Two years later…
“She is a beauty, I’ll give you that,” Jacob said as he looked over the newest arrival on the stud farm.
“Aye, she not only carries Eastern blood, but she has the spirit of the wind in her,” Andrew replied as he admired his latest broodmare.
“That reminds me, I need to talk to you about the Cleveland Bay breed. We’re having a new stud brought up from the northeast next week.”
Scarlett happened to be passing by as her husband was chatting with Jacob. Standing between them was a fine-looking thoroughbred horse that she simply had to go and see. So, she took her two years old son’s little pudgy hand and approached them.
“She’s a bold one,” Scarlett commented as she looked at the pure white mare. “Please tell me that you are not breeding racehorses now?”
“I couldn’t resist buying her, is all.” Andrew smiled at his wife as he picked up his young son from the ground. “And how’s our little Henry? You want to tickle the horse’s ears?”
The couple had named their son after the late Duke of Wilenwood, Andrew’s father. It was a way for Andrew to remember one of the few good things about his past. His wife and child might not be considered as part of his father’s family, but they were still had nobility in their bloodline. Being a part of nobility had never been something that Andrew sought. Though, his son would inherit an Earldom from Scarlett’s father, so they would still get to keep their British peerage within his new family anyway.
They now lived away from London to be in the countryside. Having managed to escape all the society gossip that was inevitable over his disgraced half-brother’s dealings. It had saddened Andrew when he heard that the current Duke of Wilenwood had been declared untrustworthy and in debt, in some newspaper or other. He was another who had avoided public humiliation, due in no small part to an anonymous benefactor who had bailed him out. Andrew intended that his brother would never know it was him who had saved him. The only reason he had done it was because of his promise to his father. But that would be the last time.
Escaping the gossip wasn’t the only reason they had relocated to the country. Andrew had wanted to start breeding thoroughbred horses. It was an occupation where he could enhance his passions and share his business with his cousin, Jacob. Out of respect, he had also included Scarlett’s father in the ownership too. If only to give her father a boost in his income that had been depleted by some trickster.
“You know my strong opinions about breeding racehorses.” Scarlett scowled at her husband. “I’ve never liked the races. I hate how they whip the horses to make them go faster.”
“I kept my promise, my love, so don’t be fretting,” Andrew assured her as he leaned in to kiss her soft cheek. “And you know perfectly well that my trade is mostly with the Yorkshire coach horses. But this beauty caught my eye at the auction. Besides, if I breed her, you tell me what member of the nobility cannot resist ownership of a beautiful specimen like this one, eh? She will breed many a fine foal.”
“That reminds me,” Jacob intervened. “Talking of beautiful specimens, my own beautiful wife tells me that I am to invite you all to visit us this weekend. You are to come along to our modest little cottage, and she will make us a feast of a picnic so we can sit by the river.”
“Thank you, Jacob, we look forward to it,” Scarlett replied as she took her son back from his father’s arms. As they waved goodbye to the horse, she and Henry were soon on her way to the chicken coop to collect the daily eggs.
Scarlett turned to give Andrew a little wave and he winked at her as she carried their son to visit his pet chickens. Life was good. Andrew and Jacob had started their partnership in breeding horses, and none of them would have had it any other way.
Scarlett was most content with her new life, much preferring their country living to their lives in the busy London town. Her parents had remained living in the large London townhouse known as Baleshire Manor, but even they were talking of moving to their country retreat.
* * *
“You’ve gone to far too much trouble, Jenny,” Scarlett remarked as they sat watching their husbands swimming in the passing river. “This is a picnic feast fit for a king.”
The summer had been a hot one, and little Henry was sitting playing in the shade of a tree. As the men returned from the river to join them, Andrew splashed his son with the cooling river water. Henry giggled out loud, thinking it wonderful game. Not long after, they were all soon tucking into the food that Jenny had prepared.
“I actually have an ulterior motive for getting us all together like this,” Jenny announced as their men settled down on the picnic rugs to eat. “I have me some news that I wish to share with you all.”
Jacob went to sit by his wife’s side, sharing a huge grin on his face as they held hands.
“We be expecting a child again,” Jenny announced, and Scarlett saw the genuine happiness in her eyes.
Both Scarlett and Andrew knew how much this meant for Jacob and Jenny. They had lost one child at less than a year old, and both had been desperate to try again ever since.
“What’s more, I be gone four months now, so we be well established,” Jenny added, fondly patting her belly. She knew her friends would worry for her and that was why she had not shared her news in the early stages of her pregnancy.
“Oh Jenny, I am so delighted for you both,” Scarlett said, hugging Jenny and smiling over at Jacob. “Listen, I too have news to share with you all,” she said as they parted. “We will be having our babies together, as I too am with child.”
“What?” Andrew called out, looking puzzled. “You kept that one quiet,” he said as he leaned in to kiss his wife and hug both her and Henry in one huge cuddle.
“I had good reason for sharing the news too early. You see, Jenny, I had guessed that you were carrying too,” Scarlett admitted. “And I knew that you would share it with us when the time was right.”
“I wondered if you already knew,” Jenny said shyly. “But this makes our feast an even more special occasion. Our children will be almost as close as twins.”
At this everyone laughed as they congratulated one another. Even little Henry joined in, though he had no idea he was about to gain a sibling, or two. He trotted his way around the adults, enjoying all the fuss and cuddles they lavished on him.
“You know what,” Andrew called out, holding up his glass of wine. “We all deserve a toast. I have a feeling that we are about to have daughters introduced into our lives.”
Everyone laughed at that possibility, and all four parents toasted to their future family members. Not that anyone cared if they had daughters or sons, for they only cared that their families were growing.