“I DON’T BELIEVE IT.” Alexander’s ruddy complexion flushed more red than usual. “This report comes from sources who oppose my daughter’s betrothal to Colonel Vershinin.”
“I can assure you, Alexander,” the Countess said. “I’ve had my own people investigate him. The Tsar has funded Vershinin’s gambling debt for years.”
“Oh sister, what will people say?” Kira’s mother wrung her hands and paced the room.
Kira interrupted. “They will say I was fortunate to have found out in time.”
Alexander strummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. Kira sat across from him her thoughts reverted to Roman’s recovery. She had visited him in the infirmary several times a day in the past week.
Alexander cleared his throat. “We will have to manage.”
“Papa.” Kira, wide eyed, sat forward. “You can’t mean to carry on with this charade?”
“He is a Romanov, my dear. What can we do?” Alexander remained steadfast while his wife wept in the background.
“You can threaten to cut off my dowry,” Kira said. “If its fortune he wants, he shan’t gain it from me.”
“Impractical,” Alexander responded. “Gossip has reached the court. The scandal is on us.”
Kira’s mother exploded with a loud wail. “Woman—Silence,” he said.
“You can go to the Tsar and ask for special consideration,” the Countess said.
“You must implore the Colonel, Papa. Tell him the truth. I love another.”
Alexander raised one eyebrow and said, “That he already knows.” Kira’s mother continued to snivel.
“I had hoped to avoid telling you this, but now feel I have no choice,” the Countess said.
“My spies tell me that Vershinin has cavorted for years in brothels and is now diseased. Kira will surely succumb to blindness and insanity. Is this the life you wish for your daughter?”
Alexander rose from his seat. “Enough.” He pulled his fingers through what remained of his hair and looked around the room. “I shall speak with Mikhail Vershinin.”
Kira hugged her father and kissed both his cheeks. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
“Daughter, there are no assurances. The dissolution must come from the Colonel.”