David and Delia’s walls are coming down. He walks her home to discuss something and ends up having an entirely unexpected conversation. One entirely too intimate for David’s comfort.
“Did you marry to spite them?” she asked, stunning him.
“Astute observation, Lady Fitzwallace. That may have been a bonus reward. I got Marjory and showed my father my values were superior to his,” David answered. He could taste his own bitterness. Was that all my marriage was? My desire to do the right thing by a woman I impregnated and the need to prove I was better than my father?
She stood a few feet away studying his face in the dabbled light filtering through the trees. “And is that why you never remarried—you no longer had added incentive? Or did you love her so very much you can’t contemplate another?”
A woman’s question, that second part, and he knew it wasn’t true. He had loved Marjory—surely, he did—and it left an echo of warm memory. But it didn’t haunt him. Why then? “At first I couldn’t bear to bring another woman into the sort of venom my parents unleashed.”
“And then?” Her genuine interest touched him.
“The estate needed… It needed everything; I had nothing to give a wife. I got used to being alone.” He hadn’t considered anything about it until this past year, watching siblings marry, one after another.
“But now that has lifted, and you pour your energy into Parliament and the state of the nation. Yet you stiffened when Maddy suggested you needed a partner, a political hostess to help you carry those burdens.”
“Why does every love-besotted woman think everyone needs what she has? I’m perfectly fine as I am.” A niggling voice deep inside suggested he was more lonely than fine. He silenced it with the reminder there were other solutions to loneliness. Family. Friendship perhaps.
“As you say. That seems to make a pair of us. Dedicated to the single state. Shall we be friends, then?” she asked, touching his very thoughts unknowingly.
“Friends,” he agreed with a nod, offering his arm again.
“If we’re to be friends, you best call me Delia,” she sighed, placing her tiny hand on his arm and turning her face toward home.
“I would be honored.” He hesitated before going on. “I am David. Perhaps we ought to keep that for times we are private.”
“Of course,” she said glancing up with a saucy grin. “We wouldn’t like to give people ideas.”
Walking home afterward he berated himself. What were you thinking, spilling all your maudlin thoughts, Clarion? What must she think of you for probing her hurts? Worse, he knew with acute awareness that the aching physical attraction he felt for Delia Fitzwallace made something as simple as friendship unlikely.
Another thought came uninvited. You’ve been without a woman for too long. A widow with no interest in marriage would make a comfortable mistress. Except Delia Fitzwallace would never be simply comfortable. He refused to believe it. And you, a different, more familiar, voice taunted, are not your father, unable to control your urges.
Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!