A Knight in Shining Armor: Chapter 24

In the morning, Dougless saw Arabella just as she was stepping on a block to mount her beautiful black horse. Near her was a man who Dougless assumed was her husband, Robert Sydney. Dougless wanted to see him, wanted to see the face of the man whom Nicholas considered his friend, yet had sent his “friend” to be executed.

Sydney turned, and Dougless drew in her breath. Robert Sydney looked very, very much like Dr. Robert Whitley, the man she had once hoped to marry.

Dougless turned away, her hands shaking. Coincidence, she told herself. Nothing more than coincidence. But later that day she remembered how, in the twentieth century, Nicholas, when he’d first seen Robert, had looked as though he’d seen a ghost. And Robert had looked at Nicholas with hatred in his eyes.

Coincidence, she told herself again. It could be nothing more.

During the next two days Dougless rarely saw Nicholas. When she did see him, he was glowering at her from a doorway or frowning at her across a table. Dougless was kept very busy by the household because they had come to regard her as TV, movies, carnival, and concert all in one. They wanted games, songs, stories; their demand to be entertained was insatiable. Dougless could not walk in the garden or in the house without someone stopping her and asking for one more bit of entertainment. She was kept busy for long hours trying to remember everything she’d ever read or heard. With Honoria’s help, she devised a crude version of Monopoly. They played Pictionary with slate tablets. When she ran out of fiction stories she’d read, she started telling them history stories about America—Lady Margaret especially loved these. Nathan Hale became a favorite hero of the household, and Lady Margaret kept Dougless up half of one night asking questions about Abraham Lincoln.

Dougless tried her best to stay in the entertainment field and not talk about religion or politics. After all, just a few years before Queen Mary had been burning people for being of the wrong religion. Twice Kit asked her questions about farming in her country, and, despite knowing little, she was able to make a few suggestions about compost and how it could be used with the crops.

Dougless knew that Lady Margaret’s ladies were appalled at Dougless’s poor education, at her speaking only one language and at her not being able to play a musical instrument. And they could not read her handwriting. But for the most part they forgave her.

While Dougless was teaching, she was also learning. These women did not have the pressure on them that twentieth-century American women did to be everything to everyone. The sixteenth-century woman was not supposed to be a corporate executive, an adoring mother, a gourmet cook and hostess, as well as a creative lover with the body of an athlete. If the woman was rich, she was to sew, look after her household and enjoy herself. Of course she didn’t expect to live past about forty, but at least during her few years on earth, she wasn’t under society’s constant pressure to do more and be more.

As the days in sixteenth-century England accumulated, Dougless remembered her time of living with Robert. The alarm went off at six A.M., and she hit the floor running. She had to run to get a day’s work done in a day. There were meals to prepare, groceries to buy, the house to be straightened (Robert had a cleaning woman once a week), and the kitchen to be cleaned again and again and again. And in her “spare time” she had a full time job. Sometimes she’d wished she could stay in bed for three days and read murder mysteries, but there was always too much to do to consider being lazy.

Besides, there was the guilt. If she was resting, she felt she “should” be at the gym trying to keep her thighs from spreading, or she “should” be planning some scrumptious dinner party for Robert’s colleagues. She felt guilty when, exhausted, she served a pizza from the freezer for dinner.

But now, here in the sixteenth century, the modern-day pressures seemed far away. People didn’t live alone and isolated. This wasn’t one house with one woman to do twenty jobs; this was one house with a hundred and forty-some people to do maybe seventy jobs. One tired, lonely woman didn’t have to cook, clean, wash, and so on, plus hold an outside job. Here one person had one job.

Modern women had their own self-made guilt to make them miserable, but the sixteenth-century people had diseases, their fear of the unknown, their ignorance of medicine, and constant and ever-present death to haunt them. People in the sixteenth century died frequently, and death was always nearby for the Elizabethans. There had been four deaths in the household since Dougless had arrived, and all of them could have been avoided with decent emergency room care. One man died when a wagon fell on him. Internal bleeding. When Dougless saw the man, she would have given anything to have been a doctor and able to stop the bleeding. People died from pneumonia, flu, or a blister that became infected. Dougless passed out aspirin, dabbed wounds with Neosporin ointment, gave out spoonfuls of Pepto-Bismol. She might help people temporarily, but she could do nothing about decaying teeth, about torn ligaments that left people crippled for life, or about appendixes that burst and killed children.

