Jade's impatience was giving way to anger with each glance at her wristwatch. Where was Kit? It was time to leave for the depot, and missing the noon train to Madrid meant waiting another day to leave, which also meant missing out on some of the fun. American dignitaries and citizens living and working in Spain were celebrating Thanksgiving, as well as the election of their twenty-eighth president, Woodrow Wilson, back in Washington. Jade had been looking forward to the festivities for months and wanted to be part of the gala celebration.
She paced up and down the pink marble floor of her bedroom, pausing now and then to stare out the wide windows to the balcony and the fields beyond. Surely Kit hadn't left the ranch, but where could she be?
With a sigh, she turned to the mirror, studying her traveling costume--dark silk blouse, blue serge jacket with a short flare above the hip, peg-top skirt, kid pumps. Her dark hair was parted in the middle and plaited in braids that crossed in back.
She knew she looked conservative and dignified, the way people expected the wife of an emissary to look.
For maybe the hundredth time, Jade wished she had never given in to Colt's and Kit's pleadings that she buy the ranch near Valencia, although she had to admit that it was one of the most beautiful regions of the Spanish countryside. With its abundance of orange, lemon, almond, and olive trees, pomegranates and palms, she found the area truly breathtaking.
Their home dated back to the era of El Cid, the most famous of all Spanish heroes. The palatial structure was designed with an inner garden laid out in terraces paved with mosaics and bordered with cypress and myrtle trees, fragrant with the scent of jasmine and roses. The house was built to afford a sweeping view of the aquamarine Mediterranean in front, and the land gently sloping to the rear was perfect for raising horses and cattle. Colt, however, had no time for that although he did arrange his schedule in Madrid to allow him time at home to enjoy the peace and tranquility.
It was truly a paradise, but Jade still harbored reservations about raising Kit here, amid a ruggedness that she'd never know in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Madrid embassy life. Here Kit sometimes rode with the vaqueros working on the Frazier ranch down the road, even though it was forbidden. And Jade also did not like the way Kit trailed after Doc Frazier, their veterinarian, as he made his rounds. She had nothing against him personally. He was a nice enough man, an American who had decided to make his home in Spain after inheriting land from a distant Spanish relative. Jade just felt that such a free outdoor existence was not proper for a young girl of royal blood--Romanov blood. She had pleaded with Colt to send Kit to a finishing school, but he wouldn't agree because Kit didn't want it. She had a way of wrapping her daddy around her little finger that infuriated Jade. It was also, she mused resentfully, because of Colt's mother. Jade adored and respected Kitty Coltrane, but they sometimes clashed because Kitty was very vocal in her opinion that Kit should be allowed to live her own life the way she chose. More than once Jade had let her mother-in-law know that Kitty was not going to tell her how to raise her daughter. It did no good. Kitty still spoke her mind when she felt like it and always took her namesake's side.
Colt laughed when Jade worried, saying that his father had told him that his mother had been the same way when she was younger. Kit was the spitting image of Kitty Wright Coltrane, and that wasn't so bad, was it? Jade would reluctantly agree, thinking all the while that things had no doubt been different when his mother was young and growing up on a small farm in North Carolina. She much preferred her daughter to be more genteel.
Jade had not wanted to leave New York nearly fourteen years ago to move to Spain. She had loved her life there, teaching ballet and dance in her very own, successful studio, enjoying her family, her church and charity work. It was flattering and exciting to be considered one of the city's most respected society matrons. An invitation to a party at the palatial Coltrane mansion on Riverside Drive was almost as coveted as a weekend at their elegant home in the Catskills. In turn, she and Colt had been on the preferred guest list of every social function from New York to the White House.
All things considered however, Colt's being asked to accept the position of emissary to Spain was an honor too grand to even consider not accepting...even though the offer had come at a very sad time in all their lives.
