Nick watched Rosalind fold her arms, waiting for him to start. He knew he had this one shot to make her understand, or else she wouldn't be able to forgive him.
He raked a hand through his hair, walking back and forth in front of her, not sure where to start.
From the beginning, he decided. He faced her. "My mother left my dad the week after I was born."
Her gaze sharpened, obviously not expecting that.
"They weren't married, and she was really young. My father's family was well-off and disapproving of her. I understand why she'd have run away.
"When I was three, my father met Tabitha Welles."
He saw Rosalind stiffen. He couldn't blame her, given the circumstances, but it made him sad because Tabitha, though misguided in her decisions, had been a warm, loving woman. "Tabitha used to say that she fell in love with me before my father. They'd been planning to get married when my father had a heart attack and died. He was only thirty-three."
"I'm sorry," Rosalind murmured.
"I don't deserve your compassion."
"You really don't." She gestured to the floor. "Can we sit?"
"Please." He settled cross-legged across from her, wishing he could take her hand but knowing better. "Anyway, I had Tabitha. My father's family had no interest in taking me, so Tabitha did. She always told me I was the best gift my father had ever given her.
"A year after my father died, Tabitha met Reginald Summerhill and fell in love again."
He told himself to ignore the sudden wall she'd thrown up and continue. "Tabitha was a romantic, and when she loved someone, she loved him wholly and completely, giving her heart completely away.
"From the time I was a young boy, I remember not liking Summerhill much. It was more than the fact that he paid no attention to me. Why would he? Even my father's family wasn't interested in knowing me, so it made sense. But he treated Tabitha like a possession he remembered he had from time to time, and I didn't like that."
"He treated everyone that way," Rosalind said, sounding like she said it despite herself.
"Tabitha didn't see it though. She was happy for the little bits and pieces he gave her, and she was absolutely beside herself when she found out she was pregnant.
"The next nine months Reginald coddled her, making sure she had everything she needed, until he saw the baby was a girl.
"Tabitha didn't care. She was thrilled to have a baby. She named her Summer so that she'd have a part of the Summerhills with her, and she told me I was a big brother now and that Summer was mine forever to protect. She made me promise to take care of her as long as I was alive.
"Not that it was a hardship. I loved her the moment she was born. She looked scrunched and splotchy, but the first time I looked down at her she grabbed my finger in her tiny fist, and I knew she was mine even though there was no blood between us.
"When I was old enough, I left Tabitha and set out to discover myself. I didn't want to go to university, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I was backpacking through Italy when I met a race car driver and joined his crew.
"Just like with Summer, the first time I drove a race car, it was instant love. I learned from Pietro and his crew and eventually began racing myself.
"Tabitha hated it. She used to ask me to stop, saying how dangerous it was. Ironic that she was the one to die in a car crash, isn't it?"
Rosalind sighed. "Nick."