Nor could she do anything about the poverty. Once she tried to talk to Honoria about the vast difference between the way the Stafford family lived and the way the villagers lived. It was then that Dougless learned about sumptuary laws. In America everyone pretended to be equal, saying that a man who was worth millions was no better than some guy who sweated for a living. But no one believed that. Rich criminals got off with light sentences; poor men got maximum sentences.

In the sixteenth century Dougless had found that the idea of equality was a concept that was met with laughter. People were not equal, and by law they were not even allowed to dress equally. In disbelief, Dougless had asked Honoria to explain these sumptuary laws. Earls could wear sable, but barons could wear only the arctic fox. If a man had an income of a hundred pounds a year or less, he could wear velvet in his doublet but not in his gown. If he made twenty pounds a year, he could wear only satin or damask doublets and silk gowns. A man making ten pounds or less a year could not wear cloth costing more than two shillings a yard. Servants could not wear a gown that reached below their calves, and apprentices constantly wore blue (which is why the upper classes rarely wore the color).

On and on the rules went. They covered income, furs, colors, cloth, cut. Dougless was allowed to wear whatever a countess did because she was one of Lady Margaret’s ladies. Laughing at it all, Honoria said that everyone wore what he could afford, but if a person was found out, he had to pay a fine to the city coffers; then he returned to wearing whatever he wanted to.

In the twentieth century Dougless had never cared much about clothes. She liked them to be comfortable and long-wearing, but other than that she paid little attention to them. But these beautiful Elizabethan gowns were another matter! In the few days she’d been in the sixteenth century, she’d found the people to be obsessed with clothes. Lady Margaret’s ladies spent hours planning gowns.

One day a merchant arrived from Italy, and he and his two cartloads of fabrics had been welcomed into the Presence Chamber as though he’d discovered a cure for flea bites. Dougless had found herself joining in the frenzy of pulling out bolts of narrow fabrics and holding them up to herself and the other women.

Both Nicholas and Kit had joined them. Like most men, they loved being surrounded by laughing, excited, pretty women. To Dougless’s embarrassment, but also her delight, Kit had chosen fabric for two gowns for her, saying that it was time she wore her own clothes.

That night in bed, Dougless had lain awake for a while and thought how different, yet how much alike these Elizabethans were from people of her own time. From reading novels set in Elizabethan times, Dougless had thought the people did nothing but discuss politics. Even with TV, radio, and weekly news magazines, the American people weren’t half as well informed as the players in medieval novels seemed to be. But Dougless found these people, like ordinary Americans, much more concerned with clothes and gossip, and the smooth running of the enormous and complicated household, than in what the queen was doing.

In the end, Dougless decided to do what she could to help, but she didn’t believe her job was to change sixteenth century life. She had been sent back through time to save Nicholas, and that was what she planned to concentrate on. She was an observer, not a missionary.

However, there was one aspect of medieval life Dougless could not tolerate, and that was the lack of bathing. The people washed their faces and hands and feet, but a full bath was a rare occurrence. Honoria kept warning Dougless against her “frequent” bathing (three baths a week), and Dougless hated that the servants had to haul the tub into the bedroom, then lug in buckets of hot water. The ordeal of preparing a bath was so enormous that after Dougless bathed, two more people would use the water. Once Dougless was the third bather and she saw lice floating on top of the water.

Bathing was close to becoming an obsession with her until Honoria showed her a fountain in the knot garden. The “knots” were hedges that had been planted into intricate designs, with bright flowers in the loops. In the center of the four knots was a tall stone fountain set in a little pool. When Honoria motioned to a child weeding the garden, he ran out of sight behind a wall; then, to Dougless’s delight, water came from the top of the fountain and flowed down into the pool. The child had been sent to turn a wheel.

“How lovely,” Dougless had said. “Just like a waterfall, or a . . .” Her eyes began to gleam. “Or like a shower.” It was at that moment that a plan began to form in her mind. Privately, she talked to the child who had turned the wheel and arranged to pay him a penny if he’d meet her at four A.M. the next morning.

So, at four A.M. the next morning, Dougless tiptoed out of Honoria’s room, down the stairs, and out to the knot garden. She carried her shampoo and rinse, a towel, and a washcloth. The child, sleepy-eyed but smiling, took the penny (which Honoria had given Dougless) and went to turn the wheel. Dougless hesitated for a moment about whether to remove all her clothes or not, but it was still quite dark and it would be a while before the rest of the household woke. So, she slipped off her borrowed robe and the long linen shirt and stepped, naked, under the fountain.

