Barnabas Collins was about to enter Collinwood when his young sister's voice hailed him softly. "Wait, Barnabas."
"Sarah. I thought you would be inside, studying your lessons."
She frowned. "Didn't you receive my note?"
"That's why I am here," he told her. "What's wrong?"
"I must speak to you," she said earnestly.
"This sounds quite serious," he began, teasingly.
"It is," the fifteen year old girl insisted. "We cannot talk here. Aunt Abigail is everywhere of late."
Sighing at the girl's love of intrigue, Barnabas decided to humor her. "Is the garden safe?"
"It will be until Aunt Abigail discovers that I am not in my room."
Once in the garden, Sarah seemed hesitant, unsure of where to start, so Barnabas spoke first. "You've been a stranger at the Old House lately."
"I know. That's part of what I want to talk to you about. Father-Father's impossible, Barnabas."
"Father's health-," he reminded her. "His gout-"
"I've heard all of that from Mother. And I understand that he doesn't like being confined to his bed while Uncle Jeremiah is in the Orient and you run the shipyards alone. But there's more. He- He's having me followed," she declared dramatically.
"Followed?" Barnabas questioned, "Surely not."
"He is," she declared. "He has Aunt Abigail spying on my every move."
Barnabas fixed her with a speculative gaze. "And have you done anything to make him think you should be watched?"
Sarah looked away, picking up a leaf that lay on the bench beside her. "Well, to Father's way of thinking, perhaps. There's a young man-"
"Oh, Sarah. Who is he?"
"Philip Carter," she said simply, watching his face.
"Carter," Barnabas repeated. Aaron Carter was a farmer whose land bordered on Collins property. "I've seen him around," he told his sister, bidding her to continue.
"Aunt Abigail discovered a letter that Philip sent me. She searched my dresser, Barnabas. At any rate, she took it to Father."
"And he's forbidden you to see young Carter?"
"Yes. I love him, Barnabas."
"You're still very young, Sarah," Barnabas pointed out gently.
"Mother was married when she was a year older than I. I don't care. I won't let Father arrange for me to marry a man I don't love. Surely you can understand how I feel, Barnabas. I don't want to marry someone and end up sharing a house with a stranger. Mother is so unhappy. She's drinking far too much. And Josette-" Sarah bit her lip. "I'm sorry, Barnabas," she told him, realizing she had spoken out of turn.
He sighed again. "No, you're right. I didn't realize that you were aware of it."
"I'm not a child, Barnabas. You and Josette were so much in love when she came here. Yet now, you spend all of your time at the yards and Josette is wholly concerned with Bramwell. What happened?"
He shook his head sadly. "I wish
I knew, Sarah." He drew himself out of his self-pity.
"I'll speak to Mother about Father," he assured her.
"Thank you," she said, giving him a grateful hug as Abigail Collins' sharp voice assailed them.
"Sarah? Sarah Collins, are you out here?"
Sarah smiled grimly at her brother. "See?" she whispered. "I told you. Over here, Aunt Abigail."
The older woman, her dark hair streaked with white, came down the path, anger in every step. Dressed in unrelieved black, she reminded Sarah of a crow-or a witch. "Here you are. You're neglecting your lessons, child," she scolded.
"I fear it was my fault, Aunt,"
Barnabas explained. "I asked Sarah to join me for a walk."
Sharp black eyes were turned on him. "You should know better, Barnabas. It is getting late and Sarah shouldn't be exposed to the night air."
Sarah linked her arm though her aunt's. "Now, Aunt Abigail. Remember your apoplexy."
"My-you are a wicked child, Sarah Collins," Abigail sputtered. "You know I am in perfect health. Your father will hear of your- impertinence."
"I'm sure he will," Sarah said calmly.
"Let's go. And you, Barnabas. I'm sure your wife is awaiting your arrival at the Old House," she stated pointedly.
"You are quite right, Aunt. Good-night, Sarah."
"Good-night. Give my love to Josette and Bramwell."
Barnabas stood in the garden after the
two women had gone. Sarah's knowledge of the state of his marriage
was troubling. He had sworn five years ago to make Josette happy.
And he had tried, he thought. But-he shook his head as the thought trailed off.
