Two Years Later...
Georgiana was surprised to see her sister there in her sitting room. “Harri!” she said, blinking as though she thought her eyes were tricking her. “What are you doing here?”
Harriet laughed and embraced her. “It’s good to see you too,” she said teasingly. “Have you forgotten your manners as the wife of an earl? I believe you’re supposed to welcome me in and offer me a cup of tea before you start badgering me over what I’m doing here.”
Georgiana rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes,” she said impatiently. “Tea is on the way. But come, tell me why you’re here. Has something happened? Is everything all right?”
She caught her sister’s hands and led her over to the divan, sitting her down there beside her. But she immediately jumped back to her feet. “Shall I find Benedict? Is this news that we ought to share with him?”
Harriet smiled and shook her head. “We can share it with him later,” she said. “First, girl time. Now, sit down.” There was a hint of imperiousness to her tone, although it was long since the day that she had bossed her half-sister around. Georgiana still had a difficult time, sometimes, in accepting her new role in society now that she was the wife of the Marquess, but Harriet never called her on her lapses.
Of course, her lapses were never really remarked upon these days, now that she and Benedict had moved northwards for good. They had turned over the running of the estate, or at least the politics of it all, to Benedict’s cousin. They were free to simply build a comfortable home here on Benedict’s family estate, as well as dealing with the general day-to-day tasks of the land.
Still, as much as Georgiana loved it up here, she missed being close to Harriet. And there were certain aspects of life in London which she had liked. Perhaps it was time that she and Benedict return south, if only for the season.
But now is not the time for that, she thought with a small smile. She hadn’t told Harriet about that news yet. Indeed, she hadn’t even told Benedict; to be honest, she had been afraid she might lose the first pregnancy, as was rumored to happen often with young ladies carrying their first child.
Harriet, of course, saw the smile on her face and knew that something had happened. “I’ll tell you my news in a moment,” she said, frowning. “What are you smiling about? What has happened here?”
“I’m just happy to see you,” Georgiana lied. “Let’s hear your news first.”
“No, your news first,” Harriet protested. “I’ve ridden all this way. Give me a moment to breathe.”
Georgiana snorted, but to be honest, she had been bursting to tell the news to someone for weeks now, ever since she had found out. “I’m pregnant,” she blurted out, cupping her hand under the slight bump beneath her dress. It was still such a small bump, barely visible. Any larger than that and she was certain that Benedict would have noticed.
After all, he knew her body better than she did at this point. The thought was enough to make her blush, but she felt no shame. Their first year of marriage had gone well, and their second was proving to be better yet. She didn’t think that she would ever tire of the man, and she was suffused with joy at the thought that he felt the same way about her.
Harriet’s eyes widened and then she gave her sister a big hug. “Georgie! That’s wonderful news. Why hadn’t you told me?”
“I’m not that far along yet,” Georgiana cautioned her. “And according to Lady Ruffington, it’s still very likely that I may lose this babe.” She paused and then smiled. “But I’m hoping that I keep him. He’ll be a strong little man, with all of his father’s charm.”
“You can’t possibly know that he’ll be a boy,” Harriet protested.
Georgiana smiled serenely. “Well, if it’s a girl, I hope she grows up to be just as smart and willful as her auntie,” she said.
Harriet shook her head in marvel. “Me, an auntie,” she said. “And here I had just gotten used to the idea that I was a sister!” She was smiling at the thought of it, though. “Of course, I will have to be the godmother. To make sure that she is raised to be a proper lady.”
“I would entrust her upbringing to no one else,” Georgiana said seriously. She paused. “Besides, she’ll need someone to spoil her rotten.”
Harriet laughed. “Yes, I will do that as well,” she promised.
“So come, you know my news,” Georgiana said. “What is yours? What brings you here?”
“Can’t you give me more time to relax first?” Harriet asked, and Georgiana could tell that she was just trying to draw out the mystery, all for the sake of drama. She rolled her eyes. No matter how close they had grown over the past year and a half, some things about Harriet never changed.
“You rode here once before trying to run away from a match,” Georgiana reminded her. “And back then, you were speaking from nearly the moment you burst through the front door. Why should this time be any different?”
Harriet smiled. “Perhaps I’m simply trying not to trump your good news,” she teased. “But then, I suppose it’s not nearly as exciting as a pregnancy. However, it is something that I wanted to tell you in person.”
Again, she paused. Georgiana was practically on the edge of her seat waiting to hear. “Well, what is it?” she asked. Then, worriedly: “It’s not bad news, is it? Everything is all right with father?”
“Yes, everything is fine with him,” Harriet said. Then, clearly unable to hold back any longer: “Lord Grey has proposed! We are to be married.”
Georgiana’s eyes went wide with surprise. For a moment, she could barely react. Then, she gave her sister another hug. “Oh Harriet, I’m so happy for you,” she said, her tone sincere.
The courtship of Lady Harriet had been a long and drawn-out process. Georgiana knew that their father had been exasperated as Harriet turned down suitor after suitor, but he had humored the young lady, allowing her to choose whom she wished to marry.
