It had been two months since Alex and Alexis were born and Christopher had settled into his daily routine of spending as much time with them as possible. It was a peaceful time for him and Kathryn for they enjoyed each other’s company while doting on the babies. He never saw himself as a family man before but he wouldn’t have it any other way now, because he loved his children more and more with each passing day.
As like any other day, this day was no different when Christopher entered his wife’s bedchamber, kissed her good morning and went directly to the cradles where the two babes were sleeping. “I can’t believe how fast they’re growing,” he said, turning toward Kathryn who was smiling back at him.
“Tis obvious sir, that you’ve never been around babies much,” she laughed, enjoying teasing him whenever possible. She had just finished her toiletries and stood up to view herself better in the full length glided mirror next to her dressing table.
Her figure was returning nicely, Christopher thought with relish while he watched her turn this way and that in from of the gilded mirror. Her breasts were larger than before, to his delight and her face had a radiant glow about it that lit up every time she smiled at him. Actually he thought she was more beautiful now than she ever was before, if that was possible. She occupied his thoughts every moment of every day and waited patiently for her to recuperate so he could make her his once again.
Kathryn felt a blush spread over her cheeks when she saw Christopher in the mirror, staring at her with such desire in his eyes and wished she had a more pleasing outfit to wear that this old black mourning dress.
Seeing her blush, Christopher knew he had gotten caught ogling her again and walked over behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. “I was just admiring your beauty, my little bandit,” he said sheepishly before his lips pressed down on the back of her neck.
Kathryn felt giddy inside when their eyes met again and lingered for a moment before she dragged them away.
“I thought, if you’re up to it, we could go for a ride Kathryn,” he said, cheerfully.
Kathryn screeched with delight at the prospect of riding again. “Oh, could we Christopher? I’m so tired of looking at these same four walls, day in and day out and I love to ride. I can’t even remember the last time I did.” Excitedly Kathryn whirled around to her coffer to change her clothes until a thought struck her. “How can I go out riding without a proper riding habit,” she cried, “mine is green, therefore I can’t wear it….”
“Now don’t go getting yourself all worked up about it, Kathryn for I have already thought of your dilemma and have solved your problem.” Grabbing her hand, he dragged her into his own bed chamber and there on the bed was a brand new black riding habit for her to wear.
“You think of everything Christopher,” she exclaimed, turning and kissing him before snatching it off his bed and then quickly raced back into the other room to change.
Christopher threw back his head and laughed at her apparent excitement as he followed her to her room to help her change. He had ordered the black riding habit just for this occasion for he had anticipated her reactions exactly. Pleased with himself, he escorted her down to the stables where Erin was saddling the horses.
“Starr! It’s been so long since we’ve had a long ride,” she said, gently stroking the mare’s velvety muzzle. Kathryn had intended to ride Shadow, her dapple gray mare she had brought with her from Glastonbury but Erin had already saddled Starr. Not wanting to cause him more work by changing horses, she decided to ride Starr instead. “Where is Dodger?” Kathryn asked suddenly, realizing the golden retriever was nowhere in sight.
“Jeffrey went hunting early this morning and took him with him,” Christopher explained, remembering the last time the dog went with them on a ride. He didn’t want him to interrupt his plans for Kathryn again, so he had bribed his brother to take the dog somewhere, anywhere that was out of Kathryn’s reach, otherwise she would say he needed exercise and would demand he go with them. Not being able to deny her anything, he would have to give in to her wishes and take a chance on the dog not causing his well-laid plans to go haywire. Kathryn shrugged her shoulders at his answer and mounted Starr.
Spurring their horses to a full gallop, they left the stable yard, to the utter dismay of the head groomsman and went flying across the countryside, in a race to the small stream that laid several miles away. Christopher’s big black steed won by a nose when they finally pulled the horses to a halt and dismounted.
“Oh, Christopher that was so refreshing to feel the wind stream across my face again, we must do this every day!” She gasped trying to catch her breath from the vigorous ride.
Christopher took her hand in his and noticed that her hair had come loose from its pins, just like it always did when she went riding. Seeing the long fiery tresses cascading over her shoulders, his passion began to mount. “Would you like to see the waterfalls, Kathryn? They are beautiful this time of year.”
Oh yes, indeed. I would love to,” she replied excitedly, remembering how peaceful they were. She couldn’t believe they could be any more beautiful than they were the last time she saw them.
It didn’t take them long to walk through the forest to the clearing where the waterfalls was located and Kathryn was awed at what the change of seasons had brought. The trees were barren of all their colorful leaves and their branches were now covered with a thin layer of milky white snow, giving them a beautiful, but ominous appearance. Small patches of ice had formed around the edges of the lake, causing the current to change direction, while making its way slowly down to the stream. A shiver went through Kathryn when an icy cold breeze hit her so she wrapped her mantle more snugly around herself. “We can’t stay her too long Christopher because it’s turning cold again,” she said, her breath turning to steam as she spoke.
