Chapter 1: Cuddles
The soft stirring of the mattress made Eliza peel open her eyes. She squinted at the curtains across the shadowed windows and the shape of the cot by her childhood bed, with little Cornelia still curled up upon it, fast asleep. Peggy’s snoring was audible from the bed on the opposite side of the room. Just as her eyes began to droop closed again, the quilt adjusted beside her, letting in a blast of cold December air.
Alexander, she remembered suddenly. Sharing a bed with him was still wonderous and new. They’d had a room to themselves for the first few days of their marriage, but the arrival of several guests for the holiday season had put a premium on space.
“Where are you going?” Eliza muttered, gathering the quilt tighter around her as she reached out to arrest his progress in slipping out of bed.
“I’m sorry,” he said, voice low to not upset the quiet stillness of the morning. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
Not an answer, she noted. She rolled over to face him, and saw he was halfway out of bed, with his nightshirt askew and his hair adorably mussed. He certainly didn’t look very awake. “Why are you getting up? It’s barely dawn.”
He hesitated for a moment. “Habit, I suppose. The General always demands we wake before dawn.”
“The General isn’t here,” she reminded him.
“Even so, I’m awake now. Perhaps I’ll go read in your father’s library until breakfast.”
“It’s Christmas day. No one will be stirring for hours yet. Lie back down.”
His legs adjusted back up into the bed as he arranged the blankets back over himself. He’d obeyed her, but he looked a little dubious as he readjusted on the pillows. “What am I meant to do, lying here awake for the next several hours?”
“You’re meant to go back to sleep,” she said fondly.
“But I’m awake,” he replied, as though that were somehow a retort.
“Come here.” She rolled on to her back and gestured for him to come closer.
As he inched towards her on the mattress, she guided his head towards her chest, so that his ear rested just over her heart. His arm settled around her as he made himself comfortable. She rubbed his back with one hand and dragged her fingers rhythmically through his hair with the other.
“Sleep,” she whispered.
He hummed contentedly against her, going limp in her arms. Within minutes, she was rewarded with the soft snuffle that meant he’d fallen back into slumber. She let her ministrations ease to a stop, instead resting her arms around his shoulders and back to keep him securely against her. Her cheek pressed against the crown of his head, warm in the chilly morning air.
Her eyes drifted closed once more.
Chapter 2: First Meeting
The day was blustery but unseasonably warm for late autumn. Eliza made her way down the wooded path back towards the Pastures with only a light shawl in place of her now customary muff and cloak while brown leaves crunched beneath her boots and danced around her skirts, her empty basket swinging from one arm. She’d paid all the duty visits she’d promised to make to her mother before she’d left to visit her aunt. With her obligations met, and the house unusually empty of guests, she looked forward to a quiet afternoon, sketching or playing the piano at her leisure.
A man’s voice carried suddenly from down the path. “I know, old girl.”
Frowning, she turned around the next curve and saw an officer standing before an exhausted looking brown mare, patting at the horse’s snout as he spoke in soft, soothing tones. The blue and buff uniform was visibly worn from travel, but otherwise well maintained, with all the familiar shiny brass buttons and crisp folds. A green sash across the torso marked him as an aid-de-camp, and his insignia marked him as Colonel, she noted.
“Are you in need of assistance, Colonel?” she called.
He startled, but recovered quickly, an embarrassed little smile quirking at the corners of his lips. “I’m afraid I’ve gotten myself a little turned around. My poor horse didn’t appreciate the resulting delay.”
“My father’s house is just up the road. I’m sure he’d welcome you to make use of our stables and take some rest for yourself,” she offered. He needed it perhaps more than the horse, she thought. As she came closer, she noticed bluish circles around his eyes and a trembling to his muscles that betrayed his own exhaustion.
He looked to be seriously weighing the offer for a long moment before he declined. “Thank you for your hospitality, Miss, but I’ve an urgent meeting with General Schuyler for which I’m already unpardonably late. You wouldn’t happen to know the quickest route to his house, would you?”
She couldn’t help the laugh that escaped. “I do, in fact.”
A little line of confusion formed between his eyebrows.
Taking pity, she gave a quick curtsy and elaborated, “My name is Eliza Schuyler.”
“Ah. Then I suppose I am unknowingly about to take you up on your offer.” He laughed, now, too, a low, pleasing rumble. With a correct military bow, he said, “Colonel Hamilton, Miss, at your service.”
“Of General Washington’s staff?” she asked, tilting her head in invitation for him to follow her down the road.
He gathered the horse’s reigns in his hand and started after her, falling easily into step at her side. “Very good. How did you know that?”
“The war is often on Papa’s mind. He speaks of little else.”
“I can easily imagine,” he replied. “I look forward to speaking with your father. I met with General Gates yesterday. I hoped your father might give me some negotiating hints to pry more troops from the hero of the hour.”
She smiled at the note of sarcasm he placed on the moniker.
He must have noticed her expression, because he leaned closer to her, and said, in a conspiratorial whisper, “Do you know what his troops call him behind his back?”
She burst out laughing.
“General Washington was far from pleased at Congress’s machinations and interference in the run up to Saratoga. I’d have you know that your father and family are still regarded with the highest respect and honor at headquarters.”
“Thank you, Colonel,” she said. “I hope you’ll repeat that for Papa. Being removed from command on the brink of victory has been very difficult for him.”
“I’ll be sure to do that.”
They turned around the next curve, and the Pastures came into view up ahead.
Colonel Hamilton let out a little groan. “How on earth did I miss your house?”
“I’m not sure. You must have passed right by if you rode down from Saratoga.”
“Asleep in the saddle, most likely,” he said with the air of a jest. “Well, I’ve blundered in worse ways. My mistake earned me a pleasant walk in your good company, Miss Schuyler. Thank you for your assistance.”
“My pleasure, Colonel. I’m sure I’ll see you at dinner.” He looked about to decline again, so she added, “Papa will insist. He always does.”
He nodded. “Then I shall look forward to dining with you, Miss Schuyler.”
An unexpected flutter swooped through her stomach at his parting smile.
Chapter 3: First Letters
The fire was burning down to embers when Hamilton finally set aside General Washington’s official correspondence. Everyone else was already tucked up in bed, huddled under blankets against the cold, leaving the Ford mansion unusually quiet and peaceful. He set the letter he’d finished upon the stack ready to be sent out and pushed away from the cluttered table all the aides had been using as a desk, taking his tea with him.
He paced across the room to peek out the window. Fat snowflakes still floated outside, but the worst of the blizzard that had beset them the past two days seemed to have passed. Hamilton clutched his hands around his warm mug of watery tea as he watched the snow fall, the torch light from the sentry post glittering against the fresh powder. A path had begun to emerge between the drifts, he noted. Perhaps tomorrow he might even be able to make a trip into town.
Settling down in the armchair nearest the slowly dying fire, he placed his tea down on the side table and retrieved a letter from his uniform pocket. A single sheet of paper had been folded up and sealed, his name penned across the front in a careful hand. He brought the letter to his nose and inhaled deeply, savoring the hint of rosewater the paper had acquired from the contact with Eliza’s skin. He broke the thin seal with his thumb and unfolded the note.
“Dear Colonel Hamilton, I hope you’re keeping warm in this abominable weather. We’re all well here, though Aunt Gertrude keeps grumbling that Uncle John is going to catch his death if he keeps insisting on visiting patients in a blizzard. I’ve been keeping busy knitting hats, scarves, and mittens for the men. Your scarf is here waiting for you. I’m sure headquarters is busy as ever despite the storm, but I do hope General Washington will spare you for an hour or two once it passes so that you can pay us a call. Your company is sorely missed by all. Your affectionate, Eliza Schuyler.”
Short, simple, and sweet.
He read the note again, then once more. His thumb brushed over the valediction and her signature. “Your affectionate,” she’d written. And she’d intimated that she’d missed him in the days he’d been unable to call upon her. That was surely a good sign, especially considering that he’d been missing her desperately over the past days.
When her letter had arrived at mail call, it’d had taken every ounce of willpower within him not to tear it open immediately. He was glad now that he’d waited. A letter from Eliza deserved his full attention and focus, not the half glance he would have been able to spare that morning.
He held the letter in his lap as he gazed into the fire, considering his response. She deserved more than the mundane details of his days writing endless petitions to Congress for more supplies and listening to his fellow aides grumbling about the cold. Maybe he could write her a poem or a song. Even that didn’t feel quite satisfying enough. He looked out the window again, sizing up the snow drifts lining the hard-fought path to the sentry post.
He’d go see her tomorrow, he decided, even if he had to wade through six feet of snow to get there. It was probably foolhardy, he knew. He’d likely end up with frost bite for the effort. But even the idea of seeing her face again warmed him as nothing else had over the past days.
His affectionate Eliza, he thought again.
He sighed and held the letter against his heart.
Chapter 4: Rain or Snow
Rain or Snow
“William,” Eliza said as she rested her hand on the young boys’ shoulder. “Come on, now. Come into the parlor. It’s cold, and it’s getting dark.”
“Not yet.” William kept his nose firmly pressed against the window beside the front door, his warm breath against the glass creating a thin layer of fog every time he exhaled. Snow already blanketed the street, whipping around in strange patterns in the harsh winds.
“Honey,” she sighed. “I don’t think Papa’s going to make it home tonight.”
“He promised, Mama.”
She ruffled his hair affectionately. “I’m sure he tried his hardest. But in this weather, none of the coaches will be running.”
“He’ll be here,” he insisted.
“Well, when you’re ready to join us, I have tea and biscuits waiting for you.”
He pulled away from the window, rubbed his sleeve over the glass, then resumed his position, eyes fixed on the road. Just as she started to step away, though, she heard him take a sharp breath. She followed his eye line and saw a bundled figure fighting against the winds towards the door.
“Papa!” William exclaimed, bouncing on his toes with excitement.
It was, indeed, she recognized, a fond smile tugging at her lips even as she shook her head. How wonderfully foolish her husband was, traipsing through a blizzard to come home to them. When he was approaching the stoop, she opened the door.
“Get in here, you goof,” she called. From the crinkles around his eyes, she could see he was smiling, though his face was mostly covered by a scarf.
“Told you,” William said smugly as Alexander hurried up the steps towards them.
“Yes, you did,” she granted, beckoning Alexander in out of the cold.
His overcoat was soaked through with snow. She brushed her hands over his shoulders to clear some of the snow before assisting him with removing it. “Thank you,” he said, slightly breathless, as he unwrapped the scarf.
William tackled him with a hug as soon as he was free from his layers.
“Oof,” he exhaled, even as he hugged their son to him.
“He’s been waiting for hours for you,” she said.
“I would have been earlier. I had some difficulty finding transportation for the last leg of my trip. Understandably, of course. It’s not fit for man nor beast outside.”
“I can’t believe you traveled in this storm.” She’d meant it to be scolding, but it came out far more affectionate.
“I knew you’d be here,” William said.
“Of course,” he said, his eyes soft as they met hers. “No rain, nor snow, nor plague of locusts could keep me away, my loves. Not when it’s in my power to get to you.”
