The cold had killed off at least four people in the first week that they had travelled and by the time they made their first stop, there had already been the need to file out so that the bodies could be extracted from the small caravan they found themselves in. The precious packages that they had been supplied with were to be carried as if their very lives depended on it and Caroline did not need to be told that this was the honest truth. Whatever it was they were guarding, it was more valuable than money right now. That alone almost certainly meant they were carrying alcohol and it wouldn’t have been the cheap stuff Caroline had been drinking. That said, it did seem awkward that they would load up on human cargo to carry it. Granted, this did certainly help the facade of bringing the bottles up to the forest hills but would this not have been easier to claim it was something else? Would not it have been far more lucrative (if a little messy) to wrap the bottles in cuts of meat and bring them up that way? Why only bring a handful of people up to guard bottles at their feet? If the packages needed guarding so much, why no fuss over the now deceased guardians? Were replacements now needed to carry on? It was all so curious but Caroline dare not ask.

Guarding over her package, she had taken to cradling it as though she were a mother. It was a tactic that had gotten the attention of the man who had allowed her to take this wretched journey. He must have approved because he had taken to ensuring that the “mother” needed tending. That was her role now. She performed at their first stop with such care that though there were those who clearly envied her position, would not expose her for fear of the man’s wrath. During the second leg of their journey, Caroline had been allowed to keep her cargo in her arms while the others tended to the ones as they had before. She buried the package in the layers of warmth that she gathered around herself, rocking it unconsciously to pass the time as they made their way. As the journey continued on, Caroline soon realized that this ruse was perhaps the only way that she would stay alive long enough to make her way to her destination. This road, though it was fraught with horrible cold and icy dangers, would not have taken as long as it was. The first stop alone had taken them to dizzing areas that looked like nothing else in Courtland County. Caroline did not know much of this area but she did know what these roads looked like. Her fateful trip out to the museum when she should have put this awful business to an end had stuck in her mind for this alone. She was at least subtly aware of the area even if she would not have been able to make such a trek now in the dark. Such was the bane of being in the dark, freezing caravan with all the other wretches.

The weeks had passed. She knew of such things and she did not fear them anymore. Initially, she had wished very dearly to be able to get to her target faster. Still fresh from the wound of seeing Victor’s cursed gravesite, she had wished to be done with this last chore quickly. She had hopes of joining him very soon. Alas, she had allowed her haste to make it so that she had taken a small misstep. Not perhaps a permanent one, however. The forest trails, it seemed, were vast and filled with any number of methods for finding her prey and making sure that even if it was the cause of her last breath, Caroline would see to it that Vivian would rot in hell for her sins. She would see the blue of those lips. She would feel the fading of her pulse. She would watch that life expire and see it with her own eyes. She would know that her family would be avenged and that her loss had been expressed. This woman had no right to him. None whatsoever. This woman had sought to steal him when he was just a small boy and had taken advantage of him as a young man. Oh this would not go unpunished. Caroline had been too swift the first time she attempted. Yes, this was the true source of her clumsy methods. She had been too careless. Too scared of her own destiny and it had robbed them all. Robbed herself most of all. She would not allow this to go uncorrected. This, no matter how painful the journey, would be her greatest achievement. She could not bring Victor to his senses nor could she bring him to the house of his birth where he belonged. No, he was too far gone in sickness of the mind by the time she’d come. Oh how stupid she’d been to wait for so long. To try to woo him with those sickening letters. Oh how she regretted not simply making herself the threat that she should have. She had discovered Vivian and yet she let her simple morality get in the way of her better judgement. No longer. There would be blood soon but there was no rush anymore. Let the anger build. Her hatred would not be squandered.

As she sat now in the caravan, the cold seeping in worse now for the lack of four people whose bodies were not there to give the heat to the rest, she still cradled the package in her arms like an infant. She was reminded of that image she saw. The last dream that she could remember having. How she loathed that wretched dream where she saw that little harlot from the past. How she wished that she could have buried that memory under the waters of time and let it pass unobserved as it always deserved to be. No, that was not to be. Those old ghosts had been dug up by all this grief. All those old wishes. Those beautiful children.

She could still see them so clearly in her mind. How much like their lovely father they were. How they would grow to be the same captivating youths and eventually to become the same stately young men. And all somewhere else in the world where she could not see them. She would not allow it. It was not even that it was that they were to be born to Vivian, the scoundrel. No, that was simply an insult. A slight against her while she was already in the throes of pain and mourning. She could not bare it to stand but she would not have allowed such a treacherous thing to pass. Those beautiful twin boys. Those dark eyed angels with their father’s fair features. Those children belonged to the estate. They were to be raised there and nowhere else. It had been promised from the time that she was a child herself. The man of the house would bring the children into their disgusting little home full of wretched little girl dolls. He would bring more children and they would be those lovely boys that he’d fathered but not by that harlot! Not by anyone else. She would not allow it. She had come to claim her family and bring him home to the promise that was made all those years ago. Now that this promise was broken forever, she would not allow it to mock her. If she could not have her own home filled with his children, no one ever would.

As they hit an icy patch of the road, the caravan shuddered and swiveled about. Caroline bounced the package in her arms, gently cooing to it. For a moment, she thought perhaps she heard a small cry. A faint but distinctively sound like the wailing of a babe. Holding the blanketed bundle to her chest, she quietly hushed it until once again the road continued on like normal and all was quiet.

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