Corinne drew away, shaking her head as if refusing to believe the same result had arisen from Eric’s second attempt. He held her to him, murmuring comforting words in her ear, telling her again and again how it did not matter that she did not love him.
“But I do love you,” Corinne insisted. She drew away so she could look him in the eye when she spoke. “Last night, I took off my engagement ring because I thought that that might be the source of the problem. I don’t understand why I cannot kiss you.”
Eric regarded Corinne’s hand. It was true. Her finger no longer wore that circle of silver and diamond. He lifted her hand and kissed it, glancing at her face as he did. She smiled and he let go of her hand, holding her again.
“How puzzling this is,” he murmured.
“I know, my dearest Eric. I know.”
Dearest... It seemed that she truly did care for him. And deep down he was overjoyed: near overwhelmed by his delight that Corinne reciprocated his feelings for her. But he could not shake the confusion that found itself in the surface layer of his emotions. What was preventing Corinne from kissing him?
He held her until he caught the aroma of frying bacon in the air and hurriedly turned to watch it so that it did not burn.
After taking breakfast and washing herself, Corinne sat on a rug in the living room and gazed unseeingly at the wall of the cottage facing her, a frown upon her face, a furrow in her brow. Eric sat beside her after he had washed the dishes. He longed to touch, to stroke her warm, autumnal-coloured hair but restrained himself: eh would not cause her to feel uncomfortable. Yet in a moment, Corinne had moved closer and taken up his hand, kissing it while her brow furrowed even more deeply.
Eric gently tugged his hand out of her grip, shaking his head when she glanced upwards at his face.
“Hold me near to you, Eric,” she murmured imploringly, her eyes possessing a look of vulnerability.
Eric frowned but then remembered that Corinne had never reacted badly to an embrace. His movements slow and careful in case this had altered, he placed one arm around her waist. She leant in towards him so that their bodies were touching and lapsed once more into silence.
About an hour later the pair was still sitting in this position when there was a knock upon the cottage’s front door. Eric removed his arm from around Corinne’s waist, rose to his feet and walked over to their side of the door. He opened the door and found himself looking at the rather sternly set face of Lord Richard Dachshund.