To Love a Chivalrous Duke – Extended Epilogue


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Three years later

Gemma sat in her favorite upholstered chair by the window in the upstairs parlor. She could see the endless blue of the sea and sky, interrupted today by large, fluffy, white clouds in the distance, and she could see down to the beach where Marcus had gone as soon as he had scarfed down two slices of buttered bread and a cup of coffee earlier in the morning.

As she watched the waves ceaselessly lapping at the shoreline, and the birds dipping and rolling through the air, she let her thoughts wander and her body relax. Being pregnant was hard work, she had discovered. Especially when she already had Charlotte, now two years old, keeping her on her toes, and with the resort’s grand opening looming on the horizon of the very near future. As a mother, she had learned to take the sparse moments of rest when and where she could.

In the thirty-six months since moving into the cottage, Gemma’s life no longer remotely resembled the one she led at Amerden Manor. Boredom seemed like a foreign concept; repression of her natural tendencies toward reading, curiosity, and independent thought was a distant and dark memory. Sadness was a rare emotion, reserved only for the brief periods when she thought of her mother. She still missed her terribly, and having a daughter of her own and possibly twins on the way now, she missed her own mother even more.

Gemma had grown to love the seaside property more than she had ever thought possible. Being used to her country home and all the freedoms it had permitted a teenaged girl, she had feared she would always long for the apple orchards, green rolling hills, and the lush forests alive with small animals and birds.

Within the span of a fortnight in her new home, though, she knew better. Three years later, she could imagine living nowhere else in the world.

Peering down the line of beach, Gemma spied her husband as he motioned to the workmen who were responsible for putting the finishing touches on the resort. The two-story building sprawled in a horseshoe shape that closely followed the lines of the cove in which it sat.

Marcus had worked tirelessly in the resort’s construction, and no amount of counseling from her could convince him to leave the work to the hired hands.

He had worked just as diligently during their first year at the cottage when he commissioned a new wing and another, smaller cottage to be constructed.

The smaller cottage was situated behind their home. It had been built with clear divisions and levels for all the general staff such as groundskeepers, house staff, and staff that would eventually be responsible for the upkeep of the resort.

The new wing on her home had been constructed to house Jennings, the butler, Mrs. Altwood, the head housekeeper, Susan, and Marcus’s valet, Christian. There were several pantries and storage rooms there as well.

Marion, the nursery maid with the pleasantly round, freckled face and doe-like brown eyes, entered the parlor, pulling Gemma’s attention away from the view out the window.

“Milady, Charlotte asked for you as soon as she woke up. Is it all right?” She held Charlotte on her hip and eyed Gemma’s round belly.

Gemma smiled, resting a hand on her huge, pregnant belly. “Of course. Come to Mother, Charlotte, my love.” She stretched her hands out to her toddler, eager for her sweet cuddles. “Better get all the lap time you can now, in another month, there will only be room for my belly!” She laughed as Marion handed Charlotte down to her.

The little blond girl squealed delightedly and wrapped her arms around Gemma’s neck. It was a unique feeling unmatched by any other, and Gemma would cherish it forever. She never tired of her daughter’s attention, and she never turned her away. As a child, her father had been cold and distant, shunning her attention for as long as she could recall. He never seemed to want to be bothered by her. After having her daughter, Gemma could never imagine similarly treating Charlotte. It was unthinkable.

“Mama, birds?” Charlotte asked as she balanced precariously on Gemma’s lap by planting a foot on each of her thighs.

“You want to see the birds again? So soon?” Gemma made her eyes wide and feigned shock.

Charlotte giggled and nodded. Pointing out the window, she repeated, “Birds again!”

“Actually, that sounds like a splendid idea!” She tweaked Charlotte’s button nose, and they both giggled again. “Now, let Marion get you dressed properly. Afterward, we will go see the birds in the garden.”

Immediately, Charlotte wiggled off Gemma’s lap and ran toward Marion squealing, “Birds! Birds!” She flapped her arms and yelled, “Tweet-tweet!”

As soon as Marion and Charlotte left the room, Susan came in. “Milady, your father has sent word. He will arrive here at three this afternoon.”

“Really?” Gemma struggled out of the deep cushion of the chair and put her hands in the small of her back. “Did he say why he is visiting?”

“No, milady. Would you like something small to eat? You barely touched your food at breakfast, and Mrs. Altwood is worried.”

Chuckling, Gemma shook her head and caressed her swollen midsection. “There is hardly room to take a full breath, let alone food. I feel as if I am carrying a brood instead of one baby. Tell Mrs. Altwood that I am perfectly healthy, as the doctor has confirmed at my husband’s request.”

