Romancing the Duke

Page 40

And Izzy's.

When the truth came out, there was bound to be a bit of scandal. Izzy worried more about how Ransom would cope than she worried for her own feelings. She hoped reading him Mr. Creeley's letter might work as an inoculation of sorts.

"You'd better prepare yourself, Ransom. When that installment is published in a few years, no one will be patting me on the head. I'm sure to receive more unpleasant letters."

He was silent for a moment. "Good."


"Yes, good. Because I've decided that the proper response to any unpleasant letter is kisses, and I like having excuses to kiss you."

"I think this particular unpleasant letter merits more than one kiss. Something like ten or twelve."

"I won't stop until you count one hundred," he said wickedly. "Later."

She pouted. "Later?"

"Right now, I want to show you something. It's a surprise."

Izzy was undeniably intrigued as she followed him down the spiraling stairs. She went slowly, cautiously. Her center of balance was changing by the day.

"What surprise could be better than a hundred kisses?" she asked, following Ransom down the corridor.

"This one, I hope."

He stopped before a particular bedchamber. The one they'd designated as a nursery. He pushed open the door.

She clapped her hands together. "Is it finished?"

Izzy had been strictly forbidden from involvement in the major renovations-too much dust and danger, Ransom said. She hadn't argued. She was happy to focus on the writing for now. And it warmed her heart to see his growing investment in the castle that had been his ancestral home.

The castle that was now their home.

"It's done, as of today. The laborers finished painting this afternoon." He waved her toward the open door. "Have a look."

With a smile, Izzy rushed through the entryway .

And then she froze in place, awestruck.

"Oh," she breathed. "Oh, Ransom."

"Now, don't start complaining about girlish treatment. I know you're too old to be given a purple room with golden stars. But I also know it was a dream of yours, once. I thought you might want to give it to our children instead."

Izzy pressed a hand to her chest, overwhelmed. The room was beautiful. A cradle with purple quilted bedding, draped with clouds of tulle. A plush carpet of twining vines and lush blooms. Rows and rows of bookshelves. And on the ceiling were painted silver moons and golden stars. Even a comet or two.

On closer look, a few of those celestial objects appeared a bit less precise than the others-uneven and smudged in places. Hardly in line with the exacting standards Ransom imposed on all their workmen.

But in her heart, Izzy knew the explanation for those less-than-perfect stars.

Those must be the ones he'd painted himself.

He shuffled his feet. "You're not saying anything."

"I'm overwhelmed. There are times when even a writer can run out of words." She sniffed back a tear and hugged him as tight as her swelling belly would allow. "Thank you. I love you. This is the best gift I can imagine."

In fact, it was the gift she'd been imagining all her life. Now it was real. They would give their children this magical room, set in their very own castle. But more important than that, they would give their children love. And security.

And stories. Night after night of stories.

This was the true fairy-tale ending. He'd given her the "happily" part the day they'd agreed to marry. This room was the "ever after."

And the best part of all?

So many years stood between them and "The End."

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