It was lovely to be beside the sea again. Carmen couldn’t become used to being called Charlotte, and suggested she be known as Carmen. The Duke and Duchess of Brittlemore understood this perfectly and agreed.
Carmen watched her two daughters and son play on the sand with their father. The girls were twins, Elizabeth and Jane, and her son, Charles. While the girls, five years of age, looked very much like her, Charles, two years old, looked much like his father.
Arthur was still as handsome now as he was when they met. She didn’t marry Arthur straight away. No, Carmen had wanted to spend time with her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Brittlemore. She had missed out on years as a child, and she had wanted to make most of it up.
The sun was warm and just the right temperature. Carmen lifted her face to the sky and enjoyed the heat. She was indeed happy, for she lived in Cornwall for most of the summer season, and only visited London for two weeks of the year. In the winter months, she lived in Brittlemore in a house near her parent’s house.
“I hope you don’t mind too much, My Dear,” she said to Arthur a little after they got married. “But I cannot live here in Heartwick. There are too many terrible memories that I simply cannot forget. I wish to live in Cornwall.”
She told him about her holiday to the seaside with Helena and described how wonderful it was.
“If you want to live there, I will make it happen, My Dear,” he said.
Eventually, he bought a house in Brittlemore so Carmen could spend time there when Arthur was in Heartwick for business, and to ensure that his stepmother and half-brother had not destroyed the Hall. Carmen had not seen Scott since the night of the ball.
Arthur came and joined his wife. The governess was sitting with the little ones.
“You seem to be relaxed,” he said, smiling.
“I was just thinking of how lucky we are, Arthur, to have such beautiful children, and perhaps also because we are able to take a holiday after the long winter months. I love it here so,” she said.
“I do too,” said Arthur.
“Oh, we had a letter today,” said Carmen. “It is from Helena. She is coming here with Austin and the boys. I simply cannot wait.”
“I am pleased to hear that. It has been a while since we last saw them. It will be a delight, that is certain.”
“Indeed. And our children will love to have their children to play with. They are about the same age,” said Carmen.
“When are they due to arrive?” asked Arthur.
“In a week’s time. I must prepare for their stay. There is so much to do!”
“Spoken like a true Duchess,” laughed Arthur.
A warm wind blew their way, lifting Carmen’s heart even more. She breathed in the salty air. The children laughed as the wind tickled their cheeks. They began to throw sand at each other.
“Children, stop that now. You will get sand in your eyes,” Carmen scolded.
Elizabeth pushed Charles, and he began to cry. The governess picked him up as Carmen got there.
“No, let me, Harriot,” said Carmen, taking Charles into her embrace.
“Yes, Your Grace,” said the governess.
“Elizabeth, why did you push your brother?” Arthur asked gently. Carmen looked at him in a disapproving manner. He could never scold the girls properly.
“Papa, he threw sand into my eyes. It burns,” Elizabeth pretended to cry.
Jane carried on playing, ignoring her sister and brother. She was the quiet one and didn’t like to engage too much in such trivial matters as she would say.
“Mama, Charles is a baby still, he doesn’t want to play with me. And Elizabeth doesn’t like to listen to your stories. She wants to play with dolls all the time, it is quite dull,” Jane said once to Carmen.
Carmen couldn’t stop laughing.
“She is a lot like you,” said the Duchess of Brittlemore. “I can see that. Her love of stories is one likeness. I may not have read to you as a child, but I see you do love to read.”
“And I must thank you for the library, Mama,” said Carmen.
The Duchess of Brittlemore had a library made just for Carmen when she came to live with them. Her father was delighted, and they spent many hours in the library together, reading and enjoying one another’s company. Carmen also joined her mother in painting the garden, waking up as soon as it was light outside.
When Carmen married Arthur, it had been a tearful goodbye for the Duchess, who didn’t want to lose her daughter all over again.
“And you won’t, Mama,” said Carmen, holding her hand. “I will visit as often as I can.”
And Carmen made her mother and father happier when Arthur bought the house in Brittlemore.
It was beginning to cloud over, and the once warm wind, had turned a little cold.
“Come on, everyone, it is time to go back home,” said Carmen.
The governess began to pack everything up. Carmen picked up Charles, and Arthur held each of the girl’s hands. They trudged up the sandy hill and reached the carriage just in time before the rains came.
“Quickly, James,” Arthur told the driver.
The driver set the horses to move quickly through the rain, as the children squealed.
“What a sudden turn of the weather!” Carmen exclaimed.
