A Butler’s Forbidden Affair – Extended Epilogue

Eight Months Later

“When will he be back?” Jessie asked as Diana moved to the cottage’s window another time, peering beyond the window, desperate for a sign of Owen. Beyond the glass, the green leaves of summer were beginning to wane and were replaced with autumnal leaves, russet red and orange in colour.

“Soon. He promised it would be soon,” Diana said, barely able to sit still as she bobbed in the windowsill. “Oh, I will not be still until he returns!”

“Try,” Jessie said with a giggle. “You’ll upset the baby with all of your bobbing around.” Diana laughed too and looked down to her stomach. Her rounded belly. It was only a few months now until the child would be ready to come into the world. She placed a hand to her stomach, softly brushing it with a soothing gesture. 

“I think I am as impatient for this child’s arrival as I am for Owen to return.”

“He’ll be back soon.” Jessie waved away the idea as she passed the duster around the fireplace hearth. “London is a long way from here; after all, the journey must take hours!”

“True indeed, but I like it here.” Diana turned to look out of the window another time, admiring the bank of trees that led down the hill towards the ocean in the distance. “Is it not beautiful?”

“Very,” Jessie said with a sigh as she came to stand behind Diana and look out of the window too.

Diana truly loved the scenery in these parts, but mostly because it felt like they were on the edge of the world. With their small but ample cottage in the most northern parts of Northumberland, so close to the Scottish border that they could take a short walk and cross the border, they were truly on the edge of England. They could see out to the North Sea from their cottage, watching it thrash against the beaches with energy. The wilderness of the place had crept into Diana’s writing so that her latest book took place in such a setting, where the people were controlled by the storms and errant waves of the ocean.

“Oh, I wish he’d hurry,” Diana said again, looking down the driveway. She jolted forward when she saw a horse. When the cart pulled up behind the steed, she was startled to see more than one figure in the cart. “Who is that?” she asked. Jessie leaned past her, pressing her face to the glass. 

“I know that face.”

“Who is it?” Diana asked. Owen’s face came into view as he steered the cart up the driveway. Beside him, the stranger tilted his own hat back, revealing a face Diana could recognize after all. “Isn’t that the cook from Gilbert’s house?”

“It is Tommie!” Jessie said excitedly, hurrying out the door. Diana went to follow her but had to go much slower, clutching her stomach as she practically waddled through the house.

As she went, she admired the rooms of their cottage. It was far from being the smallest of houses. With the publication of her first book, it had been a startling success, taking even the publisher by surprise, and the money that had flooded in had made their situation infinitely more comfortable. As her second book was already with the publishers, they felt no trepidation in purchasing the place, especially when they still had some of the money they had taken from Gilbert left, hidden and tucked away in drawers.

Diana moved through the sitting room, admiring the fine rug on route to the corridor that was amply wide, even when she was so rounded, carrying her child. Walking past the staircase, she appraised the new wallpaper they had fitted, decorating the walls with fine bold swirls in pastel colours, before she reached the door that had been flung open by Jessie. Carefully, she stepped out of the door and down the front step, just as the cart pulled to a stop on the driveway.

“Tommie, is that you?” Jessie called as she hurried to meet the cart.

“I’m pleased you haven’t forgotten what I look like yet!” Tommie said as he jumped down from the cart. “How are you, Jessie?”

“Happy indeed!” she exclaimed, moving to help him with his bags. 

Diana turned her eyes on Owen as he clambered down from the cart, momentarily making the horses safe before he hurried to her side.

“You should be inside resting,” he said, smiling as he reached for her hands.

“It is hard to sit still when you’re near,” she whispered to him. He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the back, making her wriggle with delight before him. “You have brought a guest, I see.”

“Well, you did say we could do with a cook. None of us are particularly good at it, and you think we have the income now.”

“I do, but my latest payment has not come through from the publisher.” She worried her lip between her teeth, nervous now money did not go as far as it once did. “What if it does not come through when we need to pay him?”

“Do not worry about that. We have another way to get paid now.” He stood a little taller, with his smile beaming.

“Oh my … did they say yes?” she asked excitedly.

“Well …”

“Do not keep me in suspense anymore.” She bounced on her toes before standing perfectly still and placing a hand to her stomach.

“Exciting the baby?”

“A little. Tell me all. What did they say?” she pleaded with him. 

“It seems Somerset House doesn’t accept art from just anyone,” he said with a grimace. “Yet, for some reason, they decided to accept art from me.”

“They’re going to place the painting in the gallery?” she said excitedly, stepping forward.

“They are.” His smile grew so wide she thought his cheeks must have ached from the effort.

