tagErotic CouplingsThe Fool Ch. 08

The Fool Ch. 08

byxelliebabex©

Authors Note: Thank you once again to everyone who leaves comments and feedback on my writing, it is much appreciated. Thank you very much to Paul who continues to be my second set of eyes, he is a great friend to help me out so much. I hope you enjoy it. ~ellie

*****

The Fool Ch. 8

Caught in an invisible net.

December

To Carrie's delight, Sinclair found a manor house for sale no further from the city than where she already lived, and she had fallen in love with it at first sight. The ten-million-pound price tag it bore she hadn't fallen in love with, however, and prevaricated over the purchase. Believing that the house would still be there when they returned, she went to Myanmar with Sinclair to see what he said was the last of the treasure troves. They had already delayed the trip and, with the self-imposed deadlines for the exhibition growing nearer, she needed to see this final collection of Mansvelt treasure.

In Myanmar, she catalogued even more artefacts revolving around slavery, as well as some treasures of both monetary and historical value, but once again she had not managed to find the Heart of the Heartless. When she asked Sinclair about it, she got a surprisingly direct answer from him for the first time. Seeing that particular treasure would involve another evening or two with his parents and possibly meeting his sisters and their families. She would need his mother's permission to display that jewel, and there was little he could do to expedite that.

She'd found that there were a lot of girls like Gianna in Myanmar and Thailand whose families lived in poverty and often sold their children to the wealthier landowners and businessmen to pay off debts incurred through illness or misfortune. Carrie had been appalled by the seeming callousness with which this was done, and after ranting and raving about it, and the fact that something should be done to help these young women, Sinclair told her a little more about Gianna and confided in her about the work he did with Interpol.

"Unless you're prepared to overthrow an unstable government in a hostile country on your own, then you do what you can with the resources you have at hand," he had argued with her. "This is the way these young women are brought up; they know their value. Robyn brought you up in a different way to the way my parents brought me up, and I think the fact that you were so isolated from friends and family is horrifying. Robyn could have sold you into slavery, and who would have been there to stop her?" he asked bluntly.

"You're right," she agreed. "My family is more than your garden variety of fucked up," she shook her head.

"Tell me about them and what's going on with Jordan," he said seriously. "You have to tell someone what's going on with you and why you have become so highly strung lately. You're not the cool calm and confident woman I met back in April. What happened in Panama?"

"You!" she snapped back at his sternness. "You changed the rules of the game in Panama, and before that on Treasure Island!" Carrie accused.

"Me?" he asked in shock.

"We had a relationship based on mistrust and suspicion. Our mutual needs made it work, but it was never based on affection, let alone love. We knew that going in. Respect, lust, even admiration, but not love," she pointed out. "You tried to change that and put me in an untenable position when your parents arrived."

"Untenable?" he asked, not denying that their relationship had started the way she explained.

"You were acting differently, and your parents obviously had expectations, since you'd never brought a girl home to meet them before. Your sisters were even dropping their plans to come and meet me. That's a lot of pressure for a girl that wasn't looking for love, or a happily ever after, as you put it, out of this relationship." She sighed. "After that, you proposed, or tried to make me propose in Panama. You turned your back on me when I didn't say yes as if you were hurt," she said in an accusatory tone. "Not to mention the bitch who rode in on her broomstick and promptly told me I wasn't good enough to handle your family collection, let alone you!" she spat, still feeling as if the woman had sucker punched her. "She knew it wasn't real, we knew it wasn't real, and you just kept pushing until I couldn't take it anymore!"

"I was hurt and confused," he admitted. "This relationship isn't exactly what I expected either, you realise. You're right, we both came into this with our personal agendas. No one was more surprised than me when true feelings began to creep in between us. I..." he paused and cupped her face so he could look into her eyes, "I love you, and even though you struggle to understand it, you love me!" he asserted.

Carrie kissed him then to avoid having to say anything more. Sinclair broke the kiss and looked into her eyes again.

