Kate stood at the top of the spiral staircase gazing down at all the guests.
"Kate, will you not come down and join us?" Susana asked.
The men in attendance all gazed up to Kate. Gary glared at her funny. Kate responded with a smirk of sorts. She was feeling happy and free and she was not going to allow Gary or anyone else for that matter to hamper her good spirits tonight.
As she began to descend the stairs Bellford appeared in the doorway to the music room. Kate paused and stood there half way down the stairs. He was leaning against the doorframe just watching her.
What is he doing here? Gary! Oh of course, he plans on playing me to the highest bidder. She glanced over to Gary who was still starring at her. He squinted his eyes at her. Kate plastered a wide smile across her face, tilted her head and squinted back. Ok then Gary. You will regret this.
"Kate." Susana said as she climbed the stairs.
"Yes Sues," Kate said.
"What are you doing? Your guests are awaiting you."
Kate walked past her. "They are Gray's guests not mine Sues," Kate said. She could feel Bellford's eyes on her as she made her way to Jagger. "What a wonderful surprise," Kate said as she embraced him sincerely.
"You look lovely tonight Kate," Jagger said.
"Thank you," she replied. Looping her arm through Jagger's she led the way into the music room off to their left. "Will you join me in a toast?"
"What are we toasting too?" Jagger asked.
Kate released his arm. "I think we shall toast to wonderful friends and to my upcoming birthday." She took a wine bottle from the server table and unwrapped the foil.
"Kate my Darling, the servants are more than capable for serving our guests," Susana said with a fake amused tone. She held out her hand to Kate.
"I also am perfectly capable of serving them as well, thank you." She turned her back to Susana as she struggled to pop the cork. "Jagger would you please get some glasses." Just then the cork popped. Kate smiled as she filled every one's glass.
After pouring her glass she lifted it and said, "Let us give thanks to Gary for bring us all together tonight." Kate gave him a slightly evil smirk. "Here's to you Gary." She said and then chugged her glass of wine. Before Susana could object she poured another one for herself.
A few more guests arrived. Susana had invited a handful of people. Kate was acquaintances with some of them.
Jagger walked over to her and offered to top off her glass. "You are in quit an odd mood tonight Kate. One would think that you being in a room full of people you don't really know and your future husband you would be nearly this chipper about it."
"Standing at the top of the steps tonight Jagger, I realized you are the only one in attendance tonight that is a true friend," she turned and faced him, "And that is enough for me to smile tonight."
He chuckled softly as he raised his glass to her and toasted to that. "Your brother is a smart man Kate."
"Smart? More like sneaky. Look at him. He cares nothing for what I want. What interests him is who is willing to pay the most money for me." Kate sipped her wine.
Jagger gazed out over the crowd. "He has to do his best to secure your future Kate."
Kate titched. "We both know that is a lie Jagger. He needs to pay his whore." She said it a little loud and drew the attention of some of the others.
Jagger could not help but chuckle. "I agree Kate but you will benefit. You need to move forward with your life."
Kate remained quiet. She did not want to think about him. If he had come back she would not be standing here right now being sold for her brother's debits. She would be happy in the arms of the man she loved.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Bellford approaching her. Kate turned to him. His dark hair swirled in waves as it feathered perfectly back. His eyes sparkled in the candle light. She remembered how soft his closely trimmed beard felt against her skin. The way he smells. His eyes. The way he calls me Katie. Her eyebrows pinched together as she tilted her head.
Bellford saw Kate studying him hard. "Good evening Kate."
Her expression hadn't changed. She remained quite as she looked at him.
Bellford nodded to Jagger," Glad you were able to make it."
"Who are you?" Kate asked.
Bellford's eyes darted to her. "I'm sorry?"
Kate moved closer. She searched his eyes for a long moment. "Who are you?"
"Kate I realize you are upset with me." He lowered his voice. "I want to apologize for the other day. It was impulsive on my part and I should have-
"I believe I kissed you as well but that has nothing to do with what I just asked you," Kate said. "If I'm truly honest, I will admit I seduced you with the way I was eating that strawberry." She watched Bellford's mouth drop open slightly. "Would you not agree I aroused you by that?"
Kate heard gasps coming from behind her and Jagger walked away trying to hide his laughter.
"Excuse us Mr. Bellford." Susana said as she pulled Kate out of the music room and into the hallway. "What do you think you are doing Kate? You are making a spectacle of not only yourself but this family as well." She released her grip from Kate's arm.
