Another Earl to Love (Extended Epilogue)

Three years later…

“Jon, take heed not to fall,” Cecilia called as she sat on the bench outside Barnard Hall, her newborn baby boy – named David after her father – in her arms.

“I shall keep watch, do not fret!” Archie called back as he kicked the small metal can before him gently. Their son, two years old now, giggled and rushed after it as fast as his little legs would carry him.

“You worry too much, Cecilia,” her mother-in-law gently chided her. Cecilia turned her head. The Dowager Countess of Pembroke sat beside her on the bench, dressed in a simple blue round dress and a matching pelisse. Her hair, now entirely grey, was hidden beneath a bonnet. She held one hand in front of her eyes to shield against the sun.

“I cannot help it. I don’t want him to get hurt.”

Her mother-in-law placed a hand on hers and gave it a light squeeze. “I know. I was much the same when I was a young mother of two boys. But I will say, I still do not understand why you do not want to take on a nurse now that you have two children.”

“Perhaps in the future, for now, I am pleased to take care of my children myself. My mother took care of me without help, and I enjoy doing the same.”

The older lady scoffed and shook her head while Cecilia licked her lips. She didn’t want to argue with the lady. Theirs was a precarious peace, held together by holding one’s words in and biting one’s tongue more often than not. But it was worth it to her. The lady had moved into the Dower House after the birth of Jonathan, their first son. This move had relieved much of the tension in the household.

While the older lady would never admit it, Cecilia knew she, too, was happy with the arrangement. It allowed her some freedom without constantly debating with Archie, who stood up to his mother now more than ever.

When the Dowager, as she now liked to be known, came to the main house for meals or saw her grandchildren, the visits were peaceful. Much more peaceful than any of them ever imagined they might be. Yet, Cecilia could not help but wonder, what would Jonathan make of all of this? This new balance within the family? Would he have been happy? Yes, Cecilia thought he would. After all, Jonathan adored his brother, even though they were so very different.

Suddenly, her mother-in-law withdrew her hand. “I almost forgot. I received a letter from Sophie this morning.”

Cecilia turned carefully as not to wake the sleeping baby in her arms. “You have? How is she? Will she return for a visit soon?”

“I should think it will be some time. Perhaps not until Christmastide. When they return from their honeymoon, they will want to settle in a Charter House and make it their own. After all, she is now a Marchioness, and one day, she will be Duchess. She will have to learn her new role, and it will take her some time. You know Sophie. She likes to do things her way.”

Cecilia smiled; it was quite true. While she and her sister-in-law had never been truly close, their relationship had improved after the truth of Cecilia’s arrangement with Jonathan became known. It further enhanced once Sophie became the wife of Jackson Hewlett, the Marquess of Emberstone, heir to the Dukedom of Barstow. Cecilia had to admit, now that Sophie no longer lived with them, she missed her.

“You must be pleased,” she said gently.

Her mother-in-law let out a sigh. “I am. All my children are married. Well, all my living children.” The sorrow at the loss of Jonathan still marred her face after all these years. The same was true for Archie and Sophie.

Jonathan, my dear friend. You never knew how much you meant to those you left behind.

“Mama! Carriage!” Little Jon called out and pointed up ahead to where a carriage made its way up the driveway. Cecilia recognized the Coat of Arms as that of Archie’s uncle, Lord Wexford.

“Ah, my dear brother,” her mother-in-law exclaimed and got up. She smoothed down her satin gown and marched toward the carriage, which had just stopped outside the main house. As the footman opened the door, Lord Wexford exited and turned. With her baby in her arms, Cecilia followed her mother-in-law and arrived just in time to see Lord Wexford hand out his wife, a baby of her own in her arms.

“Uncle Edward,” Archie called out as he hasted up the path, Jon now in his arms. The little boy beamed at his aunt, Lady Horatia – or rather, he beamed at the boy she carried on her hip, his cousin Charles.

“Charlie,” the little boy exclaimed, and his cousin likewise giggled. Unfortunately, the boy’s delightful greeting of each other served to wake up not only David but also Henrietta, Edward, and Lady Horatia’s four-month-old daughter. The volume produced by the four children was such that the Dowager Countess’s visage showed displeasure as she took a few steps away. Her brother, meanwhile, laughed heartily.

“The joys of having children, eh dear sister?”

“Shall I take the children?” Maggie asked as she rushed out of the house.

Cecilia turned to her friend and was momentarily distracted by the glimmer on her finger. Her new wedding band, placed there by her husband, Thomas, not two months before, caught the reflection of the bright afternoon sun. To think that her best friend was now married to Archie’s valet – the man he valued both as an employee and friend – still amazed her. How their lives had changed in so short a time and how happy both she and Maggie now were, was a true blessing for them both.

“Yes, please, Maggie. I thank you,” Cecilia replied as she handed over her youngest to the only person she trusted enough to take proper care of him, outside of herself and Archie. She then took Jon from Archie and returned into the cool manor, followed by the nurse employed by Lady Horatia and Lord Wexford, who in turn carried their two children.

“Ah, what blissful quiet,” Cecilia’s mother-in-law exclaimed when the sounds of the children faded into the house, in the direction of the nursery.

“Now, is that any way to count your blessings?” Lord Wexford replied with a chuckle. He looked hale and hearty. Cecilia still remembered the first time she’d met him. She’d taken him for an older gentleman, certainly older than his sister by many years. She’d been wrong. It was with shock she’d discovered he was but a middle-aged gentleman, marked by ill-health and bouts of melancholy, which had aged his appearance.

However, the marriage to Lady Horatia – a match that appeared from the outside so very ill-fated – had done wonders to improve both Lord Wexford’s health and Lady Horatia’s character. In fact, Cecilia found herself quite fond of Lady Horatia now. Perhaps it was her physical separation from her brother, the Duke of Hereford, which freed her from her previous unfortunate traits.

