I woke up, not to the sun rising, but to something more humorous. Erik was splayed out on the bed, snoring loudly. I stifled my laughter as I got up to get ready for the day. I changed into a blue dress and tied the ribbon across my waist. I put on the new choker and sleeves that Erik gave me and my eyes landed on the fan on the fireplace mantle.
I walked over to it slowly and picked it up. It was gorgeous. But, as I held it, all I saw was my father's face as he let in the man to rape me when the torturer wanted to see if it would make me angry enough to break the bonds. Anger pulsed through me and I made to toss the fan into the fireplace.
"Stop," Erik whispered, grabbing my wrist and I jumped, not realizing he was awake. His hair was still messy and he looked sadly at the fan. "You may regret that action, Camille."
"I do not want anything to do with him anymore," I snapped, jerking my hand out of his and throwing the fan into the fire.
He sighed. "At least keep the dress," he said when I turned to the wardrobe. "It is beautiful."
"All right," I muttered and he held me.
I shut my eyes and cried into his chest. He stroked my hair until my tears stopped. I enjoyed this side of Erik. I knew the reason I didn't see it before is because I would not accept my fate and let him in. Part of me knew that these last 10 years could have been so much easier if I hadn't been so terrible.
"It goes both ways," he said suddenly and I sighed. "I am to blame just as much as you are."
"This is new to me," I murmured, stepping out of his arms. "What happens if we argue again? If you hit me again?"
He sighed heavily. "I have no doubt we will argue again," he said. He smiled a little. "It is part of any relationship, my dear. As for hitting you...." The smile disappeared and he ran his hand over his face. I watched him nervously. "I will do everything in my power to stop that from ever happening again. Just remember: it is all I know."
"He hit you?"
"If I ever lied, did not do as he asked, or displeased him in anyway," he nodded. He shut his eyes, his face pained. "I promise I will do what I can to stay my hand. But I need your help."
I hugged him and he put his arms around me.
"First we need to start with your bloodlust, Erik," I said. "We cannot afford for it to get out of control again; especially now that Kendra is here."
"What will we do about her?" he asked, lowering his voice.
"She wishes to stay," I answered. "We... we could raise her," I suggested. "After all, we cannot have children."
His arms tightened. "I am very sorry."
Three years ago, just as we got to our home before this one, Erik got a letter. In it, the writer - who I knew now was Ilya - informed him that vampires were not able to bear children. That was a blow when Erik told me. It had only made my resentment for him grow worse.
"We will have her stay for the winter," he said finally. "If she still desires her to stay, we will let her."
I nodded. "When are they expecting me back at the council?"
"I requested three days to recover. They believe we were attacked on the way back by bandits."
"In that case, I want to talk to Johanna about getting studies put together for Kendra," I said, stepping out of the hug again.
He kissed me, running his hand into my hair.
"I love you," he whispered into my lips.
"I love you, too," I whispered back.
He grinned. "I never thought I would hear you say that."
"Neither did I," I admitted.
"I have to go to the council," he said, going into the washroom to get ready. "Will you and Kendra be all right?"
"Of course," I said, making the bed. "Let us save our evening walks for after she has gone to bed, though. I have a feeling she will need one of us there."
He stared. "She did not last night."
"She was exhausted last night," I pointed out, buttoning the last few buttons on his shirt. "Just trust me on this."
He nodded and pecked me on the lips. "I will see you this evening."
"Have a pleasant time."
He knocked once on Kendra's door and we heard a groan. I giggled.
"Behave yourself today," he said and she groaned again.
I was right about Kendra. She finished dinner and asked me to come up to her room with her. She stood in the middle of her room, wringing her hands in front of her and shuffling her feet.
"What is it?" I asked.
She looked over at her bed.
"Oh, yes of course," I said and she climbed in.
I tucked her in and Cami curled up by Kendra's neck. I smiled at the kitten.
"She certainly loves you," I said and Kendra tickled Cami's chin.
"She likes to play," she yawned.
I brought the chair over and sat beside the bed. Kendra's eyes were locked on the ceiling.
"What is it?" I whispered.
"I keep thinking about my papa," she mumbled.
I sighed and held her hand. "I am very sorry that happened to you, dear."
She looked at me, tears in her eyes. "Can you erase my mind? I read in a book that vampires can do that."
I shook my head. "We can but I will not. I am sorry, Kendra, but you need to remember."
"Why?" she whispered, crying.
I wiped her tears away. "Because every experience you have makes you who you are," I told her. "Every time you remember, it shapes you more and more. You are a very sweet young girl. You would not be if you had not gone through the experiences you have. The pain will pass, Kendra," I said.
"Do you promise?"
I smiled. "Yes, I promise."
She nodded and closed her eyes. "Do you know a lullaby?"
"Yes," I said and cleared my throat. "I do not remember all the words so all I can do is hum."
I tucked some hair behind her ear as I hummed. She was still crying but eventually the tears stopped. Her breath evened out and I kissed her forehead, fixing her blankets again. When I walked out, I nearly ran into Erik.
"Sorry," he said.
I laughed. "Were you eavesdropping?" I teased, taking his arm.
"No," he said with a sniff. "I was merely waiting."
"You could have come in and sit with us, you know," I said and he cleared his throat, pulling on the collar of his cloak.
"I am sure she does not need me."
Deciding to save that conversation for another day, I looked around.
"Erik, what do you think about this being a permanent home?" I asked and he frowned down at the cobblestone street.
I gave him time to think it over. We were used to having to move so much that having a permanent place to live was hard to imagine.
"I wish the women would be more open to you," he said. "That would make living here easier."
"Part of it is my fault," I said. "I have already decided to be more open with them as best I can."
He nodded. "I would be willing to stay if things continue to go so well," he said and I put my head on his arm as we walked. "What amuses you?" he asked when I laughed a little.
"I keep forgetting how much taller you are than me," I said. "We have never really been this close together...."
"That will change," he said softly.
"Come with me," I said, leading him into the forest. I could sense a deer nearby. "Now, I know we do not need to feed on anything or anyone else anymore, but I still want to teach you."
He smiled and tucked hair behind my ear. "You are very kind."
"When you feed, you get lost," I said and he nodded, looking ashamed. "There is a deer near us. Drink for five seconds."
"Okay," he said slowly. "But what about-?"
"I will take care of it," I promised.
He nodded again and pounced on the deer. I counted to five but he didn't pull away. I knew that would happen and hurried to his side.
"Erik," I said but it was too late.
He sighed, wiping the blood from his chin, as I dug the hole.
"It is useless, Camille," he said. "I have been like this for too long."
I shook my head, finishing burying the deer.
"It is not useless. It will just take some time and practice." I thought for a second. "We can practice on me for now."
He smiled, putting his hands on my waist and pulling me to him.
"I am not sure that is a good idea," he said, running his nose along my jaw and I closed my eyes.
I chuckled then gasped as he kissed over where he turned me. His hands ran up my sides as he kissed me. I could still taste the deer's blood and, even though it wasn't as sweet as his, it still invigorated me and our cloaks dropped to the ground.