This continues Kent’s side of things in Falling In Love With Her Husband. 🙂
Kent’s gaze went to Ann who was dancing with Todd. Todd. Of all the men she could have chosen to go to the ball with, it had to be Todd. No doubt her father had arranged it. From across the room, he could tell she wasn’t happy, and what was worse was knowing that he’d only added to her misery by coming here with Rebecca.
His gaze went to his father who was laughing at something Mr. Johnson said. His father glanced his way, and Kent quickly looked away. What could he do? His course was set. By his own actions, he’d sealed his future…and Ann’s. Ann would probably marry Todd, even though she didn’t want to. Fathers had a way of making sure what they wanted happened.
“Kent’s been very attentive to my every need,” Rebecca told Debra who stood across from them with her dance partner. “Our parents are delighted of course. And why wouldn’t they be? You know how well they get along.”
Kent forced his attention back to Rebecca and smiled. Indeed, their parents got along extremely well. Had his father gotten along with Ann’s father, he never would have gotten drunk that night and he wouldn’t be in this position now. Nor would he have subjected Ann to a life she never wanted. He took a deep breath to ease his guilt. God help him but he didn’t think he’d ever forgive himself for getting drunk that night.
Debra said something that made Rebecca laugh, jarring his attention back to her. He needed to focus on Rebecca instead of stealing glances in Ann’s direction. He couldn’t change the past. He’d deflowered Rebecca. The least he could do was give her his undivided attention.
“Would you like to dance?” he asked her as the orchestra got ready to play the next song.
“I’d love to,” Rebecca agreed and joined him on the floor where the other couples assembled for the next dance.
As the music started, he tried not to look in Ann’s direction but couldn’t help it. Todd was talking to her and she was shaking her head. The two headed for the veranda, which was out of his view.
Rebecca followed his gaze and sighed. “I’m sorry, Kent.”
Surprised, he turned his attention to her. “You have nothing to be sorry for.”
She glanced at their fathers, a flicker of uncertainty crossing her face.
He sensed she wanted to say something but decided against it. Instead, she offered him a tentative smile. “I know this isn’t the way you wanted things to be.” After a moment, she added, “It must be hard to watch Ann with Todd.”
He hesitated. While it would be a lie if he denied it, he didn’t want to admit it either.
“I understand. Some things are better left unsaid.”
He gave her a slight nod. It was the most he was willing to offer.
“I hope you don’t grow to detest me,” she whispered.
“Why would I do that?”
“Because I’m not her.”
“I won’t grow to detest you,” he promised. “I will never deny my responsibility for how things turned out.”
She lowered her gaze, something he wondered about. But then he figured that even if she wanted to be with him in his bed, she felt ashamed for acting on her desires.
“I think it’s safe to say that we’ve both done things we’re not proud of,” he whispered. “But there’s nothing we can do about it. Just accept it and move on.”
She nodded and they continued to dance. The passage of time was a strange thing. In some ways, the evening progressed well enough. Rebecca, as it was turning out, wasn’t as bad as he originally thought. He had no romantic inclination toward her, but he supposed they might develop something of a friendship after they married. He should be content with that. It was more than he hoped for when he realized he’d spent time in bed with her. Based on their conversations up to then, he assumed she lacked any significant depth. Now, he was learning his initial impression had been wrong.
But he couldn’t love her. Not like the way he loved Ann. When his third dance with Rebecca ended, she excused herself so she could talk to her friends. His gaze went once more to the doors of the veranda. He checked his pocket watch. Ann had been out there with Todd for almost fifteen minutes. That seemed like an unusual amount of time. He closed his eyes and slowly released his breath. He didn’t think he’d ever forget the expression on her face when he ended their courtship. And now he couldn’t talk to her, no matter how much he wanted to.
“Try to act like you’re enjoying yourself,” his father said.
Slipping his watch back in his pocket, he opened his eyes and faced him. “I’m doing the best I can.”
“You will do better than that. It’s obvious to everyone you keep looking for Miss Statesman. Your focus needs to be on Rebecca.”
He bit back the urge to snap at him. Why couldn’t his father leave him alone? He was doing the best he could, given the circumstances. “I’ve danced with her. Now she wants to talk to some friends. I haven’t talked to Ann all night, nor will I.”
“People are watching.”
“No, they aren’t.”
“Yes, they are.” Before Kent could walk away from him, his father grabbed his arm and squeezed it with enough pressure that Kent almost winced. “You will not make a fool of me.”
Kent forced his arm away from him. It was all about his father and how his father wanted everyone to perceive him. It was never about wanting to see his wife or son happy. And if he had to make others miserable, then so be it. “I won’t make a fool of Rebecca,” he finally said in a controlled voice so he wouldn’t give away his agitation. As much as he tried to fight it, he was beginning to detest his father, something he didn’t want but seemed to be happening despite his best efforts to appease him.
“See that you don’t.”
Ignoring the subtle threat in his father’s voice, he turned away from him and headed over to Rebecca who was laughing at something Debra told her.