Daylight seemed to fall too bright, almost angelic, on Victor’s fluttering eyelids. The light wasn’t harsh like a brilliant spring sun, however. Too dull and he knew immediately that the sky was overcast again with the clouds that smelled of the death of summer and looked like a mirror to the ground that they had cast in their blanket of ice and cold. He winced as he shifted beneath the covers, feeling the dull ache of the site where his damned sister had injected him with that rotten liquid. It was a large dose and should have killed him. He knew that by how fast it had left him powerless in her arms and grinning like the demon she was over him. Still, that made him wonder all the same. The doctor had been summoned almost immediately and though Victor remembered very little, he knew that he’d heard his harpy sibling calling in someone to tend to him. A part of him wished to be angry enough to return this favor to her but he did not have the energy. He barely had the strength to write his letter in secret to his associate and even then, he’d had the extra frustration of finding a reliable method to get it out. It had left him weaker than he liked and any extra attempts to be productive were quickly thwarted by his house staff. His head maid in particular was under strict doctor orders to allow no visitors and no additional staff unless he were to fall into a fever again. It was a role that she had taken with the utmost seriousness and while it was a credit to keeping him recovering, he found it more than irritating that he was forced to remain idle for so long. It gave him far too long to think. Far too long to ponder what it was that had brought him to this state and why.

He could not lie to himself, though he desperately wanted to. He wanted any excuse to be able to unleash the anger bubbling in him on Charlotte and if he were not forced to wait for his health to improve, he would probably have fallen prey to his impulses. He knew he would have. He had always hated her but he also knew her well enough to know that this was a part of a larger plan. It had to be because she would not have left him like this otherwise. He hated being forced to be rational about this situation but he knew this was true. Charlotte had not managed to evade getting caught for her bloodlust by accident. She knew that she could not have left unless he was dead. She wouldn’t have used what she did nor would she have brought it to the attention of the house staff if she had truly wished to see him dead. He knew that she didn’t necessarily count it as a tragedy if he should die and it would immediately free up the inheritance without the necessities of dealing with each other. It would also tie it up legally until the estates of both houses had cleared away the issues concerning his father’s impending death and his own untimely demise. Charlotte was greedy enough to want that money faster at any cost but she was no fool when it came to getting it. Killing him off hadn’t been her intention and he could not ignore the evidence that told him this was the truth. If his sister had truly wished for him to die, she would have ensured that the job was done, even if she had to do it with her bare hands.

Since this was the case, what was she leaving him alive for? He knew beyond reasonable doubt that she hadn’t allowed him to live out of grace or affection. He knew also that what she used was not medication that the doctor could easily gauge the effects of. He had been told this upon waking and though he didn’t understand initially, he had slowly come to realize what the doctor was trying to tell him. This was a concoction that was indeed potent and could be quite deadly. His physician had told him, rather pointedly, that the cases that he’d treated were from people who had gone picking wild berries out in the woods. People from the other side of town who had gone foraging for mushrooms and stopped to grab certain fruits from the trees. This was a natural poison. Something that his doctor had some experience in treating but it was difficult because it was not as refined as the chemicals that should be floating in his system by now. Something his fashion minded sibling should have been more likely to use. Curiouser still, he’d been told during his last check that it was clear that he’d been taking a remedy for his ailment and that his doctor, while skeptical about this method, had noticed improvements. Victor had said nothing about his mysterious cure that his physician had alluded to but he had a feeling he knew where it was coming from. He had a definite impression on even when it was being administered and by whom. The question now, was why would this person be compelled to bother. What would possess someone to be driven to kindness for the likes of him?

Victor knew better than to trust in kindness. He knew all too well the price that was to be paid for something as simple as a helping hand or a smile offered in graciousness. The world that he knew had always taught him that such things were only given away for future favors to be sought. He had paid for everything he had attained from anyone. Until now, that is. Someone under his roof had wanted him to stay alive. Someone had made certain that he would not perish and though he remained ill and his health was still somewhat fragile, he was drawing more strength as time passed. He knew that his price to pay for this should be high. It should be worth everything he’d worked for. He could only hope that it wasn’t going to come to that. There was already so much at stake and he knew for certain that things were on the verge of some incredibly volatile changes. With such changes at his feet, he knew that losing power to someone else right now was almost as bad as being poisoned. It could be just as deadly.

Victor knew that the time was drawing near that he could not hide in the comfort of his brooding any longer. He knew that there were secrets in this town that would eventually work their way up from the soil and he had expected as such but he’d tried for nearly two years to avoid them. The widow, for all her gift of foresight, had all but warned him of such things. She had promised of such secrets when they had arrived here. He knew that she wasn’t lying but he’d been determined to keep himself in the dark. Hidden as much as he could be from the town and its meddlesome people. He knew of the Kents after the first year, though he’d not seen Master Kent at all. He’d done so intentionally for need of privacy. He had, after all, worked rather quietly to undermine most of the contracts that he’d found out about for that family and between him and his incredibly frustrating “Mr. Gray”, they had managed to secure some lucrative accounts under the assumed names that couldn’t be traced back to his own name at all. It worked well and kept the money coming while the Kents were blissfully unaware of anything going on at all. It had been all too easy, considering that Master Kent was nothing if not a swindler and his abilities had been limited to that at best but Victor knew better than to allow himself to get cocky. He knew that Kent would be livid when he found out and he would eventually. He knew it would not last forever but it was working well enough to establish him from the ground up and that was all that was needed. He would focus his efforts elsewhere after all was finished and let the brute of that wretched family have his temper and his contracts at that. All of this, mind, had required Victor to be a ghost. A person that would not be seen or even heard about at all. He’d done this well and he intended to continue for some time yet. If not for the catastrophe of his own family members appearing here, he might have continued well enough for as long as he pleased.

Now, thanks to one of those wretched sisters of his, that name that should have been buried in France and in the back of the Kent family memory banks was sitting on their lips, making the rounds. All might have been perfect, if not for that. Thankfully his troublesome Mr. Gray was nothing if not a genius about his methods for evading people and creating diversions where necessary but it was going to take a lot to keep that family at bay. With two volatile women running about town, one to chase him and the other to chase the money he was sure to inherit shortly, he may yet have that beast Master Kent sitting on his doorstep. Unless, that was, if he did something drastic.

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