The Viscount I Once Loved (Extended Epilogue)

Four years later…

The breakfast table was loud and full of chatter. Grace, an approaching-sensible young lady of ten, helped herself to jam as Rosalind cradled James, her younger brother on her lap. At the other end of the table, Andrew sat with his paper as he did every morning.

“Mama,” Grace said, having buttered her toast, “would you like me to hold James so you may also indulge in some breakfast?”

Rosalind deposited her two-year-old son on Grace’s lap. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” she said in half relief, half amusement, as Grace locked her arms firmly around the wiggling child and told him, in a firm voice, that he must sit still or else he would not get any breakfast.

Andrew looked up, his eyes sparkling with amusement as he moved his gaze from her to Grace and back again. Both  parents admired how she had embraced the presence of a younger brother, and Lily had mentioned Grace’s graciousness several times.

Rosalind didn’t want to think about their walk to Sydney Gardens, even though James became surprisingly malleable once they were outside, especially if it was sunny, which the day promised to be.

“Any news from London?” she asked her husband. Over the course of their marriage, coming to Bath over the summer had become a tradition that Grace loved, in particular. As did her parents, who had all but retired from London society and preferred the quieter Bath life.

“Nothing but business reports,” Andrew said; rising her and giving her a quick kiss. “I am to write a letter before we head out. Let me know when you’re ready to depart.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you should work less?” she teased; taking his arm and pulling him down for a longer kiss.

“Mama!” Grace complained; averting her eyes. “Not at the breakfast table.”

Rosalind laughed and let Andrew go, but the warm glow of love still lingered in her stomach. Much as Grace complained, Rosalind was glad her daughter finally experienced what it was like to live in a home where her parents loved and respected one another — where she, too, was valued and loved for who she was.

Grace would never again be made to feel like a disappointment, and James would never know what it was to grow up in fear and resentment.

As soon as breakfast was over, Rosalind gathered her children and prepared for the day. Rosalind would be forced to carry James after he finished waddling some of the way, though she hoped she could persuade Andrew to carry James on his shoulders. Her son and her arms would both be grateful.

Rosalind finally called for Andrew, and they left their house as a family unit, a far cry from the horrors she had endured with Charles Rothenwood. She reflected on him and the contrast between her life now and then. Forgetting him would be a power she would like to have over him, but until she could forget the scar that seven years of misery had left on her heart, she would use the memories as another reason to be thankful.

As predicted, James quickly lost interest in walking, but without so much as a word from her, Andrew swung the boy onto his shoulders.

“There you go,” Andrew said. “Now you can see even more than I can.”

“Papa!” Grace glared at him but the very fact she called him ‘Papa’ — a very recent development — had him smiling down at her.

“Perhaps when we get to the park, you may have a turn,” he said, “but young ladies do not usually ride on their father’s shoulders.”

“Young ladies,” Rosalind said; taking Grace’s hand, “are proud and graceful and do not engage in such childish behaviors.”

Grace tilted her chin in the air. “I am a young lady.”

“Indeed you are,” Rosalind said; glancing at Andrew with another smile. “And you are a beautiful one, too.”

Indeed, Grace’s hair was growing longer by the day; its color a beautiful gold that matched Rosalind’s, curling delightfully down her back.

The entrance to Sydney Gardens was marked by a large iron gate, through which they walked, Rosalind’s arm entangled in Andrew’s and her hand in Grace’s. On such a lovely summer day, the butterflies were flooding the flowers spread around them, as beautifully dressed as the ladies who walked by, fans waving the warm air at their faces in a futile attempt to keep cool.

“I am hot,” Grace said; tugging at Rosalind’s arm. “May we go to the river?”

“I think we can do that.”

James made inarticulate comments about the flowers and bees as they passed, and Rosalind reflected that she could not have been happier. Several acquaintances greeted her, the distressing events of four years ago long forgotten, and she bathed in the knowledge that her family was healthy and beautiful and complete.

