Author’s Note: Um, in simplest terms, Robert’s father is a jerk.
“I suppose you believe that I am responsible for that woman’s condition.”
Robert glared at his father. He did not understand how that man could have sired him, and the more time he spent with him, the more he despised him. He needed to find a way to end his financial dependence on his father. He could not continue this way. His father would bully him if given even the slightest chance, and if he allowed it to happen, even one more time, it would not be him that suffered, just as it had not been today.
Violet should never have been exposed to RJ, and if Robert had been independent, it would not have happened. If he had been able to take care of this situation on his own, if he lived in his own home without his father to open his mail—Or, perhaps, if RJ was not a meddlesome, controlling bastard, everything would be different now.
“You are responsible. Do you have no comprehension at all? Did you not see her face when you said those horrible things to her?”
“She is a liar.”
Violet had said his father would say that. Of course, Robert didn’t need her words to know that would be his father’s reaction. He had known what RJ was going to do before he left the inn, and he should have stopped it. His father had no business here. He thought it was all a lie, so he needn’t have bothered coming. He’d said he wouldn’t pay her, so why come? He was convinced that he was right, and he never altered his opinion.
He had come to stop Robert from listening to her. He’d come to make sure that Robert didn’t believe her or pay her—or worse, marry her—and now he’d gotten that much, at least. No, he’d gotten more. He got to drag his son home in shame as well. That was what he wanted, wasn’t it?
Angry, Robert focused on his father. “I begin to think that you are. I suspect you kept her letters from me when they first came. I think you know who this man is, and I think—”
“I think you have turned into a foolish as well as ungrateful child. How dare you accuse me of anything? You would rather believe some whore—”
“Violet is not a whore.”
RJ snorted. “So you would defend a woman carrying a bastard child and say that she is not the loose sort? You think that she is some kind of innocent? Truly? She is a careful sort of schemer, and she is better than I thought she would be, though it would not take much to fool you. You are ever so willing to believe what is not true.”
Robert stilled. “If you are referring to my nightmares—”
“You could not handle the war, and you are not capable of dealing with this situation, either. You are incapable of coping with life. Still a child in almost every respect—”
“Damn you. What innocence I might have had died in that war as I fought and killed and came close to dying. I am not a child. Just because you disagree with my decisions does not make me somehow idle-brained. I am aware of my limitations. I have an arm that may as well have gotten cut off for how well I can use it. Half the time, I can’t use it. I know that I will never be whole again. I won’t be that child that knocked over beehives or the young man who ate too much pie, not again. I’m… I’m a shell, but I am not a child. I knew what I was doing when I came here. I didn’t need you to come ‘rescue’ me. I didn’t need you to embarrass both of us. Your actions were the shameful ones, not mine. Even if she were lying, she deserves the respect of having you listen to her before you make your accusations. You don’t know what she claimed, so how could you know she was lying? At least I was willing to listen. All you did was yell. At a pregnant woman. Where are your manners? Where is your sense of decency?”
“The woman does not need manners. She needs someone to make her admit the truth.”
Robert’s jaw tightened, and he shook his head. “Go. Go home. Go back to your little castle and your business empire and rule that, but do not think that you can do so here. You cannot and will not hurt her again. You will not speak to her.”
“And you think you are the one who will force me to obey that edict? Have you forgotten who you are? What you are?”
“As if I could forget that.”
“You are Robert John Winston the third. You are my son, not the other way around. If you do not cease this at once—”
“You’ll disinherit me?”
Robert looked at his arm, hanging lifeless at his side, aware that he couldn’t feel it. He tried to flex his fingers and was unable to move them, but he lifted his head, meeting his father’s gaze. His words should terrify him given his condition and what he could reasonably expect out of the rest of his life, but he did not care. He had come too far to let himself be browbeaten again.
“Go ahead. I don’t want your money—or your name.”