Happy Birthday Cynric, in whatever form you have taken in this century. May our paths cross and you remember who I am.
I just want to be loved...
to know that I am loved...
am I doing enough?
I do. I'm trying my best to adapt, but just can't do it. It's too different. The people are different. Raphael is different in this world. I miss my Raphael. I wish he'd show up more often. Of couse the mansion of memories he must have to go through to reach him.
I want my world back. I'll even take it with Maximillian.
That's something I never expected me to say. I'm lonely. How can that be? Fallon flits in and out, She's there always...
How can a spirit be lonely?
How and why?
I still want to finish my tale, considering I still have those three years to fill in, but I'm learning how to deal with her and school work. I'm also learning how to deal with this century. Fallon seems to be better adapting, which doesn't really surprise me. It seems both of us have aquired a taste for some of this century's music, Fallon with the "techno" and "dance" and I with a particular group, Within Temptation. Fallon can't seem to understand what the song is saying, but I guess that is a reflection on our separate experiences.
I'm hoping our tales can get finished soon. I'm still waiting on Raphael to write his part, but I know he is busy, with a new job and all. He's changed a bit since, but I know there are certain things that have stayed.
Maybe I will adapt to this century after all. I just need a little help now and then, but it seems easy.
There is this book game, Etherscope, that I'm hoping I can finish translating myself into game terms so maybe we can play out how our lives should have been, had they not all been cut short.
Well, perhaps I should give control back over to her. We are, after all, at her work, and Fallon and I don't know near enough about this to even survive.
As Fallon and I neared the end of the market, a man stepped out from the alley.
"Hello, my love."
I froze. It couldn't be him!
"Your son cries for his mother every night."
Fallon stepped in front of me. "My Lord bought her from you fair and square. You will leave her alone."
I heard a click and the sound of metal. His cane sword! "Fallon!"
My warning was too late. Maximillian had run him clean through the throat.
"I admire your chivalry, boy, but if my son is mine, then so is his mother." He twisted the blade, and then with finesse I never knew he had, decapitated Fallon, grinning as the blood spattered and the body crumpled into a heap.
I stepped back. "What are you going to do to me?"
He snapped, a girl appearing beside him. She looked exactly like me. "What am I going to do? Repay Roarke for all the pain he has caused me." He stepped closer to me, a hand resting on my stomach. He grinned. "I was correct. You have yet to tell him, am I right?"
I stared up at him. "How do you know--"
"That you carry Roarke's child? You forget, I was around when you carried mine. I intend to exploit this fact to its fullest potential." He looked to my double. "Return to Roarke. Make sure he suspects nothing."
I watched her walk away, then Maximillian's eyes focused on me. "Come with me, my dear, if you value your life."
Maximillian knew many more ways to torture then simply the tricks he used when sating his lust. He kept Cynric always an arms-length from me.
My double returned every day, grinning and telling of every way she annoyed Roarke. Spending his money on frivolous things and keeping him awake at night only a few of the tactics used.
This went on for four months.
One day she returned, laughing and holding an ornate dagger in her hands. What had she done?
“He is certain you where her?”
“And you have sufficiently convinced him of her intent?”
“Yes, my Master.”
Maximillian laughed, then faced me. He looked weaker, older. Was he sick? Why was he looking at me in that way?
Maximillian told me to say good-bye to my son, then blindfolded me and threw me into his carriage.
I smelled the sea. The carriage stopped. I was pulled into a building. What was going to happen to me?
I felt strong arms hold me. A dagger was thrust into my hands.
"Not until the signal. When I give the signal, take off the blindfold and let her go," I heard Maximillian order. He walked out, his cane thumping.
"Lord Roarke, you look awful."
Raphael? I opened my mouth to scream but a rag was stuffed in.
"I have not slept well for months. She kept me awake consistently, never the same hour."
"Your annoyance is apparent in your voice. I suppose you could blame her behavior on your loose rule."
"That has nothing to do with it."
"She is a wild spirit, she must be broken. Do you know what I do to horses who cannot be broken and will not stay in their pasture?"
I whimpered. I could hear my pulse in my ears. I started shaking. I knew what he did to mustangs.
"I shoot them. Your pasture holds too many foals and wild horses for one stallion to care for. Perhaps it is time to thin the herd."
The rag was removed, the blindfold torn off. I was thrust out of the building.
I ran to Raphael. I screamed his family name, not thinking that that fact would matter.
He held his cane, the straight-shafted ivory-topped one I chose for him. He twisted the top, removed the hidden blade, threw the scabbard away, and stared at me.
The clock tower on the pier began to chime five. A thought entered my mind: I was born on this day, six o'clock at night. Maximillian had this planned out. But what had he planned?
Raphael thrust his blade, a stab through my chest, the sword's final resting place in my stomach. Why did he run me through?
I felt the dagger in my hand just before I let go. He thought I was going to kill him. Blood filled my mouth and my legs gave out, my body falling onto him. I weakly looked up at him.
His predatory glare vanished as the reality of his actions set in. he knew it was me and not my double. I was the only one in the house who ever called him Raphael and not Roarke. "Rose."
"I regret…never telling you…" My body crumpled, but I still stood. My soul seemed intent to see just what Maximillian needed with my death.
Raphael drew his sword from my body and threw it away, then held my lifeless form. He said nothing. He grabbed for the dagger I dropped. He was going to kill himself? He had nothing planned in the event of his death. Or had he already considered it?
