A Marriage of ConvenienceWith a Beastly Duke
The following year was the happiest of Cecily’s life. She had once believed that she would never have a family of her own. But now, she did, and she said a prayer of gratitude every single day for her beautiful life. And just after Val’s and her first wedding anniversary, their family was granted the most precious gift of all – their very first child!
The days following the birth of their son, Matthew, named after Val’s father, their countryseat home was a hype of activity. Val had written to their families the day Matthew was born, inviting them to come join them for lunch. They received letters the next day with everyone promising to attend. So, the servants were busy getting everything prepared for their arrival.
Cecily spent the first two days resting and nursing Matthew. But she found it hard to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time. The wonders of being a mother and the anticipation of seeing her family again kept her awake with excited energy.
On the day her family and the dowager duchess were to arrive, Cecily was beside herself. She stared down at her son’s face. Even though she could not see it, she gazed at him with all the love she had for him in her heart.
“Good day, darling,” Val said, peeking into his wife’s bedchambers.
Cecily looked up from the tiny infant in her arms, who was feeding and smiled at her husband.
“Good day, Val, dear,” she said.
Val walked over to her, giving her a gentle kiss on the cheek. Then, he stooped to kiss the nursing baby and give him a warm, proud smile.
“How is Matthew doing?” he asked.
Cecily smiled down at her three-day-old son and her father-in-law’s namesake.
“Very hungry,” she said, giggling. “He will gain twice his body weight in a week at this rate.”
Val laughed heartily.
“A growing boy should have a healthy appetite,” he said.
Cecily looked at him playfully.
“So, you are a growing boy, then?” she asked.
Val waggled his eyebrows and grinned.
“My appetite is very healthy,” he said, winking. “But because I am a grown man.”
Cecily laughed again, her cheeks turning pink. Every day, she fell more in love with her husband. Even one year after their wedding, she could still hardly believe that what started out as a marriage of convenience had turned into a love deeper and more beautiful than any she could have ever imagined.
Matthew finished nursing, and Cecily cradled him to her chest, patting his back gently. She could feel Val gazing fondly at her and their son, and she gave him a sweet smile.
“Would you like to hold him, Papa?” she asked.
She didn’t need to see her husband’s face to know that he grinned like a child at Christmastide.
“I certainly would,” he said.
Cecily cradled the infant, gently passing him off to his father. Val chuckled with giddy delight, and she wished she could see the proud expression on his face.
“He is perfect,” he said.
Cecily gazed lovingly toward her husband, trying to imagine what her son looked like.
“I know he is,” she said dreamily.
Val paused, and Cecily knew what he was thinking. Then, he reached over with one hand and touched hers, squeezing it gently.
“He’s got your nose,” he said, “and your chin. And it is hard to say for sure, but I believe that he will have my coffee brown eyes.”
Cecily laughed with proud joy.
“Oh, he is a handsome boy, indeed,” she said.
Val paused again.
“His hair is a medium brown,” he continued. “It looks as though someone took your hair color and mine, made them into a paint and mixed them together to put atop Matthew’s head.”
“I can feel that there is a great deal of it, too,” she said.
“There sure is,” he said. “I do not believe that I have ever seen so much hair on an infant’s head.”
Cecily sighed happily.
“I cannot wait for everyone to arrive today,” she said. “I am so thrilled for everyone to meet him.”
She heard Val kiss the baby once more as he gently removed his hand from hers.
“I am quite thrilled to show him off, as well, darling,” he said.
“Then we best get ourselves ready,” she said.
Val chortled playfully.
“You’re a little late, my love,” he said. “I have been dressed for hours.”
Cecily laughed again.
“Then I better call for Greta and catch up,” she said. “Our families will be here in just a few hours.”
She sensed Val rise and, a moment later, he kissed the top of her head.
“I shall go and fetch Greta and take our young man to Betty,” he said.
Betty was the young new nursemaid they had hired just before Matthew was born. She was very shy, but incredibly sweet, and it was clear that she adored children. Cecily nodded, waving to her son and husband as they exited the room.
A moment later, Greta rushed in, seemingly filled with the same joy that the new parents had been since the baby was born three days before.
“Come, your Grace,” she said. “I want to make sure that you look like the glowing new mother that you are.”
Cecily giggled as Greta walked her to the wardrobe. Her body was still fatigued and sore, but she was thrilled. Together, they selected a deep crimson dress with matching gloves, shoes and complimentary ruby hair combs. As always Greta had her dressed, and her ringlets styled elegantly with the combs, in no time.
Cecily was giddy with excitement by the time she was dressed and ready. It had been some time since she had seen her family. After Agnes and her husband took an extended wedding trip, her parents decided to take a trip of their own to the far east. She and Val had been perfectly happy together in their countryside manor, but she was very thrilled to see everyone again.
