Some Years Later, Christmas Day
It was chaos, of course. Christmas Day at the Radfords home had always been chaotic, and today was no exception. Now the Mitchells celebrated with them every year, there was an extra layer of excitement.
Colin had carved out the time from his busy schedule of study in Paris to come back and visit his family. Eliza and her new husband, Frederick Evergreen, were also in attendance. Poor Frederick, an only child, was exceptionally nervous amid the chaotic atmosphere, especially with the children running around. They’d only been married a year, and poor, shy, scholarly Frederick was still adjusting. He clearly adored his wife, however, and would have put up with a hundred more Mitchells and Radfords if it made her happy.
Timothy and Caroline’s oldest daughter, Molly, was nearly four years old and very loud and rambunctious. Their son, Edmund, born only a year later, was noticeably milder and more placid. Like his Mama, everyone said.
Augusta and Silas had one son, Robert. He was three years old and the apple of his parents’ eye. At the moment, he was racing around the drawing room, all but screaming with excitement. The three toddlers were chasing each other around and around the Christmas tree, which they had all helped decorate earlier that day.
The Duke, the Duchess and Helen and Charles were all seated on a large sofa, smiling fondly at their wild grandchildren. Augusta and Silas stood in the doorway, watching with a smile.
“One of them is going to get hurt,” Augusta murmured. Silas had his arm around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder.
After their first year of marriage, there’d been no more talk of financial worries. The Mitchell orchards were thrived under Silas’s management, and the Duke’s investment had been quickly repaid. Silas was determined not to use too much of Augusta’s money, except to build their own home on the border of the Mitchell and Radford lands. They lived comfortably if not lavishly, and Augusta could not have been happier.
Ambrose had died only two years after the incident, having plummeted, drunk, into the Thames one night and drowned. His mother had been devasted, and now she reputedly lived a pauper’s life somewhere in the city. Augusta had recovered enough from his betrayal and nearly missing out on the love of her life to be able to feel quite sorry for them both. The man had haunted Augusta’s dreams—or rather, nightmares—for quite some time.
She didn’t know what would have happened if her father hadn’t saved her from Ambrose that evening in the hallway. Ambrose had clearly intended to compel Augusta to marry him, but she didn’t know exactly how he’d meant to achieve it. Would he have tried to compromise her, somehow, so that she would be forced to marry him? Would he have intimidated her, hurt her, or just tried to blackmail her?
Augusta shuddered. She didn’t know how she could have been so thoroughly hoodwinked by Ambrose. It was said that he’d tried to woo a few other ladies in the years before his death. He hadn’t been successful. He’d pursued a few naïve young debutantes, but those girls were fortunate enough to have watchful mamas around to send Ambrose packing. He’d courted an older widow for a time, and they had been on the brink of getting engaged when the widow broke off the relationship. If the scandal pages were to be believed—and they were usually right more often than they were wrong—the widow had clashed with Lady Firnsdale and was altogether too clever and independent a woman to give up her money and freedom to a man like Ambrose Finch.
Augusta wondered if the widow thought about her good luck too and congratulated herself on a narrow escape, just as she did.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Silas murmured. “You look very preoccupied, my love.”
“Do I? I suppose I’m just reminiscing on past times.”
“If you’re talking about last year, when I put a snowball down your neck, then—”
“No, not that. Also, I think you’ll recall that I fully wreaked my revenge this year.”
“Hmm. If you say so. What is it, then?”
Augusta sighed. “I’m feeling nostalgic, I suppose. Our lives have changed so much.”
“That’s a good thing, isn’t it? We should always be changing, always moving forward. A motionless pond becomes stagnant and poisonous. I think our life together is perfect.”
“Oh, I know. I’m very happy, Darling. I was just thinking about our courtship. . . if you can call it that. We were so close to losing each other.”
Silas’s arm tightened around her shoulders. “I know. It gives me the shudders sometimes to think about it. Still, what does it matter now? We made it. We’re married. We’re safe, both of us. I have you, and you have me, and we both have our naughty little Robert.”
Augusta smiled up at him. “There might a fourth member of the family coming soon.”
Silas sucked in a breath. “What?! Are you saying—”
“Yes, that’s right. I think I’m expecting again, Silas.”
Silas broke into a wide smile. “Oh, my love, that’s wonderful news! How are you feeling? How far along are you?”
“A few months, I think. Already it feels like I’m carrying this one differently, so I hope it’ll be a girl.”
“A girl would be lovely. We could call her Margaret.”
“I was thinking of Felicity. That’s a nice name, isn’t it?”
Silas considered. “Yes, Felicity is nice. I suppose we can argue about it once our little girl is born.”
Augusta snorted. “If I am giving birth to the baby, the only opinion that matters about the baby’s name is mine.”
“Fair enough,” Silas conceded. He glanced upwards. “Hm. Why, would you look at where we are standing?”
Augusta followed his gaze and suppressed a smile. A kissing-bough was hanging in the doorway. These days, Augusta didn’t have as much time to help her mother with the decorations. This looked like Eliza’s handiwork.
“A kissing-bough? How interesting,” Augusta said mildly. “Should we move?”
Silas chuckled. “Are you teasing me again?”
Augusta smiled softly up at him, snuggling in closer. “Of course, I am. I love teasing you.”
“I have noticed that. I must be the most teased husband in England.”
Silas bent down to kiss her, and Augusta tilted up her chin to be kissed. It was a soft, sweet kiss, lasting no more than a second. Then, they pulled away, smiling at each other.
“I love you, Silas Mitchell,” Augusta whispered.
Silas grinned. “And I love you, Lady Augusta.”
I hope you enjoyed “The Perfect Christmas Entanglement”. I would love to know your opinion!