The Newberry Mansion
Ten Years Later...
Emmeline stood with her eight-year-old son, Samuel Jacob, at her side in the wide foyer of Newberry Manor, waiting. A carriage carrying her mother, her brother George, his Duchess, Ann, their son, John, and their three-month-old daughter Elizabeth, was due to arrive soon. Her hands were clasped over her silken maroon dress as she stood.
The spiced scent of the burning Yule Log and beeswax candles flickering in the windows was heady. Delicate cookies, decorated with sugar frosting and cakes with gilded paper trimmings, were arrayed on platters, giving off enticing smells. Everything in the manor spoke of the spirit of Christmas, as did outside, the light white flakes drifting to the ground and blanketing the ground in snow.
“Mother,” Samuel groaned, while tipping on his toes to look through the closest window, “Why are they always so late?”
Slanting an eye to her dark tow-headed son, sporting tawny eyes like hers, but having Noah’s ruddy skin, shifting uneasily on his feet, Emmeline didn’t know whether to huff or smile that her son had inherited his father’s impatience. “Samuel, be patient. Your Aunt has recently had a confinement, so it is not easy to–”
The sound of a trundling carriage came through the air and Emmeline had to place a hand on her son’s shoulder–who was about to dart outside–to stop him. An annoyed look, again too much like his father’s, was shot to her but Emmeline ignored it. “Wait, Samuel.”
A soft huff was the only other sound as Cole, now older with streaks of gray hair, opened the door and greeted the Leverton family. A heavily-wrapped Ann rushed in to avoid the bracing cold of winter, with her son John running before her. Emmeline’s mother, now the Dowager Duchess of Leverton, entered just behind her. Only then did Emmeline release Samuel, and the two boys ran to each other while the mothers shared their greetings.
“Em!” Ann called over as their eyes met. Holding her infant daughter, she carefully hugged her sister-in-law. “How are you, my dear friend?”
“I’d ask the same question,” Emmeline asked, while tugging the swaddling wrap around the face of the baby girl and smiling at the pudgy red face of the sleeping child. “But I see you’re doing fine. Mother, how are you doing?”
“Just fine, Emmeline,” her mother replied, while removing her outer gloves from her hands, “I’m enjoying being a grandmother again.”
George was the last to come in and as he did, he brushed the dust of the snowflakes off his dark coat and scowled. “Dratted snow.”
“Uncle George!” Samuel rushed to his uncle.
The Duke smiled at his nephew, “Samuel, my boy! You’re growing too fast for my liking.”
“Are you disrespecting my bloodline, Leverton?” Noah’s teasing voice called from the adjoining room, “I could say the same for John, but I, on the other hand, was born with manners.”
“Oh, be done.” Ann smiled while rolling her eyes, “You’re looking well, Duke.”
“As are you, Duchess,” Noah smiled warmly before holding out his hand to George. “Welcome.”
“Ah!” Noah’s mother called as she entered the room, “We’re all here, how wonderful. Where is my other dear boy?”
“Right here!” John’s calm voice, scarily like George’s when he was younger, rang out as he hugged his grandmother. She kissed him on his forehead and said, “You’re growing so fast I cannot keep up. Well, please get settled, as supper will be served in an hour. Patricia, I have a wonderful kettle of tea and some delicious eclairs in my sitting room. Let’s go talk.”
While the two older ladies went off to share gossip, and Noah engaged George in business talk, Emmeline and Samuel followed Ann and her son John up to the rooms set aside from them. When the boys went off to their rooms, chattering their heads off, Emmeline sat on a soft chaise and watched as Ann gently lay her infant in a bassinet.
The Duchess of Leverton removed her coat to reveal a lovely green gown before she sat down.
“It still seems like a dream, doesn’t it?” Emmeline was the first to speak. Newberry Manor was her home–one filled with the love of the man she married, after such a harrowing courtship. The Duke of Newberry, their son Samuel, her brother’s marriage to Ann, her bosom friend’s happiness, and the return to good health by her mother, had closed the circle of happiness in her life.