“Owen, that is wonderful!” She threw her arms around his neck, embracing him tightly. He gathered her easily into his arms, practically lifting her from the ground, despite the fact she weighed much heavier these days and was not so easy to carry. “You have wanted it for so long,” she whispered in her ear, thinking of the painting.

It was one he had started back at Gilbert’s house in Farleigh Hungerford. When they had reached their new home, Owen had declared he wished to redo the painting, using the woods around them as their new setting. It was an image of Diana walking through the woods, painted with those wings, yet the painting was done in stages. Looked at from one angle, she could see her wings were delicate and fragile, yet the painting almost appeared to morph in front of the viewer’s eyes, to show her wings intact and her taking flight.

“I have you to thank for this moment, Diana,” he said softly to her as he placed her back down on her feet and lowered himself towards her.

“Me? What did I do?”

“Well, for starters, you were my muse,” he said, kissing her quickly. The gentle kiss made her long for more, angling herself up towards him, but he pulled back anyway, smiling, for he clearly knew he was teasing her with that kiss. “You bought me my paints; then, of course, you reminded me that it didn’t have to be a dream. Just as you have been published, it was possible for someone to want to display a painting from a butler.”

“You are not a butler anymore, love. You are an artist now.”

“An artist. That will take some getting used to.” He bent down towards her again, placing his lips to hers.

“Well, this is our new home then?” Tommie’s voice made them part from each other. “Your Grace, you look wonderful indeed.” He hurried forward and bowed to Diana.

“It is lovely to see you too, but none of that here,” she said hurriedly, shaking her head. “People know me here as Mrs Arnold.”

“Understood,” he said with a wink. “Who is going to give me the tour then?” he asked as he tossed his bags over his shoulders.

“You must rest, love.” Owen looped his arm through Diana’s and led her inside. “I’ll see to the horses, and then I’ll show you around, Tommie.”

“I can show him,” Jessie said, hurrying inside and following them into the sitting room. As Diana sat slowly into one of the chairs, Tommie stepped forward, admiring the room.

“What a pleasant room. It is infinitely more comfortable than your last.”

“That’s what I said.” Diana smiled with glee. “It shows you how one does not need grand things to be happy. Just the right things.”

“And none of the wrong things,” Jessie said, sitting down beside her and plumping a cushion for her to lean on. Diana issued her thanks as she leaned back, aware that Jessie fussed more and more around her these days, in clear anticipation of the baby’s arrival. “Such as no duke in your home.”

“True,” Diana said, nodding slowly. “We have not heard from him since we left.”

“Do you wish to know what happened to him?” Tommie asked as Owen hovered in the door, hesitating from going to see to the horses.

“The court case has happened?” Owen asked in surprise as they all looked to Tommie.

“This last week. I am surprised you have not heard about it. It was covered in the newspapers,” Tommie said as he sat down in a chair nearby, ushered to do so by Diana. “Thank you, your … I mean, thank you, Mrs Arnold.”

“That’s better.”

“We do not get the newspapers very often in these parts,” Owen explained as he leaned on the doorframe. “We are so far removed from everything. What happened?”

“Do you wish to know?” Tommie asked, looking between Diana and Owen. Diana was very aware of Owen looking at her, clearly wanting her to be certain of her answer.

“Yes,” she said eventually. “What happened?”

“He was convicted of arson, fraud, and murder.” He glanced at Jessie with these words.

“Murder?” Jessie repeated. “He denied pushing Parker into the flames.”

“It seemed the jury came down hard. For whatever reason, they decided it was murder, not manslaughter. Yet … some people in the jury must have been swayed a little.”

“What do you mean?” Diana asked.

“Many a man faces the noose for such a crime. It seems the duke will not.” He shook his head. “He will spend many years in prison, thirty at least. That is what they said in the papers, but someday, he will be released.”

“I see,” Diana said with a sigh, uncertain how she felt. She had never wished death on anyone, so in some way, it was a comfort to know Gilbert would not face a noose; on the other hand, was it true justice? She wasn’t sure. “Well, that is that. Thirty years is still thirty years, a good punishment. We do not need to concern ourselves with him anymore.”

She was startled when she felt a soft hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Owen beside her, touching her gently.

“Indeed we do not, love. We have other things to think of now.” His eyes flicked down to her stomach, making her smile all the more.

“That we do.”

***

As Diana prepared for bed, she was restless, unable to sit still on the stool in front of her dressing table.

“Is something wrong?” Owen appeared behind her in the mirror, crouching down so his head moved to be beside hers. “Is it the baby? Are you uncomfortable?” he asked.

“The baby is fine,” she assured him with a smile. “I’m constantly uncomfortable, though. Something tells me this baby may come sooner than we thought.”

