This Beast Holds a Title – Extended Epilogue

Three years later…

“Oh, Alice, they have been talking for almost an hour now. Do you think it a bad sign?” Christine fretted as she paced up and down the porch of Alice and Silas’s country home. The girl—or rather, the young woman—perched on a chair at the large round table where the family still often congregated to take their meals.

Alice sat beside her sister-in-law and placed a hand on her back. “Don’t fret too much, Christine. You know how Silas is around Henry. The two of them talk about one thing and then another and then another, and before they realize it, they’ve yarned away the hours.”

Christine nodded, but the worry remained on her face. It was understandable, of course. Christine had quietly admired Henry Lancaster, the son of a local diamond merchant, from afar for almost a year before confessing her feelings to Alice. Upon discovering that Christine was not just suffering from a case of calf love, Alice had taken matters into her own hands.

She had arranged a ball at their home for the local community and ensured Henry Lancaster and his entire family attended. Of course, since she’d been with child at the time, she’d taken advantage of both her mother and Aunt Blythe’s help. They’d eagerly granted their assistance, and the ball had been a smashing success—and the first of what had become an annual event.

Of course, the ball hadn’t just been a success in and of itself. It had had the desired effect when it came to Christine as well. The couple had danced together not just once, but twice—unheard of in society’s circles, as usually when one danced with one partner more than once, it was a declaration of one’s intentions.

And Henry Lancaster’s intentions had been clear. He’d asked Silas’s permission to court Christine, and the two had embarked on a brief but enchanting courtship. One interrupted only when Henry had been called to serve in His Majesty’s Royal Navy. Separated for more than a year, Christine had whiled away the hours by working on her accomplishments. By the time Henry had returned earlier that year, she’d become skillful with watercolors and had learned to play the harp.

Alice doubted that either activity would prove useful as a Navy officer’s wife, but she didn’t begrudge her sister-in-law the entertainment. After all, Alice still enjoyed sitting in the cabin in the woods with her books whenever she could. These days that wasn’t often, as with two small children, her time was often limited and—

“They’re coming out!” Aunt Blythe called in an excitable voice as she hastened out of the French doors and into the garden.

Christine gasped and jumped up. “They are? How does Silas look? Pleased?” Alice grinned and took Christine’s hand. The girl had been at sixes and sevens ever since Henry, who’d been back from his deployment at sea for six months now, had gone into Silas’s study to make an offer earlier that morning.

Alice already knew what Silas’s answer would be. He adored Henry and would certainly not stand in the way of their young love. Alice had told Christine as much, but her sister-in-law had a habit of fretting even when she didn’t need to.

“Delighted,” Aunt Blythe announced, and a moment later, the delighted gentlemen exited the doors and joined the waiting ladies in the garden.

Christine gripped Alice’s hand so tightly she worried her bones might break, but she couldn’t complain. She’d done the same thing to Christine the previous year when she’d given birth to her son, George. Now, as then, the outcome of an intensely stressful period was wonderful, because Henry beamed at her. His bright green eyes sparkled when he approached Christine.

Silas stopped at the top of the stairs while Henry walked on toward his beloved.

“Well, Alice, it seems we have a wedding to plan!” he announced with a gleaming grin. Aunt Blythe clapped her hands together while Christine yipped in delight.

“A wedding, how lovely! And when, pray, shall this joyous event take place?”

She looked at the young couple while Alice made her way to Silas, whose hand was already outstretched to take hers.

“As soon as possible,” Henry said, and Christine nodded.

Aunt Blyth shimmied her shoulders at this and took the two of them by the arms as she led them to the table. “Well, then. Let us sit and discuss the joyous event. Say, Alice, where is your mother? I know she will wish to help us with the planning, do you not think so?”

“I am certain,” Alice replied. “She is with the children, but I shall fetch her.”

“I’ll accompany you. I will gladly host the wedding and pay for everything. However, I am a poor planner, Henry,” Silas confessed and chuckled while Henry nodded.

“I can already see that it would be best for me to allow the ladies to plan the entire event,” he replied.

“A clever man you picked, Christine, clever indeed,” Silas replied while Alice shook her head with a smile.

They entered the coolness of the manor, and she noted how Silas dabbed his scarred skin with a handkerchief. She knew the heat always troubled his burned skin, and right now, in the middle of August, the sun could be relentless.

“Shall we take the children into the library and open the windows?” she asked and linked her arm under his. He flashed a bright smile and nodded.

“That would be lovely.”

After almost four years of marriage, Alice no longer had to ask or comment when it came to what helped and what hurt Silas’s scars. She already knew. Sitting in with the windows open, allowing a breeze to enter and caress his skin rather than irritate it. As they ascended the staircase toward their children’s chambers, she resolved to bring cool water to their chamber that night to cool his skin when they went to bed. This, combined with his usual potions, worked wonders for his irritable skin.

“Christine seems happy,” she said, and he gave a small nod.

“As is Henry. I can’t tell you how delighted I am to have him for a brother-in-law. He is truly a lovely chap, and his family are upstanding people.”

“But?” Alice asked. She knew Silas’s tone, and there was certainly something in it.

“But it will not be seen as a good match by our fellow lords and ladies of high society,” he said. “They will consider Henry beneath our touch.”

Alice shrugged. This might have been a problem if Christine had any desire to reside in London or partake in any of the activities in the city. But she didn’t. While her coming-out ball and the Season that had followed had been filled with trips to London, Christine had soon tired of the atmosphere and the marriage mart. And since meeting Henry, she’d hardly left the country at all. Henry equally adored Hertfordshire and was unlikely to wish to leave.

She reiterated this to Silas, who shrugged. “I suppose you are right. I simply worry about her. Do you suppose that will ever stop?”

Alice shook her head. “I should think not. She and I might only be sisters by marriage, but I worry about her all the time as well. Although I will say that while Henry is not noble by birth, he is certainly of noble character.”

He grinned at her. “That was rather poetic. You ought to try your hand at writing poetry sometime, dearest.”

A peal of laughter escaped her, and she shook her head. “I should think not. There is but one poet in this family, and for a good reason. I dare say I…”

“Are you talking about the new tome?” Alice’s mother asked as she stepped out of Rose’s room with George in her arms and Rose beside her. “When is it going to be available? Lady Solenshire has questioned me about it, as has Lady Harriet.”

At the mention of her old friend, Alice’s shoulders grew stiff. She’d seen Harriet a few times while in London, but their friendship had never quite recovered, given how Harriet had turned from Alice after her marriage to Silas.

“In January,” Silas replied. “And I trust that you have kept to our agreement?” he tilted his head to one side while Alice’s mother winked at him.

“The mysterious, unnamed nobleman, yes. I remember. Nobody shall know the name of the author. Although I must confess, it is awfully difficult to keep this to myself. I would love nothing more than to tell all the world that my son-in-law is a celebrated poet.”

Alice smiled grandly because she could understand her mother’s sentiments well. She too wanted to tell all the world that her husband was not only a respected member of the House of Lords, a hero who’d been injured while attempting to save his father, but also a gifted poet who’d published two poetry books in as many years, with a third to follow soon. Alas, he remained shy when it came to his poetry, and nobody but the gentleman who published his work knew his true identity.

“I know it is a difficult secret to keep,” Silas said, jest in his voice. “And I appreciate your efforts. Now, your company is desired by my aunt and Christine.”

The dowager duchess’s eyes grew wide. “Faith, are they planning the wedding? I shall tend to them at once.” She bent down and pinched Rose’s cheek. “Grandmother will take you on our walk later, yes?”

“Yes, Grandmother,” Rose replied.

Alice’s mother rose to her full height again and handed George over to her. Suddenly, her face lit up.

“Alice,” her mother exclaimed. “I almost forgot. Have you heard the news?”

“News?” Alice asked and took George from her mother.

“I read it in the London Gazette just this morning. Lord Morendale is getting married as well.”

Alice drew her eyebrows together and looked at Silas; however, given his aversion to gossip of any kind, he’d already turned his attentions toward Rose. He was presently busy following her into her chamber and toward her rocking horse.

“I no longer read the scandal sheets, Mother. You know this,” she replied, a little vexed.

“It wasn’t in the scandal sheets,” her mother defended herself. “But in the regular paper. Apparently, he is getting married to another friend of yours. Lady Francine.”

Alice blinked, for Lady Francine was at least twenty years younger than Lord Morendale. Then again, Morendale hadn’t succeeded in finding a wife for some years now, and Lady Francine had been declared on the shelf more than once by various publications.

“Well, I suppose that is rather fortunate for him, is it not?” Alice replied, not wishing to start a quarrel with her mother.

“It is, although I will say, her match will not be anything like yours,” she winked and smiled broadly at Alice and Silas.  “The two of you have found something truly remarkable and rare. Love.”

With that, she left the two of them alone to tend to their children. Silas shook his head as he watched her leave.

“If anyone had told me four years ago that the Dowager Duchess of Avonwood would ever consider it fortunate that her daughter married a man like me, I would have called them a liar to their face.”

“Not just you, my dear. Not just you. She has changed a lot since my cousin was removed from her life,” Alice said and rocked George in her arms. Truly, her mother was a different woman now that she did not spend as much time in London. And with Pierce forever banished to Newgate Prison, she knew her mother and their entire family would be safe from his unpleasant influence.

“Shall we go to the library? I am rather warm myself,” Alice said and Silas nodded, gratitude in his eyes.

“Library?” Rose asked. “Read?”

“Yes, dear. I will read to you,” Alice said, delighted that her daughter had as much of a passion for books as she and Silas did. Together, the four entered into the library, and while she and George settled into the armchair near the open window, she watched Silas and Rose pick out a book.

The library had expanded a great deal and now included a great many books suitable for children, as well as several more volumes of Silas’s poems. He still wrote with regularity, but kept the more personal poems from being published. Alice smiled as her eyes fell on one leather-bound book, which contained love poems dedicated to her.

She watched her husband and as she did, she marveled once more at just how fortunate she’d been to find him. He was truly a gift, and even though she had not realized it upon their first meeting, he was made for her—just as she was made for him. It was true, they quarreled at times, as most couples did, but theirs were never serious arguments. Too similar were they in their way of thinking.

They understood one another so well that even if they disagreed, they could still see the other’s point of view and thus, even their most unpleasant moments always ended up bringing them closer. Yes, Silas was not just her husband, he was her best friend.

“A sixpence for your thoughts,” he said teasingly, referencing one of their first conversations. He took a seat in the chair beside her, Rose on his knee.

“It is nothing, dear. I was just thinking how lucky I am to have you. To have this. All of this. Thank you for giving me this life,” she said, surprised at the slight quiver in her voice.

Silas took her hand and gently kissed each of her fingers. “It is I who has been blessed, and I who ought to thank you. I never thought I could be so happy again. But I am. And I have been for a long time, thanks to you. I love you, beautiful Alice.”

“And I you, Silas, my love.”

And then, he let go of her hand and opened the book as their son slept in her arms and Rose squealed with delight. Alice leaned back and listened to the sound of Silas’s voice as he read to them all and in her heart, the now familiar sense of peace and contentment settled once more.

This was her life. And it was truly a blessed one.

The End

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  • I greatly enjoyed Alice and Silas’s love story. They were definitely “made for each other!” Their story made me laugh, cry, shudder (at times), and love them as I raced to read their “happily ever-after ending”. Alice has become “My Hero” for being the wonderful woman she is. We need more “Alice(es) in the world today!!

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  • Absolutely loved this story and it’s marvelous characters. It’s been a long time since I read a book that charmed me so much and kept me reading until I fell asleep. The one negative I have is please find a better proofreader. Thank you so much for such a delightful story.

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