Corinne could not believe Richard’s cheek. How dare he tell her not to be upset, call her dear and then leave without a word of explanation? He hadn’t even said anything remotely comforting!
Also, he had been terribly rude. Fancy walking off like that as if there were far more important matters at hand than Corinne’s feelings! You never showed a lady an attitude like that, unless it was to show her how worthless she was. Naturally Corinne resented this treatment.
Corinne wondered if he actually knew what love was. It occurred to her that he could be a clueless idiot. How he frustrated her!
She was passing through the manor foyer, silently fuming, when there was a knock on the door. Being the closest to it, Corinne thought she might as well answer it. She walked to the door and opened it to find a slightly wild-looking young man with black hair with bizarre streaks of yellow in it, eyes bright with eagerness that curiously resembled a stone Richard had once shown her called tiger’s eye: the irises’ colour formed of horizontal stripes of alternating light brown and darker shades of brown with flecks of dulled amber scattered randomly in their circles like stars in the sky; and an aura of energy that almost wore Corinne out from merely standing near him.
“Good afternoon,” Corinne said politely, though inwardly gaping in shock at the man’s looks, which, while unlike those of any other man she’d known, were quite appealing to the eye.
The man stared at her wide-eyed for exactly two seconds before blinking and replying, “Are you related to Lord Dachshund?”
Corinne frowned slightly and the magic of the moment disappeared but continued to speak pleasantly as she told him, “No but he lives here. This is Dachshund Manor.”
The man beamed.
“Excellent! Will he be visited at this time?”
“He may be,” Corinne answered. “I shall ask. You may wait in the parlour for him.”
The man nodded and stepped inside. Corinne closed the door behind him and led him to the room where guests waited to be seen by Richard.
“What’s your name?” the man asked her along the way.
“Corinne,” she responded.
“Are you the lord’s ward?”
Corinne’s brow furrowed.
“No. I ...” She hesitated. “He rescued me. My house burned down and he saved my mother and I from poverty.”
A lump rose in her throat.
“This is the parlour,” she said, gesturing to the parlour they had stopped outside.
She proceeded to the servants’ quarters where she found Samantha on a sofa, reading a book.
“Sorry to disturb you,” Corinne said, causing the maid to start, “but Lord Richard has a visitor and I cannot face him at this moment.”
Samantha looked confused. She put her book down and nodded, frowning a little.
“Of course, my lady.” She stood up and walked off to find Richard.
Corinne took a few deep breaths before returning to the parlour. There, the stranger was examining the bookshelves which lined the room.
“I have sent for him,” she told him.
The man turned and smiled at her.
“Thank you. Did I introduce myself, by the way? I’m Eric. Eric Stag. I recently moved here.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Eric,” she murmured, holding out a hand which quivered slightly in the air between the two.
“Oh, now. Don’t be shy,” he said in a warming tone. He took her hand and delicately kissed it. He held it for a few seconds more than was necessary before releasing it and gazed deep into her eyes. The look, rather than disturbing however, had a calming quality. Corinne briefly lost herself in the black centres of Eric’s gaze.
“You’re very beautiful,” he told her, surprising her because she wouldn’t have expected such an opinion from such a handsome man.
He smiled, a gentle, soothing smile.
“Lord Dachshund is lucky to have you here with him.”
Corinne shook her head sadly, looking away from Eric’s beautiful eyes.
“He is not. Or if he is, he scarcely shows it.”
Eric had no chance to ask her about her statement because at that point Richard walked in, looking bemused by the sight of Eric in his house.
Eric performed a bow.
Corinne curtsied and announced, “I shall leave you to your business.” She nodded to each of the men, saying, “Eric, Lord Richard.”
She left the room. If she had stayed, she knew that she would have been more than tempted to strike Richard and she had no intention of acting in an un-ladylike manner before a gentleman who had just been extremely kind to her. She hoped he would visit again. He seemed so charming.
Very much unlike the uncaring Richard.