What had gone wrong, he asked himself, not for the first time. That first year had been idyllic, and the discovery that they were to be parents had made it seem perfect. But those months had been difficult for Josette, keeping her confined to her bed.
Bramwell's birth had nearly three years ago had almost taken Josette's life, and the doctor had warned that having another child would kill her. After that, she had seemed afraid for him to touch her.
Had that been the beginning, he wondered. He was spending ten hours or more at the shipyard and Josette spent her time in the nursery. He knew that they were falling into the pattern of his own parents' marriage, but was helpless to prevent it.
Sighing heavily again, Barnabas turned his steps homeward.
As Barnabas entered the Old House, he frowned. The parlour was deserted, unusual for this time of day, as Josette was usually here with Bramwell. Barnabas poured himself a measure of sherry, and then turned to look up at the portrait of his wife that hung over the mantle.
"Excuse me, sir." He turned upon hearing Angelique's voice. "I was not aware that you had returned."
"Where is Josette, Angelique?"
"Resting in her room, sir. She has another frightful headache, I fear."
"And Bramwell?" he inquired, refilling his glass before setting out another to fill it with port.
"In the nursery. No doubt Mrs. Burns is seeing to his dinner."
"I'll go and spend some time with him in a few minutes."
"I think you should, sir. He sees so little of you-" she paused, eyes downcast. "Excuse me. It is not my place to criticize you. I will inform Madam of your arrival-"
"Not yet, Angelique. Stay for a moment." He held out the glass of port. "Have a drink." She hesitated, as she always had on such occasions. "Take it."
After she did as he bade her, he sat down heavily. Angelique remained standing, watching him. "You looked tired, sir."
"I suppose I am."
"Is there trouble at the Yards," she questioned, finally seating herself on the edge of the other chair.
"Not at all. As a matter of fact, things there are going very well."
"I saw the new ships from Widows'
Hill today as they left the harbour," she told him.
"Where were they bound?"
"Around the Horn and up the Western Coast, I believe," he answered, putting his head back against the brocade fabric. "No, it's not the yards themselves. My father's health is no better-and with Jeremiah in the Orient, he's difficult to handle."
"He still refuses to give you a free hand and retire?"
"He won't hear of it." His eyes closed.
Angelique fought the urge to reach across and smooth the tired lines from his beloved face. She had made one attempt to resume their brief affair upon her arrival here five years ago and had been spurned. Barnabas had offered her friendship in its place. In her anger, she had almost used her powers on him for revenge-but another plan had occurred to her.
Instead of preventing his marriage, she allowed it to happen, and then asked Josette to let her stay and serve the new Mrs. Collins. Barnabas would realize eventually how ill-suited he and Josette were, and would then turn to Angelique. It was only times like this that made her believe it might happen. Even after all this time.
Barnabas saw her look of sympathy and concern as he opened his eyes. This was not the first time they had sat and talked this way. Josette seemed neither to understand nor care about Barnabas' business. Her only concern was Bramwell-and of course he own ill health. "Angelique, will Josette be well enough to come downstairs for dinner, do you think?"
"I could not say." She finished the port, and stood, once again the distant servant. "If you will excuse me, sir, I have duties to finish."
"Thank you for your company, Angelique," he said, his eyes meeting hers.
"It was my pleasure, sir," she assured him, before leaving the room.
He sat there for some moments after she
had gone, recalling those days- and nights - on Martinique so
long ago. Before Josette's arrival, he had entertained thoughts
of marrying the beautiful blonde. But duty- and certain knowledge
of his father's reaction - had forced him to deny his growing
feelings for the lovely Angelique and transfer his affection to
Josette. It had been for Angelique's sake that he had sent her
away from him, asked that she be nothing more than his friend.
Perhaps that had been insensitive of him.
He had seen the way she looked at him, had little doubt that her continuing feelings for him had been one of her reasons for staying at Collinwood. Barnabas found himself looking forward to their all-to-brief conversations. Unlike Josette, Angelique seemed genuinely interested in the shipyard. She understood business matters. He never found himself bored during their time together.
"Pardon, Msr... Barnabas-?"
She was in the doorway, and for a second Barnabas could recall the feel of her soft skin beneath his own. . .
