This is the last installment. I truly hope that you will read this asap so you will not miss when I delete this story. And PLEASE tell me what you think. My addy is Catheryne@charmed.ph
For those who asked why I am deleting, I'm pretty much preserving copyright for later, because I am a professional writer at the moment and I send manuscripts to publications. I am not sure if I will be sending this one any time soon. Thank you for reading.
Chapter 23Nicholas was away on business. That was the usual situation in London, she realized. Not long after their arrival, the days without him seemed interminable to Caroline, and she was often restless and bored. Their routines settled into place and had an informal schedule. At eight in the morning she and Colette would take breakfast in the gardens. Whenever the duke was free, he would join them and ask about her planned lessons for the day. When Nicholas has left, Caroline and Colette would go to the nursery and study basic arithmetic, history and French. They would stop for luncheon and resume class. The afternoon subjects were painting in the garden, embroidery at the parlor and music at the nursery organ. At around two Caroline let Colette go and do whatever is on her mind. Usually, Colette merely stays with Caroline and the two of them tell fictional stories. Once, they even played—or tried to play—hide and seek but were not able to finish the game. The house was simply too huge to successfully look for anyone. There was even an occasion when she looked from Colette for hours and never found her until the sun had set. When she set eyes on her charge, the two of them burst into laughter when they finally accepted that hide and seek was not a game suitable to Riverside. And so they chose more restful activities. One afternoon they decided to raid the library. While silently shuffling through an estate management book, the faceless form had appeared before her eyes again. Shaking her head to relieve herself of the picture, she had realized that not once for the past months had she given any thought to that man who belonged to her past. And so the days passed in the endless routine where they saw the duke only for a few hours each day. Nicholas would arrive at six in the evening, and the three of them dined together. Over dinner they would talk about what they did during the day. Nicholas was open with his business, telling them what they wanted to know in language they would comprehend and never once shaking his head and replying 'You won't understand' to their queries. But it was the magic of every night that was most memorable to Caroline. After tucking Colette in bed, they would silently walk to the master's bedroom holding each other's hand. There, wrapped in the arms of the man she loved and adored, Caroline filled the gaping holes in her mind with Nicholas. Everything they did and said she slid in perfectly in her heart. This way, although she could not have fond childhood memories to return to, she would always have scenes of herself and the duke to lose herself in.
She had thought that she understood what drove him, what made him the way he was. One morning at breakfast she knew how wrong she was to suppose that it was so.
"Miss Cathy, do you think Papa will join us this morning?"
Caroline smiled warmly at the child. She knew she should not look too transparent, but she could not help but glow as aftermath of the love she shared with the duke the night before. "Perhaps he will."
Colette was slicing her pancakes when Caroline spotted the duke at the other end of the garden. "There he is."
Colette turned to look eagerly to where Caroline was looking. The girl's face immediately turned serious and she nodded, facing back to her plate. "You should eat before your meal gets cold, Miss Cathy."
Caroline pushed her chair back and stood. "I think I'm going to greet the duke there. You should stay here and finish our breakfast, Colette. I haven't thanked him properly for what he did for my friend Tessie."
The little girl looked up and asked, "What did Papa do for Miss Tessie?" Colette had met Tessie several times since they went back to England but Caroline doubted the girl would ever know Tessie's real profession.
"She doesn't have to work for that bad Mr. Finnes anymore. The duke purchased an inn for her. It's near his estate, too. It's called The Gentry's Roof and Tessie wrote to me about it. She is very excited about running it." Caroline started to leave when the girl called to her again. When she turned to face her, Colette merely shook her head. Caroline was puzzled over the child's behavior but thought nothing of it.
Her steps were light as she approached Nicholas. When she was near enough, she stopped. Nicholas went down on his knees and lit a candle. His face was stoic and composed as he stared at the stone marker. Caroline wondered whose it was. She watched his features carefully to catch any play of emotion that his face might reveal, but there was none.
He must have finally sensed that he was not alone for he turned his head to look straight at her, and the impact of his eyes almost sent her reeling backwards.
The blue orbs were naked, starkly revealing an intense amount of loneliness and desolation. For long moments the two of them were frozen in time. He was kneeling and hurt. She was standing and touched. Then, as though nothing had happened, an invisible curtain fell over his eyes and all his emotions were hidden. He strode towards her and wrapped his fingers around her arm.
"Have you waited for me before breaking your fast?" He was smiling.
