Why had she felt called upon to let me know that Tristan meant at last to initiate divorce proceedings and that he intended to marry again? Why had she begged me so urgently to come to New Mexico? She mentioned no names, but one in particular leaped immediately to my mind. What if it was Glenda Brant he meant to marry!? Suddenly, my fingernails were pressing crescents into my palms. Was I here mainly because of her and because old jealously wouldn’t die? Rubbing fingers across my palm, I admitted to myself that it was a hell of a lot more than that.
Ahead of us on the terrace, waiting as we climbed the steps, was a young woman, blonde, poised, and very elegant. Taking a quick run through my mental PDA, I decided it must be Abby’s latest secretary, Clare Wood. Abby had a good many interests and civic duties. With the Wolfe fortunes at an all-time low, her charities now were not great, but she had mentioned the help of a young woman from Santa Fe who came in for a few hours twice a week. To this assistant, Abby always assigned the task of showing visitors about and introducing them to the estate. I was grateful this one was a stranger.
Venturing up the wide steps, I stood self-conscious in the circle of tourists while the assistant introduced herself and welcomed us to Wolfe Haven. I huddled among the others, but my eyes strayed from where she pointed, following the line of the two square towers at the front corners of each wing. At the back of the house were two more towers, invisible from where I stood, flat-roofed, with tall chimneys between them. From the roofs and the H-bar with its parapets connecting the four towers, one could stand and look out over the entire estate. From the towers and rooftop, I had once looked downward to where the afternoon sun fired the windows of the great library and to the columned doorway a floor below, the one touch of grace in this mausoleum.
Recessed in stone to the right of the front door was a niche holding a bas-relief of the Wolfe Haven German shepherd. The dog stood, elegant and regal, depicted in flowing lines with a shining coat and an intelligent expression that commanded the viewer’s attention. I thought of Echo, who had loved me for whatever I was, and mourned her loss again.
“Before we go into the house itself, ladies and gentlemen,” Miss Wood was saying, “you must see the old ruins of Wolfe Haven Hall. Some of the walls of the original building are still intact, including the famous arch of the chapel window. This way, please.”
Like a teacher guiding her charges, Miss Wood crossed the terrace briskly to the right of the house, starting along a winding path that led across lawns toward the road. Everyone streamed after her, except me. The last place I wanted to visit in a crowd was the ruins. There, I had experienced my first joy over finding the house, and there I had suffered the pain of saying good-bye to it. I wanted to see the place again, but I needed to be alone when I did. What if I could get there first?
Obeying the impulse, I cut through Abby’s garden toward the woods, while the tour plodded along the main road. The way through the woods was quicker, and I could take my snapshots and be back at the house before Miss Wood was through with her lecturing. Beneath the trees it was quiet, save for the crackle of twigs under my feet and the scolding of the birds I disturbed along the way. I ran until broken stone walls lay across my path, outlining the boundaries of what had once been Wolfe Haven Hall.
The great arch of the chapel window still rose against the sky, and it was a sight to break my heart all over again. But the approaching tour prevented that. Pointing my camera in one direction and then another, I snapped away. Later I would have these mementos, and I could be as sentimental as I pleased in the privacy of my room. No matter what I told myself, I had come here to remember, not to forget!
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Genre – Romance (Gothic)
Rating – R for graphic sex and language