To LoveA Lady's Scars
“Good day, my darlings,” Josephine said, rising as Dahlia, the nursemaid, brought her and Rupert’s three-year-old twin girls to her as she sipped afternoon tea in the parlor.
Sally and Frances Calvert, named after both their parents’ mothers, squirmed out of the nursemaid’s lap. They toddled up to their mother and both tried to climb up into her lap. Dahlia helped Sally, while Josephine took hold of Frances and pulled her onto one knee. She then balanced Sally on the other, giving her daughters kisses on the tops of their light brown hair.
“Mama,” Sally said, touching Josephine’s scars. “Pretty.”
“Berry pretty,” Frances agreed, making room for her tiny fingers on her mother’s face.
Josephine laughed, hugging her girls.
“Very pretty, indeed,” Rupert said, sauntering into the room and beaming at the three of them. “I have more beauty in this room than any man has in all the world.”
Josephine took a moment to admire her husband. After five years, she believed he was even more handsome than he had been when they first met, and she knew she was a hundred times more in love with him. He walked over to them, taking Sally from Josephine when stood up on her mother’s knee and reached for him.
“Papa,” she said, burrowing her small face into her father’s neck. “Silver?”
Rupert laughed and kissed his daughter’s head. Josephine’s heart soared. The mare, which had once been wild and reckless, was now calmer and sweeter than Nutmeg, the most loyal and good-natured horse Rupert had ever owned. They had taken the girls out on many occasions to pet the horses, and Silver had been gentler with them than a spring breeze. The year prior, Rupert had given Josephine the news that Silver was pregnant. Josephine had hovered over the mare every spare second of the day.
After the day Silver had taken off, frightened of the storm five years before, she and the mare had been the best of friends. She wanted to personally ensure that mother and foal were as healthy as they could be throughout the pregnancy. Josephine thought it was wonderful that their daughters were asking after her, especially at a young age, when they didn’t realize how important it was.
Josephine looked at Rupert inquisitively and shrugged.
“Let us go see how she’s feeling first,” she said to her daughters. “Then, if she is well enough, we can all go and visit her.”
“Carrot,” Frances shouted proudly.
Rupert smiled at his daughter and nodded.
“Someone likes feeding the horses,” he said.
“She gets it from her father,” she said with a wink.
Dahlia took the twins from their parents and back to their room. Rupert sat beside Josephine and helped himself to some tea.
“I got a letter back from the horse racer in Bath today,” he said. “He is willing to pay double the capital we’ve put into caring for Silver and her offspring whenever they are ready to sell, plus some extra on the usual selling price.”
Josephine gasped and took her husband’s hand.
“Oh, darling, that’s wonderful,” she said. “I know you have ploughed a great deal into the business, and you deserve a good return. I admit, after Father retired, I feared we would never be able to salvage the farm.”
Rupert shrugged, holding up his head smugly.
“Never underestimate a marquess, my love,” he said.
Josephine nuzzled her husband’s hand with her scarred cheek and smiled.
“I believe you could move entire mountains, darling,” she said truthfully. He had completely turned her life around in the matter of a week. And the five years since she had met and married him had been only more proof that she could have everything in life she had once firmly believed were lost to her. She had only read about the kind of happiness she felt in novels, and she often had to remind herself that it was truly her life. She loved her husband and her children with all her heart. Josephine knew things were only going to get better. And rather soon too.
Rupert refilled his teacup and served himself a cake. Josephine finished the one she’d been eating before Dahlia brought the girls in and set her plate aside.
“How are the renovations going?” she asked.
Rupert’s eyes widened, and he grinned brightly between mouthfuls of cake.
“Very well,” he said. “Your old stables have been expanded and updated. As has the barn. And the main house is almost completely finished. I estimate it will be ready for us to move back there in about six months or so, if you wish.”
Josephine returned his smile. She understood the sacrifices he had made by moving with her to their farm. He was the Marquess of Rudmore, but he still performed his duties flawlessly even while living at the farm. She did the same as his marchioness. But she knew it would be easier for him to handle his duties from his own mansion, or even Carlswood, where they had been invited to stay while the farm was being renovated. And yet, he had been happy to move to the horse farm with her.
“Father will be so thrilled to hear it,” she said. “He is very much enjoying working with my uncle. In fact, I can’t remember Father ever being so happy. Not since Mother died.”
Rupert wagged his eyebrows and looked at Josephine impishly.
“Could it have something to do with meeting a lady of his own?” he asked.
Josephine giggled and nodded.
“I believe so,” she said. “He said something about a Dowager Baroness Tanner, the widow of a baron who died many years ago. He said very little, but what he did say was highly flattering, and he mentioned escorting her for a walk in a park not far from my uncle’s house.”
Rupert beamed at her.
“That is wonderful,” he said.
Josephine nodded, sighing dreamily.
“It certainly is,” she said. “He deserves to be happy, just as we are.”
Rupert clasped his hands together and tucked them against his cheek, batting his eyes like a coquettish young girl.
“Oh, perhaps he will get married,” he said with a big sigh that made Josephine giggle. “I will have to wear my best attire and get the most fashionable bonnet from Paris.”
Josephine laughed aloud and playfully pushed her husband.
“We’ll get you fitted for a special dress, darling,” she teased.
Rupert looked at her with wide, excited eyes.
“Only if you wear a matching suit,” he said.
The pair laughed.
After tea, they walked hand in hand through the hallways and to the back door. She so enjoyed their leisurely strolls, especially when they went to the stables together. She could hardly wait until she and Rupert could teach their children to ride horses. She put a hand on her stomach and smiled as they walked.
They were halfway to the stables when the stable lad from Carlswood came running toward them. He had come with them to the farm. Now a young man, he approached with more confidence than he once would have. But Josephine noticed his eyes were wide, and he looked both excited and nervous at the same time.
“I’m sorry, my lord, my lady,” he said quickly. “I was going to come fetch you sooner, but I was afraid to leave her alone.”
Josephine’s smile faded.
“What’s happened?” she asked.
The boy turned, gesturing for them to follow him as he broke into a trot.
“It’s Silver,” he said. “Come quickly.”
Rupert and Josephine ran after him, not stopping until they reached her pen. When they did, Josephine gasped and wrapped her arms around her husband.
“Oh, darling,” she said, holding onto Rupert tightly. “Look at that.”
Rupert chuckled softly, wrapping his arm around Josephine.
“When did this happen?” he asked, looking at the stable boy.
The boy rubbed the back of his neck.
“About twenty minutes ago,” he said. “Course, she was in labor for a while before that. But I was afraid to leave her to come get you until I knew she would be all right. She delivered just as I was getting ready to rush to fetch you. Believe it or not, she let me go in and remove the afterbirth without any aggression. I’m sorry. I know you wanted to be here for the birth.”
Josephine wiped tears from her face, her smile wide. She stared at the new mother, her dearest mare, and the beautiful silver lying beside her. Silver was nuzzling and licking her offspring, and Josephine watched with amazement. It had been a long time since she had seen a foal so soon after birth. It was a sight that always brought pure joy to her soul, and she squeezed Rupert even tighter.
“Look at that,” Rupert said, echoing Josephine’s first statement. “What a sight that is. I would not have thought it possible until now. Not with our dear Silver.”
“She is a wonderful mother,” she said as she watched the mare tend to her firstborn foal.
Just then, Silver noticed them at the gate of her pen. They had moved her to a bigger pen, with deep straw more suitable for birthing, just days before. She moved slowly, but she came right to them, holding her head high. She seemed to know she had just accomplished something to be proud of.
“Hello, my precious girl,” Rupert said, raising his hand slowly and gently despite what the stable boy had said about her not being aggressive.