In the distance, a familiar lady leaned heavily on a gentleman’s arm; her stomach protruding before her. Rosalind remembered the days of being very pregnant in this heat and her heart beamed with sympathy. A familiar lady, in fact — it was Viscount Odendale’s daughter, Deborah. Rosalind had heard that she had married a Marquess last year and was very happily settled. Given the size of her stomach, she did exceptionally well.

She nudged Andrew; drawing his attention to the girl. “Do you regret not pursuing her?” she asked, already knowing the answer, and amused by the expression of surprise that crossed Andrew’s face.

“I hate to disappoint you,” he murmured; bringing his face dangerously close to hers, and leaving James in imminent danger of toppling off, “but there is but one lady for me.”

“And who might that be?”

He cupped her chin with his free hand and kissed her; oblivious to the people that surrounded him or the lazy heat that pulsed from the sky. Rosalind dismissed those concerns, too; there could be nothing more important than the presence of her husband here, like this.

Grace sucked in an outraged breath. “Mama!”

Andrew broke away with a wink and soothed their daughter, while Rosalind looked across at Deborah. The two ladies smiled at one another, separated by circumstance and fortune, but both equally happy in their lot. As it should be, Rosalind thought.


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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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The Duke’s Last Governess (Extended Epilogue)

Two years later…

After the wedding that had shook the ton, Ethan had decided it best to move Sophia, the children and himself to a home farther into the countryside. He wanted to start fresh on a new estate, leaving the bad memories of old behind to make brand new ones. The staff was pleased with his decision in the wake of Adele’s horrendous attack against the duke and Sophia, and it seemed to calm the children’s fears, as they worried she would come back someday. In the new house, Ethan could perform his duties in a more comfortable setting for all.

There was much going back and forth between the new Tressingham estate and Sophia’s aunt and uncle’s farm. Ethan, out of the kindness of his heart, helped her uncle to regain new clientele, pulling him out of the slump he’d found himself in and bringing the two men closer together. Sophia’s uncle, aunt, and the children made the few hours’ trek as often as they could to visit.

One dreary evening, Ethan was in his study going through ledger after ledger until the numbers started to blur together. He decided to take a break, heading down to the nursery to check on Sophia and the children, only to find the children by their lonesome.

“Where is your mother?” Ethan asked them, their faces rather worried.

“Sophia ran out of here complaining of stomach pains,” Jacob whined with a frown.

“I think she went to her chambers,” Julia said. “She looked very pale.”

Ethan rushed out of the children’s room and down the corridor to find her laying on her bed pale and obviously sick.

“My goodness, are you well?”

“I think I ate a bad spot of food or something,” Sophia replied between wretches. “I feel dreadful.”

“Oh, dear. It is good you came to lie down,” Ethan said, and picked up her hand and pressed it firmly.

“I feel so…woozy…”

“I’ll fetch the physician; he’ll know what to do.”

Ethan ran across the house and found Mr. Pembrooke, and who had coachmen fetch the physician. As he waited for Mr. O’Malley to arrive, his own gut twisted with worry.

It’s probably nothing, Ethan reassured himself, just some illness going around and nothing more. But as he walked back to her bed chamber it was hard for him to feel at ease, taking a seat by her side and holding her hand, which was wet and clammy. His mind drifted back to the moment when he’d found his late wife dead. He couldn’t even imagine finding Sophia in her place. His feelings for Sophia were so much stronger; he wouldn’t be able to keep his mind. But then again, Adele was away. This couldn’t be her doing.

“Good evening, your Graces,” Mr. O’Malley said as he came in the room, Sophia having succumbed to the lull of sleep despite her condition. “Mr. Pembrooke tells me the duchess has fallen ill?”

“Yes,” Ethan said as Sophia’s eyes fluttered open, and she sat up. “Oh, do be careful, dear.”

“I am feeling a bit queasy, my love, but nothing like earlier,” she insisted.

“What exactly happened, your Grace?” Mister O’Malley asked Sophia.

