a beauty for the earl's duty


“I do not think the poor worm will much appreciate being plucked from its business, my angel,” he said.

Claire furrowed her brow and looked back to where the worm lay, still busily burrowing.

“Bidness?” she echoed, looking back at her father with confusion.

Both Peter and Bridget laughed.

“Yes, little one,” Peter said, pointing back down at the worm. “It has a family to take care of too, and it must stay busy to do that.”

Peter did not know much about worms, or about any living creatures apart from humans, but he supposed they all had tasks to perform to survive. And he was sure that human intervention was not on their list of things for which they were prepared. Especially the rather brutal intervention of a young child.

His explanation seemed to satisfy the child, though he doubted she understood everything he had said. She nodded, looking back in the direction of the butterflies. Then she pointed at them, turning back to her father.

“Bidness?” she asked.

Peter laughed again, admiring his daughter’s curiosity and interest in learning. She was, indeed, as bright as a button, and his heart swelled with pride so that he thought it might burst.

“Yes, my precious one,” he said. “The butterflies have very important business too.”

Claire glanced back at the butterflies, which seemed to be attracting more to their little spot in the field by the minute, then back to her father.

“OK,” she said, squirming out of her father’s grip.

Peter gently placed his daughter back on the ground, after which she promptly trotted back to where the worm had been. Peter started to step forward to grab her again, but Bridget put a gentle hand on his arm.

“Wait, darling,” she whispered, nodding toward the child. “Look.”

The couple watched in awed silence as Claire moved delicately around the spot where the worm had burrowed down and then immediately began digging back upward. She plopped down into a sitting position, clasping her tiny hands in her lap and leaning forward, just enough to get a better look at the creature, but not so close as to interfere with it. She stared at it with continued interest, giving it far more attention than might be expected from a one-year-old child.

Peter and Bridget looked at one another, their shared pride reflected in both their eyes. Peter reached down and stroked his wife’s cheek, smiling brightly at her as he kissed her nose.

“She is so much like you, my darling,” he whispered, finding himself falling even more in love with Bridget as he stared at her.

Bridget laughed and nodded.

“That means you can expect to have your hands quite full,” she said, nuzzling his cheek with her nose.

Peter shook his head and raised his eyebrows.

“Are you kidding?” he asked. “I look forward to every moment. The both of you have made me far happier than I ever dreamed possible. Marrying you was the best thing I ever did, and I will spend every minute of every day being grateful for the life and family we have made together.”

Bridget blushed, suddenly looking shy. She bit her lip and dug her toe into the dirt beneath where she stood.

“I am glad you mention our family, darling,” she said, placing a hand on her stomach. “Because, as it happens, it will soon be a little bit bigger.”

Peter glanced first at his wife’s hand, and then at her face. She was looking at him through her lashes, a slow smile spreading across her face.

“Are you…expecting again?” he asked, not bothering to hide the hope and excitement welling within him.

Bridget heard it clearly, and she laughed as she nodded.

“I am, indeed,” she said, her own joy seeping into her words.

Peter laughed so loudly he startled little Claire. She looked up from her seat, more annoyed than frightened and, without standing, put her tiny hands up on her ribs, presumably intending to put them on her hips, much as Bridget did when she and Peter had some playful exchange.

“Nuh,” she said, tilting her head back, almost far enough to make her topple over.

She caught her balance at the last moment and straightened back up, turning her gaze back to the dirt after giving her father one more irritated look.

Bridget giggled behind her hand as Peter pulled her into a tight embrace.

“This is the happiest news I could receive,” he said, burying his face in his wife’s hair.

Bridget laughed again.

“Are you certain you are ready for another one like her?” she asked, looking fondly at their daughter, who seemed to have already forgotten the interruption to her study of the worm.

“I could not be more ready, my love,” Peter said, lifting his head proudly. “Though I am certain it will be a son this time.”

Bridget put her hands on her hips, as little Claire had just attempted to do, and looked at her husband with playful indignance.

“And what if it isn’t?” she asked, feigning incredulity. “Or what if it is twins? Or triplets?”

Peter laughed again, quieter this time to keep from disturbing his intent daughter.

“It will not matter to me if it is an elephant, my darling,” he said, eliciting a laugh from Bridget. “I will love any child of mine that you bear.” Then, he winked at her and gave her a devilish grin. “But I would bet my entire fortune that it will, indeed, be a son this time. Or, if it is twins, that it is two sons.”

Bridget giggled as she stood on her toes to kiss Peter.

“And I shall love you all,” she said, looking at him with all the love in the world in her eyes. “Even if we all turn into elephants.”

The couple laughed as they kissed, and Peter felt as though he was walking on the clouds.

“I adore you, Bridget,” he whispered.

“And I, you,” she replied.


This is the end of my novel “A Beauty for the Earl’s Duty”. I hope that you enjoy it! Your effort to read it means a lot to me and I have to thank you for your love and support these difficult days!

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