The Beastly Duke'sConvenient Bride
One Year Later, Blackburn Manor
It never ceased to amaze Adam how quickly life could change. In the space of a single year, his life had been turned on its head. All for the better, of course.
He’d neatly secured his in-laws admiration and respect by ordering a doctor for Letitia and neatly springing Samuel from gaol.
And then, just as neatly, replacing the innocent Samuel with the much less innocent Lord Ellersby. Between the crimes of bribery, blackmail, falsification of documents, and a whole host of other less savoury crimes, Lord Ellersby would be spending the rest of his life in gaol.
Adam was very pleased about that.
He was startled out of his reverie by Josephine, bouncing along the hallway.
“Any news?” she asked breathlessly. “Mama won’t tell me anything.”
Adam shook his head. “Doctor Severn and the midwife assure me that the labour is going along very well. Your sister will be fine, Josephine.”
Josephine didn’t look convinced. She took a seat on the long bench beside Adam, the two of them sitting in the hallway outside the master bedroom.
The door was closed, and nobody but the midwife, the doctor, and Letitia had been allowed in.
“I wish they’d let me in with her.” Adam said, after a pause. “I know that a man like me will probably get in the way, but I could hold her hand. I could support her.”
Josephine pulled a face. “I wouldn’t want to go in. All that blood and screaming.”
Adam swallowed hard.
He’d spent most of Marina’s pregnancy thinking about the things that could go wrong. Marina herself didn’t seem to be nervous. And now the big day was here.
I’m going to be a father, Adam thought, the idea accompanied by a stifling rush of panic.
He wasn’t ready. He couldn’t be a father. What if he made mistakes, like his father had with him, and his father with him?
“There’s so much that can go wrong.” Adam whispered, clenched his hands into fists.
Josephine slipped her arm through his.
“Don’t worry.” She murmured. “You’ll be fine.”
On cue, a thin, reedy cry started up from inside the room. Adam’s heart was in his mouth.
They waited for a breathless ten minutes before the door opened, and Doctor Severn appeared, smiling broadly.
“All is well, your Grace. You have a healthy son, and her Grace is also in good health. Would you like to come in?”
Adam’s breath stuttered.
“I… yes. Yes, I would. Please.”
He followed the doctor inside, barely noticing the chaos of the room.
Marina was lying in bed, exhausted. Blankets and pillows were piled up around her, and her hair stuck to her forehead with sweat. A tiny bundle was wrapped up in her arms.
Letitia, folding up some blood-soaked towels, caught Adam’s eye, and smiled tearfully at him.
“He’s beautiful.” She sniffled. “Take a look.”
Adam shuffled to Marina’s bedside, feeling strangely out of place.
She smiled up at him, eyes dark-ringed and exhausted.
“Did the doctor tell you? A little boy.”
“How are you, my love?” Adam whispered, leaning down to kiss her forehead.
Marina pulled a face. “Sore, to say the least. I feel as though I haven’t slept for a week. Although the first time I saw him, I couldn’t think of anything else beside him. Take a look, Adam. He’s got your eyes.”
Adam stared down at the tiny bundle in his wife’s arms.
The baby was a mottled red colour, with wisps of damp, black hair sticking up from his soft scalp. His minute hands were curled into fists at his chest, and his eyes were shut.
“He’s frowning.” Adam said.
Marina snorted. “He’s taking after you already.”
She cackled at her own joke, and the baby opened dim, unfocused eyes at the noise, glancing around the room as if to ascertain the source of the disturbance.
Hesitantly, Adam extended a finger towards the baby. Its tiny hand clamped around his finger, tightening with impressive strength.
“That’s… that’s a firm grip.” Adam said, surprised.
Marina smiled. “Yes, I’ve heard that about babies. Do you want to hold him?”
“Yes. I want to hold him.”
The words were out before Adam could think about it. He couldn’t put a name to it, the warm, aching feeling in his chest that bloomed whenever he looked at his brand-new son. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the baby. It was similar to what he felt for Marina, but also completely different, at the same time.
Something powerful. Something primal.
She gently placed the baby into his arms, and Adam held him close to his chest.
The baby was heavier than he’d expected, warm. Its eyes were still open, fingers curling vaguely in the air.
“I thought he’d be crying and screaming.” Adam said. “Father said that babies did nothing but scream.”
“Well, I’m sure we’ll have our fair share of screaming, but babies certainly do more than that.” Marina huffed, gingerly turning to lie on her side. She smiled up at Adam, her eyes soft. “Isn’t he beautiful?”
“The most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen in my life.” Adam said fervently. “The most beautiful baby that ever was.”
“I concur.” Marina grinned. “So, let’s think of names. Had we decided between Jasper and Thomas for a boy?”
Adam touched the whisper-soft hair on the top of the baby’s head.
“I don’t mind what you call him. You can choose.”
Marina bit her lip. “I thought you might have wanted to name him after your father.”
Adam caught her eye. “I think perhaps our baby ought to be his own person.”
Marina smiled. “I agree. I love you, Adam.”
He bent down to kiss her, careful not to jostle the new baby.
“I love you too, Marina. I never imagined I would have this – a wife I loved, a baby. A family.”
She let her fingers dance along his jawline.
“You’ll never be alone again.” she murmured. “You’ve found your place. We both have.”
I hope you enjoyed “The Beastly Duke’s Convenient Bride”. I would love to know your opinion!