The hot days in South Carolina were countered by the cool, breezy nights. Most people opted to stay locked tight in their homes in this time of war, especially at night, but not the pale young woman on the balcony. Vivienne sighed to the almond moon. She closed her eyes, dreaming her familiar dream, relishing the fresh breeze caressing her legs through the sheer skirt of her gown. Her mother would scold her for being out on the balcony in her nightdress, but, as usual, Vivian found herself enjoying the image of her mother's shock. Besides, the chances any danger would reach the Kent family on their acres of country land, far away from the fighting were slimmer than a corseted waist.
Vivienne had always been a dreamer; visions of a fairy tale romance had played through her head like a broken record. She wanted to be swept off her feet by a handsome stranger. Closing her eyes, Vivienne drifted off into her dream world once again. He would be tall with dark hair and light eyes. Of course he must be strong and brave to boot. . .
"Vivienne Marguerite Kent - get off the balcony!" a shriek broke Vivienne's fantasy. Her mother stood in the doorway wearing an expression of disapproval. Grudgingly, Vivienne obeyed, dragging her feet back into the mentally stifling room. Her dreams and unspoken thoughts were always free to glide among the stars above the balcony. Vivienne's mother hovered around her, twittering about the indecency of it all.
"You shall be married soon! A girl your age cannot go flouncing about in a flimsy nightgown where anyone might see you! Now go to bed. It is well past midnight." Vivienne's mother pursed her lips and strode out of the room, her heels clicking down the hallway. When the sound of the heels disappeared, Vivienne smiled and went out to the balcony again, tilting her chin up so she could feel the night air on her delicate neck. Purple moonlight colored her chocolate hair glossy black. How could I ever give this up? she thought, slipping into her dream once more.
The British Colonel, William Tavington, led a small group of Green Dragoons calvary to the house of Philip and May Kent. The Kents were rumored to be harboring injured enemy soldiers, a business which most certainly could not go unnoticed, he thought with a smile. The Colonel was feeling particularly giddy for action today. That blasted continental militia had recently overtaken a wagon which contained a few of Lord Cornwallis' old field diaries - full of information vital to defeating the colonist army. Tavington had failed to capture the militia and the diary, therefore again disappointing the Lord General. There were, however, ways to ease the pain of humiliations such as these. It had been some time since Tavington had done something cruel for the harsh pleasure of it. He and his Dragoons would pay the Kents a visit tonight. . .
"Philip, are you expecting guests this late in the evening?" May turned away from the window to look at her husband. Philip adjusted his glasses as he looked up from his book.
"What are you talking about, dear?" She motioned him over to the window and as he peered out, he recognized the soldiers' uniforms, panic rising in his chest. "Redcoats," he gasped.
"Do what you like to the house. I suppose we shall burn it before we leave, but of course we must first confront Mr. and Mrs. Kent and search the house for enemy soldiers." Tavington issued instructions, already anticipating the terrified expressions on the Kents' faces when he would tell them their house must be burned to the ground for their treachery. It wouldn't be so difficult to imagine that Martin man's face in place of theirs. "Move out, men." The Dragoons rushed inside to fulfill their mission. Tavington was the last through the doorway, hand on his pistol. He allowed his men to find the Kents and walked briskly up the stairs, lusting for blood.
Vivienne finally came off the balcony to try on some of the new corsets she had bought to go under her party dresses. Her mother insisted she have the corsets in the newest style. Vivienne put on an ivory silk one that looked quite nice over her cream-colored nightgown. Her bust and hips were nicely accentuated by the corset, and her waist looked even slimmer than normal. Feeling deliciously bad, she spun in front of the mirror, almost wishing her mother could see her. And what would her handsome stranger think when he saw her dressed like this? With a last little smirk at her reflection, Vivienne went to blow out the candle on her nightstand.
Tavington trusted his men to find Mr. and Mrs. Kent and do whatever was necessary to make them admit to their criminal activities toward the King. He was eager to explore and take care of any soldiers he might find hiding. Once at the top of the stairs, he noticed a ribbon of light beneath the door to his right. I've got you, he thought, triumphantly striding toward the door and throwing it open.
Vivienne spun around at the sound of her door hitting the wall. She locked eyes with a handsome man, apparently a British soldier, who certainly did not belong in the house. Her throat tightened, blocking her screams. The man, who only a moment ago looked nothing but surprised to see her, now had an unpleasantly cunning look on his face. He looked her up and down, his eyes lingering on certain areas of her body that, Vivienne realized with horror, were blatantly on show, thanks to the nightgown and corset. He was less than a foot away from her now. Vivienne couldn't move.
To find a stunningly beautiful and scantly clad young woman in place of an enemy soldier is a rare pleasure, but it was indeed the sight that met Colonel Tavington's eyes when he threw open the door to Vivienne's room. So Philip and May Kent had a daughter . . . She looked to be about seventeen years old, but obviously unmarried. Tavington ravished her with his eyes, smirking as he saw her come to realize her lack of clothing. Her arms flew to her ample chest to cover herself. Hmm, slim wrists too, he observed. She stared at him with angry brown eyes, the only part of her trembling body that suggested she would put up a fight if he touched her.
"What do you want?" Vivienne demanded. His slight smile was patronizing, like he knew something she didn't.
"Originally I wanted to find an enemy soldier or two, but now I desire something far better. . . " He looked at her in a way that made the heat rise in her face.
"You will get out of my room immediately," Vivienne said, keeping the fear out of her voice. The man raised an eyebrow playfully.
"I do not believe you have much of a choice in that matter, darling." He fingered the hilt of what looked to be a pistol, lazily strolling about the room.
"I have the authority to keep a man who is not my husband out of my bedchamber." He casually ran a hand down her gauzy white curtains as she spoke, then looked over at her with eyes blue as ice.
"Not when that man has orders to search your home." He came near again, backing her up against her bedpost, she still clutching her nightgown desperately to her cleavage. He looked down at her with a cat-like gleam in his eye - and Vivienne was the mouse. Vivienne suddenly realized the consequences this situation could hold. Her glance was drawn to the still-open door. Deciding at once, she dashed toward it before he could catch her, ran out into the hallway. . . and found herself in the arms of another British soldier. He held her to him, excited to have such a beautiful young woman rush into his arms, and he began to drag her off into the corner before the stairs, his hands sliding down her back.
"Private Roth," Vivienne's former intruder barked from behind, stopping her captor's groping hands.
"But sir - " Roth began
"You must treat this woman with respect, after all, she will be returning to camp with us." Roth's pout turned into a leer as he looked back at Vivienne, who was frozen with shock and still held tight. Tavington strode over, grabbing Vivienne's shoulders and wrenching her out of Roth's grasp. As she wasn't expecting this, Vivienne tumbled into Tavington's solid chest, jerking away with a squeak as she touched him. This earned her a snicker from Roth and a sneer from Tavington - who abruptly grabbed her wrist and dragged her down the stairs.
Several colonists dressed in rags were held by British soldiers at the bottom of the stairs, looking frightened. May Kent, half mad with the stress of it all, nearly fainted when her daughter came down the stairs lead by the British colonel. Philip was about to leap forward to his daughter's rescue, but Tavington saw it coming and pulled Vivienne back into him, pointing the mouth of his pistol just below her ear.
"Your lovely daughter will serve as a payment for the crime you both have committed against the King," he said with a patronizing smile. Pleased with their pale, drawn faces and Vivienne's sharp gasp, he added "We shall enjoy her company back at camp."
"No!" May cried, lunging forward and nearly into the tip of a bayonet. As Tavington towed his hostage out the door, he muttered to Private Roth,
"Shoot the rebels, and burn the house." Throwing Vivienne onto his horse, he quickly mounted as well and let the girl watch her house go up in flames, her parents darting out into the trees like mice on the run. She held perfectly and completely still in Tavington's iron grasp, but her eyes burned with fright and tears as her beloved balcony joined the wreckage of her home.
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