I would like it to be known that Destruction of Obsession was officially completed on 8/06/11. This appendix was also written at that time, but I had decided to keep things more focused on Erik and Christine and just… did not post this. There has been some renewed interest in this story and I offered to give this in email form, but was encouraged to post it instead. So here it is!

In addition, I wanted to let everyone know that I have (finally) posted a new story that is quite different from this one, called A Rose in Winter. So for anyone who is interested, it can be found on my profile.

Thank you all for your continued support! I still love reading all your reviews, and hope you enjoy this last interlude!


Erik never thought he would face such a problem. In the past it was not a question of determining the most effective way of revealing his face to an acquaintance, it was always one of ensuring such an occurrence never took place.

Until today.

Christine had begged him to cease wearing the mask at home as his skin was become inflamed more and more each time he donned his masks for Armand's lessons.

She had sworn to him Armand would not react badly so long as Erik contained his fear—surely the boy would react accordingly. What she did not seem to understand was that such was nearly impossible.

It was the worst kind of vulnerability when his mask was removed. While his body mimicked the nature of his face, he still felt like a macabre version of a man when forced to view his own countenance.

But things had changed had they not?

He felt more of a true man this past year than he had at any other time in his life. Even when he was a boy and had yet to comprehend the devastating effect f his deformity, he never felt quite normal—but that most likely was a result of his treatment since birth.

His wife had made him realize that he was in fact a man—for an angel such as herself would never deem to be with him in any manner unless it was true.

He had a soul that had not been damned since conception. He had a wife and a daughter who loved him, and that same wife had begged until near tears that he not persist allowing the irritation of his skin to continue through continued contact.

But he would not—could not— willingly remove his mask for the boy as she suggested after a conversation as to what he was about to witness.

Christine was currently collecting him from his mother's house as she still did not approve making the boy traverse the snow on his own. Erik had offered to accompany her of course, but she insisted he remain home with Catherine and she would be fine.

He had insisted she put on an extra petticoat before allowing her to leave the house, and thankfully she had obliged with a simple roll of her eyes.

Impudent wife.

Erik could hear the front door open from his place behind his desk, félin Christine practically glaring at him from her place upon the sofa as if her rightful place had been usurped by her master.

Perhaps he had grown soft throughout his marriage, for surely they would not have dared behave thusly in the past.

He was not certain he minded.

The additional pattering of feet confirmed she had been successful in retrieving his pupil, and he chuckled at the accompanying voice.

"Armand come back here this moment! You are tracking snow all over the floor!"

Apparently his darling, eye rolling wife was frazzled.

"Sorry, Madam Christine!" The boy did not in fact sound repentant, but his steps could easily be heard making their way back the way they came.

He should not do this. He should reach into his desk and pull out one of his masks and allow the boy to look at him curiously once more before distracting him with new delights of reading or mathematics.

But he must have courage. What could possibly be the consequences?

Armand could prove too terrified to allow further contact. He could return home and fill his parent's minds would tales of monsters and corpses bent on his annihilation.

But even if that proved true, it had been well established in the neighborhood that the small little cottage that was their home was in fact haunted by its previous owners. Certainly the ghoulish figure he would regale them with would merely be confirmation.

If he were truly honest with himself he was more frightened at the boy's rejection than any possible disruption to his family—for if that were a possibility he most certainly would suffer through the skin irritation, no matter how painful.

He would miss him.

There was something ultimately satisfying when the little boy reached some new milestone. Whether finally understanding the most simple of multiplication, or that horses do not in fact appreciate their tales being pulled, each moment was opportunity for Armand to learn through guidance—not through the forced solitude that Erik suffered in childhood.

And possibly a rather morbid side effect, whatever mistakes his pupil made now would save Catherine a scraped knee and a few tears in the years to come.

Therefore all of it was well worth the effort.

Christine was apparently satisfied with the boy's dryness for the small feet could once more be heard on the hard woods floors, only this time it was quite obvious his shoes had been divested in favor of allowing him to run through the halls in his socks.

The last thing he needed was to fall and split his head open.

He opened his mouth to chastise the boy but Christine hurried after him. "You are going to be the death of me, Armand!" She was holding his hand when they entered the study, and any opportunity to change his mind and quickly don a mask was gone.

They could see him.

Erik forced his hands not to tremble, as well as control his voice, though it did waver slightly when he greeted them. "I trust your walk was pleasant?"

