“Oh no, you poor thing. Did Seth hear him?”
This was the part I didn’t really want to admit to Grant. I already knew how he was going to respond. I tried to skip over that and I said, “I met a man who might be able to help me though…”
“Wait! Back up! You completely ignored my question. Why don’t you want to tell me if Seth heard what his father said?”
“Because it’s embarrassing,” I said. “His father so obviously scares him to death… he’s completely intimidated by him.”
“So what did he say?”
Grant slammed his glass down on the table in front of him and stood up. “Are you freaking kidding me? That cowardly bastard just stood there and let you be insulted by his father? Please tell me you’re joking!”
“Sit down, Grant… please.”
He sat down and said, “You know I just care about you. I can’t stand the thought of anyone being rude to you… but for that man you have such strong feelings for to not even stick up for you…”
“I know. I was as angry as you are.”
“Was? What happened to make you less angry, because I think I’ll need a couple more bottles of wine before I can even consider that prospect.”
“I’m still a little angry with him. But think about it, Grant. Think about what it must have been like for him to grow up with that tyrant. He was programmed to do things the way James wanted him to do and only that way… or I am sure there would have been consequences. Seth has a good heart. His father has a black heart. They had to clash… a lot.”
“Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe Seth just lets his father be the bad guy and he sits back and gets the girls because they feel sorry for him. Maybe he’s got a good racket going. Or maybe you’re just making excuses for him.”
With a sigh I said, “Okay, for now we’ll let that part of the evening lie. Let me tell you about the man that I met.” I told him about Phillip and our conversation.
“Are you sure you can trust him?”
“No, but he’s really the best shot I have so far. He gives me a good feeling and he had some really nice things to say about my family.”
“Well that’s good. I hope he can help. Maybe you won’t need to hang around with that Seth guy any longer then.”
I laughed, “I thought we were going to leave the Seth issue alone for now.”
“I’m just really mad at that guy,” he said.
“Well, I am too, a little. But, while I was hiding out in the study I found some papers that I think might be important. I found out that my father was suing James for a breach of confidentiality, and James was suing him back for slander. I need to get more details, but I won’t ever get back into that study if I break up with Seth.”
“You plan on going back to that place?”
“First chance I get,” I told him. He made a face at me and poured himself another glass of wine.
The night after the ball ended, I didn’t sleep a wink. It was after midnight before the guests began leaving and I was exhausted. I told my father he could go on back to the city and I would just stay at the Hampton house for the night. It was my favorite house of them all, because it had been my mother’s favorite. I rarely stayed there any more however because my father was there a lot and I avoided him as often as I could for obvious reasons. After everyone had finally gone I lay down and tried to close my eyes. When I did, all I could see was Erin’s face. It was a beautiful face and I loved looking at it, but tonight she had looked so hurt and so betrayed. I had completely failed her. I stood there like a coward and let my father say ugly things to her and about her and I did nothing. She had every right to be angry with me. She had every right to never want to see me again. She had seen my true colors. She’d seen how spineless I was when it came to my father.
I had been terrified of him my entire life. When my mother was alive, she was a buffer between us. She was our go-between and I rarely had to deal with him. The problem with that was once she’d passed away I had no idea how to talk to him or how to stand up to him. He doled out the orders and I did what he said to do. I wasn’t physically afraid of him… he’d never hurt me in that way. I wasn’t even afraid when he made threats to take away my inheritance. I had a good education. I knew how competent I was, I could make a good living with or without him. I wasn’t going to pretend I didn’t like the wealth and all that came with it… but I didn’t depend on it. In spite of all of that, and in spite of the fact that he never told me I’d done anything good or right, I still had this twisted sense of wanting to please him. Maybe I needed therapy.