War with the British looms on the horizon. Governor Deza knows that things could get dangerous very quickly. He insists that Gabriella and her sisters join their step-mother and go to Jamaica. Manuel plans to infiltrate the British army, posing as an Indian. For very obvious reasons, Gabriella doesn’t want him to go. They talk about it on their ride home.
“I love you so, Gabriella. You are a part of me like no other.”
“Then why are you so determined to leave?”
He was discouraged but not surprised by her sudden change of tactic. Gabriella was well known for her sneaky ways of getting the truth from him. He sighed gently, clucking to the horses to go faster. Pricking up their ears, the two graceful mares began a steady trot.
“I must, my love. You know this better than anyone.”
“Sailfish or one of his men could do the job as well. You know that’s true. His skill with languages is equal to yours. He’s brave and strong, an excellent warrior. He’d do a remarkable job.”
“He has one failing as an agent of espionage.”
“What failing could he possibly have?”
“He doesn’t know the ways of the English as well as I. He might not see trouble coming. Englishmen say one thing with their lips, but their bodies belie their words. My brother, as skillful as he is, can’t interpret them as accurately as I.”
“Take him with you, then. If he’s with you, I won’t worry.”
“You’ll always worry about me, Bella.”
“I won’t worry as much with him by your side. He will be here in a few days for my party.”
“How can I ask such a thing? I could get him killed!”
Furious, she raised her voice. “I will, then.”
Manuel’s temper also flared. “Why would he do something so dangerous for you?”
“Because he, unlike you, loves me enough to do what I ask!”
They pulled up in front of their home. Rather than waiting for Manuel to help her down, she scrambled from the carriage. Rushing inside, Gabriella slammed the door behind her.
Manuel couldn’t speak. His mouth hung open as he stared at his front door. He couldn’t believe that she had said that, nor that she would have the gall to ask his blood brother to help him on this dangerous mission.
“She’d risk us both to save but one of us.” Manuel wondered for a moment, if she ever had to choose, which man would she pick?
It had always bothered him that she had spent so much time alone with Sailfish. He knew how much his brother loved her. It was painfully evident in his eyes every time they met. He longed to touch her, kiss her, make love to her. Had she been unfaithful to him while they were apart?
His better sense prevailed whenever he got in a mental battle of what if. Gabriella loved him and he knew it. She was very religious, making her choices by the teachings of the Church. She would never have let Sailfish make love to her. Still, doubts lingered.
Sometimes when she spoke to his brother and they shared a laugh over something that had happened in her time with the tribe, her eyes glittered in a way they never did for him. There was more than just friendship on both their parts. Manuel’s logical side protested he had no right to feel this way. After all, she had married him. She was his, but had she been his brother’s first?
Shaking his head to clear it, he drew a deep, cleansing breath, wishing he knew the answers to these questions. He could never ask Gabriella. If she even thought he didn’t trust her, she would surely leave him. He couldn’t stand the idea of losing her for any reason. But lack of trust was worse than infidelity. If she’d been unfaithful, and he didn’t want to believe for a moment that she had, it was before they were wed.
“Evenin’, young master.”
Manuel jumped, startling the horses. Holding the bridle of one of them, he calmed them.
“I didn’t hear you, Willem.”
“Sorry to startle you, sir. I heard you arrive and thought as you might need help with the ladies, an all.”
“Thank you. As a matter of fact, if you’d take them, Señora Enriques is feeling a bit under the weather. I need to check on her.” Manuel moved toward the steps to the house quickly.
“She sounded a might put out to me,” Willem replied, spitting in the dirt as he led the horses away to the barn.
“Yes.” Manuel said softly. “Yes, she was.” He paused on the steps. “Willem, did you hear everything?”
“Entire country heard, I’ll warrant, sir.”
“And you think I’m wrong?”
“Not my business to judge right nor wrong on your decisions, sir. I can agree or not as I choose, makes no difference. But I will say this, that girl loves ye above her own life. If ye go ‘gainst her wishes, ye might not have a home to come back to. She’d as likely leave ye as mind ye.”
Manuel hung his head, laughing sardonically. “You’ve put your finger upon it, Willem. As usual, you point out my foibles.”
“We all work to our strengths, sir,” the old Irishman said with a smirk. “Give her a big kiss, love her hard and maybe she’ll forgive ye. But don’t niver lie to her, sir, or I guarantee—that she’ll not forgive.”
“Thanks, Willem. Good night then.”
“Good night, sir.” He tipped his hat, spit and led the horses to the stable.
Manuel took the stairs to their bedroom two at a time. He heard Gabriella talking. Wondering if she spoke to Consuela, their maid, he lingered outside the door, trying not to make any noise.
“He’s so stubborn! I can’t believe what a pig headed man he can be! How can he think to leave me now, when less than a year ago, he was just coming back from his spying upon James? The gall! To think I’d stand for it!”
He heard a hairbrush clatter on the floor. Some very unladylike language followed that she would never have used around anyone but him. In point of fact, she’d probably learned it from him. He knew she must be alone.