Christopher woke with a start as images of Kathryn's blood-covered, unconscious body passed before his eyes. Sitting up, he realized it was only a bad dream and rubbed his eyes, trying to wake up. Glancing over at the adjoining door he climbed out of bed, donned his breeches and within ten minutes was fully dressed and presentable to go visit Kathryn.
Anxious now to speak with her, he sped through the adjoining door into her bed chamber. "Where is she," he wondered angrily. He didn't think she should be out of bed this soon after such an ordeal like she'd had yesterday. Cursing under his breath, he went downstairs to find her.
"Good morning, your lordship," Emma said, when she saw him enter the kitchen.
"Why is Kathryn out of bed," he demanded gruffly of the housekeeper.
"Out of bed?" Emma asked, a look of concern crossing her old wrinkled face.
"I went into her room to talk with her and she wasn't there," he retorted, thinking she had to be out with that damn dog of hers again.
"Lordy, I haven't the faintest idea where she could have gone off to." Emma replied softly.
Christopher spun on his heels and made his way down to the stables where he saw Erin yelling at the stable boy about something. "Has Kathryn been down here this morning?" He asked, impatiently.
Erin's head snapped up at his lordship's question. "Why, no sir. I haven't seen her since yesterday, but...."
"But what?" Christopher demanded, his anger very apparent now.
"Well Ginger, that old mare is missing again and one of the old saddles. I think it was the one that was on Ginger when you first brought her here," Erin replied hesitantly.
"What! Damn it to hell! Don't tell me she's done it again," he roared before storming back to the manor house surprising Emma when he entered the kitchen and slammed the door behind him.
Emma closed her eyes for she knew that Kathryn had to have decided to go home, to Grey Manor on her own. But how she could tell his lordship where she went without breaking her promise to Kathryn, she wondered dejectedly, not knowing what to do.
Christopher was venting his anger by stomping around the kitchen and cursing Kathryn out for running away again. He wanted to go after her but he had no idea where she would have gone. He knew nothing about her except that her first name was Kathryn.
"If I only knew who she was," he murmured while Emma just stood there and watched him, feeling deceitful for not telling him all that she knew.
"Maybe it's best that she's gone." Christopher stated after a while when he thought of his obsession for her. If she wasn't here then maybe he could get her out of his mind. "I'm going to ride into Dartmoor to see the constable, Emma, to find out how something like the incident yesterday could possibly happen right here on my property!" He said, angrily and stomped back down to the stables.
He gave Thor his head while he slowly galloped down the main road that led into town with images of Kathryn flooding back into his mind. Why she continues to haunt me at every turn, he thought annoyingly. Even now that she's gone, I still can't get her out of my head.
He pulled up to the constable's office where he tied Thor to the hitching post before he entered. Once inside, he took a double take when he glanced between the two identical cousins and cursed under his breath. "How two people can look exactly alike, he said aloud, shaking his head in disbelief.
The three men in the office looked up at his comment. "Your lordship," Constable Hawk said in surprise, wondering why the Marquis would come down to his office. "I understand you had quite a disturbance out at Crestwood Hall yesterday."
"I would call it a little more than just a disturbance, Constable Hawk!" Christopher snarled, irritated at his matter-of- fact attitude.
"Well, I didn't mean it quite like that," he replied in his own defense. "It was just such a surprise that something like that could happen. Is the young lady alright?" The constable asked with genuine concern.
"Yes, she was a bit shaken up but she wasn't seriously injured, thanks to her dog and the groomsman that was trailing her."
"Thank goodness! I would like to come out and speak with her as soon as possible with your lordship's permission of course." Constable Hawk said.
"That would be quite impossible at this time."
"And why is that, your lordship?" Steven interrupted. "Are we still keeping her all to ourselves?"
Christopher's anger rose quickly to the limit as he clenched both his hands and grit his teeth, ignoring Steven altogether. "The young lady is gone," he stated bluntly, with a black scowl on his face.
"Gone! Gone where?" Constable Hawk said in shock at hearing the news.
"I don't know, she left sometime during the night leaving no clue to her whereabouts or destination."
David listened very closely for he still wondered whether or not the young lady in question could still possibly be his missing friend.
"You let her get away?" Steven asked, incredibly.
Christopher couldn't contain his anger any longer. He grabbed the impertinent young man by the throat and brought his right hand up and punched him squarely in the face. Blood came gushing out of Steven's nose when he'd looked horrifying at Christopher.
"You stay the hell out of my business!" Christopher retorted to the very shocked young man who sat down, pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket and held it up to his bloodied nose, trying to stop the bleeding. He started to say something back to the Marquis but his father stepped over and quickly stopped him.
"You better teach your son some respect, Sir William." Christopher said, with disdain in his voice, staring at Constable Hawk.
"What are you doing about all of these crimes that are being committed in this area? Are you any closer to finding out who's doing them?"
"Well, David here has been riding the public coach to and from London hoping to catch the highwaymen but he's had no luck yet. There's been no sign of them anywhere, your lordship."
"I told you it would be a waste of time. Steven said, to David but keep an eye on the Marquis.
"At least I had a plan of action to follow, just because the highwaymen haven't robbed anyone lately is better than doing nothing at all, or being caught off guard and hit over the head when you could have had those two ruffians in your grasp!" David quipped.
"Oh shut up, David. You think you're so smart, don't you. Just because you're a little older than I am." Steven sneered back at him. "I wish you would just go back to where you came from! I'm tired of having someone walking around here with my face, anyway!"
"Actually Steven, since I was born first that means you're walking around here with my face!" David said, with contempt.
Christopher cursed under his breath again for he couldn't stand the bickering between the two cousins another minute so he bid the constable goodbye and stormed out of the office, heading back to Crestwood Hall.
Darkness had descended on the inn where Billy and Tommy emerged after having their nightly quota of ales and then they mounted their horses and made their way out to the hide out which laid deep in the forest.
"I'm a tired of this laying low crap," Billy complained while they rode along. "Except for yesterday and you had to of ruined that!"
"Me! How did I ruin it? It wasn't my fault that dog was there or that the lady had a groomsman following her." Tommy replied, irritated at his partner.
"You stopped me from havin me fun with her. I waited ooh so long for her and you ruined it!" Billy sneered.
"Just shut up and ride Billy, we're late already and the boss is going to be madder than hell at us anyway!" Tommy said, knowingly.
They rode the rest of the way in silence until they reached the front entrance of the cave. Pulling the dry brush aside, they led their horses inside.
"It's about time you two got here," the ringleader said, irritably.
"We were uh ...."
"Shut up! I don't want to hear your excuses. What I do want to hear is how the two of you could have bungled the job so badly yesterday!"
Billy and Tommy looked at each other not knowing exactly how to explain how they had mishandled the ambush.
"The plan was perfect and you two went and screwed it up. Unbelievable! You couldn't kill one defenseless female and her dog," he said, shaking his head.
"But boss, that dog was a vicious killer. See what he did to Billy's arm. Almost chewed it right off, he did." Tommy explained as Billy showed him his arm. "You never said there would be a groomsman following her either!" Tommy also added in their defense.
"Well, you didn't have to hit me so hard!" Steven shouted back rubbing the large knot on the back of his head.
"Sorry boss but we had to make it look real-like." Tommy said, apologetically.
"What happened to you?" Billy chuckled when he viewed Steven's red, swollen nose.
Steven glared back at him and curled his lip up in a snarl. "I had a little run in with that arrogant Marquis," he spat but let's not change the subject here."
"She recognized us," Tommy said. "I heard her say it before she blacked out. I thought you said she had amnesia or something."
"Damn it! Seeing the two of you probably brought her memory back." Steven said, greatly disturbed by this information. "We're in a real fix boys, the bitch took off this morning and no one knows where she went, or who she is for that matter."
Billy and Tommy looked at each other and started roaring with laughter.
"I've seemed to have missed something here," Steven said disdainfully, unable to understand the humor they saw in all this.
"We know who she is, boss." Tommy cackled for he and Billy couldn't control their laughter.
Steven stared at the two ruffians as if they lost their minds. "How would the likes of you two know who she is, when no one else does?" He asked them incredibly.
"Well, ya see boss, me and Tommy here were havin our nightly ales at our favorite inn when we heard this fella comes in and sits down at a table behind us."
"Who was he?" Steven asked fascinated by what Billy was telling him.
