To Bewitch the Icy Lady (Extended Epilogue)


Three Years Later

“Be careful!” David listened to Arabella call out to their young son, Edward, as he tried to toddle closer to the duck pond. He smiled, watching as she bent over towards him, her arms outstretched. David wrapped an arm about her waist and lifted her to standing. Both of their eyes were on Edward as he laughed, clapping his hands when a duck quacked.

“Have I told you today how lovely you look, my dear?” he asked, breathing his words into her ear before kissing her temple. She did look lovely. The years had only brought out a confidence and a beauty that had just been lying in wait. Her gown was of bright blue, and it matched her eyes, only adding to their brilliance. He reached out and curled one of her strands of blonde hair around his finger.

“No, you haven’t, but I’m very glad to hear it,” she said, a smile on her lips. Edward toddled back towards them, and she lifted him up and laid him on the picnic blanket where he began to play with his wooden toys. Now that his son was safe, David drew Arabella into his arms and then kissed her soundly.

“I think that I have the loveliest wife in all of Christendom. In fact, I shall tell the world.” He stepped back, cupped his hands around his mouth, and called out, “I have the most beautiful wife in all the world!”

“David!” Arabella shrieked with laughter, pulling at his arms. “The park is small, but it is not empty. You will make fools of us. Just imagine the paper tomorrow. The Duke of Wiltshire making the scandal sheets again.”

David chuckled, putting his hands on her waist to pull her close again. While he had done his best to keep out of the scandal sheets ever since Arabella had come into his life, he had been in a few times in the last three years. But it was only because he was known for being ridiculously infatuated with his wife. The scandal sheets loved to recount how the Duke of Wiltshire kissed his Duchess soundly at Almack’s a few balls ago, or how the Duke and Duchess can often be seen holding hands on the street.

“I would do any scandal, my love if it meant that I was being naughty with you.” He kissed her, sliding his hands down her back to grasp her backside and push her against him.

“David!” she said, pushing lightly against his chest, but he could tell by the breathless note in her voice that she was not unaffected.

“Do you not love my love for you?” he asked, releasing her, and placing a kiss on her brow.

She shot him a disapproving look, but a smile was still on her face. “You know that I do. But we will have to think of our son soon enough.” She grinned down at Edward and leaned into David’s back. He wrapped her arms around her. “Surely, he will be too embarrassed about us once he’s a little older.”

“Hardly. I should think he’d be very happy to know his parents loved each other. He will just have to find a love of his own one day.”

“Oh, don’t rush it, David,” she said, sitting down on the blanket and touching her son’s head. “It will be a short time. His childhood. Then he will be up and gone, off to Eton or Oxford, and then perhaps, if he is anything like his father, he will be raising hell on the streets.”

David snorted. “I should think him a fool if he did not.” But deep down, he knew it would be strange to see his child grow up into a man. He was determined to be there for his son, for all his children, as he didn’t get the chance to have his father for very long. He patted Edward on the head and smiled down at him.

“I thought Aaron and Lydia were coming to meet us this afternoon. They were to bring their two little ones.”

“Yes, well, I wonder where they got to,” Arabella replied, looking left and right at the small park with winding forest paths which all met in the center in a wide space of green.

“You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if they told the nanny to go on ahead, and they stayed behind to enjoy just a little bit of alone time. Twins make for a loud and busy household.” David shrugged. “Aaron and Lydia are almost as bad as us.”

Arabella laughed at David’s supposition. “I suppose that’s possible,” she said, and he watched as she lazily moved Edward’s toys about. He saw a flush creep over her chest and neck. It was slight, but he had come to recognize it.

“Why, my dear wife, I do believe you’re jealous.” He pointed at the flush on her chest, and she put a hand there, making the red rise to her cheeks.


“Jealous? What do you mean?” she asked, putting her hand down. “Jealous of Aaron and Lydia?”

“No, of course not. I just meant that you, perhaps, are jealous that they are having alone time in the woods and that they were bold enough to do it.”

“We don’t know that that’s true, David,” she scolded, but she couldn’t deny that he was right. But not fully.

He leaned over and touched her hand. “I know that it’s been difficult for us. With Edward.” She sighed, remembering how before their child was born, they had all the time in the world for each other, and for each other’s bodies. Each time she had David inside of her, it had never been enough. But now that Edward was old enough, he had learned how to run down the stairs, escape the nanny, and open the door to his parent’s bedroom, interrupting them. And since they were currently between nannies, it had grown even worse.

“If it wasn’t so terrible, I’d lock Edward’s door until later in the morning,” David grumbled, making her laugh. She leaned close to him, pulled on the lapels of his coat, and kissed him.

In a low voice, she said, “I just think it would be rather exciting to make love in the woods. No one around for miles.”

“You against a tree,” he said, joining her story. “Me lifting your skirts.” He bit his lip. “We’d better stop this imagining, Arabella.” He sighed and looked at Edward, playing innocently. “And here I thought you wanted to be more circumspect in public. Now you’re telling me you wish me to make love to you in the middle of the woods?” He lifted a brow, and Arabella kissed her, loving her husband more and more with each day.

“Yes, am I not full of contradictions? I thought it was all part of my charm.”

“Charm,” he said back to her. “Yes, I’m sure you would like to call it that,” he replied dryly. In the last three years, their passion had been intense, but then it also meant that their arguments were intense as well.

But it was just what she wanted. Heat, energy, passion. With Tidesdale or Avon, she would have been bored to tears. David always kept her interest. He was always doing something fresh and exciting, and he was always making her laugh. She grinned, but then it faltered, and her hand moved to her belly.

“You were right that I was jealous, but that’s not all I was thinking about.”

“What is it?” he asked, his brows furrowed in concern. He took her hand and kissed it. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, yes, oh, I’m fine,” she said waving a hand in the air. “It’s not that. It’s just that I worry with more children, we will have less and less time. For each other.”

“I suppose that could be possible, but we will have to work hard to make it not so. We will have a new nanny by then, too. We can have a whole army of nannies if you’d like.” He kissed her hand again. “I wouldn’t want you to feel unloved by me.”

“Never!” she said, touching his cheek. “I feel love, so much love.” She smiled. “But I think lately it has been difficult as you said. A new nanny will make a difference.” Her hand lingered on her belly as she looked away, and she could tell that David noticed it.

“Arabella, is there something you need to tell me?”

“Well,” she said, feeling nervous. “I was waiting, but I’m sure now. It’s been several weeks beyond when my courses were due. There will be another baby.”

David paused, and then he gave her a wide smile and lifted her to her feet.

“Well, that’s wonderful news!” he said, laughing, spinning her around so that she, too, laughed and felt dizzy by the time her feet touched ground again.

“Are you certain?” she asked, and he answered by kissing her, his mouth tender and soft.

He leaned his forehead against hers. “Yes, I’m certain. Edward will have a sibling, and we will have another beautiful child who looks just like you.”

She felt tears come to her eyes. “Well, we must begin the search for a better nanny right away. I don’t think I can take anymore ‘morning interruptions’,” she said with a grin, pulling him closer.

“Nor I,” he said in a husky voice. “Don’t worry. It will be my first priority when we return home today. I want a new nanny way before the next baby comes.” He paused. “I love you, Arabella. And I will love this new baby too.”

“I love you, too,” she said, her heart light, and she kissed him back, waving her arms about his neck.

“Well, greetings!” a faraway voice called, and Arabella pulled away to see Aaron waving at them, Lydia on his arm. Their nanny was farther behind, holding the two hands of the children.

She grinned as they got closer, and she could see that Lydia’s gown was slightly mussed. “You see?” David said, leaning close to her. “I told you.”

She elbowed him in the side and waved at her friends. “Well, it is good to know they love each other.”

He slid a hand to her lower back and leaned down to whisper in her ear, “I was thinking that the first thing I want to do after we employ a new nanny is to take you to the woods to muss your gown just as properly. I must congratulate my friend on his choice of location.”

Arabella bit back a laugh as she pulled David back from walking up to Aaron to say anything to him. She grabbed David’s coat lapels and leaned up on her toes to kiss him. “You always know what to say to make me smile.”

“I make it my utmost goal to make you smile, my dear,” he replied, his hands on her face. “Every day, if I can. You deserve it. You saved me, my life.”

“Will I forever be rewarded for that day with your uncle?” She grinned.

“Yes, but that’s not what I meant. You save me every day from a lifetime of loneliness and despair, and I am grateful each morning that I wake up next to you, my love.” He kissed her softly and slowly, but at the sound of Aaron and Lydia’s approach, she pulled away, disappointed they could not continue.

“And I am grateful, too,” she whispered, her arm still about his waist. “I am forever happy with you, David.”

“I will remember you said that the next time you are cross with me,” he teased, and she laughed as they greeted their dear friends in the lovely afternoon sunlight.

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The Marchioness’ Alluring Touch (Extended Epilogue)



Trent heard the crying from the next door, and, carefully as not to wake Scarlett who was sleeping securely in his arms, he got out of his bed and made his way to the joining room. There stood both his sons in their crib with sly smiles on their faces, proud of having woken their father up.

Their names were Thomas and William, and the two of them were quite a handful. They looked after him, but he was sure by their stature that their height would be from their mother.

He smiled at the thought for his dear wife, who once was ashamed of being so tall would in only a few years look at her sons proudly; as would he. For he sure was proud of his two boys and their mother.

The pregnancy had been difficult for Scarlett, and it was a miracle that she had made it through. There were certain complications with William, for which reason Scarlett had to ensure that her baby boy remain in her body for one extra day and only come out when he was ready.

That day was the most stressful for Trent, and as much as he loved his children, he wished never for Scarlett to have to go through that pain again. He had stayed with her during childbirth, holding on to her hand as she pushed the twins out of her body.

Scarlett’s mother was not very fond of the idea of Trent being present in the birthing room, but he would not be removed. His mother understood and after one of her talks with Scarlett’s mother made sure that everyone in the room knew it, too. He wouldn’t leave his wife alone at such a time as important as the delivery of the child was. It irked him how some people frowned upon the idea of the husband being in the child birthing room. The husband had the same role as the wife in the making of the child, and it only seemed right that the former needed to be present when the said child was to come to the world.

The days after were even more sorrowful, for while his children and his wife were all healthy, Scarlett was always feeling down. She looked after her children and did all of her duties as she liked to call it —but never smiled or talked much.

It had gotten to the point, that Trent had to start to force food down her mouth. He could not understand what was happening and was worried sick. Everything seemed fine to him and yet still Scarlett was losing her light or rather who she was.

He was beginning to think that it was somehow his fault, and only once he had discussed his fears with his mother did he understand that some mothers, after childbirth, felt the loss. It was odd for him to understand but he did his best for Scarlett’s sake.

His mother told him that because Scarlett had been hosting their twins in her body for the better part of nine months, her body had gotten used to it; and now with the lack of it, it was feeling a certain emptiness.

If anything, it only made him respect and appreciate his wife all the more, for it amazed him during their pregnancy how Scarlett and her body had expanded and made sure that their children were taken care of and provided with food and comfort.

Before that moment, Trent had never once thought on the importance of motherhood for he had always thought it was rather the upbringing of the child that was the responsibility of a mother. With that experience, he learned the other aspects of motherhood and began to look at the two women in his life differently.

Both his mother and his wife.

It was then it occurred to him that he would take Scarlett away for a while; perhaps to France for he remembered her mentioning that she wanted to visit the place. He had asked his mother, and she too seemed to agree that it would be good for Scarlett.

Scarlett had refused to employ a wet nurse preferring to be the one taking care of her children.

The years were blissful and happy. He only wished to have a daughter, but he knew that there was still time and one day he might get lucky. But for now, he had his hands full.

He picked up William, who was sucking on his thumb while Thomas began to cry.

“Getting a little jealous, are we?” He asked his other son, as he picked him up as well taking them to their mother. There was no way that Trent could handle both of his sons at the same time, and neither could Scarlett.

And if it was of any indication, he knew that their times ahead were to be full of such happenings all the more. There were still things he had to learn about being a father but he knew that he would.

Scarlett was always there helping him along the way, telling him that he was doing a good job. The reassurances were great, and sometimes all that he needed.

He entered the room and saw Scarlett suddenly closing her eyes. He knew that she was awake and was only pretending to be asleep, so he devised a plan. He got on the other side of the bed, as he put his sons down on the bed, caging them.

On one of their sides was Scarlett, and on the other was he. Scarlett still pretended to be asleep but could not do it for much longer, when William began to make his way towards his mother.

She let out a giggle as William placed his wet cheek against hers and opened her eyes.

“Good morning, my dear.” He said smiling at him.

She smiled at him and began to kiss her children. After gracing both of them, she turned towards him, with a happy smile and kissed him.

At that moment Trent knew that he would not trade such mornings for anything.

It was later in the day when Trent had come back from his work when he began to look for his family. He had looked in both the dining room and the breakfast parlor and had not seen his wife or sons. Trent was about to ask the maids when he heard giggling coming from the music room followed by someone playing.

He entered the room and saw both his sons sitting on the stool of the pianoforte with Scarlett in between them.

William was giggling while Thomas was playing the instrument with his chubby fingers. Scarlett was trying his best to explain to her sons the correct way to do it but Thomas would not have it.

“Thomas, that is not how you do it.” Scarlett said when Trent decided to announce himself.

“Are you teasing your mother, boys?” Trent asked and was pleased when both his sons and his wife turned to look at him with happy smiles on their faces.

He walked towards them and sat down, holding William in his lap, while Scarlett did the same with Thomas.

He kissed Scarlett on the lips and laughed when William put his chubby fingers between their faces and said, “Dadaaaa, me.”

“You want some kisses, too?” Trent asked, and William nodded his head.

With a smile on his face, Trent kissed William and ruffled his hair, while Thomas pushed out his arms out of Scarlett’s lap. Trent took his other son as well and did the same action with him when he heard his wife say, “I feel left out.”

“You want some kisses, too?” Trent asked, and Scarlett nodded her head looking at her sons.

“Boys, how about we kiss your mother now?” He asked, and the three of them attacked Scarlett with kisses, who only laughed.

“Okay, okay, stop.” He heard Scarlett saying while laughing, and he stopped.

He put his sons on the ground as they began to play with each other, and said to Scarlett, “Are you happy?”

He still could not believe that he had this life, that his life had turned out this way. He was blessed with everything.

“Yes, Trent. I am so very happy with you and our children.” Scarlett replied with serenity in her voice, smiling at him.

“But I do think something is missing.” Trent suddenly said, taking her hand in his.

“What?” She asked, looking worried.

“I think it is unfair that the only woman in the house is you. I think we might need to practice a little more to create another one of you. Hopefully, with all your perfection.” Trent said and saw her blush.

“Oh, Trent, must you talk like that in front of the children?” She said, reeling into him.

“I think our children should know that their father loves their mother.” He replied, kissing her cheek.

“Oh, I think they and all of our household know that you love me.” She mused, looking at her sons.

“And I want to remind you every day. I love you, Scarlett Mountbatten.” Trent said rather loudly, when Thomas said, “Me, too, dada.”

Both Trent and Scarlett laughed at their sons and at that moment, Trent knew he had it all. All the happiness in the world, and it was only because of the woman by his side.


