Well, she should have seen that. It’s not like she had been avoiding the fact or she was being really careful.
Peggy just… forgot.
It was so easy to be with William. They spend Christmas time in Ellesmere Park and it was lovely: the fresh smell of pines, the gifts under the tree, the eggnog late at night, when only the two of them were in the kitchen downstairs.
It was cold and snowy outside, making it very easy to stay until late in bed, with only their bodies and the dying embers over the fireplace to keep them warm.
And, then, it was a new season. They returned to London, where William took his seat in the Parliament with grace and dignity, transforming himself in the politician Peggy’s father one day aspired to be. Meanwhile, everyday they had a concert, ball or fête to attend, making their social life a stream of colors and music.
It felt like they were constantly leaving one party to attend another. However, this was clearly not true, as Peggy thought to herself, kneeled on the floor next to her chamber pot.
Clearly, they had time to have sex. Many times.
She got up and went to see the calendar she left on her dressing room. There, she could see all the events she had for the months ahead of her, including the days she would have her period, just to be ready to decline any invitation during those days.
God knew she hated those little tissues she had to use as pads.
Yes. There it was. She should have had her period already on that month. And last month she had skipped it entirely. And the same happened the other month.
Dear God, how did she not realize what was happening? She always kept track of it with such… care.
For a moment she stood in her dressing room, a hand over her belly, still flat and firm under her digits and let the knowledge sink in.
A baby. A real baby. Hers and William’s.
“Peggy, dear?” She heard him, calling from her room, which prompt her mind to run all the errands she had to do for the baby.
He or she will need clothes. A crib. She had to see a doctor. Oh God, she was feeling sick again. Diapers. They used cloth diapers in the 18th century, right? She would have to buy bottles. Did they had bottles or it was something new?
Many things were different in terms of pregnancy and motherhood back in the Georgian times. Children were treated differently and many would see their parents only a few times a day. Women often died in childbirth and it also had a large margin of infancy death.
“Are you alright?” Asked William, watching her hypervantilating, with her hands clasped over her belly.
She raised her head and, while watching those big blue eyes, she forgot about her previous worries. He was there, right next to her. Everything would be fine, if they were next to each other.
A slow smile creeped over William’s lips, prompting him to take her into his arms as fast as he could.
“A baby? How? When? Why? What?” He mumbled over her hair, holding her as tightly as he could.
“Yes. Well, I imagine it was the usual way. I think by December, but we have to be sure about it. Why? Maybe it was supposed to be. And I really can’t answer the last question. It’s all over the place.” She said, chuckling, making him lough harder.
“Oh, God. What we should do?” He paused, looking at her with those wonderful eyes, looking surprised and delighted at the same time. “We have to stay in. Maybe we can return to Ellesmere Park. We have to talk with Dr. Blydon. And Mother Claire. She is the best doctor I know. Do you think she would come? Lord Rokesby could help us arrange a vessel…”
“Oh, Will!” She whispered, taking his head in her hands and puling against her lips. “Would you really do all that?”
He looked surprised.
“Of course, I would! It is our first born, Peggy.” He smiled again, his eyes gleaming with possibilities. “We should invite our family to Ellesmere Park, for Christmas. To meet our child, what do you think?”
“It would be lovely!” She said, closing her eyes and imagining their house filled with laughter and voices, the snow falling outside, a baby in her arms, surrounded by those she loved most. Lord John, Aunt Minnie, her “grandfather”, Mother Claire and Father Jamie. They would all be there.
“Maybe Adam would like to be the godfather.” Said William by her ear. “It would be nice for him, after everything that happened those last few months…”
Adam Raphael Grey, the second son of the duke of Pardloe, was laying on the curb, thinking of how wrong everything was going with his life. He tried for some time to get up and go back to the pub where he was drinking, until that tall Irish guy decided he was being too inconvenient.
Inconvenient or not, he showed that man how to fight like a gentleman.