"I want to know," he said. "Everything. I want to know everything. I will have your back, against Jordan, against Miles, against the Hats, but I want to know it all." Even though he still held her face cupped between his hands, she lowered her eyes. "You can trust me, Carrie; I'll protect you."

For the last few weeks, while she'd tried to set up a few fail safes for herself, Carrie had been thinking about what she would and wouldn't tell Sinclair. If she said too much and he launched his own investigation, her grandmother would realise she'd betrayed the family, if she continued to say nothing, who knew what he would imagine and act on. He'd done everything she asked of him since her return from the Caribbean. He'd even run interference for her with Jordan, making sure they were rarely left alone to talk, due to bodyguards or himself. She desperately wanted to believe she could trust him; the loss of her trust in Jordan had left a gaping open wound that hurt every time she thought of his betrayal.

"I feel like such a fool," she admitted. "I blindly believed the few people I trusted, and now I'm caught up in something that appears beyond my control or understanding. I want to believe I can trust you, Sin. I want to believe you could come in like a knight in shining armour and fix what's wrong with me, but as soon as you make waves or start to investigate anything, they'll know I betrayed them."

"Who will know?" he asked, realising for the first time that she was not just scared of the consequences of talking to him from his side, but she was terrified of what the people who pulled her strings would do in retaliation. "The people who shot at us?" he frowned.

"No, at least, I don't think so," she said carefully. "The shooting had nothing to do with me and more to do with your activities here, and in Panama, I believe." She looked around as if worried they might be overheard, despite laying on a picnic blanket at the edge of the huge lawn in front of the house, high in the mountains of Myanmar. "They," she paused and swallowed nervously, "Are the creators of the Fool."

Sinclair's surprise showed on his face. With the discretion, absolute lack of evidence and information about the thief targeting the Hats, they had assumed it was a single entity working on their own. The fact that there was an organisation targeting them sounded alarm bells in his mind. "For what purpose?" he wondered. They were hardly pirates these days, more like gentlemen thieves. He considered if there were anything the entire association had been involved in that that could bring this sort of vengeance their way and his eyes widened. It was if someone had drawn the curtains and let the light shine in, and he breathed a large heavy breath.

"They, the Bonnet family?" he asked incredulously. His father had filled him in on some nastiness with Edith's father and husband while old man Bonnet was still alive.

She nodded and pulled the portfolio she had brought out to the garden with her towards them. She had known this conversation was going to be pushed harder and harder once they had arrived here, and she had planned to tell him about Jordan's heritage, if not her role in the grander plan of her family. Unzipping the portfolio, she opened to the first diagram and left him to peruse it; he wouldn't need help to understand what it all meant. He flicked through the pages showing Jordan's blood links, if not in a direct male line to every other family in the association as well as the direct line to her own.

Carrie rolled to her back and closed her eyes, wondering if she had done the right thing. She hadn't exposed herself with this information, only Jordan and the plans for his future. Minutes that felt like hours ticked by as she waited for him to finish studying the diagrams.

"It's strange what a bit of bitchiness from Stella Davis and two weeks in the Caribbean can find. You could have found it yourself if you weren't so focused on me," Carrie said, rolling onto her side to look at him again, unable to take the silence.

"Have you got a pen?" he asked simply. Carrie reached out and closed the portfolio, unzipping a front pocket and taking out a small set of fine point markers. "I assumed you knew this information. You said you knew you were related to Jordan in a distant way," he said as he changed the names and filled in the locations for the other two supposedly missing men. "We're pretty good at what we do and have a lot of international agencies behind us. This isn't new information for me."

"Is that like when I thought you knew that my grandmother and your father were quite friendly when they were younger?" she bit back at his question. "I believed what I'd been told by people I should have been able to trust and never looked any further. I believed a lot of things that now I realise I shouldn't have. I've done too many things on faith and trust alone. I never knew about Jordan's heritage, or his intention of taking the chair," she noticed a brief widening of Sinclair's eyes, which told her he didn't know everything. "He lied to me, and I can't get past that. He was the one person in this world I was supposed to be able to rely on to have my back, but he only ever had his own."