Never has anyone in history enjoyed a shower more! Dougless felt as though years of dirt and oil and sweat were washing off of her. She’d never been able to feel clean using a bathtub, and after weeks of not showering, she felt grimy. She shampooed her hair three times, then conditioned it, shaved her legs and underarms, then rinsed. Heaven. Sheer, perfect heaven.

At long last she stepped out of the fountain, gave a whistle to the boy to stop turning the wheel, then dried and put on her robe.

She was smiling broadly as she started back down the path toward the house. Perhaps she was grinning too broadly to be able to see properly, or maybe it was still too dark yet to see well, because she ran into someone.

“Gloria!” she said before she realized it was the French heiress. “I mean,” she said, stumbling, “I guess you’re not Gloria, are you? Where’s the lioness?” Dougless gasped at what she’d said. She’d rarely seen this girl, but when she had, she’d always been accompanied by her tall, overbearing guardian of a nurse. “I didn’t mean—” Dougless began, apologizing.

The heiress didn’t reply but sailed past Dougless with her nose in the air. “I am of an age to care for myself. I need no nurse.”

Dougless smiled at the girl’s plump back. She sounded just like Dougless’s fifth graders. They, too, thought they were old enough to take care of themselves. “Sneaked out, did you?” Dougless said, smiling.

The girl turned quickly and glared at Dougless, then her face softened. “She does snore,” she said with a bit of a smile; then she looked back at the fountain. “What do you here?”

When Dougless looked at the fountain, to her horror, she saw that the little pool was full of soap bubbles. To Dougless, the bubbles were pollution, but the heiress seemed to think they were wonderful. The girl lifted a handful of suds.

“I took a bath,” Dougless said. “Want one?”

The girl gave a delicate shudder. “Nay, my health is most delicate.”

“Bathing won’t hurt—” Dougless began but stopped. No missionary work, remember? she reminded herself. Moving to stand by the girl, Dougless looked at her closely in the early light. “Who told you you were delicate?”

“Lady Hallet.” She looked at Dougless. “My lioness.” There were tiny dimples in her cheeks.

Dougless considered what she was about to say, and she knew she was taking a chance, but the child looked as though she needed a friend. “Lady Hallet says you’re delicate so she gets to tell you what to eat, and where you can and cannot go, and who may be your friend and who not. In fact, she gets to keep you under her thumb so much that you have to sneak out before daylight just to see the gardens. Is that about right?”

For a moment, the girl’s mouth dropped open, but then she stiffened and gave Dougless a haughty look. “Lady Hallet guards me from the lower classes.” She looked Dougless up and down.

“Such as me?” Dougless asked, suppressing a smile.

“You are not a princess. Lady Hallet says a princess would not make a spectacle of herself as you do. She says you are not educated. You do not even speak French.”

“That’s what Lady Hallet says. But what do you think of me?”

“That you are not a princess or you would not—”

“No.” Dougless cut her off. “Not what Lady Hallet says, what do you think?”

The girl gaped at Dougless, obviously not knowing what to say.

Dougless smiled at her. “Do you like Kit?”

The girl looked down at her hands, and Dougless thought her face turned red. “As bad as that?”

“He does not notice me,” the girl whispered, tears in her voice. When her head came up and she glared in hate at Dougless, at that moment she looked so much like Gloria that it was eerie. “He looks at you.”

“Me?” Dougless gasped. “Kit isn’t interested in me.”

“All the men like you. Lady Hallet says you are close to being a . . . a . . .”

Dougless grimaced. “Don’t tell me. I’ve already been called that. Look . . . What’s your name?”

“Lady Allegra Lucinda Nicolletta de Couret,” she said proudly.

“But what do your friends call you?”

The girl looked puzzled for a moment, then smiled. “My first nurse called me Lucy.”

“Lucy,” Dougless said, smiling, but then she looked at the lightening sky. “I guess we better get back. People will be searching for . . .us.”

Lucy looked startled, then gathered her heavy, expensive skirt and started to run. She was obviously terrified of being found missing.

“Tomorrow morning,” Dougless called after her. “Same time.” She wasn’t sure Lucy heard or not.

Dougless went back to the house, ignoring the servants’ looks at her wet hair and her robe. When she opened the door to Honoria’s bedroom, she sighed. Now began the long, painful process of dressing, and she wished just now for the ease and comfort of jeans and a sweatshirt.

