June 19th, 1816, The River Thames.
At the picnic table, Gareth sat his two-year-old son on his lap and tried to feed him a small bite of apple. The boy shook his head, shutting his mouth firmly.
“He won’t eat it,” Abigail told him, laughing.
Gareth sighed, then let out a mock-groan. “Have some faith in me, Abigail, my darling. Would you, please?”
His wife put her elbows atop the painted wooden table and rested her chin on the her hands. “Shall we make this fun, then? If he eats, you pay up. If he doesn’t, I pay up.”
Oh, he did love a good challenge, and he was going to accept this one. “It’s a wager,” he said firmly, then turned his attention back to his child. “Here, Cameron, here. Have this, son,” he coaxed the child.
“I promise you, he will not consume it.”
And she was proved right. His son promptly averted his head again, a disgruntled expression on his face.
She laughed. “Gareth, he is teething. That kind of food will not appease him.” But
Gareth was undaunted. He wasn’t going to allow his wife to win this time.
“Cameron,” he wheedled, looked into his son’s big blue eyes. “Your Mama is being unkind to your Papa, and you are not making it any easier for me. My heart is bleeding.”
“Your heart is just stubborn.” She stood up and came across to sit beside him. She unwrapped a toffee caramel and held it out to Cameron. “Here, darling.” The boy immediately grabbed it with his fist, regarding it curiously at first, then popping it into his mouth and sucking at it greedily.
Gareth pulled back in visible shock. “What sorcery is this?”
“I keep telling you, feeding him solid food will not miraculously make his teeth grow faster.” Abigail chuckled. She held out a hand. “Pay up.”
Gareth sighed and dipped into his pocket. He placed the money on her palm.
“Nice doing business you, Your Grace,” she said, smiling triumphantly, spiriting the con away.
Cameron wiggled out of his father’s grasp and scampered away on unsteady legs. “Now, where is he off to?”
“His playmate, Fiona, as usual.” They watched as he tottered about, laughing, then Abigail spotted some figures in the distance and waved. It was Hyacinth, who waved back gaily.
When she turned back around, Abigail snuggled up against Gareth as they watched their son staggering about comically. They watched the lulling serenity of the stretch of water before them. The sun was warm on their skin, perfect weather for a picnic.
Gareth glanced down at his wife, seeing her eyes were closed. She looked so much at peace. He pushed an errant lock away from her cheek, tucking it behind her ear.
Was it him or had she added some weight? Her breasts were fuller, and her waist was curvier, and her complexion shone. He raised one hand and ran his index finger from the edge of her wrist down to her elbow. Abigail’s mouth parted, and her body shivered involuntarily. A small moan escaped her lips. Her hands curled around his biceps and she shuddered blissfully. He loved making her do that.
“Would you like an apple, my lady? Seeing as you and your little sidekick have completely undermined my paternal abilities?” he asked jokingly.
His wife sat up, looking somewhat flustered as she smiled at him. Then she threw back her head and laughed. “You are a man of wonder, Gareth Davenport.”
Gareth stroked his chin. “Well, I hear that a lot, but coming from you, I just might have to eventually give in and believe it.”
As she munched on the half-bitten apple that had been packed for the picnic lunch, Gareth could not stop staring at her. It had been two years since their union, and he had never had cause to regret picking her as a bride. She was his, his wife, the mother of his child, his companion, his life.
They laughed together as Cameron returned from his little walk, running into his father and collapsing into his arms. Gareth held the boy close as she looked at his wife.
He said, “I fall more in love with you as the days go by, Abigail.”
“And I am with you, Gareth Davenport.” She smiled broadly, dimpling her cheeks.
He leaned in to brush his lips against her temples, inhaling the familiar scent of her beautiful perfume. As always, she smelled like flowers and fragrance. It was an aroma that drove him crazy all the damn time.
He drew back, gazing into her aquamarine eyes. “Hm?”
“Have you noticed something different about me lately?”
“Now that you mention it, indeed I have.”
She smiled more widely. “That’s because I’m with child.”
He jerked up instantly, his eyes widening. “You’re expecting. Again?”
Delighted astonishment lit his face. “Abigail. You . . . you . . .”
“Shh. I don’t want anyone else finding out now. You’re the only one I’ve told.”
Raising her hand to his lips, Gareth kissed each of her fingers. Still cradling Cameron, he reached over and covered her belly with a protective hand. He felt excitement coursing through him at the knowledge that a new child was on its way. “Another little Davington,” he whispered against her ears, nuzzling the skin of her lobes.
“It might be a little girl this time.” She grazed her hand across his and leaned into him before closing her eyes again. He knew what she was thinking. It was so easy to read her because she was so transparent.
Over the last two years, he had greatly improved his disposition, and not just his family but also his businesses had flourished as a result. Abigail was his lucky charm—that was the way he liked to see it. His wife was the lady of the house. Davington Manor was her home.
Abigail smiled to feel the warmth of her husband and son so close, and silently, she promised boundless happiness to the precious little soul now growing inside her. After years of mourning, of sadness, and uncertainty, she still found it hard to believe that all this happiness was hers. Somehow, the Good Lord had seen fit to give her everything she ever wanted, and certainly more than she needed.
Gareth cuddled his wife and son contentedly, thinking of the new life inside her. He glanced out at the slow-moving old river, its green banks, and an endless blue sky above. And he truly felt grateful for there was so much joy to go around.
Footfalls approached from behind. “I apologize for intruding on this beautiful moment,” Aunt Lucinda said. “Are you coming to join the others?”
“Yes, let’s go and see Fiona, shall we, Cameron?” Abigail said, waiting for Gareth to get up, passing the excited boy to his Great Auntie before pulling her to her feet. Lucinda walked ahead with the little lad, holding his hand tightly as they headed to rejoin the rest of their happy family under the big oak tree further along the bank.
Abigail and Gareth strolled hand in hand behind her. Suddenly, Abigail looked up into his eyes, once more admiring the handsome face of her husband.
“I love you,” she told him softly, tracing his jaw with a finger.
“I love you more, my darling,” he said, pulling her close and kissing her hair.