In the Shadow of Your Wings (Northshire Heritage Book 1)(8)

By: J.P. Robinson

“Greyson.” His eyes shifted from the butler’s black swallowtail coat and spotless white shirt to the face of his dead wife. He steeled himself against the dull ache in his heart that never faded despite the incessant march of time. After Isabella’s death, Thomas had been unable to deny Malcolm any of his varying wants.

He had given his son free reign while drowning his grief in his work at the Bank of England, hoping that material trifles would distract the boy from the emptiness caused by his mother’s passing. It appeared that his indulgence had created yet another problem. He now had a reckless prodigal on his hands.

“The cancer was too far advanced, your Lordship.” Greyson’s resonant voice broke through his troubled thoughts.

“I should have found a way.” Thomas pounded his fist against the palm of his left hand. “A new doctor. Another new medicine.” He gripped the back of a leather-embossed armchair. “Think of it, man. We live in an age of science and still diseases can rip out our hearts at any time!”

His butler arched an eyebrow. “We both know that science is not the answer.”

“I know.” Thomas exhaled slowly. “It is God who gives life and God who takes it when our purpose is complete. But it hurts, Greyson.”

His gaze shifted to the portrait of Malcolm. Slick black hair crested a narrow face and scruffy beard. He looked more like a playboy than the son of a renowned officer of the British Armed Forces. But that was what Malcolm had become—a selfish embarrassment who stood to inherit an immense fortune upon his father’s death.

“Isabella would have known how to keep him in line.” Thomas folded his arms across his chest.

“You believe the Lady Isabella could have stopped him from choosing this path?”

Thomas barked out a laugh as his eyes flitted to the butler. “Of course! I could always rely on her to get through to our son.”

“Then perhaps, Sir Thomas, that is why God has taken her away from you.” A faint smile touched Greyson’s lips. “So that you will rely only upon Him.” He dipped his head. “Sometimes a father must break his son’s heart, so he can prove just how much he cares.”

For a moment, Thomas couldn’t answer. A part of him rebelled at the thought that a loving father would take such extreme measures, but the soldier within him recognized the truth of Greyson’s words. Discipline. It was the difference between a murderer and a soldier, between a mob and an army. Realization flooded his mind. There was only one way to deal with the rebellion brewing in his own son’s heart.

Thomas narrowed his eyes. “Send Malcolm in the moment he returns.”

“He is already here, Your Lordship. He is waiting in the antechamber outside.” Greyson cleared his throat. “I felt it best to give you this telegram before he entered.” He withdrew a crisp envelope from the inner pocket of his white waistcoat.

“Thank you, Greyson.” Thomas opened the message. His eyes flew to the bottom of the page where he immediately recognized the scrawling signature of Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

His servant turned to leave but paused at the door. “You should know, your Lordship, that your son is not alone."

Thomas’s face darkened as Greyson’s implication became clear. He tossed the note onto the oval mahogany table before him. “So be it.”

By defying his father and bringing his whore to their estate, Malcolm had declared war. And war was a game Thomas played only to win.

Steele squared his shoulders and spread his legs apart, his mouth settling into a grim line. The father was gone, replaced by the commanding officer who would achieve his objective, no matter the cost. “Send him in.”

MALCOLM’S FIRST THOUGHT upon entering the room was that his father had abandoned his retirement and returned to the army. There was no trace of the indulgent parent now. This man glared with eyes that seemed to rip through his body, leaving him feeling naked and vulnerable.

For the first time in his life, Malcolm felt fear in his father’s presence. He licked his lips and sneaked a glance at Leila who stared at Thomas with widened eyes.

She had good reason to be nervous. Her last meeting with Sir Thomas Steele—the night of Malcolm’s wild party—had been nothing short of a nightmare. Malcolm balled his sweaty palms into fists, ignoring the racing of his heart. He would not be intimidated again. Not now that she was his wife.