Home > Tall, Dark & Lonely (Pyte/Sentinel #1)(3)

Tall, Dark & Lonely (Pyte/Sentinel #1)(3)
Author: R.L. Mathewson

“To finish your brother off, Your Grace,” Nichols said with his chin raised. He was making his stand. In his mind Ephraim and every living soul that entered the dungeon deserved his cruelty.

Marc laughed, taking a dagger from one of his men. He walked around Nichols as he toyed with the blade. “No, I think you’ve proven that is quite impossible. Of course, if I had known that my brother was still alive I would have come sooner instead of mourning him. Tell me, Nichols, who was the poor soul that you burned and buried in my brother’s name?”

Nichols puffed up his chest. “I don’t remember the name. Your father demanded I provide a body to go with the story and I did. It’s not my fault the boy turned out to be a demon.”

“Hmmm, then explain to me why fifteen years ago when I asked you about my brother you lied and told me that he was dead and then yesterday when I approached you with the same question after my father’s deathbed confession you told me the truth?”

“Because fifteen years ago you weren’t the D-“

“Duke,” Marc finished. “Yes, I believe that is what finally allowed you to speak. You believed I was worried about my position and allowed me into this little secret. I also believe that you were hoping I would continue to pay you what my father did to keep him here and this story a secret.”

“Of course.” Nichols began to fidget.

“How are we doing?” Marc asked his men without looking away from Nichols.

“Almost done, Your Grace,” Marc’s personal valet said. “We’re done shaving and cutting his hair. We’ll wash him now.”

Ephraim ran his hand over his face. The skin was thin and tight, but it was still his face. He felt like crying. He had to place his hands back under him before he did something to stop this.

Marc watched his brother get scrubbed and then dried. He sat na**d on the floor, looking like a very young skeleton. His brilliant blue eyes had lost the look of youthful innocence. Gone was the boy he once knew. This man looked hard and angry.

“Has any man been here for less than ten years?” Marc asked in a loud voice.

Only one man raised his hand. Tom, he’d been here less than two weeks and refused to be cruel to Ephraim. “How long has this man worked here,” Marc asked Nichols.

“A week or two.”

Marc nodded and looked at his brother. “Has he been good to you?”

Ephraim looked at Tom. The man looked frightened as he should, but Ephraim knew he wasn’t afraid for himself. The man had a newborn son to raise on his own. That was the only reason he took the job. He told Ephraim that when he snuck him water to rinse his mouth late at night.

“He’s been good to me. Let him be,” Ephraim said dismissively. He didn’t want anyone to know how much Tom’s kindness meant to him in case this was a new game. He didn’t want Tom dragged into it.

Marc nodded. “You have a choice, work for me or share their fate. Which will it be?”

Tom bowed. “You, Your Grace.”

“Good. Give this man a weapon. Mind you if you go against me you will share their fate.” Marc gestured to the other footmen.

“I swear my loyalty to you, Your Grace.”

Marc nodded and gestured to the rest of the men. “Has any of them been kind to you, Ephraim?”

He didn’t hesitate. “No.”

The men cursed under their breath. “Good,” Marc said. He gestured to the two men attending to Ephraim to move away. “Let’s start, shall we?” he said cheerfully.

Nichols’ eyes narrowed. “Start what exactly?”

Marc shrugged one shoulder and began to pace again. “The feeding, retaliation, revenge, whatever you want to call it.”

He gestured with the knife to two of his men. The rest took positions and aimed their weapons at the footmen. “If anyone moves kill him.”

Ephraim watched curiously as two of Marc’s men grabbed a footman who’d enjoyed pissing on him, and dragged him towards Ephraim. “Please, feed yourself,” Marc gestured towards the men, “These men, I believe owe you.”

His stomach growled viciously at the thought. He didn’t question it. He didn’t care. After what these men did to him he had no qualms about killing them, but he had to make sure. For some reason he couldn’t do it without hearing it from Marc. “Marc?” He put everything into that one word.

“Eat up, little man,” Marc said in the same endearment he used all those years ago.

