(“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]
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:
Previous Ch. 24 blog link, with embedded illustrations: