The Countess:Madison Sisters 01(3)

By: Lynsay Sands

“Our breakfast,” Dicky corrected sharply and then smiled in a way that made her sigh inwardly. He had thought of a way to punish someone. “But you’re right. It is getting cold while we waste our time on uninvited guests.”

Christiana found her hand suddenly caught up in his as Dicky began to drag her up the hal , “Show my wife’s sisters to the parlor, Haversham. We shal attend them after we have enjoyed the breakfast cook has worked so hard to produce.”

Christiana cast a glance that was half apologetic and half warning to her sisters and then she was in the breakfast room and Dicky was slamming the door closed behind them.

“Your father should be ashamed of raising three such unruly creatures,” Dicky snarled as he led her to the sideboard and the food waiting there. “A little discipline would have gone a long way toward making better women of you al . But then he has little discipline himself, does he not?”

Christiana remained silent, merely picking up a plate and beginning to select food from the offerings. She had learned long ago that to try to argue her case merely ensured an even longer, more furious rant, so simply chose a piece of toast and some fruit and started to turn away.

“You wil eat a proper breakfast, wife,” Dicky snapped, bringing her to a halt. “Give me your plate.”

Christiana bit her tongue as he snatched the china away, and managed to swal ow the sigh that tried to escape as Dicky began to pile kidneys and kippers on her plate. She hated both kidneys and kippers and he knew that. It seemed the punishment was starting already.

“There. Now you may sit.”

A glance at the plate Dicky shoved under her nose showed that he’d added scrambled eggs to the kidneys and kippers. She preferred boiled eggs, but merely took the plate and turned to take her place at the table. But she was wishing the whole while that she had the nerve to toss the plate, food and al , in his face. Unfortunately, she never did anything so bold, ever. She might have, had he dared to treat her like this before they were married, but he had been al charm and compliments then. This behavior hadn’t started until after the wedding, and Christiana had been so startled and taken aback by the sudden transformation in his attitude that she’d been slow to stand up for herself. It had left her feeling as dazed as if someone had hit her in the head. By the time she’d got over the shock and even considered standing up for herself, it was too late, the criticisms and abuse had already taken effect and rather than argue, she’d found herself wondering if perhaps the dress he was criticizing wasn’t cut too low, or that the shade might clash with her coloring. Her self-confidence had been shaken, and as time had passed it was shaken more. Now rather than even consider that he might be wrong, she simply tried to appease him, soothe his temper and please him if possible. Somehow she had become a slave with less rights than the servants who worked for them.

“You’re not eating your breakfast,” Dicky said as he joined her at the table.

Christiana cleared her throat. “I am not very hungry.”

“I don’t care. You’re too skinny. Eat,” Dicky said firmly, and then added, “Your diet is atrocious. You don’t eat enough meat. Eat your kidney and kippers.”

Christiana bowed her head and began to eat, doing her best not to taste what went into her mouth. That was impossible, however, and she was more than grateful to finish the last bite and stand up.

“What are you doing?”

Christiana stil ed, her eyes shooting to her husband. “I am finished, Dicky. I thought I would go see what my sisters—”

“I am not finished.” When confusion covered Christiana’s face, he snapped, “Is it too much to expect my wife to keep me company while I breakfast?”

She settled reluctantly back in her seat, but resentment and anger were stirring within her again. They never breakfasted together. From the first morning of their marriage he had either risen early, breakfasted and left the house before she had even stirred, or he slept later than her and took his breakfast in his room alone. At first Christiana had worried over that, thinking a wife and husband should breakfast together, but after a while she’d been grateful for the respite. Now she was just annoyed with the man, knowing he was simply using the demand for her company as an excuse to make her sisters wait longer.

Dicky took his time about finishing his meal, but final y pushed his plate away and rose. He then insisted on walking her to the parlor and did so at a pace that snails could have outstripped. Christiana was gritting her teeth by the time he paused to open the parlor door.

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