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
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]
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:
Previous Ch. 25 blog link, with embedded illustrations: