Perhaps a Villain

Author’s Note: Ah, the complications of family.

Perhaps a Villain

“Is that you, Graydon?”

“If I said it wasn’t, would that make you go away?”


“Didn’t think so.” He didn’t look up as the other man sat down, not wanting this lecture any more than he wanted one from his parents. He knew what was coming, never seemed to avoid this sort of thing when he was home, and even sometimes being abroad was no escape from whatever censure everyone felt was due.
Of course, from this particular source, they rankled him more than from the others. Someone should have stopped his grandfather from marrying again to a woman so much younger than him, one still capable of bearing children. It was rather unpleasant having an uncle that was only two years older than him—all the more so because the man insisted on acting as though he had the rights of any uncle the same age as his parents to lecture and condemn, as though he had raised children of his own or had the wisdom of experience and many more years in this world.

“I hear unfortunate rumors about you.”

“About my wife’s death?” Gray shook his head, not willing to give any further time to that nonsense again. He was tired of it, even though it had some advantages. Many people went out of their way to avoid him because of those accusations. “That is nothing new. That has been going on for almost three years now, so you needn’t trouble yourself with them. I didn’t have anything to do with her death. I wasn’t even here.”

“That’s a lie.”

He stiffened. “Excuse me? Who are you to call me a liar?”

“Come now. I know you better than that. You can fool others if you like—your parents and that family you duped into giving you another bride, even the simpleton herself—but you will not play games with me. I have known you too long and too well for that.”

“If anyone here killed Harriet, it was you, not me.”

“What would make you say that?”

“Please. As if I didn’t know of your affair with her. Do not continue the farce. We are not and have never been friends. What is it you want? To threaten me? Or her? If I marry her, will you make sure that she has some sort of accident like the one that Harriet did? Is that why you’ve come, Uncle? If that is the case, I do wish you’d take it up with Father, as he is the one who arranged the whole affair. Had I not come home a week earlier than planned, I would have walked in the door to my own wedding.”

“I have no need to threaten anyone.”

Gray glared at him. “I think you should go. I only sat down to have a moment to think. It is rather stifling at the house, as you must know, and I would rid myself of this entanglement if I knew a good way to do it.”

“Would you like help?”

“What do you intend? Seducing her before the wedding and letting that compromise be known so as to ruin her and all their schemes? I do not want your help.”

“Why must you always assume that I would resort to such tactics, that I can only have one thing in mind if I am to act? First an affair with your late wife, now an intention to seduce your fiancée… Shame on you, nephew. Not everything is about carnal pleasures.”

“Interesting. That is not the impression you’ve cultivated since you were old enough to do something about how pretty the maids were.”

His uncle laughed. “You are quite amusing sometimes. Still jealous, after all these years. You were too young to play with the lovely Lily, no matter how she giggled at your attempts to befriend her and thought your admiration was so adorable for such a child.”

“Why are you here? You’re supposed to be in Spain.”

“You know how I dislike places where I cannot speak the language.”

Gray shook his head. His uncle was impossible. He rose. “You’re an ignorant fool, and I have suffered your presence for long enough. I am going. Do not follow me.”

“Oh, fine, I suppose we’ve wasted enough time in ‘pleasantries.’ Your favorite client wants to see you. You know he only likes doing business with you—not your father, not me—and so you’d better go pacify him before he gets it in his head to take his money elsewhere.”

“Which favorite client is this?”

“Masterson,” his uncle said with a smile, enjoying his discomfort. Masterson was by far the most demanding and infuriating man they had dealings with, ill-tempered and prone to fits such as belonged to a child, but for some reason, he always wanted Gray to handle what was wrong. “Don’t keep him waiting now. You know he hates that.”

“And you know I hate you, right? Good.”

Next: Deliberation

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Beginning: Dreams Were All They Gave for Free

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