“Yes, what a turn of the weather,” Elizabeth repeated. Jane rolled her eyes, and Charles blew a raspberry.
There was laughter all around.
“Dear me, just look at the weather!” Abigail exclaimed as she rushed forward toward Carmen.
“We reached the carriage just in time,” said Carmen. “Thank you, Abigail.”
Abigail helped Carmen take off her outdoor dress.
“It has been awfully quiet today without hearing the children,” Abigail commented. “I have missed them.”
“It has only been a day,” Carmen laughed. The governess took the children to the nursery to get cleaned up, and Arthur went to his room.
“Enjoy their youth, Carmen. They grow up very fast,” said Abigail.
Carmen insisted Abigail call her Carmen when alone, as she had called Helena in privacy.
Abigail’s son was now four-and-ten. He worked as a farm hand and looked after his old grandparents. Abigail began to work for Carmen as a lady’s maid when she went to Brittlemore. Carmen insisted she bring her son with her, but she had refused.
“Mama and Papa need Daniel more than I do,” she said. “He makes them feel fit and young. Besides, if you give me permission, I will see him now and then.”
“You may go whenever you wish,” said Carmen.
Abigail wrote to her son frequently and visited him every few months. It was a good arrangement.
Carmen’s relationship with Abigail remained as it was, it didn’t change even though they were mistress and servant. Carmen would never forget that once she was a lady’s maid and how Abigail tried to save her from that monster. She liked to think she and Abigail were friends.
Sometimes, Carmen had to remind herself of her newfound status. It still felt bizarre. She went up to her room with Abigail following. Even though they had spent a day out today at the seaside, Carmen felt strangely uneasy, and very tired.
It must be the fresh salt air and all that excitement of the letter. I can’t wait for Helena to arrive.
“I will have a bath, Abigail,” she said. “I feel rather tired.”
“I will have the maid bring up hot water,” said Abigail.
Abigail undressed Carmen and eased her into the hot bath. All the aches and pains just seemed to disappear. Then, she gasped.
“What is it?” asked Carmen.
“Carmen, I believe you are in the family way again,” said Abigail smiling.
Carmen looked down and she saw a small bump. She counted back when she last had her courses; it had been a while. Why hadn’t she noticed before?
“Oh my,” said Carmen, “another little one.”
“Oh, this is such a joyful occasion. His Grace will be so pleased,” said Abigail. “I forgot, how are you feeling?”
“I am surprised, that is certain,” said Carmen feeling her bump. “I thought I was becoming fat, and the tiredness was all because of the children.”
“But are you happy?”
“Yes, I am happy. I love children and I am certain His Grace will be too. I cannot wait to tell him.”
Carmen waited until it was night before she told Arthur the good news. Arthur got into bed beside her.
“You seem quite relaxed, My Darling,” he said.
“I had a bath when we got back,” she said. “Arthur, I have something I must tell you.”
“This sounds intriguing. What can it be to make you so happy?”
“Do I look happy, then?”
“Yes, very much so, My Love,” said Arthur as he kissed her tenderly on the lips.
“Then I believe you will be too,” said Carmen. She took Arthur’s hand and put it on her stomach. “I am with baby.”
There was a moment’s silence as Arthur looked at her in wonder.
“Well done, My Love, well done!” he kissed her again. “I can’t be more delighted!”
Carmen laughed. “I am so glad.”
“I can’t believe it, another little one. But–” he said.
Carmen frowned. “But?” Was her husband not happy?
“But I want another girl!” he laughed.
“Oh, Arthur. Don’t do that, I was so worried.”
“Whether we have another girl or boy, I will be happy,” she said.
“As I will be, My Darling.”
Arthur kissed her again, this time on her neck. His tongue traveled down to Carmen’s erect nipples, flicking, and tasting them. Carmen melted. Her groin responded.
“Oh, Arthur,” she moaned softly.
He was already hard, but he was careful to not be rough on her as he positioned himself on top, keeping a little distance from the bump. He went down and he found her, his mouth tasting eagerly. Waves of sweetness passed from her breasts to her groin, as Carmen arched.
Her hands caressed his back and his hair as he gently entered her and rode her. Carmen wanted more, and she tightened her hold on to him as more waves of pleasure cascaded down her.
Eventually, exhausted, he stopped. He fell on to the other side.
Carmen breathed deeply. Even after three babies, Arthur made her feel special and wanted. He truly was the love of her life.
Arthur rolled on to his side, facing her. His eyes met hers.
“I love you, My Darling. You keep bringing me gifts,” he said.
“Nothing is troubling for you,” she whispered.
