A Convenient Christmas Proposal
“Nolan, darling,” Eleanor said softly from the doorway of Scarlett’s chambers.
Nolan leapt from the chair, where he had been sitting with his knee bouncing nervously for hours and rushed to the now open doorway. In the two years he had been married to Scarlett, he had never felt so worried and distressed.
“Is she…” he began, his voice breaking.
His aunt stepped aside, taking his hot hands with her cool ones and slowly led him into the room.
On the bed was his pale wife. Her mother, sister and her maid, Constance, stood around her, fussing over her. As he drew closer, he could see thick sweat glistening all over her face and neck. The maid crossed the room, and he stepped up in her place. He took Scarlett’s hand and knelt beside her bed, kissing her fingers gently.
“Are you all right, darling?” he asked.
His wife smiled weakly at him.
“It’s a boy,” she said.
Nolan leapt back to his feet and grinned at his exhausted wife. He brushed some sweaty strands of hair off her forehead and planted a gentle kiss in their wake.
“You did wonderful, sweetheart,” he said, his eyes filling with tears. “There are no words for how much I love you at this moment.”
Scarlett gave a tired giggle.
“You better save some of that love for your son, my love,” she said.
Just then, Constance returned, and Nolan saw what she had been doing. She had washed and wrapped the newborn in fresh linen. She looked up at him and smiled, holding out his son to him.
“Would you like to hold him?” she asked.
Nolan choked back a sob and nodded. The maid gently placed the small boy in his arms and a tear rolled down his cheek.
“I have all the love in the world for him,” he whispered, kissing the fuzzy brown hair atop the boy’s head. “And then some.”
The other women left the room, leaving Nolan alone with his wife and son. Scarlett pushed herself up in bed gently, cradling a pillow to her stomach. Nolan sat beside her on the bed so that they could both touch their son.
“What shall we name him?” he asked.
Scarlett bit her lip and looked up at him shyly.
“I was thinking about Addison,” she said. “Sort of like Adelaide, but more of a boy’s name.”
Nolan nodded at once. He had met Adelaide, and he had seen instantly why Scarlett loved her so.
“Addison Hartley it is, sweetheart,” he said.
Scarlett looked up at him, her eyes becoming solemn.
“We could also give him your grandfather’s name,” she said quietly.
Nolan nodded, also feeling more serious. His grandfather had died just two months before, and it had been a very sad time. He had inherited the title of baron and the family’s vast fortune. But he had finally begun to develop a relationship with his grandfather. His passing had come too soon, and both Nolan and Eleanor had mourned him deeply. But with the impending birth of Nolan’s first son, he felt sure that his grandfather’s spirit would rest easy, and that he would smile upon the small family.
“Addison Victor Hartley, it is,” he said, overwhelmed with emotion.
“Nolan, darling,” Scarlett called from the top of the stairs. “Are you ready?”
Nolan peeked his head around the corner, not from his chambers, but from Addison’s room, and from down on his knees. He gave his wife a sheepish look, his cravat wrapped around his head and his tie in his teeth.
“Yesh,” he said as his two-year-old son crawled on top of him, causing them to spill into the hallway.
Scarlett laughed, the musical sound echoing down the hallway.
“You two are incorrigible,” she said, approaching them and picking up the half-dressed child.
Nolan took his tie out of his mouth and gave her an innocent smile.
“He wanted to dress up like Papa,” he said.
Scarlett raised an eyebrow with playful suspicion.
“Is that why you were trying to eat your tie?” she asked, holding out her hand to take it from him.
Nolan stuck out his tongue at her.
“I’ll have you know that I was keeping it off the floor,” he said.
Addison mimicked his father with his tongue, causing Nolan to burst into laughter.
Scarlett sighed, but she was seconds away from giggling.
“Never mind the rest of your suit,” she said, pointing to where he still lay sprawled on the floor.”
Nolan picked up the toddler and gave his wife a kiss.
“We’ll hurry, darling,” he said. “I promise.”
Scarlett kissed them both and tousled their hair.
“You best,” she said, laughing at Nolan’s mock horrified expression.
“Well, now I need another hour,” he gasped.
Scarlett pointed to the clock.
“You have but one more hour before everyone arrives,” she said.
“I accept your challenge,” he said.
Sure enough, both he and Addison were fully dressed, and their hair recombed, just in time for their first guests to arrive. Nolan grinned and bound down the steps two at a time with his son clutching his chest and arm as he saw Eleanor and Lord Jeffreys, her husband of two years and wealthy baron, step into the grand hall.
“Aunt Eleanor,” he said, rushing over to her. “Welcome, Donald. It is wonderful to see you again.”
The baron bowed, which was a big mistake. Addison had a handful of his salt splashed brown hair before Nolan could stop him, and Eleanor doubled over in laughter.
“I think Addison missed you, too,” she said.
Donald laughed in his good-natured way as Nolan wrestled the hair from the child’s small hand. He stepped back to a safe distance while Donald righted himself and smoothed over his hair. Then, he opened his hands, inviting the boy to come to him.
“I’ve certainly missed him,” he said. “This must be my favourite great-nephew ever.”
Nolan smiled fondly. From the moment Eleanor had introduced him to their family, he had treated them like they were his own blood relatives. Nolan approved of him immediately, and he was happy that his aunt had found such a wonderful man who loved her.
