The Lost Letter: Epilogue
Eight months later…
Sylvia passed through the connecting door into Sebastian’s bedroom. He’d already divested himself of his frock coat, waistcoat, and necktie and was seated in an armchair removing his boots. At the sight of her, he rose. “What is it, love?”
“These dreadful buttons.” She crossed the thick carpet in her stocking feet. She’d managed to unpin her hair and remove her slippers, but her new dress—a heavy, funereal black taffeta—was another matter entirely.
He motioned for her to turn around. She did so at once, lifting her thick hair out of the way to allow him access to the tiny, jet buttons.
“Polly is nowhere to be found.” She felt the weight of his hands at her back, expertly unfastening her bodice. He’d played lady’s maid for her countless times during the course of their marriage and was becoming quite proficient at the task.
“Nor is Milsom,” he grumbled.
“They’re probably together.”
“In one of our cupboards, no doubt.”
Sylvia stifled a smile. Her new maid, Polly, had been walking out with Milsom since August. The two were thoroughly smitten with each other. “We’ll have to help them marry, you know.” Feeling the last button at her neck loosen, she stepped away to remove her bodice, easing her arms out of the tight-fitting sleeves. “Polly has mentioned a church wedding in Apsley Heath.”
“Milsom hasn’t said anything to me on the subject.”
She tossed her bodice onto the bed. “You don’t exactly inspire romantic confidences from the servants, my dear.”
“A fair point.” He drew her back to him, his hands moving to the buttons at her waist that secured her black taffeta skirt. “Let me,” he said gruffly.
He helped her out of her skirt, her crinoline, and her petticoats, allowing each layer to fall in a whoosh of expensive fabric down around her feet. As he did so, she worked to unfasten her gestation stays. Unlike a regular corset, they were made with extra laces and gussets to accommodate the growing swell of her belly.
“That’s better,” she said as she let the offending undergarment fall to the floor.
He cast the corset a narrow, disapproving glance. “Must you wear that infernal device?”
“I can’t very well spend all day in my dressing gown.”
“Why not?” Sebastian knelt down on one knee to untie her garters and unroll her stockings. His hands moved on her with slow familiarity, caressing everywhere he touched.
Sylvia’s breath caught. “Because, occasionally, I must leave the house. It would be immodest to go out without a corset. Even in my condition.”
He stood in one fluid motion and swept her straight up out of the heaps of petticoats and into his arms. She clung to his neck as he carried her to the armchair near the fire. He sat down, drawing her snugly onto his lap. “Tell me about this condition of yours,” he said. “How is it treating you today?”
She pressed a kiss to the line of worry that creased his brow. It was a permanent feature these days, and had been since the morning, nearly five months earlier, when she’d first informed him that she was with child. “I am well.”
“Mmm. Perhaps a little.” She ran her fingers through his coal black hair.
He made a low sound of pleasure in his throat, rather like a growl. “We should have stayed home.”
“And missed Lord Rotherham’s funeral? That wouldn’t have been very neighborly.”
He scowled. “They hardly knew we were there.”
“Lady Rotherham was very distraught. And Mr. Rotherham…Well, he’s the viscount now, isn’t he? I believe he’s quite overwhelmed by it all.”
“Thomas Rotherham’s father has been on his deathbed for nearly two decades. It can scarcely have been a shock.”
“Nevertheless, we must show our support for him.” Sylvia’s fingers played in Sebastian’s hair. “I believe…That is, I very much suspect that he is in love with what Lady Rotherham calls ‘an unsuitable female.’”
“If he hasn’t sorted it out himself by the time the baby comes, perhaps we might throw a house party and invite the pair of them? Julia could come down from London and help to plan it. You know she’d be over the moon if I asked her.”
“A house party? With a newborn infant in residence?”
“Not when he is newborn. When he’s a little older. When we can show him off to all of our guests.”
Sebastian regarded her with a solemn expression. “He, is it?”
“Would you rather a she?”
He answered without hesitation. “My love, I shall be content with whatever you give me.” He drew her closer until her cheek rested comfortably in the hollow of his shoulder. His voice lowered to a husky rumble. “I am content now.”
Sylvia relaxed within the safety of his powerful embrace. She’d slept in his arms every night since they married, and many a morning and afternoon as well. There was nowhere else in the world she would rather be. “So am I, Sebastian,” she said. “Perfectly content.”
He dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “Then stay here awhile in my arms,” he murmured against her hair.
“For a lifetime,” she promised.
And she did.