Corinne Kingfisher was standing at her east-facing window in the bedchamber where she slept each night, her thoughts gratifyingly blank as she mindlessly absorbed the scene of the town of Periville and the summer sun beating down upon it in a cloudless sky. A knock interrupted her peaceful state and she turned to see Samantha, one of the maids at Dachshund manor, standing at the door she always left open so she didn’t feel trapped in the room.
“Lord Dachshund is waiting in the library for you miss,” Samantha murmured.
Corinne sighed quietly, thanking the slight, fair-haired child, who curtsied and left without another word. She wondered how she tolerated this dull, overly regulated lifestyle. The prospect of living here had been inviting at first - she had thought she’d be seeing more of Richard than ever when she had herself been a maid here, and perhaps that she’d be equal to him at least through residing in his house - but as the years had passed she had come to feel like an unloved ward who no one paid any real attention to (almost as though she were spoilt and made ridiculous demands),with her barely seeing Lord Dachshund more than once every couple of days. She particularly felt like Richard was her guardian rather than a man with whom she had formed the beginnings of a friendship seven years ago with these weekly chats. During each meeting frustration mingled with pain for Corinne as Richard continued to appear uninterested in her on the surface but conveyed a startlingly intense emotion through a glance which usually preceded the end of the conversation.
She regarded the bedchamber desperately as if hoping she could find some sort of excuse for not turning up but upon finding nothing exciting or dramatic, left, walking slowly to the library in, if she was quite frank with herself, depression.
On the way she passed her mother, who could always be found wandering around the manor in a reverie. Sympathy rose inside Corinne like the swell of a songbird’s breast as she noticed the wistfulness in Keris Kingfisher’s eyes which indicated that she was remembering Corinne’s father - a man who had sadly passed away before she was born. Silently she walked on, knowing that her mother preferred to be left alone in this state.
On reaching the library, she knocked upon the mahogany of the open door.
Richard, a man of fair height in the land and several inches taller than Corinne, had been standing gazing out of the paned glass between him and the lawn stretching away from the manor like he was imprisoned in the room; he turned and regarded her, his expression, as always, unfathomable.
As ever, he looked handsome: a real treat to the lucky eyes which fell upon him. The sunlight behind him illuminated his thick brown hair against the mass of which every strand was clear and defined. His eyes, a softer shade of brown which rather seemed to melt a little when he smiled, appeared to regard Corinne as though she were a figment of Richard’s imagination and not a physical presence in the room: the way they nearly always did, though the look had upset Corinne when she’d first moved here and sometimes haunted the less pleasant of her dreams.
“Good afternoon, Corinne,” he said in his pleasantly pitched voice whose tone, with rare exception, was gentle. He gestured to a dark blue leather armchair with a graceful sweep of his hand, the movement emphasising the length and slenderness of his perfect-for-piano-playing fingers: “Please sit.”