Victor knew that he could not ignore this situation. It was true, Charlotte had poisoned him and a part of him had every want to allow her to find her own way out of this mess that she had created for herself. Still, he did not wish the Kent family upon anyone he knew, not even his murderous sibling. It brought out a curious kind of frustration in him. An old but powerful frustration that he had not anticipated.

When he was questioned about this, and he anticipated that he might be depending on what he chose to say to Mr. Gray regarding this situation, he knew that on the face of things, he should not lift a hand to stop them from what they would do. He knew Master Reginald Kent would likely try to marry her even if he had to have her committed to do away with her protests. Of course, this was provided that he had already successfully done away with the potentially deceased Mrs. Kent he was married to. Victor knew nothing of this woman other than she must have been ungodly desperate for his money and was likely now paying the price for his temper. Mr. Gray had told him smatterings of what might have become of Lady Kent but he had rarely bothered to think of it past the time that the letter was burnt. This woman was of no concern to him, even if he did feel a moment’s pity for her lack of better judgement. But that being as it was, whoever the current Lady Kent was, assuming that there was still a current lady of that house, she was clearly a woman who either did not know better or she simply felt the potential reward was worthy of the risk. This was not the same kind of woman his sister had become and it might well mean her death. He knew that Charlotte would never relent, no matter how rich he was. He knew that she was hungry for anything she might be able to gain from but this was one family that he would not believe that she would sink to marrying, even in her most desperate times. It was not as though Reginald Kent had not offered her the opportunity, first by invitation and then by attempted force. Under that roof, he knew that there was a good chance that she would die, if not by the master of the house then by her own hand. She would not submit to him, even if he tried to force it, and if she could not escape by means of flight, she would choose death first.

Victor ground his teeth as he took the paper out of the drawer to begin his reply. He knew that he must first decide what to do but he was torn. Charlotte would be the death of him and he knew it. Had it not been for the child, she may well have been. To save her, let her come back to this house and into his life would eventually mean that he would succumb to death and he knew that it was always the way. But the child had also been the one to tell him that she had not meant to kill him. He knew that his sister would dearly love to inherit that money and if he was the only one listed to claim it, would it not be more convenient if he was suddenly not alive and the only person to execute his will was the sole surviving family member in the area? He knew there were legal processes in place to hinder this but he also knew his sibling. She had managed before to entangle legal proceedings and make the outcome swing into her favor. But still, she’d been here for months. She’d had every opportunity so far to make this happen and even this attempt had been clumsy. Even for one who had never attempted to kill another person, it was a paltry pass at murder and he knew it. His sister was no amateur such as that and even the moment that she had set up for him had been obvious to the point of pathetic. He knew she would attempt to harm him and she hadn’t failed but she hadn’t killed him. She hadn’t wanted to. If Charlotte had wanted him dead, he would be in the ground now. He knew that the day she arrive on his doorstep.

This brought about old ghosts in him. Old, faithful spirits that reminded him of what it had been to be living in that hell of an estate. Living under the tyrant and seeing him lash out. His anger was so vile and so violent. The others, his older sisters, had all found themselves the target of his rage before but they found no interest in trying to save the younger ones. Children who might have accidentally found themselves being too loud. Not obedient enough for his liking. Not elegant enough in certain company when a young boy was meant to be sold to another family as a guarantee of income for the future. Not pretty enough for an older man to take an interest in even though she was little older than the girl who currently posed as his own chamber maid. They stood idle even as they all heard the screams of a woman who had mothered them. When they heard the screams of their youngest sister as she desperately called for rescue. They hid to save their own skins when it was him who was held to the fire of his rage. Charlotte did not. When his cries of pain could echo off those darkened walls of that damned house, she never ignored it. She vowed revenge for each cut she tended. He had done the same when he found her hidden in the crawlspaces clutching to the few scraps of their mother’s items that she had stashed away in the house. He had come many times charging at the man who hit her only to face the brute himself but he had never not come. He never could listen to the sound of her screaming and tune out the pain he heard in it. He closed his eyes and shuddered. He could not hear her now but could he ignore her screams in his memory? Screams, he knew she would never utter but by god she would be making inside herself.

No, of course he couldn’t. He was already haunted by the sound of his beloved, her voice calling his name. He heard no love in it still but he heard her saying the words he would never hear again. How could he ignore the sound of Charlotte, his own abhorrent sister, pleading mercy as she had done so many times before? How could he dare to think that he might be free of her calling for him when years after he watched the woman he loved drift lifeless into his arms in that pool still whispered to him in the dark? To hear them both in the dead hours of the night would drive him to madness, however far that was. He did not believe it would take them long. He knew that he could not abandon Charlotte if only for his own sanity. He hated her so but he could not allow that to cloud his better judgement. No one, not even the devil himself, had reason to be trapped with that brutal bastard of a man. Not when she had already lived with one who was just as bad. One who had done so much to try to kill both of them. The difficulty was truly how to extract her from the situation. She’d done so much to make this both advantageous and thoroughly frustrating as only she could.

By now he had indeed seen the photographs in the papers and it was most unfortunate that she gone out of her way to create such an illusion for the world where none was needed. There were few here that even knew his name in truth and those that did paid little mind to him. Some knew him only as a financier or as an associate of one. There were fewer still who knew much about his business and only that it had to deal with real estate or contract work for buildings. The careful web he’d managed to weave over the last few years had scarcely involved his real name at all and he’d been grateful for that at the discovery that the Kent family had also made a home here. It was a slight surprise but not truly shocking when he thought of it rationally. This area was far enough from the bustle of the lights of New York or even Chicago but it was close enough that it might yet allow them still the glow of it. It would appeal to certain company who wished to keep tabs on both the fashionable and the influential people of the world. Victor, himself, had no desire to go to either of these places. He had no real interest in the outside world and had allowed himself the luxury of having his associates and his ghosts to provide for the world when it called. It had not called often and therefore, he was left in his precious solitude.

It had been a strange conversation that had come about when the newspaper finally did arrive. The head maid had been mortified at the thought that his sister had made such a grave mistake and had initially thought him to be too weak to see such a shocking and humiliating sight. He had to nearly wrestle it away from her, the old gossip hound, and assured her that it was simply a mistake and one that his sister would recover from upon realizing that he was well and getting better. He gently reminded her (much to his own chagrin), that she had supposedly been devastated by his illness and was simply allowing her imagination to get the better of her. He did not think that the woman believed him but she seemed to be accepting this explanation for now and left him with his paper and time to collect his thoughts on the matter. Though he was sure that the child had seen it, he did not bring it up and opted rather to lock up the paper when he was able to leave the room. He knew that she was not so stupid as to be unaware but he had reason to believe that life might become very difficult for them all soon enough and if that should be the case, that girl was constantly fearful enough. No need to make it worse by having reminders that the Kent family might yet find themselves on his very doorstep.

Damnation to it all! A fine mess his sister had made in pursuit of this money and yet now she was trapped in a place where nothing could buy her out. Master Kent would have want for nothing and he saw to that personally. He had enough influence in town that he was able to pull whatever strings he wanted to ensure that he got whatever he desired, no matter how petty or useless. To attempt a plot, even a well planned one, to buy her from the fiend would be an exercise in futility. It made the usual solutions that he forged for such occasions much more tricky. Then again, Master Reginald Kent was also beyond hated by most who were forced to associate with him. That was, assuming they would bother with the brute. Given that he was really the only viable option for his long-suffering, hated Mr. Gray to flee to should the man ever find Victor’s company truly too unsavory to continue with, it pretty much guaranteed that his associate would remain with him until death. That or until the options became more pleasant. For the time being, however, there Mr. Gray would remain and he was hardly alone in the matter. A prospect that may indeed have some promise.

Despite the ache in his body, Victor straightened up and began to write. The time to spend on this letter was short as the head maid had been most annoying about checking up on him. Victor would need to be brief but it shouldn’t be that long. He found himself feeling almost better already as he began to write faster. He could practically hear that thankless Mr. Gray sigh with derision as he was known to do but under his contempt, Victor just knew that his little black heart would beat a little faster. His devilish associate did so love the thought of that family coming down from on high and crashing into ground. Given all that Master Kent did to create such a fertile opportunity for such things, Victor would almost believe that he wanted to see his family name tarnished. Perhaps it was time to grant that wish and take his mind off such trivial things as the daughter of his own father’s long hated rival and enemy. A self created little disaster would clear that right up for him and something told Victor that Mr. Gray might be the man for the job. In fact, he thought with some pleasure, it may be the first time that his perpetually irritated associate might take some kind of joy in his work. He did so love a good tragedy, after all.

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