A Seductive Lady’s Guardian – Extended Epilogue

Isabel tossed the ball high into the air. Three large dogs leapt at it, colliding with each other, mid-air. There was a yelp of dismay, before one seized the prize, running away with it in his mouth. The other two dogs followed in hot pursuit.

“You are spoiling them,” said Anthony, lounging on the grass, watching the display. “They shall never be disciplined enough for a hunt again.”

“So what?” challenged Isabel, gazing at him. “I loathe hunting and besides, dogs are not born just to hunt. They need play, as well, Anthony Snowley.”

Anthony rolled his eyes. “Isabel, where do you get your ideas from? You are a wild untamed spirit, indeed. I declare that you are not fit for proper society.”

Isabel grinned, walking towards him. She fell on the ground, on top of him. He moaned in mock pain, gripping her tightly, rolling around on the grass. She laughed. Suddenly, the dogs returned, leaping on top of them and licking their faces, eager to be part of the fun.

With difficulty, they managed to disentangle themselves from the dogs, sitting up. Anthony reached over, taking a twig out of her hair, staring at her. Her heart twisted, to see the love in his eyes. It was always the same, when he gazed upon her, but she never tired of it.

They had been married for two months, now. And they had been the most wonderful two months of her life. She didn’t think that she could love him more than she did when they had wed, but it seemed that she was wrong. Every day her love for him was deeper than the day before. She could barely remember what it had been like prior to their union.

She gazed at him, feeling that love pierce her heart. It didn’t mean that they still didn’t drive each other to distraction. They argued all the time, in a carefree way, just the same as before. It wasn’t over tutoring now, but there was always something they didn’t agree on. That was just the way it was, between the two of them.

Suddenly, a shadow fell over them. They both looked up, squinting. It was Hardy, studiously ignoring the fact they were grass stained and rumpled.

“Miss Bowles is here,” declared the butler.

Isabel leapt to her feet, grinning. “Good old Sarah! Always early for a visit!”

Anthony groaned. “Tell your dear friend I shall be along shortly. I shall give you two some time to gossip without me in the room.”

Isabel poked out her tongue at him, before picking up the skirt of her gown and running into the manor. She grinned to herself. Their plan was coming along nicely. Sarah was already here and soon Joshua would arrive as well. And then, they would pick up a filled picnic basket from the kitchen and lunch outside, on the grounds.

The matchmaking plan had been her idea. Isobel remembered how Sarah and Joshua had looked at each other, on her wedding day. And then, she had told Anthony about it. He had argued with her at first, saying that she should not interfere, but she had ignored him. Now, her dearest husband was quite taken with the idea, that perhaps their dearest friends in the world might become attached.

Isabel’s grin widened, as she entered the house. Sarah and Joshua just needed time to get to know each other, that was all. And she and Anthony would give them ample opportunity to have that time. It was fool proof.

                                                                 ***

Sarah looked fetching in a primrose muslin gown, her hair tightly ringleted. She cried with delight when Isabel entered the drawing room, rushing to her friend.

“My dearest,” she cried. “You look positively aglow. I swear that marriage suits you better than any other lady I have ever known.”

Isabel laughed. “Well, not every lady has a husband such as mine, Sarah.” She paused. “I think part of it is that we were such good friends, before we fell in love. We just have fun together and do not take it all that seriously.”

They sat down, side by side, on the chaise lounge. 

“What are we going to do today?” asked Sarah. “Will Anthony be joining us?”

Isabel suppressed a smile. “Yes, he shall be joining us. I thought a picnic lunch out on the grounds. The weather is so beautiful, after all, that it seems a shame to stay indoors.” She paused. “And Lord Thrup is joining us. He was planning to visit anyway so we thought he could tag along.”

Isabel’s eyes narrowed, gauging her friend’s reaction to this news. Pleasingly, Sarah blushed. Isabel’s heart surged in triumph. She knew she had been right. Sarah did like Joshua, in that certain way. Now, all they needed to do was see if Joshua liked Sarah in exactly the same way. 

She could have just come out and asked her friend, of course. But Isabel wasn’t sure if Sarah would answer her honestly. Affairs of the heart were so complex. She knew that, better than anyone. Sarah might not want to admit to it for fear that Joshua did not feel the same way and she would make a fool of herself. Or some such thing.

“Well, that shall be very pleasant,” said Sarah, her blush deepening. “He is a very amiable gentleman. I do so hope he is not disappointed that he shall not have the two of you alone, however.”

Isabel laughed outright. “Joshua is not so very complicated, dearest. As long as he is in pleasant company, he does not much mind where he is or what he is doing.” She paused. “And I believe he finds your company to be quite pleasant.”

“Does he?” Sarah’s voice sounded a little breathless.

“Indeed,” said Isabel. “How could he not? You are sunshine personified, dearest.”

They were interrupted by the arrival of Anthony, striding into the room. Isabel gazed at her husband fondly, shaking her head. He still had twigs sticking out of his hair from their romp on the lawn and his jacket was rumpled. 

Abruptly, her breath caught in her throat. Even a mess, he was still the handsomest man she had ever laid eyes upon. And now she was remembering how he had woken her up this morning…his hands trailing down her body, awakening her desire, before she had even opened her eyes…

She blushed furiously, as he gazed upon her. She could tell by that sharp look on his face that he was recalling their morning antics, as well. She shivered. Their lovemaking just got better and better as their love deepened. To the point that they could barely keep their hands off each other.

Hastily, she looked away. Now was not the time, to stoke the embers of that fire. That would happen later, when they were alone again. 

“Sarah,” he said, walking over to their guest and taking her hand. “How lovely to see you. I trust you are well?”

Sarah smiled. “Very well, I thank you, Your Grace.”

“Please, call me Anthony,” he smiled. “I have told you many times, you do not have to stand on formality with me any longer.”

Sarah laughed. “Of course. Anthony.”

Suddenly, Joshua walked into the room, unannounced. Isabel jumped in surprise. She hadn’t even heard his carriage pull up.

“I say,” he declared, taking off his gloves. “A brilliant day for a ride over the hills!”

Isabel smiled. That was why she hadn’t heard a carriage. Joshua had decided to ride here on horseback. She shouldn’t have been surprised at all. He often did so.

Sarah stood up hastily, smoothing out the creases of her gown, curtseying. “Lord Thrup.”

“Miss Bowles,” he said slowly, his eyes raking over her. “What a pleasant surprise.”

Anthony strode forward, slapping his friend on the back in welcome. “We thought a picnic outside on the grounds, because it is such fine weather. What say you?”

Joshua’s smile widened. He didn’t take his eyes off Sarah as he spoke. “I say that is just what the doctor ordered, old chap. Let the fun begin.”

                                                                             ***

Isabel strolled alongside her husband, watching Joshua and Sarah in the distance. They had all just finished the picnic, and now Joshua and Sarah were playing with the dogs. Isabel had dragged Anthony away on the pretext of showing him a flower that had just bloomed.

“It is going well, is it not?” she said to him, smiling.

Anthony laughed. “Indeed, my love. Sarah seems smitten and Joshua is certainly gazing upon her with admiration.” He paused. “But do not be too disappointed if they do not end up as star crossed lovers. You can only do so much with match making, after all.”

Isabel’s smile widened. “I am confident,” she declared. “They truly do like each other. They are just both a bit reticent, in such matters. They just need a helping hand.”

Anthony laughed, taking her own hand within his own and raising it to his lips. “You are the most determined woman I have ever encountered, Isabel. Once you set your mind upon something you are like a dog with a bone.” He grimaced slightly. “As I found out to my detriment, when I got all those tutors for you. You run rings around them all.”

Isabel laughed delightedly. “You simply did not listen to me, so I had to take matters into my own hands. I still cannot believe that you were so stubborn with it.” She exhaled slowly. “But if I had not been so determined, we might not be married now, Anthony Snowley. It was only due to my will that you finally admitted you were in love with me.”

