“They came earlier. I directed them to change horses and proceed to London as we’re leaving tomorrow.’ Paul sipped his wine.
‘We are? But we were supposed to stay a week.’ Rilla laid down the massive fork with a clatter.
‘I altered our plans.’
‘Without talking to me?’
‘I do not make decisions about my household in committee.’
‘“In committee”? We are not in Parliament. I am your wife and you’re moving me around like so much baggage!’
Anger blossomed, although it was less about his autocracy and more about that tiny unacceptable frisson of relief.
‘I would not use that unflattering description,’ Paul said. ‘But, yes, I will make the travel arrangements for my household as I see fit.’
‘Perhaps I don’t want to go to London.’
‘I thought you’d be glad.’
‘Because…’ Her stomach lurched. The incident sprang huge between them.
‘I thought Wyburn not salubrious to your health.’
His admission made her angrier. She balled her hands to fists. Her jaw tightened. ‘My health is robust. Besides, my parents discussed—’ She stopped. Her parents spoke about everything—village doings, their children, their hopes and dreams.
But this was no such union.
‘We are not your parents.’ His voice, though soft, cut.
‘No,’ she said.
They continued eating in an uncomfortable silence, broken only by the clinking of knives and forks.
Irritation at him and at her own vulnerable relief tangled in Rilla’s mind. She wanted to leave this place. Yet his choice to do so perversely annoyed.
Edison refilled their glasses, cleared the plates and served a sweet, fluffy concoction for their pudding. Then he left and silence again enclosed them.
‘I think I will retire and leave you to your port,’ Rilla said at last, rising from her chair.
Paul stood, but made no effort to detain her. ‘Rest well. We leave after breakfast. I hope that is convenient.’
“She nodded. He offered her his arm and she placed her hand on his sleeve, conscious of taut muscles under the cloth and the smell his cologne.
They moved towards the door, stopping at its threshold and she was suddenly aware of their solitude, of the warmth of his breath and the height and strength of him.
He fastened his gaze on hers, placing his hand against her cheek. She tingled at this touch. Her anger dwindled, turning into something else.
She bit her lip. His breath quickened. With a quick, almost violent movement, he possessed her mouth with heat and power and need.
Stepping back abruptly, he allowed his hands to fall from her. ‘I apologise. That was not appropriate.’
‘And therefore must restrain ourselves in the dining room.’
‘Perhaps you are too ruled by restraint,’ she said softly.
‘Or you are too swayed by emotion.’
She flinched at the words. Was it always to be thus—this guarding of words and actions? This fear of sentiment?
‘Rather that than to be a statue,’ she retorted.
As she left, she glanced back. Paul stood by the fireplace. He gripped the mantel with both hands, his head bowed low, a solitary figure.