Safari Moon
impart the next message his voice
was serious.
     
    “Take old Robert’s ring off.”
     
    He clenched his fists, his shoulders
tightening but then the tension vanished and he smiled again. He
didn’t wait for her to remove the ring, he did it for her. For a
brief second, she thought he would drop the ring in his pocket but
then he changed his mind and handed it to her.
     
    She held a symbol of love in the palm of her
hand. It felt cold and empty and with it off she was suddenly very
relieved.
     
    ***
     
    “Couldn’t you have picked out one of the
ladies!”
     
    “It’s Nyssa or no one.”
     
    The Colonel growled low in his throat but
didn’t say anything more. He watched Nyssa with his eyelids half
lowered. His gaze raised goose bumps on her arms and made her
stomach roll. But Solo, having no idea of the discomfort he caused,
remained firm.
     
    “I love her,” he said. “I’ve always trusted
her and she’s always been there for me. It’s simple, I want to
spend the rest of my life with Nyssa.” He gave her a thumbs up sign
while the Colonel wasn’t looking, encouraging her to agree to
whatever he said. “I need to thank you. Until all this happened I
took her for granted. I didn’t treat her well at all.”
     
    Solo was a good actor. He spouted nonsense
and all-the-while he pulled his grandfather into his corner. If she
didn’t know better, she might start to believe him.
     
    She had to pinch herself so she’d remember
it was all a lie. When she did remember, she felt guilt wash
through her once more.
     
    “You can tell Grandmother we’re getting
married and she better start to eat right. I wouldn’t want her to
miss the ceremony.”
     
    “You’re joking. Nyssa has never been
anything more to you than a convenient toy. You know that kind of
relationship never lasts.”
     
    Solo’s shoulders stiffened, his neck muscles
tightening. “Convenient toy?”
     
    He’d never treated her like that. Had he?
Sometimes she’d felt stepped on but never toyed with.
     
    “You owe Nyssa an apology.” Solo told him,
his brows drawn together fiercely. “From now on, if you don’t have
something nice to say about my fiancée, don’t say anything at
all.”
     
    Colonel St. John chose to ignore Solo’s
challenge. “Whatever for? An apology for the truth?” the Colonel
went on, not even stopping to give Nyssa a glance. “If you two are
so in love with each other, why wasn’t I told?”
     
    “We knew how you felt about me,” Nyssa said.
“I didn’t want to make any waves.”
     
    By her ear, Solo whispered, “Good girl.
Stand up to him.”
     
    He took her hand in his to continue the
charade between them, as if his grandfather couldn’t tell a sham
when he saw one.
     
    “And what’s wrong with a few waves?” Colonel
St. John asked.
     
    Under the Colonel’s stern, penetrating
glare, Nyssa cringed. “Well, I knew you disapproved of me and,” she
looked at Solo for help.
     
    He squeezed her hand but remained
silent.
     
    “So, now you think I’ll approve.” Colonel
St. John’s gaze hadn’t wavered and Nyssa felt her skin grow
clammier by the second.
     
    “Grandfather, you’re embarrassing her. Is
that any way to treat your future granddaughter-in-law.” He let go
of Nyssa’s hand and strode to the Colonel, squaring off as if he
was determined to drive the point home. “This is what you wanted
isn’t it? I don’t remember your telling me I needed your approval
when I married. You’ve always told me I’d know when the time was
right, that my heart would tell me.”
     
    “If I thought she was good enough for you,
I’d give you my blessings.”
     
    Nyssa squirmed under his direct attack on
her character. The Colonel talked as if she wasn’t in the room. The
devil, but she wished she’d never agreed to this stupidity.
     
    “She’s too good for me,” Solo said.
     
    He went behind the couch where she sat and
let his hands rest on her shoulders. He traced the back of

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