House of Harwood-Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Harwood front pageVote at the end of this episode!

In the previous episode, Clarissa and Richard’s late-night rendezvous in the stable is interrupted by Rupert, the family carriage driver. Readers voted that after he announces his intention to tell the Duvalls what he saw, Richard attacks him.

Episode 4

“Rupert?” Richard scrambled to his feet, tucking in his shirt and looking as if he was torn between helping Clarissa up and blocking her from view. “What are you doing here?”

“I think I should be the one asking you that,” Rupert frowned, took a step closer to Richard and lowered his voice. “Are you crazy? Mr. Duvall will kill you.”

Clarissa, now clothed and dusted off, pushed past Richard and looked at Rupert with earnest, shining eyes. “Oh Rupert, you won’t say anything to my father, will you? He won’t understand, he’ll be so angry…”

“Don’t worry Clarissa.” Richard’s deep voice was firm and slightly threatening. “Rupert won’t breathe a word of what he saw, or what he thinks he saw. He’s going to leave now.”

Rupert glanced at Richard before addressing Clarissa nervously but kindly. “Don’t worry miss, it’s not you he’ll be angry with. I am sorry, but I’m afraid I have to tell him.” He turned to look at Richard, whose eyes had become molten as he stared at the smaller man fidgeting with his shirt tails. “Richard, you know I can’t let this continue. Why don’t we just all go back to bed, and in the morning -“

“In the morning,” Richard interrupted, nothing will happen. I will tell you once more, Rupert, to leave us to our own affairs.” He walked toward Rupert who stumbled backwards, his mustache quivering.

“Richard,” Clarissa’s small voice floated from behind him. “It’s ok darling, I’ll explain to my father that we’re in love. When he sees how much I care about you he can’t possibly -“

“Ha!” A dry chuckle escaped Rupert’s lips, and he clamped them shut again but not before Richard’s hand was around his throat. “Hey,” he wheezed, “calm down Richard, no need for violence!” But Richard’s grip was tightening and he choked, his already ruddy cheeks turning an even deeper shade of red.

“Laugh again,” Richard snarled, his own eyes flashing as they stared into the panicked, bulging eyes of the carriage driver. “Go on, laugh at me.”

“Richard!” Clarissa shrieked and rushed over to the struggling pair. “Let go of him!” She pulled on Richard’s arm but he flung her aside where she landed with a thump on the hay bales. Clarissa stared wide-eyed at her lover. She knew this side of him existed – when she suggested that they stop hiding their love and tell her family, his eyes would flash in that scary way and she would have to reassure him quickly that she would never dream of telling anyone unless he gave her express permission. She would press up next to him and look ardently into his eyes, and he always forgave her with a hard kiss. But now – he was going to kill him! Clarissa tried again desperately.

“Please Richard,” she begged, “please let go of him. He won’t say anything, you’ve scared him enough. Please let go.”

Richard’s fingers seemed to tighten even more around Rupert’s neck as he struggled with his anger, then, cursing, he threw him down on a pile of hay. Breathing hard, Richard looked down at the crumpled man and ran his fingers shakily through his hair.

“Get up,” he spat. “Get up and get out of my sight.”

But Rupert didn’t move, and after a second Richard looked uncertainly over to Clarissa, who got up cautiously and walked over to Rupert.

“Rupert? Are you ok? Get up Rupert, it’s alright.” Clarissa reached down and brushed some hay aside to reveal a large piece of steel equipment lying underneath Rupert’s head. “Oh my God,” she gasped.

Richard stood unmoving for a moment then grabbed Clarissa’s arm. “We have to go,” he said urgently. “Leave him.”

“But..” Clarissa looked back at Rupert. “Shouldn’t we get him help?”

“Now, Clarissa!” Richard snapped. “If we’re found here, we’ll both be in big trouble. What’s done is done, now go back to bed and don’t tell anyone about this. Got it?”

His eyes flashed in that dangerous way again, and Clarissa nodded meekly. Together they slipped out of the barn and out of sight.Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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