Have you been following along with Kate and Andrew? Things are moving at a fast pace and you’ll want to catch up and find out what’s happening in the little Cotswolds village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
Need to Catch Up????
Monday could be best described as miserable and sullen. Kate felt as if she were suddenly caught in a strange limbo in life where she didn’t know where to turn next. She couldn’t write, therefore she couldn’t complete her work. And now she felt like life was expecting too many sacrifices in order for her to ever love again. Throughout the day, she had paced the confines of her cottage until she literally knew how many stones were in the living room floor, and how many paces it took to go from the front window to the kitchen. Kate found herself watching and waiting. For what she didn’t quite know. When one feels as if they are suddenly drifting aimlessly, how does one determine the next path to take? Last night, just before Kate departed from the pub after her dinner date with Andrew, he had taken her in his arms as they were saying goodbye and kissed her softly on the cheek. There were few words spoken between them. Just the simple act of holding and being held seemed enough. Words had already been exchanged, and each of them knew that debating was futile.
“I do understand your decision, Katherine. It pains me to know these moments will soon come to an end, but I do understand.”
Kate held onto him, wanting to savor each moment of feeling secure in a man’s arms once again. How easy it would be to throw caution to the wind and agree to stay on through the Summer or perhaps longer. If she agreed to stay a few more months, then what? Would her decision at the end of that time frame change? Could she say good-bye to her country, her home and her family for the sake of love? Wrapped in his embrace, it seemed an easier decision than reality would permit. For brief moments, she’d had even allowed herself to consider a long distance romance living a few months in England and then a few months back in Charleston. Perhaps Andrew could accompany her back to Charleston for several months at a time. As soon as she felt she had mentally worked out some of the details on how this blossoming romance could grow, the realism of life flooded its way back and stamped out any glimmer of optimism.
Jillian felt her mother was being too unsympathetic to her own feelings and needs and was extremely vocal about it whenever she spoke to her mother over the weekend. “Mom, I don’t even know this guy. For all I know he could be some serial killer who lives in a castle and will drag you into his dungeon. He doesn’t have a castle by any chance does he?”
“No,” Kate laughed. “Just an estate house.”
“Oh good, okay where was I? Oh yea – I don’t know him but Mom, there is something different in your voice now. I can hear it. I also hear the anxiety because you are so torn but when you talk about Andrew there is a whole dimension of happiness I haven’t heard in you since Dad passed away. Is this about Dad, Mom? Are you worried this is all too soon? You know Dad wanted you to be happy. It was some of his last few words.”
“It’s not that simple. Would you be okay with me living halfway across the world?”
“I would be okay with you living anywhere as long as you were happy, Mom. You can’t plan your life around me and David Michael. At some point, you have to grab happiness for yourself and if that means we have to fly to England a few times a year to visit you – so be it.”
Kate remembered her mama always telling her, “you can’t force love. Love is either real or it’s not.” What her mama didn’t prepare her for was how to handled this kind of situation that she found herself in – where potentially there was a real love to be had but so many reasons why this love could never work. Frustration seemed to be the emotion of the day. Kate’s mind kept going back to her last afternoon together with Andrew and then how melancholy their dinner had become. Andrew promised he would see her soon and as he forlornly drove away, a single tear rippled down Kate’s cheek. One of many to come.
“Kate, what do you mean you can’t write? Of course you can write. Open the laptop, place fingers at strategic positions on the keyboard and type out words.”
“Oh, you think it’s that easy, huh? If only that were true.”
“Alright, I know that sounded nonsensical, well – kinda, but Kate you have always been able to snap yourself out of these stages. You just need to hunker down and do it. You know what I always say -“
“Yes, yes, I know, Harriet. You can’t get water out of a faucet that isn’t turned on.”
“So turn on the faucet. Be the writer I know you are. I have never known anyone who could pour their heart onto a blank page and the outcome be so eloquent and effortless. I would not be sitting here having this conversion with you if I did not believe in you. Has something happened?’
