Author’s Note: This revelation did get delayed by Robert being injured, but I thought it was a rather intriguing twist, one that worked well with what I’d already written.

Closer to Clarity

“Something someone else did? Someone like… my father, you mean?”

Violet licked her lips. Of course, she did not feel right making that accusation, no matter what that man had said about her or her child. She would not think herself ever inclined to forgive him for those comments, but she did not know that she could use them as a reason to say that he was the cause of all of this. “I don’t know. I suppose with his general attitude and demeanor, he seems the most likely to have inspired such a strong hate, but I do not know that I am right—if it was because of your father, why would they do this to you? To me?”

Robbie shook his head. “I do not know. I think we are back where we started from again, unfortunately. We know so very little of what is happening, even as it is centered around us. I don’t understand why he came here and picked you, though. I mean—you know what I mean, don’t you? I’ve said it before—it is not that you are not a very admirable woman, one who any man should be fortunate to have a chance to spend time with, but if he intended to cause me or my father harm, why come here? Why do this to you?”

She let out a breath. She knew that was the question that she wanted answered more than any other. She had been asking it since Winston left her, wondering what had made him go and why he would do any of that to her, an answer that became all the more important after she learned that he was not Robert John Winston the third, not the man she’d thought she knew, not at all.

“I do not—wait. There was something yesterday, before you came in and distracted all of us—”

“I did not mean to upset you. I was not trying to—the only place I knew to go was here.”

“Oh, no, I did not mean that,” she said, shaking her head. She leaned forward, wanting to take hold of his hand. She did not mean to make him blame himself for anything or think he should not have come to them. He should have. Here was where he was best looked after, and she rather thought that here might be where he belonged… forever.

She forced herself not to think about that. She was still a mess of emotions when it came to him and to Winston, and she did not know if she would ever sort them all out.


She held out a hand to him. “Will you… Would you mind moving closer? I would have liked to have taken you hand just then, but I am afraid I cannot reach you.”

“Of course. I am sorry—I just took the first chair I came to without thinking of being close enough to see to anything you might need.”

She laughed. “Robbie, you are the one that has a concussion. You do not need to take care of me. I am not incapable of caring for myself. I am just… pregnant. I almost offered you this chair after what you went through—”

“I do not need or want to lie down right now.”

“Neither do I.”

He smiled, rising and taking the few steps over to the closer chair. She watched him, waiting for a sign that he was struggling due to his concussion, but she did not find any. He sat down, and she took his hand. “Was that what you wanted?”

“Yes, actually.”

He turned his thumb over her hand in small soothing circles, and she thought what he was doing was not too dissimilar from what she found herself doing to her stomach when the baby grew agitated. “This is—”

“Rather inappropriate, I would think, coming from a man who refuses to marry her.”

Robbie dropped her hand, stiffening as he withdrew from Violet. “I think there’s—”

“I don’t see how you can act as though what we were doing was all that inappropriate when you have been lying all this time.”


Violet nodded, rising to face her aunt. She did not know if she was right about this, did not know that she should do it, but at the same time, she did not think she could ignore what she’d realized yesterday. She could have tried to confront her aunt sooner, but with Robbie injured, it seemed a poor time. Now that he—and her mother—were here to hear it, she had to act. “You said we’d all be better off if no man by the name of Winston had ever come into our lives.”

“You wish to argue that point? Look at you. You would not be unwed and pregnant now if not for a man claiming to be a Winston, and this one—well, he is not much better, is he?”
Robbie frowned. “Excuse me, but I do not think that you can compare the two of us—”

“The man who jilted you was a Winston,” Violet said, her voice more confident than she was. “He was Robbie’s father, wasn’t he?”

Author’s Note: I went ahead to their next opportunity to talk. I considered doing a flashback for Robert, but again, I could not find one that connected to the story, so I didn’t do it. I also considered his conversation with the police, but I didn’t know that it would be all that useful to extend that when Robert covered the pertinent bits here.

New and Old Questions

“How are you feeling?”

Robert could not help smiling at her question, easing himself into one of the other chairs. He did not know how his head would fare today, since he had not been allowed much rest. He knew why they woke him every couple of hours, but he did not enjoy the experience and could not pretend otherwise. “Should I ask you that?”

