Extended Epilogue

Five Years After Wedding


“I think it is rather quaint, don’t you?”

Russell nodded along to his wife, though he was paying little attention to what she was saying. All of his focus was on the way her eyes sparkled under the light sifting through the tall, overhead windows of the dining room, and that tiny little frown marring her otherwise smooth, and wrinkle-free forehead. He nearly sighed aloud in contentment, happy to be in her presence.

“Perhaps we should change the table linen?” Caroline asked, wandering over to the dining table. She bent to study the white table linen closely, oblivious to Russell’s admiration. “Lydia’s favourite colour is blue. Should I use the blue one instead?”

“Mm,” Russell hummed noncommittally.

She straightened and looked at him with an arched brow. Realising that he had just gotten caught, he nodded. “Yes, yes, I think that’s a good idea.”

“Did you hear what I said?”

“You asked about linens,” he attempted.

Caroline sighed. She made her way over to him, taking both his hands. In their five years of marriage, she had come to learn that holding hands was one of Russell’s favourite acts of affection. “What’s on your mind?” she asked. “Is it because it’s been a while since we have been in London? Are you worried about what others might be thinking?”

For a moment, Russell didn’t understand what she was asking him. They had returned to London three days ago to attend the christening of Lydia and Lucas’ firstborn child ,as they had happily married some time ago, and, save for that brief outing, he had not ventured out of the residence. Did she truly think that he was being reclusive on purpose?

Russell chuckled. In truth, he couldn’t recall the last time he’d worried about what others might be thinking regarding his appearance. Now that he had Caroline, now that he had his family, the opinions of others mattered little.

But the concern in her eyes warmed him. Needing to be closer to her, he pulled her into him, his hand settling on her back. “You sweet, sweet woman,” he sighed. “I care not about what others think anymore. If it seems as if I am limiting my time spent outdoors, it is because I would much rather spend my time with you and our children.”

Caroline’s eyes lit up at that. She returned the embrace, resting her chin on his chest as she gazed up at him. “Haven’t you grown tired of me yet? We spend nearly every waking minute with each other.”

“I will never tire of you, my love. And I shall show you that no matter how many times it takes me.”

“I feel just the same.” She sighed, resting her ear against his chest. “If only we could stay like this forever.”

“Ah, you say that now but the moment Lydia arrives you will forget all about me.”

“So let us treasure the time that we have with each other now, shall we?”

Russell barked a laugh at that, so loud that he almost didn’t hear Caroline’s own laughter underneath it. He shifted away slightly, just far enough so that he could kiss her fervently once more. She sighed contently as she leaned into it.


Without warning, the doors of the dining room, banged opened, startling them both. The culprit came racing into the room with legs far too short and unstable to keep up with his speed. He ran without fear, however, grasping a handful of brushes in his hand with excited grey eyes scanning the room for his mother.

“Colin, what do yo have there?” Caroline asked, pulling out of Russell’s arms.

The governess, Mrs. Hilton, was right on his heels, looking out of breath. Russell supposed that had something to do with the fact that she must have been chasing their three-year old son around while holding their one year old daughter in her arms. Unlike Colin, Annabelle seemed to be growing into the mirror-like image of her father, with dark-brown curls and green eyes with flecks of gold hidden within.

Russell approached her. “Allow me,” he said and didn’t miss the brief relief that whispered across her face as she happily passed his daughter over into his arms.

“It’s your brushes, Mama,” Colin explained happily, holding it out for Caroline to see. “I found your brushes in the big room!”

“Please forgive me, Your Grace,” Mrs. Hilton expressed. “I was in the middle of dressing Lady Annabelle and before I knew it, Lord Colin had opened the nursery door and—”

“It’s all right, Mrs. Hilton,” Caroline said with a laugh. She easily scooped Colin into her arms, rustling his already dishevelled auburn hair. “My husband and I know more than anyone how chaotic he can be.”

“Mama, what’ chaotic?” Colin asked.

“Chaotic is what your mother used to be when she was your age.” The response came before the person who spoke, but a moment later the Marquess of Brading came strolling into the dining room. Russell caught a glimpse of Harold behind him, who must have been the one to escort him this far, before the door closed.

“Father!” Caroline seemed surprised. “I did not expect you so early.”

“It is nearly lunchtime,” the marquess stated gruffly. He did not break his stride, heading directly to Caroline and pulling Colin into his arms. The little boy was quite happy to be with his grandfather, a sight that Russell was yet to get used to. After Colin was born, the marquess visited often, sometimes staying for days at a time. The relationship between him and his daughter had improved considerably because of it. Or perhaps it was because of Colin, who Russell came to learn was the spitting image of the marquess’ late son.

“He’s right about that.” The door opened once more and Lucas came strolling in, all grins. “Is the food not prepared as yet? Surely you do not intent on keeping us hungry?”

“Of course it is prepared,” Lydia chastised by his side. “Caroline is nothing if not the perfect host.”

“Thank you, Lydia,” Caroline sighed. “I do not know why anyone would doubt me.”

“It is because you are chaotic,” the marquess inputted, then went back to doting on his grandson, who was enjoying the attention immensely.

The room was suddenly full of life, especially if you include Lydia and Lucas’ governess who had entered with their newly christened child. The baby was asleep now so the governess murmured a ‘pardon me’ and slipped out of the room. Russell noticed that Caroline now that her guests had arrived, was focusing only on them.

“Surely you all did not intend on beginning this evening’s luncheon without me?” asked the dowager duchess as she entered the room with a broad smile. In the years that followed their wedding, her health had declined to the point of her having to walk with a cane now. But her smile was still as bright as ever, her energetic nature still battling with her failing body. Russell tried not to worry about her, especially at times like this when everyone should be happy.

“Ah, it looks like everyone is here now,” Caroline said loudly. “Shall we all begin?”

Mrs. Hilton took that as her cue to usher the young ones away. She gently took Annabelle from Russell, then waited until the marquess was willing to part with Colin before she took the toddler’s hand and guided him out of the room. Later, Caroline planned for everyone to go out into the gardens after their meals. And Colin and Annabelle were sure to have a grand time then. For now, it would be best if they remained out of the dining room, simply to limit the chances of food being flung and tantrums being thrown.

Footmen poured from the door tucked into the corner of the dining room, connected to the kitchen, bearing plates for the first course. Russell got settled at the head of the table with Caroline at one side and his mother at the next. Cora instantly struck up a conversation with Edward while Caroline and Lydia whispered to each other, perhaps about matters that would only concern them as best friends. Russell caught Lucas’ eyes, the same thought passing between them.

This was true happiness. After the pain and fear and rejection, being surrounded by the people who truly loved him was all that mattered. Russell reached for Caroline’s hand under the table and she looked at him, her beautiful grey eyes warming with love.

And at that point, every scar he had ever received, physical or emotional, felt worth it.

The End

I hope you enjoyed “The Brooding Duke”.  I would love to know your opinion!