Gemma and Charlotte watched the birds in the small garden situated behind the house where Gemma felt it was safer to let the baby roam. Marcus had built a beautiful wooden fence all around the small, green haven. He had proudly opened the gate and led Gemma inside when it was finished. She held the then baby Charlotte cradled in her arms as he showed her the open area where a bench was situated. It made a fine place to feed birds and let Charlotte play.

After an hour, Charlotte had tired of watching birds and began running through the garden. Gemma could not keep up with her, and she finally relented, allowing Marion to take the child indoors for refreshments. Gemma made her way to the kitchen and instructed the cook to prepare a light course to set out upon her father’s arrival.

Her father had only visited the cottage once and had not gone to the trouble to extend an invitation for Gemma to visit him at Amerden or the country house. She had been pregnant with Charlotte at the time of his last visit, and since then, had decided he would either come around or not, but she was not going to push herself on him. If he desired her company, he knew where she lived.

Even so, she found herself slightly nervous at the prospect of seeing him after almost three years. Nancy had enlightened her often about the goings-on at Amerden, in London, and at her home, Edmore. Other than that, the only time she heard anything about her father on a personal level was during her infrequent visits to London when she stayed at Thurlstone Manor for a few nights at a time. Marcus, of course, still had his business to attend to, and she liked to accompany him from time to time and visit with his mother.

Finished instructing the staff on how to prepare for the duke’s visit, Gemma sighed, exhausted. With no sign of Marcus’s return, she set out to visit him on the beach. Informing him of her father’s impending arrival could have been accomplished by simply sending a footman, but she wanted to see the progress he had made on the resort. Also, a stolen moment alone with him was just what she needed to calm her nerves.

Susan fretted as they walked toward the steps that led down to the cove. “Milady, are you certain? Should you walk such a long way after you’ve already worn yourself out with the baby and making the plans for your father?”

“Nonsense, Susan!” Gemma gave her a backward wave over her shoulder as she started down the steps carefully. “The exercise in the fresh air will be beneficial.” However, halfway to the resort, she thought perhaps she had been a bit over-zealous in her assumptions, but she pushed on, wishing to see her husband. He had been absent from the house all day, and she missed him.

A hundred feet farther down the sand, Marcus appeared from the cove. Only a bit of the building revealed itself to Gemma at her current distance. She waved to Marcus, and he waved back. Jogging toward her, he yelled for her to stop where she was.

Confused, she looked at Susan and then back at him. “I want to see what you’ve done to the resort.”

Closing the distance fast, he shook his head. “No, no. I can’t let you, dear.” He kissed her cheek and put a hand gently on her stomach.

“The exercise will be good for me,” she said with only half the conviction she’d had earlier.

“Perhaps, but I think you should wait until the grand opening in a few days. There is a surprise for you there, and I don’t want it spoiled before the big day.” He gazed deep into her eyes.

As always, she melted under his gaze. His ability to mesmerize her after three years amazed her, but she would not trade it for the world. Their love had only increased over the years. “As you wish, then. I also came to tell you that my father is to arrive at three. I’ve told Cook to prepare a light course for his arrival, and I hope you will join us.”

Turning his gaze toward the sea, Marcus nodded, squinting into the distance. “Has he said why he is visiting after all these years of no contact at all?” He did not turn his eyes back to her.

“No. I’ve no idea what has brought on his visit, but I suppose we shall find out soon enough. I wish Aunt Nancy were coming with him; she always knows best how to handle him.” Gemma turned and looked into the distance. Clouds had banked up, making a distinct division between sky and sea.

“I’ll join you and greet him. There’s nothing more I can do here today, so, please, allow me to escort you back to the house.” Holding out his arm, he smiled. “Soon, our little family will be larger. Just think, a house full of children. How wonderful will that be?” He guided her along the beach, steadying her.

Drawing strength from Marcus, Gemma shook her head. “You would not believe how it puts that notion into perspective.”

Wrinkling his brow, he asked, “What puts what into perspective?” He chuckled, obviously confused.

“Being pregnant, giving birth, raising children. The whole thing. It isn’t as easy as it looks, you know.” She grinned up at him, knowing full well that she would have as many children as he wanted. “And, I seriously suspect that I am carrying multiple babies this time. I’m as big as a house, and the doctor says I still have two months left before the birth happens.”

“Are you worried? About the birth, I mean.” He slowed his pace to match hers.

“No. If it is God’s will that I have twins, He will see me through it. And you will be there; waiting just outside the door, right?”

“Nothing could keep me away. I’ll be there through it all, just like with Charlotte.” He stopped and bent down, and kissed her as he pulled her close.

Laughing, Gemma looked down at her belly and back to him. “I fear something has come between us, dear husband.”

Their laughter was easy and happened often. Gemma was certain the path to a strong and lasting marriage was paved with laughter.

A carriage sat at the foot of the hill. Gemma recognized it as her father’s and peered around to find him. The driver announced that the duke had already gone up to the cottage. Gemma’s stomach tightened and her muscles tensed.

They ascended the stairs in silence, and she thought Marcus was having his own misgivings about the duke’s abrupt visit. The best she could hope for was that it would be a short visit.

Jennings met them at the door. “My Lord, The Duke of Amerden has arrived. He is waiting in the parlor.” He led them to the doorway of the formal parlor and announced their arrival.

The duke stood and turned to Gemma. He seemed older than warranted by the passage of only three years. His hair had gone mostly grey, as had his beard, which was fuller than she ever remembered it being. The thin lines at the corners of his eyes had deepened dramatically, and he had lost a significant amount of weight.

She decided that he looked shrunken, sickly, and not nearly as intimidating as he had been when they last saw each other. Her heart went out to him, and she feared he was ill somehow.

“Father. It is good to see you after all this time.” Gemma moved toward him but stopped a few feet away. Her first instinct had been to embrace him. Past experience prevented her from following through. The Duke of Amerden was not a hugging person. He had always preferred distance.

“Likewise, my daughter. And, look at you. When will I get to meet my grandchild?” His voice had lost the forcefulness of earlier years.

Shocked by the tone of his voice, Gemma floundered for a moment.

Marcus stepped forward and shook his hand. “How soon would you like to meet your grandchild, sir?” His face remained stoic, serious.

Gemma nodded to Susan, and the maid rushed from the room.

“Well, I suppose as soon as possible after birth. When will that happen?” His brow furrowed as if he did not follow Marcus’s meaning.

Nodding, Marcus looked at Gemma, and they both chuckled.

“Father, have you been keeping in contact with Aunt Nancy at all? She brings me news about you often. Does she not do the same when she visits you?” Gemma moved to the sofa and sat.

Rubbing his chin, the duke scowled. It was an expression Gemma remembered well. For all the changes wrought upon him by time, the scowl had not lessened in intensity.

“Nancy and I don’t see each other much.” He looked at Gemma, dropped his gaze, and took his seat again, adding, “At all. We had a rather heated disagreement before you had been married a year, and we haven’t been in contact since.”

“Before or after your last visit here?” Gemma wondered what the argument had been about and why her aunt had never told her about it.

“Not long after. Gemma, I’ve come here today because—”

Marion stood in the doorway with Charlotte on her hip. The child called out excitedly to her father when she saw him and held her arms out to him. Marcus took her, cooing to her and telling her how much he had missed her. Gemma’s heart nearly burst with love for both of them. Marcus was the best father she had ever seen.

The duke jerked his head in the direction of the new arrival and gawked open-mouthed at the little girl. Turning back to Gemma, he asked, “Is she my …?” His voice trailed off.

Gemma nodded. “Father, this is Charlotte. She just turned two a month ago. Charlotte, come meet your grandfather.”

At first, the girl wanted nothing to do with the bearded, older man sitting across from her mother. She clung fast to her father and fell silent as she studied the duke, and he was equally silent as he studied her.

Without taking his eyes off her, the duke said, “She looks just like you did at that age.” Tearing his eyes away, he looked at Gemma. “I did not know you had a child. How could I not know that?”

Gemma shrugged. “I don’t know, Father. Others in London know; all our friends know.” She motioned toward Marcus.

“I’ve been staying mostly at our country house, but I still go to London on business. No one has said a word to me about the birth of my grandchild.” A storm of emotions played over his face.

Gemma wanted to tell him it was likely due to the fact that he acted like an ogre to most everyone, but she refrained, not wanting to start an argument. Deciding it was high time to mend their relations as best she could, Gemma took a deep breath. “Well, you are here now, and now you know. You haven’t wanted to see us in all these years, and life goes on, Father. You taught me that from childhood. No matter what happens, no matter how bad or good life gets, it still marches on.” He had also told her that it would leave her behind if she did not take hold of herself and push through the sadness of her mother’s death, but she added nothing more. He would certainly recall those harsh conversations and recall his addendum on his own.

“I did. I was hard on you, Gemma. Some might say I was even cruel and cold-hearted because you are a woman, but that was not why. I had no idea how to raise a girl. None at all. Girls are full of tumultuous emotions and are given to flights of fancy that boys simply don’t understand. That does not justify everything I have done, but I hope it gives you some perspective on why I acted as I did toward you.”

Moved almost to tears by his sudden and heartfelt revelation, Gemma simply nodded. If she tried to speak, she would cry.

Standing, her father moved toward Marcus and Charlotte. He extended a hand and touched her golden hair. “Hello, Charlotte. I’m your grandfather.” He pointed to Gemma. “I’m her father just like he,” he pointed to Marcus, “is your father.” He nodded, smiling.

Gemma saw a light in his face that she had never seen. There was a softness to his features and his posture that she never imagined seeing there. She locked eyes with Marcus and saw that he was just as shocked as she was. As she watched, Charlotte slowly reached out and touched the grey beard and giggled a little. Then she reached warily for her grandfather, and he sighed as he hoisted her into his arms.

“Charlotte, would you like it if I came to visit you often?”

Charlotte nodded and put her finger in her mouth. “See birds?” She pointed out the window.

“You have birds out there?” He made his eyes wide, feigning shock, and Gemma realized it was the exact same expression she had used with Charlotte earlier.

As they got acquainted, Gemma walked to stand by Marcus. He whispered, “What do you think? True change, or temporary guilt?”

“Oddly, I believe it is a true change of heart. He is so different,” she whispered in response.

***

Two weeks later

Marcus helped Gemma walk to the resort before the crowd gathered for the grand opening. His energy had been high all morning, and Gemma thought he was as excited as a child receiving the best gift of his life.

Standing in front of the magnificent Roman-style structure, Gemma felt a sense of pride that her husband had accomplished such a majestic feat. “Oh, it’s the most beautiful thing, Marcus! It’s just marvelous. Can we go inside?”

“Hold on. Remember that surprise I was telling you about?” He motioned to two men standing at either side of the main entrance.

“Yes,” Gemma said, looking suspiciously at the two men. Each of them held a thin rope that ran up to the corners of a white fabric banner.

Marcus nodded to the men, and they tugged on the ropes. The banner winnowed to the cobblestones between the men. Gemma gasped and tears sprang to her eyes.

“Marcus!” She threw her arms around his neck and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “I love it!”

Laughing, he looked up at the painted name of the resort. “Really? Because if you don’t like it, we can change it. The painter is actually still here. We can have it changed before the crowd arrives.”

Playfully slapping his arm, she stepped back and put her hands where her prominent hipbones had once resided. Now her belly had everything mostly hidden. “Don’t you dare! I absolutely love it. You are the most wonderful man in all the world, Marcus Colborne.” She moved close and hugged him again.

“The Gem of the Sea,” he said. “Rolls off the tongue nicely and leaves a pretty image in one’s thoughts, doesn’t it?”

Dabbing at her tears of joy, Gemma nodded. Marcus had taken to calling her Gem during their first months of marriage. He never called her by that name in public, but when they were together, just the two of them, sharing intimate moments in which many memories were made, he always called her Gem.

Looking at the name again, Gemma knew she was exactly where she was supposed to be.

THE END


OFFER: A BRAND NEW SERIES AND 2 FREEBIES FOR YOU!

Grab my new series, "Delightful Dukes and Damsels", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!




13 thoughts on “To Love a Chivalrous Duke – Extended Epilogue”

  1. Greetings, my dear readers! I hope you enjoyed this delightful tale and the resolution of our couple’s loving journey! I eagerly anticipate hearing your impressions! ♥️📚 Stay tuned for the next novel in the series if you wish to learn the fateful stories of the rest of the characters!

  2. I just finished it and loved it! But my stomach hurt during the whole engagement week and party…so you did a great job of portraying Gemma’s heartache and despair

  3. One of your very best! I loved the density and intensity of the writing and how it reflected the place of women at that time.

    My one quibble would be how quickly they managed to get from Stepney London, to Southend and back! A round trip of 80+ miles would require an overnight stay! Most would not notice but I live in this region! Otherwise I really loved this story, thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts! I’m delighted that you enjoyed the density and intensity of the writing, as well as the depiction of the place of women during that time.

      I appreciate your observation about the travel logistics between Stepney and Southend. I’ll take this into account for future stories to ensure greater accuracy, especially for readers familiar with the region.

      Thank you again for your support and for taking the time to provide feedback!

  4. Fantastically beautiful. For a while there I was worried for Gems and Marcus. Still do not understand how a father could disregard in his own child and allow to marry an obnoxious and disgusting man. Thank goodness Marcus woke up and got his courage in time. The love and romance of the age I call it. The story has an exceptional plot with very engaging characters. The extended epilogue complemented the story wonderfully. I highly recommend this story including the ups and downs, the intrigues and the twists and turns. Truly remarkable. Love it so much.

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback dear Marisu! I’m thrilled to hear that you found the story engaging and the characters compelling. I’m glad the plot twists and turns kept you invested, and that you enjoyed the extended epilogue. Your recommendation means a lot to me, and I’m delighted that you loved the story.

  5. Thank you for a wonderful and well felt story. I love the characters and felt all the ups and downs … made me wish to be there to add some input to the happenings.
    Joan

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