Violet smiled. “I think, other than yesterday’s upset, the need for me to rest has been greatly exaggerated. I am not so much of an invalid. I don’t think I should have to be confined to bed, just that I must be careful. It is so frustrating to be pregnant.”

“I would not know.”

She laughed. “No, you wouldn’t. Though that would be quite interesting if that were possible.”

“So you like to imagine the impossible?”

She frowned. “I am not certain that is accurate. It is not like I enjoyed being compared to a sprite or a nymph. Those things are impossible, yet I dislike them. They are not the only things that make me uncomfortable to contemplate, either.”

“The man who deceived you…”

“He is, I think, one of the more difficult subjects to dwell upon,” she said, letting out a sigh. She lowered her head, her hand turning over her stomach. He winced, realizing that he had brought up more pain for her. That was all he ever did. “Did they… Did the police talk to you at all? Do you know if they found anything?”

He grimaced. “I rather felt as though they did not think I had heard anyone at all.”

“You mean they think you injured yourself? That you did that to your head? Why would you? That is absolutely absurd—”

“Is it?” He reached up to touch the wound, wincing again. “I’ve known men to suffer wounds far more grave than that, and even I know that there’s no good reason why he didn’t hit me a second time. If he wanted me dead, it would have been so easy…”

She shook her head. “No. I refuse to accept that. I know that he lied to me, that he betrayed me, but he is not a killer. I did not fall in love with a killer. I couldn’t have.”

Robert let out a breath. He didn’t—couldn’t—say much to that as he would only hurt her, but he couldn’t help thinking that she hadn’t known the man she’d married at all. He’d told her things that were Robert’s, not his. He had not given her much of his own truth, and that made him capable of anything, in Robert’s opinion. Still, he did not think she would want to hear that. “It may not have been his intention to kill me. I don’t know what he wanted to do. I don’t think he accomplished it because he left me there and I woke up not long after I’d been struck, but I don’t have any way of being certain. If we knew more of why he did what he did, then we would perhaps know why he might do this, but he is not going to tell us that.”

“Unless he already did and I don’t know what it is in what he told me. I don’t know what is significant there. The stories? The way that he sometimes referred to himself like a separate person—which makes sense when we consider that he was talking about you, not him. Perhaps there is something else that I should have noticed, but I do not know.”

Robert nodded. “That is still possible. Did he ever speak of a reason to hate my family? I suppose he spoke of hating my father, but that only leads me to ask who doesn’t hate my father?”

“I did not hate him, though he did his best to make me do so.” She shifted in her seat, looking toward the door as though she expected someone to enter, and he had to wonder where her mother and aunt were. Listening through some other door, perhaps? Or were they out in town, permitting her to leave her room and speak to him? They would not be pleased, then, when they returned.

“Nevertheless, unless he spoke of despising himself—me—or some other member of my family, I cannot see why he felt that he must do this.”

“Because he attacked you.”

“If he attacked me, yes,” Robert said. He sighed. “I wish I understood this. If that was him, then what did he want? To make me suffer? If he does hate me, then yes, I suppose he might, but why does he hate me?”

“I do not know.”

“I’m sorry. I did not expect you to have the answer. I’m only trying to think of it myself, and I spoke aloud when I should not have.”

She shook her head. “Of the two of us, it would seem that I should have that answer. I did know the imposter, and it seems that you did not.”

“Yet, as we have said so many times before, it does not make sense that it is someone who does not know me. Or that I do not know. I should know him.”

“Unless, of course, he is not punishing you for something you did but for something someone else did.”

Author’s Note: It’s always interesting when both the main characters should be resting. They never want to do it, and there’s always too much going on around them.

Too Much to Discuss

“I think,” Robbie said, still huddled over the bowl, “assuming this is the work of that man is… premature.”

Violet put her hand on his back, wishing he was not in so much pain. She did not care for seeing him this way, and she had to think that she was part to blame. She had drawn him here, hadn’t she? She’d got him to come with her letter, one that had said too much. Of course he’d come to her instead of forcing her to go to his home. He was a good man, a gentleman, and he’d been willing to listen to her even though he knew he was not married. He’d come to see her, to hear her side, and she valued that. Still, if not for her, he would still be safe in his father’s home. He would not be here to be attacked, not by Winston or anyone else who might have done this.

