Marquess of Seduction – Extended Epilogue

Eighteen months later…

 “Do be careful, Thomas,” Emily called. The little boy chased after a little corgi Emily and Michael recently acquired.

Imogen looked up and smiled as Thomas chuckled.

“He is quite safe. He is under the watchful eye of Mama and Papa and the Dowager Duchess.”

She nodded with her chin towards her parents and Colin’s mother, all of whom were walking nearby, their eyes fixed on the little boy.

“I suppose. I think because I am with child again, I feel more cautious. It is peculiar how being with child changes one’s view of the world. I know he is perfectly safe, but I still feel worried so often,” Emily said and placed her hand on her rounded stomach.

Imogen beamed as she nodded. “Indeed, I found I did not feel like myself either. During the first half of it, I was more elated than usual and the second half found me in a rather rotten mood. Poor Colin, he had to be content with a wife who was—”

“Just as wonderful as always, if slightly more irritable.” Colin interrupted as he and Michael approached and sat beside them.

“Oh, Colin, that is why I married you. You always know when to flatter me, even when it is not true. But I know I was rather horrid to you,” Imogen acknowledged while her son squirmed in her arms.

Colin shook his head and placed one hand on hers as she cradled the baby. “On the contrary. I found your firey demeanor reminiscent of the early days of our courtship. He kissed Imogen’s cheek and her heart swelled as she looked from her husband down to the little bundle in her arms. Their son, Robert, had been born two months prior and today was the very first day she had dared to bring him out of the house.

They were hosting her parents and Colin’s widowed mother at Darlington Manor. She had to admit that having both her mother and mother-in-law nearby to assist her with the child had greatly eased her worry about being a first-time mother.

Of course, she had Emily living just across the lake but since she was in the sixth month of her second pregnancy, she had not wanted to trouble her too much.

And, as it turned out, the Dowager Duchess was well-versed in childrearing. Imogen had no idea how she had such knowledge. Colin and his brother Thomas, like most well-to-do children, were raised by governesses and nurses. Anyone who saw the Dowager Duchess with her grandchild, on the other hand, would have thought she was born to swaddle and burp a child.

In contrast to the conventions of high society, Imogen and Colin had decided to forgo the use of a wet nurse and a governess. Instead, they intended to raise their son and any other children they might be blessed with on their own.

“Michael, why can you not flatter me the way Colin flatters Imogen?” Emily said; interrupting the pleasant silence.

Michael grew pale in the face as he stammered, much to the amusement of Emily and Imogen.

“Old chum, you ought to know by now when your wife is teasing you,” Colin laughed, and Michael relaxed.

“Oh, of course she is,” he muttered. Emily looked at Imogen and Colin.

“I find a little teasing from time to time greatly eases the mood. But I will confess I have been rather difficult to please these last couple of weeks.” She patted Michael’s hand with a tender smile. “However, my dear husband has greatly eased my irritability by supplying me with endless sweetmeats from the spring festival.”

Imogen’s eyebrows shot up. “The festival has already begun?”

Michael nodded. “Indeed. Yesterday. I saw your friend, the palm reader. She sent her very best wishes and wondered when you might call on her.”

“Oh, Imogen, I wonder what she has to tell you. Maybe she will foretell another child,” Emily said, only half-joking.

The previous year Imogen and Colin had gone to the spring festival to see Miriam, and the woman had, quite without prompting, predicted both birth and death in the family.

Imogen already knew that Miriam was frighteningly accurate, so it had not come as a terrible shock when the former Duke of Dellington died from a heart attack not two months later. What had come as a shock was that she was with child, for she’d assumed it would be Emily.

She and Colin had tried for a child almost since their wedding day but to no avail. As she looked down at her perfect sleeping baby, she could hardly believe how lucky she had been. She knew that Colin would never have left her or mistreated her just because she could not have a child but being able to carry one to term had been one of the most satisfying and joyous events of her entire life.

Since the birth, she had found it increasingly difficult to part with the baby but being overprotective seemed to run in the family, as evidenced by Emily’s present fretting over her son. He ran towards his grandparents in his little yellow skeleton suit, his blond hair flying behind him.

“Michael,” Emily said, “help me up, please. I wish to follow Thomas.”

“Dear, your parents and Colin’s mother are watching him.”

Emily scowled at her husband. “They are elderly and cannot be trusted to run after a two-year-old. Please, do not be difficult.”

Michael looked at her open-mouthed, and Emily swiftly snapped her lips together. Then she shook her head and dropped her shoulders. “Do you see? I fly into a frenzy at a moment’s notice.”

“At least you know those moods will pass once you have your child.” Imogen encouraged her sister because she knew this to be true.

