(Hearts in Autumn)
by Joyce DiPastena
Lucianna gazed down at the three silver needles bedded against the red silk lining of the tiny but beautifully carved casket that held them, and nearly burst into tears. In the house of Siri’s first husband, a wealthy Venetian merchant, she had usually embroidered with needles of iron or bronze. These must have been shockingly expensive. Even with his prominent position in Triston’s household, the pins must have cost months of Sir Balduin’s pay. He still looked a little pale as he waited for her response, as though he had not quite recovered from the massive loss of his coins, but he also looked touchingly hopeful that they would please her.
Please her? No man had ever given her a finer gift. These would make her threads slide through cloth like butter.
Her lips trembled to thank him in the sweetest way for a couple in love, with a kiss that forgave everything in the past and promised only bliss in their future. But even as her feet quivered to carry her into Sir Balduin’s arms, Serafino spoke from where he gazed at the gift over her shoulder.
“There, you see, cara? You have been cross for no good reason. Today Sir Balduin lavishes silver needles on you. Tomorrow it will be gold threads for your embroidery and silk gowns for you to wear and black pepper at every meal, imported all the way from Venice.”
Lucianna shrank at her brother’s words. They were only a reminder of the poison he would pour into her marriage if she allowed the needles to melt her heart, as she had the sweet posy of flowers Sir Balduin had brought her after she had rebuked him for missing dinner.
She snapped the pretty little casket shut. “All I see is a man who expects me to sew my fingers to the bone for him. Shirts, hats—no doubt he will even want embroidery on his shoes!” She shoved the casket back into Sir Balduin’s hands. “No. I will not live my life as a drudge, just to wipe away the shame of never being a wife. Take him away, Serafino, out of my sight!”
She tried to slam the door of her bedchamber, but Serafino, who had stepped into the corridor outside to view the needles, stuck his foot on the threshold and blocked it from closing.
“Signore,” he said with a reassuring smile at Sir Balduin, “you must not heed her. I’m afraid I carelessly reminded her this morning that she is no spring maid as I sought to laud her good fortune in winning the favor of so generous a knight as yourself, but she took my remarks quite amiss. See, Lucianna, how I was right to praise him, though. You will lack for no luxury as his wife, while all he asks in return is to show off a bit of your fine embroidery to his friends. Be reasonable, cara.”
Lucianna determined to be anything but. If nagging and scolding and peevish rebukes had failed to break Sir Balduin’s affection for her, then she must leave him in no doubt that his “insulting gift” had broken hers.Buy Loving Lucianna now in ebook format from these booksellers: