The Duke’s Secret Letter – Extended Epilogue

December the Following Year

Anna paused midway up the stairs feeling rather winded. She had rushed about for much of the day, and her back and feet were beginning to protest. She saw no reason not to sit where she was, so she did just that.

“Your Grace!” Cassidy cried from the top of the stairs. “Is something wrong? Are you hurt? Is it the baby?”

Anna sighed and shook her head. “Since when is taking a little rest cause for alarm?”

“You are with child, Your Grace,” Cassidy pointed out, coming down to her. “You must be careful.”

“I am careful!” Anna snapped and immediately regretted it. “Do not make such a fuss, Cassidy. I assure you I am well. I’m told it is normal to feel tired when with child. They say I might be carrying more than one child, so it’s harder on the body. However, I am not the first or the last woman to bear children, so I shall be fine.”

The fate of Maximilian’s first wife hung in the air, but Anna shook that away. Her pregnancy was progressing well, whereas Elizabeth’s had been fraught with problems from almost the very beginning. Anna barely experienced nausea and all the usual symptoms that came with pregnancy, which was why she had not known she was with child until her second month. She was now into her sixth month and beginning to feel the strain of possibly carrying multiple babies.

“Will you not rest for a moment in the parlour,” said Cassidy. “I shall help you down.”

“I just came from there. I wish to look at the guest rooms.”

“Your Grace,” Cassidy complained. “Surely you can leave that to the servants? You need to rest. You have been on your feet for some time, and it shows.”

The lady’s maid looked down at Anna’s swollen feet disapprovingly. Anna pulled her feet in and arranged her dress over them.

“Hiding their state will not change anything,” said Cassidy.

“Goodness gracious, but you have become a nagging wife since my pregnancy was discovered,” Anna complained. “I need space to breathe. I feel stifled between you and Maximilian.”

“You wouldn’t feel stifled if you did as we asked, Your Grace,” Cassidy pointed out. “All we wish is for you to rest.”

“You want me to stay in bed all day while being stuffed like a pig,” Anna said.

“Women with child have to eat more to sustain the new life within them,” Cassidy argued.

“Have you seen the amount of food I am told to eat daily?” Anna asked. “I have to eat breakfast, dinner, and countless bits of food in between. One would think you were fattening the calf to be slaughtered! The midwife said I was doing well and didn’t have to eat a tremendous amount, or I would gain too much weight, which would hinder me. We should listen to the midwife— she knows what she is talking about.”

Anna already felt like she was waddling and could only imagine what she would look like at the full nine-month mark. She needed to be able to look after her babies, and she wouldn’t be able to do that if she couldn’t even reach down and pick them up without feeling winded.

“Very well,” said Cassidy. “Then we can just rest here, and I’ll help you inspect the rooms.”

“A compromise?”

“I’ll do anything to ensure your well-being, Your Grace,” said Cassidy. “Even if I have to compromise.”

Anna laughed. “That suits me better. You can help me up now.”

Cassidy went one step down and held onto the balustrade with one hand while she helped Anna with the other.

“You’re getting heavier, Your Grace,” said Cassidy.

Anna pursed her lips. “And yet you want to feed me throughout the day. I still have another three months, and my belly will be much larger. I need my mobility.”

“Noted, Your Grace,” said Cassidy, putting an arm around her waist.

“That is not necessary, Cassidy. I’m fine now.”

“Please, Your Grace,” Cassidy begged. “Humour me. Taking care of you makes me feel better.”

Anna sighed and placed her arm around Cassidy. “Very well, but I do this because it puts you at ease.”

Cassidy smiled brightly. “Thank you, Your Grace. Which room should we start with?”

“Marie Antoinette,” Anna told her.

She had named all the rooms after well-known people and places because Maximilian had given her full reign over everything in the house, and she hadn’t been able to resist really putting her mark on the house. It also made it great fun for the guests, who often argued over which room they preferred.

“Are you still on your feet?”

Anna turned a tad guiltily and smiled sweetly at her husband standing at the bottom of the stairs.

