An Arranged Betrothal with a Spinster
“Milady,” Sally said, rushing up to Rowena hurriedly, just as Rowena had left the kitchens after giving instructions for that day’s dinner to the kitchen staff.
Rowena turned around.
“What is it, Sally?” she asked, giving the maid a warm smile.
Sally’s face broke out into a grin.
“You must come and see this,” she said.
Rowena furrowed her brow as Sally took her hand, but she allowed the maid to pull her along. Rowena followed her up the stairs to the third floor and toward Andrew’s and Rowena’s now four-old-son’s room.
Sally stopped by the door, putting a finger to her lips. Rowena complied, tiptoeing after Sally until they reached the open doorway to the room.
As soon as they peeked inside, Rowena saw what Sally had intended to show her. Kenneth had little six-month-old Angela in his lap on the floor by his bed, and he was pretending to read to her from his favorite book.
Rowena covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a marveled gasp. It was no secret that Kenneth loved his sister. But that was the first time he had ever held her on his own.
“I helped him,” whispered a voice from behind them.
Rowena turned to face Linda Vance, the nursemaid. The young woman was blushing and averting her gaze.
“I hope I have not overstepped, milady,” she said, looking worried. “But this morning, he was crying, wanting to hold his sister.”
Rowena patted the woman’s arm and smiled gently at her.
“All is well,” she said. “Just, please, never leave them alone again. You are not in any trouble. But they are very young, and anything could happen in mere minutes.”
Linda’s blush deepened and she nodded.
“Forgive me,” she said, curtseying. “I went to fetch some milk for the children. It will not happen again.”
“I understand,” she said. “You are doing a marvelous job, Linda.”
The young woman smiled at the praise. She curtseyed again and silently returned to her duties. Rowena and Sally went back down the stairs, both of them giggling.
“Aren’t they the sweetest things?” Rowena asked, sighing dreamily.
“I knew you would like to see that,” she said.
“See what?” Andrew said, coming across the hall and turning toward the staircase just as the women reached the landing.
Rowena smiled brightly, as she stepped down the stairs, recounting the scene she had just witnessed. Andrew grinned, his chin high.
“That’s my boy,” he said. “He is already itching to protect the women in his family.”
Rowena laughed again.
“He has the best father in all of London,” she said, kissing his cheek. “Did you expect any less?”
Andrew flushed crimson at her praise, but his smile widened.
“Not at all,” he said. “This will make a wonderful story to tell our families tomorrow at the park.”
Rowena gasped, her heart leaping.
“Oh, my,” she said, smiling as widely as her husband was. “I almost forgot. The picnic is tomorrow.”
Andrew nodded, kissing her on her forehead.
“And everyone will be there,” he said.
Rowena clasped her hands to her chest.
“Even the twins?” she asked. “Kenneth so adores the twins.”
Andrew beamed and nodded.
“Definitely, the twins will be there,” he said.
Rowena clapped, even more excited about the picnic than she had been previously. In the five years she and Andrew had been married, their families had become very close. She and her father had long since put the previous unpleasantness behind them, and the dowager now treated Rowena as though she was as much her daughter as Gemma was.
Rowena had thought she could not be happier than she was on the day when she’d married Andrew. But each day since then had brought her more proof that she had been wrong, that there would always be more happiness to experience for the rest of their lives together. She smiled up at her husband, grabbing onto his arm and hugging it softly.
“I can hardly wait,” she said.
After breakfast that morning, Rowena practically ran up the stairs. Though the picnic was not until the following day, she could hardly wait to see their families. Sally met her in her chambers a short time later, finding her mistress pulling out every dress she had and looking them over thoughtfully.
“Milady,” Sally said with a giggle. “Would you like some help?”
Rowena nodded eagerly.
“I cannot wait until tomorrow,” she confessed.
“I can see,” she said, gesturing to all the dresses strewn about. “Let us choose one, shall we?”
After much deliberation and a great deal of joyous laughter, Sally helped Rowena select a brand-new pink gown with a matching parasol and reticule. Rowena set them aside, then helped Sally put back all the dresses she had taken out in her search. Then, Sally turned to her, linking her arm through Rowena’s.
“What would you like to do today, milady?” she asked.
Rowena thought for a minute. She knew Andrew had some meetings to attend in London that day, so he would be busy. But she was so filled with energy, she didn’t think she could stay still.
“Why don’t we go shopping?” she asked.
Sally nodded, smiling.
“I shall give the orders to ready a carriage,” she said.
Rowena and Andrew both rose late the following morning, since the picnic with their families was taking place at lunchtime, before Promenade Hour. Rowena was brimming with excitement as Sally helped her into the pink dress they had chosen the day before and styled her hair in a similar way to how she had worn it on her wedding day. When Rowena was finally ready, she practically dragged Sally down the stairs to wait for Andrew.
He came in and greeted them a few minutes later, chuckling softly as he kissed his wife.
“I never thought I would see the day when you were ready before me,” he said.
Rowena giggled and gently pushed him, even as she leaned into his kiss.
“If you wore dresses every day, I would always be ready before you,” she said.
Andrew held up his head and put his fists on his hips, his mouth quivering with humor.
“I think I would look lovely in that pink dress,” he said.
Rowena almost doubled over laughing.
“We shall find out when we return,” she said.
Andrew grinned slyly and raised his eyebrows.
“That is one thing we could do,” he said.
Just then, Linda and one of the other maids came down the stairs, with Angela and Kenneth in tow. Andrew smiled again, reaching for his baby daughter.