After breakfast she sneaked away from the other women to look for Nicholas. The women were demanding new songs, and already Dougless’s small store was depleted. She was down to humming tunes and persuading the women to make up their own words. But today she had to talk to Nicholas. Nothing was going to be changed about his execution if she didn’t talk to him.

She found him in a room that could only be an office, sitting at a table surrounded by papers. He appeared to be adding a column of figures.

He looked up at her, raised one eyebrow, then looked back down at his paper.

“Nicholas, you can’t ignore me. We must talk. Sometime you’re going to have to listen to me.”

“I am occupied. Do not plague me with your nonsensical chatter.”

“Chatter! Nonsense!” she said in anger. “What I need to say means more than that.”

He gave her another look to be quiet, then returned to his column of numbers.

Dougless glanced at the paper, but the numbers made no sense to her. Some were Roman numerals, some written with a j instead of an i, and some numbers were Arabic. No wonder he had a difficult time adding them, she thought. Opening the little embroidered pouch that hung at her waist, she took out her solar calculator. She carried it with her because Honoria and the other ladies were always counting stitches in their embroidery, so Dougless often added and subtracted for them so their patterns would be accurate. But she had more important things to do than help him add, she thought as she set the calculator down beside Nicholas’s hand.

“You and Kit were gone for a few days. Did you go to Bellwood? Did he show you the secret door?” she asked.

“Lord Kit,” he said emphatically, “is not your concern. Nor am I. Nor, for that matter, is my mother’s household. Madam, you are not wanted here.”

She was standing over him, looking down at him and trying to think of what to say to make him listen to her. Then, as she watched, in his anger Nicholas snatched up the calculator and began punching the buttons. He punched in the numbers, hit the plus key between them, then the equal at the end. Still speaking, obviously not even noticing what he’d done, he wrote down the total on his piece of paper.

“And furthermore—” he said as he started to add the second column.

“Nicholas,” she whispered, “you remember.” She drew in her breath; then louder, she said, “You remember.”

“I remember naught,” he said angrily, but even as he spoke, he stared down at the calculator in his hands. He realized he’d been using it, but now the knowledge of what it was and how it was used fled him. He dropped the thing as though it were evil.

Seeing him use the calculator was a revelation to Dougless. Somehow, what he’d experienced in the twentieth century was buried in his memory. It was four years before it happened, but now also happened to be four hundred years before Dougless’s birth. So many strange experiences were happening to her that she couldn’t question his knowledge of a calculator. But if he remembered that little machine, then he remembered her.

She went to her knees beside him and put her hands on his arm. “Nicholas, you do remember.”

Nicholas wanted to pull away from her, but he couldn’t. What was it about the woman? he asked himself. She was pretty, yes, but he’d seen women more beautiful. He’d certainly been around women more pleasing than she was. But this woman . . . this woman never left his mind.

“Please,” she whispered, “don’t close your mind to me. Don’t fight me. You might remember more if you’d allow yourself.”

“I remember naught,” he said firmly, looking down into her eyes. He’d like to take her hair out of the little cap, out of its braid.

“You do remember. How else would you know how to use the calculator?”

“I did not—” he began, then glanced at the thing sitting on top of the papers. But he knew that, somehow, he had known how to use it; he’d known how to add the numbers with it. He jerked his arm from under her hands. “Leave me.”

“Nicholas, please listen to me,” she pleaded. “You must tell me if Kit has shown you the door at Bellwood or not. That information will give us an idea of how long we have until he’s . . . he’s drowned.” Until Lettice orders him killed, she thought. “It may be weeks yet or even months, but if he’s shown you the door, his . . . accident is a matter of days from now. Please, Nicholas, don’t fight me on this.”

He was not going to allow her to control him. He was not going to be like the rest of the household and follow her about begging for her favors. Any day now he expected her to ask for a purse of gold in exchange for another song. And his mother was so enamored of her that she’d no doubt give the gold. As it was, Lady Margaret showered this woman with dresses and fans, and dug into the Stafford jewel chests to lend her all sorts of riches.

“I know of no door,” Nicholas said, lying. It had been but days since Kit had shown him the door at Bellwood. That this witch-woman knew of it was further proof that she was not what she seemed.

Dougless sat back on her heels, her green satin skirt billowing about her, and sighed in relief. “Good,” she whispered. “Good.” She didn’t want to think that Kit was close to death. If Kit didn’t die, then perhaps Lettice wouldn’t have a chance to get her hooks into Nicholas, and the great injustice would be prevented. And, besides, perhaps after Kit was saved, she would be sent back to the twentieth century.

