A MYSTERIOUS LADY FOR THE BROKEN DUKE
“She certainly is,” she replied.
She and Luke made their way down the hall, arms wrapped around each other. Diana felt certain that she had never felt as happy and complete as she did at that moment.
“Mama,” Charlotte called as she entered the drawing room, where Luke and Diana sat sipping holiday punch.
Diana rose and opened her arms to her eldest daughter, into which the eight-year-old rushed with giddy joy.
“It is Christmas, at last,” she said, releasing her mother to give the same attention to Luke.
“It certainly is, little one,” Luke said, kissing her on top of her head.
“Soon, I shall be too tall for you to call little,” she said.
Luke laughed heartily.
“As long as you are smaller than me, you will always be my little one,” he said.
Charlotte giggled and nodded once more.
“I suppose you are right,” she said. “And I suppose I do not mind that so much.”
“Daaa,” a tiny, gurgling voice cooed, earning the attention of the other three in the room. Julia was entering, carrying a very bright eyed and very happy baby Rose. Luke went to the nursemaid and took his daughter from her, kissing her cheek with loud smacks, causing the infant to giggle uncontrollably.
“Merry Christmas, sweet Rose,” he said, bringing the baby closer to Diana. She stroked the child’s hair and kissed the top of her head.
“Merry Christmas, Sister,” Charlotte cried, gently taking Rose’s hand, and putting it to her face.
Rose patted her sister’s cheek, giggling at the sound it made. Charlotte laughed, too, tugging at Luke, so that he would put down the infant, so she could play with her.
Luke complied, putting his arm around his wife once it was free. The children began playing together the moment Rose was sitting on the ground. Diana looked at him, still wearing the smile with which she had gone to bed the previous night.
“I love you,” she said, tilting her head up for a kiss.
Luke kissed her softly, touching one of the ringlets that framed her face.
“I love you too, my darling,” he said.
A moment later, the Dowager Duchess entered the room carrying a tray of fresh gingerbread cookies. By the look on her face, Diana deduced that Luke had told his mother of her plan to speak to Charlotte the night before. She placed the tray on the table that sat between all the members of their family.
Luke and Diana smiled warmly at the Dowager Duchess as she handed each of the children a cookie. Rose gripped hers tightly, examining it carefully, almost suspiciously, before putting it to her nose. She apparently liked the fragrance because she instantly put it in her mouth. Everyone laughed.
Charlotte took her cookie from the Duchess and smiled brightly.
“Thank you, Aunt Eliza,” she said.
Diana’s mouth fell open and she glanced at Luke. His expression was identical to her own, and it seemed as though time had stopped. Diana knew that Charlotte understood the older woman was no true relation to her. But would the Duchess be happy with Charlotte calling her aunt?
The Dowager Duchess looked at Charlotte for a moment, just as surprised as the others. Then, she smiled fondly, tears forming in her eyes.
“Oh, my,” she breathed, putting a hand on her chest. “You are welcome, darling.”
While the adults ate their cookies, they pulled out the gifts they would be exchanging. Both Charlotte and Rose grew excited as they saw all the shiny, bright-colored packages.
Charlotte was thrilled with each of her gifts. Rose, however, was more interested in the pretty packaging, switching between trying to drape a ribbon across her shoulders like a scarf and attempting to balance box tops on her head like a hat. Everyone laughed heartily, thanking one another for the thoughtful presents, and watching the children play together with theirs.
As the servants began cleaning up the discarded paper and packages, Diana slowly rose.
“This has been the most wonderful Christmas that I can remember in many years,” she said. “However, I have one final gift for all of you.”
Everyone, including little Rose, ceased their various activities and looked at her with intrigued curiosity. She smiled warmly at her family, thanking the heavens yet again for the endless blessings she had experienced in the past three years.
She clasped her hands in front of her and blushed, smiling.
“I am with child once again,” she said.
The Dowager Duchess rose instantly and embraced her fiercely. Charlotte took Rose’s hand and led her to their mother.
“Did you hear that?” she asked, laughing happily, and clapping her hands. “Now you get to be a big sister, just like me.”
Rose began to laugh and clap as well. No doubt she did not understand the exciting news, but everyone else was happy, and that was enough for her to wish to share in the joy.
“Darling,” Luke said, putting his arm around her from behind her. “This is the best Christmas gift I have ever been given.”
Diana turned and smiled up at her husband.
“This,” she said, gesturing to the Dowager Duchess, the children, and him, “is the best gift of all.”
This is the end of my novel “A Mysterious Lady for the Broken 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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