It was a warm, sunny day for February when Kathryn finally dragged herself out of bed and donned her black mourning dress. She sat down at her dressing table and began brushing out the mass of tangles that were there due to another restless night. The baby had dropped and was now sitting very low in her belly, causing her to be very uncomfortable for the last few days. When she had finished her toiletries and took a final look at her appearance, she went downstairs to join her husband and brother-in-law for breakfast.
Christopher noticed her unusual slowness this morning and quickly got up and helped her to her place at the table. “Are you feeling alright, Kathryn?” He asked with concern in his voice.
“Yes, Christopher I’m just a little tired today. Don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine.”
Christopher sat back down in his place again but still wasn’t convinced that Kathryn was telling him the truth for the frown that had crossed his brow remained throughout their entire meal together.
Suddenly, a familiar voice was heard from the foyer and Christopher looked at Jeffrey, cursing under his breath before stomping out of the dining room.
“Christopher, darling! How nice to see you again,” Cassandra cooed, wanting to throw her arms around him but refrained, knowing it would only anger him. She needed to bide her time with him, allowing her charms to have their effect on him and then she would have him. It shouldn’t be too difficult to coax him to her bed. A man of Christopher’s vitality would need relief after being deprived so long, with that bitch of a wife of his so heavy with child, she thought cunningly. Once she won him back, it would simply be a task of getting rid of Kathryn and that shouldn’t prove too difficult to do.
“What the hell are you doing here, Cassandra?” Christopher demanded with a sneer, not trusting her motives.
“Why Christopher, you wound me so, I came here to visit my only living relative. My late-husband’s dearly-beloved daughter, Kathryn. He would want me to be with her in her time of need. The child is going to have her own child anytime, isn’t she?”
Christopher let his anger pass and thought about what Cassandra said. Maybe she was right, the child was due anytime and Kathryn’s father would have wanted his wife to be here at the birthing. He told his butler to have her things brought in from the carriage and taken up to one of the guest rooms before he escorted Cassandra into the parlor, where Kathryn and Jeffrey were having their tea.
Kathryn’s eyes narrowed when she saw who was on the arm of her husband and cringed when Cassandra came over and gave her a motherly hug.
“My darling, Kathryn you look so… huge,” she said, looking at Kathryn’s enlarged figure repulsively. Seeing her wince, she knew her jab hit home and smiled venomously. Whirling around, she faced Christopher again. “And you, my dear Christopher look like you could use a drink.”
“It’s a little early in the morning to be drinking, don’t you think, Cassandra?” He said, annoyed by her being here.
“If you think so, Christopher,” her lips forming into a pout.
Taking in her step-mother’s pink and white, low-cut day dress, Kathryn sarcastically asked her why she wasn’t honoring her father’s death by wearing the customary mourning color.”
“Darling, I just simply refuse to wear mourning clothes, it’s ridiculous to be forced into wearing black for an entire year, I have never done it,” she said, curtly.
Jeffrey, who had been quietly observing his brother’s ex-lover, rolled his eyes at her total disregard for tradition.
“I am absolutely starving, Christopher. Would you kindly join me for a small bite to eat,” she pleaded, sliding her arm through his.
“I’ve already had my breakfast this morning, Cassandra but I will escort you to the dining room,” he said, grudgingly.
With her sweetest smile on her face, she glanced up at him before lowering her eyes coyishly and then left the room with him on her arm.
Kathryn lowered her head dejectedly after seeing her step-mother clutching her husband’s arm in a very possessive manner. It reminded her of the day of her father’s funeral when she had walked in on them, pressed together in a warm embrace. Why would she come here, now of all times looking as beautiful as ever. How could Christopher resist her?
“Kathryn don’t go reading something into this that’s not there.” Jeffrey said sincerely, seeing her anguish.
“How could he not desire her, they were lovers….”
“That was a long time ago, Kathryn. Christopher broke it off with her before we sailed for America the last time. Cassandra just can’t seem to get it through her thick skull that it’s over between them.”
Kathryn stared at Jeffrey trying to believe everything he was saying but it was hard to, hearing her step-mother’s laughter coming from the other room.
“Christopher has never loved anyone else but you.”
“Oh no Jeffrey, you’re very wrong with that statement. Christopher can’t stand the mere sight of me and he won’t be seen in public with me, let alone in private. I am nothing more than a burden on him, an unwanted wife who is fat and ugly.” Tears came streaming down her face and then she fled out of the room before he could stop her.
Jeffrey sat back down on the settee, shaking his head in dismay. He had heard women think crazy thoughts when they are with child but this was serious. Things had not seemed well between the two of them since they had been wed but he didn’t know Kathryn thought that way. And he was sure Christopher didn’t know. “Kathryn, how wrong you are for Christopher loves you more than life itself,” he muttered aloud in the empty room.
The day had passed slowly with Kathryn pouting in her room, feeling sorry for herself and wishing she was back at Glastonbury amongst friends who cared for her. But deep down inside she knew that wasn’t what she really wanted. What she really wanted was for her husband to love and cherish her the way her father did her mother before she died. But she knew that would never happen for Christopher did not love her, he had made that abundantly clear when he married her. They wed only for the sake of the child and not because he cared anything for her. If this was her lot in life, than she would live with it for she loved the child she was carrying and knew Christopher would treat it well. Another nagging pain went through her stomach and she knew her time was very near so she decided feeling sorry for herself was doing her no good or that of the child’s and went back downstairs to join the others, hoping this would lighten her mood.
When she entered the parlor a sudden, sharp, wrenching pain raked through her stomach like none she’d had before and bent over in agony, grasping her stomach with both hands until the pain finally subsided. Christopher was beside her before she knew it and lifted her up in his arms, bellowing out orders for his housekeeper to come at once. Taking two steps at a time, he carried her up the spiral staircase and into her bed chamber, where he gently laid her down on the bed.
Emma was close behind them where she evaluated the situation and began unbuttoning Kathryn’s day dress, slipping it over her head with Christopher’s help, leaving only her chemise remaining. “Your dress will only be in the way child,” she explained and pulled a blanket over her to keep her warm. “It will be quite some time yet, your lordship before the child comes,” she said to Christopher who was staring down at Kathryn with a worried frown on his face. As each contraction came and went, Christopher became a little paler, not being able to stand by helplessly and watch his wife suffer, in silent agony.
Taking in his pallor, Emma turned to Christopher. “Your lordship, it would probably be best if you waited downstairs with Mr. Jeffrey until after she delivers.”
With a sigh escaping his lips, he took one last look at Kathryn before turning and striding out of the room, heading for his study for a much needed drink. Thoughts of his mother came to mind for she had died in childbirth when he was born and his concern deepened. “What if Kathryn were to die giving him a son,” he worried sickly. What then would his life be like, without her and only a son to remember her by? No other woman had ever meant anything to him and now when he has finally found love, to have her ripped away from him so cruelly. It came as quite a shock, that this was the first time he’d ever admitted to himself that he did indeed love Kathryn and didn’t want to live without her.
Jeffrey joined him in the study, helping himself to the brandy sitting on the table and took a seat opposite Christopher, who was staring blindly at the fire burning in the fireplace.
“Christopher, she’ll be fine. Women have babies every day of the week it’s part of human nature rejuvenating itself.”
“You’re quite the philosopher these days, aren’t you?” Christopher said with a scowl on his face which deepened when he saw Cassandra sashay into the room. “Why aren’t you upstairs helping Kathryn?” He demanded in a rage.
“Me, help deliver a child? Don’t be ridiculous, darling. I couldn’t stand doing something that disgusting,” she said, appalled that he would even ask her to do such a dreadful task.
With images of Kathryn’s agonized face still fresh in his mind, Christopher’s anger knew no limit. Flying out of his chair, he was only inches from her face before Cassandra realized her blunder. “You madam, are a cold-hearted bitch. You wouldn’t lift a finger to help anyone unless it benefited yourself,” he spat at her.
“Christopher…” she stuttered, trying to rectify the damage she had done. “You misunderstood what I said. I couldn’t possibly be much help in a situation such as child-birthing, I would only be in the way or doing more harm than good not being properly trained and all. I don’t know what you thought I said, but I’m surprised at you, Christopher for being so mean to me. I only came in here to see if I could comfort you in some small way.” A tear was in her eye when she finished and leaned her head against his chest in mock sorrow.
