House of Harwood-Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Harwood front pageVote at the end of this episode!

  1. In the previous episode, Clarissa Duvall dutifully met with Victoria and John Harwood, all the while thinking about her secret lover. Readers voted that this man is the Duvall family’s horse handler.

Episode 3

As the carriage bounced down the road, leaving the immense stone Harwood mansion obscured in the distance by clouds of dust, Clarissa carefully tried not to look at her mother. Rose had said very little since they’d left, only remarking that her daughter had been very polite, and didn’t she think John was handsome? Yes, Clarissa had answered softly, she did. She wasn’t lying; the young Harwood heir was very good-looking, and Clarissa’s Richard-reverie had even been momentarily interrupted when John’s liquid brown eyes had locked with hers while saying goodbye. But as they jostled along on the way home she slipped into it again, and all thoughts of John Harwood were vanquished as her mind dreamily floated over secret meetings in the stables and the feeling of Richard’s coarse, workman’s hands on her petal-soft skin.

As soon as it rolled up to the house, Clarissa leapt from the coach without waiting for Rupert to open the door for her. She saw in her peripheral vision both her mother’s disapproving frown and Richard’s tall frame approaching from the stable to bring in the horses. One hand reaching subconsciously to her curls again, Clarissa gave Richard a small sidelong glance and found him focused on undoing the horses’ harness. Just then she felt a firm hand on her arm, steering her toward the front door.

“Come Clarissa,” Rose snapped. “It seems you need a few more lessons on being ladylike if you’re going to be a Harwood.”

Clarissa trailed after her, scowling slightly.

That night, the house was dead silent when Clarissa tiptoed down the staircase, and navigated the many corridors leading to the servants’ entrance. The night air was chilly and she wrapped the light coat that was covering her nightgown around her body, shivering slightly as she crept across the grounds. She slipped into the dark stables, and, hearing only the snorting and pawing of the horses, she waited. The musty scent of the animals was strong and Clarissa could feel the dirt and hay beneath her feet. Richard was coming, though, he always did. She waited a while longer, and when he still hadn’t arrived she sat down on one of the many hay bales and lay back against the stack, yawning.

“Well isn’t that a sight.”

Clarissa’s eyes flew open to see Richard standing above her, grinning down at the young girl fast asleep against the bales of hay.

“Richard!” Clarissa exhaled the name softly and reached a hand up to him. He lowered himself down onto the unsteady bales and began to kiss her, and together they rolled off onto the stable floor.

All of a sudden the stable door was thrown open. The two tangled bodies on the floor jerked upright and there, illuminated by the first light of dawn, was Rupert the carriage driver. Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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