HELD CAPTIVE BY A ROGUE

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Chapter 3

Kathryn laid on her bed sobbing. Why is Lord Chatsworth doing this to me? I don't understand, she thought, dejectedly. Why does he want to marry me? What choice do I have? If I don't marry him, father will go to debtor's prison. What happened to all our money? Kathryn's mind was spinning. I need time to think this out and to find another solution and the only place I can do that is at home, at Grey Manor in Glastonbury with Mary. She'll know what to do. She's always helped me all my life whenever I've needed her, even though she's just the housekeeper, she's more of a mother to me. Kathryn sat up. Father will never allow me to go back to Grey Manor, not now. The Earl has too much power over him. "Oh, what am I to do?" She whispered aloud. Suddenly Kathryn climbed off the bed. I'll go tonight, before he gets home! With a determination, she ran to her coffer and pulled out her favorite green riding habit that was worn from use. She quickly donned it and threw her cloak over her shoulders, pulling the hood up over her head. She gathered a few items she would need for the trip home in case she would have to stay in an inn overnight, and left a note on her pillow explaining her whereabouts. With bag in hand, she made her way quietly downstairs. She entered the stables and tried to decide which horse her father would be least angry she took. Stopping in front of a haggard looking chestnut color mare, that had seen better days, she decided to take her. Sliding the bridle over her head, she led her out of her stall and placed an old saddle across her back. Once secured, she tied off her small bag onto it. Stepping one foot into the stirrup, she swung her other leg over the saddle and sat astride. She chuckled to herself when she thought of what people would say if they saw her riding in this manner and not in the acceptable side-saddle. Slowly she made her way out of the stable and weaved her way through the back streets so not to be discovered until she reached the outskirts of London.

There was only one road that she could take in order to reach Glastonbury, and it was very narrow and desolate. Kathryn guided the old mare the best she could in the dark knowing it was several miles to the nearest inn. She tried not to think of how scared she was because all the night creatures were scampering through the brush by the side of the road. Minutes seemed like hours as they trudged along. An owl hooted and practically made Kathryn jump out of her skin, so she decided to try and think of more pleasant times when she was a child to keep her mind off her predicament. So caught up in past memories Kathryn never heard the riders come up alongside her.

One of the two men grabbed her reins and pulled her mount to a halt while the other held a pistol pointed toward her.

"What have we here, Tommy?" The highwayman that was holding her reins said, before he continued on, "it's a la-dy! What's ya doing riding out here all alone like?" He said, yanking the hood off her head. "And a mighty pretty one at that!"

Kathryn sat frozen to her seat, waiting for an opportunity to escape.

"Doesn't talk much either, I like that in me women," he said, trying to figure out what to do with her.

"Billy, just get her money and any jewelry and let's go before someone comes," the one named Tommy said.

"Don't rush me, I'm a thinking I want a little more than just money and jewelry with this one!"

"Well, have your way with her then and let's go!" Tommy said, starting to get nervous at their delay. He knew the look in his partner's eye and knew it was going to be awhile before they leave.

"I don't want to take her here in the road ya fool! I wanna take me time with her!" Billy cackled and smacked his lips into a vicious grin.

Kathryn closed her eyes and thought of the humiliation she felt as they discussed her so degradingly.

***

Charlie was surprised when Christopher came home from the ball and demanded that they leave for Dartmoor at once. "But its late sir, wouldn't it be better to leave at dawn?" He replied, worrying about the road they would have to take at night.

"There's been enough delays today, I want to get there by tomorrow evening!"

Charlie quickly gathered what remaining things that hadn't been packed yet and took them downstairs to be loaded onto the coach. As Charlie climbed up next to Henry, the coachman, he drew up the lap blanket tightly around his thighs to try and keep the damp night air from giving him a chill.

As Christopher leaned back getting comfortable for the long journey, he couldn't get Kathryn Grey out of his mind. "Who was she, and why does Roger want her so badly," he pondered, gazing leisurely out the window of his coach as they passed through the outskirts of London. This really isn't my problem, he reasoned. The Earl of Somerset can do whatever he pleases, as long as it doesn't affect what is mine! He thought, contemptuously.

Christopher dozed off to sleep as the coach made good time along the lonely stretch of road, only waking for a few moments when the wheels hit the large unrepaired ruts in the dirt road. They rounded a bend which was only about a mile outside of a small village which was hidden from the road by large oak trees. Suddenly shots rang out from the side of the road making the coach horses rear up, jolting the coach, Christopher slid off the seat and landed sprawled out on the floor. The door of the coach flew open before Christopher could reach his pistol.

"Get your hands up, your lordship!" The highwayman said mockingly while he held his pistol right at Christopher's chest. "Now with your left hand, slowly throw your pistol out of the coach."

Christopher swore under his breath, not believing he actually got caught sleeping, and did as the man said.

"Get out and stand over there," he said, motioning with his pistol where he wanted Christopher to stand. "If you would now be so kind your lordship, hand over your purse and any other valuables you have quickly, or my partner over there will shoot your driver."

Christopher accessed his situation and knew he could do nothing but obey. He threw the highwayman his purse, timepiece and cravat pin.

"The ring there, on your left hand, it looks valuable, toss it here."

"Damn it to hell!" Christopher retorted. "This is my family crest ring, you can have the other things, but not this!"

Within seconds, Charlie was dragged off the coach perch seat and the highwayman held his pistol against his head. "I will have the ring now or he'll have a hole in his head!"

With one last look at his ring, Christopher pulled it off of his finger and threw it at the highwayman.

Climbing back on his horse, the highwayman warned Christopher not to follow as he and his partner spurred their horses into a full gallop and rode off down the road.

Instantly, Christopher retrieved his pistol from the ground and was able to get one shot off, hitting one of the highwayman who was riding double.

Kathryn felt a burning sensation in her shoulder just before she fell from her seat from behind Billy. Knowing his captive had fallen, he stopped momentarily debating if he should go back for her.

"Leave her Billy, let's get out of here!" Tommy retorted as they both disappeared through the thick line of oak trees that lined the side of the road.

Christopher was seething as he stood and watched the two on horseback disappear, so with his pistol still smoking, he started walking over to where the wounded highwayman laid.

"Good shot! I don't see any movement, sir, you must have killed him!" Charlie said, as he tried desperately to quiet the nervous shaking he felt.

When Christopher reached the body, he could see the red blood staining the cloak that he wore. He bent down and turned him over to get a better look. "It's a woman!" He said, incredibly, and she's still breathing, but is unconscious." Christopher untied her cloak to see where the shot entered. "It looks like I hit her in the shoulder." He gathered her up in his arms and carried her back to the coach and placed her inside on the seat. He jumped in and sat cradling her head in his lap so he could try and stop the bleeding.

"Sir, there's a saddled horse without a rider just off the road over here." Charlie said, standing there not knowing what to do with himself.

"Don't just stand there like a fool, go and get it and tie it to the back of the coach. Then tell Henry to get us to the village that should be just up ahead," he barked at his valet. He looked down at Kathryn as he felt the coach get underway, and began unbuttoning her bodice to bare the wounded shoulder. Once opened, he inspected the wound a little closer and pulled his cravat off and held it tightly over the hole where the blood was flowing out. Once the bleeding was under control, he gazed at her face. "How pale she looked," he thought worriedly. "She's lost a lot of blood." He pushed the strands of hair that drooped over her face and realized for the first time how beautiful she was. Her hair was a thick mass of golden fiery red tresses that surrounded a perfectly oval shaped face, with high cheekbones and soft full lips. She looked so innocent and gentle lying across his lap. "Who was she, and why was she with those two ruffians? Was her circumstances so bad that she had to resort to highway robbery?" He could feel the lump rising on the side of her head where it had hit the ground when she had fallen from the horse. He leaned back carefully not to disturb her and thought about how many men he had shot in duels over honor, but he had never shot a woman before. He didn't like the way it made him feel inside. Why should he feel like this? After all, she was one of the highwaymen that had just robbed him, he thought angrily. The coach finally came to a halt in front of the village inn where Charlie went inside to secure a room for his master. When he returned, he retrieved Christopher's bag and followed him inside.

Christopher laid Kathryn gently on the bed and barked out orders for Charlie to get some bandages and water from the innkeeper. As he began removing Kathryn's riding boots, he noticed what long slender legs she had, shaking himself free from his thoughts. He then removed her riding habit and pulled the covers up under her breasts and sat down beside her. Charlie had set the bandages and water on the nightstand next to the bed as Christopher cleaned out the wound the best he could. With her shoulder bandaged, he gazed at her in fascination. Her hair cascaded over the pillow giving her features a very delicate look while his eyes searched her face, memorizing every detail. As they moved lower they rested on her well-developed breasts that were abundantly over-flowing her chemise. Without realizing it, he ran his fingers slowly down her face stopping momentarily at the base of her throat. Then continued downward. His hand began caressing her breast and his thumb felt her nipple harden beneath her chemise in an unconscious response. When he placed a gentle kiss upon her lips he could feel his desire grow. A slight, painful moan escaped from her as Christopher's head snapped up. "What the hell am I doing? Have I lost my mind?" He scowled angrily and jumped off the bed and stomped out of the room heading for the tavern below for a much needed drink.

Christopher sat down in a high wing back chair that was sitting in front of the fireplace and ordered an ale from the innkeeper. He stared into the flames as he pondered the chain of events that had taken place this evening. Sometime later he returned to his room upstairs and fell into the bed next to Kathryn in a somewhat drunken state.

Kathryn's eyes fluttered open as she tried to sit up in bed but fell back against the pillow when she felt a wrenching pain shoot through her shoulder and head. Oh my, what's wrong with me, why can't I sit up? She wondered, trying to remember how she had injured herself. Tears welted up in her eyes when she stared down at the sleeping man lying next to her in the bed. "Who is he, and how did I get here?" She said, with a shocked expression in her voice.

Christopher stirred and came fully awake when he realized he was not alone in his bed. He peered over at Kathryn as she stared back at him in shocked horror. It all came flooding back to him when he took in her appearance.

"So, you're conscious now I see, my little bandit," he said, before turning her way on his side and propping his head up on his elbow. "I have a lot of questions for you to answer before I turn you over to the authorities," he stated candidly.

"The authorities, what are you talking about, I don't understand any of this," she stammered. Her head was pounding, her shoulder was throbbing and this strange man was talking about turning her over to the authorities! "Have I gone mad?" She thought wildly.

"Don't play dumb with me sweetheart, apparently you've never been caught before, or have you?"

"Caught? Caught doing what?" She said, her temper now beginning to flare. She tried again to sit up, but the pain was so bad she almost screamed.

"Don't try to sit up yet you little fool." Christopher said gruffly, grabbing hold of her and laying her back down. "You've been shot and took a very bad fall from a horse. Therefore, it's imperative that you remain perfectly still or you'll start your shoulder bleeding again."

Kathryn felt her mind was in a whirlwind. Images kept flashing by, but didn't stay long enough to make any sense to her. "Is that what happened to me? But how, and by who? I...?" she stammered, before lapsing back into unconsciousness.

Christopher stared at the very pale faced girl lying next to him, thinking how surprised and horrified she had looked as if she really didn't know what he was talking about. "Hum! Women and their cunning ways!" He sneered and climbed out of the bed. He changed into the fresh clothes that were laid out for him before heading downstairs for breakfast where Charlie was waiting for him.

"Your breakfast is ready at that table over there as soon as you're ready for it your lordship." Charlie explained briefly when he saw his master come down.

"I want to be ready to leave as soon as I'm finished. Have one of the chambermaids dress our traveling companion and assist her in any personal needs that are necessary. Have her take up a bowl of broth also."

"Sir, I found this bag tied to that old mare. I think it belongs to a woman, most likely our highwayman."

Christopher opened the small bag and pulled out its contents. "Not much here," he thought, "a night dress, a meager day dress, and a few personal items." Throwing the blue and white flowered day dress at Charlie, "have her wear this, and put this bag in the coach," he said, and sat down to eat his breakfast.

Within the hour the coach was waiting out front as Christopher entered the bed chamber where Kathryn was. "I see you're ready to go now," he said, crossing the room in long strides.

Kathryn laid there very still not sure of what to do. "We are going somewhere, sir?" She questioned hesitantly.

"Yes, to my home.

"May I ask for what purpose?"

"No!" He snapped curtly. He leaned over and scooped Kathryn up into his arms and carried her down to the waiting coach before she could utter another word. Once inside, he placed her on the seat next to him and leaned her back against the corner with a blanket across her lap.

Kathryn came in and out of consciousness as her fever began to rage. Several times she would wake up glassy-eyed and lashing out with her arms as if to ward someone off, then would fade back into unconsciousness. Her speech was jumbled and confused as she cried out in fear. Christopher reached over and pulled her into his arms and held her tight, speaking softly to her as one would a child. It seemed to have a soothing effect on Kathryn because she stayed calm during the rest of the long journey to Dartmoor.

