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Memories of the horrific scene they’d come across in the woods still haunted her dreams. The women and children, their sightless eyes staring up at the brilliant sun-lit sky… Piled in a heap like broken dolls. “Do not ask me to share it with you, my lady, for it is not…” The understanding in her hostess’s eyes slammed into her like a musket from one of the guerrilleros guns.
The duchess nodded, leaned across to the nearest bell-pull and summoned a servant. “Tea, and cake,” she ordered when the butler entered after a brief knock. “I heard Charles telling his father one day and had the whole story from him. I am so sorry, my dear. No one should see such depravation, let alone become victims of it.”
Consuela still could not remember how the duchess had persuaded her to reveal the circumstances of her own widowhood, and now as the other woman patted her hand Consuela swallowed the comment she intended to make when the door opened and a maid entered and crossed the room to place a laden tray on the table beside the duchess.
She looked at the ring on her finger. Not the one her husband had given her, that she’d thrown away as soon as Juan proposed and slipped the large sapphire ring in its place. No amount of urging on her part would persuade Juan to make her his wife before he left. Sometimes she hated him for that reluctance, even though she understood his concerns.
“If my brother finds out we are married he will make it his mission of eliminate you as he did my wife and daughter. No, my dear, you are safer if you remain single. In all honesty I should have resisted the urge to declare myself, and as for this ring…” He’d paced round the room before coming to sit beside her, in this very room days after they’d celebrated the New Year. “Perhaps it would be best if you did not wear it in public.”
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