Sweet Revenge Ch. 07byharemgirl©
William Sinclair paced restlessly in his study, his thoughts riveted on his eldest daughter. They had returned to the house several hours before, but she was still soundly asleep. He worried at her delay in waking from the potion she had been given, but Mrs. White had assured him that she was resting peacefully. They would simply have to wait a bit longer for her to rouse.
Just then, a knock sounded on the door, and William called admittance. Ahmed stepped inside.
"Sir, Lord Rawlins has arrived, and he wishes to see you immediately."
William gestured impatiently, "Yes, yes. Show him in at once!" He didn't have long to wait for Rawlins to appear, and he grasped the younger man's hand in gratitude. "I'm relieved to see you arrived without any trouble. I was worried you might have had some difficulty." His eyebrow raised in question.
Rawlins frowned slightly. "There was a bit of trouble, sir, but I handled it. However, there are some things you need to know."
Seeing that he had William's full attention, Rawlins painstakingly laid out all the details that he had learned from Samiya. He revealed Richard's dual identity, the fact that Karina had been the man's mistress for the entire time since her disappearance, and that she fancied herself in love with the man. He sat and watched the myriad emotions flowing over William's face as he digested the information.
When William finally spoke, his voice was a low, sinister growl. "I will kill the bastard pay for what he has done!"
Lord Rawlins shifted nervously in his chair. "Sir, when I found out how he had abused Karina, I lashed out in a rage. I attacked Bryant, and we fought. The thought of what he did to Karina drove me insane." He paused briefly before looking up at William. "I killed him."
William's mouth dropped open in surprise, as he stared at the other man. Before he could comment, Rawlins rushed on.
"I know I acted rashly, but if I had it to do over again, I would react the same way." He looked down at his hands pretending to be overcome with emotion. "He taunted me with the fact that Karina was in love with him, he told me intimate details of how he had used her body, violating her over and over, and I snapped." Rawlins kept his eyes downcast and held his breath as he waited for William's reaction.
William watched him thoughtfully. He couldn't really fault Rawlins for killing the other man. William might have done the same, if he were face to face with his daughter's tormentor. Besides, he knew Rawlins was in love with his daughter. It must have ripped at his guts to know that she had been raped and then seduced into thinking she was in love with another man. Suddenly, another thought struck him, and William looked sharply at Rawlins.
"You say Karina was his mistress for the entire two months since her capture?"
Lord Rawlins looked up at and nodded. "Yes, sir. Why? What are you thinking?
William rose and went to look out the window. He frowned, not really seeing the carefully manicured lawns.
"I'm thinking that she might very well be carrying that bastard's child." He turned to watch the other man's reaction. "This could change everything, and I certainly understand if you need to rethink your position."
Lord Rawlins had already reached the same conclusion. It brought him no joy to realize that his future wife might be pregnant with another man's brat! He had absolutely no intention of letting Karina keep her lover's child. It would have to be sent away. He would decide where later, but right now, he had to convince William that he loved Karina in spite of everything.
William was watching him closely, and he carefully repeated his offer. "Perhaps this changes your feelings. I would understand if you no longer wish to marry my daughter."
Rawlins rose to join him at the window, and he looked at him earnestly. "Sir, as I have told you, I love your daughter with all my heart. I desperately want to make her my wife. If it turns out that she is expecting, I will claim the child as mine, and it shall be raised with all the advantages of my wealth and devotion."
William stared into his clear eyes. "Not every man can accept another man's child."
Rawlins smiled grimly. "Not every man has the chance to marry your daughter, sir."
William smiled with approval, and his opinion of Rawlins was raised another notch. "My daughter will be a lucky woman to have you as her husband." He clasped the younger man's hand in friendship. "We will speak to Karina as soon as she wakes. Why don't you go home and clean up, then come directly back here. I think it is best if we arrange the wedding quickly, for the sake of my daughter's reputation."
"But sir, what if Karina is not agreeable to my proposal? She has refused my offers in the past," he reminded William carefully.
William looked at him sternly. "I will simply have to make my daughter see reason." He placed a fatherly hand on the younger man's shoulder. "She will accept your proposal. I will make sure of it!"
"There's something else, sir. If your daughter really was in love with Bryant, she will resent me for rescuing her, and she will most likely hate me for killing him." He saw William frown as he considered his statement, and Rawlins hurried on. "I believe that if we can stir Karina's anger and make her see that Bryant was only using her to get to you, she will be more likely to turn against him. Perhaps if we don't tell her exactly what happened..." he trailed off, waiting to see how William would react.
William frowned darkly. He didn't like lying to his daughter, but could see the benefits of changing the story. If she did love Bryant, Karina just might be stubborn enough to refuse Rawlins' offer of marriage. The last thing William wanted was for his daughter to bear an illegitimate child, and he was willing to consider any alternative, even if it involved deception.
He finally nodded. "We will need to handle this very carefully. Karina can never know that we lied to her, or she may never forgive either of us." Rawlins nodded his agreement. "I will think about what to tell her and ensure that the servants don't let anything slip to my daughter. You go home and get yourself cleaned up and return here as soon as possible. The faster we pull this marriage together, the better."
Rawlins nodded and left to comply with William's wishes. As he walked down the front steps of the Sinclair home, his face split into a sly grin. His plans were finally coming together. With a little luck, the two of them would pull everything off, and Karina would agree to become his wife. He simply wouldn't rest until he had her firmly under his thumb and in his bed!
Karina finally managed to open her eyes a tiny bit, and they widened as she looked around. Light blue curtains hung at the windows, and she was lying on a thick feather mattress. She looked up and saw a blue canopy, and her eyes quickly scanned the dressing table, chaise and other furnishings. She recognized her own bedroom in her father's house, but how on earth did she get here?
She managed to sit up on the edge of her bed, and she looked down to see that she was dressed in one of her own fine, lawn nightgowns. Her eyes swept the room and saw that everything was exactly as she remembered it to be, the same large area rug on the hard wood floor, the same wardrobe, the same desk. She shook her head slowly. She must be dreaming. The last thing she remembered was sitting around the fire after dinner. She had felt very sleepy, and she had leaned against Richard's strong shoulder. Where was Richard?
A sense of panic gripped her, and she tried to remember anything else. There were vague impressions of being at sea, and she surmised from her experience with the fever that she must have been carried on the back of a camel or horse. But why on earth would Richard bring her here? This had to be a dream!
Karina squeezed her eyes tightly shut and held a hand to one temple. She had to wake herself up, and this would all just dissolve like the dream it was. However, when she opened her eyes again, everything was the same. She frowned in bewilderment.
Just then, Mrs. White peeked in. The older woman's eyes widened, and she wore a joyful smile as she quickly crossed to the bed.
"Finally, you are awake! I was beginning to worry that you might never wake up again." She sat beside Karina on the edge of the bed and enfolded her in a fierce embrace, as she blinked back tears of happiness. "Oh, my dear, we worried we might never find you. Your father was simply frantic with worry over you. All of us were."
Karina's frown deepened. "But I don't understand. How did I get here?"
Mrs. White bit her bottom lip and dropped her eyes to her hands before she said softly. "Now dear, I'm sure your father will want to talk to you right away. He will be able to answer all your questions. He didn't tell me all the details, but from what I can gather, he knows all about why you were kidnapped." She met Karina's stunned gazed, and her eyes fairly sizzled with anger. "I don't have to tell you that your father was livid when he found out how that man abused you! But don't you worry your pretty head, everything is being handled. There won't be any scandal over this to besmirch your reputation, my lamb! You've endured enough as it is, and your father means to make sure you don't suffer any more."
Karina opened her mouth to comment, but Mrs. White bustled on, and she couldn't get a word in. "Your father is anxiously waiting to talk to you, but first, I think you need a bath. I have one prepared for you in the dressing room. Come on, dear, you will feel much better once you have had a bath."
Karina followed in a daze as the older woman led her to the tub. Mrs. White helped her undress before she turned to gather her soaps and shampoo and placed them on a small stool within easy reach of the tub. She helped Karina pile her luxurious hair on top of her head, and she secured the shining mass with several pins. As Karina settled into the steaming water, Mrs. White smiled at her again with tears sparkling in her eyes.
