Forging Forever

By kmccabe08 All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Thriller

Chapter 21

The party was opulent. She was walking around the fragrant garden of the Carter’s townhouse by herself. The full moon bathed the area in light. The bright stars in the sky seemed to sparkle even more than they usually did. Despite her beautiful surroundings, Annie felt apprehension and fear. She looked around her, searching for the source of her fear. From within the bushes a figure emerged. Her dark hair and too thin figure were all too familiar to Annie. “Catherine? What are you doing here?” Her voice was a cracked whisper. She tried to control her fear, to put on a face of courage. Although she could not fathom a reason for her fear. Catherine may not like her, but she did not hate her enough to kill her. She’s your sister, she won’t hurt you. She repeated the mantra over and over in her head. Still, her fear did not abate.

“I’m here for you, Annie.” Her face twisted into a maniacal smile. She raised her grandfather’s gun and pointed it at Annie.

Annie tried to run, but her feet were glued to the spot where she stood. There was no escaping. “I’ve waited so long for this,” Catherine stated then pulled the trigger.

Annie felt a piercing pain in her chest. She crumbled to the ground, feeling her life fade away to nothing. The moon and the stars grew dimmer. As she took her final breaths, all she could hear was her sister’s gleeful laugh.

Annie’s eyes flew open, her body bolted straight up from the bed until she was in a sitting position. Perspiration dripped from her forehead. Her nightgown clung to her body. She looked wildly around her room. She was alone. Cameron had gone to bed hours ago. She wished he was here. Pushing herself up from her bed, she walked over to the desk and lit the small candle that she had left there. The room was cast into shadows.

“It was just a dream,” Annie whispered to herself. “Nothing is going to happen to you. Catherine’s back home. Everything will be okay.” That thought brought her no comfort. The deep sense of dread weighed heavily in her stomach. Something was terribly wrong. Something had changed. She needed answers. She pulled out the unread notes from her bag and looked at the dates. One of them had today’s date on it. Desperately, she laid the letter on the desk and covered it with the cipher. What she read did nothing to alleviate her dread.

The game has changed. A new player has been added.

Do not be fooled by the newcomer’s familiarity,

by her close relationship to you. You learned in years past that

those who seem to care the most can be dangerous.

This person is far more dangerous to you.

Her antipathy towards you is well known.

Do not believe that your blood ties will spare you.

She will come for you soon, within the week.

Make a plan for your safety accordingly.

Do not let her hatred for you change the course of history.

Annie stared down at the note, her eyes filled with tears. Catherine was here. She knew it deep within her. How she had gotten here, Annie did not know. She suspected that she had used the same avenue that she and Cameron had used a month ago. How she knew about that route was a mystery. Annie thought back to the night that she and Cameron had fled the future and come to the past. Someone had broken into the house. She assumed that it was just a thief. Now she wondered. She had heard someone pursuing them into the attic but she had never turned to look at their assailant. Her only concern was getting to safety. Could the person pursuing them have been Catherine?

Annie forced herself to think. Ideally she would be able to protect herself. She had her gun. She would make sure that someone was always near her whenever she went out, not that she thought Catherine would make an attempt on her life out in the open. She would keep her curtains closed at all times and her door locked, even when she was in here. Those steps would protect her. However, despite her planned precautions, Annie knew that something could always go wrong. With that in mind she pulled out several sheets of paper and her pen then began to write a series of coded notes. She would hide these in a place along with the remaining letters and tell only Cameron of their location, giving him specific instructions as to when each note should be shared. Even if something were to happen to her, General Washington would still get the information he needed to win the war. With her plan in place Annie began the long process of coding her messages.

The first rays of sun were filtering through her curtains by the time Annie finished the notes. Her muscles and arm ached from being hunched over the desk for so many hours. She stood up from the desk and looked around her room for an effective hiding spot. She found a loose floorboard near the wardrobe. She pried it open and placed the notes and letters inside. Once she was done, she replaced the floorboard and, just for extra security, she pushed the wardrobe over just a bit.

Annie was tired, but too afraid to go to sleep. After her nightmare she had no doubt in her mind that sleep was an impossibility. She looked at the clock, seven-thirty it read. Perfect, she could help Mary with breakfast. She changed into some clothes, left her room, and walked down to the kitchen. Just as she suspected, Mary was standing over the wood burning stove. “Good morning Mary,” Annie said.

“Good morning Annie. Are you feeling better?”

“Much. Would you like some help. I was having trouble sleeping and I could use something to occupy my mind.”

“Some help would be lovely. Would you mind scrambling the eggs? That way I can keep my eye on the bacon and coffee.”

“Of course.” Annie walked over to the counter and began cracking eggs into a mixing bowl. She whisked them, adding just a little milk to make them fluffy. Her mom had taught her the trick when she was young. Once they were scrambled, she took them over to the stove and poured them into a cast iron skillet. Mary stood next to her, frying bacon. The two of them worked in companionable silence. Once the food was done they placed them on serving dishes. Mary would not allow her to carry any dishes into the dining area. Annie was, by now, perfectly capable of carrying a plate of eggs to a table. But arguing with Mary was pointless. Instead she sat down on a kitchen chair and waited for Mary to return.

“Why were you having trouble sleeping? Did your arm bother you?” Mary’s voice was laced with concern.

“No, not at all. I was just having bad dreams.”

“Were they about anything in particular?”

“Home,” was all Annie said. Mary nodded her understanding then continued to prepare breakfast. Annie was grateful that she did not pursue the matter. She had no idea how she could make up something Mary would find believable. She certainly couldn’t tell her the truth. She’d think she was mad, and Annie had no desire to lie to her any more than was necessary, especially since Mary had been so kind to her.

“Would you like to eat in here or out in the dining room?” Mary’s question interrupted Annie’s thoughts.

“Where were you planning on eating,” Annie returned.

“In here.”

“Then I’ll eat with you, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course not. I would love the company. Stay here, I’ll bring you some food.” Mary scuttled out of the kitchen and into the dining room. Annie could hear the clanking of utensils against dishes. A few minutes later Mary returned carrying two plates filled with eggs, bacon, and biscuits. The food smelled delicious, as always. Annie knew if she kept eating like this she would not be able to fit in the clothes Cameron had bought her. She resolved to find a way to get some exercise. They had just finished breakfast when Cameron stormed into the kitchen.

“Have you seen Annie? I went to check on her only to find her room empty. I checked the gardens, the sitting room, and the dining room. She’s nowhere to be found.” Annie could hear the panic in his voice.

“You have nothing to fear Cameron. She’s right here. We just finished our breakfast,” Mary replied.

Cameron walked fully into the kitchen and saw Annie sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee in her hand. She smiled at him. “I’m sorry if I alarmed you. I was having trouble sleeping so I came down here to help Mary and eat some breakfast.”

He strode over to the table and plopped into the chair next to Annie. “You scared me, do not ever disappear like that again.”

“Honestly Cameron, it’s not like I was gallivanting around town with no escort. I only came down to the kitchen.”

“You should be resting.”

“I’ve had plenty of rest.”

“But your arm...”

“Is fine,” Annie interrupted. She heard a cough from someplace in the kitchen. She turned and saw Mary, laughter shone in her eyes. She was obviously trying to hold it in.

“Cameron, would you like to eat in here with Annie.”

“Yes please,” he replied tersely.

“I’ll go fix you a plate.” Mary scurried out of the kitchen. Annie could hear her laughter escape as she left the room.

“What was she laughing about?” He had a puzzled look on his face. He saw no humor in the situation.

Annie, on the other hand, could see nothing but humor. She tried to hold back her laughter. “I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure she was laughing at you.”

“Me?”

“Yes, Mr. Irrationally Intense.” The perplexed look on Cameron’s face did it for Annie. She burst out laughing, tears streaming down her face as peals of laughter rocked her body. The angry look in his eyes did nothing to alleviate the situation. If anything, it made Annie laugh harder. After several long minutes she brought her laughter under control. She wiped the tears from her face, a few chuckles escaping before she was able to speak. “Thank you Cameron. I needed that.”

Finally Cameron cracked a small smile. “I’m glad I could be of service.”

Mary came back into the kitchen and placed a plate in front of Cameron. “Has he calmed down a bit,” she asked, her gaze focused on Annie.

“Just a little,” Annie’s eyes danced with laughter. “I suppose that I’m going to have to inform Cameron of every movement I intend to make.”

Mary and Annie burst into laughter at the same time. “I suppose so,” Mary choked out between peals of laughter. “The room next to yours is empty. Perhaps I should move him there.”

“That would be perfect. Then we could just develop a knocking system,” Annie laughed. “One knock for the kitchen, two for the dining room, three for the...” but Annie could not finish her sentence. By the time they stopped laughing Annie had a stitch in her side and her abs felt like they had been exercised for hours. The discomfort was totally worth it though.

“Is the room next to Annie’s really empty,” Cameron asked earnestly.

“That’s it. I cannot handle anymore. I’ll be out in the garden if you need me.” Annie pushed herself from the table and rushed out to the garden before the rest of the boarders could see her appearance. She had no desire to explain the red blotches on her skin.

