Healing the Arrogant Earl – Extended Epilogue


Two Years Later

Jessie gazed into the long mirror on the wall of the bedchamber she shared with Anthony. Turning to the side, she squinted as she soaked in her reflection. It was impossible to believe how swollen her belly had become. The pale-yellow dress that she wore seemed to emphasize the swell of her stomach, but perhaps she really was drawing closer to delivering the child. Yes, it wouldn’t be long now until the baby arrived, she was sure of that.

Smiling at the thought that she and Anthony would soon become parents, she knew that her husband would be the best father in the world. In the past two years since their marriage, their relationship had blossomed and flourished, going from strength to strength. It felt like their bond strengthened and deepened every single day. Now, they would have a new addition to their happy little family, and neither of them could wait.

A knock sounded at door and Jessie called, “Enter!”

A young dark-haired maid pushed open the door and smiled at her mistress. “Miss Abigail Clark has arrived, my lady,” she announced. “She’s downstairs in the parlor with the master, and they wished for me to request that you join them.”

“Please inform them that I’ll be down in a moment,” she replied.

Taking one last look in the mirror, Jessie tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear and waddled out of the room, heading down to the parlor. Seeing Abby would be a treat. The other woman didn’t get to visit from London as often as either of them would have wished. From Abby’s letters, Jessie suspected that her friend had a new beau.

The moment that Jessie walked into the parlor, Abby jumped to her feet, squealing. Abby raced over to her friend and clasped her hands. “Oh, how are you, my dearest Jessie? I cannot believe it!” she giggled. “You’ve gotten so big! I cannot wait to be an aunt to my new niece or nephew. It won’t be long now! Do you think it will be a boy or a girl?”

“Abby!” Anthony chided his sister lightheartedly. “Allow Jessie a little time to answer. You’ll overwhelm her with all of those questions!”

Flushing, Abby shrugged. “I do apologize, Jessie,” she smiled. “I suppose I’m a little excited. I simply cannot contain myself when I’m in such high dudgeon.”

Jessie took a moment to study her friend. Her flawless dress was pale pink in color, trimmed with lace around her neck. With her hair pinned around her face, she looked a little older and more mature. However, she didn’t seem to change at all, not even when they were apart for long periods of time. In many ways, when Jessie looked at Abby, she merely saw the girl she’d seen as a sister for her entire life. Now, they were sisters in the eyes of the law, too, and the thought never failed to make Jessie feel giddy.

“Do not concern yourself, Abby. I’m quite well, I assure you. My husband worries about me far too much.” Jessie paused. “As for your questions, I suspect that I am carrying a boy, but I cannot say for sure. I know Anthony would love an heir whom he can teach to fish and shoot.”

“I would love a boy or a girl,” Anthony added. “Our child will be the most beautiful baby anyone ever saw.”

“I do not doubt it,” Abby agreed. “But only if the child looks like its mother.”

Anthony glowered at his sister’s joke, but he took it in good humor. It was clear that he was happy to have Abigail there too. The siblings had obviously missed each other. More than anything, Jessie would be glad of her sister-in-law’s assistance once the baby arrived. Having her friend, now her sister too, around gave her comfort. These two people were not only her family, but they were her best friends in the world, and she loved them both.

“Perhaps we could take a turn?” Abby suggested. “My legs are still stiff from the carriage ride here, and I should like to stretch them.”

Anthony nodded. “I don’t see why not,” he agreed before turning to his wife. “Do you feel well enough?”

Rolling her eyes, she waved away his concerns. “Anthony, I’m with child, but I’m not an invalid. A walk would do me a world of good.”

The three of them walked through the large entrance doors to the house, heading out into the expansive grounds. Jessie deeply inhaled the fresh air. The air was full of the sweet scent of blooming summer flowers. Just beyond the nearside of the garden, they passed the lake. Beams of sunlight danced over it, bouncing off the rippling water as they passed it.

Jessie felt so peaceful here. She would never grow tired of living in this place. During her childhood, it had provided her with summer solace. Now, it was her home, the place where she and her husband would raise their family and grow old together.

As they quietly ventured further toward the woodland, Abby laughed aloud suddenly. “Do you recall all the times we came out here when we were children?” she asked. “All the times we raced out here?”

“Yes, of course,” Anthony replied with a nod. “We always used to race.”

“And I used to beat you,” teased Abby.

Anthony scowled playfully. “In your dreams, perhaps. You never won a single race.”

Pouting, Abby rolled her eyes. “That was only because I’m the youngest. It simply wasn’t fair. I should have gotten a head start.”

“You would have needed an hour,” Anthony shot back. “Even then, you still would have never beaten me.”

“Now, now,” Jessie intervened, giggling at the banter between the siblings. “If I recall correctly, I was the victor most times.”

They both spun to face her, stunned and chuckling. “Never,” Anthony said, shaking his head. “If I recall, there were times when I had to carry you out of here.”

“That was one time,” Jessie protested. “And it was only because I’d injured my foot falling from the treehouse.”

Before Anthony could reply, Abby clapped her hands together excitedly. “Oh, the treehouse!” she exclaimed. “How I’ve missed that place. We spent so many days whiling away the hours there. We should revisit it!”

A knowing glance passed between Jessie and Anthony as they both clearly remembered the last time they were there. Their first intimate tryst had occurred there as their physical affection had boiled over in a tangle of wanton lust and need. Tamping down the fluttering in her chest, Jessie cleared her throat and nodded.

“Yes, you’re right,” she agreed, smiling at her best friend’s enthusiasm. “It would be nice for all three of us to be there again, like we were all those years ago.”

Abby raced ahead, clearly eager to reach the treehouse, and Jessie realized that her heart had never felt so light. Over the past two years, she’d been happier than she could have envisaged. Her husband was the most attentive, loving man in the world, she was sure.

Even more importantly, she’d witnessed as he had grown and healed. From time to time, she saw evidence of the traumas he’d been through in the past, but he’d learned to open up to her when he felt his demons rising. She cherished the knowledge that he felt safe enough to be vulnerable around her. Their trust and love meant everything to Jessie.

As they reached the treehouse, Jessie shook herself out of her deep reflections and watched Abby race up the ladder. Peering down the other woman rolled her eyes.

“Can you make it up here?” Abby questioned.

Biting on her lip, Jessie glanced over at Anthony. “Would you help me up?” she asked.

“It’d be my pleasure,” he said with a smile, assisting her as she struggled up the ladder.

Panting, Jessie flopped down to the floor when she got inside. The baby was sapping all her energy, but she knew it would be worth it.

“This place has barely changed,” Abby commented. “Have you revived it, Anthony? It looks like it’s had a coat of paint.”

Anthony flushed pink and ducked his head. “Oh, a while ago,” he replied breezily. “Two years ago, I think.”

“We should come here more often,” Abby sighed. “I feel like a child again in here.”

“Me too,” agreed Jessie. “If it wasn’t for this giant bump, I could easily imagine I’m ten years old again.”

“They truly were good times,” Anthony chimed in. “But our past is something to cherish while our present is something to hold dearly every single day.”

Abby tilted her head. “You two are the most nauseating pair I know. It’s simply sickening how much in love you are. It’s even more sickening that I couldn’t be happier for you.”

“I’m glad you’re here, Abby,” Jessie said, reaching out a hand to her friend. “I’ve missed our tea parties and talks.”

“At least you have Anthony for company here,” Abby responded. “London is so boring without you. After you left, I realized how vapid most of the society ladies are. Charlotte Hughes does nothing but talk of her broken engagement to Lord Coates. If I hear her lament her heartbreak for another moment, I may scream. Please don’t even get me started on Louise King or Elizabeth Townsend! Their conversation makes my skin crawl.”

“Then perhaps we need to find you a husband to occupy your times,” jested Anthony.

Her eyes glinted playfully. “What makes you think I don’t already have someone in mind?” she giggled.

Anthony’s gaze darkened. “I certainly hope not, not without running it by me first.”

“Oh, don’t be so serious, dear brother. I know that you will adore whomever I choose in the end.”

“Anthony will surely put him through hell just on principle,” Jessie observed. “He will want to prove the man who wins your heart to be a worthy suitor.”

“As it should be,” laughed her husband. “The most important test is that he makes you happy, of course, like Jessie makes me the happiest man in the world.”

“We seem to have returned to being nauseating,” Abby joked. “But, despite all that, you deserve happiness more than anyone. After everything that happened two years ago, I can’t believe the differences between the both of you. It’s like the sun has risen.”

Jessie realized just how correct her friend was. For a long time, the moon had hung over her, but now it was obscured by the warm rays of the sun, casting its bright light over their future, and shining on a wonderful path of opportunities ahead of them. Jessie shuffled closer to her husband, leaning into her side as she relaxed in the company of her two favorite people.

Life was truly perfect, and it would only get better.

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