When He Was Wicked: The 2nd Epilogue (Bridgertons 6.5) - Page 13

look!” Kate pointed toward the window. “Is that Francesca?”

Violet straightened and rushed to the window. “It is!” she exclaimed. “Oh, and the sun is shining. I’m going to wait outside.”

With nary a backward glance she grabbed her shawl off a side table and dashed into the hall. It had been so long since she’d seen Frannie, but that wasn’t the only reason she was so eager to see her. Francesca had changed during her last visit, back at Isabella’s christening. It was hard to explain, but Violet had sensed that something had shifted within her.

Of all her children, Francesca had always been the most quiet, the most private. She loved her family, but she also loved being apart from them, forging her own identity, making her own life. It was not surprising that she had never chosen to share her feelings about the most painful corner of her life—her infertility. But last time, even though they had not spoken about it explicitly, something had still passed between them, and Violet had almost felt as if she’d been able to absorb some of her grief.

When Francesca had departed, the clouds behind her eyes had been lifted. Violet didn’t know whether she had finally accepted her fate, or whether she had simply learned how to rejoice in what she had, but Francesca had seemed, for the first time in Violet’s recent memory, unreservedly happy.

Violet ran through the hall—really, at her age!—and pushed open the front door so that she could wait in the drive. Francesca’s carriage was nearly there, starting the final turn so that one of the doors would be facing the house.

Violet could see Michael through the window. He waved. She beamed.

“Oh, I’ve missed you!” she exclaimed, hurrying forward as he hopped down. “You must promise never to wait so long again.”

“As if I could refuse you anything,” he said, leaning down to kiss her cheek. He turned then, holding his arm out to assist Francesca.

Violet embraced her daughter, then stepped back to look at her. Frannie was…


She was positively radiant.

“I missed you, Mother,” she said.

Violet would have made a reply, but she found herself unexpectedly choked up. She felt her lips press together, then twitch at the corners as she fought to contain her tears. She didn’t know why she was so emotional. Yes, it had been over a year, but hadn’t she gone 342 days before? This was not so very different.

“I have something for you,” Francesca said, and Violet could have sworn her eyes were glistening, too.

Francesca turned back to the carriage and held out her arms. A maid appeared in the doorway, holding some sort of bundle, which she then handed down to her mistress.

Violet gasped. Dear God, it couldn’t be…

“Mother,” Francesca said softly, cradling the precious little bundle, “this is John.”

The tears, which had been waiting patiently in Violet’s eyes, began to roll. “Frannie,” she whispered, taking the baby into her arms, “why didn’t you tell me?”

And Francesca—her maddening, inscrutable third daughter—said, “I don’t know.”

“He’s beautiful,” Violet said, not caring that she’d been kept in the dark. She didn’t care about anything in that moment—nothing but the tiny boy in her arms, gazing up at her with an impossibly wise expression.

“He has your eyes,” Violet said, looking up at Francesca.

Frannie nodded, and her smile was almost silly, as if she couldn’t quite believe it. “I know.”

“And your mouth.”

“I think you’re right.”

“And your—oh, my, I think he has your nose as well.”

“I’m told,” Michael said in an amused voice, “that I was involved in his creation, too, but I have yet to see any evidence.”

Francesca looked at him with so much love that it nearly took Violet’s breath away. “He has your charm,” she said.

Violet laughed, then she laughed again. There was too much happiness inside of her—she couldn’t possibly hold it in. “I think it’s time we introduced this little fellow to his family,” she said. “Don’t you?”

Francesca held out her arms to take the baby, but Violet turned away. “Not just yet,” she said. She wanted to hold him a while longer. Maybe until Tuesday.

Tags: Julia Quinn Bridgertons Romance
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