She leaned in to kiss his cheek. “Come sit by the fire and get warm, sweetheart.”
He stooped down to swing William up on his hip. “Sounds like heaven.”
Chapter 5: Dancing Lessons
Philip Schuyler adjusted his gaze from the hefty tome upon his lap to the door of his study, where he found his Betsey peering at him from around the corner. Her twin braids flopped against the blue cotton of her dress as she moved more into his sight, having successfully gained his attention. “Aren’t you meant to be at your music lessons, my dear little Bess?”
“I finished,” she said. “Mama’s helping Peggy now.”
“I see. Did you want to come read for a while?” Typically, Angelica was the one who came to curl up in the library with a book, but Betsey had been following her example more of late.
“No.” She bit her lip; a habit Caty had been struggling to break her of for years. He’d always found it rather endearing, himself. Hesitantly, she added, “I saw you and Mama dancing after dinner yesterday.”
He nodded, waiting for more.
“Mama looked so pretty when you spun her. Our dancing master only teaches us boring dances. Always the same silly old steps over and over.” Her eyes were bright with hope as she requested, “Would you teach me to dance like you and Mama, Papa? Please?”
He smiled, more than happy to oblige. “Of course, my beloved girl.”
Rising, he beckoned her forward. He bowed, then held out a hand in invitation, grinning when she sank into a perfect little curtsy before accepting. “Now, follow my lead. When I step forward, you step backwards. When I step to the side, you follow. Understand?”
She nodded eagerly.
He began the complicated footwork of the dance he and Caty had performed to open the dancing at their dinner the night before. Betsey followed along admirably, getting tripped up only a few times. “Are you ready for the spin?” he asked.
He held her little hand up in his as he spun her, watching her braids twirl around her.
“Wonderful, Bess,” he praised.
She was practically glowing as she resumed her place before him, her eyes studying his feet carefully as they again began the footwork. He pulled his hand out from hers to tap at her chin. He smiled again as she met his eyes.
“Keep your head up, my dear girl. Someday you’ll be dancing a young gentleman of your own, and he’ll want you to be looking at his face, not his feet.”
“How will I know the steps?”
“You’ll feel it. That’s how the best dancing works. You feel the way your partner is moving. The best dancers can intuit their partners movement almost before they’ve moved a muscle. I always know when your Mama is about to change positions or is ready for a twirl.”
Betsey kept her eyes focused on him as they continued. She trod on his foot a time or two, but she caught on quickly, taking to the dance with ease. As they moved through the footwork again, she demanded, “Spin me, Papa!”
Philip leaned down to press a kiss to Caty’s hair. She’d taken a seat by the fire, her hands resting on the heavy bulk of their newest child as she looked over the festivities in their best parlor with satisfied exhaustion. The musicians were finishing tuning their instruments as the guests assembled into a line for dancing.
He spotted his beloved Betsey right in the center, glowing in the dress Caty had made specially for the occasion. Across from her stood Colonel Hamilton, his eyes glued to her face and his expression somewhere between baffled and elated. Philip could hardly blame him; he’d felt much the same on his wedding day.
When the music started, Betsey’s hand settled into her Colonel’s, and they began to move across the floor. They moved perfectly in tandem with each other, effortlessly anticipating each other’s movements. His eyes misted as he watched her spin under her Colonel’s arm, the memory of the little girl in pigtails stepping on his feet washing over him.
She seemed to sense his attention, because her eyes met his in the middle of a spin. After the dance ended, she approached them, grinning, and held out a hand to him. “Would you dance with me, Papa?”
He leaned in to kiss her cheek, overwhelmed with love for her. “Always, my beloved girl.”
Chapter 6: Giving and Finding Comfort
Giving & Finding Comfort
She groaned, squeezing her eyes closed and shifting her shoulder away from the insistent pressing.
“What?” It came out as more of a whine than she’d like to admit.
“Will you help me?”
She opened one bleary eye to see Alexander’s silhouette perched on the side of their bed. “No more midnight writing sessions this week. You promised,” she reminded him. “I’ll help you in the morning.”
“No, I finished my letter. That’s not what I need.”
She forced her other eye open. “Then what is it?”
“My hand,” he said. “It…it won’t stop cramping.”
She pushed herself up. The rush of cold air hitting her skin after she’d emerged from the warm cocoon of blankets made her shiver, but she reached out for Alexander’s hand. “The right?”
He hummed in confirmation.
His skin was icy cold. No wonder his muscles were seizing; he never remembered to keep the stove fed when she wasn’t sitting with him. She folded both her hands over his to warm him and began to massage gently. The muscle along the side of his hand below his pinky was spasming under her fingers.
“My poor darling,” she cooed.
“I don’t know if it’s the cold, or over-exertion, but it really hurts.” His voice sounded tight. After another quiet beat, he added, “I’m sorry I woke you again.”
She leaned in and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Don’t be.”
He gave a shaky sigh of relief as the tight muscles in his hand warmed and calmed under her touch. When she felt him start listing ever so slightly to the side, she removed one hand to cup his cheek. “Ready to sleep, my love?”
He gave a sleepy hum and maneuvered himself to lie beside her.
“Good night,” she whispered, still holding his hand, barely applying pressure as she worked her fingers in small, light circles.
She smiled as she felt his lips on her forehead. “Good night.”
Chapter 7: On a date
On a date
Hamilton guarded the flickering candle in his hand, taking care not to let the wax drip as he moved to light the next candelabrum. The golden flames flickered wildly in the slight evening breeze from the Hudson, but calmed as the air stilled, leaving the veranda beautifully bathed in light. He touched his fingers to the bottle of wine he’d set to chill as he passed and was pleased to feel it sweating with condensation and cool to the touch.
“Out here, my love,” he called, bending quickly to straighten the corner of the wool blanket that he’d laid out for them. He could hear her heels clacking on the wood of the parlor floor as she approached.
“What are you…” Her sentence trailed off when she came to a stop in the entryway to the veranda. He heard her give a soft exhale of surprise.
“Are the children finally asleep?”
Her black eyes glittered in the candlelight, her whole face shining with love. “Yes,” she answered. Her eyes swept over the scene once more before landing back on him. “What is all this?”
“I know you’ve been harried lately, between your work for the Widows’ Society and looking after the little ones. And me, of course.”
“My most time-consuming commitment, to be sure,” she interjected.
He laughed. “Yes. Which is why I wanted to do something for you. I thought we could sit, have some wine, and gaze at the stars.”
“That sounds…perfect.” He could already see her shoulders relaxing as she sighed out the last word.
He held his hand out to her, and when she took it, he pulled her in and tangled his other hand in the curls of her hair as he leaned in for a kiss. She relaxed against him, her arms wrapping around him as the kiss deepened. His nose nuzzled hers before they parted.
He poured them each a glass of wine before they settled on the blanket. She accepted hers gladly, sipped it, then adjusted so she could lean back against him. He shifted his legs so she could sit more comfortably before him. The hand not holding her wine came to rest on his thigh near his knee, and she rubbed it in absent, soothing circles.
“What a beautiful night,” she sighed, head tilted back against his shoulder as she gazed up at the starry night above.
“Yes,” he agreed. His free hand rested on her side, and he could feel the warmth of her skin emanating through the soft fabric of her dress, her ribs expanding with her breath. He rested his chin against her hair, content. Pressing his lips to her temple, he added, “Beautiful.”
Chapter 8: Domestic/Family Life
Eliza watched as Alexander eased the door to the boys’ bedroom closed and held his finger against his lips. Pushing her weight off the doorjamb where she’d been leaning, she held her arms out to draw him closer, nearly shivering with anticipation. “Finally,” she whispered.
“You’ve been driving me wild all evening,” he muttered, his hands running down her back as he pulled her bodily against him, his lips pressing to the tender spot on her neck beneath her ear.
“I could feel you undressing me with your eyes ever since I came home.”
“Hardly my fault. You’re the one who came home in a new uniform.” Her hands brushed over the new golden fringe along his shoulders. She’d nearly forgotten how unmercifully handsome he looked in his blue and buff, with his golden tassels and gleaming brass buttons.
“You like it?” His voice held a teasing note.
“Mostly I can’t wait to see you out of it,” she parried.
He lifted his head back to look at her and smirked.
“Papa!” A little voice cried out from across the hall just as her lips found her husband’s. Alexander groaned softly as he turned around. The bedroom door creaked open, and Johnny slipped through into the hall. “I need a hug.”
“It’s time for bed, my dear fellow,” Alexander said.
“But I need one, Papa.” Johnny’s eyes filled as he held out his arms. “I love you.”
“Is that so?” Alexander asked, fondness creeping into his voice. When Johnny’s head bobbed, Alexander stooped down to engulf the little boy in an embrace. “I love you, too, my little lamb. Now, off to bed with you.”
“Can I sleep in your bed?”
“No.” Alexander’s voice brokered no argument. “Come on now. To bed.”
“I need to hug Mama.”
“You can hug Mama in the morning.”
Johnny let out a low whine that presaged a tantrum. Heading it off, Eliza knelt and pulled her son into a hug, dropping a kiss to his mussed hair. He blinked up at her, eyelids droopy as he clutched at her dress. “I want to sleep with you, Mama.”
“You need to sleep in your own bed, dear heart.”
His lower lip quivered. “But I love you.”
Oh, but that was hard to resist.
She looked up at Alexander and saw his eyes widen as he shook his head once, sharply.
“Please?” Johnny begged.
She broke. Much as she’d been looking forward to an intimate night with Alexander, she couldn’t withstand Johnny’s puppy dog eyes. “Oh, all right.”
“Eliza,” Alexander whined.
“He loves us,” she said in the same wheedling tone Johnny had used moments before.
Alexander sighed, shoulders sagging. “Fine.”
Johnny didn’t waste a moment; he raced past Alexander into their bedroom and clambered up into the bed.
At Alexander’s baleful look, she shrugged. “How was I supposed to say no to that sweet little face? Another minute and he would have broken you, too. Admit it.”
“I suppose,” he agreed. “I was just really looking forward to having you all to myself tonight.”
Placing a sweet, soft kiss on his lips, she promised, “I’ll make it up to you.”
The little smirk curled at the edges of his lips once more, a lascivious glint once more lighting his eyes. “I’ll hold you to that, Mrs. Hamilton.”
Chapter 9: At the beach
At the beach
“Honey, the snow is really starting to come down. Can’t we go back to the house?” Eliza pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders before burying her hands back into her muff as she followed Alexander up Broadway towards the Battery. The snow was already sticking to the sidewalks; it crunched under her boots as she walked. She blinked rapidly to dispel a snowflake clinging to her eyelash.
“In a minute,” he promised again. “We’re almost there.”
He had yet to tell her where exactly ‘there’ was, but she quickened her pace to stroll beside him, nonetheless.
“I wish you’d at least worn a warmer coat. You’re going to catch your death in this weather. And don’t expect me to look after you when you do.”
“Liar,” he charged, sticking his tongue out at her.
She laughed and bumped her shoulder against his. “Where exactly are we going?”
