The American Heir(The Billionaire Duke Series Book 4)(5)By: Gina Robinson
We cooked up a plan and sent Helen away to New York and the East to "cheer her up" and mend her broken heart. She was gone a long time. Over nine months. In the meantime, I made plans to adopt a baby from a "friend" who was in trouble.
It all worked out. We were exceedingly careful and clever. But I'm still amazed we were never caught or found out. You were the one fly in the ointment. All those damned letters of yours that began arriving with a fury. There were times, many of them, when I thought Helen would relent and open one.
Would you hate me very much if I told you I encouraged her not to? You must understand. I wanted that baby with my heart and soul. With every ounce of my being. What right did you have to her?
But no force on earth could make Helen do something she didn't want to. And she was too hurt to want to hear from you. She had the baby, my beloved Gloria. Who was truly my daughter. I have loved her as my own and cherished her all my life. She has been my greatest gift. Her and her daughter and now her granddaughter. I hope that's some comfort. Though maybe my confession will only make you jealous and angrier.
Bygones, Rans. It was a bygone era. It's now a bygone life. For me, anyway. You'll probably live to be a hundred. What would you have done with a daughter? She wouldn't have been the precious male heir you so badly needed. But I have loved her.
Anyway, back to Helen. We got lucky. She popped back into shape and good spirits, seemingly none the worse for the wear, as they say. No stretch marks. No scars. After she gave Gloria to me, the baby was my daughter. She was her auntie. Helen never looked back. And neither should you.
Mama and Papa were thrilled to have their sunny daughter back. And then you showed up to reclaim Helen. You with your Clark Gable good looks and your English charm and title—how could she resist you? Especially when you were finally determined to have her. You have always been a force to be reckoned with. Damn your charm, Rans. You took my sister away.
I don't think you ever knew what it cost her to choose you. Although she was content to play auntie, I know she would have loved to watch Gloria grow up. To play an active part in her life. If only you hadn't come back, she could have married one of her many local suitors, stayed in Seattle, and watched her girl become a woman. Instead, you swept her away with you and she was doomed to watch from afar.
I don't believe Helen ever stopped loving you. Not during that long absence and first pregnancy, nor any time after. Does that satisfy your vanity? Give you faith in true love? She finally came to believe you really loved her. I have to give you credit for that.
I don't know whether it pained Helen to keep your child a secret from you. I don't know whether she ever cried for Gloria. I'm not sure you would have found anything suspicious about her great fondness for her niece.
There were worries, of course. I thanked God every day that Gloria looked nothing like you, while dreading that some resemblance would eventually show. But she looked too much like Helen and me. I shrugged off the resemblance as a happy coincidence and hinted that my "friend" was a distant cousin.
If Mama and Papa ever suspected the truth, they never mentioned it to me.
And so there you have it, Rans. The truth, finally. You do have an heir, an American heir. Not that it does you any good, all of your children and grandchildren being female. And Gloria being illegitimate. But if it's any comfort, your line lives on.
I do have one favor to ask. I've lived a long and full life and enjoyed myself immensely. What I haven't done is accumulate wealth. Whatever I got from Mama and Papa is long gone. I have nothing to leave the next generation.
I'm asking you to leave something to your grandchildren when you go. For Helen's sake. It's what she would have wanted. It doesn't have to be much. Some valuable bauble of Helen's, perhaps? Or enough cash to give them a sound start in life. You've always been smart. Even if you decide not to reveal your true identity to them, I'm sure you can find a way to leave them something without arousing suspicion.
A letter is old-fashioned. I suppose I could have called. But letters are our way, aren't they? A thing from the past. And they can be destroyed, burned in the fire, and no one will be the wiser.
Do what you will, Rans. Take this secret to your grave or go meet the newest member of your family line. In case you have any curiosity about her, I've enclosed a picture of your great-granddaughter, Haley. She's a little beauty if I do say so myself. Looks a lot like Helen did as a baby.
It's been a grand life, hasn't it?
Good luck, Rans, whatever you decide.
All my love,
Your devoted sister-in-law,
I took my time rereading the letter. By the time I finished, I had tears in my eyes. And a lump in my throat from seeing my name mentioned. I reread several key passages over and over.