HUGE THANKS TO ALL OF YOU FOR READING THIS STORY!!!
SPECIAL THANKS TO KRIS FOR CONVINCING ME NOT TO KILL STEPHEN; AND TO LAUREN AND KYLIE FOR EVERYTHING
UNBREAK MY HEART
Four Years Later…
It had snowed during the night and that morning the air still held a hint of snow. It was cold and crisp and it let everyone know without doubt that it would be Christmas soon.
Stephen, the Earl of Westman, walked slowly though the park on his way home. Under one arm he held a big tin of pastries and holding his other hand was a small girl with light brown curls and her mother's eyes. His daughter, Susannah looked like a small, delicate, feminine version of himself but everyone always said that Susannah reminded them of Lottie. It was the eyes. His daughter had Lottie's wide, sapphire eyes.
His daughter was one of the greatest joys in his life; she was almost three years old and was spoiled beyond measure. To Stephen's great surprise, his father adored his granddaughter and showered her with the kind of love and affection that he hadn't had for his son.
Stephen was happily musing how much he loved his daughter and how much he wanted to be home that he was most surprised when two women –plus four children, two boys and two girls – stopped him in the park.
"Westman," Sara Parker said, making him stop. In the last years Stephen had managed to patch things up with John, and though their friendship would never be what it had once been, they were now good friends again.
"Mrs. Parker, Lady Stapleton." Stephen said bowing at the two women. They were both very pretty ladies but it had been a long while since he had been affected by a lady's prettiness.
"When did you arrive?" Kate Stapleton asked; while she reached down to right the collar of the dress her daughter was wearing, and to run her hand through her son's dark hair. Robbie had just given Susie three of the peppermint drops he had on his pocket in exchange for a cherry-twist candy the little girl had on her coat's pocket. It was funny how you left children alone and they immediately went into the trade.
"Oh, earlier this morning. Lottie is still resting at home. Susie and I, meanwhile, came to get supplies." Stephen said holding the tin of pastries. "Lottie's sweet tooth is worst than ever with the baby and all."
"She's due soon, is she not?" Sara asked.
"Oh, I would love to see her." Kate said.
"Your two are welcome any time," Stephen said and then felt a tug on his hand. He looked down at Susie who grinned at him – the trading of candy done – and held her arms above her head and said "Up."
Automatically, Stephen leaned down and lifted his daughter with his free arm. Susie cuddled close.
"I better take her home." Stephen said and bowed again. "Give my best to John," He added and took his leave.
Susannah rested her chin on her father's shoulder, looking back. She saw that Robbie was still looking at her so she lifted one hand and waved. Robbie waved back and then turned to his mother and left. Susie made herself comfortable; it was the advantage of being a baby: you get carried everywhere. And Mommy and Daddy had told her that she would always be their baby, no matter if she was to have a little brother soon.
Some minutes later they were in Westman House, and Stephen took Susie up to the master bedroom where Lottie was having her nap. Once in the room, Susie wiggled to be put down, which Stephen did right away, and the moment her little feet touched the ground she ran towards the bed, screaming "Mama!"
Lottie sat up a little and smiled. She was quite huge now, the baby just a few weeks away from arriving. At Dr Sullivan's advice they had waited two years after Susie's birth before trying for another baby so Lottie's body had the proper time to recover and her health wasn't compromised (not that they had curtailed their nightly activities, they just took precautions).
Noticing that Susie wasn't having much luck climbing to the bed, Stephen went and lifted her onto the bed and into her mother awaiting arms.
Lottie lifted her face and Stephen kissed her, first her lips and then her big belly. "I love you." He whispered.
Lottie smiled and then laughed as Susie put her tiny, little hand on Lottie's stomach with utter most seriousness. "Has he bumped yet?" Susie asked. Both she and Lottie were convinced the baby would be a boy… and Susie was so looking forward to being a big sister and having a little brother to boss around.
"No, baby, he was waiting for you."
"Good." Susie said, a fierce look of concentration settling on her face. A moment later, she squealed with delight when the baby kicked just beneath her hand.
Stephen laughed, sitting on bed and hugging his wife and daughter; the baby kicked a lot more than Lottie let Susie know for Susie believed that she alone could make him 'bump'.
It was humbling to love someone as much as he loved Lottie, Susannah and the baby on the way.
As he sat there, listening to Lottie talk to both Susie and the baby; Stephen remembered how once time he had felt sorry for Lottie. He remembered the first time they had met: She was sitting at the terrace of her father's house – she wasn't allowed to be down in the garden with the other children as one dumb doctor had told them that the outdoors were detrimental to her health, so she had inched as close as she could to the garden. She was small, thin and delicate and far too pale; and she was looking hungrily at her brother and his friends who were playing cricket on the lawn; and at her sister seated on a little tent in the garden, holding court with the other local girls and their dolls.
Feeling sorry for her –and since Ian and his friends were just old enough to think he wasn't worth their time and wouldn't let him play with them – Stephen went and sat at her side. Lottie had looked very surprised, as no one ever talked to her, and he found himself saying "I have a dog," Lottie had turned to him completely, fixing her big blue eyes on him, and grinned at him; and suddenly it wasn't pity anymore, they were friends.
In all his life, Lottie had been the one person in his life he had never had to fear being hurt by, he should have worshiped the ground beneath her feet and instead he had hurt her. But Lottie had forgiven him; her heart was the big and her love for him that true.
Going back to the present, he looked at his wife, nestled together with Susannah – the baby between them – and it struck him how lucky he was.
And though he had never been a praying man, he whispered a 'thanks' to the sky, to God, to whoever was in charge and had put this woman in his life; then he gave thanks for Lottie's love – for being worthy (in her opinion, which was the one that mattered) of her love – then he thanked for his sweet daughter.
And just about a month later he sat in bed with Lottie and a small, screaming bundle in her arms and he thanked for his son, Nicholas, healthy set of lungs.
And then he kissed Lottie and thanked for her again because… well, just because.
End of the Epilogue
End of Unbreak My Heart