Sitting before the vanity mirror in the guest room of this drafty, gaudy house, Charlotte fought the urge to rub the raw mark on her face. She was locked in this tacky room with no clock but she knew well enough that it was getting late and all her efforts to cover this sickening mark were going to be to no avail. The light was fading over the horizon now and she could not deny that this makeup was doing little to hide what had become of her precious visage over the last couple of days. It was so very embarrassing to be seen like this but there was only so much that powder would cover. The damned brute would definitely pay for this one way or another. She had been rudely woken up by that barbarian after he’d made short order of her host and his simpering entourage had then insisted that she arrive at the Kent mansion in plenty of time for dinner. The less she thought of that ungodly ride, the better. It was, however, a good motivator for what was to come. It always was but this one was going to be particularly soothing. Charlotte had done much damage for far lesser offenses than these and it had been only money that she’d been interested in then. She was able to keep calm only because of the catharsis she craved at the end of this little encounter. She would make it known by the end of this that it would have been better off for everyone involved if that bastard Kent would have simply killed her.

She could not carry on like that, however, showing her rage simmering beneath her beauty. That was simply not like her and besides, it spoiled the fun of letting the damned believe that they were getting what they wanted. It might have well been true that she was trapped in this room and had no method of escape yet. This, however, was only a fact of the matter. It had been like any other time she’d found herself stuck with deplorable company and in a less than ideal environment. Charlotte’s greatest resources were always her wits. It seemed like opportunity was simply something that she never lacked for and even when it would not present itself, she would find it. She had become terribly good at that. Admittedly, this was a challenge that she had not quite prepared for.

The Kent family was one that she had expected to make her life difficult and even before she’d taunted Vivian into a pathetic attempt to insult her when she barely had a breath to spare. This family, for better or worse, was one that was still so much in love with their grand old money. It was one thing to have a healthy respect for greed. Charlotte herself was a devout follower of the dollar and knew the power behind it. Of course, she also knew that the face of that dollar had changed. No longer domain of the cloistered families who had always had wealth and knew privilege by their birth, times had produced a new breed of wealth. New money was about enterprise and the idea that anyone could have it. Any number of people who once had nothing could lay their hands out and find themselves in the lap of luxury. Oh how people like the Kents hated these new times. They wanted their old powers in their old money. They wanted their wealth to be their ticket to the heavenly gates. Their houses reflected the worship they paid to the ways of before. When the world knew and respected the good names. Well, what they thought was a good name. Then the world started to change and they just refused to go with it. It made a bitter, rotten family even worse and somehow even more greedy. They were such a strange part of this new world and this tiny town. They still had wealth and apparently enough power to create opportunity where they needed but they lacked the respect. The power they had was something that was not so iron clad as it had been back in France when this name shook people and made them worry. Now it was the very same family members who were feeling this anxiety. They felt their power slipping away on them. Capable of being stolen or, worse than anything, bought out from under them. The thought would likely drive them mad and had been the only idea that had brought a smile to Charlotte’s face all day. That smile quickly faded when she realized that if anyone was going to suffer through their revelation that they were becoming obsolete with the passage of time, unfortunately, it was most likely to be her.

That may be the reality but she felt the steel inside herself that had served her so well in the past. She would do what it took to get out of here. She already knew a few handy tricks but she had little doubt that the fool who ran this prison of a house would be aware of some of them. She already knew that this would take a bit more cunning on her part if she was to get out of here without getting maimed further. As it was, she wasn’t quite at the same liberty as she might have been in the past. At least with a husband proper, she would be able to come and go as she pleased, or at least when he was content to think that she was at home alone and awaiting his return. With access to a driver, or a car, she was able to find her way to a chemist in short order and the trouble would be dealt with. She was well aware even before she’d been locked into this room that there would be no such luxury here. Still, she’d found herself in such a situation before. There were always doors to be opened. Passageways that might yet lead to freedom. She had grown up in such horrid situations. She could find those skills again if need be. She knew that she could and she’d be damned if she wasn’t capable of finding her way out of this.

Before she could find her way out, however, there was still the problem of what to do about tonight. The sun was setting in the grey, darkening sky and she knew that dinner was approaching. She was informed that she would need to skip their afternoon tea today to make sure that she had adequate time to freshen up and make herself presentable for the master of the house. Oh to think of that phrase being told to her by one of his damned hired hands made her clench her fists and curse her frustration. She’d held her tongue, however, and gave him a reply that sounded as sweet as she could make it but there was no missing the ice in her voice. The man who’d come to intimidate her might not have been smart but he was in possession of enough faculties that he understood that she meant to kill him. She would see him dead soon enough and if she got nothing else out of this enforced stay, she would see to it that the two men who’d laid hands on her to bring her to this hell would find out how resourceful she could be. Why, the very thought of that brought back her cherished, wicked smile. That alone made her feel a bit better and more like her old self.

Charlotte rose from her place in front of the old, battered vanity that had been placed in this room, probably to forget about it, and went to the drafty window. This room, like the furniture, was old and worn. If it were any less regarded, it would have been a fitting room for a servant. She found herself, much to her disgust, thinking of how much better even Victor’s servants were taken care of. She knew for certain that he saw to it that at least the windows there were sealed properly. The one she stood before now rattled in the milder winds and she could feel the bitter cold seeping in. There was no fireplace in this room and she was well aware that this was by design. All the more incentive to come to the bed of the master, she thought with a pang of disgust. Oh she would die first and though Reginald Kent would like to think that he could do this to her, she would make sure that if this was indeed her time to die, she would make sure that he was coming to hell with her.

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