Short Story No. 3: Duke of Loaves

Augusta didn’t believe him when he said he could make bread.

Will wanted to prove her wrong. He’d risen very early and commandeered part of the kitchen to bake a loaf.


Or he thought he stood a chance of proving her wrong.


In an act of betrayal, the bread looked wrong. Slightly deflated, more umber than golden-brown, sitting on the delicate plate edged with roses — like someone brought in a large stone for breakfast.


Jane valiantly tried not to laugh, although if Will were confronted with a situation like this, he would.


“How did you learn to bake?” Augusta said, eyeing the bread, then his face. She was remarkably impassive, but then, he expected no less from the woman who’d been stark-silent for the first part of their acquaintance.


“Our old cook taught me,” said Will. He’d been very young, perhaps eight or nine, and curious about the chemistry part. How bread rose, what to do with the ingredients, what actually went in bread. It was no surprise that he became a doctor. Always asking questions about how things work.


“You… might have forgotten some of her tutelage,” said Jane. She took a delicate sip of her coffee.


They sat around the pitiful loaf, none of them moving toward it. Even the morning’s gentle lighting, the sparkle of sun after a week of rain, couldn’t put a nicer face on things.


Will had, to put it succinctly, mucked up.


He said as much, without saying as much.


“I do hope one of you went over my head and suggested that Evie produce something for breakfast that wasn’t this.”


They both had, probably. Augusta was pregnant with their first child, and had decided ideas about what she should eat — though, honestly, it was more about could than should. Jane would never suffer through a bad meal, no matter how small it was. She’d helped them hire Evie, the new cook, an innovative slip of a thing who looked more like an artists’ model than someone who could create the best suppers he’d ever tasted.


Augusta glanced at Aunt Jane and said, “Thank goodness I did, or I would have wished you hadn’t made this visit at all.”


“That’s rather harsh,” said Will, with a sardonic huff.


But if they were relying upon him to eat, they would never do so. He wouldn’t wish his bread upon swine. Perhaps if it has been softened, then the hogs could manage? he narrowed his eyes at it. Granted, his sight was not the best, but even he could see that the bread was not fit for purpose.


Evie must have been nearby, for upon Augusta’s words, she entered the breakfast room and began laying a proper spread. A maid helped deftly, coming behind her and adding various accoutrements to the sideboard.


“Your Graces,” said Evie, smiling with her eyes. “Lady Jane.”


“Evie,” said Augusta. “Next time, if you could supervise my husband throughout the process, I would be most obliged.”


Dimpling, Evie said, “His Grace was adamant that he needed neither help nor supervision.”


“I see,” said Augusta, beaming at Will. The expression still made his stomach flutter. He smiled, too. “Then I give you permission to supersede him.”


“I’ve a little lad at home,” said Evie. “I know when to back down from imposing guidance, Your Grace.” She stepped back to the doorway when she finished her work, and her young compatriot followed her. “Will you be needing anything else?”


Will smarted at being compared to a little boy, but supposed the comparison was quite accurate.


Besides, he thought, cheerfully, the Duke of Ravenwood was not terribly conventional. Nor did he wish to be.

Have you read my newest release? It's an adventurous, London romp from the theater to the ducal drawing room.


And get ready to vote for Duke of Havoc during the RONE awards, starting the week of May 18th!

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