Today's Reading

'He was with the guerrilheiros. Not all the time, only when your Major Norwood thought to...use him.' Exploit him.

Leybourne's head came up again at the tone of her voice. 'Andrew Norwood, the riding officer?'

'The spy, yes. He was happy to find an enthusiastic, idealistic lad who knew his way around the hills here.' An inexperienced boy. One who might well get himself killed—and then how useful that would be for Major Norwood, she had realised far too late. Gaby kept her voice studiedly neutral. Norwood might well have been a friend of the earl when he had been an officer here. He might be the kind of man Norwood had been.

'Could you not stop him?' Leybourne stood up. 'I'm sorry, no, of course you could not if he was bent on fighting the French, not
without chaining him up. We had boys younger than that lying about their age to enlist.'

'If I had thought chaining him would work I would have tried it, believe me,' she said, heartsick all over again at the remembered struggle, the arguments, the rows.

'We are English and Portugal is our home', Thomas had thrown at her. 'The French are our enemy and the enemy of Portugal. It is our duty to fight them.'

'I told him that we had a duty to try and keep the quinta going, to give work and shelter to our people, to have something to offer the economy when the fighting was over so the country could be rebuilt,' she said now. 'The French would go soon enough, I argued.'

'While we skulk here, nothing but farmers and merchants. We are descended from earls', her brother had retorted, impassioned and idealistic. 'We Frosts fight.'

Gaby came back to herself, furious to find her vision blurred. She blinked hard. 'I was so proud of him and so frightened for him. He was a boy who had the heart of a man and he was betrayed in the end.'

'By whom? Someone within the guerrilheiros? It was the same with the Spanish guerrillas, a few had been turned by the French for money or because their families were threatened.' The earl had his hand on the headstone, the strong fingers curled around the top as though he would protect it.

'No. But it doesn't matter now. The person responsible is dead.' Her voice was steady again and she had her voice and her emotions under control. She resisted the impulse to glance at the riverbank where two men had gone over, fighting to the death, into the rushing water. There was a wood stack there now, although no traces had been left to hide.

How had this man manged to lure her into revealing so much? So much emotion? Gaby found a smile and turned to lead him out of the plot, past the graves of her grandparents Thomas and Elizabeth and her great-grandparents Rufus and Maria Frost, who had first owned the quinta. Weathered now, that first stone bore the family crest the quinta was named for, a falcon grasping a vine branch, faint but defiant on the old stone.

'Lord Leybourne, if you come this way I will show you the rose garden.' The roses were virtually over, but it would serve to move him on to ground that held less power over her.

Or not, it seemed. 'Call me Gray, everyone does,' he said. The infuriating man was walking away from her towards the southern
corner of the plot, not the gate. 'What is this?' He had stopped at the simple white slab that was tilted to face the rising sun.

'L.M.', he read. He glanced up, frowning at her as she came closer, then went back to the inscription. 'March 25, 1811. Remember.' 'That is the date of the battle of Campo Maior. Who is this stone for?'

She smiled at him, amused, despite her feelings, by the way he frowned at her. It was clear that he resented not being in total
command of the facts of any situation. The impulse to shock him was too strong to resist.

'My lover.'

This excerpt is from the paperback edition....

What our readers think...