I was fast asleep but the bell still woke me up. I rubbed my eyes and wrapped my robe around me again. Lately Luc’s night pains were getting worse and he needed a massage and lotion more often than usual. I grabbed the lotion and opened the door with a yawn.
But Luc wasn’t in bed.
I frowned and looked around. He was by the fireplace, leaning against it for support. He held a small box with a ribbon tied on top.
“Happy birthday,” he said, holding it out as I walked over.
“What time is it?” I yawned.
“Midnight,” he answered.
“Oh, you’re wretched,” I said and he laughed. “Do you need this?”
“Later,” he shrugged, putting the lotion bottle on top of the fireplace.
He watched anxiously as I pulled the ribbon loose. I lifted the box and gasped.
Inside was a beautiful gold pocket watch. Though usually a man’s accessory, I had been using an old one for Luc and making sure he took his medicine as he was supposed to.
I took it out of the box and looked it over. On the back, the initials ‘PLP’ were etched in and I looked at him.
“How did you find out my middle initial?”
“Your sister,” he said. He tugged at his sleeve. “So? Do you like it?”
I grinned. “I love it.”
I hugged him and he slowly hugged me back. My heart fluttered strangely as he put his chin on the top of my head. He ran his hands up my back and sighed. I took a deep breath and looked up at him.
His eyes were confused and I knew mine were, too. His lips were so close, though, and I stood on my toes until our lips touched. I closed my eyes, losing myself in the way our lips fit together. He kissed me back and I wrapped my arms around him tighter.
“H-Happy birthday,” he breathed when I broke away.
“You already said that,” I whispered and he laughed.
I nodded and he cleared his throat, turning pink.
“Perhaps we should go back to bed,” he said. “It’s kind of late.”
“Or early,” I said. “Depending how you look at it.”
He laughed. “Right.”
We looked into each other’s eyes again and I slowly let him go. I smiled once more then went back to my room, closing the door quietly. I took my robe off and climbed into bed, putting the watch on the nightstand. My eyes closed and I touched my lips gently as I drifted back to sleep.
At first, I thought it had been a dream. The servant that had been helping me, Elizabeth, woke me up with breakfast in bed. I was going to argue but she said it was by order of the duke. When I reached for my journal, I almost knocked the pocket watch off the nightstand. I grinned at it as I opened my journal.
Somehow, this has gone from a medical journal to one of a personal nature. I find myself becoming more and more attached to Luc Moreau. He woke me very early this morning to give me a birthday gift. It is a beautiful pocket watch with my initials etched into them.
We kissed. I have yet to decide if that is a good thing. When Marie comes for dinner I plan on asking her. I’m new to the idea of a young man having interests in me.
This week marks week three of being in the Moreau Manor and it’s been so strange. At the same time, though, I fell more accepted here than at the village. Perhaps, once my next three weeks are over, Duke Moreau will let me stay on permanently for when people get sick here.
I don’t know how to act when I see Luc. Do I mention the kiss? Do I pretend as if it didn’t happen? And will we kiss again? What does all of this mean?
I closed my journal when the ink was dry and finished off the last of the breakfast. I set the tray to the side and changed into a dress. I grabbed my supplies and took a deep breath. For some reason, I felt like I should knock. When he admitted me, I smiled shyly.
He was sitting up in bed with his breakfast tray. He returned my smile and rolled his sleeve up. I took out my new pocket watch, something that made him grin, and kept an eye on his pulse. I hesitated.
“Your heart rate is unusually high,” I said, frowning at him. “Are you all right?”
He avoided my eyes. “I might be a little nervous,” he said.
I tried to think why then blushed and quickly made a note.
“Right,” I said. “How did you sleep last night?”
“Very well,” he answered.
I checked his temperature. All was well. Before I could pick my things up, he took my hand gently. Blushing more, I looked at him. He kissed my fingers, his eyes slowly reaching mine. They were shy.
“Happy birthday,” he repeated and I smiled.
Someone knocked and he quickly let go of my hand. I straightened up, not realizing I was leaning in to kiss him again. The duke walked in and beamed when he saw me.
“Happy birthday!” he said and passed me a small box.
I opened it and beamed. It was a pen, something I’ve been wanting. Quills were nice but they dried too quickly.
“Thank you,” I said with a curtsy.
“So, Luc and I talked about it, and we’d like for you to have the day to yourself.”
I stared between the two of them.
“To myself?” I repeated.
“Yes,” he said. “You can go to the garden, go visit your sister, sleep some more. Whatever you wish!”
“Oh,” I said then laughed. “Thank you but I’m fine with staying with Luc.”
The duke waved his hand. “You’re always working.”
I was about to tell him I wanted to stay for other reasons but I stopped myself.
“Perhaps I could get some more sleep,” I said slowly. “I had… interrupted sleep.”
Luc shifted with a laugh but the duke looked confused. Before anyone could speak, Jacques opened the door.
“Duke Gentry is here,” he said and Duke Moreau groaned.
“I told him tomorrow,” he muttered. “I’m sorry but I have to go. I will see you at the dinner tonight.”
I curtsied again and watched as he walked out. When the door shut, awkward silence filled the room again. I wasn’t sure what to say and finally he cleared his throat.
“Well, I’m sure you’d like to get some more rest,” he said.
I looked at my feet. “How are you feeling today?”
I saw him shrug out of the corner of my eye.
“I’m doing pretty well. My hands hurt a little but I used that lotion on them so they’re fine.”
“And you’re feet?”
“Are perfect. Why?”
“Will you show me how to garden?” I whispered, looking at him finally.
He smiled. “I’d love to. Just let me get dressed.”
“Right,” I breathed and gathered everything, hurrying into my room.
I put everything away and took a few deep breaths. I was both excited and nervous about going to the greenhouse with him. Going had the dual purpose of getting him some exercises and also being able to spend some more time with him.
He knocked twice on the bedroom door and I smiled as we walked down the hall slowly. He had his cane but he wasn’t as bitter about it. When we got to the greenhouse, he tried to open the door but wasn’t able to so I did it for him. His face was disappointed but I smiled at him.
“We don’t have any new seeds,” he said, leading me to the back, “so I’ll just start with trimming.”
“Okay,” I breathed.
We stopped at a table and he passed me a pair of gloves. I slipped them on and picked up a pair of clippers.
“They’re very intimidating,” I said nervously.
“Just don’t be afraid,” he said. “You have a steady hand; you’ll be fine.”
For almost an hour he was able to show me what he could about trimming and weeding. Unfortunately, his pride got in the way and he kept hiding that he was getting overwhelmed. He dropped the clippers to the floor and swore under his breath.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” he said quickly. “I just got clumsy and-”
I sighed. “Let’s go back to your room.”
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled as I put the clippers back on the table.
“I’m not,” I said happily, taking his other arm to help support him. “I got to learn quite a bit about gardening.”
“I wasn’t able to teach you much.”
“You taught me more than I knew and that’s what matters.”
We passed by his father’s study and he suddenly pulled to a halt. He glared at the door. I could hear the faint sounds of raised voices.
“What is it?” I whispered but he shook his head and we walked on.
He didn’t speak again until I got him in bed.
“Duke Gentry is not a pleasant man,” he muttered. “I believe I know why he is here.”
His voice was dark and I grabbed his book of poetry. I settled down and he smiled a bit as I opened to where his bookmark was.