Author’s Note: So I’m just going to cave and keep both serials. It’s not fair otherwise. I should have known better. And since the site’s overhaul isn’t done (and won’t be for a while at this rate with all the interference) I will just continue posting as I have been. I’m going to move this and the other story into their own category and get them organized as a serial should be, but I’ll have more fic in the meantime.
Since this is Three Word Wednesday, I found a way to slip in endure, destruction, and trust.
“After yesterday, I am surprised to find you willing to endure my company.”
Violet placed her hands on her stomach. She would have put them in her lap if she didn’t have the distended belly to contend with, and she had found that one of the many little nuisances about being pregnant that made her regret every having come in contact with the fake Robert Winston. Of course, she had far more than a few minor aches and discomforts to give her regrets about meeting that man. She hoped that she did not reach a point where she regretted meeting the real Robert Winston.
Robbie—for she had decided, after debating all night in her room, to use that name to keep him apart from the imposter—had been, for the most part, very kind and polite, a true gentleman, though there were times that things became quite awkward between them because of the situation they found themselves in and the assumptions that everyone made—assumptions that she had worsened by her own actions yesterday. She should never have had him touch her stomach when the baby kicked. That was more than inappropriate or improper. She could not believe she’d done that, and she did not know why she had.
Was a part of her desperate enough to hope that he’d want to marry her if he became attached to the child? Was that why she’d done it? She hoped not, but she had no reason to give in place of that one.
“It is not such a hardship to speak to you. I think it is much easier than it should be,” she said, trying to smile with the words. “I am sorry that I was not more helpful yesterday. It was a much longer morning than I anticipated, and while I do not agree that I must spend all my time in bed, I had been up and moving a bit too much for my current condition. I have heard of women who work horrible hours while carrying a child and yet they both survive the pregnancy, but I fear if you ask me to do more than walk up and down the stairs I am almost utterly useless.”
“Then I suppose I should not have asked you to come downstairs at all.”
She closed her eyes. “How could you not ask me? We have yet to discuss the man I knew, the one who stole your name and… Well, we have not discussed him, and if you are to have any hope of locating him, I suppose we must.”
“I know this is a painful subject for you. I do not want to—you shouldn’t have to suffer for my curiosity or even the remote chance that I might find him.”
She almost laughed. “I think that no amount of discomfort now could discourage me from even the slightest chance that you will succeed in your search. That man seems not to care about anyone or anything, pays no mind to the destruction he leaves behind, and while we may not be able to have him locked away in jail, I should very much like to slap him. It is the least I can do after what he did to me, and I do not want to be denied that opportunity.”
Robbie reached for her hand, giving it a squeeze. “I will do what I can to ensure that you have that moment. He deserves that and so much more. So very much more.”
She nodded. She had directed thoughts toward her “husband” that no lady should have, but after what he’d done, she could not help it. She would gladly see the bastard dead, and that was not something she would ever have thought she’d think, especially not about a man that she’d been hopelessly in love with only seven months before.
That was, she’d thought she was in love with him, but since what she’d loved was all an act, she hadn’t loved him at all. She’d had to accept that as well.
“It’s almost funny,” Robbie said, and she looked over at him, blinking, not sure if he’d been speaking for a while without her paying attention or not. “When I was younger, my father used to give me endless lectures on how I would learn to appreciate my name someday. I’d be proud of the fact that I was Robert Winston the third, and I’d feel that name was not only a blessing but the most important thing in the world to me. I used to say I’d never be proud to be his son or share his name, but I have learned the value of my name now.”
She stared at him. “Was… Was anyone else present for these lectures? Did they happen often and in public?”
He frowned. “Why are you asking me that?”
She put a hand on her back, wincing. “It’s… When he was here, he… He told me a story almost exactly like that. Of course, he had not had his name stolen to learn to appreciate it—he said he still hadn’t, but he said what you did about your father’s words. I remember the part about the blessing. It was not easy to forget, nor was the part about never being proud to be his son or share his name.”
Robbie’s brow creased, his frown deepening, and he shook his head. “I do not understand. This… It is like this man must have known me, but he is a stranger to me. I do not recognize him at all, not from that photograph you sent. Do you have any others? Perhaps a different angle would give me a better sense of who he might be.”
“I am afraid I don’t. He didn’t want any others taken—he only had that one done at Aunt Beatrice’s insistence.”
He rose, starting to pace the parlor. “This is absurd. For a man to say these things and know so much as well as imitate my handwriting so as to forge my signature, I must know him. There seems to be no way that I could not know him.”
She studied her hands, not wanting to voice the terrible thought that had come to her, and yet the words spilled from her mouth. She did not know why she wanted to trust him, since she knew so much less of him and more of Winston, but then, the other man had abandoned her. “Unless, of course, he was not the one lying and you are.”