Mistaken for a Lady

Free Mistaken for a Lady by Carol Townend

Book: Mistaken for a Lady by Carol Townend Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carol Townend
Mari is no longer young. Are you sure she can keep up?’
    â€˜I’m sure. Mari is livelier than many women half her age, she never keeps still. And her father was a groom at Fontaine, she learned to ride at an early age.’
    â€˜That’s good to hear. It’s safer if we keep together.’ Tristan set his face forward and urged Flint on. ‘Francesca, I don’t think you need worry about Count Myrrdin suffering. I have heard Lady Clare is very competent.’
    â€˜Aye, so she is.’
    Penetrating blue eyes met hers. ‘I wasn’t sure how well you knew her.’
    â€˜Well enough to know that she wouldn’t withhold the poppy juice if Papa was in pain.’
    Tristan held her gaze. ‘I doubt that poppy juice will be necessary. Knowing Count Myrrdin as we do, I think we may safely assume he is more likely to have fallen into one of his deep abstractions.’
    Eyes misting, Francesca stared straight ahead. ‘I pray so.’
    Leather creaked as Tristan reached across to briefly squeeze her hand. ‘Our main concern will be whether he is able to speak to you when we reach Fontaine.’
    Francesca’s throat closed. Tristan meant well, bless him, he was warning her that they might arrive too late. Blinking hard, she nodded and Tristan lifted his hand from hers.
    â€˜I shall do my best to ensure we get there as swiftly as humanly possible.’ He paused. ‘Francesca?’
    â€˜Aye?’
    â€˜What happened when Lady Clare came to Fontaine to claim her inheritance?’
    Francesca felt herself go rigid. Shame. Hurt. Bitterness. However, Tristan’s blue eyes were kind. Thoughtful. ‘Tristan, I am sure you have already been given a full account.’
    â€˜So I was, but I’d like to hear your version of events.’
    â€˜Very well. Lady Clare’s arrival was most unexpected, she arrived without any fanfare—with only one knight as her escort.’
    â€˜Sir Arthur Ferrer, yes, that much I knew. How soon did she reveal her identity?’
    Chest tight, Francesca stared down at her hands. ‘She didn’t have to. The moment Papa set eyes on her he saw Countess Mathilde in her.’ She shook her head. ‘As did half the retainers. Lady Clare has red hair. But the most telling thing is her eyes, they are mismatched.’
    â€˜One is grey and one green?’
    â€˜Aye, they are exactly like Papa’s.’
    Tristan grunted. ‘Count Myrrdin’s eyes are certainly exceptional.’
    Francesca’s saddle creaked. ‘When you see them together—’ her voice broke ‘— if you see them together, you will realise there is no doubt. Papa was as shocked as I was, but he was quick to recognise her as his legitimate daughter.’ She gripped the reins. ‘Tristan, I am truly sorry you married me under false pretences. If I had known, I never would have agreed to marry you.’
    Tristan made a sound of exasperation. ‘ Bon sang , Francesca, I would never think that of you.’
    Her throat closed and her eyes misted. ‘Thank you.’
    He grunted. ‘Francesca, all your life you’ve been thought of as Count Myrrdin’s daughter. Did anyone try to find out how such a terrible mistake might have been made?’
    â€˜Yes, indeed, Papa did investigate and the castle priest, Father Alar, came forward. He had, years before, heard the confession of one of the villagers.’
    Tristan leaned towards her, a slight pleat in his brow. ‘Priests do not generally reveal what is said in a confession.’
    â€˜That is true, but given the lapse of time since the confession, and the importance of what was at stake, Father Alar told Papa that one of the villagers had confessed that her sister had stolen a child and run off with it.’
    â€˜A villager stole Lady Clare from her cradle?’
    â€˜So it seems.’
    â€˜And then? How was it that no one noticed the difference

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