Jeffrey was sitting at his desk reading over the final manifest in preparation for his first voyage as Captain of the Mariner. How well he knew this cabin for he and Christopher spent many a long night here in deep conversation during the several years they were at sea together. Now the Mariner belonged to him and he wanted to be as successful at business as Christopher had been. "I never thought I would see the day when my brother would give in the sea and return to Dartmoor and take up his rightful place as its' Lord, " he murmured to himself. He couldn't count how many times Christopher would take the wheel himself and stand there for hours with the wind and sea blowing across his face. How he loved it so....
Jeffrey was now finished with the manifest and sat back with his arms folded behind his head. His thoughts went back to his cousin Michele's coming out ball. They had taken a stroll out in the gardens to catch their breath from all of the festivities when they came upon that repulsive scene of Lord Chatsworth accosting a well-bred young lady of society. "And he thought I was being indignant? The absurdity of it all!" He said, out loud. Lucky for Miss Grey we just happened along. The ship bell stuck six as Jeffrey was brought out of his thoughts and decided he better hurry and get changed or else he would be late for his dinner invitation at the Denham's.
David Cabot was having dinner with his mother, Wathena Hawk Cabot when a summons was delivered for him to come at once to Grey Manor. It was signed by Squire Grey, himself. "What on earth is Squire Grey doing here in Glastonbury?" He said in total surprise. "And what does he want with me?"
"The summons said at once David, so you better stop wondering and go quickly," his mother exclaimed.
"The sooner I go the sooner we'll know what this is all about," he murmured and rose from the table. "I'll be back later mother," he said and kissed her goodbye on the forehead.
David thought about every possibility why he could be summoned immediately to Grey Manor. Something had to have happened out there, but what? Kathryn went to London to see her father and new step-mother, so why he is here, unless Kathryn's done something very wrong and he personally brought her back here. That wouldn't surprise him at all. She did speak her own mind most of the time. He'd always known that temper of hers would get her into trouble!
As David entered the manor the place was dead quiet, giving him a sense of foreboding. He was immediately escorted into the drawing room where Squire Grey and a very attractive woman, who he assumed was his new wife were waiting impatiently for him to arrive.
"Come in young Cabot, have a seat if you please."
"You wanted to see me, sir?" He asked before he sat down, anxious now to find out what this was all about.
"Yes, I would like to know when the last time you've seen my daughter was, be honest now."
David looked at the Squire in puzzlement. "Did she do something wrong, sir?"
"No! Answer my question."
"I saw her just before she went to see you in London, sir."
Squire Grey became very edgy. "You're sure now you haven't seen her since?"
"No sir! I'm telling you the truth. What is this all about anyway? Where is Kathryn?" David asked as he rose from his chair, deeply concerned.
"Kathryn left London two days ago alone, bound for Glastonbury and she never got here. No one has seen or heard from her since."
David's eyes widened as the impact of Squire Grey's words sunk in. "What was she doing traveling alone?" He asked in horror, knowing all the time how stubborn and head strong Kathryn could be when she wanted to.
"She decided to come home alone to prepare for her wedding." Squire Grey said, stretching the truth a little.
"Wedding! Who is she going to marry?" David asked, incredibly.
"Why Lord Chatsworth, of course!" Cassandra interrupted and gleamed back at David thinking he must be one of Kathryn's country lovers.
"That's crazy, she hates the Earl with a passion!" He said, infuriated with this over-bearing woman who must be behind this whole wedding arrangement.
"That's irrelevant. She will marry him as soon as she is found, whether she hates him or not!" She snickered.
"How can you possibly make her marry someone she despises so much?" He asked, unbelievably of her father.
"This is none of your affair young man and you better remember who you're talking to!" Squire Grey said with disdain in his voice.
"I only meant...."
"That will be quite sufficient, Mr. Cabot! I only want to know from you if you have any idea where Kathryn might have gone to."
"I honestly don't know sir, if she said she was coming here and hasn't arrived then I would suspect that something had to have prevented her from reaching her destination." David said worriedly for his friend, his eyes now wide with fear.
Squire Grey because very agitated and upset with his answer. "We must contact the authorities right away then and send out a search party for her immediately! If what David says is true, then she could be in real danger."
"I think you're worrying over nothing, darling. She's doing this on purpose, just to get her point across that she doesn't want to marry the Earl," Cassandra sneered.
Both David and the Squire stared at her with fury. "That will be enough from you, Cassandra! I'm tired of you be-rating my daughter!"
Cassandra's eyes shot daggers at him before she lifted her head in the air and stomped out of the room.
Robert Grey turned back to David. "Will you assist me with the search young man?"
"I can for a few days, sir but I must be in Dartmoor by the end of the week," he said sincerely, respecting the man for putting his arrogant wife in her place.
"I would appreciate your assistance in this matter seeing that you've known Kathryn almost all her life and are one of her closest friends." The two men shook hands after they finished discussing the best possible plan to search for Kathryn and parted company to do their own individual part in the undertaking.
David's bags were packed and waiting by the front door when he hugged his mother goodbye.
"You will be careful out in Dartmoor, won't you?" She muttered, not very happy at the prospect of her only son living in Dartmoor, especially with being an assistant constable.
"I'm a grown man, mother. I can take care of myself. Working for Uncle William is the best thing that could have ever happened to me. "As an assistant constable, I will hold an important position with a good salary. I will also be furnished with a small cottage so when I marry I'll have a home for my future wife and family."
"You're right of course, David. I guess I've just listened to too much gossip and I worry too much," she stuttered.
"I'll be fine, mother," he said, squeezing her hand trying to give her reassurance.
"I've written my brother William a long letter. Would you be so kind as to deliver it for me? I would sincerely appreciate it," she said and handed it to David.
"That would be no trouble at all, mother. Mary, Kathryn's housekeeper also asked me to deliver a letter for her to her sister Emma, the housekeeper out at Crestwood Hall."
Seeing the frown cross her son's face at the mention of Kathryn's name, Wathena asked if there had been any new developments in the search for his missing friend.
"No, it's like she just vanished into thin air. I feel so guilty leaving with her still missing and all."
"David looked at his mother with determination. "I plan to stop at every village and place of lodging along the way to Dartmoor, to make inquiries about her. I'm sure Uncle William won't mind me being a little late in arriving, especially since this is an investigation of a missing person."
His mother smiled at him, thinking how proud she was that he had become such a responsible young man. Bidding him farewell, she watched him ride away to start a brand new life for himself.
It was well after nightfall when David finally reached the last village between Glastonbury and Dartmoor. Tired and hungry, he entered the inn, secured himself a room for the night and then sat down at a table by the fireplace. He ordered himself a light meal and an ale before retiring. The serving wench that had waited on him gave him a wink before setting down his supper in front of him. Ignoring her insinuation, he gave her Kathryn's description and asked if she'd ever seen her or heard of her before.
"We'll luv, there was a young girl matching that description brought in here about a week or so ago, but..." she paused expectantly.
David cursed silently and reached into his purse and threw her a few coins. After pocketing what he had given her, she smiled and continued. "Like I was saying luv, there was this girl brought in here but I don't think she could possibly be your Honorable Kathryn Grey. No sir, she was being held prisoner by the Marquis of Dartmoor who I might add, shot her for highway robbery!" She smiled at him with missing teeth and then leaned well over the table for him to see all her charms.
Repulsed by her show, David dismissed her abruptly and retired to his room feeling very disappointed with her information.
Unknown to David but sitting at the table behind him were two ruffians drinking their ale, listening very intently to his conversation with the serving wench.
"Do ya suppose it could be the same one, Tommy?" Billy asked with rising anticipation.
"Sounds like it could be her."
"She really is a la-dy, and they think she was part of our gang," he laughed viciously. "What did he say her name was, the Honorable Kathryn Grey?"
"Can't you just forget about her, Billy?" Tommy slurred after finishing his fourth ale.
"Forget about her!" He bellowed. "Not on ya life!"
"Shh! Keep your voice down. Do you want the whole place to hear you?"
"I won't be able to get her out of me mind until I've had her," he whispered.
"You're talking crazy now, Billy. Didn't you hear the wench say she's being held prisoner by the Marquis of Dartmoor?" He's the arrogant lord we robbed that night!"
"So, I'm not afraid of the likes of him!" Billy said, with puffed up self-importance.
Tommy leaned over very closely to Billy's face. "You better be! He's one of the best shots around these parts and always get everything he wants. He's not one to mess around with. It's bad enough we robbed him!"
"Like I say, I ain't afraid of the likes of him...! Billy muttered just before his head hit the table in a drunken slumber.
It was early morning when Christopher and Sir William arrived at the final murder site and could still feel the air crisp against their faces as they dismounted quickly. The ground was covered with a blanket of dew that hadn't been burned off by the sun's early rays yet. Carefully, not to disturb the murder site, they made their way through it looking for any signs that could've possibly been over-looked the first time.
"It looks just like the other two, your lordship." Sir William stated flatly. "Not a trace of evidence anywhere."
"It looks to me like the girls were probably murdered elsewhere and their bodies dumped in various desolate places. Otherwise, there would be some signs of a struggle." Christopher surmised.
"That's one theory we've been working on and if we're correct, we won't be able to catch him unless he makes a mistake."
Christopher shook his head in deep thought. "It has to be someone the girls would go with willingly, or maybe someone who would be above suspicion."
"If that's what we're up against, we'll never catch him." Sir William said, disheartenly.
After the two men had seen enough, they re-mounted their horses and headed for home. They rode for almost an hour in dead silence as they both kept their own thoughts to themselves until they came to the crossroads, where they would go their separate ways. Pulling their mounts to a halt, Constable Hawk told Christopher that he would gather up all the information he required and bring it to Crestwood Hall as soon as possible.
Christopher watched the constable ride away before turning his own horse toward home. He tried to put the events of the last few days behind him until the constable furnished him with all the details he needed on the three murders. All he wanted right now was a good hot bath and a home cooked meal. He decided to take a short cut across the meadows which would save him about an hour's ride.
He loved giving his black stallion, Thor his head for he flew across the wide open pastures at record-breaking speed. His was the longest stride of any one of his thoroughbreds in his stables. The trees became nothing more than blurs to him as he rode past them like lightening. When he came upon the stream that ran through the middle of his property, he pulled Thor to a halt and dismounted, allowing him to graze for a while. He remembered how much he use to enjoy stopping at this stream because it was so quiet and peaceful. As he bent down and splashed the icy cold water across his face, he stared at the imaginary reflection that stared back at him in the water. It had flowing coppery waves surrounding a perfectly oval-shaped face and eyes that were as dark as emeralds. He flung his head up, breaking her reflection in the water. Hum! Why does she still haunt me at every turn? He thought angrily to himself. He sat back against the old weeping willow tree and watched Thor quench his thirst in the cold trickling stream. Thoughts about the beautiful young woman who waited for him at Crestwood Hall came back into his mind and he pondered what to do with her. Visions of their love-making had left quite an impact on him like no other woman had before. Usually, he would have a casual affair with them without another thought about it, so why couldn't he get her out of his head? He had never dreamed she could still be a virgin. What a pleasant surprise that had been. To be her first. How could she have escaped losing her virginity before now? He shook his head in wonderment. He ran his tongue slowly across his lips when he thought of her passionate response to him and how it had come so naturally to her, even before she realized it herself. To have her release that pent-up passion willingly...
"Women!" He said aloud, irritated with himself for day dreaming about her. "I need to be on my way," he thought before standing up and brushing himself off. He called to Thor, who came at once and began to mount him just as a rider crossing downstream caught his eye. "Damn it to hell! Who would dare be riding across my property without my permission?" He snarled and quickly swung his leg over the saddle and spurred Thor off in an intercept direction of the other rider. With Thor's mighty speed, he shortened the distance between the two riders in minutes. As the intruder caught sight of him, she tried to quicken the slow pace of her old horse, but it was useless. Christopher was already grabbing her as they both fell from their horses. He turned his body so he took most of the blow when they hit the ground, rolling over several times before they finally came to a stop. Slightly shaken, Christopher roughly turned her over so he could see her face. "You! What the hell are you doing riding out here?" He demanded, enraged with finding Katie away from Crestwood Hall. "Answer me!" He shouted, trying to restrain his violent temper.
She stared up at him with liquid eyes, not sure of what he would do if he knew the truth.
Her continued silence irritated him to the very limits of his control and he swore under his breath. Sensing her fear, he released his hold on her and helped her to her feet.
"Now madam, will you kindly explain to me where you were going?" He said, in a very controlled tone.
"I was afraid you were going to turn me over to the authorities and they would put me in prison and then...." Kathryn said, in a frightened voice.
His nostrils began to flare when he realized her true intent. "So you were running away then? Is that it?" He demanded, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her tightly to his chest in a painful embrace. "No one leaves me unless it is my wish for them to do so, madam. No one! Do I make myself clear to you on this point?" He pulled her head back to glare into her eyes, making sure she understood every word he said.
"Yes, I understand perfectly, sir," she replied and began to struggle silently as a satisfied grin crossed his face. His hands held her securely as his mouth came down hard on hers. The very nearness of her made Christopher lose all sense of reality except the desire to make her his own. He lowered her to the ground while his hands began unbuttoning the bodice of her day dress.
Kathryn's eyes widened for erratic thoughts went whirling through her mind. "No, please, not again," she whispered in a desperate voice and rolled quickly away from him and began to run. She stumbled once as she tried to mount his steed but he seized her from behind before she could get away. Swinging her around, his eyes narrowed, he was only inches from her face. "You need to be taught a lesson, madam!" He spat at her in a very angry tone. "Once a thief always a thief, is that how it goes? You need constant supervision it seems to me. Therefore, I'm going to make you my 'personal servant'. Seeing that your injuries have healed well enough, you shouldn't have any difficulties handling that," he said, savagely.
