The wedding of Their Graces, the Duke and Duchess of Winthrope, was held precisely four weeks after the public announcement was toasted in London’s Botanical Gardens.
Before returning to the country estate at the close of the Season, the Duke insisted that he take his bride on an extended trip to visit beautiful places around England and even to Paris, France.
With winter closing in, however, travel became difficult. Despite the fact, the Duke wished to spoil his wife more with worldly adventures, he knew that such a thing would be too difficult.
“I would much rather return to our home anyway, my love,” Ella ensured him on their return trip to the estate.
“Wish to make it your own, I suppose?” he asked. “I hope you will not mind that mother and Pammy will be there too with us.”
“Not at all. I hoped for it actually. I don’t care so much to make things my own. I’m sure everything will be wonderful as it is. It will just be nice to spend our first holiday together as a family.”
“Perhaps we could even convince your mother to join us?” the Duke suggested.
“It wouldn’t hurt to try,” Ella responded though she didn’t seem as certain as her husband.
Though Mrs Ward had attended their nuptials just before the close of summer, she had done so somewhat reluctantly. Ella guessed her mother didn’t think she would fit well in Ella’s new life and was resolved to just go on living as usual without her daughter being a part of her existence.
Ella and the Duke, of course, had other ideas on the matter, but Ella was keenly aware that it would take some time before her mother came around. She hoped that eventually, she would leave the shop to be run by others under her and choose to retire at the country estate.
Ella still wished to create her designs and showcase them in the dress shop window, a dream that the Duke fully supported and encouraged. Still, she also understood that her life as a Duchess would be very different from what she had planned.
She would never sit at the counter of the shop again helping customers or stay up late and stitch by candlelight. Instead, those tasks would be delegated to others. However, now the shop would continue to house her designs. She would still stop in from time to time at first to visit her mother, and perhaps later to check on its progress after her mother’s retirement.
Even though Mrs Ward wasn’t entirely willing to be a part of Ella’s life, she had still sent her letters over the months from all their different destinations. She even sent a few packages of unique finds along their travels.
“If you tell her about this, she will be sure to come around a lot faster,” the Duke suggested placing a gentle hand on her belly.
“It’s too soon, my love,” Ella reminded her husband. “We only just found out ourselves a week ago.”
She could tell that the Duke was already bursting with excitement at the prospect of being a father so quickly.
“I suppose if you want we can wait a while longer to share the news, but when you start showing, you can’t expect me to hold my tongue.”
“When I think of you, it is not someone who keeps his opinion to himself, so I would expect nothing less,” Ella teased.
The Duke gave her a smouldering look from across the carriage they were riding in. He came to sit next to her in a swift movement, wrapping her tight in his arms in the small seat.
“I do believe you are trying to rile me, my Duchess,” he spoke in a deep lustful tone.
“I would never, my Duke.”
He gave a gruff grunt of disapproval at her teasing before enveloping her in a deep kiss. She was nearly about to tell him they had better stop before they were caught in a very compromising situation by anyone who might catch a glimpse into their windows when the driver rapped on the roof of the carriage.
“Coming up on the estate now, Your Grace,” he announced.
“Oh good,” Ella squealed in excitement.
She quickly untangled herself from her husband amid his moans of protest.
“Oh, don’t gripe. You’re the one who told him to announce when we were close. You said the view was too good to miss.”
“Yes, well, I think I changed my mind. I think my view from right here in the carriage is much better.”
He reached forward and gently tugged at the hem of her deep blue cotton skirt. She easily swatted his hand away and pressed her face against the glass of the window.
Resting his jaw on his hand, he gave out a sigh of resentment.
“It’s on the other side, my Duchess,” he said with a bemoaned tone.
“Oh, don’t be so sour. No one likes a beastly Duke,” Ella giggled.
She crawled the short distance across the velvet cushion and pressed her face against the cold glass.
“Oh, it’s beautiful,” Ella exclaimed as the stone structure arose from the surrounding trees.
She felt the slight sink of the cushion as her husband came to sit next to her again. She could feel the warmth of his breath against her neck as he leaned in for his own look at the view.
“Welcome home, my Duchess,” he said softly before placing a gentle kiss on her neck just below her ear.
Ella turned around and smiled at her husband.
“You are my home,” she said resolutely.
Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pressed her lips against his pouring all her love for him in that single kiss.