The celebration being held that day in the gardens of Longmuir House in Mayfair was in full swing. It was going to be an enjoyable time, for Paul and Ellen had organized an elaborate family lunch. In fact, it was a double celebration, for Jemina and Kit were celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary. Their two daughters, Camilla and Daphne, were playing with Paul and Ellen and Rowena’s children. Jess was supervising.
Jemina’s eyes locked with her husband’s across the table, and she smiled at him. Six years hadn’t altered his handsome looks. If anything, she found him more attractive than ever. He was cradling their ten-month-old son, Edward, in his burly arms. He smiled back at her. Jemina’s heart flipped, and she secretly blew him a kiss.
Isn’t it beautifully strange, she thought, how six years down the line, he still makes me feel this way? They had come a long way, the two of them. Indeed, they had.
Jemina looked at the family and friends surrounding them and felt a wave of bubbling happiness within her. This was what she had always told herself she did not want, that she would never bring herself to enjoy . . . but here she was. Here she was, content in marital bliss.
They were not the only recipients of good fortune, though, for their extended families also had their lucky stories to tell. Paul and Ellen had their own brood—twin sons who were very naughty, and a baby daughter who had inherited Ellen’s fragile beauty. Wanda and the Duke were there. Wanda had relaxed somewhat in recent years, although she was still a stickler for proper etiquette. Hector was courting a baron’s daughter, a lovely, cultured French-born damsel named Jeanette. Rowena looked serene, and rumor had it that she was considering remarrying. Her unruly children, Jemina’s beloved nephew and niece, were great fun and usually the ringleaders of any trouble among the youngsters. Even now, they were orchestrating a raucous game of leapfrog on the lawn.
And, of course, the Earl and Countess were present too. They had mellowed over the years, now only bickering occasionally. It still amused Jemina and Kit no end to hear them, as it was a fond reminder of the rocky start of their relationship.
Looking around at her beloved husband, children, family, and friends, Jemina mused on how things had changed since the ridiculous marriage pact she and Kit had made in the beginning. Sometimes, she laughed to think how she used to say she didn’t believe in love or happy marriages. How wrong she had been!
As the celebration dimmed with the evening, Jemina stole a moment to herself. Wrapping her shawl around her shoulders, she hurried to the end of the garden, where the lake shimmered below the gazebo. She went inside the gazebo and sat down to wait, looking out over the silver water.
A few minutes later, she heard a familiar voice say, “May I sit with you, my lady?”
She proffered her husband an affectionate smile as he came into view. “Of course, my lord.” He stepped up into the gazebo and took her in his arms. They stood together, her head against his chest, watching the tranquil lake.
“It is wonderful weather tonight.”
“Aye, it is.”
“Just like it was all those years ago. Do you remember that night when we came out here with Paul and Ellen, to discuss our little scheme?”
Jemina nodded as the memories came rushing to her. She sighed softly and gave her husband a smile. “How could I forget?”
“You were eighteen.”
“And quite naive.”
“But undoubtedly beautiful.”
“And also passionately in love.”
“I love you so,” he breathed, holding her tighter.
“And I you.” Jemina replied, nestling into him. She felt utterly content, at peace with the world.
Visions of the rest of her life stretched before her, and the scenes were all beautiful, filled with more healthy children, and even grandchildren. And, of course, great-great grandchildren.
“Isn’t it strange,” she heard her husband ask, his voice filled with wonder, “how much I am actually looking forward to growing old with you, my darling?”
Jemina smiled tremulously. “Not at all. I feel exactly the same, my dear Kit. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”