Since her arrival here, she’d been disgusted and yet unsurprised at Victor’s choice of prison for himself. How dull Courtland County was and how very unlike Paris. So very typical of him to force her to lower herself to wandering around the middle of nowhere to find him. The fashions here were mostly okay but the people were so common it seemed. Why, poor Victor must go to bed shivering from the attention paid to him by the locals. It was little wonder how the women of this town didn’t storm his gloomy little fortress and attempt a siege on the hapless bachelor. Perhaps the women of this continent were less inclined to such things. Then again, perhaps they simply hadn’t the patience for his ghastly temperament. Heaven knows that it was bad enough living with such wickedness as they already did. The men of this town were cheap and utterly repulsive. Sure, she’d seen a few specimens that might pass for an evening but she was certainly not going to find a husband here and that was dreadfully disappointing. She’d so hoped that the new one would be blond and so many of the men here were and yet they were frightfully ill-mannered and even more gauche than the last one that met his untimely death on the way here. Poor Richard.

Oh but she had other things to keep her occupied while she was stuck in such a dreadfully boring place. Besides, nothing would fan the fires of her petty little heart like seeing the look on Victor’s face when he saw her. She had not seen him since her first wedding day and how she missed the way his dark eyes got cold when he was angry. Taking on that air of silence when he was around others he held in contempt was even better. He was a tempest in the flesh and if she had any interest in self-improvement, she would learn to harness that same bitterness that he could. To bottle that storm within him and find a way to really use it effectively. Oh how she envied the cold fury within him. In her it burned far too quickly and she was usually left with the mess that wrath could result in. She did what she could, of course, with what she had and that was a considerable amount. But oh so much potential Victor had if only he could darken his heart a little more. He would be a man they would talk about forever even if he met his fate on the gallows. She was more than confident that with the right amount of coaxing, he could be the kind of man that would never see a hangman’s noose. Still, there was too much pride in his blood that would ever allow him to be pushed into such a role. Pity for him. He would make such a wonderful murderer. He already had the scoundrel in him well fed for it.

She should just be grateful that he came from such pure stock. Like her, Victor had been given a name at birth that had certain advantages but the owner of it was a witless dullard at the best of times and a raging idiot the rest. How blessed were they that happened to get the best of both worlds. Cunning and wickedness swirled within their veins and she knew that she had been gifted when she saw exactly how easily she managed to bloom in roles that sent others to their deaths. Of course, it was tragic that Victor, it seemed anyway, was her only equal. It was for this reason that she had bothered to come to this dreadful place. She hated him as much as he did her but if she knew anything about that man, it was that he could sense his match. There was a mutual respect there that they had grown up with and though they had also grown to despise each other, it was something that could almost be mistaken for fondness. Perhaps if the wickedness within her was pushed a certain way, it may even be mistaken for a kind of love but she wasn’t altogether certain that she really knew what that was. That was a thought for another day of pondering and this one was nearly spent. She cared not to dwell on her affectionate hatred for Victor as it might spoil her appetite for the cruelty that she so enjoyed dealing out. She was, after all, here to help him deal with the tide that was surely turning at the hands of someone far less capable than herself and someone they both had reason to hate. Her current target was far more satisfying to torment for now anyway.

The would be matriarch who could never be a matron. The spinster who would keep them all as children forever if only to deny what it was that she feared the most. Caroline. The name rang in her mind like the cloying sentimental statements that would offensively drip from her lips at a moment’s behest if she thought she was in decent company. And that terribly sweet voice that uttered the phrases was too saccharine even in memory. Oh sweet, disgusting Caroline. A woman not of flesh but of rotten sugar and sour syrup. Looking back, perhaps she should have allowed romance to blossom between the first cad she married and the luckless Caroline. She’d have made a pitiable bride but her temperament would have been perfect for that witless conman. Then again, perhaps it was for the best that she saved the bastard gentleman such a fate. Poor Roger. Besides, Caroline was far more interesting to her when she was panicked, even if the spectacle could be painful to watch. She was such a dreadful liar and her attempts at being clever were practically an insult. She’d been dallying around the last couple of days, acting so shamefully proud of her clumsy attempts at stealth that it would be comedic if it weren’t so utterly disgraceful. Caroline’s feeble attempts at the art of deception were almost as pitiful as her own third husband’s banal dabblings with adultery. Poor Arthur.

Despite the dull happenings in this tiny place, she had found that Victor had at least made it hospitable to the modern world. The buildings were stunningly beautiful and it was charming to be able to walk down the streets and feel at the very least like she was back at home in civilization. His name was not on any of the progress these simpletons enjoyed, of course. Despite his pride, she knew dear Victor was not one to rest upon the laurels of his name unless he found it absolutely necessary. In fact, he had done such a job at distancing himself from his senior that it was a wonder that Caroline the clumsy was capable of finding him at all. Perhaps that sentimental dribbling had some purpose after all. At some point, if she could get past the loathesome taste it left in her mouth to speak in such an offensive manner, she might have to find out how effective it might be. She was, after all, looking for a new husband. Then again, such a display might attract riff raff that wouldn’t survive the honeymoon. How fragile husbands could be. Poor Peter.

Sitting in the small cafe on the corner of main street, she reclined in her seat, watching the day’s events drearily wander by but already she could see a light coming along the street. A large car that surely contained the one bachelor that would have nothing to do with anyone in this forsaken bore of a town and her hated brother. Yes, here came Victor back from some mysterious errand. Surely it was something financially related. Oh to be a man and not have to marry the keys to her bank account. Of course, considering the company Victor kept, perhaps it was easier this way. So many negotiations would become tedious indeed and she had no interest in being bored. The world and her former husbands had provided her with enough of that for a lifetime. But not Victor, of course. No, her dear brother always had something simmering in his heart and now a strange secret to be revealed as well. Why else would he be driving himself through town in such a fancy car. How lovely it was, shining in the morning sun today. How full of delightfully damaging tales for her to discover. Perhaps this dreadful place need not be so boring after all and what hospitality dear Victor had shown her already. For such a treat, she could not be so rude as to arrive at his doorstep empty handed. A devilish smile stretched across her crimson lips as she waited for the car to drive up along the main road towards the edge of town before leaving the cafe.

She felt a spring in her step as she walked along the streets, passing the large store front windows that didn’t have half the fashions that should be filling them. She smiled wickedly at her own reflection as she walked by. The malice behind such a smile gave her a renewed sense of motivation for this day and she was excited all over again at the prospect of seeing her dearly hated sibling and his magnificent house that he was still building. Of course, for such a cold welcome as she was going to get from him and any other member of their dreadful family, she couldn’t just show up with anything, now could she? She felt positively giddy as she sauntered into the apothecary and waited at the counter for the chemist. Such cruel treats he always had to offer her. Poor Victor.

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