“I would not do that, old friend. Think of the children.”
"The children," Raphael echoed. The dagger clattered to the street.
"Speaking of children," Maximillian started as he walked around and kicked the blade away, "would you like to know what she never told you?"
The two stared at each other.
"You know I have a son, correct?" He looked down at my body. "You could have had one yourself. You killed your love, and your child."
Raphael's gaze never left my body as he stood. "I know you had a child. You will not have one for very much longer." He grabbed the two parts of his cane and walked off into the fog, leaving Maximillian with my body.
Why didn't he take my body with him? Was I not worth his time? What was he going to do now?
Maximillian grinned and kicked my body off the pier into the bay. He coughed, blood filling his hand. He wanted to kill me and have his revenge on Raphael before his death.
Maximillian entered his carriage and left, leaving my spirit alone. I walked back to Raphael's estate.
If Raphael did not have the worry of all the children in his house, he would have taken his life.
I watched him for the next week trying to deal with what he had done. He came to the realization that if he had my body given a proper burial, perhaps he could deal with his actions. He also felt he needed to find Fallon's body.
He dressed to leave and I followed him.
As we walked through the house I noticed snow beginning to fall and I could hear a choir outside singing carols. At least I could enjoy my first true Christmas, even if it was just in spirit.
"My Lord," an olive-skinned boy said with a bow, "may I speak to you?"
While Raphael thought of a nice way to say "no", I walked around the boy. I knew him. How dare he set foot in this house? My past did not seem to want to rest.
"Do I know you?" Raphael asked.
"Please, I wish to speak to you." He opened the nearest door and motioned Raphael in.
"I have matters to attend to--"
"I need to speak with you, now."
Raphael rubbed his head. "Please, make it quick." He walked in.
"Oh, I will, my Lord," the boy said, his voice dropping in tone.
I ran in before he closed the door. I prayed I was alive again. I had to stop what was going to happen.
"Now, give me your name."
"I am Orrin Vassir. You promised you would purchase me the same day you wanted Fallon, Rosalie, and Sima. They let you have Fallon, another man bought Rosalie, Sima was bought the year before, but you left me there. You separated the four of us. You tore me away from the three people I love."
Raphael turned to face Orrin. "You were not of age when I bought Fallon, nor were you of age when his brother was purchased."
"But why didn't you buy me the year after?"
"I was otherwise occupied. Besides, you were already spoken for. If you will please excuse me, I have more important matters to attend to then your anger over something that happened in the past. You will find yourself welcome in this house until I return." Raphael walked to the doors.
"Don't turn your back! Raphael, he is going to kill you! Raphael!" I screamed even though I knew they couldn't hear me.
"If you would not deal with me then, you will deal with me now!" He lunged forward, drawing a blade from a sheath under his shirt. He roared and plunged the dagger into Raphael's chest.
Raphael collapsed to his knees. "Ariel! Cary!" He yelled before collapsing to the hardwood floor.
Orrin grinned and stood over Raphael as if he were some big game hunter. He finally realized that someone was coming into this room and bolted out, crashing into one of the kitchen staff carrying food.
I knelt beside Raphael wishing I was in a physical body. He was dying and I could do nothing about it. I heard the choir outside begin to sing Carol of the Bells. Tears filled my eyes.
"Do not cry, Rose."
I stared at him through the tears. "You can see me?"
"Yes," he wheezed. "I shall meet you again, if not in heaven, then in another life."
"My legacy shall continue. Do not cry for me."
I looked up as Ariel ran into the room.
The light from the hall seemed to be swallowed up from the dark as I felt his life fade. He died in front of me, and I could do nothing about it.
Cary ran into the room a few minutes after. The two remaining members of the line stared at each other, nodded, then Cary and another boy lifted up Raphael's body and brought it up to his room.
I had no one left. No, I did have someone left. I had to do something to save my son. I left for Maximillian's estate.
I returned to Maximillian's home just to see what had become of my son. I wanted to know what Raphael meant by a son no longer.
As I entered, I watched one servant rush up the stairs, straight into Maximillian's room. No servant was ever allowed into his room. I walked in.
I saw a Servant of the Church at the head of the bed murmuring and drawing crosses in the air. I had been to funerals for the members of the Club. Maximillian was dying, if not dead.
The doctor shook his head. "The same thing that got his parents. He won't be with us much longer." He looked to my son. "Pray that the boy does not carry the disease."
I stepped closer to the bed. I would have him see me as he passed into the next life.
"Bring me my son," Maximillian wheezed.
No, this was wrong. Cynric was too young to see death.
"Do not forget me, my son."
"He won't," I heard whispered. "I will make certain of that."
"I leave everything to my son."
"Who is to care for him?"
Maximillian never gave an answer. I gazed into his dying eyes.
"I regret nothing."
I watched his soul leave.
The doctor pulled the sheet over and looked around. "Who is next of kin?"
"His cousins want nothing to do with him. None of his family cares anymore."
"The child must have a guardian--"
"I will care for the child."
I turned around. Cary?
"You are merely a boy."
"But you called for a guardian. I speak in behalf of my master, the Guardian of the city."
But Raphael was dead. I saw him die. How could Cary be speaking on his behalf?
"Your master is a Guardian?"
"He is, Sir."
The doctor scratched his head. "I will trust you, boy. I intend to hear from your master within the year. A personal call, mind you."
"I shall inform him of your request."
The rest of the discussion was in low tones.
I followed Cary home. Everyone was preparing to leave. I now understood their plan—actually, I understood Raphael's plan. He would save my son and would raise him. Cynric was Raphael's successor. With everything willed to him, Cynric could atone for his father's sins.
The last I remember, Cynric had read every one of Raphael's journals, knew of his father's exploits and learned through those pages of his mother. Cynric did continue Raphael's mission.
My name is Rosalie Grier. I Served Maximillian Fortunado Gabriel Alonzo Kass, mothered Cynric Victorio Nolen Evan Kass, was Saved by Guardian Lord Raphael Richard Roarke, stayed with him, became his mistress. I was killed one hour before my twentieth birthday.
I have told my story.
I chose to stay with Roarke. I had shortened my name to Rose—how wonderful it felt to finally have a real name! —and when asked for my family name, I gave the name of my Lord. He never minded my using his name; I now had a new life, and he let me do with it as I chose.
He had spent many days attempting to train out my years of Training, but certain aspects such as the need to pleasure only him remained. In time, he said, he would remove that as well.
We had many months together and if we had many more, we might have became man and wife.
I had met every one of the children that he had saved and had stayed behind, especially his first. She was at the House when I had been brought there.
Her name was Ariel Aurora Roarke. She was his niece. One day at dinner a section of her uncle's past was explained to me. She felt I was owed at least an explanation as to why he chose to save and not enslave.
"This family has never been well-liked in the Nobility," she started, laying the napkin on her lap and brushing her blonde curls behind her shoulders, "and the Kass family was always at the forefront. My uncle's father, Michael James, had tried to put a stop to the Houses, but when that proved futile, he decided to purchase a few. He looked for their families, and those whose families were still living were sent there. Others were sent to school, others chose to stay here. Our cook, Rebecca, she was one of the first who stayed with us."
She paused to eat a few roasted vegetables, then continued.
"As I'm sure you heard in the Club, my uncle's parentage could not be verified."
I remembered that. That was the day I was bought out of Maximillian's service. I leaned forward, enjoying this story time.
"That was caused by Michael James' murder."
I put down the glass of wine. I felt I had a good idea of the murderer.
"Maximillian's father grew tired of his setting free and decided to eliminate the problem. He had forgotten that his enemy had children. His eldest was not yet old enough to claim the right to the estate and after making certain it would return under his name, they took the Kass' family offer."
I dropped my fork, it clattering against the bone china. Maximillian's family was nice to Raphael's for a time?
"Unusual, I know," she answered, reading my reaction, "but there was a method to this madness. You see, he thought that if he presented how good life was with the Houses, he felt he could convince my father and later my uncle to just give up on their father's cause. Once my father reclaimed the estate, however, he began where his father left off."
I stared across the table at her. She didn't appear to have any mark of any form of Service on her. "But how did you--" I stopped myself. I still believed I had to be given the right to speak.
Ariel smiled at me in an almost motherly way. "How did I come to be in the House? Is that what you were going to ask?"
I nodded, feeling myself flush with embarrassment.
She laughed through her nose. "That is fairly simple to explain. You see, the three of them—my father, my uncle, and Maximillian—were once great friends. They were known as The Trinity, The Three Kings, The Guardian Angels."
That last name confused me. Guardian Angel? Maximillian? Though, his third name—Gabriel—was that of an Angel. So there was Gabriel, Raphael, and…I quickly wracked my mind for the name of the other Angel. Ariel was taken—
"Maximillian might have become a Guardian," Ariel continued, interrupting my thought, "had his father not introduced him to…certain pleasures," she said, a hint of disgust and hate in her voice. She took a few moments to compose herself, then continued with the story.
"Not long after his first taste of pleasure, his parents died, leaving everything to him. Maximillian was very much his father's son and, seeing that my father had continued the legacy…" Ariel trailed off, her eyes focusing on something behind me.
I turned slowly, half expecting to see my old Master standing there. Instead, I saw Raphael staring at his niece from the doorway.
"Uncle! I was wondering when you would come to join--"
"Are you quite finished with your dinner, Ariel?" Parts of his face were hidden in shadow, his voice much deeper and sterner than was usual.
"Are you finished?" he asked again. The peppery-white lace that played across his face had made him appear to be a demonic doppelganger of the Raphael I knew.
"Yes, I am quite finished, Uncle." She laid her napkin on the table, stood, and never broke eye contact with him until she had left the room.
He stared after her then entered the room and took his seat at the head of the table, to the left of me. "You must forgive my niece, Rose—Oh, thank you, Riley. You may leave the bottle here," he said to a boy, perhaps two years older than I was. He waited until he left, took a sip of the wine, then looked back to me. "You must forgive her. She has a habit of saying things that should never be said." He glared sideways at the door as if Ariel were standing there.
We sat in silence for half an hour while he ate the meal I had prepared for him. I finally broke the silence with a simple question. I only hoped his reaction would be kinder than I had imagined.
"What was your brother's name?"
He looked down at his plate, finished chewing, swallowed, and answered me without looking up. "My family history is none of your concern."
I swallowed, knowing I should have stopped there, but I already knew more than he thought I should. "Please, Raphael. Who was the other Guardian Angel?"
His eyes focused on me, his face still angled toward his plate.
He sighed. "Michael Arthur," he said quickly, returning to his food.
I smiled and leaned back in the chair.
He had barely finished the second course before someone began shouting down the hall.
Raphael stood and peered around the corner.
"I will expose you, Roarke!" a feminine voice declared. "I will show the world what kind of man you really are!"
Raphael ran down the hall after the voice. I stood and followed him. I watched him wrap his arms around a girl wearing a blue velvet dress and lift her off the ground. As he turned to let one of the boys slide on a gag, I recognized the accuser. Amy. She looked just like me. She had threatened to expose him five times before as well as been caught stealing from him.
Raphael said something to her as he carried her out of view, three boys following him.
As I turned back to the dining room I noticed a pillowcase lying in the middle of the hall. I picked it up and studied the contents. It held nearly as much money as Raphael had lost when we had played pool for my freedom. How large was his family fortune?
"I would enjoy it very much if you would return that to me, Rose."
I froze. I knew it was Raphael, but the tone of voice was too close to Maximillian's for comfort.
"Rose, I would like very much to have my stolen property returned to me."
I dropped the pillowcase and walked away towards the atrium. What was he hiding from me?
Perhaps it was because he was hiding something from me that I found myself being pulled closer and closer to him. Everyone under his care noticed, especially Ariel and Fallon.
I soon found myself falling in love with him, the two of us eventually acting on this feeling. The next week I felt a bit odd, but simply attributed it to the intensity of the feelings I had for him.
Roarke would let me go to the market with Fallon almost daily in attempt to counteract my years of being indoors. I remember my last visit to the market vividly.
The Gentlemen's Club that Maximillian belonged to always threw grand parties, particularly when a member's birthday came.
My son was only a half-year-old at this point, but everyone said they could see his Father's spirit, his skill with money, and other compliments to get on Maximillian's good side.
I had since told Angela to behave as I did in attempt to save her the beatings I suffered. As Maximillian led me and my sister over to his booth—both of us as passive as can be—I noticed a well-dressed man sitting there, his boots propped on the table. He held a newspaper to hide his face.
Maximillian tapped the boots with his cane. "I beg your pardon, Sir, but this is my booth."
"So now you own everything?" The newspaper folded down. "Including these two girls?"
I caught a glimpse of Fallon before he faded into the shadows.
"Roarke," he growled, his glare directed solely at me. "I own only one. The other is a servant."
The Guardian straightened. "That depends on your definition of Serving. It is also bad form to have sisters in your service."
The club fell silent. Serving siblings was against the Verbal Code all Buyers adhered to.
Maximillian's grip on his cane strengthened. "Why are you here to pester me, Little Lord Roarke?"
"I have heard what you have done to these girls. Your actions are apparent on their skin."
"I have done nothing to the little one."
"Aside from take her away from her family. Without their blessing, without compensation." He stood. "Oh yes, I know of your 'purchases'. I know of everything you have done in regards to these girls. I intend to set things right."
Maximillian held his arms open. "Go ahead, old man. I'll even let you have the first shot."
He shook his head. "I will only finish a fight, not start it. Besides, I intend to toast to your health." He grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waitress and raised it. "To Maximillian Fortunado Gabriel Alonzo Kass, one of the best horse breeders this club has ever known. May he have many years—many, many years—to look forward to. To your health, Master Kass."
"To your health," the gentlemen echoed.
Roarke downed the entire glass, his eyes fixed on Maximillian.
Maximillian grabbed a shot glass filled with a very dark and pungent liquor. "To you, Lord Raphael Richard Roarke. May your fortune never run out chasing your hopeless causes. May you continue to buy children from the Houses to replace those you will never—and can never—have. To your health, Lord Roarke." He downed his drink, turned the glass over, and slammed it down on the table.
I watched Roarke pull his cane from thin air—a very ornate silver rose as the topper—and strike Maximillian's right hand, the force so great, he crushed the shot glass.
Maximillian roared, holding his bleeding, swelling hand.
"You will never insult me or my children in that way again. Is this understood?"
"They are not your children," he growled, picking glass from his hand and wrapping his handkerchief around the wound.
"They are as much my children as that child is yours." Roarke turned to place the thin glass on a table.
"You have never conceived, you inbred bastard."
Roarke spun around, his eyes black. "You try my patience, boy."
"You are an illegitimate child."
"Your sources are somewhat lacking, mongrel." A growl was just barely noticeable in his usually calm voice. "My Father died the day I was conceived, which is more than I can say for you. Son of a German immigrant and a French-Spanish Native. You, are the bastard," he said, thrusting the cane against Maximillian's chest, forcing him back to the wall. "You are not fit to be a Noble."
"What do you want, you madman?"
"I want to break the chains you force the mother of your child to wear. I want to set her and her sister free."
I watched Maximillian twist his cane, heard it unlock, and watched a silvery metal slide out. His blood dripped over the skull and down the blade. "Have you not taken enough from me?"
"I have just begun. Meet me at the South Pier. We will settle this dispute there."
What happened at the pier was mostly a blur. What I do remember comes in flashes to me now.
I remember riding in the carriage with my sister; I remember Cynric being fussy, then finally falling asleep in my arms; Maximillian had told me to bring him along. I remember smelling the sea.
I was blindfolded, struggling to not let my fear get the better of me, pulled out of the carriage, and forced to stand there. The wind was cold. I removed my shawl and bundled my baby. My dress was thin; my body was numb from the cold.
I don't remember what exactly was said; only it was a heated discussion, closely resembling an auction. Maximillian would let my sister go for a relatively low price, but he would not give me up. When he did agree to include me in the "deal", he constantly raised the price, often ten dollars at a time, jumping as much as fifty. There was one stipulation to the deal: Cynric would stay with Maximillian. I remember that clearly.
My blindfold was pulled off. Maximillian looked down at me. I had never seen that expression on him before. He looked like he had lost. He slid a finger under the choker and ripped it off. "I am no longer your Master. You no longer Serve me." He moved to hold his son.
"Let her say good-bye, Maximillian."
I held my son close, hearing him coo. Tears pooled in my eyes as I rocked side to side.
"You are allowed to cry, my dear."
Before Roarke finished speaking I collapsed into sobs. I didn't care who his father was or how he came about, Cynric was my son, and now in order to be free, I had to leave him behind. I kissed his forehead, he waking up and upon noticing me, smiled up at me.
"Cynric, my son. Do not forget me."
It was as if he knew what was happening. He sniffled, then let out a wail. My son cried with me.
"Enough of this." Maximillian grabbed him out of my arms, Cynric's pitch increasing.
"No!" I cried. "No! Give him back! Give him back!" I felt arms wrap around my waist. I fought against them; I would not leave my baby with that monster who happened to be his father. "Let me go! I will not leave my son!" I kicked in attempt to free myself, making contact a few times. I was dragged backwards to a waiting carriage. I watched Maximillian turn his back to me and walk off toward his carriage, Cynric crying louder and louder. "Cynric! Do not forget me!"
As I was pulled into the carriage, Roarke looked at me. "Driver, take us away from here."
The carriage lurched forward and I collapsed into my sister's arms. "I had to give him up. I had to leave my baby!"
Roarke put his arm around me. "He will never forget you. Your son will never forget you, or the horrible things his father did to you. I will make sure of that."
Lord Roarke was one of a few Guardians who resided in the city. What made him stand out was his sizeable family fortune.
He had been saving unlucky boys and girls since his twenty-third birthday. Most returned to their families, others went off to school; a handful stayed with him, their Guardian Lord.
Roarke managed to find our parents. They were remarkably well dressed for two immigrants who had come over only a few months before I was born. They ran to Angela and acted as any relieved parent would. They did not recognize me, though. When questioned about their oldest daughter, they said they had been paid in return for her. They said they had sold their daughter into slavery. Why?
"Rosalie was never a wanted child."
I tried my best not to show emotion. I had finally found my name, but I now knew the truth. I was unwanted, so they sold me to the highest bidder. I was probably the product of a rape or the sole reason they had to marry.
I noticed that both Angela and my mother, Shay, had freckles. As Raphael carried on a conversation with my parents, I noticed a mirror in the hall. I stood up and walked over to it.
I first noticed my green eyes; bright, energetic, and, at the same time, sad. There was a small scar just over my right eyebrow from the bed knob and a larger one over my left from the cage. I had freckles along my nose and cheeks, exactly as they did. My hair looked to be a mix of light honey brown, blonde, and red, its color changing with the angle. It had grown out a little since Raphael had saved me, a wave just barely noticeable. A few more months and I could soon braid it. My neck and arms still bore the scars caused by Maximillian, but they would soon fade with age.
The rest of me looked like any other girl my age, save the thinness from my lack of food. There was no fear of going hungry at Raphael's estate.
I turned, admiring my body, noticing everything was as he had described it to me. Maximillian probably would have told me that I looked ugly, unwell, and that I should thank him for taking me, for no one else probably would have.
As I twirled, I noticed two photographs on either side of the mirror. The right showed my mother and father with Angela at four years of age. All of them looked so happy. I looked to the left one. The picture was the same as the other one, only I was there instead of Angela and I was the only one smiling. They also looked better off in the right one. My heart sunk. I was a burden. They had me kidnapped so they would have money. I only existed to them through this photograph.
I heard Raphael stand, walk over to me, and watched his reflection smile at mine. He apparently sensed what I was going through and grasped my hand. He pretended to look at his pocket watch. "If you will please excuse me, I have further business ventures to attend to."
"Of course. Thank you so much for bringing our daughter back to us."
"My pleasure. Good day to you both," he said with a tip of his hat. As we turned to leave, he said something simply out of spite.
"Come, Rosalie, we must be going."
"Of course, my Lord."
The beginning of my second year with him, Maximillian threw me a dress one Sunday and told me I was going to church. I had been there a few times when I was younger, so I thought I knew what to expect.
After the service I followed my Master to a room full of candles, most of them lit. He walked forward, lit two, and prayed. I kneeled beside him.
I heard something behind me and turned around. A group of four had entered, one with a cane. The two boys went off to one side, the girl to another. The man walked straight toward us.
“I did not know you were a pious man, Maxi--” the man looked down, recognized me, and nodded “—million,” he finished. Roarke looked none too pleased he had to use his full name.
“I am ever full of surprises, Roarke,” he said, nearly choking on the name. “What brings you to this end of the church?”
“Can I not remember my family? After all, my brother and his wife were killed on this day.” Maximillian did not notice the glare Roarke threw him.
“What an odd coincidence. Did your parents not also die on this day?”
“You know as well as I that my father was killed on this day. My mother—God rest her soul—died of a broken heart.”
I watched the two boys light candles on their side and the girl do the same on this side. Roarke lit two more, then handed me the flame.
“Perhaps you could light that candle for me, dear? The one just under my parents’?”
Without asking Maximillian I lit the candle.
“Thank you. Come, children, we must be leaving.”
“Thank God,” Maximillian muttered.
Roarke glared at him once more, then left, his children following.
I looked at the candle, noticing the nameplate.
“In memory of our lost daughter. May she reach full bloom with you, Lord. Shay and Malcolm Grier.”
There was a tiny bracelet around it as well as a picture. There were three people in it; the parents and the child. They were smiling. The child wore a bracelet similar to the one on the candle and the bracelet I remembered having before I was taken. Were they my parents? Why would they be lighting a candle? Did they not know I was here? Were they regretting something?
There was a note hidden behind the photograph.
“I want my sister back, God. Please give her back. Angela.”
They still cared about me? I had to try and find my family.
Despite my best attempts, Maximillian would not let me try and find my family. He told me to forget them, that he was all that mattered. Why would I want to return to a family who let me get kidnapped? He was all that mattered to me now. It would have stayed that way had he not been greedy and lustful.
The next year continued much the same way my first year did. I did not see Lord Roarke or his child, though I did hear of his numerous purchases from both the Houses.
Midway through my third year, I fell ill. A visit to the hospital revealed that I was pregnant. This would be Maximillian's first child, but he did not seem as excited as one would expect.
I was kept inside and out of sight of his house servants for that time. He rarely visited me. I felt terrible, like I had failed him. There were nine months I could not Serve him as he wished.
Maximillian was at least pleased I had given him a son, an heir to his throne, in effect. Cynric Victorio Nolen Evan Kass. Such a pity I would never know my son.
It was around this time a familiar face reentered my life. I had not seen her in thirteen years, but it was like a day ago to me. I walked into one of the many bedrooms and noticed a girl sitting on the bed, curled up. She wasn’t one of the servants. I noticed something on her wrist. She wore a bracelet. The very bracelet I had seen in the church and had worn that day in the zoo. She had honey brown hair that had a slight wave in it and very light green eyes. She had freckles along her nose and cheeks. I remembered that face. I smiled.
She introduced herself as Angela Grier. I asked her about our parents, Shay and Malcolm.
"How do you know their names? Who are you?"
I opened my mouth to speak, then realized I did not even know my own name. "Did your parents have another child?"
"Yes, five years before me, but she was kidnapped."
"What was her name?"
"They never spoke of her."
I sighed. This was getting me nowhere. "Why are you here?"
"I was kidnapped." Her eyes lit up. "You seem to know my parents. Maybe you could help me--"
I shook my head. "I have been trying for three years. Maximillian will not let me go. Nor, do I imagine, will he let you go. There must be some way--"
"Ah, I see you two know each other."
I stiffened, my heart racing. Had he heard my idea? No, he would not do anything. He had received three years of loyal service as well as a son. "Why did you take my sister?"
I watched an evil grin snake across his face. "Your sister? I did not know," he lied. I could hear it in his voice. "That really was a lucky grab. No money in exchange for her, though."
"You did not answer my question, Maximillian. Why did you--"
He backhanded me, my forehead colliding with the brass bed knob. I kneeled there on the floor, holding my forehead until he grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me to standing. "You do not question me, ever!" He tightened his grip to accent his point. "Is this understood?"
I fell silent.
"Is this understood?" he yelled, shaking me.
"It is understood, my Master. I am sorry I disobeyed you." I attempted to bow my head.
He kept his grip, his nails cutting the skin, then let go. "You have angered me, but I do have a way you can make it up to me."
Oh dear God, not that. Not in front of my sister.
A lump formed in my stomach.
"Train her as you were Trained. I desire another and wish not to pay."
I stood my ground. "No." My sister would not be dragged into this life.
"I beg your pardon? No?" He grabbed a thick collar and put it around my neck. I knew this collar. A posture collar. It hurt. "Train her."
He took the scarf from his neck and tied it over my eyes.
My pulse raced, my breath quickened. I couldn't see. I could deal with being bound, being gagged, but my sight was important. If I couldn't see, my world fell apart. It had been that way since I was five. He knew that.
"I will leave you like this. I will snap your neck. Train her," he snarled.
"I will do as you say," I answered, tears choking me.
He removed the collar and the scarf, then patted my head. "Good girl. You shall start tomorrow."
"I shall need to buy some things to Train her properly."
His eyes narrowed. "You wish to go outside without me."
"Simply so I may purchase without the other gentlemen knowing you have taken another. Dress my sister as a servant, the gentlemen will be none the wiser."
Maximillian wound the scarf around his hands. "Why should I trust you? Why should I believe you are just going to buy things? What if you choose to go with another?"
"I have given you a son, and I shall give you many more. I shall teach her so she may please you while I am carrying your children."
He thought. "You shall return home before the clock finishes chiming five, is this understood?"
"Yes, my Master."
When he left, my sister looked at me. "You are sentencing me to your fate?"
"I am praying that the Lord of the Pier shall hear our cry. I am praying he is the Guardian Angel they say he is. I am praying his fortune is large enough to buy us from Maximillian." I felt the velvet choker on my neck. "I pray my life as a Slave will soon be over."
Before we had left, I had written out a list of things that had been used during my Training but Maximillian did not have. I also wrote out a plea to Roarke.
As Angela and I walked the streets of the market, I felt a familiar stare from the flower cart. Peering through the roses were harsh, stormy green eyes. Maximillian. I would not be delivering the letter in person. From the rumors I had heard, Roarke had many children, now it was simply a matter of finding one to act as a messenger.
As I browsed the shops while my sister purchased, two boys bumped into me.
"Sorry, ma'am," said the older one.
"Yeah, ma'am. We're really sorry."
The older one looked familiar for some reason. Was it his eyes, his build?
"May I help you with your shopping, ma'am?"
His voice. What was it the Keeper of the House had said? It was a way to tell who had been Trained…
"Whom do you Serve? Who holds your leash?"
He took a step closer and smelled the air, grinning. "I know that scent. I am Fallon. Your name might be?"
"My Master has not given me one. You and I helped Train each other."
His shoulders went slack. "Aye. I Serve no one but myself. Cary Serves no one but himself."
“So you escaped?”
“No. We were set free.”
Angela moved to the next stall.
I felt the choker. "I Serve Master Kass. My sister shall soon share my fate. Who is your Guardian?" That word resonated through all who had been Trained. A Guardian was someone who had bought, then set free. Needless to say, Guardians were a rare commodity.
"My Lord," he answered. "The Lord of the Pier. Lord Raphael Richard Roarke." Some of his Training remained. We were all Trained to state any titles our Master might have, as well as every name he carried.
I let out a sigh of relief. "I ask that you may deliver a message to your Guardian on my behalf." I held out the letter, sealed with my Master's family crest.
"For a lady with whom I have shared many things, I would do anything." As he took the letter, he kissed my hand. "I shall see that he receives this as soon as possible."
"I thank you, Angel Fallon." I watched as he and his brother disappeared into the crowd, then helped Angela with the rest of the shopping. I threw a glance to the flower cart, finding the eyes had vanished. I prayed he thought I was ordering from a merchant.
She turned to me. "Did you know him?"
"Yes. In the most intimate way. I only hope that bond has not faded."
The Kass family was not the first name in horse breeding, but it was very well off, mainly due to their Racers. Maximillian was the only child, receiving the full family fortune, employing various cousins to care for the horses. Thanks to this silver spoon, Maximillian was able to travel abroad and hunt, particularly the big cats.
He had a fairly large estate, most of it devoted to either the stables or the gigantic mansion. He let me wander the grounds while his servants brought in his things. He had the heads of every big cat mounted alongside bears, large antlers, enormous shark jaws…every cat, that is, but the elusive white tiger and white lion. There were stuffed animals everywhere, various pelts made into rugs or robes. One robe in particular caught my eye: a snow leopard robe with the tail stitched as the sash. There was a part of me that hoped these animals died painlessly, that they were not alive when they were skinned.
"Enjoy your new home?"
I turned in the direction of his voice. He stood in the doorway wearing a tiger pelt jacket and carrying a cane made of intricately carved elephant ivory.
I simply nodded, not wanting—or allowed—to voice my disgust. He motioned me close and I obeyed.
"When you have satisfied me, I shall show you the stables." He led me over to a bear pelt rug, undressed the both of us, positioned me to his pleasing, and had his way. He was not as gentle as before, the cane leaving imprints of the carvings, joining the bite marks on my neck and shoulders. I had noticed he did not last as long as the first time, but I could only assume he was that…excited.
Maximillian showed me around the stables, showing off his best Racers. He also introduced me to his breeding mares and the one stallion who had free reign. There were also a few foals, which he let me feed.
He let me ride one of his yearlings, taking me around the grounds. Little did I know this would be one of the last times I would be allowed outside and not paraded for his pleasure.
Being part of High Society, Maximillian found it necessary I should know of this culture, teaching me how to read, write, play most any instrument, and sing. He also taught me a few of the gentlemen's games, pool and various card games among them. He even brought me along to his clubs, a velvet choker marking me as his.
Maximillian brought me to the Gentlemen’s Club one day and told me to show what he had taught me about pool. He made sure my dress caught the eye, a beautiful blue satin with lace trim. My neckline was apparently designed to show off my…gifts.
As I played against one of the younger members I listened to the conversations.
“So, did you hear how much Roarke lost in that storm last week?”
“His shipping business is going to go under if he stays with it.”
Maximillian cleared his throat. “I lost four foals and a mare with that ship.”
The man I had been playing with dropped his cue. “You do business with Roarke? I thought you hated him.”
“Why should I not do business with him? Just because his family and mine do not get along does not mean his service is not the most reliable. One little storm should not set him back that far. Finish your game.”
I eventually won against the young man. While I waited for my next opponent I played a game against myself.
I heard a large sum of money thump onto the table behind me. The table Maximillian watched me from. I turned around—the Lord of the Pier grinned at my Master.
"How's business, Maxi? I hear Quickstep Magoo's got a cold."
I winced. My Master was very particular about his name.
Maximillian downed his drink and matched his adversary's look. "One would wonder how you would know about my best Racer, considering I had only found out two hours ago." He stood, towering at least a head over him. "Would you care to explain, Lord Roarke?"
Roarke grinned again. "I have my sources." His eyes flitted to me. "I see there is a new girl in your life. What happened to your last one? Oh, that's right. I bought her from you, just like I will with this one." He thumped the stack of bills with his cane, now topped with a silver handle. "This is in exchange for her."
Before Maximillian could say anything, I turned back to the table.
"You will have to win me."
I felt both of their stares.
"Excuse me?" Maximillian's voice was much harsher than Roarke's.
"You will have to win me." I faced them. Maximillian's glare nearly bored holes in me. "Play for me. You win, you get me, Maximillian wins, he keeps me and your money."
Roarke thought. That sum of money was a sizable bit of his fortune if the banks were telling the truth.
Maximillian grabbed my arm, nails breaking the skin. "What are you doing?"
"Proving my worth."
"I am not playing against him."
"Then let me," I said.
He grabbed my chin with his other hand and stared into my eyes.
"If I win, you shall have me and his money. You will have won against him," I said.
He sighed. "If you lose, I shall have your head." He let go of me and turned to face the Lord of the Pier. "Well, Roarke? Wish to run the risk of losing to her?"
"Her? I thought I would be playing against you," he said, pointing with his cane.
"My knee and ankle prevent me from playing, thanks to your infernal riding crop." He pushed the cane away. "Besides, she will give you a run for your money, if you will pardon my pun."
Roarke's eyes narrowed. "You had this planned."
"It was all her idea."
Roarke's blue eyes fixed on me. "I believe it impolite to beat a lady, be it cards or with a cane. But, if you insist…"
I tightened my grip on the cue and straightened. "I am to serve my Master. You challenged his ownership."
The corner of his mouth curled up. "A loyal one you have here, Maxi. She was either Trained this way, or you have not shown your true nature yet."
"You will call my Master by his full name."
Roarke cocked an eyebrow. "I shall, but only in your presence and only for your pleasure. You may choose the game," he said with a slight bow.
"We will play to twenty-one, and then to a lead of three. If we should sink the other's ball, we will lose a point."
"Agreed." He handed his cane, hat, cape, and jacket to a boy who followed him in, rolled up his sleeves, and began to rack the balls. He rolled the cue ball to me. "Ladies first."
I stared at him. Why did he call me that? I chalked my cue, then took my shot.
During the course of the game, the gentlemen of the club gathered around, laying bets on who would win. Maximillian stayed at his table, feet on the table, many shot glasses lay empty near his feet.
As Roarke called his shot for the eight ball, I realized he might win with the shot. I panicked; there had to be something…He was a man, and I knew how to excite, even from across the room.
I gently blew into his ear then leaned provocatively on the table, my neckline plunging further.
He looked at me from the corner of his eye, his cue following. He pulled back for the shot and missed the cue ball entirely.
His lips pursed. "My lady, either you play fair, or I shall attempt to distract you in a similar fashion."
"Your distractions will prove futile," I said with a grin, "I give pleasure, not receive. You will not even get a sigh out of me."
Roarke chuckled. "Give me time."
I called my shot and sank the black ball. He racked them up again and I sunk two with my break. "I lead by three. You lose."
He placed his cue on the table. "You have bested me."
As he collected his things, he stared at Maximillian. "That money is for her, not you, Maximillian," he said with a sneer.
Roarke walked over to me and kissed my hand. "Buy a new dress for yourself, or perhaps a new necklace. This one is old, and has had far too many women wear it." He fingered the choker. He leaned close and whispered into my ear, "hold your own. Do not let him degrade you far, but do not resist him, either. When the time comes, I shall save you."
He gently kissed my ear, then grasped his cane. "Good day to you, gentlemen. Good day to you, Maximillian Kass. Good day to you, my lady." He tipped his hat and turned to the boy. "Come, Kenneth, this is not the place for your young eyes."
I watched Lord Roarke and his—son?—walk out. What did he mean by saving me? Why did he call me a lady? Why did he try to win me?
I turned to collect my winnings, but found Maximillian had already taken them.
"I know how to better use that money then you ever will." His speech was slurred and he had difficulty standing. "The snake. He got you in his coils, but I, the mighty mongoose, saved you." He leaned heavily on my slight form. "Take me to the carriage. We are heading home."
I learned that night what happened to his last Servant. Maximillian was an angry drunk. When combined with his Dominant nature, deadly consequences could arise.
He bruised my ribs, my shoulder blades, he blackened one of my eyes. When he was finished, he threw me into a cage, a gash across my forehead opening. I had to stay in a ball inside that small, barred enclosure.
I did not sleep that night. I watched his fitful sleep until dawn entered the room.
He awoke, a horrible hangover engulfing him. When it passed, he looked over at me. "What are you doing in your cage?"
I watched him.
Maximillian snapped. "Speak."
"You put me in here."
He kneeled and opened the door, motioning me out. He could plainly see the bruises and the dried blood on my body. "Who did this to you?"
I stayed silent.
He snapped again. "Answer me."
"You did. Last night.”
"I did this? No. I have never been this harsh. The liquor possessed me. I would never, never beat you like this. You do believe me?"
"Of course. Why would I have any reason to doubt what you say? You know how to run my life better than I ever will. What you say is law," I said, knowing to make it seem he had complete control and had broken my spirit.
Maximillian grinned. "They have Trained you well. Come. You must be cleaned up."