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

If you haven't already, please leave your review on Amazon

If you want to be always up to date with my new releases, click and…

Follow me on BookBub