The Duchess (Montgomery/Taggert 16) - Page 55

“And you can profit from the sheep.”

“Now you sound like Claire.”

“What does that mean?” Eugenia snapped. “Are you saying that I am like your interfering little American?”

“No, of course not. I merely meant that Claire talks constantly about ways to make money. She wants to cut down trees; she wants to plant fields with corn; she wants to sell bramble jelly. I don’t know what else. It makes my head swim just listening to her.”

“She means to run this place,” Eugenia said softly. “She means to have me out of here.”

“I haven’t heard her say any such thing. I don’t see why my mother and my wife couldn’t work together. If you both want to make this place pay then why not work together?”

Eugenia looked at her son for a long while, saw the way he was lounging in his chair, bored with the whole idea of work. Together! Eugenia thought. What Harry didn’t realize was that the two women were about to engage in a power struggle, and Eugenia meant to win.

Eugenia gave a loud moan and put her hand to her ankle. Her left foot was encased in a thick, built-up, black leather boot.

Harry came instantly alert. “Mother, are you in pain? Would you like to lie down?”

“No,” Eugenia said softly, weakly. “I’m not in pain, at least not more than usual, not more than I have suffered every day since you were born. It’s my heart that hurts me. When you marry you will no longer be my son.”

Harry sat on the floor at his mother’s side and put his head on her knee as he’d done a thousand times before. “What nonsense do you speak? I could never forget you.”

She stroked his fine, blond hair. “It’s traditional that when the son marries, the mother retires to the dower house. After you’re married, your pretty little wife will send me away to some cold place. I will no longer have my things about me, for they will be hers then. But, most of all, my darling, I won’t get to see you every day.”

“Of course you will. I shall ride to wherever you are every day of my life.”

“Harry, my dearest child, how sweet you are. But it will rain and it will snow, and then there will be things to keep you from seeing your poor old mother.”

“Mother, I promise that—”

“You won’t allow her to throw me out of my own house? The house where I’ve lived most of my life?”

“But Mother, Claire will be the duchess and she should—”

“I understand. But of course you will be the duke, and it’s such a small thing that I ask of you. Merely to stay in my own home.”

“Yes, of course it’s a small thing.” He squeezed his mother’s hand as she smoothed his hair behind his ear. “You may stay. I’m sure Claire won’t mind.”

Eugenia was quiet for a moment. “Do you love her so very much?”

“I do rather like her. Although…”

“Although what?”

“The last few days she has been different.”

Eugenia’s ears perked up and her caressing voice changed. “How is she different? What has changed her?”

It was on the tip of Harry’s tongue to say that Trevelyan had upset Claire, but he didn’t. It was one thing to tell a few white lies to the woman he was planning to marry, but it was another to tell his mother that her second son had come back from the dead. Sometimes Trevelyan made Harry angry, but he didn’t hate his brother, and that’s what he’d have to do in order to justify telling his mother that Trevelyan was not dead and was staying in the old part of the house.

“She has trouble adjusting to this way of life,” Harry said. “I gather that in America she had a very different sort of life.”

“Such as?”

“Busy. Very, very busy.” Harry took his mother’s hand and kissed it. “I think you’re going to love her. I think the two of you will become great friends. You will be the two women I love most in the world.”

Eugenia smiled at her son. “Send her to me for tea tomorrow afternoon.”

Chapter Twelve

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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