Shocked, he’d taken another look at her plans. Then he took a look at his wife’s outrageous spending and what he saw had him finally putting his foot down and limiting her spending to a modest monthly allowance. As a result, Heather was no longer speaking to him, but he didn’t seem to care. Elizabeth suspected that when Heather discovered that James had taken half of her inheritance and created a charity with it, that Heather would probably never speak to him again. Then again, that would probably make James the happiest man alive.
She wished that he’d reconsider and move to America. She knew that he would love it here. He probably would have made the move years ago if it hadn’t been for Heather. Her sister refused to even consider it, never mind visit, which meant that James visited once a year just to get a break from her. Next year James was bringing his girls along with their parents for a visit whether Heather liked it or not. Elizabeth suspected that she probably wouldn’t like it.
“It’s good to see him,” the deep voice that she adored said as a strong arm was carefully wrapped around her waist and she was pulled back against the man that she loved more than anything.
“It is,” she murmured her agreement as she turned herself in his arms so that she could wrap her arms around his shoulders, “but it’s even better to see you.”
“Missed me?” he teased as he leaned down and brushed his lips against hers.
“Terribly,” she said, smiling against his lips. “When I came back from feeding the baby, you were already gone.”
“I’m sorry, minx. I had some work that I needed to finish so that I could spend tonight focusing on you,” he said, kissing her again.
“I have you for the whole night?”
“The whole night,” he promised as he leaned in to kiss her.
“What about James?” she asked, feeling bad that he’d traveled all the way from England to visit and they were abandoning him on his first night.
“Can entertain himself for one night,” he said, brushing his lips against hers one last time before he stepped away.
“This is for you,” Robert said as he held out a small beautifully carved box.
She didn’t have to ask him to know that he’d made the box himself. It was absolutely beautiful and something that he would no doubt be able to get some of the merchants in town to buy. He could probably have a very lucrative business if he focused on making furniture and trinkets, but that would mean spending long hours away from her and the children and she knew that he didn’t want that. Instead, he settled for making the things that he loved in his spare time and focused on supporting them by building and fixing homes. He was very good at what he did and was in high demand.
They would never be rich, but as long as they were able to keep their children safe and happy both of them were more than happy about that.
“Happy anniversary, minx,” he said as she opened the box and saw…
A necklace made out of stones?
Whatever it was, it was beautiful and she loved it because he made it for her. With a smile she leaned up to kiss him, but he stepped back and focused his attention on the necklace.
“This white bead is from the old barn where you covered me in honey and feathers,” he said, drawing her attention back to the necklace. “This bead,” he said, pointing out a grey stone bead next, “is from the tree where I cut your hair off. This bead is from…”
He went on explaining where every stone had come from, pausing every now and then to smile, laugh or to reminisce about tales from their childhood. She listened as he went through each bead, growing more amazed by the minute. When he pointed out the bead from the orangery, she felt her bottom lip tremble. As he finished with the stone that he’d picked up outside their bedroom window on the night that she’d given birth to Jonathan, she found herself falling in love with her husband all over again.
“I love it,” she said, an understatement. It was the most beautiful, thoughtful gift that anyone had ever given her. It also made her realize just how much she meant to him.
“I’m glad,” he said, leaning in to kiss her, only this time she didn’t let him go.
“It’s my turn to give you your anniversary gift, Mr. Bradford.”
* * *
He was dying. There was no other explanation for it. His limbs weakly trembled as he dragged himself across the room. He couldn’t think of a time when he’d been so thirsty or hungry in his life. Several times over the last twenty-four hours he considered yelling for help, but he was beyond help. He knew that.
The cause of his destruction stirred behind him. He picked up the pitcher of water and chugged the lukewarm liquid. It did nothing to quench his thirst or ease his empty stomach.
“I think I’m dying,” he mumbled.
A weak laugh came from the bed. “I know I am,” Elizabeth said. “We have to stop…we have to…I need food…and water…..the baby, Robert,….think of the baby,” she implored weakly.
He took a deep breath. The baby needed food. His baby. He couldn’t help grinning. His minx was making him a father again, hopefully giving him a little girl to spoil this time. He hugged the pitcher to his chest and brought it over to her.
“Here. Drink this and I’ll get dressed and have Mrs. Brown send some food up.” He frowned as he looked at the door. “I wonder why they haven't checked on us by now.”
“Probably because we scared them away,” she said as she took the pitcher from him. She almost dropped it. Her arms were so weak, but she couldn’t drink lying back this way. She got up on her knees with great difficulty. The only thing that mattered was the water. She didn’t care about being ladylike or anything else. She drank greedily, not caring about the water that spilled down her chin and down her chest and stomach. She was so thirsty. When she had her fill, she placed the now empty pitcher on the bed. Her eyes met Robert’s intense gaze and she knew that things were about to take a turn for the worse.
“Oh no,” she whimpered.
Robert stared at the water dripping down his wife’s br**sts. He licked his lips. Every part of him save one was protesting the sight. He followed her frightened eyes downward. He was more than ready to go again. It felt like he hadn’t had her in years instead of minutes.
Elizabeth threw a pillow at him so she could scramble off the bed, desperate to make an escape. It was like that piece of his anatomy was in charge. He crawled after her. She didn’t bother with a nightgown or a wrap as she ran to the door and started pounding on it.
“Oh, thank the lord!” came Mrs. Brown’s worried voice from behind the door. “We were afraid you’d both perished.”
She looked back to see her husband trying to escape from the tangled sheets his foot got caught on. “We will if you don’t help.”
“Mrs. Brown, listen I haven’t much time. Can you arrange for a large tray of food and drink to be delivered,” she looked over her shoulder to discover that Robert was close to getting free, “and water for a bath as well. Please!”
“Certainly,” Mrs. Brown said, sounding amused.
“Robert?” James suddenly said as he joined Mrs. Brown in the hall.
A soft growl behind her was the only answer. Elizabeth slowly turned around, plastering her back against the door. James knocked on the door. “Robert? Come down with me to the tavern, I’m bored. Robert?”