The morning was cool and nice. The sun hid partially behind some clouds. She made her way to the bench she had occupied the day before and sat down, once again raising her face to the sun. Sometime later Annie heard footsteps on the cobbled walkway. She opened her eyes and saw Mary walking towards her, a bright smile on her face. She sat down next to Annie.

“I have not laughed that hard in a very long time,” she declared.

“Me neither. I should feel bad laughing at his expense, but I don’t,” Annie confessed.

“You have no reason to feel guilty. He got what he deserved. He was being an ass.”

Annie chuckled. She had never heard Mary curse. “Yes, that would be the correct term to describe his actions. Still, he was only doing it out of worry.”

“I know. But he could have been less intense about it. And he had no reason to be so controlling. You are your own woman and perfectly capable of finding your way around a house.” Mary chuckled after that last sentence.

“Well I appreciate your faith in my navigation skills, limited though they may be,” Annie smiled back.

“Anytime.”

“Did you need me for something? Would you like some help cleaning up?”

“No, the kitchen is all clean. Actually I did come out here, for two reasons no less. The first is to inform you that the room next to yours was indeed empty.”

“Was?”

“Yes. Cameron is currently moving his things into it. I must heartily apologize.”

“Well I guess that knocking system will come in handy,” Annie giggled. “What was the other reason?”

“I was planning on going into town for a little bit today. If you’re not too tired you are welcome to accompany me.”

“I would love to.”

“Splendid. I’ll just grab my things and meet you at the front door in say, ten minutes.”

“That sounds perfect.” Mary and Annie went inside and up to their respective rooms. Annie grabbed her purse and hat. She nearly ran into Cameron as she left her room. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. Are you going out?”

“Yes, I mean, if it is agreeable with you sir.”

“I must apologize for my actions earlier. I was being a bit overbearing. I was just worried about you. I seem to be doing that a lot lately.”

“Thank you. I appreciate your concern. I promise if I need your help I will ask for it. As for now, I’m going to town with Mary for a bit. We won’t be long.”

“Have a good time.”

“I will,” Annie replied. She gave Cameron a mock salute. She could hear his laughter as she descended the stairs.

The town was bustling with activity. Catherine took in all the sights and sounds around her. She and Madison had left the house after breakfast. They had stopped at Madison’s modiste as she called it, it was just a fancy French word for a woman’s clothing designer, where Catherine had been fitted for several gowns. Madison also purchased her a couple of nightgowns and a dressing gown. “By the time I am done with you, you will be the best dressed woman in New York City,” Madison boasted.

“No, the second best. No one could surpass your beauty,” Catherine returned magnanimously. Madison merely smiled. After the modiste’s shop they stopped at the butcher’s stall. Madison ordered some meat to be delivered to her home.

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I am famished,” she declared. “Would you like to stop and get something to eat?”

“I’d love to.”

“Splendid. There is a wonderful little restaurant just down the road. They have the best clam chowder you will ever taste.” Madison grabbed Catherine’s hand and pulled her to the restaurant. They were guided to a table where they each ordered a glass of wine and a bowl of clam chowder. Madison talked pretty much non-stop throughout the meal. A few people came up to their table and Madison graciously introduced them to Catherine. Catherine nodded politely. Truthfully she was growing tired of Madison’s company. She never stopped talking. All Catherine wanted to do was leave and go to her room. She had a task that she needed to complete, the sooner the better.

After an hour of Madison’s ceaseless chattering they got up from their table. Catherine walked towards the door when she heard Madison’s lyrical voice call out a name. “Oh Annie. I’m so glad to see you!”

Catherine turned and saw Madison approach a small table with two women seated at it. “Oh Catherine do come here! I want you to meet my good friend Annie,” Madison called out to her.

Catherine made her way over to the table until she was standing right next to her sister. Annie had dark circles under her eyes and her face had gone sheet white. Despite that she grasped Catherine’s hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you Catherine. What brings you to New York City?”

“Oh it is a most dreadful tale. Those horrible patriots destroyed her home and killed her family. She fled here,” Madison answered for her.

“That is awful,” Annie replied. “I am sorry for your loss.”

“Well, we must be off. Noah will be worried if we stay out much longer.” Madison and Catherine turned to leave. “Annie, we should have dinner when Major Andre returns. You and Catherine can get to know each other better and it is always a pleasure to see Major Andre.”

“That sounds wonderful. I look forward to it.”

“Splendid! I will contact you soon.” With that last statement Madison and Catherine left the restaurant.

Catherine glanced back at Annie. This was a wonderful development. She would not have to go to Annie, Annie would be coming to her. A wide smile spread across her face.

“What is that smile about,” Madison asked.

“Oh nothing. I was just thinking how nice it is to make new friends.”

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