“No!” the footman screamed as he was dragged towards Ephraim. “No!”

Marc's men held him down in front of Ephraim. Ephraim’s eyes narrowed on the pulse he could see clearly on the man’s dirty neck. He licked his lips. His fangs dropped and instinct took over. He latched onto the man’s neck, sucking the sweet hot liquid that poured out, greedily. The man screamed as he struggled. Ephraim’s own shaky hands came up to hold the man.

Once the body was drained Marc offered him another and then another. Ephraim watched in awe as his skin filled in and tanned. Muscles appeared beneath the skin. By the sixth body Ephraim looked like the same man he woke up to be twenty years ago, Marc thought. With a gratified smile he looked at Nichols, who’d paled considerably. Two footmen tried to escape during the feeding. They preferred a quick death over being fed to the devil. Their lifeless bodies were hauled over to Ephraim who made use of the blood.

Four footmen remained shaking against the wall. Fresh urine soaked the front of their trousers. They were sobbing loudly. “Please, Your Grace! We’re sorry! We’ll do what you want!”

Marc ignored them and focused on Nichols, but spoke to Ephraim. “Are you still hungry?”

“No, thank you.” He burped, earning a chuckle from Marc. Had Marc gone insane in the last twenty years? It was a possibility.

“I want my brother unchained and given clothes,” he said to his men.

Ephraim was shocked. The chains, the same ones he woke up wearing twenty years ago were about to be removed. He was afraid of what he was going to see there. He watched nervously as the chains were removed. Then he sighed with relief. His wrists were perfect. He felt strong and healthy. He didn’t hesitate in dressing as he watched Marc. He was curious about him.

“Ten years ago, Nichols, my father asked you to take care of a young lady named Elizabeth Perkins. Do you remember? I must tell you that you should not lie, because I know you remember. You brag about it in fact.”

Nichols snickered. “A whore your father claimed caught your eye and played you. I did you a favor.”

Marc’s fist shot out, striking him. Nichols stumbled backwards before he was able to regain his composure. His hand shot to his lip. Ephraim knew before Nichols pulled the hand away that he was bleeding. He could smell it.

“Were any of these men involved?” He gestured to the four men.

Nichols nodded. “Yes, all four of them took part.”

“Shoot them,” Marc said evenly.

“No!” the men screamed, but it was too late. His men aimed their weapons and fired. The sound was deafening. Every man except for Ephraim and Marc jumped.

Nichols looked frightened. Ephraim finished buttoning his shirt and stepped forward and halted. One of Marc’s men held out a mirror. Ephraim stared at the reflection. Twenty years ago he was told he changed. Today for the first time he saw the changes. He ran his fingers over his face. The dry thin skin was gone. His face was filled in. His skin was healthy and smooth. He looked like a stranger. He was now a man, but he didn’t look like the thirty-six year old man he was. He looked like a man in his early twenties. His eyes were hardened, but still had that brilliant blue he liked so many years ago. He looked so different from his brother.

“You look good, little man,” Marc said before turning his attention back to Nichols.

“That woman you raped and murdered was carrying my child!”

“Lies, Your Grace. Surely you know that.”

Marc’s hand shot out and he slashed Nichols across the chest. The older man stumbled backwards. “My father may have asked you to help him for fear that I was dirtying our blood lines, but you should know that whore as you call her was my WIFE!” he roared.

Nichols stumbled backwards. His hands were pressed against his wound. “I..I..”
“You didn’t know. No one did. We married in secret so I could protect her from him. I took her virginity in our marital bed. She was not my live in mistress. Do you understand that, Nichols?” Marc said in a cold deadly voice as he followed Nichols to the wall where he was backing up. “We were married for six months. Six months! She was three months along with our child!”

“I was told…your father demanded that I take care of her.”

“Like you took care of my brother?” he mocked.

Nichols froze. He didn’t say anything. “You killed my wife and unborn child and you made sure she suffered. You didn’t feel one ounce of guilt or shame. You bragged about it. All these years I had to sit back while you bragged about your evil deeds. You like to call my brother the devil, but we both know that it’s you.”