Astonished and shaken, Kathryn gave up her struggle and stood perfectly still with her eyes downcast.
A stab of pain went through Christopher as he watched the flood of mixed emotions cross her face before she became totally submissive to him. Maybe he'd been too hard on her, he thought feeling sorry for her. But she did have to be taught a lesson. Why did she always bring out the worst in him?
Gently he assisted Kathryn on the old mare's back and lifted one eyebrow at her riding astride instead of side-saddle. Shaking his head, he mounted Thor as they made their way back to Crestwood Hall without any further conversation.
Erin, the head groomsman was giving the daily tasks to the stable boy Michael when he heard the two riders approach. He sighed with relief when he saw Kathryn riding the old mare that he'd found missing from the stables that morning. He had berated Michael, thinking the boy had left her stall gate unlatched again and didn't know how he was going to explain it to his lordship.
Christopher dismounted and handed the reins to Erin before he stepped over to assist Kathryn but she had already gotten down and was stroking the old mare's muzzle by the time he'd reached her. "Give the reins to Erin," he said, gruffly to her and then proceeded up the path to the rear entrance of the manor. She grudgingly handed over Ginger's reins and followed Christopher up the path, feeling totally disheartened because he had caught her trying to escape and fully intended on punishing her for it.
Once inside, he barked out orders for a tub and a tray of food be sent to his chambers and climbed the spiral staircase two steps at a time. Kathryn was only a few steps behind him when they entered his room. Unsure of what to do she stood there motionless, her hands nervously fidgeting at her sides while she waited for him to dismiss her.
He eyed her through thick lashes before he threw his riding crop on the bed. The motion made her jump, causing him to chuckle softly. "Don't just stand there, come help me off with my boots!" He demanded, sitting down on the bed. Gingerly, Kathryn made her way over to where Christopher was sitting and bent over his extended leg to grab hold of his boot. Struggling, she finally got the first one off and let it hit the floor with a loud thud. She glanced up at him infuriated when she saw the wide grin that was spread across his face. She didn't realize her over-abundant breasts were almost falling out of her bodice when she had struggled with his boot. Laughter twinkled in his eyes as he lifted his other leg up to her.
"Now, the other one please," he said amusingly, waiting in anticipation for her to give him another pleasant view. He could feel his manhood growing hard when he reached over and ran his fingers slowly down her face. Startled, Kathryn fell backwards with his boot still in hand landing on her backside on the hardwood floor. Her green eyes went black with rage as his laughter filled the room.
"Come now my little bandit, it's not all that bad!" He chuckled deeply. "You have to agree you do look rather funny sprawled out on the floor like that."
Kathryn wasn't amused at all. She wasn't use to people laughing at her, especially someone like this arrogant Marquis. She threw his boot back at him and picked herself up off the floor and glared at him. "Anything else you require, your lordship?" She spat venomously through clenched teeth.
Christopher arched his brow and tried very hard to control his laughter. "Temper, temper Katie. I guess I did name you correctly after all," he taunted.
Kathryn stood with her chest heaving and her hands on her hips, waiting for him to quit making fun of her.
Christopher was quite enjoying himself at her expense, though. He watched patiently while his servants brought in a tub and proceeded to fill it. When they had completed their tasks, they left quietly as Emma brought in a tray of food and set it down on the table. She took in the scene that was going on between the two of them and just shook her head, mumbling to herself and left the room.
Kathryn's anger turned to one of embarrassment to have had the housekeeper see her in his lordship's bed chamber like this. Christopher, noticing her change of mood, decided to be merciful with her so he stood up and placed his hand under her chin, raising up her face to gaze into her eyes. How he could lose himself in those beautiful green eyes, he thought. Kathryn became uneasy under his staring eyes and tried gently to move away from him.
"Don't be afraid, Katie. I'm not going to hurt you," he said, in a husky voice.
Kathryn felt a strange feeling building up inside her, something making her want to put her arms around him and press her lips against his. To feel his hands gently caressing her. "No!" She flared, more to herself than to him.
Christopher was taken a back at her outburst and pushed her away from him. His eyes narrowed as his anger rose. "You're a haughty little wench aren't you?" He said, as he viewed her insultingly. "My bath is getting cold, madam, so if you would continue to undress me," he said flatly, just to hurt her, "I can salvage what warmth there is left in the bath since there's none present anywhere else in this room!"