Christmas had come and gone in the house in the woods and much of the festivities were to the delight of those around him. For his part, Victor had been rather stoic but he’d done his best to try to engage the cheerful attitudes of the house staff. It had been awkward but in truth everyone seemed happy and that was what mattered more. The head housekeeper had particularly been more than pleased to be allowed to spend the time at the house and look after the girl who had been over the moon with excitement. He’d never seen her tackle chores like she had in anticipation of each night allowing for some new treat that, to her, was the most joyous time she’d seemingly ever experienced. During their little holiday, her joy was among the only things that he could truly enjoy with his full attention and sincerity. To see a girl that had long acted as a nursemaid and housekeeper for him, behaving much too old for her years, suddenly become a child in the truest sense was something that made him feel conflicted emotions though most of them were genuinely happy. It also opened up some rather difficult decisions for him on the horizon, things that were made plain to him as soon as the sober feeling of January first came in. He may have known that this was a choice that he would have to make sooner but it was becoming too important to ignore. Something that he knew he would have to address and he could not put it aside for much longer.

That said, while the joy of the season lingered among his staff, Victor had been plagued with a sense of urgent and relentless anxiety by the looming tasks at hand. It had haunted his every moment alone and as the days got darker around them, he knew that he was closer to having to make arrangements for the world he knew would change. There was much that would change in this new year and he knew that all of it would be difficult. Even violent and that was something he hoped to keep his home clean of as much as possible. He knew that he had much to prepare for and this fight that would come would be dirtier than he’d ever expected. He was grateful that the chipper feelings of gratitude and generosity were in the air around him because it did much to distract from the dour feelings welling up within him. He knew that he would have to act soon. He knew that the things he would do would put this house and everyone in it into upheaval, no matter how many arrangements that he made to see to it that they were safe. The people themselves would be safe. He knew this. He’d secretly spent all of his free time over the holidays preparing his will in the case of his impending death or something other tragedy that might happen. He knew this was not a guarantee but he would not be caught off-guard. He knew that if his gamble failed, the main housekeeper would inherit the small house on the property on the condition that she would care for the girl and that should she in any way fail her ward, the girl would be sole owner of the house and any money that would result from the sale would go directly to an account in her name that could not be touched by anyone. He made a point to ensure that himself. It would make little difference to take from the girl, however. If he failed, the inheritance would be signed over automatically to Charlotte, allowing her to buy her way out of that hellhole if that was what was needed. He had made a point to include every member of staff, even the insidious Mr. Gray, in the case of the worst. He would leave her with more than money but that was something he would have to arrange closer to time. No sense in planning his funeral yet.

Speaking of his least beloved associate, he had to hand it to Mr. Gray on his dealings this time. It was something that he might have known the man to be capable of but he’d never figured that he would have the guts to pull it off. All the more frustrating that he’d pulled Victor into the deep end with him and given him no time to prepare, to think or even to agree to it. Gray had been more than surprising in his revelation last time he’d seen him, he’d been downright vile. It was one of those moments in Victor’s life when he was relieved at the very least that the man he worked with was so goddamn good at what he did because he would be wretched to have to clean up after if he were incompetent. That said, he’d set them both up to take a large hit if this fell through. He knew that Gray was itching to do something with the Kent family and he was beyond eager now. There was no talking him out of this plan and there was a hint that he would make Victor deal with this no matter what. It was an attitude that alarmed him when it came to his associate. Usually their casual hatred of each other was enough that it was barely noticeable but this was something new. Something more sinister and he was noticing that this side brought out a productive but extremely malicious streak in Gray. One that Victor was becoming increasingly more suspicious of.

It helped even less that he was keeping most of this plan in the dark. He’d been very casual when they had seen each other last but there was an understanding that Gray would not reveal himself yet. Well perhaps it was a bit much to call it an understanding. It was something that grated on Victor quite a bit and he had been rather forthcoming about letting his associate know these things. That said, he’d found that he, himself, was surprisingly calm about it. He knew his own temper and though he’d felt it rising to meet this situation with a vigor that should have had him shouting in rage, he found that he had it under a kind of control that shocked him and, in the small moments of his day, somewhat worried him. He’d known this passion all his life and here it was not failing him but it simmered in a way that he had not been able to anticipate. Rather, he’d never seen this side of himself and it felt foreign to him. It clearly was something that had surprised Gray as well, making his associate soften his demeanor over the course of their last interaction. It wasn’t out of calm or affection but an emotion that Victor knew well. It was one that he didn’t much care for, even in the likes of Mr. Gray. There was the first bubbling of fear in the man’s eyes that this was how he knew that he’d behaved strangely. Perhaps this failing of his own temper had been what spurred on his associate to stay tightlipped over their new project. He would not tell Victor any of the specifics of his dealings and would not allow him to know everything yet. It was something that he found very strange when dealing with Gray, particularly since his associate had been so angry upon learning about Charlotte. It was more suspicious still to know that this associate had set this all in motion prior to even engaging him in this plan. Strange indeed.

And speaking of Charlotte, Victor only hoped that he would act in time. He already had a plan of attack should Gray turn up to have done something terrible or that his plot, whatever it might be, would not work. It was one that had come to him over the holidays and as much as he hated the idea of what it would entail, it would be about the only way that he could hope to extract her out of the house for sure. Victor loathed to even come up with the plan and he had done nothing so far to put it in motion but he knew that if came to it, he would have to. Charlotte’s name had not come up as per his contacts but he knew she’d already been active. Victor hated to use his network to find out more about that wretched house but he knew that he could not avoid it so long as she was being kept there. He’d already figured that she was to play replacement for his wife who was terribly ill and was supposed to be on her deathbed. That was a plot that had already been foiled as the woman that Kent was married to insisted on staying alive. He could only imagine that the man was utterly livid and horrible to be anywhere near right now. It had made him suspicious initially to find out that Kent had not simply killed her. It wasn’t as though such things had not happened in the past and Victor himself knew that when Kent was in London, he’d done away with not one but two wives. The latter of the two very likely the whole reason that he found himself on North American soil to evade the wrath of his former father-in-law. It wasn’t likely that this woman he had married now had enough money or power to keep him from killing her with his own hands. It was then that Victor’s little network had turned up a little secret, quite by accident.

Since their meeting, Mr. Gray had never mentioned as much as a word about it so either the man was playing this card closer to his chest than any other or he was in the dark on the matter. Victor did not know which and he intended to keep this as far from anyone’s eyes as possible. Though he did not know who the wife of Kent was, he knew whom she was associated with. He knew who brought her to this shore and under what pretense. That alone meant that she was off limits to the violence that Kent would likely be wishing her right now. Still, a powerful enemy had never stopped him from letting his temper get out of hand and destroy someone before. Victor figured that it was only a matter of time before it all fell apart. He only hoped that his letter and that dastardly plan of Mr. Gray would remove Charlotte from the path of destruction before it came to claim that house.

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