Christine cleared her throat nervously, and pulled Armand's hand as she made her way to the sofa—and it was to Erik's distraction and satisfaction that félin Christine gave her a look of disapproval as well.

But Armand refused to follow. He was looking at Erik with wide eyes, and he stood unmoving near the doorway. "Monsieur Erik?"

This was it. Every muscle in Erik's body screamed for him to lash out, to frighten the boy further until he fled so that any possible threat to his emotional wellbeing was eradicated, but he forced those instincts down. Christine had promised. If he was calm, Armand would be accepting.

And his wife was a terrible liar.

So using every bit of self control he possessed, he called out to the boy. "How exactly do you intend to have your lessons in the doorway?"

Christine looked to him sharply, but thankfully did not protest.

This was how he always spoke to the boy. She had requested his normalcy and any coddling on his part would be seen as confirmation that he was not in fact Armand's tutor.

The small boy seemed to agree.

His steps were still cautious, but quite obediently he went to stand before Erik's seated form as he always did when waiting his instruction for the day, but instead of roaming around the room in hopes of finding either Catherine or their feline, his eyes were still looking at Erik's face.

Searching, but for what Erik could not fathom.

He wanted to tell him it was rude to stare—that it was a terribly ungentlemanly thing to do and he should be ashamed for his behavior—but as he looked at the slightly trembling boy, he realized such a reaction from him would devastate Armand.

To the boy, this was his friend and mentor, and perhaps a small dose of kindness would not be so untoward after all.

He mustered up the last of his courage and silenced the snappish tone that threatened to overtake him and placed a hand on Armand's shoulder. "You need not be afraid."

Erik was about to say more when Armand cut in—perhaps a lesson in manners was in order. "I'm not afraid. I just don't know if it's still you."

He raised a thin eyebrow. "Can you not tell? Is not my voice the same? Would not Madam Christine know her own husband?"

Armand swiveled his shaggy head to look to Christine for confirmation of his teacher's identity, and when she came to them also and bestowed Erik's face with a kiss, the boy simply nodded. "Then what are we doing today?"

For all of the boy's calmness and supposed acceptance, he was still looking at Erik' warily, but not enough to make Erik second guess his decision to show him. It had to be done some time, and perhaps it was best it be done when he was still so young.

Catherine certainly did not seem to mind.

It was his daughter who eventually broke the silence that had pervaded the room upon Armand's enquiry, for in truth, Erik had not planned his assignment for the day—he had not supposed the boy would be willing to continue through a lesson.

It was not a cry of hunger as those were more forceful demands, but simply a murmur of unhappiness that she had woken up and no one was yet tending her or bringing her into conversation.

Armand was quick to see to her.

"It's alright, baby! Your papa does not have a nose but I'm sure he still loves you!" He had scampered to her cradle in the corner, and was crooning at her even as his own small hands were placed on her stomach.

Erik was still uncomfortable that the boy felt so easy in touching his daughter.

His choice in informing his Cat of her father's deformity was another matter entirely.

Christine released a choked sound and beckoned Armand sit with her on the sofa. "Come here, mon cher."

Armand looked torn between continuing to keep his tiny friend company and obeying Christine. But leaving Catherine was deemed an impossibility, so he turned to Erik and looked at him beseechingly. "Will you come hold her?"

This boy was ridiculous. Erik had been tending to his daughter long before he even knew of her existence and yet he felt the need to ask him to care to her.

But the entire exchange proved too strange for his emotions, and he found himself agreeing with a simple, "Of course."

Satisfied that Catherine would not be alone, Armand crossed the room and sat nearly in Christine's lap—much to Erik's dismay. But he could never fully bring himself to be jealous of his wife's preoccupation when his daughter was safely in his arms.

And her suckling upon his finger always drove away the last vestiges of such emotions in any case.

Erik found himself watching Christine and Armand in rapt fascination, though he did move to sit opposite them in his leather reading chair.

Her delicate hand was running through the boy's messy locks as she spoke. "It is good you are not frightened Armand, because there is nothing to be frightened of. Monsieur Erik is as he has always been, but some people would not understand, which is why he wears his masks."

"I don't like the black one," he contributed.

Christine chuckled even as Erik rolled his eyes. He was quite familiar with her distaste for that particular article. "Nor do I." She touched his chin gently so he would look at her. "But this is important. You cannot tell anyone about what lies beneath his mask, alright? They could be very mean to him if they knew."

Armand looked to Erik in sorrow. "Would they really?"

