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The Haunting of a Duke

By:Chasity Bowlin

ted a spirit to. She was simply gone and he knew that it wasn't simply that she was gone from his sight. She was well and truly freed. He fell to his knees, oblivious to the silent tears that fell as he finally mourned his childhood love and the dreams that had been lost.

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The winter had been long and harsh and the days were still cold but a hint of spring was in the air. There were tiny buds on the trees and the promise of sunshine. Sitting in the garden, Emme stroked her ever-expanding belly while Larissa sat beside her, embroidering more clothes for her niece or nephew. Emme still had no idea if the child would be a boy or girl. Larissa knew but was keeping mum on the subject.

Dropping the embroidery onto her lap, Larissa stretched and smiled. “I think I will go to London."

Mr. Stidham had disappeared, possibly to America or some other distant shore. Their mother was now living in a small house that Rhys had obtained for her. There was no danger for Larissa in returning. Her debut had been postponed for long enough.

Emme was stunned. “Now?"

"No. I won't leave you until after the baby is born. I wouldn't miss that for anything. But after, I think I will go to London. I spoke with Rhys about it last week. He said that he would make all the arrangements. I had mentioned finding a position as a governess or a companion but he said that Stidham had been forced to release our marriage portions. According to your dear husband, I should be able to live comfortably without working. He's a terrible liar but a very generous man."

Emme smiled. It was so like him. “I wish you wouldn't leave us, but then I know that you miss London. The countryside was never really for you."

"I have to stop hiding from life. I have to face the tatters of my reputation and attempt to rebuild something for myself. Having the complete support of my brother-in-law, the duke, should be helpful."

Emme smiled as Larissa rose and placed the cloth back into the sewing basket. “He is everything I ever wanted and the life I have now is more than I have ever dreamed of. I want that for you. After everything that has happened, do you think you could love a man, trust him to love you?"

Larissa considered it for a moment. “I don't know. It's funny that I can see other people's futures but never my own. And I see your dashing husband in your immediate future."

"You're having a vision about Rhys?"

Larissa laughed. “No, I literally see him, crossing the lawn. And I am returning to the house so I won't have to watch you fawning over each other."

Emme turned her head in the direction Larissa had indicated. As always, the sight of her husband stole her breath away and left her pulse racing. He was truly magnificent. When he reached her, he leaned forward and kissed her tenderly, placing his warm hands on her swollen belly.

"It is too cold out here for you,” he said.

"I'm pregnant, Rhys. There could be two feet of snow and it wouldn't be too cold for me. With the fire going in the hearth, it's all I can do not to walk around naked in the house."

He laughed. “Winstone would be scandalized. Maybe we'll restrict your naked rolls to our chamber, hmm?"

"Larissa told me that she's leaving after the baby comes."

He nodded. “She needs to find her place. But she will always be welcome here and she knows that."

Emme sighed. “I had hoped that she and Michael might develop closer feelings for one another, but he treats her like a sister."

Rhys shook his head. He'd known all about her hopes on that front. “And she treats him like a brother. Like Larissa, Michael needs to find his place as well. No more matchmaking."

Emme shrugged noncommittally. “I simply want all of the people I love to be has happy as I am."

He picked her up, scooping her into his arms. With a wicked grin, he said, “Concentrate on making me happy, at least for the next hour or so."

She laughed, the sound carrying across the lawn. “I adore you. I love you so much."

He kissed her, and when he drew back his eyes were filled with tenderness. “I love you. You are my life, my world. We will have a wonderful life here along with the half-dozen children we will have."

"Half a dozen?” she all but screeched, panic in her voice.

He chuckled. “Larissa isn't the only one who can make predictions."

He silenced her further protests with kisses, and carried her to their room.

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