She forced her lips to form a smile too. "Yes, I have." She knew it would be another marker for his wife. She had never met a man more devoted than he was. Still, although she was sure of what she'd see, her eyes darted to the marker another time. What she saw sent a cold wave over her.
Aidan St. James, she read. Beloved son.
It did not say whose child he was, but judging from what she had seen, she knew the answer.
In that grave was buried Nicholas' and Caroline's son, dream and future. And how she ached for this lost little family, mostly for the member unwillingly left alive.Last night, Nicholas told Caroline he would not be able to join them for breakfast because he had an early morning appointment with one of his solicitors. Feeling especially lonely, Caroline told Colette that she would raise her to the parlor. She gave the child a head start because of her shorter legs, but Caroline soon found out that it was herself who deserved the advantage. Near the sofa, Caroline caught the little girl under the arms and lifted her off the floor. Soon they collapsed giggling at the sofa and finally fell on the carpet. They were still laughing when the butler showed their visitors to the parlor.
The man's eyes flared at the sight of her and the woman in the elegant green gown smiled warmly at the two rumpled figures on the floor.
The two of them hastily got to their feet to greet the guests. Colette automatically pressed a kiss to Caroline's cheek. "I'll stay in my room while you visit."
When the little girl was gone, the man extended his hand to help her stand. "I am the Duke of Glastonbury, Geoffrey Drake, and this is Isabella Sinclair, the Duchess of Stafford."
Isabella took in the sight of her friend, looking so healthy and she sent up a prayer of thanks. "Oh, of course she has not forgotten me so soon, Geoff. Adam and I have been permanent fixtures in the household before they left for the States."
Caroline's smile was warm and open. "I am so happy to see you again, your grace." The duchess' eyebrow arched and Caroline corrected herself, "Isabella." When everyone was comfortable, she said, "The duke is out at the moment." She could feel the duke eyeing her searchingly, and wondered why this was so.
"We know. We came by to see how you were doing."
"I'm doing very well here. Have you had breakfast?"
The woman nodded. "Yes, I have, but I'm sure his grace has not."
The handsome man protested. "Please don't worry yourself."
Caroline had a maid fetch breakfast for Geoffrey. "I hope you do not mind eating here. We are not so formal. The garden is too uncomfortable because of the brisk cold breeze, and the dining room is too stuffy for three adults to have a decent conversation."
"Are you well settled here in Riverside, Cathy?" asked the duchess.
"Yes, I am. It is a large house and I sometimes lose my way, but the staff is friendly and always available to lead me back to the main hall."
"I would get lost in this place too, I'm willing to guess. For a town house, Riverside is unusually spacious. Nicholas spends more time here than he does at his estates so that is understandable."
The maid brought in Geoffrey's breakfast, and Caroline's little nightmare began all over again. At the sight of the eggs fried sunny side up, she felt bile rise within her. With a lack of any ladylike finesse, she tore out of the room and heaved the contents of her stomach into a basin she already kept in select areas of the house.
When she came into the parlor, the offending plate was put away, and her guests politely sat waiting. As he saw her arrive, Geoffrey politely stood up.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be so rude." She sank back on her place.
"You're carrying." It was a statement.
Caroline looked Isabella straight in the eye. Nobody would call her child a bastard. She can't judge her. She won't let her judge them. A protective hand went to her belly. "So?"
"I am very glad for you." Isabella knew the girl before her had no idea how happy she was. She proceeded to give her tips and suggestions as to how best to handle the next few months. She even invited her to look over which of her confinement dresses she'd like.
Caroline was so surprised that she looked at the duchess. She seemed sincere so she gave a grudging, "Thank you." She looked at the two people before her and saw to her bewilderment that they looked as though they genuinely cared about her. "May I ask you a question?"
"Anything." This came from Isabella, since she was the one talking at this call. It seemed Lord Glastonbury wasn't here to do anything except escort.
"Would you mind telling me about Lady Caroline? She is—she is having such an adverse effect in my life and I don't even know much about her except she was Lord Rivenston's late wife."
Isabella looked directly into Caroline's eyes and saw that it was still empty of memories. She saw no fault in telling her a few things about her best friend. "Caroline was . . . exceptional. She was beautiful, kind and funny. She had all the talents a Society lady should have and more. She cared so much about the lost souls. Her special crusade was caring for the children. She wanted few things in life. She wanted a haven for the stray and the orphaned children, and Nicholas gave it to her. She wanted a child, and Nicholas gave her one, but they lost him to Fate. Then, she wanted forgiveness."
Caroline saw that Isabella was not saying anything more, and she knew why. Nicholas had not been able to forgive until it was too late.
"What exactly is your reason for asking?"
It seemed that she thought over if she was going to be honest or not, then she shrugged. "Lady Caroline is the reason Nicholas can not let himself love me completely. He's put her in his heart and mind so snugly I can't squeeze my way in." She finished with a voice barely above a whisper to confess, "I'm beginning to hate her."
Then they seemed to let go of the topic. They spoke of where Caroline might take Colette whenever Nicholas was away. Isabella also invited her to come to their house. When it was time for them to leave, Caroline was saddened because Isabella was one of the few friends she has that she could remember.
Geoffrey held the door open so Isabella may leave. He paused before her and, before he turned to leave, she glimpsed a look of intense sorrow on his face. She caught her breath and looked into his eyes. Their gazes met.
Reaching out, his hand smoothed over her cheek in a familiar manner. "Do you love Lord Rivenston, Cathy?" She answered in the affirmative. "Then do not fret about ghosts of the past. I know how much it hurts, but it is possible to hide your pain."
"When the pain is too great it is impossible," she whispered.
"How do you know?"
For a very long moment he just looked at her, probably debating in his mind whether or not to reply. Finally, he gave her his answer to her question. His response was so private he could not let Isabella hear it. "I once loved a woman with the mindlessness of a man who was allowed to see heaven but was forbidden to enter it. I was like a beggar where she was concerned. It hurt me when I lost her, but as long as I remember her, she will be with me." His eyes looked at a point far from her. "And although you can never forget or ignore the pain, at some point, you learn to live with it." He turned and walked away.
Caroline and Colette wanted to go out. They put on their bonnets and hand in hand, walked out of the gate. The sun was high and vehicles trotted along. They were going to cross the street to visit the library. Caroline held the child's hand tightly as they crossed the first lane. At the middle of the street she stopped. Her vision was beginning to blur, and she shook her head to clear it. Suddenly, she felt weak kneed. She sent up a prayer because she knew what was going to happen. She was going to faint right in the middle of a busy street, a child with her. She had to find a way to get her to safety. That was the last thought in her mind when she tumbled into darkness.
She sat propped up on bed, hugging Colette so tightly the girl whispered something about being squashed.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
Colette nodded and let out an unsteady breath. "I'm very good at crossing streets, Miss Cathy. But I was so scared you'd be hurt. I'm sorry I left you."
"It's fine, honey. You probably saved my life by running to get help."
The doctor was returning his things to his black bag, preparing to leave. Mrs. Mayhew had brought in a tray of soup. Suddenly, the door was flung open and the Duke of Rivenston strode inside. The doctor left.
"Colette, would you mind leaving the two of us alone for a moment?" He was breathless, having almost killed his horse to get back here when he received word about Caroline's accident from the butler.
"I don't mind." The girl kissed her governess' cheek and hurried away.
"How are you feeling?" came the duke's breathless inquiry.
Caroline smiled at him tremulously. "Just a trifle sore, that's all."
Nicholas was drawing deep breaths, but hearing the fear in her voice broke him. He took large steps forward and sat on the bed, drawing her tightly to him. "Oh God, Caroline, to think I almost lost you again!" He began to rain desperate kisses all over her face.
She firmly pulled away from him. Through the haze covering his vision he saw her eyes were dark with pain.
"Cathy . . ."
"Please Nicholas—I've—I've decided to go back to Boston and accept one of the positions that have been offered to me there." She thought she could live as second best. Apparently her heart didn't agree with her mind's decision. She could not survive long with that sort of heartbreak everyday. If she stayed, she'd get immune to it, but she was not willing to risk her sanity for the questionable pleasure of being numb to it all. "I'll tell Colette."
Caroline sat on the bed, sobbing helplessly and crying into the edge of her blanket. How could she have fallen so in love with a man who saw her only as replacement? No! He did not even see fit to replace his wife with her. He only substituted a living woman to stand up as his dead love. How could she have forsaken her dream of finding that faceless man in the few cluttered frames of her memory? She was so sure that he was the love of her life, and that he would make her life complete. Instinct told her that she has already met him again, but she could not figure out who among the people she had met since she awoke in Tessie's coarse bed was a great part of her former life.
She never heard the soft knock or the door swinging open. She just poured her heart out as she sobbed out all the pain that has piled up within her since Boston.
"Cathy." She stopped her outpour of grief and looked up. It was the Duke of Glastonbury. "I heard about the accident. I came as soon as I could. What's wrong?"
He was so warm and caring, and he did not call her Caroline. In her despair she cried out to him and opened her arms, begging him to enfold her in his embrace. In her dazed state, she equated the action to being shielded from the pain and grief that might come her way. "Your grace!"
He was instantly with her, warming her body with his. Geoffrey enveloped her in his arms and closed his eyes, his chin on top of her head. The duke reveled in the feel of her softness against him. This was what his dreams consisted of, and he knew that it was wrong. "I'm here, Cathy. Don't worry," he murmured on her hair.
"I know you said that love can take the pain away, my lord, but I cannot take much more of this."
He released her and took his own handkerchief from his pocket. With it he wiped away the tears streaking her face. Geoffrey pushed back the hair that concealed parts of her face. "I know I said that. It's difficult, my dear, but you will learn."
She continued to cry, although silently this time. "I have to go away."
"I respect your decision." He took her hand and placed a soft kiss on her palm. "If you need me, just tell me."
The moment his lips touched her skin Caroline saw another moment in time when the very same man did the showed her that same sign of affection. In her mind's eye she saw Geoffrey Drake's lost soul reflected in his gaze as he bent to kiss her palm. And then it became clear to her. The fragments of her memory with a stone figure of a man, a wide, grassy land and beautiful weather came back to her. But most of all, the most important piece of the puzzle was a sparkling diamond ring. It was not the ring so much as what it symbolized that staggered her. He was the man in her life!
"It was you," she whispered.
Geoffrey stiffened. She finally remembered.
"All along you were the one I kept seeing over and over in my dreams." She reached out to him and her hand delved into his pocket. When it flew out, it was holding a black velvet box. She opened it and there it lay. "Oh, my lord, I remember it. You promised me you would keep it with you forever until I changed my mind. Well, I do!"
"You don't understand—"
"Did you love me then?"
"Of course I did."
"Do you still love me?"
"Always," he replied. "But we can't get married. Nicholas—"
The teary smile vanished at the mention of his name. Caroline pushed back the covers and strode out of the room. Geoffrey followed her to see that she did not hurt herself more than she already was.
Nicholas sat on his desk, brooding about Caroline's decision. She was so hurt that he loved a woman with the whole of his heart and his soul. The ironic thing about it was that she was that woman. He could not let her leave. If he did, all the light that came flooding back into his life when he saw her in the tavern and inn would dim and eventually fade out. He'd been to hell and back. He did not want to go experience that desolation all over again.
The door flew open to reveal the very object of his thoughts. Caroline's face was streaked with tears and he saw that she was furious.
"You lied to me!" He stood up and wondered what to do. "You did not tell me the truth! How could you have done this to me, and to him?"
She remembered! "You remember."
"This is all your fault. What happened to me and to him, I blame you for everything!"
She was speaking of the child. She had every right to condemn him for Aidan's loss. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry does not bring back what we have lost, Nicholas." She drew herself tall and continued, "But I can continue my life from here, your grace. I'm going with Lord Glastonbury."
"What!" His eyes were wide with incomprehension and wild disbelief.
"By not telling me that Lord Glastonbury is the man I kept remembering you have destroyed whatever future we may have had between the two of us. Now we shall try to see how we can fix the damage you've done." She burst out crying again. She remembered the babe she carried, and imagined what Lord Glastonbury's reaction to raising his best friend's child. "What am I going to do? I love you now!"
"Stay with me then." He tried to draw her into his arms.
"No!" She forcibly pulled away. "Can you not understand that I cannot trust you anymore? You lied to me!"
"It's not what you think, sweetheart."
She was shaking her head and looking at him so sorrowfully. "I suppose you called her that, too." She turned around and walked into the arms of Lord Glastonbury. She did not see his face when he clenched his jaw and signaled his friend to wait.
"How is she?"
Geoffrey looked at the back of his friend's head. Nicholas' forehead was against his desk as he sat there, desperate and lonely and confused. "I asked her to rest in her room. She spent herself too much confronting you."
Nicholas raised his head, for all the world looking like a dazed and confused boy. "What the hell happened?"
"She remembered the time that I showed her the engagement ring I bought for her. Somehow she concluded that it was I and connected me with all the faceless images in her mind. I know you are the one in her memories, Nick, but she fully believes that I am her lover."
"What am I to do now? Are you taking her with you?"
"You know I'd love to." Nicholas stiffened. "Unfortunately when I took her to her room she told me that she's leaving you, and she is not coming with me. She wants to put the past behind her. She wants to leave England. She realized she does not love me after all." Geoffrey's eyes were sad but accepting. "She loves you, but she is unwilling to offer herself to hurt, as she is sure will happen if she stays. I want to protect her, Nick, but she made her choice a long time ago. She wanted you then. Now she's given me her choice once more. Although she may believe that I was the man in her past, she's grown to love you so much she's willing to let me go."
Nicholas hesitated before speaking. "You mean well, my friend."
Geoffrey turned the knob on the door. "I know what you want to tell me, Nick. I'm leaving." He started to go outside when he stopped. "Just—just tell me how she fares, won't you?" He left when his friend nodded at him.
Nicholas debated telling her that she was Caroline, and showing her the portrait, her works and maybe play her a song or two. Still, he could see how distraught she was. It did not matter, even if his life depended on it. He would not tell her the truth about her identity. He was not willing to sacrifice her sanity for his own happiness.
He was so confused by the events and he knew he had to calm himself and think of a way to make her stay with him. He pushed back his chair and went to the White Room.
He pushed open the door and looked around him. Nobody but him was allowed to enter this room. Everybody respected this refuge he has claimed. The room was his last hold on his Caroline.
How can he lose her again? He walked over to the piano and sat heavily on the chair, closing his eyes and thinking. Of their own volition, his fingers rested on the keys.
Lord Glastonbury told her not to leave her bed, and she should have listened. Caroline gripped the railing of the stairs as she fought a wave of dizziness. When she recovered, she continued down and stopped at the sound that floated to her ears. The music seemed to call to her like a Siren's song of centuries past.
She followed the sound and stopped at the open doors of the White Room. She'd never gone inside before, partly out of respect. She could see that none of the servants, not even Colette, stepped inside. Of course her greater reason was fear. She was afraid that the room was full of portraits and tokens of the late duchess. She was having such a hard time fighting off the dead woman by not knowing how beautiful she was. She did not want to hurt more by seeing what utter perfection the woman was.
But the melody was still calling to her, and reluctantly, she stepped into the room. She saw the duke playing and the song suddenly became familiar to her. As each note floated from his fingers to the instrument to the air, Caroline thought that a memory after the other flared to life in her mind. Her frantic eyes found that each nook and cranny of the room held a tiny corner of her brain.
I close my eyes and think of you
And then they fill with tears
And I find with each salty drop
Scenes of you and me appear.
I miss the scent of you,
the sight of you.
The way your eyes hold mine.
But what I most long for
the dreams we dream together,
of what we'll feel forever.
With a stifled gasp, she grabbed hold of the back of a mahogany chair and closed her eyes, listening to the familiar music and Nicholas' rich lyrics. She was trying to stay standing against the force of the memories pouring over her.
She was losing her baby! She could feel the blood coming from between her thighs. It was all her fault. Her husband was sending her off to France. And he has taken up with his former mistress Lady Cassandra Gaveston.
Nicholas looked up from the white keys. He breathed in harshly as he saw that Caroline stood there, her face as white as death, clutching the chair for support. He held his breath.
Finally, Caroline opened her eyes and looked into his. Her lips parted as everything went tumbling back to her. It wasn't Lord Glastonbury, after all. He was only one character in her life, as were Isabella, Lord Stafford and Colette. This man, standing before her, was her life. Her hands clutched the bodice of her gown as though trying to calm her pounding heart. She ran out of the room, up the stairs and flung open the door of his library, vaguely aware that he was following. Once there, she moved to the far wall. Reaching up for the cord, she drew open the heavy blue curtains.
For several lifetimes the two of them were frozen where they stood. Caroline stared up at the portrait, absorbing every minute detail. Nicholas had his eyes fixed on his wife. He watched for every shake of her shoulders, indicating a sob. Finally, he saw her look down. The time of reckoning had come. He was prepared to go down on his knees and beg. He was prepared to grovel. He would . . .
"What's my name?" she demanded softly, already knowing.
"Caroline." The moment the name passed through his lips, she broke down and sobbed loudly. After a few minutes the sounds subsided. She turned around and looked at him with tears running down her cheeks. "Nicki," she whispered. "Have you forgiven me? I am so sorry for losing the baby."
"Forgiven you?" He strode forward and caught her in his arms. He was could feel the tears stinging his eyes, but he was not ashamed. "I have been prepared to give up everything just to have you back—my wealth, my home, my title, my pride. Everything I am or will be, just for another chance to have you. Love, I want you to forgive me. I have been an imbecile."
Her hand went up to touch his cheek with the wonder of rediscovery. All the events that occurred during the past few weeks suddenly seemed to take its toll on her and she knew her legs wouldn't hold her up much longer. She leaned heavily against this man who was everything to her.
He bent and caught her up into his arms, carrying her from the library to the bed that they have shared in their first months of marriage. Very carefully, he set her down on the bed and sat beside her.
She reached up and wiped the tears from his cheeks. "Why are you crying?"
"Need you ask? Caro, I turned from you and sent you away. All the sadness between us was my fault, and here you are, back in my arms, asking for my forgiveness. And you ask why I cry." He stared deep into her eyes. "I've been waiting almost a year to tell you this." He kissed her forehead, then her left cheek, and then her right. He kissed her nose and her ears. He placed a sound kiss on her neck. She was softly laughing with the joy she had. "You told me then you loved me and I was too stupid to admit it that day, was I not? I've told you how I felt for you and then I took those beautiful words back. Now it's time for me to pay up, don't you think?" He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her wrist. "I love this. It tells me you are with me, alive." He brushed her hair with his fingers. "And I love this. It just proves you're no simpering miss but a red blooded, passionate woman." His head drew down to her heart, and he placed a kiss on her left breast. "I love this too. This will nourish our babies." His hand came to her belly. "And this, which will shelter our children to come. But most of all," he gazed deeply into those golden eyes he has been dreaming of for months, "I love you, for your courage and tenderness and all the love you have given me. Sometimes it makes me feel unworthy, Caroline."
She smiled and touched his beloved face. "I love you, too. I would not love you if you were less than a wonderful man. You are everything to me. You deserve my love and that of all our children." Her eyes grew concerned. "Everything that happened caused you so much pain, Nicki. I am so sorry."
Caroline will always be Caroline, whose first thought was the other when she was in a far worse state. Nicholas caught her hand again and lifted it to his lips. He could not stop from touching her. He could not believe that finally, she was back in his arms, as the wife he treasures above all else. "I only ask one thing from you."
"Anything," she answered, with all the love she felt for him shining in her eyes.
"Will you please give me another forever, Caro?"
Caroline smiled through her tears and nodded. "I have to tell you something."
"What is it, sweetheart?"
Caroline took the envelope and tore it into two even pieces. "I'm not going to America."
"Of course, you're not." He kissed her nape.
"Nicki?" she said tentatively.
He almost groaned at the sheer pleasure of hearing that from her lips again.
"Would you like another baby?"
"Want to get started now? Maybe we can get you pregnant before nightfall." He lifted her into his arms and almost ran to the master chamber. He set her down and quickly divested their clothing. He laid her on the bed and climbed on top of her. His lips met hers in a long, sweet kiss. "Welcome home, duchess," he whispered, as he started loving her.
Kissing his shoulder she decided she had better tell him. "Nicki?"
"Yes?" he answered huskily.
"I already am," she replied, moving with him. "Remember the night of our anniversary?"
Nicholas sat at a chair by the bed, his firstborn son cradled in his arms. Colette was sitting cross-legged on the bed. Caroline sat propped up by pillows, listening to her husband hum to the baby.
She knew the words by heart, and joined in. "I sent thee late a rosy wreath, not so much honoring thee . . ."
Caroline wanted to name the baby Nicholas Jr., but the duke preferred the name Andrew. When Caroline asked if there was a family naming tradition that she did not know about, Nicholas merely shrugged and said that the name was something he dreamed of once. Fully understanding the depth of loss that her husband experienced during that fateful time in their life because that was how much they loved, she did not press further.
Nicholas Andrew was asleep. She took the baby from his father's arms and lay him beside her. Colette crept towards the baby and watched as it breathed softly. She hummed the song to him, as his parents were too absorbed with each other to do their duty.
From his pocket, Nicholas drew a gold chain with a disk at the end and handed it to his wife.
Caroline pushed at it and it opened. It was a watch. At the lid were embossed a few simple words. I will love you, beyond another forever.
She opened her arms to her husband and he buried his head on the crook of her shoulder. She felt the wetness of his tears against her skin. He was making a habit of this. As she always did, she combed her fingers through his hair. She pressed a kiss on his cheek, and whispered, "Far, far beyond, Nicki."