by Teri Wilson
“A sword?” A lump lodged in Elizabeth’s throat. “Why would I need protection, Aunt Jane?”
She shouldn’t be asking these questions. She shouldn’t be asking anything of the duchess. Her aunt looked as frail and white as delicate parchment lying there amongst the velvet cushions and heavy brocade coverlet. But Elizabeth was suddenly afraid to go see the new visitor for herself.
Whose arrival could have ushered in such a shock?
“Prithee, I must close my eyes, child. I’m quite faint.” Aunt Jane took a deep breath, and her eyelashes fluttered shut. Her lady’s maid pressed a cool, wet cloth to her forehead.
Elizabeth clutched her aunt’s hand, and relief coursed through her when she found it warm, although the duchess’s grasp had grown weak. How strange to think that only moments ago, her aunt had been working on the tapestry with nimble fingers.
She leveled her gaze at Patricia. “Sister, I must speak to you at once.”
“Aye.” Patricia nodded and made her way to the far corner of the room, away from the bed and out of earshot of their aunt, lest they upset her further.
Elizabeth lowered her voice all the same. “Sister, perchance did Aunt Jane tell you who has arrived as the castle?”
Patricia shook her head. “Aye, she mentioned something about Viscount Nicholas. But that can’t be true. After all, the viscount is….”
“Dead,” Elizabeth said as a sudden, sharp chill ran up her spine.
Patricia nodded. “Verily, it is so. Two years in the grave. It can’t be him.”
“It can’t be him,” Elizabeth repeated. Because it couldn’t. Could it?
She glanced up at Baron Drake. His presence had almost gone forgotten in the chaos of her aunt’s collapse, although that hardly seemed possible. His intense gaze made her heart race. She took a deep breath to steady herself. It was to no avail.
Viscount Nicholas. Alive? No. Please no. He is the cruelest of men.
She swallowed. Hard. And prayed with all her might that the mysterious stranger was anyone but the viscount. Because if he was alive, her entire world could change. At once.
“I bid thee,” Baron Drake cleared his throat. “Who is this viscount of whom you speak?”
Elizabeth tried to answer, but she couldn’t bring herself to utter the words. An uncomfortable silence settled between them until at last Patricia answered his question.
“A goodly length in times past, Viscount Nicholas was Elizabeth’s betrothed.”
To be continued tomorrow....