An Earl’s Valentine Story – Extended Epilogue

Five Years Later

Titania sniffed the simmering spring soup, enjoying its light aroma. She recalled it as being one of her mother’s favourite soups, so it was an obvious addition to the twelve-course meal she had planned for her parents’ welcome. They were finally coming home after decades of travelling the world, and she couldn’t be happier. Titania had only seen them three times since they left her with her uncle over twenty years ago.

“Would you like to taste it, my lady?” their chef asked.

“Is it ready?”

“Just about.” The chef put a little in a small bowl and held it to her to sip.

Titania blew on the soup a little before she raised the bowl to her lips and sipped the soup. It was an explosion of bright flavour and a touch of earthiness from the root vegetables.

“Delicious,” she said. “It’s wonderful. Will you add herbs at the end?”

“A bit of parsley, my lady,” the chef confirmed.

“Lovely,” she replied. “What about the other dishes? My parents should be arriving in another hour or so.”

They had sent a letter several months ago stating their wish to come home to be with their family, and last week, they confirmed their arrival in England and a slow journey to their country estate. Once there, they would come to the manor to spend time with Titania and the family. She had wanted them to come to the manor first, but she understood their need to be home and get used to being in England again. Titania had considered going to see them, but William had refused. She was eight months along with her third pregnancy, and he believed travelling was too risky. Titania believed she could withstand a little travelling, especially when she had already been through two pregnancies, but William was adamant about staying home.

He’ll likely scold me for walking around the house and standing in a hot kitchen, but I have to ensure everything is perfect.

It seemed so odd to think that she grew up, got married, and now had a family of her own, all without her parents’ presence. Her uncle had given her all she needed, so she didn’t feel that she was missing much without her parents, but she had still missed them. Now, she would finally see them and visit them as much as she wanted.

“Would you like to see the desserts, my lady?” the chef asked. “Most of them are cooling, but we have some for you to taste.”

Titania was tempted, but she had eaten a piece of apple pie an hour ago and had tasted three different soups since she entered the kitchen. She couldn’t eat any more if she expected to comfortably have dinner later.

“I’m sure they are all delicious,” she replied. “I’ll wait until dinner to taste them.”

“Very well, my lady,” the chef said, bowing before her.

She smiled and left the kitchen, heading to the dining room. “Have you shined all the cutlery?” she asked a maid.

“Yes, my lady,” the maid replied. “I will arrange the table setting once Mrs Perkins returns to the room. She is directing the maids in the rooms reserved for the guests. There was a little confusion with pairing linen and flowers.”

It had been Titania’s idea to give each room a theme, which meant everything had to complement each other. Of course, this gave the servants a little more work than usual, but it was for a good reason. Uncle Henry, Aunt Sarah, her parents, and William’s mother would stay for a week. The dowager countess had warned them at the last minute that she was bringing someone with her, so they had scurried to get another room ready. Flowers had to be purchased, linens washed and pressed, the room aired, and everything was wiped down while preparing the house for guests. Everything had to be perfect for her parents.

“I’ll go upstairs and see how far they have come,” Titania said. “I’ll remind Mrs Perkins that she needs to help you here. She tends to become easily distracted.”

Their housekeeper was a marvellous woman and kept the house running well, but her concentration was rather flighty at times. Mrs Perkins usually had one of the younger maids with her to remind her of tasks, but everyone was busy with their own chores. It had been a chaotic week, but everything was coming together.

Titania had just moved to the stairs when she heard a commotion at the front door. She smiled. Her son and daughter had come back from their walk and were chattering away about the animals and insects they had seen. She stepped away from the stairs and peeked around a dividing wall, waiting to give them a little fright. They often waited in corners and under furniture to scare her, so she had learned to do the same.

“Nanny, did you see the squirrel?” asked four-year-old Diana. “I want a squirrel.”

“Me, me!” two-year-old Wilbur cried. “I want squirrel.”

