A Chance Meeting with a Novelist
Before you read the extended epilogue of "A Chance Meeting with a Novelist", my dear friend Dorothy Sheldon would like to send you a short story as a "thank you" gift!
A Governess for the Wounded Duke
She is the light that he and his daughter have been missing…
Alice looked up at Jonathan, bemused, as her husband rolled his eyes most exaggeratedly.
“Come right in, Alex,” Jonathan called, turning and bowing ridiculously low to his friend.
“Alice, darling,” Abigail said, rushing up to her as quickly as she could while balancing a small girl in her arms. “I would like you both to meet little Esme officially.”
Alice smiled brightly at her sister-in-law while Jonathan and Alex exchanged boisterous greetings.
“Abigail,” Alice gushed, kissing the young woman on the cheek before fawning over the small child. “Oh, my, she is beautiful.”
Alex approached the woman, wrapping Abigail in an affectionate embrace.
“She looks just like her father,” he said.
“I believe that Thomas is your exact double,” she said, gesturing to the small boy who was holding his father’s hand, hiding behind his legs shyly.
Alex beamed with pride.
“He most certainly is,” he said.
Alice put her hands together, smiling at the proud parents.
“Come,” she said. “We have everything set up in the ballroom. The children can come too if you like. Or Betty has agreed to help the nursemaid look after them if you think they would be happier playing with our children.”
Abigail looked to Alex, who shrugged.
“Perhaps Thomas would like to go play,” she said. “I believe I will keep Esme with us. I am sure Mother cannot wait to meet her.”
Alice nodded, smiling. She motioned for a nearby maid to take Thomas up to play with the other children, then led the couple to the ballroom. Alice’s parents arrived just as they were beginning to help themselves to the feast spread out on the many tables.
“Oh, Alice,” the countess gushed, running like a young girl up to her daughter. “How beautiful everything looks.”
Alice laughed as her mother squeezed her tightly.
“How did we not see you come up behind Alex and Abigail?” she asked.
“Because we are as silent as the night,” the earl bellowed, abandoned by his wife in the doorway.
Jonathan walked up to him, shaking his hand heartily and welcoming him to their home. Then the earl released Jonathan’s hand to hug his daughter.
“Father,” she said, smiling warmly at the earl. “I have missed you dearly.”
The earl smiled fondly at his daughter.
“We have missed you, as well, sweet duchess,” he said.
Alice giggled as she led her parents into the ballroom.
“Please, help yourselves,” she said. “We are just waiting on…”
“Us?” Eloise called from just outside the doorway.
Alice whirled around, smiling brightly at her friend. It had been years since she had seen Eloise, and the sight of her face instantly warmed her heart. Alice ran across the ballroom floor and practically flew into her old friend’s arms just as the countess had.
“Oh, Eloise,” she said, tears springing to her eyes. “I have missed you so much.”
Eloise squeezed her friend tightly.
“As I have you, darling,” she said. “Oh, Alice, I really am sorry…”
Alice put a hand to her friend’s lips.
“It is all in the past,” she said. “Please, just enjoy yourself today. This is all about loved ones and celebrating yet another new, beautiful life that has blessed our family.” She paused, gesturing to where Abigail stood, cooing to little Esme.
Lord Lawrence Withington, Eloise’s husband, stepped forward, guiding Lawrence Junior, aged three, and Bonny, age two, toward where the rest of the adults were gathered. On his hip was little Trudy, who was not quite a year old. Alice extended the same offer to the newly arrived couple, walking with Lawrence out into the hallway and helping send the children off to play. Eloise approached her husband once the children were gone, gently touching his arm and smiling up at him with deep affection.
“Alice, I would like you to meet Lawrence,” she said. “I know I have written to you about him, but I am thrilled that you are finally meeting each other.”
Lord Withington bowed, smiling warmly at Alice.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Duchess,” he said.
Alice smiled at him.
“Please,” she said. “I insist that you call me Alice.”
The gentleman bowed slightly again, his smile widening.
“Then please, call me Lawrence,” he said.
“Come and meet my husband,” she said, gesturing back toward the ballroom.
In all the fuss of getting Eloise and Lawrence’s children upstairs, Alice missed the arrival of Jonathan’s mother. However, when she reentered the ballroom, she greeted the dowager duchess as warmly as she had all her other guests. With her arrival, that made their guest list complete, so she bade everyone to continue helping themselves to the food and to sit wherever it pleased them.
She sat between Eloise and Jonathan, catching up on everything Eloise had been up to since she had last seen her. Everyone else talked to one another, and the happiness and deep love for one another quickly filled the room. Alice felt proud of her large family, even though some of those present were not blood relatives. She had been wrong when she thought, on her wedding day, that she could not be happier. At that moment, she was happier still than she had ever been.
When Abigail engaged Eloise in an exchange of stories about their children’s respective antics, Alice turned to Jonathan and smiled fondly.
“This is, without a doubt, the best day of my life,” she said.
Jonathan glanced around the room at all the smiling faces, then looked back down at her.
“And of mine,” he said. “And it is all possible because of you.”
Alice tilted her head upward to reach her husband’s lips, kissing him gently.
“I adore you, Lord Kent,” she said, blushing under his intense gaze.
He wiggled his eyebrows and grinned, putting his lips to her ear.
“Twenty children,” he whispered, his warm breath making her tingle all over.
“Only sixteen more to go,” she said.
This is the end of my novel “A Chance Meeting with a Novelist”. 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 on these difficult days!
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