Author’s Note: So… In case anyone was at all wondering, this one is drawing close to an end, and they are very close to answers.
Robert stared at Violet, not certain that he had heard what he thought he had. Perhaps he was still concussed. What if he had never woken up at all, and this was all delirium? That was not impossible. He could still be thrashing about in his bed, unable to know what was waking and what was dreaming—he’d been there before, after he’d been shot, and he always thought that he would fall there once more if he made the slightest misstep, and he feared it. He feared it more than anything.
Damn it, why was he such a coward? Why did he have to be locked inside his mind and the war when he needed to be in the present? He had other concerns now. He didn’t have to fear bullets or armies, and this one man should not scare him so much.
Perhaps it was that small doubt, deep within him, that there was a Winston at all, that he hadn’t done this and somehow twisted it away and forgotten it, but that was impossible. He did not know how he could have—and she had not acted as though he had, not since he came, but yet… The stories were the same, weren’t they?
How shell-shocked was he? How badly was his mind destroyed?
“Are you… You must be mistaken. It is not possible. It could not have been my father.”
Violet’s aunt snorted, a derisive look on her face before she turned to her niece. Taking hold of her arms, she sat the younger woman back down, almost forcing her into the chair. “You are being foolish. At least sit if you must be difficult.”
“Difficult? I am the one being difficult?”
“You are upsetting everyone—and perhaps for no reason,” her mother told her, crossing the room to her side. “You need to sit and allow us to handle the subject with as much decorum as is possible.”
Robert frowned. “I don’t know that decorum is an option at present. This seems like something out of—I am not certain if my concussion has worsened or if any of this is real. It does not seem… How could it have been my father? Why was this not discussed before?”
Violet nodded. “Yes, exactly. Why didn’t you say anything when he was here, Beatrice? Why didn’t you say something when Winston was?”
“I said plenty when Winston was here.”
“Yes, but not that,” Violet said, shaking her head. “If Robbie’s father was the one who threw you over, then why didn’t you say that in all your warnings? Why didn’t you know the man that was pretending to be his son to be an imposter?”
Beatrice stiffened. She glanced toward Robert, shaking her head. “Your Robbie said it himself—there is a resemblance. That first one looked enough like RJ to be his son, and had I told you that his father was a deceitful rake, you would only have insisted that he was nothing like his father and ignored me anyway.”
Robert leaned back in his chair, feeling ill. He did not think it was the concussion only that caused him distress. He did not understand how this was possible or why it was happening. Who was this woman that she had concealed such an important detail? How had she known his father, and why had even his father failed to mention it?
Violet lowered her head. “I didn’t know that I wouldn’t have said that, but I might have taken more time before I agreed to Winston’s proposal, might have been more cautious than I had been, and perhaps he would not have wanted to wait long enough to marry me. I do not know. I wish you would have told me. Even if I had been headstrong about it, I should have known.”
“You always called him John in the past,” her mother said, her eyes watching her sister with hurt and suspicion. “Why should I think now that this is the truth? Why would you not speak of it before? This has become a disaster, and it does seem to me that you could have prevented part of it if you ere only honest.”
Beatrice sighed. “I have no desire to dwell upon those days. I behaved as a fool from the moment I met him to the moment I discovered him with another woman who carried his child. Mercifully, I had not compromised myself so much, but he could not have married us both and yet he asked me after he had already acquired a family for himself.”
Robert frowned. “I don’t understand. I was born years after my parents married. Perhaps that was an act, a way to have you break off the engagement so that my father didn’t have to, but that child was not me.”
Violet rubbed her hand over her stomach, and he couldn’t help thinking the child was as upset as the rest of them were. “Are we now to think that the reason that the false Mr. Winston pursued me was because he knew that RJ Winston had almost married you?”