Congratulations to Richard Armitage’s colleagues in the 2017 film Pilgrimage for earning 3 IFTA nominations! January 13, 2018 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1135)

The talented British actor Richard Armitage  portrays Sir Raymond De Merville in the 2017 film “Pilgrimage”:

Thanks to Angelika for sharing the image below of Richard Armitage portraying one of the leads Sir Raymond De Merville:

Wow! The costume detail in the image above is exquisite and authentic looking!  That chain mail must weigh about 50 – 70 pounds.

So you can really see why the “Pilgrimage” Costumes Department received a nomination for the  2018 IFTA (Irish Film & Television Academy) Awards (below as shared by Mat Khal.  Thanks!):


And for anyone remotely interested, I had previously taken a stab at analyzing Sir Raymond De Merville’s coat of arms (image via the Hollywood Reporter):

And, “Pilgrimage” is nominated in 2 other 2018 IFTA Award categories (in addition to Costume): Cinematography and Original Score. Congrats one and all!

Set in the Middle Ages, “Pilgrimage” is about a group of Irish monks who are tasked with bringing their holy relic across Europe to Rome.  Naturally, they encounter trouble along the way.  And the film is purported to be a violent and gory film.

I have not seen the film yet.  And though movies with violence and gore in it are not my cup of tea, historical fiction is a genre that I enjoy.  So I plan to eventually watch it—or try to.  ;)   And a variety of viewing platforms are available to rent or own the film for everyone’s convenience:

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Our “National Treasure” is the Declaration of Independence,    January 07, 2018  Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1134)

I love when films like “National Treasure” (2004)—that are designed for pure puzzle solving fun, but also subliminally evoke a greater appreciation for our national history and provide a civics lesson—thus hitting one out of the ball park, with regard to relevancy today about our current national governmental crisis.

The following the Declaration of Independence quote that was featured in the film—and excerpted in the film clip above–really moved me.  Here is that quote again:

“… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. …”  Declaration of Independence

 

Nicolas Cage’s character of Benjamin Franklin Gates goes on to explain to his computer geek caper partner Riley Poole:

“If there is something wrong, those you have the ability to take action, have the responsibility to take action.” (“National Treasure”, 2004)

Back to our real lives, we are a nation of laws.  So I hope that our elected officials will act responsibly—and use the laws that apply in this situation.

And for us, as voters, if our elected officials do not act in the best interests of the nation—but they act only for the best interests of a privileged few–then we have a responsibility, too, to vote them out of office, and to vote persons into public office who will serve the public good.

A visually more readable stone engraving of the Declaration of Independence appears below:

And enjoy the rest of the film, “National Treasure”.  It’s a corker!

 

Cheers!

 

 

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Good bye 2017!   Hellooo 2018!  January 04, 2018  Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1133)

I was going to be reflective on January 1st, but I was still finishing my 2017 original contemporary romance “Somerset:  A Time to Love”.  Ha!   Then I came down with food poisoning Tuesday, from some fruit, so I felt too nausea to do anything more than read stories on my Kindle.  And today I was racing around tackling many administrative projects at the office.  So here goes for my New Year 2018 reflections.

 

Top 3 reasons Grati is glad to say good bye to 2017 (I couldn’t think of 5):
1) Most of 2017 (from December 2016 to August 1st 2017, I was consumed by my painful torn achilles tendon diagnosis (which was finally figured out), reattachment surgery that required two tendon grafts, 6 months further of convalescence (see below for my LoveLoveLove cast design), and grueling physical therapy.  And it helped that I was working from home—which was a great distraction for me.  But on the bright side of the 8 months of it all—I can walk again!  I’m still working on building up my endurance, but I have graduated to a rolling walker that allows me to sit on it in the stores to rest as needed.  And, I lost an additional 35 pounds throught the whole process—must have been from the strain in maneuvering from couch to wheelchair to bathroom and back. Snap!


2)  My dear hubby had to have surgery, too, to amputate an infected toe in August.  Happily, I was mobile enough by then that I could tend to him during his convalescence at home for 3 weeks, my having to individually walk the dogs and lunch and dinner time (with my rolling walker)—since my hubby had normally walked them in the early am and when he got home after work—they don’t want to poo in their own yard. So fastidious!  So my hubby and my roles were reversed, and I was playing nursemaid to him, while I was also working full time back at the office.  Whew!

3)  Lots of medical expenses to be added to the usual ones.  But, thank god for my health insurance plan through the university!

Top 5 reasons Grati is Happy to say Hellooo to 2018:
1)  I continue to enjoy blogging here on Something About Love–and writing and sharing my romance stories with you  here and on my Wattpad site.  It is always interesting to me which stories and/or blog posts seem to really captivate my readers.  And this past year, my original historical fiction Regency romance story “Encouragement” (below left) that now just past the 35,000 reads mark with about 1,200 votes on Wattpad.  And my readers all time favorite story on my Wattpad site and here on my blog is still “N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons” (below right) that is approaching 100,000 reads on Wattpad alone—with only a little less 2,000 reads to go to hit that milestone—and with over 1,400 votes on my Wattpad site. I also like to switch around the genre type of my stories that I share—since I truly enjoy reading and writing stories in the restrained Regency Period.  And since my most recent story that I shared “Somerset:  A Time to Love” was a contemporary romance, a period drama from me might be what I serialize next.  And of course, I enjoy sharing my admiration for the talented British actor Richard Armitage with other fans on Facebook and Twitter (and occasionally on my long neglected Tumblr site), as well as my enjoying his storytelling!

    

2)  My career continues to keep me involved and engaged.  And I really enjoy the vitality of working with young people as they navigate their university experiences to give them a foundation upon which to build their personal and professional careers.  And there is also all the budget management and monitoring that I have to do with the business manager hat that I also wear.  Ha!  But with my finally having an able assistant—inner cheers!—the budget stuff is less burdensome and allows me to truly develop more of our social media outreach to our Alumni, Students, and Friends of our department, etc.  And we are most fortunate in our department’s leader—in that he promotes an inclusive and mentoring work environment.

3)  My husband is always on my list of good things.  And now that we are both on the mend—though each of us are still building up our endurance for walking with assistance—we hope to get out more and do things.  We like to visit our State Parks—which I am pleased to say have many accommodations for those with mobility issues.  We also like to window shopping and antiquing—but we don’t buy much any more.  We don’t want to have to dust it.  Ha!

4)  And this Spring, my hubby and I do hope to update our great room by rearranging furniture to make the space flow better for how we currently use the space, removing the tv (we stream), and replacing our 23 year old couch, love seat and my hubby’s chair (none of which match—but the couch and chair have matching covers.  Ha!).  We/I hope to move the bookshelves and such to the outer walls and create an inner island seating area cozily facing our fireplace (see sample below)–with adjacent net hookups and wifi for our computers to have them at hand when we need them, but easily stored away when we want to unplug and chat and/or cuddle together on the new couch.  Right now, our Great Room furniture placement for the computers has necessitated a no man’s land table between our seating areas of computer cables and routers, printers, etc.  The new couches purchase will happen gradually over time because the new furniture will cost us something—but it will hopefully last another 23 years.  Ha!  And I kinda wonder who will be freaked out more by the new furniture arrangement I have planned—my husband, or the dogs?  Ha!

So that’s my quick Happy New Year 2018 reflections run through.  Wishing you and yours the best in 2018!

P.S.  And does anyone know how long it takes for a person to stop writing on checks or typing in file names, December 2017 ish when you mean January 2018 ish?  Ha!

P.S  And I’ll probably update my blog header only slightly soon.  Because I launched this design just in 2017.   And I like it!

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“Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 28 End:  August Wedding, & Ch. 29:  Epilogue, December 31, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1132)

(“Somerset:  A Time to Love” is an original contemporary romance copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2017;  All rights reserved)  [(1) story cover, left]

Author’s Dramatic Content Note:  I write romantic love stories for adults, aged 18 and older.  So most of the chapters will be PG-13 due to mature themes (M), or dramatic moments (D). And some of the chapters have romantic and sensual, but not explicit, love scenes that I will label as (L), and such.  So if you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.

Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links that I cite contain general information merely to allude to a place, person, concept/theory/belief, history, or artifact, etc.  This story is a work of fiction, and people and their thoughts and actions are figments of my imagination and should not be taken as real or as fact.  And though the general backgrounds of the characters and the story’s contextual setting involve mentions of the Christian religion—with an Anglican/Episcopal focus—this story is a romance, not a religious tract.

[And from time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of:  Richard Armitage as Prof. Benedict Somerset, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Leicester, Loretta Devine as Connie Velasquez, John Lithgow as Seminary President Maynard Casten, and Jane Alexander as his wife Portia Casten, Charles Dance as Benedict’s father Edward Somerset, Helen Mirren as Benedict’s Mother Elizabeth Somerset, Dawn French as Benedict’s elder sister Lady Alexandra Somerset Solsbury, James Nesbit as Benedict’s elder brother Edmund Somerset, Chris Pine as Laura’s younger brother Steve Leicester, Max Charles as 5 yr old Caleb Somerset, Samantha Colley as Lady Alexis Solsbury, and others as noted.]

Author’s recap from the previous chapter:   With the kidney transplant surgery from Laura to little Caleb a success and the Gilberts inheritance issue is resolved, things are full steam ahead for Benedict’s and Laura’s wedding in the Summer.

 

“Somerset:  A Time to Love”,  Ch. 28 End:  August Wedding

The next two months fly by for the Somerset, Solsbury, and Leicester families.  Well, perhaps not so much for the patients:  the 83 year old Duke Edward is doing grueling physical therapy learning to walk again with a prosthetic for short bursts, but with him mostly relying on his motorized wheelchair and he is supported and encouraged by his loving wife of 60 years Duchess Elizabeth; his grandson and son Edmund’s son little five year old Caleb Somerset is improving as he was weaned off of dialysis a month ago and his donated kidney from his soon to be Aunt Laura seems to be working just fine, and so far, he has not needed the liver transplant but his health is monitored closely should his body reject the new kidney and/or need the partial liver transplant aferall, the doctors are cautiously optimistic; and Benedict Somerset’s fiancé 40 year old Laura Leicester is also healing, a bit faster than the Duke or little Caleb since after donating one of her kidneys to him, her remaining kidney has managed to take over nicely.

 

But Laura still is grounded from flying until November and will not be able to fly home to the States.  So she resigns herself to that.   And with Benedict wanting to be with his aged parents for as much of their remaining years as he can, they decide to make England their semi-permanent home for the forseeable future.   Lady Alexis had traveled to the States to help her Uncle Benedict and Steve Leicester sort through Laura’s things.  And it was Lady Alexis who sides with Laura on getting as much of her possessions packed up and moved to England as she did—via cell phones and skyping.

So Benedict does as promised and packs up his and Laura’s possessions—him shipping almost all of her possessions, including furniture to England–because they have meaning for her.  Him seemingly sanguine about it.  With the remainder of Laura’s possessions that her brother Steve did not want being sold at a group auction—the proceeds of which Laura donated to the Chicago Group Home for children that she so loved as a Volunteer.

 

And Laura was correct in that the university can not hold her teaching and advising job for her indefinitely.  So, at Benedict’s urging, Laura elects to give herself a gap year, as they refer to it in Britain, and acclimate to living in England as her new permanent home after she marries Benedict.  And Benedict elects not to take a leave of absence at the seminary—since in his heart, he feels that staying in England by his aged parents sides is the right thing for him to do now.  So he requests and is granted a lateral transfer to the British Anglican Seminary College in Somerset, England via a concordance agreement between the English Anglican and the American Episcopal national churches.  Still, as with Laura, it was a wrench for Benedict to leave his colleagues behind.

 

Laura and Benedict are currently staying in a large guest state apartment at Somerset Hall Castle  on the countryside Somerset Estate near Exmoor Village–that was granted them by the Duke and Duchess—and using much of Laura’s furniture for their private chambers, such was and is Laura’s impeccable taste in furnishings, and her having several lovely family heirlooms that she had Benedict ship to England from America, such as her quite large Ivers and Ponds Parlor Grand piano that had belonged to her maternal grandmother. It is perhaps not the best piano on the planet, but it has Leicester family history and sentimentality attached to it for Laura.  And Laura has had the over 100 year old piano well maintained over the years by the finest piano technicians—even one who had worked for Steinway and Carnegie Hall.  And Laura’s careful conservatorship of her piano is illustrated by its wonderful tone when she expertly plays it for Benedict and his family.

 

Apart from the healing going on during the Summer months of June and July, they also involve nearly weekly weekend Somerset and Solsbury family gatherings at either Lexi and Ian’s Earldom of Bath estate outside of Bath or at the Somerset Hall Castle estate.  And Laura’s brother Steve Leicester has even managed flights over to England every other weekend to see Lady Alexis—with her often traveling to see him in NYC, the alternating weekends.  The air expenses are racking up, since Steve’s lawyer salary gives him more disposable income than does Lady Alexis’ family stipend. But it is worth the costs as Steve’s and Lady Alexis’ relationship deepens over time.

And Lady Alexis has never truly worked for a living and earned a salary.  But rather, Lady Alexis gives of her time to select charities, her serving in capacities aligning with her university education that range from her being a pro bono fine arts conservator for renaissance paintings on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Bath Museum, as well as a Bath Museum curator and docent Tuesdays and Thursdays who leads school and community group tours of the artifacts present in their Bath Museum.  However close Steve and Lady Alexis have become, they are both keeping mum about the status of their relationship–which is driving her mother Lexi Lady Bath crazy.

***

But as it should be, the focus among the Somerset, Solsbury, and Leicester families for the Summer is the upcoming end of August wedding [(2) below] of Benedict Somerset the Baron Exmoor and Miss Laura Leicester, divorcee.  Laura thinks the designation on what will be their marriage certificate has not kept up with the times—and she feels that the legal document having a marital status label of divorcee is quite censorious on their part.  However, the single female designation of spinster is not to her liking either. So Laura just resigns herself to it, her knowing that the computer printed legal document will be shoved into a drawer or bank safety deposit box probably not to be seen for decades.  It will be the more artistically painted and hand lettered linen marriage certificate from the church itself that will become a cherished memento of their marriage.

And Benedict mollifies Laura about the marriage legality oddities by taking her on a number of semi-grand Duke of Exmoor Somerset estates to visit that are currently available for lease from the vast Somerset Estate at a very reasonable price, and for perpetuity—such that their heirs may also claim them as their family home.  In this way, Benedict and Laura will still be near his aging parents, while also maintaining their own and his parents’ privacy.  Not to mention the privacy of his elder brother Edmund Marquess of Exmoor and his family, with his wife and their little five year old son Caleb the Earl of Exmoor who also live in Somerset Hall Castle.

And as before, it was explained to Laura that the title and lands of the Viscount Exmoor are reserved for either Edmund having another son, or Caleb’s male offspring, as needed.  Hence Benedict Somerset is the Baron Exmoor—with the ability to confer that title upon his death to his eldest male heir—and Laura will become Benedict’s Baroness.  And any male or female offspring Benedict and Laura have together may use the courtesy titles of “The Honorable Balthasar Somerset” [(3)], for example.

 

Three weeks before Benedict’s and Laura’s wedding, the limited number of invitations are to be sent out.  But it seems that there is to be a hitch in that regard.  For unbeknownst to all but the happy younger couple themselves—namely Steve Leicester and Lady Alexis Solsbury—they have also become engaged and wish to fast track their wedding by joining Benedict’s and Laura’s wedding ceremony .  So they would have a double wedding.  Most of the same people would be attending Lady Alexis’ and Steve’s wedding—with just about twenty additional invitations for their personal friends and colleagues that they each send out.

 

Another wrinkle of the double wedding is that Lady Alexis will quickly need to find herself a wedding dress and attendants, whilst Steve needs to find attendants and tux, and line up a honeymoon destination—not to mention smoothing over his future mother-in-law’s ruffled feathers for he and Lady Alexis not having a big splashy society wedding in London.  But he promises for them to submit to a post honeymoon reception in London for them.

 

And since Lady Alexis had done Laura the favor of advocating for her Uncle Benedict to pack and ship most of Laura’s possessions to England, Laura returns the favor in attending Lady Alexis’ wedding gown selection with her mother, Lexi Lady Bath.  In the end, it was very good that Laura tagged along, because when Lexi Lady Bath kept pestering her daughter about why she didn’t want to wear a more form fitting style of gown. Laura deftly steers Lexi to a mother-of-the-bride selection of gowns that will make her dazzle.  So with her mother  Lexi lady Bath appeased for the moment, Lady Alexis waves heartfelt thumbs up to her soon-to-be aunt and sister-in-law Laura.  And Lady Alexis resolves to reveal her gown style reasons to Laura soon—so at least someone in the family knows.

