The Extended Epilogue
A year had passed since the day Emma became the Duchess of Lox. She and Camilla sat on the porch of Brisbourne together, both holding near-two-month-old babies in their arms. Both children were asleep.
“Oh, Emma,” Camilla said, drawing her cousin’s attention to her. Emma saw a look of complete contentment on her face. “I am so pleased our lives have turned out this way. We even had our children within a week of each other. How can life be any better?”
Emma grinned. “Yes, it is quite amazing. It is the work of the Lord our God. That is what Nigel always says.”
Camilla nodded. “Bruce says that, as well. It is easy to see they have spent a great deal of their time together. They have similar habits. Did you notice?” “I did.”
“I am anxious for them to come home.”
Emma chuckled softly. “You say that as though this is your home.”
“I do consider it to be my second home. We are here so often and you are at Rabney Hall just as often. We are family. That is what we are supposed to do.”
Emma nodded. “I am also anxious for them to come home. Annie has prepared a wonderful picnic basket for us. We will have a wonderful time down by the pond. Katherine will be there and my father…” She pulled in a deep breath of satisfaction. “How blessed I am to have my loved ones still here with me.”
“It was so generous of your Duke of Lox to take over your father’s business dealings. He turned everything around for your family.”
“Yes, he did. He sought out the best doctors for my father, too. It is because of him that he is still here.”
Camilla’s eyes moved out over the long circular clearing in front of the house. “I think they are coming. Look.”
The two women stood up, clutching the babies close to them and walked to the end of the porch.
“Yes, I see the carriage,” Emma said. “I will go in and tell Annie to bring out the picnic supplies.”
She turned and went back into the house, amused by the fact that she needed to put the baby in his baby basket. She had been holding him for more than an hour and her arms were numb. She looked down at his face, marveling at how similar he was to his father. The little boy had the Duke of Lox’s eyes and nose, his hair color and even his ears.
She went through to the parlor and lowered the child into the little white basket. She covered him with a blanket and touched the end of his nose. “You are a precious little boy. You are my precious little boy,” she cooed at him.
He had been asleep until she stood up outside. Now, he stared up at her with the look of innocence on his face that made his mother’s heart melt. “Sweet little Nicholas. You will be a big boy, you will. Sweet child.”
For the first time since his birth two months ago, she saw his tiny lips lift in a smile.
She wished the Duke of Lox had seen it. He was the perfect father. He never complained about the baby’s cry or the attention he required. He was gentle with the child. It was obvious he loved his firstborn son more than he could express.
But Emma saw it. It filled her heart with warmth and made her catch her breath.
The kitchen door behind her opened and Annie looked through. “My lady, are you ready for the picnic basket?”
Emma turned her head and nodded at the young girl. “Yes, Annie, bring it up and if you have the blankets, bring them as well.”
“Yes, my lady.”
Annie disappeared behind the door again. Emma looked back down at Nicholas but the baby’s eyes were closed and he was breathing rhythmically. He had fallen back to sleep.
Emma felt an overwhelming love for the child sweep through her. She gazed at his round face, wishing he was still awake. Perhaps he would smile at her again. But there would be many more of those smiles to come, she was certain. And when God chose, they would have another healthy child to raise and nurture and love.
She was just about to turn to get the carrying basket when she felt two arms encircle her and pull her back. She recognized the Duke of Lox immediately and sunk into his embrace. He held her close to him from behind and then released her, continuing to hold one of her hands as she turned to face him.
“You look lovely today, Emma,” the Duke of Lox said, his smooth voice like butter in Emma’s ears.
“Thank you, my lord. And you are as handsome as ever.”
He leaned forward and gave her a peck on the lips. “It is time for our picnic with the Christians. Are you excited?”
“I think we will have a wonderful time. But I held Nicholas for a long time and now I cannot feel my arms.”
The Duke of Lox threw back his head and let out a laugh. He immediately covered his mouth and his eyes darted to the baby in the basket. Emma giggled, looking over her shoulder at the child. He did not react to the sudden sound. His eyes did not open.
“I wish I could sleep like that,” the Duke of Lox said quietly.
Emma giggled again. “I wake up at the slightest sound, my lord. My ears are always listening for his cry.”
The Duke of Lox pulled in a deep, satisfied breath, his eyes on his wife’s face. “You are so lovely, Emma. I am blessed that you changed your mind about me.”