"Jordan loves you," Sinclair said cautiously. "I find it hard to believe he would purposely hurt you. Maybe he thought he was protecting you."

"They have plans for him," she paused and looked up at Sinclair, fear showing in her eyes. "And me, that I never knew about. He knew everything, and he never told me."

"Plans for what?" Sinclair knew instinctively what she meant, but felt unable to believe it. He needed her to confirm his suspicions. "What do they plan, exactly?"

"I don't know, I don't even know who they are, exactly, and, short of being in a nudist colony, I don't know who is watching or listening to me at any given time anymore," she sighed. "I'm becoming crazy paranoid."

"I see why you wanted the guys to work strictly for you, now," he nodded, indicating Daley and Max who sat on the wide veranda of the house keeping Carrie in sight, despite Sinclair's presence. "You didn't know any of this? What did you know about the Hats and why the Fool was targeting them?" he refrained from pointing out that she had admitted she knew who the Fool was.

"I knew I was a descendant of Stede Bonnet, and that one of his descendants, a male with a direct line to the man himself, had been part of an association nicknamed the Hats," she started tentatively. "I was told that it was time to prove that women could be part of that association, and that Edith or Robyn should have been given the opportunity to take the Bonnet chair instead of being vacated for good because no male heir could be found."

"So, the Fool is a woman?" he asked, feeling like she was trying to hedge around the Fool's true identity.

"You don't get it, do you?" she said acidly. "This is so much bigger than the Fool; the Fool only had a small part in a much bigger scheme."

"I get it," he said a little defensively. "The Fools activities are obviously part of this greater plan, as are you and Jordan," he considered her. "Robyn and Edith obviously know, or knew, a great deal more than they told you. Did it occur to you that talking to Jordan to find out the extent of his knowledge about this grand plan was a better idea than freezing him out of your life because of hurt feelings? I thought better of you, Carrington. Where is that cold hearted bitch who fought for every inch she gave to anyone? You've just let Jordan and whoever he gets his information from skate by because he lied? Why aren't you turning the tables on him?"

"He was all I had. The one person I thought I could trust and rely on," she said plaintively, realising everything Sinclair said was true. "If your father betrayed you, could you turn the tables on him so quickly?"

"My father wouldn't..." Sinclair's voice trailed off. "I guess I might have had to come to terms with a betrayal of that magnitude first," he conceded. "Can we start at the beginning? I need to know it all if I have any hope of helping and protecting you."

"That's it, I've told you everything I found out and why I am mad at Jordan. I don't know what else you expect me to say," she lay back down, rolling onto her back and looking up at the sky. She wasn't ready to trust him with everything and the fact that she was the Fool.

"You said Edith had plans for you and Jordan. What does that mean?" he asked, closing the portfolio and leaning over her to watch her face.

"I don't know the details. Edith did tell me that I shouldn't make any wedding plans with you," she sighed.

"When did you see Edith?" he frowned in confusion.

"On my way back from the Caribbean," she realised she probably shouldn't have mentioned that part of her trip. "She's in Europe at the moment with friends."

"Is she?" Sinclair raised an eyebrow.

"She was," Carrie nodded. "I'm not sure where she is now."

"But you could contact her and maybe invite her to a small family dinner to celebrate our engagement?" Sinclair pressed.

"I guess," Carrie frowned as she nodded. "I'm not sure that's a very good idea though." She was doing her best to give him some information without allowing him access to all her plans and concerns.

Sinclair could see her shutting down on him again. Every time she gave him these glimpses into what she was thinking, and what was worrying her, he would push until she began shutting down, and he cursed, thinking that she had finally decided to trust him fully and realised he had pushed too far again. He joined her laying on his back and staring up at the sky as he weighed his options now to get her talking again.

"Okay, so what you're saying, without actually saying anything, is that you have been part of a family conspiracy against the Hats. Recently you found out that there is a greater plan and your part in it was much smaller than you had thought," he summarised what she had said, putting his own particular twist on it. He was banking on making her mad enough to start talking to him again.