***

Then suddenly, their wedding day is almost before them on this Friday August 30th.  As is tradition, the grooms Benedict and Steve are removed from  the close proximity of their brides residing at the main Somerset Hall’s estate castle–to the Duke of Exmoor’s Somerset Estate Hunting Lodge. Edmund as Benedict’s supporter/attendant/Best man is also in attendance—as is the father of the younger bride to be for Steve, Ian Solsbury Earl of Bath.  One cannot really call it a stag party—no ribaldery goes on, not with the father and uncle of the younger bride in attendance and the brother of the older bride in attendance.  They have a few drinks, munch the party appetizer foods—which were quite tasty—and then Ian  and Edmund share sage marital advice before the party breaks up at a tame 10 o’clock at night.

The ladies ensconced up at Somerset Hall Castle are much more happily engaged—not the least of which is that Benedict flew Laura’s first choice for Matron of Honor to England for the wedding, her friend and Chicago Children’s Group Home Volunteer Coordinator Connie Velasquez.  Laura has not seen Connie in person for several months, though they have emailed and texted each other.  So the ladies in their nightgown sets, pamper each other with facials, put on nail polish in the blushingest pale pink shade, and munch on light fare of meat past sandwiches with the crusts cut off the bread, fruit, cheese, wine, a veggie and dip spread, and delicate desserts.  For activities, they troop up to the Somerset Hall Castle vaults—lead by Duchess Elizabeth.  And a selection of tiaras are brought out of the vault for trying on and possibly wearing by Laura and Lady Alexis at their double wedding.  In fact, Lexi Lady Bath has also brought with her two tiara selections for her daughter Lady Alexis to try on.

And Laura and Steve’s Gilbert family cousins have offered the Leicester tiara for Laura to wear.  However the tiara is such a large and ostentatious ornament that it won’t stay on Laura’s head.  So Laura has to decline wearing it–happily so for her—with the ruse that they cannot risk the tiara falling to the ground and breaking.  So Duchess Elizabeth comes to the rescue and offers Laura the smaller and elegant Exmoor Princess tiara—so named because the then Princess Victoria had broken her tiara just before a birthday ball for her uncle King William, and the Somerset’s came to the rescue by loaning the Princess Victoria their family heirloom tiara to wear.  All of this is heady stuff for Laura—not the least of which is that she will get to feel like a princess on her wedding day.

As Laura settles into bed at the early hour of 10pm, she notices that Benedict has sent her a text message, so she calls him back.

Laura: “Hi Benedict.  What’s up?  You’re not going to jilt me at the altar tomorrow?  Are you?”  She laughs in jest.  “Ha ha ha!”

Benedict:  “No, but I was trying to find a way to plot our escape from the circus that I know tomorrow will be.”

Laura: “Now now,  you have performed weddings before, right?”

Benedict: “Yes, but only half of the couples were still with each other five years later.  That’s one reason why I gave up the notion of being a parish priest.  I couldn’t discern when two people were ill suited for each other.”

Laura:  She blanches.  “Well, I guess that you were doing them a service.”  She pauses.  “We’re so right for each other, Benedict.  I can feel it in my bones and my grandmother used to say.  And I love you very very much.”

Benedict: “And I love you very much!  I know that we’re right for each other, Laura Darling.  With you in my life, I have joy in the morning. [(4)]”

Laura: “Well now reverend.  Good for us!”

Benedict: “Indeed!”

As it turns out, the weddings of the two couples was lovely and everyone involved had a good time.  And now—as the senior married men told Steve and Benedict—is when the real work of building and sustaining a marriage begins.

To be continued with Chapter 29 Epilogue

P.S. I added the Epilogue below, before the references.

 

“Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 29:  Epilogue, 5 Years Later
(An original story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace; All rights reserved)

Five years later …, mid December, the 15th to be precise… It is a dark and stormy afternoon as the Somerset limousines finally turn onto the long drive through the Somerset Hall Castle Estate gates.  The heavy snowfall on the grounds and still falling now makes visibility difficult—both for the limousine driver and those waiting at Somerset Hall—especially for three year old The Honourable Anne Lindsay Somerset.  She and her parents Baron Benedict and Baroness Laura—along with her elder brother The Honorable Simon Leicester Somerset—are staying for the Christmas Holidays with her grandparents, the Duke and Duchess of Exmoor and their Aunt and Uncle and cousins Caleb and two year old Mary Elizabeth Somerset.

Anne is a little girl and has the patience of one—nonexistent, something that she shares in common with her 88 year old paternal grandfather Edward Duke of Exmoor.  Anne wants what she wants when she wants it.  Her little mouth pouts for emphasis—her pink lips the same color as her knee length warm velvet party dress with a white lace trimmed collar, under which she has on warm ivory colored leotards and black patent leather shoes with cute black bows.  When she stills—which is not often–Anne looks like a porcelain doll with her shiny brown curls and a pink ribbon in her hair.

Anne:  Her forehead and nose plastered against the nearly floor to ceiling window, little Anne asks. “Where are they Grandpapa Duke?  They’ll miss our welcome home luncheon in the big dining room if they don’t hurry it up.”  Little Anne’s high pitched vocal tones are cultured with a decided British accent having a slight lilt of an American accent—her having spent her whole life living in England with her British father Benedict Somerset and her American mother Laura Leicester Somerset and her elder brother Simon.  They will also have a new brother or sister soon.

Edward Somerset Duke of Exmoor at 88 years is wizened, frail looking while wearing a navy blue sweater that seems to dwarf him now and a navy blue and blood red plaid blanket covering his lap whilst sitting on his motorized wheelchair up in the 3rd floor family parlor, but still having his sparkling eyes and a radiant smile for his granddaughter by his youngest son Benedict and daughter-in-law Laura.

Duke Edward:  “As I have said, many times before, Dear, they will arrive in due time.”  He scowls at her sternly.  Whomever thought it was a good idea for him to watch after their so far youngest grandchild while the hostesses tended to last minute details with their servants, must have been mad, he thinks.

Anne:  Patting his hand upon his wheelchair armrest, she soothes him with a smile. “Oh, Grandpapa Duke, you had best put on your nice face or Grandmama Duchess will send you to your room without dessert.”  The children always receive their full meals when they rarely misbehave, but desserts are earned with good behavior.  Then little Anne assumes an imperious pose–executing a flawless impression of her Grandmama Duchess Elizabeth—a graceful elongated stance with her head held high, hands upon her hips, and an imperious glare.

Duke Edward:  “You do your Grandmama Duchess proud, Girl.  But do not let her see you doing that impersonation of her.”

Lady Anne: “Thank you!  And I am Anne, Grandpapa Duke.”

Duke Edward:  “I know who you are!”  He grouses, but with a smile.  His youngest granddaughter is feisty.  She gets that from him.

Lady Anne: “Then why did you call me Girl?” He winks at her.  She knows that he knows her name.  It is a game they play.  “Very well.”  Said sighingly.  “Please take me on a ride to the Christmas Tree parlor downstairs?”  She holds out her arms.  “I want to see if it still looks good!”

Duke Edward: “It had better still be good!  Or your Papa and your brother Simon, Uncle Edmund and your cousin Caleb are bad pickers.

The old Duke beckons and little Anne hops up onto his blanket covered legs.  After settling her in, he reaches for his motorized wheelchair’s driving throttle.

Duke Edward: “There now …”  But he is interrupted, expectedly so.

Anne: “May I drive, Grandpapa Duke.”  She gives him her most dazzling three year old smile.  Even their family’s cook Mrs. Doyle cannot resist her when little Anne asks for bite of freshly made bread, right out of the ovens.

Duke Edward:  “Hell’s bells, Girl, Anne.”  He corrects himself.  “Wait to drive my wheelchair until we take the elevator down to the main floor.”  Benedict and Edmund had two smallish proper elevators installed at both ends of the front facing wing of Somerset Hall Castle to give his father greater independence in moving about his country home.

Once they reach the main floor—him having allowed his granddaughter to push the elevator buttons, which is partly how she started learning about numbers last year—Duke Edward relinquishes control of his motorized wheelchair’s throttle stick.

Anne: “May I drive now, Grandpapa Duke?”  She asks so sweetly, but Duke Edward shivers a bit regarding her tendency to speed too fast—especially around corners.

Duke Edward: “Just keep it slow and steady.”  He flips the switch that allows him to control and limit the maximum speed of the motorized wheelchair to 1 mile per hour.  “And stay clear of any objets d’art, young lady.  Or your Grandmama Duchess will make our guts for her garters.”

Anne: “I said I was sorry when the bust of the old Queen Elizabeth got knocked over.”  Stating it as if she hadn’t been the one to knock it over with her wheelchair racing speeds of 3 to 5 miles per hour making her lose control and hit the bust’s pedestal.  And Anne is referring to a priceless 16th century bust of Queen Elizabeth the First that was created during her reign.  “But it turned out okay, because the young Queen Elizabeth bust you have now is prettier.” The bust is of a young Queen Elizabeth II.  Ah the reasonings and rationalizations in a child’s mind.

And when that bust of the old Queen’s fell onto the marble floor of the Somerset Castle foyer and cracked into thousands of pieces six months ago, everyone looked in horror to Duke Edward—because of the priceless nature of the bust.  The bust was given to their family in honor of Queen Elizabeth the First elevating the Somersets to the Dukes of Exmoor, four hundred years ago. But after observing his wailing 2.5 year old granddaughter Anne sobbing copious tears because she knew that she had done a bad thing, Duke Edward surprised everyone by soothing Little Lady Anne in his arms and saying.

Duke Edward: “There, there, little Anne. You won’t be punished. The Queen’s bust must have been imperfect to have shattered so completely—which was a good thing for the marble floor.”  So little Anne dried her tears—glad that she wouldn’t be punished by missing dessert.

Then Duke Edward and everyone looked more closely at the shattered bust remnants before the staff cleaned them up.  And the Somersets realized that the bust was made of heavy clay, not carved marble—which was very good for the marble floor that showed no marks upon it.  Later on the non-marble bust mystery was solved when it was discovered that an earlier Somerset ancestor was encouraged to relay the real marble bust they had been given years before to a new favorite of the Queen’s.  And the Somersets of old were given the now shattered sculpted clay replica strewn across the marble floor.  Besides, the young Queen Elizabeth II bust is prettier.

***

Down in the front parlor where the Christmas tree is, little Anne gingerly hops off her Grandpapa Duke’s lap—careful not to bash his long ago injured leg wearing a prosthetic.  He also has a cane that he uses when shifting positions from sitting to standing, and the reverse—to help stabilize his balance.

Laura: “Good morning, Papa Duke and Anne Sweetheart.” Laura bows her head from her seated position on smaller love seat settee.  The old Duke gives her a slight nod and slight smile.  At 8 months pregnant with her and Benedict’s third child, Laura finds standing up a challenge. In the early months of her and Benedict’s marriage, Laura unfailingly addressed her father-in-law as Your Grace.  However, Duke Edward eventually told her that her using the more familiar Papa Duke form of address would be entirely acceptable. And to that, his wife and Duchess sighed.  Finally.  For she and Laura had long been on friendly and intimate terms, with Laura addressing her as her husband Benedict does, as Mama.

Laura:  “Careful Anne, Sweetheart.  Come over here to me.” Laura pats the open seat on the settee next to her and beckons to Anne.

Anne: “Hi Mummy.”  She waves at her mother animatedly before dashing over to her mother to give her a kiss.  “May I check the presents again, please Mummy?”

Laura: “Sweetheart, I don’t believe there have been any additions—nor subtractions, since yesterday.”

Anne:  “But what if the presents for me get moved?  And I can’t find them?”  Little Anne’s interest in gift placement is not so mercenary as it is practical.

For last year, the presents sitting around the base of the tree were indeed moved when the old tree stand started to leak water and had to be replaced with a new tree stand.  Such that, some of the temporarily removed Christmas presents—including one gift for Anne—were tucked behind a curtain and forgotten, only to be found when the gift giver questioned the missing gifts whereabouts.  And at the age of 3 years old, little Anne is mostly excited that she is receiving a gift, her not understanding the monetary value of things yet.  Except that is, Anne does now understand that the busts and other statuary are important,  somehow—even the not pretty and the not interesting ones—and she tries to give them a wide berth.

Eventually, all of the other Somerset family members currently in residence at Somerset Hall Castle, find their way to the Front Parlor where the Christmas Tree and presents are.   Edmund and Benedict had taken their boys out on snowmobiles hunting for some more greenery and fir boughs per their Mama Duchess’ request.  Those greenery items have been now dispatched to the staff for appropriate placement per Her Grace’s designation.

The longtime and aged Somerset Hall Castle Butler enters the Christmas Tree parlor and announces to the room.

Butler:  “Your Graces, My Lords and Ladies, and children, the two limousines conveying  expected family members have been observed advancing up the driveway toward Somerset Hall Castle.”

Immediately a squealing melee ensues, from children and adults alike who scramble to stand and greet their final family guests.  Having Lexi Lady Bath and her Earl Husband Ian Solsbury Lord bath joining them is lovely, of course.  But the real treat is having Alexis Solsbury Leicester and her husband and Laura’s brother Steve Leicester and their children joining them for Christmas this year.

When their family guests enter the large vaulted foyer there are kisses all around.  Benedict and Laura, especially, warmly greet Steve and Alexis who now live primarily in the States with their children.  Together, along with their children, parents, and grandparents, the Somerset, Leicester, and Solsbury families will have a wonderful holiday gathering time of togetherness, love, joy, and laughter.

Benedict and Laura are thankful for Benedict’s then little five year old nephew Caleb who suggested so many years ago that his Uncle Benedict needed to be more fun.  And Benedict is grateful that he acted upon that advice, which lead him to volunteer and to meet the love of his life and the future mother of his children, Laura Leicester.   And Laura is grateful to find in her loving husband Benedict a man whom she can trust with her heart and with her future.

And Benedict and Laura together, along with their now extended families, enjoy and benefit from their loving bonds—their lives enriched beyond their hopes and dreams.  For when Benedict and Laura inauspiciously met, their lives changed forever—because for them, it became, a time to love.

The End

Dear Readers and Friends,

Thank you for going on Benedict’s and Laura’s journey to finding a richer life through love, friendship, and making new families.  “Somerset: A Time to Love” is a story especially close to my heart, in part, because it embraces the notion of having a second act, if you will.  Because Benedict and Laura as 45 and 40 years old might be considered in the middle of life.  And yet together, they started on a new path.  Our lives can have the opportunity to change or to transform, sometimes when we least expect it, or when we have given up all hope of love or friendship or family, etc.  So when that opportunity presents itself, take a chance for yourself, give yourself the chance to transform.  Be brave, and to be hopeful.

And on a very personal note, I wish my loving husband a very Happy 28th Wedding Anniversary.  Like Laura and Benedict, we met inauspiciously many years ago.  And sensing that moment was life changing for me, I found the courage to take a chance—to be brave and to be hopeful.

Hugs and Happy New Year 2018!  Love and Holiday Cheers!  Gratiana Lovelace, January 01, 2018

 

References for “Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 28 End & Ch. 29 Epilogue,  December 31, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1132)

1)  The Somerset:  A Time to Love” story cover is a composite of two main images:
a) Background–Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user AlicePopkorn2]

http://www.flickr.com/photos/47283811@N06/  ;
b) Prof. Benedict Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (2012 Promo by Roberta Ascroft, pix35) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
c)  a crucifix image is from MS Office Clip Art;

2) The image of the bride and grooms hands with wedding rings was found at http://moerosokuhou.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/which-hand-for-wedding-ring-elegant-wedding-rings-on-hands-background-wallpaper-i-hd-images-of-which-hand-for-wedding-ring.jpg

3) The sons and daughters of Barons and Viscounts, etc. may use the courtesy title of “The Honorable …” as indicated at the following resource https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courtesy_titles_in_the_United_Kingdom

4) “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalms 30:5)”  found at http://www.en.thinkexist.com/quotation/weeping_may_endure_for_a_night-but_joy_cometh_in/150632.html

 

Wattpad Ch. 28 & 29 story link:
https://www.wattpad.com/515838568-somerset-a-time-to-love-by-gratiana-lovelace-2017

 

Previous Ch. 27  blog link, with embedded illustrations:

https://gratianads90.wordpress.com/2017/12/30/somerset-a-time-to-love-ch-27-pg-13-d-the-right-thing-december-30-2017-gratiana-lovelace-post-1131/

 

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“Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 27 (PG-13, D):  The Right Thing,  December 30 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1131)

(“Somerset:  A Time to Love” is an original contemporary romance copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2017;  All rights reserved)  [(1) story cover, left]

Author’s Dramatic Content Note:  I write romantic love stories for adults, aged 18 and older.  So most of the chapters will be PG-13 due to mature themes (M), or dramatic moments (D). And some of the chapters have romantic and sensual, but not explicit, love scenes that I will label as (L), and such.  So if you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.

Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links that I cite contain general information merely to allude to a place, person, concept/theory/belief, history, or artifact, etc.  This story is a work of fiction, and people and their thoughts and actions are figments of my imagination and should not be taken as real or as fact.  And though the general backgrounds of the characters and the story’s contextual setting involve mentions of the Christian religion—with an Anglican/Episcopal focus—this story is a romance, not a religious tract.