"This so called family is trying to sell me off!" Kate said.
Susana glanced at the people starring at them through the doorway. She walked Kate down the hall further out of ear shot of others. "I understand this is difficult for you Kate. There is just no other way darling." She turned to look at her. "We will lose everything."
Kate met her eyes and said, "It should have never fallen to my shoulders Susana. I am not the one with a whore and I have no interest in spending money to keep up with a false facade for my so called friends." Kate walked away back to the party.
Gary was clever enough to distract the guests by asking Mr. and Mrs. Hasselt to play a piano forte. She entered the room with every intention of finding Bellford. She spotted him standing in a crowd of giggling women, most of them young and single.
Kate found her glass of wine and filled it up again. Gary watched her from across the room while he stood with a small group of men.
Oh dear god. Kate rolled her eyes before turning around. "Yes Beckum."
"Has Gary spoken to you about your birthday party?" he asked.
She looked up into his eyes. They were empty. Kate raised her glass to her lips and began to drink. Beckum reached up and took the glass from her and placed it down rather rough on the table next to them. "I asked you a direct question and I expect an answer when I do." His voice was harsh.
"I may choose to answer you and I may choose not to. You do not own me, Beckum."
"Yet," Beckum interrupted.
Kate went to take her wine glass and Beckum covered her hand with his and pressed down firmly. She looked to the base of the glass.
"You will learn to respect me and abide by my word," he hissed at her.
Kate saw another hand cover theirs. "If you ever lay your hand on her again I will have no problem doing the same to you." Kate gazed up to see Bellford standing before her.
She felt the sting of tears peaking at the corner of her eyes. The rest of her life flashed in her mind. The way his words came out at me is only the beginning. He spit on me as he spoke on purpose. She glances over to Gary and Susana who were watching intently at them. And worse yet, they know it. Both of them. They are willing to give me up to a man who has no problem hurting me in front of these people. She gazed back to Bellford who now had her hand free from Beckum's and had his back to her. The men were arguing but she could hear them. Kate was numb. Utterly numb.
She turned and left the room and headed for the back hallway. The part of the house she seemed to forget about since that night two years ago.
"Kate wait," Bellford shouted.
She didn't pay him any attention and turned the corner towards the library. He caught up with her and gently took a hold of her upper arms. "Katie please wait."
"Stop calling me Katie!" She whipped around to him. "You cannot call me that. O-only he can call me that."
He watched the tears flow down her cheeks and he slowly walked towards her. "Only who can call you that Kate?"
She took a deep uneasy breath. "He did and you can't. He always called me Katie."
He reached out for her. "Who?"
"J-J." Kate choked on her own words. She fell to her knees. "It hurts so much. He never came back for me. He never really loved me."
Bellford kneeled down and took her up into his arms. After a few minutes he whispered, "Kate I want to tell you something."
She pulled back and looked up into his eyes. The hallway was dim and only lit by the moonlight coming through the windows. "You are so handsome. So many things about you remind me of him Bellford." Kate couldn't help herself, she kissed him. He restrained from it and she could feel it. Kate found herself pushing onto the floor and climbing on top of him.
He pushed her back slightly. "Kate I do not think we should be doing this."
She kissed him again. Her hands moved to his shoulders under his coat.
"Kate please. I really can't do this." Bellford pleaded with her.
"Yes you can. Now kiss me back," Kate said. She took a hold of his shirt and ripped it open.
"Holly shit Kate," he shouted.
"Shut up and kiss me Bellford." She threw herself on him again.
He grabbed Kate's arms. "Stop."
She leaned back on her knees. "Why? You were so willing to the other day so why not now?"
"Because it is not right for us to do this Kate. It is wrong of me to allow you to want this when you truly don't," He said.
Kate stood up. "Okay, I understand then." She stormed down the hall around the corner and towards the music room.
Bellford ran after her as he buttoned his coat. "Kate wait you didn't let me finish."
She entered the music room and walked straight up to Jagger who was standing with a number of other people in the room.
"Jagger I need to speak with you," She said.
The others in the group simmered down and waited. Kate was a mess. He dress was out of sorts almost as much as her hair was.
Jagger's eyes darted to the doorway where Bellford just entered. He heard her say his name but did not look to her. "Yes."
Kate cleared her throat. "Jagger." He gazed down to her. "Will you marry me?"
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A Forbidden Love