Only, he didn’t quite say squirrel. It sounded more like ‘sqwa-wil.’ Nanny helped them take their shoes and coats off and directed them to the downstairs nursery room. Titania had hoped they would come her way, but they spoiled her surprise and took the opposite direction. However, William made up for her mild disappointment when he appeared at the door. He walked towards her, and she moved back to pounce on him at the right moment. Only that moment never came. Frowning, she looked around the corner to find her handsome husband leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and a smile on his face.

“You saw me!” she accused.

“You’re not good at hiding, my love,” he said, pushing away from the wall and walking towards her. “What are you doing walking around?” he asked. “Should you not be resting?”

Titania lifted her face for a chaste kiss on the lips, but he had other ideas. She pulled away a minute later, her face burning from their little moment.

“That was a warm welcome home,” he said. “I was only away for a few hours.”

“I’m not the one who turned a simple peck into something else,” she countered.

“Are you complaining?”

“No,” she said. “Are you?”

“Shall we hide in the nearest room so I can prove that I have nothing to complain about?” he asked, pulling her closer.

“William!” she scolded, smacking his arm lightly. “There is a time and place for everything. Besides, our guests will be here at any moment. We do not have time for this.”

“There is always time for a little show of love,” William argued. “However, this is a big day for you, so I will not trouble you. I do expect a little more show of love when we retire to our rooms later.”

“How demanding of you,” she said, chuckling. “I’m going to see the children. Are you coming with me?”

“They were just ahead of me,” he said. “I take it they went walking to tire them for the evening?”

“Precisely,” she said. “I would like them to sleep a little earlier today so the adults can have time to talk. Diana and Wilbur tend to take over the conversation, and I think our guests will be too tired to withstand enthusiastic chatter from our children.”

“Point taken,” said William. “We’ll save the chatter for the next day when they’re bright-eyed and have had sufficient sleep. All that travelling will certainly make them tired. I doubt we’ll retire to the drawing room after dinner. If we do, it will be for no more than half an hour. Is there time to have tea with my beautiful wife?” he asked. “I missed you this morning.”

“I’m sorry,” she apologised. “I couldn’t bring myself to wake up at my usual hour. The baby kept me awake all night with his kicking and moving around. Why is he so active at night?”

“Diana was like that as well,” he reminded her. “Do you remember? Perhaps we’re having another girl.”

“Two girls and one boy—it sounds like the perfect ratio,” she said. “I do think we have a little time for tea. Our first guests arrive in under an hour.”

“Perfect,” he said, drawing her to the second-floor parlour.

They met Mrs Perkins along the way and asked for a tea tray before settling in the parlour. They got as far as two cups before Uncle Henry and Aunt Sarah arrived. Titania flew down the stairs as fast as her protruding belly allowed her, smiling widely when she saw them.

“Uncle, Aunt Sarah!” she cried, embracing them. “Thank you for coming.”

It still felt odd at times to address the dowager duchess so informally, but Titania was mostly used to it.

“My, how lovely you look,” said Aunt Sara. “Being with child certainly suits you, dear.”

“Thank you,” Titania replied and sucked in a sharp breath as she held her belly. “The baby just kicked. I think he’s happy that you’re here.”

“We’re happy to be here,” said Aunt Sarah. “Thank you for inviting us. We would have come yesterday, but my dear husband decided to take a little detour on the way here.”

“We just called on a friend,” Uncle Henry explained. “We were in the area, so it would have been rude to ignore them.”

“We understand,” said William. “We’re just glad to have you here. Come, let’s move to the drawing room.”

“But where are my sweet babies?” Aunt Sarah asked. “I’ve missed them so. They usually come running to see us.”

“They’re in the nursery with Nanny,” said Titania. “I do not think they noticed your carriage arrive. Would you like to have a bit of refreshment first or see them?”

“See them, of course!” Uncle Henry and Aunt Sara exclaimed together.

Titania chuckled. “Well, that was unanimous. Come with me. The servants will take your bags to your room.”

They got to the nursery’s door before they heard another carriage arrive. Titania looked out the closest window, her eyes widening when she witnessed the surprising situation outside.

