To Tempt The Devil

Thanks BeautifulTears for the review. Glad you liked it. Hope you like this next one. Well happy reading.

"Papa, you cannot be serious!" Victoria looked across the dinner table at her father with a pleading desperation.

"Victoria. Why do you always insist upon fighting me at every turn?" Her father blew out a long awaited sigh. "Just marry the poor fellow. Heaven knows how much he's pined after you."

"No." She said with a childish quality. Her fingers scrunching up the fine flower embroidery that served as table cloth. "And there isn't a bishop in all of England that can make me say yes."

"You will obey me in this, daughter." It was a clear command. Not to be trifled with.

"And I say that I will not." She was challenging her father. She knew it was a mistake and also expected a swift punishment afterwards. The usual fare included imprisonment (within her own quarters) or a deduction from her monthly allowance. But that never stopped her before. She despised her father. So much so that a little self-sacrifice on her part meant very little if she could make her old man's blood curdle with rage.

"Victoria." That one word was enough to make any young maid quake with fear. But not Victoria. She was strong and brave. A bit rash at times and stubborn as a mule. But she has a kind heart. Her courage was incorrigible. "I give you fair warning, child. Do not tempt me to losing my calm. For this time it is not only confinement and loss of spending coin that you will face. But a punishment only you will live to regret."

"Pray tell, father dearest. What horrible fate awaits my defiance?" Victoria was goading him and she knew it. She wanted to see him crack. So terribly.

His face glowed a bright pink then filled out into a deeper shade of crimson. His tanned leathery cheek looked like it was about to burst. "You are not making this easy." He managed to wheeze out with a deadly calm.

"Whoever said it was my intention to make this easy. And for you?" Her light tones almost made her sound nonchalant. As if she were having a conversation with a dear friend or foe.

Without so much as a squeak of warning. Twin palms slammed hard onto the cold marble of the dining table. "Why you hellish brat!" Her father practically screamed out. "I ought to take a whip to you!" His temper was flaring. And even if a monsoon were to hit, the fury would still not subside.

"I dare you." The gleam in Victoria's eyes was openly taunting but mixed with a bit of uncertainty. Her father usually never stayed long enough at dinner to become this upset. But since tonight was to talk about Victoria's engagement, he stayed quite a bit longer.

"You think I won't do it my girl?" He was eyeing her with a predatory stare. Then added, "Oh I dare. Let's just hope your pretty little face doesn't get scarred in the process." With that said her father marched to the far right wall and took off a whip with multiple leather thongs at the ends that hung by two protruding iron handles.

"William?" Her mother finally broke out. She sounded worried. Worried that he was going to hurt her baby, and his own daughter.

Her father was striding back with a look of malice on his suddenly smooth features. Victoria wasn't fooled. Sure he looked tranquilly evil enough, but anger was practically oozing out of every pore from his body.

"William?" This time her mother's voice was more firm. "What do you intend with that whip?"

"None of your damn business." He bit out. When he saw her move in front of their daughter to shield, he impatiently threw out, "Move aside Catherine."

"Only if you promise not to hurt Vikky." Victoria was proud of her mother. Proud of her for finally standing up to her father. Of course it was to protect her. But this was an improvement from just sitting by idly and meekly all the time like a mouse.

"This is the last time I will ask. Will you stand down woman?"

"Not until you promise." There was a solidarity in her tone.

"Very well then. I shall have to make sport with the both of you." He jeered out the last part with a malicious grin spread across his lips. He raised the hand with the whip high in the air and brought it down upon the women with a thunderous crack. But before making full impact, Catherine pushed her daughter to the floor a good few feet off and cried out with an unmatched pain as the whip descended upon her unprotected back.

"Mother!" Victoria's eyes brimmed to the surface with fresh tears. She was about to run towards the defeated pile of a woman, when her mother's voice halted her steps.

"No. No darling." Catherine huffed out. Then as if out of breath, she inhaled a long shuddering breath of air. "This is the least I can do for you. So let me be the one to take the brunt of your father's temper." A protest threatened to choke Victoria. But a raised hand from her mother stopped her once again. "Run."

"What?" She couldn't quite believe what she was hearing.

"Run!" No hesitancy lingered in that one word. The urgency in her tone was apparent. When Victoria still stood stalk still just an arm's breath away, her mother yelled again, "Run! Run you stupid girl! Listen to mama for onc-Ah!" The whip came tearing down across the soft fabric of her mother's evening attire and made an angry red gash across the whiteness of her back.

