She wanted to run out and embrace him again. She wanted to nestle into his warmth and forget the rest of the world before staring up into his beautiful eyes and losing herself in their depths. She wanted him to lean in towards her once again and this time she would kiss him too.
She could not. She neither understood nor liked the interruption of the moment by the sudden appearance in her mind of the frozen scene of a man whom she did not recognise: a tall, striking young man, outlined against a window facing out onto a lawn, with thick brown hair and soft brown eyes: an image which had caused her to feel she ought not to kiss Eric and also brought a pang of deep, almost mournful longing.
Why should this have happened? She had not been in love when Eric had rescued her - otherwise he would not have rescued her. She had been unhappy in Dachshund Manor: her life here seemed a great improvement on the picture of misery she held in her mind which had represented her life before her time here in his cottage since she had come to find Eric totally trustworthy.
But it had happened. And she could not kiss Eric. She could not even leave this room to try to talk to him about her feelings because she felt a great and terrible shame, as though she had committed the most awful crime.
She sincerely hoped that she would feel different in the morning. There was no actual element of Eric’s kiss that she had disliked. And he had been so good to her and she quite honestly believed that she was falling enamoured of him. This event was a mystery to her: one she could not even begin to try to figure out. Who had been the man in her mind? And why had he prevented her from kissing a man whom she was, in her opinion, perfectly entitled to kiss?
It was at this point that she regarded the ring on her finger - a piece of jewellery that was meaningless, insignificant to her. But perhaps its presence there had caused her to feel a duty to her uncaring husband-to-be. Or perhaps it reminded some distant part of her mind that was out of her reach of the cold Lord Dachshund and she - without having even realised it - remembered being afraid of him and afraid of not doing what he wanted her to do. She pulled it off, a little surprised that the removal of a ring supposed to represent so much had so little impact on her. She laid it on her bedside table and prepared for bed. She slipped under the covers, shivering a little at the coolness of the sheets. It was not difficult for her to fall asleep, despite the guilt she felt for Eric’s sadness and for the fact that he thought he had behaved wrongly.
In the morning, Corinne awoke and could not properly recall the link between the image of the man inside her head and her withdrawal from Eric. She dressed and walked into the living room. Eric was not in his bed. She found him in the kitchen, already awake, already preparing their first meal of the day.
“Eric,” she murmured, wanting to apologise now that the bizarre feelings of the night before had faded. “I am sorry, dear Eric, for moving away from you.”
Eric turned to her, the look on his face one of astonishment.
“My lady, as I said, I was in the wrong for making that move on you. I should have waited a little longer, should have asked you verbally for your consent...”
Corinne laid a hand on one of Eric’s to silence him. She looked steadily into his eyes.
“I wanted you to kiss me, Eric. I know not why I stopped the kiss.”
Eric’s expression became tender, kind. He appeared to believe her.
“Well, I am glad that you care for me. But if ever you are unhappy with what I do, you must tell me and I shall cease. Shall we try to kiss again?”
“I would like that,” Corinne whispered.
She shut her eyes tightly, a little nervous as Eric’s face neared hers. His lips came down upon her mouth as gently as an insect alighting on a flower and she was ready this time - she was sure of it... The image of the man appeared and Corinne pulled away, gasping in surprise at the sudden return of the yearning from the night before.
Eric winced a little.
“My lady, this is not wise. I do not mean to upset you. I shall not...”
“Don’t say the words,” Corinne said hastily. “Do not make a promise that neither of us would like.”
Eric’s expression was dubious.
“My lady, I think you are too quick to become anxious. I do not mind that you do not feel the same way. We have shared wonderful moments as friends, have we not?”
“It is not that,” Corinne said, shaking her head almost violently, tossing her hair with the movement. “I do love you, Eric. I love you. I want to kiss you.” Her voice rose as she spoke and despair entered her tone as she begged, “Oh, please try again!”
Corinne’s emotional state seemed to render Eric helpless to do anything other than obey. Once again, he leant in towards her and once again, her eyelids dropped.
He was as gentle as was humanly possible as his lips met hers tentatively.