Something was stirring in the house and she wasn’t the only one to notice. After a couple of volatile weeks between the Master and the Lady of the household, there was an eerie calm that suggested that the next explosions were just around the corner. To Charlotte’s surprise, however, there was nothing. Reginald Kent had gone from a dour predator to a smug ingrate in a matter of a couple of days. She knew better than to believe this sudden shift in his demeanor was cause to let her guard down. No, Charlotte knew that something large and dangerous was on the horizon and if she could only get a glimpse of it, she would know exactly the magnitude of suffering that would befall this wretched house. Curiously enough, it all started in the most innocent of places and one that frequently stoked his rage. While the arrival of bills and other manner of rubbish society people so hate to contend with, it was no surprise that he would be driven to a bout of rage when a letter that should be directed to his peon accountant should find its way to his hands instead. He cared little find out what he might be spending of his fortune. That was why it was so surprising to see him become a different man upon the arrival of an errant letter in the mail.

The storms had made the roads all but impossible to contend with and the result was that everything was delayed, including a special shipment that no one spoke of except in hushed tones. These delays included everything from the delivery of food supplies to the regular post, naturally. Given the weight of his wretched name, Kent had found some exceptions could be applied to him but they were sparring at best. He’d gotten the odd piece delivered to the house but each had to be classified as an emergency and it was a fine wait for each. Now with the post restored, she’d fully expected that there would be tantrums to delight in but no. Kent had wandered the house with a kind of arrogance that one might expect from a child who thinks himself too clever to be found with this dirty hands in the cookie jar. Charlotte’s interest was piqued but her guard was up particularly high these days. There was no denying that the delivery of the mail proper had created a pall in the air that she didn’t care for and he had been acting thoroughly suspicious because of it.

Charlotte had not been the only one to notice either. Vivian had been sullen but it was a facade that Charlotte knew all too well. There was no better way to keep a man’s suspicions at bay than to allow him to assume the depths of one’s own stupidity. Inevitably, they would always believe that which suited them best, which was always to assume the lady of the house was as dumb as a sack of bricks. Sometimes they just made it so very easy. To Charlotte’s trained eye, however, this ploy was entirely familiar and, much as it pained her to compliment her nemesis, a clever ruse. Vivian was biding her time as she played the fool. She was gathering information like the formidable huntress she always should have been. When she thought like this, it was easy for Charlotte to become indignantly angry all over again. Here was a woman of talent and could have been hunting in society all these years, making things interesting or, at the very least, challenging. While Charlotte would begrudgingly accept that she admired her enemy’s tactics, she simply could not allow herself to acknowledge this shadow of a woman as anything but pathetic. Her truly unforgivable sin was simply that Master Kent was not yet in the ground and his money spent. That, and only that, would allow this wretch to rise in her eyes when she saw the full potential come to bloom. She had no doubts that Vivian had no interest in truly realizing what she should be. Thus, it was up to her to find a way either herself or through other means.

Of course, if Charlotte killed him now, she might not find out his delicious secrets. She’d come to this hellish pit knowing all the while that this house would be simply dripping with all manner of secrets that she might gather for her own benefit. She’d found out all manner of things already from the banal gossip that lady house staff were sent to the laundry if they became pregnant to more insidious things. She knew that Kent was trying desperately to kill Vivian but why he didn’t still bothered her. Why bother having a willful murderess under his roof? Why indeed. And now the arrival of this letter and his assumption that everyone would be none the wiser, the fool. His arrogance had given everything away except the source of his confidence. That, she reasoned, would be revealed soon enough. Still, she was determined to find out more before that ignorant man had a chance to spring his trap on anyone.

Charlotte couldn’t deny that after being held prisoner in this house, she felt like she was owed a bit of something. She’d seen a small picture of the hell within this place and it only served to make her want to rip, by force if necessary, into its more terrible secrets. During her many tours through married life with men who thought they could own her, she’d discovered early that each of them carried tethers to their most brutal undoings. Kent may have been arguably the most vile man she had the misfortune of encountering and thus it would make sense that he had some of the worst secrets to be discovered. She ached to find them now and put Kent and this wretched house to bed properly. It was a goal she could see as rewarding for more than just herself and while she was not given to bouts of altruism, this one would certainly pay off for them all.

The staff were beside themselves with fear over this change in the Master of the house. Even the lowly wretches in the laundry were aware of it beyond their back-breaking toiling. And how they cowered. Those were the ones set to suffer worse, though how she could not imagine. Still, their nervous antics made her even more keen to find out what it would mean for them all when his plan was revealed. It seemed odd to her because though he was acting strangely confident, he was no less vile than he’d always been. She wished dearly that she could make them all understand what a boon this may very well be. Already she’d seen some opportunities that had presented themselves. His arrogance, while ever present, was heightened as of late and it made him dim-witted and slower to notice things amiss. Charlotte had managed to test this on several occasions and found, much to her delight, that there was much trouble to make in such a case. What a marvelous opportunity she had to set him up to fail.

Naturally, she was not the only one who had set her sights on making this man suffer. There was a great natural urge that rose in her to take offense to someone attempting to upstage her. In any other situation, she would have considered this the height of rudeness to be stepping on her toes in such a manner. Given her surroundings, however, she had to begrudgingly admit that there were those who had their reasons for wanting to take a swipe at the bastard first. It was a lamentable concession but she would not suffer through a fool’s attempt lightly. She would be blamed for any paltry failures to bring the man down and that simply would not do. She simply would not stand to be sent to the gallows under such humiliating circumstances. Why, she might very well die on the spot upon being accused of such a grave indignity!

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