“I count my blessings, but I prefer my blessings quiet,” Cecilia’s mother-in-law said with a small smile on her face.

“Ah, there is nothing like the delightful laughter of children. I must say, I was a fool to consider a life without children,” Lord Wexford said. His sister instantly opened her mouth for a swift retort when a chuckle drew Cecilia’s attention.

Cecilia glanced at Archie, who beamed back at her with a sparkle in his eyes. The interaction between Lord Wexford and his sister was always amusing to watch. Whenever they came together, they always found themselves gently bickering with one another, but Cecilia knew it was all in jest.

“Shall we go inside?” Cecilia suggested, much to the relief of Lady Horatia, who swiftly took her arm.

“I adore you and Archie,” Lady Horatia whispered as they stepped inside. “But your mother-in-law frightens me sometimes. I can still hear her words in my ear when she schemed to bring Archie and me together.”

Cecilia swallowed; she didn’t like to think of that dark, uncomfortable time that had brought them so much misery.

“I am glad it is all behind us, are you not?” she said, hoping Lady Horatia would stop talking about the matter. To her great relief – she did.

“Yes, it is. And I am thankful for it. It all ended well, I must say, I never imagined I’d be happy with an older gentleman such as my husband, but I have to confess, he’s enchanted me, and each day, he amazes me more.”

Cecilia glanced back at Lord Wexford, who walked between Archie and his sister.

“I must say, marriage and fatherhood have done him ever so good. He looks years younger than he used to.”

“I know it,” Lady Horatia replied as they stepped into the drawing room, where a spread of sweetmeats and tea awaited them. As Lady Horatia sat, Cecilia took her place beside her. “Ah, I almost forgot. Have you heard the news?”

“News?” Cecilia tilted her head to one side. In her stomach, tension formed for whenever anyone had unexpected tidings; she couldn’t help but expect them to be bad.

“Do not look so worried, my friend. I bring good tidings. At least, I hope I am. My brother is to wed.”

This drew the attention of both Archie and his mother.

“The Duke of Hereford is to wed at last? But to whom?” Archie’s mother inquired. Cecilia scrutinized the older lady’s face and wondered. What would have become of them all had she gotten her way? What would Cecilia’s life be like now, married to the insufferable Duke? And Archie’s? Would he and Lady Horatia be acceptable companions? She did not think so. While Lady Horatia was a much more pleasant person than she’d first assumed, she and Archie had nothing in common.

Even during these visits, the two had little to do with one another. While Archie and his uncle’s connection was reestablished and they were closer than ever, Archie and Lady Horatia remained distant. Although Cecilia suspected this was in large parts due to the uncomfortable manner they’d been pushed together initially.

Not that it truly made any difference; they were family. The circumstances of their coming together might have been unusual, but at the end of the day, they were related.

Lady Horatia smiled at the older lady who’d posed the question. “He is to marry a viscount’s daughter.”

Cecilia’s mother-in-law raised an eyebrow. “A viscount’s daughter? I was sure he would seek to marry someone of higher standing, after everything.” She glanced at Cecilia, who couldn’t meet her eye. She had a good idea why the Duke had chosen someone so much lower in standing. When she peeked at Archie and saw his smirk, she knew that he, too, shared that suspicion.

Lady Horatia pressed her lips together to keep from grinning too broadly.

“I will say it was not his intention to marry her, but it seems he… Well, circumstances demand it.”

It took the older lady a few moments before she realized just what it was Lady Horatia meant, but then, her face became a bright red, and she rose. “I see. Well, I suppose I ought to look in on my grandchildren. They… Excuse me.”

With that, the lady rose and made her way into the next room, where the children were playing with Maggie and their governess.

The moment she left the room, Lady Horatia chuckled. “I did not mean to offend the Dowager Countess.”

“Ah, yes. But you do take delight in shocking others,” her husband said not without admiration. Lady Horatia shrugged and then reached for a piece of marzipan.

“I suppose I do.” She set out to place the sweet into her mouth, but before she could, a little boy’s voice called for her. “It seems I am wanted,” she said and placed the sweet aside. “I shall return. Do not eat my marzipan, dear,” she chided her husband, who raised both hands.

“I would never!” he exclaimed with a grin.

“He has made it a habit of eating all of my sweetmeats,” Lady Horatia explained but then shook her head as she turned to leave the room. Lord Wexford, to her surprise, jumped up and hastened after his wife.

“I had better join her, lest I am falsely accused of sweet theft,” he told them, and together, the two joined their children in the nursery. The moment they were gone, Archie rushed to Cecilia’s side and sat down as he took her hand.

“At last, we are alone.”

Cecilia rested her head against his shoulder. Even though they’d been married for more than three years, it still felt special whenever they were alone together.

“Indeed.” She took in a deep breath and inhaled his comforting scent. “Your uncle looks well. Marriage suits him well.”

“It has. As it suits me, my beloved.”

She sat up and turned to him. His eyes sparkled with love, and the corners of his lips turned up.

“I am glad to hear you say it because I must say, I’ve never been happier than I have these past few years with you. When I married Jonathan, I thought that would be my life. A comfortable, uneventful life at his side. I never dreamt that it would lead me here. To a husband I truly adore, children who fulfill me, and a true family. And happiness. So much happiness.”

He took her hand in his and kissed it without ever taking his eyes off her. “And this, my darling, is only the beginning. I promise you there are many more happy years ahead of us – together.”

Cecilia kissed her husband’s lips before settling in beside him. Yes, she thought, Archie is right. The future was wide open and full of potential. And, she knew this for certain: much, much contentment.


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  • So many twists and turns. My what a novel .thank you for the beautiful novel which held ones interest till the end

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