“Yes. England happened.”
“I thought that was a good thing. The last time I heard was that this temporary move to England was one of the best things you could have done for your career. Oh my, its not that creepy Sir Jack is it? Did he contact you again? It was made perfectly clear in no uncertain terms that all meetings were to go through me.”
“No, it’s not Sir Jack. I haven’t given him another thought. Harriet, do you remember that day I called you several months before David passed away? I was just starting this current book and I told you how much I was struggling.”
“I remember. You told me neither your heart nor your mind were committed and that was quite understandable. You were going through a heart breaking time, but why are you -.” Harriet paused. “Katherine Parker, are you dealing with a broken heart now? Are you in love?”
“Love? Oh, I don’t know if its love exactly?”
“Then lust? Have you found a young 23-year old Aston Martin-driving hunk of a boy toy?”
“Um…first of all, eeew. My son is older than that. Second, he does drive a sports car but he also drives a very sensible work truck, too.”
“Is this person why the creative nectar has gone dry?”
“Yes, no. I don’t know, Harriet. I think so. He wants me to stay on a few more months after the book has been written just to see if this relationship is real.”
“Well, first thing I want to know is how good is he in the sack? I cannot possibly offer you any advice until I know that.” she joked, trying to lighten the mood.
“Harriet, I may spill words of love out on paper but I can guarantee you I will never spill those words to you,” she laughed.
“So, what’s the problem then? Seems pretty straightforward to me. Finish the book. Please finish the book. Then stay a few more months and see where this relationship with your English gent goes. Hey, is he a Duke or anything?”
“No, an Earl.”
“What? Wait! Are you serious? He’s a real life, no doubt about it, Earl? Do you mean like his name is Earl, or he actually wears an Earl crown and all that stuff?”
“I don’t think he owns a crown and I don’t think his name is Earl, although he has several titles and names so Earl may be amongst them. But yes, he’s an Earl.”
“So, if you were to marry this Earl that would make you….?” Harriet asked.
“Well, of course his wife. You know what I mean. What is the wife of an Earl? An Earless?”
“You know it’s the title of Lady. Stop amusing yourself at my expense.”
“Lady Katherine,” she said with a stiff upper lip and British accent. “I like the ring of it. Oh my gosh, just think what the PR department will do once they get wind that you will have a title. Oh my!”
“Harriet, you’re no help. Stop trying to marry me off when I am simply trying to come to terms with staying here in England a few extra months.”
“What’s stopping you? The book tour won’t start for months. You and David used to take extended vacations after you finished each book. What’s different now?” Harriet suddenly realized one major difference and felt appalled at herself for being so inconsiderate. “Kate, I’m sorry. The difference is David. I didn’t mean how that sounded.”
“It’s ok, I know you didn’t. I guess the difference then was we were coming back home, to Charleston and to our children. We were not saying goodbye and hope to see you in four or five months or longer. I don’t think I could bare the thoughts of leaving Jillian and the baby and my son, too. “
“Kate, if you love him, or if there is even an inkling of something you perceive as love in the future, you owe it to yourself to pursue this. You had a beautiful marriage with David. But I think things happen for a reason. You were meant to go to England and maybe, just maybe, you were meant to meet your Earl and fall in love again. Is that so wrong? Will you at least think about it?”
“I have been. In fact, for a week or more it’s all I have thought about, hence – the writer’s block. Jillian wants me to go for it. I haven’t spoken to David Michael yet.”
“Then there you go, half your children are onboard with the idea. That’s a good enough percentage to me. So you will consider it?”
“Yes, I will at least consider it. I owe that to Andrew, at least. I guess we could work out the details of the book tour from here, right?”
Kate and Harriet talked about the details of the novel a bit more before saying goodbye. By the end of the conversation, confusion still reigned supreme in her mind but the overwhelming feeling that all was lost was not as intense. She would call Andrew later this afternoon so they could talk. Was she really giving the idea of staying on in England some serious consideration? It sure looked that way.
