A Housekeeper for the Earl of Drinkwater
“Lindsay, darling,” Serena called to their four-year-old daughter. “Come away from the mud.”
Just as Serena spoke, the toddler fell bottom-first into the big puddle that had formed during the rainstorms the past few days.
Five-year-old Austen doubled over laughing at his sister, leaning over so far that he fell too, leading with his face, into the same puddle. Edward could not help laughing, which awoke little Maria, the youngest of the Taylor children, who had been sleeping peacefully in his arms.
Even at just six-months old, she had developed a comically stern look to express her displeasure, and Edward thought she could not look any more like his mother, for whom she was named. Edward was keenly aware that he was receiving that very look just then.
Serena walked over to him, sighing heavily, but she was soon laughing as hard as he was.
“Well, who needs clean children anyway?” she asked.
Edward watched as their youngest son, two-year-old Dennis, crawled over to his brother, who picked him up and squeezed him against his mud-covered body.
“No,” Edward replied, laughing uncontrollably. “I think, tonight, we will be fighting over who doesn’t have to bathe them.”
Serena giggled, slapping his arm playfully.
“I think I feel a megrim coming on,” she said.
Edward pretended to glower at her, but his mock sternness broke down when she batted her eyelashes at him.
“We shall do it together,” he said, relenting.
His wife beamed up at him.
“Perfect,” she said.
Edward had an idea then, his face lighting up.
“It might be easier still than that, my love,” he said, winking at her. Then, he handed little Maria, who still wore a look of intense disapproval, to her mother and approached the other three children.
“Who wants to play in the big fountain?” he called out.
All three children squealed with delight, and Serena gasped. She came to his side, rocking the now peaceful infant in her arms, and smiled up at him.
“You are an utter genius,” she said, standing on her toes and kissing him on the cheek.
Edward beamed, quite proud of himself, as well.
“I know,” he said.
Hand in hand, Edward and Serena led their children through the newly restored gardens of the Chimneys estate. Edward had never been prouder of his home than he was now, as he viewed the mansion from the rear and inhaled the sweet fragrances of the flowers in the newly laid out garden.
“I am so proud of you,” Serena said, smiling up at him as though he was responsible for creating the entire universe.
Edward blushed, understanding how his wife felt whenever he spoke to her in the same tender way.
“You are too kind, darling,” he said, kissing her ear softly. “You made all of this possible.”
She shrugged humbly.
“I was put here for a reason,” she said, looking into his eyes meaningfully. “And I simply embraced that reason with my whole heart.”
Edward gazed at her intently.
“And now, look,” he said, gesturing toward their energetic and mischievous children. “You have given me four more reasons for everything.”
Serena raised his hand to her lips and kissed it.
“As you have me,” she said.
“Bu-fly,” Dennis said, squirming in his brother’s arms and reaching for the butterfly he had just spotted.
“Yes, a butterfly,” Lindsay said, trying to sound very grown-up for her four short years of life. “It is a lellow butterfly.”
Edward concealed a laugh by coughing.
“Could they be any more precious?” he asked his wife.
Serena pointed ahead, where they could see Lindsay plotting to steal her little brother from Austen.
“You tell me,” she said, dissolving into giggles.
Edward laughed as the little girl made the attempt, only to be immediately thwarted by Austen.
“You are too little to hold him by yourself,” he calmly protested. “When we get to the fountain, you can sit with him in your lap.”
“I am not too little,” she retorted, pronouncing the word as liddull. She stood in front of her big brother, her hands on her hips, but he, being taller and more agile, stepped right around her, safely holding Dennis just out of her reach.
The doting parents laughed.
“Should we intervene?” Edward asked.
Serena watched for another minute as Lindsay began trailing behind her brothers, continuing to pester Austen to let her have Dennis, but no longer trying to grab him.
“No,” she whispered softly. “I think Austen has this under control.”
Another moment later, they reached the fountain in the middle of the gardens, and all bickering was forgotten. The bottom pool of the fountain was shallow, and Austen helped his sister climb inside, instructing her to sit down. Then, he gently placed Dennis into her lap, sitting directly in front of his sister in case the younger toddler should get restless or unruly.
Edward stood back, admiring the beautiful family he had made with his lovely wife, and breathing deeply of the fresh air around them. He thought it smelled sweeter to him because everything was now fresh, new, and alive.
But deep down, part of him knew it was because he and Serena had worked so hard to bring it all back to life, which made it that much sweeter for them both.
“Edward?” Serena asked, leaning over the fountain. “Could you come help me for a moment?”
Edward trotted over, looking at his wife quizzically. But a moment later, he leapt back, water dripping from his hair and down into his face.
His wife and three older children laughed, and he quickly realised that Serena had splashed him in the face with a handful of water. He laughed, scooping up a handful, only to be stopped by a very fierce-looking Austen.
“Mama is holding Maria, Papa,” he said with more authority than one would expect from a five-year-old. “You cannot splash her, lest you splash Maria, too, and she catches her death of cold.”
Edward nodded thoughtfully at his son’s reproach. Then, with no warning, he splashed what little water had not slipped through his fingers atop his eldest son’s head.
“But you are not holding her,” he said, preparing to give chase to his son as the giggling child began to run around the fountain.
With his wife’s laughter as encouragement, Edward chased his eldest son into the fountain. He lost his balance and fell in immediately, but he was having a grand time. The children enjoyed having their father in the water with them, immediately pouncing on him and splashing his already soaked clothes with tiny handfuls of water.
After several minutes, Edward escaped the fountain, pulling the children out with him.
“Go and run and dry off your clothes,” he said, grateful for the nice, warm weather. “We cannot all go inside dripping water all over the floors. Miss Emily will disown us all.”
Serena giggled and nodded.
“And she would be well within her rights,” she said.
The children reluctantly obeyed, running out of the gardens and toward the young vineyard Edward had planted. He looked out at the long rows of vines loaded with grapes and smiled with pride.
Serena walked up, putting her hand on his wet back and patting it gently.
“Have I told you lately how proud of you I am?” she asked.
Edward grinned at her, but he played the innocent.
“Of me?” he asked, covering a snort with a fake sneeze. “Whatever for?”
Serena shoved him playfully.
“You are working on having the very first winery in all of London,” she said. “Just a few years ago, people said this land was dead and useless. But look at what you have done.”
Edward nodded, becoming more serious. He put his arm around his wife, earning a squeal as his sopping clothing dripped water down her back. She did not move away, however, rather leaning into him as he went to kiss her on top of her head.
“We did all this, sweetheart,” he said, feeling all the pride that a good, true earl should. “I do not say often enough how none of this would have been possible without you.”
Serena blushed. He loved it that, even after five years together, he could still make her cheeks turn pink, just like the young girl he had hired as his housekeeper so long ago.
“It was your idea to plant the vineyard and build the winery,” she said shyly. “And your idea to import the vines from Germany, as well.”
He shrugged, now feeling some of the modesty she felt at receiving such kind words.
“But you have tended these vines yourself,” he said. “You nurtured them into what they are today and got them well on their way to being the first batch of Chimneys homegrown vintages.”
Serena sighed, putting her hand in her husband’s.
“We did it,” she said at last, smiling up at Edward and melting his heart once more. “We worked together and made all of this possible. I have never been prouder, or happier, than I am right this minute.”
Edward pulled away, looking at her with an eyebrow raised.
“This is usually the part where you announce that you are with child again,” he said.
Serena laughed and shook her head.
“Oh, goodness, no,” she said. Then, she winked and bit her lip suggestively. “That is, not yet.”
Edward grinned impishly.
“There is plenty of time to try again,” he said.
As their children frolicked ahead of them, the two walked hand in hand. Little Maria slept soundly in Serena’s arms, and Edward’s heart was full of joy. Edward knew how blessed he and his young family were.
He had never experienced more happiness than he had in the five years since marrying Serena. He could not wait to grow old with his beloved wife, and let their grandchildren taste the first grapes of the year.
This is the end of my novel “A Housekeeper for the Earl of Drinkwater”. 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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