It was not his fault; it was in no way his fault; the thoughts coursing through his mind blinded him, and yet, at the same time, gave him strength. It was as if something possessed him – a devil or a demon or a simpler thing, something more human perhaps. An emotion. But this was not love: this strangling infection could not be love…

And yet, laying eyes on her, it could not be anything but. To gaze at her was to inspire the sort of poetry that the greats penned. It was to conjure up all of the beauty within you. How could something as frail and lovely as her inspire any malice? How could she possess something in her like this fever possessed him now? If it was not her fault, than it must be his; but again, he felt that the contractions in his muscles, the strength within him that this love – lust – gave to him, was not his own.

She was beautiful, and there was nothing to be said to counter that. Johanna with the hair of gold, the grey-green eyes, the pale, soft flesh; she was everything that was right with the world, everything peaceful and beautiful, and like a flower, he wanted to pull her from the earth, to take her from where she belonged and hold her with him forever. And yet there was an attached emotion that came with her, too: guilt. When he looked at her, he saw in her not only Johanna, pretty, young Johanna, but also sweet, pure Lucy, Lucy who was guilty of no crime but vanity, who never hurt another living creature; and Benjamin.

It was the man he was most guilty of, the father, and it hurt sometimes to look into Johanna's eyes, because they were so like the deep eyes of her father. But he forced himself to swallow down the feelings, the self-hatred, the old half-burnt fire of regret, and to think of her not as the unity of two people who he'd wronged, but as a new beginning; she was his now, first as daughter, soon as wife. She could not be stolen away, nor given to the world.

He did not deserve her, he knew. He did not deserve to keep her there, to keep her away from humanity and its horrors, and yet something told him that she would wilt, would lose her colors, would fade and die, were she exposed to the harshness of the world. So he kept her now, and so he would keep her forever; she would be his and his alone until the end of time, if he had anything to say about it.