La Duquesa – Wonder Horse Book Two
By Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Rose was surprised when she arrived at Hartley Ranch to pick up Maryann and saw a black stretch limousine in the driveway. Nobody rode around these dirt roads in one of those. She was curious as she parked and walked toward the barn. She could see La Duquesa in cross-ties, her daughter doing something with her. Ginny was also there, and a couple of people she didn’t recognize at first. Ginny called her earlier in the day and told her they had some visitors at the ranch, so she was curious about them.
As she got closer to the barn, she saw an older couple talking to Maryann and Ginny. She didn’t recognize them until she stepped into the barn. When she did recognize them, she wished she could disappear.
Maryann was the first one to speak to her. “Hey, Mom. Guess who these nice people are?”
“I know who they are, sweetheart,” she answered woodenly. “I’m just wondering what they are doing here?”
Celeste walked up to Rose and offered her hand. Rose just stood there staring at her. Celeste dropped her hand and took a deep breath, “Rose, I know what a horrible person I was to you. I remember all the terrible things I said to you that night, and I have no excuse for that. We came out here to see you and apologize for it and hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Charles walked over and stood beside his wife. “We didn’t know about Maryann until your friend, Virginia, sent us a picture of her. She looks just like Chip did when he was her age. There’s no doubt in our minds that Maryann is our granddaughter. We want to earn your forgiveness and get to know your daughter, our granddaughter if you will permit it.”
Rose was staggered by this development. She had to find a bench to sit down on before she fell. Her knees and legs wouldn’t support her. “How do you feel about all this, Maryann?” Rose asked her daughter.
“Well, Mom, it would be kind of nice to find out more about my dad. And Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie seem nice enough. What do you think?” Maryann said, embarrassed her mother asked her such a personal question in public.
“If that’s what you want, I will agree,” Rose said thoughtfully. “If you are ever uncomfortable, please come tell me.”
Celeste and Charles Carnegie stood listening to this exchange with their hearts in their throats. They wanted Rose to say yes. They wanted to get to know their granddaughter, and they wanted her to love them as much as they loved her already. They sighed with relief when Rose said she would agree to let them see Maryann.
“Can we start by asking you two to dinner?” Charles asked. “And, Rose, we have some things to discuss with you if that’s okay with you.”
“At this hour, Aunt Adele probably already has dinner started,” Rose began. “I can’t just walk out on her and Uncle Roy that way.”
“Well, just a suggestion, mind you, but why don’t you call them now and ask them if they would care to join us?” Charles offered.
Rose made the call. Aunt Adele and Uncle Roy were just as mystified as she was with this development. They wanted to meet the Carnegies too. But they were lukewarm in their feelings about them after what they’d put Rose through all those years ago.
Despite all their pretty words to her, Rose was lukewarm about them as well. She didn’t want to get hurt like that again, ever again. And she didn’t want her little girl hurt by them, so she cautiously went along.
Rose took Maryann home when she finished up with La Duquesa. Charles asked the limousine driver to follow her. That way, everyone could pile in the limousine for the drive to the restaurant for dinner. Charles would have them dropped off at home before he and Celeste returned to their hotel for the night.
The Carnegies left the choice of the restaurant up to Rose. They didn’t know the area at all. Rose chose a restaurant she could never afford but one recommended by friends who could. The restaurant had nice seating for the family and had a reputation for excellent food.
Celeste locked onto Maryann and made sure she was seated beside her. She spent the entire meal talking with Maryann about her school, grades, interests, and that beautiful horse she was riding when they first saw her. She wanted to know everything about her granddaughter. On the other hand, Maryann had a million questions about her dad. So Celeste and Maryann spent the entire time in their own conversation and barely heard anyone else.
Charles needed to talk to Rose. He told her he needed her and Maryann’s full legal names and their social security numbers if possible. Rose looked at him like he had suddenly grown another head on his shoulder. He laughed. “Guess I should have prefaced that with a reason. My lawyer needs that information for the work I’m having him do. The truth is you and Maryann are our only legal heirs. We’re having our wills redone now so that you and your daughter are named in them as they should be. Also, Chip had his trust account when he died. I didn’t have the heart to change it, but I oversaw it and made good investments with the funds. They’ve grown exponentially in the last 14 years. We want to grant that trust fund to your daughter with you as trustee until she reaches age 21 if that’s agreeable with you. But the caveat is that we get to help teach her the value of money, so she will know how to handle it when that time comes. Just in small doses, you see. We don’t want to scare her or anything.”
“Out of curiosity, how much is in that trust fund?” Rose asked, not sure she wanted to know yet.
Charles gave her a number that she could hardly comprehend. She asked him to repeat it and still couldn’t wrap her mind around it. How many zeros was that? She lost count, and she couldn’t respond. She sat there with a silly blank stare until Charles patted her arm. “It’s okay young lady. It’s a lot to take in on the short notice. But we do have some suggestions for using some of the money. First, I’d like to see you get a home of your own on enough land to put up an equestrian facility for Maryann, you know, a barn, an arena, a tack room, and all the goodies.”
“I can’t do that. I can’t leave Uncle Roy and Aunt Adele alone. They took me in when I needed help. They’re getting up in years and will need my help soon enough.”
Celeste caught part of the conversation between Charles and Rose. She patted Rose’s arm and said, “Buy a bigger house, dear! You can afford it,” and turned her attention back to Maryann as if that problem was solved so easily.
Charles continued, “I’d also like to see you get better transportation. I hear from Uncle Roy he spends most of his time under the hood of one or the other vehicle you have and the rest of his time coming up with band-aids for the next breakdown. You can certainly afford new vehicles, so we don’t have to worry about any of you driving out here in the country in a car that’s apt to break down any minute. We worry about the safety of all four of you.”
Rose didn’t remember much else of the conversation that evening. Her head was swimming. She didn’t want to be bought by anyone and wasn’t absolutely sure that’s not what the Carnegies were doing. She hoped not for Maryann’s sake, but she wasn’t ready to completely trust them. She decided to take it one day at a time and see what happened next. She was happy to step back inside the home she shared with Aunt Adele and Uncle Roy. It was safe. It was home. She felt the love that radiated there. She put her daughter to bed and had a long soak in the tub before bed for the night.