“Hello there, beautiful,” he said, giving her a kiss on the head before cradling her in his arms.
Rowena smiled lovingly at her family, stroking the sleeping Kenneth’s hair gently.
Andrew handed Angela back to Linda, then offered Rowena his arm.
“Shall we?” he asked.
Rowena nodded, her excitement only growing.
“We shall,” she said.
They arrived at the park just as Rowena’s parents and younger sister did. Many of their relatives were already there, standing just outside the entrance to the park, talking animatedly amongst themselves.
When Andrew and Rowena arrived, everyone approached to greet them and Rowena’s parents. There were embraces and squeals of delight and handshakes all around as everyone offered their greetings.
“I have wonderful news, dear,” the viscountess said as she took her turn hugging Rowena.
Rowena pulled back, looking at her parents with bemusement.
“Oh?” she asked. “Well, please, do tell me.”
The viscount stepped forward, putting a gentle hand on his wife’s back.
“I have just opened some new partnerships in the Far East,” he said, grinning proudly. “In tea and wine. It all looks very promising.”
Rowena gasped, throwing her arms around her father.
“Oh, Papa,” she said, marveling at how well her father had been behaving since her marriage. “I am so proud of you.”
The viscount squeezed his daughter gently, stroking the back of her hair.
“Thank you, my dear,” he murmured. “It means the world to me to hear you say that.”
“Ho,” Andrew shouted, interrupting Rowena’s embrace with her father.
Rowena spun around quickly to see Andrew pulling a younger man into a fierce hug. When her husband released the man, she saw the resemblance was striking.
“Ho, yourself, Brother,” Jacob Elton said, clapping Andrew heartily on the back. “It has been an age.”
“At least,” Andrew said, embracing the young man again and laughing. “It is good to see you, Brother.”
Rowena saw the dowager baroness gazing lovingly at her sons as they enjoyed their reunion. Rowena walked over to her, smiling.
“It is wonderful to see you, Carol,” she said, hugging the woman.
Carol Elton returned her embrace enthusiastically, then gestured toward her sons.
“This is a day I have looked forward to for such a long time,” she said, sniffling.
“It seems that they have, as well,” she said.
Andrew turned to look at her, motioning for her to join him.
“Jacob,” he said, pulling Rowena gently to his side, “this is my beloved wife, Rowena.” He paused, beaming down at Rowena with adoration and pride. “Darling, this is the thorn in my . . . er, I mean Jacob, the brother I never talk about.”
The younger Elton made a face at his brother before straightening himself in a way befitting a former military man like himself. He bowed elegantly, giving Rowena a brilliant smile very similar to her husband’s.
“It is wonderful to meet you,” he said, giving Rowena a cheeky grin. “Whatever my brother has told you about me is likely true.”
“Delighted,” she said. “And actually, Andrew speaks very highly of you. It is very evident to me that Andrew loves you a great deal.”
Both Elton men blushed, causing Rowena to giggle.
“I suppose I like him a little, too,” Jacob said, grinning impishly.
Andrew gave his brother a playful shove before turning to the rest of the rather large, noisy party.
“Come,” he said, gesturing toward the park entrance. “Let us begin our picnic before the we all get too sentimental.”
“You are the one who is getting mental,” he said, laughing at his pun.
Rowena and the dowager laughed.
“All right, you two,” Carol said. “Andrew is right. Let us feast.”
Rowena snuggled into Andrew’s arm as they walked to a lovely spot beneath a large oak tree. Several footmen scrambled to lay out the three blankets that had been brought for the occasion, and to spread out the food. The feast was, indeed, a grand one, more fit for a dinner table than a mere picnic. The family members who were present sat down and began helping themselves to the grand spread before them.
As everyone settled in to begin eating, someone crept up behind Rowena and covered her eyes with their fingers.
“Try to guess who it is,” sang a familiar, sweet voice.
Rowena abandoned her plate and her spot to whirl around and embrace her younger sister.
“Sybil,” Rowena said, moving aside to make room for her sister. “I am so thrilled to see you.”
Sybil turned to Daniel Watson, the wealthy Viscount Wattswood, her husband, motioning for him to join them.
“You remember Daniel,” she said, gazing lovingly at him.
Daniel bowed, greeting everyone politely before gesturing to the nursemaid holding a two-year-old little girl, whom they had named Colleen.
“It is such a delight to see you all again,” he said.
Gemma and Edmund arrived next, in a much more chaotic fashion. The twins ran ahead of their parents, nearly barreling into the picnic. Kenneth bolted from his seat as soon as he saw them, abandoning his food. Rowena laughed. It was a special occasion, so she did not call him back to eat.
Last to arrive were Nancy and George. George was a kind and humble widowed merchant whom Nancy had married two years prior. Nancy’s three children and George’s ten-year-old daughter were with the couple too, and they immediately joined the rest of the children as they played, supervised by nursemaids, nearby.
Nancy sat beside Sybil, George beside her, and, at last, the entire family was together. From that moment on, the picnic was a flurry of excitement, laughter, and endless chatter, punctuated by the shrill shrieks and giggles of the children.
Rowena looked on at her now very large family, smiling from ear to ear. Five years prior, she had felt she would be lucky to find one reason to smile once in a while. But before her sat more reasons than she would ever be able to count. The biggest blessing of all, though, was the happiness of her family. Her parents were secure, her sisters had all the happiness in the world, and Rowena had true love. And she would be forever thankful.
This is the end of my novel “An Arranged Betrothal with a Spinster”. 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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