Now we continue with confrontation between Kent and Rebecca. 🙂
It took all of Kent’s self-control not to pound on the Johnsons’ front door. He thought the walk to Rebecca’s would calm him, but he only grew angrier with each step. The front door opened and he forced his tone to remain polite as he said, “I’d like to talk to Miss Johnson.”
“Miss Johnson just went to the carriage house.”
Thanking the butler, Kent hurried around the house, determined he’d find Rebecca before she left. She owed him an explanation. His grip tightened around the bottle in his coat pocket. He wasn’t going to leave until she told him why she did it.
He flung the door to the carriage house open and made it two steps in when he saw her jerk from the young man she’d been kissing.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded, not sure what surprised him more: the fact that she had drugged him to get him into bed with her or seeing her in another man’s arms.
She quickly pulled away from the stable hand, her face a wild shade of red. “Kent, I…” She glanced at the young man and cleared her throat. Turning back to Kent, she continued, “I’m sorry.”
The stable hand hurried to stand between her and Kent. “Why are you apologizing, Rebecca? You don’t want to marry him. You want to marry me.”
“Samuel, let me handle this,” she said, her eyes pleading with him to do as she wished.
He crossed his arms, his jaw clenched.
She turned to Kent and clasped her hands in front of her. “Kent, what Samuel said is true, but,” she glanced at Samuel, “my father will never allow it. Samuel, I’m sorry, but I can’t.” She released her hands and sighed. “My father is insistent I marry someone with money.”
Samuel shook his head. “Who cares what he thinks? You think money will make you happy?”
“It’s not as easy as that,” she replied.
“It is that easy, but you refuse to acknowledge it.”
“No, it isn’t,” she insisted. “Please, Samuel. You’re only making things worse.”
He threw his hands up in the air. “Fine. I’m out of here.”
Kent waited until he stormed out of the carriage house before turning back to her. “What’s going on?” he asked in a tone that was more bewildered than angry.
She approached him, her expression pleading with him to understand. “Kent, I have all the respect in the world for you. You’re a good man, an honest man, a decent man. I promise that I won’t see Samuel anymore.”
“But you want to see him.”
Wincing, she shook her head. “I can’t. I won’t.”
“Because I’m going to marry you. I can’t betray my vows to you.”
“Why are you marrying me? Because of this?” He brought the bottle out of his pocket and showed it to her, only mildly satisfied when her face paled. “Don’t pretend you didn’t bring this to my house and put it in my drink because it couldn’t have been anyone else.”
After a moment, she swallowed then lowered her gaze. “Yes, I did it. Your father told me no one would be in the house except for you.”
“Why did you do it? You didn’t even want to be with me this whole time, but you went through the trouble of slipping this in my drink so it’d look like we were together…that way. Or did we really…?” He couldn’t even bring himself to say it aloud, even after all this time.
“We didn’t. It only looked like we’d be intimate, but we never were.”
“Um…” She took a deep breath and cleared her throat. “Your father caught me in a compromising position with Samuel and threatened to tell my father if I didn’t make it look like you and I had been in bed together.”
“But… Wait. Let’s start from the beginning. I thought you were interested in me.”
“It was all an act. Kent, that first night your family came to my house for dinner, my father wanted us to marry. Your family has old money and my father got along with yours. He figured an alliance with your family would benefit him financially.”
At that, he laughed. Financially beneficial? If her father only knew how poor they were at the time, he never would have wanted such a thing. But now his father was very well off, thanks to the investments, and in the years to come, he’d be rich again. His father’s ploy had worked. No one would be the wiser.
“I don’t know what’s so funny,” Rebecca said.
“Nothing.” He stopped laughing and motioned for her to continue.
Though she looked hesitant, she nodded. “Alright. Well, my father insisted that I do everything I could to be charming. When I realized you wanted to be with Ann Statesman, this was easier to do. I knew you’d never marry me, and when you married her, my father couldn’t fault me for not trying. But then, your father saw me with Samuel…” She wiped a tear from her eye and took a shaky breath. “I am so sorry, Kent. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I was so scared. Your father said I either do it or he’d hire someone to remove Samuel.”
His eyebrows furrowed. “Remove Samuel? What does that mean?”
“I think you know what it means.”
“No, my father wouldn’t kill anyone.”
“I didn’t say he was going to kill him. He was going to hire someone to kill him.”
“I can’t believe that.”
She adjusted the collar on her coat and shrugged. “Then don’t. But that doesn’t change why I did what I did. I wanted to protect Samuel. I’d rather spend my life without him than risk his life.”
“And does Samuel know?”
Tears filled her eyes. “Yes. He thinks we can just run off and make a life for ourselves, but he has no money and I won’t have any if I don’t marry someone my father wants me to marry. My father will never allow a marriage with him. The whole thing is hopeless, and I never should have let it get as far as it did with him. The first time he expressed his feelings, I should have insisted my father hire someone else to take his place.”
“But you couldn’t.”
“I was weak.”
“There’s nothing wrong with pursuing love, even if it comes at the most unexpected time.” Letting out a heavy sigh, he slipped the bottle back into his pocket. “I can’t fault you for what you did.”
He knew his father could be manipulative, knew his father would do many things to get what he wanted, but he still couldn’t believe his father would make good on a threat to have someone killed for not doing what he wanted. Rebecca had been too scared to consider his father was bluffing.
He considered their options. He didn’t want to marry her any more than she wanted to marry him. What had led them to this point was no longer relevant. What they needed to do was figure out a way to move forward.
“Rebecca,” he began, “what if I could get enough money saved up to help you and Samuel leave Virginia and start a new life somewhere else?”
She blinked back her tears. “You’d do that?”
“I will but no one can know about it, and I can’t do it right now. We have to wait until about March or April.” That was when his investments gained enough profit to make it possible. “We have to bide our time until then and pretend we’re still engaged.”
“Kent, after all I did to deceive you, I don’t deserve it.”
“I know how my father is. He manipulates things until he gets what he wants. We can work through the details later.”
To his surprise, she hugged him. “Thank you.”
Feeling more at peace than he had in a long time, he smiled and patted her back. “Everything will be alright.” And once he found Ann and told her the good news, it would be.