Next to arrive were David, Ruth, Thomas and Harry. As the boys followed behind their parents with their hands behind their backs, he could hardly believe that they were already eight and eleven years old. They were growing like weeds, and they were just as polite and calm as you please. Nolan gave them both a wicked grin as he charged toward them.
“Uncle Nolan,” Harry said, laughing.
Thomas sighed, pretending to be irritated with Nolan, but putting him in a headlock the instant Nolan bent over.
“Gottcha,” he said, poking Nolan in the ribs.
“Tell me again why we allow you around our boys?” he asked as Nolan stood to shake his hand.
“Because he is the epitome of maturity,” she giggled.
“He has matured about as well as milk,” he said.
From the doorway, Nolan heard Scarlett squeal. He didn’t need to rush to her side to know what had just happened. He and the rest of the guests turned to watch as she led her mother, sister and brother-in-law, and their four-year-old son, Samuel, into the grand hall.
Mrs. Wentworth headed straight for Addison, who was reaching for her the instant his eyes found her. Nolan swelled with pride. His son was the most affectionate, loving child he had ever met, even at such a young age. He gurgled with excitement as his grandmother scooped him up into her arms.
“Merry Christmastide, sweet darling,” she said, covering him in kisses.
“Would I had gotten that kind of greeting, Mother,” she teased.
Adelaide winked impishly at Nolan, and he watched eagerly as she approached his wife.
“Here, Sister,” she said, throwing her arms around Scarlett. “Allow me.” She commenced to plant wet, sloppy kissed all over a giggling Scarlett’s face. The room erupted into laughter, and Nolan was full of joy. It was hardly orthodox for nobility and ton society to behave in such a manner. But that they did so was one reason why they all loved each other so. If people couldn’t toss aside their cares and the shackles of proper society when in the company of their dearest loved ones, what was the point of life?
As everyone finished exchanging their greetings and passing around the respective children, Nolan put his arm around Scarlett. He beamed at her, giving her a soft kiss on her lips.
“Adelaide missed a spot,” he explained as he kissed her again, and then a third time.
Scarlett giggled, leaning into him and touching his chin with the tip of her finger.
“Thank heavens’,” she said. “How would we ever tell the ton that I’d been forced to marry my sister?”
“By first telling them that I eloped with your brother-in-law,” he teased.
Scarlett gave him a playful shove.
“Incorrigible, Lord Hartley,” she said.
Nolan’s grin widened.
“And you love it, Lady Hartley,” he said.
Scarlett threw her head back in the way he loved so dearly.
“It’s the only reason I married you,” she said.
The butler came then and announced that the Christmastide meal was ready to be served. Everyone made their way to the dining room, where the table was rapidly filling with Christmas ham, duck, roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables, and Christmas cakes, pies, puddings and cookies.
There were also copious amounts of seasonal wines and champagnes, and everyone took their seats. As was tradition, Eleanor read from the story of the three wisemen, then everyone helped themselves to the food before them.
“Can we have some wine, too?” Thomas asked, grinning cheekily.
David bellowed loudly.
“Of course,not!!” he said, reaching for the one pale blue carafe on the table. “However, there is a special spiced cyder here, just for children.”
Thomas frowned, but Harry brightened.
“Can we pretend it’s wine?” he asked.
It was Ruth’s turn to laugh.
“I see no harm in that,” she said.
David rolled his eyes.
“Only our children would be obsessed with alcohol,” he said.
“It couldn’t be because their father has such an obsession,” he pretended to mutter under his breath.
David feigned shock as he lifted his wine glass. It was still nearly full, but he made a big show of topping it off and taking a big gulp, making everyone at the table laugh.
“I’ll have you know that wine and I get along just fine,” he said.
“Until it runs out,” Scarlett chimed in.
Nolan grinned at her proudly. He had known she had a sweet, gentle heart and that she loved to laugh. He had enjoyed seeing her come out of her shell and join in on the gentle ribbing that he and their friends gave each other.
David looked at her with delight as well. He gave her a tiny bit of applause and then raised his glass to her.
“Well played, my lady,” he said. “Check mate.”
After the meal, everyone went to the parlor, where the staff had unloaded everyone’s carriages and fetched the packages from the attic upstairs. There were gifts stacked nearly to the top of the Christmastide tree, and the men took the task of handing them out. Nolan and Scarlett sat watching their loved ones opening their gifts and fawning over them. The boys were especially delighted by gifts of toy trains and new books, paint sets and a new wagon.
While everyone gushed about their gifts, Scarlett leaned close to Nolan and batted her eyelashes.
“I suppose you wish to know where my gift to you is,” she said mysteriously.
“Is it something for later?” he asked.
“You could say that,” she said, putting her hand on her belly. “About eight months later, to be exact.”
Nolan’s eyes widened, and he grinned so hard he thought his cheeks might split.
“Truly?” he asked, putting his hand atop hers.
His wife nodded and giggled.
“Truly,” she said.
Nolan pulled Scarlett as close as she could get and kissed her sweetly. He felt that his chest could burst with happiness, and he looked at her with excitement.
“Can we share the news with everyone now?” he asked.
Scarlett giggled and nodded.
“I hoped you would ask,” she said.
This is the end of my novel “A Convenient Christmas Proposal”. 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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