The dress was wonderful. The velvet felt how she had imagined the fur of the bony panther of the Lorcqan jungle to feel. And indeed she felt wild and gloriously free in Eric’s home, which was why she had allowed herself to plant that kiss on his cheek.
She changed, trying to ignore the slight dampness of her undergarments. She would have to wear those every day -Eric could not buy her fresh clothes of that sort - so she had hurriedly washed these and dried them by the hearth this morning. Thank goodness Eric had been away for so much time.
Corinne had slipped the new dress on but noted with dismay that it tied with strings at her back. She would have to ask Eric to aid her.
“Oh, E-Eric,” she called nervously, heat slowly rising to her cheeks.
The response was almost instantaneous.
“I ... I require a little ... help,” she confessed, quite ashamed of her helplessness in this situation.
The door between the living room and the bedroom opened slowly. Corinne was facing the opposite wall and was glad Eric could not see her face.
“Ah,” he murmured.
Without another word, he stepped towards her and began to tie the strings. His fingers were steady and avoided her skin, and he did not tie the dress too tightly. He finished without once having touched anything other than the dress material and announced hesitantly “I ... I am done.”
Corinne did not turn. She had shed one tear during the dress-fastening and could only imagine the awkwardness Eric felt.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“Are you okay?” he inquired softly.
Corinne shook her head, another tear falling.
Eric gently stroked her right shoulder and murmured, “Don’t be embarrassed, my lady. I ought to have foreseen this and brought your clothing with us.”
“It is not your fault,” she replied, though she still would not look at him. She did not voice her other thought, that perhaps all her clothes in Dachshund Manor required another person to put on.
“Would you care for a moment to yourself?” he asked kindly.
Corinne nodded mutely.
Eric moved his hand away and silently left.
‘What a gentleman,’ Corinne thought, amazed, though still a little miserable.
She felt sure she could not distrust him now. What a temptation it must have been to touch her skin and call it an accident. She had been so relieved when Eric had completed the task and not caused her to suffer. It was her desperate hope that he did not believe that she hated him now because of her refusal to regard him afterwards. She could not bear the thought of causing dejection in such a kind, kind man.
In a moment she had regained her composure and strode through into the room where Eric was lying upon a rug.
“Let us prepare luncheon now,” she said brightly.
Eric glanced up, his smile containing none of the sadness Corinne had worried it would; he stood up and followed her into the kitchen where they prepared the meal of leftover dinner together.