“Who else would it be?”

“It is possible that my father did not leave. Or that someone thought I had his money and tried to take it.”

“Or they might have done it because he hasn’t married you.”

Violet sighed. She had not thought of that, but it was another reason for her to hate the part she had played in him being injured. “Oh, Robbie, I am so—”

“This might have nothing to do with you. We don’t know why I was attacked. It could even have been about the war.”

“I doubt that,” her mother said. She rose, walking over to the door. “Thank you for coming, Doctor. We’ve done what we can for him, but neither me nor my sister is a nurse.”

“You should be in bed, Mrs. Winston.”

Violet grimaced. “I am not the one you need worry about. He could have more than a concussion, and if that’s true—”

“Come now,” her mother said, taking her arm. “Let’s get you out of the way so that the doctor can examine Mr. Winston. You just sit over here for now, and we’ll get you in bed in a few minutes.”

She groaned, sitting back on the chair. She would rather be with Robbie, but she was not a doctor. He needed treatment. They also needed the police. She wondered if they had been searching the park for the man who had hurt Robbie and that was what delayed them. They should have been here by now.

“Mrs. Carpenter?”

“Officer. Thank goodness you’ve come. Mr. Winston found his way here after he was attacked, and I think he was quite fortunate to make it this far.”

“I don’t think whoever it was that hit me expected me to wake so soon, nor did I. I think the worst of it has passed. I already vomited.”

“You’re going to need to do more than that to recover, Winston.”

He grimaced. “I suppose now I have to rest in bed.”

Violet laughed. “At least I won’t be alone with those orders. If it were not completely inappropriate, they could put us in a ward together—or just a room—and let us spend our confinement together. I’d be more willing to stay in bed if I knew you were safe.”

He reached up to push the doctor’s hand away. “I doubt that I would be attacked again the minute that I tried to leave. Not that I would object to having company while I am recovering. I think that the worst part of it of being wounded were those long, horrible hours where I could only lie there, alone. I had nothing but my thoughts, and those thoughts were dark.”

“Then we should not leave you alone this time.”

Beatrice frowned. “Mr. Winston has much to discuss with the police. You can leave him to do that. He has plenty of company. You need to get back to bed.”

“Aunt Beatrice—”

“She is right. Both of you need your rest. Mr. Winston can tell the police what happened to him, and you will lie down again so that the baby does not come too soon. Remember, as much as a child is a blessing, this is a dangerous time for you. Things could—It is dangerous.”

Robbie turned to her, trying for a reassuring look. “I will be in a bed of my own soon, and I would never forgive myself if anything happened to you or the baby because of me. I’m sure that we… We will have a lot to discuss when this is over.”

They already had plenty to talk of, she could not help thinking, but she nodded. She would have to trust that he would tell her whatever the others were trying to keep from her. She would rather stay and watch over him herself, but she knew that was impossible. Not only was it inappropriate, her body and the baby objected to her behavior, and if she was not careful, she’d lose consciousness right here. She had little choice but to let herself be taken back to her room to rest.

“We will talk as soon as we can, Violet. I promise.”

She smiled at him. “I know. I look forward to it.”

Author’s Note: So I find myself posting two parts again today. That’s what happens when I’m a bit ahead and Wednesday rolls around with words I can use in a part that’s almost done or ready to go next. This one was half done when I saw the words, and I thought, “well, I was going to post the flashback, but maybe I’ll skip it and just go right to this scene.”

Since there needed to be some delay between the scene in the park and this new piece, I went ahead and left the flashback in where it is, though I might have to move it when I organize this into a book later.

Anyway, this is the one that has the Three Word Wednesday prompts in it, trample, vigilant, and helpless.

Honor and Injury

“I think you may want to reconsider your position on that young man’s honor.”

Violet lowered her book with a frown, blinking at her aunt’s words. She had not been able to pay much attention to the pages that she was turning, her mind occupied with thoughts of Robbie, of Winston, and the pain in her back from the child. “What?”

“He is not gone. I saw him in the marketplace today.”

Disliking her aunt’s rather triumphant tone, Violet sat up, knowing that her mother was frowning as well.

“You saw Mr. Winston in town? Today?”

“Yes. He lied to you about leaving.”

Violet almost laughed. Her aunt was so proud of her discovery, but Violet could not help the rather perverse satisfaction that came with knowing that she could ruin the older woman’s triumph with ease. “He did not actually say that he was going. He said that he would if it was necessary. He did say he was planning on leaving, but planning is not the same as doing, as you have often told me.”

Beatrice’s nose wrinkled with disgust. “It does you no good to hide behind those excuses, child.”

“It does you no good to seek out these things to spoil hope or disparage him, either, sister. I know you were once wounded in love, but not all men are so false, and not all of us women are the same. We are not so terribly naïve as to believe beyond all reason, but your heart has become so cold that you do not attribute a positive motive to anyone anymore.”

“That is not true, Rose.”

“You disagree with my assessment? I suppose you always have. You will not alter my opinion. You have ceased to see anything in the world of value or goodness. I have been a widow now for twenty years. No man has been able to tempt me away from that state, a thing that would suggest that should be quite miserable indeed. I am not. I have watched my daughter grow, something that is to my mind a privilege. I have seen her suffer, and I have almost lost her and my grandchild. Yet you do not see me turning away from life and becoming bitter. You did not see Violet do it, either, and she was betrayed in one of the worst ways possible and will have a child because of it.”

Beatrice sat down, leaning back in her chair. “We should all curse the day any man named Winston came into our lives.”

Violet placed her hand on her stomach, looking to her mother and then back at her aunt. “The man you knew, the one who jilted you… His name was Winston? You wouldn’t mean—”

“Mrs. Carpenter, Mrs. Carpenter! Someone attacked Mr. Winston. He just stumbled in here with blood on his head and asked for a towel and—”


“Calm yourself, Harriet. Violet, you stay. Beatrice and I will see what has happened.”


“Don’t move.”

Violet waited for her mother and aunt to walk away before she made her move. They were both fools to think that she would stay still when she knew that Robbie was hurt. She was not that helpless, no matter what the doctor said. She was pregnant, not ill, and since all they could do for her was tell her to rest, she could rest later, after she knew that he would recover from whatever had happened.

She took the stairs with as much care as possible, making a slow descent until the end. Her current shape did not allow her to do much running, but she pushed herself on until she could get to the parlor, opening the door to see Robbie on the floor with her mother fussing over him.

“How did this happen?”

“I fear I was rather less than vigilant. I heard a voice call my name, but I did not see the speaker, and I thought… Well…”

“You thought you’d gone back to the war, did you?” Violet asked, easing herself down beside him despite the glares from the other two women. He blinked, and she grimaced as she saw the pain in his face. At least she did not see much blood. After Harriet said he’d had blood on him, Violet had feared something terrible.

His hand brushed hers. “Yes. It… I don’t know why. I guess it was—I didn’t stop to think of the possibility that the person was hiding or intended me harm. I didn’t realize they’d hit me the moment I was distracted. I feel like my head’s been trampled upon by whole armies, and I rather think I might deserve it for being so easily unbalanced.”


He forced a smile that turned into a grimace. “I think I’d better have a bowl. I do believe it’s a concussion, and I’ll vomit in a minute.”

“You were doing rather well there.”

He closed his eyes. “I wish that would last. My head aches so… Sorry I got you out of bed. Was not going to hurt you again.”

“I am not hurting. You are.”

“My father said terrible things about you, and I told him to leave and that I didn’t want his name or his money. I… I am penniless now. A penniless cripple. Cannot believe I did that. Should have… I don’t know. Shouldn’t have done it before my debts were paid. So sorry…”

“Oh, Robbie,” Violet said, wincing as her aunt carried over a bowl to set beside him. “It’s not your fault. I am sorry to have caused this rift between you and your father and—”

“Move, Violet,” her mother said as she pushed in to help Robbie reach the bowl when he vomited. “There, Mr. Winston. That might actually help. You just rest now. We’ve already called the doctor, and we’ll get you taken care of.”

“Can’t pay for the doctor. Please don’t ask him to come.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Beatrice said. “You need the doctor. Worry about the money when you are not trying to cover my sister and niece in vomit.”

“We need the police as well,” Violet said. “We need them to find the person who did this to Robbie. I… I can’t help fearing that it might have been Winston. That… That he has returned, and if he has… I don’t know what we will do.”

Author’s Note: So I like to take advantage of moments when characters are unconscious or asleep for flashbacks. Of course, it was Robert who was unconscious, so it should be one of his, but I didn’t have one of his that could aid the story. This one of Violet’s is important for more than one reason.

A Clumsy Sort of Proposal

“Violet, I must marry you.”

She blinked, looking up from her flowers. “I do not understand. Are you trying to play some sort of joke upon me, Mr. Winston? I assure you, it is not funny.”

“That was a most sincere statement.”

“It was a most unflattering statement. You sound as though you have no choice. You must marry me or perish, and there is no one with a weapon to force your compliance. We have not sinned, and we will not, so you needn’t feel yourself under obligation to me. You don’t have to marry me.”

He laughed, kneeling down beside her. “You always manage to find a way to twist what I say into the worst possible interpretation. Should I blame that on your aunt, is that it?”

“I was raised by her as well as by my mother. I cannot claim that she has had no influence on me. Still, it is not my fault that you say unfortunate things. You cannot be charming all the time, no, and it is not fair to blame me for the moments when you are not. Those are your choice—not simply my interpretation of them,” she said, still annoyed by his latest comparison of her to a garden nymph. She swore if she had been able to use magic, she’d have turned him into a toad just for that, but then she might have had to kiss him to get him back, and there was no way she’d do that.

So it was a very fortunate thing that she did not have magic, that she did not truly believe in it.

“Put aside her bitterness, please. I did mean what I said—I must marry you.”

“Is someone else asking you and you need me to save you from that fate? Is that it? Will your father cut you off if you do not marry?”


“Then quit saying that you must. You don’t have to, and you don’t want to.”

“I am saying I must because I want to. Because you are all I think about and all I want. You are the one woman I want to spend my life with, and that is what I mean by must. I must have that life with you. I need you. Marry me.”

She frowned. “Do not be absurd. You have known me only a few weeks, and all that time, my aunt has been present to ensure no lapse of judgment or morals happens. You do not know me, nor I you, and I think it is best that we do not carry this foolishness further.”


She had to smile. “A moment ago, you asked if I was influenced by my aunt. My aunt considers all love foolishness. Not that this is love. It isn’t.”

“Tell me what it is, then. I want to know. I am desperate to be with you, think of you with every breath and dream of you at night—”

“Mr. Winston!”

He grinned. “Not all of my thoughts are ungentlemanly, though, I swear. I want to do the right thing, Violet, and I love you. Why should I not ask you for your hand? Marry me. You shall make an honest man of me.”

“Oh?” She could not help the thoughts that came to her when he said that. “Have you been lying to me all this time? Is that it? Will you tell me the truth if I marry you?”

“Is that what it would take for you to say yes?”

She shook her head. “Do not make a joke of this, Winston. If you have lied to me, then I no longer want to see you again. I do not want to marry a man I do not know and cannot trust. I don’t care how charming you are or how I thought I felt about you. I will not do it.”

“Then you feel something for me?”

“I… I like hearing your stories, and I enjoy your company, but beyond that I cannot say, and I just told you—I won’t marry you if you’ve lied to me.”

“Everything I told you about Robert Winston is true.”

“It had better be.”

Author’s Note: So I had prepped a scene for posting today, and then I realized that as brilliant as its twist was, it meant the big reveal had to come sooner than I’d planned on. So then I thought I’d go back before that part and write a flashback. That didn’t fit there, so I tried one more thing, going back to Robert instead of Violet. That worked. Perhaps too well. 😛

Too Much Thinking

Every flower he passed in the marketplace made Robert wince, thinking that he should have listened to the innkeeper and gone to see Violet. He should tell her that he had not gone, at least, though he did not want that to turn into something where she or any one else thought he was trying to get her family to support him while he was here. He did not want to repeat the other things his father had said, and he hated to think of how she’d be hurt by them if he did have to tell her.

Perhaps she would allow him not to give details. All she need know was that his father was unreasonable and that they had quarreled. She did not have to hear the ugly words or know the true callousness of the man who’d said them. His father was gone, returned home, and he would not trouble her again.

Robert did not want to be a bother to her, either. He did not know how to avoid it, though.

Looking up, he met a pair of cold eyes and almost cursed aloud. He did not know why his misfortune had seemed to multiply so of late, but he should have expected to see Violet’s aunt there, glaring at him. He supposed she thought he was a liar now, since he had not gone back with his father. He knew that Violet would have expected it—he had said he would go if it was necessary, and while it had not been, she had no way of knowing that.

He nodded to her aunt, trying to prepare himself to speak to the woman on the matter, but she turned away, marching off in the opposite direction. He let out a breath. Well, he’d been cut, that was for sure, but he didn’t know if he was going to go after her or not. He did need to tell Violet and her family what had changed, but he didn’t know that rushing after her was a good idea.

Then again, to have her tell Violet before he had a chance to—No, he did not like that idea at all. He had to go to her and speak to her himself.

He believed that he could find his way to the house, possibly even before the spinster did. She might stop for something or other, and he did not have the same qualms about passing over the grass in the park that she might.

He hurried across the market, crossing down to the entrance of the park as he tried to make his way toward Plum street. He hadn’t managed to find any source of employment while he was in town, and perhaps that was what Millson had meant when he said that Robert should speak to her first—there were no jobs to be had at present and he was going to need another way of sustaining himself.

His mouth twisted, filled with a bad taste, and he shook his head. He would not ask them for anything. He was not their obligation, and he would not impose upon them for any longer than it took to explain what had passed between him and his father.


He stopped, frowning, unable to find the source of that voice in the park. The area was clear, the grass fresh cut and the flowers in bloom, creating a moment fit for a painting, but the voice turned that around into something sinister. He didn’t like the tone of it, nor could he find the speaker, not in any of the men passing through the area. Most were with families or ladies, and they had not stopped when he did. No one seemed to be willing to admit to speaking, if they had done so.

If they had not…

He closed his eyes. This could be shell-shock. He might be imagining things. He knew it was not the first time that he had been lost in such a way, but he was hoping that he was over those moments. He could not afford to be a coward now.

He heard something snap behind him—a twig, he had to think—and he turned, ready to confront the person who’d called out to him, but something hard connected with the back of his head, and he fell to his knees, hoping there would not be another swing. He might not survive it when it came.

He saw two feet in front of him—meaningless details, he had shoes and pants just like those ones—why hadn’t he looked at the man’s face?—and then the last of consciousness left him.

Author’s Note: Robert was a bit stubborn again, though he is right about part of it and trying to be responsible.

Deliberation at Breakfast

Robert looked at the plate in front of him, not certain that he dared eat from it. The innkeeper had had been very generous in allowing him to stay last night, but the man’s wife still disapproved of him. Was it better, then, to eat so as not to offend his hosts or to refuse and cause no further burden or expense? He had not known before the plate was set before him, and he would have said no if he’d been able to think this through before then.

Despite having a welcoming bed and a roof above him, he had been unable to sleep, his mind on what he would do now. His situation was far from ideal, and he did not know how he would support himself. At this point, he thought he would have to give up his search for the man who’d stolen his name. He might never know why this had happened, and he had more or less given up all he had because of it.

He was a fool.

Still, he did not know that there was another choice he could have made after his father’s insensitive behavior. He had made the only decision that he felt he could, and now he had to find a way to live with it.

“You spend much time in your thoughts.”

Robert looked over at the innkeeper, forcing a smile. “I am poor company, I fear.”

“You have a great many concerns at present.” The other man reached for his coffee and took a sip before he pointed to Robert’s food. “I would think you of anyone would know the importance of eating even when you’re not hungry.”

“The war trained me to do many things. That was one of them, but I got out of the habit after my convalescence. My life of false luxury resumed.” Robert let out a breath, not looking at the food or the other man. “I cannot pay you for any of this, Mr. Millson. Why are you helping me?”

“There are more important things in life than money. Honor among them.” Millson set down his coffee. “You came here to do the honorable thing, didn’t you?”

“That depends. Most people think the honorable thing for me to do is marry Mrs. Winston, and that certainly was not my intention when I came.”

“Is it your intention now?”

“Are you suggesting that I let whatever income her family has sustain me now that I have disobeyed my father and been cut off? I could not ask them to accept the burden that I am, nor is it right to exploit the advantage I might have in being almost expected to marry her just because I am now penniless. If I was not willing to marry her before, I should not be permitted to ask now.”

“I wasn’t saying you should take advantage of anyone.”

“I am sorry. It does seem like I already am, so I may be overly sensitive to the thought.” Robert picked up his fork and turned it over in his hand. “I think my most immediate concern at present is how I will sustain myself for the next few days. I need employment.”


“I was trained to do things for my father’s company. It’s not much, but I suppose if there was anyone in need of some kind of secretary… I am willing to attempt manual labor, but with my arm, it is not the best idea.”

Millson rose. “It may be that someone has an open position. I do not know of any at present, but I think that there might be another step you might take first.”

Robert frowned. “You think I should go see Mrs. Winston now? I don’t think she’s allowed visitors, and I know that I would not be welcome. That is not an option at present. I think I should start with some kind of search for employment. I’m going to need funds, and without them, I should not even have a place to stay.”

“That has not been an issue.”

“Are you suggesting that it will be if I do not go see her?”

Millson laughed.

Author’s Note: It was hard to know how Robert would react to what he had done in the last part. He’s not really sure about it, either.

Lost in Contemplation

Robert felt… strange. That was the only word he could think of for his current mix of emotions and behavior. He had sat alone in the local park, not seeing the people pass by or the scenery around him. He did remember a vague thought passing through his mind that this place did not compare to Violet’s garden, but on the whole he noticed little of his surroundings or the passage of time.

He did not know what to think of what he had done. His words to his father echoed in his head, and he did not think that he regretted them. They should perhaps have been said sooner. Or never. That was what he was having trouble deciding.

He knew the practical thing was to go back to his father and beg forgiveness. He knew that was expected of him. He was supposed to honor his parents, and he’d tried to do that all his life, despite the fact that his mother did little that was not expressly dictated by his father and his father was unreasonable at best. Of course, like any child, he’d had his moments of impudence, of mischief and rule-breaking, but he’d never been so defiant before.

He was no longer a child. As he’d told his father, he’d lost the last of that innocence in the war. He had been old enough to fight and die for his country before he left, and what little exuberance he’d showed as a child—the beehive, the pies, the trickery—all of that had seemed to spoil on him the summer before he was drafted, when he was preparing for college. He had been readying himself to take on the mantle of his father’s business affairs, to learn all that was necessary for the role in management that he would be expected to fulfill. He’d considered running, but he had not. He had gone to school, he had taken his courses, he had passed them, he had been dutiful, and then came the war.

His father hadn’t wanted him to go. He would have paid to have Robert exempted or found some poor boy willing to go in his place, but for some reason, that did not happen. He’d gone, and he’d fought, and he’d lived somehow when he knew he shouldn’t have. When he’d learned the state of his arm, he’d been relieved to know he had that position in his father’s company to sustain him. He’d been fit for little else, not that he felt fit to run the company, but he had that as some small comfort.

Now he did not have it. He did not know what would become of him. He had no money now, and the room he’d rented would no longer be an option. He could not afford to pay for the time he had already spent there, and he doubted that his father would settle any of those debts for him. He had said he didn’t want the money, and he’d meant that.

He had not given enough consideration to those that he should pay, though. He had responsibilities or at least obligations, and he had to find a way to fulfill them.

“Your father left.”

Robert’s head jerked up, and he looked at the innkeeper with a frown. “He… I am surprised. I would have thought he’d wait a bit longer, expecting me to apologize.”

“Perhaps he means to have you do that at your own home.”

“I should not think myself welcome there, nor would I wish to be.” Robert let out a breath. He cast his eyes down to his hands. “You do not happen to know of someone in need of a temporary worker who is half-useless, do you? I am afraid I have no other way of paying you what I owe you. I had not thought of that before I angered my father, and I… I am sorry. My actions were heedless, and I should have given more thought before I spoke.”

“Considering what that man said about Mrs. Winston, I do not know that there is anything else you could have done.”

“Oh. You heard that, did you?”

“The whole town knows of his behavior.”

“I… I must apologize. I have long known he was… intolerant, but I’ve never seen him behave quite so maliciously before.”

“I don’t need the apology.”

“I did speak to Mrs. Winston already.”

“Good. Come with me, then. We’ll get you back to your room for the night, and in the morning, you can see what might be done about the rest of your situation.”

Author’s Note: Um, in simplest terms, Robert’s father is a jerk.

A Confrontation Between Father and Son

“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.”

Author’s Note: Having Violet stuck in her bed is kind of problematic, but there’s still stuff going on around her, I suppose.

Everyone’s temper is a bit short, too.

Cramped and Confined

“Would you bring me some pen and paper?” Violet asked, trying to adjust her position on the bed. She could not seem to find a good position to sit to alleviate the pain in her back, and she would much rather not be in her bed at all, not that she was certain that she had the strength to walk around. Still, she had come to despise this place over the course of her pregnancy, and she needed a distraction if she couldn’t leave.

Her aunt shook her head, making no attempt to rise from her chair. The knitting she’d brought with her would appear to be more important than her niece’s wishes, but Violet was not so foolish as to think that her actions were done out of preoccupation. She knew her aunt. She knew how much Beatrice disapproved of all the choices she’d made, and since Violet was still making the same choices, her aunt was still annoyed, perhaps even angry.

“You are supposed to be resting.”

Violet sighed. “Do not scowl at me so, Aunt Beatrice. I did not… I have already been punished, do you not think so? I did not ask for Mr. Winston’s harsh words, nor am I feeling… well, but I do not need further censure. The discomfort in my back is plenty.”

Her aunt’s fingers moved her needles in quick progression, her mood showing in her stitches. “Then rest.”

“Beatrice, let her be.” Violet’s mother came over her side with the pen and paper, handing it to her. Violet smiled at her mother, who sat on the edge of the bed. She let out a breath, reaching out to touch her hand. “So he is leaving, is he?”

Her mother understood. Violet was not surprised. “He said that it would be necessary to get his father to go. That, and he feels that he had upset me too much. It should be a relief, I suppose, to have him go. It should help with my confusion, should make it easier for me to know what is real and what is not, shouldn’t it?”

Her mother touched her cheek. “Oh, yes, I imagine that it will, and yet it will not be easy.”

Violet closed her eyes. “Why should I miss him already? He is still a stranger to me.”

Beatrice snorted. “Hardly.”

“You are bitter, but you need not treat your niece this way. Violet did not do wrong, and it is unfair of you to treat her that way. You cannot fault her for hesitating before a second marriage. I do not recall you encouraging me to have one, and I was a widow.”

Beatrice grunted. “Your circumstances were different. A widow is not the same. You were unmarried by circumstance. She is unmarried by choice.”

Violet glared at her aunt. “You cannot force the man to marry me, and had someone not taken his name, there would be no need of it. I would be married now if Winston had not lied when he signed those papers. It might even be argued that I am married to that man regardless of his name.”

“I sincerely hope not,” her mother said. She patted Violet’s hand, reminding her of the pen. “Write to him if you like. If you can help him find the man who deceived you, then you should.”

“You do not think it is foolish to try and remain in communication with him, do you?” Violet turned over to her aunt. “Do not say it. I know what you think.”

“Do you? Perhaps he will realize what a fool he is and do the honorable thing yet. You need to remind him of what that truly is.”

“Oh, if only I could sin and get pregnant and convince him to marry me to save my honor,” Violet said, getting a look from her mother as well as her aunt for that mockery. She smiled. Beatrice rose in a huff, taking her knitting with her as she departed.

“You should not provoke your aunt that way.”

“I hate how everyone tells me that I should marry him. I don’t know how I feel, so why should I be pressured into marrying him? It’s… He doesn’t want me, and I do not know that it would ever be wise to push a man who is not ready for marriage into it, no matter how I might feel about him.”

“He seems to be a very decent man.”

Violet sighed. “We both thought Winston was a decent man. He was not.”

“We may have been fooled, yes, but still, I do not think writing to Robbie can be harmful. You may help him, and he may come to feel differently than he does now. I do not think that he does not care at all, or he would not have thought he should go to spare you pain.”

“I know, but do not hope for too much. He is not going to fix everything that Winston did wrong even if he marries me.”

“As long as he makes you happy and takes good care of the child, the rest will not matter.”