“When did you arrive, my love?” she asked. “I thought you would only arrive in the evening.”

“I concluded the appointment with my banker earlier than I expected,” Maximilian said, making his way upstairs. “I had a feeling you would be doing the very thing I asked you not to do.”

“I was only taking a look in the rooms,” she said. “Surely that is allowed?”

Maximilian narrowed his eyes and continued up the stairs until he was two steps away from her. He surprised her by lifting her dress and staring at her feet.

“Just as I assumed,” he said, not sounding pleased at all. “You’ve been on your feet since I left the house this morning. Do not try to deny it.”

“I had breaks in between,” she said. “I even had tea and something to eat.”

Even though she hadn’t been hungry. However, Cassidy had insisted she eat something small to keep up her strength.

Maximilian shook his head. “This will not do, dear. You may go, Cassidy. I will take care of my wife from now.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” said Cassidy, letting go of Anna and curtseying.

She hurried away, leaving Anna to deal with her disappointed husband. “Do not be angry,” she said. “We have guests arriving this evening, and I simply wanted to ensure all is well. We also have our dinner party tomorrow to mark the beginning of the festive season. This is our first festive party as a married couple. I wanted it to be perfect.”

“And it will be,” said Maximilian. “You have planned it for weeks. You must have a dozen plans in place for those moments that do not go perfectly.”

Anna grinned. “Fourteen, but who is counting? I have looked at every aspect, from the service to the food. I hope I haven’t left anything out.”

“I doubt it.”

Anna uttered a surprised yell when Maximilian swooshed her off her feet and headed to their room.

“I do not wish to retire just yet,” she protested. “At least put me in the parlour or library. I’m not sleepy yet.”

“Your feet are swollen, Wife,” he said. “You need to bathe your feet and put them up.”

“For how long?” she asked.

“As long as it takes to bring them back to normal.”

Anna resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Very well, but I will be back on my feet as soon as that happens.”

“But not for too long,” he argued. “I’m at home, so you cannot order me about as you do the servants.”

Anna raised her eyebrows. “No?”

“I’m well aware you have me wrapped around your little finger, but your well-being comes first,” said Maximilian. “I will not even discuss anything that puts you at risk.”

Anna pouted. “Everyone treats me like a fragile piece of glass. I’m much stronger than you all believe.”

“Oh, we’re well aware of your strength, but even you need rest,” Maximilian argued. “Off to our room we go.”

He bounced her in his arms, making her squeal. “You wish me to be at ease, but then you go and do this! We’re still on the stairs, you know.”

“Have you not noticed how big and strong your husband is?” he demanded. “I can carry you for miles without getting tired. In fact, I think I should carry you everywhere from now on to avoid your feet swelling.”

“But that would make me lazy,” she protested.

“I do not mind a lazy wife as long as it’s you.”

“Oh goodness,” she cried. “How silly you are. No one wants a lazy wife.”

“You can be anything you want to be as long as you are mine,” he said, swallowing her protests with a kiss.

Anna didn’t bother saying anything after that.

***

“I always love coming to your home,” said Camille as she poked at a succulent piece of lamb. “This comes from your farm, does it not?”

“One of our farms,” said Anna. “You do not seem to enjoy it, though. Is something wrong?”

“I am not too keen on meat these days,” she said and put a hand on her belly.

Anna gasped. “Do not tell me! You’re pregnant? Am I right? How far along are you?”

Camille chuckled. “I wanted it to be a surprise. I was going to tell you later once we were settled in the drawing room. It has been too busy since James and I arrived.”

“Oh, I’m so happy for you!” Anna cried. “How far along are you? You cannot be more than two or three months.”

“Two months.”

“That makes our children four months apart,” said Anna. “Oh, I’m so happy. Our children will be friends as well; I just know it.”

“I think so, too,” said Camille.

“What are you so happy about, Wife?” Maximilian asked, leaning close to her.

“May I tell him?” Anna asked.

Camille nodded. “Go ahead. The more, the merrier.”