"Why do you always have to twist my words!" she exclaimed, sitting up to look at him.

"Which part did I twist?" he looked at her in astonishment.

"I..." she tried to think back over her words. "I never said I was part of any conspiracy."

"You said you were told that it was time to prove that women could be part of that association and that Edith or Robyn should have been given the opportunity to take the Bonnet chair. It seems like your family was holding a pretty big grudge against the association," He said, as if it didn't matter.

"A grudge is not a conspiracy!" she snapped back, feeling like she was losing control of the conversation she'd planned so carefully.

"Perhaps conspiracy was the wrong word, but it very much sounds like Edith and Robyn may have had a reason to become the Fool, or encourage you to become the Fool, to prove that the daughters of the Bonnet line are just as qualified as the first-born sons," he mused. "I'm still betting on it being you. I imagine you thought that as the Fool you were the lynchpin in your family's plans. Finding out that you were just a small cog in the wheel of a much bigger machine and that a man would reap the rewards of all you had done must be hard to swallow. It might even make someone crazy paranoid if they weren't as in control of their life as they thought." He smirked at her, purposefully baiting her in an argument.

"Tell me more. You obviously know a lot more about my life and my family than I do!" she snarled at him, pushing away the information she thought she was giving him, only to find out he knew more than she did.

"I'll tell you everything you want to know. I'll give you complete access to my networks and whatever else you need, if..." he paused and gave her a serious look. "If you say it out loud. Admit that you're the Fool and I will do everything I can to give you the control you want over your life again," Sinclair said, reaching out to take her hand.

"You'll give me control over my life, or take it from me?" she narrowed her eyes.

"You don't seem to have that much control over it now. Taking that small bit of control would be a pretty empty victory for me, don't you think?" Sinclair let his lips quirk into a smirk, seeing her become angrier, not just with him, but the situation she found herself in. "I can help you. I am the one person you can trust to have your back right now," he asserted. "I promise I would never betray you or anything you tell me."

"Why does it matter what I say? You seem to know everything anyway," she took her hand off the portfolio to pick up her glass of wine and take a large swallow.

"Because, just like you want to trust me, I need to trust you, and I can't do that until you're honest with me. About everything," his tone was serious.

Carrie considered if he already knew and had been waiting for her to confess. She shook her head, knowing he had been surprised by her appearance at Miles Rackham's party. He thought he knew, but he wasn't sure, and it was the one snippet of information she had to trade on. It was her freedom she wanted, not a preordained marriage to Jordan, or a forced marriage to Sinclair because she didn't have any other choice.

"You'll help me get back my independence?" she shot him a look.

"You seem pretty independent right now," he raised an eyebrow, "If not fully in control."

"As long as I appear to be following the family plan," she murmured dourly.

"The plan to seduce me and steal the Heart?" he asked.

She shrugged, looking up at him finally. The whole conversation had gone too far, and she knew her life was so out of control that she needed to trust what he said if she had any chance of a future that wasn't dominated by her grandmother and brother. "Yes."

It took Sinclair a moment to register what she had said and react. Even though he'd known it all along, he had wanted to believe that slim possibility that she was as innocent as she proclaimed. Relief flooded him, and he smiled, knowing his instincts had not let him down. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

"The only plan we follow now is our own. You can trust me, Carrington, I won't let you down," he urged, and stood up, helping her to her feet and propelled her towards the house. "You start packing while I call the pilot and have him organise the jet."

"Where are we going?" she couldn't help the anxiety in her voice.

"Home," he grinned and kissed her again.

"Wait, what?" she froze in bewilderment. This wasn't the conversation she'd intended to have, or the reaction she'd expected from him. "Which home? Whose home?" Carrie stared at him blankly, trying to regain some sense of equilibrium in her out of control life.

"Our home, the one I just bought for you in London as an engagement present," he couldn't help the smile that split his face seeing her calm, cool demeanour slip into one of absolute panic and anxiety as she dealt with what she had just confessed to him.

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