Ok, here it is, the final chapter of my story. If you thought my others were bad…
Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it – happily married Mary and Matthew are so much fun!
Thanks to everyone who is still reading it (you're very brave) and for everyone's lovely reviews. They definitely mean a lot to me.
Mary was very relieved when her and Matthew walked through the doorway and into their home later that night. The evening had been more exhausting than usual, for after Mary's announcement, talk had been of little else since and Mary had found herself facing a barrage of questions from the family.
Her mother and mother in law had already begun planning and discussing what clothes the baby would need and what changes would need to be made to the nursery. Sybil had gushed enthusiastically at the thought of her new niece or nephew and, as her gushing had still persisted once the men had entered, Mary couldn't help but note how nervous and anxious her brother in law, Tom Branson, was looking. Her father had soon joined in the enthusiastic planning and Edith, once her husband had arrived, had cut down on her sarcastic comments. Her grandmother had spent most of the evening in silence, though she did make her opinion known when she disagreed with all the planning, usually in opposition to a suggestion from Matthew's mother.
Mary had found herself quite unable to break away from her family and when the men had arrived, she'd been forced to remain discussing the matter with them, whilst Matthew was tied to continuing a discussion with Branson and Sir Anthony, which must have begun over port. They gave each other an apologetic smile and had to wait until they were leaving to talk to one another. Mary had used the excuse that she was tired and everyone had quickly insisted, that in her condition, she really must take care of herself and go home and rest. Their concern made it sound as if Mary was nearly reaching labour, not just a few months pregnant as Dr Clarkson had told her that morning when she'd gone to see him, on her own to avoid arousing suspicion or worry that she was ill. They were also acting as if this was her first child, not her third. Still, Mary was happy to have an excuse to leave early and, as they bid their goodbyes to the family, Mary breathed a sigh of relief. In the car on the drive home though, they'd had little chance for proper, meaningful conversation as the car was also carrying her mother in law, who lived nearby in a cottage in the village, having offered to move out when Mary first had need for a nursery. So it wasn't until they'd reached home when they finally had chance to talk, and even then they had to meet and greet Molesley and Anna, who were waiting to take their hats and coats.
"Have you had a nice evening, Sir? My Lady?" Anna asked them kindly as she took Mary's coat.
"Yes, thank you, Anna." Mary answered, then she smiled at her ladies maid and added, "They were all very excited by my news."
Anna smiled brightly, though she did not need to ask what the news concerned; Mary had been too excited to be able to contain her joy when she'd returned from the hospital and Anna had been thrilled at the thought of another baby in the house. It has also been on Anna's polite urging that Mary had decided to travel into Ripon and see Matthew to tell him. When Mary's first child had been born, Anna had proved herself not only an exceptional ladies maid, but excellent with children too and Mary had found no need to employ a separate nurse. Anna had been more than willing to take on the extra duties of looking after the children and she was helped considerably by Mary's mother in law and Mary herself. Even Sybil, when she was not away at university, and their mother would often come and see the children, who were now nearly 3, Elizabeth and Christopher, now recently turned one. Molesley, too, had been very pleased by Mary's news, which he had heard earlier when Mary had shared it with Anna. He also enjoyed having children around the house and did not mind taking on his own extra duties.
Matthew gave his wife a quizzical look, obviously wondering why their servants knew that Mary was expecting before he did, but he didn't mention it and instead asked, "Are they still awake?" Mary knew that he'd had little chance to see his children today, with them being in such a rush to leave on time for dinner.
"I've put them to bed, sir," Anna answered, "they were very tired and fell asleep almost immediately."
Matthew looked disappointed, but he knew as well as they all did that waking the children when they were asleep was a catastrophe not even worth considering.
"Thank you, Anna, Molesley," he said, nodding at the servants, "I will look in on them later." That was the servants cue to leave and as they nodded in acknowledgement before wondering off, Matthew headed into the sitting room, assuming Mary would follow. She did of course, she'd been anxious to talk to him all evening, but as soon as she'd entered, Matthew shut the door behind her, before pulling her towards him for a searing, passionate kiss. Any thoughts of talking immediately flew out of her head as she found herself responding to his kiss with a fair amount of urgency and hunger. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him closer, deepening the kiss as she found she'd been rather impatient to do this all evening.
When Matthew finally broke the kiss and pulled his head away from hers, they were both quite breathless and Mary's hair was, once again, in disarray, though it made no matter now.
"In future, my dear," Matthew said reproachfully, though the playful smile in his eyes rather belied his condemning tone. "I would appreciate it if you told me news like this before you announce it to the whole family."
Mary did her best to look bashful and dropped her head solemnly. The small smile that twitched across her face did little to convince her husband though, nor did her apologetic words of, "I'm sorry, dear."