“Camille and James are expecting,” Anna told her husband. “We’re four months apart. Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Congratulations, Lady Surrey,” said Maximilian. “And you, Lord Surrey,” he added when James turned to them. “It’s truly a blessing to become parents.”

“I’m excited and terrified,” James confessed. “How did you feel when you found out?”

“Excited and terrified,” Maximilian confessed with a laugh. “I still feel like that, but I control my fear by ensuring my wife is well and happy.”

“He means he has the entire household watching my every move,” Anna complained.

“I never thought you would become so attentive, Your Grace,” Mr Pearson commented, one of Maximilian’s university friends.

“Well, I did,” Mrs Pearson claimed. “The strong silent type become the most attentive fathers. Your children will have the best father.”

“Thank you for saying so, Mrs Pearson,” said Anna. “And I agree with you. My husband has already organised the nursery room, but I still wish to change a few more details.”

“Do you not mean you will change the entire room?” Maximilian argued. “I saw how you tore apart the room with your eyes.”

“As I said,” Anna continued. “I have a few things to change.”

That earned her several laughs around the table. “Women are all the same,” Lord Tilbury commented. “But I appreciate you all very much. That being said, let me be the first person to thank you, Your Graces, for inviting us to dinner. It has been a stellar evening thus far.”

The other guests added their thanks, all commenting on what a wonderful way it was to start the festive season. Anna had been worried they would have another commitment as many people tended to host parties on St Nicholas Day, but she had been surprised when many people accepted the invitation. Perhaps they were curious to see how her first festive party would go.

“Thank you all for coming,” said Maximilian. “My wife has put in much effort to ensure everyone is happy, so it warms my heart that you are all enjoying yourselves.”

“Am I late?” said a familiar voice from the dining room doorway.

Anna looked up in shock. “Harrison! When did you arrive?”

Her brother had said nothing about coming to the dinner party, so she had assumed he wouldn’t come. Fortunately, she had made allowances for a few extra people.

“I just arrived,” said Harrison, striding into the room as though he owned it. “Do you mind if I squeeze in here beside you, Your Grace?” he said, taking a chair from the side and forcing Lord Fenton and the other guests to move down.

“Actually,” Maximilian started to protest, but the deed was done. He sighed. “Be comfortable.”

“Could I get a plate of food as well?” Harrison asked. “I’m famished! Travelling always works up an appetite.”

Anna indicated for one of the servants to bring an extra plate, cutlery, and a wine glass. She was happy one of her family members could make it, but she didn’t appreciate how her brother had interrupted the dinner and simply demanded that things go his way. She would let it go for now, but she planned on speaking to him later.

“How fancy this all is, sister dear,” said Harrison. “Did you organise the party yourself? I should have had you organise and host mine as well.”

“I wasn’t aware you remembered your sister’s existence, Lord Cambridge,” said Maximilian. “I do not think you ever sent her a letter to enquire about her well-being.”

“My aunt was there to look after her,” said Harrison. “I would say she has done a wonderful job. I doubt my sister could have married a duke if Aunt Margaret had not moulded her into the perfect lady.”

The table stilled. No one said a word. They simply stared at Maximilian, waiting for him to say something.

“Aunt Margaret did her best,” Anna agreed, not wanting her husband and brother to bicker. “It’s a shame she could not be here this evening, but her choir practises are important.”

That wasn’t why her aunt rejected the invitation, but Anna saw no reason to reveal the truth. Aunt Margaret was still upset about her marrying Maximilian and was afraid the duke might still expose her. Keeping away from them was an act of self-preservation.

“I’ll go and see her tomorrow,” said Harrison. “Do you have my room prepared?”

“The one you requested is occupied because you did not confirm your arrival,” said Anna. “We have another room for you.”

Harrison groaned. “I prefer the one I like. Can you not move one of the other guests?”

“Certainly not,” said Maximilian firmly. “My wife worked hard to organise everything as it is. You could have let her know you were coming beforehand. I think you should accept the room she gives you.”

