The Fool Ch. 09

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Babes

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 holidays had been an excruciating exercise in tolerance. The beautiful Manor house that was Carrie’s home with Sinclair was taken over by his family, who stayed with them from the time of the accident, a week before Christmas, through the following week leading up to the engagement party on New Year’s Eve.

“We never celebrated the holidays, it was always just me and Mum, my father usually sent me something, but I never saw him. Even Jordan tended to spend the holidays elsewhere,” she frowned, never having thought about that fact before. “It was just another day for me,” she tried to explain.

“Surely, since being here in London as an adult, you get into the general vibe of the season? The decorations in shops and carols blaring through the sound systems. Even the museum is decorated with holiday cheer,” Sinclair couldn’t fathom how anyone in this day and age could go through life without celebrating the holidays, or at least acknowledging Christmas, if not celebrating it.

“Let’s just get through tonight,” she said nervously. “Then you can teach me about every holiday you and your family feel the need to celebrate throughout the year so I don’t freak out like I have this year,” Carrie sighed.

“Actually, that sounds like fun!” Sinclair said enthusiastically. He imagined he would be her first Valentine. She would never have even gotten a homemade card from a love-struck boy at school. He wrapped his arms around her. “Have I told you how beautiful you look tonight?” He loved her simple, yet elegant, style. The designer she used frequently knew how to drape material to enhance her amazing body, and tonight she looked almost as good as the first night he met her at the Rackham Estate. That first midnight blue swath of soft satin was etched in his mind for all time.

For Christmas Sinclair had given her rubies, a bracelet and earrings that held large faultless stones. The Heart was being kept in a locked vault until the exhibition of the Mansvelt collections. True to his word, Sinclair had not told his father or anyone else that he knew who the Fool was, and precautions were still being taken to ensure the family treasure’s safety.

“I have something for you,” he traced the line of her neck. “It’s not the heart, but,” he pulled a necklace from his pocket. From it hung a large square cut ruby. “It’s not the Heart, but…”

“It’s beautiful, but I think leaving my neck naked sends more of a message to those who will be watching. The promise of what will decorate it in the future,” she smiled, and her hand fluttered over her collar bones.

“You have a point, and, personally,” he leant in to nuzzle her neck. “I prefer it when I have full access to you,” he bit lightly at her skin and murmured softly. “Do you think they’d be mad if we were late to our own engagement party?”

“I imagine your mother would come in here personally and pry us apart,” Carrie laughed. “I don’t think Jordan would be very impressed either,” she said, knowing that was one way squash Sinclair’s ardour. Jordan called her several times a day now and demanded a meeting almost every other day. Things had gone back to the way they were before her trip to his parent’s home and Panama and the ultimate realisation that Jordan hadn’t been honest with her. Sinclair had worked hard to maintain his friendly rivalry with Jordan, even when Carrie had been giving him the cold shoulder. Now that Carrie was falling back into line with the family and welcoming a sibling-like relationship with Jordan again, she was able to have a modicum of freedom within the cage her family had built around her life. She lived with Sinclair, worked at the museum, and had lunch or dinner with her brother several times a week.

The problem was, that even though it looked to any observer that her life had returned to normal, it was far from that. Her life was full of secrets and lies now, she spoke in a myriad of code like language to the various factions in her life. Her team from the museum would be here tonight, including the two hackers that now worked for her there.

Frazer and Sinclair had planned the guest list, carefully ensuring invitations went out to all of the major players in the association of the Hats, plus some influential members of past families and influential contacts. Frazer didn’t know the truth about Carrie, but had rather hypothesised the idea that an annexed family might be behind the vendetta. Once the seed was sown, Frazer and several older members of the association had met to discuss the idea and who might benefit from taking such personal items from each family.

“Showtime,” Sinclair stepped back from her and took her hand. “That dress is seriously dangerous, don’t flirt with the older men, they mightn’t bahis firmaları be able to take being hit on two fronts.” He chuckled as they left the room and went down to the ballroom.

The huge room opened out to the side gardens of the property, and, although both Sinclair and Carrie had requested a small gathering of family and friends, the wants and needs of the various factions of their family had caused this night to become a large celebration with guests numbering in the hundreds. Many had already begun to arrive, and Georgia was in full operations mode, dishing out orders to the temporary staff as well and her daughters and their husbands.

