His scrutiny made me want to squirm.
“I am nothing like my cousin, my lord. I do not scheme or plot. I have lived the simple life of a peasant. My hands bear callouses from laboring alongside the humblest in our village. I am not a delicate woman to be cossetted.”
“I can see that.”
I lifted my chin. Men frequently took exception to my size and direct manner. Bracing for a biting summation of my lack of virtues, I met his regard.
Instead he smiled. Well, not really. It was more of a lift to the left side of his mouth, as close to a smile as I had seen so far. The slight change warmed his eyes. My stomach fluttered strangely. Looking away, I grasped at my train of thought.
“I am not the kind of woman a rising noble should have by his side.”
He stepped closer. The smell of leather and dirt filled my nostrils. He was two hand’s breaths from me.
“I am not a noble.”
I opened my mouth to protest the obvious, but he stalled me by raising his hand.
“I am a soldier, a man accustomed to grueling marches, meager fare, and long, cold nights sleeping in the dirt. Alive by the strength of my sword arm and the speed of my feet, I need a wife who can stand at my side, not cower behind me. The more I know of you, the better suited you appear, my lady. Should you have me, I would willingly take you to wife.”
“You are giving me a choice?”
Are you interested?
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