KIRA CRINGED AT THE SOUNDS OF moans, coughs and wheezes that filled the eight-bed ward. At the end of the room, an attendant mopped the floor with a pungent solution that stung the inside of her nose. Her maid waited several feet away while Kira sat at Roman’s bedside.
“With all these sick people, it’s a wonder anyone can regain one’s health,” Kira said. “I’m glad you’ll be discharged tomorrow.”
Propped up with pillows, Roman rested his head against the back wall and exhaled. “Yes.”
“How’s your wound?”
Roman tried to rotate his shoulder and winced. “The doctor said the muscle will be stiff for awhile.” He caught his breath. “But if I continue to move it, I should regain full use. He said it was pure luck the bullet didn’t shatter anything.”
“The Lord, be praised,” Kira said and crossed herself.
“Amen.” Roman replied.
“Where are Fëdor and Boris? I haven’t seen them in days.”
“Called back to to St. Petersburg.” He frowned. “I, too, must return.”
Kira wrung her hands. “I have been trying to decide the right time to tell you something.” She blushed, hesitated then said, “After the incident…” She scanned the room to see if anyone was listening then lowered her voice. “Uri told me about Mikhail’s financial situation. You know.” Roman nodded. “Auntie Masha who was also present decided to look further into his affairs. She reported to my father some rather disturbing health issues.” Kira bit her lower lip, too horrified to say the word syphilis. “Papa commenced a long discussion with Mikhail.” She smiled.
Roman sat up in bed with a sparkle in his eyes.
“The engagement is off.” Kira sat tall in her chair, warmth radiated throughout her chest.
“What about your father? Won’t this weaken his ties with the Tsar?”
“Not at all, Mikhail agreed to dissolve on good terms.” She held the truth about the conditions Vershinin had placed on her family.
Roman took Kira’s hands, raised them to his lips, and kissed one then the other. “I must speak to your father without delay.”