“Oh, Carrie, dear, thank goodness you’re here,” Georgia gathered her to her side by linking arms with her. “She didn’t RSVP at all, and then she just arrived with your brother,” Georgia was obviously distressed. “Come on, Sinclair. You come too,” she said over her shoulder.

“Who came with Jordan?” Carrie frowned.

“Edith is here!” she said, as if a little awed by the woman’s presence.

“Grandmother came? That’s good news, isn’t it?” Carrie frowned, wondering if her grandmother was in one of her peevish moods and being generally unpleasant to everyone. Georgia had been nagging Carrie about the lack of RSVP, and all Carrie could say was that her grandmother was mercurial and you could never know where or when she would show up.

“Well, yes, but…” Georgia was cut off by the commanding, but cheerful, voice of Edith Ward.

“There’s my beautiful granddaughter!” she held out her arms from where she sat holding court with quite a few of the older members of the Hats, including Frazer.

“Grandmother, I’m so glad you could come!” Carrie said in a cheerful voice and went to embrace her and kiss her leathery cheek.

“Of course, Darling, your father was so nervous about seeing you after such a long time that I decided to come and be a familiar face amongst a sea of strangers.”

“My father?” Carrie blinked. “But I, I mean, I…” she stuttered as her eyes swept the sea of faces surrounding her grandmother.

“Carrington?” a deep, vaguely familiar voice said from behind her. She spun, willing herself to smile at the man she had barely seen throughout her lifetime and had not invited to this party.

“Father?” she questioned, feeling as if she had been ambushed. “This is unexpected.” She tilted her head. He was tall and broad shouldered and had the same dancing green eyes she had been fascinated with as a little girl. She had seen him at her mother’s funeral, and knew him, or, at least of him and his life, but he may as well have been one of the strangers at the party rather than her father for the lack of emotion she felt about seeing him there. The fact that he and her grandmother had come together was not lost on her though, and she puzzled over the how, what, and why they were in contact at all.

“It can’t have been too unexpected, I did RSVP on time,” he smiled, easing the tension of seeing his estranged daughter. There was something else going on here, and she wasn’t sure what because she hadn’t listed him on her invite list.

“Sinclair Mansvelt,” Sinclair came to her rescue. “Soon to be son-in-law. I would just like to point out that she proposed to me, so I think that gives me a loophole for the whole getting your blessing thing,” he chuckled as he introduced himself. He knew it would be no surprise, as Carrie had told Jordan that her proposal was the only way she would get close to the Heart.

“William Wordsworth, and I believe that does let you off the hook quite cleanly.” He said with a strong Australian accent, shaking Sinclair’s hand politely before attempting an awkward embrace with Carrie. “Would you care to show me around your beautiful house while we catch-up?”

“I really should be welcoming guests at this point. Would you mind if I gave you a tour a little later?” she said somewhat cautiously. What this man was doing here with her Grandmother was incomprehensible to her. She noticed Jordan for the first time hovering beside William. “Jordan, could you introduce William to a few of the guests for me? I’m sure there will be quite a few people here who would love to listen to his accent.”

“Well, I certainly would,” Frazer volunteered. “I expect we’ll be co-parenting the two of you from now on, and I, for one, will enjoy being able to share the burden of looking after kids who seemed to manage to find danger everywhere they go.”

“A little bit of an exaggeration there, Dad. Don’t you think?” Sinclair rolled his eyes dramatically.

“Come with me, William, I will tell you about the time they went to the seaside to eat fish and chips and ended up coming home in an ambulance,” Frazer narrowed his eyes at Sinclair as if daring him to argue the point.

“That was one time, and it was only me that ended up in the hospital. Geez, Dad!” he groaned as a long-suffering child might when their parents embarrassed them, but the smile on his face told Carrie that this kaçak iddaa was a regular game between them.

“I think I’d like to hear that story,” William chuckled. “Can I buy you a beer, Frazer?”