“Indeed. I wish it were that time already. Seeing you with your little one makes me long to hold one in my arms again.” Emily beamed, and then she and Michael walked toward their parents and little Thomas.

“Poor Michael. I do not know who this has been harder for, him or Emily.” Colin said with a smirk.

“You imply pregnancy is as hard on a gentleman as a lady?” Imogen asked with tension in her voice.

Colin raised his hands as if to calm her but she broke into a chuckle and leaned her head against Colin’s. “I was just teasing you. I am grateful that my moods have not been as volatile as hers. Poor Emily. She suffered from all of the maladies that could possibly occur. Swollen ankles, fainting spells.” She shook her head. “I have been blessed.”

Indeed, she had been. Aside from the last couple of months where she had been prone to burst into tears, her pregnancy had been easy.

“We both have, haven’t we, Colin? Can you believe our life? Isn’t it marvelous?”

“We have a beautiful home, your sister and my dearest friend are nearby, I have made peace with my mother and your parents could not be happier. On top of that, the scandal that marred our early days has long been forgotten.”

The last couple of years had indeed been remarkable. Nevertheless, there were days when Imogen could not quite believe her luck. She had been unhappy for so long that waking up without that horrible sense of dread pushing down upon her chest seemed like a gift every day. Robert squirmed in her arms, diverting her attention.

“May I?” Colin asked and stretched out his arms. Carefully she transferred the wriggling bundle into his arms and watched as he beamed down at his child.

“Isn’t he perfect? Just perfect.” Colin said and then addressed their son. “I ensure you have a wonderful life and know you are loved every day,” he murmured to the little one and Imogen’s heart almost melted in her chest. The love that she saw Colin bestow on their son every day made her fall in love with him even more, something she never thought possible.

While her parents had loved her, Colin had never experienced the tender loving care that parents were supposed to show their children. And yet it came naturally to him.

He did everything he could to assist with Robert. He awoke in the middle of the night to soothe, comfort, sing, and even tell him stories. There were stories about his journey to China and his daring ride through the forest on Prometheus. And tales of Imogen and their adventures over the last few years.

When he looked up at her, she saw his eyes were glistening with tears.

“I long for the day when he shall be old enough to learn archery and horseback riding. Would you consider the age of three too young?”

Imogen giggled. “I dare say it will be. Perhaps a pony? We can speak to Michael of this. After all, he has the largest breeding operation in southern England.”

“Indeed. I look forward to it. And perhaps in the future, Robert will have a little sister, and we’ll teach him to look after her just like you and Emily always looked after one another. And perhaps a little brother.”

“For a man who did not care whether he had an heir or not, you are certainly planning for a large family now.”

“Not an heir,” he stated sternly. “I did not care about an heir, and I still do not. It is true – had we not been blessed with a child, I would still consider us blessed. Yet his presence has brought so much more joy.  And having more children will only increase that joy. After all, we have many a house to fill.”

It was true. While they had sold the vineyard and the London house, they had kept the Edinburgh cottage, and their estate had only grown now that Colin was duke. Colin’s mother remained at the Penningbrick home and was in charge of their country seat, but he had control over other holdings. They didn’t use them very often.

When they did travel, they usually returned home after a few days because they missed Darlington Manor. Kent represented home to them, and it served as a sanctuary and safe haven.

Robert quieted in his father’s arms, and Imogen placed her head against Colin’s shoulder, peering down at the little boy.

“He has brought us such joy. And I believe you are right. We ought to give him a brother or sister. Or both. Faith, Colin. I can picture it now. Darlington Manor full of children, full of happiness.”

“I can see it too. We have been lucky, Imogen. We have been blessed, and we continue to be,” he said.

“We ought to call on Miriam,” Imogen said. “Not to pose more questions – but to thank her. For if she had not given me that clip, we might never have seen the signs.”

“I agree,” Colin said. “We ought to go this afternoon. After all, our love truly began at the fair and she was a big part of that.” He let out a sigh and looked across the lake at their family. “To think it all started with a palm reading.”

“And to think it grew into this. Our happy family united, at peace, and with a future bright before us.”

Imogen allowed tranquility to wash over her and, with Colin by her side, she breathed in the fresh air and smelled her son’s sweet scent. She realized that the life she’d always imagined was now right there – all around her.

The End

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  • I really enjoyed this book. Society demanded high standards of behaviour for women but not so high for men. Consequently, a woman’s reputation was sometimes mistakenly put at risk, despite no fault of her own. Would the fortune teller be able to predict how Colin and Imogen work together to overcome society’s prejudices and find true love? An intriguing story.

  • Really enjoyed reading this book. When I finished the extended epilogue, I was hoping there was an extended extended one.

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