Merciful Vices

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Chapter 13

By the time Charlotte returned to the Cabarro estate the sun had left the sky. One or two lights burned in the windows above her.

Mr. Cabarro sat alone in front of the fire.

“Miss Russo? Is that you?”

“Yes, Sir.” Charlotte dipped into the dim room.

“My men and I have to leave for a few hours tonight. Tino will be here with his men but be cautious nonetheless.”

“Of course, Sir. I’m sure we will be fine.”

“Alright. One more thing, Guerra.”

“Your horse? I hope you don’t mind that I have been riding him.”

He patted the seat beside himself and poured her a cup of tea.

“No Bellissima. That beast is far too much horse for an old man such as me. I was hoping you would do the honor of keeping him, permanently?”

“Mr. Cabarro. I couldn’t, that horse costs more than my entire existence.”

“Don’t be absurd, you’ve been such an excellent influence on Tara. She’s stepped up in such a big way since your arrival. Besides, he’s still so young. He deserves someone who will ride him more regularly.”

“I’m honored, Sir. Thank you.”

Mr. Cabarro stood and summoned his men, “You have a lovely evening Charlotte.” He kissed her cheek and disappeared out the door.

Upstairs the house was almost silent. The only sound came from the stables outside Charlotte’s window, where Mr. Cabarro and his men readied horses. Charlotte watched them from her dark window. Guilt and anxiety competing for her undivided attention.

Like so many nights before her mind drifted to Heather. Did she have any idea who she had gotten involved with?

Charlotte shook her head, chastising herself for the thought. Heather never did anything without knowing every player’s hand. Even if she didn’t have a name for what was going on she had to know exactly what was happening.

Loud voices woke Charlotte a few hours later, the sun made its way through the drapes.

“That man never leaves his house! where the hell did he go last night?” It was Mr. Cabarro and he sounded furious.

“I don’t know, Boss. But there is news that his men arrived early this morning. That opportunity is passed, we need a new plan.

Relief washed over Charlotte knowing Kane was okay and that his men were finally here to back them up.

Downstairs, Tara was already up and dressed as usual.

“Char. Come sit. Eat something. How are you feeling?”

The concern in her voice only served to make Charlotte feel guilty, “I’m okay, Darlin’. I bumped into Tino this morning, he said he found that gang.”

“He did. They have been taken care of. I was a fool to rush in there like that. I was blinded by my anger.”

“You were defending your family. I thought it was brave.”

Tara flushed, “Thank you. With that out the way, we have a free day. I know it’s your day off but I hoped you would join me for lunch. We could go eat down by the river and just take a break from everything.”

“I’d love that. I’ll get some food together.”

“Wonderful. Daddy wanted to discuss something with me. I’m sure it won’t be long. I’ll see you this afternoon.”

Charlotte and Tara spent the early afternoon lazing in the sun. New Orleans seemed not to even notice them, or perhaps they didn’t notice the city. Hours passed as they ate and poured over poetry. Tara was at ease. For the first time in months, she seemed more like the girl Charlotte met when she first arrived.

A smooth voice interrupted their chatter and Charlotte instinctively reached for a gun that wasn’t there.

“Miss Russo. Miss Cabarro. What a lovely coincidence.”

Charlotte knew Kane’s voice from anywhere. Tara sat facing him and her face tensed.

“Mr. Romano. It’s lovely to see you.”

“Are you two enjoying this lovely weather?”

“We were just finishing up our lunch, Sir.” Charlotte began to pack up their things.

“Oh. Well, I’m sorry I missed it.” He offered Tara a hand to help her up, She took it gracefully without a word.

“I hope you’ll pass my regards on to your father.”

Charlotte found herself watching the strange interaction. She knew, better than any, that Kane’s polite words were a threat, a warning. Tara’s curt nod suggested that she knew it too.

“Char, I’ll rinse off our plates. Would you fetch the horses, please?” Behind the annoyance in Tara’s voice hid something else. Fear? She’d been caught unaware with neither guards nor guns by a man, they all knew, was not above killing her.

Charlotte walked towards the horses tethered a few buildings away. Kane watched them both curiously, she could feel his eyes on her.

The woman loaded up their horses.

“That is quite the animal, Miss Russo,” Kane said as he petted Guerra’s gilded snout.

“A very generous gift from the Cabarros,” Charlotte replied bluntly. She tried desperately to keep any warmth and fondness from her voice when she addressed him.

“It’s getting quite late. Excuse us, Mr. Romano.”

Kane nodded as they rode away.

Back at the Cabarro estate, Tara fussed about her room aimlessly with Charlotte’s eyes on her.

“Tara. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. That man just makes my skin crawl. Nothing he ever says or does is as it appears. God damned snake.”

“I thought he was a friend of your family?” Charlotte feigned ignorance.

“Oh please, Charlotte. You’re not stupid. You know there is no love lost there.” She sounded uncharacteristically mean.

“You’re right, but it’s none of my business.”

“Father plays nice but he’d be rid of Kane Romano given half the chance.”

They said their goodnights and Charlotte retired to her room. In bed, her head was spinning. She knew Kane well, or at least she believed that she did, but seeing him earlier had left a strange feeling in her chest. Instead of the charming man, she’d come to care for, she saw a wolf circling a crudely made sheep pen.

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