He pointed at Ephraim who was still staring in the mirror. “You starved him for twenty years. He gets a chance at three men to fill his stomach and he gave his word like a man and kept it! He is a man and you are at your end, sir!”

Ephraim tore his gaze from the mirror and walked over to his brother. He felt uncomfortable wearing clothes, but he pushed those feelings aside and focused on his brother. “Marc?”

“Ephraim, would you like to finish this? I’m sure you have more reason than I to do it.” He could see what that offer cost Marc. His jaw was clenched and looked like he was on the verge of a breakdown.

“No, he killed your wife and child. The right is yours.”

“Thank you,” Marc’s voice broke. He lunged at Nichols and stabbed him repeatedly. Blood soon covered the wall and Marc. Still he didn’t stop. He didn’t stop even when the gurgling ceased.

Ephraim’s hand flashed out suddenly, faster than anything he's ever seen in his life and grabbed the knife. “That’s enough.”

Marc looked up at Ephraim, stunned. He took a deep breath and nodded. “Let’s go home,” Marc said in a confused voice. He was clearly lost in his grief.

Ephraim nodded. It was the last place he wanted to be or belonged, but he would do it for his brother. He was clearly hurting.

“For now.”

Chapter 1

Rascal, New Hampshire

2009

“But what if she doesn’t like me?” Joshua asked.

“Yeah, what if she doesn’t like us?” Jill decided to ask, giving credence to Joshua’s question.

Madison swore under her breath. She was going to have to take Jill aside and remind her that a fifteen year old shouldn’t add to a ten year old boy’s fear. Now Joshua was going to start crying, again.

After four days on the road with her siblings and mother, Madison was ready to flee from the car, screaming. This trip couldn’t end fast enough and apparently it wouldn’t. She had a feeling that the U-haul trailer attached to the back of her car was the reason.

She shot another annoyed look at her mother who was curled up in the passenger seat of the small beat up car with the latest gossip rag that Madison paid for of course. Her mother was broke and never worked more than a day at any job she ever held.

Candy, that’s what her mother liked to be called. Her real name was Emma and she hated it. She hated everything about herself unless a man liked it. That’s how she ran her life and the lives of her three children. If a man liked it then it was okay. If the man didn’t then Candy took it upon herself to make the change happen and if it didn’t god help them all, because her mother was not above throwing a tantrum, yelling, hitting or manipulating her three children.

Madison took a deep breath and counted to ten in her head. She was pissed and for good reason. After twenty-three years of hell Madison thought that she was finally going to make a real break for it. Candy promised to sign over custody of the kids. This time she was going to do it. Madison couldn’t wait. She had money in the bank, her college degree and plans. She was moving out of their trailer, their dumpy broken down crowded trailer, and taking her brother and sister with her. Her mother had agreed.

Hell, Candy practically threw a fit and demanded Madison take them years ago. It was her turn for a real life she said. Madison owed it to her. After all it was all Madison’s fault this happened in the first place. Her mother would have been a model by now if she hadn’t got pregnant at sixteen. Candy believed Madison owed her gratitude for not getting an abortion and she reminded Madison of that at every opportunity.

The only clue to Madison’s father’s identity was that she was clearly half Native American. Her hair was jet black and her skin was naturally tanned and she had brown eyes that reminded people of caramel. That gave her mother the only clue to her paternity. Thankfully her mother was a racist and only “slummed” with a colored boy, what she called everyone that wasn’t pure white, once. So, her father was Andrew Soloman, a boy from the local tribe. Unfortunately, he died after Madison was born. He wanted to raise Madison and Candy had been overjoyed to get rid of her burden.

When Madison’s father died in a house fire Candy threw a fit and stormed out of her mother’s house. She took her infant daughter and headed out on the road towards California, but only made it as far as the next state over. There she began a life of worthless jobs, welfare, affairs with married men and drugs. They traveled all over the country until Jill came along and then they settled in New Mexico where Madison took over the care of her siblings and ran the house, well, trailer.

   
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