Today’s theme is foodies. Unfortunately, my hero and heroine from No Regrets aren’t exactly enjoying their meal.
Wine?” he asked.
“Yes, please. I’ll be sure to thank Mrs. Henry for her trouble. She certainly is a wonderful housekeeper. She remade this dress for me from one of your great aunt’s. I hope you don’t mind.”
“I’m sure Aunt Mary never looked as exquisite in it as you do. That shade of blue suits you. It matches your eyes perfectly.”
She lowered her head at his compliment, sipping the wine, determined not blush again and anxious to turn the conversation away from her appearance. He didn’t mention the kiss and for that, she was relieved. She was determined that tonight she would be charming, refined and a clever conversationalist. And she would absolutely not blush.
Unfortunately, in terms of witty banter, her mind was completely blank. Nothing new there, she thought with a loud sigh.
Mercifully, Mrs. Henry bustled into the room with a tray followed closely by Mr. Henry carrying a tureen of soup, breaking the uneasy silence. Vee had met the silent Mr. Henry at breakfast her first day out of the sick room and attempted to draw him into conversation only to receive grunts in reply to her comments. She assumed years of marriage to the outspoken Mrs. Henry had probably robbed him of the ability to speak. The housekeeper made it very difficult to get a word in edgewise, and Vee decided that after several years of marriage, Mr. Henry had simply stopped trying.
“Ah, dinner,” Ben said, clearly grateful for the Henry’s presence. “Mrs. Henry, you are a wonder.”
Preening under his praise, Mrs. Henry placed the bowls in front of them, carefully ladling each of them a portion of a soup Vee couldn’t recognize. Ben thanked the Henrys as they left before turning his gaze to the bowl before him.
“Chowder?” he asked, picking up his spoon cautiously.
“I was going to guess potato,” she answered, following his lead.
“Yes, well, shall we?” he asked somewhat hesitantly, almost as if he were hoping for the best.
She was confused by his reticence. “Yes, I’m starving.” Dipping her spoon into the thick soup, she saluted Ben before taking a big bite and immediately froze. Her mouth was assaulted by the most repulsive flavor imaginable. No, flavor was definitely not the correct term. It was quite simply the most repulsive taste she could ever recall, though granted, her memory was not long. She quickly glanced around the table for somewhere to spit it out before realizing that would be the worst possible thing she could do in front of the son of a duke. Swallowing heavily, unwilling to attempt chewing and prolonging the agony, she quickly attempted to stifle her unseemly choking with a healthy gulp of wine.
“Oh, my God,” she said after several painful swallows, trying to rid her mouth of the horrific aftertaste.
“Yes,” Ben said, putting his spoon back down without sampling the fare. “I was afraid of that. I really need to hire a cook. First thing tomorrow. Maybe even tonight.”
“You knew,” she said. “You knew what that would taste like, and yet you let me take a bite.”
“Well, in all fairness, I’ve never had this particular soup from Mrs. Henry. At least, I don’t think I have,” he replied, seriously considering the soup.
“Ben, don’t you think it would have been a nice gesture to warn me?” she asked. “I mean you just sat there and let me put it in my mouth. Of all the things I’ve forgotten, that soup is the one thing I’d like to forget and likely will never be able to.”
He laughed at her comment, a loud, long laugh that stopped Vee in her tracks. She was utterly amazed at how the smile transformed his entire face. If she thought him handsome before, now he was utterly gorgeous.
He struggled to maintain his composure obviously unaware of her close scrutiny. “I’m sorry, but it was worth your anger to see your face when the taste hit your tongue.”
Losing her battle to remain irate and thrilled by his laughter, she began to snicker as well, deciding suffering the ghastly flavor was worth hearing Ben laugh. It was quite possibly the nicest sound she’d ever heard. “I’m so glad I amuse you,” she said. “However, I do fear that permanent damage has been done to my sense of taste.”
“Yes, well, if it’s any consolation, that may help you consume the rest of the meal, while my sense of taste, sadly, is still functioning.” He was still smiling as he spoke, a fact that pleased her greatly. She suspected he didn’t smile nearly enough, and the fact that she’d been able to make him laugh made the past week of tedious boredom worth the wait.
“I don’t understand. I’ve been here for nearly a week and a half and the food has been quite nice,” she said.
“There is a girl from the village who comes in each morning to prepare breakfast. She also does the baking, breads and some desserts. If you will recall, the rest has been rather simple fare–meat and cheeses. The reason I don’t insist on formal meals is because, unfortunately, for all her talents, Mrs. Henry is a terrible cook.” Ben shrugged as if this didn’t pose a problem, which she found surprising. For the son of a duke, this man certainly didn’t seem to be pampered or spoiled as she suspected many members of the aristocracy must be.
“How are we going to eat this soup?” she asked, suddenly concerned. “Or the rest of the meal? I don’t want to hurt her feelings after she’s gone to so much trouble.”
“I agree,” he said, considering their predicament. “I suppose there is no help for it. We’ll simply have to–”
“I’m not eating it,” she interrupted, her refusal adamant. “I adore Mrs. Henry, but that is asking too much!”
“I was going to say we’ll have to throw it out the window.”
“What?” she asked, thinking she’d surely heard him wrong.
“It’s quite simple actually. I’ve done it before,” he replied as if it were perfectly normal for a wealthy aristocrat to toss his evening meal out a window. “And as you said, we can’t hurt the poor woman’s feelings.”
“That’s true.” Vee reconsidered his suggestion. “Very well, you toss and I’ll watch the door.”
Grinning at her mischievous tone, he grabbed their soup bowls and made a great pretense of tip-toeing to the window, feigning surprise over the fact that it was already conveniently open and dumping the contents into the shrubs below. Both raced back the table, resuming their seats mere seconds before Mr. and Mrs. Henry returned with the second course.
Vee bit her lip the entire time Mrs. Henry served them in an attempt to stifle the snickers threatening to burst out, especially when she noticed the suspicious look on Mr. Henry’s face when he saw the empty bowls. Then she had to cover laughter with a feigned coughing fit when Ben complimented the unique flavor and texture of the soup. Once the Henrys departed, they broke out into peals of laughter.
Gasping, she said, “Dare we try to eat this?”
“You can,” Ben said, attempting to catch his breath. “As I said before, my sense of taste is still fully functioning.”
“This time you watch the door and I’ll dump.” She picked up what appeared to be some sort of white fish, raw on one side and burnt on the other.
The entire meal passed mirthfully as they took turns tossing each course out into the yard, praising Mrs. Henry for her fine cuisine and choking down laughter as Mr. Henry scanned the room looking for where they were stashing the food. After dessert–a very runny bread pudding–Ben rose from the table, rubbing his stomach as if he couldn’t eat another bite.
Why not enjoy some good food with these authors?