns that Christopher had ordered for her yesterday and that she was the belle of the ball. Christopher had danced every dance with her as they waltzed around the dance floor to her favorite Vienna Waltz.
A crease suddenly crossed her brow as she tried to remember why she didn’t change into a night dress last night and slept instead, in her chemise. The last thing she remembered was reading a book in the drawing room waiting for Christopher to come home. Oh well she thought, it didn’t really matter.
Christopher opened the adjoining door and saw her sitting up in bed, awake. “Good morning, my little bandit. Did you sleep well?” He asked softly, coming over and standing next to her bed.
“Yes, thank you Christopher,” she said sweetly, seeing him in a good mood this morning.
“I hope you didn’t mind sleeping in your chemise last night but I didn’t want to put you to bed in the clothes you were wearing.” He said, smiling down at her, remembering how beautiful and enticing she had looked in only her chemise.
A slight blush came to her cheeks as she realized he must have undressed her and put her to bed.
“Now don’t go getting embarrassed on me, Kathryn. For pet sake, you’re my wife! He exclaimed.
“Well, it’s just going to take me a little while to get use to that fact, your lordship… I mean Christopher,” she stuttered.
“I have business to attend to so I’ll be leaving now. Don’t wait up for me this time, I don’t know what time I’ll be back.”
It was a gloomy, overcast November morning when a messenger came to the Steele townhouse. Christopher had stayed home this day and was in his study behind closed doors going over all the information he had gathered on the sinking of the Mariner. “Dead ends, all of it!” He blurted out as he threw the papers on his desk. There had been no trace of the two new sailors that Jeffrey had hired on just prior to leaving port. Christopher leaned back in his chair feeling totally frustrated and confused. Even with his offer of a large reward, nothing turned up on either one of them. It was as if they vanished off the face of the earth. There wasn’t much point in remaining in London any longer, he thought. If something turns up then he could count on his uncle, who lived here in London, to relay the information to him out in Dartmoor.
Amanda rapped lightly on the study door, waiting patiently for Christopher to bid her enter.
“I told you I didn’t want to be disturbed!” He bellowed from inside, aggravated by the interruption.
“Lord Christopher, there’s a messenger here and he says it’s important,” Amanda told him through the door.
“Well, why didn’t you say so? Send him in!”
The messenger used extreme caution while entering the study and eyed Christopher’s grimace look. Carefully he handed him the message from the Honorable Cassandra Grey and waited patiently for a reply.
Christopher read the note and laid it down on his desk before looking back at the messenger with a frown on his face.
“There will be no reply at this time,” he said, with dismay and rose from his chair and stared out the window.
“Ask my housekeeper to come in here, he ordered as the young man left the room. Within seconds, Amanda appeared.
“Ya wanted to see me, your lordship?” She asked with a foreboding feeling, not knowing what the problem was.
“Yes, please ask Kathryn to come down here, at once,” he commanded, folding his hands together behind his back.
Kathryn had been upstairs in her room playing with Dodger when Amanda entered her room.
“His lordship wishes to speak with you immediately, your ladyship,” she told her softly, watching Dodger catch the ball in his mouth that Kathryn had thrown up in the air for him.
“He’s getting real good at that, Lady Kathryn,” she chuckled, watching Dodger toss it back into Kathryn’s lap.
“Yes, he is, isn’t he? He loves to play with this ball but he’s driving me crazy with it!” She responded joyously as she stood up from her position on the floor.
“Ya better get yourself downstairs, mum. His lordship did say at once.” Amanda said, with a growing concern for her delay.
Kathryn spun on her heels and went down to the study where Lord Christopher was waiting for her. “You wanted to see me?” She asked, biting her bottom lip.
“Your father is dead.”
Kathryn’s eyes opened wide with horror. “Dead! My god,” she shouted, stunned by what he had just told her. “How… when did this happen?”
Christopher walked over to her and gathered her up in his arms, pulling her tightly against his chest. He could feel the tears running down her face as he tried to comfort her. Her anguish was very apparent when he gazed down at her face, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Kathryn,” he murmured as she began to shake. “You must get a hold of yourself, now.”
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” she cried. “I should have spent more time with him while we’ve all been here in London together but… I didn’t. I just couldn’t face that wife of his!” She spat thinking of Cassandra. “Maybe… I could have been the cause of his drinking….”
“Kathryn,” Christopher said, shaking her slightly. “You had nothing to do with his drinking problem. Don’t go blaming yourself for any of this!” He shouted down at her.
“Seeing his anger, Kathryn calmed down some.
“The funeral is day after tomorrow, so I want you to get a hold of yourself by then. Do you hear me?” Christopher demanded, unsure of how to deal with her anguish.“Yes,” she whispered despondently, closing her eyes she laid her head against his chest, sighing heavily.