"My dear, I'm so very glad to see you safe. Don't worry. Everything will be handled." With that, she turned and bustled out of the room.
Karina sank back against the rim of the tub, as her head began to pound. What on earth was happening? Where was Richard, and how did her father know everything that had happened? She closed her eyes and tried to recall the last few hours. All she could remember was sitting next to Richard at dinner. They had both been so happy, and then she had fallen asleep. She was convinced that someone had brought her here while she was asleep, but why hadn't she woken up? Surely she hadn't slept that soundly. And who would have brought her here? Certainly not Richard!
She hurried through her bath, impatient to see her father and get some answers to her questions. She was just rising from the tub, when Mrs. White reappeared and wrapped her in a large, thick towel.
"Now, don't you feel better?" she crooned, patting her skin dry.
Karina was determined to get some answers. "Mrs. White, I don't understand. How did I get here? Who brought me?"
Mrs. White busied herself with locating a day dress of pale blue organdy from the wardrobe. She laid it out carefully on the bed and returned for the appropriate undergarments.
"I don't know many details other than the facts I told you earlier. However, I'm sure your father will clear up all the mysteries for us very soon. Now, let's get you dressed so you won't keep him waiting."
Karina submitted to Mrs. White's assistance, as she helped her don her lacy undergarments. When Mrs. White began to lace her into her corset, she clucked slightly in disapproval.
"It must be because you haven't been wearing a corset lately, dear, but I can't get this to lace as tightly as usual," she mumbled as she struggled to tighten the strings.
Karina blushed as she thought of the babe. Even though she had not noticed any significant changes in her figure, other than her breasts being obviously fuller, she must have been thickening around the waist a bit as well.
"That's all right, Mrs. White. Just lace it a bit looser. I'm beginning to feel a bit faint."
Mrs. White gave her a concerned look. "Of course, love. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking about the ordeal you've been through."
She finished lacing the corset and turned to retrieve the dress. She lifted it over Karina's head and pulled it down into place. The dress was tightly fitted, and Mrs. White was barely able to lace the back.
When Karina turned to the mirror, her eyes widened as she stared at her reflection. Her time in the desert had darkened her skin to a warm bronze, while her hair was a lighter gold than before. Her blue eyes picked up the color of the gown, and they seemed to shimmer like jewels. Her breasts were definitely fuller. They were almost spilling over the top of the gown, even though it was not excessively low cut. The effect bordered on scandalous.
Karina bit her lip, as she wiggled and tried to rearrange the neckline to hide the generous swell. Her efforts were unsuccessful, and she cringed as she saw her wanton appearance. All of her gowns were equally as tight fitting, so there was no point in changing. She made a mental note that she would have to let out the seams a bit in some of her gowns, until she could get new ones made to accommodate her pregnancy.
She blushed again at the thought of the child she carried. How would she ever be able to break the news to her father? For the thousandth time since waking, she wondered how she had gotten here, and whether Richard was alright. She was anxious to find out the answers to her questions, and there was no time like the present.
Karina made her way downstairs and into her father's study. He was sitting behind his desk, but he quickly rose when he heard her approach and rushed around the desk to embrace her in his strong arms. Her heart swelled with joy as she hugged him in return.
"Karina, my child," William choked out, "I'm so very glad to have you back with us." He held her slightly away from him and anxiously scanned her face. Now that he knew more about what she had been through, he was concerned to see how she was handling everything. He was relieved that she looked composed and confident, if somewhat confused. "I've been out of my mind with worry about you. I had nearly lost hope of ever seeing you again."
Karina noticed that his face was more lined than she remembered. "Oh, Papa, I'm so glad to see you too. But I don't understand how I got here. Mrs. White wouldn't tell me anything. What happened? How did you find me? The last I remember," she halted as her father chuckled with amusement and held up both hands to stem the flow of her questions.
"Slow down, my dear. I will tell you everything. Have a seat."
He carefully handed her into one of the large, overstuffed leather chairs, as if she were a delicate china doll that might break. He gestured to someone behind her, and Karina turned to see Lord Rawlins standing in the shadows near the back of the room. Her eyes widened in surprise, having thought they were alone, as her father held out a hand gesturing for him to come forward.
"Stuart, come. Join us, please."
Lord Rawlins stepped forward and took Karina's hand, as he bowed low and placed a kiss upon the back of her fingers. "Miss Sinclair, you look even lovelier than I remembered," he drawled charmingly, letting his eyes linger on her breasts before rising to her face. His smiled secretively, remembering what she looked like without her clothes. "I was heartsick with worry, and you can't imagine my relief to know that you are alright."
Karina hadn't missed the direction of his gaze or his smile, and her skin crawled. He looked just as she had remembered, but his handsome features did nothing to stir her heart. She could never get past his arrogance long enough to enjoy his good looks. She attempted a smile, but it came across as a weak grimace.
"Lord Rawlins, I didn't expect to see you today."
Her father smiled broadly, as he gestured for Rawlins to have a seat in the chair beside Karina. "My dear, Lord Rawlins was the man who rescued you, and I asked him to come and talk with us today. There are some important matters we need to discuss." As he said the words, he walked around to his own chair behind the desk and sat down to face them.
Karina raised a brow in bewilderment. "Rescued me?" She had been extremely happy with Richard, and she had not needed to be rescued, but of course they wouldn't know that. A small wrinkle appeared on her forehead. "Papa, you had better tell me exactly what happened." She looked at him with frightened eyes, and she felt suddenly very nervous about the circumstances surrounding her 'rescue'.
Her father took a deep breath and launched into his tale. "I received a message from Sheik Rashid that he was holding you as a prisoner in his camp. The message said that I was to accompany the messenger to a meeting place in the desert and that you would be there waiting for me. Naturally, I was nervous about travelling alone into a possible trap, so I asked Lord Rawlins to bring some of his men and come with me."
Karina shivered lightly, as she listened to her father. Why would Richard send such a message? He had made no mention to her about a meeting with her father.
"When we got to the meeting place, Rashid was already there. He had drugged you. You looked deathly pale, and you were lying limp across his saddle. I thought my heart would stop, because at first, you appeared to be dead."
Karina could feel the blood draining from her face, and she suddenly felt very lightheaded. She frowned and touched a hand to her pounding temple as she stared at her father. "He drugged me?" she asked in a weak whisper.
William watched her carefully as he continued. "Yes. He said that he had kidnapped you as revenge against me. He somehow thought that I had murdered his wife. We argued briefly about my innocence, but it was pointless. He would not listen to reason."
William noticed the distant look in Karina's eyes as she considered his words. When she finally spoke, her voice was shaky.
"But Papa, I don't understand! Why would he have returned me to you? He said that he was going to keep me until . . ." her voice trailed off, and she bit her bottom lip to stop it from trembling.
How could she tell her father that Richard had sworn to keep her as his mistress until she bore him a child? Her father would surely hunt Richard down and kill him if he knew that he had defiled his daughter. Despite Richard's apparent betrayal, Karina didn't want any harm to come to him, so she kept quiet.
William exchanged a quick glance with Rawlins and saw him nod, almost imperceptibly. They would have to proceed to the latter stages of their plan. It was the only way to sway Karina to agree with them. William cleared his throat and continued.
"My dear, I know about Rashid's plans for you." He ignored her shocked expression as he went on. "I know that he kept you as his mistress for the entire two months he had you, and I know that you are likely carrying his child."
Karina's jaw dropped open in horror. Her cheeks flamed, and she quickly looked down at her hands, unable to meet either man's eyes. She wanted to crawl underneath her chair to escape their close scrutiny!
William rose and came around to kneel in front of Karina. He gently raised her chin until she met his eyes and he continued very softly.
"I also know who he really was. My dear Karina, Lord Bryant taunted us with how he had abused you, but you have nothing to be ashamed of! You were helpless to stop him from having his way with you, and neither I nor Lord Rawlins holds you at fault."