Saturday, December 29, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Isabelle stepped aside when she heard horses coming up behind her. Two beautiful young women elegantly turned out in green velvet riding habits, rode towards her.
“C’est linfirmiere du Spa. Imaginez! Elle se promene toute seule sans chapeau. Elle est affreuse avec cette coiffure.”
Her companion nodded. “Et lavez-vous entendu parler? C’et accent Gallois terrible!”
Isabelle understood every insulting word and threw her stick at one of the horses, whacking it firmly on the rump. The startled animal reared and took off in a tearing gallop with the girl clinging to the reins. Isabelle burst out laughing.
“You should not have done that.” A man’s voice startled her. She spun around to confront him, lost her footing on the muddy path and tumbled down the hill, skidding to an awkward stop when her skirt caught in a patch of thorny blackberry bushes. He vaulted from his horse and slid down the grassy slope after her.
“Are you all right? I am sorry. I did not mean to frighten you.”
Isabelle scrambled to her feet. Embarrassed and well aware of her muddy, disheveled appearance, she straightened her skirt. “I am quite all right, please join your friends.”
She kept her gaze firmly fixed on the ground and waited for him to leave before climbing up to the path. Throwing the stick at the horse had been childish. What if the girl had fallen? Isabelle forced herself to look at him.
He smiled, very likely enjoying her predicament. His riding jacket stretched taut over his broad shoulders. Momentarily at a loss for words, Isabelle blinked and stopped staring at him. A lock of auburn hair had fallen across his forehead and laughter lurked in his eyes. Was he laughing at her?
“I said, you may go and join your friends, I do not require your assistance.” There. She would not apologize for throwing that stick, let him think what he liked.
“But I must know your name. It is not every day I frighten young ladies into falling down hills.”
“I am not the least bit frightened and see no reason for you to know my name.” With a haughty toss of her head, she started up the slope only to slide back and flounder awkwardly on her knees.
He gripped her arm. “You must allow me.”
Isabelle bit her lip, furious at herself for slipping on the wet grass. The steely strength of his arm pressed against her side unnerved her. Feeling light-headed, she accepted his help to the top.
“Thank you.” She tugged her arm away and started down the path, desperately trying to hold back tears.
“Wait!” He caught her hand. “You still have not told me your name.”
He towered over her and for seconds she gazed helplessly into the depths of his dark blue eyes. Her knees trembled.
“I am Harry Manderlin.”
Isabelle died inside. His mother was her patient at the spa! Why did he wish to know her name? Fearful of some punishment for throwing the stick, she refused to answer. Her behavior might reflect badly on the clinic.
“Surely, my name is not important, neither to you nor your friends.” In a rush of anger, she snatched her hand from his and glared defiantly at him. “Please tell them this. Although they find my Welsh accent deplorable, their French accent leaves much to be desired.”
She raised her chin. “Vos amies parlent Francais comme des vaches espagnoles. What is more, they have the manners of the gutter!”
Blinded by angry tears, she fled down the path. To be seen by such people, looking like a muddy gypsy girl was mortifying. Then to be insulted! She was glad she’d thrown the stick. Glad. As for him, he probably thought helping her up the hill was a great joke, a wonderful story to tell his companions.
Harry watched her until she disappeared around a bend in the path and into the shelter of some trees. A rueful smile tipped his lips. She wanted nothing to do with him. He swung into the saddle and cantered up the path. When he caught up with his friends, Sylvia fumed at him.
“That girl! That bedraggled, half-witted gypsy hurled a stick at my horse and it very nearly threw me. I hope you spoke sharply to her and gave her a piece of your mind.”
“We recognized her.” Mary Anne declared. “She gives treatments at the spa. You must have her dismissed.”
“Dismissed, because she was so offended by your rude remarks, she threw a stick at you?”
They gaped at him. “She speaks excellent French and suggests you both mind your manners and take lessons to improve your accent.”
Friday, December 14, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
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