“Your appetite is frightening,” she said with an exasperated sigh even though it secretly pleased her that he wasn’t furious by the fact that she enjoyed cooking.

His only response was a glare as he continued to eat his ham. When he was finished, he sent a hopeful look at the pan, but one gesture with the spoon had him placing his empty plate back on the counter.

“Now, what exactly does the orangery have to do with this truce of yours?” she asked, hoping to distract him from the ham so that there would be some left for her dinner.

She was starving, more like ravenous at this point. She honestly couldn’t remember ever being this hungry before. Even the few times she’d been too sick to leave her bed and had been forced to survive on broth and tea for a month hadn’t left her this hungry. She could probably eat all the ham, she thought with a groan when she was forced to slap Robert’s hand away again.

“Vicious minx!”

“Stop stealing the ham!”

“I wouldn’t have to if you’d feed me!” he snapped back as he rubbed the back of his hand.

“I’m not going to feed you until you explain this truce of yours,” she said, hoping that it would be enough to slow down his thieving ways until she could finish cooking the food.

“Fine!” he said as he deftly snatched another piece of ham out of the pan and popped it into his mouth before she could slap it out of his hand with the spoon.

“Get on with it, Robert,” she said, pouring the egg batter into the pan, hoping that it would be enough to deter him from stealing any more ham for a while.

It didn’t.

He leaned back against the wall, getting more comfortable as he popped the egg-covered piece of ham into his mouth. “You didn’t hate me that night in the orangery.”

“I didn’t know who you were,” she pointed out, stirring the ham and eggs while she kept an eye out for his devious hand.

“Ow!” he hissed, but this time he was smart enough to pull his hand back and continue making his argument for a truce. “Exactly my point. You didn’t know that I was the little boy who used to make your life a living hell and you liked the man that I’d become,” he said, his tone daring her to lie when they both knew that she’d more than liked him that night.

“That’s true,” she admitted, because really, there was no point in lying at this point. It certainly wouldn’t help matters.

“The only reason we’ve been at each other’s throats over the past couple of months is because of our previous history,” he explained and she was very tempted to add that she’d also done it because it was fun.

“You might have a point, Robert,” she said instead, adding cheese to the eggs and ham and mixing it for a minute before she removed the pan from the heat and set it aside. Shooting a warning glare at Robert, she walked over to the ovens and removed the now golden brown biscuits and placed them on the counter to cool.

“It proves that we’re capable of putting the past behind us,” Robert said, surprising her when he grabbed a couple of plates, forks, jams, honey and set it on the table instead of stealing more food.

When he picked the plates back up, she became nervous. She was starving and in no mood to fight with Robert for over food. She just wanted-

“Here you are, minx,” he said with a smile as he placed a plate overflowing with food on the table in front of her.

Touched that Robert would willingly give up food, she sat down with a smile and started to eat. She nearly moaned when the food hit her tongue. It tasted like heaven, pure heaven, and she couldn’t get enough. It wasn’t until Robert picked up her plate that she realized that she’d eaten every single morsel of food in a matter of minutes.

“You like peach jam, right?” Robert asked as he placed a second plate overflowing with food in front of her, startling her.

“Yes,” she automatically said as she looked down at the plate of food, realizing that she was still hungry.

When Robert placed three jam-smothered biscuits by her plate, she grabbed one up and devoured it, only pausing long enough to send him a glare when he had the nerve to chuckle.

“Sorry,” he said, sitting down across from her and bringing her attention to the fact that he wasn’t eating.

“Aren’t you hungry?” she asked, reaching for another biscuit.

“I want to make sure that you get enough to eat,” he said, gesturing for her to continue and making her heart skip a beat.

Robert Bradford was willingly parting with food. Either the world was coming to an end or he was serious about making a fresh start.

Chapter 26

“Don’t be silly, Robert,” Elizabeth said with a huff as she stood up and headed for the stove. “There’s plenty of food for both us.”

He shook his head. “Just eat, minx. I’m fine,” he somewhat lied.

Although he was pretty sure that he wasn’t going to die, he was starving. The food was simple, but it smelled delicious. The rich aroma of eggs, ham and cheese accompanied by the hearty scents of freshly baked biscuits had his stomach rumbling, but it wasn’t enough to make him steal Elizabeth’s abandoned plate and devour her food.

His wife was obviously hungry and he refused to take any food from her. It pleased him to see her eating, because it meant that she was feeling better. He’d lost count of how many times he’d prayed that she would be okay over the last few weeks. The threat of losing her had hit him harder than he would have liked and it made him realize just how much she meant to him.

Suddenly all the bullshit they’d put each other through over the years no longer mattered, not if it meant that he would lose her. He couldn’t imagine a life without his minx in it, aggravating him, teasing him and making him feel alive for the first time in years. The fact that she’d lied about their baby no longer mattered either.

He wished that he’d handled things differently when he’d found out about the baby. He should have kept the matter between them and done everything that he could have to gain her trust. He should have courted her and done everything in his power to make sure that she chose to marry him. He hated knowing that the only reason that she’d married him was because he’d forced her. He’d do anything to change that.

But, there was no going back. There was no changing what happened. There was no stopping the gossip that had already spread. The damage was done. The only thing that he could do was to offer her the marriage that she deserved and the one that he craved. He wanted her to be his wife freely and have no regrets.

He wanted her to love him as much as he loved her.

So he was going to court his own wife. He was going to convince her to give him a chance, to let him show her that he was the right choice. She’d lost a fortune when she’d married him and, although he would never be able to provide her with the luxuries that she’d lost, he wanted to make sure that she was so damn happy that none of that mattered.

“There’s plenty of food, Robert,” Elizabeth said as she placed a plate filled with food in front of him. Before he could argue, she was spreading biscuits with a variety of toppings and placing them by his plate.

“Don’t worry about me, minx. I’m fine,” he said, forcing himself not to look down at the food out of fear that he’d lose control.