[And from time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of:  Richard Armitage as Prof. Benedict Somerset, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Leicester, Loretta Devine as Connie Velasquez, John Lithgow as Seminary President Maynard Casten, and Jane Alexander as his wife Portia Casten, Charles Dance as Benedict’s father Edward Somerset, Helen Mirren as Benedict’s Mother Elizabeth Somerset, Dawn French as Benedict’s elder sister Lady Alexandra Somerset Solsbury, James Nesbit as Benedict’s elder brother Edmund Somerset, Chris Pine as Laura’s younger brother Steve Leicester, Max Charles as 5 yr old Caleb Somerset, Samantha Colley as Lady Alexis Solsbury, and others as noted.]

Author’s recap from the previous chapter:   Amid Benedict and Laura considering staying in England for the next few years to be around Benedict’s aged parents, Steve’s and Lady Alexis’ nascent feelings for each other are deepening—especially so for Steve, who wants to marry her.  Of course Lady Alexis’ mother and her Uncle Benedict were suspicious about Steve’s pronouncement and interrogated him about his suitability, given his prior history with women during his twenties and how much his law firm position earned him.  Steve also gave details about the recent and sizeable inheritance they will receive soon from a maternal aunt.  So Steve is tacitly given the approval to court and then to seek Lady Alexis’ hand in marriage.  Steve just has to see of Lady Alexis wants that, wants him.

 

“Somerset:  A Time to Love”,  Ch.  27:  The Right Thing

What with Steve Leicester tacitly brokering Lexi Lady Bath’s and Lord Benedict’s approval to court and possible marry Lady Alexis Solsbury, the only person whom Steve needs to consult with—apart from her father Ian Solsbury, the Earl of Bath—is Lady Alexis herself.

Lady Alexis: “What questions?”  Lady Alexis asks, while looking innocently at Steve and everyone else, in his sister’s, and her soon to be Aunt Laura’s, hospital room.  Lady Alexis had not been in the room for the whole Steve wants to marry Lady Alexis discussion.  The room is quiet and still.

 

Steve:  “Alexis, I don’t know about you, but I’m in need of some caffeine—and a less sterile ambiance.”  He notices the drab pale green walls for the first time—their attention prior to this has been so focused on getting everyone through their transplant operation and well enough to be released from the hospital, that the décor was irrelevant.  “Let’s grab a cappuccino at the coffee shop across the street from the hospital.  Hmmm?”  He smiles hopefully.

 

Lady Alexis: “Welll, I don’t know.” She hesitates and looks at the stunned faces of her mother, uncle, and soon to be aunt.  “Is everyone alright?  Is there something you’re not telling me?”

 

The responses by her Mother, Uncle, and soon to be Aunt range from a high pitched sighing “No Dear.” to a gritted “No!”, and finally, a polite and fatigued.  “No.”

 

Steve: Gazing into Lady Alexis’ eyes, he reasons. “Laura needs to rest, without all of us tiring her out.  Let’s just grab a cappuccino and let her do that.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Oh!  Sure!”  She sighs in relief.    “We’ll see you later, Laura.”  Lady Alexis smiles and waves at Laura, who nods and closes her eyes.  “Uncle Benedict.”  He nods.  “Mummy.”  Who warmly hugs and kisses her daughter in farewell.

 

A few minutes after Steve and Lady Alexis leave Laura’s hospital room, the remaining adults in the room each exhale sighs in letting out the tension in the room.

 

Lexi: “I had no idea that Alexis was feeling so … unsettled about her betrothal and non married state.”  She pouts.

 

Laura:  “It happens.  She sees her friends having attentive boyfriends and getting married, but she isn’t.”

 

Benedict: “Laura, are you hinting that’s why you married your first husband?  Because you felt your life was unfulfilled?”  Laura doesn’t respond, but gazes at him sternly for bringing up her situation.  “I don’t want Alexis jumping into a relationship as a means to getting married, just for the sake of being married.”

 

Lexi: “Nor do I.  But her Papa Ian and I have long thought that Collin Gilbert has turned out to be not what we had hoped for our daughter Alexis.  And yet, I don’t know if Steve is right for her either.  I just want us to do the right thing for Alexis.”

 

Laura: “Then let her find her own way.  You have to let her grow up and snip those apron strings.”

 

Lexi: “I have never worn an apron in my life!”  Lexi Lady Bath says a bit indignantly—like the pampered aristocrat she is.

 

Laura: “Allow me to reframe the metaphor—think leading strings.”  Laura uses the Regency novel turn of phrase.  Alexis nods.

 

Benedict: Sitting down next to Laura’s bedside and clasping her hand in his, he wonders.  “But what if it goes horribly wrong?  I don’t want Alexis to get hurt.”  He thinks about his first girlfriend Gretchen, who didn’t want to be a minister’s wife and left him after two years of them dating and being lovers.  And Benedict was the one hurt by her rejection.  So much so, that he had sworn off women for fifteen years, intending to live a life of celibacy his remaining days.  Then Laura came into his life and gave him hope for a more fulfilled future for himse;f, with love and a family in it.

Laura:  “Have a little faith, Reverend.  Of what I know of Steve’s prior relationships, he has remained friends with each of the ladies, who went on to be happily married to other men.”

Benedict:  “How many women were there?”  Benedict sputters.

Laura:  “Less than you might think.  After his college years and twenties easy going lifestyle, Steve has been much more selective and dated only two women—both in his law school years four and six years ago.  Since joining his law firm three years ago, Steve has been so career focused that he hasn’t mentioned to me that there was anyone special in his life.”

Benedict: “There still could have been someone whom Steve dated and he  just didn’t tell you about.”  He thinks about Gretchen—whom Benedict did not speak about to his family.  So perhaps subconsciously, Benedict had an inkling that they weren’t going to marry—though it was still a shock to him when Gretchen turned him down when Benedict proposed to her.

Laura: “Of course, you’re right.  But then, I don’t suppose that you have revealed everything about your romantic past to Lexi here—or to me.”  Laura smiles at a flummoxed looking Benedict—who stays silent.  “And Lexi, none of us are perfect, we can only hope that the love relationship we find …”  She reaches out and clasps he fiancé Benedict’s hand.  “… will accept our imperfections.”

Benedict: “To me, you are perfect, Laura.”  Benedict smolders and reverently kisses her hand.  Then he smiles mirthfully.  “Except for that annoying habit of yours of always being right.”  Benedict kisses her hand.

Laura:  Smiling, Laura nods.  “And that is the crux of it.  Finding someone who will love us unconditionally—even knowing about our faults.”  She turns to Benedict.  “And I’m not always right—just usually right.”  She smiles impishly and he leans over and kisses her gently upon her lips.

Lexi:  “Well at least you and Benedict are a fated love match.  It remains to be seen if Alexis and Steve are.”

Laura: “Let’s give Steve and Lady Alexis the space that they need to get to know each other better in the coming weeks.  And if either or both of them decides that they are a better family friendship than romantic partners, that will be their choice—without outside interference.  And if it is love and Steve and Alexis want to marry each other, I hope that we respect their choice.”  Laura gazes at Benedict, he nods.  Then she looks over at her soon to be sister-in-law Lexi, Lady Bath.

Lexi: “Your right, Laura.”  She nods.  “It’s their lives.  And they have to explore whether or not their lives can be blended together as husband and wife.”  Alexis waves farewell as she starts to leave Laura’s hospital room.  “Thanks!  I’ll just check in on Mummy to tell her what we’ve decided—about non-interference with Alexis and Steve, etc.”  Then she leaves.

Benedict marvels at Laura’s ability to broker a peaceful acceptance of the situation before them, it is just one more reason why he loves her.  And he feels very fortunate and grounded to have her as his future wife.

***

Meanwhile, not knowing whether or not Lady Alexis’ parents and family will cut them some slack, Steve escorts Lady Alexis to the coffee place across the street from the hospital.  It is a long time family owned establishment—and the 60’s décor looks it with wood paneling and leather booth seating along the row of windows facing toward the hospital and more conventional table seating toward the back.  The smell of coffees brewing and the sound of cappuccino machines sputtering out their individual servings add to the overall sense of this being a coffee shop.  There is also a limited menu of small finger sandwiches and desserts available from a local bakery.

As they sit across from each other in a comfortable small leather cushioned booth sipping their steaming hot cappuccino’s—French Roast for Steve and hazelnut for Lady Alexis—Steve’s palms become clammy.  He has never seriously courted someone before, with the intention of marrying them.  Dating in America is a rather different activity than courting—at least with regard to how dating has evolved in the States.  But with Lady Alexis, how Steve proceeds from here can make the difference in both of their futures—either together or apart.

Steve:  Taking her hand in his while they wait for their cappuccinos to cool down enough to sip them, Steve leads with honesty.  “I like you, Alexis.  A lot.”

Lady Alexis:  Smiling, she responds a tad shyly.  “I like you, too, Steve.”

Steve:  “That’s good!  Helpful.”  He rubs his palms together in nervousness.

Lady Alexis: “Helpful?”  She tilts her head in confusion.  “Why helpful, particularly.”

Steve: “Welll.  It’s just that with me having a month’s leave from the law firm so that I can stay in England—ostensibly to help during my sister Laura’s initial recovery from the transplant surgery–I thought that it would be nice for us, you and I, to get to know each other better.”  Steve is starting to perspire with nervousness.  He gulps a sip of the tepid bottled water left by their server.  What the Brits seem to have against cold drinks—let alone ice for drinks–escapes him.

Lady Alexis: “Are you alright, Steve?  You seem to be unsettled about something.  Is it something to do with Laura and Benedict?  I think that she and Uncle Benedict make a great couple!”  I smile encouragingly to him.

Steve: “So do we!”  I blurt.  So much for my savoir faire in the romance department.

Lady Alexis: “We?  Oh!  You mean, you and I.”  I blush.  “Well that’s nice!”  I smile, still not quite understanding where Steve is going with this conversation.

Steve:  “Only nice?”  I pout.  “Were our kisses not as exciting to you as they were to me?”

Lady Alexis: Blushing again, she looks down at her cappuccino drink then looks up at Steve.  “I liked them, very much!” She gushes.

Steve:  Grinning, Steve relaxes.  “Well then, we should try them again sometime.”  I tease her–my now getting back into my charm stride.

Lady Alexis: “Yes, lets.” I raise my eyebrows and shoulders in unison, in my successful attempt not to squeal with joy.

Steve: Taking Lady Alexis’ small hands in his, Steve clarifies his intent.  “Alexis, meeting you has been extraordinary.  And you have quite knocked me off my axis.”

Lady Alexis: “Really?  I did that?”  Her eyes widen in astonishment.

Steve:  “You have, delightedly so.  And I would like us to get to know each other better—to see if we might have a future together.  Hhhh!”  There!  I said it!

Lady Alexis: “A future together.”  I ponder that notion.  “As what exactly?”

Steve:  “Well, as lovers.”  Steve places her palm upon chest where his heart resides, under his clingy sweater.  “Soulmates.  Husband and wife.  Parents.  All of the above.”  He clarifies.

Lady Alexis: “Ohhh!”  I sigh thinking about his suggestion—since he is not proposing, per se.  Not yet.

Steve: “Is that a good Oh, or a bad Oh, my Sweet Alexis?”  I grin bemusedly at her.

Lady Alexis: “Oh!  It’s a good oh, Steve!  Definitely good!”  She emphasizes to him, to leave no doubt in his mind about her interest in him as well.

Steve: “Whew!”  I sigh.  Now I just have to figure out ways that we can get to know each other better—in addition to us making love.

***

Lady Alexis and Steve have a delightful time together this week as they run errands for the family.  Lady Alexis also takes Steve on a tour or two of London tourist sites—The Tower of London and one of those open top tour buses.  And he attends a charity function with her.  It was a little awkward at first for Lady Alexis in explaining her connection to Steve, since they had previously agreed to wait to announce anything official.  So her friends smiled and gave her inquisitive looks which Lady Alexis smiled at, but tried to ignore.

For Steve’s part, he is enjoying squiring Lady Alexis around London.  Though he notices that apart from her charity work, Lady Alexis doesn’t seem to have a large circle of close friends.  This puzzles Steve because although she is received cordially by everyone they meet, there seems to be only two or three confidantes among her large number of acquaintances.  And of Lady Alexis’ close friends, he notices the curious glances at he and Lady Alexis as they mingle.   Steve posits that they are probably wondering about the status of Lady Alexis’ betrothal with Collin Gilbert—whom no one has either seen nor hear from for months, including Lady Alexis.

But Steve and Lady Alexis’ nights make up for some awkward daytime events.  With their families still mostly spending their nights at the hospital—except for when they spell them—Steve and Lady Alexis are left alone at night.  Well alone as one can be with two townhouses full of servants.  But they do enjoy some privacy together.

As a child, Lady Alexis had realized the secret garden passage from her parents’ family townhouse where she is staying to her grandparents adjacent townhouse where Steve is staying as a guest.  Something about it being dark outside, under the star light canopy of light, and them being sleepy that tends to open the romantic flood gates for their midnight tete a tetes and tender kissing sessions in the comfortably cushioned gazebo in her grandparents gardens.  The nights are cool, but with the gazebo walls not taken down yet for Spring, they are warm enough.  Despite it having been an unusually cold and long Winter in England—the gazebo is their oasis and retreat.

When Lady Alexis reaches the gazebo for their third night home together at the townhouses—Tuesday, May 2nd –and Steve has a surprise for her.

Steve: “Ta da!”  Steve opens his arms wide for Lady Alexis to see the slight transformation he has made with incorporating a wide enough cushioned lounger that he bought for them both to lie upon together.

Lady Alexis: “Ooh!  That looks comfy.”  Then her eyes sparkle minxishly.  “But where will you sit, Steve?”

Steve: “Hm!”  He pouts with fake indignation.  “And here I thought that you might welcome our being able to become cozier together.

Lady Alexis: “Are we not comfortably seated and cozy already?”  She smiles while gesturing to the original seating pushed to one side to accommodate the larger lounger.

Steve: “Yes, but this wider lounger will allow us to be cozy together.”  Steve sits, then swivels and lies down.  He beckons to Lady Alexis with an outstretched arm.  “Come.”

Lady Alexis:  “Alright, but if anyone finds us  and objects to our cuddling together here, I’m blaming you.”  She jests as she lies down next to him.  Lady Alexis knows very well that their servants likely know what they are up to—which has so far, been quite innocent.

Steve: “There, that’s better.”  I enclose my arms around her in a tender embrace.

Lady Alexis: “It is.”  She snuggles into him.  It is all very innocent.  They are wearing their casual day clothes for warmth—though Steve also helpfully covers them with a warm throw blanket.  “What shall we talk about tonight?  We already know each other’s likes and dislikes, preferences, and favorites.”

Steve: “Yes!  Who would have thought that we would both like Caramel Praline ice cream and that we vote progressive in our respective countries.”  I ask rhetorically and burrow my face into her neck.  Again her jasmine scent overwhelms my senses and sends my desire into overdrive.  So I have to keep telling myself to take it slowly with Lady Alexis.

Lady Alexis: “Ha!  That tickles.”

Steve: “Ooh!  Another ticklish spot. You know, Alexis, I would love for us to go away some weekend and explore all of your and my ticklish spots together.”

Lady Alexis: “That almost sounds like an invitation.”

Steve: Kissing the back of her neck, he pulls her to lie flush against him.  “It is.  A guidebook recommended a little out of the way hotel in the countryside, just outside of London– where privacy is assured.”

Lady Alexis:  “Hmmm.  Sounds like you’ve been doing your homework.”

Steve: “Well I can coordinate arrangements without a secretary to help me, you know.”  I flash a grin. “Will you come?  I have booked tentative reservations for us for next weekend, starting Friday, May 12th.  I knew all too well that this coming weekend with the patients all coming home to the townhouses will be busy ones.”

Lady Alexis:  “Yes, this weekend will be busy.  But May 12th is only the weekend after next!”  Which means she and Steve will have known each other and dated for just two weeks.  It still seems awfully soon to Lady Alexis for she and Steve to become intimate.  Steve feels her tense within his arms.

Steve:  Calmly smiling, Steve responds to her in soothing tones.  “Yes, the 5th  plus 7 days equals the 12th —10 days from now.”

Lady Alexis:  “Are you going to put the moves on me?” A question that elicits both excitement and uncertainty in her.

Steve:  “Ha ha ha ha ha!  I think I already have.  And we could have easily had an assignation here already in the gazebo.  But I want our first time to be special—in a comfortable bed with pink rose petals strewn about, …”  He hands her a pink rosebud [(2) below] .

Lady Alexis:  Sniffing her lovely pink rose, Lady Alexis sighs.  “Hhhh! It’s beautiful! Thank you, Steve!”