After a splash of new, rose-scented perfume, Greta escorted Cecily downstairs and to the drawing room, where Val was already waiting.
“Oh, my darling,” he breathed as she entered. “I do not think you have ever looked so beautiful.”
Cecily blushed. Even a year later, she still was not accustomed to him saying that to her. She reached up and caressed the scarred side of his face. He had long since stopped flinching from her touch, and he nestled into her palm, kissing it gently.
“And I can see how handsome you are,” she said, running both hands over his face. “I am learning to see things by touch now.”
“I am afraid you will be disappointed, darling,” he said.
Cecily gave him a serious, fond look, pulling his face down to hers to kiss his lips softly.
“Not when I am married to the most beautiful man in all of London,” she said.
Just then, she smelled Betty’s floral soap.
“Lord Matthew is wearing a blue gown,” she said timidly. “And he is wrapped snugly in yellow blankets. I washed and combed his hair, as well, your Grace.”
Cecily nodded, smiling warmly at the young woman.
“That is just perfect, Betty,” she said. “Would you mind holding him until our family arrives?”
“That would be right now, darling,” Val murmured.
As soon as he spoke, Cecily was overwhelmed by the addition of familiar smells.
“Cece,” Agnes said, nearly knocking Cecily to the ground as she threw her arms around her.
“It is good to see you too, Sister,” she said, squeezing the younger woman tightly.”
Agnes stepped aside, and Cecily smelled her mother and father approaching. Her father took her hands and gave her a kiss on each cheek.
“Cecily, dear, you look wonderful,” he said. “We have missed you dearly.”
The Countess came to her side, putting a hand on her shoulder as the Earl moved back. She then embraced her eldest daughter.
“We certainly have,” she said.
Agnes approached once more, accompanied by a vaguely familiar scent.
“And of course, you remember my husband, Vincent,” Agnes said.
Cecily nodded and curtseyed to the viscount.
“It is lovely to see you again,” she said.
She could sense the viscount bow.
“Likewise, Duke and Duchess of Archington,” he said.
“Where is that little grandson of mine?” the Dowager Duchess said.
Cecily heard Val go to his mother’s side.
“Hello, Mother,” he said. Cecily heard him kissing her cheek.
“Val, dear, you look wonderful,” she said. “As do you, sweet Cecily.”
Cecily held out her hands and the dowager came to her. She pulled Cecily into a warm embrace.
“It is so wonderful to see you again,” she said. “Now, where is the little darling?”
Cecily smiled as she took her mother’s and father’s hands and led everyone to where Betty stood. Her mother’s and sister’s gasping and cooing told her that they saw the infant.
“Everyone,” Cecily announced proudly. “I would like you all to meet Matthew Archer.”
She felt an arm around her waist as Betty presented Val’s and her son to their families. She looked up at her husband, who leaned down and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips.
“I think they have already forgotten us, darling,” he said.
One of the murmuring voices dropped from the group.
“Do you mind?” Agnes said with playful indignance. “We can hardly hear the baby gurgle.”
Lunch was served shortly after the arrival of their family, and they all moved to the main dining hall. It was a joyous occasion, with everyone talking excitedly and reveling in the reunion. Everyone spent less time eating than they did passing around little Matthew, who had stolen his family’s heart immediately.
Halfway through the meal, Cecily heard someone rise from their seat and tap gently on their glass. When her throat cleared, she realized it was her brother-in-law.
“I would like to make an announcement, if I may,” he said.
Cecily heard Agnes utter a soft squeal, and she looked toward the couple quizzically.
“Of course,” Val said warmly. “Please, by all means.”
She heard another chair move, and she knew that Agnes had risen to stand with her husband. All at once, Cecily knew what they were going to say before the viscount spoke again.
“Agnes and I want to tell all of you that we are expecting our first child together,” he said.
Immediately, the room erupted in delighted exclamations and congratulations. Cecily stood, reaching for her sister, who came rushing up to her at once.
“Oh, Aggie,” she said, tears filling her eyes. “I am so happy for the both of you.”
Agnes took her sister’s hand and put it on her still flat stomach.
“I hope it is a girl,” she said, her grin apparent in her voice.
“You will be a terrific mother,” she said.
The party lasted all the way through dinner. The happiness increased tenfold after the viscount and viscountess’s announcement, and everyone was in the best of spirits. Cecily imagined the faces of her family, bright and pink cheeked and smiling. She knew that that was what true joy was, and she was grateful. She and her sister had both found the happiness they deserved, and she knew it would never end.
This is the end of my novel “A Marriage of Convenience with a Beastly Duke”. 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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