After months of smoldering tension, war had been declared between the United States and Spain. When President McKinley had persuaded Colt's father, Travis, to come out of retirement in October of 1898 to serve as a special adviser during peace negotiations in Paris, the entire family had worried that the stress might be too much for him. Travis Coltrane had turned a deaf ear to their protests. He was a man of honor and dedication, and if he felt that his country needed him, he would be there to serve, as best he could. He did, however, request that his only son accompany him, and together the two had proven invaluable diplomats.
Sadly, however, the family's fears proved true. On the tenth day of December, 1898, the day the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally ending the war, Travis Coltrane succumbed to a fatal heart attack.
It had been a difficult time for Colt, and Jade had felt that the assignment in Spain would help him get on with his life. She'd pushed aside her personal regrets over leaving because she loved him so.
All had gone well. Colt was one of the most respected government emissaries in Spain. Their life had been pleasant enough, but as Kit grew older, Jade felt that if she couldn't persuade her to go to finishing school, then they should consider moving back to New York for the social and educational advantages there. Kit disagreed vehemently, arguing that if Kit's twin, Travis, could live in France with Grandma Kitty, then she should be able to enjoy Europe, too. Jade knew that was only an excuse. Kit just preferred riding and the outdoors to what she considered "boring girl things".
And as for John Travis living with his grandmother, well, Jade had reluctantly given in, with the understanding that he would live at home during the summer. He did, and they were all very close. Kitty was raising her other granddaughter, Marilee, alone. Marilee was actually Kitty's step-granddaughter. A long time ago, in a dark part of Kitty and Travis's lives, Travis had thought that Kitty was dead. He'd married a Kentucky lady named Marilee Barbeau who had died giving birth to their first and only child, Dani, Marilee's mother.
Jade swallowed the painful lump that still rose in her throat whenever she thought of Dani...dear, sweet, gentle Dani, who had married Jade's close Russian friend Drakar Mikhailonov. Theirs had been a rare and special kind of love, shadowed only by Dani's inability to carry a baby to term. Then, on the day her father had died, Dani had given birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl...and joined her father in death.
Jade had promised Dani that she would raise her child as her own, but Kitty had insisted, and who could deny her in her grief over losing Travis? Despite their clashes over Kit, Jade admitted to having deep affection and respect for her mother-in-law.
As for Drakar, his wounded heart would never heal, for a part of him had died with his wife. He had returned to Russia to aid his lifelong friend, the Czar Nicholas, in troubled times. Though she seldom heard from him, Jade thought of him often, and fondly.
A knock on the door chased away her painful memories. She saw with disappointment, however, that it was the servant girl, Carasia, and not Kit. "Well, did you find her? Have any of the servants seen her?"
Carasia stared at the floor, picking nervously at her long peasant skirt, then admitted, "Si, I have found her, senora, but she said to tell you she cannot come now. She said she is sorry you will miss the train, but it cannot be helped, and she begs your forgiveness."
Jade's eyes grew wide with disbelief. "You mean she refuses to come?"
Carasia nodded and whispered, "Si."
"Well, exactly where is she?" Jade exploded.
"In the stable. The mare the veterinario loaned to her is foaling...having mucho difficulty. Dr. Frazier could not be found, and Senorita Kit must deliver the colt herself, or the mare will die."
Jade fumed. "Oh, for heaven's sake! I told her she had to take that horse back, that she had no business having it here."
Carasia's chin lifted in loyalty to her mistress and friend. "Senorita Kit loves horses. She wants one badly for herself."
Jade regarded the girl coldly, not about to discuss personal matters with a servant. She brushed by her and hurried out of the house and down the path leading through a grove of lemon trees to the rustic barns. She recognized Julio, the young son of one of the servants, standing outside the open doors. His eyes were large with fear as he stepped out of her way.
Jade started into the barn but turned at the sound of her name. It was the chauffeur, Muego, coming down the path toward her. He was supposed to be waiting in the front courtyard to drive them to the station in Colt's new pride and joy, a sleek gold and black Alfonso. Built by Hispano Suiza in Barcelona, it was considered one of the finest and fastest cars on the road. But she cared nothing about the fancy car now, only the fact that Muego looked as agitated as she felt.
