The Widowed Earl’s Second Chance – Extended Epilogue


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Two Years Later

Charles stood at the edge of the room with Louise, watching Lara as she laughed at something her husband said. She had only been married a few hours, and she was positively glowing. Charles had thought he had seen her look happy at his wedding, but this was something else. She looked like she had wrapped everything around her and it was satisfying.

Charles understood why. Lara’s husband was one of Archie’s friends, the son of a marquess, and probably one of the most polite, kind people he had come across. The way he treated Lara from the moment they met made it clear that he loved her and would treat her as she deserved. Charles had no worries about that.

He didn’t have any worries about Archie, either. His son was standing by the window with Lady Mabel Chartery, a sweet girl with bright red hair that made her stand out despite her shy nature. Given how loud and confident Archie was, it had been a surprise that he was immediately taken with Mabel, but Charles saw how the two of them were together. It was evidently that they were in love, and he wouldn’t be surprised if another wedding was going to happen this year.

A squirming noise made Charles look around and he saw Louise jostling with Grace. Their fourteen-month-old was getting antsy, sucking on her fingers and making gurgling noises. Charles touched his wife’s back.

“Is she getting tired?”

“Yes. I’d better get her up to bed so she can sleep.”

“You don’t have to do that yourself. Bethany’s here.”

“She’s going to help me, but I like putting our daughter to bed.” Louise kissed his cheek. “Don’t worry about me.”

“It’s not just you that I’m worried about.” Charles pressed a hand to her swollen belly. “Our other little one doesn’t let you rest, either.”

Louise smiled.

“They’re settled for now, so I’m going to make the most of it. Give my excuses to Lara. I’ll be back when I can.”

“Of course.”

Charles loved how Louise looked since they married. It was like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, and she had thrown herself into being his countess. She still had her hobbies, and she devoted a lot of time to them, but she looked after him and his twins as well. Now they had a child with another one on the way, Louise was focusing on being a mother to her own children. It was adorable to watch. And Grace looked exactly like Louise, which made Charles love his daughter even more when he was playing with her.

If someone had told him three years ago that he would be married again with children and he would be happy, Charles would have thought they were ludicrous and needed to be committed. It was a surprise how easy it was to be married to Louise.

A laugh to his right had Charles turning, and he saw Lucy talking to her father. She had blossomed herself, and she had been smiling a lot more. Not having Elizabeth around had helped a lot for her. It wasn’t quite the same with Harvey, who had recovered from his wife poisoning him. While he seemed to be happy and content, Charles detected the underlying sadness that he would have a marriage where he and Elizabeth were separated. As far as Charles knew, he hadn’t contacted Elizabeth since she left London. He still cared about her despite everything.

Divorce was something that was just not done nowadays, but Charles wondered if Harvey would be able to get a special dispensation to do so. Then he would be free to carry on and find a better future for himself.

But that was his friend’s private life, not his. Charles knew better than to interfere with that.

Turning away, Charles spotted Louise in the doorway to the drawing room. She was alone, no longer carrying Grace, and she seemed to be watching someone across the room. Confused, Charles approached her.

“I thought you were going to put Grace to bed,” he said as he reached her.

“I was going to, but then I saw Aunt Harriet.” Louise bit her lip. “I…I guess I got distracted.”

Charles looked across the room and saw Aunt Harriet. She was sipping from a glass and talking to Lady Brighton. She didn’t look comfortable, but she wasn’t openly hostile. Charles had been surprised that she had turned up at all, but Lara had said she was family now, so she wanted to invite her family. Charles hadn’t argued about it, although he had been surprised.

“Louise?” Charles touched her shoulder. “Are you alright?”

“It just…feels strange.” Louise gave him a tiny smile and flushed. “Forgive me, darling, I wasn’t expecting…even after two years, things are still strange between us.”

“But you’ve made a lot of effort since then, haven’t you? You forgave her despite everything, something I wasn’t expecting from you.” Charles squeezed her shoulder. “I know a couple of years is nothing compared to the twenty years you spent under her roof with the way things were going, but it seems to be going in the right direction. And your aunt has certainly mellowed since then, I’ve noticed.”

He had been skeptical about it when Louise told him about Aunt Harriet barging into her room on their wedding day, expecting a fight. But she had handled it maturely, and despite everything, she had wanted some sort of relationship. She might hate what happened, but she didn’t place the blame on her aunt. Not even when they found out what lengths Aunt Harriet went through to get the money she wanted from her niece.

Louise had a lot of compassion and she was willing to give her a chance. So far, things had been going surprisingly well. They weren’t close, but their relationship was cordial and they could talk without arguing. And Aunt Harriet, while not liking children, had been willing to sit beside Louise and help her through childbirth. Charles had not expected that, but Louise said that her aunt’s dry wit and sarcastic comments were what she needed to distract herself from the pain. It had somehow worked because the labor was only six hours compared to what it could have been.

At least Charles had his wife’s aunt to thank for that.

“Well, you don’t need to worry about her. Let Lara deal with her for now.” Charles put an arm around her shoulders and steered her out of the room. “Why don’t we go and put our daughter to bed together? I’m sure Bethany wants a moment in private with her husband and son. She’s been working all day, and I’m surprised she’s had any time to feed little George.”

“She’s stronger than I ever could be,” Louise said, leaning into him. “I couldn’t have asked for anyone better.”

“You’re strong as well.” Charles kissed her head. “You’ve been through a lot, and you’ve come out the other side. I couldn’t love you more.”

Louise sighed, and Charles saw a smile on her mouth. He tilted her head back and kissed her gently, which had Louise gasping.

“Charles! We’re not in private!”

“So what? We’re married. Nobody’s going to care.” Charles grinned. “Once it’s dark, how about we use the telescope to see if there are any stars out tonight? You said a few constellations would be out tonight.”

Louise giggled.

“You just want an excuse to get me alone, don’t you?”

“Can you blame me? Although we might end up bringing Grace with us if she can’t sleep tonight. She seems to have gotten her sleep pattern around the wrong way.”

“I think you’re going to be right.” Louise kissed him. “But that sounds like a good idea.”

“I thought you just pointed out we weren’t in private.”

Louise rolled her eyes with a smile.

“And I thought you just said nobody was going to care. And, the more I think about it, neither do I.”

Charles laughed and hugged her. He knew when he first married Louise that she was going to bring a lot of light into his life, and he hadn’t been wrong so far. She just kept going.

And he didn’t want it to stop.


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