A Whole New Duke
Straightening her shoulders, Bea marched toward Adam. She kept her chin lifted and her gaze set upon her target. Nothing was going to dissuade her today. After all, she had spent too many days watching him ride in the crisp morning air with a pang of jealousy. It was high time she learned to ride too.
And her husband was going to teach her whether he liked it or not.
He glanced her way and she saw his shoulders stiffen. He said something to the groom, who retreated into the shadows of the stable block, leaving them alone in the bitter morning. If it did not snow by Christmas, Bea would be surprised indeed.
Most mornings, a hard frost lay upon the ground, lit by bright, misty sunshine. All it needed was a little warmth in the air and snow would be upon them. She was rather looking forward to seeing what Hartwich Hall looked like in the snow. Would it appear more attractive? Less harsh and ancient?
“What can I do for you, Bea?”
She met his gaze firmly and squared her posture as though readying herself for a fight. Which it would likely be. Though they had managed not to argue since the night they shared a bed, it was only a matter of time, and she doubted he would be excited about sparing the time to teach her.
However, she was a duchess, and it seemed correct that she should know how to ride. Not to mention, she envied his freedom. Whilst she enjoyed a good walk—especially now she knew where she was going—the speed and excitement of riding seemed enthralling. She had been deliberately getting to know the horses to overcome any lingering fears just so she could ask Adam this…
“I would like to learn to ride.”
The corners of his lips curved. “You do not even like horses, Bea.”
She scowled at this. “I did not like horses. I do now that Persephone and I have bonded. And I wish to learn how to ride. I think you should teach me.”
He shook his head. “No.” He turned on his heel and marched over to the water pump, setting a bucket underneath it.
“No?” she repeated, hastening after him. “What sort of an answer is that?”
He spared her a quick glance as he began to pump. “A negative one, I believe.”
She exhaled. “I think it proper that I should learn.”
“Many women do not ride. I think it quite proper that you do not.” Adam worked the pump vigorously, drawing her attention to the muscles in his arms as they flexed against the pale white of his shirt.
A tiny shiver ran through her while she recalled that very arm being wrapped around her the other night when she had been so cold. Sometimes, she could swear her husband was two different men. The one who was determined to ignore and frustrate her at every turn and the gentleman who could be soft and even kind at times. For all his frustration with her, at least she was damn well predictable.
Forcing her gaze away, she propped her hands on her hips. She could not allow him to distract her. “If you do not teach me, I shall find someone else who will.”
He shook his head again. “No one will teach you, be assured of that.”
“Because you will tell them not to? Because you will threaten their jobs?”
He smiled. “Precisely.”
“You are…just…just awful sometimes.”
He hefted up the bucket. “Don’t I know it.”
Bea followed him as he took the bucket into the stable block and poured it out into a trough. “It would be simple enough to teach me, surely? Just think, if I can ride, I will not have to plague you so much.”
“A welcome prospect indeed but you are not riding, Bea, and that is final.”
He moved past her and out of the building as though she did not exist. She followed him out to the water pump again. “You cannot dictate what I do, Adam.”
“I am your husband. I can do precisely that,” he said.
“I shall learn, one way or another. I shall just climb up on a horse and hope for the best.”
His jaw tensed and dropped the bucket to the floor and faced her fully. “You damn well will not.”
“I absolutely will.”