"We don't know who he was, we never saw him. Well, as I was saying, he gives old Tessie the serving wench there a few coins and asks her all sorts of questions about a missing la-dy. Turns out to be the same one his lordship done and shot and brings back here thinkin she's one of us!" Billy snickered.
Steven couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Well, who is she?" He asked excitedly.
"Are you ready for this?" Tommy interrupted. "The Honorable Kathryn Grey of Glastonbury."
"The same Kathryn Grey that David was searching for," Steven said with amusement. "So all this time she's been held captive up at Crestwood Hall just a few miles away, while my poor cousin sits and broods over her disappearance." A cynical smile curved his lips when he pondered this information. Suddenly Steven threw back his head in a sordid laughter with Billy and Tommy joining in.
After a few minutes, Steven became very serious again. "I'll need to formulate a new plan, so in the meantime, continue as you have been until you hear from me. This time, there can' be any mistakes!"
Several days had passed since Kathryn's departure and Christopher found it extremely hard to concentrate on anything else. Everything around him reminded him of her.
Damn it to hell! What it is going to take to get this woman out of my head, he thought angrily. Maybe I just got used to having her around, that's all. She couldn't mean anything to me. Other men can be dragged around by a woman's skirts, but not me! Never! Images of Kathryn standing in his room looking so innocent and naïve wearing the seductive cranberry red satin night dress came to his mind and could feel his manhood tighten against his thigh. Her long fiery tresses cascaded over her shoulders, he reached out to touch the image. A knock at the study door brought Christopher out of his day dream and came fully upright in his chair.
"Enter," he shouted gruffly, irritated by the interruption.
"Begging your pardon, sir," Edward, the butler said. "But there's a coach that has just passed through the front gate and I thought you would like to know about it."
"Yes indeed, I would. Thank you, Edward." Who it could possibly be, he wondered before quickly crossing the room in long strides, heading for the front door.
"Well I'll be damned! Jeffrey!" Christopher shouted with enthusiasm. "What are you doing here?" He asked, watching his brother climb out of the coach. "I thought you would be on the other side of the ocean!" Jeffrey clasped Christopher's hand in a warm embrace and took in his brother's appearance. "I see country life has been good to you, Chris." Jeffrey observed. "Where are my manners?" He exclaimed and quickly turned back to the coach and assisted Michele out.
"This is a double surprise," Christopher said when he greeted her.
"Good day cousin Christopher," she said shyly, always feeling a little unsure of herself around him.
Jeffrey assisted Tanya, Michele's personal servant and chaperone out of the coach before they proceeded into the manor house.
"I'm sure you would like to rest for a while Michele after such a long trip from London," Christopher remarked.
"Yes, I surely would, I am a bit tired," she replied, so Emma escorted her and her servant up to one of the many guest rooms to get settled in.
"Can I offer you a brandy, Jeffrey?" Christopher asked, when they entered his study.
"I think we'll both need one after I tell you the reason I'm here." Jeffrey stated and eyed Christopher closely.
Picking up the brandy decanter Christopher poured two snifters and handed one to Jeffrey. "What's this all about?" He asked with concern in his voice.
Jeffrey lowered himself into a leather bound chair and took a hardy gulp of brandy. "The Mariner's gone, Chris, destroyed. Lost to me, forever."
Christopher's eyes widened in shock where he stood motionless for a few minutes not believing what his brother had just told him. "What the hell happened?" He yelled incredibly staring at the younger man.
Jeffrey set his glass down and looked at Christopher. "We were on our final leg home just coming around the cliffs off Cornwall and ... it was well after dark, someone cut the rudder and we had no steering. The helmsman tried to make the turn but it was useless. The Mariner crashed into the cliffs and sank in about ten minutes. We lost half the crew Chris, it all happened so fast." Jeffrey said, holding his head down dejectedly.
"Where were you when all this happened?" Christopher asked quietly, stunned by the news.
"I was in my cabin, someone jammed my door so I was trapped inside when we hit the cliffs. Fortunately Danny, my first mate heard me pounding on the door and busted it open. We barely got out in time before she went down."
Christopher dropped down in the chair next to Jeffrey and pondered the events of the sinking of the Mariner.
"Why would someone want to kill me, Chris?" Jeffrey asked, shaking his head. "As far as I know, I don't have any enemies."
Christopher saw the pain in his brother's eyes when he re-filled their glasses and handed Jeffrey's back to him. "This is just too unbelievable!" Christopher uttered. "We've made that trip dozens of times and there hasn't been any kind of incident or unrest. The crew was the same, wasn't it?"
"Yes, except for a couple of new hands but they seemed to be okay. I didn't have any problems with them. Actually, they were most anxious to sign on board." Jeffrey replied.
"Have you had any bad business dealings on this trip?" Christopher asked wearily.
"No, everything went very smooth if I do say so myself." Jeffrey informed him.
"Well, someone has it in for you Jeffrey and they don't seem to mind killing innocent bystanders."
"But who, Chris? I've been going over every move I've made since taking over the Mariner and I can't see how I could have possibly made such an enemy that would want to kill me!" Jeffrey said, looking at Christopher in puzzlement.
"I don't know Jeffrey, but I'm going to find out!" Christopher stated bluntly and walked over by the window to figure out what he should do about it. Who would want to see his brother dead, he wondered solemnly. Coming to a decision, he turned and faced Jeffrey. "I'm going to go to London to get to the bottom of this!" Christopher said firmly. "I need you to stay here and manage my affairs for me while I'm gone."
"But, Chris ...."
"No. This is how it's got to be!" Christopher interrupted him. "I'll leave tomorrow morning at dawn."
Jeffrey had no other choice but to do as his older brother demanded. "If that's the way you want to handle this Chris, then so be it."
"I have a lot more connections in London than you do Jeffrey, so it's best if I go. Also, the farther away from danger you are the better, until we know who's trying to kill you. Does anyone know you're here?" Christopher asked, seriously.
"Only Uncle Thomas and Aunt Margaret." Jeffrey replied.
"Good. You should be safe here then." Christopher said with relief.
Edward announced lunch was served so the two brothers adjourned to the dining room where they enjoyed the mid-day meal on a lighter note with their cousin, Michele. Once finished with their meal, Jeffrey and Michele decided to take a long walk around the grounds of Crestwood Hall since she hadn't been here since she was a small child.
"Your lordship," Emma said timidly and followed him into his study. "May I have a few words with you?"
"Of course." Christopher replied softly sitting down in one of the leather bound chairs. "What seems to be troubling you?" He asked, the longtime servant.
"I understand you're going to London tomorrow morning and you'll probably be gone for quite some time ...." she said, hesitantly.
"Yes but Jeffrey will be here to handle any problems that come up," he said, not understanding why his leaving would upset her so much.
"There's something I think you should know about before you leave," she said, eyeing him closely.
"Now what." Rolling his eyes up he didn't know if he wanted to hear any more bad news as he looked at his housekeeper standing there wrenching her hands together.
"It's about Miss Kathryn ...."
"Well, what about her?" He demanded quickly for his heart had skipped a beat at hearing her name.
"She made me promise not to tell you this but I only promised not to tell you for a little while." Emma said, knowing she was betraying Kathryn's secret but it would probably be in her best interests if he knew the truth about her, she thought sincerely.
"Tell me what?" He bellowed impatiently.
"Her memory... it had come back, your lordship."
"Who is she then?" He shouted anxiously.
"She's the Honorable Kathryn Grey of Glastonbury."
"Kathryn Grey, I've heard that name somewhere before but I can't place it," he said. "So why would someone like that be out committing highway robbery then?" He asked, inquisitively.
"She isn't a highwayman, your lordship. She had been traveling on that road the same night you were and those two ruffians robbed her and took her with them just before they robbed you. That's why she was with them not because she was part of their gang but because she was being held captive against her will!" Emma explained to his lordship.
A look of disbelief crossed Christopher's face when he pondered this new information. "That would explain a lot of things about her. Why didn't you tell me about this sooner?" He asked angrily. "Where do your loyalties lie, Emma? You knew I wanted to find her, yet you didn't tell me?" Christopher shrieked and began pacing the floor thinking about his housekeeper withholding this very important information from him.
"I couldn't tell you, sir, I wasn't being disloyal. I gave my word!" She cried in her own defense.
Christopher eyed her for a few moments before he spoke. "If you gave your word to her that you wouldn't tell me for a while then I respect you for upholding it."
A look of relief came over the housekeeper's face for he didn't hold her silence against her.
"Glastonbury you say?"
"There's something else you should know about her, your lordship," Emma said quietly. "She's with child."
"She's what?" He roared coming out of his seat. "When did this happen? Whose child is it?" He demanded, his eyes going black with rage.
"I would say she's about three months along, your lordship and I would assume... the child is yours!"
Christopher sunk back in his chair as the full impact of her words hit him. She was a virgin that first night he took her. Could he have planted his seed in her that first night? He thought. He had never had this happen before in the numerous affairs he'd had in the past. How could he have gotten her with child so quickly? He glanced up at his housekeeper who was staring at him in dismay. "Is this why she ran away, alone Emma?" He asked in a softer tone.
"Yes, I believe it is, sir. With her being a proper young lady and all, she couldn't face this disgrace openly."
"But how is she going to keep it a secret? Her family will find out eventually."
"I don't know, your lordship. She'll have to come up with some kind of explanation but she did have amnesia for three months. I would guess she's not planning on telling them who the father is."
"Is there anything else you haven't told me, Emma?" Christopher asked, holding his breath.
"No sir," she said sadly. "That's all I know about her, except my sister Mary, who's the housekeeper at Grey Manor, thinks very highly of Miss Kathryn."
"I appreciate you telling me all this, Emma." Christopher said and watched the housekeeper quietly leave the room.
Christopher heard laughter out in the foyer for Jeffrey and Michele had returned from their walk.
"Oh Christopher, Crestwood Hall is more beautiful than I had remembered it." Michele said excitedly when she saw him. Removing her wrap she quickly excused herself to put it away as Jeffrey and Christopher stood and watched her fly up the stairs.
"She is always in such a hurry, isn't she," Christopher said shaking his head.
"Yes, it seems that way. So full of life. You look as if you've lose your best friend, Chris?" Jeffrey said, when he saw the worried scowl on his brother's face.
"I need to talk, Jeffrey," he said as they walked back into his study. He looked at Jeffrey for a long time before he was able to tell him his situation.
"... and now she's gone." Jeffrey said, in a grim voice.
"Yes, I assume she's returned to Glastonbury where her family home is."
"Do you love her, Chris?" Jeffrey asked with a gleam in his eye.
"Love her? Hell no! I don't love any woman. I never have and I never will!" He replied bluntly.
"You'll never change, Chris." Jeffrey chuckled. "So what's your problem then? If she's gone back to her family and probably will never implicate you as the father then what are you so worried about?"
"Damn it to hell, Jeffrey! You of all people should know what it's like to be born out of wedlock!" Christopher reminded him. "I don't want any child that's sprung from my loins to be born a bastard!" He spat, finally.
Jeffrey smiled and studied his brother intensely. Christopher had always stuck up for him all his life and resented the fact that their father had never married his mother just because she was a servant and was not born a blue blood. "Are you going to marry her, Chris?"
"Marry her?" Christopher shouted, not having thought that far into the future yet. "Yes... I will marry her," he stated after reaching a decision.
"Marry who?" Michele said excitedly from the doorway.
"Michele, come in," Jeffrey said. "Christopher was just telling me he's going to be married," he said, winking at his brother who was standing there with a black scowl on his face.
"Oh how exciting! Who's the lucky girl?" She asked.
"The Honorable Kathryn Grey," Jeffrey informed her.
"Kathryn Grey? She's the new friend I met at my debut ball!"
"That's right! I thought that name was familiar. She's the one we rescued from the grips of the Earl of Somerset out in the garden that night! I totally forgot about that! Jeffrey declared and looked over at Christopher who was totally lost in thought. "Maybe we should leave him alone for a while, Michele." Jeffrey decided as they both quietly slipped out of the room.
Roger Chatsworth, Christopher reflected with disgust. The very thought of him touching Kathryn infuriated him to no end and he clenched both his hands into tight fists. At least now he could understand why the Earl had attacked her. Kathryn had an allurement about her that men couldn't resist. They would lose all control when they were around her with her soft delicate features and those flowing copper tresses that dangled ever so slightly against her well-rounded breasts making her so tantalizing and irresistible.
