She’d been here only a few days and already the quiet of this house threatened to send her into fits of madness. How dull it always was listening to the sound of the wind rustling the trees. How perfectly like her darling sibling to build the perfect monument to the dead and insist on staying alive in it. No matter about that at the moment. To think too much about Victor’s death would be to crave it and Charlotte was already well aware that her appetite for such things had a bad habit of making her act far too hastily for her own good. Besides, dare she might say, it would be irritating to be without her brother. She did not believe she would mourn him. Of course not. Such a sentiment would be beneath her. But she would miss him, she thought. A slightly different variation on the tradition and perfectly plutonic to the more cloyingly intimate idea of grief. She would miss their battles. Perhaps even his dreadful personality and his anger. A part of her was disgusted with this confession to such weakness but nevertheless, she knew it to be true. As such, a distraction was needed and quickly.

Yesterday she had managed to venture out into the dullness of town but unlike her simpleton sister, she was not able to keep her attention locked to trinkets. Leave it to such a magpie to be amused by such ridiculous items. Charlotte had instead occupied herself with searching out newspapers. She had found herself reading about Paris initially, bitterly aware of how far away it was. The City of Lights and she was a million miles from all its rich, degenerate secrets. All those people who supplied her with all her wild fantasies that would make the members of her family pale at her appetite for them. It had filled her with a nostalgic longing that quickly turned to despair that she had to fight to keep hidden. She cursed her stupid siblings for meddling out here in the middle of nowhere when there was so much more to be had in the cradle of decadence back in France.

Perhaps she’d been motivated by spite. It was the most likely culprit in what she did next, as she had sought out the local papers and began to compare them. Even then, it felt like a useless endeavour for her. She was well aware that she wished to leave this dreary world of nothingness but as long as Caroline held the keys to that bloody inheritance and Victor was the only one to claim it, she was forced to be still. She had baited herself all the way here with dreams of what she would do the second that the money was in her possession. Those dreams seemed so very far from reality as she sat down with that pathetic rag that detailed the pitifully mundane goings on of this place. How quaint, she thought almost angrily as she flipped through. A small store had closed down very suddenly after it had a family buy the building. A new park had been established. How lovely for the rotten little children to grow up with. Let them grow into dull and rotten little adults too. Perhaps then they would grow old enough to tend to the plot of land nearby that the town was planting a new garden in. Apparently the idiots couldn’t keep it alive for it was to replace the failed attempt of last year. Curious, they should be so stupid as to plant it this late in the year. And then there was the museum. How precious of them to want to mark a sense of heritage here when the town was only perhaps thirty years old. Possibly younger given the population.

It was only then that she came across the photograph in the paper, showing the woman being interviewed about this quaint little museum. Five years gone since she’d seen her face and still Charlotte felt the rise of excited hatred rise in her. Just the image of her had that power and it made her feel alive in a way that she could not explain. Tracing back to the beginning of the article, Charlotte finally understood how she’d missed it. Seems the shrew had managed to marry after all for the last name was one she did not recognize but the face was one marked by a kind of cruelty that she would never forget. A perfectly pinched expression that she’d had since childhood and a manner of moving that could be sensed even in the stillness of the picture. Charlotte smiled in spite of herself. Could this woman truly have settled here? Of all places where she might have landed to put her talons on a plot of land, it had to be this dirty little town. Clearly Victor was not aware but did Caroline know? Her wretched sister would be beside herself with fury if she did. It was too difficult to tell yet but it had been a delicious surprise to discover and suddenly her disdain for this place was loosening its grip on her. It was a card she had not anticipated and it would go far in the manipulation of the rest of the players in this game she was hosting. What a treat that it should make Victor utterly mad with anger. She would have to savor this anger in him because it was so rare to see him so perfectly seething.

Of course it always came with the risk to the one who reveals too much too soon. The want to tattle to him and see him broil in rage was so very tempting. Still, there was a side to Victor that she could not anticipate what he might do. His temper was something to behold and in his younger days, it had been a delight to watch him and their father battle. As he got older, it became a much more silent war. Charlotte was well aware that he was more composed than herself but she knew that deep within his veins, there was that fire still. The fire that their dear mother had bleed for both of them when the man they mocked with the name father put an end to her life and had the audacity to call it an accident. Neither of them believed such squalid lies from such a vulgar mouth. He grinned as he told them and Charlotte had felt it then. Victor had too. His own mother wrenched from their lives and while Charlotte schemed to rob that man of the one thing he loved the most, Victor grew to punish him in different ways. She never thought he might kill him but there was the vague understanding that it was possible. He was poised and there seemed to be too much refinement in his mannerisms to sully his hands with so basic a task but the day that he returned from the pool on the estate with the body of that little maid, she saw it for the first time in him. There was a cold kind of fury that she envied but, in her slower, more reflective moments, she also feared. She would never allow anyone to make her afraid but when he could find his path to that anger, Victor was a stunning sight and he was fearsome. When he was his own sombre self, it was difficult to imagine that same kind of anger that was so terrifyingly electric that she recoiled from even the memory. But she knew his dark eyes could become something feral in a matter of time and considering the card that she now understood to be in her possession, this may very well be a game best played cautiously.

Alas, this all happened and it had forced her to sit properly still for a whole day. Ah, it was like a hot stone sitting upon her at all times, getting ever more painful to think of. Her temptations sat like the very essence of seduction, whispering in her ear. He would be so easy to send into a rage. He already hated her enough that it would be simple to start to pull him in ways that would ignite his temper. So very basic a task it would be to drop hints about his beloved little memory of that dirty maid and it would be enough that he might be able to finish off Caroline himself. Still, a man set to inherit such a vast sum would never be jailed and his lawyers here and in London would see to it that he never spent so much as a thought about being imprisoned. A foolish circle of thoughts, she scolded herself. Too close to home. He would not hang for such a crime, even if he committed it in front of an audience but she had too many backstories to keep at bay.

Still, this information was pushing her to keep moving. Something must be done about this and there was not a single thing about finding out about this woman that did not make her want to move faster. Move now and make the mess something that wretched man would feel before he died. Let the shock waves travel to France and let him know how perfectly his plans for an easy future were fracturing under the weight of their deceit. Did Father dear feel such cracks? Charlotte hoped so. Let the bastard feel every single tear in his pit of a soul and let it be a taste of the hell to come.

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