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The Duke’s Twin Lust (Extended Epilogue)

Five Years Later

“Michael,” Amelia said in a tone she hoped was stern enough to convey her exasperation. “You absolutely cannot take Christian riding with you.”

Michael put on the confused look he liked use nowadays whenever he was seconds away from disobeying her. “Mother,” he said. “Christian needs to learn now. I would hate for him to turn out like you.”

Amelia narrowed her eyes. But, before she could say anything, Christian’s childish voice interrupted her.

“Mama, I want to go,” he said. He had a stubborn look in his eyes, the kind of look Amelia knew from experience meant he was about to throw a tantrum.

“You’re only five years old,” she said, her exasperation growing. Christian had been a lot to handle since the day he’d been born. He also seemed to be getting more trying by the day.

“But I want to go,” Christian said, his lips pursed.

Amelia sighed, turning around for help. But Mary, who was on the other side of the drawing-room, was busy knitting with Christopher, Christian’s twin brother. She appeared to have paid no attention to Christian and Michael’s words.

“Mother,” Michael said. “I promise you we will come to no harm.”

Michael was speaking formally now, the tone he used when he wanted to sound much more like the little lord Ernest was raising him to be.

Amelia pushed her amusement away. “Do you remember when you promised me he would come to no harm some months ago?” She jabbed at the healing scar on Christian’s head.

“I’m going to ride,” Christian said, his chin raised stubbornly. And before Amelia could stop him, he waddled away, his steps full of determination. Michael shot her an apologetic glance before he hurried after the boy.

Amelia buried her face in her arms, her amusement threatening to overpower her. She turned to look at Christopher. Unlike his brother, Christopher much preferred being indoors, learning new words, or watching Mary as she knitted. He also liked to watch Rebecca embroider whenever she visited, asking her whether he could help. He was far easier to handle than Christian was.

“I take it you couldn’t stop them,” someone said from behind Amelia.

Amelia turned around. Smiling at her from the doorway was her husband.

“You,” she said furiously. “I suppose you put the idea in their heads in the first place, didn’t you?”

Ernest grinned. “I merely told the young lads I was an expert rider at five.” He crossed the room in a few steps, standing right in front of her. “You don’t need to worry,” he said. “The stable boys will make sure nothing will happen to them.”

It was far harder to stay angry at him when he was this close to her, staring at her with his intense blue eyes. And so Amelia let out a sigh and turned away, her gaze falling on Christopher and Mary.

“Chris,” Ernest called.

Christopher appeared to not have noticed his father’s appearance. With a squeal, he ran to him, and Ernest lifted him into his arms.

“How are you doing, mister?” Ernest asked as he kissed his son’s brow.

Christopher whispered something to him. Ernest laughed and whispered something back. Amelia watched them, her heart growing warmer by the minute. Over the past five years, Ernest had not only proven to be one of the best dukes she had ever known. He had also proven to be the best father she knew. He was open and loving with his children, making sure to spend as much time with them as he could.

At first, Amelia had had the feeling Ernest would take more of an interest in Christian, as the boy was more interested in physical activities. Christian loved to volunteer to watch Ernest at his boxing lessons or as Ernest rode around the manor grounds. Amelia knew that noblemen usually attached more importance to sons who seemed they would be good at ruling.

But, somehow, Ernest had surprised her. He seemed to cherish his time with Christian, but Amelia knew he had a special bond with Christopher. They often spent hours talking with each other, and Amelia always wondered what they spoke about, especially since they usually liked to keep their talk a secret from everyone else.

Their talk did not take long this time, as Ernest set Christopher on his feet and the boy ran back to Mary.

Amelia turned to him. “If you asked Christian to get on a horse, the least you can do is watch him as he rides.”

Ernest shrugged. “Michael’s help is more than enough,” he said, waving a hand.

Amelia opened her mouth to disagree, but she knew that Ernest was right. Over the past few years, Michael had transformed to one of the best riders at the estate. He had started learning how to box as well, and Ernest often boasted Michael was almost as good as he was. Amelia was not quite concerned about Michael’s prowess at physical activities, though. All she cared about was that Michael had completely accepted her and Ernest as his parents and the twins as his brothers. He had a family once again, and Amelia couldn’t be happier.

“Besides,” Ernest said, his eyes twinkling. “I had a different kind of riding in mind.”

Amelia felt her cheeks grow red as Ernest’s gaze trailed down her body. She glanced at Christopher and Mary, hoping they were not watching. Thankfully, their heads were still bent over Mary’s knitting.

Ernest took her hand and started to pull her away. Amelia grinned, letting him lead the way, already feeling a warmth between her legs. They left the room, and Ernest looked around the empty corridor before he pushed her against the wall and kissed her, leaving her breathless.

Even after so many years of being married to her husband, the effect he had on her couldn’t be hidden. He always made sure to kiss and touch her secretly at every chance he got, leaving her breathless and wanting more. “What was that for?” she asked, panting slightly.

“I just wanted you to know what you’re in for,” Ernest said, before he continued to lead her to their chambers. “I hope you’re all set and ready,” he told her with a wicked smile on his face.

Amelia laughed, feeling the spark of anticipation as she followed the lead. She was ready.

When they reached their bedchamber and Ernest closed the door behind them, she felt his hands on her waist. He suddenly picked her up, leading her to their bed, and Amelia made a high-pitched noise at the unexpected movement, laughing hard.Ernest dropped her gently to the soft mattress of the bed, hovering above her with a loving but lustful stare, which made her heartbeat even faster than before.

“I’m not the one to blame. I have the most beautiful woman in the world as my wife and can’t control myself whenever I’m around her,” he said in a low voice.

“And I’m not the one to blame that I can’t resist the most handsome duke and father of my children,” she replied with a mischievous grin.

He laughed and gave her a playful peck on the nose, before trailing kisses down her body. The only thing she hoped was for this moment and every she shared with him to last forever.

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Escaping her Noble Past (Extended Epilogue)

One Year Later

Melissa looked down at the perfect little boy in her arms. He was only four weeks old, but already she could see his father in him. He had James’ chin and his nose, though he’d taken her bright blue eyes, and he already had a shock of brown hair. She rocked him gently, unable to pull her eyes away.

“He won’t disappear if you stop looking at him,” James said, chuckling at the sight of his wife.

“I know,” she replied. “But I just can’t get enough of him.”

“He is rather adorable, isn’t he?” he agreed with her.

They were in the garden of the Lornadale countryseat, a parasol placed over mother and baby to ensure they remained in the shade.

“He’s… I can’t even put into words what he is; he’s that wonderful. Besides, I have to get every moment I can with him because I suspect when Aunt Martha and Becky arrive, they won’t let me hold him the whole time they’re here.” she said.

James tutted. “I do wish you’d call her Rebecca.”

“But she likes being called Becky,” Melissa chastised—and not for the first time during their marriage.

“But her name is Rebecca.”

“And the baby’s name is Patrick, but you’ve called him Pat more than once in his short life.”

James smiled and nodded as he conceded. “Very well, you win. But only for now.”

They’d named the child after Melissa’s father. It had been James’ idea after he witnessed how desperately she missed him. The gesture had truly warmed Melissa’s heart, and she secretly vowed that if they were to have a girl, she would insist on naming her after James’ mother.

“What time are they due to arrive?”

“Early evening,” James replied. “Their rooms are ready, and I’ve had the cook prepare something special for dinner.”

“I simply cannot wait to see them,” Melissa said. “It’s been far too long.”

“And all it took to get them to visit was to produce an heir.” He chuckled. “In her letter, Rebecca said she simply cannot believe she is an aunt.”

Melissa looked down at the baby again and smiled. “If it wasn’t for the evidence right in front of me, I suspect I would have difficulty believing I was a mother.”

“But a wonderful mother you make,” James said, watching them lovingly. “I cannot wait until we have a whole brood of children running around the gardens!”

During the year that they were married, their life had become peaceful and relaxed. That suited Melissa perfectly, for she’d had enough excitement to last her a lifetime. They’d settled into a quiet routine, with James running the estate and Melissa socializing when she wasn’t doing charity work or needlepoint.

She still adored poetry, too, and at night, when they were alone, she would recite poems to her beloved husband, thinking of him just as she had that day she read romantic poems to Aunt Martha and Becky. It was when she was finished that he ravished her, and he did so often and eagerly. She encouraged and adored it. Their lives had become full of passion and love, and they could barely keep their hands off one another, often making love in whatever room they happened to find themselves rather than making their way to their bed.

Melissa sighed and stood up, babe still in arms. “I’m going to put Patrick down for a nap.”

“Why don’t you join him, darling?” James asked. “You look tired. And by the time you wake up, Rebecca and Aunt Martha will be here.”

Melissa yawned, unable to stop herself. “I think you are right; I will do that. It’ll be nice to wake refreshed for them.”

As she laid in bed, drifting off to sleep, she imagined what the upcoming season would bring. They were set to return to London as a new family, and Becky had expressed interest, finally, in finding a husband. For a while, Melissa had thought Becky would marry Lord Marles, but they didn’t suit. Melissa could see that now, but she was determined to find the right husband for her. Indeed, Becky had matured until a true young lady. With the guidance of her aunt and now, her sister-in-law, she had grown from the willful, silly thing Melissa had first met into a young woman ready to find the life she was supposed to lead.

When Melissa woke a few hours later, she was surprised to find Patrick hadn’t woken her sooner. She checked herself in the looking glass and ran a comb through her hair, then found her way downstairs. Everyone was in the drawing-room, little Patrick in Aunt Martha’s arms.

“Here’s your mummy now,” she said in a singsong voice. “All rested again.”

Patrick’s whole hand was wrapped around Aunt Martha’s smallest finger, and Melissa’s heart melted to see it. Rebecca stood up and moved toward her sister-in-law.

“Melissa! How wonderful to see you!” She pulled Melissa into a tight embrace. “I’ve missed you so much. Chidswell Manor is so quiet without you there.”

Melissa giggled. “You don’t seriously miss all the drama, do you?” she asked.

“No,” Becky admitted. “But I miss you and the conversations we used to have. I simply cannot wait until we all return to London! I have missed the busyness of the city.”

“And, of course, you are eager to meet those fine eligible bachelors who might attend season.” Becky blushed, making Melissa laugh. She leaned forward and kissed Becky on the cheek. “My darling sister, any one of them will be lucky to have you.”

“This boy is going to be a wonderful success, you know,” Aunt Martha said, interrupting their conversation.

James let out a peal of laughter. “The poor little thing is only four weeks old. He can barely keep his eyes open. How on earth do you propose to know he will be a success?”

“It’s in his blood,” Aunt Martha replied as if it were perfectly obvious. “We come from a long line of successful people, you know. And from what I hear about Melissa’s father and her ancestry, she does too. Little Patrick here has no other choice but to grow into a great success.”

Melissa giggled. “Something tells me you are a bit biased, Aunt Martha.”

“Not at all,” she cried incredulously. “Just look at him! He’s the most beautiful baby England has ever seen.”

Becky peered over her aunt’s shoulder and cooed at the baby, then looked back up at Melissa. “She’s most definitely right about that. Patrick is the cutest thing I do believe I’ve ever seen.”

Later, long after Patrick had been put to bed and Aunt Martha and Rebecca had retired after their journey, James and Melissa relaxed. He sat at the end of the couch, a glass of whisky in hand, while she lay curled up, her head on his lap and his fingers running through her hair.

“Did you ever think we’d get to this point?” she asked.

“No,” he admitted. “I tried to resist you so very much.” He chuckled. “But no matter what I did, you would not get out of my mind.”

“I could tell,” she said. “You tried to push me away.”

“Could you blame me?” he asked, lighthearted and full of love. “I’d become obsessed with you, this perfect commoner who was trying to take over my life.”

Melissa scoffed and sat up, looking at him incredulously. “I did not try to take over your life,” she said. “Quite the opposite, in fact. And then I was certain you wouldn’t rescue me.”

Their teasing stopped with that comment, and James looked at her seriously before cupping her cheek in his.

“I was always going to rescue you, Melissa. And I will always rescue you again, now and forever.”

Melissa leaned forward and stole a kiss, her lips soft upon his. “And I appreciate that,” she said in a whisper as she pulled away.

“But the truth is,” he said, his eyes still closed and his voice hoarse, “you rescued me as well.”

She tilted her head and looked at him questioningly, briefly marveling at the fact that they had never before discussed this in the whole year they had been married.

“How so?” she asked.

“You rescued me from me, Melissa. I would have wandered the earth, lost and lonely, had I not found you.”

“But you did find me,” she said, smiling at him. “Quite literally, lying in the middle of the road.”

“I did not find you by chance, my love, but fate guided the way. We belong together, always and forever.”

“And we shall always make each other happy.”

“We already do. I love you, Melissa, more than life itself.”

“I love you, James, and long may it continue.”


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The Bastard’s Forbidden Kiss (Extended Epilogue)


Two Years Later

Dear Abigail,

It is so lovely to hear from you, and I cannot be happier for you and Mr. Barnwall. Are you still naming your son Jason? I know you always liked that name when we were children. You always said your first son would be Jason, even when you were told that your husband would have the final say in it. I hope Martin is amenable to it. For it is a fantastic choice for a firstborn.

I am so sorry that I missed the wedding. I did want to be there. But as you know, my dear husband tragically fell ill at our estate, and I had been staying in the countryside to mourn him. God rest his soul.

However, now, my mourning is over, and I am coming back to London in August. May I come to visit you? I shall plan to be there on the fifth for tea. If this is impossible for you, please do let me know. Otherwise, I will be at your home then.


Anna Fullerton


Abigail read the note once more, just to double-check that she was right about the date of the arrival of her old friend. It was a true shame what had happened to Anna’s husband. Abigail and Anna had known each other for years, nearly as long as Abigail and Martin had, but she had not seen the other girl since Anna’s wedding. Theirs was not a love match—few people’s marriages were—but there had been quite a lot of caring and respect between them, and Abigail knew that Lord Fullerton would be missed.

“What time is Anna coming, darling?” asked a low voice from her side. Abigail looked up to see Martin, a few years older and broader now, cradling baby Jason in his arms. His tiredness had meant he had not shaved since their son was born, so a shadow of stubble was once again peppering his face, and his sideburns were getting downright unruly. But Abigail did not mind. In fact, she thought he looked quite dashing.

“She said around tea time, so any minute now,” she answered and turned her attention to little Jason. He held his arms out for her, grabbing fistfuls of air with his tiny hands to signify that he wanted his mother. She giggled a bit, and Martin rolled his eyes.

“He always wants his mother, doesn’t he?” he asked, but could not help the smile that covered his face when he saw his wife holding their child as he handed him over.

She immediately brightened with Jason in her arms, drawing him close and snuggling into his neck. “Can you blame him?”

“Not one bit,” he said sincerely, and then wickedly, he gave her a wink and came close to say, “I always want his mother, too.”

Her face was one of feigned shock and scandal, but he just laughed, placing a kiss on her cheek.

“Are you going to the alehouse today?” she asked him, rocking the baby in her arms, and changing the subject to distract from her blushing. He grinned a pridefully but shook his head.

“I thought I would stay behind, meet this friend you have been talking about so much,” he said. “And watch Jason, so you might have some time together without having to worry.”

“I am sure eventually she’ll want to meet Jason,” Abigail pointed out, touching the boy’s nose to illustrate the point. “Everyone does. He’s simply too cute not to. And besides, if I need someone to watch him, I can have Miss Bamber do it. She loves him.”

“That may be,” Martin agreed. “But I must say, I want to spend as much time with him now, early, as I can. We will never have the bond that he shares with his mother, of course, but….”

Now Abigail understood. Stepping closer to him and using her free hand to cup his gorgeous face, which had only gotten more so with age, she told him, “You are not your father. And you never will be.”

“I know.” He nodded, though his face looked as if he needed more convincing. “I know that, of course. But… can you blame a man for doing everything in his power to make sure? I want our boy to have a father he can trust. A father he believes in and whose love he never questions.”

“And that is admirable,” Abigail said. It was true, so true. The affection the man had for his son was already very apparent and absolutely heartwarming. “But you already do so much more than the average father. He already loves you,” she turned the boy so that he could see Martin and melted when she saw the change in his face. One of happiness and contentment. Then, she added, “We both do.”

“And I you, my darling,” he said, coming in for a chaste kiss. She relented, of course, tucking the child back to lean in and press their lips together.

But as soon as they touched, they heard a throat clear. Abigail looked up, and Miss Bamber stood, a knowing look on her face.

“Mrs. Barnwall,” the fiery redhead said, “Lady Fullerton is here to see you.”

“Oh, she’s here?” Abigail said, giddy at the thought of seeing her old friend. Miss Bamber smiled and nodded.

“She is waiting in the drawing room. Where you were meant to meet her,” she pointed out, then looked at Martin with a face of mock disapproval. “I suppose somebody was distracting you.”

“I will be right there, Miss Bamber!” Abigail said quickly over Martin’s booming laugh. She smiled, curtseyed, and walked back down the stairs. “You are wicked,” Abigail said to him, and rolled her eyes at her childish husband when all it did was make him laugh even harder. She turned around, following her lady’s maid back down to the drawing room.

Anna was standing in the center of the room, taking in the art around her, when Abigail finally made it back down for tea. She was just as beautiful as she was as a child. She was, in many ways, the antithesis of Abigail herself. Where Abigail’s hair was blonde, Anna’s was a warm chestnut brown. Where Abigail’s skin was pale, Anna’s was kissed by the sun. Where Abigail’s features were dainty and petite, Anna’s came in striking hard lines. It had caused quite the rivalry as they grew, as there had always been a fit of playful jealousy between them. But it was all in good faith.

“Abigail!” she said with a bright smile on her face. She was no longer wearing black but a beautiful yellow dress that made her look quite young again. Abigail smiled.

“Hello, Anna,” she said, going straight to her. They greeted each other like old friends, grasping each other’s hands and bowing their heads. Abigail wondered, briefly, if they should have done that. Since marrying Martin, she was no longer of the same social class as Anna. While they still lived in luxury due to her father’s generosity—and would for life, for all would be passed onto Jason—she was still the wife of a bastard. Many society women did not take well to that.

But Anna, of course, was too kind to care. She looked at Abigail the way she always did and treated her as such. Abigail was glad. Not because she needed to be treated as though she had wealth, but because she could not bear for her friend to look at her any differently. Luckily, it seemed as if Anna did not even put any thought into such a thing.

“How are you?” Anna asked, and Abigail pulled away and sat down at the table, which was already set for tea. Anna followed suit, taking a seat across from Abigail and sitting up straight, smoothing out her dress like she was nervous. It made sense, Abigail supposed, that she would be. If she had been in mourning in the countryside for over two years, she was likely not very used to being around others anymore.

“I am fantastic,” Abigail said honestly. Her life was everything she could have dreamed of, and she felt no need to hide it. “I am so happy, Anna. Truly.”

“Good,” Anna said with a smile. “As you should be. You deserve it, Abigail. Maybe more than anyone else.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Abigail giggled. “But it is more than I could have wished for, truly.”

“Please, I hope you don’t find me rude,” Anna said, slow and unsure. She was nervous about what she was about to ask, and Abigail was willing to bet she knew exactly what it was she was asking. “But I have to ask… this is your dream? I mean, I know you always wanted a love match. Who did not when we were young? But…” she leaned in, hushing her voice, “the bastard son of the Duke of Dudley? I mean, who would have thought you would find your happiness there?”

Abigail laughed. It was not the first time she had had to deal with that look of disbelief, and it would not be the last.


Martin handed his son off to Miss Bamber, hoping to go to the drawing room to meet his wife’s friend whom he had been hearing so much about. He hated letting Jason go. He became smitten with the boy the moment he was born. He was the perfect mix of him and Abigail. His dark hair, with Abigail’s blue eyes. His sharp nose, with Abigail’s plump lips. Not only was he his son, but he was also a reminder of his union with his wife. And damned if he was not the greatest reminder that there could be.

It took some getting used to living in Abigail’s house. It was not as grand as Martin’s father’s home, but it was quite strange to be on this side of the divide. He was not a nobleman, not in the slightest. He was still a bastard. He would never be fully accepted by the ton. But with the way the servants treated him, he might as well be. They had respect for him. They called him Mr. Barnwall and bowed their heads. He could not help the strange feeling he felt when they did so. It seemed so… wrong to be treated that way. Like he did not belong. Perhaps because he did not.

But it was worth it to see Abigail’s smile every day. To be near her father and have his son taken care of at all times. He would not trade it for anything.

Making his way down the absurdly large hallway and staircase to the drawing room, he could already hear his wife’s animated voice speaking.

“… but it is more that I could have wished for, truly,” she was saying, the songlike quality of her voice there as always.

He heard Anna respond with a long-winded apology before hearing, “… The bastard son of the Duke of Dudley? I mean, who would have thought you would find your happiness there?”

Ah, yes. There it was.

Many people did not understand their marriage. He could not blame them, not when he could barely believe it himself, so he carried no ill will toward those who questioned it.

“It might sound crazy to some,” he heard his Abigail say. He stopped his move to come into the room. Perhaps he should not be eavesdropping like this, but… he could not help it. He wanted to hear what she might say next. “But it is not so crazy to me. It took a long journey to get there, but… I found love in the brown eyes and strong arms of a friend. And if that is not the ultimate dream— for everybody—then I don’t know what is.”

Martin could not believe his ears. He had never heard her speak so freely and plainly of their relationship through the lens of relaying it to someone else. To speak of him with such love and respect was… everything he could have ever wanted.

He loved her so. And he knew that she loved him, too. They were married, for Heaven’s sake. And it was a marriage filled to the brim with love. But he often could not shake the feeling that he was holding her back. It was silly, he knew, but she had given up so much to be with him. To learn, even without him there, that she expressed herself as being so… happy. It was a dream come true.

Martin could not take being away from her another moment. He picked his pace back up, walking straight into the drawing room and going to his wife, paying the guest no mind.

“Martin—” Abigail started, no doubt getting ready to introduce him to her friend. But he ignored her. He immediately bent down, albeit somewhat awkwardly, and planted a quick kiss onto her lips. A peck with years of love and happiness and desperation bursting out of it. She made a noise of surprise but accepted it gracefully. It did not go any deeper. They did have company, after all.

“Oh!” Anna said from her place across the table. Martin chuckled, placing one last peck upon his wife. He needed to express himself. His gratitude. Even if it was inappropriate. He would not regret that kiss, just as he did not regret any of their others.