“You care for my brother?” Nicholas asked, looking down at her.

She smiled. “He seems like a nice guy, but he’ll never be . . .” She trailed off. The love of my life, she’d almost said. Looking into Nicholas’s blue eyes, she remembered the night they’d made love. She remembered his laughter and his interest in the modern world. Without thinking, she reached her hand out toward him. He didn’t seem to think either as he took her hand and raised her fingertips to his lips.

“Colin,” she whispered.

“Sir,” came a voice from the doorway. “My pardon.”

Nicholas dropped her hand, and Dougless, knowing the moment was lost, rose and smoothed her skirts. “You’ll tell me about the door, won’t you? We’ll have to keep watch over Kit,” she said softly.

Nicholas didn’t look at her. All the woman spoke of was his brother. She haunted his mind, yet she seemed to feel no such pull toward him. Her thoughts were of Kit alone. “Go,” he murmured, then louder, “Go and sing your songs to the others. It will take more than a song to enchant me. And take that.” He looked at the calculator as though it were something from the devil.

“You can keep it and use it if you want.”

He turned hard eyes toward her. “I know not how.”

With a sigh, Dougless took the calculator, then left the room. So far, every attempt she’d made to talk to Nicholas had failed. But at least now she was beginning to understand that he thought he was protecting his family from her. She couldn’t help smiling at that thought. The Nicholas she’d loved so much had also put his family first. In the twentieth century, he’d wanted to return to a possible execution in order to save his family’s honor.

This man was the Nicholas she’d come to love, she thought, smiling. On the surface, what with the women on the table and in the arbor, he had seemed like the rake the history books had portrayed him to be. And of course she’d hated his anger and animosity toward her. And it didn’t help any that the rest of his family couldn’t be nicer to her, with only Nicholas being hostile. But, under it all, she knew that he was the man she’d come to love, the man who put others before himself.

This thought made her forgive him for his hostility. What if she’d had an ulterior motive for wanting to be near his family? It wasn’t good to be as trusting as the family was. Nicholas was the one who was right. He should mistrust her. Since he consciously remembered nothing of her from before, he had no reason to trust her. And what with the bond between them and the way he “heard” her calling him at times, he had every reason to believe her to be a witch.

But he did remember, she thought. He said he remembered nothing, but he’d remembered the calculator enough to use it correctly. She wondered if there were other things he remembered and she began to think of the contents of her tote bag. What else could she show him that might further jog his memory?

In the Presence Chamber everyone was in a flurry. It seemed that the caterer’s goods had arrived. Dougless learned that this was a man who traveled all over England to buy special foods for the Stafford family, then sent them back once a month. This month he’d sent back pineapples and cocoa powder that had been imported from Mexico to Spain, then into England. There was also sugar from Brazil.

Standing back and watching as the women exclaimed over these delicacies, Dougless couldn’t help but think how the twentieth century took food for granted. Americans could have any food at any time of the year.

As Dougless looked at the chocolate powder, carefully wrapped in cloth, she thought of the American picnic she’d cooked for Nicholas: fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, and chocolate brownies.

Suddenly an idea hit her. She’d heard that smells and flavors were some of the strongest memory generators. She knew that certain foods reminded her of her grandmother, Amanda, for there was always an astonishing variety of food in her grandmother’s house. And the smell of jasmine always reminded Dougless of her mother. If Nicholas was served the same meal he’d eaten in the twentieth century, would it help him remember more of the time he’d spent with her?

Dougless went to Lady Margaret and asked permission to be allowed to prepare the evening meal. Lady Margaret was pleased with the idea, but horrified that Dougless wanted to work in the kitchen herself. She proposed that Dougless tell the Groom of the Pantry what she wanted and that she talk to the Groom of the Kitchen (the one “for the mouth”) and not go to the kitchen herself.

Dougless did her best to insist; besides, Lady Margaret had piqued her curiosity about the kitchen. And what in the world was a Groom of the Kitchen “for the mouth”?

After the long, sumptuous dinner, Dougless went downstairs to the kitchen and was awed at what she saw: room after room with enormous fireplaces, huge tables, and many, many people scurrying about. But she soon discovered that each person had a job. There were two slaughtermen, two bakers, two brewers, a maltmaker, a couple of hop men, laundresses, children to do odd jobs, and even a man called a roughcaster whose job it was to patch the plaster when it fell down. There were also clerks to record every penny of expense. And all of these people had helpers.

