Caroline had returned to her paid room in the hotel after her chore was done but she knew better than to stay where harm might find her. Ushering everything that she could fit within her bags, she quickly did her best to erase the traces of her presence in the room and left in the middle of the night. Too long she’d been there, slowly amassing attention where she might have instead been better off to move. Still, it had been such a grand place to stay. Perhaps less aesthetically pleasing than was to her taste but still, it felt like something she knew. The world of old had felt far but at least it echoed within the service and the richness of the experience. It was exactly where someone like herself would stay and this would be her failure eventually if she remained there. Instead, she decided that the best and safest course of action, was to remain quiet and attract as little extra attention to herself as possible. There were likely already those who had paid her entirely too much mind and she was already in danger of foiling this plan. How perfect it has all seemed and now this had come to pass. She deplored that she had to lower herself to seeking sanctuary in separate hotel that had far less to offer. If her poor Papa could see her now, he might just succumb to shock. To think of his precious daughter sitting amid the riff raff of such a quaint and disreputable establishment may have proven too much for him. He would never know but oh the burden she must carry.

After driving into the dark well of the night, she slept in the rented car before making her way to the places she found the most vile to look at. When she found one that she could stomach, she forced herself to go in and rent a room. This building had been established possibly three years prior or maybe less. From the interior, she couldn’t yet tell if it had been built with the expectation of becoming something more than hotel with some tawdry amusements. The foyer was acceptable but the hall it foolishly boasted of was little more than a common saloon and Caroline felt ill at the prospect of who might be down there. At the very least, it would be no one of any concern to her and therefore, no one that might scandalize her later. Still, it felt like such an insult to have to hide here like a petty criminal. The other place that she had been in felt too modern for her liking but it at least felt like a woman of her stature was welcome and acknowledged. Her breeding and class of the old world would be honored in a way that was acceptable. Here, she was ashamed to go out without a wide brim hat for fear of being seen. Of course, being seen here was among the least of her worries.

The morning that she’d checked into this place, Caroline had sought out the local newspapers as well. Fully expecting that she would be reading about the death of a member of the Kent family, she made a point to find each paper to find out exactly when her enemy had expired. To her utter horror, the fiend was still alive. For now, anyway. Vivian Kent had suffered a traumatic accident had been the consensus of all the papers but none of them said anything about the incident. For all their bluster about the so-called tragedy, they said nothing of her condition. They also said nothing of any suspicious activity that might be investigated. Whether or not they were looking for someone. Perhaps that all depended on their abhorrent victim and if she could talk or if she’d been silenced for a reasonable amount of time. The problem was that if she was alive still, she would be able to speak eventually. Nothing told of her being on the verge of death so there was no way to tell.

Caroline knew that this was a very bad development. Vivian Kent had not seen her to the best of her knowledge but that did not mean that she was in the clear. If her target had managed to figure out anything about the plan to free Victor from her clutches, it would ruin everything. The wretch had tried to ensnare him with her womb but now that this had been taken care of for now, she would no doubt be desperate to reclaim whatever hold she could on him. In a horrible moment of clarity, she realized that she’d all but made Vivian’s task a matter of time. Caroline cursed herself for her lack of foresight on this. While she no longer had her vile progeny to lock him into place, she could still yet play on Victor’s sensitive nature. Her brother was a man of honor and he would not look at a woman in need without pity. She could still trap him with her need for comfort in this time when she would play at grief. It made Caroline ill to think of how she could use her charms to draw her brother in. How foolish she’d been. How utterly she’d played into the hands of her enemy.

What a dreadful turn for this to have taken! Caroline only wished that she could access her rage again. How it seemed so close to her once and yet now she could scarcely recall what that burn felt like. It seemed so easy before. Had she been able to complete her chore like the last time, there would have been hope again. Hope for the future and for the family that she needed to see complete again. With Vivian still alive to tell her tale, she could still poison this dream. Worse yet, because she remained alive, Caroline was forced to sit back and wait for another chance to strike. Too soon and she would no doubt be discovered. Too late and Victor would be lost to his whore forever. She was well aware that no one would hear her plight. An injustice if ever there was one, she could never tell the horrible way that this terrible woman had ruined their family. How she had turned her precious Victor into the man of misery he was now. There had been yet chance for him to heal and now, he was in more danger than ever before. More at stake than she could have ever imagined. This was supposed to be the end of their strife and yet here she had made a fool of herself again. She had lost the letter to that foolish woman in the post office and now she had opened up her brother to fall prey to the viper that she’d sought to destroy.

She had not failed yet but she’d panicked and that was bad enough. If only she’d kept her head about her, she might yet have figured out how to avoid this terrible outcome. Victor had to be reached but she knew her brother would not listen to her. His mind had been poisoned already by desire that he thought he felt. Desires that he should not be feeling for a woman like that. Ever. The flicker of her anger burnt somewhere in her but it felt far away and colder than she was comfortable with. It was also taking aim in a way that she was fearful of. No, she could not allow that wicked woman to taint her mind like this. Victor had done nothing wrong. He was little more than a child. A boy who was still discovering what it meant to be a man. This was the work of that harpy who had sought to destroy their family and she alone would carry that slight. Still the seed of that discord had started to germinate in her and Caroline found it difficult to swallow. She loved her brother too much to allow this to continue but how could he be so utterly foolish? How could he love someone so vile? So wicked? His family loved him enough to fill that void in him should there ever arise one. How could he betray them?

Ah but lust had a powerful grip on young men. The idea stung but she knew it to be true. Her poor foolish sibling had been used for his youthful flaws and it had landed him in trouble. How taxing it was to keep cleaning up after him. To keep his secrets and to save him from himself. Caroline could hardly stand it.

At home in the sanity and safety of their isolated estate, they were saved from the madness of these puritans that had instigated here in America. The world around them need not exist at all when she was able to find a spot of solace in the shadows of their rural house. Their father had never really wandered into his cellar that often. Never enough to notice the bottles that went missing. Her mother had taught her where the better ones were by accident. She’d followed Mama into the depths of the cellar, looking to see what would possess a woman to wander into the dark alone. Caroline had initially thought it to be a good place to be alone. A place to hide where no one might scream or shout at anyone. When her mother died, she found the true escape through the bottles. They were plentiful for many years until after Victor left. Caroline had wandered down there shortly after to find that they were all but gone. For years, she had not tasted the wine, hoping that its memory on her lips could satisfy her alone. Tonight, she allowed that memory to pull her down into the saloon. She looked at no one as she covertly spoke to a man about dining there. He put down a plate of nearly inedible food before her and a glass of wine. She made a show of picking at the food as she savored the wine. Watery though it may have been, it was the first of many glasses. The first of many moments that she would erase and soon allow to become part of the fog from which she would pull a solution. It had worked before. It would work again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *