House of Harwood – Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Harwood front pageVote at the end of this episode!

In the previous episode, Clarissa became engaged to John Harwood. Readers voted that next, Clarissa will witness something she shouldn’t.

Episode 15

Over the next few weeks, Clarissa visited the Harwood house often. She shared tea and generously buttered biscuits with Victoria, walked through the extensive gardens with John, and dined with the entire family on several occasions. She enjoyed these visits to her future home; the Harwood mansion still intimidated her, but she began to see a softer side of Victoria and enjoyed long conversations with her betrothed. Now that they had decided upon a policy of openness, it seemed that every day John had a new detail about the Harwoods to share with Clarissa – from amusing anecdotes about his younger brothers to news of a distant cousin’s recent marriage to a foreign baron. There was one person who remained conspicuously absent from John’s stories, however. He seemed to avoid all mention of Augustus Harwood, and whenever Clarissa casually inquired about him or something he had done, John’s face would tighten and he would deftly sidestep the question.

One evening, Clarissa stayed longer than usual after dinner. She and Rose had both dined with the Harwoods that night, and the three women had lingered at the table, sipping coffees and discussing plans for the wedding until it had gotten quite late. John had been requested to help one of his younger brothers with his studies in the library, and various corners of the house were filled with quiet murmurs. Augustus had retired to his study shortly after dinner to go over some numbers for the latest factory opening.

After consuming her third cup of coffee, Clarissa excused herself and slipped out of the dining room down the wide hallway to the restroom. She knew her way around much of the house at this point but something drew her past her destination down an unknown corridor. She wanted to know the secrets of the house, wanted to explore the entire expanse of hallways and rooms over which she would someday reign. She wound further and further through the corridor, down a flight of stairs, until she realized she had reached the servants’ quarters. She had only met a few of the Harwood’s members of household staff, but as she tiptoed through the labyrinth she realized just how many there must be. It seemed like a small village under the house – men, women, children, all working in service to Victoria and Augustus. Clarissa shivered slightly thinking that one day she would have power over them all.

Just then a door opened directly to her right. She ducked into an open doorway and peered around the corner. A man was exiting the room. Clarissa felt her breath leave her as she realized who it was – Augustus Harwood. Clarissa could see into the room beyond Augustus where a young maid was sitting half-dressed on the bed, slowly putting on the rest of her clothes. The door clicked shut, and the head of the Harwood house strode quickly and confidently down the corridor and out of sight. Clarissa remained silently in the doorway, unsure of what to do next. Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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