“I know.” The smug little smile on his face would have been enraging were it not so adorable. His cheeks and nose were red with the cold, and his eyes were bright with excitement. She wondered if the time would ever come when she’d stop finding him so utterly irresistible.
She was surprised when he turned at the Bowling Green, setting a course straight for the Battery. That must be where he was headed, she realized, though why on earth he’d want to visit the Battery during a snowstorm escaped her. The sidewalk gave way to snow covered grass, far slipperier than the cobbled streets. She removed her hand from her muff to grip his arm, hoping to keep them both steady.
“Come here,” he said, hurrying his pace towards the rail that overlooked the Hudson’s path towards the Atlantic. “Come look.”
She stopped where he gestured and looked out over the water.
There was something mesmerizing about snow hitting the water. She’d used to love going down to the riverbank when it smelled like snow as a girl, eager to watch the phenomenon. Alexander, of course, never would have had that experience as a boy.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, smiling at him.
“I was here with Fish just when the last snow started. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. Had you been here to share it with me, it would have been a perfect memory.”
“Well, I’m here now,” she said.
She kissed him, then turned to lean back into his arms. His arms wrapped around her, his gloved hands both resting on her stomach. Not a soul was in sight, and the snow created a sort of muffled quiet around them, blissfully peaceful.
Relaxing back against her Hamilton, she watched the snow disappear over the water.
Chapter 10: Kisses
“To fully understand the meaning, we must turn our attention back to the statute,” Hamilton muttered to himself as he trudged down the hall with a fresh cup of coffee, the soles of his slippers shuffling against the wooden floor. His fingers itched for his quill, mind spinning over his arguments.
He startled badly, hot coffee sloshing over his hand. “Damn it,” he swore under his breath. Transferring the cup to his other hand, he brought the scalded skin to his mouth. He looked up to find Eliza standing on the landing of the stairs, looking down at him. “Whatever is the matter, Betsey?”
“Don’t move,” she repeated, slightly calmer this time as she came the rest of the way down the steps towards him. “Stay right where you are.”
He stayed still, wondering if she’d perhaps spotted a spider on his shoulder, or maybe a rodent nearby. Pests were an unfortunate part of city life. He couldn’t imagine what else would cause such a reaction from her.
“What?” he asked again when she came to stand before him but made no further movement.
She leaned up towards him, her nose brushing his as she laid a sweet, soft kiss to his lips. His brow furrowed, but he sank into the kiss, adjusting his nose around hers for a better angle. Her hands rested against his chest, and he rested the hand not holding his mug upon her hip.
“Mm,” he hummed when she pulled back. “What was that for?”
A mischievous little smirk quirked her lips. She pointed a finger up to the ceiling. Glancing up, he saw a spring of mistletoe hanging over the archway of the foyer where he was standing.
“Caught you,” she said, stealing another quick kiss before walking away, presumably back to whatever business she’d been attending.
He watched her go, a grin stretching his cheeks, and started again towards his office.
Chapter 11: Snowball fight
“Ready?” Alexander asked as he maneuvered the sled into the best position, right on the precipice of the hill. He’d never actually done this before, but he wasn’t about to let Eliza see the nervous anticipation that had taken hold in his gut.
“Are you?” Eliza grinned at him from her sled, already seated and ready to take off.
He raised his brow as he climbed onto the sled, one foot still anchored in the snow to keep him from tipping down the hill unexpectedly. “Want to lay stakes?”
“You mean you want to give me a prize when I beat you to the bottom of the hill? Then, yes.”
“You’re sounding dangerously confident, my dear. I might surprise you. Pride goes before the fall, as they say.”
“The only one falling will be you, right off your sled.” She stuck her tongue out at him, clearly glorying in teasing him for his inexperience with yet another snow-related activity. He noticed her nose had gone adorably red in the cold; he badly wanted to kiss her.
“Name your terms, Mrs. Hamilton,” he said, amusement far too heavy in his voice for him to sound defiant as he’d meant.
“Loser has to give a massage to the winner.”
Good terms, he decided, as he essentially won either way. A massage from her would be heavenly, but rubbing his hands over her bare back for an extended period wasn’t exactly a punishment either. “Agreed.”
She grinned at him.
“Ready?” he asked again, fully settled into his sled at last.
She’d pushed off down the hill before he’d understood what had happened.
Quickly pushing off after her, he grabbed at the ropes to keep the sled straight as he began careening down the hill. Wind whipped at his face, snow blowing up from the sled tracks into his eyes as he flew down towards the river, Eliza a good five feet ahead of him the whole time. He could hear her laughter floating up to him even when she disappeared behind the blizzard of white flying up into his eyes.
It was exhilarating.
The sled slowed to a stop at the bottom of the slope, and he tipped over to the side, breathing hard.
“So? What did you think?”
“Cheater,” he charged, craning his head up to see her standing up beside her own sled.
“You said you were ready.”
“I asked if you were ready,” he retorted. “That’s not the same thing.”
“You won’t weasel your way out of this with clever arguments, counselor. I won my massage fair and square.”
“Is that so?” He reached down to gather up a clump of snow in his mittened hand.
“Mm-hm,” she said, bright smile dimming only slightly when she saw the ball he’d formed in his hand as he sat up. “No!”
He tossed it, prompting a delighted squeal as she dodged to the side. He hurriedly formed another ball and pushed himself up from the ground. She stooped down to gather ammunition of her own, tossing it at him before he could attack again. Hers hit him in the shoulder, breaking apart easily and showering snow into his face.
He spluttered, laughed, and chased after her, intent on landing a hit. The snowball landed against the back of her cloak, breaking apart into powder as easily as hers had. He charged forward, grabbing her around the waist as they both fell into the soft blanket of snow.
She adjusted atop him, looking down at him with soft, adoring eyes.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you, too. Even though you cheated.”
She laughed again. “Hush, you,” she directed, leaning down and pressing her lips to his.
It was likely good for their relationship that she’d so quickly stumbled across a way to silence him, he considered as he deepened the kiss. He closed his eyes, relishing the warmth of her breath and the weight of her body atop his. His arms wrapped around her to pull her closer.
Dear Lord, did he love her.
Chapter 12: Role Swap
She could see Alexander’s shadow fall across the floor as he stood in the parlor entry.
“Just a minute.” She didn’t look up from the ledger book where she was recording the latest donations from their last charity function. The numbers still weren’t quite adding up. Mrs. Graham wanted to open a new schoolhouse in the spring, but their intake could barely support the aid they were giving to the women on their roles as it was.
They would need to do something more innovative. A ball? But that would cost too much up front. Something with the children, perhaps?
“Betsey? We’re all sitting down to supper.”
“I’ll be there in just a minute. Save my plate,” she said, distracted. Her quill traced down the far columns of numbers, calculating the sum in her head as she went.
His shadow moved, and then his hand waved in front of her face.
She sighed and looked up at him finally. “What?”
“It’s time for supper,” he repeated, amusement plain in his eyes.
“I said I’d be just a minute.”
“How many times have I said that to you?”
“About a million.”
“And how many times has it been true?”
“Exactly. I know that game. The numbers will wait for you. Trust me. Come have dinner with your family.”
“Sage advice,” she granted, smiling at him. With a teasing edge, she queried, “How did you become so wise?”
“I learned from the best.”
She set the ledger aside and stood. Leaning in, she pressed a kiss to his cheek. He smiled, turned his face, and stole a more proper kiss before taking her hand in his.
Chapter 13: Autumn Days
Steam rose from the mug of coffee in Eliza’s hand as she made her way down the steps of the back porch. The repetitive scrape of a rake met her ears before she spotted Alexander in the garden, head bent down, focused on the pile of browning leaves he was forming. She gripped her skirt to keep it from the ground, and the autumn leaves danced around her ankles in the breeze.
“You know, we employ people who would happily do that for you,” she called to him as she approached.
“I want to do it.” His head was still bent away from her, focused.
“It’s chilly. You aren’t cold?”
“No,” he said. “And I like working in the garden. Keeps my mind off…other things.”
The month of November seemed to be sprinting by on them. She didn’t need him to elaborate to know exactly what memories the manual labor was keeping at bay. She’d been doing much the same thing, losing herself in work for the Widow’s Society and menial housekeeping. Anything to keep the thoughts of blood and duels and her darling boy's agonized screams from the forefront of her mind.
Releasing her dress, she reached out to touch his arm companionably.
“I brought you some coffee. I thought you could use a warm drink.”
He stopped raking at last and looked up at her. His eyes were noticeably bloodshot in a way that made her heart hurt, but a wan smile started around his lips. “Thank you, my dearest.”
She stepped closer, slipping under his arm to embrace him with one arm as she handed over the drink. He let the rake fall to the ground, took the coffee, but wrapped both his arms around her. He held her for a long, quiet moment.
Snuggling her face into his shoulder, she rubbed his back tenderly.
“I’m here for you, sweetheart.”
“As am I, my darling,” he assured her. “As am I.”
She clutched him tighter to her.
Chapter 14: Wedding
The narrow staircase up to the storage attic was dimly lit, but as Eliza pushed open the door, hinges whining with disuse, the sunlight streaming through the small window provided more than adequate lighting to see the possessions stored within. An old rocking was stowed by the window, an old cradle nearby, with trunks and old children’s playthings scattered about the rest of the small space. The smell of dust hung heavy in the air, motes floating lazily in the bright autumn sunshine.
She closed her eyes.
For the briefest moment, she could hear violins humming softly; see the bright sunshine reflecting off the fresh fallen snow streaming through the best parlor in her childhood home; and there, by the grand fireplace, her Hamilton turned towards her, his whole being glowing with light and love.
And then it was gone.
She surveyed the attic again with a misty eye, swiping hastily at her eyes as she did. The trunk nearest to her was stuffed with old letters, she recalled. Another she was sure held some of the overflow from Alexander’s library. She frowned.
“Now, where is it,” she muttered to herself, moving Billy’s old rocking horse to the side so she could reach one of the less familiar chests shadowed in the back of the attic.
The folded floral-patterned gown that greeted her upon opening the chest told her she’d found the right one. The fabric had yellowed with age, but she smiled as she removed it, running her hands over soft folds affectionately before she set it to the side. An old silk fan followed. Alexander’s gleaming shoe buckles she paused over a moment longer, her thumb stroking over the cool metal.
Reaching further in, she laid hands at last upon the object of her search. How she’d labored over these wedding linens, she recalled. She’d squinted in the candlelight late into the night, ignoring Peggy’s complaints as she worked the lace pattern into the fabric and embroidered the edges. One kerchief she’d gifted to Alexander, and the other she’d kept for herself: beautiful little keepsakes of one of the happiest days of her life.
She folded Alexander’s with careful reverence and placed it in her lap as she began to repack her treasures into the chest.
When she reemerged downstairs, she found the Grange humming with life. She smiled at a group of elderly aunts huddled in the parlor but turned instead into the dining room, where Abigail was arranging little cakes upon a tray.
“Mrs. Hamilton,” the maid greeted, curtsying lightly even as she continued her work.
“You wouldn’t happen to know where James has hidden himself, would you, Abigail?”
