I have a new three-wheel bicycle (an ol’ lady bike), and I went for a 30 minute ride this morning through City Park. There’s a great path about a mile long around what they call the Big Lake. This morning I passed a young woman on in-line skates. I noticed she was following me, and she said, “I’m drafting behind you.” I sure didn’t think I was going fast enough for her, but she followed me two-thirds of the way around, until I pulled off to head for home. What fun.
What’s not fun, however, is trying to pass people walking or strolling along, sometimes in the middle of the two-lane path. I have a bell which I use to let them know I’m trying to pass. And I speak, “Bike passing.” The problem is that almost everybody has on headphones. Damn phones, I-phones, nanos, etc. They don’t hear anything or anyone. Hazards. I’d sure hate to run into somebody.
That’s my rant for the week. And, as promised, here is an except from The Second Prince.
This is an historical romance set in 16th Century Tuscany, Italy.
Piero (the second prince) stood by the hearth in the Queen Santina’s chambers, stirring the fire. The pine-scented smoke drifted into the room. Her lady-in-waiting, Claudine, sat snoring in a nearby chair.
“Come sit. Leave the fire alone. I want to talk to you,” Queen Santina said. Her already wrinkled face creased with concern while she patted the empty space next to her on the blue brocade couch. Now that both boys were growing up and Carlo had a fiancé, Piero was ready, she hoped, for the doubts she wished to introduce about his paternity.
Piero sat next to his grandmother and tilted his head. “What do you want to talk to me about? I think I heard a carriage outside. Maybe Domenica (his twin brother’s fiance) has already arrived.”
Queen Santina frowned. “This is more important.” She said and pointed her index finger at him. “But first, you must promise to keep this conversation just between us. All right?”
He nodded and sat very still.
The weak winter sunlight shown through the window and highlighted the dark red streaks in his otherwise brown hair. Adjusting the black embroidered shawl around her thin shoulders, she inhaled a deep breath and asked, “Do you remember the time you and Carlo (his twin) fell into the Black River?”
“Yes, I remember it well since I nearly drowned. But I swam to the bank. Why?”
“And what did Stephen do?”
Piero paused and pursed his lips. “Oh, I remember. Stephen jumped in and helped Carlo.”
“That’s right. I was nearby, and I thought he was going to let you drown,” she said, planting the image.
“But I was all right, Grandmother. I could swim.”
“Yes, you could. But why do you think Stephen helped him first?” Carlo had hit his head on a rock when he fell in, although she hoped Piero had forgotten that.
Piero’s eyes narrowed while he considered Queen Santina’s question. He glanced at her and then focused on the fire. “You think it was because Carlo is the first prince and heir to the throne?”
With a dismissive gesture of her jeweled hand, she said, “You need to draw your own conclusion.”
He squeezed his eyebrows together and crossed his arms over his chest. Pausing, he said, “Sometimes my mother favors him. Still, I’m better with swords and riding. Stephen has to spend more time with him because he’s not as good as I am.” He stopped. His face flushed and he sat straighter on the couch, as though some ideas brewed.
The sounds of people talking echoed through the halls. The Queen leaned back and said, “I suspect that’s our guest arriving. Time for you to go.”
Piero rose and stepped to the door, his face grim. Before he opened the door, he stopped and retraced his steps to give her a quick kiss goodbye. “Thank you, Grandmother.”
After he left, she sighed and warmth spread through her, not from the fire, but from the successful beginning of her plans.