The Reverend Mr. Ridley needs a wife so he focuses his attentions on Georgina Arnott, a sensible, intelligent, yet attractive woman.
On their wedding night he’s relieved to discover she enjoys the pleasures of the bed, and, after a slow start, their evenings are full of passion and joy for both of them.
Unfortunately, when she takes an interest in his parish, it seems to involve filling his house with noisy people tramping muddy boots through the hallways, and filling his kitchen with dirty children. He loves his wife. But can this marriage work?
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Barnabas was happy. In fact, more than happy now that he was married. His life was as close to perfect as was possible here on Earth.
He was just finishing off a letter to a friend in a distant parish, when he became conscious of far more noise in the house than he was used to. At a loss to understand why there was so much laughter and the tramp of heavy boots inside, he sanded his letter, folded it, sealed it with wax, and laid it aside for one of the grooms to deliver later. Then he left his study to find out what was happening. He followed the sounds and came upon what seemed like most of the parish gathered in the servants’ hall with newspapers everywhere, several large tubs of strangely colored liquid, and things spread out to dry on the table and in front of the fire.
In the center of the chaos was his wife, her hair falling out of its neat coil, smudges of something gold on her face, her hands suspiciously reddened, and she was kneeling on the floor surrounded by children. Some of them definitely not from the parish, but poorly dressed and dirty.
Carefully he wended his way through the crowd until he could speak to Georgina. “What is happening here?” he asked much more mildly than he wanted to. Where was his neat, quiet wife? His orderly, hushed household? Where had they gone?
“Oh, Mr. Ridley, we’re having such fun. The children and some of their families are dying old newspapers red and gold. When they’re dry, we’ll use them to make paper chains to decorate the hallways and this room and paper flowers to decorate the tree. Come and see the first few we’ve made.”
She jumped to her feet and led him over to a table in the corner, which he hadn’t noticed at first. Here Theodora and his mama were wielding scissors, expertly cutting the colored newspapers into long strips. On the floor beside them were some older children making these strips into paper chains.
He could scarcely believe his own eyes. His mama was sitting here surrounded by all these people making some frippery paper toy? And smiling happily at him despite all the noise and mess? Surely this was not how a vicar’s house should be run. His mama seemed to approve of the activity. He shook his head in disbelief. Yet what could he say? He could scarcely order all these people out of the house when the project was well advanced.
He swiveled around slowly, only now looking at the people in his home. Old Douglas sat on a straight-backed chair by the fire, his motherless grandchildren at his feet, hard at work turning the drying sheets of newspaper over, presumably to help the color dry evenly.
Widow Carmichael, her hair tied back in a bandana and a huge apron covering her dress, supervised her two teenage sons stirring the liquid in several large tubs.
A gaggle of giggling girls folded squares of the colored paper into patterns, presumably paper flowers.
Several older boys flattened and straightened the sheets of newspaper, readying them to be dyed.
Three or four babies underneath the big table, playing with a couple of pots and spoons, supervised by a rather dirty little girl he didn’t recognize.
And Cook surrounded by children grinding and mixing ingredients mayhap for the dyes.
Even through all the noise he heard the tramp of booted feet as several more people entered the room. It was too much. Far too much. Too many people, too much noise, and far and away too much mess. This kind of event was not to happen again. His vicarage should be a silent haven, a place of quiet peace and rest, not a—a—factory!
Barnabas had to force himself to smile and say nothing at the dinner table. There were fewer courses than normal, no jellies at all and only one pudding and two tarts. He knew it was because of all the people who’d been in his house all day long, taking Cook away from her proper duties.
He could understand why Theodora was happily reporting all the things that had happened. She was, after all, scarcely more than a child herself. But even Mama seemed to be brighter and more alive than usual, laughing over the antics of the children.
Well it would not do. It was not the proper use of a vicarage. His wife must be told such noise and crowds were totally inappropriate for people of their station and position in life.
There would be no marital relations tonight. No kisses even. He would simply explain to her how she should behave. She would apologize, mayhap cry a little. He would be generous in forgiving her. After all, she was a very new bride. He would leave her room and life would resume its normal, placid, peaceful routine.
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Berengaria is a multi-published author of erotic romance: contemporary, paranormal (magic, ghosts, vampires, fairies, dragons, and werewolves), futuristic, medieval, and Regency-set historical. She loves to read all different kinds of romance so that is what she writes: one man/one woman; two women; two men; two men/one woman; three men, two women/one man, three men/one woman…. Whatever the characters need for their very hot happily-ever-after, Berengaria makes sure they get it.