“Erm, William, my love,” she called. “Would you come here for a moment? You can go into the nursery,” she told Aunt Sarah and Uncle Henry.

William frowned slightly and approached her, standing beside her by the window. “What on earth?” he said, leaning forward. “Is that my mother staring affectionately at a man young enough to be her son?”

“I think so,” said Titania. “It seems he is the extra guest we had to prepare for. My goodness. How startling.”

“This cannot be,” said William. “What is my mother thinking by parading around with such a young man?”

“She could be in love,” Titania pointed out.

“With a man likely half her age?” William screeched.

Titania put a hand on his arm. “Calm down, dear. Look how happy she looks. Do you not want her to be happy?”

“Of course, I want her to be happy, but this is ridiculous! I need to speak to her about this.”

“Not today,” Titania insisted. “My parents will arrive at any moment, and I do not want them to see my husband and mother-in-law fighting.”

“Do you not think they will be more concerned about my mother being with a young man?” said William. “They might think she’s a desperate woman with no respect for herself.”

Titania looked at her husband in surprise. “Is that what you think?”

“No!” William exclaimed. “My mother deserves to be happy, but the world is judgemental. She will not escape unscathed once people learn of this relationship.”

“Let’s just meet them and give them a warm welcome,” said Titania. “We’ll address the rest later.”

William sighed. “Very well. I suppose the situation could be worse. I’ll give them a chance, but I will say something if I witness unacceptable behaviour.”

“Noted,” she said. “Come,” she added, linking their hands together. “We’ll greet our second pair of guests, and then it will finally be my parents. I’m so excited to see them again. I might become a blubbering mess.”

“That’s understandable,” he said, walking to the front door. “You haven’t seen them in many years. Do you resent them at all for leaving you?”

“Maybe for a little while when I was younger,” she said. “However, I eventually realised they were living their life to the fullest, which I respected. Also, I grew up happily with my uncle. I wouldn’t change any of that.”

“I doubt they could have had a better daughter than you,” he said. “Others would have hated them for leaving them behind.”

“Hatred is a wasteful and time-consuming activity.”

“It certainly is.”

They arrived in the foyer where their butler was talking to the dowager countess and her male guest. The dowager countess spotted them first, her eyes lighting up with joy.

“Titania!” she cried. “William! How wonderful to see you again.”

“And you, Mother,” said Titania. “Thank you for coming.”

“I’m so happy to be here,” the dowager duchess. “I was just saying to Graham that I’m looking forward to the week ahead. Isn’t that right, Graham?”

“Yes, my dear,” Graham replied, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I look forward to meeting the rest of the family. Elizabeth has said so much about everyone.”

“I see,” William replied.

Titania noticed how William tensed slightly beside her. She stepped closer to him and squeezed his arm in warning. This was not the time or place to confront Graham or the dowager duchess.

“Oh!”  the dowager countess exclaimed. “Where are my manners? William, Titania, this is Mr Arthur Graham, but I like to call him Graham. We met several weeks ago on Valentine’s Day.”

“I sent her several letters after spotting her at a ball during the festive season,” Graham explained, smiling at her warmly. “Finally, I mustered the courage to ask her to be my Valentine, and she said yes.”

Valentine’s Day had been just over a month ago, which meant the dowager countess had hidden Graham from her family.

Perhaps she was shy to reveal him due to their age difference, but she certainly doesn’t seem so shy now. She just looks happy.

“I think that’s lovely,” said Titania when she realised no one had said anything for some time after Graham spoke.

The dowager countess beamed. “I’m happy to hear that. Now, where are my grandchildren?” she asked. “I have missed them.”

“In the nursery with Uncle Henry and Aunt Sarah,” said Titania. “We can all go there and spend some with the children. They’re having an early evening.”

“Take me to them right away,” the dowager countess insisted. “I do not wish to waste a moment more.”

“Come this way,” said Titania, pulling her husband along. “Diana and Wilbur will be happy to see you.”

Once again, they got as far as the nursery door when another carriage drove up the driveway. Titania paused and looked at William. He smiled, hugging her side.