“Well, we had a bit of dinner, and I went to play with the children while the duke caught up on some work. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by tremendous nausea, and I started to sweat profusely.”

“Mhmm,” Mr. O’Malley said as he listened. “Well, let me take a look. The fact you feel a bit better could mean it’s just some passing ailment.” Ethan moved from his seat and let Mr. O’Malley take his place next to Sophia. He checked Sophia’s wrist, seeming to count the beats of her pulse with his finger, before standing up and lightly checking her over.

“Have you gained any weight, your Grace?” Mr. O’Malley asked.

“I am not sure. I have been feeling a bit bloated the last days though,” Sophia said, blushing as she answered. “But we recently attended a ball for Lady Albring’s birthday, and there were many treats.”

Mr. O’Malley sat there for a moment and put his hand lightly on her stomach, his eyes opening a little wide as he looked back to her.

“I hate to sound crude, your Grace, but when was the last time you had your menses?”

Sophia seemed to ponder the question a moment and appeared to struggle to find an answer.

“I…I don’t remember. It’s been quite a while, honestly,” Sophia replied.

“Well, you have nothing to worry about, your Grace,” Mister O’Malley said. “I can, with quite a bit of certainty, tell you that I know what your problem is, though it really isn’t a problem at all.”

“What do you mean?” Ethan asked, looking at Mr. O’Malley and feeling quite puzzled.

“The duchess is with child,” he replied with a smile. “The vomiting, the little bit of weight gain, and the movement I felt in her belly seem to all point to it.”

“Really?” Sophia squealed with delight, tears clinging in her eyes. “We’ve been trying for so long we weren’t sure it was possible.”

“Well, then I owe you an extra bit of congratulations,” Mr. O’Malley said as he picked up his bag from the floor, turning to Ethan. “You are going to be a father, your Grace…again.” Mr. O’Malley smiled to him, and Ethan was left speechless, turning to Sophia, who burst into tears.

“At last! Another,” she said. Ethan walked back over to her and wrapped his arms around her tightly, kissing her all over her cheeks.

“You are a great mother already, and I have no doubt this new babe will thrive within our family.”

“You think so?” Sophia said, looking a bit nervous. “Having a babe and raising children are two separate things.”

“You are the most kind and beautiful person I know, inside and out,” Ethan said. “You will be perfect.” Ethan climbed onto the bed and cuddled Sophia in his arms, stroking her hair as the two sat there in complete bliss.


“Yes, my love?” Ethan replied, looking down upon his beautiful bride, her eyes aglow.

“Let’s name the baby Charles if it’s a boy,” Sophia replied. “I think my father would have loved that, being that was his name too, after all.”

“Charles, hmm?” Ethan thought upon it for a minute and nodded his head. “I like it. A handsome name for a handsome baby. But if it’s a girl, Rose.”

“I’d like that very much,” Sophia replied. Ethan leaned down and kissed Sophia, his heart full, happy that they had not only all become a family as they were, but that they could now look forward to it growing and blooming. Just like the beautiful rose garden where they’d shared their first kiss, and where their love had truly blossomed.


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Chasing the Chaperone (Extended Epilogue)

Two years later…

The carriage carrying Lavinia and Jonathan drew up to Viscount Marsham’s majestic castle. A light, misty rain fell from the sky, giving the day a dreary feel.

Jonathan thought back to the first time he came to this place. He had been just as somber then as the weather was now. However, this day, Jonathan’s mood was light, and he had a smile on his face.  A smile almost entirely due to the lady cuddled up at his side. His beautiful wife. He leaned down and placed a tender kiss upon her blond curls. She looked up at him and smiled, then gasped when she realized they had reached their destination.

“We’re here!” Lavinia squealed as the carriage drew to a halt.

A footman opened the door with a bow. Lavinia scrambled out and rushed up the stairs to greet Amelia, who was standing in the doorway, with her arms outstretched and a beaming smile on her face.

Jonathan smiled at the joy of the two friends as he emerged from the vehicle with his one-year-old son, George, clasped in his arms. He followed the ladies inside and looked around the entrance hall. It was just as luxurious as he remembered.

“I trust you had a pleasant journey, my Lord, my Lady,” Brooks intoned, bowing to Jonathan and Lavinia.

Jonathan chuckled and said, “Oh, do drop the formalities, man. We’re about to be practically brothers.”

“Indeed. You must call us Jonathan and Lavinia, and no stiff bowing!” Lavinia echoed, moving to Jonathan’s side to take her squirming son into her own arms.

“You’d better listen to them, my love,” Amelia said, coming to Brooks’s side and threading her arm through his.

Brooks smiled down at Amelia and patted her hand as he said, “Of course, Melly. I will endeavor to obey. But it may take some time.”

Amelia smiled lovingly up at her betrothed. She was so luminous, about to be wed, and her dearest friend had returned to stand by her side.

“You both look happy,” Jonathan said as he looked upon his former valet and his once-fiancée.

“And you have you to thank for it, Jonathan,” Amelia replied.

Jonathan smiled at the recollection of Brooks and Amelia’s first meeting. It had occurred when Amelia was helping the Dowager Countess and Lavinia with wedding preparations two years ago. Lavinia had rung for Brooks to ask him what color jacket Jonathan would be wearing for the ceremony so she could have flowers made for his lapel to match.

Brooks had entered the drawing-room and stopped dead when he saw Amelia. She looked up and widened her eyes at the handsome valet. Lavinia was sure that it had been love at first sight and helped Amelia see Brooks in secret.

Jonathan remembered the uproar that had ensued when Amelia announced that she wanted to marry a common valet that was even louder than the commotion that occurred when Amelia told her father that she would not be marrying Jonathan, that the Earl would be marrying her companion instead. The Viscount had raged for days that he would cut Amelia off and never see her again if she persisted in her mad plan. But Amelia would not be swayed. She was in love with Brooks and would accept no one else as her husband. Amelia told her father she didn’t care if she had to work as a housemaid for the rest of her life. As long as she had Brooks with her, she would be happy.

That declaration had struck the Viscount when no other argument did. Lord Marsham would not countenance having his daughter go into service, so he capitulated with conditions. Amelia and Brooks would be given a monthly allowance. It was enough for them to obtain a modest house in a nice neighborhood in London and live comfortably. Amelia had to agree to limit her time in society while the Viscount still lived to keep him from the embarrassment of having a valet for a son-in-law. If she complied, she would gain her entire inheritance upon her father’s death. The Viscount had no idea that his stipulations were more than Amelia could have hoped for and she readily agreed. She’d never had any use for the ton in the first place.

“Well, I owe you my thanks as well, Amelia. Without you, I would never have found Lavinia again,” Jonathan said, smiling fondly at his wife and son.

Amelia laughed and reached for George. “All’s well that ends well, as the bard said.”

The company laughed at Amelia’s quip, and they all walked to the drawing room to greet Lord and Lady Marsham.

Later that afternoon, Jonathan was on the floor of the parlor on his hands and knees, chasing after his toddling, giggling son, and making growling noises.

Lavinia laughed and scooped up her son to save him from the rampaging bear. George giggled, and Jonathan stood to snatch the boy away and hoist him high into the air, eliciting another round of sweet baby laughs.

“You’re growing quite big, my boy,” Jonathan said. “Soon, Papa will not be able to lift you.”

Lavinia smiled and took George to give him to the waiting nursemaid. “Time for your nap, Georgie,” she said, kissing his soft brown hair.

Jonathan flopped down upon a sofa and pulled his wife down into his lap for a kiss of his own. When he had succeeded in making her breathless, he broke away and said, “Is it me, or is George growing more energetic by the day? I vow I won’t be able to keep up with him much longer.”

“Well, then you’d best get your rest, Jon, or you’ll certainly never be able to keep up with George and his little brother or sister,” Lavinia told him, a shy smile on her face.

“Do you mean…”

“Yes. I am again with child, but don’t tell anyone yet. I don’t want to take attention from Amelia and her wedding,” Lavinia said.

“It will be our little secret,” Jonathan whispered as he placed his hand on his beloved’s still flat belly.

Lavinia leaned into him and kissed him sweetly, silently thanking fate. She had been given more than she had ever thought to have, and her happiness was now complete.

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Never the Duke, Always the Captain (Extended Epilogue)

Audrey gazed out of the window across rolling fields that ended with thick woodland. Soon, Hugh would emerge from that woodland and would make his way back to the modest home they possessed—though considerably less humble than the first home he had purchased for them.

The country—that was where she longed to be; in a place where she could taste the sweetness on the breeze, where she could wander for hours across the land that surrounded their home and not meet another human being. When they first moved in, she had gloried in its isolation, though things had changed in recent months, and she would return to their London home soon.

The bundle in the crib beside her bed, the reason for the change in circumstances, thrashed and gave a small cry.

“Oh, my love,” Audrey murmured, the stone floor cold under her feet as she swung her feet out of bed and cradled her daughter in her arms. “My Rosemary.”

Only a few days old, Rosemary was aware of few things except the most critical bodily functions. She had blue eyes that would likely fade to gray in time—at least, that’s what Bridget had said. Bridget had happily given up her life in London to care for Audrey and everything that being with child had meant.

In the distance, through the mist that swirled around him like a cloak, Hugh galloped toward the house on his horse.

“That’s your papa,” she whispered. “He will care for you and love you above all things.”

There could be no doubt of that, at least. Two years had passed since their wedding day—one she still held fondly in her memory—and Hugh showed no signs of regretting his youthful marriage or loving his wife any less than he ever had.

“Audrey,” Bridget said as she poked her head in through the door. “I thought I heard our little angel cry. What did I say about not straining yourself?”

Audrey turned and smiled. “I hardly think holding my daughter is straining myself.”

“And this early, too. You’ll catch your death by that window, girl. Come away.” With quick, imperious motions, she beckoned Audrey away and into the warmth of the room. “Why the maid hasn’t built the fire higher, I don’t know. Anyone would think she was trying to freeze you both to death.”

Knowing as she did that Bridget’s primary way of showing affection was to worry—at times unceasingly—Audrey merely smiled and allowed her mother-in-law to take Rosemary from her.

“I had not thought anyone could have such delicate hands and feet,” she remarked as she sat. Although she wouldn’t have admitted it, she was weak and tired, and taking the weight off her feet was a relief. “She’s so tiny.”

Bridget cooed into the bundle. “That she is, and she takes after her mama.”

“She may do so with the hair—it is fair, as you see, but time may change that.”

“Hugh was fair when he was a boy,” Bridget said with a fond glance at the window, though Hugh was nowhere to be seen now. “Of course, then it darkened.”

“I wouldn’t mind if she had Hugh’s hair—it’s such a lovely shade.”

Rosemary’s fretful cries threatened to turn into wails, and Bridget touched the tiny face with her fingertips. “I think she needs feeding, my love.”

“I’ll feed her.” Audrey held out her arms, and the weight of her baby was lowered into them—weight that seemed so slight as to be non-existent, though she already knew from experience that carrying Rosemary for any length of time grew to be wearying.

Rosemary’s eyes opened as she suckled, and Audrey stroked a finger along the baby’s silken hair. “I feel as though I could look at her forever.”

“The days feel long now, but they’ll pass sooner than you know it.”

Rosemary had been long enough in coming; there had been a time when, after an honest conversation with her mama, she’d wondered if something was wrong with her. Most women conceived within the first year, at least, and their marriage wasn’t barren of affection and physical intimacy—there could be no problem there.