His eyes lingered upon her own. “I thank the Lord every day of my life that you were so stubborn.” His face abruptly sobered. “To think, I almost let you get away. I almost let you marry James Balfour…”

“Hush,” she said gently, her gaze softening. “It was never going to happen. There was no way I could have married him, loving you as fiercely as I do.”

He smiled slowly. “Yes, I know. Your tenacity is what made me realise in the end that I must have you forever.” He paused. “It is a happy ending all round, Isabel. I heard just the other day that Mr. Balfour is now engaged to an heiress from Basingstoke. Apparently, they are head over heels in love and have already set the date.”

Isabel smiled. It gladdened her heart to hear such good news. She still had lingering guilt over James Balfour. He was such a good man and she loathed that she had caused him pain. But now, she could let that go, once and for all. He had moved on with his life.

“How wonderful,” she smiled. “I wish only joy for them.”

“Indeed,” said Anthony, smiling as well. “I am afraid it is not such happy tidings for Miss Grace George. Apparently, her new fiancé has broken the betrothal.” His mouth twitched. “He ran away with a scullery maid. Miss George has taken to her bed, with her smelling salts as her constant companion.”

Isabel couldn’t help it. She burst out laughing. It wasn’t that she wished ill upon that lady. It was just that she couldn’t help thinking that the odious Miss George had gotten her comeuppance. 

She and Anthony had talked about the lady, of course. He had admitted to her that he had only led Isabel to believe he admired Miss George because he had thought it the best thing. He had never been serious about her and actually couldn’t stand her. Poor Miss George had refused to accept the truth until it was staring her in the face.

Isabel stared across the gardens. Miss George had tried so very hard to put her off Anthony, after she suspected they had feelings for each other. She still despised the lady, but she understood. All was fair in love and war, after all.

“Have you heard news of your dear Aunt Hester?” asked Isabel. “Is she quite settled back into her home?”

Anthony grinned. “Actually, I just received a letter from my doting aunt,” he said, in a dry voice. “She is selling up entirely and resolved to becoming a missionary in China, of all places. She said the Lord spoke to her in a dream, urging her to forgo worldly wealth.”

Isabel laughed again. If there was anyone in this world who would become a missionary, it was Lady Snowley. That lady was still the oddest person Isabel had ever encountered.

“I wish her well,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “I do so hope she has the time to write us some letters from China on her progress.”

“Indeed,” said Anthony, his mouth twitching. “Life moves on for all of us.”

He took her hand. They slowly walked across the lawn towards Joshua, Sarah, and the dogs. A stab of pure joy entered Isabel’s heart. For what more could she want of life, than this? A man she loved deeper with every passing day. Good friends. A beautiful home. She truly was the luckiest woman in the world.

                                                                          ***

That evening, after Joshua and Sarah had finally departed, they drifted into the gardens again, as if a magnet was drawing them. It was such a fine night and the lanterns had already been lit, illuminating a path.

Isabel turned to her husband. “Sarah confided in me before she left that Joshua is intending to call upon her,” she said, smiling widely. “The plan is working! Before we know it, we shall have a wedding invitation.”

Anthony laughed. “Slow down, Isabel. It is promising, but it is early days.”

“I know it will happen,” she declared. “How can it not?”

He didn’t answer her. He simply took her by the hand, dragging her along the path. They reached the end of the grounds, where the woodlands began. He stopped, pulling her into his arms and nuzzling her neck.

Isabel felt a stab of pure desire. It was always like this whenever he touched her, in an intimate way. There was never a time that she did not feel it. She shivered in the cool air, knowing it wasn’t just the breeze that was causing goose bumps to break out over her flesh.

“Come on,” he whispered into her ear. “Let us walk further.”

She giggled, as he dragged her off the path. The woods were as black as ink. She could only just see his face.

She could feel the sudden tension within him. He didn’t say a word. He simply pushed her against a tree, the bark rough against the thin material of her gown. Slowly, he ran his hands up her legs, hitching the gown high around her waist. His mouth was urgent upon hers.

