The Earl's Bargain
for a Second Chance


One week after Luke and Isabella got married, he told her the smallest fib. It was because he had a plan, and he wanted to get all the details in place before delivering the news to his new wife. They were still at his aunt’s country home, having not yet decided where they would live, now that they were wed. The first time Luke was married, he was only ever excited for each precious second he got to spend alone. But now, every second of his life was filled with joy and delight. And he wanted to do something to celebrate it.

He told Isabella that he was going into the village. In truth, however, he was going to visit Isabella’s parents. The butler greeted warmly and escorted him straight to Charles’s study. He had sent word to Charles secretly the day before with news of his arrival, and his new father-in-law had happily welcomed him.

“Good day, Luke,” Charles said, greeting him warmly with a clap on the back. “What’s this plan of yours that you mentioned?”

Luke grinned impishly.

“Well, as you know, Isabella and I are undecided on where we should live,” he said. “But I have an idea. I think Isabella will love it, especially since she wants absolutely nothing to do with her old homes, at least until Andrew is old enough to inherit his father’s title. So, I was thinking that I could completely renovate my countryseat home for us. But I want it to all be a surprise.”

Charles nodded thoughtfully.

“That sounds perfect,” he said. “But how will you ever do that without her knowing? You’ll be moving into it soon, I would guess?”

Luke shook his head, smiling slyly.

“I was thinking of taking her on a year long wedding trip,” he said. “I can make all the arrangements for the renovations before we leave and leave my valet and steward to oversee everything. And when we get back, with a little luck, everything should be ready.”

Charles grinned and nodded.

“I say, that is a fine idea,” he said. “Rather genius in fact. And if you like, you can leave the children with us. We’d be more than happy to take them in with us, if you do not wish to take them with you.”

Luke thought for a moment, then shook his head.

“No,” he said. “You are very kind to offer, and I appreciate it greatly. But I think this should be a family trip. Isabella would miss them too terribly, being away from them for so long. And I know they would miss her.”

Charles gave him another approving smile.

“You are a good man, indeed, Luke,” he said.


For a whole year, Luke and his new family sailed the seas, visited India and the Far East, and even spent two months in France. The children were better behaved than anyone had any right to expect of small children who spent a great deal of time on a ship. And the whole trip was more fulfilling than even Luke could have imagined when they set sail. He had never been happier in his whole life. And yet, as the trip came to an end, he was filled with a whole new excitement.

As the latest in a long series of ships entered the London docks, Isabella put her hand on Luke’s back.

“I’m thrilled to be home,” she said, looking up at him with curiosity. “But where exactly is it that we’ll be living?”

Luke gave her an impish grin and wagged his eyebrows.

“Home,” he said.

Isabella gently prodded, eyeing him with the suspicious eye of a wife who knows her husband has something big planned. But Luke would not give away a single thing as the carriage took them from London and out into England’s lovely countryside. It took them three days to get to Netherwood Manor, but it was every bit as pleasant as their wedding trip had been. Each day, Luke thought he couldn’t be happier than he had been the previous day. And every day, he was proven incorrect.

As the carriage finally pulled into the driveway of Netherwood Manor, everyone including him gasped. He had given specific instructions for the renovations, and even he hadn’t expected such grandeur and perfection. The cream-colored stones had all been repaired and seemed to shine with promise.

The hedges had been shaped into horses, just for Andrew, and bright patches of pink roses and lilies, which were Emma’s current favorite flower, dotted the landscape between the animal-shaped bushes. The driveway had been widened and transformed from plain gray stone to the same cream-colored stones as those constituting the house. Even the front door was now white, whereas it had once been a dull brown.

Inside the manor, all the tapestries and rugs had been changed. They were now all yellow, pink and blue, and there were paintings of horses and lilies all through out the mansion. There were pink roses in every vase, which rested upon fresh pink doilies. And the grand hall was covered with a lush white rug that seemed to illuminate the room all on its own.

“Oh, Luke,” Isabella breathed, looking up at him. “You planned this all along.”

Luke grinned, feeling overwhelmed with joy. He hadn’t been sure how he would feel when he entered the home he once shared with Violet. But now that they were there, and he could see all the changes in person, he loved their home immediately.

“That’s why we had such a long trip,” he said. “I hope you don’t mind that I chose for us to live here.”

Isabella leapt into his arms and gave him a sweet kiss on his nose.

“I love it, darling,” she said. “I’ve never seen such a beautiful house.”

Luke beamed, pleased that his wife was so thrilled.

“I believe that it will be a perfect place for our dear family,” he said.

Isabella looked up at him with bashful eyes and placed a hand on her stomach.

“Even if our family starts growing?” she asked mysteriously.

Luke’s eyes widened and he pulled Isabella close.

“Are you…” he trailed off, searching his wife’s face.

Isabella shrugged.

“I will send for the physician tomorrow,” she said. “But a mother always knows.”


