Several days had past and Kathryn settled into a daily routine of getting up early and helping Emma prepare breakfast for the household. She would start by setting the table each morning in the dining room where his lordship would normally take all his meals.
The first day, Emma was about to pull her hair out for Kathryn had no idea how to go about preparing any kind of meal what so ever. Finally, she had found something she could do and that was to set a proper table. Emma would just grit her teeth every time Kathryn broke something.
"Lordy child, haven't you ever done any kind of work before?" She would exclaim, throwing her arms up in the air in frustration. Christopher also had noticed that she seemed so incompetent where work was concerned. The first morning she had served him his breakfast, he was seated at the head of the table and watched with genuine amusement as Kathryn struggled to carry the heavily laden tray to the table. But when she tried to set the hot plate of ham and eggs in front of him, she lost her hold and dumped the entire tray of hot food in his lap.
"Damn it to hell, woman!" He bellowed furiously and jumped up quickly from the table. "What's wrong with you? Can't you even hold onto a tray?" He yelled incredibly as the hot food slowly dripped off his breeches. "Look what you've done to me! Now I'll have to go change my clothes again," he said, cursing under his breath again.
Kathryn stood there staring in horror, not believing what she had just done. Tears instantly came flooding down her face as she ran out of the dining room, straight up to her bed chamber. She threw herself across the bed wondering why she couldn't do anything to please him. She could still hear him in the adjoining room cursing her out for being such a clumsy oaf. I'll just have to try harder that's all! She vowed determinedly, to herself.
Every day Kathryn improved under the firm guidance of Emma and learned the basic duties of running a household. She didn't dump any more plates in his lordship's lap, but he watched her very carefully though whenever she was serving him.
"Do you have to wear that same old blue and white flowered dress? Or is it you've grown such a liking for it, you must wear it every day!" He taunted her, his voice thick with sarcasm.
Inflamed by his remark, Kathryn glared back at him. "Sir, the reason I wear this same old dress every day is because it is the only one I have!" She spat.
A concerned frown crossed his brow for he suddenly realized he had brought her here against her will and without any kind of wardrobe what-so-ever. "My apologies, madam. I'll see to it that you are provided with adequate clothing from now on."
"Thank you for your kindness, sir but I do want to work off the cost of the clothes!" She said proudly, not wanting to accept anything from this arrogant Marquis.
"Kindness! I'm not doing this out of kindness, madam. I'm just sick to death of seeing you in that old rag every day!" He retorted, feeling offended that she wouldn't accept his generous offer.
Kathryn hadn't seen the Marquis the rest of the day so she quickly finished up her chores and retired to her room. She changed her clothes and climbed slowly into bed to read a book on poetry his lordship had allowed her to borrow from his library. Finally, her eyes grew heavy so she laid the book down and dozed off to sleep.
Christopher was in a deep sleep when he was suddenly awaken by loud screams coming from the next room. Quickly he donned his breeches and went flying through the adjoining door to see what was amiss.
Kathryn's body was thrashing from one side of the bed to the other as she clawed at the air. Tears were running down her pale face and she was screaming for someone to release her. "No, no please Constable Hawk... don't take me away. I don't want to hang! Please ...."
Christopher scooped her up firmly in his arms but she fought him off violently. "No...sir, I want to stay here...with Christopher ... I don't remember...."
"Shh, little one, you're just having a bad dream, wake up sweetheart," he said, gently shaking her lightly to bring her out of her nightmare.
Kathryn's eyes opened slowly as she gazed at Christopher through a tear stained mist. "Oh Christopher!" She exclaimed, relieved that it was him and not Steven Hawk's face she saw and hugged him tightly. Still in a frightened dream-like state, she didn't realize she had used his given name.
He held her close while she sobbed violently against his broad chest, still shaking from the horrible nightmare she had just experienced.
Christopher became very much aware of her soft supple body pressed against his for his manhood began to tighten against his thigh. He stroked her hair as she sobbed the last tear she had left inside her. Looking down at her now, he didn't understand the emotions he was experiencing. He had never felt this way about a woman before, he was always only concerned with his own pleasures and what they could do for him.
He lowered his mouth over hers feeling her lips warm and passionate against his while his hands moved downward over her shoulders and then making their way across her high pointed breasts. He leaned her back slowly against the pillows continuing to probe her mouth with his. He had her bodice open now, exposing her soft, silky flesh to him while he continued to caress her supple body.
Kathryn arched her back when she felt herself pressing ardently against his long muscular body, her own passion now was equal to his. She raked her nails down his long, broad back causing a chill to run all the way through his body.
"Oh Christopher, make me yours again. Quench this fire that's burning inside me," she moaned, gazing at him through heavily lidded eyes.
Her words caused Christopher's breath to catch in his throat as he entered her with hard, vigorous thrusts, now anxious to take them both to their full height of passion. Wave upon wave of pleasure exploded through their bodies until they both finally came to the ultimate peak of their love-making.
Afterwards, they laid together entwined the rest of the night in an exhausted slumber.
As Christopher woke the next morning he glanced down at the girl who laid across him. Her head was leaning ever so gently against his shoulder with her long fiery tresses reaching well below her waist, her hands laid limp across the dark hair on his chest and her legs were slightly bent, entangled with his. How nicely he thought her body fit his as they laid their together in a peaceful embrace. He smiled when he remembered the glorious love-making that they had shared the night before. She had made love with him willingly, and had called him by his given name. Now that I've had her twice, why do I still desire her with every inch of my being? He thought with a slight crease of his brow. Could I possibly have some kind of feelings for her, or is it just purely physical? His mind went back to her nightmare. She had cried out Steven Hawk's name. Could he have come here while I was gone? And what did he say to her to upset her this much? He thought angrily. I'll pay him a little visit today and find out exactly what he said to her. How dare he enter my home without my knowledge or permission?
Kathryn woke with a start when she felt something hard underneath her. When she saw Christopher, she took in her breath. "What are you doing here, Lord Christopher?" She demanded, pulling the covers up tightly around her, realizing for the first time she didn't have any clothes on.
"Don't look so alarmed, Katie," he said, frowning for she was back to using his title again.
The night's activities came flooding back into her mind and her cheeks turned crimson. "I'm not sure... exactly ah...what happened...."
Christopher grinned deeply as he watched her try to come up with a reasonable explanation for her participation in their love-making last night. She looked so innocent and tantalizing sitting there with just a blanket wrapped around her beautiful body. How he would love to put his arms around her right now and make mad passionate love to her again. He had never had so much fulfillment with any woman before last night. He could indeed lose himself in her every minute of every day, he pondered thoughtfully to himself.
"Sir, would you mind leaving my bed," she said shyly, her head downcast, too embarrassed to look at him.
"In a moment, I have a question to ask you first. Did Steven Hawk come to see you while I was gone?" He said firmly, watching her reaction closely.
Kathryn's face froze at the mere mention of that name, "Yes... he did, your lordship."
"Damn it to hell! The impertinence of that young man!" Infuriated, Christopher rose from the bed as Kathryn stared at him in total shock. He stood before her, naked. She had never seen a man completely unclothed before. A slight chuckle escaped his lips when he saw the shocked expression on her face. He reached over, pulled on his breeches and briskly left the room without another word.
Kathryn climbed out of bed and quickly donned her blue and white flowered day dress and tried not to think about the embarrassing situation she was in with his lordship. How can I face him again after last night? The way he grinned at me this morning, will he mock me every time he looks at me? She closed her eyes for a moment trying to compose herself enough before going downstairs.
Emma was busily preparing the morning meal when she saw Kathryn enter the kitchen. "Why good morning child, you look a little flushed this morning, are you feeling ill?" Emma asked with concern.
Kathryn's hands flew to her face as she realized her cheeks were still slightly red. "Oh, no Emma. I feel perfectly well this morning, it's just ...."
Emma smiled as she looked at Kathryn, fully understanding her dilemma. "Come child, you must hurry. His lordship will be down at any time and you know how he hates to be kept waiting."
Kathryn quickly gathered up the dishes she needed to set the table and had just finished when his lordship entered the dining room.