Putting his arms around her to keep her warm, he didn’t want to leave yet. This was their own special place and he couldn’t wait until spring when it would be warm enough for them to bring Alex and Alexis here. Looking down again at her lovely features, Christopher lost himself in the emerald pools of her eyes and then their mouths met, in a deep, passionate kiss that seemed to last forever before his lips moved down her neck, causing her breath to catch in her throat. His hands reached inside her mantle and began caressing her breasts, bringing her nipples to a firm, hard peak, beneath the bodice of her riding habit.
A moaned escaped from Kathryn when his caresses became bolder as she wrapped her arms around him tightly, not wanting to let him go.
Carefully Christopher lowered her to the ground where he continued kissing her while his hands freed her supple breasts and caressed her bare skin. Neither one of them noticed the cold any longer for their passion mounted beyond all reason. It had been too many months since they were able to quench the fire that burned inside her. Christopher couldn’t wait any longer and entered her suddenly, with each thrust penetrating deeper than the last.
Kathryn was pressed ardently against his long muscular body matching each of his thrusts with one of her own, bringing them to heights of passion neither one of them knew existed before they laid entwined in the aftermath, totally exhausted.
With their passion now spent, the cold began creeping into their bodies so they quickly scrambled off the snow covered ground and brushed themselves off.
The sun had broken through the dark colored clouds above and was shining a bright ray of light across the blanket of white snow that covered the ground. But neither one of them noticed, for they were locked again in each other’s arms in a captive embrace. A light flurry of snowflakes began landing on their heads and they reluctantly drew apart and walked hand in hand back to the horses, who were waiting for them only a few yards away.
Once they cleared the forest, they were able to ride a little faster, letting the horses set their own pace while they made their way back to the manor house. About halfway there, they saw a rider approach on Kathryn’s dapple gray mare, causing Kathryn’s anger to rise. “Who could possibly be riding shadow?” She questioned in an irritated voice, watching closely to see who it was. She was seething when she finally recognized the rider. “How dare she ride Shadow, I’m the only one who has ever ridden her.”
“Damn it to hell! What do you think you are doing Cassandra?” Christopher bellowed when Cassandra rode up to them and pulled Shadow roughly to a halt.
“What does it look like I’m doing,” she retorted back at him, annoyed that the two of them had gone off riding without asking her to join them. “Since I had missed you when you left, I decided to ride out and join you.”
Kathryn was beside herself. Her step-mother overstepped her bounds this time. “No one rides Shadow, Cassandra. No one but me! Do you understand me?” She yelled, her eyes glazed over with anger.
“Tsk, tsk Kathryn. I don’t understand why you’re so upset, darling. This old nag isn’t that great of a horse. She’s too temperamental and looks like she enjoys her oats too much.”
“She hasn’t been ridden in months, Cassandra and she’s not temperamental she’s high-spirited. Shadow’s too much horse for you to handle, is the problem.” Kathryn said boldly, tired of her step-mother’s haughtiness.
Christopher sat quietly on Thor’s back, enjoying the exchange between the two angry women. Never had he witnessed so much fury out of women before and didn’t know quite what to make of it. He knew both of them well and both had quick tempers that laid just under the surface. They had been giving each other jabs for the last two months but had always held their tempers in check, until now.
“Ladies, enough of your cat walling,” he exclaimed, hearing enough of their battle. “Let’s head back to the manor house now.”
The two angry women turned and glared at him before kicking their respectable mounts into a full gallop. Not wanting to be out done by her step-daughter, who had taken the lead, Cassandra pushed Shadow to her maximum. Barely being able to stay on her back for Kathryn was right, she was no horsewoman and indeed, Shadow was too much horse for her to handle, with her long muscular flanks carrying her faster than she had ever dared to go before.
As they approached a hedge, panic went through Cassandra’s body when she realized that Shadow was going to jump it at this speed. She tried to stop her and furiously yanked the reins back so far it turned Shadow’s head to the side. But it was too late for Shadow leaped over the hedge anyway, causing both rider and horse to fall.
Christopher and Kathryn jumped off their horses instantly and ran over to where the accident had occurred and saw Cassandra picking herself up off the ground. “You stupid nag!” She screamed, kicking the horse who was still laying on her side.