“Sinclair’s buying tonight, so let’s have two!” Frazer chuckled and gathered the man to walk away from the small gathering of guests that surrounded Edith. “Georgia, what time is it?” he asked over his shoulder, and smiled as his wife gasped and hurried off to manage some small detail of the evening.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Grandmother, I hope we can find some time to talk while you’re here. Are you staying in London long?” Carrie asked.

“Perhaps, but you go and greet your guests, Carrington, I’m sure we’ll find time to talk tonight or in the morning. Perhaps we could meet for lunch tomorrow, just the family? It’s a rarity that we are all in the same city at the same time. It’s so difficult to get William to leave his work,” Edith said pleasantly, but Carrie could hear the order issued and nodded.

“Of course, Grandmother. That would be lovely. Maybe Jordan could text me the details of where you are staying and I could come to your hotel. There are so many people staying with us at the moment, it’s a bit chaotic here at the house,” Carrie agreed quickly.

“Wonderful, that’s decided then. Now go and play hostess and leave this old lady to gossip with old friends,” she smiled beatifically and waved Carrie away.

The night went in a blur for Carrie after that with so many guests to talk to, and the five-course dinner with speeches, including one from her father about her childhood, though he admitted he was a mostly absent father. People were beginning to move out to the front porch and lawn for a display of fireworks when she finally managed to catch Jordan and duck into a small side room.

“Why didn’t you tell me Edith and the sperm donor were coming?” she asked. “I thought we were back on the same team? You and me, remember, just the way it’s always been. We need to start preparing for April, and you ambushing me like this doesn’t fill me with confidence.”

“Things change, you did that,” he accused more sharply than he had intended. “No good complaining about the lack of communication now.” His voice was a hard voice. “Despite what you think, they didn’t tell me either. You didn’t just wreck your own life going off the reservation. Did you even think about what it did to me and my relationships in the family? Either they made a last-minute decision to surprise you with William’s appearance, or they have an agenda of their own now that I’m not privy to,” he predicted ominously. “They know where the Heart will be on April first, and, let’s face it, you’re not the only thief in the family. They treat Edith like a fuckin’ goddess here, and to hear some of the stories; she was much better than you in her day.” Jordan’s voice was coldly distant as he delivered the last statement.

“They wouldn’t take the last job away from me, would they? I need to finish this for Robyn. Not for me or them, but for her. You have to talk to Edith, Jordie! She’ll listen to you, even if she’s mad at me; you’ve done nothing wrong.” Carrie’s eyes welled up as she angrily pleaded with him to help her finish Robyn’s plan.

Jordan was taken aback. This wasn’t what he expected. He assumed she was running with the plan only because the family had forced her back on task. Now he could see that being stuck here with all of Sinclair’s dreadful unruly family had made her keenly aware that she was an orphan. She had told him as much as she constantly complained about the many nieces and nephews running the halls of their house. He also knew she hadn’t fully forgiven him for what she viewed as a betrayal and the subsequent blackmail to pull her back into the family plans. He could see how in that context William’s appearance tonight had completely blind-sided her and made her miss having the over-powering and over-protective presence of her mother who never gave her choices but rather told her what to think and do.

“I don’t know,” he said, feeling strange. This wasn’t the strong in control Carrie that he knew. Unsure of what to do he reached out and stroked her upper arm in a comforting motion.

“Fuck! Why did Robyn have to die before this was over? I need her, Jordie; I need Robyn to help me deal with everything, I’m floundering now. The information on Sinclair was wrong, and I need her to fix it. I need her to sort out whatever is going on with Edith and the sperm donor. Everything is out of control because she didn’t stick around long enough to see the job through, the fucking bitch! She just left me holding a bag full of bullshit and expected me to make sense of it!” She began to pace, a sure sign that she was anxious and agitated.

He, too, had been surprised by the inaccuracy of Robyn’s notes on Sinclair. They’d managed the Rackham theft well because Robyn had been there and lucid through most of the early planning. They’d both dropped the ball relying too heavily kaçak bahis on her planning when it came to Sinclair. The woman had been sick for over a decade, it was no wonder her work was left incomplete and lacking substance. He hadn’t realised just how much this had affected Carrie. She’d had her breakdown, as he called it now, after meeting Sinclair’s family, and if this was how she was feeling about Robyn, he could see why she finally snapped and started seeking out information on her own.

“You and me,” he said softly, gathering her into his arms to stop her agitated pacing and ranting before someone overheard them and came in to find them. “We can do this, you and me together. I’ll talk to Edith and see what I can find out.” He felt her relax in his arms as soon as he agreed to talk to Edith. “Take a deep breath. You need to go out there and be madly in love with Sinclair, not angry at the universe for taking Robyn away too early.”

“I need her, Jordie,” she said, letting go of a deep breath.

“I know, but you have me, and I will do everything that I can to make this last plan work, but we need to start some serious preparation,” he said, not wanting to give in too much just because she was emotional. He was still just as mad at her for icing him out as she was at him for his betrayal. “You know,” he said quietly, his hand trailing lightly over her one bare shoulder. “If the real Heart is half as stunning as this replica, it will be something to behold.” His hand trailed down her chest to where the replica given to her during the speeches for effect sat just above the line of her cleavage. Even Sinclair had been surprised by his parent’s gift of the heart, and apologised for the replica she would have to wear while the real Heart of the Heartless was in the exhibition she was overseeing.

“Even I haven’t seen the real one yet, they are having it delivered to the museum the week before the show opens,” she sighed. “Until then it could be in a number of locations,” she stepped back out of his arms, taking another large calming breath.

“Lunch tomorrow,” Jordan said. “I can come pick you up so we can talk on the way, if you like.”

“That’s a bit out of your way, don’t you think?” Carrie shook her head. “I’ll get the guys to drop me off and pick me up. We’ll still have time to talk. You can drive me home if you want to, or we could drive you home.” The latter was her preference. She was calmer now, and ready to go back when the door opened and Dylan stood to stare at them.

“They’re waiting for you to start the fireworks,” the woman said plaintively.

“Come on,” Jordan said, putting a brotherly arm around her shoulder. “Robyn always loved fireworks, she wouldn’t be happy if you missed them because of her.”

“I’ll let Sinclair know you’re on your way,” Dylan said with an odd note in her voice. She didn’t think she had met a Robyn tonight, but she hoped none of Sinclair’s ex-girlfriends had been giving Carrie grief tonight, Carrie was clearly upset. Dylan decided she needed to have a quiet word with her little brother before she went to bed.

“Thanks,” Carrie called after Dylan, who seemed to be hurrying away before Carrie could answer. “Thank you too,” she said softly, as she and Jordan emerged from the room. “I think that’s been building up since I had to endure a big family Christmas with Georgia, who is just so different to Robyn,” she pulled a face.

“I get it,” Jordan said, feeling that she had finally returned to him in the way he needed. He took her hand lightly in his as they walked outside. “Did I tell you that you look amazing tonight?”

“I thought green was always your preference?” she teased.

“That’s still my favourite of your gowns, he admitted. “So very…” he realised where they were and who they were surrounded by and substituted the word sexy for, “You.”

Carrie laughed and cocked an eyebrow at him as she let go of his hand and went to join Sinclair, who had been watching their entrance onto the front porch. When she got close enough he pulled her in front of him, pressing up against her back and wrapping his arms around her. The fireworks were spectacular, and, afterwards, people began to drift away, farewelling the happy couple and thanking them for a lovely evening.

Carrie and Sinclair became trapped on the front porch in the cold wintery evening air farewelling guests, and she found as she said goodbye to her grandmother and father that she had spent hardly any time with them during the evening and promised to be at their hotel for lunch the following day. It was close to two AM when she finally sat down in front of the fireplace in the cosy living room as the staff cleaned up the debris from the party.

“Sin-bin, go find us a nice bottle of red, pretty please? I know Dad has some of that Taylors hidden around here somewhere,” Dylan asked, flopping onto the couch closest to Carrie.

“Sure, why not,” Sinclair said easily, and rose to his feet from where he had crouched beside the fire, stoking it back to blazing new life.

“I’m sorry about earlier,” Dylan said in a soft voice. “It must be hard having all of us around when you lost your Mum not so long ago. I hope I didn’t interrupt anything.”

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