Beyond Scandal and Desire(127)

By: Lorraine Heath

“Well, I certainly didn’t settle, so there.”

Leaning down, he kissed the tip of her nose. “I love you, Aslyn. I want you to be happy.”

“Then show me some fireworks, husband.”

They were the brightest, most colorful, most glorious ones she’d ever experienced.


Two Years Later

Mick didn’t know if he’d ever get used to the sight of his mum taking tea with the duchess in the hotel gardens. It had become a weekly ritual for them, and he often found an excuse to be in the gardens when they were about just so he could listen to their laughter. Today he was pushing a pram holding his infant daughter along the path while his wife strolled beside him, her hand tucked within the crook of his elbow.

“They’re good for each other,” she said. “The duchess is getting out so much more, and they are both so involved in the running of Safe Harbour that I’m hardly needed.”

She’d opened a home for unwed mothers and their children to live without shame. Staff watched the youngest while their mums worked, many of them in the shops Mick leased.

“I need you.”

She smiled up at him. “I suppose I can be content with that.”

“Mum is finally ready to live elsewhere. I think it’s time we moved, as well.” He glanced down at his wife’s slightly rounding stomach.

“What did you have in mind?”

“I found some pretty land just outside London. I thought to build us a large manor on it, and then a small cottage for Mum so she isn’t too far away.”

“I like that idea.”

“I’ll purchase us a nice residence here in town as well, so it’s convenient to visit the duke and duchess when they’re in the city for the Season.”

“A fine notion, because one of these days your daughter is going to need a Season.”

“Not for a while yet.”

“Probably sooner than you’ll be ready for.”

“You do know she’s not getting married. There isn’t a gent in all of England who will be good enough for her, to whom I’ll give my blessing.”

Some years later, he did give his blessing—to a duke. He gave his blessing to each of his daughters and to the gentlemen who loved them. Titled or not, legitimate or not. Mick cared naught about pedigree. He judged their suitability on how well they loved his daughters. As for the women who married his sons—his boys took after him and showed good judgment when falling in love.

With a dozen children, half of them adopted, he was kept quite busy giving his blessing to marriages, but still found time on sunny afternoons to slip away to the park with his wife for a bit of peace.