She could never properly explain why she refused to marry men whom she seemed to like, and who were so besotted with her, and who had all the resources to provide for her. To be honest, Georgiana didn’t really understand her. But after all, as Harriet liked to remind her, Georgiana had never faced a courtship that didn’t suit her. She had met her soulmate on the first try.
Georgiana remembered when Lord Grey had first begun to chase Harriet. She hadn’t appreciated his attentions, calling him ‘remarkably dull, if attractive’. It seemed that things had certainly changed. Georgiana had the tact not to remind her of that now, however.
“I can’t believe that soon you too will be a married woman,” Georgiana marveled. She could barely picture Harriet as a wife. Then again, it was high time for the lady to settle down a little. Not that she ever expected Lady Harriet to be a docile sort of wife.
“I know,” Harriet sighed, flopping against the back of the divan. She shook her head. “I don’t know the first thing about being wed. You will have to tell me everything.” She paused, worrying her lower lip between her teeth and for the moment looking very un-Harriet. “I do not wish to do anything that Lord Grey will dislike.”
Georgiana smiled. “I’ll tell you everything,” she promised. She laughed. “If you could help me become a proper lady, then I’m sure that I can help you become a proper wife.”
She and Harriet shared a grin.
“When shall the wedding be?” Georgiana asked Harriet.
“Soon,” she said decisively. She gave her sister a crooked grin. “I must admit that there are certain parts of my wifely duties that I am rather looking forward to.”
Georgiana giggled. “It won’t be all that good the first time, but it gets better and better,” she said authoritatively.
“Why won’t it be good the first time?” Harriet asked.
“We can speak of that later,” Georgiana said, happy to have her own mysteries for once. “Come, help me prepare dinner.”
“That will not be a wifely duty in my household,” Harriet declared, wrinkling her nose. “Why don’t you have a cook?”
Georgiana laughed. “I like cooking,” she said defensively. “In any case, we have a cook, and she will cook more when the baby is born. But for now, we allow her time to stay home and care for her aging uncle.”
Harriet shook her head. “After I spent such a long time teaching you how to be a proper lady,” she sighed.
Georgiana grinned at her sister. “Well, Benedict certainly seems to appreciate my cooking. And he shows me his appreciation in ways that I also appreciate.”
Harriet looked interested at that. “How?” she asked.
Georgiana gave her an enigmatic smile and led the way into the kitchen. Harriet laughed and followed after her.
“So, what’s the rest of the gossip from London?” Georgiana asked as she worked.
Harriet munched on a piece of hard cheese as she thought about it. “There’s a lot that you’ve missed,” she said. “I’m not the only person who will be married soon.”
“Tell me!” Georgiana said in surprise.
She listened intently as Harriet told her all about what was happening in London at the moment. Georgiana could still hardly believe that this was her life. If someone had told her a scant few years ago that she was the daughter of an earl, and that she was to be married to a marquess, Georgiana would never have believed it. Yet somehow, everything had come together to be just as it should be.
Benedict came into the kitchen as she was putting the finishing touches on the meal. “Smells delicious,” he said, smiling at her and giving her a warm kiss. He wrapped his arms around Georgiana from behind, and she could feel him stiffen.
Suddenly, he pulled away from her and spun her around, his eyes searching. He pressed a hand to her stomach, but he didn’t seem to know what to say. Georgiana’s smile gave it away, however.
Harriet groaned. “You didn’t tell him?” she asked her sister. “I thought there were to be no more secrets between the two of you.”
But neither Georgiana nor Benedict were paying any attention to her. Georgiana smiled tentatively at her husband and nodded once. “I am,” she said quietly.
Benedict swept her into his arms, kissing her passionately. “When are you due?” he asked. “How long have you known?”
Georgiana laughed breathlessly. “I’m not due for a while yet,” she said. “And there’s a chance that we might still lose the baby.”
“Not my stubborn wife,” Benedict said, a smile on his face as he shook his head. “You’ll carry that baby through sheer will alone; I know that you will.”
Georgiana grinned, appreciating as always his unshakeable faith in her.
Suddenly, he frowned and turned to Harriet. “But that doesn’t explain why you are here, not that we’re not happy to have you.”
Harriet grinned. “I’m to be married to Lord Grey,” she announced. “Although that seems like such small news in comparison.”
Benedict laughed. “Small news? You being engaged? I think most of the ton would disagree! Most thought this day would never come.”
Harriet laughed unselfconsciously. “I suppose so,” she agreed.
Georgiana smiled. No, if you told me a few years ago that I would have a family like this, I would never have believed you. But I am certainly not complaining!
She looked from her beloved husband to her beloved sister, knowing that she was due to bring a beloved child into the world, and everything felt absolutely right. She had never imagined that she would marry, and certainly not that she would marry a man that she might love. She had never imagined that she would leave behind Lady Ruffington’s estate, not that she had gone all that far.
But at the end of it all, she knew that she would never have wished for things to be otherwise. This was the most perfect life that she could have imagined.
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