Luke St. Clair awoke, feeling Caroline’s warmth against him. He lay on his back, his arm curled around his wife of eight years. Her cheek nestled against his chest, her arm wrapped around his waist and one leg brushing against his. Her long, thick, caramel hair was unbound and draped about her body and his. He lifted a lock and rubbed it between his fingers, enjoying the silk of it.
Slowly, he stroked her arm, watching her stir. She frowned and then stretched lazily, her brown eyes opening. They reflected the love he held for this woman.
“Good morning, my darling,” he said huskily. “Did you sleep well?”
She smiled. “I did. I think knowing the Season has ended and that we will soon return to Fairhaven allowed me to relax.”
They came to London each year for the Season, bringing along their four children. Caroline had given birth to three of them and Lucy, whom Luke had found on the streets two Christmases ago, had joined their family. Almost nine, she was the oldest of the four, bright and inquisitive. They had taught her to read and she had learned to do so at a record pace. Both she and Edgar, their seven-year-old son, enjoyed taking turns reading to their youngest siblings. Cora, named in part for Luke’s grandmother, Cordelia, was five. Their youngest, Thomas, was three.
Luke kissed his wife, cherishing her for changing his life. Once, long ago, he had been one of the ton’s most notorious rakes, with a string of mistresses that never seemed to make him happy. Caroline had brought purpose to his life, first by beginning her bookshop and tearoom and allowing Luke to help find the location, as well as hiring the cooks and establishing the tearoom’s menu. He had fallen hard for the small-waisted beauty with the ample bosom, taken by her looks and drawn to her intellect. When love had blossomed between them, he had known he must make her his.
Their marriage had brought the children Luke had longed for. He enjoyed playing uncle to his siblings’ children but there was nothing like being a father. Each day brought new discoveries, with him learning something about his children—and something about himself. He hoped they would be blessed with even more in the near future.
“Did you remember to lock the door?” Caroline asked.
He grinned. “I had to get up during the night but, yes, I did so.”
A slow smile spread across her face. “Good. Now, I wonder what two people might do inside a locked room before their children and servants try to beat it down?”
“How about this?” he asked, rolling so he hovered above her.
His mouth sought hers, heat and desire rushing through him. Kissing his countess would never grow old. In fact, he thought each time they made love his satisfaction grew. After so many years together, they knew exactly what places to touch that would most please their partner.
And he did so now.
After, they lay spent, Caroline’s back to his front, his arm about her possessively. He kissed her nape, inhaling the faint scent of the perfume she always wore. She had worn none when they first met because she had no extra funds to waste on such frivolities. Luke had vowed he would give her perfume and every material possession she might desire. In truth, Caroline asked for very little. She merely wanted her husband and children to be happy and for her bookshop and tearoom to thrive.
His hand, which was splayed against her belly moved up, caressing her breasts again. He thought them slightly fuller than usual, and a thought occurred to him as he playfully tweaked her nipple.
“When did you last have your courses?”
She didn’t respond right away and he knew she was calculating in her head. So was he, recalling it had been about six weeks ago.
“The garden party!” they both said at the same time.
They had left the afternoon affair early because her courses had arrived during it, along with some very painful cramps. Since his wife was as regular as a wound clock, he knew what this meant.
Turning her in his arms so that they faced one another, he beamed at her.
Quickly counting in his head, he asked, “Late June? Early July?”
Caroline nodded. “I believe so. Oh, Luke, this is wonderful news. I have longed for another babe.”
He kissed her deeply, showing her how he felt about this wonderful news. Breaking the kiss, he stroked her cheek with his fingers.
“Well, it certainly hasn’t been from lack of trying,” he said wryly.
“Another little St. Clair,” she mused. “I wonder if he or she will have the St. Clair eyes.”
Luke’s eyes were a brilliant emerald, as were his four siblings. He had grown up with his older brother, Jeremy, and younger sister, Rachel. Years after their parents’ deaths, Jeremy had discovered their father’s illicit affair, which had produced their half-siblings, Laurel and Hudson. No one could doubt the pair were St. Clairs, thanks to their vivid green eyes, a color which was so bold that Luke had never seen them other than in his family.
Their two sons had inherited the St. Clair eyes, while Cora had her mother’s brown ones, flecked with amber. Lucy, adopted into their fold, had eyes of sky blue.
“I don’t care what color eyes the babe has,” he declared. “I am simply ready to rock another child in the nursery and shower him or her with love.” He gazed at the woman who was his lover, best friend, and mother to their growing brood. “I hope this child will look like its mother for she is the most beautiful creature in all of England.”
Caroline’s smile faded, a panicked look suddenly crossing her face. Luke knew exactly what that meant and leaped from the bed. Retrieving a basin, he rushed it back just in time as his wife vomited in it.
She looked up, smiling sheepishly. “Well, if we weren’t certain before, we certainly are now. You know two things about me. My courses are extremely regular—and I always am nauseated in the mornings during the early months of increasing.”
He took the bowl from her and returned it to the table. Wetting a cloth, he gently wiped her mouth with it and then kissed her softly.
“Are you up to going to Evie’s today?” he asked.
“Pish-posh,” she said, waving her hand in the air. “Now that has occurred, I am feeling fit as a fiddle. Besides, you know I like to check on things one last time before we depart for the country.”
“Then we should dress and breakfast. You know all the children will want to go to Evie’s.”
Caroline smiled. “They are as comfortable among the books there as they are in our homes. I do love seeing them eating Mrs. Stinch’s scones and wandering the aisles, discovering new books.”
Luke kissed her. “Why don’t you let me have a tray sent up and you breakfast in peace and quiet? I will go to the nursery and eat with the troops.”
They made it a practice to eat in the schoolroom each morning with their four children. It was Luke’s favorite time of day, starting his morning with them and hearing them chatter about the upcoming day.
“Would you?” she asked. “I think I would rather like spoiling myself and breakfasting in bed.”
“I will see to it now.”
Luke summoned his valet and a footman. He gave instructions to the footman as to what to order for Caroline’s breakfast, knowing when she was in this state that she preferred a poached egg and one piece of toast with weak tea.
Once dressed, he ventured upstairs to the nursery, where Thomas and Edgar were playing with blocks and Lucy was reading to Cora and her doll.
“Papa!” they all cried, racing to him and clinging to his legs.
He swung Thomas into his arms and soundly kissed him and then did the same for each child.
When Lucy’s turn came, he smacked her cheek and she said, “I think I may be too old for this, Papa.”
“For kisses from me?”
She smiled shyly. “No, I do like your kisses. But perhaps you should leave me on the ground and bend to kiss my cheek instead,” she suggested.
A ripple of sadness ran through him as he realized Lucy was growing up too fast.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...