Steve:  “You’re welcome.”  I kiss her sweetly.  “Now where was I?  Oh yes, … you in a silk negligee, me … not.”  I quirk upwards a very naughty eyebrow.  And she giggles cutely.

Lady Alexis: “Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Steve:  “… and a plush rug in front of a roaring fireplace ..”  He notices Lady Alexis quirking up a querying eyebrow, and he explains.  “… for later, should we wish to vary our lovemaking locations.”

Lady Alexis:  “Hhhh!”  She sighs deeply—in nervousness or happiness, Steve can’t yet tell.

 

Steve: “Besides, our weekend away together is not strictly for making love—and we will only go as far as you are comfortable, My Sweet Alexis.”  They kiss tenderly for several minutes.  Then he slowly draws back.  “So are we a go for our possibly scandalous weekend?”  I ask mirthfully.  Lady Alexis hesitantly nods her head in the affirmative.  And Steve gives an inner cheer.

 

And with each of the two nights following–until the family descends upon them in bringing the three patients home on Friday–Steve and Lady Alexis enjoy their evening cozes in the gazebo, with them growing more and more comfortable with each other.

***

The following Friday, May 5th is when all three patients are allowed to go home from the hospital to their London townhouses.  They will still have weekly checkups at the hospital for the next month and they must stay in London.  So the townhouses are convenient and comfortable.  And they will at least be within easy walking distance for visits of family to each of the patients.

And though Lady Alexis and her family are staying in their Solsbury family townhouse, it is adjacent to her grandparents, Duke Edward and Duchess Elizabeth’s townhouse—where her Uncle Benedict, his betrothed Laura, and Laura’s brother Steve are guests.  And Lady Alexis’ Uncle Edmund and Aunt Angharad and their five year old son, her little cousin Caleb–who is still recovering from receiving his soon to be Aunt Laura’s kidney–live in the adjacent townhouse on the other side of the Duke and Duchess’ townhouse.  And Benedict’s townhouse on the other side of his brother Edmund’s town house, is being let to the good family friends and family, the Gilberts of Leicester.

Prior to the accident–and at her daughter Lexi Lady Bath’s urging–Duchess Elizabeth had conversed with her good friend Lady Andromeda Gilbert the Marchioness of Leicester about the possibly distant family connection of Laura and Steve Leicester to the Gilbert family.  However, with the car accident and the injuries it caused, and the kidney transplant between little Caleb and Laura–and the lower left leg amputation to Duke Edward—Duchess Elizabeth has not heard if her friend Marchioness Andromeda has found anything out.

So Duchess Elizabeth invites the Gilberts to a light luncheon on Sunday May 7th after everyone had settled in at home.  All the family is invited.  And she chose a midday meal because 83 year old Duke Edward’s good humor lessens as the days wear on—with or without his lower leg amputation.   And these Gilberts are the titled and landed Gilberts leasing Benedict’s nearby townhouse—who are not closely related to the Collin Gilbert that Lady Alexis was and still is technically betrothed to, from their childhood.

And the curious glances at Lady Alexis and Steve also seem to be in evidence at the pre-gathering before the Duchess’ light luncheon this Sunday May 7th.

 

Lady Alexis: “Steve? How are you doing in remembering who is who of the Gilberts?”  Lady Alexis asks in concern with her two small hands holding onto one of Steve’s large hand, after noticing Steve looking shell shocked.

Steve:  “It’s not so bad. But they certainly have a profusion of family members.”

 

Albeit Steve noting a distinct shortage of male bloodline members in the Gilbert family.   There is only the charming and grandfatherly Marquess of Leicester Arthur as patriarch and his Earl of Leicester son Randolph—who is about Steve’s age of 36 years.  Then of the Gilbert women—in addition to the Marchioness Andromeda–there are the Earl’s family of his wife the Countess Eileen and their twin daughters Lady Daphyne and Lady Diana so far, and the Earl’s as yet unmarried younger sister Lady Eliza—named after Duchess Elizabeth.

 

It is getting warmer outside now, so everyone is dressed coolly, as if for a garden party.  Laura is wearing a sparingly patterned flowery dress with cap sleeves that Benedict’s sister Lexi Lady Bath loaned her, since the type of clothing that Laura brought with her to England from the States was minimal.   Though Laura is still healing and has to pace herself, so she sits in a comfortable armchair in the parlor before luncheon as they all converse.

 

Even Edward Duke of Exmoor joins them for luncheon after Benedict carries him downstairs and sets him down into that contraption as the Duke refers to his motorized wheelchair—of which, he as two, one wheelchair for his bed chamber and one for the main floor. Duke Edward and his younger son Benedict along with his elder son Edmund are chatting with Arthur Gilbert Marquess of Leicester.  And even Lexi Lady Bath’s husband Ian Solsbury Earl of Bath is present—him not being able to get away previously while everyone was in the hospital due to common wealth agricultural trade meetings that he was leading in Australia.

Duchess Elizabeth corners her friend Andromeda the Marchioness of Leicester for any news about Laura and Steve Leicester’s possible connections to the Gilberts of Leicester via their great grandparents.

Duchess Elizabeth: “Well?  Have you found out anything about Laura and Steve’s possible relationship to your family?”

Marchioness Andromeda:  “Yes, and it is … complicated.”  She obfuscates while gazing at Steve Leicester with a querying brow.  “You mentioned that Laura is in possession of a locket with a portrait of their great grandfather in it.  I would be grateful to examine it.”

Duchess Elizabeth: “Yes.  Laura is wearing the locket necklace now.  Shall we join her and my daughter Alexandra for a moment?”  The Marchioness nods and they go to the ladies.

Meanwhile, Steve and Lady Alexis are enjoying a relaxing conversation with the Earl and Countess of Leicester, or Randolph and Eileen as they preferred to be called.

Steve:  “It is an honor to meet you, Lord Leicester, My Lady.” Steve nods his head in a short bow to the couple and Lady Alexis curtsies.”

 

Lady Alexis:  “Hi Randolph!”  He kisses her cheek.  “Hi Eileen!”  Then she and Eileen kiss cheeks.

 

Randolph: “What say you just call me Randolph, Steve.  From what Mama seemed to indicate, we are possibly distant cousins.”  He holds out his hand and Steve shakes it.

 

Steve: “If our having a family connection is true, we would welcome having more family. You see it is just Laura and I now.”  Lady Alexis nudges him with her elbow.  Steve smiles and puts his arm around her.  “Well!  In addition to the Somersets and the Solsburys.”

 

Randolph:  “And it’s always in good stead for you to have distinguished family connections, such as the Somersets and Solsbury’s”  Then he asks of Lady Alexis soto voce.  “Any chance that we might pair up my sister Lizzie over there with an American chap?  She’s declined all of the British men we have suggested to her.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Well, I don’t know.”  Lady Alexis’ relationship with Steve is still in the early stages—with them still gingerly negotiating their upcoming weekend in the country, let alone no mention has been made of her traveling to America with Steve, either for a visit or permanently.

 

Steve:  “I can think of one or two of my law colleagues still unattached.  But it will need to be your sister’s choice.”  He emphasizes for Lady Alexis’ benefit.  “Perhaps she will visit …”  He nearly says visit us—getting ahead of himself to a time, he hopes, that he and Alexis live in the States.  “… the States some day.”

 

Randolph:  To Steve.   “We should make up a four some for golf this week.  Perhaps Benedict and Edmund will join us.”

 

Steve:  “I would enjoy that very much.  As a junior member of my law firm, my days are long, so I don’t get to enjoy leisure activities much.  This trip to England has been my only extended period of time off in three years.

 

Randolph: “Well, we could always do it up right and go to Andrews, Scotland to play golf this coming weekend.”

 

Steve: “Unfortunately, I have another engagement.”  He squeezes Lady Alexis’ hand in his.  “And I fear that Edmund and Benedict will wish to stay close to home and their healing family members—as do I for my sister Laura.”

 

Randolph: “Of course.  Well, perhaps this week we can play on a local course and save Scotland for a future visit.”

 

Steve:  “Thank you, Randolph.  I will look forward to it.”

 

Having not spoken till now– since she tends to be on the shy side when meeting new people—Eileen the Countess of Leicester asks her husband.

 

Eileen:  “You were saying Randolph, about Steve’s connection to our family?”  Then she turns to Steve and graciously says with a smile.  “And please do call me Eileen.”

 

Steve: “Thank you, My Lady, Eileen.” Then noticing that he and Lady Alexis are being summoned, he offers his apologies. “Ah! Eileen, Randolph, please excuse Lady Alexis and I for a moment.  The Duchess is beckoning to us.”

Steve is unfailingly polite to everyone.  And Lady Alexis especially appreciates the consideration that Steve shows her when they are in company with others—by using her title Lady Alexis when addressing her.  Though in private, he uses her first name Alexis only—which makes her tremble with joy.

***

As they walk toward Duchess Elizabeth sitting in a chair next to Laura and Lexi Lady Bath sitting on a settee—Marchioness Andromeda must have left them briefly–Lady Alexis squeezes Steve’s hand clasped in her hand.  She thinks that he easily chats with everyone.  This bodes well for them presenting him to English society—as either an extended family member, or more particularly, as her husband at some future date.

 

Duchess Elizabeth: “Ah. Children, please join us and sit.”  She motions to the adjacent settee that is arranged closely for private conversations.  And they sit.

 

Lady Alexis: “Oh, Grandmama Duchess!  Do you have news about Steve and Laura’s possible family connections to the Gilberts?”

 

Duchess Elizabeth:  “I do.  You are paternal cousins thrice removed.  The locket with your great grandfather’s portrait as the second son three generations ago, is a miniature of a much larger portrait hanging at Leicester House near Nottingham.”  She states without emotion since she is trying to contain the emotions that will naturally be associated to her further explanations.

Laura:  “How nice!  A piece of our heritage puzzle solved.”  She smiles.

Steve: “Right, Sis!”  He smiles, too.

Duchess Elizabeth:  “Of course all will have to be verified through birth certificate scans that Laura had the presence of mind to bring with her electronically.  But it looks like you are the rightful heir of the Leicester legacy.”  She lets that thought sink in.

 

Lady Alexis: “Oh Steve!”  She exclaims in excitement and bounces in her seat.  If she marries Steve, and he is legally made the Marquess of Leicester, then she will become a Marchioness—a higher rank than what her mother hoped she would be with her betrothal to Collin Gilbert, Earl of Wickham.  So she wouldn’t be disappointing anyone by not marrying Collin.  Except, maybe Collin.”

 

Steve:  Steve is dumbfounded by what the Duchess is alluding to.  “My apologies, Your Grace.  But I don’t quite understand what you mean by me being the rightful heir to the Leicester legacy.  Lord Arthur Gilbert is the current Marquess of Leicester and his son Lord Randolph is the current Earl of Leicester.  And Randolph seems like a really great guy!  He has even invited me for a foursome of golf this week.  How could England strip him of the Earldom and give it to me?  Isn’t there a statute of limitations on something like that?”

 

Laura joins her brother’s concerns–but also having heard in total from the Duchess what Marchioness Andromeda discovered about the family connection—seconds what the Duchess has told him.

 

Laura: “It is true, Steve.  The Duchess showed me electronic scans of the documents patent.  Our Greatgrandfather was a second son to the 5th  Marquess of Leicester.  His elder brother was the Earl of Leicester, our Greatgrandfather was the Viscount of Leicester, and their youngest brother was the Baron of Leicester.  Greatgrandfather left England with his love who became our Greatgrandmother—whose locket I am wearing now—when his family was intact.  But ten years later, his elder brother died not long after becoming the Marquess–when their own father had died.  So not being able to contact our Greatgrandfather his brother in the States in time regarding the succession—before several inheritance legacy laws would strip the Gilberts of their land, wealth, and titles–his youngest brother had our Greatgrandfather declared dead and the youngest brother incorrectly became the Marquess, him also having the rights of bestowal for the titles of Earl and Viscount of Leicester.  They don’t have any letters or journals indicating the brothers ever saw each other again. And I do not remember hearing or reading about any family stories indicating that the two brothers had ever had contact with each other either.  We and the Gilberts are family—we share their heritage back hundreds of years to the time of Queen Elizabeth the First.  With us technically and legally being the senior branch of the Gilbert Family.  You have but to claim it as the only living male heir of our Greatgrandfather, and the Gilberts revert to the status of Barons.  And you will become the Marquess of Leicester.”

 

Laura hands her brother Steve a Gilbert family tree—that is also their family tree, which Steve thinks looks like a template for an NCAA March Madness basketball playoffs brackets—and is just about as complicated.

 

Steve:  “My God!”  He sighs in distress under his breath and runs his hand down his face in stupefaction.  Steve had taken an elective law course about English inheritance and primogeniture laws for fun during his law school years ago.  Since Steve’s family had emigrated from England, he was curious about England.  So Steve knows that what his sister Laura says about the British inheritance laws is true—and with no statute of limitations.  “Does Randolph know?”  Steve asks in a daze as he looks at his similarly dazed sister Laura.

 

Duchess Elizabeth:  “No, but he will be informed—later today, once they return home.  And my friend the Marchioness … which she no longer is—Lady Andromeda Gilbert the Baroness of Leicester told her husband, of course.  And the Marquess, now Lord Arthur Gilbert, the Baron of Leicester stands at the ready to assist you in claiming your rightful Leicester inheritance and legacy.”  The Duchess greatly admires the Marquess and Marchioness for their stoicism in the face of losing everything they have worked for and preserved over the last 100 years or so years.

 

Steve:   “I am overwhelmed!  At the most in seeking our English heritage, Laura and I hoped to find some family members.  We never thought that we would somehow be displacing our new found family members from their heritage that they have stewarded for over a century!”

 

Lexi Lady Bath:  “Steve, it is our understanding that you cannot refuse your rightful Leicester legacy, or it will revert to the crown as being unclaimed.  And when you claim the estate as a new inheritor—at today’s tax rates—the estate will be assessed a 20% tax.  This will be a great hardship to the estate because most of the wealth of any peer’s estate is in its large land holdings.  And no one wants to break up the Leicester estate by selling off land and tenant farms and buildings—possibly putting its tenants in an unfavorable position with some future landowner wanting to drive up rents or to drive them out completely.”

 

Steve:  “After luncheon, I suggest that the Marquess inform his son Randolph of these unusual circumstances.  Because—with your permission Duchess, I think that we need to have a frank family chat before pursuing the next steps to preserve and protect the Leicester legacy and estates.  And by a family chat, I hope that the Somersets and Solsburys will also be in attendance.  We need all of our brains at work—the gentlemen and the ladies.”

 

The Duchess nods her head in agreement about the proposed meeting, her already knowing that everyone would have to be informed, in due course, after she broke the news to Steve and Laura Leicester.  Except Randolph Gilbert’s 7 year old young twin daughters will be allowed to play board games with the recovering Caleb Somerset in Edmund Somerset’s Townhouse, under the supervision of Lady Eileen Gilbert the current Countess of Leicester for now, and the girls’ mother.

***

Luncheon was lovely, but there was a slight pall cast over it because of the impending discussion by the Leicester, Gilbert, Somerset, and Solsbury families.  Steve opens the discussion.  All eyes are upon him.

 

Steve: “First let us thank our gracious host and hostess for our lovely luncheon and gathering here today. To the Duke and Duchess of Exmoor.”  Steve gestures to them and everyone claps politely.  Then knowing that he cannot stall, Steve dives in.  “Thank you for coming together to discuss the development that I assure you has surprised and overwhelmed myself and my sister as much as it has you.  And I thank both the Marchioness of Leicester and the Duchess of Exmoor for investigating the details—with my sister’s help by sharing some documents that we have.”

 

The room is so silent, you could hear a pin drop—that is, if there weren’t plush Aubusson rugs on the wood and marble floors.  And, of course, the last to be informed about the developments is scowling—namely Lord Randolph Gilbert, the current Earl of Leicester, whose current Marquess father Lord Arthur Gilbert pulled him aside just 10 minutes ago and gave him unexpected news that they are not technically nor legally titled peers of the Leicester estates and financial holdings, and why.

 

Duke Edward: “You best get to it, Boy, or you’ll have a revolt on your hands!”  Said in his best curmudgeonly tone.  His wife sitting at his side, Duchess Elizabeth, pats her husband’s arm, then scolds him with her eyes.

