I stayed curled under my blankets, Cami sleeping by my stomach. I didn't go down for dinner and my presence was not demanded.
"I am coming in," Papa said after dinner. I didn't respond. "I brought you something."
I heard him put a plate of what smelled like a brownie on my nightstand.
"Thanks," I mumbled.
I felt the mattress sink as he sat down. He stroked my hair but I didn't look at him.
"Colin told me what happened," he began.
"I figured as much. Let me guess: you're here to say you told me so."
"No," he said.
"I'm not stupid, Papa," I snapped. "I know you're angry with me and Mr. Lance."
"Your mother has asked I stay out of it," he said quietly. "I have come to comfort you. I know the pain you are experiencing right now." I squeezed my eyes shut. "I have felt it many times."
"Will I ever know a man that will not lie to me?" I whimpered.
He sighed. "I have never lied to you, Kendra," he said.
"That's not what I mean." I sobbed and he sighed again, moving the blankets so he could hold me. "He'll never come, Papa."
"Oh, Kendra," he said and I cried into his chest. "Do not waste your tears on the likes of Mathias Lance. And he will come. You just have to wait."
"Like you did?" I mumbled.
"I certainly hope you do not have to wait as long as I did, but yes."
I sniffled. "Can I see Mama?"
"Of course," he said immediately. "Here. I will go get her."
He passed me the brownie and I ate it, sniffling a few times. When Mama came in, I lost all control and she rocked me.
Time passed strangely. I didn't go outside very often. I was worried I'd run into Mathias. Amanda moved, much to Colin's dismay.
"Worse things could have happened, though," he said when I went to comfort him.
I sighed. "You can't use my experience as a comparison, Colin," I said and put my head on his shoulder.
Though I reconciled with Papa, we didn't speak of men again. He started teaching me how to play the piano instead.
"I took lessons when I was still a human," he said when I asked him where he learned. "I came to enjoy it. You definitely have piano hands."
"Piano hands?" I repeated, looking at mine.
"Your fingers are long and slender," he said. "Hands like those were made to play the piano."
"Good because I just can't sew like Mama can."
He laughed and pulled out another music book. "Yes, sewing is beyond me, as well."
"What are we doing for Colin's birthday?"
"Something similar to yours," he said. "It will be public again. Now that we started, I have a feeling they will expect it each year. I must admit, I did not consider that. It will be out in the square, though. More people will be invited."
"Now that he is turning 17, it is time for him to become acquainted with the more elite men of the city. Naturally, those men will be at the party and their families."
"We definitely have made an impression on New York, Papa."
"Let us hope it remains a good one."
A month later, we had a visitor at our door. I was in the parlor reading and Colin answered.
"What do you want?" he asked harshly and I frowned, not used to Colin speaking like that.
"I just want to talk to her," Mathias answered and I turned back to my book.
"I will be there," Colin said after several minutes. "That is non-negotiable."
The two men walked in and I put my book down reluctantly. Colin sat beside me, pointing to the most uncomfortable armchair in the room. Mathias sat down and I took him in. He looked exactly the same except for some facial hair and his scent had changed.
"Hello," he said.
"Good afternoon," I returned. "What brings you here?"
"I had a feeling you wouldn't come to me," he muttered. I didn't answer and he cleared his throat. "I was hoping, now that the month is over, you would consider letting me court you."
"Has Anna left already, then?" I whispered.
He cleared his throat again. "Um...."
"Don't you dare lie to me," I hissed and he cringed.
"She's still staying," he muttered. "Something about how she's sorry and wants to make amends."
"Why haven't you approached our father?" Colin demanded as I clenched my hands into fists.
"Because he would say no," he admitted.
"I have learned to not go against my father's wishes," I said. "My answer is no."
"Please," he said, leaning forward. "I know you felt something as we danced at your birthday. You're a beautiful woman and I know you're lonely. Anna will not interfere. When we are together, I'll make her leave."
I stood up and slapped him. "How dare you!?"
"Kendra!" Colin admonished. "Sit down!"
"I deserved that," Mathias sighed. "I'm sorry I wasn't honest with you, Lady Kendra. If I could rewind the clock, I would have told you the truth from the start. I cannot change the past. I can change the future, though."
I stood up again and glared at him.
"Then go change your future," I said coldly. "I have my own to tend to."
"Lady Kendra," he pleaded.
"She gave you her answer," Colin said, standing as well. "Now please leave. We have an appointment and you'll make us late."
Mathias' shoulders fell and I waited until he was gone to cry. Colin sighed and put his arm around my shoulders.
"Do you still want to come with me to Mrs. Tresser's?" he asked. "I understand if you want to stay."
"No, it's okay," I said, wiping my face. "It'll be good to get out of the house."
"You handled that very well," Colin said as we walked. "Well, for the most part."
I shook my head. "I can't believe him, Colin! How could he even think of suggesting us pursuing something with her in his home?"
"I know," he said, shaking his head.
"Are you nervous about your birthday?" I asked when we got closer to Mrs. Tresser's.
"Yes," he sighed. "Mother has already told me about five men I have to speak to. They're already Father's friends but they both insist I must get on good terms with them on my own."
I nodded. "I agree. Father's name can only get you so far."
"I don't intend on riding on his name," he insisted.
When we got to Mrs. Tresser's she was happy to see me again.
"Your suit is ready," she said. "I just want to do the final fitting."
"I do hope you'll be at my celebration," he said while she checked the hems of his slacks.
"I wouldn't miss it for the world," she said. "I already sent in my RSVP."
We didn't leave her shop until the sun had set. The main problem was because Colin kept fidgeting. His birthday was in four days and Father was going to have him make the speech.
"I have some note cards," he said when I asked if he was ready. "I'll probably choke, though."
I was about to answer when a tavern door opened and a group of men spilled onto the sidewalk, all laughing drunkenly. A tall man behind them glared. He had short amber hair and silver eyes. He was very pale and looked furious.
"You're a disgrace," he spat then his eyes landed on us and they widened. "Stand you fools! You are in the presence of the duke and duchess!"
The men looked at us and one giggled.
"'Ello, Your Majesties," he slurred. "Lovely evening, innit?"
I arched a brow and went to step around them. I cried out in disgust as one of them began to vomit and some got on my dress. The sober man groaned.
"My dress," I said sadly. "This was one of my favorites."
"Take it off," another said with a dirty smirk and wink. "We'll clean it for ya."
Colin shoved the suit in my hands and punched the man in the jaw.
"Touch my sister and I'll make sure you regret it," he snapped.
The drunkard pushed him and Colin bumped into me. I gasped as I fell back but the sober man caught me. He helped me to my feet and I could have sworn I saw his eyes flash red.
"Shut up," he snapped at the man when he tried to argue. He sighed and looked to Colin and I. "I am very sorry," he said, bowing at the waist. "Please allow me to replace your dress, Lady Kendra."
"Yes, you will," Colin said before I could speak. He took his suit back and my arm. "I expect you at our estate tomorrow morning, Mister...."
"Bailey," the man said, bowing again. "Solomon Bailey."
Colin nodded. "All right, Mr. Bailey. Tomorrow at ten in the morning."
"Of course," he said and Colin took me up the street.
I plugged my nose as we walked, the smell getting strong. Behind us, Solomon was shouting as his companions. When we got home, Mama cried out at the state of my dress. Colin explained while I went upstairs to change and, regretfully, throw away the dress.