I hadn't known true fear until I looked upon my attacker, those animalistic eyes dark with murderous intent. Eyes smiling at me, and not a trace of humanity found in them.
I stepped back, my dress catching on the heel of my shoes, and stumbled in shock. "You?"
"Hello, little rose." My captor smiled at me, waving his occupant, callused hand back and forth, the silver glint of a knife reflecting in the window pane of the ballroom. "Surprised?"
"But how? I don't understand-"
"Of course you don't. There is too much for you not to understand why I would be the one standing here before you."
He put a finger to his lips. "We'll get to that. Sooner or later, but first we must wait for our guests."
"Where is he?" I demanded, frantically looking about. "Where is Atticus?"
"Tied up at the moment." He gestured to himself, then me. "It's just you and me. Just as it should have been from the beginning."
"Where is he?!" I repeated with a shout, losing patience.
"Ah. Ah." Approaching me, I stood my ground. "What have I told you about yelling at me?"
"We trusted you," I whispered brokenly.
He halted in front of me and traced the curve of my cheekbone with the blade's sharp edge. A line of blood was drawn, but I refused to flinch at the pain. "No. You trusted the Sparrows. This was the only way to get close to you. Make you understand the life you had was a goddamn fucking lie."
"So you created Monster as your cover up so we didn't see your face."
"No." His eyes grew hallow, as though he was remembering a past time before all this. "I was born with a different name, but Monster is who I became when everyone lost hope in curing me of this sickness in my head. There is a reason I tell you we are so much alike, you and I."
"What do you mean by that?"
He leaned down to whisper in my ear. "I can see them, too. The ghosts."
To say I was shocked was an understatement, but I didn't know if I could believe that. Not when he kidnapped Atticus and stained my hands with blood. Blood he made happen with that blade. One of the Sparrows could possibly die tonight because of him.
"Is that what this was about?"
Monster grinned and walked to the dinning table set up for three. "Not quite. In time, little rose, you will finally know why this has all come about. But I can't ensure the safety of the boy if you don't cooperate."
"What do you want?" I bit out.
"Death. Revenge. A lot of things come to mind for such a question, but know the Reaper will not come for you tonight. I at least hope he does for your Sparrows."
"Leave them out of this!"
Monster laughed. "After all they have done to you, you still defend them? If only you knew the pain they have in store for you."
"Why am I here?" I dreaded knowing the answer, my gut twisting, but the latter was better than finding out more ways the Sparrows and my brother have tried to hurt me.
He smirked. "There was always one question you wanted to know. One small fraction of a word you desperately needed to hear because it haunted your dreams. Is Charlotte Monroe dead or alive?"
His eyes went behind me and I followed his direction and gasped at the person walking out of the shadows and into the line of limelight above us. "I think I'll him tell you."