(Adelle’s POV) I rolled onto my stomach. “He’s not in love with ‘Lady Mysterious’. He’s fascinated with her because she walks like his dead wife. Oh, and I don’t ride.” I made fists with my hands, my knuckles white with my efforts. “It would be so nice to have a legitimate reason for his not liking me. Grrr.” I punched my pillow repeatedly, venting my anger and frustration.
“There’s no accounting for tastes. I wonder if he’d marry ‘Lady Mysterious’ for her walk,” Deanna said, sarcastically.
“I actually considered, for a moment, enticing him with ‘Lady Mysterious’, but decided that even if I could, it would be pointless.” I paused for a breath, “Deanna, I need to find a man who will love me for me, not because I’ve taught myself to be a lady.”
“Oh-ho!” She was startled, “Well, there’s a significant change in attitude. Not focused on a duke anymore?”
“Yes and no. Yes, I still want to be a duchess. But, I’m beginning to realize being a duchess isn’t necessarily a goal unto itself.”
Deanna looked thoughtful. “You know, you’ve never once said anything about love. It’s been about being a duchess for the money, the power, and, I suspect, the challenge of the chase. What about love?”
“What about it?” I’d never given it a thought.
“Isn’t love a consideration?”
“No. Love hurts.”
“Huh? What do you mean, ‘love hurts’?”
“You meet someone, you fall in love, that someone betrays you or does something hurtful and all you’re left with is pain. Love hurts.” I shrugged.
“Have you ever been in love?”
“I don’t know.”
“So how do you know it hurts?”
“I had schoolgirl crushes and every one of them hurt, but they were nothing compared to how I felt after Theo.”
“Hmm. I’m sure that was painful, especially when you found him with his lady.”
“Then, his parents came to Adelle House and told my father a relationship between their son and me could never be. As an American, I was ‘less than an English commoner’.”
“Ouch. That had to hurt, but, not unexpected in the world you’re trying to break into. So, Theo hurt you, and you’re slamming the door on love forever?”
“I slammed that door many years ago.” I paused, and asked her the same question she’d asked me, “Have you ever been in love?” Maybe she could shed some light on this mysterious part of courtship.
Deanna didn’t say anything for a moment. I could see she was struggling with something. Then, gazing out the window with a faraway look in her eyes, she sighed, and said, “Yes.”
Yes? Jumping from the bed, I donned my robe, and moved to a chair near her, all ears. “Tell me.”