Thoughts of her with child came to mind as he tried to imagine what she would look like as her time grew near. Would having this child mar her beauty as it had for so many other women? Once they had children, their looks were gone forever. What a depressing thought so he tried to think of other things instead. He had to think of the child. He had seen the ridicule his brother lived with every day of his life. The child's what's important! I need an heir to take my place one day as Lord and Master here and it won't be a bastard! My child won't be ridiculed and blackballed from society! He will be respected and feared as the next Marquis of Dartmoor! He contemplated, giving no thought what-so-ever to the possibility that the child could turn out to be a girl.
It was early evening when Constable Hawk and David Cabot arrived at Crestwood Hall at the request of the Marquis. The summons had come only for the constable himself but he felt he should bring one of his assistants along with him and David was the logical choice, seeing that the Marquis despised Steven on sight. They were ushered into his lordship's study where they waited patiently for him to enter.
"What is so important that he wanted you to ride out here after dark when you just saw him the other day?" David asked, while admiring the masculine décor of the room.
"I have no idea but if his lordship sends a summons then you better drop whatever you're doing and hightail it out here or there will be hell to pay!" Constable Hawk replied. "He quit questioning the workings of the Marquis's mind long ago when Lord Christopher's father was the Marquis here.
"Good evening, gentlemen." Christopher stated coldly, when he finally entered the study. He had be upstairs packing when they had arrived. He glared at David while he poured himself a brandy. "What the hell are you doing here? I didn't require your presence!" He said, with open disdain.
"I thought it was best if I brought David along with me, your lordship." Constable Hawk interceded.
"David! My apologies young man I thought you were... someone else," Christopher grumbled. "I have summoned you here to inform you that I'm leaving for London tomorrow morning. My brother Jeffrey will be here to manage my affairs in my absence. So I expect you to show him the same respect that you would show me in any dealings you may have with him. Do I make myself clear on this point?" He asked sternly.
"Why, of course we will, your lordship. Why wouldn't we." Sir William said, quickly to reassure the Marquis that they didn't hold it against Jeffrey for being born a bastard.
"I'm glad you see it my way."
"Are you going to be gone to London long, your lordship?" The constable asked.
"I don't know at this time. Possibly." Christopher replied. "I found out some information that will be of interest to you though. The young lady that was here was not one of the highwaymen after all as we had originally suspected. Her memory had come back to her and she had informed my housekeeper of her true identity before she left. She's turned out to be a lady of quality who was being held captive by the highwaymen and not one of their gang members."
A look of surprise came over the constable's face as he stood gawking at Christopher. "Who was she, your lordship?"
"Miss Kathryn Grey, of Glastonbury." Christopher replied calmly.
"Kathryn Grey!" David shouted and drew his lips together in an angry line. "I could have told you three months ago who she was but oh no, no one would let me see her!" He bellowed in a rage. "I've been searching for her ever since her disappearance three months ago and all this time she's been here!" He screeched, incredibly.
The constable grabbed David by the arm trying to quiet him down. "The Marquis doesn't take to kindly being proven wrong," he whispered to David.
But David pulled away from him and got right in Christopher's face. "You arrogant son-of-a-bitch, she was my friend!" He spat.
Christopher drew himself up and glared at this angry young man. "How was anyone to know you just happened to know the Honorable Kathryn Grey and that she was the one we called Katie and suspected was a highwayman? I was protecting her while she was here from the brutal interrogations you officers of the law like so much!" He roared back. "It was an unfortunate misunderstanding, that's all! If the young lady hadn't lost her memory, none of this would have happened in the first place!"
David backed off from the Marquis when he realized that maybe Lord Christopher actually was trying to protect Kathryn from further abuse and not just keeping her for his own selfish reasons as Steven had said.
"I guess I owe you an apology this time, your lordship. But I've been very distraught ever since Kathryn came up missing, wondering what had happened to her." David said.
"Your apologies are accepted, young man." Christopher said, sincerely when he saw the mixed emotions cross the younger man's face. "Like I said, it was an unfortunate misunderstanding and I'm sure Kathryn is safe and sound at her family home in Glastonbury by this time."
"You're probably right, your lordship." David said, quietly.
After finishing their business with Lord Christopher, Constable Hawk and David Cabot rode out the front gates of Crestwood Hall, leaving Christopher staring after them, wondering if Kathryn really had made it safe and sound back to Grey Manor in Glastonbury as he had assured David so calmly.