It was twilight when the new lovers returned to the fort. Both were silent and not touching as they walked the horses to the stable to be taken care of. Cat gave Blossom a final pat before turning to Tavington, who was scowling at the sky. 'What do I call him now?' Cat wondered. 'My boyfriend?' Cat smiled in humor at such a label for the Colonel. No, Tavington was a lover. 'A very skilled one,' She thought naughtily. She blinked out of her thoughts as Tavington shifted his face towards her. She raised her eyebrow as she shifted her body towards him.
"I suppose this is good night then?" Cat asked quietly, hoping it wasn't. Tavington said nothing as he watched her with a blank expression. His beautiful eyes, that had been filled with such heat and feeling, were empty yet intent upon her face.
"Um…yes…well.. Good night, Colonel." Cat said awkwardly, trying to hide her disappointment. She walked away at a rapid pace, trying to hold back tears while cursing at herself for being so stupid to believe he cared when a hard hand gripped her arm and whirled her back around to face a furious Tavington.
"Where do you think you are going?" Tavington demanded to know, his eyes hard and guarded as they studied her shocked face.
Cat yanked her arm out of his grip and propped her hands on her hips. "I'm going to my bed since you clearly don't want me in yours, you unfeeling arsehole!"
Tavington folded his arms across his chest while eyeing her slowly. "I didn't say I didn't want you in my bed. You walked away from me quite quickly."
Cat gaped at him. "I walked away because you," She poked his arms, "Didn't say anything. You just stood there with no expression, making me think…" Cat swallowed thickly, looking away from him to blink back sudden tears.
He uncrossed his arms and lifted her chin to lock his eyes with hers. "Making you think what?"
Cat bite her trembling lip as she crossed her arms in defense. Her expressive green eyes darted away and then back to his blue ones. "Making me think that I was just a one night stand."
Tavington's face at once became tight with anger as he gripped her arms and pulled her up onto tiptoes so their eyes were level. "Never think that! I don't ever want to hear you say that again! Do you hear me?"
Cat's shocked eyes closed in relief as she nodded quickly. "Yes. I hear you."
Tavington eased his grip and let her stand back on her feet. "Good. Now let's go."
He began to pull her by her arm towards the row of tents. She pulled back, digging in her heels. He turned to fix a hard stare at her.
Cat lifted her chin defiantly as her eyes connected with his. "I don't recall being asked to go anywhere."
Tavington straightened his straight posture even more as he regarded her as if she was snake ready to strike. They stood in the middle of the fort at a stand off waiting to see who would bend first. Cat soon slumped, sighing as she realized Tavington wasn't going to ask. 'Fine then. Another night alone won't kill me.' Cat thought dejectedly. She turned to walk to the manor, but was jerked around and lifted into air. She grunted as her stomach landed on a hard shoulder. Tavington began striding to his tent with Cat on his shoulder kicking and hitting. As they reached the tent, he lifted a hand and brought it down on her behind quite sharply. Cat gasped and froze in disbelief and not just a bit of arousal as they disappeared into the tent. Very soon, the sounds of passion drifted passed the tent's cloth walls to be heard only by the moon glowing quite brightly as if in laughter.
October 31, 1780
Cat twitched under the covers, shifting away from the tickling sensation at her side. A rumbling chuckle above her prompted her to open her eyes quickly to see two blue eyes twinkling in mirth down at her.
A slow smile formed across her face as she stretched our her arms, legs, and back. "Good morning, Colonel."
An answering smile across the handsome face above her sent a thrill down her body. "Good morning to you too." He leaned closer to give her a slow drugging kiss. He broke away to caress her cheek. "As tempting as you are in my bed, I'm afraid we have duties that await us."
As he stood up from the bed, she noticed a quill in his long fingered hand. 'So that was what the tickling was,' she thought with an amused smile as she watched Tavington shuffle some papers on his desk. Cat sat up with one hand pressing the sheet close to cover her nakedness from the autumn air. She groaned as her eyes fell on the dress laying across the end of the cot. She instantly remembered the fitting for her Hallow's Eve ball costume.
A chuckle from across the tent had her turning her head toward her new lover. Tavington was leaning against his desk with arms folded and legs crossed at the ankles. A smirk was directed at her as his clear blue eyes took in her tousled figure. Cat smirked back as she stood up from the bed and let the sheets fall to the ground, revealing her naked body. She watched his eyes darken to a deep gray of desire as she strolled up to him slowly. She fitted her body against his clothed one and smiling up at him with dark promise.
She trailed her hands up his arms and wrapped her arms around neck before leaning up on tiptoe to whisper into ear, "Are you sure I can not tempt you, Colonel? It would be very worth it."
She nipped his earlobe and then sucked it soothingly before she was jerked around and dipped backward over a strong arm to be kissed roughly. She kissed back with equal fervor as her knuckles turned white from gripping his coat lapels tightly. Too soon for her liking, she was set back on her two wobbly legs and was left dazed, aroused, and quite alone in the middle of the tent.
"Damn!" She breathed quietly before grinning like a cat who got the cream. She turned quickly and began to get dressed just as an amused feminine voice was heard outside.
"Miss, may I come in?" Mary's tone was timid, yet had an undercurrent of mirth.
"Mary! Just who I needed! This corset is surely going to kick my arse without you!" Cat exclaimed turning to smiling at the young maid as she stepped into the tent.
Mary smiled at Cat and admired the glow that she had about her. 'The miss was very happy.' Mary thought relieved. "The Colonel sent me, Miss. He thought you would need my help."
Cat smiled, quite thrilled that Tavington had thought of her needs. "He was right. Let's get me dressed. I have a fitting with Madam Annabelle and my shift in the medical tents."
"Yes, Miss." Mary began to patiently help Cat dress with wide smile.
"There it is perfect." Annabelle clapped delightedly. "Spin around."
Cat gave the seamstress a miffed look, but spun in a slow circle. She watched the rich red skirt flair around her and smiled into the mirror in front of her. Half her face was hidden by a black eye mask, but her green eyes glowed brilliantly back at her while her lips smiled at the dress she wore. It was all a rich red color except for the black lace netting over the skirt. Her waist was lined with black velvet material making a little vest. Her breasts were full and filled the bodice quite nicely though Cat had a slight fear of falling out despite how tight the fit was.
"You look wonderful." Annabelle gushed truthfully. "Though the blue would have better."
Cat rolled her eyes at the dig, but let it slide. She was too happy to argue with the annoying woman. "All right! Help me out. I have to get to the medical tents."
Annabelle clapped her hands and her assistants swarmed around Cat once more. Soon they parted and Cat fairly skipped out of the room to run out of the manor. She slowed down as she reached the med tents and ducked inside. She quickly relieved a harried looking woman and began the routine round dressings. Many remembered her and greeted her politely and cheerfully. There were a few grumpy men, but she had them smiling in no time at all. She was washing up the equipment in blistering hot water when Jacob popped up beside her.
"Here you are! I've been looking for you all day!" Jacob accused, grinning at her.
Cat looked him uneasily. "What are you up to?"
"Nothing! Can't I be happy?" Jaocb said, defensively with his hands up in the air.
Cat snorted and began laying out the equipment to air dry. "Why were you looking for me?"
"A little birdie told me someone stayed the night in someone's tent." Jacob teased with a lifted eyebrow.
Cat's eyes narrowed into slits. "Mary."
Jacob shook his head. "I'm not telling."
"Oh, I know it was her because I've seen someone eating lunch with her several times this month!" Cat teased back with wink.
Jacob shifted guilty before fixing her with a stare. "We are talking about you. Mary isn't the only one who noticed. It's around the whole fort, my dear. Your reputation.."
"Is pretty much the same. Half approve and half don't. I don't care. I care about my friends opinion and they don't have a problem do they?" Cat asked with a frown reaching into her eyes as she watched him.
His eyes widened in shock. "No! I have no problem with you two finally showing each other how you feel. I just don't want you hurt by the gossip."
Cat shrugged. "Nothing they say about me will hurt me. Now if they mess with William, they will have me to deal with."
Cat turned to empty out the dirty water while Jacob watched her silently. When she turned back, Jacob wrapped his arms around her and squeezed. "I'm very happy for you, Cat."
She returned his hug and smiled into his shoulder. "Thanks. I'm happy for you too!"
Jacob pulled away abruptly. "Now don't be readin' anything into it. Mary and I are just friends. Nothing more."
Cat smirked a bit before fixing him a stern stare. "Nothing more because you're scared of what you will feel if you let her in."
Jacob scowled at her. "Get back to work!"
He stormed off angrily with Cat watching him go sadly. 'That man has intimacy issues. Hopefully,' she thought, 'Mary will help him.' Cat turned back to the cleaning and dismissed everything from her mind when she started medical rounds again.
Her relief came a little before sundown, leaving her little precious time to get ready. She hurried to the manor and busted into room where Mary waited. Mary leapt at Cat and began to quickly scrub her down after getting her into the tub. Cat dried off swiftly as Mary pulled the chemise over Cat's head. Cat held the bed post as Mary tightened her into the corset before putting Cat into her costume gown.
"It is absolutely stunning, Miss. You look so beautiful." Mary praised as she sat Cat down so she could fix her hair. Cat sat quietly letting Mary do her magic or her thick mass of hair.
"I'm nervous." Cat blurted, looking at Mary in the mirror with anxious eyes.
Mary returned her look and smiled softly. "You will be well, Miss. You are strong. If you will allow, Miss, I think the Colonel and you together is just wonderful. You two fit so well together."
Cat let out a tense breath. "Thank you, Mary! I needed to hear that."
Cat stood and fixed her mask onto her face. She turned to Mary and hugged her tightly. Mary gasped a bit, but timidly returned the hug. Cat pulled away and walked to door, but stopped to look back at Mary.
"Don't give up on him, Mary. He just needs time." Cat advised quietly before leaving the room quickly.
Mary smiled sadly at the door. "I don't dare to wish, Miss. He's out of my reach."
Cat slowly stepped into the full ballroom and looked around with intent eyes. She didn't see anyone familiar partly due to all the masks. She began to circle the dance floor and spotted O'Hara easily. His posture and manner gave him away. Cornwallis wasn't too far away from him talking to some people from the nearby plantations. She grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing servant and sipped the golden bubbly while her eyes roamed the room again. 'Where was he?' Cat wondered.
"Spread out. Find out anything you can. Wait for my signal." Ben whispered to his men. Three masked men moved into the crowd and began mingling effortlessly. Villenvue stayed by Ben's side, watching the British and Loyalists mingle and dance with a faint sneer.
"Idiots." He commented to the silent Colonel.
"Maybe." Ben answered quietly. He turned his head quickly as a group of woman stopped few feet from them. He looked away from them to avoid any attention, but listened intently as they gossiped.
"Can you believe it? My papa said she stayed all night with him in his tent!" A blonde exclaimed half disgusted, half excited.
"It's disgusting. She's a disgrace. Flaunting around in britches and associating with that monster." a brunette sniffed as she glared across the ballroom at a brunette dressed in a red gown and black mask. "I have to say she picked the right color to wear!"
Ben followed the girl's eye to the woman in red and lifted an eyebrow. What woman would dare wear red? He was intrigued and listened harder while watching the 'fallen' woman closely. She was looking around as if looking for someone. Her lover? He ran his eyes over her figure and had to admit the woman was quite attractive. Slim waist, curvy hips, and lovely breasts. Ben shifted a bit, darting his eyes away from the woman. He instantly felt guilty as the face of his dead wife floated to the fore front of his mind. He had no right thinking of another woman. Oh really, said a snide voice in his mind. What about Charlotte? He swallowed thickly and roughly pushed those thoughts away. He focused on the women's conversation. He wanted to know who the mysterious woman was.
"She must be looking for him. Why any woman would want to be seen with the Butcher is beyond my imagination!" Another blonde said disdainfully.
Ben sucked in a shocked breath. His eyes went back to the woman and narrowed in thought. The Butcher's mistress. He had to give the bastard points for good taste. A plan began to form in his mind as he started weaving his way through the crowd toward the mystery woman. A smirk slide across his face as he approached the woman from behind. He was going to get a little revenge tonight.
"Why is such a beautiful woman standing alone?"
Startle, Cat spun around quickly and blinked at the smiling masked man. He was average height with brown hair tied back into slick tail. Blue eyes twinkled at her from behind the black mask covering his upper face. 'Probably a pretty boy.' Cat thought snidely.
" Haven't you heard? I'm a loose woman. No one dares to associate with me" Cat said shortly before turning away.
" I've been known to be daring" Ben said smoothly while bowing to her. "My name is Jason Aldrick."
Cat eyed him with wary eyes. "Catriona Johanson. Green Dragoon Nurse."
Ben lifted an eyebrow in amazement. 'Interesting.' He thought. "You ride with the Butcher?"
Faint annoyance at the nickname flashed in her green eyes. "Yes," She smiled slyly, "In more than one way."
"Ah." Ben sipped his wine slowly a bit unnerved at her frank honesty about her relations with Butcher.
Cat smiled smugly as if she knew she made him uncomfortable. She turned away from the annoying man and look across the room again. She was aware that everyone was talking about her and Tavington. They hadn't made it a secret that they had slept together last night. It wasn't anyone's business what they did, but Society made everything their business no matter what.
"Are you not afraid of the Butcher? Aren't you horrified at what all he has done?" The man asked with his blue eyes narrowed at her.
Cat eyed him a bit more closely wondering at his questions and manner. What was the man's name? Jay Rick? No. Jason Al something? Yes, that was it. Jason's body was relaxed, but she face held a sliver of tension and his eyes were shadowed and haunted by something. A shiver a unease traveled down Cat's spine as she slowly shifted her position to where she faced him fully.
"I'm not afraid of the Colonel at all. This is war, Mr. Altick, horrible things happen to both sides." Cat said firmly, watching the man's eyes.
Ben's mouth tightened ever so slightly at her answer. "You condone the killing of children and women?"
Cat stiffened in rage. Her knuckles were white from clutching her glass of champagne. "Colonel Tavington does not deliberately kill children and women. There was only one incident he killed a young boy, who tried to free his brother who was carrying American dispatches. It was a sad thing, but sometimes the innocent gets hurts, though what the boy did was stupid."
Cat held back a gasp at the flash of rage and pain in the man's eyes. The glassware stem broker in his tense hand as he tried to rein in his temper. Cat's eyes widened as she recognized the man. Ben Martin. The Ghost. Cat's eyes darted around trying to find Cornwallis or anyone as her feet started edging her backwards.
Ben noticed her panicked eyes and knew that she recognized him somehow. With quick reflexes, he grabbed her arm and pulled her close with her body in front of him. He pulled out a gun from his belt and pressed it against her back, hiding it quite effectively with her body.
He bent his head and whispered menacingly in her ear. "Do not make a scene or I will shot you."
Cat nodded slightly while her eyes darted around for the Colonel. Where the hell was he? Cornwallis was chatting with some loyalists and his officers, not paying the rest of the room any attention. Her heart was racing as Ben started pushing her toward the garden doors
Behind her, Ben caught Villenvue's attention and jerked his head to the garden doors. Villenvue nodded and started them toward them. Cat walked stiltedly, but they reached the garden and disappeared into it without anyone raising suspicion. Cat was a loose woman. Her leaving with some man was hardly worrying.
Cat tried jerking free, but Ben's grip only tightened more to start bruising her upper arm. "You're free so let me go."
Ben jerked her around and glared at her. "I don't think so. You are going to help us with our Hallow's gift for Cornwallis and since you are so close to the Butcher, I can leave him a message through you!"
Cat glared back, but remained silent a little afraid of what Ben had in mind. Villenvue was eyeing her with dispassionate eyes as Ben spoke. He lifted an eye at the reference to her being close to the hated Butcher. Cat glanced at him with mild irritation.
"What don't you take a picture it'll last longer!" Cat snapped, confusing the Frenchman with her comment.
Ben jerked her arm. "Be quiet."
"Why should I?" Cat asked smartly, jerking back. Her arm was going to be covered in bruises.
"Do you want to live?" Ben hissed, glaring at her while pointing the gun at her heart.
Cat pressed her lips together, but kept her anger eyes on him. She kept quiet, but when the time came to act…
"Who is she?" Villenvue asked as they navigated through the garden to the side of the manor. They circled the manor and stepped out into the middle of the fort.
Cat's eyes widened at she took in the tied up soldiers. The militiamen were pilling wood into the courtyard in a pattern. How did they get in? Where were the Dragoons? Where was William? Cat's thoughts raced together as fear rocketed through her body.
"Men! This woman here is the Butcher's woman." Ben announced, answering Villenvue's question. The men's eyes zeroed in on her and a few leered at her lustily. "Occam, bring that pole. Put it in front of the message and stake it in the ground."
The big black man did as he was bidden while the men circled Ben and Cat.
"What are we going to do with her?" asked a filthy grinning man. He eyed Cat's cleavage hungrily, making her skin crawl. Cat glared at him, trying to hide her fear. She glanced nervously at Ben, wondering if he was planning on letting the men rape her. Cat swallowed thickly, trying to hold back the vomit at the thought being touched by the bastards.
"We are going to use her as a message to the Butcher." Ben said, smiling quite smugly at Cat, who spat in his face.
Ben kept smiling as he pushed her towards the filthy men. He wiped the spit from his face and grinned at Cat, who was struggling with the men, trying to get away from their groping hands.
"Let go. Get away from me, you disgusting vermin!" Cat squealed, swatting at hands while kicking out at any parts she could hit.
"Tie her to the pole." Ben ordered. His usual conscience, Gabriel, was absent therefore he was feeling no remorse for what he was setting into motion. A life for a life.
Two men lifted her and carried her to the pole that Occam had pounded in to the ground. She bite and kicked until they finally, after much struggle, tied her to the long pole of wood. She cursed them and started to scream as Ben took a torch from the one the men and tossed to the wood laying out in front of her. Instantly the wood began to burn and the fire spelled out 'Ghost' in front of Cat's high perch. The heat licked at her dress and feet making her scream louder for help. He was going to burn her at the stake!
Ben stepped up beside her and took out a knife. Cat eyed it fearfully as he brought it up to her chest in between her breasts. He pressed the edge into her skin and carved a 'G' into her skin right in the middle of her chest. Tears streaked down Cat's face as blood dripped down her chest onto her dress. Her body was shaking with the force of her fear and tears as the fire licked closer and closer to her dress.
Ben leaned close and grinned widely, showing perfect white teeth. "Tell the Butcher I'm coming for him. He will die before the end of this war."
Cat, with tears and ash on her face, growled at him, "Not if I kill you first!"
Ben smirked before walking away and mounting his horse along with the other men. Shouting high into the night, the militiamen rode out of fort, leaving Cat tied to pole near the raging fire.
"HELP! SOMEONE PLEASE!" Cat screamed as she struggled to loose the ties at her wrists. Lucky for her, the smoke and glow of the fire caught the attention of a soldier, who was strolling out to relieve himself. Several soldiers and loyalists poured out of the house at the frantic shouting of the soldier. Men ran for the pumps and troughs with buckets in hand. They filled them with water and began to toss the water onto the fire.
Cornwallis, with the ever present O'Hara, behind him ran out and stared in disbelief at the fiery message. He spotted Cat the moment Tavington ran past him with Jacob Collins on heels. Tavington drew a knife and began cutting through the ties. Jacob gripped her waist and lowered her into his arms. Tavington patted out the small flame at the hem of her dress while they backed away from the fire. Cat's hands shook as they reached from Tavington, who scooped her up out of Jacob's arms to cradle her close to his body. She wrapped her arms around his neck tightly and buried her face into his neck to hide her tears that wouldn't stop.
"I've got you. You are safe now. It is all over." Tavington murmured into her hair. His voice was gentle, but his face was tight with rage and worry. He had seen what the fire had spelled. He knew the Ghost had tied her up there for him to find. It had been just business before, but now it was personal.
Cornwallis walked up to the Colonel and cast a worried eye over Cat. "Is she all right?"
"I'll have to look her over, but I think physically she is all right." Jacobs commented from Tavington's side. The doctor's face was worn looking as he pushed a shaking hand through his blonde hair. Seeing Cat tied to the pole with the fire surrounding her had scared the shit out of him.
"If you'll excuse us, General.." Tavington said briskly, turning to head to med tents.
"Wait! Do you know if she saw his face?" Cornwallis asked with an expectant face at the two men.
Jacob glared at the General as Tavington with a strained face and tight voice answered, "I do not know. My first priority, Sir, was to untie her from the pole!"
Cornwallis flushed, but straightened his back and lifted his chin. "Find out after you've looked her over. I want to know if she can identify him!"
Tavington nodded tightly before striding away with Jacob at his side.