Before she could give her another blow, Kathryn grabbed her by the throat and started choking her. Shrieks of terror escaped her mouth when Kathryn’s fingers tightened in a vise like grip. “I’ll kill you, Cassandra! Look what you’ve done!” She screamed before Christopher grabbed her around the waist and pulled her away, breaking her hold on Cassandra. Her arms were still lashing out at her step-mother when she yelled at Christopher to let her go.
Tears were streaming down her face when he finally released her and she flew over to where Shadow was laying.
“Her leg is broken, Christopher murmured, examining the injured horse. “I’m sorry Kathryn there’s nothing that can be done for her.” He looked over at Cassandra, who was standing quietly rubbing her neck, infuriated that he would have to destroy such a magnificent thoroughbred.
“No! You can’t do that, Christopher. She is my horse, my father gave her to me on my sixteenth birthday,” she cried in anguish. “You can’t destroy her.”
Christopher knelt down next to her and gathered her up in his arms and pressed her tightly against his chest. He whispered soothing words in her ear, trying to prepare her for the inevitable destruction of her horse.
“Hush little one. You know as well as I do what needs to be done. No one has ever been able to successfully set a horse’s foreleg before.”
“I assisted John, the head groomsman at Glastonbury once. My mother’s mare fell and broke her leg, she couldn’t bring herself to allow them to destroy her and so John set the leg and worked with the mare for weeks until her leg mended. It was never quite normal and she couldn’t be ridden any longer, but she was alive.
Christopher breathed a sigh and looked down at Kathryn’s beseeching face before he gave into her wishes and said he would send for John immediately. “But in the meantime, we’ll need to get her back to the stables which is not going to be any easy task.”
Kathryn threw her arms around him and squeezed him tight, thanking him for saving her horse’s life.
Cassandra was jealous and disgusted at her step-daughter’s wanton display of affection and glared at her with open disdain. That stupid horse meant more to them then she did, she mulled. After all, she had been thrown from it and was injured herself. Moving closer to them she got Christopher’s attention. “Oh my God, I think I may have broken some ribs,” she moaned, clutching her chest.
He disengaged himself from Kathryn and walked over to her. “You may have madam that was a nasty fall you took. I’ll have Emma check you over as soon as we return to the manor house.”
Cassandra’s lip drew into a tight line, having Christopher dismiss her so lightly she plopped down on the cold hard ground to wait until their departure.
It was an understatement when Christopher had said it wasn’t going to be an easy task getting Shadow back to the stables for it took every male servant at Crestwood Hall to complete the job. Kathryn had stayed with the injured mare while Christopher and Cassandra went back to the manor house to see to Cassandra’s injuries and to fetch the necessary help. When he returned, he sent Kathryn back immediately telling her it would be hours before they would get Shadow back to the stables.
Kathryn grudgingly went back because she knew Alex and Alexis needed to be fed and were probably starving by this time. When she walked into the manor house, Emma was fit to be tied.
“Those babies are starving, Miss Kathryn,” she grumbled while she followed her upstairs. “They’ve been crying non-stop for the past hour and nothing will satisfy them but their mother.”
“I’m sorry we were gone for so long, Emma,” Kathryn said before she picked up Alex and sat down in her rocking chair to feed him.
Emma handed her Alexis and Kathryn held her up to her other breast while she explained to the housekeeper what had caused her delay.
“That step-mother of yours,” she said, rolling her eyes, “is going to put me in my grave if she stays much longer,” she said in a huff.
“That Emma, I totally agree with you and I will personally send her packing no matter what Christopher says!”
“Good for you Miss Kathryn. I have never liked that woman and would enjoy seeing you throw her out of this house. She is nothing but trouble!”
With the twins finally sated, Kathryn placed them back in their cradles and quickly made her way down to the stables to wait for Shadow to be brought in. An hour later, the men returned with the injured horse and managed to get her into one of the stalls. There Christopher watched as Kathryn set the broken foreleg and bandaged it the best she could.
You did send for John, didn’t you?” She asked worriedly, afraid he may have forgotten.
“Yes, Kathryn. I sent for him the moment Cassandra and I reached the manor house. He’ll be here sometime tomorrow.”
“Well in the meantime, someone is going to have to stay with her at all times and….”
“No you don’t. You’re not going to do this to me again, Kathryn.” He roared, remembering the day that they had brought Dodger home.
“Now I didn’t say anything about staying out here, did I? I have babies to feed so I couldn’t stay out here all the time, just part of the time.”
Christopher just shook his head in exasperation. “Kathryn, what am I going to do with you,” he muttered, knowing there was no winning with her when she set her mind to something.
“You’re going to escort me back into the house, sir,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
Erin and Michael were going to take turns with the mare until John got there from Glastonbury tomorrow and watched Christopher and Kathryn leave the stables, walking back up to the manor house for the evening.