But finally, God had bestowed them with a miracle that she could hardly look away from. Objectively, she knew Rosemary’s face was frequently red, her nose scrunched with alarming regularity, and her head was soft to the touch. When it came to her baby daughter, though, nothing could be objective; Rosemary was the sweetest angel that had ever walked this earth, and no matter how tired Audrey may be, she would always look at her child with the same overwhelming awe she’d felt the first time she beheld her.

Rosemary’s eyes closed, and Audrey handed her back to Bridget as Hugh’s quick step sounded up the stairs.

“I’ll leave you both to it,” Bridget said.

“Leave Rosemary here please, Mama.”

“Mind you don’t wake her,” her mother-in-law warned as she replaced the sleeping child in her crib and left the room just as Hugh entered it.


When he had returned from war those two and a half years ago, Hugh could never have dreamed that before he was four-and-twenty, he would be a husband and father. A father. Even the thought sounded odd to him, an unfinished rhyme, a half-sung melody. Though he knew it to be true, he hadn’t yet accustomed himself to the idea.

And yet… it was the most wonderful concept. Fatherhood.

No—the concept was not the most wonderful: his daughter was. Rosemary Everett.

Audrey, in beauty that no amount of pain or sleeplessness could deprive her of, though shadows bloomed under her eyes and her face was pale, held out her arms to him.

“Is it as delightful outside as it looks?” she asked, wrapping her arms around his neck. “Your mother has warned me not to venture outside yet on pain of death, but I’m so sick of this room.”

“It’s my favorite room of the house.”

“You,” she said with a pointed look at the crib, “aren’t trapped here.”

He approached the crib with the same breathless reverence he used to approach the altar when a child, a hushed sense that he was in the presence of someone greater and more powerful than he. Rosemary lay tightly swaddled, her smooth cheek resting against the pillow. In that position, her tiny bottom lip curled in an adorable way.

“Isn’t she marvelous?” Audrey asked. “I keep pinching myself to convince myself I’m not dreaming.”

He glanced up at her with a smile. “Remember all the times she cries through the night? You aren’t dreaming that, my darling.”

“Oh, but when she looks at me with those perfect blue eyes—I hope they never change, though your mama thinks they will—all injuries are forgotten. I could forgive her anything when she looks at me as though I’m her whole world.”

“What about me?” he teased, returning to the bed where she sat. “Would you forgive me anything if I looked at you as though I’m your whole world?”

“I suppose it depends.” She tilted her head back and gave him a wicked smile. “Is that the way you look at me? Since our new arrival, I would hazard a guess that your affection has been split.”

“A new girl has caught my eye,” he said, very seriously. “She’s fair, like you, though she may darken in time. Demanding, too—I can think of few moments when she is content to be left. And I confess, sometimes all I wish is that I can hold her in my arms and never let go.”

“I suspected something of the sort.”

“And yet, despite her hold on my heart, I can never forget the woman who has resided there for the entirety of my life.”

Audrey smiled, a long, slow, sweet smile that made his heart, never content to merely sit in his chest, bound. “Could you imagine being this happy?”

“When I thought you would marry the Duke, I believed I could never be happy again. The same for when I was to marry Olivia—but worse, because it was through my folly that we would be parted, and not your affection for a gentleman.”

“Hardly your folly,” she said. “I received a letter yesterday, by the way.”

Jolted by the sudden turn in the conversation, he frowned. “A letter? From whom?”

“I wish you to read it.”

“Let me,” he said as she tried to rise. “Where is it?”

“The top drawer.”

He opened the drawer as commanded and found a letter there, folded with a broken wax seal. The handwriting was not familiar, but he had a sense of the past opening up and swooping into the present as he saw the signature.

“It’s from Olivia.”

“Yes,” she said. “Read it, Hugh, please. Tell me what I should think.”


My dearest Audrey,

Your mama informed me that you are expecting and are soon; perhaps you already have delivered as I sit to write this. Please allow me to offer my most sincere congratulations. I know a child will give you the final blessing you need to make your happiness complete, and I wish nothing more than your total happiness, though you may not believe me when you read it. 

