Sutton's Spinster (The Sinful Suttons 1) - Page 63

“Because first we must learn our letters.” Octavia decided it would be best to commence, lest Elizabeth distract her al

l day with more questions. “And now, we shall read. A said to B come here to me. Look at how the young lads in the engraving are spelling out the letters with their fingers. Do you see?” The boys in the engraving were each showing how to represent the letters using their fingers alone. Octavia made the same gestures, first showing Anne and Elizabeth an A and then a B. “Try it with me now, girls.”

While she had been concerned Elizabeth, who was clearly the least enthused with the notion of spending time learning the alphabet, would object, Octavia was pleasantly surprised when both girls arranged their hands as shown in the engravings.

“Excellent work, my dears.” She could not contain her smile as she turned to the next page. “And we will go and call on C,” she read. “Do try to make a C with me now.”

The three of them used their thumbs and forefingers to represent the C, and a rush of emotion so strong and fierce hit Octavia that for a moment, she was breathless. Not just pride at the manner in which these girls were willing to try learning, but love, too.

She loved these girls as if they were her own. And in fact, since she had married their father, they were her own, weren’t they?

Emotion rising in her throat, she turned to the next page where D was featured. Without being prompted, Anne and Elizabeth held their hands together to form the letter D, saying it aloud.

“Very good,” she managed.

Working together, they made it through the alphabet, the girls growing more enthusiastic with each passing page. It did not take them long to find their way to Z.

“And thus, when all together met,” she read, “in what is called the alphabet, we, like so many pretty toys, will please good little girls and boys; till by our means, they shall with speed, both elegantly spell and read.”

As the rhyme concluded, Anne and Elizabeth clapped. But their applause was joined by another. Octavia’s head snapped up to find Jasper leaning a hip against the doorjamb of the nursery. He was dressed simply and without fanfare, yet he exuded such confidence and power that he could easily outshine any gentleman in a drawing room. The smile curving his lips enhanced the effect, of course. As did that hazel gaze of his, burning with warmth.

“What a lovely rhyme,” he said softly.

She felt his praise all the way to her toes. Not because of the words. She knew his applause was not for the abecedarium, clever and engaging though it was. Rather, it was meant for her. He appreciated her. And she, in turn, appreciated him.

“Thank you,” she told him, smiling back at him.

“Papa,” Elizabeth exclaimed, her girlish voice sparkling with excitement, “Mama is teaching us in an abbysudsarium.”

Although she had taken great care to enunciate the word, Elizabeth had still managed to butcher it quite mightily. But Octavia did not mind. Jasper’s daughter had just referred to her as Mama. Her heart felt as if it would burst through her stays and gown and flit about the nursery.

Jasper pushed away from the door and strode toward them. “I’ve no notion what the devil you just said, my girl, but I’m pleased you’re working with Mama to learn your letters.”

“Do you mind if we was to call you Mama now that you and Papa are in the parson’s mousetrap?” Anne asked shyly, drawing Octavia’s attention from their father.

She smiled past the swift rush of emotion even as she wondered where in heaven’s name the girl had heard the phrase parson’s mousetrap. “I would be honored to be your mama, girls.”

And she meant those words. More than she ever could have imagined. She had always loved children but had never supposed to have any of her own. Her niece and nephews had filled her heart, but there was room for more. A space just for Anne and Elizabeth.

And maybe for their father as well.

Jasper reached her side and settled himself in another of the child-sized chairs outfitting the room. Watching him fold his large body into the tiny piece of furniture was comical indeed. She could not contain her smile. But it was not merely humor that had her lips curving. It was that he was here. She had not seen him in the nursery before. He spent much of his days and nights absorbed in the running of the gaming hell.

“Do you dare to laugh at me, Mrs. Sutton?” he demanded with mock outrage.

When he grinned like that, he looked younger. Less weighed down by the many responsibilities of his world. She liked how carefree he appeared, how joyful.

“I would never laugh at you,” she promised, unable to quell her smile. “But the sight of such a big man on such a small chair is worthy of comment, perhaps.”

“Careful you don’t break our chairs, Papa,” Anne said solemnly.

“If I do, I’ll buy you another.” He gave his daughter’s dark head an affectionate pat. “I’ve come to spend the rest of the afternoon with the three of you. If I don’t sit here, where shall I go?”

He wanted to spend time with the girls? And her, outside of the bedchamber? This was most definitely a new side of him. Over the last few days, their lives had settled into one of comfortable routine. No more unexpected visits from ladybirds. Hugh ceased refusing her entrée to Jasper’s office. She spent her days with Anne and Elizabeth and her nights with her husband. But today marked the first time he had ventured to the nursery on his own.

Was it her imagination, or was Jasper softening?

“Truly?” Elizabeth asked. “You’re staying the afternoon?”

Tags: Scarlett Scott The Sinful Suttons Historical
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