It was only a few days before a formal calling card arrived with a name attached to it I had only heard in conversation. Caleb’s sister was asking for my company. Of course my heart began to race. I had seen Caleb every day for months and these last few days had been the worst of my life. My husband home and my lover in hiding.
When Caleb described his sister, he said she was beautiful, and I did not doubt this, if there was any family resemblance. She was unmarried, but had her choice of men waiting on her hand and foot. Caleb was sure that she would string them along and leave town, at some stage, for other pursuits. I wasn’t sure that this was the woman I wanted to spend my time with, but knew spending time with her would put me in Caleb’s path.
With a steady hand and not a second wasted I put Rachel’s card in my pocket. I would show the very expensive card to Faolon that evening at dinner. I knew he’d be impressed and grant permission for me to return the favour and call on Rachel the following day.
I wore my best dress for the occasion and a new hat. The weather had turned and we were once again visited by our accustomed rain. I took great care leaving the house and getting in to the carriage to make sure I stayed in one piece. Faolon had been so excited by my invitation recognizing the surname as one of the older families that went beyond our social circle. He mentioned generations of money, relations to royalty and even some scandal, as if he was in a place to judge. Caleb hadn’t mentioned any of this to me and I didn’t care.
The estate they were leasing was more than an hour away by carriage. As it was in this part of the country, the ride there was beautiful, despite the gray clouds and muddy roads. When we finally arrived I wasn’t impressed by the grandness of the house, I had seen it before, though we had only ‘driven by’ so Faolon could dream a little.
This time the house had life in it. There were servants waiting, as if they’d known I was coming. I was ushered in and protected from the rain as I made my way up the stairs. I meant to take my time and take in the surroundings, but the weather sped up my pace.
As soon as my coat was removed the servants guided me down a long ornate hall and through two gilded double doors. I was immediately greeted by two large glass windows that overlooked a gloomy, rainy day on a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and a fairy tree.
I scanned the room and my eyes finally found my hostess, who was taking her time sizing me up. With a wickedly beautiful smile she approached and extended her hand in greeting.
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” With a small nod of her head she dismissed her servant and turned to pour me a drink.
“Not to worry.” She said handing me the glass. “It’s not alcohol.” I took the liquid and sipped. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was sweet and pleasant.
“I want to throw a ball.” She started without warning. I hadn’t even the manners to open my own mouth to speak yet. I gave myself a little push and began our friendship.
“Thank you for seeing me and this is lovely.” I said motioning to both the room and the drink.
“Things have gotten dull around here. I think a ball is needed or I will go crazy and leave and then I’d have to deal with Caleb.” I half expected him to be behind me when she mentioned his name, but didn’t look for fear of disappointment.
“I think a ball would be lovely.” The second time I’d used that word. Rachel had cast some sort of spell on me and my tongue was now inconveniently tied.
She smiled again and motioned for me to sit.
“Wonderful. Then you’ll stay and help me organize it.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement, though I recognized it as part of a bigger plan.
“That would be love-,” I started, swallowed hard and finished with, “my pleasure.”
As a note was delivered to my husband asking permission to stay the month to help plan what promised to be an extravaganza of a ball and to have our servants pack and deliver my necessary belongings I was ushered upstairs to the room that would be mine for the duration of my stay.
The trek up the stairs and down the long hallways adorned with artwork I finally had a moment to take in Rachel. She was stunning, though she had no resemblance to Caleb. Her hair was dark as were her eyes. Her skin also seemed to show hints of darkness. She was unlike anyone I had ever met. Her clothes were elegant and anyone with a keen eye could tell that she’d spent a small fortune on everything she was wearing. The money had been spent on the craftsmanship and the details rather than the need to show off her fortune. She was used to people trying to impress her and not the other way around. Rachel, as far as Rachel was concerned, was the top of the food chain.
I was ushered into a room similarly set up to my room at home, but bigger. The sitting room had been freshly dusted and a vase of flowers gave life where the sunshine had failed. I was glad to see that my view was of the same fairy tree in the room I had just left, though I was now two floors up. Beyond the sitting room was my bedroom. There fresh silk blankets were waiting to caress me and a bathtub full of steamy, milky water.
As the servants left, I sat myself in the chair by the bathtub, salivating at the luxuries surrounding me. The bath was calling my name and I had no intention of letting it down.
I began to remove my clothing, feet first, when I heard the door to the sitting room open. Without hesitation my guest walked through the room to where I sat. Caleb. I was on my feet immediately, though I barely took a step toward him before he had me enveloped in his arms. With both grace and speed the perfectly made bed and my body collided with Caleb on top.
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