Erik nodded in response. "They have in the past, yes."

The boy sat in thought for a moment before turning to look not at Christine, but to Erik with determination in his eyes. "I won't talk about it, I promise!"

And then he did something so entirely unexpected, Erik nearly stopped breathing at the gesture.

Abandoning Christine's lap, the boy ran to him and threw his arms around Erik's torso—not as careful of Catherine as Erik would have preferred, though she remained unharmed. "I'm sorry they were mean to you, Monsieur."

Erik had no intention of fostering more of a relationship with this child than that of teacher and student, but at the subtle stirring in his heart at the exchange, he wondered if it was not at all like what he felt for his daughter.

There was nothing binding him to this child—not through marriage, and most certainly not by blood—but as the boy abandoned his lap in favor of dismissing the subject by asking Christine for a cookie, Erik was left with a distinct feeling of love for this boy.

A feeling that was becoming not quite so foreign to him in its beginnings.

The rest of their morning was spent in the study, though Armand steadfastly refused to sit still long enough to practice his reading, as he much preferred to lie about the floor with félin Christine and Catherine—the latter who had just discovered the joys of flailing about on the floor as means of entertainment.

Erik should have required Armand to study, but as his daughter squealed with delight at every strange face the boy made, he allowed himself to simply enjoy the moment—a task which proved much easier when Christine returned from exchanging her own sodden clothes with more comfortable attire and joined him at his place on the sofa.

"You could have told me you were going to show him this morning." Her whisper was not heard by either child for which he was grateful.

"I was not certain I would find the courage to do so, and the last thing I desire is your disappointment."

She took his hand in hers. "I only suggested it for the betterment of your relationship, not because you had to please me."

But how could he not strive to please her in every way? She had given him more than any other person on this earth, and she would not make her suggestions in vain.

And after all, she had once more proven herself correct. If anything, Armand seemed even more content with his current situation, and even his confession to not possessing an affinity for certain masks in Erik's collection only furthered the notion that removing it was necessary.

Not wishing to entirely waste the morning to the lazy lolling of familial bliss, Erik kissed Christine's cheek before leaving the room.

It was not often they would look in the trunk still positioned in their bedroom. Even after so long it still sent a shiver down his spine at the word theirs.

His mouth twisted in a smirk of satisfaction.

Many men, even the handsomest of specimens could not say they consistently shared a room with their wives.

But he could. And always would.

He was rather surprised Christine was able to restrain herself from seeking out which treasures he had brought from his home, but whenever he would open it, the items remained undisturbed.

That is until now.

Under Catherine's tiny christening gown which had been replaced after their return home from the service, he found the small brown book he sought.

It seemed so long ago that he used this very book to stir Christine's compassion and understanding. His outer appearance most assuredly had not changed, though he supposed he had gained a small amount of weight due to his wife's constant presenting of baked goods that he was helpless to refuse. Not when she baked them for him alone.

No, the difference was more rudimentary.

He did not feel like a beast any longer.

So when he returned to the study and placed the book in Armand's eager hands so he might entertain Catherine through age appropriate material, it was not with the intention of providing hinting or hidden lessons buried within the pages.

It was simply a book that the boy could manage to read to his daughter.

Christine, his beauty, nestled against his side as he rejoined her, and they enjoyed the company of each other even as Armand would scurry to Erik every few lines for help with a word.

And each time he returned to Catherine, profusely apologizing to baby for the interruption.

Perhaps that talk would be necessary much sooner than anticipated.

Armand was quite dismayed then when his audience grew hungry, and regretfully Christine rose to placate their daughter with a meal.

Erik was not yet comfortable with allowing Armand to witness his daughter's feeding, so rising quickly he ushered the boy to the kitchen.

"Madam Christine is always thirsty once my Cat has had her fill. Perhaps you would be so kind as to assist me in making her tea."

Armand beamed at him. "Can I have some milk pleases? Then I can drink with her!"

Erik looked at him thoughtfully. "I am not certain. Can you drink milk?"

Once more showing he was not in fact a stupid child, Armand amended his question. "May I have some milk please?"

His tutored sniffed at him imperiously "If you must." But Erik was already filling a teacup with the creamy liquid, so Armand's enthusiasm was by no means diminished.

Erik placed a generous amount of sugar and cream in the bottom of his wife's cup, even though it steadfastly went against his sensibilities.

Her Christmas gift to him had been superb. She was correct that there was a difference to her voice from relative disuse, but what she lacked in practice she far exceeded in emotion. The love she felt for him was palpable in each note and breath, but it was her eyes that truly took his breath away.

So clear was her adoration for him, and the way her eyes never left his person through the entirety of the piece gave an intimacy unlike any time she had sung to him before.

She was perfect.

And it was with that thought in mind he placed a touch more sugar and cream in her cup—technique be damned.

He was no longer her Maestro who would demand physical perfection in hopes of achieving the ultimate in vocal range. He was her husband, and her voice was only enhanced by her happiness in their marriage.

By the time the water had boiled and he carefully poured it into the china teapot and Armand had successfully opened each cupboard and drawer in search of what Erik could not imagine, he was quite certain it was safe enough to return to his wife and daughter.

Christine was buttoning up her blouse when they entered, and Erik was grateful she was sitting in the center of the sofa so he was not forced to contend for her side with the little boy who was already running to join her.

"Are you happy now, baby? I didn't get to finish the book yet!"

Erik placed the boy's milk in his hands and gave him a stern look. "You may complete the book when you are finished and not a moment before." The last thing he wanted was the challenge of removing milk from furniture and carpets.

Armand nodded solemnly and Christine laughed. "That is right, Armand, I very much would like to hear the end of the story!" She looked to Erik as she said this, and it was quite plain she was talking more to him than to the little boy. "I believe it ends rather happily."

"Don't give it away! Cat hasn't heard it before!"

Erik settled beside her and raised his own cup of tea to his lips. "That is correct, wife, some do not like to hear the end before it is time."

Christine rolled her eyes at their insistence but sipped her tea contentedly as she was squeezed between her two favorite gentlemen.

He lowered his voice so it was only a mere whisper in her ear even as he watched Armand put a drip of milk upon his finger and offer it to Catherine. "Thank you."

She looked at him rather searchingly for a moment, and he wondered once more how she was able to ascertain his feelings simply through expression. Perhaps with time he would learn to hide the emotions that had once been hidden so entirely by his masks, but when he considered how pleased she was when she correctly guessed his meaning, he determined that was not in fact the proper course of action.

That is if the pleased expression she was giving him was any indication.

"You are most welcome, husband."

He was thankful for her suggestion to showing Armand—who now proved himself a proper recipient of Erik's affections. He was thankful for her motherly goodness that made her love him more—not send him into fits of jealousy and bitterness he had once feared.

And most of all he was thankful she loved him.


Erik never considered himself a sadist, truly he did not.

For all his building of torture chambers and executions he performed through his life, it was never the agony he enjoyed, but simply the morbid fascination of what the body could endure.

But if he were being honest with himself, he was greatly enjoying watching the young man Armand had become, fidget before him.

He had known this day was coming. For nearly seventeen years he had endured the notion niggling in the back of his mind that one day this boy would sit in this very chair, nervously twitching his hands like a timid school fellow as he mustered the courage to ask the inevitable question that sealed Erik's heartache.

Erik supposed he should give him credit. Before he opened his mouth to speak, he managed to calm his nerves enough to sit straighter in his chair and create a semblance of confidence.

"Sir, as I am sure you are very aware, I have loved your daughter for many years now, and I have done my best to secure funds to care for her throughout the duration of our marriage." The small twitch above his left eye was back—a tendency Erik had noticed in his childhood that had quite obviously carried into his adult years. "I would like to ask for Catherine's hand in marriage."


There was little reason to have asked for such a formalized interview than to ask that very question, as matters of business were no longer so distinct between master and pupil.

When Armand turned fifteen, it became clear to Erik that the matter of his employment should be in the forefront of his mind. While certainly it would have been of the greatest luxury to simply continue in the fundamentals of learning at leisure, the boy's parents were not prepared to carry him financially much longer.

And for more selfish reasoning, Erik was interested in utilizing him for his own small venture.

Years at the Opera had spoiled him, and the idea of having a steady income—sans the tedious outpouring of time and menial effort was quite intriguing.

Erik was not lacking in finances, but there was something quite pleasant about never worrying about such matters—and that could only be continued through the steady influx of coin from either employer or more illegitimate means.

He forcefully pushed the latter thought from his mind.

Armand was a gifted child. Well, perhaps not in terms of genius, but he did have an affinity for mathematics and scale, and the talent for architecture merely required honing through practice.

In his twelfth year they had begun building models. Nothing too terribly complex—merely four story structures with drawbridges and motes. Only one item had been a requirement of the assignment, the rest had been Armand's insistence that Catherine would be far more impressed should the modest building resemble something more attuned to her fairy tale books.

And who was he to argue on such a point?

But those signs remained with him as he suggested Armand join him as he opened his small business under the assumed name Leroux. A common enough name to go without notice, but dignified enough to be held in high regard to those who were fortunate enough to stumble upon the advertisement.

It certainly appeared enough were in need of such a professional.

His actual business was held in a small building in the village, and all the plans provided by clients were given to that address, without ever actually meeting their architect. If surveying needed to be done, Erik would take Armand into Paris, but he made it absolutely clear he would not leave his wife and children for more than a day.

Thus anything outside the actual city was not acceptable.

But Armand proved a proficient and avid learner, and Erik also enjoyed the diversion of true projects again—though some of their work was too simple in its design. On such occasions he would create intricate passageways running throughout and leave Armand to discover them.

Eventually the boy proved capable in that area as well—though he always returned the plans with a bit of an eye roll when he did so.

Insolent boy.

It was also quite clear the boy was saving. Erik imagined someone his age would be far more willing to purchase frivolities when given regular francs, but Armand would carefully count each coin before pulling out a small leather notebook and tallying his figures.

That same notebook was being presented to Erik now.

"You see, sir, I have money saved. I can care for her."

Perhaps he should be concerned the boy had been planning on marrying his daughter for so many years.

But as he looked at the imploring eyes, and the hair that still remained slightly in the boy's—man's—face, he knew that if he had been unable to realize that his daughter was worth waiting for, he was not at all worthy of her.

And he certainly had waited.

Armand was now twenty four—much past the usual age of men who made a living. He no longer lived with his parents, but rented a room in the village. Erik had inquired once why he did not move to Paris permanently, but Armand simply stated it would not feel like home.

Erik entirely understood such a sentiment.

He took the small leather book in his hands, and though it was not an overwhelming sum, he was impressed by his frugality.

Especially when Armand had no notion that what he had allotted for the cost of a home would no longer be necessary.

Erik sighed and closed the book thoughtfully. "Have you spoken to my daughter about this?"

Armand flushed. "Not exactly, sir. I thought it best to receive you blessing first."

Now this did surprise him. He appreciated his adherence to the proper way of things, but Catherine surely should have given him some indication that this conversation would be well received—either from Erik's perspective or her own.

They did not have a formalized courtship. He never came to their home as a beau or a suitor specifically seeking her company, he simply was always there.

So he must have received some indication from her that these advances were welcome.

A bold move to be sure.

"Have you even discussed your feelings with Catherine? Or your plans for the future?"

The fidgeting returned. It was quite clear this boy—man—before him had centered his entire life around the hope that Catherine would one day be his bride, but Erik did know one thing.

The boy was terribly shy when it came to talk of feelings.

While his eyes spoke magnitudes of his adoration, when Catherine reached pubescence, Armand's ability to maintain speech had greatly been affected.

Much to Erik and Christine's amusement, though they tried admirably to keep their laughter to a minimum.

They were not always successful.

Erik thrummed his fingers rhythmically upon the desktop. "I have little doubt of your capability as a husband, though your ability to communicate with your future wife is cause for concern."

Armand's head jerked up at his words. "Future wife? You allow it then?"

He rolled his eyes at the question. "You would not have possessed the courage to ask me had you not already some glimmering of the answer." Erik grew serious as he gave a reproachful look. "But you must speak to Catherine, Armand. I cannot make these claims for her, nor shall I presume upon her for your sake."

Armand nodded emphatically. "Of course I shall speak to her, but you are correct in assuming I would not have come to you if I was not moderately sure of her feelings." His ears turned a remarkable shade of pink—the tips barely poking out from his mass of hair.

Erik's eyebrows rose of their own accord. "Do you have something you should like to confess to me, Armand? Have you been behaving in an unseemly fashion toward my daughter?"

He had little concern, and that delightful swell of humor as he regarded his pupil returned.

Catherine confided mostly in her mother—a fact that he could not fault her for of course, as Christine was by far his confidant of choice as well—but in matters of conscience it was always her father she sought. And had something even so inconsequential as a lingering hand upon hers occurred, it would most certainly have caused her to confess to Erik.

Erik entirely blamed her many years spent exposed to Father Martin's attentive sermons and care.