And that was why he was injured and drunk, laying over dirt.
He should have started some boxing classes in Gentleman Jack club, but he always thought he would never need such amusements. He was a soldier before he was the heir to a dukedom and, since Ben was missing in battle, he never really thought about having fun.
He had a broken-hearted mother and a father who was stuck in the colonies trying to find his older son. He did have no time to think about anything that was not his family, the title or the estate.
So, he left the army and his friends and went straight to business. He took care of every aspect of the Grey’s life and was, for the first time, responsible for something beyond himself.
He would spend days with the tenants, looking for bugs in the crops, testing new draining methods, bathing in the sun and drenching in sweat. He would go up and down the properties in his horse, looking for things to correct, to make better, to fix up.
And then, his cousin got married. William was his best friend and he introduced to the boy most of the good things in life, as he was 5 years older. However, when he saw the bright blue eyes shine towards that small brunette walking down the aisle towards them… Well… Maybe Adam was missing the best moments of his life.
His mother was recovering from the shock and his father was almost giving up of the search. He was the heir and he was working very hard to make everyone proud. Now… Now he could focus on himself. A pretty girl in his arms, with a nice voice and long lashes. Nice hips, as he wanted as many sons as possible. And daughters, as well.
Adam was sure of his decision by the time William and Margareth returned from the colonies, more in love than ever. His cousin was happy and jump into his duties like Adam did out of despair, seeing his family crumble beneath his fingertips. But William… he had it all.
That Christmas, as he watched the snow fall over Ellesmere Park, those weird pines in every room, decorated with all sorts of odd things, Adam decided that he would start the next season looking for a bride. And he would not rest until he found one.
So, why, in May, the peak of the social season in London, he was laying on a ditch, drunk as a skunk and feeling sorry for himself?
Well. Benjamin was found. Not only found, but he returned home in February, with a wife and a child. It was a shock for all and Adam was truly happy to hold his older brother in his arms once again. His mother was beyond true happiness and even his father had returned for good, just to stay close to his family.
That man never quit a job.
And there they were, all laughs and smiles while Adam felt… lost. He had nothing, anymore. He wasn’t an heir, so Ben would take care of the estate and the tenants for now on. His mother was the image of merry grandmother, holding Ben’s son in her arms and would not need Adam too comfort her anymore (even though his younger brother was still with a woman that already had a husband. A living husband.) and his father was the image of a retired veteran, spending his days in the White’s and going to the Parliament in his spare time.
All the months he dedicated to his family vanish in the air as soon Ben landed on the coast of England. And he just received a little tap in his back and that’s it.
What he was supposed to do?
He couldn’t go back to the army. His father would never let him take care of one of his estates as an administrator (as it would be beneath of his class). He couldn’t just buy a farm as well, for the same reason.
And, God forbid, he would be the worst minister in the world.
Without any prospects in his life, considering that he had only his allowance from his father and nothing else to thrive, he doubted that any girl, at least a sane one, would accept his marriage proposal.
That’s why he found himself drunk in a ditch, after fighting a guy that was too big for him and had cruel eyes. This was his pity party and Adam was not proud of that, despite the fact he was considering to get up just to crawl back inside the pub and take another pint.
Or maybe a nice scotch.
He felt his pocket for a moment, grimacing with pain, noticing that his money was gone as well. He had just a couple of shillings.
Taking a deep breath while standing up, with some difficulty, Adam thought that maybe, just… maybe… he could, one day, find his way back to the life he so much adored. With the woman he dreamed of by his side.
Scotland, May 1447
Eleanor Iona MacDonell, daughter of chief Leith MacDonell was not an easy girl. She was born too small and soon her mother passed away with a high fever, leaving the baby to be cared for her father, which was not one of the best solutions for her case.
Leith MacDonell had only married Iona MacLean to make an alliance with the neighbor clan and never really cared for the girl. She was odd, with her very blond hair, the pale face and the big green eyes that stared into his soul every time he had to consume his marriage. For Leith, it was a blessing when he knew his wife was pregnant. A blessing that only last six months, as he discovered that the little baby in his arms was, indeed, a girl.
Well, he soon managed to fix that, marrying the Hamilton widow, who had two sons with the old chief and could give him the sons he craved so much. By the end of three years of marriage, he had an heir, a spare and a third one that would, most likely, be a priest.
Eleanor never dared to call Adaira Hamilton mom and Adaira never really cared. She had her boys, who would turn to be in command of Eleanor’s own clan, while the girl would probably be shipped to somewhere far away.
Maybe the Highlands.
Being so close to the English border, especially during those days of war, made the clans on the south lose their Scottishness, Angus, the groom, would always tell her.
Things were different in the north, where it would snow year around and the man would walk around shirtless and fearless. There, he said, she would find them with hair as red as the sun and eyes as blue as the lochs. This thought made her touch her strawberry blond hair and wish she was born a highlander.
They were fearless and the bravest warriors in the world, she was told. And she spent her days trying to become one, for better or for worse.
That’s why, despite being considered the prettiest girl in the Lowlands, she was also considered to be a little crazy. Maybe too intense for her own good, jumping on her sorrel, shooting arrows around, fighting any soldier that was on her way, in her breeches and long boots.
She sighed, adjusting the veil over her hair, as she waited to be summoned by her father. She hated the veil and the girdle hanging from her waist. She hated the stiffness of the fabric over her torso and the big sleeves. She felt like the jest in the court and she dreaded that feeling.
“You look awful.” Said her younger brother, Callum, by the door. He was only thirteen years old, but he could be a pain in the ass sometimes.
“At least I don’t have your face.” She joked, making the boy frown at her. Eleanor turned to him and her eyes caught the leaves hanging from his boots and soon she realized what he has been doing all day long. “You’ve been catching herbs again? If you continue to play with witchcraft, you will be the worst priest Scotland ever saw.”
“I will not be a priest. I’ve told you, Ellie.” The boy said, offering her his arm, as they started to go down the aisle from the castle. “I’ve decided: I will be a druid. Like Merlin.”
“Oh, God, here we go again.” She mumbled, under her breath.
“You can mock as much as you like, but hear me out, Eleanor MacDonell, you will need my expertise one day.” Said the boy, in a manner that made Ellie halt on the way and turned to him with frowned brows. Usually, he would always do a speech of such, mocking the fact she was a Scottish who didn’t believe in the magic of the old beings, the faeries on the hills and the goblins on the caves.
But… now… He never sounded so serious, warning her of a future she would need that magic.
“What you’re trying to say, Callum?”
The boy noticed that she read through his words and turned a bright hue of red, trying to escape from her grasp. But Eleanor didn’t spend 17 years of her life just playing soldier. She was strong and she knew very well how to press a man to the floor long enough for him just to spill his secrets.
And down went Callum, almost drowning beneath the flux of heavy skirts and veils, turning a strange shade of purple, before crying, with a shrieking voice:
“I’m talking about your marriage!”
Ellie halted, releasing Callum’s throat as she got up and held tightly to the balcony by her right side. She knew she was past the age to be married, but the rumors regarding the wild spirit of Eleanor MacDonell had crossed the land and every man available was too scared or too tired to take her as his wife. Until now.
“Who, Callum? Who will be my husband?” She was able to whisper… Feeling the excitement pouring down her veins.
“It’s Gordon Wallace, Ellie. Father said that you shall be married by Fall.”
Eleanor froze, thinking about the man she saw visiting her father last summer, his huge belly falling over his belt, the yellowish tone of his skin. He had tiny eyes, black as beads and no hair in his head. Gordon Wallace had so many sons and daughters that she didn’t know why he was in such a need for a wife, especially in such age, but she was sure she wasn’t going to be his new bride.
“That’s why you have to believe in me, Ellie! I have a plan!”