Caroline watched the clock like an eager cat ready to pounce on a mouse. Her plan was completed and within minutes the first element of her scheme would be put into place. She was proud at how easy her mind could both conceive and carry out a plan of action that would terminate Andrew’s relationship with the American forever. It was slightly bothersome that she had to involve a few innocents but in the game of love and war there were always victims. What was more important was that Andrew finally realize, once and for all, that a union with herself would create a strong alliance within the highest level of English society. When two members of the aristocracy joined in matrimony, a solid coalition of influence was formed and the lineage of both houses was reinforced. Caroline curled her lip at the thought of Prince William marrying a commoner. What was he thinking by soiling his line of succession that way? Certainly Andrew could see that the American woman offered nothing in return for the title she would bear. Soon, that bitch would be gone and her courtship with Andrew could be renewed, followed shortly thereafter by a proposal of marriage; just as it had been ordained at their birth.
Kate looked at her grubby nails, realizing too late that she should have slipped on her gardening gloves prior to sitting down to weed her herb garden. She looked down at her clothes, covered in splotches of dark soil. She cared not. The garden was her happy place and ruined nails was a small price to pay. As soon as she got off the phone with Harriet earlier that afternoon she had texted Andrew asking if he could get away later tonight. She had not heard back from him but that was not unusual as he was putting in some long hours at the time. Kate’s stomach growled and it occurred to her that she had not eaten all day, unless you considered the cup of tea she drank earlier to calm her stomach. She gathered her gardening tools, her weeding completed, and started towards the back door when a young man came walking around the corner of her cottage. She stopped, once it appeared he was in search of her.
“Hello, can I help you, sir?”
“Are you Katherine Parker, mum?” he asked, removing his uniform cap.
“Yes, may I help you?”
“I have a delivery for you, mum. I knocked on your front door but there was no answer so I decided to try the back door. I was told I had to give this message to you in person.”
Kate reached for the small envelope he held out to her. Her name was typed across the front. “Who has sent this?”
“I do not know, mum. I am simply paid to deliver it to you. Have a great day.” He tipped his hat again and scurried back to the front of the cottage.
Kate turned the envelope over to decipher who the sender could be. There was no return address. She quickly ascertained it was not from Andrew, as all of the notes and letters she had received from him displayed the Rosethorne Family Crest. She walked into the kitchen door while opening the plain blue linen envelope. A matching single page of stationary had a short typed note. Kate glanced down quickly and read who it was from – Caroline. Kate knew this was not an invitation to have tea. Her stomach lurched with foreboding. The note said:
Katherine Parker, meet me at the King’s Arm Pub outside of Bourton. We need to talk. I have dire information that could be detrimental to Andrew that I think you should be aware of. Meet me at 3pm. Come alone, do not tell a soul of this meeting and don’t be late.
Kate read the note completely through once more, her temper escalating with each word. How dare Caroline command her to do anything. Who exactly did this woman deem herself to be? And to send such a note by courier because it was above her station to bring it herself angered Kate even more. How calculating could one woman possibly be? Caroline was up to something and Kate knew it instinctively. She knew the why, but the what is what concerned her most. Women of this nature could be dangerous when they felt cornered. Obviously, Kate’s relationship with Andrew was unhinging Caroline. What other explanation was there? If this meeting had been formulated out of concern for Andrew’s well being, there would have been no need for the privacy that had been demanded. No, Caroline was scheming and Kate felt ill that she was being pulled into her devious plans. She glanced down at her nails once again and looked at the clock. Plenty of time to take a shower and dress. She certainly was not going to meet this modern day harridan looking like a medieval serving girl.
The King’s Arm Pub located on the outskirts of Bourton had hardly any patrons at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The lunch crowd had thinned and the dinner crowd was still hours away. Kate arrived ten minutes early, and took a seat in a corner booth where she could still see the front door. She mentally braced herself for the onslaught she was sure would come. A few minutes later, Caroline sauntered in wearing oversized sunglasses and looking around to make sure no one recognized her.
Neither woman verbally greeted the other. This was no social call so common courtesies were not even attempted. It was useless for Kate to pretend that she felt anything but mild contempt for this woman sitting smugly across from her.
“I have no clue why you summoned me here, Caroline, but make it quick. I want no part of whatever it is you are crafting in your mind.”
“I am crafting nothing, and you will hear me out. Or the consequences could be ruinous for Andrew. It’s all up to you.”
“Me? What do I have to do with this? You need to keep me out of this.”
“I have been made aware of some information that is quite – shall I say, distressing. It would be such a shame if this information should come out. You are here, Mrs. Parker, because you are the key to this information remaining secret or being released.”
“Caroline, I don’t know who you think you are, but I won’t be a part of this game!” she stated, getting up to leave.
“I would sit if I were you. If you care anything for Andrew, you won’t go anywhere. You see, Katherine – shall I call you Katherine? I have you over what you Americans would refer to as a barrel. I won’t begin to act like I like you. In fact, I despise you. You’re nothing more than a common gold-digging American and I refuse to allow you to pull Andrew into your cunning hands.”
“Out with it, then? What is this so-called information you supposedly have?”
“I think you are probably well aware that Andrew’s former wife was, shall we put it mildly – a slut.”
“What does she have to do with any of this?”
“Poor Andrew is probably under the impression that she was unfaithful to him for just a short period of time before she ultimately left him. That strumpet never deserved him.”
“Caroline, I don’t have time for your ramblings. Get to the point.”
“It seems that Andrew’s best friend had been screwing his wife for quite some time. Right under his nose. Not just the last two years of their marriage.”
“What does it matter at this point? The marriage is over and Andrew has suffered enough humiliation at her hands. Why would you possibly believe this info would be any more unsettling now than it was then?”
“If that was all there were to the story – just an illicit affair – it would be simple. But, no, its much more tawdry than that – for you see, she and her lover had a child together.”
“Are you saying there is another child out there that Andrew knows nothing about?”
“No, he knows the child. Very well, in fact. The child in question is his youngest daughter, Ashley.”
Kate stared at the woman before her with disbelief. How could she so cooly sit across from her and reveal such information that would be detrimental for any father and child to learn, and all the time have a smug smile on her face as if she was the cat with the cheese? Caroline looked as if she actually enjoyed relaying this news to Kate.
“I don’t believe you, Caroline. Where did you get this gossip from? How dare you spread such malicious lies.”
“Malicious lies? I love Andrew, why would I possibly share something that wasn’t true?”
“I am not sure where you came across this information or what purpose you have by bringing me here to share it, but Caroline this must go no further. Andrew does not deserve more torment caused by his ex-wife, and if this is in fact true, that poor child does not deserve to have her life demolished in such a manner, either.”
“Well, then I guess you have some decisions to make don’t you?”
“Me? What do you mean?” Kate knew as soon as Caroline had sent over the courier with the demand to meet her today, that somehow she would be included in her nefarious plot. And this surely a depraved plot, pure and simple.
“It would be a shame if this information were to get leaked out and Ashley became a societal recluse because of the shame.”
“And who exactly would be responsible for this leak? Might I assume that would be you?”
“No, it would be you.”
“There is absolutely no way I would ever tell anyone about this. I am not sure how you think the blame could be placed on me. Caroline, listen to yourself. Listen to what you are saying and the lengths you are going. For what? To get a man who doesn’t love you or even want to be with you?”
Caroline’s eyes flashed with momentarily fury before she quickly gained control. She had to keep her mental presence and not let this bitch get to her. She had the upper hand now, and felt victory would soon be hers.
“Let me tell you how this is going to work. You are going to leave England and go back to your pathetic and meaningless life back in the States and forgot all about Andrew. You’re going to forget about Bourton and never come back. I warned you away from Andrew at his garden party and you refused to listen. Now you have no choice, this is your final warning.”
“And if I refuse?”
“If you refuse, there will be some very upsetting information about parentage delivered to the daughter of a certain Earl that you may know.”
“What do you think Andrew will do if he finds out what you’ve done?”
“Me?” she laughed, almost hysterically. “Stupid woman he will never be able to pin this on me. You must think me dumb. No darling, it will appear as if you were the one who chose to ‘anonymously’ send the info.” Caroline pulled out a small envelope with a note from her purse and Kate immediately recognized it as one she had sent to Andrew weeks ago. Kate tried to grab it but Caroline jerked it out of her reach. “No, no, this little treasure here is mine.”
“How did you get that? You have no right to that and I demand you return it to me now.”
“Sorry, I cannot do that. And before you feel you can make any demands you need to understand I am not messing around this time. You see, the exact same handwriting on this note – oh look, it’s your handwriting – will be easily matched to an anonymous letter sent to Ashley. My handwriting looks nothing like this, so it will be perfectly clear I am not the sender.”
Kate felt tears well up in her eyes. They were tears of frustration and anger all mixed into one. “You’ve diabolically planned all of this through haven’t you? You cannot win Andrew on your own so you have to resort to this sick, psychotic scheme of yours. What if I go straight to Andrew tonight and tell him what you’ve threatened me with?”
“You won’t. Even if you do I will still send the delivery to Ashley and several other members of society, too. The details of Ashley’s parentage will be exposed. I may lose him if he ultimately finds out where the leak originated from, but unless I get rid of you I will lose him anyway. So I have nothing to lose at this point, do I? No, you won’t tell him because you love him and you don’t want to see him hurt again.”
“Yes, I do love him. Is this how you are proving your love for him?”
“No, this is my way of proving my hatred for you.”
The two women sat and stared at each other, one incredulous that the scene playing out before her was actually happening, the other conceited with triumph. Caroline could see the anguish written all over Kate’s face. She never knew she could feel so much elation at seeing torment in another woman’s eyes.
“Very well, Caroline, I will leave as soon as I have completed my book in a few weeks.”
“No, you will leave tomorrow. You will write Andrew a note explaining that you decided to return home sooner than expected.”
“I owe him a face to face explanation of some kind. I just can’t run out on him without so much as a goodbye.”
“You owe him nothing and you will do nothing. You forget who holds all the cards here. I have explained exactly what you are to do and what you’re not to do. Seeing him is out of the question. I will allow you to send him a short note and that is all. Do I make myself clear? Or do I need to call my little courier friend you met this afternoon and tell him to make a quick overnight trip to deliver a message to a certain young lady at Queens College? It’s your call, Kate.” Caroline smirked. This pathetic little woman whom she despised so passionately was shrunken with defeat. Tears rolled down her face, and when most women would feel a small degree of repentance, Caroline felt nothing but victory. Complete and utter victory. She grabbed her sunglasses and placed them back on and stood abruptly, looking down at a woman she would happily never have to lay eyes on again. She enjoyed the feeling of immense power standing over Kate. Once and for all she was bringing her down to the level she deserved.
“I assume we have a deal?” Caroline asked, assured of the answer she knew she would receive. “You’ll be gone by tomorrow?”
Kate refused to verbally acknowledge this vile creature who stood before her, and refused to meet her stare. She simply shook her head yes in acknowledgment.
“Good girl. Now that wasn’t so hard was it?”
