House of Harwood – Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Harwood front pageVote at the end of this episode!

Previously… Clarissa realizes that someone has witnessed her interaction with Emily. Readers voted that it was Augustus Harwood.

Episode 19

Clarissa made her way back toward the party, her heart racing. Someone had definitely been in the library with her, but how much had they seen? And who had it been? A lost guest? Or someone who knew Emily, knew the situation… She had to find out. Taking a deep breath, Clarissa entered the room and, whisking a flute of champagne off a tray carried by a gloved waiter, she walked confidently over to John.

“Hello darling.” She looked searchingly into his eyes, but saw nothing but happiness and a tinge of champagne.

“Clarissa! Where have you been?” Beaming, he kissed her on the cheek. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“Talking to your Great Aunt Hilda,” Clarissa said dryly. “I’ve only just gotten away.”

Laughing jovially, John slid his arm around her waist and Clarissa breathed a sigh of relief. Whoever the mystery person had been, it wasn’t John. She glanced around the room, eyes lighting first on Victoria, who was surrounded by a large group that she seemed to have been immersed in for a while; Clarissa couldn’t imagine her slipping out of the room without being highly conspicuous. Next her eyes found her own mother, locked in conversation with one of John’s uncles. She met Clarissa’s eyes and the happiness there was so genuine that Clarissa felt a lurch of guilt. She averted her eyes and they landed on Augustus, who was watching her with glittering eyes. Her stomach turned.

Of course it had been Augustus. His eyes met hers and he smiled, a cold, knowing smile. He toasted her silently.

Breaking away from John, Clarissa walked directly over to him. She knew that she wouldn’t be ok until she knew exactly what he was going to do with the information he had. After all, she had some incriminating information about him as well. But could she stand up to him? In an almost dreamlike state, she approached her future father-in-law.

“Hello, Clarissa.” He was still smiling. “This is quite a party they’ve thrown for you. And may I say you look beautiful tonight.”

“Thank you,” Clarissa said tightly. She took a sip of champagne.

“May I also say,” Augustus lowered his voice, “that I appreciate what you did a few minutes ago. You’re really looking out for the family now. Or should I say, your family.”

He took a step closer to her, still smiling as though they were having an amusing, casual conversation, but his eyes were like daggers.

“You’ll learn that being a part of this family means doing certain things that may not be in your nature. I admit I wondered if you were up to it. But tonight, you’ve shown yourself more than capable. I am pleasantly surprised.” He gripped her arm with his strong, commanding hand. “Welcome to the family, Clarissa.”

Clarissa nodded mutely, feeling both extreme relief and overwhelming guilt. So this was her life now – covering for Augustus and whatever he chose to do. Managing her husband so he didn’t find out. And someday – she thought about Victoria – covering up her own husband’s indiscretions? Or worse? She smiled and thanked Augustus numbly. Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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