A loud, ear-piercing scream suddenly sounded from upstairs and Christopher felt his heart stop for a moment when he heard it. All the color had drained out of his face when he dashed past Cassandra, leaving her gawking after him and flew up the stairs in total panic. Reaching the bed chamber, he heard the baby cry and sighed with relief when he saw Emma handing it to Kathryn, who was smiling at him when he entered. He could see the beads of perspiration running down her forehead and his heart went out to her, knowing full-well that she’d had a rough delivery. Walking over to her, he pushed the wet strands of hair back from her face and kissed her softly. Her eyes were like liquid pools of emerald green water when she gazed up at him, lovingly. “I’m sorry Christopher, I know you had your heart set on a son but I would like you to meet your daughter.”
Christopher looked down at the baby Kathryn was so carefully holding in her arms and pulled back the blanket a little in order to view her better. She had rosy-red cheeks and a tiny pouting mouth but what really caught Christopher’s attention was the small mound of fiery red curls atop her head. “She looks just like her mother,” he whispered softly. “And I bet she’ll grow up and have her mother’s temper, no doubt.”
All at once, Kathryn felt another wrench of pain go through her stomach and quickly thrust the baby into Christopher’s arms as wave upon wave of pain over took her. Beads of perspiration poured down her face again while she grabbed hold of the bedposts.
Panic spread through Christopher’s body while he watched his wife thrash about the bed in agonizing pain. “My god Emma, what’s wrong with her?” He cried, still holding his newborn daughter in his arms. “Is she going to die?” He yelled at the housekeeper, terrified that his worst fears were indeed coming true.
“No!” She yelled back, too busy to deal with him now.
With one final push, a blood-curdling scream escaped from Kathryn’s mouth and another baby was delivered, to the utter astonishment of Christopher, who stood motionless, gaping at the second child.
“A son, your lordship!” Emma cried, wrapping him up in a clean blanket before placing him in his mother’s arms.
Speechless, Christopher could only stand and stare at mother and son, still shaken by the second birth.
Emma came around the bed and carefully took the child he was still holding stiffly out of his arms and laid her on the bed next to her mother.
“Well, I guess you’ve gotten your wish after all, Christopher,” Kathryn said softly, looking down at her new dark haired son.
“That I have, sweetheart,” he replied and then leaned over and placed another kiss upon her lips. “You have made this the happiest day of my life, Kathryn and I will always remember it as long as I live.” Their eyes locked together for what seemed an eternity with neither one of them wanting to break the hold from the other. Unspoken love passed between them before the spell was finally broken and they both looked away, shaken by the experience.
Christopher could visually see the fatigue that had come over Kathryn, with her shoulders slightly slumped and a drawn, a tired look on her face. Gently, he made her lie back against the pillows and drew the blanket up over her breasts. “You need your rest now, my little bandit,” he said tenderly, looking down at her with love. He waited for her eyes to finally close and with a long sigh escaping from his lips, slowly turned and left the room.
“Well, what is it?” Jeffrey asked excitedly when Christopher had entered the study. “Whatever it is, it sure has a powerful set of lungs and I could hear it all the way down here.”
Christopher stared at his brother in bewilderment, still not believing he was now a father and not just a father but a father two-fold.
Jeffrey began to worry when his brother did not answer him right away and answered with concern, “nothing… went wrong, did it…?”
“No, no. Everything is fine, it’s just that Kathryn had… twins. One of each to be more precise.”
“Twins! He shouted, flabbergasted and threw back his head and roared with laughter. “Well I guess congratulations are in order then papa,” he said, still chuckling.
Christopher handed Jeffrey a cigar before he lit one for himself and sat down in his favorite chair. “It came as quite a shock, to say the least, when Kathryn delivered a second child,” he remarked, still remembering that fateful moment. “A son.”
Jeffrey looked at him with awe while he listened quietly to his brother recount the birth of his two children. There was a pride in him that he’d never seen before tonight and wondered if this wasn’t the best thing that had ever happened to him. To become a father.
The sun had just come up when Kathryn woke with a start to the wailing cries of her babies. Sitting up, she felt every muscle in her body ache and fell back against the pillows, moaning softly.
Emma was beside her immediately and made sure she didn’t strain herself. “You must rest, Miss Kathryn. To deliver one baby is hard enough but you had two and they weren’t easy births either,” she said knowingly. “I’ll bring you up a nice hot cup of tea as soon as I change the babies.”
“Don’t they need to be fed,” Kathryn asked, shyly.
“They sure do. I’ve been giving them sugar water through the night so you could get some sleep but they’re wanted a little more than that this morning,” she said, laying one of them in Kathryn’s arms.
Kathryn wasn’t exactly sure how to go about feeding them for she had seen it done many times but to actually do it yourself was another matter. Timidly she untied her bodice, exposing her breast to her hungry son who immediately latched onto it and began suckling. She had jumped at his impatience to be fed while Emma just smiled down at her and laid her daughter in her other arm. She too was as impatient to be fed as her brother was and latched onto her mother’s other breast with as much force. Kathryn felt total contentment when she gazed lovingly at the twins, drinking their fill of milk and kneading her breasts softly with their tiny little hands.
Christopher heard the babies cry and rose from his bed quickly and donned his clothes. Kathryn had plagued his thoughts all night and he was now anxious to see her this morning. He couldn’t get the thought of her possibly dying out of his head for she had looked so drained when he last saw her. All was quiet in the next room and Christopher decided it was a good time for him to enter but stopped dead in his tracks when he viewed the sight of the two babe’s at their mother’s breasts.
“Good morning… Christopher.” Kathryn stuttered, embarrassed that he should have walked in at this precise moment.
“You look lovely this morning, Kathryn,” he replied, not knowing what else to say before regaining his composure and walking over to the bed and leisurely sitting down in a chair that was there. He reached down curiously toward one of the babies, accidently brushing one of Kathryn’s breasts when one of the little hands grabbed his finger. “He sure has a strong grip for a little guy, doesn’t he,” he said, proudly.
“Of course he does, after all, he’s your son.” Kathryn exclaimed, still feeling her breast tingle where he had slightly touched it. She wished he had waited until after the babies had eaten before he had come in, she thought shyly. It was embarrassing to have him sitting there so close and watching her so intently, with her bodice wide open.
Christopher was also feeling the effects of her open bodice for her breasts were totally exposed to him and he couldn’t keep his eyes off them. He had felt himself tighten against his thigh when he had touched her and was growing more and more uncomfortable by the minute.
Emma came in quietly with a heavily laden tray of food for she knew Lord Christopher would most likely join his wife for breakfast in her room. And she had guessed correctly, for there he was, sitting there with her next to the bed. “I knew you would want your breakfast up here this morning, your lordship,” she said, placing the tray down on the table.
“That’s very thoughtful of you Emma, but I was just going to….”
“You don’t have to thank me, Lord Christopher,” she chuckled, knowing he must be feeling a bit uncomfortable watching his wife nurse the babies for the first time. Now that they were sated and falling asleep, Emma moved the babies back into their cradles, which had been brought up during the night and quickly left.
Kathryn re-tied her bodice as soon as Emma moved the sleeping babies and felt a little more at ease with Christopher when this was done.
“Are you hungry, Kathryn?” Christopher asked when he raised the lid on the plate of ham and eggs.
“Actually, Christopher I’m starving,” she replied, smelling the aroma when he had lifted the lid. When she tried to get out of bed, Christopher bade her stay and fixed her a heaping plate and brought it to her. Breakfast had never tasted as good as it did this morning, she thought when she had finished the last bite on her plate.
Christopher watched her closely as she had devoured her breakfast and was satisfied that she was feeling no ill effects from her difficult delivery. His eyes moved over for a moment to the cradles and back again to Kathryn, wondering how their lives would change now that they were parents. “Did I ever thank you, Kathryn for giving me a son and a daughter?” He asked her softly.
Taken aback by his question, Kathryn shyly shook her head.
“Then let me take this opportunity to do so now,” he murmured, sitting down next to her on the bed. Lifting her chin up, he gazed into her eyes before his mouth came down on hers, kissing her deeply. Her lips tasted as sweet as wine causing his passion to mount and then he wrapped his arms around her and held her in a warm embrace. Finally, Kathryn pulled away from him, trembling from her own pent-up passion that laid just under the surface, waiting to be quenched.
"Kathryn, don’t be afraid of me,” he murmured in a husky voice, trying to draw her back into his arms. “I’ve waited for so long….” Kissing her along her neck, Kathryn leaned her head back with a moan escaping her lips while Christopher’s hands began caressing her body. When he found the ties to her bodice, his fingers became anxious to free her flesh from its confines, practically ripping it open in their haste.
Kathryn felt his hands on her bare skin which sent waves of sensations through her body. She knew that it was too soon after childbirth for them to go any further but she was afraid she would lose him if she denied him some pleasure. Hesitantly, she tried to disengage herself from him. “Christopher, we… can’t. Not yet… ” she murmured in his ear.
Her words had a sobering effect on him and he regrettably pulled away. “I’m sorry, Kathryn. I didn’t think of your condition.” Was all he said, before he stood up and crossed the room with long strides, disappearing through the adjoining door.
Cassandra was seething when she found out from the servants that Kathryn had twins. “Twins for god sake!” She muttered aloud in a disgusting voice. The bitch’s hold on Christopher will be harder to break than she had originally thought. She had hoped the little twit would die in childbirth and for a moment last night, it appeared her wish had come true when they all had heard her scream from upstairs but no such luck. She had lived through it, drawing Christopher even closer to her. He dotes on her as if she really meant something to him but that couldn’t be true. Christopher doesn’t love any woman and never will. Well, it will still be some time before he can relieve himself with her, so I need to entice him to my bed as soon as possible. Still sitting at her dressing table, Cassandra picked up a vile of perfume and dabbed a few drops between her breasts that were partially exposed over her low-cut morning dress and critically stared at her reflection in the gilded mirror. Finding no fault with her appearance, she stood up and decided to go visit Kathryn, to put some more doubts about her husband in her head.
Seeing Christopher go downstairs, Cassandra knew the coast was clear for her to execute her little plan and entered Kathryn’s bedchamber without knocking.
“Well, how’s the little mother this morning?” She cooed, staring at Kathryn who was propped up in the bed.
“Cassandra, you startled me,” she said, disappointingly thinking it was Christopher coming back to see her.
“I didn’t mean to startle you, darling. I just came in to see how you were feeling.”
Kathryn’s guard was up, not knowing why her step-mother was being so friendly. “I feel fine, Cassandra,” she replied stiffly, wishing she would leave.
“You know your figure will never be the same, darling. Not after having children, especially twins. How sad for you, with a husband like Christopher…” She let her unspoken words cause doubts in her mind. Seeing the frown cross Kathryn’s brow, she smiled inwardly, knowing she stuck home. “What precious memories this room has for me,” she continued, drawing Kathryn’s eyes to the adjoining door.
Kathryn was in shock. She never dreamed her step-mother had once stayed in these very same chambers but it was obvious by her remarks she had. Then those must have been her clothes in the coffer, she thought horribly. Images of herself wearing the tight-fitting cranberry satin night gown came to mind, knowing now it must have been Cassandra’s. How could he have made her wear one of his ex-lover’s night gowns? Especially one that bared so much. A tear formed in her eye the more she let her imagination take over, conjuring up images of Christopher and her step-mother.
Cassandra stood silent, a cynical smile on her face. She could visibly see the affects her well placed comments were having on Kathryn and decided to slip away quietly, leaving her to mall over all of this in her mind.
Kathryn was still deep in thought when Christopher returned to her room. She looked up at him with tear-stained eyes when he came over to her.
“Kathryn, are you in pain?” He asked with concern.
“No, no… I guess I’m just having a crying jig. Nothing for you to be concerned about.”
Christopher stared at her for a few moments before cursing under his breath. “The reason I came up here was to discuss with you, names for the children. I can’t go around referring to them as, ‘the babies’.”
“You’re quite right, Christopher. I don’t know why I haven’t thought about it myself. I guess I’ve just been pre-occupied,” she said with a shrug.
“If you don’t mind, I would like to name my son after my father, Alexander and call him Alex.”
