Once Upon a Duke by Erica Ridley

Once Upon a Duke by Erica Ridley

Author:Erica Ridley [Ridley, Erica]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 978-1-943794-17-1
Publisher: Erica Ridley

Chapter 8

A fortnight ago, Benjamin would have laughed at anyone who suggested he would someday voluntarily spend several hours outside in the winter cold away from all his responsibilities, away from London. Even this afternoon when he had offered to escort Noelle to the play, he hadn’t known it would become one of the most enjoyable days of his life.

How he wished he could wrap his arm about her and pull her close. Unfortunately, just like the ride in the open sleigh, they were much too visible.

Although they had arrived at the amphitheater an hour early, eager spectators had already begun to fill the long, curved rows. Snow had been cleared from the stone benches and the sky was a brilliant blue. He could not deny it. If one were to be forced to watch an outdoor play, in the middle of winter, one could not ask for finer weather.

The breeze had given Noelle’s cheeks a rosy glow. Despite the protective barrier of a winter bonnet, a few golden tendrils had managed to come loose and bounced becomingly against the side of her face.

He forced himself to tear his gaze from her beautiful profile before he gave himself away. The amphitheater was growing full.

The couples amongst the audience were easy to spot. The touch of a hand, an intimate glance, two bodies seated so close as to become one. His chest tightened.

Once upon a time, Benjamin would have scoffed at romantical fancy. That way lay inevitable sadness. He was too strong to be taken by such a naive emotion. His heart, too well protected.

But now when he glimpsed couples in love, he no longer experienced a sense of satisfaction at having managed to keep such ill-fated folly from his life. Instead, a strange loneliness entered his chest. A yearning to expand his heart rather than hide it. If only for a moment.

He brushed the back of Noelle’s fingers with his own. “Thank you for letting me borrow a scarf,” he murmured.

She gave a quick shake of her head. “It’s yours.”

And there was that melancholy again. Hope warring with emptiness. He shook his head. “I shall not rob a lady of her scarf.”

“It’s not mine,” she said shyly. “I made it for you.”

Those five words warmed him all the way to his heart.

Even though he had hurt her once before, even though he could not stay, she had still knitted him something to keep him warm. It worked. With her, he felt invincible.

He couldn’t recall the last time anyone had done something just because they thought he would like it. Not until her. She had managed to do something thoughtful every day. Starting with arranging for him to have his old bedchamber back.

They now slept on the same floor. In the same wing. Down the same corridor. His blood heated. Perhaps slept was too ambitious a word. He had barely caught any rest at all from lying awake each night thinking about her.

She smiled up at him from beneath her bonnet. “Thank you for agreeing to a sleigh ride.


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