|The Games We Play
by Fanta C ©
was split into 8 parts. Jump to any of the segments from here:
was almost half this size. It was something that I meant to ask you about
but I forgot."
"Well, the reason you're twice as big this time is because you're not bearing one child, but two."
"Two!" she cried on a wave of pain.
"Oh my god! Twins!" Emma cried.
"That's why you went into labor about a month and a half early," the doctor said. "Don't worry though. Those two are well protected in your stomach and should be fine."
About an hour later the doctor told her it was time. Her pains had gotten to the point where they were unbearable. He told her that she was fully dilated and to push when he commanded. Marcus and Gavin each sat on one side of her clasping one of her hands.
All in all her labor lasted about twenty hours, the children anxious to enter the world. They were beautiful, a little boy and a little girl. She had already decided to on names for a boy and a girl, Alexander and Jacqueline Montgomery.
The doctor placed one child in each arm. Excitedly Emma asked, "So what are their names?"
"Alexander and Jacqueline," Bella replied without hesitation.
Gavin and Marcus both frowned, knowing that it was custom to name the oldest son after his father. Gavin didn't want to mention it so he nudged Marcus with his elbow. "Bella," he started cautiously. "Don't you think that you should follow tradition and name your oldest son after his father?"
For a moment she was quiet, contemplating his question. "No," she finally answered. "He found it fitting to stay away during my pregnancy and he plans on taking my children from me. So, no, I don't find it suiting that my son be named after that unmitigated bastard."
Gavin rode out the next morning with Marcus to tell Nicholas that his children had been born, but they had no intention of letting him take them from their mother's arms.
They had discussed the matter thoroughly the night before. In the end they came to the conclusion that she had already lost one child and did nothing to deserve having her newborns snatched from her.
They kept their pace swift, pushing their horses to the limit to reach London as quickly as they could. Nicholas had chosen to reside in his townhouse, not wanting to be as far away as Scotland once the child was born.
The reached London around twilight and when they didn't find Nicholas at his house, they went to the next most likely place to find him: White's.
The gambling club was surprisingly busy that night, with men playing cards, betting on horses, and drinking profusely. Not spotting Nicholas immediately, Gavin and Marcus headed for a table where Royce Sutcliffe happened to be playing a game of poker.
Gavin clapped him on the back, startling him. "Evening, Sutcliffe."
"Good God, MacDuell," he gasped, the breath startled from him. He looked up and saw Marcus standing behind Gavin. "Hartford. How have you been?"
"Enough with the pleasantries, Royce. Have you seen Montgomery?" Marcus asked.
"Yeah. He was in here earlier, but he said something about going someplace that he used to frequent before he got married. He didn't say what the name of this place was but he seemed anxious to get there. By the by, I was wondering if either of you have seen Miss Emma Bennet of late? If so could you tell me how she fares?" Royce asked, a hopeful tone to his voice. Emma had mentioned that he had been paying court to her and that she was as enamored of Sutcliffe as he was of her.
"Miss Bennet is well. She has taken up residence with her sister and seems to enjoy doting on her new niece and nephew. Though I don't doubt her eagerness to return to London," Marcus said, noticing the glow in Sutcliffe's eyes.
"Thanks Sutcliffe, for the information. Now I know exactly where he is," Gavin said, tugging Marcus' arm, indicating that they were leaving.
A half hour later, they pulled to a stop in front of Lady Cabot's, a well known whorehouse. Marcus and Gavin had both frequented the place on several occasions, but anger boiled through Marcus at the thought of Nicholas being here while Isabella was in labor. "I swear if he's here I'll run him through the first chance I get," he vowed through clenched teeth.
They alighted from the carriage and barged through the door, past several surprised harlots ready to ply their trade on any willing man. With some difficulty they marched past them and strolled up to the Madam of the house, Lady Cabot.
"Where's Nicholas Montgomery?" Gavin demanded.
Lady Cabot, not of mind to disclose the privacy of her patrons, gave him a sweet smile and asked him if he found any particular woman charming.
"Lady I do not wish to bed one of your women. I just want to find Nicholas Montgomery."
"Well guv'na, thas none o' your business!" Lady Cabot snapped in reply.
"His wife just gave birth and he doesn't even know that he has a pair of twins! So if you will tell me which room he is in, I am going to inform him that his heir has been born! Or would you rather I bust down every door in this place until I find him?"
Sullenly Lady Cabot finally gave Gavin and Marcus the number of the room Nicholas was in. They ascended the stairs quickly, wanting to get to him as fast as they could.