The worry that had been plaguing her for a while now came to Mary's mind and she asked, suddenly anxious, her former smile dropping slightly, "You are pleased, aren't you, my dear?" Mary was pretty sure she knew the answer and he'd certainly seemed pleased at dinner, but a little reassurance was never too much to ask for.
"Of course, Mary," he answered joyfully, pulling her closer for an embrace. Matthew then continued, his voice tickling the back of her neck, "It's delightful news!" He suddenly pulled away from her and it was his turn to look anxiously in her eyes. "You are pleased too? Aren't you, my dear?"
Mary smiled brightly at him, pleased when his own smile brightened once again. She couldn't resist adding somewhat sarcastically though, "I'm not sure what we'll do if it's a boy." She did her best to copy her grandmother's earlier look of mortification as she continued, "Whatever will we do if he wants a profession like law or medicine or politics?"
Matthew laughed at her pretend horror, before adding in mock consolation, "It won't be too bad, my dear, I'm sure you'll get used to it eventually."
Mary looked unconvinced, or tried to anyway; Matthew's smile was infectious. She pulled him closer towards her as she answered, "Well, I'm just about getting used to being married to a country solicitor, so I think I'll come around, eventually."
Matthew's smile broadened even more before he leant fully towards her and pressed his lips gently to hers.
"Though I mean it, Mary," Matthew exclaimed, pulling away a moment later, "some forewarning next time there's important news to share would be nice."
"Well, I did try to tell you," Mary responded in mock indignation, "it's not my fault you were determined to distract me."
"Distract you!" Matthew retorted, pulling further away, "I think that accusation better lies with you." After a pause, he continued, "You could have simply told me when you'd first arrived."
"I had planned to tell you then, but…" She dropped her eyelids and smiled flirtatiously up at him, running her hand up his neck and twisting her fingers in his hair. "You looked all adorably awkward and flustered when I arrived and I couldn't resist."
She looked at him coyly, but Matthew pulled away from her completely and turned towards the drawn curtains, obviously embarrassed. "I was simply surprised to see you, that is all."
"Oh Matthew!" Mary exclaimed, moving to stand behind him and wrapping her arms around his chest, pressing her body against his back. "It is a very endearing and encouraging compliment for a wife to see her husband quite undone in her presence." She gently pressed her lips against his neck and kissed him softly. He instantly relaxed against her and Mary realised that he'd obviously been rather more embarrassed by the whole thing than she'd first thought. His voice was still somewhat hurtful as he said, "You could still have told me, Mary, rather than talking about wills and things."
"Oh, but where's the fun in that!" Mary retorted, her voice against his neck causing him to shiver against her. Smiling at her effect on him, she turned him round in her arms so he was facing her again. "I know how much you like a good challenge, Matthew." She was pleased to see a small smirk teasing his lips once again.
"There is a time and a place, Mary," he warned, though he let her pull him against her once more. "And my work place is not one of them."
"Oh, I don't know," Mary answered flirtatiously. She leant closer towards him and whispered in his ear, "I rather enjoyed my time there. I think I might need to come and visit you at work more often."
Matthew pulled away enough to look her warningly in the eye. "As much as I would like you to, Mary, I don't think that would be such a good idea."
"Why ever not?" She replied, pretending to look upset.
"Because, not only would I lose all credibility with my fellow workers and clients, but…" Matthew paused then and leant towards her and gently kissed her cheek, "I would be quite too distracted to ever get any work done."
Mary looked down bashfully, though her smile was still coy and her eyes flirtatious. She pulled away from Matthew enough to plant her hands firmly on his chest. Suddenly changing conversation, and deciding to start a new game, she asked coyly, "So, is it likely to be a problem, changing your will to take into account our new child?"
Matthew looked at her in confusion for a moment, taking a second to catch up with Mary's new train of thought and seemingly a tad distracted by her hands gently moving along his chest. "Changing the will itself will not be a problem, but…" Now it was Matthew's turn to look flirtatious, as the expression in his eyes went darker, intense and quite set Mary's heart a fluttering. He leant towards her slowly and whispered seductively in her ear, sending a tingling warmth throughout her body. "You will still need to persuade your husband." He pulled apart slightly then, but not before he'd gently kissed her ear and trailed hot kisses along her jaw line. "Is that likely to be a problem?"
The intensity and barely masked hunger that had come into Matthew's eyes and voice now were making it very hard for her concentrate. She did her best though and answered as light and playfully as she could, though the effect was more breathless and husky, "Oh no!" She stepped away from Matthew's embrace slowly, trailing one hand across his chest and the other down his arm, before taking his hand and walking towards the door. Pausing by it, she said seductively, "I've been rather looking forward to testing my persuasive powers all afternoon." After giving him a heated and intense look of her own, she slowly opened the door and gently pulled him towards the stairs.
Matthew went most willingly, though he couldn't resist adding, his voice also meant to be light and flirtatious though it sounded deep and breathless, "I've been rather looking forward to you trying all afternoon."