He cleared his throat. “My apologies, Lady Fullerton,” he said, bowing in Anna’s direction. “I could not help but overhear—”

She held up a hand, a kind smile on her face. “I took no offense, Mr. Barnwall. Don’t you worry. It is inspiring to see you two together. I cared for my husband very much; God rest his soul. But I had given up on true love, I think. It seemed so out of reach, even when I was first coming of age. Now, it is even harder to hold out hope. I think I may have to settle for being a sad, forgotten widow for the rest of my life.”

“I would not be so sure, Anna,” Abigail said, reaching out her hand to place it comfortingly on her friend’s. “We married when I was one-and-twenty. Even I was beginning to believe real happiness may never come. But it did. And it can for you, too. You’re still young. You are beautiful. You can find another husband if that is what you want.” Abigail smiled, and added, “One that you love.”

Martin put a hand on his wife’s shoulder. He always liked to be touching her if he could. In the background, he could hear his son’s laughter. And he thought, just briefly, that his life might just be absolutely perfect.

Abigail placed a kiss on his hand, and he remembered happily that she thought so, too.

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A Proper Lady’s Scandal (Extended Epilogue)


“Peter, where is your cravat?” Ella asked. He was dressed in a pair of scandalously tight breeches, a crisp white shirt, and a burgundy-colored waistcoat. Once his tailcoat was on, he would look dashing—even more dashing than usual. Except he was not wearing a cravat, and that was not tolerable. Not at a wedding.

He rolled his eyes at her “Ella. It is August. It is hot. The chapel will be smoldering. You’d have me uncomfortable for the sake of propriety?”

She raised an eyebrow at him and grinned. “So? Do you suppose any of the other lords will forgo a cravat? Do you wish to return to the scandal sheets as the baron who refused to wear a cravat to his best friend’s wedding?”

He roared with laughter. “I am sure the Morning Gazette has other things to worry about than my cravat. Besides, you’ve forgone wearing stockings. Isn’t that most improper for a lady?”

Ella pressed her lips together, her arms crossed in front of her chest.

“Nobody can see if I wear stockings or not. Meanwhile, everyone can see you’re not wearing a cravat.”

Peter mirrored the pose and raised an eyebrow. “Is that so? For I believe there is at least one lord who does know. Or do I not count? Besides, are you not the one who told me that it does not matter? Proper is proper.”

She threw up her arms in mock exasperation.

“Even after two years of marriage, you still cannot stop teasing and challenging me at every corner.”

He rushed forth and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into an embrace.

“And you love every moment of it.”

Ella’s attempt at remaining serious failed her as she broke into a giggle. It was true; there was no denying it. She loved their playful banter. While others found the way they acted around one another peculiar, she thrived on their minor disagreements, as did he. It kept their marriage alive in many ways.

He leaned in and kissed her. Outside, the sound of tiny footsteps drifted through the closed door.

“I believe the ring bearer has arrived.”

The door flew open, and Mary entered with David clutching her hand. The little boy swayed as he walked. Ella squatted down, arms outstretched, and her son ran the last few steps toward her, a delightful grin on his lips.

“Look at you running! You’re growing up so fast.”

“And soon he will be a big brother,” Peter added with pride. Ella shook her head and pressed her index finger on her lips.

“We must not tell anyone. This day is Thomas and Anna’s. We shall make our announcement another day.”

Peter raised his arms in resignation. “I suppose so. Do you see how I am treated in my own home, Mary? I am forever told what to do and what not to do. A dreadful existence.”

“Yes, my lord. Dreadful.” She chuckled. Mary was one of the few maids who truly understood how Lord and Lady Walpole conducted themselves. Even Ella’s aunt often found herself puzzled by the playful way the two spoke to one another.

However, just like Peter’s mother, she was only too happy to support whatever made the two joyful, for happiness had not been easily come by for either Ella or Peter. Now they had it; those who loved them wanted to do all they could to make sure they remained in their blissful state.

Not that it took much work. Theirs was an easy marriage. After the trouble they had in coming together initially, they no longer encountered such difficulties.

Ella often thought of Peter’s words on their wedding night. His belief that his late wife Isabella had brought them together. Ella couldn’t deny it. It seemed likely. At times, she would sneak away into the older wing of the house, where Peter kept what remained of Isabella’s belongings. Among them was a large painting, one that showed Isabella as she’d looked when she and Peter had married.

Ella would look up at this woman she’d never met but whose legacy still shaped Ella’s life every single day. On those days, she imagined that Isabella and her parents knew one another somewhere in the great beyond. Perhaps they all looked down upon this little family with happy smiles on their faces.

Perhaps it was but wishful thinking on Ella’s part

“Ella?” Peter’s voice drew her out of her thoughts.


“We ought to go, lest we be late.”

“Of course,” she replied and pulled her pelisse forward so it hid the small, rounded stomach that would soon give away her secret. For now, her announcement would keep. Once Anna and Thomas returned from their honeymoon in Scotland, she’d let their family and friends know of the soon-to-be arrival.

For today, they would join in with the rest of their family and watch the joyful union of her best friend, Anna Montgomery, with Peter’s best friend, Thomas Stanhope.

To think the two people most dear to each of them would soon be joined in marriage. It delighted Ella. She’d always had a secret fear that Anna might marry a nobleman from far away, separating them.

By falling in love with Thomas, that possibility was all but eliminated. And thanks to Peter’s generosity, Thomas was no longer in the suds. His business thrived, ensuring Anna would be well taken care of.

“You are lost in thought today, my love,” Peter commented as they exited their chamber. Peter held David as he chattered away, stringing together the many words he’d learned already, although not in any particular order.

“I suppose I am a little nostalgic. It is another event my parents are missing. On days like these, I feel their loss more than on others.”

He gently took her hand as they walked down the hall and descended the grand staircase.

“I understand. But you know they are here in spirit. And they are proud of you; I know it.”

She squeezed his hand while, up ahead, Mary exited through the front door and stepped into the garden. The chapel was located at the end of the park and overlooked the lake beyond.

How much their life had changed these past two years. He’d gone from a horrible rake, despised by many of his fellow lords, to someone respectable and, yes, even liked. And she? She’d left behind the timid, rigid girl and become a better friend, a loving wife, and a happy mother.

Most of all, she’d grown to become the kind of woman she knew her parents would be proud of.

She looked up at Peter, who led her toward the chapel where they’d sit in the front row and watch as another couple exchanged vows, promising to love one another forever. Just as they had not long ago.


He paused in the doorway of the church.

“Yes, love?”

“I just wanted to tell you how happy you make me and how adored I feel every single day. I love you.”

His lips turned up into a smile that lit his entire face. “And I love you, my darling wife.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close while nearby, an older lady gasped.

Ella grinned. “It seems no matter what we do, we always find a way to cause a scandal.”

Peter chuckled. “That we do. But I do not care. I have you, and that is all I need.”

And so, Ella closed her eyes and forgot all about the spectators or the scandal their public display might cause, for Peter was right. Nothing mattered but the two of them and their love.


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The Duke’s Scandalous Bluestocking (Extended Epilogue)


Happiness, when found, can make the time feel as though it has sprouted wings. And so, too, Alice found that the months with her husband felt shorter than any she had experienced at her childhood home.

Alice and her sister sat in the drawing-room, the late afternoon light falling lightly through the window.

“I’m ever so excited to be an aunt!” Nancy cried, her hands at her cheeks. “Have the two of you settled on a name quite yet?”

“Not yet,” Alice said. “We have many ideas, though; too many, in fact. That seems to be the problem!” She placed a hand against her stomach. “Oh, I do believe I felt a little kick!”

Nancy laughed, pure delight in her lovely voice. “Goodness!” she said. “I’m in for an energetic niece or nephew, then! How delightful!”

“You have yourself to thank for your niece or nephew,” Alice reminded her. “If you hadn’t come home with that silly invitation, none of this ever would have occurred.”

Nancy smiled, glancing down. “I suppose that’s right.”

Alice studied her sister’s expression. Something seemed off about her, but Alice was unable to put her finger on what it could be.

“Have you been to any exciting events, sister?” Alice asked. “Any balls of note?”

Again, Nancy looked away. “No,” she said. “Not of late. I haven’t had the time to attend such things in ever so long…”

“No time?” Alice asked. “Why, however are you spending it, then? Perhaps you’re being courted by a gentleman?”

Nancy wouldn’t catch her gaze, no matter how Alice tried.

“It’s of no consequence,” she said, the smile back in her eyes. “Come, I must be off. It is getting rather late, and I don’t wish to keep Father waiting.”

“Alice!” Henry called from the front door. “I thought I heard your voice. Are you—Oh, Nancy, how good to see you!”

Henry bent low to kiss Alice, scooping her into his arms. He kissed her again and again until she pushed him away playfully.

“Oh, go on, you villain,” Alice laughed.

“It was ever so wonderful to see you, sister!” Nancy called behind her. “And you as well, dear Henry!”

Alice shut the door behind her sister, smiling up at her husband. “I’m glad that you returned home in time to see Nancy, at least for a moment,” she said. “She is so fond of you.”

“I’m quite fond of her as well,” Henry said. “No better sister for you could I have imagined.”

Alice sighed, thinking back to Nancy’s evasiveness. “Nancy hasn’t attended any balls in quite some time. Do you think that something has perhaps happened?”

Henry raised his eyebrows. “Happened?” he asked. “Whatever could you mean?” Henry smiled at his wife, his eyes crinkling at her. “I think you have perhaps too many fears due to the nature of our relationship. Relax, darling. Your sister is a clever girl and can take care of herself.”

Alice watched Henry shed his coat and hang it, his shoulders shrugging wearily. The afternoon sun shone down on him through the window, and she could see the brown tones in his dark hair that so often look black.

He turned to see her watching him. “Is there something wrong?” he asked quizzically.

“No, nothing,” she said, shaking her head. She wasn’t aware that she’d been positively staring at him. “I am just musing over how happy I am to have you in my life. Can you imagine if our paths had never crossed?”

Henry stepped closer to her, pulling her against him. He brushed a lock of dark brown hair that had fallen away from her chignon, tucking it behind her ear.

“That never could have happened,” Henry said softly. “We were fated to meet, Alice. No one but you would have been so caring as to accompany your sister to a strange gentleman’s house, and no one but you would have been so bold as to escape the confines of her home a second night.”

He looked at her, love radiating from his eyes as he continued. “No, only you would ever have embodied exactly what I wanted and desperately, desperately needed. It would not have been an easy opportunity to miss. Not for one as remarkable as you.”

As he held Alice close to him, she closed her eyes and committed this moment to memory.

For years and years to come, she would be able to recall exactly how warm Henry felt against her, how comforted she felt in his arms. She could feel his breath against her neck, his hand against her waist, but most of all she would recall the simultaneous beating of their hearts.

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The Lord’s Sweet Revenge (Extended Epilogue)


It was a perfect, warm late-summer afternoon nearly a year after Jacob and Caroline’s wedding, with clear skies and not a breath of wind. The lush green grass perfectly contrasted against the pristine white benches. Tables were decorated with white roses and greenery, and although Jacob did not normally care for social events, that afternoon was entirely different.

An old friend who Jacob knew from university, Lord Bellingham—or more casually known to Jacob as Winston—had returned to London after spending time travelling in Europe. Lord Bellingham, who had finally decided to settle back in London, had sent Jacob an invitation to the garden party at his new London home. It was quite a lovely townhouse in Mayfair, only a few streets away from where Jacob and Caroline resided.

Jacob grinned as Winston approached him, and he cocked his head. “It is good to have you back.”

“Indeed. I have certainly missed the grey and dreary skies of Town, not to mention the streets that are overrun with rats and people,” Winston said with a chuckle. “But, at least the weather leaned in our favour today.”

“You did indeed choose an ideal day to host this garden party,” Jacob said with a nod.

“What can I say? I am a man who makes only the finest choices,” Winston grinned. “And speaking of such, I must congratulate you on your marriage. It was rather unfortunate for me that I was unable to attend, and I do apologise.”

“There is no need to,” Jacob scoffed. “And thank you.”

“She is lovely, and I can see by the way you look at her that she makes you very happy. You are most lucky.”

“I doubt if luck had anything to do with it,” Jacob stifled an amused chuckle, “but thank you. She is truly delightful, and I am grateful to have her in my life.”

“You do look truly content, and it is well-deserved.”

Jacob smiled as he noticed Caroline approach him and Winston, and his heart fluttered when she gazed upon him. He still could not believe that she was his wife, and his feelings for her had changed so drastically from a year prior. If someone had informed his younger self that he would one day love and adore every part of her, and be wed to her, he would not have believed it.

He had been a broken man for many years, but Caroline had managed to put his broken pieces back together. They had been through rough paths together, bled together, cried together and loved together, and that is what made their bond so strong.

“Your husband cannot seem to stop speaking of you, my lady,” Winston said to Caroline as she joined them.

“I can surely say the same of you, my lord,” Caroline replied with a charming smile.

Winston chuckled heartily and turned to Caroline. “I must thank you for accompanying your husband this afternoon. I am truly honoured to meet the woman who tamed this wild one.”

Before Jacob was able to give Winston a warning glance, Caroline placed her hand on Jacob’s arm, perhaps to reassure him that he had nothing to fret over. She was by his side, and everything would be alright.

“Someone had to, is that not so?” she asked with a chuckle.

“Indeed. Indeed,” Winston said and looked at Jacob. “She is truly delightful.”

Jacob forced a smile and briefly glanced at Caroline. “Would you care for a refreshment, my dear?”

“That would be lovely,” she answered.

“Excuse us,” Jacob said to Winston, who gave them a nod of encouragement.

Jacob led Caroline to the refreshment table and handed her a glass of wine. “There you are, my love.”

Caroline’s lips pouted and she shook her head. “I would prefer a lemonade. The wine would not be good for me right now.”

“Are you certain?”

“Indeed. That is what the doctor told me, at least.”

Her answer caused Jacob’s stomach to drop and his eyes to narrow at her, and he studied her for a moment. “What is the matter? You do not normally converse with doctors.”

“Under normal circumstance, no.”

Jacob’s brow furrowed, not quite understanding what Caroline meant.

She smiled sheepishly and gently brought him to the side of the table. “I did not wish to tell you here, but now that you have left me no choice…”

“What on Earth are you talking about?” he asked.

“I cannot have wine for at least nine months,” Caroline said, a happy glimmer appearing in her eyes. “I am with child.”

For a moment, Jacob’s world stopped, and all his surrounding simply faded into the background. The only thing that stood clearly in front of him was Caroline, carrying his child.

“Are you certain?” he asked breathlessly, and she nodded.

Jacob’s heart pounded in his chest and he took her hands in his. “That is the most wonderful news I have ever heard.”

“I thought you might say that.”

“Caroline Follette, just when I think that I cannot be any happier or love you any more than I already do, you tell me such wonderful news,” Jacob said, feeling rather emotional.

He had not given having children much thought, but he could not be happier in that very moment, and he could not wait to meet his son or daughter.

Jacob had never known happiness such as this before. He had been convinced for so long that he would never truly be worthy of such good things in his life. Caroline had shown him that he deserved a happily ever after. Their life together had only just begun, and he looked forward to spending the rest of his days beside her.

Soon there would be an addition to their family, one that would bring even more happiness to their lives.

If that were even possible.