Emma shook her head, feigning frustration. “You will never stop talking about that, my lord. I do wish I had not behaved in such a way.”
He shook his head. “You should not feel bad about it, my dear. It is only a funny thing that I like to remember. Have I treated you as a servant this last year?”
Emma dropped her pretense and gave him a loving smile. “You have not. You have been a good husband to me. I am the one who is blessed.”
He took her hands and brought them together in between them. He kissed the tops and held her fingers to his lips for a prolonged period of time. “We are both blessed, Emma. We have each other, we have Nicholas, we have Christian and Lady Camilla and best of all, your father is alive and healthy. I cannot be happier.”
Emma’s smile widened. “Am I to understand you left them waiting for us on the porch?”
The Duke of Lox looked at the open door to the parlor. “I did expect Christian to follow me in but I suppose he wanted to speak to his wife in private for a moment.”
Emma raised her eyebrows, curious. “Oh?”
The Duke of Lox chuckled, lowering her hands. “I see that look on your face, Emma. You are such a curious sort.”
Emma waited expectantly and when her husband did not continue, she gave him a narrow look. “My lord, you must tell me what it is or I fear my head shall explode.”
The Duke of Lox laughed aloud again, though he kept it at a low volume. “My lady, I will let them tell you. It is a pleasant surprise.”
Emma pursed her lips at him and moved to retrieve the carrying basket from its place beside the doors to the parlor. She brought it back and watched as her husband carefully moved Nicholas from his baby bed to the carrying basket.
When the child still did not waken, the couple smiled at each other and shook their heads. The Duke of Lox picked up the basket and the two headed out through the doors and into the foyer. The doors to Brisbourne were standing wide open.
They could see Camilla and the Duke of Rabney standing at the edge of the porch where Camilla had been when they pulled up to the house. Both were facing outward, looking out over the land.
Emma noticed with amusement that the Duke of Rabney had taken the child in his arms and Camilla was standing beside him rubbing the muscles in her upper arms.
She walked through the doors and moved to stand beside Camilla. She scanned her cousin’s profile and when Camilla looked directly at her, she could see happiness shining in her eyes. Camilla looked from Emma to the Duke of Lox and back. “Did he tell you the exciting news, Emma?” she asked in a high-pitched happy voice.
Emma shook her head. “He said it was something you should tell me. What is it? Are you going to have another baby?”
Camilla laughed. “Oh Emma! If I was, you would have been the first to know. Not your husband.”
Emma joined her in laughter. “Then you must tell me what it is. I am simply dying to know.”
“Our husbands have been talking and have made an arrangement for us.”
“Made an arrangement?” Emma was confused. “For you and me?”
“Yes. For you and me. We are selling Rabney Hall and moving into the west wing of Brisbourne. And your father will be moving in here, too.”
Emma’s eyebrows shot up. She turned to look at her husband with wide eyes. “What is this? What is happening?”
The Duke of Lox grinned wide. “Your father is still very weak, Emma. And he needs to be with people who can care for him and love him. The sale of Corning Manor when Katherine is married in two months will buy Rabney Hall and everyone will be comfortable and happy.”
Emma blinked, trying to comprehend what had just happened. She turned and looked toward the west wing of Brisbourne. Then she looked back at Camilla. “You will be right there? That close?”
Camilla’s smile showed her utter delight. “Yes! And your father will be here! Is that not exciting news?”
Emma’s heart was beating a mile a minute. “Yes.” She could barely get the word out audibly. “Yes, it is exciting, wonderful news.” She turned to move into her husband’s embrace. He held her against him and she listened to the beating of his heart. The fast pace of it matched what she was feeling in her own chest.
“I am so blessed, my lord. I do not know how you think of such wonderful things to do for me. You have made me so happy and I have not had to ask for anything. You always know.” She pulled back a little and looked up at him, noticing his resemblance to their son. “How do you always know, my lord?”
His smile said it all. “I cannot pride myself in saying I always know, my dear. But I can say that I love you and want you to be happy always. With this in mind, I
constantly think about what I can do that will please you and I will see that smile on your face. You are the only love in my life and I never want to depart from you or see you cry.”
He touched the end of her nose. “And when you do cry, I will be there to hold you and comfort you. I will always be here for you, my sweet Emma.”