Corinne gasped in shock as the visitor entered Eric’s cottage. It was the man she had seen in her mind’s eye which had prevented her from kissing Eric! Who was he?
The man’s glance in her direction was brief but his expression changed completely - from a look of severity to one of utter fury.
The question that he asked Eric would indicate that he was Lord Dachshund.
Corinne watched the scene anxiously as Eric replied calmly, “Yes, I would. Would you like a bowl of coffee?”
“No, I would not like coffee,” Lord Dachshund snarled. “Why did you kidnap Corinne?” His expression became menacing. “I can have you hanged for this, you know. So talk!”
Eric retained his mask of cool composure, though Corinne could see his hands trembling.
“I kidnapped her because she was unhappy, my lord. It can’t have escaped your notice that she wasn’t content in your presence.”
Richard looked puzzled, though still angry.
“What are you talking about?! How dare you suggest that I cannot make my own wife-to-be happy?”
“But it is true, is it not?” Eric murmured, casting his eyes downwards. “That she was miserable only a few days after the engagement, when you rode past my house with her, not saying to her a single word? Surely you could not have missed the expression of discontentment on her face?”
“That is none of your business!” Richard roared, enraged. “You are a subject, Eric: you cannot take away from me the woman I wish to marry! You stole into my house in the dead of the night, bewitched my guards, and kidnapped her when the act was a violation of the laws! Do you deny these charges?”
“No,” Eric said boldly, gazing up, his eyes blazing with determination. “No, I do not deny them, nor for that matter do I regret the act! Corinne is content in my company, my lord. You asked for her hand when neither of you even loved each other.”
Richard stared in disbelief.
“You thought we did not love each other?”
“As a matter of fact, I did. I still do. I acted to rescue Corinne from a miserable life. You do not deserve to marry her.”
Richard struck Eric with one of his leather riding gloves. Corinne gasped, though covering her mouth the second afterwards. Fortunately, the man did not pay heed to her.
Eric winced but did not move.
“Give her back to me.”
Eric turned to Corinne.
“My dear, would you like to return to Dachshund Manor?”
Corinne shook her head, tears falling from her cheeks.
Lord Dachshund approached her, kneeling before her.
“My lady, are you okay?” he murmured, sounding hurt to see her here.
She shook her head violently.
“Leave this house, Lord Dachshund. You are not welcome.”
Lord Dachshund must have noticed something strange in her response because he looked up at Eric and asked, “What is wrong with her?”
“Her memories of you have been suppressed. I shall brew the potion to return them to her but I doubt that her response will change much.”
Eric walked into the kitchen. Lord Dachshund tried to look into Corinne’s eyes but she looked deliberately away.
“Everything will be all right soon, my lady,” he said gently, his tone deceivingly kind for a cruel man. He tried to touch her hand but she snatched it away.
“Move away from me, sir,” she ordered harshly.
The lord stood and walked into the kitchen to watch Eric, casting many glances in her direction as he moved away from her.
Corinne was even more puzzled than before. Really, what was it about that man that had stopped her from kissing Eric? She detested him now for striking Eric, and shared Eric’s doubt in a change in her reaction to Lord Richard.
Presently the men returned, Eric carrying a bowl from which steam rose into the air. He gave it to Corinne and she blew on it before she sipped the liquid. She was startled to find that it was not actually that hot. It was quite a drinkable temperature. She ingested the whole lot and handed the bowl back to Eric.
He placed the bowl aside and sat near her as she gave a long yawn that arose from sudden fatigue.
Lord Dachshund looked alarmed.
“Why is she tired?” he demanded.
“The potion will work while she sleeps,” Eric replied, still calm despite the ordeal. He smiled at Corinne and she smiled sleepily in return before lying sideways with half of her body across Eric’s lap and falling asleep.