Kate’s chest tightened with dread as she read the last line. She identified strongly with Evelyn, hopeless romantic and head over heels in love with Ash, who she thought was going to rescue her from what had become a prison, to which her brother held the only key.
Sebastian seemed sinister, creepy, and possibly crazy. That he had loved his sister genuinely to begin with was clear, but the book and dagger had twisted that love into something hateful and disgusting. She pitied him rather than feared him. In an ideal world he would probably have welcomed Ash into the family as a suitor for his sister, but the world was far from ideal and Ash’s divine lineage made him Sebastian’s target, his sister the puppet he would use to gain eternal life and if previous lives were any indication, Sebastian would lose everything he held dear in the process. Kate bit her lip as she continued.
3rd September 1873
I am waiting in our usual place in the park. Evie will be here any moment. Summer is waning, it will be Autumn soon and the leaves will turn to myriad shades of russet and gold, matching the colours of Evie’s hair.
A small boy runs towards me, carrying a cream coloured envelope in one grubby hand.
“Are you Ash, mister?” he asks in a thick Liverpudlian accent.
I nod and he hands me the missive. He exits the park as quickly as he can. He is not wealthy enough to be here and if he is caught he will be arrested. I open the plain envelope and read the short letter inside. The handwriting is neat, confident, elegant, but it is not Evie’s.
My darling, I regret I am unable to meet you today, but have been given some wonderful news. Sebastian is going away on an extended business trip to London. He will be gone by this evening and I will send the maid home. Come to me after eleven tonight and we can be together.
Your Evelyn x
There are several things that give the letter away as fake. Firstly, I always call her beloved and she reciprocates in kind. Secondly, Sebastian would never leave her alone in the house where he would have no way of knowing what she did – he cannot bear to be apart from her for more than half a day at a time. And thirdly, she never calls herself Evelyn, it is always Evie. Only Sebastian uses her full given name. The last and most telling betrayal that this is Sebastian’s work is the invitation that serves as the lure. Evie would never consent to anything so vulgar as to have me in her bed before marriage. Aside from all that, I already know it is a trap, a trap into which I am obliged to walk.
* * *
At eleven pm precisely I tap three times on the door of number 47 Sefton Park Drive, with the lion-headed door-knocker. I needn’t have bothered as the door swings open of its own accord. The hall is in darkness, but with flawless angel-sight I can see regardless. I step over the threshold into the narrow hallway and continue up the stairs. At one of the doors I pause, I sense Evelyn, drugged into sleep in the room beyond. I want to go to her, but it will do no good, so I continue up the next flight of stairs to the top of the house. Here, a small door opens onto the attic. The steeply pitched roof falls down on either side and I have to stoop below the frame in order to enter.
At the far end of the room I see light and step closer. I am not surprised when the door slams shut behind me and a rough cloth bag is shoved over my head and I am shoved into the room, falling to my knees by the desk. I hear the clink and scrape of heavy chains dragged across the floor. Surely he can’t think to keep me here with something so crude?
Did I say I had not been naïve? I take it back. He takes no chances and the shackles are cuffed around my wrists one at a time and my arms are hauled upwards above my head. I feel the bite of the magickal metal. These are no ordinary chains.
I don’t know how he has come by them, but they are forged from a similar metal to the dagger, the Angel Killer. They will not kill me, but they will hold me. I am at Sebastian’s mercy and Evie is in a greater danger than ever before.
11th September 1873
A week has passed since Sebastian sprung his trap. He has taunted and tortured me, but always falls short of killing me – just. The worst torment is knowing that Evelyn knows nothing of my whereabouts. She goes to our meeting place daily and waits as long as she dares before returning home in despair. She cannot ask her brother to help her, she knows nothing of my movements when not with her, she is lost, alone, confused with Laudanum poisoning and begins to believe I have cruelly abandoned her.
Sebastian watches her every move.
He watches her sleep.
He watches her fall apart.
He has sent the maid away and when she asks for Bertie he tells her he has run away again and hasn’t come back. What he has really done with dog is too horrific to tell. When Evie weeps, he comforts her, when she falls sick, he ministers to her every need, waiting on her himself, bathing her fevered brow, holding the poisoned teacup to her lips, spoon feeding her laudanum laced broth. At last she is so weak and trusting of him that she finally answers the question he constantly asks her.
“What ails you my sister? Tell me how I can help.”
She tells him everything. Betrays our secret love to him and begs him to help her understand why I have left her. He lies to her, makes our love seem sordid and unnatural, tells her that if I truly loved her it would not have needed to be a secret, convinces her there was no need for us to hide from him and finally when she is mad with grief he promises her that he will never let anyone hurt her again, that he loves her more than anyone ever could and as she clings to him for comfort he tilts back her head and kisses her.
Confused, at first she allows it, but when he forces his tongue between her lips and into her mouth she recoils in horror.
“Sebastian, what are you doing?”
“Showing you I love you, Evelyn. Did he not kiss you in the same way?”
“But you’re my brother.”
It is more an accusation than a statement.
The simple, involuntary act of pulling the covers up to her chest as his eyes roam over her body makes him realise he will never win her love. He lashes out, hitting her across the face, an ugly purple welt spreads like a stain across her cheek and he launches himself at her, pinning her to the bed and forcing his weight on top of her. She tries to scream, but his hand covers her mouth.
I see all of this through Evelyn’s mind, but am helpless to do anything but cry her name. I don’t know if she hears me, but with the last bit of strength she has she sinks her teeth into Sebastian’s hand. His arm pulls back and his fist slams into her face. She falls back against the pillows, still conscious. I only wish she weren’t as he pushes aside the blankets and thrusts his hand beneath her nightdress. He pushes the white cotton shift up to her hips and probes between her legs, restricting her frantic wriggling with the weight of his body and gripping her slim wrists in his other hand.
“Lie still, sister. It will hurt less,” he snarls into her ear, kissing her neck and running the tip of his tongue along her jaw line.
As Evelyn whimpers, her pleas for him to stop ignored, he loosens his trousers and forces her legs apart with his body.
I have not dared try to make contact with her before, for fear of unbalancing her further, but now I am desperate. I am not sure I can reach her, the metal in the chains not only keeps me grounded here but dulls my other angelic senses.
“Evie,” I whisper into her mind as he rapes her. “I have not left you. I am always with you.”
When he has finished, he lies spent beside her shaking body and I repeat my words over and over, between sobs, to the empty attic. Evelyn’s mind is closed. I never know if I reached her before it broke.
* * *
Kate’s hand covered her mouth in shock. She wasn’t sure she hadn’t cried out, with Evelyn, at the violence her brother inflicted upon her. She knew Ash had sensed the strength of her emotion, but he hadn’t come to her, he had stayed away in the other room. Doing what, she didn’t know.
Of all of the previous lives she had read about so far this was by far the most shocking and now she knew why “especially Evelyn” had been forced into the German Officer’s mind. It was difficult to carry on reading, but if the answer to saving Ash and perhaps her own soul was hidden in the description of the past, then she had to continue. She swallowed and turned the page.