"I heard about the mare foaling," he said. "I doubt there will be time to make the train, but I'll keep the car ready just the same."
"Do that," Jade snapped, then hurried into the barn. She found Kit in one of the stalls at the rear. Her daughter was kneeling in the hay beside her borrowed mare, Belle. Wearing the denim trousers Jade detested and a worn flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows, Kit looked as if Madrid festivities were the furthest thing from her mind.
Jade's hand flew to her mouth at the sight of blood on Kit's hands and shirt. She gasped, her stomach rolling.
Kit turned to look at her, aware of her presence for the first time. "She's foaling," she said quietly, worry apparent on her fine-boned face. "And it's early. She wasn't due for a few weeks yet. I came out to check on her and saw she was acting strangely. Then I saw that her udder had started to swell, and I knew she was going into labor."
With angry resignation, Jade said, "What can you do about it? This is something for Dr. Frazier to tend to, not you. Besides, it's his horse," she added icily.
Kit shook her head stubbornly. "I sent Julio to get him, but nobody knows where he is. I won't leave her. He told me once that when a mare is foaling, and she starts acting nervous and sweating and straining, everything moves fast, and it's usually over in a half hour or so.
"I waited," Kit hurried to explain, "but when nothing happened, I reached up inside her and found that the colt is turned wrong. It's supposed to come out with its nose lying on its forelegs, but this one is lying on its side. I've got to turn it. Maybe you should wait outside," she suggested with an apologetic smile before dipping her hands into the bucket of lard Julio had brought earlier.
By now, Julio and Muego had come inside the stall and were also kneeling beside Kit and the mare, ready to assist if needed. Jade, feeling sick to her stomach, backed away into the shadows. She turned aside, unable to watch.
Several moments passed, then suddenly everyone cried out with delight. Jade forced herself to look, watching in awe, as a tiny, fuzzy, wet newborn colt made his way into the world, struggling to stand on wobbly legs.
"He's beautiful." Kit was crying happily. "He's beautiful, and healthy. I can't believe we did it, Belle..." She threw her arms around the mare as Belle got to her feet to inspect her new son.
Jade could not deny that she was proud of her daughter, but she found herself suddenly fired with renewed determination to leave the ranch...and Spain. Kit needed the cultural and educational advantages of New York if she were to blossom, and grow, and one day marry someone of refinement and wealth. Maybe, after Colt heard about this unladylike performance, and with so much talk of war in Europe, he might be more easily convinced. Jade had a feeling that maybe he, too, was ready to go home.
For the moment, however, they had to get to the depot. There might still be time to catch their train. "You did a nice job, dear," Jade began. "And I'm proud of you, but if you hurry, we can--"
"No." Kit stood, whisking a strand of coppery-golden hair back from her damp forehead with the back of her bloodied hand.
Her voice was soft, but there was no mistaking the look of determination in the steady gaze of her wide lavender eyes. "I have to wait an hour or so, to make sure Belle passes her afterbirth. Then I've got to make sure he starts suckling, and that's not always easy. I may have to--"
Jade suddenly cried out in complete frustration, "Kit, I'm sorry, but I find all of this disgusting and unladylike! When you father hears about it, you can be sure he'll agree with me that we need to get you back to civilization and teach you how to be a lady. You are young and beautiful, and you should be looking forward to going to Madrid and being the center of attention, having men flock around you, instead of wallowing in blood and straw and filth!"
Kit listened quietly to her mother's ranting and raving. When Jade had calmed down somewhat, she said contritely, "I'm sorry. I really am. And I promise to be ready on time tomorrow."
"You see to it!" Jade cried furiously, storming out of the barn.
Kit stared after her and shook her head sadly. Why, she wondered, couldn't her mother see that she had dreams of her own? It wasn't fair to be expected to live a certain way, think a certain way, act a certain way just because she was a woman. She wanted to be herself. She didn't mean to be disrespectful or disobedient, and the last thing she wanted to do was hurt anybody, but that's the way she was--the way she had to be.