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. 😛
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.