House of Harwood – Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Harwood front pageVote at the end of this episode!

In the previous episode, Clarissa realizes that it was Augustus Harwood who got Emily pregnant. Readers voted that Emily makes a reappearance.

Episode 17

The Harwoods had a new head butler. Clarissa wondered briefly if Emily’s father had left voluntarily or not. He had been a kind man, she recalled somewhat sadly – always smiling at her as she walked in, occasionally winking along with his customary half-bow. The new butler did neither of those things, but simply inclined his head a fraction of an inch, his mouth frozen in a rigid semi-frown.

Several uneventful months had passed, filled with wedding plans, walks through the gardens, and more luncheons than Clarissa could count. She had met other members of the Harwood family – tall, thin-lipped aunts and rotund, ruddy-faced uncles. She had gone riding with John’s younger brothers and had sat, reclining in the late-afternoon sun, on the back porch drinking iced tea with John and talking lazily about their future. It had been a happy few months. Clarissa had barely seen Augustus, and she had begun to think of him as the ghost of the Harwood mansion – his presence always haunted it, but rarely was he seen in corporeal form.

Now, a mere few days before the wedding, there was to be a small, “informal” dinner for friends and family who had traveled from out of town. “Just to welcome them, really, and thank them for coming so far,” Victoria had said as her pen flew across the page listing name after name. As Clarissa walked through the now-familiar hallways toward the drawing room she could hear a chorus of muffled chatter and laughter. She stepped into the room, and, accepting a crystal flute of champagne from a waiter, went to join John. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Augustus across the room, impeccably dressed and looking every bit the Harwood patriarch, talking to a very old, very severe-looking woman. As if sensing her eyes on him, Augustus looked up and met her gaze, toasting her silently with a cool smile. She took a sip of her champagne and looked away.

Several hours later, mostly to extract herself from a long and very circular conversation with Great Aunt Hilda Harwood, Clarissa excused herself and slipped outside for some fresh air. It was a beautiful night, and a gentle breeze ruffled her long, pale pink dress and blew through her perfectly coiffed curls. Her cheeks were tinged from the heat inside and glasses of champagne she’d consumed, and she felt capable and ready for the wedding and what lay beyond.

“Clarissa?” A timid voice to her left made Clarissa jump, and she turned to see, with shock, a young woman hiding in the bushes, carrying a small bundle. It was Emily.

Clarissa stood there, not knowing what to say. The bundle started to whimper, and Clarissa realized with a fresh wave of shock that it was a newborn baby Emily carried in her arms.

“What are you doing? Why are you here?” Clarissa looked around quickly but there was no one else in sight.

“I need your help.” Emily’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Please, Clarissa. I know you’re going marry John. I’m not trying to stop it, but I must speak with him. He needs to know – something. Will you get him for me?”

Clarissa looked back at Emily, shivering in the bushes, and thought about the party happening inside, and of her future husband, drinking champagne with his family, blissfully unaware. She opened her mouth to respond.Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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