Silver sniffed his hand and rolled her lips, showing her teeth for a second. She glanced back at her foal, as though checking to make sure it was still all right. Then, she turned back to Rupert and nudged his fingertips with her nose.
“She really does trust us,” Rupert marveled, tentatively stroking the mare’s nose.
Silver whinnied softly with pleasure. Then, she stuck her head over the pen gate and rested it on top of Josephine’s head. Josephine laughed as she wrapped her arms around the horse’s neck.
“What a wonderful job, darling,” she said, stroking Silver’s mane. “You are a terrific mother. That is such a beautiful baby.”
Silver bobbed her head as though nodding in agreement. She nuzzled the scarred side of Josephine’s face and snorted softly in her ear. She lingered for a brief minute before going back to her foal. She began licking the young horse again, and Josephine and Rupert simply stood and watched for a while.
“There is nothing more beautiful than a birth,” Rupert said dreamily. “It was all right that we didn’t get to see it. This is every bit the same wonderful experience.”
The foal, seeming to finally pick up on sounds apart from his mother, slowly lifted its head. Though it was wobbly, it eventually turned its attention directly on to them. Josephine gasped softly as it tried to sniff at them.
“Oh, how precious,” she said.
Silver, uncertain about this new development with her young baby, began licking it again. Rupert covered his mouth to keep from laughing aloud and shook his head.
“This is truly amazing,” he said. “A new life makes me feel so alive and inspired.”
Josephine chose that moment to take her husband’s hand and put it on her stomach.
“I am very glad you feel that way, darling,” she said. “Because I am with child again. Which means that soon, we will have another little miracle of our own to help you feel alive and inspired.”
Rupert turned to her with wide, excited eyes. She could see him struggling to keep from giving way to boisterous joy. After a minute, he settled for pulling her tightly into his arms and covering her with kisses. This earned him strange looks from both Silver and her young foal, but neither animal appeared to be upset by his behavior.
“Darling,” he said, kissing her finally on the lips. “Just when I think life cannot get more beautiful, you go and prove me wrong.”
Josephine rested her chin on his chest and looked up at him.
“And what’s more, I have a good feeling that it’s going to be a boy,” she said.
“Oh, boy,” said the stable boy from behind them.
Josephine had forgotten he was there, but she turned to face him, still smiling.
“Yes, indeed,” she said with a small giggle.
The stable boy shook his head and pointed.
“No, that’s not what I mean,” he said, his eyes wide. “Look.”
Josephine and Rupert turned their attention back to the pen, just in time to see the foal attempting to stand. It failed the first few attempts, and Josephine held her breath. She and Rupert remained perfectly motionless, desperate not to startle it or Silver, until the young horse was standing on straight, unsteady legs. Silver seemed stunned at first, then she whickered softly as if very proud of her offspring. She looked toward Josephine and Rupert as if to see if they were watching the miraculous feat. Then, she turned herself so the baby could begin suckling whenever it was ready.
At first, the foal seemed content to stand where it was and look around the pen. It was clearly alert and aware of its surroundings, and it was already trying to make small noises. It was standing less than an hour after its birth, a sure sign it was healthy and strong. Silver seemed a little nervous when the baby began trying to move from its spot, but she relaxed when it approached her and began to nurse.
As soon as it found a spot suited for its stature and new legs, Josephine realized they could see the sex of the foal.
“Now, I know for sure this child will be a boy,” she said, gesturing toward the young male foal with her head. “There is no such thing as coincidence.”
Rupert beamed, both at her and at the horses.
“Truly, this is a magnificent day, my love,” he said, kissing her again. “But what shall we name him?”
Josephine thought for a moment before smiling.
“Pegasus,” she said.
Both horses made sounds simultaneously. Josephine couldn’t help laughing as Rupert grinned at his beloved animals again.
“I think they agree, my love,” he said.
This is the end of my novel “To Love a Lady’s Scars”. 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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