The Douglas Trilogy III: More Value Than Pearls
It was a simple thing, a child's birthday celebration, that brought Maria Del Ramos’ past and all that she longed to forget, crashing down around her, dragging her and her beloved 'Black Knight', Sir Lucas Douglas, into a world of sin and murder. What high price would she pay for the new life she’d hoped to have?
Word Count: 112,508
Genre: Historical Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Jenny Dixon, February 2013
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Una quickened her footsteps to keep up with the taller woman. “Lady Del Ramos....”
Maria stopped and turned. “Una. What is my name?”
Una resisted the urge to roll her eyes heavenwards. “I am sorry. It is not always easy to remember your new name.”
“Rios, Mistress Maria Rios, Una. This is important.”
“Si, I will try. May I ask, Mistress Rios, why it is that every day we walk to this corner and wait in this horrible dust and heat?”
“We do not do this every day. You exaggerate?”
“Most every day and Her Grace will arrive soon. We should go home.”
“We have time yet.” Maria turned her gaze down Belgrade Avenue and the mansions that lined either side. “Tell me, what do you feel when you look upon that house?”
“That one? The one you always look at with such distaste, the one with the high wall and iron gate?”
“Si. You know the one I mean.”
“The wall is too high to see much of it; just the top floor, attic and turrets.” Una wrinkled her nose. “It is ugly and not at all like the other homes. It is like a warrior’s castle.”
“And the feeling it gives you?”
“The feeling is that I would like to know why you encourage me to spend time with one of the men who guard that unfriendly place.”
Maria smiled and pushed a loose black curl under her veil. “That is not what I asked, is it? You were with Parker last eve and did not come home until very late and well after I was abed. Cesar told me that you were smiling when he saw you, so mayhap your evening was not so terrible. What did you learn for me?”
The pretty, young maid shook her head. “Mr. Parker is a fine man. He and I walked, that is all”
“I did not ask you what you did Una, I asked you what you learned.”
“I learned that he is very loyal to his employer and needs his employment. He said very little but he did tell me that his master keeps very strict rules. No one gets inside those gates without an invite.” Una shrugged. “He wants me to talk with him again this night. I might learn more.”
Maria nodded, took Una's arm and headed her back down the road. “Good. You must be very careful. Do not ask too many questions.”
“I might be helpful if you told me who lives there and why it is so important to you?”
“Who lives there? Satan and his minions live there.
Una's step faltered.
“No, come along now. We must hurry. As you said, the Duchess Barbary comes for her final sitting and then her portrait will be complete. It is most important that we keep her pleased. She is the one who will aid me to breach those dismal walls.”
“But if such an evil man lives there why would you want to go into that home, Lady...Mistress Rios?”
“Why?” Maria smiled. “To set things as they should be, of course.”