But Victoria still did not run. She stood her ground. She could never leave her mother to a fate worse than death. Her father. Without much thought, she picked up her skirts and rushed head first into her father's open chest. The attack was so surprising that William had no time to brace himself while he propelled towards the ground flat on his back with his daughter on top of him trying to wrestle for the whip. Victoria succeeded.

With the weapon held firmly in her right hand she launched herself away from her father's fallen figure and took full advantage of his shocked state. She sent a booted toe straight towards his private parts. He yowled with unmasked pain.

"You little bitch!" He spat out vehemently while clutching himself. Knowing that his wrath would be mighty after his recovery she ran for the table and grabbed hold of the candelabra standing alone in the center of all the food. While her father was recuperating with the after shocks of mortal injury, she sent the brass candle holder to the back of his head knocking him out cold. Then she ran hurriedly to her mother's side trying to help her stand.

"We must leave mother. Quickly!" Victoria hoisted Catherine's arm around her shoulder and they managed to wobble their way to a cushioned chair.

"He has not passed, has he?"

"Of course not mother. Though I would wish it otherwise." Victoria stated matter of factly. "We must leave this hellish hole before the devil himself awakens and takes his vengeance upon us."

"But where to?" Catherine sounded tired.

"Aunt Janice has a lodge just up three quarter miles."

"Would it be too much trouble, you think? For her I mean."

"Mother for the love of- oh never-mind!" Impatience was like a flea bent on sucking Victoria's temper dry.

"I was merely making an inquisition." Catherine defended herself.

"So, after you were almost beaten to a bloody pulp, and after I almost killed father trying to save you, you're asking if it would be too much trouble for Aunt Janice if we went to call upon her? In our hour of need?" Victoria felt incredulous with disbelief. "Is there a mite eating away on your noggin?"

What her daughter said was reasonable, Catherine thought. "Well, I suppose twas' silly of me to even mention such a thing." A sheepish look stole across her face.

"Glad you've seen the light. No more fussing. Shall we head out?"

"Yes, yes. Of course."

That night the two lone women set out on a public carriage to reach a safe haven. Aunt Janice's place, to be precise.

The sound of hooves and pebbled ground smashing up against each other took hold of Victoria's attention. The cool night's air brushed across her face in a soothing caress, and the silence of serenity hung thick in the air. Liberated. Free. She thought happily.

"Oh dear!" Catherine turned owl-widened blue orbs towards her daughter's face.

"What is it mother?" A sleepy quality lined the undertone of her voice.

"That sweet boy! You know Ian!"


"Ian Darrell!" Catherine's eyes took on an excited glaze.

"I don't recall ever having met an Ian. But if you mean Ivan-…"

"Yes, yes, yes. Ivan, that sweet, charming lad." Victoria could only stare at her mother stupidly. She held an ounce of fondness for the arrogant bastard? Unbelievable, she thought. "Did you two not have plans on the morrow' horseback riding?"

"No." She hoped her mother would be deceived.

"Now I may be old, but senile I am not." She clucked at Victoria in motherly tones.

"What does it matter mother? I do not wish to marry the man. I never did. And I never will."

"My dear Vikky. I wish you would change your mind about men. Not all men are like your father-…"

"And uncles."

"Yes. As I was saying. Some gentlemen are raised right. They know how to treat a woman, and they also know how to cherish one. Will you not find some light in this hazy gloom of yours?" Catherine sounded hopeful.

"Not after what I've witnessed tonight." Victoria abruptly cut the conversation short by gazing out into the still night and admiring the spray of cluttered stars across the night sky. Seeing no hope of dissuading her daughter, Catherine also found the company of stars more soothing. The next few hours passed by in silence. And both women probably wanted it that way too.

At last the dim florescent glow of an early morning lantern pulled into view. And the cottage that came with it appeared homely and made the heart ache with sudden familiarity. The women stepped out of the carriage and paid the driver.

Victoria stepped up to the door and held up the iron latch and let it drum twice on the wooden door frame.

"What the devil? Who in the name of hell and Hades could it be?" Aunt Janice. Victoria broke out into a knowing smile upon hearing her relative's easy complaints and swears. It's good to be home, she thought. Terribly good.

Janice squinted her eyes and blinked several times in rapid succession to clear the sleep out of her heavy lids. A thick braid of auburn hair trailed over one shoulder to lay across her abdomen, and a lone candlestick was held in her enclosed palm. At first she did not recognize the intruders. But after a careful second inspection. She grinned then added in a sarcastic mutter, "So the old rat's finally croaked?"