The days passed by slowly. Derek hadn’t returned for anymore late night drunken discussions, for
which Dominique was grateful. She hadn’t seen Joel either, she’d mostly been just staying inside. The
weather had been dark and rainy the past few days since Derek’s unexpected visit, and Dominique was
spending most of her time drawing at leisure and reading.
Still, nothing could completely erase Derek’s brand on her heart, although his insane proposition
that she become his mistress did lessen her desire to be around him. Truth be told, it made her angry at
him, and even that was better than feeling enslaved by her heart. If that was the kind of man he was,
whether it had been the liquor talking or not, she was better off not being alone with Derek anymore.
The rain finally cleared up, just in time for the Hamptons’ picnic. Joel had mentioned it to her weeks
before. His mother loved to host a get together every now and then, but detested the stuffy balls that
were so popular. Instead, she preferred to have a large group of close friends and family to the estate
for an afternoon of eating, drinking, and games for the children. There was a huge lake on their property
and the children adored swimming in it.
The thought of seeing Josephine and Jamison put a smile on Dominique’s face and she was excited
that the weather was finally being agreeable. Joel sent a carriage to pick her up early that afternoon,
sending his apologies that he couldn’t be there himself. He was attending to some business in town and
would be home shortly.
Fiona was thrilled to see Dominique, hugging her upon her arrival. They chatted for a while until
Joel arrived and promptly swept her away and out the door. “Would you like to go for a walk?” he
asked, eager to get Dominique to himself. She looked exquisite in a simple pale blue dress, the bodice
chaste and buttoned nearly all the way up.
“I would love to,” she replied, taking Joel’s proffered arm. They headed down a trail, taking their
time and admiring the surroundings. Eventually they ended up at the lake, and Dominique was
pleasantly surprised to find Joel had seen that a blanket and food were already set up for them. The
other guests would be eating inside, then coming to the lake later on.
“For us?” Dominique asked, her smile infectious. “Joel, you are the most thoughtful man on earth!”
They sat down and Joel proceeded to open a bottle of wine. “Unbelievable. That inept maid forgot
glasses. I don’t suppose you’re up for drinking it straight from the bottle, are you?”
Giggling at Joel’s aggravation over missing glasses, she replied, “Of course. I’m just a simple girl,
“Darling, there’s nothing simple about you, yet everything about you is uncomplicated.”
“I’m not sure how to take that,” Dominique commented as she accepted the bottle of wine from