Vicki watched Barnabas pull the ring on the ornamental lion's head and held her breath. Barnabas had slid the hidden lever over so the door would not activate revealing the secret room. Barnabas made a play of struggling to pull the lever and then turned to Vicki. "It would appear my dear you were mistaken." Vicki slipped past him and attempted to pull the ring herself. It did not budge. Sighing she stepped back and looked at Barnabas. "I must have dreamt it. All of it, I, was so sure there was a secret room behind that door."
Taking her elbow and guiding her to the door he spoke softly. It is all right my dear, come we must be on the ship before dawn." Vicki let him lead her to the exterior of the mausoleum and back to her borrowed car. Barnabas opened her door to the car and then stepped to the passenger side door to join her. Glancing at the clock on the dash, she saw it was just past 3 a.m. "We will have plenty of time." Starting the car, she navigated the roads arriving at the parking lot near the docks.
Once again, Barnabas opened his door, slid out and walked to the driver's side of the car to open her door, "Wait, I need to get my suitcase." The scuffing of rocks and footfalls alerted both of them to the arrival of another individual. Vicki looked up to see the outline of a man standing in the darkening shadows. Barnabas glanced up and spoke, "Willie, please take the keys to the car and collect Miss Winters luggage."
Willie stepped forward and his face was now visible under dock lights. Willie nodded and shifted to Vicki's side. Without a single exchange of words, Vicki handed the keys over to Willie and he walked silently to the rear of the car. Barnabas laid his hand against Vicki's back and escorted her towards a sleek, large vessel. The bow of the ship boasted the freshly painted name of the Lady Victoria.
On Board the Victoria
"My wedding gift to you my dear, as for the clothing you brought with you, I took the liberty of purchasing clothing more befitting a woman of your new station. I hope you don't mind?" They walked up the ramp and paused before boarding the ship.
Vicki turned to face him and shook her head. "No, no, not in the least. I am to be your wife, you are entitled to do as you wish."
Barnabas smiled and placed a kiss on her cheek. "I hope you don't mind but I also packed some of Josette's clothing, I thought we could re-create a moment from the past as we did at the old house."
Again, Vicki gave him a shy smile and nodded, "I would like that as well."
Barnabas smiled and then watched the Captain of the ship approach them, "Ahh Captain Black. May I present my fiancé' Victoria Winters, Victoria this is our captain and the person whom will marry us at sea tomorrow evening."
The captain removed his hat and smiled, "A pleasure to meet you Miss Winters, we have prepared a suite of rooms for you. At Mr. Collins request I was fortunate enough to find you a maid to help you should you need it."
Barnabas smiled, "Excellent, how were you able to do this on such short notice?" Barnabas held his hand lightly on the small of her back. Leading her onto the ships deck he followed the captain.
The Captain replaced his hat and invited them to board, and then walking towards the forward deck, he spoke "It would seem that Mrs. Clark missed her husband's departure due to a 2 hour delay at the Bangor airport. He sailed on one of he earlier ships, then discovered he had left some important equipment behind for his employer and requested his wife bring it with her on the next ship out."
Willie arrived behind them shuffling to a halt and looking around nervously. "Willie, would you please show Victoria to her room and then have Mrs. Clark report to me, a few words with you Captain Black, if it is no bother." Barnabas turned to kiss Vicki on her forehead and then turned back to the Captain.
"Of course Mr. Collins it is after all, your ship, would you care to join me in the stern castle? I have a few minor details to attend prior to leaving port."
Willie turned to Vicki noting she seemed distracted and upset, he spoke gently to her, "Um Vicki follow me." Like an automaton Vicki turned and followed Willie over to the enclosed area of the ship and through a door and down some steps to a lower deck to a series of doors. Stopping at a set of double doors, Willie set her case down and opened the door and stepped aside for her to enter.
Vicki's bedroom on board the ship
Victoria stepped through the door and paused. The room was charming, a large bed with heavy netting centered upon one wall, a dressing table with grooming essentials lay attractively in front of a small mirror. Willie picked up Vicki's plaid traveler and set it on the foot of her bed, opening it, Vicki stepped to the case to take her garments out to hang them in what appeared to be a closet.
Another adjourning door opened and an attractive tall red haired woman stepped into the room. "Oh Miss Winters, please allow me to take care of that for you. I am Mrs. Clark and will be helping you until we get to Martinique."
Vicki smiled at her, "The pleasure is mine Mrs. Clark." She had extended her hand to shake, and Vicki noted that Mrs. Clark's hands felt almost like ice.
Willie smiled watching the attractive woman and said, "Oh Mr. Collins is with the captain and wants to see you when you are done here." Mrs. Clark returned her smile to Willie. Willie was quick to note how attractive she was when she smiled. Willie tucked his chin but kept looking her over. He studied her green eyes and that hair! Under the light it almost appeared to catch fire. Which made him wonder if she had a temper to go with that red hair. He let his imagination wonder about that shapely figure hidden beneath her clothing.
Vicki turned and looked around the room her gaze landed on the bed and she saw that Mrs. Clark must have laid out a nightgown for Vicki. The delicate diaphanous gown was draped on the end of the bed. "I thought you might like a hot bath before you retire Miss Winters so I was preparing your bath, if you wish to bathe I can take care of whatever Mr. Collins needs and come back to put up the rest of your things."
Vicki had not realized how drained she was she felt the polite smile she offered Mrs. Clark was just that her being polite. Walking to the end of the bed, she reached for the gown and spoke softly looking at the lovely shade of pale blue on the ribbons of the white gown. Tucking her chin continued to study the gown using the time to compose her emotions. "Please call me Vicki, and that sounds lovely, thank you Mrs. Clark."
"Only if you agree to call me Danielle. I never felt comfortable with such formalities, but I understood Mr. Collins was a stickler on formalities." She kept her own voice light and cordial, she did wonder what Mr. Collins might require of her.
Vicki chuckled, "He is a little old fashion in some respects, however, with it being you and myself, we will dispense with those formalities and make it more of friendship." Vicki glanced up and Danielle could see she was being very sincere.
Vicki lifted the filmy nightgown from the bed and noted the richness of the material and sighed softly, her life was going to be very different from now on. Admiring the feel of the gown and the richness of the material she could not help but notice it must have been one of Josette's. The French tailoring was apparent in the empire waist and the sleeves that were straight for three quarters of the way then gathered to lay in its ruffled delicately down to her wrists.
Danielle waited for her to go the bathroom, watching her hold the gown much as someone would tenderly hold a child. Danielle spoke softly looking to the young woman and the gown. "Its lovely, I took the liberty of placing the matching robe in the bathing chamber." Danielle smiled and Vicki nodded.
"Thank you." Vicki felt awkward and knew she should go on and bathe and be ready should Barnabas require her for something. Catching movement out of her peripheral she watched Willie pick her suitcase up and walk to the built-ins.
Setting her case down by the closet he turned facing Danielle, "Barnabas is with the Captain." Danielle thanked Willie, excused herself. Vicki glanced around the room and then down at her left hand to her ring finger. A large ornate marquises diamond surrounded by tiny black opal chips circled the diamond accenting its cut and beauty. Sighing she picked up the gown and walked to the adjoining door, where she could smell the hot scent of jasmine.
Even her bath salts were jasmine, Vicki noted the room was half the size of her bedroom and saw the robe hanging from a satin covered hanger on the back of the door. Taking the robe down she draped the robe over the matching gown and stepped to the small dressing table.
Sitting on the delicate stool, she let her fingers touch the various bottles and silver brush and comb. Glancing up she peered at the image in front of her. She saw the haunted unsure gaze in that girl's eyes. "Who are you? More importantly, who will you become?" Taking her slender fingers she unbound the scarf around her throat and studied the two puncture wounds on her neck.
Delicate fingertips explored the indentation and scabbing. Sighing softly she stood and began to undress. Dropping her skirt around her ankles, stepping out of the skirt, she unbuttoned her blouse and let it slide off her shoulders to fall on top of the skirt. Unfastening her bra, she dropped it on her blouse and finally she slid her fingers down to her panties and slid those down and stepped out of them.
Standing naked and feeling a little chilled, she looked at the warm steaming bathwater. Walking to the tub she stepped into the deliciously warm scented waters and slid down to rest her neck against the curve of the tub. Closing her eyes she began to reflect on what her life would be from this day forward.
"Do not be afraid, you will be very happy. Barnabas is a wonderful man who deserves your love. He has been so lonely, and he does love you Mon Cher." Vicki recognized the voice and the heavier scent that followed her appearance.
Without realizing it, Vicki spoke, "You know I never cursed him, you know I tried to save you?" Vicki felt the cold touch of her fingertips as she stroked her cheek.
"I do know, I was foolish to think it was you, who was the witch. Barnabas cannot help himself. I want to ask you to forgive me Victoria, please find it in your heart to forgive me. And I want you to remember there are changes for you both coming soon. You must not be afraid, what is done can be undone."
Vicki sat up in the tub to peer around at her supernatural visitor and discovered she had disappeared. "I will not be afraid. I will trust you and I forgive you, you have been there to save me too many times." Using this time, she began her bathing ritual and soon found the bath was exactly what she needed. Donning the off the shoulder nightgown and the matching robe, she sat at the dressing table and unbound her hair, using the brush, she comb out her hair until it shown under the dim lights.
Again, she peered at her image and said softly, "Victoria Collins, Victoria Winters Collins." Resting her chin on her folded fingers and her elbow on the dresser she stared blankly at her reflection. "Shaking her head she sighed softly, "No Mrs. Barnabas Collins, it has to be Mrs. Barnabas Collins." A part of her was mourning the fact she was not loved for being Victoria. That the man she would give her heart to only loved her for a pale image of someone else. Looking down she studied the ring on her finger and for the first time in her short life, Vicki felt sad, alone and afraid.
Lady Victoria Stern castle
Willie escorted Danielle to the Captain and Barnabas, "Um, Barnabas, this is Mrs. Clark." Barnabas turned and his eyes widen. He recognized her immediately. In 1796 she had been Danielle Roget. He did not question how she was here and in this time. All that mattered is that she did not harm his Victoria.
Barnabas recovered from his momentary lapse of good manners. Smiling his most charming smile he extended his hand to her. "Mrs. Clark, charmed." He kissed her hand and then reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small bottle of pills.
He had pilfered them from Julia's doctor's bag. "I would ask you to do me a huge favor and a huge favor for Victoria as well."
Danielle felt charmed by the kiss on her hand. "I will certainly do whatever I can to help and all you need to do is ask the favor and if it is in my power then I will be happy to help if I can." She had even managed a slight blush.
Barnabas smiled, "These are sleeping pills. I would request you put two of these into Victoria's tea. I fear the excitement of the trip and our impending marriage may not allow her to rest properly." He handed the bottle to her.
"Are you sure two tablets are necessary?" She had looked down to the two pills in her hand and then looked up with a questioning look in her gaze.
Barnabas folder her fingers over the bottle and smiled "I am positive two will help her sleep." Leaning in close to her he spoke softly, "I know she would deny the need for these sleep aids. However, I can assure you she will need her rest so she can be fresh for our wedding. This will be our little secret. You see my fiancé' has been through a great deal of trauma and she needs her strength."
Danielle did not question the request or the fact when she saw Vicki she did seem pale and there were the definite signs of dark circles under her eyes. Danielle smiled coyly, nodded to Barnabas and tucked the pills into her pocket. "We will see she has a proper rest before the wedding Mr. Collins, and no one but you and I must know she got a little extra help."
Barnabas smiled, "You may tell her I will see her before she retires for the night." Barnabas had stepped in close to her bent tucked his chin to peer into her eyes and caught her deep penetrating return gaze. She smiled and that was when he recognized she was truly Danielle Roget
Barnabas watched Danielle walk from the room and knew she was going towards the interior of the large ship. Turning back to Captain Black he continued his conversation, "Now the two other ships have already departed with us being on their manifests?"
Captain Black nodded, "Aye, The Carolyn left at 6:00 pm, the Elizabeth, left at 10:00 she will be going to the Azores, once she off loads her cargo, she will then head onto England, the Carolyn will be headed to the Suez Canal then onto Fijian Islands. Our manifest indicates we will be going to Cuba, then to San Juan, the Virgin Island and finally to the British West Indies. I have actually plotted our course to Martinique with our arrival to be within one week." Black had been very proud of the fact he had even arranged for the Carolyn to back track and meet up with them near Antiqua where they would off load Vicki and Barnabas onto the ship, and Captain Black would be headed then onto the Fijian Islands. "So that way the Carolyn will be the ship to take you on to Martinique and we will sail to Fiji, then later if you are wishing to return to Collinsport, we can meet up and pick you and Mrs. Collins up and bring you home."
Barnabas seemed very pleased. "Well when you are ready to cast off, I believe we have everything we need on board. The wedding preparations are to my specifications?"
Captain Black smiled and nodded. "Aye, we have it all set, although I recommend we be at sea for at least 2 days before the ceremony. That way it will be totally legal and pursuant to maritime laws."
Barnabas frowned. "Well one day should not mater all that much." Barnabas concluded his business with the Captain and then turned to Willie "Have you taken care of the details of my cabin?"
Willie nodded. "The windows were painted black, hung with black lined curtains and special locks put on the door from the inside. I have the room next to yours. I won' be able to access your room. I did the same for all three ships, they all have special adjustments made to them at your specifications."
They walked in tandem towards the interior of the ship. Stopping outside of Vicki's room, "Very good, you may go Willie. I will see you at sunset."
Barnabas turned to the door and Willie stopped him, "Barnabas, don't hurt her. She ain't hurt no body and nobody should hurt her." Willie's lip trembled when he asked him not to hurt Vicki, and he knew he was treading on thin ice with him and risking a real beating.
