Henry giggled despite herself. “You truly don’t want me to change?”
He smiled. “Do you want me to change?”
“No!” she said, very quickly. “I mean, I very much like you the way you are.”
This time he grinned—that familiar deadly grin that always made her go limp. “You only like me?”
“Well,” she said coyly, “I believe I said I very much like you.”
He tangled his hand in her hair and gave it a tug to tip her face up toward his. “Not good enough, minx,” he murmured.
She touched his cheek. “I love you. I’m so sorry for making a muck of everything. How can I make it up to you?”
“You could tell me you love me again.”
“I love you.”
“You could tell me tomorrow.”
She grinned. “I won’t need even the tiniest reminder. I could even tell you twice.”
“And the next day.”
“I could probably manage that.”
“And the next . . .”
“I’m going to kiiiiiillllll him!”
Emma touched Dunford’s arm. “I don’t think she meant it,” she whispered.
Dunford swallowed, his face pinched and white with worry. “She’s been in there so long.”
Emma wrapped her hand around his wrist and pulled him away from the sickroom door. “I was even longer with William,” she said, “and I emerged healthy as a horse. Now, come with me. You shouldn’t have come to the door. You’ll make yourself sick, listening to her screams.”
Dunford let the duchess lead him away. It had taken him and Henry over five years to conceive. They had wanted a baby so desperately; it had seemed a miracle. But now that Henry was actually giving birth, a baby no longer seemed quite as necessary.
Henry was in pain. And he couldn’t do anything about it.
It ripped his heart apart.
He and Emma made their way back down to the sitting room, where Alex was playing with his children. Six-year-old William had engaged the duke in a mock duel and was soundly trouncing his father, who was somewhat handicapped by the presence of four-year-old Julian on his back. Not to mention two-year-old Claire, happily wrapped around his left ankle.
“Did she have it yet?” Alex asked, a bit too flippantly for Dunford’s taste.
Dunford made a growling sort of sound.
“I believe that was a no,” Emma said.
“I’ve killed you now!” William screamed gleefully, stabbing his sword into Alex’s midsection.
Alex shot his best friend a sidelong glance. “And you’re sure you want one of these?”
Dunford sank into a chair. “Just so long as she’s all right,” he sighed. “That’s all I care about.”
“She’ll be fine,” Emma said soothingly. “You’ll see— Oh, Belle!”
Belle stood in the doorway, a bit sweaty and disheveled.
Dunford sprang to his feet. “How is she?”
“Henry? Oh, she’s—” Belle blinked. “Where is John?”
“Out in the garden rocking Letitia,” Emma replied. “How is Henry?”
“All done,” Belle said with a big smile. “It’s a— I say, what happened to Dunford?”
The new father had already run out of the room.
Dunford paused briefly when he reached Henry’s bedroom door. What was he meant to do now? Was he supposed to go in? He stood there for a moment, a blank expression on his face, until Belle and Emma rounded the corner, both out of breath from running up the stairs after him.
“What are you waiting for?” Emma demanded.
“I can just go in there?” Dunford asked doubtfully.
“Well, you might want to knock first,” Belle suggested.
“It won’t be too . . . female?”
Belle choked on a laugh. Emma took the initiative and knocked on the door. “There,” she said firmly. “Now you have to go in.”
The midwife opened the door, but Dunford didn’t see her. He didn’t see anything other than Henry—and the tiny bundle she held in her arms.
“Henry?” he breathed. “Are you all right?”
She smiled. “I’m perfect. Come sit with me.”
Dunford crossed the room and perched next to her on the bed. “You’re certain you’re not ill? I heard you calling out quite vehemently for my demise.”
Henry turned her head sideways and dropped a kiss on his shoulder. “I’d rather not endure childbirth every day, but I think it was worth it, don’t you?” She held out the baby. “William Dunford, meet your daughter.”
“A daughter?” he whispered. “A daughter. We have a girl?”
Henry nodded. “I checked very closely. She’s definitely a girl.”
“A girl,” he repeated, unable to keep the wonder out of his voice. He gently pushed back the blanket so he could see her face. “She’s beautiful.”
“I think she looks like you.”
“No, no, she definitely looks like you.”
Henry looked down at the baby. “I think perhaps she looks like herself.”
Dunford kissed his wife’s cheek. And then he leaned down and ever so gently did the same to his new daughter.
“I hadn’t considered a girl,” Henry said. “I don’t know why, but I was so certain it would be a boy. Perhaps it was because she kicked so very much.”
Dunford kissed his daughter again, as if suddenly realizing how very pleasant that endeavor was.
“I really only thought about boys’ names,” Henry continued. “I hadn’t thought about girls’.”
Dunford smiled smugly. “I did.”
“Mmm-hmm. I know exactly what we’re going to name her.”
“Do you now? And do I get any say?”
“Not a bit.”
“I see. Well, are you going to share this name with me?”
“Georgiana?!” Henry repeated. “Why, that’s almost as bad as Henrietta!”
Dunford smiled lazily. “I know.”
“We couldn’t possibly burden her with such a name. When I think of what I’ve endured . . .”
“I couldn’t imagine anything that would have suited you better, Henry.” Dunford leaned down and kissed his daughter again. And then, for good measure, he kissed his wife. “And I don’t see how someone like you could have a daughter named anything but Georgie.”
“Georgie, eh?” Henry looked down at her daughter assessingly. “What if she wants to wear trousers?”
“What if she wants to wear dresses?”
Henry tilted her head to the side. “Point taken.” She touched the baby’s nose. “Well, little one, what do you think? It’s your name, after all.”
The baby gurgled happily.
Dunford reached to take the precious bundle. “May I?”
Henry smiled and released the baby into her father’s arms.
He rocked her for a moment, testing the weight and feel of her, then leaned down, his lips finding her tiny ear. “Welcome to the world, little Georgie,” he whispered. “I think you’re going to like it here.”
About the Author
Julia Quinn started writing her first book one month after finishing college and has been tapping away at her keyboard ever since.
The New York Times bestselling author of thirteen novels for Avon Books, she is a graduate of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest.
Please visit her on the web at www.juliaquinn.com.
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Avon Books by
WHEN HE WAS WICKED
TO SIR PHILLIP, WITH LOVE
p; ROMANCING MR. BRIDGERTON
AN OFFER FROM A GENTLEMAN
THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME
THE DUKE AND I HOW TO MARRY A MARQUIS
TO CATCH AN HEIRESS
BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN
EVERYTHING AND THE MOON
DANCING AT MIDNIGHT
And the Anthologies
THE FURTHER OBSERVATIONS OF LADY WHISTLEDOWN
(with Suzanne Enoch, Karen Hawkins and Mia Ryan)
WHERE’S MY HERO?
(with Lisa Kleypas and Kinley MacGregor)
LADY WHISTLEDOWN STRIKES BACK
(with Suzanne Enoch, Karen Hawkins and Mia Ryan)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
MINX. Copyright © 1996 by Julie Quinn Cotler. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.
ePub edition August 2004 ISBN 9780061748035
First Avon Books paperback printing: September 1996
20 19 18 17 1 6 15 14 13
About the Publisher
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Julia Quinn, Minx
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Lady Whistledown Strikes Back - read free eBook by Julia Quinn in online reader directly on the web page. Select files or add your book in reader. He and Emma made their way back down to the sitting room, where Alex was playing with his children. Six-year-old William had engaged the duke in a mock duel and was soundly trouncing his father, who was somewhat handicapped by the presence of four-year-old Julian on his back. Not to mention two-year-old Claire, happily wrapped around his left.