 I have nothing to say about my past behavior except it was wrong, and there is no excusing it. I have known it and been ashamed of it for months now—perhaps even years—but until now never dared to approach you; your forgiveness, if offered, would be a balm to my wounded soul; your derision would be a torment, though more deserved. As you can imagine, these past two years have not been the easiest, although Henry and I also have the blessing of a child: a girl. 

            Please accept my most sincere apologies for the way I behaved. We can never be close again after my betrayal, and I accept that, but I hope we can at least be civil.


            Olivia Jones


Hugh reached the end of the page, written with a remarkably steady hand, and frowned. At the beginning of their marriage, he and Audrey had discussed Olivia until every tiny piece of her behavior had been unpacked, analyzed and put aside. They could have no explanation for her actions, and none was offered here, but they had also resigned themselves to never receiving an apology.

“What do you think?” Audrey asked anxiously. “When I first read it, I thought— I thought how she could have the gall to send me such a letter after she tried to destroy my happiness in every way? But can you think she means it? I swing from one thought to the next. Henry seemed a good man, in his way—could he have inspired these reflections? Could she genuinely have repented? And she has a child.” Since both pregnancy and birth, Audrey had been increasingly susceptible to tears, and they flooded her eyes now. “She has a child, Hugh, and I don’t know how to feel about that.”

“It’s hardly surprising that she has a child, as she was already expecting when she married,” he said.

“Of course not—and I know that truly I do—but see where she says that my mother told her I was expecting. Don’t you think it odd that she corresponds with my mother when Mama never told me anything about it?”

“After your past with Olivia, your mother likely didn’t want to bring anything up that might upset you.”

“She hurt us both, Hugh, in her relentless crusade to marry better than her Henry.”

“I know.”

“She hurt me, and she knew perfectly well what she was doing.”

“I know.”

“And now she asks for my forgiveness. Do I have it in my heart to forgive her?”

Hugh took both her hands in his, smoothing his thumbs over the back of her knuckles, until the trembling in her limbs eased. “Once, my father told me something, and I’m going to tell it to you now. When we forgive, it is not always for the sake of those who have wronged us.” At his words, she turned her gaze up to him, and he smiled. “Resentment and anger impede happiness,” he said. “You deserve to be happy, my darling. Don’t let Olivia or anyone else take that from you. Besides, whether she’s truly changed or not hardly matters—you can reply with charity and let the matter rest.”

“She was right about one thing—we can never be close now.”

“I should not want you to be.”

Audrey, his Audrey, reached out a hand to brush his face, and it was an effort not to lean into her touch. “Every day I marvel at you,” she murmured. “Thank you.”

A thin wail split the air, and she smiled ruefully at him.

“I suppose this is our reality from now on,” she said as she rose with a slight wince and lifted the child from her crib. Rosemary Everett, his daughter.

Hugh smiled at the charming picture Audrey made in the early morning sunlight streaming into the room. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


Dear Olivia,

            I received your letter hardly knowing how to respond—but let me begin at the beginning. Our daughter, Rosemary Everett, arrived into the world this Friday past, and we are exceedingly grateful to have her in our lives. I’m sure you must know the love that comes from children now if you also have a daughter, and it is with sincerity that I wish you and your family the best as you navigate motherhood.

            Now for the more difficult part of the letter, the part I’m struggling to put words to. You offer me a sincere apology for your behavior and admit to fearing whether I choose to forgive you or not. The power now falls to me in deciding which route to take—and there was a time when I wondered if I could ever forgive.        

But that time has passed, and although the bonds of friendship were severed by your actions, we are still cousins, and I will claim that relationship if you are ready to. For your sake and mine, I choose to let the past, with all its old hurts and grievances, die. So I free you from your worry of having incurred my wrath for all time; all is forgiven, and I am at peace. 

            I hope you find happiness, Olivia, as I have.

            Your cousin,

            Audrey Everett

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