Arthur put his arms around her belly as if to protect the new addition to their family and fell asleep. Tiredness took over Carmen. She fell asleep with him.
The news of a new baby was received with joy by the Duke and Duchess of Brittlemore, Austin and Helena, and the Dowager. It was a baby boy and girl, another set of twins!
The Dowager had traveled to Cornwall for this beautiful occasion. She insisted on it. Carmen wanted to have her new baby in Cornwall.
“I want to be beside the sea all the time,” she said to Arthur. “I will fare better here. And I wish Mama to come and stay during the pregnancy.”
The Duchess of Brittlemore was delighted, and had made a fuss throughout the nine months, and after too. Arthur’s stepmother had mellowed in the last nine months, but she was very ill too. Carmen held no grudges against her, and she told Arthur to be nice to her.
“Such beautiful babies,” said the Dowager. “Each of them look like the both of you.” Her tone was weak. Gone was the arrogance she once had. Carmen felt pity on her.
“Thank you, Your Grace,” said Carmen.
“Carmen, I don’t have many days left and so I want to say this to repent for my sins. First, I want to apologize for what Scott has done.”
“That was a long time ago, Your Grace. It is all forgotten,” said Carmen. Her son, Henry, cooed in her arms. The governess held her daughter, Henrietta. “Please, take the twins to the nursery.”
When the governess went away, Carmen took the Dowager’s hands. The Dowager was sitting on a wheelchair, for she couldn’t walk much.
“Your Grace, I regret we didn’t spend more time together when I married Arthur. I couldn’t come to Heartwick. I feel my children didn’t know their grandmother well.”
“I should have made the effort also,” said the Dowager. “It was my arrogance that stopped me. In the years, Scott became darker and menacing. I am ashamed of him. His father would turn in his grave. I should have been tough on him, I agree, but I was selfish and greedy.”
The Dowager looked at Carmen, who could see the regret in those eyes. Carmen was aware Arthur had thrown Scott out of Heartwick. Rumors were circulating of Scott being abroad and was wanted by the authorities for smuggling.
“It matters not now, you are here. I would like you to stay in Cornwall with us if you agree. If not for me and His Grace, then the children. I believe they should know who their grandmother is, do you agree?”
“Thank you. I would be delighted, my dear.” The Dowager smiled genuinely. “You would not know, but I have not been to Cornwall before. I shall enjoy the sea in my remaining days.”
“They are lovely, I must congratulate you,” said Helena. She picked up the baby girl first. “She rather looks like her father, I believe.”
“Helena, I have been talking to Arthur, and we have agreed we want you and Austin to be the twin’s godparents, like you are with our other children.”
“Thank you, Carmen. I can say on behalf of Austin and I, that we agree. You know, I believe my husband was more excited to hear your good news than I was,” smiled Helena.
“But pray, tell me. Are you well?” Helena was also with child. “It won’t be long now.”
Helena looked down at her very big belly.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “The baby just kicked me.”
“May I?” Carmen put her hands on Helena’s stomach. The baby kicked again. She laughed.
“You have a strong one there, Helena. Do you think it is a boy or a girl?”
“It will be another boy. I can tell by the way he kicked.” Helena’s face contorted. “Ouch.”
“Are you all right, Helena? Perhaps you should sit down.”
“Oh my!” Helena exclaimed. A gush of water dropped from her.
Carmen gasped. “I will have someone call for the midwife immediately! Abigail, thank goodness you are here. Inform the butler to have someone fetch the doctor. Lady Helena is going to have her baby!”
The next few hours were full of waiting. Carmen stayed with Helena while she was laboring, mopping her forehead and trying to keep her calm as possible. Outside, Arthur tried to keep Austin calm.
“You are nearly there, Helena. You are doing very well,” said Carmen.
“One last push, My Lady,” said the doctor.
Helena screamed, and then there was the sound of the baby crying.
“It is a boy!” exclaimed the doctor. “Congratulations.”
When the baby was cleaned and wrapped up, and Helena also cleaned, the Viscount was allowed inside the room. Arthur came in and stood beside his wife, as he put an arm around her.
“This is a most spectacular time for all of us,” he said.
“Indeed,” smiled Carmen.
She watched the new arrival kick his legs out of his bondage.
“I think we should call him William Mark Montgomery,” said Helena.
Austin kissed his wife on the forehead. “I love it.”
Carmen and Arthur left the happy couple with their baby and went to the nursery where their children played with Helena’s children. The new twins were asleep with their thumbs in their mouths.
Carmen knew they were blessed, and everything was all right.
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