House of Harwood – Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Harwood front pageVote at the end of this episode!

Previously… Emily appears outside a party at the Harwood mansion and asks for Clarissa’s help. Readers voted that she tells Emily a lie to get rid of her.

Episode 18

“Of course, Emily.” Clarissa fixed her face into the most concerned expression she could manage. “I’ll go get him right away, you stay here and out of sight – the new guard has eyes like a hawk.”

She smiled conspiratorially, but averted her eyes from Emily’s hopeful ones.

“Oh thank you,” breathed Emily. “I can’t tell you how badly I’ve wanted to come here, how much I’ve needed to tell John -”

“Yes, I know,” Clarissa interrupted. “Quiet now, I’ll just be gone a moment.”

Her pale pink dress floating behind her, Clarissa glided back through the glass doors of the terrace and into the hallway, gently locking the terrace door behind her. As soon as she turned the corner she stopped. Her mind, which had been racing moments before, was oddly calm. She thought again of her soon-to-be husband, looking handsomer than ever in his pressed suit, toasting with his relatives to their forthcoming wedding. She had no intention of going to him, or telling anyone about Emily save the eager guard who would be only too happy to evict the unwelcome girl from the estate.

She had almost reached the guardhouse when a new thought struck her. She turned back, pausing for a few minutes in front of a grand mirror to examine her curls and re-apply her lipstick. A beautiful reflection stared back at her, and she felt a renewed sense of belonging. It was she, not Emily, who fit in with these surroundings, she who would uphold the Harwood name as it should be upheld. She smiled despite herself, and the smile returned in the mirror was cold and victorious.

After a decent interval, she slipped outside and found Emily exactly where she had left her, crouching in the bushes with her baby. Clarissa’s momentary pang of guilt was alleviated by Emily’s beautiful face as she turned around expectantly.

“Where’s John?”

Clarissa sighed, shaking her head.

“I’m so sorry, Emily. He says – he says he wants nothing to do with you.” Clarissa looked away from Emily’s crestfallen face. “I begged him to come speak with you, but he absolutely refused.”

“I..” Tears filled Emily’s violet eyes, and Clarissa ignored the sharp twinge in her stomach. This was for her future. “I suppose I’ll go then.” She hugged the child, who had begun to whimper, tightly to her chest.

“Would you -” She stopped. “No, I can’t ask anything else of you.”

“Don’t be silly,” Clarissa said smoothly. “Anything you need.”

“Would you give him this letter from me? If he reads this and still won’t speak to me, then I can’t do anything else and I’ll leave for good. But I’m staying one more night at the Mayfair Inn just in case.”

Clarissa took the letter, promised to deliver it into to John’s hands that very night, kissed Emily on the cheek and watched her until she had left the grounds. Then she went back inside and quietly walked to the library. The long portraits of the Harwood ancestors watched over her as she dropped Emily’s letter into the fire and watched it burn away. 

As she watched the last remains of the letter disappear, she heard a soft click behind her. She whirled around just in time to see the library door close. Clarissa stood very still, her heart pounding. Who had followed her into the library? How much had they seen? Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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