"Good morning, Katie." Christopher said, as a frown crossed his brow when he saw her in that dingy old day dress he had come to despise.
"Good morning, your lordship," she replied. Seeing his disappointment with her, she mumbled something about getting his breakfast and disappeared into the kitchen.
Christopher shook his head and sat down at the dining table coming to a firm decision. He watched when Kathryn brought a fully-laden tray through the door and placed his meal in front of him with an experienced hand. Chuckling to himself he remembered how clumsy she had been that first morning she had served him. Quickly he reached out and grabbed her by the arm before she could rush off. "Why don't you join me this morning, Katie? I can't eat all this by myself," he said tenderly.
Kathryn looked at him and saw no mocking or taunting, only a genuine sincerity.
"It really wouldn't be proper ... sir, I am after all, only your servant." Kathryn stuttered, not knowing what else to do.
"Let's get something strait right now. I am lord and master here and I can have whomever I choose to dine with me, regardless of their position! Do you understand that! Now sit down and share my breakfast!"
Christopher shouted before disappearing into the kitchen for a few minutes and then returning with another place setting.
Kathryn felt very confused when he fixed her plate for her, not understanding why he was being so nice to her. After all, she was his personal servant and prisoner as he liked to remind her at every turn. Why would he choose to have her dine with him, unless, a horrible thought entered her mind. Maybe this was to be her last meal here before he turned her over to Steven Hawk. He did seem very upset with her when he came into the dining room.
Christopher watched with concern as the different emotions crossed her delicate features while they ate their meal in total silence. Once finished, Christopher sat back and lit a cheroot. Its hearty scent drifted lightly in the air. "Emma tells me you enjoy riding, Katie. Is that true?" He asked, leisurely blowing out another puff of the smoke.
Kathryn's eye lit up at the mere mention of riding. "Yes, I do indeed sir!" I have sorely missed it since I've been here." Why he would be asking her about riding if he was sending her to prison, she wondered in bewilderment.
"Then it's settled."
"What's settled, your lordship?"
"Are you daft girl? He shouted in exasperation, coming fully upright in his chair. "I'm trying to ask you to go riding with me!"
"Are you serious? You mean you're not going to send me away?"
"Damn it to hell! Why would I send you away?" He looked at Kathryn as if she had gone totally mad now.
"Riding! You really want to take me riding?"
"Yes, that's what we've been talking about for the last ten minutes. Where have you been?" He asked, shaking his head at her.
Kathryn let out a squeal for she couldn't contain her excitement any longer at the prospect of riding again.
"I would thoroughly enjoy showing you my stables. It's one of the best in all of England." Christopher boosted.
"Oh Lord Christopher, when can we go?" She asked excitedly, clapping her hands together.
"Kathryn reminded him of a child at Christmas. "Well, what would you say about going, right now?" Christopher said, grinning deeply at her.
"Now! Really! That would be wonderful!"
"Then let's go," he said, rising from the table.
Kathryn glanced down at her blue and white dress with a frown creasing her brow.
Christopher seeing her mood change wondered what could possibly be wrong now. "Is there a problem, Katie?"
Kathryn hesitated before she answered him. "It's just that, I don't have ... never mind. It's nothing," she murmured and allowed him to escort her upstairs to her room.
Christopher smiled a wide grin when he opened the door to her bed chamber knowing full well what waited for her there. Lying across the bed was a beautiful emerald green riding habit made of the finest velvet, with matching black collar and cuffs. On the floor, accenting the new outfit was a pair of finely made black leather riding boots.
Kathryn couldn't believe her eyes as she stared at the new version of her old tattered blood-stained riding habit.
"I felt I owed you a new one seeing that I put a hole in your last one," he said, softly from behind her.
Kathryn whirled around and threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "Oh, thank you, Christopher. It's so beautiful. I don't know what to say."
Christopher didn't expect this kind of reaction from her so when he felt her tears soaking through his shirt he held her close. He was feeling somewhat at a loss of what to do. He had never cared about how a woman felt before about a present from him. "Why don't you try it on," he finally said, wiping the tears from her eyes.
Kathryn felt frozen in time when their eyes met and locked as a strange closeness to him came over her that she'd never felt with anyone before. She closed her eyes as his lips came over hers' and felt herself pressing ardently against his muscular body. She could feel his breath in her ear as his hands began caressing her body, slowly moving down her slender back while he held her tightly in a passionate embrace. Shyly she pulled away from him, glancing at him from beneath her long, sultry lashes. "I really must change, sir... if we are... to go," she said, scarcely breathing.
Christopher took in a deep breath and tried to compose himself while Kathryn looked at him in puzzlement, not understanding his dilemma at all. He cursed himself under his breath and told Kathryn he would wait for her downstairs and left the room abruptly.
Kathryn dismissed his moodiness and turned back to the bed where the beautiful new riding habit was laying, anxious now to change into it and go for a long overdue ride.
When she finally came downstairs, she found Christopher in his study staring out the window when she entered the room. "The fit is perfect, your lordship!" She said, smiling and slowly turning around for his inspection. "How did you ever know my size?"
"It wasn't hard," he said, gruffly to her. "I sent your old one to my tailor and instructed him to make an exact copy of it. It arrived this morning." He still felt a tightness in his loins when he viewed her lovely features. Didn't she have any idea what kind of affect she had on a man, he thought uncomfortably. He walked over to her and offered her his arm which she took gracefully, and escorted her out of the room.
The stable yard was a flurry of activity for the horses were being groomed and their stalls cleaned out. Erin, the head groomsman was barking out orders when he saw them approach.
"It's a mighty fine day for a ride, your lordship," he said, as they reached him.
"Oh, it surely is!" Kathryn interrupted in her excitement.
"Have Thor saddled immediately while I assist Katie in selecting a suitable mount," Christopher demanded.
As they entered the stables, they could hear Erin calling for Michael to bring Thor out of his stall right away. Christopher's mood lightened as he watched with amusement as Kathryn stopped at each and every stall and admired the thoroughbreds that were there. Her eyes gleamed in anticipation at riding any one of his lordship's horses they inspected. But Christopher insisted they examine all of them. Finally, they came to the last stall where a beautiful three year old white Arabian mare with a black diamond on her forehead was kept.
"Oh, Lord Christopher, she's beautiful! What's her name?"
"Her name is Starr," he said, proud that she admired and recognized the quality of his horses.
"Starr, it fits her perfectly," Kathryn replied, running her hand slowly down the mare's velvety muzzle. Starr instantly responded to Kathryn's caressing and nestled her nose against her wanting more.
"It seems to me like you two have struck up quite a friendship already. I thought you would enjoy riding her."
"Oh yes, I would indeed!" Kathryn cried and quickly opened the stall door before Christopher could stop her. She reached over and removed the bridle that was hanging on a hook, slid it over Starr's head and led her out of her stall.
Christopher watched in amazement at how easily Kathryn handled the mare. Erin, shaking his head, took the reins from Kathryn's hands before leading the horse over by Lord Christopher's stallion, Thor to be saddled.
"Use a gentleman's saddle Erin, not a side-saddle on Starr." Christopher stated lightheartedly to his servant.
A shocked expression came over Erin's face immediately at this last order, not sure he heard his lordship right he looked back at him.
"Yes, you heard me correctly. I said a gentleman's saddle. The lady prefers to ride astride." Christopher said, with a chuckle.
Erin shook his head and wondered what the world was coming to for a woman to ride a horse like a man.
Kathryn's cheeks turned crimson for she felt extremely embarrassed at the head groomsman's disapproval of her riding style. "Well, I do have more control riding astride then side-saddle," she mumbled to herself.
Christopher glanced down and grinned at her for he had heard exactly what she had said.
"I quite agree with you, madam. Riding side-saddle would have its disadvantages."
Kathryn glared back at him thinking he was mocking her again so she took hold of Starr's mane, placed her foot in the stirrup and swung herself into the saddle without any assistance. A bellow of laughter rang out in the air as Christopher threw back his head and laughed heartily at her obvious display of temper. After he mounted Thor, they headed out the main gate of Crestwood Hall at a full gallop leaving a large trail of dust behind them. Giving the horses their heads, they rode for several miles until they came upon the stream where they had their little encounter several days before.
"I suggest we dismount and rest the horses for a while." Christopher said, pulling Thor to a halt. "There's some large elm trees over here where we can relax before we head back."
"That sounds wonderful to me. I'm so tired of staying indoors all the time." Kathryn said, before she dismounted Starr.
"I take it you're enjoying your ride, my little bandit?" Christopher asked, for he was quite impressed at how well she could ride. Actually, she rode well, better than most men he knew.
"Yes, most definitely! Starr is a marvelous horse to ride, your lordship. Her long legs and muscular flanks give her the ability for lightning fast speed. I felt I was flying through the air as the countryside became nothing more than a blur to me. I do hope we can go riding again soon," she said pleadingly, looking over at Christopher.
As he gazed down at her, he saw that her hair was a mass of flowing copper tresses, cascading down her back having come loose from its pins. Her cheeks were slightly flushed from the brisk morning air streaming across her face as they had rode like the wind across the meadowlands. But he was mesmerized the most by her emerald green eyes for they sparkled like diamonds, reflecting her joyous mood.
"Can we take a walk through that forest over there?" Kathryn asked feeling uncomfortable under his staring eyes.
"Anything you wish, my dear. Actually, there's a beautiful lake with a waterfalls not too far into the forest from here. It was one of my favorite spots to play as a child." Christopher told her, recollecting his childhood. Taking their horse's reins in hand they walked slowly side by side into the forest. Kathryn was amazed at how comfortable she felt here. She must have been raised in a wooded area, she thought. "If only I could remember."
"Remember what?" Christopher asked with concern, seeing her melancholy mood.
"Oh, I just felt so at home here in the forest, I was wondering if maybe I was raised nearby."
"From all my inquiries Katie, no one in this area have ever heard of you before, but much of England is wooded, you know." Christopher stopped for a moment and looked at Kathryn with compassion. "Has any of your memory come back to you at all?"
Kathryn shook her head dejectedly. "No, not really. I did recognize Ginger, my old horse, but I don't remember when or where I rode her. It seems like it was a long ago, in London. But I feel deep inside that I belong in the country."
Christopher gathered her up in his arms as a tear trickled down her face.
"Will I ever remember, do you think?" she asked, before burying her head in his chest.
"I think you will, but it will just be a matter of time. If we only knew more about you, we could try and stir up your memory," he said softly. "The lake is just up ahead if you are up to continuing."
She looked up and saw a tenderness in his eyes she hadn't seen before. "Yes, let's continue. I'll be fine, really I will." After a few moments the path they were following came to a wide clearing where the most beautiful secluded lake that Kathryn had ever seen was located. At the far end of the lake was a small waterfalls where the stream that they had stopped at earlier emptied into the lake. Large oak trees surrounded it, allowing the sunlight to filter in giving it a very peaceful atmosphere.
"What a beautiful place," Kathryn whispered in awe, astonished that Christopher enjoyed this kind of serenity. She could hear the birds chirping in the trees as they were busy feeding their hungry young that were born this spring. Ground squirrels and other forest creatures were also scampering through the underbrush busy gathering food to replenish their much depleted supply from the long, cold winter.
Kathryn's head came up with a start for she had heard a strange whimpering sound. She began searching the area at once to locate its source. There pinned under a fallen tree branch was a badly injured golden retriever. "Oh gosh, Lord Christopher," she yelled, "There's a dog pinned under this branch over here. He's still alive! Come help me, please!" Between the two of them they were able to lift the branch off the dog. Kathryn at once began to examine his injuries.
"It's no use Katie, he's as good as dead. Stand back now so I can put him out of his misery," he said, drawing his pistol out slowly from under his jacket.
"No, no! Please your lordship, don't shoot him! Let me see if I can help him first, please...?" Kathryn begged grabbing Christopher's arm that held the pistol to keep him from shooting the dog.
Christopher couldn't do it when he saw the desperate look on her face. "Alright, let's get him back to the manor house," he said, before carefully picking up the half-starved, injured dog and carried him over to where Thor was grazing. He laid him over his saddle and swung up behind him, cradling him so he wouldn't fall off. Quickly they made their way out of the forest and back across the meadowland to Crestwood Hall.
As they halted in front of the stables, Erin came out to greet them. When he saw the golden retriever, he shook his head wondering if his lordship was crazed for bringing a dog in that bad of condition back to the manor instead of putting it out of its misery.
Kathryn dismounted instantly upon their arrival and was at Christopher's side when he carried the dog into the stable. Gently he laid him down in one of the empty stalls as Kathryn quickly barked out orders for Erin to bring her some fresh water and bandages.
Christopher helped Kathryn as she tightly wrapped the dog's three broken ribs. "He's so thin, who knows how long he was pinned under that branch. Poor thing ...." she thought.
Christopher stood back feeling powerless to help the poor dog, knowing he would probably be dead by morning. Erin brought some meat from the kitchen but the dog was too weak to chew it, so Kathryn sent him back for some beef gravy instead, so she could pour some down the dog's throat.
"He's burning up with fever," she said, after she got some of the broth down him. "I would like your permission, your lordship, to go back to the forest for some special roots and herbs," she said with strong determination, standing up and brushing the hay off her riding habit.
"Granted. I'll accompany you."
Quickly they rode off at full speed until they reached the edge of the forest where Kathryn dismounted and started searching around the base of the trees. Finally, she found what she was looking for and remounted Starr as they spurred their horses back to Crestwood Hall.
Upon their arrival, Kathryn requested a wide variety of utensils while Christopher just shook his head and did her bidding. He lifted his eyebrows as he watched her work with such expertise on the dog. After a few hours the dog's labored breathing was under control and was resting comfortably while Kathryn continued wiping him down with her special potions. Once satisfied that she had done all she could do, she leaned back against the side of the stall and laid her head in her hands.
"Why don't you come into the house now, Katie and have a bite to eat. You look exhausted." Christopher said softly, knowing the days' events were taking their toll on her.
"No, I really don't want to leave him alone. He's too sick and his fever may start raging again," she said, worriedly.
"Well, you can't stay out here all night!" Christopher declared, starting to get angry at her determination to stay with the dog.
"I'll be alright out here. I'll just use a blanket and make a bed in the hay. He mustn't be left alone in his condition," she said, reasonably.
"So you're telling me you intend to move out here into the stables until that blasted dog gets well?" He said, incredibly to her.
"Yes I am," she said with a firm resolution, daring him to make her do otherwise.
"Damn it to hell, Katie! You're the most obstinate woman I have ever met!" Christopher swore wishing now that he'd never had taken her riding in the first place. "I cannot allow you to live in my stables, madam!" He spat.
"What other choice do I have, sir! Like I said, he can't be left alone right now." Kathryn retorted, warming up to the confrontation at hand.
Christopher stomped out of the stables slamming the stall door behind him, instantly he changed his mind and returned to the stables. He glared down at Kathryn who stood before him with her hands on her hips, glaring back at him ready to do battle. Suddenly, Christopher threw back his head and roared with laughter. "Madam, if you could only see yourself right now," he said, chuckling when he saw pieces of hay sticking out of her hair.
"I don't see what you see is so funny in this situation, your lordship!" She said, miserably. "This poor dog could die at any time and you think it's funny." Tears came streaming down her face when she bent over the injured dog, letting all her pent up emotions come flooding out.
Christopher reached under her chin, he brought her tear-stained face up to meet his. "Would you feel better if I had a bed made for the dog in your room, Katie?" Christopher asked, tenderly.
Kathryn stared at him in astonishment. "Are you serious, your lordship? You would really do that for me?"
"If that's what it's going to take for you to give up this ridiculous notion of moving into my stables, then yes, I'm serious." He watched in fascination as the joy she felt became very apparent on her tired face.
"Now let's get the two of you up to the manor house, shall we?"
"Oh, your lordship, how could I ever thank you for this? I know he's going to be alright, I know it. I can feel it."
"Come on my little bandit, let's go," Christopher said, before he took her hand and led her out of the stall.
Erin just shook his head as he watched the two of them walk hand in hand up the path to the manor house with Michael, the stable boy, following along behind them carrying the severely injured dog.