First Page: Could It Be Magic
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"Let the candle be. I've more on my plate than I can say a prayer over. Time to rest when I'm in my grave."
Betty shook her head. "Just a bit of rest, Yer Grace. Ye've worked far too long already." She pulled a sheaf of parchment from her bodice and stuffed it under the thin mat that passed for a bed in this grim place. "I oughten not leave this. Ye'll only stay awake, scribbling and fretting all the night through."
Joan, Duchess of Whytecliff, waved the maid's concerns away with a weak smile. "I'll do what I must, as I always do." She glanced toward the door where one of the Bishop's men stood, an inattentive guard who should have checked Betty for just such contraband.
The maid's lips lifted in a tight smile and she spoke in a soft tone. "He's not a bad sort. I like a man who will stay bribed."
"I shan't even ask what you had to do to be allowed this visit." Joan grasped the woman's hand briefly. "You're a good woman, Betty. I only wish I could . . ."
"Ah, don't start, Yer Grace. Ye've done more than well by me." Her voice broke as she continued. "Ye've been nothing but a fair and kind mistress to all of us."