Merciful Vices

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Chapter 10

Heather,

Something big is coming. I wish you could be a part of it.

Yours,

Charlotte

***********************************************

The room was dark and silent when Charlotte woke.

“Shit. I must have dozed off.” She muttered. Tara stirred beside her but didn’t wake. Then somewhere within the silence, she heard movement. Boots on gravel. No one should be on the grounds at this hour but the sound of footsteps was unmistakable.

She slipped off the bed soundlessly, every instinct pulling at her senses. From the window, she could see three? Four? Shadows moving through the gardens towards the back door.

“Tara. Darlin’ wake up. There’s people trying to get in.”

Tara’s eyes sprung open but composure came to her quickly, “I don’t have my guns. The guards. We have to get to them.”

Charlotte only nodded, unsheathing the knife from her thigh. They made their way through the darkened halls, keeping low against the walls. Charlotte couldn’t help noticing that Tara was angry, not afraid.

They heard glass crashing downstairs just as they reached the guard’s door. The door wasn’t locked. Tara walked in muttering angry commands in Italian. Charlotte couldn’t follow the rushed conversations that followed, she was handed a revolver with a look of disdain as a big man pushed by her, still shirtless, to make his way downstairs.

“Pay him no mind, they don’t trust you with that.” Tara nodded at the gun, “Lock the door.” As Charlotte moved to do just that a scream echoed downstairs.

“The maids.” The servant quarters lay on the lower level. Of course, they had investigated the noise.

“Tara, your safety is my focus. We have to stay here.”

“No.” Was all she said as she pushed past Charlotte onto the stairwell.

This time it was Charlotte cursing under her breath as she followed. Peering over the landing they saw the guards downstairs guns aimed at four masked intruders, one of whom held a young maid, Lena, in front of him.

Tara looked at her and Charlotte knew they were thinking the same thing. Mr. Cabarro’s men knew to protect Tara at all costs, a maid’s life meant nothing to them.

“Where is the princess?” The man holding Lena yelled. Charlotte felt a flicker of relief when she heard a thick southern accent. Some part of her had been wondering if the intruders were Kane’s men.

“I’m a fucking heiress, not a princess.”

Charlotte turned to shut Tara’s mouth but Tara was ghost white and silent. Lena had spoken. Protecting Tara. Anyone else would know from her clothing that she wasn’t Tara, but these were just common thieves. They knew no better.

Heather’s words filled her head uninvited.

If they come during the day they are after your things. If they come at night they are after you.

They were going to take the girl. Charlotte knew the guards downstairs would go with Lena’s deception. Tara would not.

“Tara. I will not let them hurt her, but you have to trust me. Do not show yourself. It is a miracle they don’t know what you look like.”

Tara was primed to argue but the look in Charlotte’s eyes shut her down. Instead, she nodded and sunk lower behind the banister, “Five minutes.”

Charlotte moved back through the house to Tara’s room. She pushed open the heavy window and jumped down onto a protruding window ledge. She made her way down the side of the house and around to the kitchen door.

“Okay, boys. We’re going to take this pretty little thing with us. When Daddy comes a-lookin’ let him know it will cost him to get her back alive. The guards saw Charlotte through the glass panel of the door and knew what to do. They raised their guns in surrender, one spoke.

“He will find and kill every single one of you.”

The intruder holding Lena backed away slowly with his gun at her temple. He pushed through the back door without taking his eyes off the guards. What he didn’t expect was to have Charlotte standing to the side of the door. She shot his kneecap without any warning. His gun went flying and Lena scrambled to the side. The guards shot his companions inside, they had aimed to kill.

Charlotte put the barrel into the wound on the man’s knee, “Who sent you?”

“I know you, Bitch. You ran me and my boys off that farm outside of town and killed my brother.”

“So now y’all move onto kidnapping?”

“Everyone knows this rich new family moved in. I’m surprised to see you here working for them.”

Charlotte stood and wiped the blood from the gun. She handed it back to the shirtless guard. Tara appeared behind the guards and looked down at the bleeding man.

“Uccidili.”

A single shot rang out.

“Clean this mess up. I will tell my father personally on his return. Understood?”

The men nodded and got to work. Tara walked over to Lena and helped her to her feet.

“You’re very brave, stupid too.”

Lena blushed, “I knew Tino would protect me.”

Charlotte turned to see the shirtless man blush.

Tara laughed and wrapped a blanket around Lena, leading her to her bed. Lena stopped suddenly and spoke in stuttering English to Charlotte, “Thank you, Miss.”

Charlotte went up to her own room. Her head was throbbing in part from stress and in part from the whiskey earlier. The gentle afternoon seemed like a distant memory now. She stripped absently and fell into her bed.

“Char.” Tara’s voice woke her only a few minutes later.

“Hi, Darlin’. Are you okay?”

Tara looked tired, older than her 23 years.

“Thank you for saving Lena. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if someone innocent got hurt because of who I am.”

Charlotte sat up, wrapped in the bedsheet, and patted the edge of her bed. Tara sat.

“As long as you trust me I will always help you.” There it was again. The guilt.

“It’s always going to be like this isn’t it? Watching over my shoulder, the people I love looking over theirs. Even if I don’t take up my father’s position. I’ll always be that heiress with a silver spoon in my mouth and a target on my back.”

“You’ve got a lot more than just a silver spoon, Darlin.” Charlotte smiled at her.

“No. I know. It’s a figure of speech-” Tara noticed Charlotte’s grin, “Oh you’re teasing me.”

“You will always be Tara Cabarro, heiress, one of the most powerful women, dare I say, people, in America. Lean into that. Make them fear you for the threat you are.”

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