Charlie rode the old mare ahead to alert the household to be prepared for their arrival for it was nightfall by the time they reached Crestwood Hall. Christopher climbed out of the coach with Kathryn and carried her through the front door where Emma, his long- time housekeeper, was waiting to assist him with the badly injured girl.

"My goodness, she's burning up with fever, your lordship! You've got to get her into bed right away. I've prepared the bed chamber adjacent to yours," she said, before hustling Christopher up the stairs with her. He laid her gently on the bed as Kathryn, still delirious, grabbed hold of him with an iron grip, not wanting to let him go.

"Child, you must turn him loose now honey, we've got to get you into bed," Emma said calmly, trying to ease the girl's hold. Something in Emma's voice made Kathryn obey and allowed them to lay her down.

Christopher sat in a chair by the bed as he watched Emma tend Kathryn with her secret potions that she had used all his life. The fever raged on all night as he and Emma took turns wiping Kathryn down with cool damp cloths. By dawn her fever finally broke and she was able to sleep soundly for the first time. Christopher gazed down at Kathryn's peaceful slumber and with a sigh of relief, he retired to his own bed chamber for some much needed rest.

Kathryn woke with a start when the door creaked open and a gray haired older woman entered, carrying a tray of dishes. "Honey, I'm glad to see you're awake," she said, setting the tray down on the nightstand with a smile on her face. "The name's Emma and I'm the housekeeper here. I've brought you some nice chicken broth to sip on. Later when you're stronger, I'll bring you up something a little heartier."

Kathryn stared at her in bewilderment. "Do I know you, Emma?" She inquired, searching her face for some sign of recognition.

"No child, we've never met before."

Kathryn looked down and let out a loud, ear-piecing scream when she realized she didn't have any clothes on, not even a chemise!" Quickly she pulled the covers up tight under her chin. "What happened to my clothes?" She shouted, and who undressed me?"

Before the housekeeper could answer her, Christopher came charging through the adjacent door pulling on his breeches as he entered. "What's going on in here?" He demanded.

"Everything is under control, your lordship." Emma said, holding back a chuckle. "The young lady here was just a little dismayed at her state of dress this morning."

"Damn it to hell! All this commotion is over clothes?" He bellowed incredibly.

Well, it's not so much as clothes sir, as it's no clothes at all," she couldn't help but say, glancing between the raging Marquis and the extremely embarrassed young lady.

Christopher glared at both of them before he slammed the adjoining door shut, returning to his own room.

Kathryn watched Christopher leave the room and wondered why this man had brought her here and more importantly, who he was. The housekeeper called him your lordship, so he must be a peer of the realm. But what would he want with her?

Emma disrupted Kathryn's thoughts when she brought over a clean night dress. "If you would sit up child, I'll put this on over your head. I'm sure you'll feel much more comfortable with it on."

"Yes, thank you," she said and quickly obeyed the older woman.

After putting a fresh bandage on Kathryn's wound, Emma laced up the bodice of the night dress, propped Kathryn carefully up against the pillows, and pulled the covers over her lap. Now satisfied her patient was comfortable, she sat down in the chair next to the bed and handed Kathryn the bowl of broth. "Don't eat it too fast honey, or you'll get sick," she instructed.

Kathryn thanked her and began taking small spoonful's at a time being careful not to spill any on the beautiful lace coverlet.

"What's your name honey?" Emma asked quietly.

"My name is..." nothing came out. Kathryn's eyes widened as she took in a deep breath and stared wildly at Emma with her mouth open in shock. "I don't know, I can't remember! Oh my God, I can't remember my own name!" She cried, spilling the bowl of broth across her lap. "Why can't I remember my own name?" Horrified, she kept asking the housekeeper who had jumped up.

"Calm yourself honey, it will come back to you. You've had a very bad fall, this sometime happens, but it's only temporary." She tried to reassure her as she pulled the broth covered blanket from the bed. She put her arms around the hysterical young girl, trying to calm her down before she broke open her wound again.

Kathryn laid her tear streaked face against Emma's shoulder and kept repeating the same question over and over again. "Why can't I remember my own name?"

An hour later, Emma quietly left the room leaving Kathryn in an exhausted slumber.

***

"Women!" Christopher sneered when he entered his own bed chamber. "How they can cause such a ruckus over nothing!" He said, shaking his head. He opened his door to the hallway where he caught a glimpse of Charlie hurrying up the stairs. "Damn it to hell!" Why haven't you been in here this morning? I have things to do without waiting for you all day!" He chastened the valet.

Charlie bustled around the room gathering all the thing his master needed as Christopher plopped down on the bed. What am I to do with her? He thought to himself. It may be awhile before she's well enough to be turned over to the authorities, remembering her pale face. As he laid there, other images of her came to mind. Her unusual fiery red hair that reached well below her waist, and such a slim waist it was, tapering down from those firm ripe breasts. He remembered every detail of her naked body and how beautiful she had looked lying there as he soothed her body with cool damp cloths during her fever. He felt his desire pressing hard against his thighs, yearning to be released from its pent up desire. Christopher cursed under his breath and jumped off the bed to finish getting dressed. He told Charlie to send someone into town to fetch the constable because he wanted to speak with him this afternoon here at Crestwood Hall.

He made his way down the spiral staircase and entered the study. Pouring himself a brandy, he sat down behind the large oak desk when his housekeeper entered.

"Your lordship, I think there's something you should know about our young house guest's injuries," Emma said hesitantly, not sure of how to tell him.

"Well, get on with it, what's wrong with her? He asked worriedly, a crease crossing his brow.

"She has amnesia, sir."

"Amnesia! I can't believe that! She's got to be faking it, she's a thief! Having amnesia would be very convenient for her to escape punishment for her crimes! I'll put a stop to this charade right now!" He scowled blackly and slammed his fist down hard on the desk.

He kicked open her bed chamber door, startling Kathryn, who had not come fully awake yet, with his long strides carrying him next to the bed in seconds. He jerked her up and shook her roughly before throwing her back against the pillows. "You can fool others with your little innocent act and conniving ways. But you can't fool me! I don't play games, my dear. I play for keeps! You're not going to get out of this by feigning amnesia. Now, I want to know your full name, who your accomplices are, and where their hide out is. And you better tell me quickly if you know what's good for you," he said, his voice laden with contempt.

"Your lordship, I would tell you everything you want to know, but I can't. I don't remember anything. I'm telling you the truth. If you don't want to believe me, then so be it. But it came as quite a shock to me this morning not to be able to remember who I am," she said, with tears streaming down her face.

Something about her made him decide that maybe she was telling him the truth after all, and really couldn't remember anything. Some of his anger subsided and he pondered this newest revelation. He had heard of people getting amnesia after a bad blow to the head, or a terrifying experience. Some would get their memories back eventually, but for others, it was gone forever.

Kathryn didn't know what to think when she stared at this stranger who had taken her to his home and was accusing her at every turn of some kind of crime against him. "Oh, if I could only remember," she whispered, softly.

Christopher heard her mumble something but didn't understand what she had said. As he looked down at her again, he could see the red blood staining her night dress and realized he had re-opened her wound. He cursed himself for being so rough with her in her condition. "I'm going to have to stop that bleeding right away, you can't afford to lose any more blood." As he reached over to unlace her night dress, she put up her hands to ward him off. "Don't fight me little one, I'm not going to hurt you again. The bleeding has to be stopped now," he said, urgently. He pushed her hands away as he bared her shoulder and removed the dressing. Grabbing a fresh bandage off her nightstand, he applied pressure with it to stop the bleeding. She winced in pain when he did so. "It must be done sweetheart, or you'll bleed to death!"

She peered at him through tearful eyes wondering what kind of man he was. One minute he's so gentle and kind to her and the next, he's angry and cruel. What crime could she have possibly committed against him to cause him so much rage?

Christopher finished re-bandaging the wound and walked over to the chest of drawers on the other side of the room, pulling out drawer after drawer, trying to find her a clean night dress. Finally, he came to a thin, green muslin night dress with a delicate floral pattern, an accent of ecru lace sewn across the bodice. He brought it back to the bed with him. "I'm going to have to help you change myself," he said. "Emma's detained at the moment, and the maids are all in another part of the Hall."

Kathryn looked at him in shocked horror. "I can manage myself sir, thank you anyway," she said, shyly for she knew she had nothing on underneath her blood-soiled night dress.

"Don't be ridiculous, there's no way you can change yourself! You're too badly injured."

"Can't I just wait for Emma to come back, your lordship?" She pleaded with him.

Seeing her embarrassed state, Christopher tried to ease her mind. "Look, I undressed you at the inn, and I also assisted Emma last night bathing you down to break your fever. So, there's nothing for you to be shy about, I've already seen you in your natural state."

Kathryn felt that her face must be turning every shade of red possible by the shame she felt at that moment. That this man actually did all those things to her, remembering her nakedness this morning!

Christopher lifted the soiled night dress off over her head as Kathryn tried desperately to cover herself. He watched with amused interest when she tried in vain to hide those voluptuous breasts from his eyes and he let out a little chuckle. Reluctantly, he placed the clean night dress over her head and pulled it down around her. Reaching out to lace up the bodice, his hands brushed ever so slightly against her breasts, his fingers lingering over the laces for a few moments before he finally got them tied.

Kathryn kept her head downcast, for she was too embarrassed to even look at him.

Christopher placed his finger under her chin and brought her head up to meet his eyes. "You need a new name, my little bandit, since you can't remember your own. What do you think of Katie? You do look Irish you know, with that red hair of yours," he said, with a smile on his lips.

"It's fine to call me Katie your lordship, if that's what you want ...."

"If you only knew what I really wanted," he murmured to himself.

"Excuse me sir, I didn't hear what you said."

"Never mind."

"Can I ask you what crime I've committed against you?" She said, quietly to him after a few moments of silence.

A crease crossed his brow as Christopher told her she was part of a gang of highwayman plaguing the road between London and Dartmoor and how they robbed him of something very important to him, his family crest ring.

"How did I get shot?" She asked, amazed at what he was telling her.

"While the three of you were riding away, I was able to get one shot off. Unfortunately it hit you, and you fell from your position from behind one of your partners. They took off and left you behind, so I brought you here for questioning," he said, his anger beginning to rise.

"You shot me?" She said, incredibly.

"Yes, my dear, because you stole from me! I keep what is mine, and I'll hunt your partners down if it takes the rest of my life, until I get my property back!" He spat angrily at her before stomping out of the room.

Kathryn watched Christopher disappear out the door and leaned back against the pillows wondering about what he had told her. A highwayman. Was she really that sort of person? Someone who goes around robbing people? If that's not bad enough, to rob someone like this stranger, who was so determined to get his property back at any cost, no matter how long it took him. What methods would he use to retrieve it and how far would he go? Kathryn trembled and shook her head in fear. What have I gotten myself into? She thought and closed her eyes for a moment unable to understand why this was happening to her, when she opened them again, Emma was standing there next to the bed.

"So you are awake, honey. I opened up the door but your eyes were closed so I assumed you were asleep. I didn't want to disturb you, I only wanted to check your bandage."

"No, no I wasn't asleep, I just closed my eyes for a moment thinking about what his lordship told me of my profession," she said, despairingly.

Emma felt sorry for the poor young girl lying there looking so forlorn. "Well, I'm sure you had a very good reason for doing what you did," she said, reassuringly.

"Emma, will you tell me about his lordship? I don't even know his name!"

Emma sat down on the bed next to Kathryn. "His name is Lord Christopher Steele, Marquis of Dartmoor. Son of the late Lord Alexander Steele and Lady Gwendolyn Steele who is also deceased. He has a younger half-brother named Jeffrey Steele. His lordship was quite a wild youth, but he has grown into a very responsible man since his father's death."

"I knew he had to be someone important," Kathryn replied. "Please tell me more."

Emma peered at her with a wondering look and then continued. "He's very possessive of his belongings, and can get quite hot-headed at times. I don't know what else to tell you about him except he's very loyal to his family and friends."

Kathryn gazed at the housekeeper and thanked her for all her information. "Has his lordship told you that he has given me a new name?"

"No, I haven't seen him since early this morning. What does he intend to call you?" Emma asked in surprise.

"Katie. He says I look Irish to him." Kathryn said, with a smile on her face, remembering how nice he had been to her when he had given her that name.

Emma shook her head in approval. "That's a very nice name, Katie. I like it very much, it fits you. Now let me look at that shoulder of yours, I have a lot of work to do today with his lordship coming home and all. So I'm going to have to hurry."

Kathryn laid back so Emma could check her shoulder. After she left, Kathryn pondered over the information she had gotten about his lordship. Lord Christopher Steele she thought before dozing off to sleep.

