“That’s a vulgar question even for you,” she said crossly, avoiding answering the question the only way she knew how.

Robert’s eyes narrowed on her. She’d avoided answering the question the same way she had when they were children and she was caught doing something mischievous. But that was ridiculous. If she were pregnant she would tell him. She was a smart woman. She knew the consequences of having a child out of wedlock. She would be shunned and the child would carry the burden of the shame for the rest of his life. Unless….

His gaze shot to the closed door. Was she planning on marrying James to give his child a father? He ground his teeth until the muscles in his jaw burned under the pressure.

“Are you carrying my child?” he bit out, deciding to end whatever game she was playing.

“No.” I’m carrying my child, she thought as she tried to get a rein on the rebellious emotions clamoring for control inside of her. It was the only way she could lie. Everyone knew that she was a terrible liar, sometimes though she was able to lie if she thought about the answer in a different way. As much as she hated the idea of marrying for anything less than love, she also hated the idea of trapping him. She cared about him too much to do that and she didn’t want to hurt him. She just needed some time to figure out how to tell him without him hating her. One thing was clear, she needed to leave before anyone else figured out that she was pregnant and took the decision on how to tell him out of her hands.

Robert studied her expression for a moment longer. She was a bad liar, he remembered that much. He was hoping he would be able to tell, but he couldn’t. He sighed heavily. “Listen, we…..I didn’t do what I should have and there may be…” he took a deep breath before continuing. “There may be a child as a result of what we did today. In a month’s time we should know.”

Her eyes widened in horror. “I won’t be here, Robert. I’m leaving by the end of the week.”

He shook his head. “No, you’re staying until we know for sure.” He gestured back to the desk. “And we most certainly will not be doing this again.” It sounded like the last part pained him, but she had to agree that it was probably for the best.

Elizabeth placed her hands firmly on her hips. “No, I am leaving. If something happens because of this, I will write you,” she said, realizing that it was the cowardly way to handle this and that was fine with her. She’d rather not be there to see the horror in his eyes when he learned that he was trapped with her for life.

“No. You’re staying,” he said firmly. He didn’t trust her to contact him for some reason that he couldn't quite put his finger on. Also, he wasn’t ready for her to leave, not yet.

She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply before continuing. “Robert, I am going. I have been waiting for weeks to go and I refuse to put this off any longer.”

“You’ll stay,” he ordered. “Besides, it doesn’t seem as though your father is going to allow you to leave anytime soon. Seems he has plans for you,” he snapped, anger once again rising at the thought of her marrying James.

“You don’t have the right to tell me what to do!”

He took a menacing step towards her. “You will stay !”

“I’m leaving!” she yelled.

“The hell you are! You will stay until we get this whole mess settled. Once that is done, you can stay the hell away from my family!” He took another step until they were mere inches apart. She pressed her hands flat against his chest and shoved him, but he didn’t budge.

“I will go near whomever I wish and it is none of your concern who I marry. If I chose to marry James, that will be none of your business either!” She had absolutely no plans on marrying James, but that seemed the best thing to throw in his face at the moment.

He glared down at her. Perhaps she’d gone too far because at the moment she was pretty sure that he was seeing red.

“You will never marry my brother,” he said in a low harsh tone. “If you even try, I will make sure everyone knows who had you first. I’ll tell them how you took me in your body and in your mo-”

She cut him off with a hard slap across his face. The sound seemed intense in the otherwise quiet library. This time when she shoved him back he moved.

“I hate you!” she ground out between clenched teeth as she wiped frantically at the tears streaming down her cheeks. She shoved her hand in her pocket and pulled out his knife. She threw it out the open window before he could take it from her. “Stay away from me or so help me God, I will make you pay,” she choked out before she ran from the room.

She pressed a hand to her stomach, pleading with it to calm down long enough for her to reach her room as she ran upstairs, ignoring the servants’ curious glances as she past them. No sooner was she in her room than she lost the battle with her stomach. She raced across the room, past Jane, who was hanging a dress, and grabbed the chamber pot. She lost the contents of her stomach once again, not able to stop herself and knowing as she did it that the servant in her room might very well seal her fate.

Chapter 19

Robert picked up the ledgers off the floor and tossed them onto the desk. He shoved his hands through his hair, wishing that he was punching someone, anyone.

He couldn’t stand this. The one woman in the world that he shouldn’t want was the one woman he was discovering that he couldn’t live without. She was becoming an obsession for him and he was powerless to do anything about it.

Even a half hour later he was having a difficult time believing that a part of him had hoped that she was going to tell him that she was carrying his child. When he’d discovered that she wasn’t pregnant, he felt like part of him died over a child that had never been.

For the past eight years he’d lived his life according to a plan, and so far everything was going smoothly. This time was meant for him to build up his estate and investments so that he could do what he loved for the rest of his life. He should be relieved that she wasn’t interfering with his plans instead of standing here fuming.

What he needed was to take a mistress. He needed someone that wouldn’t interfere with his life and was there when he needed relief. That’s what he wanted, someone that wouldn’t make him lose his control. Hell, he didn’t care if she was pretty as long as she had a warm body and knew her place. He would talk to his brother later to see who was available.

He ignored the sudden clenching of his stomach at the thought of being with another woman. This was how it was. Men of his station kept lovers and mistresses. Even his father kept mistresses and he cared about his wife. Every man he knew did this. It was time he did as well.

With that settled, he sat back down at the desk, hating himself because he knew that he could never do it. What was wrong with him? There was really no need to wonder why he couldn’t go through with it. It only made his anguish worse.

A light scratch at the door tore him from his inner turmoil. “Enter,” he snapped.

Marie, his mother’s maid, stepped inside and immediately closed the door behind her. She walked into the room, fidgeting with her fingers and looking around nervously.

“What is it?” he forced himself to ask politely. Scaring this woman off would not be smart. His mother kept this woman around for her ability to gather gossip. She was the best. There wasn't anything she couldn’t find out, which was why Robert had been paying her a hefty sum for the past month to come straight to him with everything concerning Elizabeth.