“May I ask what happened?” Laurel grazed her fingertips against the strap tying the patch to his head.
He grasped her wrist.
She immediately lowered her hands and gazed to her lap, chiding herself inwardly for speaking without thinking.
“Civil War. Bayonet.” His voice was curt.
“I am so sorry.” The flood of sympathy she held when she first saw him came rushing back. She lifted her face.
“I don’t need your pity, Miss Gunn.” He seated himself farther away from her.
“Misses,” she corrected him.
“I beg your pardon?”
At his look of bewilderment, she covered her mouth and bit her lip to keep the laughter from bubbling forth. “I’m a widow. My husband died during the Crimean War. He too was an American, from Boston actually, a doctor, a lovely man.” Laurel knew she was rambling talking faster than her brain formed words. Her sorrow nearly overtook her fine-tuned control. No Tears. Do not cry. Twelve long years had passed, and grief still hung like an anchor around her neck.
“I had no idea.” His hoarse whisper broke her cloud of gloom. “Is his passing and your loss why you do this?”
“The killing of my husband is part of it.” Laurel could not very well tell him within the toils of the Embassy trade, she had found a sense of family. Her mother had died in India and her own father had traded her freedom for land and a title. Her new friends gave her an unexpected strength and power, which helped mask the deep grief of isolation.