Speaking of evil…
Noah had his own demon to vanquish before he could deal with Ivy's.
Three years at Our Sacred Mother’s Orphanage. Three years since his Mama died, and his grandfather sent him packing, wanting nothing to do with her cursed offspring.
He could have run away, tried to survive in the world by himself, but he couldn’t stomach leaving Ivy behind. Even if they’ve never spoken. Even if she didn’t know he existed.
She held him here with little more than the promise of catching sight of her.
SIXTEEN YEARS OLD
Was it possible to bottle sunshine, to hoard its joy for himself only? If so, Ivy would be his. All that light and goodness owned by him. But first he needed to figure out a plan once he left the orphanage. His time was coming—when he’d age out at eighteen. Even now, he was less a ward and more an unpaid servant, helping with repairs in the ever failing building or standing watch over the smaller children.
“Mrs. Bundt wants to see you in her office.”
Noah wondered what the old bat wanted this time. A loose shutter reattached? The hot boiler rewelded? Sauntering downstairs, he took his time answering her summons—one of the few ways he made sure to exert his independence, to show that he only did what he wanted and in his own time.
The door to Mrs. Bundt’s office stood open, and a tall man wearing an expensive suit sat before her desk. “There you are, Noah. Dear boy, I have some wonderful news!” He tensed at her overly friendly tone, never once had he experienced such a reaction from her. She usually snapped and frowned in his presence. “This is Mr. Ian Kent, your uncle. He’s come to take you home.”
Take him home?
He’d been exiled to this godforsaken place for seven hellish years. Now, someone had thought to save him?
PRESENT TIME 1821
TWENTY-NINE YEARS OLD
“What have you learned?”
“Her aunt's hired someone to make inquiries, to discover the highest bidder for the girl.”
Noah had known it as a boy, and it was even clearer as a man. “Find out who's bidding and how high they're going. I'll double it.”
“You can't be serious.”
“I've had you watching over Ivy for years. What did you think that was for?”
The investigator he’d hired, Giles Kilmore, swallowed uncomfortably. “I understand your fascination, but she's a sweet girl. A genteel lady, despite her rough upbringing. And you…”
Noah's jaw tightened at the slight note of protectiveness coating his tone. As if he thought he could take her from him. "She's mine."
"She's no one's as yet." A growl rumbled in Noah’s chest, a warning. "Now, now... we don't need all of that. I'm just not sure you've thought this through."
"You think one of those grizzled old bastards her aunt’s lining up is better?"
“Of course not…” Kilmore tugged on his sleeve. “If you were only going to buy her freedom, set her up in a safe place like a convent, I'd be more inclined to support you. But you're not planning on giving her freedom, are you?" A grim line settled over his mouth, already knowing the answer after years of working for Noah.
"No, I'm not."