"Close your mouth, Armand, it is most unbecoming."

He obeyed promptly.

As he spoke, there was a timid knock upon the doorframe. "Papa? May I come in?"

"You may enter, Cat. I believe our business here is complete."

How the boy was going to propose when he could scarcely look at Catherine was beyond him.

But he supposed his timid manner was far superior to Erik's own disastrous courting skills. Perhaps it would have been different had Christine's father remained alive. He might have been procured as a violinist in the Opera on a more permanent basis, and then perhaps Erik would have let the girl alone.

His girl.

Such was not to be, however. He had died and though misguided, Erik had seen fit to care for his future wife through her remaining girlhood, much like Armand had done.

And though he did not wish to spoil the surprise of a proposal, Erik felt it his duty to speak to his daughter before such protestations could begin. If she blatantly refused the hintings Erik should offer on behalf of Armand, then he would track down the man and inform him his daughter did not need such stresses as to politely refuse him.

So waving his hand gracefully in a gesture not at all unfamiliar to his former apprentice, Armand left the study with a small bow to Catherine. She looked at him thoughtfully before seating herself in the same chair that was just vacated.

"Have you a new project contracted, Papa? Is that what he wished to speak to you about?"

He smiled at her softly. "I suppose it was a contract of sorts, and one that required my opinion."

She nodded, nibbling her lip as she did so.

So like her mother.

"Is something troubling you, mon ange?"

Catherine sighed, before straightening her shoulders and looking at him forcefully. "Has Armand ever given you the impression he had a particular regard for me?"

He would have answered her—he was even willing to go so far as to inform her of the conversation that had just taken place, for he could not deny her when he could plainly see the trepidation and near fear in her eyes that he could deny such observations.

Cat pressed on before he could do so. "You know I care for him deeply, but he has not even asked to court me. Mama says I should not concern myself, that men act when they are ready, but I simply ask for reassurance that I am waiting for something!" She looked at him apologetically. "I am sorry, Papa, I should not have enquired. What he discusses with you is his business."

She stood to depart, but Erik rose as well and took her hand and led her to the sofa where she rested against his side, much as she had done in her girlhood. "Oh my Cat. While it amuses me greatly when Armand comes to me with such fears, it pains me to see you doubt his affections for you."

"Papa, does he love me? Truly?"

He kissed her temple, and smiled when her brown curl tickled his lips as he did so. "I do not think you shall have to wait very long for the answer to that question." Erik tapped her nose reproachfully. "But your mother has been explaining his affections for some time now. You would do well to listen to her."

She blushed before bestowing a kiss upon his cheek. Though his heart swelled as it always did when she expressed her love in such a manner, it never ceased to amaze him how different it felt when such gestures came from his Christine.

Love truly did come in many different forms.

He was simply grateful he was able to experience them.

"Thank you, Papa."

She left him then, no doubt going in search of Armand, and Erik very nearly departed to seek out his own love when a slight thump was heard behind the desk.

He sighed once more.

Would the tasks of a father never cease?

"You may come out now, Erik. Your sister has gone."

He was not entirely sure why he installed the passages and small hidey holes at the same juncture as he created a second bedroom for his son, but when he had originally explained it to Christine it was with the notion that Armand and their boy would benefit from seeing how construction took place before they settled on architecture for a chosen career.

Ever since, the passages were inhabited by their own resident ghost.

"Will she really marry him?"

At thirteen, little Erik was not quite so small as he once was. In fact, his height nearly rivaled his father's. His eyes indeed were also the same yellow, though perhaps with a tinge more humanity in them than his progenitors.

And much to his surprise, Erik did not resent his son's appearance.

In fact, his son had become a greater comrade than he should ever have expected. Truly fashioned from his own genius, he was easy to teach and quick to learn, though his propensities for trouble demanded constant guidance.

And sturdier locks.

"Surely that cannot surprise you."

The boy merely shrugged in response—the same bony shoulders that Christine desperately tried to coax into musculature through delectable treats.

Aside from his affinity for chocolates, his son also shared his taste for more savory things, much to his mother's chagrin.

"Now go spy on your sister. I allow them one kiss for their engagement and not a bit more!"

The boy had the cheek to salute before disappearing through the door, and Erik was confident his wishes would be seen to admirably.

The only thing lacking now was his wife.

Something quickly remedied if he had any say in the matter.

This cottage was allowed more than one ghost.

Sooo… I hope I did the right thing posting this!