"Just a little water," I said, quickly getting a glass to Kendra. "That should take care of the taste."
"Oh, it tastes great," she said, her eyes watering. She coughed. "Just a bit... dry."
I pouted. "That is the third one!" I plopped down. "I give up."
"Do not give up," Erik said and pulled me back to the counter. "Come on. Try again."
I sighed and rolled out some dough. I was practicing some pies for the party and my two taste testers had gagged, spat out, and now coughed through dry dough. I carefully made the dough and mixed up the apple filling.
Meanwhile, Erik left again to get a Christmas tree. I had a feeling it was also to get some air after being in the same room as Kendra. She didn't look as insulted as she did before; especially now that she was trying to clear her throat of the dough.
I put the new pie in the oven and sat down beside Kendra, rubbing my eyes.
"I had forgotten how much work went into pies," I sighed.
"Did your mama teach you how to bake?" she asked.
"No. It was my nanny." I looked at her. "Would you like to learn?"
She beamed. "I'd love to!"
I laughed and, once the pie was done, we had a slice.
"That's much better!" Kendra praised.
"Two more like this and that should be enough," I said. "Come here. We will start with the dough."
By the time we were done with both pies, the door opened, bringing in a blast of cold air. We went to see what it was and Kendra clapped gleefully as Erik carried in a large Christmas tree. He brought it into the parlor and his servant, Peter, got a bowl of water to put the tree in.
I put Johanna in charge of making sure the pies didn't burn and helped decorate the tree. Outside, people had begun to sing Christmas carols as they shopped. Over the many years, Erik had collected a lot of ornaments. I was feeling fatigued - something Gertrude said would happen - so I sat down and put the hooks through the loops. Erik helped Kendra put the ornaments on the tree.
I tossed tinsel on her when she came for the last one and she giggled. She threw some pine needles at Erik when he teased her about being too short to put the star on the tree. He laughed. I hadn't seen Erik laugh with anyone before and it was good to see him bonding more with Kendra. The strong scent of the pine tree helped with masking the scent of her blood. When it came time for the star, he lifted her so she could put it at the top. She giggled happily and I wished I could freeze time.
"Is there anything special you want for Christmas?" I asked while we ate dinner.
"No," she said. "Not really."
"Surely there must be something," Erik pressed.
"Well, there's a doll in a pretty blue dress," she said hesitantly. "I saw it in the shop window at the toy store. It's really expensive though." She ate a forkful of mashed potatoes. "Maybe some toys for Cami?"
Erik laughed. "If it gets her to stop shredding the curtains, then definitely."
Kendra smiled sheepishly. "Sorry."
"She is a kitten," I said. "It is normal."
As Erik and I got into bed, though, I started to feel nervous again.
"What if it is the baby?" I whispered. "What if something is wrong?"
He sighed, putting his hand on my stomach.
"It will be fine, Camille," he said. "I am sure you are just experiencing the anxiety of being a mother."
"It feels like more than that," I said. "As if- As if someone else is coming."
He shook his head. "They cannot find us, Camille. We are safe."
He kissed me and I put my head on his shoulder. I yawned and closed my eyes.
I groaned turned over, pulling my pillow over my head. Kendra giggled and shook me.
"Come on!" she said. "It's Christmas!"
I laughed and sat up, wrapping a robe around me.
"Where is Erik?"
She giggled again. "He's downstairs. I don't think he even slept."
I followed her downstairs and smiled. Erik was moving the gifts around obsessively. When he finally got them how he wanted, he kissed me and hugged Kendra.
"Happy Christmas," we said in unison and laughed.
We sat down and passed around gifts. With Erik's permission, we brought Cami with us and she was happy with the many toys Erik had bought. We gave Kendra one of our gifts for her and she tore the wrapping paper up ecstatically. She gasped.
"I didn't think you'd actually get it!" she said and hugged us both.
"Of course," I said. "You wanted it!"
She grinned and set the doll to the side. She passed me a gift.
"This is for you."
"Oh, Kendra," I breathed, taking off the paper to reveal a new choker.
Charles had broken my other one and I had been wearing scarves and high necked dresses to hide my scar. This one was black and red as well.
"Gertrude showed me how to make it," she said. "We used what was left from the one Erik gave you." She bit her lip. "Do you like it?"
"Of course I do!" I said and hugged her. "Will you put it on for me?"
She giggled and did so. She then passed Erik his gift and he tossed his head back, laughing. He showed me and I laughed, too.
It was a painting of a scene none of us would forget. We were in Kendra's room one day when Cami had crawled up Erik's body and sat down on his head. She wouldn't budge an inch. In the painting, Erik's eyes were looking up and the kitten was looking down. Whoever had painted it got the annoyed expression on Erik's face perfectly.
Erik put it aside and held my hand.
"We have two more things for you," he said and Kendra sat up straighter. "The first is regarding... your father. When he was here, you told him we were in London to adopt you." She nodded and I smiled nervously. "Would you like to be our daughter."
She stared between the two of us, her jaw dropped.
"Really?" she whispered.
"Really," I nodded. "What do you say?"
"I'd love to!" she cried and hugged us tightly again. "I'd be Kendra Moreau!"
"Yes, yes you would," I laughed. "We will start the paperwork started once the holidays are over." I cleared my throat and looked to Erik. "The second thing is.... Well, I'm pregnant."
Kendra's eyes went wider. "But I thought you said you couldn't get pregnant."
"So did we," I said, putting a hand on my stomach. "We wrote to Ilya but he does not know how it is possible. He suggested visiting Richard."
"The fairy that gave me the marble?" she asked and I nodded. "I'd like to see him again!"
I smiled. "Maybe someday; for now we have a Christmas celebration to go to. Go change into something warm."
Kendra giggled and scooped Cami up in her arms. When her door was shut, I kissed Erik.
"I am so glad she said yes," I breathed. "Oh, I was so nervous."
He chuckled. "I had a feeling she would." He stretched. "We should change, too."
"Did you know she was making this?" I asked, putting a hand on the necklace.
He shook his head, tying up my dress for me.
"She said she wanted what was left over but would not tell me why. She did a wonderful job at restoring it. It looks even better."
"Yes, she did," I said. "What do you want to do about Richard?"
He shook his head again. "I do not know, sweetheart. He does not live far so we could take a small trip once the snow melts."
I was going to answer but Kendra knocked on the door.
"Come on," she said impatiently. "I hear music!"
I laughed and Erik put my cloak on for me, laughing as well.