“You’ll have to go inside without us,” he told his mother and her beau. “Titania’s parents have just arrived.”

“Oh, indeed?” his mother said. “This is exciting! I’ll finally get to meet my in-laws, but first, I must see my grandchildren.”

William opened the door and let them in before closing it and taking Titania’s hands. “This is it, my love.”

“I know,” she replied. “I’m suddenly so nervous. I shouldn’t be nervous because they’re my parents, but I am. Is that foolish of me?”

“Not at all,” he replied. “In fact, I would be surprised if you were not nervous. I imagine they are feeling the same way. However, I think you’re more excited than nervous.”

“Yes, you’re right,” she said, holding her belly. “I’m so excited that I could run to them.”

“Not in that condition.”

Titania laughed. “Of course not. The best I can do is waddle.”

“Shall we go to them?” he asked. “Or do you need to prepare yourself a little?”

Titania smiled at him. Her husband knew her so well. “I think I’ve done as much preparing as I can. I’ve thought about this for weeks, and now I just want to see them.”

William linked their hands together and kissed her brow. “Let’s go and greet them.”

Her belly somersaulted as she nodded. “Yes.”

They walked to the foyer, but she paused the moment she saw her parents talking to the butler. They looked the same, but only older. Her parents had more silver in their hair, and their skin showed their love of being in the sun. Time seemed to go slower as her parents turned towards her, their eyes lighting up when they saw her.

“Titania!” her mother cried, running towards her.

“Mama!”

Titania moved as quickly as she could towards her parents, sobbing when her mother wrapped her arms around her.

“Oh, my darling child,” her mother said, stroking her hair. “Oh, how happy I am to see you.”

Titania couldn’t say a word because she was crying so much. Her father joined them and kissed her brow, his familiar scent enveloping her.

“How are you, child?” he asked. “We have missed you so much.”

Titania pulled away enough to look up at him. “I’ve missed you both and waited for this moment for so long. You’re finally here.”

Her father smiled, his eyes misty as well. “We’re finally here. Your mother and I decided we couldn’t stay away from our daughter any longer. We’ve missed so much, and we’re determined not to miss any more.” He looked down at her belly. “So much has happened.”

“Our baby has a baby, Harry,” her mother said.

“Babies,” William said, walking forward. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir Harry and Lady Thorpe.”

“Oh, you must be our daughter’s wonderful husband,” Titania’s mother said. “You described him well in your letters, dear.”

Titania’s father held his hand out. “We’re happy to meet you, Lord Essex. Thank you for taking care of our daughter.”

“Call me William, please,” he insisted, shaking her father’s hand. “Also, I think it is the other way around. Titania has been taking care of me. I cannot do anything without her.”

“You sound just like my Harry,” Titania’s mother said with a laugh. “He falls apart when I’m not near. Is that not right, dear?” she said, glancing at her husband.

“I happily agree,” Titania’s father replied. “Shall we move to a place where we can properly talk? We have so much to learn about our daughter’s life, and I wish to get to know my son-in-law.”

“Wait!” Titania’s mother exclaimed.

Titania’s father frowned. “What is it, dear?”

“I will not do anything until I meet my sweet grandchildren,” her mother replied. “Where are they, dear?” she asked Titania.

“Everyone is in the nursery,” Titania replied, smiling. “Uncle Henry and his wife, and my mother-in-law with her suitor. They’ll be happy to see you.”

“Take us there, child,” her father urged.

Her parents hovered around her as they walked towards the nursery, their hands touching her hair and face. They seemed to have the need to reassure themselves that she was in front of them. Titania couldn’t stop smiling as they chattered about the journey to the manor, but everyone fell silent when they arrived at the door.

“Are our grandchildren behind this door?” her mother asked.

William stepped forward and opened the door, revealing the scene inside. Uncle Henry and Graham were on the floor while Aunt Sarah and Titania’s mother-in-law sat on chairs, watching the men play with the children. Clearing his throat, William stepped inside, drawing their attention.

