What a Duchess Wants – Extended Epilogue

Two years later…

Will lay by the water’s edge and trailed his hands in the stream. It was a lovely warm day, and he was looking forward to a swim.

“Are you ready yet?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Not long,” Rose assured him.

“You can’t keep a man waiting forever, you know.”

“He’s greedy,” Rose laughed. “What can I say? At least we know where he gets it from.”

Will rolled over onto his back and looked at his wife, sitting with her back against their tree, nursing their son. The sunlight streamed through the trees over her head, casting a lovely dappled pattern all around them both.

“One day, we will have to tell him the story of all of this,” Will said.

“We might leave some bits out,” Rose laughed.

“I thought you said we would have no secrets,” Will smiled.

“Only from him,” she laughed again. “For propriety’s sake.”

“Do you miss living here?” Will asked, watching the scudding clouds.

She was already shaking her head. “I don’t miss anything as long as I am with you.”

Will turned a sultry gaze on her.

“I believe it is my turn,” he said, noting his son had fallen asleep mid-feed.

“Will!” She laughed, kicking out at him with her feet as he crawled towards her like a crocodile. “You’ll disturb the baby.”

“Then, put him down, woman. His time is up.”

“Hello!” The shouted greeting came through the trees.

“We’re over, here.” Rose shouted.

Will collapsed down on his stomach and banged his fists on the grass overdramatically. “Dammit,” he cursed, as Rose was still laughing.

“Better now than five minutes later!”

She stood up, holding the baby in her arms.

“Speak for yourself,” he ground out as he grabbed for her ankle. She deftly avoided him.

“Mary,” she called. “This way.”

“We should have blindfolded them all two years ago,” Will said to the grass.

Tara and Theo came hurling through the trees, screaming with delight, with Jacob and Mary close behind. They jumped on Will, who started tickling them mercilessly. Mary was balancing her toddler on her arm.

“Happy Anniversary,” Mary exclaimed as Jacob set down their picnic basket. The children left Will to rush to see the baby.

“Careful,” Mary cautioned, then she stopped dead as she saw the infant lying in Rose’s arms and raised a hand to her mouth.

“Oh! Rose. Look at him. Look at you!” She kept looking from the baby to his mother and back again. “He’s so sweet and peaceful. I can’t believe it.”

“You would if you were in our home at two o’clock in the morning,” Will said, coming to put an arm around his wife.

“Don’t listen to him, Mary. One peep out of the baby, and he is at his side before I have even had the time to get to my feet.”

“What have you decided to call him?” she asked, gently moving part of the blanket away so she could see him better.

“Ben. Benjamin Browning, For Will’s father.”

“Of course. It’s perfect. Can I hold him? Let’s swap.”

Rose took her twenty-month-old niece and handed over her two-month-old son.

“I can’t believe it either, Mary,” Rose confided. “But the way Will is going, we will have ten before you know it.”

“I don’t hear you complaining, my love,” Will ran his fingers through the hair at the nape of her neck.

“Will! Will.” Tavy held her arms out for her uncle, and Will took her gladly, but then she demanded to be put down to run after her sister.

Jacob stood up from the picnic basket and slapped Will on the back.

“So, how are you enjoying fatherhood?”

Will grinned ruefully at him. “Let’s just say it’s inconvenient at times.”

“It’s been two years. You can’t be newlyweds forever.”

“Where does it say that?” Will asked in mock surprise.

Then it was Jacob’s turn to laugh. “Who am I kidding? I’m still mad about her.” He looked over at Mary. “But please don’t give her any ideas about a fourth.”

“When are John and Charlotte getting here?” Mary asked.

Will shook his head. “I still can’t believe she chose him over me.”

Rose punched him in the arm. “Well, I am rather glad she did.”

“As far as I understand, you chose Rose over her,” chided Mary.

“Dear Mary,” Rose said, hugging her sister. “Always the peacemaker.”

“What? It’s true!”

“Of course it is,” Will insisted, kissing Rose.


The four adults turned as they heard a call from across the fields.

“Seriously. He can never find it.” Will said and went out of the clearing to wave John in. He and Charlotte were picking their way across the field towards him. As the pair grew closer, Will realized there was something very different about Charlotte. John was being very attentive, and Charlotte was laughing uproariously, her face positively glowing. And then it struck him.

“Are you with child?” Will asked Charlotte as they came within five feet of each other.

“And a good afternoon to you too, Mr. Browning,” his friend said, feigning indignance.

“No, seriously,” Will stopped her with a hand outstretched. “Tell me now. Am I right?”

Charlotte smiled sweetly, and John looked cock-a-hoop.

“Just call me Papa,” John said, and Will whooped with delight.

“What is all the noise about?” Mary came around the tree, and Will told her, and for the next five minutes, there was a total melee in Will and Rose’s clearing; as parents laughed, children screeched, and a tiny baby woke up realizing he had been short-changed. Will stood looking at the people around him, wondering how different his life had become; from the alienated existence of a single man, to being just one spoke in a greater wheel of life, full of happiness, excitement, and surprises. He knew which one he preferred.

He also knew that they would keep coming back here every year on the anniversary of their wedding until Ben would have to bring them in their bath chairs.

The story of Will and Rose was in the trees, the leaves, the grass, the stream—in the very fabric of everything he could see around him right now. They belonged to this place, this town, these people, and however far away their paths might take them, there would always be one little place of England forever theirs.

The End

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  • Rose sure was stubborn. There was no reason to continue to insist on marrying her dead husband”s brother. Will could easily have proposed a second time in a more loving manner. And to not know that it was Will that she was marrying until last minute.

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