- 19 . The Widow’s Rancher – 18
- 20 . The Widow’s Rancher – 19
- 21 . The Widow’s Rancher – 20
- 22 . The Widow’s Rancher – 21
- 23 . The Widow’s Rancher- 22
- 24 . The Widow’s Rancher – 23
- 25 . The Widow’s Rancher – 24
NADIA slipped down on to the window seat and glanced towards the large four poster bed. A smile tugged at her lips at the loud snoring coming from the man sleeping in it. It appeared her new husband wasn’t just noisy when awake, but in his sleep, too.
Oddly, she found the sound comforting, even more than the soft mattress or fluffy pillows that adorned the bed, such unexpected luxuries in a house full of men.
When he refrained from ordering her around, Diggory Rorke had a way about him that made her feel safe. Something she had missed in her life for a long time.
Nadia recalled the afternoon, which had consisted of polite, stilted awkwardness mixed with laughter and laidback conversation. On entering the house, Diggory had carried her into the large parlour and placed her on a fancy chair covered in needlepoint flowers close to the fireplace.
After the meal of roast chicken and vegetables, which Diggory had asked Alfred to prepare before he had left for church, the rest of the afternoon became both torturous and enlightening.
Alice took over most of the conversation amongst the women. A bossy, but kind woman, Nadia couldn’t help but like her. Katy was shy but nice and Bella full of life and excitement about the imminent arrival of her baby. The only female who refrained from conversation was the foreman’s wife, Hester.
Turning her attention back to her sleeping husband, Nadia smiled faintly as Diggory’s snoring changed pattern. She didn’t know what to make of him. Stubborn and persistent described him well. Yet she’d seen small glimpses of another side to his personality − gentle and kind in a way she had never experienced from a man.
As a young girl, all she’d hoped for was to marry a man who loved her and raise a family. She’d never wished for fancy clothes or a large home, just love and companionship from someone who cared. But life with Henry had quickly taught her what she had always deep down believed − that family often became a curse instead of a boon.
She planned to do things differently this time. With faith and hard work she would fight to make certain he never regretted marrying her.
More importantly, she prayed and hoped with her whole heart that she would never regret marrying him, either.
* * * *
Nadia woke the next morning to find Diggory standing, coffee mug in one hand, staring out of the bedroom window. Dressed in working clothes of jeans and a blue shirt, red neckerchief tied around his neck, he made a pleasing sight.
“Good morning,” she murmured, her voice full of sleep and self-consciousness.
A tender smile crossed his mouth as his gaze settled on her. The look of a man happy with life, and not one regret appeared to shadow his features.
“Good morning, darling.”
She wriggled until she sat, propped against the pillows, all the time aware of his attentive eyes. She ran a hand over her loose hair and smiled back. Not once in her life had anyone called her darling before.
He placed his cup on the top of a highly polished walnut chest of drawers next to the window and continued to regard her.
“You make a pretty sight sitting there, all ruffled and sleepy. Tempts a man to want to leave his men to the day’s work.”
She giggled, despite her embarrassment at his roughly spoken compliment. How was it possible for this man she hardly knew to make her feel like a young impressionable girl with his sweet talk?
Diggory strolled over to the bed and sat down next to her. His legs nudged close to where her own lay beneath the blankets.
“Did you sleep well?”
“Yes.” She nodded. The scent of soap, coffee and sleep hung between them. “This bed is extremely comfortable. A real luxury.”
“Good,” he said. “This house is your home now. If there is anything you don’t like in it, go ahead and change it.”
“From what I’ve seen it’s all very nice,” she said, surprised by his offer.
“I’ve done my best, but with so many men living here, I know it’s lacking in some of the stuff women like. I won’t be offended if you want to put some of your own belongings around the place. Make the house feel more your own.”
She lifted her hand out from under the sheets and shyly placed it over his.
“The house is fine, Diggory. But thank you for allowing me the chance to do so if I wish.”
He placed his other hand on top of hers and patted it. His large palm almost obscured her own, his expression serious as he regarded their joined hands.
“Things between us have moved quickly and you’re probably trying to gather your thoughts. I figure we should spend the next few days getting to know each other better.”
“I’d like that.”
He patted her hand again.
He glanced up and gave her his full concentration.
She hesitated, worried about his reaction to her next question.
“What is it you expect of me now we are married?”
“What do you mean?”
She glanced around the beautiful room, so different from the one she’d woken up in the day before. Every piece of furniture in the room spoke of a successful man. Why he had chosen a poor widowed homesteader for a wife, she didn’t understand.
“Well, what is it you want me to do around here?”
“Other than be my wife?” he asked as though he couldn’t imagine her needing to do anything else.
She nodded and met his gaze again, hoping to find her answer there, but confusion furrowed his expression.