She shivered again, feeling the desire grow. For a moment, she hesitated, glancing down the path. What if someone was out walking the grounds and saw them? But then, she relaxed. It wasn’t likely and besides, they were shrouded in darkness.

“Do you like being embraced outdoors like this, Isabel?” he whispered into her ear, before taking the lobe into his mouth and sucking it fiercely.

She shivered anew. “Yes,” she whispered back. “I like it very much.”

“Good,” he whispered. “Because so do I.”

They kissed furiously, straining against each other. She felt a warm trickle of wetness as the desire for him overtook her. He was already hard, pressing against her urgently. His hands slipped into her, stroking and caressing, opening her up to receive him.

She gasped as a deep frisson of desire shuddered through her. They had never made love outdoors before. It had only ever been in bed, in the privacy of their chambers. She was a bit shocked to find how it heightened her senses.

He was biting her neck, now, pushing against her. She gasped again as he entered her suddenly, pushing her roughly against the tree. She wrapped her legs around his waist, urging him on.

Her head lolled back against the tree. That incredible climb towards heaven was starting; those intense sensations which only he could summon, as if by magic. She closed her eyes in ecstasy, straining against him.

“Oh, Isabel,” he whispered, his eyes burning with desire. “Oh, my love…”

Suddenly, he gripped her tighter still, plunging deeper. At the same moment, an explosion of sensation tore through her body. She couldn’t help it. She cried out in abandon as it shuddered through her. He cried out, too, as his own release flooded into her. 

They slumped against the tree, entirely spent, panting heavily. After a moment, he gently pulled down her gown. They sat down on the grass, their arms around each other, staring up at the night sky. The breeze was a welcome cooling balm on her face.

“I love you so very much,” he whispered fiercely, his arms tightening around her. “I can hardly believe it, but it just gets better between us.” He hesitated, gazing at her intently. “I truly feel as if we are one flesh, my love. As if I no longer know where I end, and you begin.”

Her heart lurched with an intense, fierce love for him. Gently, she stroked his beloved face. She could barely see it in the darkness, but she would know it anywhere. 

They nestled into each other, gazing back at the night sky. A thousand glittering stars, pulsating with light. She felt as if they were shining just for them. As if this glorious celestial display had been conceived entirely for their viewing pleasure.

Isabel smiled slowly, watching a tiny star twinkling its brilliance. One hand strayed to her belly, patting it protectively. She was fairly sure now what awaited them, just around the corner. An entirely new adventure.

Her smile widened, as she nestled into his shoulder. She would tell him soon. But tonight…well, tonight was for them alone.

THE END

43 thoughts on “A Seductive Lady’s Guardian – Extended Epilogue”

    1. Such a satisfying read. Well done! I rarely find a book these days I can devour. This was a perfect story!

      1. I’m humbled my dear Jennifer! So glad you enjoyed the story! Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I really appreciate it. Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

    2. It’s the first time I’ve got an Epilogue – it’s nice to read further into Anthony & Isobel’s after wedding – I enjoy the story very much – one can escape into another world – so thank you!

  1. Enjoyed this journey of love with both besotted characters getting their HEA.
    Thank you Daphne.
    Carmel from Oz

    1. Thank you so much my dear Carmel. I truly appreciate it and I am so glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      Thank you again and have a lovely day!

  2. A wonderful story with such lovable characters. Waiting for Anthony to finally act on his love for Isabel was most frustrating. But, they were meant for each other so we had a happy ending.

    I look forward to reading more of your novels.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support my dear Bonnie. I am humbled! So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

  3. I am so happy to hear that my dear Vickie! Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I truly appreciate it! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming! Have a lovely day!

  4. Thank you so much my dear Gwen! I truly appreciate it! So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!
    Thank you again and have a lovely day!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support my dear Sue. I truly appreciate it!

      I am so glad that you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      Thank you again and have a lovely day!

  5. Isabel’s spirit and determination along with Anthony’s deep desire to care and protect her was a beautiful setting for their HEA. Look forward to reading more of your books.

  6. Your story was wonderful, I enjoyed Miss George getting what I’m sure everyone thought she deserved. Looking forward to reading more of your books. Thank you

  7. Lovely story with a happy ending. Without Anthony having this misguided sense of duty, there would not be all these issues. However, his actions are not consistent with his sense of duty. If he thought he was wrong to marry his ward, then touching her sexually was doubly wrong. And once he had done so and Isabel reacted favorably, he should have decided to marry her much sooner.It feels like the multiple encounters was just to make the book longer. A man with his values, would not have acted as Anthony did, and even if he lost control once he would have admitted his mistake and fixed the situation. Glad it ended happily. Also, nice to see their best friends also find love.

    1. Thank you so much for your detailed feedback dear Madhu. The whole story revolves around an everlasting forbidden romance that even of it was tamed in the past, it was meant to be unleashed. Heroes have their traumas and they fight with their pathos. They are not perfect nor sinners. However, you are raising some valid points.

      Thank you for your thorough review. Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

  8. How wonderful was this read how much I loved it, thank you this story brightened my day please keep writing , I fell in love with the Duke how great to have such an upstanding person.

    1. I don’t know what to say about this wonderful comment dear Donnett! I’m humbled. Thank you so much for your lovely words and support!

      Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      1. Anthony & Isabel’s beautiful Love fills my heart with joy. Thank you so much for creating an endearing heartfelt saga to open the reader’s eyes to much goodness and happiness!

  9. A really great read. The first time I have had the pleasure.
    I felt I would like to bang their heads together and say “Why do you think Isobel’s asked you to be her gaudian?”
    It must be difficult to manage to keep your readers enthralled for a whole book. I shall look forward to reading more of your novels.

    Another. Jennifer W from Australia.

    1. I am so gerateful for your lovely words and support my dear Jennifer! Welcome to my world! I hope you enjoy the rest of my books as well and looking forward to reading your thoughts!

  10. I too, noted the conflict of ideals … Anthony’s “sense of duty to his ward”, succumbing to his desire for her … then not directly marrying her? This seems to be antithetical what was considered “proper behavior” of the time and he is nothing if not observant of proper behavior, at least until the last part, when he is resolved (resigned?) to follow through and act on his own growing realization of his unconscious impulses and desires.
    Finally, while I understand the narrowing of the number of characters, I can’t help but wonder about the broader effect of their marriage insofar as its reception in the wider world of society. This is mentioned in the reporting of future actions of the more or less incidental characters in the story. But it is just that, a reporting of their future activities, as if to resolve their particular stories. Perhaps one or two social engagements after their marriage? Or better yet, completely narrow the focus to Isabel, Anthony, Sarah, and Joshua.

  11. I loved this story! She’s such a free spirit and he’s so proper. I think their mothers would be so happy for them. I hope these characters make an appearance in another book, along with Sarah and Joshua!

  12. I am not quite sure what to say about this story except that it was a worthy distraction.
    Sometimes I hesitate to leave comments because of the cookie cutter replies and the constant use of the word “dear.”

  13. Dear Daphne,

    I enjoyed the book and I am reading the others.

    I was wondering if you have written the story about Sarah and Joshua too.

    Thank you
    Ivana from the UK

    1. Dear Ivana,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed the book. I haven’t written Sarah and Joshua’s story yet, but I appreciate your interest. Stay tuned for future adventures!

      Best,
      Daphne

  14. I really enjoyed the novel. I hope you have a story about Joshua and Sarah. I couldn’t believe Anthony would want Isabel married to James Balfour. He loved Isabel a long time before he became guardian. A Duke could do almost anything so why take the chance and give the love of his life to someone else? I’m glad he came to his senses and it was a happy ending after all. Look forward to your next novel.

  15. This was my first time reading any of your writings, and I can say without a doubt will not be my last. I love the Regency era and you have the talent to bring it to life. The story of Isobel and Anthony was perfect. I am so looking forward to Sarah and Joshua’s story. Thank you so very much.

    Patricia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *