A Duke To Steal Her Heart(7)

By: Rebecca Dash

“Not everything has to be. There is chocolate. Nothing complicates that. Did you enjoy them?”

“Very much so. But I could not possibly eat all those, even in a month.”

“You must. Didn’t Mr. Humphries tell you I instructed the chef to produce his best work?”

“He mentioned that,” said Diana.

“An accomplished chef puts a dash of happiness into the delicacies he creates. If they are not properly enjoyed, and that happiness goes unappreciated, there is the danger that all the remaining mirth inside him might forever slip away. You risk causing irreparable damage to the man if you do not finish every bite. He may never laugh again.”

“Do you even believe this?”

“I believe chocolates please everyone. And it is my desire that you are well pleased.”

“Why do you care about my pleasure so much? We have both gotten what was arranged. Is that not enough?”

“Should it be?” said Rothford. “You are my wife. Am I not supposed to care if you are content?”

“I do not know. Many people care for their own needs. It is your right to do that.”

“That doesn’t mean I can not care about yours as well.”

Rothford looked masterful in his tan, buckskin pants and black tailcoat. The riding crop was still tucked underneath his arm. He seemed like a man who could command anyone he liked, but was so gentle with her.

“Do you care about my needs or only your desire for me?” said Diana.

“I would not have married a woman who I am not fond of physically. I make no apologies for wanting you in that way. Do you not wish to be desired?”

“I enjoy it very much.”

“As much as chocolate?”

She smiled. “That depends on whether you would risk your ability to laugh to have me, as chefs apparently do to make their confections.”

“My body, my soul, the laughter inside me. I would risk my everything.”

“For all that, I hope I would enjoy experiencing desire more than eating sweets. It would be a wonderful thing to be filled with untamed passion.”

“Then why aren’t you?”

“Such emotion can not be rushed. If I could turn my feelings on for you, I would. Either way, it is my duty to please you.”

“You must only please yourself in this relationship,” said Rothford. “That is the way to true happiness.”

“Is it really? You do not look very happy with the situation, my husband.”

“Do not concern yourself with that. You are worth the wait.”

“More than any other woman?”

“I did not marry any other, did I?”

Chapter 5

Diana stood outside in the garden, wondering where the servants could have found all those flowers they stacked in her hall. There weren’t any near the manor. Plants and flowers on the property were just more wilted remnants of former grandeur. The lawn was overgrown as if the surrounding wilderness encroached on it. Several large patches of grass lay dead. There were only vague hints of proper landscaping that had been abandoned long ago.

Boots crunched through the dry shrubbery behind her.

“There you are,” said Rothford.

“I am admiring the view.”

He chuckled. “You would be the first one to do that out here in ages. There is nothing left to see.”

“Potential is always a pleasure to look at. Though we really must hire a grounds keeper to rejuvenate what has been laid out.”

“We will. I expect this entire estate to return to what it once was. You deserve far more than potential. It used to be magnificent.”

“I can imagine,” said Diana.

“Perhaps you will not have to use your imagination so much today. As luck would have it, I was looking for you to request that you accompany me on a walk. I wanted to show you a part of the property you have not been to before. Somewhere that is exactly as it has always been.”

“Is that good?”

“It is wonderful.”

“How long is the walk?”

“It is as far away as anywhere worth going usually is,” said Rothford. “The trip is longer than is comfortable but shorter than is painful. Our destination takes exactly the right amount of effort to view.”

“I have never considered effort to be of benefit to a stroll.”