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“...delights on every level, from the sumptuous settings to the whispered…rumors spinning through the royal court. As her fans know, Gifford’s characters are always well developed and, based on their previous life experiences, deeply resistant to a new passion…until, of course, love gets its way…”
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From Chapter One of WHISPERS AT COURT
When Lady Valerie turned to meet his eyes, for a moment he could not speak.
Now he could see her plain. Fair skin. Dark eyes that changed expression when she knew him for who he was. Was it his family history or his reputation in battle that erased both smile and sadness? No matter. Now, he faced a strong, impenetrable shield, through which he could glimpse no emotion at all. Until then, he would have judged her a woman who needed protection. Now, he thought she would have been an asset on the battlefield. “Some have called me that,” he answered, finally.
A silence. Awkward. “What do you want of me?” she said, finally.
The time had come. “Your husband served in my company.”
She glanced down at the floor. “I know.” Had her sadness returned? Would there be tears?
He hurried to speak. “Then you know that the siege was broken by that attack. That his death was not in vain.”
“That is a comfort, surely.”
Her tone suggested otherwise. “He was a worthy fighter. His death was a blow.”
Now her gaze met his again. Her shield had not slipped. “More so to me.”
Ah, then she blamed him for the man’s death. She had the right. “Men die in war, no matter what we do.” War was not what those at home imagined. It was not…glorious.
He pulled the stained, crumpled silk from his tunic. “Your husband was carrying this when he died. I thought to return it to you so you would know he treasured the thought of his wife.” He waved it in her direction. A poor, limp thing, even more wrinkled and dirty now than it had been when he took it from the man’s body.
She did not reach for it. Instead, she recoiled, as if it were a live thing with teeth.
He shook his outstretched hand, wishing to free himself of it. “Do you not want it back?”
“Back?” The word, barely a whisper. Then, she lifted that hard, impenetrable gaze and met his eyes again. “It was never mine.”
© Blythe Gifford, all rights reserved
Copyright 2003-17, W. Blythe Gifford
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