Kate looked around the interior of the cottage, her beloved cottage situated at the water’s edge of Bourton. She had lived here such a short time but this stone structure with its English gardens and quaint decor had completely possessed her heart. There were pieces of her own personality still sitting amongst the items of furniture, small mementoes she had gathered here and there at small shops or the market. She didn’t have the heart to gather them up to take them home and remembrances of this special time here. She glanced at her watch to check the time, realizing the red-eye flight she had booked upon her arrival home from The King’s Arm Pub would be a close call. Kate made sure the small handwritten note she had scribed out for Andrew was tucked into her purse. She had written the note at least four times, tearing up the sheets of paper with each attempt to explain her reasons for leaving. She begged him to forgive her for not fully telling her the truth, but assured him as best as she could it had nothing to do with him. Saying too much would make him even more suspicious and try to seek further answers. Kate placed the old skeleton key with the blue ribbon attached on the table by her favorite chair, along with a short note for Imogen. One last glance backwards, and she shut the door not only to this cottage but to any life she would ever have with Andrew.
The Rosethorne Butler placed the small blue note with Lord Weston’s name upon the large table by the front door where all mail and correspondence was left on a daily basis. Evans found it strange indeed, that it had been left at the front door in such an expeditious manner. When he had arrived at the door upon hearing the doorbell he discovered the small blue envelope placed on the stoop. He looked around in confusion to see if he could detect anyone who may have left it, but saw no one. Evans harrumphed and figured it was an upstart courier too unseasoned to realize it was unprofessional and rude to simply ring the bell and leave. Young pups, he said to himself, shaking his head. He had more important things to worry about. His Lord would be home shortly. He had called earlier from his car phone in a very foul mood because he had misplaced his cell phone while he was at a business meeting in York.
“Evans, please phone Mrs. Parker and let her know I did recieve her voicemail and that I am running behind but will meet her for a late dinner if she is agreeable. Her number is in my black book on my desk. Oh, and Evans – please explain the situation and express my sincerest apologies.”
“Yes, Lord Weston, right away. I will see you soon,” he had replied, hurrying off to find the needed phone number.
That call had been over an hour earlier, so Lord Weston should be arriving soon. He would be able to see all of his mail at that time, to include the new note so strangely delivered. Evans hurried off to complete his nightly duties.
A small figure stood in the shadows of the foyer, trying in earnest to be as muffled and minimal as she could make herself. The young maid knew her job was at stake. Sarah Pickens wasn’t made aware why she was being asked to do what she was about to do, but she knew without a doubt it was deceitful. She had already faltered in her faithfulness to Lord Weston when she made that call for Lady Caroline which allowed her to find out he had been in London with Mrs. Parker. Then, she was forced into taking one of Lord Weston’s notes sent by Mrs. Parker. Caroline swore to Sarah that it would be the last thing she was made to do, but Sarah should have known she was being dishonest. The final threat from that ghastly woman came as an ultimatum that Lord Weston would be informed of all of Sarah’s previous misdeeds if she did not comply with one concluding deed. Sarah tried to appease her conscience by justifying it as just a note – a simple, stupid note. It wasn’t as if she were stealing a top-secret document or anything. What harm could come from it? Certainly more harm could come from the loss of her own job, not to mention the vast disappointment from her father should she ever be found out. As Estate Manager, his daughter’s transgressions would surely reflect upon him and his job security. That reason alone was enough to give Sarah pause, but she felt she had no choice. If she just completed this final task, she could put all of this behind her. Sarah waited patiently until Evans left the foyer and hesitated a moment longer to make sure the area was truly deserted. She could not be seen as it would surely be her immediate demise. Finally, stepping away from the shadows of the room she hurried over to the foyer table and grabbed the small blue envelope marked simply Lord Weston in a pretty handwriting. She tucked it into the pocket of her apron and headed immediately towards the kitchen.
Sarah wavered once inside the kitchen. Cook had been released early as Lord Weston would be dining out tonight. Luckily, no one else seemed afoot. She rushed headlong to the back kitchen door where a figure lurked in the darkness of the oncoming night and anxiously handed him the stolen note.
“Here! Please take this and go! I want no further part of this,” she whispered.
The young courier dipped his hat towards Sarah and smiled. “Much obliged, ma’am,” he answered pompously. “My missus will be quite pleased with your graciousness.”