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Heir in Despair (Extended Epilogue)


One Year Later

Clara was standing over the cot, reluctant to part. Her baby was sleeping soundly, still just a few months old. The baby’s hands were thrown up above her head, the small fingers wound into her short chocolate-red locks.


At her name, Clara turned to look at the doorway. William was there, visible in the fading light of the day coming through the windows. He smiled at her, seeing where she stood yet again, as she so often did these days. Clara struggled to part from her baby’s side, always fussing, always worrying. All that mattered to her these days was seeing her daughter safe and comfortable.

“She will be fine.” He came to her side and wrapped an arm around her waist. Even now, the thrill of his touch made a shiver of pleasure run up her spine.

“I know. It’s just hard to leave her for the first time.” Clara sighed looking down at her daughter. “I remember my mother saying how hard it was to leave me and Ruth for the first time when we were young. I understand what she meant now.” She reached down into the cot and pulled the blanket up around the child, covering her small chest.

“Baby Isabelle,” William said with love in his voice. He looked into the cot too and pulled up the other end of the blanket. Working together, they set the cover around their daughter. “Each day she looks more and more like you.”

“You’re just saying that because of her hair.” Clara laughed as they stood straight once more.

“No, she has your nose too –”

“But your grey eyes,” Clara insisted.

“A true mix then.” William turned his smile on her, and Clara warmed at the sight. He moved toward her, wrapping his arm back around her and pulling her into his chest. “Clara, she will be fine. Now, do I need to drag you away for your sister’s debut?”

It was an event they had been working toward for some time, and now Ruth was a little older, the timing was perfect. Tonight, it was to be her first step into high society.

“Ha! You’d have to drag me away,” Clara teased, resting her head on his chest.

“I think I could carry you out of here easily enough.” He lowered his voice and spoke seductively in her ear.

“No,” she sighed and lifted her head up to see him. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

“Then we best be going.” He kissed her lightly on the lips before taking her hand and drawing her out of the room. In the doorway, Clara still hovered. She held onto the doorframe, looking back at Isabelle. “Clara…” he warned and tickled her, forcing her to release the doorframe. She laughed and went with him, hurrying back through the corridor and down the stairs toward the main entrance hall.

As the two of them reached the entrance hall, Clara found Ruth standing by the door, wearing a fine gown indeed. It was one Clara had helped her pick out, ivory in color, and embroidered with lots of lace in the skirt. The dress was somewhat different to the patchwork gown Ruth used to wear before Clara married William. Slim fitting, showing off Ruth’s small figure, she would not doubt be the belle of the evening, Clara was certain of it.

“My little sister is all grown up now!” Clara said as she released William’s hand and reached for Ruth’s.

“Oh, don’t say that,” Ruth laughed, lowering her eyes down to their clasped hands. It caused her chestnut-colored hair to fall into her eyes. “I feel like I am still very much a child playing dress up.”

“It may surprise you to know that we all feel like that.” Clara turned their hand hold into looped arms, preparing to lead her sister out of the house and toward the carriage.

“I don’t think I have ever shaken that feeling.” William’s voice startled them both enough to look his way, eyebrows raised.

“Even you?” Clara asked in disbelief. “You were a barrister!”

Clara was reminded of the day she had first arrived at William’s house. That day she had felt so out of place in the world and had grown even more uncertain after she met William and had been entranced by his chiseled looks.

If I’d only known what was before me, I would never have been so worried!

“You’ll grow used to the feeling. We all do!” Clara laughed as she drew Ruth out of the house, eager to reach the ball.


As Ruth was announced, William and Clara led her into the room between the two of them. Clara couldn’t shake her smile, especially when she saw how many in the room turned to look at Ruth.

“Why are they all looking at me?” Ruth whispered, reaching for Clara’s arm again.

“Do you really have to ask?” Clara laughed under her breath, just as William led them further into the room.

They quickly introduced Ruth to their hostess, and from there on, it was one long round of introductions. They went through all the acquaintances Clara and William had in the ton, ensuring they all met Ruth. By the end of their rounds, Ruth was looking more lost than before. As they moved to the side of the room to get refreshments, Ruth was shaking her head.

“How do you remember all of these names?” she asked.

“It comes with practice,” Clara explained, just as their hostess re-joined them.

“Ah, Miss Griffith, there you are,” she said to Ruth before turning to Clara. “I wonder, My Lady, if I could steal your sister away for a few minutes. There are some gentlemen I would like to introduce her to. I’ll take good care of her, I promise.”

In answer, Clara looked to Ruth, her eyebrows raised.

“Well, if Ruth is amenable, I mostly certainly would not object.” Clara smiled.

“Excellent! Come with me, Miss Griffith.” Their hostess began to tow Ruth away.

“Clara,” Ruth dropped her voice to a whisper so only she could hear before she was dragged too far away. “You promised not to leave me alone!”

“I’ll only be a few steps away,” Clara assured her. “Enjoy yourself.”

Clara watched as Ruth was taken to a group of people on the other side of the ballroom. Though clearly nervous, Ruth had a way about her that was natural and easy, engaging people in conversation before they really knew it. Clara watched her with admiration, just as William appeared again at her side.

“Ruth seems to be a new favorite,” he said as he stopped beside her.

“That she does.” Clara laughed. “At this rate, she could be married within a few months. Isn’t it busy here this evening?”

“To be honest, this is merely reminding me why I like the world away from the ton,” William said to her as he linked his hand with hers, entwining their fingers together.

“I like our world,” Clara mused, thinking back to their home. “Our home, our family.”

“Speaking of family.” William passed her a glass of port that she took delicately between her fingers, “I realized earlier today there was a conversation you and I haven’t yet had.”

“Oh? What is that?” Clara looked over the rim of her port glass in surprise.

“Well, from the attention Ruth is getting this evening…” William gestured around the room with meaning, urging Clara to follow his gaze. Ruth was indeed now getting lots of attention. Flanked and protected by their hostess, there were at least three gentlemen trying to secure Ruth’s hand for a dance. “We will no doubt lose her to make her own family soon.”

“From the eagerness of the gentlemen around her, I would agree it seems likely.”

“Lizzy is getting older, too,” William continued.

“She is hardly considered of age yet!”

“No, far from it, but it won’t be long. Every day I look at her and realize how quickly she’s growing up.” William chuckled to himself.

“Your point is?” Clara tilted her head to the side, watching him closely as she sipped her port.

“How many siblings do you want to give Isabelle?” His words made her choke on the port. She started coughing, it made him laugh and tap her back, trying to help her. “I seem to have taken you by surprise.”

“The way you said that, it made it sound as though you were picturing an entire brood!”

“Ha! Not a brood, but maybe a few. What do you say?” he whispered to her.

“I…erm…” Clara was tongue-tied for a minute, staring at him in surprise. “You seem to have given this quite a lot of thought.”

“I have, I suppose.” He replaced his hand to hers and squeezed her fingers. “I like seeing the way you look into Isabelle’s cot. The happiness in your eyes when you see her. I like the idea of making that happiness even greater.”

William’s words made a smile spread across her cheeks. The kindness of his words, the decision to want to make her even happier than she already was, sent a thrill up her body.

“What do you say?” William squeezed her hand a little more.

“I love the idea.” Had they been somewhere private, she would have kissed him, but at the center of a ball, she could not express her full feelings, so she opted for the best words instead. “I love you, you know?”

“I know.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the back. “I love you, too. Now, come on.” He turned her back to face the other end of the room. “I must do my duty to your sister and fend off some of the clamoring attention she is receiving.”

“What a good idea,” Clara said as they crossed the room. “It will give you good practice for when Isabelle is older.”

“And for when the rest of the brood are older, too,” he whispered in her ear.

“The rest? How many did you have in mind!?”

“You’ll see, but I intend to get started tonight.”

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