“Luke, darling, come quickly,” Isabella said, her voice muffled from where Luke sat in his study, filing away some ledgers.

Luke entered the grand hall just in time for Isabella to greet him, beaming up at him and dragging him back toward the stairs before he could even get a word out.

“What’s this?” he asked, chuckling at his wife’s apparent excitement.

Isabella looked at him with a bright grin, but she shook her head.

“It’s a surprise,” she said.

Luke looked at her questioningly, but he dutifully followed her until they reached the nursery. Andrew and Emma, now nine and seven, were each sitting on opposite sides of the floor with their hands extended. The nursemaid and nanny stood closer to the middle of the room. And in the very center of the floor was two-year-old little Charles Pearson, pushing himself up slowly from an all-fours position.

Luke looked at Isabella, who nodded eagerly.

“You are a first-time father, by all accounts,” she said. “By which I mean that you never got to witness special milestones in the lives of your older children. I wanted you to have the opportunity to see these milestones with Charles.”

Luke watched anxiously as his young son finally rose unsteadily to his feet. Luke realized what was about to happen, and he held his breath.

“Come here, Charles,” Andrew said, clapping his hands together frantically, his eyes wide and filled with excitement.

Emma gave him a serious look and shook her head.

“You’re going to scare him,” she said in a much quieter voice. She held out her arms and softly patted one of her palms with her fingertips. “That’s it, darling. Come to Sister.”

Luke’s heart was full as he watched the older two children with little Charles. Isabella was right. He adored Emma and Andrew as though they were his own, and he often forgot that they weren’t from his own loins. But he didn’t get to witness any of the things that young children do throughout their development. He hadn’t even known how important such things were to him until right then. But suddenly, nothing else in the world mattered.

A hushed silence filled the room as Charles teetered on his feet. Luke surmised that there had been a great deal of the teetering and wobbling, which was why everyone was so attentive and involved. Isabella looked at Luke again, practically glowing.

“He’s been doing this for about a week now,” she whispered. “That’s how it was before Andrew started walking. I believe he’s finally ready.”

Luke nodded, feeling his heart swell with pride. He didn’t want to distract the boy. But the anticipation was becoming overwhelming.

Charles finally put his left foot out, and almost succeeded in staying upright. But a gasp from Emma startled him, and he ended up right back on his bottom. He scrunched up his face, slapping the ground with a tiny hand. Luke made himself known then, stepping further inside the room and kneeling down a few paces away from his young son.

“That’s all right, son,” he crooned softly. “Don’t be angry. You’ll get it, won’t you?”

Charles’s head shot up in the direction of his father’s voice, having been unaware of his presence until Luke spoke. The boy grinned, waving to his father.

“Pa,” he said, putting himself back into a crawling position. “Pa.”

Luke grinned at his son. Charles had only started saying ‘ma’ and ‘pa’ a couple of months prior. And it never failed to make Luke’s heart soar.

“Yes, son, I’m here,” he said. “You can do it. I believe in you.”

Charles looked at his father for another second, before repeating his unsteady maneuver to get to his feet. He wobbled for a second before his balance evened out. Now, he was facing Luke, and he smiled a toothy grin at his father.

“Pa,” he said, opening and closing his hands like his parents did when they were about to pick him up.

Luke copied the gesture, holding out his arms just out of reach of the child.

“Come here, Charles,” he said softly. “I’ve got you.”

Charles looked down at his feet, now in deep concentration. Then, he looked back up at Luke, and put his left foot forward once more. Again, the room fell completely quiet as everyone waited to see what would happen next. After another little wobble, Charles shifted his weight and put his right foot forward.

Emma and Andrew exchanged wildly excited looks, but neither of them made a 

sound. Isabella put one hand over her mouth and the other over her chest, and Luke was especially encouraged. He pulled his arms back just a little, still gesturing to his son.

“That’s it,” he said, his own voice teeming with excitement. “You can do it.”

The boy once again beamed at his father as he took another step forward. He became unsteady again, and Luke’s heart stopped. But the child compensated by setting his feet widely apart. After another moment, he was steady again, and he took another step.

No one said a word as the boy toddled across the floor. But when he reached Luke, after ten small steps, and Luke caught his son in his arms, everyone cheered. Isabella kissed the young boy on the cheek, with tears streaming down hers. The children came and wrapped their mother, stepfather and half brother in a wide group hug. And the nanny and nursemaid smiled on with wise admiration.

“That’s my boy,” Luke said, tousling his son’s hair and laughing. “I knew you could do it.”

Andrew took his brother’s hands in his and clapped them together, which greatly delighted the smaller child.

“Now, you’re a big boy, Charles,” he said.

Emma nodded eagerly, tugging on Luke so that she could kiss her brother’s cheek.

“I’m so proud of you, Brother,” she said.


This is the end of my novel “The Earl’s Bargain for a Second Chance”. 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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