Mary had thought she would never see the day she was to find herself at Crestwood Hall. But here she was, right at the front door. She had decided to come with John when the rider brought the news for him to go to Dartmoor and proceeded to pack her own things hastily, because the rider didn’t give them much time. The journey was long and cold but Mary was glad she had come because it had been years since she had seen her sister Emma and of course she had wanted to see Kathryn and her two newborn babes.
When the butler answered the door, he was astounded at the resemblance Mary had to Emma and he knew who she was immediately.
“Mary, my heavens…”Emma cried from atop the staircase when she saw her sister standing in the foyer. “What on earth are you doing here?”
“Lordy, it’s so good to see ya,” Mary responded before the two sisters hugged each other with tears in their eyes. “We have so much to talk about but first I want to see those babies,” she exclaimed.
“Oh, you haven’t seen two more beautiful babes in all your life until you see them two,” Emma told her sister while they were heading up the stairs to Kathryn’s room.
“I don’t know, that Miss Kathryn sure was a pretty baby and I don’t think anyone could out do her, except maybe one of her own, that is.”
“Well Lord Christopher was a handsome babe,” Emma boasted.
They carried on until they were standing next to the cradles where Mary had her first glance at the twins and drew in her breath. “Lordy, the little girl looks just like her mama did and her mama before her.”
“And Alex here,” Emma said, “looks just like his papa but I don’t know what his papa’s papa looked like because I wasn’t here then.
Kathryn had entered the room quietly and was observing the two sisters admiring her children and waited patiently for them to turn around. When they did, Mary flew into her open arms and hugged her tightly. “I can’t believe I have you both here with me together,” Kathryn cried and hugged Mary again until she had to finally turn her loose. “Did you come with John?” She asked. “Of course you did, what a silly question,” and laughed at herself for being so foolish.
“Becoming more serious, Mary asked, “are ya happy here, child, being married to Lord Christopher and all?”
Kathryn gave her a beaming smile when she answered. “Yes, Mary. I’ve never been happier in my whole life. These past two months have been so wonderful and he’s so…” she lowered her head in embarrassment, not being able to finish her sentence.
“I know what you’re getting at and he is,” Mary replied, not wanting Kathryn to be so embarrassed. It was obvious that she was definitely in love with him and he made her very happy.
“Where are my manners? You must be very tired after such a long journey, Mary. And you’re not use to traveling you know. Emma will find you a room in the guest quarters where you can rest for a while before dinner and then we can visit some more.” Kathryn said, seeing her old housekeeper’s shoulders sagging from fatigue.
After they left, Kathryn fed the babies again and put them back to bed before she went downstairs to speak with Christopher. She wanted to tell him that she wanted her step-mother to leave at once and that she wanted to tell her, herself. But she couldn’t find him. Finally one of the servants told her he was upstairs in Cassandra’s room which infuriated her to no end. Stomping up the stairs she practically kicked her step-mother’s door in while opening it and stood there with her hands on her hips, glaring at the two of them. Christopher was standing next to the bed when she entered. “I’ve been looking all over the place for you, Christopher. And where do I find you?” she said in a disbelieving voice. “In my step-mother’s room!” She bellowed even louder.
Christopher’s anger rose, having Kathryn speak to him in that manner and he yelled back at her. “Where I go in my own house, Kathryn is my business alone! Is that understood?” His eyes were fixed on her intensely to see if she understood his meaning.
Kathryn was raging inside but she really didn’t intend on getting into a fight with Christopher, especially in front of Cassandra, so she tried to calm her flared temper before she spoke again. Since she couldn’t talk to Christopher alone first then she might as well just do the deed without his prior knowledge of it. Turning her eyes to Cassandra, who had a smirky smile on her face, directed her anger at her. “Madam, I think you’ve over-stayed your welcome here and I would appreciate it if you would get out of my house!” Enunciated the last few words.
Cassandra’s lower jaw dropped, not believing what she had just heard. How dare the little twit order her, her step-mother, out of her house? What gall, she had never been so humiliated in all her life and her doing it right in front of Christopher? This was his house, not hers. “Christopher, are you going to let her talk to me like that?” She demanded.
“If that is what my wife wishes, then you better start packing, my dear.” He was so happy when he heard his wife order Cassandra out because the only reason he had allowed her to stay this long, was for Kathryn’s sake.
“I’m not able to take a long journey at this time, Christopher. I have two cracked ribs, you can ask your housekeeper about it. She’ll tell you. But I will go as soon as they’ve healed since I’m no longer welcome here,” she said, her mouth forming into a pout.
Kathryn felt nothing but disgust for her step-mother and whirled around and stomped out of the room.