“Mr Thorpe, Aunt Sarah, Mother, Mr Graham and children,” he said. “Sir Harry and Lady Thorpe have arrived.”

The room erupted in chaos as everyone approached them and exchanged greetings, but the children would not be outdone. They were the centre of attention as her parents hugged and kissed them repeatedly, even sitting on the floor with them. Titania and William stood at the door for a moment as they stared at their family, their hands linked.

“Is it all you hoped it would be?” he asked.

“It’s even better,” Titania replied. “Everyone is so happy, and they’re all getting along so well. Even Diana and Wilbur have immediately taken to their grandparents despite meeting them for the first time.”

“You spoke about them often enough that our children likely feel that they know their grandparents already,” William replied. “Shall we join them?”

“Let’s just stand here a little while longer,” she said. “I’m enjoying just watching our family with you beside me.”

William pulled her closer and tucked her into his side. “I’m happiest wherever you are happy, my love.”

Titania looked up at him and smiled. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For many things, but mainly for being my beloved husband who has never left my side since our wedding day. Thank you for fighting for our love and not giving up before we even had the opportunity to be together.”

“I would do it all again,” he said. “But perhaps I would change the way we first met.”

She shook her head. “No, I would keep it all the same, even the painful parts. Everything brought us to this moment, so I wouldn’t change one bit. I think it made us stronger.”

“I will not argue with that, although I wouldn’t want to relive the fear that I would lose you,” he said. “That was a time of torture.”

“It’s still part of our love story,” Titania replied, laying her head on his chest.

She never believed she would have her own love story, but fate evidently had other plans for her. Titania doubted she could have written a better story even if she tried, and she was eager to see how their lives would continue to unfold.

I have a feeling this is one of the happily ever after stories I read as a child.

It was too perfect to be anything else.

THE END


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23 thoughts on “An Earl’s Valentine Story – Extended Epilogue”

  1. enjoyed this story very much and the characters interaction. Lots of little sub plots to tweak my interest The aristocracy behave in the most peculiar way do they not. A cruel prank turned on its perpetrator almost cost him the love of his life. lesson learned William makes up for it in spades with thoroughly loving his wife and family. I was thrilled for her uncle he seemed like the nicest of men and thoroughly deserving of his happiness even his mother seemed to gain better insight as a result of their union. Great entertainment. Thanks

  2. I enjoyed reading this story and the characters are entertaining glad the parents showed up

  3. This is a lovely story with very strong h and H characters. They had a very amusing but difficult start to begin with which was the catalyst for William to pursue Titania through his Valentine letters. I enjoyed their pre courtship and how William was there to save Titania from her other pursuer Charles.
    This was an ARC so I’m sure their will be closer editing done because the last third of the book seemed to have typographical errors and/or incorrect pronouns.
    I truly enjoyed the characters and their love story and would happily recommend this story. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️‘S

    Thank you for the opportunity to be one of your ARC reviewers.

  4. My 7 year old and I enjoyed reading this story together. She learned a lot of new words. We discussed how despicable some people can be. We would recommend this book.

  5. All I can say about this Valentines novel is that I loved every bit of it from beginning to end.
    Congratulations Bridget for creating another wonderful yet romantic novel.

  6. Very good book. I read it in a day. I do enjoy extended epilogues. They ties things up nicely. However would have been nice to hear more about the disagree young suitor.

  7. I so enjoyed this book. Lots of different characters wanting different things but all is well in the end. The Extended Epilogue was great. I love reading these and finding out what happens after they are married.

  8. A very lovely Valentine’s story. I truly enjoyed reading this amazing journey full of adventure and mischief. The characters are absolutely interesting and entertaining as well as the story line is inspiring with its beautiful happy ending. I think the interaction of the obnoxious characters also makes the journey quite interesting.. I loved everything about this amazing love story. The extended epilogue gives it a wonderful ending to it. Congratulations on your amazing writing. Definitely a must read and highly recommended.

  9. I really liked the story. It was sweet and romantic. I thought the extended epilogue unusual though

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