“I cannot wait,” he said softly, turning and kissing the side of her neck. She leaned up, maintaining that kiss against her skin for as long as possible before he released her, looking at her eyes in the mirror once again. He was softened by the one candle she had lit on her dressing table, casting his brown eyes in a golden light. “Is there something on your mind then?”

“There is,” she said, chewing her lip. “I have had a thought.”

“What is that?” he asked.

She swivelled on the stool, turning around to look at Owen as he knelt before her. 

“How common is it to have an annulment?” she asked. Owen’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Not at all common,” he said softly, shaking his head.

“Is it doable?”

“I know little of it,” he admitted, gazing up at her. “Why do you ask?”

“I know such things would not be easy. Beforehand I could not have an annulment, for I did consummate the marriage with Gilbert.” She looked down as Owen took her hand, softly pressing their fingers together. “Yet … surely there must be something that allows for these circumstances? With a husband convicted in such a way and sent to prison. What do you think?”

“It is possible,” he nodded slowly. 

“I was thinking that maybe we could marry then.” She looked up excitedly, finding his eyes with her own. “I know it could take a while, it could even be messy and complicated, but perhaps there would still be a way to stand up in church then and make our vows in God’s house. What do you think?”

“If it is what you want,” he whispered to her, lifting her hand to his lips, “then let’s do it.” He kissed the back of her hand. “Now, let us save all our worries for the morning. If you are uncomfortable with the baby tonight, perhaps there is a way I could make you feel better.”

She knew that look in his eye, for she had so often seen it before. She loved it each time it appeared, for she knew what would come to pass, minutes of pure bliss in his arms, coupled with words of love whispered in each other’s ears.

“Please, do,” she murmured, leaning towards him and pressing her lips to his.

It was gentle indeed as he stood and helped her to her feet before turning her to the bed and laying her down on the mattress. With the swell of her belly, they had to lay sideways as they removed one another’s clothes. As Owen slid off her gown, he brushed her arms and waist with soft fingers, teasing her with the gentlest of touches. He left her stockings to last, and as he removed them, he placed sweet kisses to her thighs and calves, following where he went with his hands and lips.

She reached up eagerly to remove his own clothes once he was knelt before her, tossing the clothes across the room in such a way that they landed in odd places, at the foot of the bed, slumped against the window, and even trailing across her dressing table. 

Once they were both bare, they leaned down beside each other again as he looped a hand around her knee and hooked it over his hip, sliding their bodies together. When he entered her, it was gentle, almost delicate in his thrusts. The pleasure made her toes curl as she gripped onto his shoulder with one hand and the bedhead with another. When he thrust harder, rocking their bodies together and bringing her hip back towards him each time, she tossed her head back, biting her lip in her effort to be quiet and not wake the others in the house with her moans.

When they reached their peak, it happened at the same time, with their hands clutching each other. His hands were on her hips as she braced hers against his shoulders, riding out the last throes of their passion. As they came down from their high, Owen rested their foreheads together, breathing deeply.

“Every time is incredible,” he whispered, drawing a soft giggle from her. “Feeling more comfortable now?”

“Much more,” she said as she reached up and tangled her fingers playfully in his hair. “Owen?”

“Yes?” he said as he peppered small kisses down her neck, travelling across her chest. 

“I didn’t think I could be so happy.” Her words made him pause and lift up a little, looking into her eyes. 

“You didn’t?”

“No,” she said, softly shaking her head. “So, thank you for it. For everything! You have given me a life I didn’t know was within my reach.”

“Diana, you do not need to thank me for that.” He moved his lips towards her forehead, kissing her across her crown and down her nose, hovering his lips over hers. “I should be the one thanking you.”

“Me? Why?” she said, her voice pitching high in surprise.

“Everything is because of you, Diana,” he whispered. “You were the one to invite me to play cards that first night. Who knew what would happen because of that one simple question? I thank God every day that you asked me, Diana.”

“A card game.” She giggled at the idea. “It was such a simple question.”

“Yet it meant so much in the end.” He reached down towards her, sealing their lips together in another kiss. Diana smiled into the kiss, lifting her arms back around him as she considered the words.

He was right, in a way. Had it not been for that one brief moment of confidence, that one night where she had so longed for someone else’s company that she was willing to be embarrassed and ask such a question of him, she might never have this life.

“Thank goodness you said yes.”

THE END


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5 thoughts on “A Butler’s Forbidden Affair – Extended Epilogue”

  1. I have recently started enjoying regency romances, but this one was one of the most original plots so far. The characters were believable and real. I loved how Jesse, particularly, developed throughout the story. Thank you for a delightful and intriguing story. I highly recommend this one.

  2. What a beautiful love story. The way it was written made it very believable . I loved the four mail characters, the storyline, and just the right amount of erotica. Very well written.

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