 

Steve:  “Right, Your Grace.  Well then.  Before luncheon today, my sister Laura and I were informed by the Duchess of Exmoor –and after consultation with the Marchioness of Leicester–that our Greatgrandfather Gilbert Leicester (nee Edward Gilbert) was prevented from obtaining his rightful Marquess of Leicester inheritance and legacy over 100 years ago because he had emigrated to the States since his family did not accept his choice of bride—my Greatgrandmother, and his younger brother couldn’t find him to inform him.  So in the interest of saving the Leicester estates and legacy at that time from reverting to the crown, my Greatgrandfather’s younger brother declared him dead and inherited the title.”  Then gesturing to the Gilberts—Marquess and Marchioness, and Earl and Countess—Steve further clarifies.  “And your branch of the Gilbert Family is the inheritor of that long ago legacy.  A legacy that might now be in peril because I am told that since I am the rightful legal heir as the only male descendant of Gilbert Leicester (nee Edward Gilbert), and that I must claim it or risk the titles, lands and funds being returned to the crown—which would leave our Gilbert family right back where we started from over 100 years ago.  And my goal, our goal—with my sister Laura’s concurrence—is not to displace our new found Gilbert family from their inheritance and legacy.  Being a part of your fine family is sufficient for us.  So we must work together—and with an exceedingly astute English inheritance law attorney—to find a way to maintain the status quo of  Lord Arthur and Lady Andromeda as the Marquess and Marchioness of Leicester, as well as, Randolph and Eileen as the Earl and Countess of Leicester—with their male descendents as inheritors of the estate.”

 

Randolph:  “How much?”

 

Steve: “What do you mean?”

 

Marquess Arthur: “Randolph, be quiet!”  The Marquess certainly does not want his son to offend Steve and cause Steve to withdraw his offer to not claim the title.

 

Randolph: “Father, he has had his say, and now it is our turn to question him about it.”  Randolph stares at Steve.

 

Steve: “Ha ha!  Randolph, your stare could incinerate a dragon.”  Making a jest doesn’t go well with Brits.  And Randolph is fuming.

 

Randolph:   “Well perhaps I am looking at a dragon. A thief in the night.”  He spits out.  “And I did not give you leave to address me familiarly, I am Lord Randolph, Earl of Leicester.”

 

No one says “For now.”  But they think it.

 

Steve:  “Actually you did say that I could address you as Randolph, right before you invited me to play golf with you this week.” Steve smiles jauntily.

 

Randolph:  “That is …”

 

Duke Edward: “Boy!”  He addresses his remarks to Lord Randolph.  “You would have never survived a world war with your whining.  Now sit quietly and listen.  Because this young man here just might be your family’s savior.  And Steve, get on with it!”   The Duke waves his hand in a rolling motion.

 

Steve:  “Yes, Your Grace.  Thank you.  Randolph, I’m just your cousin, Steve.  And I hope to remain just a cousin, because that is all Laura and I want.  And I am in no way disparaging the English peerage system.  I and we hope to honor it by helping to leave in place the best stewards of our Gilbert Family Leicester legacy—you and your father.”  Then addressing everyone, Steve continues in marshalling his troops.  “What I need for you to provide—since you have the English connections and know how—are the names of the brightest legal scholars and attorneys in the land.  Because fighting Crown Peer status and inheritance laws will be difficult, but not impossible.”

 

Randolph: “What could you possibly know about English law?”  Lord Randolph just has to get one more objection in, to try to save face.

 

Steve: “Actually as an American lawyer, my specialization is wills, trusts, and inheritances.  And …” Steve goes on before Randolph can interrupt him.  “… I took a year long three two hour class sessions a week of course training on the English legal system and Crown and peer inheritance laws—from Oxford University, via our class cohort skyping.  So my former distinguished Professor Morton Linley will be one person whom we might seek guidance from.  Any questions?”  Steve stares at them with laser like precision.

***

With the family meeting concluded, the English Gilbert Family seems somewhat mollified as several of them nod—even Randolph.  But Steve’s hoped for fiancé Lady Alexis Solsbury wears a most confused and disappointed look on her face.  So after taking their leave of everyone, Steve and Lady Alexis walk out to the terrace of her grandparents townhouse, in order to get some air.

 

Lady Alexis: “You were great in there, Steve!”  She states encouragingly.

 

Steve: “But?  There is always a but.”

 

Lady Alexis: “But, this new development, complication–whatever you want to call it– will put a wrench into our weekend plans, maybe even for our relationship.”

 

Steve: “No, neither is happening.  If I have learned one thing in my life, it is that we must tend to and cherish our relationships.  You and I will be gone on our romantic weekend from Friday to Sunday.  The lawyers aren’t working then either.  Trust me.”  Lady Alexis starts to protest, but Steve lays a staying digit upon her lips.  “I’m a lawyer, Sweetheart, I know.  Yes, I work long and late nights to all hours on my cases, Monday through Thursday.  But the weekend is mine.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Okay!”  She says, but Steve senses some reluctance on her part as she bites her lower lip.

 

Steve:  “Are you disappointed that I didn’t consult with you about what I intended to do about the Leicester legacy?”

 

Lady Alexis:  “A little bit.  For a moment there, I was excited about possibly being a Marchioness—that is, if we marry.  But then I thought, why would I want to be a Marchioness?  To outrank my Mama?  Not happening.  Ha ha ha!”

 

Steve: “Ha ha ha! Whew!  I’m so glad.  I was worried that …”  Now Lady Alexis places a digit upon Steve’s lips to stay his response.

 

Lady Alexis:  “A title doesn’t matter to me Steve.  What I really want out of life, Steve, is a happy home and family like my parents and grandparents have—a deep love with my husband, and lots of children around me.”

 

Steve: A broad smile crosses Steve’s face.  “And I will endeavor to help you create that happy home, with us together.”

 

Lady Alexis: “And you’re doing the right thing by keeping your new found Gilbert cousins safe and honoring the Leicester legacy that they have built these past 100 years.  And I honor you for that.”

 

Steve: “Thank you, My Sweet Alexis.”  Alexis and I kiss with tenderness and love—nothing too scandalous.  Our restraint caused in part by our looking forward to our private and hopefully romantic weekend retreat coming up in a few days.

 

And though there were some legal tussles surrounding the Leicester estates, titles, and legacy that ensued over the next few weeks—cites of English case law precedents, Crown Peer establishment laws, etc.—Steve Leicester and his English Gilbert cousins do win their court case to retain the Leicester titles, estates, and legacy in the hands of their English cousins, the Gilberts.  And their unlikely ally was Her Majesty, the Queen, who with the proclamation of her grace and favor that the Marquess and Earl of Leicester in the names of Arthur Gilbert and Randolph Gilbert, respectively, retain their ownership and inheritance of the Leicester titles,  estates, and legacy, etc.  And that Steve Leicester is named only as a tertiary Gilbert family Leicester heir—with the title of Baron Leicester–in the event that all of the current Gilbert Family male Leicester heirs peter out.  So Randolph with so far only fathering his twin daughters, needs to get cracking—as Steve jokingly told Randolph after the final judgement decree was finalized.  And then they finally went to play golf the next day.

 

So all that remains is for Laura Leicester and the two Somerset patients –Duke Edward and little Caleb—to get well enough for a delayed later Summer wedding sometime in August.

To be continued with Chapter 28 End and Epilogue

 

References for “Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 27,  December 30, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1131)

1)  The Somerset:  A Time to Love” story cover is a composite of two main images:
a) Background–Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user AlicePopkorn2]

http://www.flickr.com/photos/47283811@N06/  ;
b) Prof. Benedict Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (2012 Promo by Roberta Ascroft, pix35) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
c)  a crucifix image is from MS Office Clip Art;

2) A pale pink rosebud was found on Pinterest at https://i.pinimg.com/736x/52/39/a8/5239a84dffb5ced8fb830c1891936b2a–watercolour-flowers-rose-buds.jpg

 

 

Wattpad Ch. 27 story link:
https://www.wattpad.com/515297092-somerset-a-time-to-love-by-gratiana-lovelace-2017

 

 

Previous Ch. 26  blog link, with embedded illustrations:

https://gratianads90.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/somerset-a-time-to-love-ch-26-pg-13-d-hope-december-28-2017-gratiana-lovelace-post-1130/

 

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“Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 26 (PG-13, D):  Hope,  December 28, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1130)

(“Somerset:  A Time to Love” is an original contemporary romance copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2017;  All rights reserved)  [(1) story cover, left]

Author’s Dramatic Content Note:  I write romantic love stories for adults, aged 18 and older.  So most of the chapters will be PG-13 due to mature themes (M), or dramatic moments (D). And some of the chapters have romantic and sensual, but not explicit, love scenes that I will label as (L), and such.  So if you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.

Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links that I cite contain general information merely to allude to a place, person, concept/theory/belief, history, or artifact, etc.  This story is a work of fiction, and people and their thoughts and actions are figments of my imagination and should not be taken as real or as fact.  And though the general backgrounds of the characters and the story’s contextual setting involve mentions of the Christian religion—with an Anglican/Episcopal focus—this story is a romance, not a religious tract.

[And from time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of:  Richard Armitage as Prof. Benedict Somerset, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Leicester, Loretta Devine as Connie Velasquez, John Lithgow as Seminary President Maynard Casten, and Jane Alexander as his wife Portia Casten, Charles Dance as Benedict’s father Edward Somerset, Helen Mirren as Benedict’s Mother Elizabeth Somerset, Dawn French as Benedict’s elder sister Lady Alexandra Somerset Solsbury, James Nesbit as Benedict’s elder brother Edmund Somerset, Chris Pine as Laura’s younger brother Steve Leicester, Max Charles as 5 yr old Caleb Somerset, Samantha Colley as Lady Alexis Solsbury, and others as noted.]

Author’s recap from the previous chapter:   While Laura and her five year old soon to be nephew Caleb are whisked to the operating room for her kidney donation to him after his car accident with his Grandpapa, Laura’s brother Steve and Lexi Lady Bath’s daughter Lady Alexis are flying to London to be with their loved ones.  The charming Steve eventually wore down Lady Alexis with his light banter and gentle teasing—which develops into a cordial regard for each other.  And they confided in one another.

P.S.  This chapter is a little longer—11 pages—since I am trying to finish publishing this story before the end of the year.  Holiday Cheers!  Grati

 

Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 26 (PG-13, D):  Hope

[(2)]

 

The first few days after Laura had donated one of her kidneys to her five year old soon to be nephew Caleb were filled with highs and lows for each patient.  And their alternating prognoses not quite meeting together–for when Laura seemed to be doing better, Caleb was not, but the dialysis helped for him.  Then the situations reversed, and Laura was doing poorly and needed another pint of blood—which her brother Steve gave gladly—whilst little Caleb was allowed to wake up from his drug induced coma and give his parents his first real smile. Edmund and Angharad wept for joy.  And stabilized for now, both patients have since been moved to private rooms in the surgical transplant wing for specialized nursing care.

 

Then on the fifth day, Sunday April 30th—Easter Sunday—both patients seem to be continuing on improved health upswings.  And the Somerset / Solsbury / Leicester families breathe sighs of relief for little Caleb and for Laura.

 

And as has been their pattern the past few days, Lady Alexis has moved between the three patients rooms to give updates—primarily to her Uncle Benedict alternating sitting with his betrothed Laura and his nephew Caleb, as well as his father Duke Edward, but also to Laura’s brother Steve.  For Steve has not left his sister Laura’s side since he arrived, but for the usual necessities and to give Benedict time alone with Laura.

 

Lady Alexis:  “Come Steve.  It’s nearly 10 o’clock, and you haven’t breakfasted nor showered yet this morning.”  She holds out her hand to him.  “Benedict will call us if Laura asks for you.”  She rotates her phone in her hand for emphasis.

 

Steve hesitates because Laura has not been awake yet when he has been in the room.  Though Laura has managed to be awake when her betrothed Benedict has been with her.

Benedict: “I will call.  Go, get some rest, Steve.”

Though Benedict is also looking haggard, he has at least showered this morning as he sits in borrowed surgical garb whilst his niece Lady Alexis and Lexi have been washing the families’ clothes intermittently in the laundry room available for families.  Though now with their London townhouse staff having brought each family member a change of clothes—from the clothing they leave in residence at the Somerset’s London home—everyone, especially the ladies, feel at least more fresh and energized for their bedside vigils.

 

Laura: “Please do, Steve.”  Laura sighs in a fog as she is waking up.

 

Steve: “Laura!”    Dashing to his sister’s side—being careful of the various IV and urine catheter bags there—he leans over and kisses her forehead.  “You’re back!”

 

Laura: “So it would seem.”  Laura gives a half smile to her brother and then to her betrothed Benedict, who also smiles at her using his turn of phrase.  “Is Caleb faring better today, Benedict?”  She asks with concern as Benedict holds her water glass straw to her lips.

 

Lady Alexis: “Oh much!”  Lady Alexis bobs her head up and down with a relieved smile.  Today is a very good day—with hope for many more to come.

 

Laura looks at Lady Alexis quizzically, because she has not met her yet.  Steve holds out his hand and Lady Alexis walks forward and takes it.  Benedict and Laura each notice the seeming familiarity of that gesture.

 

Steve:  “Laura, this is Alexis—well, Lady Alexis.  Lexi Lady shower bath’s  daughter.”  He jests.

 

Benedict:  “I do not think levity is appropriate to the circumstances.”  Benedict scowls at Steve.

 

Laura: “And you have made such progress, Benedict Dear.” Benedict’s eyebrow rises.  “In leaving Mr. Not Fun Stuffy Uncle back in the States.  What would Caleb say?”  She sighs tiredly.  And Benedict opens his mouth to reply, but is interrupted.  “Any chance I can get some real food around here?”

 

Benedict:  “The nurses are waiting for you to have a sufficient urine output to risk moving you to solid foods.”

 

Steve:  Looking down at the offending object—Laura’s urine bag—Steve counters.  “Well, I beg to differ old man.  Laura’s bag is full almost to bursting.”  Steve pushes the nurse’s call button.  “You must not have been on this side of her lately.

 

Benedict: “Of course not!  I did not wish to embarrass Laura.”

 

Steve:  “Or yourself.”  A nurse walks in.  “My sister’s urine bag is about to overflow, so it needs changing now, please.”   The nurse nods and complies.

 

Steve asks commandingly, thinks Lady Alexis.  That is, if commanding that a urine bag be changed is heroic, or merely practical.  Both for Laura, Lady Alexis decides.  Steve and Lady Alexis step back and head out of the room to allow Laura her privacy.

 

Laura: “See you later, Steve.”  Then she adds.  “Feel free to rest, eat, take a shower … oooh!  Might I have a shower or bath, too?”

 

Steve:  “Duly noted, Sis.”  Steve smirks while trying to distract from him blushing with embarrassment.  He has always had a rather tangy scent in the morning before he showered.

 

Lady Alexis:  Pulling on his hand in hers, Lady Alexis entreats him.  “Come on.  We can go to our townhouse and shower while the staff prepare brunch for us.”

 

Steve:  “Together?  You Vixen!”  His lips curling up as they leave Laura’s hospital room–and also leaving Laura and Benedict in stuperous wonder about Steve’s and Lady Alexis’ relationship.

 

Lady Alexis: “You’re incorrigible!”  She huffs, but she also smiles for his teasing.

 

So with both patients—Laura and Caleb—on the mend, they are allowed to begin consuming food with soup and crackers, before moving on to light solid foods like scrambled egg and toast with jam later this day.

***

And after also coaxing Duchess Elizabeth to join them in briefly returning to their London townhouse to become similarly refreshed—with Lexi promising to stay by her father’s side being the only reason the Duchess relented—the Duchess, Lady Alexis, and Steve, gratefully head home and take showers courtesy of the Somerset limosine.

 

Of course Steve had seen some tv shows about wealthy aristocratic homes, but he was not quite prepared for the grandeur, elegance, and welcoming nature of the Somerset London townhouse in Grosvenor Square.  The soaring entryway ceiling 30 feet above him and with a painted mural, and the marble floors, beautiful woodwork, and silk wallpapers illustrate the Somersets wealth and consequence as the Duke and Duchess of Exmoor.

Or, perhaps, four townhouses.  For as their sons’ and daughter’s families grew—and the neighboring townhouses were let out or made into luxury apartments–the Duke and Duchess bought the adjacent townhouses on either side for their children to have both privacy and close proximity with their families.  With the townhouse they bought for Benedict being let to dear family friends and distant cousins, the Gilberts—per Benedict’s agreement, the monthly rent being paid into Benedict’s London bank account.

 

Lady Alexis settles Steve and his suitcase into a guest room on the third floor before heading to her mother Lexi’s childhood bedroom to shower and change clothes herself.  And since Steve showers and changes quickly—his only other grooming routine being a close shave of the stubble that had grown over the last five days—he wanders the corridors looking for the way to the breakfast room when he spies a maid tending to her duties.

 

Steve:  “Oh Miss?”  Steve calls to a mid-twenties looking maid, judging by her uniform and the hotel like cleaning cart that she pushes.

 

Looking at this obvious American—and her having been told that Lord Benedict’s betrothed gave little Caleb, the heir, her kidney—Maid Mabel is unfailingly courteous to the brother of little Caleb’s savior,  as will be all of the staff.

 

Maid Mabel:  She curtsies to him and asks politely. “Yes Sir?  I am Mabel.  May I help you, Mr. Leicester?”

 

Steve: “Ah!  Yes, thank you.  I am looking for Lady Alexis, whom I will be joining for breakfast with the Duchess.”

 

Maid Mabel:  “Well Sir, You are standing in the guests bed chambers corridor.  The family bed chamber corridor is to your near right—the middle corridor.  The Duke and Duchess’ bed chamber suite is at the end of the middle corridor and Lady Alexis has repaired to her Mama’s childhood bed chamber midway down that corridor.  The maid obfuscates the precise directions, since it would not do to direct a non family member to the family rooms.”

 

With each corridor wing jutting out the back in an “E” like shape, they create two private garden terraces that then join up for the formal gardens at the back.

 

Steve:  “And what is the corridor at the far right?” I wonder quizzically how many bedrooms this family needs?

 

Maid Mabel:  “Nurseries, school room, children’s sitting and play room, and those related areas staff bedrooms.  Of course, they are empty with no little ones in residence at present.”

 

Steve:  “So no state apartments?”  Steve asks in jest.

 

Maid Mabel:  “They are on the second floor, far right wing from here—directly under the third floor children’s wing–and the state apartments are currently being refurbished in time for the next royal family visit.”  She smiles warmly, proud to work for such an august family as the Somersets.

 

Steve:  “Doesn’t the royal family have their own homes in London.”

 

Maid Mabel: “Of course, Sir!  But as you might imagine, they also need a private place to slip away to from time to time, on the weekends when they aren’t expected elsewhere.  And their relatives’ homes–such as the Somerset home here– provide such a welcome respite.”  The maid smiles cordially at him, then she turns toward the middle family wing corridor.  “You’ll excuse me, Sir, but Lady Alexis rang for fresh towels.”  She nods then returns to her task.

 

Steve follows several feet behind her—stunned by the news that the Somerset family is related in any way to the royal family.  Then at Lady Alexis’ bed room door—nix that, her bed chamber door, thinks Steve—the maid raps her knuckles twice on the door, then cracks it open a bit.  Lady Alexis pops her smaller towel turbaned head of wet hair out of this bed chamber’s bathing room.

 

Lady Alexis:  “Is that you Mabel? With more towels?”

 

Maid Mabel: “Yes, Lady Alexis.”  Leaving her cleaning cart in the corridor, Mabel opens the door further and walks inside while  carrying the extra towels that Lady Alexis requested.  “I’ll set these in the bathing room for you.”  And Unbeknownst to Maid Mabel, Steve has followed her in.

 

Lady Alexis: “Thank you, Mabel.  I should have called ahead to warn you and the others that we were coming.  But our minds have been otherwise occupied.”

 

Maid Mabel:  “It’s alright My Lady.”

 

Then Lady Alexis notices Steve standing in her bed chamber transfixed.  Lady Alexis is wearing a child sized terry cloth robe meant to dry her Mama when she was a child—and the hem of her robe only reaches Lady Alexis mid thigh, as water drips down her not long, but in proportion legs to her petite frame.

 

Steve:  “Pardon my intrusion, Lady Alexis.  I got lost and followed Mabel in here.  My apologies.”  He smirks at her, then nods, before turning around and quickly leaving her bed chamber.

 

Maid Mabel quickly hands her mistress one of the large bath towels for coverup.  But it is too late. Her soon to be Aunt Laura’s brother Steve has seen her legs and such.  How embarrassing.

 

Twenty minutes later—after the quickest hair drying/styling and make-up application in her life–Lady Alexis joins her Grandmama Duchess Elizabeth and Steve Leicester in the Breakfast room–in what looks to be a tete a tete.

 

Butler:  “Lady Alexis, Your Grace.”  He bows, stands aside for Lady Alexis to step in, and then he leaves.”

 

Steve Leicester stands for the lady entering the room—he does have good manners, afterall.  Duchess Elizabeth holds her arms out beckoning to her granddaughter.

 

Duchess Elizabeth:  “Alexis, Dear!  Please come and sit beside me.”  She motions to a chair opposite Steve.  “Now that we are all refreshed, we may more contentedly chat and enjoy our light brunch.”

A footman holds Lady Alexis’ chair for her, whilst several other footmen bring a selection of warm and cold dishes that they place on a side board.  After the staff leaves them to their privacy, Lady Alexis stands again—as does Steve.

 

Lady Alexis: Ignoring Steve, Lady Alexis asks.  “Grandmama Duchess?  Shall I select your usual favorites for you?”

 

Duchess Elizabeth:  “That will be lovely, Alexis Dear.”  She smiles. Though she is still exhausted from their family medical crises this past week, the Duchess is ever a gracious hostess.

 

Steve joins Lady Alexis at the sideboard, and between them they fill three plates of food—setting them each on the table, one by one.  Then after enjoying this light brunch repast, Duchess Elizabeth retires to her bed chamber for a short nap before returning to the hospital with them in an hour.  Lady Alexis and Steve move to a small nearby sitting room with comfortable seating to sit in and digest their meals.  They sit on opposing long amply cushioned settees–rather like battlefield commanders assessing their opponents.

 

Lady Alexis: “You and my grandmother seemed quite thick as thieves when I walked in.  What were you talking about?”  She worries that her wet legs on display incident might have been revealed by this bold American.

 

Steve: “Nothing of great consequence.  We spoke of my and Laura’s childhood and upbringing, mostly.  She also asked about our origins, as she put it.  But I fear that I don’t remember our ancestry as well as Laura does.”  He shakes his head ruefully.

 

Lady Alexis: “That was it?  Nothing more?”

 

Steve:  “Well, she did kindly ask what my food preferences were to ensure that our brunch would have something that I would enjoy.  Your grandmother is quite the gracious hostess and lady—with or without her Duchess title.  I like her!”

 

Lady Alexis:  “Thank you!  But of course my Grandmama Duchess is gracious!  Don’t believe all aristocrats are like what you read in the novels.  Not all are self-aggrandizing lords eager for advancement and increasing the size of their purses.”  She huffs.

 

Steve: “You must like reading Jane Austen novels, like Laura does.”  I wink at her with a smile.  She blinks and smiles.

 

Lady Alexis:  “I do like Jane Austen.  You didn’t say what foods you told my Grandmama Duchess that you liked.”  She asks absentmindedly as she fluffs the throw pillow at her back.

 

Steve:  He smirks.  “I told her legs.”  Lady Alexis flinches and looks over at him again. “Chicken legs. And she was kind to ask the kitchen to supply them.”

 

Lady Alexis:  “Cook, she asked Cook.”  Her face flushes, her trying to steer their conversation away from her embarrassment earlier today.

 

Steve:  “Cook then.  And let me say before you change topics on me again …”

 

Lady Alexis: “Am I that obvious?”

 

Steve:  “Yes.  Remember, I can read you—like a good book one takes to bed.”  He smirks again.

 

Lady Alexis: “Must everything you say have a sexual connotation to it?  The servants might hear.”  She hisses in a whisper.

 

Steve: “I would imagine that yours and anyone else’s servants hear a lot over the years.”  Then his smile softens to being cordial as he whispers to her.  “But be at ease, Sweet Alexis, your stunning legs will be our secret.”

 

Lady Alexis:  “Thank you for the secret.  But my legs are not stunning.”  I shake my head.

 

Standing, Steve walks around the center coffee table and walks over and sits next to Lady Alexis on her settee.  Lady Alexis’ eyes widen in astonishment.

 

Steve:  “You were too far away.”  He states as explanation for his current location sitting next to her.  “I much preferred our reclining a deux on the jet flying over here.

 

Lady Alexis: “Oh!”  She sighs.

 

Steve: “And if I—a connoisseur of ladies’ legs—state that your legs are stunning, then they are.” I lean toward her luscious mouth.

 

Lady Alexis: “I am betrothed!”  I gush out as I put up a staying hand.  “It seems pertinent for me to let you know that–before anything happens between us.”

 

Steve:  “Too late!  I’m already intrigued by you.  And we have spent nearly the last week entirely in each other’s company.” I smile delightedly at her.

 

Lady Alexis:  “Five days, not seven.”  I counter with a raised digit hoping to quell his advances.

 

Steve: “I did say nearly.” She nods in acknowledgement.  Her light flowery scent of jasmine is so intoxicating.  I lift up her left hand and kiss her fingers individually, stopping at the finger related to my next point.   “And I detect no ring upon your finger, nor an indentation where it would be were you to have the ring temporarily off your finger and  being cleaned or repaired.  Who is such a fiancé who doesn’t provide you with an engagement ring?”  He quirks a querying eyebrow upward.

 

Lady Alexis:  “We’re not engaged, yet.  Just betrothed.  But I still owe my loyalties to him.”

 

Steve: “This isn’t one of those arranged English marriage betrothals when you were children, and now you can’t bring him up to scratch in order to get your engagement and wedding on a fast track.  Is it, Sweet Alexis?  Hmmm?”  He teases.

 

Lady Alexis: “Don’t call me that.”

 

Steve: “Alexis?  You said I could.” I pout purposefully as I lean a bit closer to her.

 

Lady Alexis:  “Yes, and you may.  But not the other part.”

 

Steve: “The Sweet part?” I ask, my very well knowing what her answer is.

 

Lady Alexis: “Yes.  It isn’t proper for you to attempt to seduce me when I am promised to another.”

 

Steve: “Well, the thing is, I am rarely proper when a beautiful lady is involved.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Ha!  You’re funning me because you’re bored—and it’s so easy to tease me, us, about our etiquette and society.”  Self-consciously, Alexis looks away from him and slides her hands over her thighs, as if removing imaginary dust from her clothing of a light blue skirt with a matching light blue sweater set.

 

Steve reaches out and caresses Lady Alexis’ cheek, while bringing her to face him.

 

Steve:  “You are beautiful, Alexis.  A spitfire that ignoramus of a betrothed you have has left alone and uncherished too long.”  And before Lady Alexis can respond, Steve places a gentle kiss upon her lips, then he quickly draws back—to allow her to accept him and set the pace of their relationship, or for her to reject him and they remain friends.

 

Lady Alexis: “What was that for?”  She looks at him quizzically—especially since it wasn’t much of a kiss.

 

Steve:  “Wellll.  My kiss to you is part thank you for your kindness this week, and part hope that our friendly relationship might develop into something more.”

 

Lady Alexis: “You’ll have to kiss better than that.”  I mutter under my breath.

 

Steve:  “What was that, Alexis?   I couldn’t quite hear you.”  He whispers in her ear, his breath going where his lips wish to go.

 

Lady Alexis: “Ha ha ha!  That tickles!  Stop that!”  I brush his breath from my ear.  But then his lips kiss my nearby fingers.  Would that we could try that kiss again—on our lips.

 

Steve:  “Your skin is so soft.  And don’t say that you moisturize.  It will puncture the mood I’m trying to set.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Seduction?”

 

Steve: “Well, that sounds so tawdry.  Let’s say we call it romantic.  Hmmm?”  I smile

 

Lady Alexis: “Oh!  Alright!  Get on with it. Kiss me properly so we can get over this silly infatuation of ours, born of our having been thrown together all this week.”

 

Steve:  “Our attraction for each other isn’t merely infatuation.”  I sigh deeply as my lips capture her lips–firmly and tenderly as our mouths open and close again and again, and again, and again.  Our breaths mingle together, an intoxicating combination of our lemon tart and cheesecake desserts.  But our angle of kissing is awkward at best, with us sitting side by side on the settee.  So I move my arms around and under her and lift her up to bring her sitting across my lap.  Somehow, we manage to maintain our kissing during this change in position.  Then after several minutes more of our amorous kissing, I slowly withdraw from kissing her lips by kissing her cheek, her forehead, and then her cute button nose.  And we gaze at each other anew.

 

Lady Alexis:  “That was much better!”  I sigh as I lean my head upon his shoulder and kiss his neck.”

 

Steve: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”  I roar deeply with laughter at her cheekiness.  “Thank you, My Dear.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Steve, despite our lovely kisses just now, I’m not free to do anything more.” I bite my lower lip, because Steve had assessed my betrothal situation correctly.

 

Steve:  Having a rather unnerving thought, I ask her.  “Alexis, have you never felt free to do more than kissing?”

 

Lady Alexis: I blush crimson.  “Oh I tried it, you know.  A few years ago.  Once.  Almost.”

 

Steve: “It?”  My eyebrows rise in astonishment.

 

Lady Alexis: “You knowww.  Please don’t make me say it.  This is so embarrassing.  But he said that my cellulite wasn’t inspiring him to … be able to do the joining part of it.”  She sighs then sniffles, holding back her tears.  That rejection still hurts and bothers her.

 

Steve:  “Well whomever he was, he was a dolt!  An Idiot!  Because you’re a goddess!”  And with that, Steve proceeds to kiss his Sweet Alexis senseless.  Until, that is, several minutes later … when they hear a coughing sound.

 

Duchess Elizabeth: “Kkhhhh!  Children.”  Said softly, with no hint of upset at the kissing pose that she finds them in.  “Let us head back to the hospital.  I want to look in on little Caleb  and Laura, before sitting with Grandpapa Duke again.”  And with that, Duchess Elizabeth quits the room to give them time to gather their composure.

 

Lady Alexis: “Oh no!  Grandmama Duchess must think that I’m a trollop!”  Lady Alexis wails as she covers her face and squirms while still sitting upon Steve’s lap.

 

Steve:  “Alexis, Sweetheart.  Your Grandmama Duchess is a lady of the world.  If she had wanted to take us to task for our kissing each other, she would have.”

 

Lady Alexis: “But we are in a compromising situation.”

 

Steve:  “Yes, we are.”  I smile warmly at her.  Then I smoulder.  “And if our kissing just now has not conveyed to you the depth of my desire and attraction for you, your squirming on my lap just now should give you evidence of it.”  I raise a knowing eyebrow whilst trying not to ravish her before we go to the hospital.  Maybe we can find a linen closet or empty room there to explore what we’ve started.

 

Lady Alexis: “Oh!  You mean that …”  I look downward.  Nothing to see, but rather what I am feeling.

 

Steve:  “Yes, sweetheart?” I smile tenderly at her while trying to not be so affected by her.  I’ll have to wear a long coat back to the hospital, and even that might not help shield my currently aroused state.  I’ll have to run through my mind the tort case precedents that I had to memorize.  That ought to settle me down, so to speak.

***

After a fresh urine bag–and soup and crackers for lunch–Laura feels much better.  Though she does have a tinge of nausea, now that she is adding some food to her stomach.  Benedict walks back into Laura’s hospital room after visiting his father—he and Lexi had switched places so that both patients would have someone sit with them.

 

Lexi:  “Righto, Laura.  I’m off to sit with Papa until Mummy gets back.”  I kiss her cheek.  “Now don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do with that handsome brother of mine.”  I wave as I leave Laura’s room and head back to Papa’s room.

 

Benedict:  “Lexi!”  I scowl.  I love her irreverence, but not in public. And a hospital with all the staff comings and goings is very public.  “Sorry about that, Laura Darling.”

 

Laura: “It’s alright.  I like her cheekiness.”

 

Benedict: “Well that’s good, because she likes you, too.’

 

Laura:  “I wonder if she’ll be able to fly over for the wedding now?  I suppose that we’ll have to put it off for a few months until when everyone is well.”

 

Benedict: “I want to talk to you about our wedding date.  I say we keep our May 5th wedding date, but hold it here.”

 

Laura: “In London, or in the hospital?”

 

Benedict: “I know it’s not ideal.  But none of you are going to be allowed to fly for six months, per doctors’ orders.  We can have the wedding here in London, and then always have a reception with our friends back in the States after you’re well enough to travel.”

 

Laura: “Six months!”

 

Benedict: “Yes.  And then it will be so close to Christmas that we’ll probably want to stay in England for that—unless you want to make an extra flight back and forth.”  She shakes her head no.  “Laura, you’ll love an English Christmas!”  Laura smiles thinking about that.  “So then your earliest chance of flying back might be early next year.”

 

Laura:  “But what about my apartment and possessions?  My things in my faculty office?  My job?”

 

Benedict: “That’s what I want to discuss with you.  In the meantime, I have already contacted your landlord about arranging for your rent payments until you decide what you want to do—and your utilities are conveniently covered with your rent.  After we are married and you are feeling a bit better, I can fly back to Chicago to arrange everything.”

 

Laura: “Everything?  If I’m not teaching, I’m not getting paid.  Even with the news Steve shared with me about a small inheritance we are to receive, I don’t want to waste it on rent for an apartment that I’m not using.  But I don’t want to sublet my apartment with all of my personal items still there.”

 

Benedict: “Precisely.  One option is that I fly there and pack up our personal affects and put them in storage—bringing you anything in particular that you want.”

 

Laura: “Such as clothes, photo albums, mementos …”  Her voice trails off.

 

Benedict: “Yes.  And Option One presumes that we will eventually return to work in the States at some future time.  So we ask our respective employers for a leave of absence.”   Benedict concludes hopefully.

 

Laura:  “I’m not sure they’ll hold my job at the university.  Maybe I will be well enough to resume teaching in the Fall term?  Or at least teach the online courses. Do you have another option to suggest?”

 

Benedict: “Yes, but it will be a lurch, for both of us.”

 

Laura: “Well, go ahead.  Tell me.”

 

Benedict:  “Option two is that we plan to stay in England for a few years—living and working here. Which means that we triage our stuff in the states into sell, store, and transport to England.  Laura, I realize with this accident that my parents aren’t getting any younger.  And I have spent so much time away from them …”

 

Laura: “That you don’t want to miss being with them for their remaining years?”  She finishes for him as she nods her head.

 

Benedict: “Yes.”  I nod resignedly.  “But I realize that I am asking you to make an enormous change in your life by living here, with me.”

 

Laura:  “Benedict, though the thought of living here in England for a few months is enticing–even living here semi-permanently? …”

 

Benedict:  “Yes, But. There is always a but.”

 

Laura:  “But, all my friends and family are in the States.”

 

Having walked into the room after overhearing their discussion while waiting in the hospital hallway, Steve intervenes—with Lady Alexis in tow.

 

Steve: “Laura, You should do what you want.  If that means living in England with Benedict, go for it!”

 

Laura: “But you need me.  We need each other.”  She protests weakly.

 

Steve: “Always, Sis.  But now you have Benedict, and his family—and maybe a kid or two of your own if you and Benedict want that.  And it’s not like I won’t be visiting you a lot.”  I squeeze my arm around Lady Alexis’ shoulder.  Then I gaze down at Lady Alexis, who smiles up at me.  “And my firm is giving me a month’s leave, with pay and having others cover my cases during your surgery and initial recovery.  So I suggest fast tracking your wedding here—but maybe reschedule the date toward the end of May, to allow yourself and everyone else to heal better.”  I shake Benedict’s hand.  “Congratulations!”

 

Benedict:  “So you have no objections to Laura and I considering living in England for a time?”

 

Steve: “No.  As long as Laura is happy, I am happy.  Oh, and we need to finish the marriage settlement agreement between the two of you.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Yanks have marriage settlements?”  I curiously look up at Steve as I cuddle into his embrace, with now my arms going around his waist.

 

Steve:  “Yes!  Those who have individual property or finances to protect.”

 

Laura:  “I don’t think that I have much  to protect.”  I shake my head.

 

Steve: “You do, now.  And a marriage settlement agreement also serves to ensure what funds that any children you parent together will receive should one or both of you die.”

 

Laura: “Morbid, but I’ll go along with protecting our future children.”  She states hopefully.

Benedict: “Thank you, My Dear.  Think of a marital settlement agreement as legal protection of your assets for you and our future children—be they our biological or our adopted children.” I look pointedly at Steve, and he nods about that stipulation.  Then I lean down to Laura and we softly kiss each other upon our lips.

 

Lexi Lady Bath enters the room, whispers to her daughter Lady Alexis stating that her Grandpapa Duke Edward is asking for her, and kisses her daughter’s cheek before she leaves.  Steve embraces Lady Alexis and kisses her cheek before she leaves as well.

 

When Steve turns back to his sister Laura’s hospital room, he senses all eyes upon him.

 

Steve: “What?”  He asks with open hands.

 

Lexi:  Never one to beat about the bush, Lexi Lady Bath responds.  “My Mama Duchess indicated to me that you and my daughter Lady Alexis seem to have formed a close bond—perhaps even an attachment for each other.”  The room is quiet, waiting for Steve’s reply.

 

Laura: “Steve?  Is that so?  You only met the girl a few days ago.”  Laura lifts her head and grimaces in pain.  So Benedict quickly and gently encourages her to lie back down again and rest.  But rest is not possible, at the moment.

 

Steve: “Lady Alexis is a young lady, Sis, not a girl.  And she is nearly thirty years old.  Old enough to know her own mind.  Especially regarding whether or not some arcane betrothal pact made by her parents when she was a child, should rule and strangle her life.”  Steve concludes rather more forcefully than he intends.

 

Lexi: “Lady Alexis is betrothed to her distant cousin—6th times removed, I think–Collin Gilbert.  It is seen as a favorable match.  They grew up together, and she will be elevated to a Countess.”   Lexi Lady Bath explains.

 

Steve:  “But he has shown no interest in her.  And she has been left to wonder if any man will find her desirable.”

 

Lexi: “How do you know this?”  Lexi looks alarmed and hurt by her daughter Alexis seemingly taking Steve into her confidence, rather than her mother, Lexi.

 

Steve: “it is simple. Lady Alexis told me.  We have been in each other’s near constant presence these last five days.  And we have gotten to know each other.”

 

Benedict:  “How well have you gotten to know each other !?!”  Benedict asks loudly.  “And what are your intentions toward my niece?  She is not a plaything to be trifled with.”  Benedict nearly spits with anger.

 

Steve: “I do not trifle.”  I sneer as effectively as I can muster.  The nerve of that stick in the mud Benedict.  “If my sister is good enough for you, why am I not good enough for Alexis?”  Steve charges and uses the familiar address for Lady Alexis of just her Christian name.

 

Lexi: “I don’t want my daughter hurt by your meandering philandering ways.”  Lexi had frank talks with both Laura and Steve when she was in Chicago.  So she knows Steve’s past very well.

 

Steve: “I won’t hurt her.  I will marry her, if she will have me.  I don’t have a title, but I am in love with her.  And I will faithfully love and cherish her as long as we both shall live.”  I add on part of the wedding vows with a flourish.

 

Benedict: “Have you compromised her?”  I scowl and point at him menacingly.  Lady Alexis is my only niece, and I am very fond of her.

 

Steve: “No!  Of course not.  If Alexis will come to me and be my wife, it will be willingly on her part.  No one should force her choice of whom to marry.”

 

Benedict:  “But what can you offer her?  You’ve only just started at your law firm a few years ago, according to Laura.”

 

Steve: “And the senior partners of my law firm felt so strongly about me as a colleague that they loaned me free of charge the $10,000 a trip corporate jet to get Alexis and I quickly from New York to London.”  Then seeing that Benedict is still not convinced, I continue.  “I earn $200,000 per year at my law firm—with housing, car, travel, and entertainment allowances in addition to my salary and any bonus pay. I have paid off any and all outstanding debts from school and credit cards.”  I look at my sister meaningfully.  “And I also have investments that I have made from my salary—as well as retaining $50,000 in liquid assets.”  And then Steve closes with a real flourish.  “And Laura and I have just jointly inherited a small fortune from our maternal aunt.”

 

Benedict: “And that small fortune is?”  I sneer.

 

Steve:  “One million dollars each.”  I note the astonishment in the room.  Even Laura did not know the extent of our inheritance since I have not had time to fill her in about the particulars.   “The funds are mostly in long term investments at present—and with excellent annual yields.  In addition, Laura and I will also each receive $100,000 in liquid assets and some cherished mementos.  I live quite comfortably and Alexis will live quite comfortably as well—her “being able to maintain the elegancies of life” as I think one Regency author put it.””  Now he is really on a roll.  “For Lady Alexis, I will annually deposit $25,000 of my own funds into an account for her to use at her discretion as my wife for her personal expenses—and I will deposit another $25,000 annually into a shared household account for our living expenses, as well as any redecorating that she wants to do.   So whatever Alexis’ dowry consists of should also be held in trust for her use, for her benefit, and by her direction alone.”  Everyone looks at everyone else—impressed with Steve’s offer for Lady Alexis’ hand in marriage.  “Any questions?”  Steve asks, hopeful that he has allayed any lingering concerns they might have about him courting and marrying Lady Alexis.

 

Laura’s hospital room is quite still, and quite silent as everyone ruminates about the matter at hand—Steve wanting to marry Lady Alexis Solsbury, Lexi Lady Bath’s daughter and Lord Benedict’s niece.

 

Having chatted with her Grandpapa Duke and cousin little Caleb in their respective hospital rooms, Lady Alexis returns and walks into Laura’s hospital room—noting that it seems quite crowded, and tense.  And she instantly goes to stand by Steve, who puts his arm around her back and he kisses her forehead as she sweetly cuddles close to him.  However, it is a tender and respectful embrace by Steve of Lady Alexis—duly observed by her family, and by Laura.

Lady Alexis: “What questions?”  Lady Alexis asks, while looking innocently at Steve and everyone else, since she had not overheard the conversation held by them all before Steve Leicester’s final question.

To be continued with Chapter 27

 

References for “Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 26,  December 28, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1130)

1)  The Somerset:  A Time to Love” story cover is a composite of two main images:
a) Background–Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user AlicePopkorn2]

http://www.flickr.com/photos/47283811@N06/  ;
b) Prof. Benedict Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (2012 Promo by Roberta Ascroft, pix35) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
c)  a crucifix image is from MS Office Clip Art;

2) “Hope is the thing with feathers; That perches in the soul; And sings the tune without the words; And never stops at all.”   ― Quote by  Emily Dickinson;  Quote was found at https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/hope;   and the wallpaper image was found on Pinterest at  https://i.pinimg.com/736x/b5/9e/6c/b59e6cf3e70fa491a93743ffd00ff584.jpg

 

Wattpad Ch. 26 story link:
https://www.wattpad.com/514136859-somerset-a-time-to-love-by-gratiana-lovelace-2017

 

Previous Ch. 25  blog link, with embedded illustrations:

https://gratianads90.wordpress.com/2017/12/26/somerset-a-time-to-love-ch-25-pg-d-meeting-under-duress-december-26-2017-gratiana-lovelace-post-1129/

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“Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 25 (PG-D):  Meeting under Duress,   December 26, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1129)

(“Somerset:  A Time to Love” is an original contemporary romance copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2017;  All rights reserved)  [(1) story cover, left]

Author’s Dramatic Content Note:  I write romantic love stories for adults, aged 18 and older.  So most of the chapters will be PG-13 due to mature themes (M), or dramatic moments (D). And some of the chapters have romantic and sensual, but not explicit, love scenes that I will label as (L), and such.  So if you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.

Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links that I cite contain general information merely to allude to a place, person, concept/theory/belief, history, or artifact, etc.  This story is a work of fiction, and people and their thoughts and actions are figments of my imagination and should not be taken as real or as fact.  And though the general backgrounds of the characters and the story’s contextual setting involve mentions of the Christian religion—with an Anglican/Episcopal focus—this story is a romance, not a religious tract.

[And from time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of:  Richard Armitage as Prof. Benedict Somerset, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Leicester, Loretta Devine as Connie Velasquez, John Lithgow as Seminary President Maynard Casten, and Jane Alexander as his wife Portia Casten, Charles Dance as Benedict’s father Edward Somerset, Helen Mirren as Benedict’s Mother Elizabeth Somerset, Dawn French as Benedict’s elder sister Lady Alexandra Somerset Solsbury, James Nesbit as Benedict’s elder brother Edmund Somerset, Chris Pine as Laura’s younger brother Steve Leicester, Max Charles as 5 yr old Caleb Somerset, Samantha Colley as Lady Alexis Solsbury, and others as noted.]

Author’s recap from the previous chapter:   Benedict and Laura, and Lexi dashed to London Hospital the early morning of April 25th almost as soon as they landed from their transatlantic overnight charter flight from Chicago.  They were racing to see how Duke Edward and his five year old grandson Caleb fared after their car accident on the estate yesterday.  Duke Edward is doing as well as can be expected for an 84 year old man who had to have his lower left leg amputated below the knee, after it was crushed in the car accident.  Little Caleb needs a kidney and a liver transplant.  All three of Benedict, Lexi, and even Laura were tested in case their blood or kidney’s might be a match to transplant to little Caleb.

 

“Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 25 (PG-D):  Meeting under Duress

Waiting for Laura’s two hour and five year old Caleb’s three hour surgeries to end seems interminable  to Benedict, and to Edmund and his wife Angharad, to Lexi, and to their parents—the Duke and Duchess of Exmoor–this Wednesday April 25th.  The hope is that Laura’s donated living kidney will be enough to help improve her soon to be nephew Caleb’s prognosis.  Without Laura’s kidney, Caleb will die—since one of his two kidneys was punctured in the car accident with his grandfather, and Caleb’s other kidney was badly bruised.  Today will be just the kidney transplant that Caleb needs.  Then if he tolerates that surgery, the doctors will perform a partial liver transplant surgery from his cousin–and his Aunt Lexi’s daughter—Lady Alexis Solsbury, who is already on a donor registry.

 

And given that transplant surgeries have better outcomes when between familial bloodlines, they are at a loss as to why Benedict’s betrothed Laura is a match.  Albeit Laura’s great grandparents were from Leicester and somehow have a Gilbert family connection—or so it seems.  The odds are still astronomical—even more so when you factor in the sheer coincidence of Laura being Caleb’s Uncle Benedict’s fiance from America.  Is it providence, fate, or destiny?  The Somerset family does not know, but they are grateful and counting their blessings.

 

Since blessings are usually the stock and trade of the clergy, Benedict is foremost among those who are grateful.  If ever there were a test of Benedict’s faith, this is it.  Oh, not in a negative sense—though a hardship, the hope that Laura’s kidney donation to Caleb brings is a positive.  It is in the fantastical nature of everything falling into place that worries Benedict.  Rarely does life go smoothly and he fears that their lives might yet experience a greater loss.  And so he prays, silently.  And he and his family wait in silence to hear news of Caleb and of Laura.

 

***

 

Meanwhile, Laura’s younger brother Steve Leicester now back in New York City—after having returned from visiting her in Chicago and to meet her betrothed Benedict—will be jetting his way to London and to his sister’s bed side, courtesy of his private law firm.  His senior colleagues at the law firm offering to reduce their expense accounts this year by an averaged amount among the senior law firm executives, in order to reconcile the expense of using their firm’s corporate jet to fly Steve to London.  And Steve is beyond grateful for their largesse.

 

And as it happens, Lexi’s daughter Alexis had made a quick trip to New York City last weekend to visit with a college friend  who had moved there.  Lexi had found this out when she had called her husband and grown children to tell them how their cousin Caleb was doing—before she had called Steve Leicester to tell him that his sister Laura was able and going to donate a kidney to her future nephew Caleb.  So it has been hastily arranged that Alexis will accompany Steve on the transatlantic jet flight to London.

 

And already being acquainted with Alexis’ mother Alexandra Lady Bath—Lexi—Steve is looking forward to meeting Alexis, despite the unfortunate and worrying circumstances of family medical emergencies under which they meet.  Yet their initial meeting in the VIP jet waiting area is not what he expects.  Alexis is no more her sexy mother than he is his ultra good four years old sister Laura.

 

Lady Alexis Solsbury, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Bath, surveys NYC’s La Guardia Airport’s VIP waiting room—with no one looking remotely like the Steve Leicester that has been described to her.

 

Lady Alexis:  “Pardon me, Miss.”  The VIP reservations desk attendant looks up at her.  “But I am to meet a Mr. Steven Leicester for our jet flight to London Airport that leaves in 30 minutes.”  She has a lilting British accent that is by no means snobby in tone.

 

Steve smiles as he locates Lexi’s daughter with his very acute hearing having heard her request.  And Steve walks up behind Lady Alexis, whilst affecting a British accent.

 

Steve:  “I say there, old girl, might you be Dear Lexi’s daughter?  Kkhhh!”  He coughs for effect, and to try to lower his vocal tone a bit more.

 

Lady Alexis turns to see whom is doing a bad impression of an Australian accent, to find a tall, blond man with piercing blue eyes gazing down at her.

 

Lady Alexis: “And who might you be, sir?”  Lady Alexis affects a disaffectedness about her.  Yet she frowns at his obvious impudence.

 

Gazing down at a younger visage of Lexi Lady Bath, Steve is struck by Lady Alexis’ reserved and slightly skittish nature.  For one as beautiful as she [(2) below] must surely be in command of her life and holding others in her sway–with her long dark brunette hair falling in chic haphazard waves about her lovely face, with minimalist makeup, and her petite womanly curvaceous form meant for cherishing. She is a goddess, thinks Steve.

 

Lady Alexis: “Cat got your tongue?”  She asks, having heard her American friend Susan use that phrasing many times.

 

Steve: “My apologies, Miss.”  He smiles warmly at her.  He can’t help being a flirt.  It is in his dna.

 

Lady Alexis: “It’s My Lady.”  Her nose elevates slightly, mostly because she is craning her neck to look up at him.

 

Steve: “No need to be so formal, Lady Alexis.”  He smiles again and she blinks as he takes her hand in his and brings it to his lips for a deferential kiss—as he did with her mother.  “Afterall, my older sister is marrying your younger uncle.”

 

Lady Alexis: “And you are?”  She asks to ascertain that she is conversing with the correct person.

 

Steve: “Steve Leicester, at your service.”  He winks.  Then he adds teasingly belatedly.  “My Lady.” Steve can’t quite pinpoint what it is about these women relatives of Benedict that makes Steve want to banter with them.  But he is having too much fun to worry about it now–a welcome distraction from their family medical crises.

 

Just then, their flight is called and they each focus upon getting their carry-on bags carried on—with Steve graciously offering to carry Alexis’ heavier carry on bag, and she relents.

***

After they are in the air and all safety protocols are observed, the flight attendant offers them champagne, which they accept graciously.

 

Lady Alexis:  “Hhhh!”  She carefully sips her champagne as she clasps her large leather purse upon her lap, with Alexis absentmindedly rubbing its soft leather sides for comfort as she takes in the posh interior of the jet.

 

Steve:  “Hm!  This is delicious!”  He nods his thanks to the attendant who leaves them momentarily. Then he turns to his seat mate Alexis.  “May I say that I am delighted to meet the daughter of Lady Lexi, even though the cause of our newly formed acquaintance is that we each have family members facing a medical emergency.”

 

Lady Alexis: “My regards to you as well, Mr. Leicester.”  She states stiffly.  It irks Lady Alexis that she must meet her soon to be Aunt’s brother within the confines of an airplane, a jet.  Air flight not being a mode of transportation that she has suitably reconciled herself to using–without great reluctance.

 

Steve: “It’s just Steve.  We are soon to be family, afterall, Alexis.”  I smile at this woman who seems part skittish English Lady and part porcupine.

 

Lady Alexis: “So it would seem, Steve.  However, I prefer Lady Alexis.”  I don’t mean to be rude, but that is my proper address when amongst someone other than an intimate.

 

Steve: “Hmmm.  I sense that you do not share your mother’s …”

 

Lady Alexis:  “Coquetry or flirtatiousness?”  I am annoyed now.

 

Steve:  “I was going to say her beguiling way of chatting up a person.” Steve softens kindly, but he still smiles impishly.

 

Lady Alexis: “No.  I lack my mother’s … bubbly personality.”  She eyes him beadily. They each look down at their respective glasses of champagne. “But you seem to be in fine spirits.”  Steve queryingly tilts his head.  “My mother warned me that you were quite charming.”

 

Steve:  His eyes widen in feigned innocence.  “Warned you?”

 

Lady Alexis:  “Yes.  She said you were much more handsome and charming than any man has a right to be.”  Lady Alexis states intentionally blasely.

For handsome and charming are certainly the descriptors that Lady Alexis would also apply to Steve Leicester [(3) below]—tall dark blond blond Viking of a man that he is—but she will not give him the satisfaction of her agreeing to that assessment of him.

 

Steve:  Smiling, charmingly, Steve replies.  “Why, thank you for the compliment!  Ha ha ha ha ha!”

 

Lady Alexis: Indignance flashes across face.  “I did not say that you were handsome and charming!  My Mama said that.”

 

Steve:  “Well, I intend to take it as a compliment—from you. … My Lady.”  Again Steve smirks at Lady Alexis’ strict adherence to protocol, even while ensconced in a luxurious private jet.

 

Lady Alexis taps her stylish brown suede half boots upon the plane’s carpeted flooring.

 

Lady Alexis:  “Are you always this annoying, Mr. Leicester?”

 

Steve:  “Oh no!”  He winks at her.  “I’m just getting warmed up.”

 

Lady Alexis: “You are infuriatingly self centered!”  Alexis now stamps her boot covered foot and starts to unbuckle herself from her seat.

 

Steve: “I wouldn’t do that, Princess.”  Steve reaches out to steady her even as the jet does an extreme left turn to avoid a flock of geese circling near the coast of Nova Scotia.  Naturally Lady Alexis’ balance falters and she lands right onto Steve’s lap.  “Whoa there!  I’ve got you.  Even in jets, there can be air turbulence.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Oh!”  She gasps as the plane dips and makes an extreme left turn, which lands Lady Alexis onto Steve’s lap.  “Unhand me, Sir!”  She fusses and swats at his hands around her waist.

 

Steve:  “Not to worry that I’ll take advantage of the situation.”  Steve holds up both of his hands away from her.  “But do heed the flight attendant’s stating the rule to stay buckled up in one’s seat—unless it’s absolutely necessary for you to move around the cabin.” He nods toward the restroom sign.

 

Lady Alexis: “Yes, well, thank you.”  Alexis shivers with cold now that she has returned to her own plane seat—her now devoid of the warmth that emanated from Steve’s body.  She will have to concede to her mother that Steve is both handsome and charming—and a little bit full of himself.

 

Steve:  “You’re welcome!  And I am sorry for my earlier making the comparison between you and your mother.  You are each unique.”  Then Steve has a twinkle in his eyes.  “Besides, had your mother not been happily married, I feel certain that she would have found a way for me to be installed as her boy toy gigolo.”  He rolls his eyes, that Alexis cannot see.

 

Lady Alexis: “Think nothing of it.  I have lived with my Mama most of my life.  And I discovered early on that I cannot compete with her—she is more of everything.”.

 

Steve: “Then don’t compete with her.  Take back your life and live it on your own terms.”  He suggests feistily.

 

Lady Alexis: “I am not even certain that I know how.”

 

Steve: “Sure you do.  But you just have to want to do it, strike out on your own, come what may.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Sage advice, coming from a …”  She is interrupted.

 

Steve: “A handsome charmer?”  Steve grins widely and raises his eyebrow imperiously, then laughs at himself. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha”!

 

Lady Alexis:  “I wasn’t going to say that.”

 

Steve: “Yes you were.  Admit it.”  She shakes her head. “But you were thinking it?”  He grins cordially at her.

 

Lady Alexis: “Maybe a little.”  Lady Alexis grins sheepishly.

 

Steve: “Ah ha!  Score one for Steverino!”

 

Lady Alexis: “Alright, Steverino, how did you become so wise.”

 

Steve: “My sister Laura.  Everything I am or achieved is ultimately due to her.”  Steve speaks in a hushed reverent tone.  “She is the best sister, supportive and caring.  And she gave me a kick in the pants when I needed it.  Yet she has always been there, my safety net.”

 

Lady Alexis: “That sounds quite deep and reflective.  And what about your ability to read my thoughts?”

Steve: “It’s an old lawyer’s trick.  Throw out  several trial balloons … statements of observations …”  He explains.  “… then see if you get a physical reaction—or their tell that gives them away, in poker terms–from opposing counsels witnesses.”

 

Lady Alexis: Curious, she asks. “Am I that easy to read?”

 

Steve:  “Well, not easy—nothing is easy about you, darlin.”  She pouts.  “Now, now. I mean that in a good way.  Like my sister Laura, you are your own person.  But you seem more tethered to traditions and titles—like your mother is.  And because there is just the two of us—Laura and I–Laura always tries to keep certain traditions going for holidays and birthdays, so that we won’t forget our roots.”  Steve finishes more quietly than he had started.  Steve finds that he respects Lady Alexis for trying to come out from under her mother’s shadow—much like he has tried to come out from under his sister’s shadow, while also trying to cast a shadow of his own.

 

Lady Alexis:  “You love your sister very much, don’t you.”  Lady Alexis gazes knowingly at Steve.

 

Steve:  “Very astute, My Lady.  Laura and I only have each other, so we are very close.”

 

Lady Alexis: “So you’re not married?  Nor in a relationship?”  She asks in a disinterested tone–but she is far from disinterested in his response.

 

Steve:  “No.  I haven’t even been close to finding someone to love.  In my twenties, I was a bum enjoying in wine, women, and song—as the saying goes—that is,  until Laura kicked me in my backside and insisted that I make a greater effort to contribute to society.  After college, I had been coasting along, taking odd jobs here and there, but I was aimless.  So after casting about for what to do with the rest of my life, I decided on Law School and Laura helped me with my rent since my graduate studies tuition waiver and stipend that I received for acing the LSAT didn’t cover all of my living costs.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Laura sounds like a wonderfully supportive sister.  I look forward to meeting her.”

 

Steve: “She is a supportive sister–and a very great lady.  Although I have since paid Laura back monetarily and with interest from my now much higher lawyer’s salary, I can never truly pay her back for saving me.  I can only hope that I will someday be lucky enough to be there for her when she needs me.”

 

Lady Alexis: “And now that she and Benedict are getting married, she will have someone else to lean on for support.”  I look at him with new eyes.

 

Steve: “Am I that transparent?”  I grin sheepishly.

 

Lady Alexis: “Not really.  I simply listened and observed.”  Lady Alexis raises a piquant eyebrow.

 

Steve:  “Alright.  Ha!  So what’s my tell?”

 

Lady Alexis:  She reaches up and touches the crinkles at the corner of his right eye.  “The corner of your eye twitches when something is difficult or revealing.”

 

Steve: “Well, My Lady, remind me never to play poker with you.”  He jests and they each chuckle.

 

Lady Alexis: “So, what is my tell?  You never did say.”

 

Steve:  Gazing into her eyes, he replies in wonder.  “You don’t have a tell.  Your face speaks your truth for you.  I have never met anyone with less guile than you.”

 

Lady Alexis: “Not even your sister?”  She asks and he shakes his head no.  “Thank you, I think.”

 

Steve:  “It is a compliment to you.  And though my sister Laura is open and friendly, the last five years she has been more guarded about her personal life.  She hasn’t really let anyone in, until Benedict.“

 

Lady Alexis:  “Then the two of them are a fated love match—destined to find and love each other.”

 

Steve:  “I’m beginning to think so.”

Lady Alexis: “And with Laura so graciously donating her kidney to little Caleb …” Lady Alexis’ voice falters.  “We, my family and I, are beyond grateful.  She could ask anything of us and we would give it to her.”

Her tears now freely fall upon her cheeks, even though she is loathe to display her emotions in public.  Lady Alexis has only known Steve for a few hours.  But they have bared their souls to each other in a profound way.  So much so that Lady Alexis feels that they are friends and soon to be extended family relations already.

 

Steve: Steve gently clasps Lady Alexis’ hand in his, and he speaks to her in a hushed and soothing voice.  “Laura’s only wishes are for little Caleb to be well and for her to love Benedict.”

 

Lady Alexis:  “And we welcome Laura entirely into our family.  My Mama speaks so glowingly about her, that I cannot wait to meet her.”  Laura retrieves her hand to wipe her face off with some tissues—her also having to unfortunately blow her nose with a most unlady like bleat.  Steve chuckles and she playfully swats at his muscular shoulder, as evidenced by his tight fitting sweater.

 

Steve: “And then, he was one.”  Steve sighs in a whisper as he leans back in his chair and closes his eyes.

 

Now Lady Alexis reclasps Steve’s hand with her hand.

Lady Alexis: “Steve, we have to pray that the kidney transplant goes well for both Caleb and Laura.  Caleb is a strong little boy—vexing to the point of aggravation at times with all of his wondering questions and his boundless energy.”

 

Steve:  “But what of my sister Laura, My Lady?  She is 40 years old, getting to the point where aging starts to take its toll on her body.  If anything ever happened to her ….”  Steve’s voice cracks with emotion.

 

Lady Alexis squeezes his hand, then leans her head upon his strong upper arms near his shoulder.

 

Lady Alexis:  “Laura will be well, too, Steve.  She has to be.  We won’t let any other outcome come to pass.  We’re formidable in that, you know.”

 

Steve:  “I’m beginning to sense that.”  Steve lays his cheek upon Lady Alexis’ head resting upon his upper arm near his shoulder.

 

Lady Alexis: “And you have us now, too, Steve.  Laura is family—well, soon to be—and you will be our family, too.  So you may call me Alexis when we’re in private, like now.”

 

Steve:  “Thank you, … Alexis.”  Steve sighs.  “This worrying business makes a person exhausted.”  She nods and he can feel her cheek moving up and down on his upper arm.  “Let’s get some rest.  We’re going to need it once we get to London and to the hospital.”

 

Lady Alexis:  “Yes, lets.  Thank you, Steve, … for listening.”

 

Steve:  “Thank you also, Alexis.  Pleasant dreams.”

 

***

 

And both Steve Leicester and Lady Alexis do arrive in London and at the hospital refreshed and strengthened to meet whatever they find when they get there.  Their four hour jet flight having taken the same amount of time that Laura and little Caleb spent in surgery.  For in Laura’s surgical operating room, the surgeons ran into some bleeding problems after they detached the last artery to the kidney and it was whisked to Caleb’s operating room for implantation.

 

As Steve and Lady Alexis arrive at the hospital’s surgical waiting room to sit with the rest of the family holding vigil, they are barely noticed because the surgeon has come out to fill them in.

 

Lead Transplant Surgeon:  “Let me first say that both transplant surgeries patients are doing well.”

 

Benedict: Ever the pessimist—odd for his line of work as a clergy faculty.  Benedict prompts.  “But?”

 

Lead Transplant Surgeon: “There were some complications with both surgeries.” Caleb’s mother Angharad gasps and burrows her face into her husband Edmund’s chest.”

 

Edmund:  “But they’re both alive.”  He states, rather than questions.

 

Lead Transplant Surgeon:  “Miss Leicester’s kidney donation required 3 pints of blood because her blood vessels were slightly irregular, such that her veins were situated with extra vein channels, such that the blood vessel valves weren’t closing at intervals as they should—and we were worried that she might exsanguinate.”

 

Steve:  “Laura Leicester is my sister.  What do you mean by exsanguinate?”  Steve thinks he knows, but hopes that he is wrong.  Lady Alexis clasps her hand in his and squeezes.

 

Lead Transplant Surgeon:  “Exsanguinate means to bleed out.  Which she did not do.”  He hastens to add.  “We injected her with a mild coagulant, then resected the vein to resolve the problem.  She should be in recovery for about 15 minutes.  A nurse can take you back to see her, then follow her to her ICU room cubicle.”  The surgeon looks between Benedict and Steve, who turn to look at each other.

 

Steve:  “You go, Benedict.  But please tell her that I am here and will see her soon.”

 

Benedict:  “Thank you.”  He nods at his soon to be brother-in-law, Steve.

 

Edmund: “And what of our son, Caleb?”

 

Lead Transplant Surgeon:  “He is holding his own for now.  His was a complicated attachment of the transplanted kidney.  Though Miss Leicester was petite, her kidney was still quite a bit large for the space it was to fit into in Caleb.” The family waits in silence to hear more.  “So after removing the punctured and necrotic kidney, we assessed the remaining bruised kidney—that was functioning only at minimum at best.  Therefore we decided that it is in Caleb’s best interest and removed his second and dying kidney, which made plenty of room for Miss Leicester’s transplanted kidney.”  There are audible gasps from Caleb’s family.  “Thus giving Caleb the best possible option for success and recovery.”

 

Edmund: “What if Caleb’s body  rejects Laura’s kidney, then what happens?”

 

Lead Transplant Surgeon:  “We put him on Dialysis—which we will do anyway for a few days as his new kidney acclimates to its new host.  We will take Caleb’s parents back to see him now.  And if his Uncle Benedict will come as well to see his fiancé Laura Leicester?”

 

The surgeon motions to them.  Benedict, and his brother Edmund and sister-in-law Angharad nod as one and they follow the surgeon and nurses back to recovery.  And though Steve, Lexi, and Alexis must still wait to see and to assess the health of their loved ones, they hope that tomorrow—or even later today—they will be able to see Laura and Caleb.  So they walk back to the surgical ICU cubicle belonging to their father and Grandfather Duke Edward.

 

And naturally, Steve Leicester sits down the hall in the ICU family waiting room—to give them their privacy.  Fifteen minutes later, Lady Alexis rejoins Steve in the ICU family waiting room.  She sits down on the serviceable, but not all that comfortable, couch next to him.  They look at each other, but do not speak.  There is nothing else to say until more is known about Laura’s and Caleb’s surgical outcomes over the next few days.  Lady Alexis extends her hand to Steve, and he clasps it gently in his hand.  Then they lean back on the couch, leaning against each other, and they wait.

To be continued with Chapter 26

P.S.  For some basic kidney transplant information, please visit https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidney-failure/kidney-transplant

 

References for “Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 25,  December 26, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1129)

1)  The Somerset:  A Time to Love” story cover is a composite of two main images:
a) Background–Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user AlicePopkorn2]

http://www.flickr.com/photos/47283811@N06/  ;
b) Prof. Benedict Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (2012 Promo by Roberta Ascroft, pix35) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
c)  a crucifix image is from MS Office Clip Art;

2) Lady Lady Alexis Solsbury is represented by Samantha  Colley (Grati cropped sized) in this 2017 Parade.com pix found at https://static.parade.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Samantha_Colley1706_Cropped_Colour.jpg

3) Steve Leicester in brown herringbone suitcoat image is of actor Chris Pine in 2015 and found at http://momzinga.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/chris-pine-2.jpg

 

Wattpad Ch. 25 story link:

https://www.wattpad.com/512743248-somerset-a-time-to-love-by-gratiana-lovelace-2017

 

Previous Ch. 24  blog link, with embedded illustrations:

https://gratianads90.wordpress.com/2017/12/17/somerset-a-time-to-love-ch-24-pg-d-sacrifice-december-17-2017-gratiana-lovelace-post-1125-and-on-wattpad/

 

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