“I’m a missionary. It’s what we do,” she reminded him.
“Weren’t you determined to be a shop owner?”
“That was before.”
“Before my entire life took a turn for the worst and kept on going,” she said flatly.
And now that wrong turn most assuredly included him. He, Liam Stewart, the seventh Duke of Lennox, who’d never done harm to anyone in his life, was responsible for another’s misery. God, hadn’t he mere months ago, lectured Sebastian on being a stand-up kind of guy? Hadn’t he been the one to lecture him about shady dealings and asinine behavior?
“Shall I stay while you finish eating?”
She put her plate on the tray. “I’m done.” Then she unwrapped the blanket from herself and stood, toeing on her boots.
“May I ask what you’re doing?”
“Going back to my hotel,” she replied, slipping out her phone to presumably text a cab.
“You’re welcome to stay here.”
“We’re not married.”
He stared up at her in askance. “You’re quite serious, aren’t you?”
“You might not understand, but I want to at least attempt to find my way again,” she said.
Liam stood. “Find your way to what?”
The pain in her eyes nearly devastated him. “To the woman I used to be.”
As she walked out of the room, he realized two things.
One, she’d never given him a date.
Two, he had no idea where she was staying.
The conversation with her parents had gone better than expected. They’d been shocked and concerned, but in the end, they had agreed to support her decision.
If her parents had noticed she hadn’t mentioned love once, they were either too caught up in the fact they would be grandparents or didn’t want to make the situation worse for her.
She hugged the pillow from the bed to her chest, wishing her family were here. Maybe even Daisy or Haven, but she hadn’t told either of them her plans.
Guess that was what she got for being ashamed and prideful. And hadn’t Daisy told her the truth right away? What kind of friend was she not to reciprocate and trust Daisy not to judge her?
Obviously, she was the worst friend on the planet. The only thing saving her from crap status was that Daisy and Sebastian had made up, gotten married in the most beautiful ceremony ever, and were even more in love.
There was a light knock. Wrinkling her nose, she let go of the pillow and stood, before walking to the door. She peered through the peephole and then stepped back, more than a little surprised at the sight of Liam standing there.
It was six am—eleven am US time.
She peered at him again. His hair was disheveled and he looked as though he’d slept as much as she had, which wasn’t much at all.
Quickly running her hands though her hair, she counted to three and then opened the door.
“Hullo,” he said, his voice warm. “Mind if I come in?”
“No.” She closed the door behind him as he walked past her. “Is something the matter?”
“I think we should be married this weekend.”
Her eyes widened. “But that’s not enough time to reserve the church and invite people.” Gosh, what would people say—two Edwards kids married in haste within the last six months. The whole purpose of them getting married was to save her from gossiping old biddies and the disappointment of her family. “I need more time than that.”
“No, we have to marry, before anyone finds out you’re pregnant, else my child can’t inherit,” Liam insisted. “A condition of the bloody will.”
“But people do know I’m having your child,” she said, confused.
“Not the right people.” He ran a hand through his dark hair, making it even more disheveled. “My solicitors can’t find out. When the baby is born, we’ll attribute its early arrival to—to, well, being early.”
“Why does a will matter or solicitors?”
His cheeks flushed. “Ah. That. Yes. Right. You see, my grandfather outlived my father, and so he made a new will. One that would ensure I turn out nothing like my father. Not that he needed an official document for that,” he muttered, more to himself than to her. “In any case, the will states that I cannot inherit the family fortune until I get married and have an heir. Half when I’m married, the rest when the baby’s born.”
Understanding dawned. “You only proposed marriage because you wanted money, not because you wanted to do right by the baby and me?” She should have known. There must be something super special about her to attract men like this.
“That’s a rather mercenary picture you’ve painted of me,” he said.
“You were the one with all the paint. I just connected the dots.”
“The money isn’t for me.”
She crossed her arms and just looked at him.
“Alright, it is for me, but it’s also for my family, for generations of families who’ve—I need the blasted money in order to keep hundreds employed and to restore Wintersea. It’s been three years since the last proper repair, and it’s crumbling. I’m barely getting by. I’m responsible for so many, and I want to bloody pay them.” He ended his speech on a shout.
“Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” she asked calmly. She had to keep calm or she’d end up yelling at him right back.
“Because it’s none of your business,” he bit out, as if it pained him.
“Until now, when you want to manipulate me.” This would never work. She should have never called her parents, never told them anything until she was ready. Heck, she could have gone to stay with friends in about thirteen different countries and experienced relative peace.
“I am not your ex-fiancé any more than you are mine,” he said.
Oh well, that made everything better. “Meaning she knew about the will.”
He gave her a stiff nod. “I told her as soon I learned the truth. We’d only been engaged for a month when my grandfather succumbed to Leukemia, and after burying him—I wanted nothing to do with the title or the money. None of it.”
Curiosity got the better of her. “Why is that?”
“Because I felt guilty.”
Now that she could understand. Guilty was a completely familiar emotion to her. For a long time, it was the only emotion she gave herself permission to feel. “We can’t help the circumstances we’re born into. We can only choose to make things better or worse for ourselves.”