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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