Eight Years Later
“Christopher! Violet! Please don’t go so fast. It’s hard for me to keep up,” Anna said.
“Yes, Mama,” Violet said. Her blue eyes, the color of ice, shone bright under the sunlight. A few tufts of her burning red hair flew out of her hairstyle from the force of the wind. In her white dress and boots, she looked so much like Anna, like a miniature version of her.
“Mother, can I race Violet?” Christopher asked. His eyes were identical to his sister’s, but his hair was dark like Nicholas’s.
“Only to the end of the field. Don’t go up the hill, all right?” Anna said.
“Yes, Mama!” they both said and spurred their ponies.
Nicholas watched them racing, laughing, and telling jokes to each other. It was a close one, but Violet had won again.
Or maybe Christopher let her win, who knows!
“Like mother, like daughter,” Nicholas commented on Violet’s win.
“Well, I guess we are made to be winners!” Anna joked. “I just wished they were more careful.”
“Can you blame them for going so fast? They inherited it from their mother,” Nicholas said in her ear and left a kiss on her forehead.
“Well, their father is not a saint either! He almost threw me out of my horse once! Very rude behavior, and on our very first encounter,” Anna replied, supposedly annoyed.
“I would never!” Nicholas said and wrapped his arms around her.
They both laughed at the recall of their first meeting at this very field. They came here very often now; the kids loved it. They could all ride together and race if they felt like it. It was hard for Anna to race, let alone ride for long in her condition now, though. She was with child again.
Her baby bump was barely evident, but Nicholas kept touching and caressing it. It was a good thing that he was not so scared this time. When she was having Christopher, her screams during labor had mortified him so, that he trembled outside her room. He hated the idea of Anna in pain. When Violet came, however, he was calmer. Now, you could say he was a natural.
They had named Christopher after his father and he was present as he grew up. He attended to all his needs and was always mindful of what more he could offer.
But, truthfully, it was Violet who was the apple of his eye. When she was born, Nicholas lost the ground underneath his feet. He was mesmerized, charmed, and absorbed by her beauty. Violet also had the same feelings about her father; he was her weakness.
The great thing about their children was that they got along so wonderfully. It made Nicholas’s heart melt to see them playing around, spending time together, and being protective of one another. The upcoming fall would be a tough one, since Christopher would be starting boarding school and would be far from home.
I hope Violet doesn’t take it too hard…
They had enrolled him in Eton, however, which was just half an hour ride from their home. They could visit every week, but it would certainly be different. They could never risk delaying it any further, though. Christopher was a bright and articulate boy, and he needed to be nurtured appropriately. His gifts would be useless if he didn’t have the proper education.
Violet was also very talented and smart. She played the piano beautifully and also painted. She had made several portraits of her mother, father, and brother, at such a young age. Nicholas had them all displayed in a special room of the house. He hung each and every one of her works on the walls, after having encased them in beautiful gold frames.
He was also considering taking her to the Grand Tour around Europe, but mostly Italy and Greece when she was a little older. There, she could have the chance to witness some of the greatest art in the history of the world, be inspired, and learn useful things for her art.
Everything Anna and Nicholas saw in their children was a chance to make them great. They had hired excellent, accredited tutors, they had bought books and art works to activate their inspiration and knowledge, and they took them on trips to different places. Anna’s present condition prohibited another trip, but after the baby would be born they would be back on track again.
For the time being, they had only been to France and many places all around England. Nicholas’s business trips were a very nice opportunity for the entire family to travel, so they would visit a new place at least twice a year.
I want to show them the world! And I will!
Fortunately, though, his responsibilities did not take him far from his family for long. The Dowager Countess’s wish to merge their company with the Wingham’s had been fulfilled, although somehow differently. The company in the name of Emilia’s father had been transferred to James, of course, after their marriage, and he had chosen Nicholas as his partner.
Thus, although his grandfather had stepped down from the family business, Nicholas was able to share the work with James, and, later on, John as well. The other twin joined them soon in a partnership that must have been the most trusted and loving that had ever been.
Nicholas’s grandfather had retired and now lived in the countryside. He, however, visited very often, to see his great-grandchildren. His advice and constructive criticism still helped Nicholas immensely in his business. He knew he would be there for him, and that made his heart light.
The brilliance of the partnership, however, lied in the fact that their families were so close. Anna could never lose Emilia. It was imperative that they were together at all times.
Nicholas knew how important it was for Anna to be close to her cousin. Their houses were about twenty minutes apart by carriage, which was ideal for their daily visits.
“Is Mark better now?” he asked Anna.
Mark was James and Emilia’s eldest son. He was seven years old, like Christopher, while their youngest, Henry, was four, two years younger than Emily. Mark had recently fallen off his pony and everyone was worried about him.
“He is fine. He was mostly scared rather than hurt,” Anna reassured him.
The fact that their children were growing up together made them all a really big family. Mark was also starting Eton this fall and at least Christopher would have a friend there, much as Nicholas had the twins. That was a great relief for all of them.
They were so close that, sometimes, they would talk about James and Emilia’s kids as if they were their own, and vice versa. The only thing that saddened the two cousins was that the Dowager Baroness was living alone now.
Since they had both left the house around the same time, Lady Wingham had no one. She never complained but surely she missed her girls. Emilia and Anna visited her frequently in the mornings, and they all had their tea together as they used to. Nicholas also made sure to pass by her house a few times every week, to see how she was and sometimes take her home with him. It was not ideal, but they made it work just fine.
His own mother was happier than ever. She lived with them, even though she had been considering retiring in the countryside. Anna liked having her around, she was like a second mother to her, and Nicholas didn’t have to worry about her as he would if she had been away. Her grandchildren were everything to the Dowager Countess; she seemed rejuvenated with them, and it was such a relief.
John had married Alisha Berrington, a fine young lady that Anna and Emilia approved of and loved dearly. Her father used to be in the same business with Nicholas and his grandfather, and they knew him well. During her London Season, John was left speechless by her beauty and nice manners. However, he fell for her utterly and undeniably when she beat him in a game of croquet.
It'd been a couple of years, however, that they had been married and still, they had no children. John would never complain or mention it to Alisha, even though it bothered him much. He didn’t want to upset her. But she knew and she was also worried. She had confessed her concerns to Anna and Emilia and they had reassured her she would soon be with child.
And finally she was. A few months prior, much to their excitement and blissfulness, the physician had confirmed she was with child. They had not seen her much lately, since she was in the final days, but soon there will be more to see.
“You know, every time I return home from the office or the club, I expect that you will say the baby has arrived,” Nicholas said.
“I know! I have the same feeling! My mind is constantly on Alisha. I hope it’s quick,” Anna replied.
“I have literally never seen John happier,” Nicholas told his wife.
“Me neither! Alisha is a wonderful creature and she deserved this; they both did. I cannot wait to meet their little one. I am so happy for them,” Anna said.
“Our family keeps getting bigger and bigger! First, Alisha and James’s, and then, this little fellow,” Nicholas said and touched her belly.
Anna bent and kissed him on the lips. The last eight years had been the greatest of their life. But they believed life owed them that much, after what they had been through.
They hadn’t heard of Lady Thinsdale again. Her social status and the fact that she was a lady delayed her sentence time after time, until it was evident that she would spent the rest of her life in jail, instead of being executed. What was important was that she had been locked up, far away from them. Anna was his world and he would never allow anyone to harm her.
Her accomplice was also imprisoned. Thankfully, Aaron had managed to save Mindy and her cousin Chrissy from the consequences, after Anna’s request. She had employed them too, along with Mindy’s young brother who was helping out as a stable boy in their home.
What a wonderful creature my wife is!
Eight years had passed since the day he had first met her, and yet, he wanted her like the very first day.
“Honey, do you think we can… do things?” Nicholas asked and put his hand on her belly. Experienced as she was after two children, she knew, of course, and the physician had confirmed it.
She laughed at his remark. “Well, I don’t think there would be a problem! It wasn’t the previous times…” she said.
Anna laughed again at his remark and gave him a kiss.
They both turned and looked at the familiar field. The sun was setting slowly, making the grass glisten where the beams fell. It was vast and open, as always, and Nicholas was surprised that he could still remember the day he had met her. Her wild flaming hair whipping her face by the speed of her horse, her feisty responses to his offer for help, her incomparable beauty.
As he watched Violet now, he saw Anna in her so much. She was fearless, strong, and decisive. The way she rode, so dominantly and proudly, made his heart ache. He would never let anyone hurt her. And neither would her brother. Christopher had been very protective of her ever since she was born.
Then, he turned to Anna. This love he had for her had exceeded his expectations. It was completely otherworldly and stronger than him. What he had wanted was a love like his parents’. What he had now, was the ultimate love that could ever exist.
“Thank you,” he simply told her.
“For what my love?” she asked, turning to look at him.
“For giving me everything I ever wanted.”