Ann sighed dreamily, “I wake up every day wondering the same thing. We are married to the men of our dreams and we have the lives we wanted to have when we were twenty. Our wishes have come true, Em.”
“I know,” Emmeline replied soberly before snickering, “After all your hemming and hawing about George, you finally have him.”
“And after all your doubts about ever having a future with Noah, you have him, too.” Ann smiled. “You helped me with mine and I helped you with yours.”
Looking around, Emmeline smiled, “I did have my doubts, didn’t I? But…God heard my prayers and He has given me my heart’s desire. Looking back on it now, I wish that I could go back in time and tell my younger self to have more faith in God’s good graces–despite all the hardship I faced at the time.”
Unconsciously, Emmeline pressed a hand to her lower belly and though she didn’t notice it, Ann did. The current Duchess of Leverton waited patiently for a moment, giving Emmeline a chance to speak, but when she didn’t, Ann laid a hand on her shoulder. “What are you keeping from me, Em?”
Turning around, Emmeline asked, “What do you mean, Ann?”
Looking pointedly at her hand Ann said, “That.”
“It’s…it’s nothing.” Emmeline tried to ignore the issue but Ann wasn’t having any of it.
“Tell me,” Ann demanded.
“No,” Emmeline replied with a shake of her head.
“Emmeline Harriet,” Ann scolded with narrowed eyes, “We are not youthful girls anymore or immature virgins with no inkling of what the touch of a man can give us. We do not have the smokescreen of youth to hide what I know has something to do with your beloved husband, so tell me.”
A blush had bloomed at Ann’s frank declaration that their age of innocence had passed and that she had no reason to be shy, but still Emmeline refrained.
“Em, if you think I’m letting this go anytime during the blessed Yuletide you are mistaken,” Ann pronounced, “I will keep nagging you to tell me, I will make it my mission to mention it at the most inopportune time, or just blurt it out in the middle of decent conversation and, if you still resist, I will even tattletale to Noah for him to drag it out of you. And if you still–”
“All right! All right, just calm down Ann, there is no need for threats. It’s just…I…oh, God–I just haven’t told Noah yet…but I’m with child.”
The shrilling scream Ann let out pulled two sets of running feet towards them, and when Samuel and John galloped into the room they were closely followed by Noah and George, all looking frantic. Emmeline’s face was painted a bright red.
“My God, Ann.” George huffed while he looked at both ladies, “Are you trying to give me apoplexy? I thought someone was assaulting you.”
“What is the matter!” Noah’s mother demanded, while striding in, with Patricia behind her. Both older women were looking alarmed and wondering.
“Emmeline has something to say,” Ann said wickedly. “Go on, Em, tell them.”
The Duchess of Newberry blanched at the six pairs of eyes now staring at her. Emmeline had never imagined tell so many people at once, and groaned, “Ann.”
Now Noah got concerned and pushed his way to the front. He kneeled in front of Emmeline and grasped her hand, with his gray eyes beseeching, “What is it, my love? Please tell me.”
Casting a nervous eye to the six people surrounding them, seven if the sleeping babe was counted, Emmeline swallowed tightly, “Noah… remember how I was getting ill some time ago and we thought it was an upset stomach?”
Dark eyebrows furrowed, “Yes, it passed through.”
“And…” Emmeline took another apprehensive look to the people gathered, “How I told suddenly told you that the cakes from that place in Saulsberry didn’t taste the same and I didn’t like them anymore?”
Confusion laced Noah’s eyes, “Yes, but I think they changed the recipe. That isn’t unusual.”
Again, Emmeline faltered in telling him the real reason, “And then–”
“Oh, for the love of God.” Ann huffed, “Em, I’ve never seen you so delaying. Noah, she’s,” with a glance at Samuel and John, she switched her proclamation to, “You’ll have another son or daughter soon.”
Shocked faces went around the room until Noah stood up and pulled Emmeline into his arms and pressed her head into the crook of his neck, “I’m overjoyed.”
“And I’m glad to hear you say that,” Emmeline said slyly while wrapping her arms around his neck and smiling. “Because I think we’re having twins.”
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