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Previously… Clarissa’s entire family is invited to dinner with the Harwoods. Readers voted that they will ask for her hand in marriage to their son John.
Clarissa could sense her mother quivering next to her. She could vaguely hear Victoria Harwood’s voice trilling in the background, but it sounded muffled, as though she was hearing it through a closed door. She was somewhat aware of the napkin in her lap and the china cup of coffee in front of her, and also of her hands, although she was having difficulty with where she should place them. The only thing that seemed clear in this particular moment was that Augustus Harwood had just formally asked her father for her hand in marriage to his son John.
As Victoria’s voice carried on in the background, one more thing pushed it’s way into Clarissa’s consciousness – the flinty eyes of Augustus Harwood, smiling coldly and unblinkingly in her direction. This snapped her back to reality. She turned to look at John, smiled, then turned the same smile on her father, who cleared his throat and warmly accepted the Harwood’s proposal.
Crystal champagne flutes were brought in, champagne was poured, and a toast was made to the future of the young couple, John and Clarissa, and the future of the Harwood family.
After dinner, the betrothed were permitted a few moments alone in the library, while the happy parents shared another glass of champagne.
Clarissa sat down on the black leather sofa, smoothing out the creases in her dress. She crossed her legs and looked up at her fiancé, feeling for the first time a jolt of uncertainty. They had never even had a real conversation, one that extended beyond pleasantries. What if they had nothing to say to each other?
It seemed as though John was thinking the same thing, and as they smiled nervously at each other, Clarissa was overcome with a strong urge to ask John the one thing she knew was completely inappropriate for the situation. She could almost feel her mother fainting as the words left her lips.
“I’m so sorry about what happened with Emily.”
His eyes met hers with a startled expression. For a moment she thought he was going to get angry, refuse to speak about it, but then his face broke into a slight smile.
“I’m glad you know about that. There have been too many secrets in this house – we need to talk about things from now on. You and I should talk about everything if this is going to work, don’t you agree?”
It was Clarissa’s turn to be startled; she hadn’t expected that level of candor. Cautiously, she smiled back.
“Yes, I agree. I think – I think that honesty is important,” she ventured. The truth was, Clarissa had gotten so accustomed to hiding her affair with Richard, she had almost grown fond of secrecy and lies. And as much as she liked the idea of complete disclosure, something about Augustus Harwood’s cold expression gave her a chilling feeling that there were secrets in the Harwood house she had yet to discover. She smoothed her skirt again.
John smiled again, more broadly this time.
“Clarissa,” he began, “whatever happened between Emily and I is over. I look forward to starting again with you.”
The flames from the fireplace created shadows across his face. Clarissa took a deep breath and looked at her future husband.
“So do I.” Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.