House of Harwood-Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Harwood front pageVote at the end of this episode!

Previously… a defeated Clarissa agrees to return to the Harwood home. Readers voted that while there, she experiences a scandal firsthand.

Episode 9

Lunch was served.

The small party followed the crisp, pressed Harwood butler, black-and-white from his polished shoes to his silver moustache, through grand arched hallways and across marble foyers and into the dining room. A large room with tall windows, it reminded Clarissa of a cathedral filled with light. Chandeliers hung from the ceilings, and tall-backed chairs surround the large mahogany table. The table blossomed with platters of fresh fruit and bright green salads; different varieties of meat, cheese, and bread were stacked in beautiful geometric patterns, and crystal pitchers of lemonade sprouted condensation that promised the perfect refreshing, cool sip. Clarissa’s eyes widened slightly at the sight of it all, and the thought of Richard was momentarily pushed from her mind by candied walnuts and thinly sliced pears.

The women and John were seated and served. During the meal, Rose and Victoria chatted politely and Clarissa chimed in whenever she felt it necessary – or whenever she felt Rose’s eyes on her – but for the first time, she set most of her attention on the man for whom this whole elaborate function had been arranged. John Harwood was quiet but not shy, speaking with ease to Clarissa and her mother. Yet she felt that he was going through the motions as much as she was. She found herself wondering if he was doing this out of duty to his family, and if so, how he felt about that. She still couldn’t reconcile the fact that, post-Richard, she would be doing exactly what was expected of her from now on. The Harwoods seemed to live such boring, predictable lives. Didn’t John Harwood ever want to break free, to do something unexpected and unapproved? Was family duty everything?

“Don’t you agree, Clarissa?”

Rose’s voice interrupted her reverie like a splash of icy water. As she turned to her mother, formulating a possible answer to an unknown question, she thought she saw a small smile playing on John Harwood’s lips.

But before she could say anything, the door to the dining room opened. A young woman burst in, dressed nicely but plainly, in a simple white dress embroidered with sleeping doves. Her long auburn hair fell in cascades over her shoulders, and her startlingly green eyes were bright and wild as they fixated on Victoria Harwood. Her hands were clenched and her breathing was shallow and quick. She opened her mouth to speak.

“Emily.” Victoria spoke quietly and evenly. She rose a fraction of an inch and although her voice was steady, her eyes were flashing. “We have company, Emily. Now is not the time.”

Raising her voice slightly, Victoria continued, while signaling discreetly to the black-and-white butler who had just entered the room.

“Emily this is Rose Duvall and her lovely daughter Clarissa. They are joining us for lunch today.” She paused for a split second. “Rose, Clarissa, this is Emily.” Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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