“I think Robert saw him last in the garden, down near the honeysuckle bower. Would you like me to have someone go fetch him for you, ma’am?”
“No, that’s fine. I’ll go to him.”
Most of the guests were loitering about the orchard where the ceremony was the be held, she observed, as she made her way down the well-worn path to the bower on the eastern side of their property. Alexander had always favored the spot as a hideaway to think and reflect. James knew that, of course, and had likely chosen it for that very reason.
James was seated on the bench when she approached, hands folded, and head bowed. He’d donned his finest suit already, and he’d pinned a small yellow flower to his lapel. A little pollen had landed on the dark fabric, but otherwise he looked the very picture of a young groom.
She cleared her throat to alert him to her presence.
His head shot up in surprise, and he smiled tightly. “Hi Mama.”
“My, don’t you look handsome, my dear heart,” she said, opening her arms to invite him in for a hug. “Just like your Papa.”
He smiled more genuinely at the comparison. “Do I?”
“Oh, yes. Right down to that anxious expression on your face.”
“I’m not anxious,” he denied as he embraced her.
“Of course not,” she agreed, amused. When he pulled back, she wiped at the pollen on his shoulder, rubbing at the fabric until the material was left unblemished. “There, now.”
“Have you seen Mary?”
“She’s with her mother, getting ready,” Eliza reported.
“How did she look? Was she nervous?”
She fought a laugh at the nervous anticipation clear in her boy’s every muscle. “She looked elated, and beautiful as an angel.”
He sighed, rolling his shoulders to adjust the fabric of his new suit. “I wish we could just start. All this waiting around is driving me insane.”
“I know the feeling.”
“Was Papa nervous? Before your wedding?”
“Horribly. He told me he didn’t sleep a wink the night before, and he was so lost in his thoughts during the ceremony he nearly missed affirming his vows.”
James laughed. “He did not.”
“The minister had to ask him twice,” she confirmed.
He seemed to relax at the amusing tale, but after a moment, he glanced around, and his eyes turned a little melancholy. “I wish he was here. I always do, of course, but today, especially. I miss him.”
“I know, sweetheart. I know.”
He let out a shaky breath, as though expelling the deep emotion the confession had evoked.
“I have something I’d like to lend to you for the day. A little token of good luck,” she said, reaching into her pocket to retrieve the yellowing linen she’d rescued from the attic. As she handed it to James, she explained, “I made this for your father as a wedding gift. He carried it on our wedding day. I think he’d like for you to have it today.”
He turned it over in his hands a few times, eyes bright with emotion, before he carefully folded it and placed it in his breast pocket. “Thank you,” he whispered, voice a little thick.
“He’s always with us,” she said, placing a hand over his heart. She could feel the shape of her beloved’s wedding linen underneath her palm. “He’s right here, in our hearts. And I know that he would be so proud of the good man you’ve become.”
He put his hand over hers, squeezing tightly.
Chapter 15: Braids
“This isn’t working,” Alexander complained, dropping the clump of hopelessly knotted ribbons with a huff.
“It takes a little patience, sweetheart. You can’t expect to master the art without practice.” Eliza smiled at him and adjusted their new, sleeping infant in her arms. “And you have plenty of time. She’s bald as a melon and will be for a while yet.”
“I can do it," he insisted. "I just can’t work with those stupid ribbons. Let me try on you, instead?”
She eyed the knotted ribbons again. “I don’t know.”
“Please?” He pushed the ribbons out of sight. “I need real hair to practice on.”
“Why don’t you practice on your own?”
He snorted. “I’m having trouble with ribbons in front of me. You think I can braid my own hair backwards in a mirror?”
She sighed, then adjusted in the bed so he could reach her hair. “Fine. Just don’t knot it up too badly.”
“I won’t,” he promised, sitting on the bed behind her eagerly.
His fingers brushed over her scalp as he gathered her hair together on her back. He gently began to separate it into the three parts, combing it gently with his fingers as he worked. His knuckles brushed lightly over her neck, warm and gentle.
She hummed contentedly. “That feels nice.”
He leaned in to kiss her neck softly before turning his attention back to his task. He was quiet as he worked, focused, layering one section of her hair over another, pausing, then undoing it and starting over. He repeated the process twice before she supplied, “Outside to the middle. One side, then the next.”
“I know,” he said. “It’s implementing it that’s the trick.”
“You’ll get there, honey.”
Slowly, she felt his hands move down her back as he found a rhythm to the pattern.
“There,” he said when he’d finished, a hint of pride in his voice. “What do you think?”
She didn’t have a mirror to see, but she adjusted Angelica in her lap to reach back with one hand and feel the result. It wasn’t close to even, sections chunky in parts and neigh nonexistent in others, strands sticking out all along the way. She glanced back at him to see him beaming at her. That he was so intent upon learning to braid hair now that they had a little girl who might require the skill from him made her feel incredibly fond.
“I think,” she began, leaning into him, “that you are, without a doubt, the best father in the whole world.”
“Well, thank you,” he said, gathering her close in his arms. “But I meant, what do you think about my braid?”
“That’s going to need practice.”
He laughed, kissed her temple, and sighed, running his palm ever so gently over Angelica’s capped head.
“Papa will get better,” he cooed to the sleeping baby. “I promise. I’ll make sure you have the prettiest braids in all New York.”
She tilted her head back against his shoulder to look up at him.
“What?” he asked.
“I’m just pretty in love with you,” she said, pecking his cheek. “That’s all.”
In the City
Broadway bustled with pedestrians and coaches alike, the city abuzz with people enjoying the first sunny autumn day after over a week of constant rain. Eliza stepped over a water-filled crater in the sidewalk and adjusted her grip on Alexander’s arm. He paused for her, then resumed their stroll, their steps once again falling into rhythm naturally.
Up ahead, she saw a cart taking up most of the sidewalk, with a man eagerly trying to get the attention of all the passers-by. The salesman appeared a little tattered and worn, but she noticed what appeared to be a red epaulette on the right shoulder of his patchwork coat indicating he’d once been a sergeant in the Continental Army. She nudged Alexander lightly, and when he’d met her eyes, she flicked her gaze to the epaulette again.
He nodded in recognition as well.
“President Washington’s Farewell Address! Sir! Sir! Ma’am! No?” Each person he approached waved him away. “Sir! Buy the President’s Address! Beautifully bound! A perfect keepsake!”
The latest gentleman dodged around him without answering and walked hurriedly along.
Eliza saw the exact moment the salesman’s gaze fell upon her husband. His whole face lit up, and his movements became even more animated as he rushed forward towards them. “Colonel Hamilton! Colonel Hamilton, sir! Will you buy the President’s address?”
Alexander accepted the copy pushed into his hand and inspected it with a careful eye. “A very nice copy,” he praised. “And a work all good citizens would benefit from having on their bookshelves, I think. How much, my good sir?”
A small crowd formed as Alexander paid and tucked the little volume into his breast pocket. Several of the gentlemen behind them were already taking out their coin purses to follow his example. He held his arm out to her again, and she took it gladly, smiling up at him.
“That was very kind of you, sweetheart,” she whispered when they’d gone a few feet.
“Very kind, indeed,” he agreed. He leaned in towards her to continue confidentially, “That man does not know he has asked me to purchase my own work.”*
She laughed and laid her head against his shoulder, cuddling his arm closer still.
*From Eliza Hamilton’s Statement on the Farewell Address, 7 August 1840.
This a dramatization of a real memory shared by Eliza Hamilton in a statement that helped cement Alexander Hamilton as the original author of Washington's Farewell Address. Many at the time sought to bury Hamilton's authorship. Not only did she bring a lawsuit against Rufus King, who had deliberately taken Hamilton's drafts of the address from his papers after his death, but she also left a long statement to be made public after her death which detailed all the reasons she knew he had written the first drafts for Washington, including this amusing little anecdote.
Chapter 17: Modern AU
“I hate that you’re not going to be home for Christmas,” Eliza said, adjusting onto her side in bed while holding the phone in front of her. Alexander looked back at her on the screen, the bottom of some horrible hotel artwork just visible overhead. He had on his glasses, and his hair was adorably mussed. “I miss you.”
“I’m sorry, Bets. I hate it, too. But I’ll be home for New Years’.”
“That’s not the same.”
“I know.” His forehead wrinkled in thought. “How about this? We leave the phone on all night. That way, when you wake up, I’ll be right next to you. And I get to fall asleep to the sound of you breathing.”
She smiled a little. “Sap.”
“What do you say?”
“It’s better than nothing, I guess.”
He laughed. “That’s the spirit.”
“I love you,” she said, blowing a kiss to the screen.
“I love you, too. Merry Christmas eve.”
“Merry Christmas eve.”
She placed the phone down on his pillow and clicked off the bedroom light. Falling asleep was never easy when he was away, the sheets cold and the house too quiet without his familiar snoring. The sound of his breathing did carry through over the phone, though, she noticed with a smile as she laid in the semi-dark. Slowly, she relaxed towards sleep.
When she woke the next morning, however, the screen had gone dark. Blearily sitting up, she pressed her thumb to the side of the phone and saw the connection had broken at some point while she’d slept. Disappointment curdled in her stomach.
She tapped through her contacts to Alexander and dialed.
A distant, hardly audible buzzing echoed from the living room.
She froze for a moment, listening, her heart pounding with excitement. Again, the phone rang, and the buzzing echoed. Shoving the blankets aside, she scrambled out of bed and down the hall.
Alexander sat under their tree, a big red bow stuck precariously to the top of his head and grin stretching his cheeks. His heavily shadowed eyes and stubbled chin bespoke a sleepless night, but to her, he’d never looked better. “Merry Christmas, Betsey.”
She tackled him so that the two of them were lying on the floor under the tree, presents scattering around them as she pressed frantic kisses to his lips. “How…? When…?” She trailed off as she leveraged herself up over him.
“I hitched a ride with Santa last night. He promised to get me back in time for my meeting tomorrow,” he teased. Sobering, he reached up to brush his knuckles over her cheek. “I couldn’t bear to be away from you on Christmas, Bets.”
“Me either. It’s a good thing Santa knew exactly what I wanted.” He laughed as she plucked the bow off his head. “Now I just need to get my present unwrapped.”
His smile turned seductive as he relaxed back underneath her.
“Unwrap away, my love,” he smirked, opening his arms in invitation.
Chapter 18: Nurse Alexander/Eliza
Eliza rolled reluctantly onto her side when she heard Alexander approaching the bedroom. Even with the blankets pulled up to her chin she was shivering, the constant chills doing nothing to settle her pounding headache or churning stomach. When Alexander slipped into the room, she cleared her throat roughly and asked, “All quiet?”
“Jamie felt a little cooler, Alex was a little warmer, and Pip and Geli both seemed about the same,” he reported. “I had Alex lie with a cold compress for a bit, read him a story. That seemed to help him settle. They’re all asleep again.”
“Good,” she said, relaxing back into the pillows and closing her eyes. “That’s good.”
She felt the mattress dip under Alexander’s weight and his cold fingers brushed her forehead.
“Don’t,” she whined, shifting away. “Your hands are freezing.”
“They’re not,” he said. “You’re burning up. I think you need more medicine.”
She groaned. The willow tree bark he insisted on feeding to them was horribly bitter, and just the thought of sitting up and drinking was exhausting. Her muscles ached right down to her bones. All she wanted was to sink back into peaceful oblivion.
But he’d already left to fetch the medicine.
She drifted off for a short moment until her own congested breathing jolted her back to consciousness. Swallowing with a wince, she attempted to adjust into a more comfortable position. Her eyes drifted shut.
She heard Alexander come back in, the mattress dipping again as he sat beside her. The sundry bottles, glasses, and basins arrayed on their bedside table clinked as he worked to prepare the hated concoction for her. She laid quietly, waiting for him to force her up.
It seemed to be taking longer than it ought to have.
She forced her eyes open just enough to see what he was doing. A spoon tapped against the side of a mug before being set down on the table. Alexander held the mug up to his own lips, sipping tentatively.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
He startled visibly, then adjusted on the bed to see her. “I thought you were asleep.”
Not an answer. “What are you doing?” she repeated.
“I was just taking a little of the willow powder for my head.”
She frowned. “You have a headache?”
“Can’t seem to get rid of it.”
“How’s your stomach?”
He made a face.
Catching on the line of questioning, he insisted immediately, “I’m fine.”
“I think you’re getting sick, sweetheart.” She reluctantly wormed her arm out from the pile of blankets to rub a hand down his back.
“I can’t get sick. I need to look after you and the babies.”
“Somehow I don’t think influenza takes that into consideration when it strikes.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Honey,” she sighed.
He took a fast gulp from the mug in his hand, then set it down. “Come on, let’s get you sitting up. You need to finish the whole cup.”
She let him maneuver her into a sitting position, gritting her teeth against the achiness as she supported herself while he finished arranging the pillows to prop her up. When she was fully sitting up, he handed her the mug, still three quarters full. Inhaling deeply through her nose to quiet the nausea, she sipped tentatively at the drink. He’d mixed the powder with chamomile tea, but the pleasant tasting beverage did nothing to counteract the extreme bitterness of the medicine.
“Eugh.” The sound of disgust deep in her throat came out unconsciously after she’d swallowed.
“I know, I’m sorry. Nothing quite masks the taste.”
“It’s all right,” she assured him, taking another sip.
He sat beside her while she worked on finishing the concoction. By the time she’d made her way down to the last quarter, she noticed his eyes were closed, and his fingers were massaging his temples. She rubbed his knee to catch his attention.
“What is it, darling?” he asked, eyes flying open.
“Why don’t you make yourself a whole dose?” she suggested. “Then maybe lie down and try to get some sleep.”
His lips pressed together in thought. Just as she thought he was about to agree, though, a little voice called from down the hall, “Papa!”.
He sighed, leaned over to kiss her forehead, and started to get up. “I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on you,” he promised as he left.
She watched him leave, worry for him gnawing at her.
She woke late in the night bathed in sweat, but far more clear-headed then she’d felt in days. Shifting over, she found the bed was empty despite the late hour. She frowned and forced herself up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. Despite a lingering weakness in her limbs, she was glad to find her other symptoms seemed at last to have abated.
The dim light from a lantern spilled out across the hall from the boys’ room when she emerged from the bedroom. She went first to retrieve a set of fresh bed linens from the closet, knowing neither of them would sleep properly on their currently sweat-soaked sheets. Peeking her head into the boys’ room on her way back down the hall, she found her husband scrunched up in Jamie’s bed, his legs dangling off the side and jaw hanging open as he snored. Jamie was curled up against his side, snug as bug.
Leaving them to their slumber for the moment, she returned to the bedroom and stripped the bed efficiently. The soiled linens were flung into a pile near the closet to be dealt with later. Once the bed was made again, she made her way back to the boys’ room.
“Sweetheart,” she said in barely a whisper, patting his shoulder.
He didn’t so much as twitch a muscle in response.
She touched her lips to his forehead and found his skin baking hot. Smoothing back his hair, she shook her head. “Oh, honey.”
A slightly rougher shake finally roused him. He squinted up at her with bleary, bloodshot eyes, and mumbled out, “What?”.
“Come to bed, sweetheart.”
He blinked once, then looked down at Jamie nestled against him. “They keep waking up.”
“I’ll come check on them if they wake.”
He grunted in protest. “You need rest.”
“I’m all right, now. My fever broke. If the little one’s need something, I think I’m in better condition than you to see to them.”
A wary sort of hopefulness settled on his features. “Really?”
“That’s good,” he sighed. “Because I’m deathly ill.”
She chuckled affectionately. “I noticed. Come on, up with you.”
He extracted himself carefully from Jamie’s hold and rose. Upon standing, his face blanched of all color. She reached out to steady him, worried he was about to faint.
“Sorry,” he muttered, pressing a hand to his temple. “A little dizzy.”
“Are you going to make it to the bedroom?” At her best, she couldn’t support all his weight; in her weakened condition, she didn’t think she’d be much help to him at all if he collapsed.
He swallowed thickly and nodded. “I can make it.”
She slid under his arm in hopes of steadying him, though she could feel how reluctant he was to put any of his weight on her. He shuffled his way towards the bedroom, using the wall to brace himself at times. He gave a grateful moan when he finally collapsed back onto their bed.
“I put on fresh sheets,” she noted as she helped him his swing his legs up and tucked the blankets around him. Once he was settled, she dipped a flannel in the bowl of water by the bed and dabbed at his temples to cool him, as he’d done for her the past several days. “There now, that’s better, isn’t it?”
“You’re an angel.”
“So are you, sweetheart,” she whispered. “So are you.”
Chapter 19: Cooking/baking together
Eliza looked up from her embroidery, surprised to see Alexander standing in the entryway to the parlor. Between his duties to the army and his pressing legal work, he’d spent most of his time locked away in his office during the past weeks. His health had been suffering for it, as it always did when he overtaxed himself. The lines on his face and the bags under his eyes appeared more pronounced in the shadowy evening firelight, evidence of the toll his work was taking. But that he’d willing emerged, and with an appetite no less, left her feeling cautiously hopeful.
“I’ll heat you up some soup,” she offered, already setting her sewing aside.
His nose wrinkled lightly. “I don’t want soup.”
“I can cook some mutton and potatoes. That’s a bit hardier.”
“No,” he refused again.
She mentally ran through the contents of their kitchen stores, wondering what else might tempt him. Everything else she could think of would take far too long to prepare. At a loss, she asked, “Well, what do you want, sweetheart?”
“What are those cookies you always make during the holidays? The dark, spicy ones?”
“The ginger cookies?”
He smiled. “Yes. That’s what I want.”
“You haven’t eaten since breakfast, and you want ginger cookies.”
She sighed. Food was better than no food, she supposed, though she’d have preferred he eat something a bit more substantial. “Impossible man.”
“I’ll help you make them.”
“Will you now?”
“You don’t need to sound so skeptical. I can help. I’m not completely useless in the kitchen.”
“Not completely, no,” she teased.
He made a face at her in response, and she laughed.
“All right,” she agreed, nodding towards the stairs as she rose. “Let’s make cookies.”
“My perfect wife,” he praised as he tailed her down to the kitchen.
“You only say that because I spoil you,” she said.
She pulled out her old recipe book, flipping through the brittle, food battered pages until she found the entry for her mother’s molasses and ginger cookies. After tracing a finger down the list of ingredients, she donned an apron, efficiently looping the strings behind her. Alexander tugged at the strings playfully from behind her.
“Stop that,” she scolded, grinning as she shooed his hand away.
“Do I need an apron?” he asked.
“If you like,” she said, looking at him with an appraising eye. He’d traded his coat and padded vest for his slightly worn green banyan over the course of the evening, and his leather shoes for his ratty old slippers. “Though you’re not exactly dressed in your finest, my love.”
He huffed in mock offense and pointedly pulled an apron from the hook near the door. She rolled her eyes as he adjusted it to tie underneath his banyan, rather defeating the point. When he smoothed the ruffled blue fabric down, she couldn’t help but laugh.
“What do you think?” he asked, posing for her.
“So handsome,” she said.
“I’m going to pretend you meant that sincerely,” he replied.
“I always think you’re handsome,” she added, voice softer.
He smiled, then rubbed his hands together. “What do we need?”
“Cinnamon, ginger, allspice, flour, water, molasses, butter,” she ticked off.
“Slow down,” he said, heading towards the spice rack first. “Which ones the cinnamon?”
She pointed out the right spices for him before seeing to the fire in the oven. Once they’d collected the ingredients, she added the spice to the flour, then warmed the butter and molasses to pour over it. The thick, warm mixture spread at out slowly over the flour.
“Help me mix it,” she directed, separating the messy mixture in two, her hands sticky with dough as she passed it over to him.
He plunged in eagerly but was quickly frustrated when the dough stuck horribly to the table. “Why is it doing that?”
“You need more flour underneath.”
He reached over for the flour container and grabbed another handful to spread out on the table. Scratching at his nose before going back to his kneading, he ended up with a big smudge of flour across his cheek. She grinned at him.
“You have flour all over your face.”
He went to wipe it away, and instead smeared even more flour on to his face. “Did I get it?”
She snorted with laughter.
Laughing himself, he adjusted his arm to wipe the sleeve of his banyan over the spot. “Now?”
“Better,” she granted.
“I didn’t know this would be so messy.”
“You wanted ginger cookies.”
“I do,” he agreed.
They worked the dough smooth, then began to roll them into circles.
“Stop,” she said, when she caught him sneaking a taste of dough.
“What if we didn’t make it right?” he pleaded earnestly. “What if it needs more spice?”
“No raw dough. That’s all you need with the state your health has been in.”
“I’m fine,” he assured her.
“You’re working yourself into an early grave is what your doing,” she retorted, her voice turning a little sharper than she’d intended.
“That’s not true. I know when I need a break.”
She raised her brows. “Really?”
“Sure I do.” He nudged at her with his elbow as he rolled another circle. “What do you think I’m doing right now?”
“I suppose that’s true,” she granted.
“You’ve taught me well. It only took, what, nineteen years for me to learn?”
She leaned over to kiss him, and agreed, “You’re getting better.”
When the pan was filled with the little round treats, she slid it into the oven and stood back. “They’ll take about fifteen minutes,” she told him, leaning back against the table.
“What do we do while they bake?” he asked, leaning beside her.
He shifted in front of her, his arms on either side of her and his face hovering close. “Perfect.”
She smiled up at him and hooked her arms around his shoulders, pulling him towards her into a kiss.
Chapter 20: Falling asleep on each other
***Rated: Teen and up for some sexual content (but nothing explicit)
Falling asleep on each other
“Are you sure you’re feeling up to this?” Eliza asked as she arranged the thick quilt over her lap. A fire blazed in the grate nearby, brightening their bedroom with a warm reddish-orange glow, and the bedcurtains were mostly closed, but the she still shivered slightly from the cold.
Alexander finished blowing his nose into a handkerchief, coughed weakly, then turned to look at her. “Of course I am,” he said.
“You seem like you still have a cold, honey.” He’d been fighting one before he left for his trip last week, and from the sound of it, he still hadn’t fully recovered.
“It’s fine. A little congestion at night, is all.”
He wiped his nose once more, then rolled over on the bed until he was facing her, a lascivious glint in his slightly bruised eyes. His hand slipped under the covers, teasing softly at her breast through her nightgown before tracing slowly down her side towards her hip.
She moaned softly at his touch.
“I’ve been fantasizing about this all week,” he whispered.
She hummed approvingly as he leveraged himself up over her. His knees straddled her legs as he lowered himself down, pressing hot, slow kisses to her neck. She ran her palms over the warm cotton of his nightshirt, feeling the softness of his belly, then gliding them over his chest to tease at his nipples as he’d done to her.
“Mm,” he moaned, adjusting to the other side of her neck, his nose tickling at the sensitive flesh beneath her ear.
She hooked her arms around his shoulders to draw him closer.
He relaxed against her, heavy and warm, kissing and stroking her in the most pleasing ways. She shifted beneath him, desire building low in her stomach. Craning her neck to lay a kiss upon his shoulder, she ran her hands down his back, then up into his hair, letting her knees fall open against his thighs on either side of her.
Just as she was expecting him to begin advancing things, however, he seemed to be slowing down. His kisses grew further apart, his stroking hands stilling until he was merely holding her. He relaxed even further atop her, resting all his weight on her.
Then he drew a soft, congested breath that sounded oddly like a snore.
“Mm?” he hummed, not in pleasure, as before, but in question.
She patted at his back to rouse him. “Honey, wake up.”
“No I’m not.”
“You are. You’re also crushing me a little.”
He shifted over to his side and propped himself up on an elbow, blinking heavily at her. “Sorry. I’m awake.”
“Why don’t we pick this up tomorrow?” she suggested, though disappointment flooded over her at the idea.
“No.” He shook his head a little, and his eyes opened more. “It’s just this cold, and all the traveling…it’s fine now. I’m up. Come here.”
She furrowed her brow at him, skeptical.
“Come here,” he insisted, his hands returning to her hip to encourage her closer. With a charming little wink, he added, “Though maybe you should be on top. Just in case.”
She pulled back. “I’m not going to make love to you while you’re sleeping.”
“I’m awake,” he said. His lower lip pouted out adorably. “Come on. Kiss me.”
He really was hard to resist. With a sigh, she rolled closer to him, kissing him softly. His arms wrapped around her in a warm embrace. She adjusted over him, her foot lazily caressing his calf muscle as she ran her hand over his torso to embrace him in return, her nose buried in his warm neck.
He was so soft, and warm, and comfortable.
She didn’t notice when her own kisses started to slow, nor when Alexander’s breathing began to even out beneath her.
When she woke, the fire had burned down to embers, and the soft pink glow of dawn was starting to sneak beneath the heavy curtains. Drool had puddled beneath her cheek on Alexander’s nightshirt. She pushed herself up, wiping at the corner of her mouth.
Alexander’s eyes opened a sliver, still bleary with sleep, but he grinned up at her. With the slightest little shrug of his shoulder, he said simply, “Oops.”
A laugh bubbled out of her, and she collapsed back down atop him, hugging him to her.
Chapter 21: After the pamphlet
After the pamphlet
“You’re home late.”
Hamilton froze two steps from the dressing room, his hands still tangled in his cravat. “I thought you were sleeping.”
Eliza shrugged, sitting up against the pillows, just visible in the firelight.
“The stagecoach was late. And I stopped at my office. I had a brief I need my clerk to file first thing, and it wasn’t quite finished.”
He pulled the cravat loose and shifted his weight, considering. “I missed you while I was away.”
She smiled tightly. “Did you?”
She sighed, her head tilting to the side.
He waited to see if she’d respond, though could claim surprise when she didn’t say that she’d missed him too. After a painful few seconds of silence, he started towards the dressing room again, working at the buttons of his waistcoat. Just before he’d disappeared inside, however, he froze again at the sound of Eliza’s voice.
He turned around to face her, brow furrowed.
Approaching the bed, he nearly held his breath. She beckoned him closer when he stopped a few steps away. Slowly, he lowered himself down to sit beside her.
Her hand landed atop his on the bed. “Your hands are cold,” she observed, her thumb stroking over the back of his hand.
“It snowed earlier today,” he said, relishing the warmth of her fingers but not daring to twist his hand over to hold hers properly.
“Didn’t you wear gloves?”
“I didn’t bring any.”
“Silly.” Her gaze turned fond, and she reached out, the fingers of her other hand twisting into his waistcoat to pull him closer. “How ever will we warm you up?”
He let her pull him closer but resisted before their noses touched. “Betsey?”
“Are you…are you sure?”
They hadn’t made love in months, not since the publication of that pamphlet that had nearly ruined his whole life. The last time they’d tried, it had ended with her fleeing to the front stoop in the middle of the night. He hadn’t bothered trying again.
Her lips thinned in consideration, but her eyes remained locked on his. “Yes,” she said after a pause. “I’m sure.”
When he leaned in to kiss her, their noses bumped awkwardly. Pulling away, he started working the buttons of his waistcoat again as she adjusted in the bed. The blankets were stuck under his weight, and he stood abruptly when he felt her trying to pull them back, feeling odd and wrong-footed.
He toed off his shoes and removed his breeches and stockings before sliding into bed. Eliza felt a little tense in his arms, but she reached for him again, urging him closer. Exhaling, he levied himself up over her and pressed a kiss to her neck.
“Relax,” she whispered.
As he lifted his head to look at her, she placed her hand on his face. He smiled. “Sorry.”
He tried to lose himself in her, enjoying her softness, her warmth, but everything felt strange, slightly off. From their first time together, they’d always seemed almost to read each other’s minds. The rhythm between them seemed to have changed in a way neither of them had anticipated, leaving them both uncertain.
When he felt her relax beneath him, he allowed himself to find his release, his muscles quivering as he held himself up over her. He rolled to the side, with his arm still wrapped around her. Rather than cuddle closer, though, she seemed to shrink away from him, rolling towards the extreme edge of the bed.
“Good night,” she said, pulling the blankets up over her shoulder.
“Good night,” he replied, removing his hand from her waist as he rolled to his back.
He stared up at the floral canopy overhead, grief and remorse weighing heavily on his chest.
Chapter 22: Breakfast
Something was tickling at Hamilton’s nose. He groaned, turning into the pillows. The bed shifted beside him and the blankets adjusted off him, letting in a gust of cold air. He made a belated grab for the warm coverings, moaning, “Hey!”
“Wake up, honey.”
He peeled open his eyes reluctantly, looking up to see Eliza perched over him, grinning mischievously.
“Good morning,” she said, nearly sing-song in tone.
“Morning?” It certainly didn’t feel like morning. He rolled over enough to see the window, still dark behind the heavy curtains they had hung to keep away the cold. “What time is it?”
“Four-thirty?” He gave a thin whine. “You know the General had me up writing petitions to Congress until two-thirty?”
“I noticed,” she said, nudging at him with her nose.
“I made you breakfast,” she said.
He squinted at her, too tired to track what was happening. “Breakfast?”
“Mm hm.” She kissed him just under his ear. “Johnnycakes, bacon, eggs. Everything you could want.”
“Why?” he repeated, the only intelligent question he could manage.
“Every morning since I arrived here at headquarters, I’ve offered to make you breakfast, and every morning, you’ve told me you were far too busy to sit for a meal.”
“So this is my punishment?”
“Your loving wife making you a hot, hardy meal is a punishment?”
“Forcing me to eat it in the middle of the night feels a little like a punishment.”
“I’m not forcing you,” she said, lower lip pouting slightly as she sat back on her haunches. With a sigh, she added, “You go back to sleep. I’ll just go eat my breakfast…all by myself….”
Before she could move too far away, he reached out to grab her and pull her down onto him. She squealed as he pressed kisses to the top of her head and squeezed her against him. “You make me crazy,” he told her.
“You love me,” she said, fighting to look up at him with that same mischievous grin.
“So you’ll come have breakfast with me?”
He kissed her nose, making it wrinkle adorably. “Always.”
She pushed off the bed, his hand held tightly in hers as she tugged him after her.
Even as his feet hit the freezing cold floor, he found he couldn’t stop smiling.
A snore from the end of the sofa had Alexander fighting down a smile. He glanced to the side to find that Eliza had curled in towards the warmth of their little girls, fast asleep. Fanny was resting against her, sucking her thumb contentedly, while Angelica was practically bouncing off her seat beside him.
“Papa!” Angelica whined, poking at him. “Keep reading.”
“Sorry,” he said, clearing his throat and turning his attention back to the storybook. “Where were we?”
“The prince learned about the princess sleeping in the castle, and he was going to find her,” Angelica reminded him, her little finger pointing insistently at the page.
“The most beautiful Princess,” Fanny added around her thumb.
“That’s right.” He continued, recounting the prince’s journey through the brambles and into the castle filled with sleeping subjects. When the prince was making his way into the princess’s room, however, Eliza gave another soft snore, and he couldn’t stop himself from grinning.
Setting the book aside, he rose from the sofa, still reciting the story from memory. “The sight within the room was the most beautiful the prince had ever seen. The princess reclined on the bed, the curtains drawn on each side, radiating an unearthly beauty.”
The girls watched him with rapt attention as he knelt before Eliza. “The prince trembled with admiration and sank to his knees before the beautiful princess. At the same moment, the enchantment upon the castle lifted, and the princess awoke.”
He rested his hand upon Eliza’s knee, and she sat up with a start. “What?”
“That’s not what you’re supposed to say,” he teased. “You’re supposed to look at me with uncommon fondness and ask if it is truly I, the dear prince.”
The girls both giggled.
Eliza ran her hand over her eyes and shook her head. “Sorry,” she said around a yawn. Catching on to the game, she added, “Is it you, dear prince? I thought you’d never come.”
He looked at the girls as he continued, “The prince was so charmed by the princess, he immediately declared that he loved her more than his own life. His powers of eloquence failed in the face of her overwhelming beauty, but the princess was all the more pleased with his faltering words.”
“Love is a sort of insanity, after all,” she interjected.
He’d read this story enough times to know that wasn’t a line in the tale, but it was all too familiar, nonetheless. The memory of writing those words to her in one of his early love letters tugged at him. “Just so, my charmer” he agreed, using the arm of the sofa to lean closer to her. “Thus, the prince determined to express his love and admiration not with words, but with a kiss.”
Eliza cupped his cheek with her palm as he closed the remaining space between them and laid a soft, chaste kiss upon her lips. Her gaze was soft and tender when he pulled back. With a glance to their girls, she asked, “Then what happened?”
“They lived happily ever after.”
The story is paraphrased from the University of Pittsburgh's translation of Charles Perrault's fairytale The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. The line "love is a sort of insanity" comes from Alexander Hamilton's October 13, 1780 letter to Elizabeth Schuyler.
Chapter 24: In front of the fireplace
In front of the fireplace
“Honey?” Eliza was biting at her thumbnail, watching Alexander climb practically into the fireplace. She might have been less concerned if he’d investigated the mystery of the blocked chimney before he’d laid the fire, but as it was, she was growing ever more concerned that her new husband was going to set himself ablaze.
“Just give me a minute,” Alexander insisted, adjusting the poker further up the chimney. “I think there’s something…damn. I can’t quite….”
The small living area of their rented New Windsor cabin was filling rapidly with smoke.
“Has this happened before?” she asked.
“This is the first time I’ve tried laying a fire here.”
“You must have been freezing,” she said, aghast. “Why didn’t you light a fire for yourself?”
“I just stayed at headquarters until you arrived. No use staying in a cabin all alone,” he said, voice muffled as he stuck his head closer to the chimney.
She smiled fondly for a moment, then sat forward, alarmed by a flame licking far too close to his sleeve for comfort. “Honey, could you please put out the fire if you’re going to attempt to climb up the chimney? You’re frightening me.”
“We can’t waste all the firewood. I’ll be fine.” Debris skittered down from the chimney as he spoke, and the fire blazed at the new kindling. Alexander jumped back, patting at his waistcoat frantically.
She grabbed at his arm to tug him further away, covering her mouth with her free hand to try to block out the smoke billowing from the fireplace into the room. He coughed and waved a hand before his face, revealing some singe-marks on his waistcoat. “I think I cleared it,” he said before breaking into another round of coughing.
Rolling her eyes, she pulled him after her towards the front door. She left it open when they stepped outside, allowing the smoke an exit. She breathed in the freezing January air gratefully, her lungs clearing even as Alexander was still coughing weakly.
“This isn’t quite the evening I had in mind,” Alexander said, good humor infusing his voice. “We’re supposed to be snuggling by the fire.”
“You very nearly were snuggling with the fire,” she retorted, brushing at his singed waistcoat again.
He laughed. “Perhaps not my brightest moment.”
“You think?” She wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him close. “How exactly would I have explained to General Washington that you’d set yourself on fire trying to clear out our chimney?”
“He’s the one always complaining about the frivolous waste of precious resources.”
“I think he’d agree that you’re a far more precious resource than a few cords of firewood.”
“Yeah?” A sweet little smile pulled at the edges of his mouth.
“Yes,” she insisted, kissing him firmly. “Daft man.”
He laughed again, pulling her closer to him.
Chapter 25: Christmas
“Are you retiring for the night?” Philip Schuyler queried, a step ahead of Hamilton as the two men exited the library.
Hamilton stretched, considering. After a full day of games and entertaining, and with his stomach pleasantly stuffed with Christmas goose, he felt like he could doze off quite easily. But he could still see light beneath the door to the family parlor, where Eliza and Peggy had disappeared with young Rensselaer and Cornelia after dinner, and the idea of retiring without Betsey held little appeal. “I think I’ll go spend some time with my wife.”
The title still felt new on his tongue, and he smiled as he said it. His father-in-law noticed and smiled back softly.
“Have a good night, then, son,” Schuyler wished around a yawn, patting at Hamilton’s back companionably before he mounted the stairs.
“And you as well, sir,” Hamilton said.
Making his way down the hall, he noticed the light coming from the parlor had an oddly bluish tinge to it. His brow furrowed as he turned the door handle and peered inside. The lanterns within the room had been dimmed, the light coming only from the crackling fireplace and the large, shallow bowl upon the table surrounded by the Schuyler siblings. The bowl was glowing with that same strange, blue light.
“What are you doing?” he asked, just as Rensselaer tipped his face towards the blue flames.
“Hammy!” Peggy exclaimed with delight as she waved him closer.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Eliza added.
“Have you started a witches' coven?” he asked facetiously, leaning against the doorjamb.
Cornelia and Rensselaer both giggled.
“Are you scared?” Peggy asked.
“Good to know not to rely on you if a witch panic breaks out again.”
“I’d defend you all to the death. I’d think your accusers had a point, but I’d still defend you,” he teased.
“Charmer.” Peggy rolled her eyes. “Come join us.”
“Just what the devil would say.”
Eliza laughed. “Get in here, you goof.”
The children returned their focus on the bowl as he closed the door behind him and moved into the room.
“Got one!” Rensselaer mumbled a moment after, clearing trying to keep something in his mouth.
“We’re playing snapdragon,” Eliza added, as though that explained anything.
“Playing what?” he asked, moving to sit between Eliza and Peggy. His new sister scooted aside obligingly to make room.
“Snapdragon,” Peggy repeated for him. Then she dipped her face towards the glowing bowl just as Rensselaer had done before her.
Taking pity on him, Eliza leaned towards his ear to explain in a whisper, “It’s a traditional family Christmas game. We put raisins or nuts in the brandy, the set it alight, and try to retrieve the treats. Have you never played?”
“No,” he said. The blue flames on the brandy did seem familiar, however. “Though perhaps this is where Baron Von Steuben came up with the idea for his Salamanders.”
“His what?” Peggy asked, a raisin very nearly falling from her lips as she whipped her head back towards them.
Cornelia eagerly scooted closer to the bowl now that it was free, obviously uninterested in the adult conversation.
“His Salamanders,” Hamilton repeated, keeping his voice low. “At parties, he’d pour out glasses of brandy, then set them on fire and hand them out to all the officers.”
“Sounds like fun,” Peggy grinned.
“It was. The morning after, however…” he trailed off, memories of his spectacular hangover coming back to him.
“Naughty boy,” Eliza teased, nudging her nose against ear affectionately.
“This game seems far safer. May I join?”
“Of course you can,” Eliza said, laughing a little. “It’s a family game. And you are family now, after all.”
“For better or worse. I heard you promise,” Peggy added.
A warm feeling bloomed in his chest at the reminder. Cornelia had successfully retrieved an almond for herself, leaving the bowl free for him to take a turn. Scooting down onto the floor, he tipped his nose close to the flickering blue bowl, and quickly lapped out a raisin, closing his mouth around the residual brandy to extinguish the flame and avoid any burns.
He grinned as he looked back at Eliza and Peggy, chewing proudly on his treat.
“My turn,” Rensselaer announced.
“Hey! It’s my turn,” Eliza argued.
Rensselaer ducked his head down, retrieved an almond, then sat up and made a taunting face at his big sister.
Eliza stuck her tongue out at him in response.
From his seat on the floor, he rested his head against Eliza’s knee contentedly, basking in the warmth of his new family.
Chapter 26: Painting
“I don’t like it,” Alexander said from the doorway of the bedroom.
Eliza’s gaze flickered up to his reflection in the mirror. Then she resumed her attempt to coax some color into her cheeks and tease the high pile of curls upon her head into a more pleasing arrangement. As she worked, she repeated for what felt like the hundredth time, “It will be fine, Alexander. Honestly, I don’t know why this has you so bothered.”
“You don’t know why I’m hesitant to allow my pregnant wife to go spend the better part of a day in a jailhouse?”
“Allow?” she repeated, adjusting in her seat to look at him fully.
He rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest petulantly. “Of course that’s all you hear.”
“Pray tell, what exactly am I allowed to do, Mr. Hamilton? Should I be asking your permission if I intend to do anything beyond cleaning our house, looking after our children, cooking your meals, doing your laundry—” She ticked off each task on her fingers.
“That was a poor choice of word,” he conceded, “But my point still stands. I don’t like the idea of you being in at a jailhouse alone all day. It could be dangerous.”
“You could come with me.”
“I have court all morning.”
“Then I’ll see you tonight.”
“Eliza,” he sighed.
She rose and stepped closer to him, her hands resting on his chest. He uncrossed his arms at the affectionate touch, his shoulders slumping a little. She smiled and pressed a quick kiss to his lips.
“It will be fine,” she repeated. “Mr. Earl is not a criminal. He’s a brilliant portrait artist who is down on his luck and could use a little kindness. His exceptionally reasonable fee will be put towards buying his release, and my presence will, with any luck, inspire other ladies to have their likenesses made, bringing him even closer to freedom. Aren’t you the one always talking about the importance of helping those less fortunate than ourselves?”
“Don’t use my own arguments against me,” he said, though she sensed some good humor coming back into his voice at last.
“I can’t help that I’ve learned to argue from the best attorney in New York.”
“Don’t try to flatter me, either.”
She grinned at him. His arms wrapped around her at last, and he squeezed her tight against him. She could feel his fingers playing idly with the pink silk ribbon she’d wrapped around her waist in hopes of deemphasizing her growing belly.
“If anyone there so much as touches a hair on your head, I’ll kill them.”
“Good plan. Just so we’re clear, I am allowed to visit you in jail, right?” she teased.
He made a face at her, a little smile finally starting at the corners of his lips.
“It will be fine,” she promised again. “Now, go to work. I have an appointment to get to.”
He stole a final kiss before pulling away, and she swatted at him playfully to shoo him down the hallway.
Chapter 27: Pregnancy
Eliza shifted uncomfortably, the ropes beneath the mattress creaking underneath her with the movement. Her hand rested on the small bump under her nightgown, rubbing absently. The baby had just started moving, and she could feel it wriggling within her like constant little bubbles.
“Go to sleep,” she moaned to the bump, her eyes unbearably heavy.
“What?” Hamilton mumbled next to her, still mostly asleep.
He adjusted beside her, levying himself up on an elbow. “What’s wrong?”
“The baby’s keeping me up,” she complained.
He hummed and scooted closer to her, his head resting on her chest in his customary position. His arm looped around her so that his hand could rest on her belly next to her own, his thumb tracing warm, loving circles. She adjusted her head away from his hair, tickling at her nose, but ran her arm down his back affectionately.
“Hush now,” she heard him mumble as he pressed a little kiss to her belly. “Papa’s here. It’s time to sleep.”
Miraculously, she felt the little bubbles ease up. She smiled softly. “How do you do that?”
“I can go back to my side,” he threatened, moving to lift his head off her chest.
“No, stay,” she demanded, pushing him back down.
He chuckled softly.
Her eyes slowly drifted shut, the baby now blissfully calm, with her husband’s warm comforting weight atop her.
Chapter 28: Fantasy
When Eliza opened the door to the master bedroom, she found Alexander already in bed, candles glowing invitingly on the bedside tables to provide additional light as he examined a careworn David Hume volume. His glasses were slipping a little down his nose, and his hair was unpowered, tied back with a simple ribbon, and slightly mussed. She smiled as she closed the door behind her, admiring him.
“What?” he asked without looking up, sensing her gaze.
“The children are all asleep.”
That earned her a side glance. “Are they really?”
“Snoring in their beds,” she confirmed.
She lifted her brow enticingly.
He set his book aside and patted the bed beside him. “Well then get over here.”
She laughed. “You really know how to woo a girl.”
“Woo? We’ve been married over eighteen years. I’ve done my wooing.”
She rolled her eyes. "Romantic."
"I'm trying to be."
Leaning back against the door, she crossed her arms, thinking. A slow smile started on her lips as the memory of their interrupted night some weeks ago when he’d first come home in his new General’s uniform occurred to her. “I know what I want.”
“What?” he asked, wary.
“Put on your uniform.”
“But I’m already in my nightshirt.”
“Putting more clothes on seems counterproductive.”
“It’s not,” she promised coyly.
“You really want me to put on the uniform?”
He huffed dramatically, but pushed the blankets back and rose, heading for the dressing room. She hurried to climb onto the bed, grinning with anticipation. She could hear the shuffling of clothes through the open door, the familiar clang of his sword as it was attached to its loop, the sound of his boots, slightly muffled by the carpet.
In a matter of minutes, he reemerged, breathtaking in his crisp blue and buff.
“Is this more to your liking?”
“Why, Colonel, you shouldn’t be up here,” she replied, lounging back against the pillows.
“Colonel?” he repeated, tapping at his General’s epaulettes.
She ignored him. “Uncle John or Aunt Gertrude could hear you. What if they tell Papa? Then he’ll never give you permission to marry me.”
Enlightenment washed over his face as he caught on to her game. “I see. Well, I promise to be very quiet.”
“What if I can’t be quiet? What if I can’t help crying out with unbridled ecstasy as you ravish me?”
He burst out laughing, his eyes crinkling with mirth. After a moment to bring himself under control, he continued, “Then I suppose we’ll have to run away and elope.”
“You’d run away with me?”
“In a heartbeat.”
He sat on the bed beside her and reached out to twirl one of her curls around his finger.
“Where would we go?” she asked.
“Europe,” he answered immediately. “Somewhere far flung and remote. The Black Forest, perhaps.”
“The Black Forest?” she laughed.
“I’ll build us a little cabin deep in the woods where no one will ever find us. It’ll just be the two of us, forever, and I’ll never need to let you out of my sight.” He released her curl and brushed his thumb over her cheek, adoration lighting his eyes.
She leaned into his touch. “I like this plan.”
“I like it, too,” he confessed. He glanced towards the door surreptitiously. “Perhaps I should let your Uncle John find me.”
She laughed. “Perhaps we’ll just purchase you some rustic leathers for our next game.”
His brow rose with amusement. “Such a brief military career.”
“It’s not over yet, my darling Colonel.”
Her hands curled around the lapels of his uniform jacket as she pulled him to her, kissing him hungrily. The only thing she liked better than seeing him with his uniform on, she decided as her fingers worked at the buttons of his waistcoat, was watching it slowly come off.
Chapter 29: Piggy Ride
“Keep up!” Eliza called back to Alexander as she flew down the steep embankment towards the river. The reckless speed made the wind rush over her face, and she laughed, feeling free as a child again.
“Be careful,” Alexander cautioned behind her.
“You’re too slow,” she insisted, laughing still.
Her heel caught in what must have been a rabbit hole only a heartbeat later. Her ankle turned badly, and she pitched over hard onto her side, rolling a good few feet. She laid on her back for a moment, stunned, staring up at the clear blue sky.
“Betsey!” Alexander skidded to a stop at her side and leaned over her, face anxious. “Are you all right?”
She forced herself up on her elbows. An attempt to roll her ankle ended abruptly with a harsh intake of breath. “I think I hurt my ankle.”
“The right,” she said.
“Let me see,” he said, shifting around towards her boots.
She appreciated that he made no comment on her prior teasing of him as he tended to her. Most men she knew wouldn’t have been able to resist the temptation for an I-told-you-so. He instead worked at the lacing of her boot with singular focus.
She hissed as the boot was removed, and he glanced up at her, compassion plain on his face. Pausing for a moment, he explained, “I’m sorry, my love. I need to ensure that the bone is intact. I’ll be as gentle as I can.”
“It’s all right,” she assured him.
His fingers prodded at her ankle and foot with the utmost gentleness. Studying her face carefully, he asked, “Does it hurt when I press it?”
“No. Only when I move it.”
“The bone feels solid. Likely just a sprain.”
She nodded her agreement. Though the limb ached mightily, it was nothing like how she imagined a broken bone would feel. “Help me up,” she instructed, reaching for his hand.
He obeyed, supporting her weight as she maneuvered back onto her feet. The moment she attempted to put weight on her right leg, though, it crumbled, and she fell against Alexander. He steadied her easily.
“Well, you’re certainly not walking back to the house.” He smiled and turned, gesturing for her to climb onto his back. “Up you come.”
“You’re going to carry me all the way back to the house?”
“It’s not so far.”
She sighed but couldn’t think of a better way to get herself back home. Careful to keep all her weight off her right leg, she grasped at his shoulders and levied herself up onto his back. His arms caught her legs, and he adjusted a little under her added weight before straightening and starting back up the hill.
“Good thing it was you who fell and not me,” he remarked. “We’d have been stuck here for a while. That is, if you’d even noticed I’d fallen behind.”
“It’s not my fault you’re slow,” she charged, crossing her arms over his chest.
“You’re worse than my drillmasters in the army. Hard as our trainings were, they rarely made me run full tilt as frequently as you do on our so-called walks.”
She nuzzled her nose against his hair. “I’m more personally invested in keeping you fighting fit, I suppose,” she said.
He laughed. “Naughty girl.”
“And I could have given you a piggyback ride,” she added. “If you’d have fallen instead of me.”
“I could have,” she insisted, smacking at his should indignantly. “I carried our son for nine months. I think I could manage you for a few minutes.”
“I weigh a little bit more than Pip," he argued, craning his neck back to try to catch a glimpse of her. When she giggled, he added, "Watch it. And besides, you carry me in so many ways already, it is nice to return the favor for a change.”
She softened at the sweet comment, and she wrapped her arms around him again, squeezing him with renewed force as she pressed a kiss to his cheek.
The house was dark and quiet.
Eliza hugged Alexander’s nightshirt close, breathing in his familiar, comforting scent as she wandered down the steps. Sleep eluded her. It had been all she’d wanted all day, as all those people filed past her, touched her shoulder, muttered awkwardly about how sorry they were for her loss; yet now, when she’d finally retreated to their bedroom, alone at last with her grief, she could only stare up the ceiling, Alexander’s face dancing behind her eyelids each time she dared close them.
His office door was still closed, she noticed, pausing at the foot of the staircase. The better to keep curious onlookers out. But the interminable ceremonies and memorials should be at a close now, she reasoned. Curling up in his armchair among all his books and papers held some appeal.
With the force of long habit, she raised her fist, and knocked three times on the study door. “Honey” sat heavy in the back of her throat, stuck there as she caught herself about to call out for him. She swallowed the pet name down around the perpetual lump in her throat. Her eyes squeezed shut when she realized what she was doing, her palm splaying out on the cool wood. Had she excepted an answer? she chided herself.
That wasn’t even the first time she’d done that: knocked on a door, or thoughtless called for him, waiting a second or more before reality dawned on her again. Part of her worried she was going mad; part of her longed for that madness. Anything to see her beloved again.
She eased open the door and stood still in the entryway. His desk was tidier than he usually kept it; neatened, most likely, as a courtesy to whomever was tasked with clearing it up. His books sat arrayed on their shelves, a volume or two displaced from frequent use. The scent of old paper and ink floated in the air.
He felt so very present in this room, like he’d stepped out only for a moment and would return imminently.
She closed the door behind her, hoping to keep a trace of his ghost inside. Her candle flickered on his desk, making the shadows in the room move oddly. Padding into the room, she sat on the armchair and tucked her legs up underneath her. Her eyes fluttered closed as she rested her head against the stuffed fabric.
“Betsey.” Alexander’s voice, pained, gasping.
She sat up straight, heart hammering in her chest.
All was quiet. Nothing stirring, except the shadows thrown by her now nearly burned out candle. Only a dream.
As she looked around, still breathing hard, she noticed a letter propped up on his desk. Her name decorated the front in her husband’s distinctive hand. She frowned, a tendril of fear worming through her belly: had that been there before?
It must have been. She hadn’t inspected the desk very closely. Still, his unearthly moans and desperate calls for her rang in her ears.
And what could it be? She’d received his farewell letter to her from Nathaniel Pendleton already. “Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted,” he’d advised. It had been beautiful, and empty, useless without his voice to read the words, his hands to stroke her hair.
She rose, stepped over the desk, and turned the envelope over in her hands. Light, only a single page. She traced her finger over her name.
Slowly, she dragged her finger through the thin seal and unfolded the message.
The beginning could have been written at any time, really: a short paragraph informing her about his cousin’s arrival. Perhaps he’d penned it some time ago and forgotten to send it? So like her absentminded husband. But no, that wasn’t right. He was worrying he wouldn’t be here when Ann arrived. And then….
“But you had rather I should die innocent than live guilty. Heaven can preserve me and I humbly hope will but in the contrary event, I charge you to remember that you are a Christian. God’s Will be done. The will of a merciful God must be good. Once more Adieu My Darling darling Wife.”*
Tears were streaking down her cheeks. She sank down to the floor, her head leaning against the arm of his chair as a deep, awful sob clawed its way from her chest. She held the letter to her chest, clutching at it, as though the words might absorb into her skin: her last words from her darling husband.
*Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Hamilton, 10 July 1804
Chapter 31: Reunion
“Thank you, again, Reverend,” John said, pocketing the pen he’d used to sign his signature and reaching out to shake the man’s hand a final time.
“Of course, Mr. Hamilton. We’ve always understood Mrs. Hamilton’s place would be here when the time came. I’m only sorry you had to wade through so much paperwork at such a difficult time.”
“I appreciate all your help, as does the rest of the family.”
The minister nodded.
Considering a moment, John added, “I thought I’d step out for a moment, if that’s all right? See that everything is prepared?”
“Yes, of course. Mind your step, though.”
John smiled weakly as he said his parting farewell and stepped out of the back office of Trinity Church. He checked his pocket watch quickly before pushing through the door leading out to the cemetery. The train wasn’t due to arrive for another hour yet. Knowing Alexander and Phil, he’d still easily be the first to arrive at the station.
His father’s marker wasn’t difficult to locate. The marble monument dwarfed all the others in the small churchyard. His feet carried him down the familiar walkways without thought. He’d spent a great deal of time here over the years, staring at his father’s inscription, desperate for some inspiration, some hint into his father’s complicated mind as he puzzled over his papers year after year.
The stakes in the ground holding up a cloth before the marker were new, though, as was the mound of dirt blocking part of the pathway beyond. The need to warn people away from fresh graves had ended some time ago; no one had been buried here for several decades. The marked off section blocked him from approaching too near Papa’s grave.
Tears pricked at his eyes as he peered over the cloth to see the new yawning hole in the earth. How fitting that Mama’s resting place would be here, he considered, between her beloved husband and the rest of the world. Protecting him. Just as she’d always done in life.
“She’s coming,” John managed, addressing the cold marble before him. Mama was nearing the end of her last journey back to New York, her casket accompanied by James and Betsey. All the arrangements and paperwork would be well worth the effort to see his parents together again at last, forever. After a fast dab at his eyes, he thrust his handkerchief back into his pocket and set off back down the pathway.
"We're bringing her home to you, Papa."