The Marquess’ Forbidden Touch – Extended Epilogue

2 Years Later

“Ouch!” Arabella yelped then laughed as Philip tugged on her hair. “Philip, you really must learn one of these days not to pull on my hair anymore.” She giggled as the boy in her arms continued to chuckle. With one hand, she prized the tubby little baby’s hands away from her hair. “If I didn’t love you so much, I’d be able to tell you off better, I am sure.”

“Ha!” Edwin said at her side. “You will never be able to tell him off then. Here, my little man.” Edwin took Philip out of her arms and swung him up in the air. “At least with me, you will have not so much hair to tug on.” He spun the boy around, making him laugh once more before settling him in his arms.

Arabella smiled as she watched the two of them, certain she had never been happier. Two years of happy marriage and she had their beautiful son to boot. What more could she want for? Philip was mischievous already, granted, and she feared when he began to walk just how difficult it would be to keep up with him. Yet with Edwin at her side, she was not afraid. Together, they would raise their little family.

Edwin turned to look at her, as though aware of her stare.

“You shouldn’t be looking at me, you know?” He teased then pointed ahead. “You should be looking there,” he took one arm away from Philip and used it to nudge her chin to the side.

Arabella’s eyes settled on the sight they had come to see, St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

“It is truly remarkable,” Arabella sighed, squinting through the strong sunlight in her effort to see the white and golden buildings that were dappled with light and shadows. “You came here before?”

“I did,” Edwin held Philip in one arm on his hip and offered his other arm to Arabella that she eagerly took. Together, they walked down to the tall, wide marble steps, moving closer and closer to the square that glistened. It was full of a myriad of people, of different classes and different homes. It was a true tourist spot of beauty. “But I bring you here with one particular story in mind.”

“What’s that?” Arabella turned to look at him, feeling that jolt in her stomach she always knew whenever she looked at Edwin. That jolt of excitement would never fade, she was sure of it.

“Well, I know how much you like your gothic tales,” he turned her around, “so I thought you might like to see this. It is called St. Mark’s Basilica.” In front of them was a vast white building, mounted with great domes and tiny turrets. To Arabella’s mind, it belonged much more in one of her tales than in reality.

“It barely looks real!” She laughed as he drew her nearer toward it.

“This story concerns its tallest tower,” he turned her again to see a tower place beside the Basilica. “This is St. Mark’s Campanile. The bell tower. It’s said it was once gilded in gold.”

“Oh my,” Arabella had never felt so dwarfed before. Had anyone been standing at the top, she rather expected her family would have appeared like ants to them.

“They once had a bellringer,” Edwin drew her closer and closer to the tower door. “It was said he was so tall that an old scientist wished to buy his skeleton, so the scientist offered him money to agree that when the bellringer died, he would give his skeleton to the scientist. Greedily, the bellringer agreed. Every night he went out drinking with this newly found wealth and it wasn’t long before he drank himself into an early death.”

“This is a horrible story,” Arabella said for effect scrunching up her nose.

“So it is, but the interesting part comes in what happens next,” he passed Philip into her hands. She kissed her son on the cheek, thrilled to have him back in her arms and placed him on her hip, just as Edwin turned them around. He stood behind her and with one hand tilted her chin delicately up to look at the top of the tower. “After his death, the bellringer mourned the loss of his skeleton. To this day it’s said he haunts the tower. Those who enter are subjected to his begging for alms, in his hope that he could someday buy the skeleton back from the scientist. And at night, when there’s a full moon out, he rings the bell still in the tower. Its toll can be heard all over Venice. It’s said he will keep ringing the bell until he finds his skeleton again.”

“I take it back,” Arabella smiled and turned to her husband. “It’s an intriguing story after all.”

“Wait until you hear the stories about where we are going tonight,” he looped his arm through hers and led her away again.

“The masquerade ball?” She asked, feeling her curiosity growing.

“So many tales about masquerade balls here, you will probably be bored of me telling them by the end of the night.”

“I think I can promise you, never to be bored of you!”


Arabella had found it very difficult indeed to part from Philip that night. Only when he was sound asleep in his cot did she finally let herself prepare for the ball. Walking into the great manor house, dressed in swathes of gold and cream, Arabella found her mouth parting in amazement. Not even Edwin’s tug on her arm could make her close her mouth again.

“What are you thinking?” Edwin asked as he led her around the side of the ballroom, among the men and women dressed as jesters and fine ladies, all with incredibly ornamental masks covering their features.

“I was just thinking of how much you and I have seen while we have been traveling,” Arabella said, finally dragging her eyes away from the room to look at Edwin. His handsome visage was partially covered by a black mask inlaid with gold in the Venetian style. What parts of his face were visible were all the more prominent now, including his coffee-brown eyes that were pinned to her so sharply that she felt a little breathless.

“I am glad my father let us go at last,” he sighed, “I’ve been promising to take you away since our wedding day. I did not think it would take so long!”

“He was simply looking out for Philip,” Arabella explained. “He didn’t want his grandson to be born elsewhere. He wanted me to have my confinement at home.”

“I know,” Edwin said with a shake of his head, “but I wanted to take you to explore, to see all these places that we have talked about so much.”

“Well, we are here now,” Arabella smiled up at him.

“And while we are here…” Edwin paused as music struck up. It was a dramatic sort of song, far from the delicate style you would find in England, the violins were struck loud and fast. “I think we should relive the first night we met.”

“The first night?” Arabella asked, a little breathless as Edwin drew her toward the floor. “We barely saw each other at all that night!”

“Yet it is one I shall never forget,” he drew her into the center of the floor and placed one hand on her waist, the other in her palm. Arabella wished she could feel his skin against hers, but they were separated by the white glove that covered her hand. “Do you remember what we talked of that night?” he asked as they began to move.

“How could I forget? You were rather bold, I seem to remember.” She put upon mock disapproval, earning a hearty laugh from him as he twirled her around the room and between the other masked dancers.

“You loved it.”

“How do you know I did?”

“Because you married me,” he pointed out, his grasp on her waist becoming a little tighter. Arabella bit her lip, remembering every tantalizing moment she had shared with Edwin since that night they had first danced together. Yes, their courtship had hardly been an easy one, plagued by their meddlesome parents and the Duke of Ravendale’s pursuit, but they had fallen in love anyway; over secret nights stolen together, and gothic tales shared.

“That’s because I fell in love with you,” Arabella said, her voice barely above a whisper as he spun her back the other way.

“I love you too,” he murmured in her ear, bringing the two of them so close together that in an English ballroom it would be a scandal. This was something Arabella was quickly learning on the continent. Each society appeared to have different rules and expectations as to how publicly intimate a couple were permitted to be.

“Where is it we are going next, then?” Arabella asked. “I think Philip will struggle with another long journey.”

“I’m afraid it is another long one. Budapest.”

“Budapest?” Arabella felt her voice pitch high with excitement. Ever since Edwin first told her of the place and the wolfmen that preyed upon the streets at night, she had wanted to go. Now, it was finally within reach! “For that, I am happy to put up with a long journey of Philip’s wailing.”

“He’ll settle down when he gets older,” Edwin shrugged off the idea. “I’m hoping he’ll thank us someday for taking him so far to travel.”

“I hope so too. My mother was certainly jealous when she heard of the trip.” Arabella’s thoughts went to her mother.

Since their wedding two years ago, the families had put aside their old animosities. Lord Edenwood and the Duke of Adenshire had even become friends, and though it was true the Duke and Lady Edenwood would never be on the best terms after their past, they appeared to have pushed past the worst of their discomfort, and these days were perfectly amiable company to one another.

“About Philip,” Edwin said, pulling her thoughts back to the here and now.


“When he’s older, I wish to avoid the mistakes our parents made,” Edwin spun her back the other way. “Whatever he wants to do, he can do it. If that means travel, he can do it.” His head was high, and he bore a smile. The pride he clearly had in their young son made Arabella smile all the more. “If that means defying my orders every now and then, well…”

“You’ll allow him that too?” Arabella laughed.

“I might complain about it a little, but yes, of course,” Edwin chuckled. “And finally, if he wants to marry for love, he can do that as well.”

The music came to a close and their dance ended, just as these words were uttered, yet Arabella did not feel Edwin parting from her. His hands stayed on her, and the two of them stood fixed together, staring at one another in the center of the room.

“I hope he does marry for love,” Arabella murmured, just as dances around them left the floor. “For I have never been so happy.”

“Nor I,” he smiled, then finally released her waist, though he did not let go of her hand. “Come with me.”

He led her through the dancers and the guests, out to some glass doors that looked out onto a view of Venice. They stepped out into the dark night, looking around the town that was lit by flaming lamps and the moonlight that bounced off the rivers that meandered through the streets. Edwin urged Arabella back against the wall, so that they were hidden by any of the guests who would have chosen to look out the door at that moment.

“Can you not wait?” Arabella asked with a giggle.

“I never can!” He said and captured her lips with his own.

What started out as a sweet kiss, just the slow exploration of one another, became heated within moments. Arabella could soon feel her husband pressing his body against her, along with the hardness in his trousers that pressed against her hip. He took her tongue with his own, dominating the kiss and angling her head to the side until she was breathless.

“If you keep kissing me like that,” Arabella said as he moved his lips just an inch back from hers, “I’m not going to want to wait until we get back to our lodging.”

“Then we best get back to our lodging as soon as possible,” he gave her another quick kiss on the lips.

“Why?” Arabella asked as she started peppering her with kisses down her neck.

“Because I’m planning on giving Philip a little brother or sister as soon as possible.”

Then Edwin’s teeth closed over Arabella’s neck and he gave her one of those love marks the two of them adored so much. It was a mark, a kind of symbol, that only the two of them knew about that showed they belonged to one another. He pulled back the ribbon Arabella was wearing around her neck to do it and Arabella arched up into that bite, her eyes to the sky and the full moon above.

Her life these days was more than she could ever have imagined it being, as though it had truly been written on a page of all those gothic novels. She was traveling the continent, going from mystical place to legendary building, all with her husband and her son, and at each place they stopped, Edwin was there to make her toes curl with excitement.

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  • Lovely love story. I loved the way the families came together for the marriages of their children. Great read! Congratulations!!

  • Truly enjoyed reading this book. Interesting watching the struggle and inner turmoil Edwin went through with his father and the struggle Arabella went through with her parents. Fortunately, determination and true love winning out. Andrew’s strength was a boon to all. Enjoyed Extended Epilogue as well.

    • Thank you so much for your kind feedback, dear Ann! I’m really glad you could empathize with the main characters’ struggles and that you liked the extended epilogue as well! 🙂

  • How is a young couple in love supposed to buck the Ton and their disapproving parents, especially when they don’t know the reason for the disapproval? Edwin and Arabella find a way, possibly not the wisest or safest but it gets them a happy ending. Wonderful characters and a delightful romance.

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