I figure we’re hovering around the halfway point in this novella. This is where things start to take a bad turn for Kent. The only thing that makes writing the worsening of Kent’s situation is knowing he gets a second chance in Lassoing Her Groom.
As a disclaimer, this is in first draft form.
“Your uncle sent another letter,” Kent’s father told him during dinner.
“What does he want? Money?” his mother asked, glancing up from her plate.
“Probably.” He glanced at the butler who remained close by in case they needed anything. Clearing his throat, he said, “He also wants Kent to visit him.”
“Me?” Kent asked, surprised.
“Don’t worry. I have no intention of sending you to Ireland,” his father replied then sipped his wine. “Your uncle could probably use help on his farm. He has no children.”
“Did he have a wife?” This was the most he’d heard of his uncle’s life.
“He did but she died in childbirth.”
His mother pressed her hand on her heart. “That’s most unfortunate.”
“Well, living in poverty, it’s hard to expect a thriving family,” his father said and cut into his steak.
“A lady doesn’t have to be in poverty to die in childbirth,” Kent argued. “This isn’t something restricted to a person’s station in life.”
“Given Miss Stateman’s situation, it’s no wonder you feel that way,” he murmured, his voice low enough to go undetected by the butler.
Kent’s face warmed and he tightened his hold on his fork. Ann had nothing to be ashamed of. So what if her real mother had been a runaway who happened to cross paths with Mrs. Statesman. Mr. and Mrs. Statesman were kind in providing shelter and food for the young woman who ended up dying while giving birth to Ann. And besides, the Statemans actually had money, unlike his parents who only pretended to.
“There’s no sense in dwelling on the past,” Kent’s mother said and shot his father a meaningful look. “Miss Stateman comes from one of the richest families in town. You can’t deny how successful they’ve been.” With a glance at Kent, she smiled. “A good match, if I do say so myself.”
Kent returned her smile. He couldn’t agree more. Ann was perfect, the ideal wife. Now that her father had consented to let him court her, there was nothing stopping him from marrying her. He’d marry the woman he loved and secure his parents’ future as soon as school was over.
“Rebecca would have been a better match,” his father said. “The Johnsons would make better in-laws.”
“That’s not your choice,” his mother replied in a firm tone that gave a slight edge to her smile. “We’ve been hoping our son will find a suitable lady and he has. That’s all that matters.”
His father shrugged but didn’t argue with her.
Releasing his breath, Kent turned his attention back to the meal. Thankfully, his father wouldn’t hinder his plan to marry Ann.
“Another splendid evening,” Kevin’s father told Mr. Johnson as he rose from the chair in the Johnsons’ parlor.
“Yes,” Mr. Johnson agreed. “Our children make a good match.”
“Indeed they do.”
Kent turned away from the two men and rolled his eyes. He didn’t care much for the dinner engagements his parents insisted he go to at the Johnsons’ but he had no choice. At least not yet. Once he married Ann and secured the generous dowry her father offered, he would be free from his parents’ demands. Better yet, he’d get his own piano and play every day after he came home from work. He ran his hands over the Johnsons’ piano, admiring the sleek surface. Besides Ann, few things were as wonderful as the music this instrument produced.
Rebecca sat next to him on the bench. “You seem preoccupied this evening.”
He scooted away from her. He hated it when she intentionally got close to him. He thought she’d stop once his courtship with Ann was official, but she only seemed to get worse.
She brushed her hand against his, and he pulled back. With a chuckle, she said, “There’s no need to be shy. We’re friends, aren’t we?”
He struggled with knowing how to answer her. His parents were fond of her. There was no doubt they would prefer to marry her because doing so would secure him a notable position in Mr. Johnson’s company, thus increasing their wealth. But the decision wasn’t theirs to make. Ultimately, it was his and he couldn’t imagine sharing his life with anyone but Ann. Even so, he dare not upset Rebecca by revealing the simple that he would never love her, that his heart would always belong to another. As it was, Kent’s father was hopeful Mr. Johnson might consider a financial partnership with him, and it would require half of Ann’s dowry to make it happen so Mr. Johnson wouldn’t learn the truth about his financial standing. But if he could manage it, then Kent would truly be free from his father’s demands. So no, he dare not do anything to upset Rebecca because her father would, in turn, undoubtedly be upset too.
Kent cleared his throat, ignoring the way she smiled at him with more romantic interest than she should. “Of course we’re friends.” He made sure to emphasize the ‘friends’ part of the sentence, but he wasn’t sure she noticed, especially since her smile widened.
“We have so much in common,” she replied. “Our love of music, for one. Our parents get along infamously well. We come from old money. We’re both attractive and refined, which isn’t the case with everyone in our social standing. Those are just a few things we have in common. I’m sure in time we’ll discover more.”
Her shoulder brushed his, and he bolted to his feet. When her eyebrows furrowed, he said, “I just remembered something I need to tell my mother. If you’ll excuse me.”
She inclined her head to excuse him, so he went over to his parents. Since his mother was only listening as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson talked to his father, he whispered, “Mother, is it time to leave yet?”
“Almost,” she replied. Glancing at Rebecca who was putting the songbook away, she asked, “Are you not enjoying yourself?”
“You know my intentions are for Ann.”
With a sigh, she nodded. “As long as her father lets you marry her, then there won’t be a problem.”
She hesitated for a moment then said, “It won’t hurt to entertain thoughts of Rebecca, just in case.”
He clasped his hands behind his back. “I thought you supported me in marrying Ann.”
“As long as the lady you marry comes from money, I don’t care who she is.”
Kent’s father looked in his direction. “Is everything alright?”
Kent and his mother turned their gazes to him and Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. His mother smiled. “Everything is fine. Kent was just telling me how much he enjoys playing the piano while Rebecca sings.”
Kent forced aside the urge to grimace when he saw the pleased expression on everyone’s faces. If he didn’t act, and act quick, he might not be able to marry Ann as he hoped. It was becoming clear his father, Rebecca, and her parents were all in agreement that he should marry Rebecca.