Harrison didn’t look happy about that, but he must have heard the warning tone in Maximilian’s voice because he didn’t say anything else. Anna’s brother had yet to understand how protective Maximilian was of her. Harrison had yet to congratulate her on her pregnancy despite being six months along already. He evidently had no affection for her. Anna would have cared before, but Maximilian’s love was so complete that she didn’t miss the affection from her family.

“I heard you only deal with the local bank owner, Your Grace,” Harrison said after a while. “Perhaps you can put in a good word for me. I need to organise a few things about my father’s estate. Well, my estate,” he added with a laugh.

Anna looked up with surprise from her plate. Something about what her brother said made her worry that he was perhaps squandering the estate’s wealth. Harrison had always been irresponsible growing up, but she hoped he had matured and knew how to take care of what was left to him. He wasn’t even married yet and needed a firm hand on his finances if he hoped to have a family one day and pass down the title and wealth to his heir.

“I can even stay a little longer while you speak to your banker friends,” said Harrison. “I can use the time to rekindle my relationship with my sister.”

Anna sighed. Her brother always had ulterior motives and tried to use whatever influence he could find for his own ends.

“Dear,” said Maximilian, leaning towards her. “What do you think of that?”

“Of what?” Anna asked.

“Of your brother rekindling his relationship with you,” Maximilian explained. “Is there a relationship to rekindle? It seems he rather likes the thought of having an advantageously married sister.”

A current of surprise spread through the guests. They probably hadn’t expected Maximilian to be so straightforward, but he likely believed Harrison would somehow hurt her if he didn’t put a stop to whatever he was thinking or planning.

I promised I would support my husband in everything because I have put him first in my life. If he wishes to put Harrison in his place, then I shall support him.

“I do not have a problem rekindling my relationship with my brother,” said Anna. “However, I do not know if there is a relationship to rekindle. If you recall, brother dear, you barely paid me any attention while growing up, and you got rid of me as soon as Papa died. I hoped we could console each other, but you didn’t want anything to do with me.”

Harrison’s face turned bright red. “That isn’t precisely how I remember it, sister dear,” he said. “I sent you to Aunt Margaret because I believed she would look after you better.”

“I was already considered an adult when Papa passed away,” she reminded him. “Papa left you as my guardian.”

“It seems you have not been a good brother, Lord Cambridge,” said Maximilian. “Do you not think you should give an accounting of yourself and apologise to your sister before ‘rekindling’ anything? Your sister is now a duchess and cannot waste her time with anything that will bear no fruit.”

“Forgive me, Your Graces,” Harrison muttered and looked down at his plate.

Maximilian smiled and took Anna’s hand. He didn’t say it, but his gentle squeeze communicated he would always be there to protect her. Anna’s heart warmed with love for her husband as her baby kicked. It seemed their little ones also understood their father would always be there for them.

THE END


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49 thoughts on “The Duke’s Secret Letter – Extended Epilogue”

  1. A good and well written story about a young woman abused by her aunt and forgotten by her brother until he needed something finds happiness and love

  2. Aunt Margaret was a beastly and hateful woman. Harrison the bad brother. You didn’t say but I’ll bet he’s squandered all of her dowry, as well as his initial fortune. So happy that she met Maximillian and now has a happy life.

  3. I did enjoyed this book and the characters. Do feel the author missed the opportunity to developed several of the interactions between the characters. Would have like to see the story end after the birth and expanded to cover the dowry. Otherwise, was a quick enjoyable read.

  4. Why waste time with an extended epilogue? It was of little importance to the book and a waste of readers time having to download it! It really did not add to the story

  5. Another great story by Ms Barton! So sad to see what the “green-eyed devil” jealousy can cause a person to do and become. Fortunately, our heroes overcame jealousy, differences and a self-absorbed brother to find love and a happy life.

  6. I felt so sorry for Anna; until the Duke came into her life, the only person who seemed to care for her was her blessed friend. So happy her love worked out for her.

    I kept waiting to hear her brother had taken her inheritance & spent it. I personally feel the Aunt got off too easy, her abuse was the worst.

