About Dangerous Secrets
Major Lord James Heyworth fled to Rome. Behind him lie disgrace, shame, and secrets he is desperate to keep even from powerful friends in London. He accepts employment as an interpreter just to have money to eat. Nora Haley, his employer, is a widow. She came to Rome to help her dying brother and protect his daughter. She can’t trust any man who drinks. She had enough of that in her marriage. She fears deception will destroy everything she desires. Either one, however, will dare anything for the tiny girl in their care. They will even enter a sham marriage to protect her. Will love—and the truth—bind them both together?
Jamie Quizzes His Employer
Early in DANGEROUS SECRETS Jamie Heyworth finds himself curious about the energetic little woman who has hired him to be her interpreter. He is happy to let her buy lunch, (he hasn’t eaten regularly in recent weeks) but he’s puzzled. He can’t figure out why the fool woman is alone in a foreign country to begin with. A little food loosens his tongue and he startles her by speaking into an uncomfortably long silence.
Saint Bartholomew Bridge, 1825, by Jean-Baptiste Corot (Wikipedia Commons)
“You are alone here.” His sudden words proved her wrong. He hadn’t forgotten.
“Aside from Robert.”
“Robert?” he asked.
“I’m confused. If your brother is here, why can’t he interpret for you?”
“Robert is ill, in the hospital. I have to act for him,” she explained.
“But you came here on your own. Your father permitted such a thing?” he probed.
He reached for another roll. When did this impertinent man eat last?
“My father couldn’t—no, wouldn’t—come when Robert wrote asking for help,” she explained. “He sent me as his surrogate.”
“So he ordered you to come a thousand miles alone to lecture his son on the error of his ways?” the major asked in between bites.
“Not ordered! Permitted. He has his parish to shepherd. Who could have come with me?” Her father actually tried to stop her, but she left for Rome on her own. The memory made her temper snap. “I’m no schoolroom miss. I can take care of myself,” she insisted.
“You’ve managed without difficulty?” The major looked skeptical.
“Yes!” Nora knew she answered too quickly.
The major raised an eyebrow, and she felt her face warm. My troubles with the ship and the sailors are none of his business. I managed them.
“Language is a barrier,” she admitted, but he knew that much already. “That’s why I hired you. Difficulties have been trivial. Robert’s man of business found me rooms and managed to convey me there with signs and gestures. The landlady . . .” She hesitated.
“Landlady?” he prompted.
“Speaks broken English. She tried to make me uneasy. She claimed there were men lurking at the door, but I think she just wanted me to hire a relative as a guide. I refused.”
His deep brown eyes widened when she mentioned lurking strangers, but he said only, “Wise. You wouldn’t want a guide you don’t understand. Didn’t your father think you would need protection?”
“He assumes my virtue to be its own shield! His widowed daughter—plain and practical Eleanora—wouldn’t need protection.” The words tasted as bitter in her mouth as the Italian coffee.
The major, to his credit, ignored that outburst. Instead he asked, “Wasn’t he concerned about his granddaughter?”
Nora felt her heart stutter. She took a deep breath before answering. “He doesn’t know about her.”
The major looked puzzled, waiting for more. Desire to protect Robert’s privacy warred with urge to confide in someone. As her interpreter, he would find out soon enough.
“My niece is Italian,” she began, “and Catholic. Robert kept his marriage secret.”
The shabby major appeared to think that over. “What will your father do with an Italian granddaughter?” he asked at last.
“Deny her. Force conversion. God knows, but it wouldn’t be pleasant. Robert must protect her from that.”
“Does your brother wish her to live in England?”
“Not in Dorset, not near Father. Perhaps in Italy, but he wishes more for her than the convent school.” Nora knew that much with certainty.
“And her Italian relatives?” he asked.
Nora shrugged. “I don’t know. My late, heretofore unknown sister-in-law was an orphan but from a large extended family.” Robert had once implied there was more, but Nora didn’t know any names or places. “What they wish is unknown to me,” she said.
“Would they take the child in? That would solve your problems,” he suggested.
“Robert seems reluctant about that. He hasn’t said why. I think he wants to make sure someone he trusts will see that she is loved, as well as cared for.” When Robert first told her about the girl, Nora had warmed at the thought of having a child to care for. Now she vacillated between hope and fear, neither of which accomplished anything useful. This shabby major doesn’t need to know my pathetic hopes.
The major’s thick brown lashes veiled his eyes as well as he veiled his thoughts. “Are your brother’s wishes in writing?” he asked.
“I don’t know. He pressed a scrap of foolscap into my hand the first day.” She rummaged in her reticule. “It has an Italian name on it. He said that if he died I should contact this man.” She held out the foolscap for him to see.
“Putting you at the mercy of another Italian,” he mumbled, taking the foolscap. The major looked at the name and cursed softly. “And a high class one at that.”
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About the Author
Caroline Warfield has at various times been an army brat, a librarian, a poet, a raiser of children, a nun, a bird watcher, an Internet and Web services manager, a conference speaker, an indexer, a tech writer, a genealogist, and, of course, a romantic. She has sailed through the English channel while it was still mined from WWII, stood on the walls of Troy, searched Scotland for the location of an entirely fictional castle (and found it), climbed the steps to the Parthenon, floated down the Thames from the Tower to Greenwich, shopped in the Ginza, lost herself in the Louvre, gone on a night safari at the Singapore zoo, walked in the Black Forest, and explored the underground cistern of Istanbul. By far the biggest adventure has been life-long marriage to a prince among men.
She sits in front of a keyboard at a desk surrounded by windows, looks out at the trees and imagines. Her greatest joy is when one of those imaginings comes to life on the page and in the imagination of her readers.
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