From the bed where he lay with a comely wench, his arm around her shoulder as she slept, Nicholas heard the sound of rapid footfalls on the creaky wooden stairs that led to his room. There were two different sets of steps and from the heaviness with which they fell, he could only assume it to be two men.
The doorknob jiggled and after a moment of silence his door burst open, the wood splintering, sending Marcus Hartford and Gavin flying into the room with the force of a hurricane. The woman in his arms awoke groggily, trying to figure out what was happening.
Before he could do anything, Gavin grabbed the wench's arm, her discarded dress and unceremoniously threw her out of the room. Marcus, on the other hand, launched himself at Montgomery, dragging him out of the bed, pulling him to his feet, only to knock him down again with a right hook to the jaw.
Nicholas staggered backward, still buck naked, rubbing his jaw, rage beginning to pour through him at the rude intrusion of the two men. He leapt toward Marcus, intending to return the punch, but Gavin held him back.
When it seemed that Nicholas had cooled some, Gavin handed him a sheet and he tied it around his waist. "What do you want?" he demanded, still rubbing his sore jaw, knowing that there would be a bruise.
"We brought you a message from Miss Emma. She told us to tell you that she hopes your hair rots and falls from your head, and your skin wrinkles and peels so that never again are you attractive to any woman." Nicholas smiled briefly and Gavin thought that it was a delight to see his friend do so. Then he continued. "We also thought you might like to know that your wife, if you even remember that you have one, gave birth a day ago."
"What was it?"
"Why? Do you wish an heir?" Marcus asked.
"You know that I do, so why even bother asking?"
"I just wanted to be able to gloat over the fact that she didn't provide you with one." Marcus thought that if anything the bastard deserved to feel some pain at not getting his way. Oh, Marcus did plan on telling him, but he wanted to see him suffer as Bella had.
Pain slashed across Nicki's features and regret filled his eyes. "So it was a girl," he whispered hoarsely. "What did she name her?"
"Jaqueline," Gavin replied. "She and Alexander both inherited their mother's brown hair and amber eyes."
Nicholas' head shot up. "Alexander?" he questioned.
"Jaqueline's brother," Marcus said hostilely.
"She had twins?" Nicholas gasped, unable to come to terms with the concept. He sat silently for several moments, letting the news sink in. "Why didn't she name him after me? It has been a strong tradition in my family that the eldest son be named after his father."
"I think she said something about the father being an unmitigated bastard and that she would die before she named her son after such a man. And after what we barged in on today, I think she made the proper choice," Gavin challenged.
"No matter what you saw, the fact of the matter is that I couldn't bed the wench, though Lord Almighty I wish I had been able to. Unfortunately the thought of bedding a woman who wasn't my wife thoroughly repulsed me. In the end I had to settle for her warmth, granted it wasn't the same, but it suited my purposes anyway.
"Wasn't the same?" Marcus inquired thoughtfully.
"As Isabella's." He began yanking on his pants and then he pulled his shirt one, doing up the small buttons quickly.
Gavin and Marcus stared questioningly at each other for a moment, until Nicholas said, "Let us return to my estate. I wish to bring my children back to London as soon as possible. I have already hired the services of a wet nurse."
Gavin put his hand out, holding fast when Nicholas began walking toward the door. "You aren't going to be taking those children from her. She's already lost one child, and neither Marcus or I intend on putting her through that pain again by letting you snatch those children from her arms."
Nicholas hardly heard the rest of what Gavin said, his mind focused on the words, "She's already lost one child." His mind whirled. She had given herself to someone else in the three years that he had been gone. The thought was like a dagger, plunging into his heart. "What do you mean she's already lost one child? What child? Whose was it?"
Gavin looked helplessly at Marcus for a moment, not having intended on spilling that bit of information. Marcus just shrugged his shoulders so Gavin figured the best course was just to tell the truth. "She was sent to Scotland three years ago when her mother found out that she was with child. There she lived in virtual seclusion until her daughter was born. It seems that the child became her savior, for she had fallen into a deep depression, so the girl was named Hope."
"And I repeat, who was the child's sire?" he said sneering at the word. "Probably some high ranking man who she bedded down with as soon as I was gone. Tell me did the man refuse to marry her and give the child a name or was he already married?"
Marcus roared to life. "The father was a man who used her as though she was a common strumpet, spilling his seed inside her, then leaving the country for lands far away. India I believe it was? Wasn't that it Montgomery? Isn't that where you traveled to three years ago?"
"You're trying to say the child was mine!" he vented outraged.
"She gave birth nine months after that night she spent at your home, and she has the birth certificate to prove it!"
Gavin stood back, unsure of whether to interrupt the fray or to stay put.
For the first time, it penetrated Nicholas' brain that Marcus seemed to be telling the truth. He finally grasped the concept that Hartford would do anything for Bella, short of murder. But he could see the truth in the man's eyes, knowing that Hartford wouldn't put someone through the pain of lying to them about siring a child.
"What happened to Hope?" he choked out. Not wanting to hear it, but needing to know.
"She only lived a week."
Gavin stepped forward and rested his hand on his friend's shoulder. "So you see Nicholas, we can't let you take these children."
"The hell you can't!" he roared.
"You won't do it!" Marcus yelled. "You wouldn't ever hurt her that much! Even if you don't see it or wish to acknowledge it, you love her! I don't know what happened between you to make you run like a coward, but you can't deny it. If you didn't love her you would have bedded that wench that laid beside you, instead of spouting romantic drivel about how you wanted the warmth of a woman beside you but it wasn't the same as Bella's warmth! You broke her heart when you left. She was so in love with you, the letters that she wrote to Emma and I are proof enough of that."
"Why did you leave?" Gavin asked softly.
Nicholas opened his mouth to say something, then he noticed the gaggle of women that had gathered in the doorway while the men had argued. He didn't wish to bear his heart for all to see so he said, "Gentlemen it appears we have an audience. Why don't we retire to my townhouse. There we can speak more of this matter."
The ten minute carriage ride to Nicholas' home was spent in brooding silence. When they entered the parlor of his home Montgomery offered them each a glass of his best Madeira. They both accepted, their nerves frayed by the long day and its tolls. Nicholas gulped his drink down in one swallow and then turned to face Marcus and Gavin, bading them to sit.
"I believe it was you Gavin who wished to know why I left my beautiful, blushing bride. No doubt Hartford that you are on the edge of you chair as well to know the reason. Well, it's quite simple. She mocked me when I said I loved her. In essence she made me the fool. I poured my heart out to her and she most vilely rejected my heart." He leaned over and grabbed the bottle of Madeira. He needed to get drunk. It was the only way he had kept some semblance of sanity over the past months. He had spent many a night at Lady Cabot's paying a wench to lay beside him for the night, because he couldn't bear to bed a woman who wasn't his Bella. Though lord knows he tried. Dreams of her roused him in the middle of the night fully aroused and aching to plunge into her warmth, but when he looked at the woman beside him, finding that it wasn't his wife, his arousal dissipated rapidly.
Gavin and Marcus stared amazed as Montgomery downed glass after glass of Madeira, finishing off the snifter. Then, even more incredulously, they watched as he took a snifter of brandy and polished it off as well.
"Don't drown yourself, Nick. Marcus and I have to escort you to see your children tomorrow and I don't think you want to be hungover when you see them. Besides, Isabella is likely to geld you for having the nerve to show up like that. Then she'd geld Marcus and I for letting you get into that condition."
Nicholas rose and Marcus and Gavin rose as well to catch him if he swayed or needed assistance to his room. But he managed to climb the stairs on his own and they heard his door slam behind him.
"Well, I can honestly say I've never seen Nicholas so bleak before. It was quite a shock to learn that he loved Bella. I knew that he cared for her, but love? That I never expected."
Marcus sighed. "I never thought Bella to be an idiot, but now I have some serious doubts about her common sense. One doesn't mock someone who had just told you they love you. She had to have been out of her mind to insult him like that and not expect his anger, hurt, and retaliation."
"He is determined to take those children, even though he knows about Hope."
"What do you make of that? He never said one word about her after he was told that she was his."
"I think that the news about Hope is something that he needs to deal with on his own, at least until he talks to Isabella."
"Do you think he'll be sorely angered with her tomorrow, for not telling him about Hope, I mean?"
"I sincerely hope not, but we'll find out won't we?" Gavin said ruefully.
The ride back to Briarwood was spent in uncomfortable silence, finally arriving that night, the Earl no doubt regretting telling Hartford and Gavin his feelings toward Isabella. He brooded all the way to the estate, contemplating what he would say to his deceptive little bitch of a wife. She hadn't told him about their daughter. He would have married her, been with her during her grief, their grief. He knew that he would have grieved for his late daughter, had he known she existed.
The door of the manor flew open with such a force that the maid who had opened jumped back with a startled gasp. Nicholas strode in, his strides long and fast. "Where's my wife?" he bellowed at the maid who meekly replied, "Upstairs milord," bobbing into a curtsy.
He took the stairs two at a time, practically running down the hallway to her rooms. He threw open the doors intending to find her there, but the room was silently empty. he checked his room as well, but she wasn't there either. Finally it occurred to him to check the nursery.
was split into 8 parts. Jump to any of the segments from here:
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