  7. This was a good read indeed, I enjoyed all of the characters even Aunt Margaret because she played her role perfectly. I loved Maximilian’s and Lady Anna story and wanted to read more even after this extended epilogue.

  8. As always, a lovely book that i thoroughly enjoyed. The extended epilogue was good but I think it would have been nicer to round the story out with the birth of their baby (babies)

  9. This story, sadly, really hit home for me. My mother is an Aunt Margaret…self-centered & manipulative, never sees anything wrong with what she does to others, always feeling justified in her hurtful actions. She has caused her three children & their families to want nothing to do with her. I could certainly relate to Anna’s feelings! I know these stories are likely spurred by actual events & know I’m not alone in having a horrible mother.

  10. Nice read. Age does not matter. I would have loved to hear if she had twins or not. I liked the cole family .

  11. THE FACT THAT.THE DUKES WHOLE WAY LIFE WAS TOO DO WITH THE DEATH OF HIS FIRST WIFE IN CHILD BIRTH AND HIS NEW BORN SON.
    EXTENDED EPILOGUE Would have been great ending up with the birth of their baby ( did not finish the story off)
    BRILLIANT CHARACTERS AND STORY.

  12. I loved this story.it was very tense at times. I was afraid for the heroine. Aunt should have had a more severe punishment!

  13. I too was hoping to read the rest of the story. Did she have twins? Had her brother spent her inheritance?

  14. I would have liked the story to include the birth of the babies. More about Anna’s brother. I like the extended stories that go so far as to the main chacacters in their old age. I understand allow your readers useing their imaginations which I very often do. Sometimes I add to the stories or imagine a different ending. I thank you for your stories. They help me keep my mind alert, being in my 80’s I need that. Have a blessed day.

  15. I so enjoyed the story, but as others have stated we are never ready for a good story to end!

  16. Loved this book. I wish it was a little longer. I love the extended epilogues. I like when they are a few years later and the children have been born so you know a little about them.

  17. I loved this book! Finally a Christian book by a Believer mature enough to understand some doctrine and weave it artfully into the story. That being said I would have liked Max to accept the gospel and show some interest in analyzing Christian principles and doctrine as he did most everything else. Then Anna wouldn’t have been unequally yoked. I too felt like the extended epilogue wasn’t long enough. I think the answer to all these comments is another book with Anna and Max to extend an already fabulous 5 star read!

  18. Extended Epilogue was too brief for me; however, I look forward to perhaps another story which would include Maximillion and Anna??? Somehow letting readers know of the birth of their children and the outcome of brother and sister relationship???

  19. I enjoyed the characters, you described each so perfectly, that no-one could say they were undeserving of be judge good or bad,The duke was too slow in his,actions with dealing with the aunt,but he finally put her in her place,and I’m glade she was not part of their wedding or the celebration. Too bad Her Grace’s brother made an appearance, I wish he had some comeuppance for his actions.Bridget I wish you also had extended the epilogue,to include the birth of the children,I feel it would enclose the beautiful love between the main characters, but still love reading you novels,looking to start the next one!

    1. Thank you so much for the support and the detailed feedback my dear Barbara! It is truly appreciated ✨♥️ I am so happy you enjoyed the story!

  20. I have quite a collection of books by Bridget Barton and love each and everyone of them. This one ranks as my favorite. From the jealous actions of Aunt Margaret to the reveal of the Duke’s love for Anna the reader is caught up in the story. All the characters involved played an integral role in bringing this beautiful story to life. Thank you so very much for taking the time to bring such joy to everyone. Can you guess that I am an avid fan?

    1. I am humbled by your loving support dear Patricia! I am so glad you enjoy my stories, I hope I can continue coming up with stories that amaze you!

  21. A delightful story of thé romance between Anna and Maximillion. They were very réservéd in expressing their love for one another,but there was great no y Wen they dis express that love. Thé story was well written but à little disappointing at thé rend. I would have enjoyed bowling how thé relationship between Harrison and thé Duke developed. I world Mike To inox ifs Anna dis have gains. Thanks for an enjoyable story.

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