“That’s a fitting name, Alex, I like that,” she said, repeating it out loud. “And since we have twins, we should call our daughter, Alexis.”
“Alex and Alexis,” he said, looking down at the twins. “Very appropriate, indeed.”
Kathryn stared at her husband disheartenly because the images Cassandra had placed in her mind returned. The tears began to flow again while Kathryn tried to wipe them away before Christopher could see them. Why couldn’t they be happy together, she thought miserably, was her step-mother always going to come between them?
Christopher saw Kathryn’s state and couldn’t understand what was wrong with her. If she wasn’t ill, then what was distressing her so much? She should be the happiest woman alive having two beautiful children such as theirs but instead, she was sitting there crying her eyes out. Sitting down next to her, he scooped her up in his arms and hugged her tightly. This seemed to help her for the tears stopped and her breathing ceased to be so ragged. He could feel her breasts pressed tightly against his chest causing his desire for her to grow again so reluctantly he released her.
“I’m sorry, Christopher, I don’t know what came over me. I’m not usually this emotional, but lately…” she said, embarrassed by her outburst of tears.
“I quite understand, Kathryn. You’ve been through a great deal and it will pass with time, I’m sure,” he told her but he wasn’t really sure because women having babies was all new to him and he had never paid much attention to them before now. He hoped she would return to her old self again once she recovered from childbirth. But other men had complained to him about how their wives changed after having children and he hoped Kathryn would be different. Placing a kiss atop her head, he left her to get some rest and went downstairs to find his brother.
“Christopher, darling. There you are, I’ve been looking all over for you.” Cassandra cooed in her sweetest voice. “Oh those babies are just adorable. You must be very proud of them.”
“I am Cassandra,” he grumbled, not wanting to be bothered by her.
“But, my poor Kathryn,” she said shaking her head, “looks terrible.”
“I would say, madam that you wouldn’t look much better if the positions were reversed.”
“Well, I wouldn’t ruin my figure by feeding the babies myself, I would get a wet nurse.”
Images of Kathryn with the twins at her breasts instantly came to mind and he thought about how much he enjoyed watching her feed them.
Cassandra seeing Christopher deep in thought, knew he was thinking about Kathryn so she quickly tried a different approach. “Christopher, I know we’ve had our differences of late but I think we should try and resolve them. For Kathryn’s sake. She is after all my step-daughter which makes us somewhat related.”
Christopher eyed her suspiciously, knowing her as well as he did, he wondered what game she was about this time. “What are you suggesting, madam?”
“That we just be friends, is all Christopher. What else could there be between us, with my darling Kathryn laying upstairs,” she said, innocently.
Christopher thought about what she had said and deciding that it would be better for Kathryn if he and her step-mother got along better. “That suits me just fine, Cassandra,” he replied nonchalantly, relieved that his bickering with her would be over.
She nodded her head at his response before gazing back up at him through her long sultry lashes. “You know Christopher, that it’s not been good for your health being deprived for so long,” she said with deep concern.
“Why should you be so concerned about my health?” He asked, doubtfully.
“Because I care about you, Christopher, as a friend. Every man needs relief when his wife has been with child.”
“What are you getting at, Cassandra?”
Moving within inches of him she hesitated before answering. “I only meant that I would offer my services to you, with no strings attached of course. It would only be purely physical you see,” she explained, trying to sound logical.
Christopher could smell her perfume invade his nostrils with her standing there so close in front of him and couldn’t believe the affect it was having on him. Especially with her offering him her favors, for no better reason than his own well-being. He closed his eyes and thought that he must have been deprived too long for now even Cassandra was starting to look good to him. Mentally he shook himself. It would be easy to take her up on her offer and finally rid himself of his pent-up desires but he didn’t want her, he only wanted Kathryn. She was the only woman he really desired and no other woman could fulfill him like she did. Even the way Cassandra had bluntly stated it, only being purely physical. He wanted more than that. No, he would hold out for however long it took Kathryn to heal from childbirth, for he knew it would be well worth his wait. “I appreciate your generous offer Cassandra, but I respectfully decline,” he said to her before heading back upstairs to join his wife and children again.
“You’ll change your mind, Christopher. I know you will,” she said under her breath and watched him climb the stairs, two at a time.