***

Christopher returned to his study where he waited impatiently for the constable to arrive. Sitting in his chair, he shifted from one side to the other, not being able to get comfortable due to his agitated state. Why does this girl have this kind of effect on me? He reflected disgustedly. He didn't like the way it made him feel. He felt like some young buck, panting after anything in skirts! But every time I'm around her, I can't seem to keep my hands off of her. Granted she is quite beautiful in an unusual sort of way, not in the fashionable blonde hair, blue eyes that is all the rage of London Society. But beautiful nevertheless. So why am I so obsessed with her? It has to be that I haven't had a woman for some time now. It was a long voyage back from America, and I haven't had any relief since I left. Christopher assured himself. After all, she is my prisoner, and she will remain my prisoner until I can extract the information I need from her when her memory returns. If it returns. He decided to himself.

Constable William Hawk entered the study immediately upon arrival as Christopher stood up to greet him. "It's been a long time since you took up residence here at Crestwood Hall your lordship," he said, shaking Christopher's hand.

"Yes, it has been quite a while. I've been getting my trading business going these last few years."

"From what your father has told me, it's been very successful."

"Yes, it has been. I turned it over to my brother Jeffrey before I left London since my duties as the Marquis will take all my time now." Christopher offered Sir William a chair as the two men sat down to discuss more important matters. "There's something I want you to look into for me." Christopher said, two nights ago, my coach was stopped and robbed by three highwaymen who held my servant at gun point. I had no choice but to turn over my valuables to them. As they were leaving, I was able to get one shot off, wounding one of them. The other two got away, but I brought back the wounded one here to Crestwood Hall. She'll recover from her wound, but she has lost her memory."

"One of the highwaymen is a woman?" Sir William asked with surprise.

"Yes, but she doesn't remember anything. Not even her own name."

"Then I'll take her in immediately!"

"No. It could open up her wound again. She's lost a lot of blood, so it's imperative she remains here. I will question her myself when she recovers her memory."

"What will you do with her in the meantime, while you wait for her memory to return," he asked, curiously.

"That's my business and is of no concern of yours!" Christopher retorted angrily.

"As far as I knew, there were only two of these highwaymen working the road from London," the constable said with concern. "When did a third one join them?"

"You're the constable here in Dartmoor, it's your business to know these things," Christopher said, coldly.

"You're right, your lordship. It had to have been her first time. There hasn't been any other reporting of a third one. Especially a woman," Sir William said, in his own defense.

"I want these other two caught! They have something of mine that is very important to me. My family crest ring. And I want it back, now!"

"We've been trying to catch this pair for months now, but they've given us the slip every time. I've hired another assistant, my nephew, David Cabot from Glastonbury. He'll be here in less than a week. With the additional help and one of them in custody, if she gets her memory back, maybe we'll finally apprehend them."

"It sounds to me like you have it well under control, but keep me informed of any new developments in this matter. I would like it settled as soon as possible."

"Yes, your lordship, I will."

"Lord Christopher, there's something I must discuss with you that's of the utmost importance," he said, before Christopher could rise from his chair.

"Well, get on with it man, he said, gruffly.

"There has been a series of murders in Dartmoor which started a few months before your father's death."

"Murders!"

"Several young girls from the nearby villages have disappeared and later are found raped and tortured to death. Actually, the bodies were somewhat mutilated."

"God, do you have any suspicions of who could be committing these ghastly crimes?" Christopher asked, in horror.

"No, we haven't found any trace of evidence, nor is there any connection between any of the victims. All we know is they've all have been murdered by the same man."

"That's unbelievable! You haven't found any evidence of any kind?" He shouted with disdain.

"No sir. Whoever he is, he's very smart, and has planned out his crimes in advance because he's covering his tracks with perfection. Otherwise, there would be some evidence left by at least one of the victims."

"How many murders has there been?"

"Three so far, that we've found, that is."

Christopher couldn't believe what he had just be told. He walked over and poured himself a liberal glass of brandy as the clock struck half-past four. "I would like to see where the girls' bodies were found."

"That will take us probably a week or so, sir. All the victims were found miles apart, and in different directions."

"So be it. We'll start out at first light."

"I'll have my son Steven, who is also my assistant, begin gathering all the information you require sir while we're gone." Sir William stated.

"Excellent!"

***

Christopher finished his meal and retired early to his bed chamber knowing he needed additional rest for his long journey ahead. Charlie had already been up and packed all his necessities he would need for being on the road for a week. He sauntered over to the door of the adjoining room and paused with his hand on the doorknob, undecided if he really wanted to go in or not. He cursed himself under his breath, turned around and stomped back to his bed. "I have too many important things on my mind to think about than to frustrate myself with her!" He grumbled. As he laid there in his own bed, images of her kept flooding into his mind. "Damn it to hell," he swore and jumped up and made his way into her room.

Kathryn was propped up against the pillows reading a book that obviously had come from his library. She glanced up in surprise when she saw him enter her bed chamber. Laying the book down on her lap, she smiled up at him prettily. "Good evening your lordship, I hope you don't mind but I asked Emma to bring me up a few books from your library."

"You can read, madam? Apparently you can seeing you have one of my books in your lap!" He said, mockingly. "I would prefer that you ask ahead of time if you wish to use something of mine!" He said, emphasizing his last word.

"I'm sorry your lordship," she pouted. "I will ask from now on."

"Frankly, my little bandit, you're not a house guest here in my home, you're my prisoner. I do hope you keep that in mind from now on!"

Kathryn's face froze at his last comment. "Even prisoners need distractions, sir!"

"Distractions, is that what you want? I can give you all the distractions you could possibly handle!" He snarled savagely at her. He took her roughly in his arms and slid next to her on the bed, kissing her fiercely. He could feel her full sensuous lips beneath his as he continued to probe their softness. His mouth moved slowly down her long, slender neck, lingering only for a moment at the base of her throat. Her struggles only seemed to inflame him more as he pressed her firmly against the pillows, pinning her arms underneath her. Christopher moaned for his hands had already begun ripping at the laces of her night dress with an urgent need to free her fully-developed breasts. When she felt him pressing hard against her thighs, she frantically gathered what strength she had left to fight him off but she was no match for him.

"Pleases stop, you lordship!" She begged.

But Christopher was now beyond all reason, so bewitched by her, his passion would not be denied him this time. His hands freed her laces and made their way over her flawless naked flesh.

Kathryn ceased her struggles when she felt sensations rip through her body that she had never felt before when Christopher buried his head into her supple breasts. His tongue was tantalizing her nipples, moving from one to the other, losing himself in her.

She arched her back as he continued stroking her body until she became mesmerized with her own passion. "Oh Christopher," she signed and wrapped her arms around him holding him tightly. Her breath caught in her throat when his hand probed between her thighs. "Let me love you little one," he whispered to her in a thick voice.

Kathryn felt a hardness between her legs when he slid his full-length inside her. With a small cry of pain escaping from her lips, her virgin skin was broken.

Christopher raised up suddenly and stared at her in surprise for he now knew that she was indeed a virgin. Slowly he began to move inside her as Kathryn's passion began to mount. With an urgent need to quench this fire that was burning inside her, her hips began moving naturally to meet his, thrust for thrust, until they both were taken to the full heights of their passion.

As they both laid exhausted in the aftermath of their lovemaking, Christopher laid next to her gazing at her lovely face. He pushed back a strand of hair with his hand while she glanced back at him shyly from beneath her long, sultry lashes. He could still see a small spark of passion still smothering there in her half closed eyes. Gently, he placed a soft kiss upon her slightly swollen and bruised lips. "So you were a virgin after all, my little bandit," he said, amusingly.

Kathryn felt ashamed of her response to him as tears began to run down her face.

"I'm sorry, I would have gone slower if I had known," he said, reaching over and catching one of her tears with his finger. "There always has to be a first time you know, sweetheart. I'm just astonished that you haven't lost your virginity before now."

Kathryn's temper began to rise with him lying there next to her discussing her virginity so candidly with her. "I didn't lose it willingly, sir!" She retorted through clenched teeth. "And I would appreciate it if you would get out of my bed!"

Christopher grinned mockingly at her and arched his brow, "I would agree that you didn't start off willingly sweetheart, but I wouldn't say exactly it ended that way."

Kathryn reached up and slapped him hard across his face. "You bastard!" She blurted out, releasing some of the anger she was feeling at that moment.

Christopher's eyes narrowed as his hand caught her arm in an iron tight grip. "Don't you ever strike me again, madam! Or you'll regret it dearly. I swear it!"

Kathryn's eyes widened in fear at what she saw on his face and remained perfectly still wondering sickly at what he intended to do to her with his threat.

He released her arm abruptly and drew himself up out of her bed and glared down at her sternly. "Remember what I said, madam!" He spat at her before quickly disappearing through the adjoining door.


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