Huge carcasses of beef and pork were delivered into the kitchen in wagons, then passed through to the slaughtering room. Storage rooms, bigger than houses, were filled with barrels. Sausages as big as an arm and several feet long hung from the tall ceilings. In two rooms, set back in the wall high above the double fireplaces, were tiers of beds with straw mattresses where many of the kitchen workers slept.

The head groom took her through the rooms, and after Dougless was able to close her mouth in awe at the size of the place and at the vast quantity of food prepared in the kitchen room, she began to tell the man what she wanted to do.

Swallowing, she saw crates of chickens brought in; then a large woman began wringing necks. Cauldrons of water were put on to boil to scald the chickens so their feathers could be plucked, and she was told that the softest of these chicken feathers were saved to be used for pillows for the servants.

She was surprised that potatoes were found in a sixteenth-century household but not eaten often. But under Dougless’s directions, women were soon set to peeling potatoes, and others to boiling eggs that were much smaller than twentieth-century eggs.

To get the flour for the batter for the chicken and for the brownies, Dougless was taken to the bolting room. Here flour was repeatedly sifted through fabric sieves, each one of increasing fineness. Dougless began to understand why pure white bread, called manchet, was so prized. The lower the status of the person in the household, the coarser his bread. Bread that had been bolted only once still had lots of bran—and sand and dirt—in it. Only the family and their immediate retainers got bread that had been bolted until it was perfectly clean.

Dougless knew there would be enough chicken, eggs, and potatoes for the whole household, but the brownies with the precious, expensive chocolate would be for the family only. One of the cooks helped her decide how much chicken got coated with rough flour and how much got flour from the next bolting, how much from the next, and so on. Dougless wasn’t about to give a lecture on equality, especially since she knew the finest flour had no bran in it and many of the vitamins were missing, and therefore was not as nutritious as the flour that had been bolted fewer times. Dougless just concentrated on preparing a meal that could feed an army.

The meal, which had been so easy when prepared in a modern English kitchen and done on a small scale, was not easy in the sixteenth century. Everything had to be made in vats and from scratch. There was no mustard or mayonnaise from the grocery for the eggs and potatoes. All the pepper, kept under lock and key, was whole and someone had to pick out the stones; then the peppercorns had to be crushed in a mortar the size of a bathtub. The nuts for the brownies didn’t come in a plastic bag but had to be shelled.

As Dougless supervised, she watched and learned. Her only moment of panic came when she saw that the cake pans were lined with paper that had been written on. She watched in horror when she saw chocolate batter being poured over a deed that she was sure had been signed by Henry the Seventh.

By the time the meal was nearly ready to be served, Dougless knew that the meal had to be a picnic. As though she’d always ruled an army, she sent men into the orchard to spread cloths on the ground, then had pillows brought down from upstairs.

Supper was late that evening, not served until six P.M., but from the looks on people’s faces as they began to taste everything, they thought the wait was worth it. They ate their potato salad with spoons and devoured platefuls of deviled eggs. They loved the high seasoning of the chicken.

Dougless sat across from Nicholas and watched him so closely she hardly ate. But as far as she could see, nothing sparked a memory.

At the end of the meal, the servants triumphantly carried out silver platters heaped high with nut-filled chewy brownies. At the first bite there were tears of gratitude in the eyes of some of the diners.

But Dougless looked only at Nicholas. He bit; he chewed. Then slowly, he looked at Dougless, and her heart leaped to her throat. He does remember, she thought. He remembers something.

Nicholas put down the brownie; then, not knowing why he did it, he removed the ring from his left hand and handed it to her.

Dougless put out a shaking hand and took the ring. It was an emerald ring, the same ring he’d given her on that day at Arabella’s house when she’d first made brownies for him. She could see by his expression that he was puzzled by his action.

“You gave me this ring before,” she said softly. “When I cooked this meal for you the first time, you gave me this same ring.”

Nicholas could only stare at her. He started to ask her to explain, but Kit’s laughter broke the spell of the moment.

“I do not blame you.” Kit laughed. “These cakes are worth gold. Here,” he said as he pulled off a simple gold ring and gave it to Dougless.

Smiling and frowning at the same time, she took the ring Kit offered. The ring was worth nothing compared to Nicholas’s emerald, but had the values been reversed, Nicholas’s ring would have been worth much more to Dougless. “Thank you,” she murmured, then looked back at Nicholas. But he was looking away now and she knew that what he had remembered was gone.

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