Barnabas' scowled, "Willie, you are dismissed, go to your room." His voice was low and threatening as he made his intent felt with a direct stare into Willie's eyes. Trembling, Willie stepped back, dropped his chin directing his gaze to his shoe. Turning he skittered off down the hallway. He reached a door across the hall from Vicki's suite of rooms, put his hand on the door and glanced at Barnabas. Seeing that Barnabas was watching him, Willie opened the door and disappeared inside. Closing and locking his door, he leaned against the door and looked at the dark ceiling of his room.
Willie wanted to cry instead he wrapped his arms around his body and slid to the floor, drawing up his knees, he tucked his forehead to the top of his knees and felt his body shudder at all the pent up frustration and anger. Lifting his gaze up to the ceiling he was terrified at the image that met his gaze. The spectral form of Josette floated overhead. Gasping in fear Willie ducked his head and in a tremulous voice said, "What do you want?"
Josette's' voice floated around the room, "Do not be afraid for Victoria, Willie. All will be fine. Do not be afraid." He watched her fade from view. Leaving only the faintest hint of her perfume behind.
Barnabas knocked lightly on Victoria's door, "Come in." Her voice sounded tired and he wondered if Danielle had given her the sleeping pills. Barnabas entered and stopped, his gaze drinking in the beauty before him. She sat on the chaise, in her lap was a saucer and she held a teacup in her hand. He shifted his gaze to Danielle, who smiled and nodded to his unspoken question.
"Well, if you two will excuse me, the hour is late and I need to check on the equipment I am taking to my husband."
Victoria looked appreciatively and with a degree of uncertainty towards the retreating back of Danielle and wished her a good evening. Vicki sipped the last of her tea, set the saucer and cup on the delicate table next to her and stood. Her beauty entranced Barnabas. When she stood the gown flowed around her slender form. Barnabas laid his cane down and removed his jacket, draping it over a nearby chair. He too wished Danielle a good evening and turned to secure the door behind her.
Turning back he was speechless looking at the enchantingly beautiful creature in front of him. "My dear may I say how exceptionally enchanting you appear. I hope you like my selection for your sleeping attire."
Vicki picked at the flowing softness nervously and then smiled shyly glancing from the gown to her prospective bridegroom. "It is lovely, was it Josette's?"
He stepped towards her and embraced her, pulling her close he kissed her forehead. "Yes, it was Josette's I also took the liberties of getting you some jasmine perfume and bathing salts."
Vicki laid her head against his chest and closed her eyes, she felt so tired. "Thank you." Her words were soft and muffled as she rested her head on his chest. "You were going to tell me who Peter was."
Vicki felt her throat close and her eyes burned with unshed tears. "He was someone I knew a long, long time ago. He was very kind to me during a time when I felt I had no friends."
Barnabas stiffened speaking softly into her ear, "Well that was as you said a long, long time ago. In two days we shall share a new and very different and exciting life together." He pushed her head back so he could stare into the radiance of her eyes and he smiled.
"Yes, Barnabas, we will share a new and exciting life together." She saw him lower his mouth to hers and she closed her eyes and waited for the kiss. His mouth was firm and demanding. He pressed for a return of the same passion he felt while he plundered her mouth. Involuntarily, Vicki lifted her arms and encircled his neck, letting her fingertips massage his neck and hair. Barnabas broke the kiss and she could see the glowing red embers ignite in his gaze.
"My darling, comfort me." She pulled the scarf from her throat and leaned into his chest tilting her head. She felt his fingers brush her hair away from her neck.
When he lowered his lips to her throat, she braced herself for the brief pain she was going to receive. Barnabas ran his tongue over her slender neck, tasting her and then he gently sank his fangs into her neck. Vicki felt the quick pain and then she knew nothing else. Barnabas took only what he needed to keep his hunger at bay. He felt her body go limp in his arms. Catching her before she fell, he scooped her up in his arms and carried her to the bed. There he lay her head on the satin pillows and covered her with the blanket.
Gazing down he smiled, "Soon my lovely you will be ready for me, you will love me as I love you. You will be mine." Barnabas looked on the sleeping form caught up in his thoughts that his silent musings were interrupted by a familiar voice.
"Barnabas, you must love her for who she is not as a pale image of what we might have had. You know you have feelings for her."
Barnabas turned and peered at the vision of Josette before him. "Josette?" He took a step towards her and she floated away from him.
"No Barnabas. Do not come any further. Just listen to me. When you first came to my room, you said you could not have me because I am truly gone. Then you told me to go away. I did go away. Then I watched you, you tried so hard to become human again. What Angelique has done can be undone, just not as the good Doctor Hoffman tried. You must go to Martinique and you must seek out a Doctor Lang, Doctor Eric Lang. He is both your salvation. Before you do that, you must love this woman, she will be your salvation and she deserves all your love."