"Are you well, sir?" she asked, concerned.
He mentally shook himself. "Yes. Did you want something?"
"Madame has asked me to extend her apology. She is not feeling well enough to join you for dinner."
"Thank you. Would you tell Cook that I will be served in the study, then? I have some work to do after I go up to see Bramwell."
"Oh, but you are so tired, sir. Surely your work could wait? Forgive me. Again, I have overstepped my place. And I do know my place, sir."
Barnabas took a deep breath. "I appreciate your - concern, Angelique, but I will be all right. I'm going upstairs to visit my son."
"I will give Cook your message." On her way to the kitchen, Angelique pondered Barnabas' strange mood. She did not dare hope that her patience was about to come to fruition.
After leaving Bramwell in the able care of Mrs. Burns, his nurse, Barnabas made his way to Josette's room. He knocked once and she bade him enter. He found her lying on the bed, a cold cloth over her eyes. "Angelique informs me that you are unwell," he said quietly, remaining by the door.
He saw her tense at the sound of his voice and his heart sank even lower. She sat up, removing the cloth. "Barnabas. You are home early."
"Sarah sent a note to the office that she wanted to see me about a private matter."
"How is she?"
"Well." He moved to the window, heard Josette rise from the bed and go to sit by the fire. "I was just with Bramwell. He's growing so much. Mrs. Burns thinks he will be ready for a tutor shortly."
"She said the same to me," Josette agreed. The room was quiet for several minutes, as both searched for something to say. When she could stand the silence no longer, Josette moaned, "Oh, Barnabas, what has happened to us? We can't even talk anymore unless it concerns Bramwell."
Barnabas closed his eyes for a moment, and then turned. "You're overwrought. I'll go so you can rest-" he was halfway to the door before she spoke again.
"Barnabas -" she was hesitant now. Well-bred young ladies were not supposed to speak of such things, ask the question she was about to ask.
He remained at the door, his back straight. "Yes?"
"Is there- Is there- someone else?"
He relaxed slightly. "No," he assured her truthfully.
"If there is, I can return to Martinique-"
"You are my wife, Josette. And you will remain here."
"For what reason? To avoid a scandal? For Bramwell's sake?"
Barnabas felt even more tired. "Josette, I suggest you return to bed. I will send Angelique to tend you."
"No. Don't bother her."
"Goodnight, then." He closed the door before she even responded, and stood in the corridor for a long moment, knowing that Josette had been right. If she left, she would take Bramwell, and he was determined that his son be reared at Collinwood. And there was his father's reaction to consider as well. Joshua would blame him if the marriage failed. With a sigh, he went down to the study and buried himself in paperwork.
Expecting Ben or Cook to brink his meal, Barnabas didn't look up when someone knocked sometime later on the study door. He simply bade them enter. "Set it before the fire. I will eat it later."
"Cold food isn't good for you, sir," Angelique said softly.
He looked up. "I didn't expect you-"
"Ben is still in the stables. I offered to bring it, since Cook's rheumatism is troubling her today. I hope you don't mind. I know it isn't part of my duties."
"Have you already had your meal?"
"Then would you mind staying and keeping me company while I have mine?" he asked, indicating the other chair
"No. No, I wouldn't mind," she said, sitting down and gazing into the fire, content to be near him.
Barnabas ate his meal, also silent, yet feeling none of the constraint that existed between him and Josette. There was no need for conversation.
The plate empty, he sat back, content for the first time in a long while. The mantel clock struck the hour, and Angelique rose to her feet, lifting the tray. "I will take this back to the kitchen," she announced.
"It is getting late." She turned to go, but stopped as Barnabas spoke again. "Angelique, have you finished your duties for the night?"
"Madam has released me for the remainder of the evening, yes."
He knew it was folly, knew he was playing a dangerous game, but Barnabas refused to consider the consequences as he asked, "Then, may I come to your room later?"
Angelique remained turned away from him, gripping the tray tightly to keep from dropping it. "My-room?"
"To-- talk," he clarified, not really believing the assurance.
Angelique was glad he couldn't see her eyes, knowing that he would be shocked to see the look of triumph in them. But she hesitated. "I do not think it would be proper, sir."
"Perhaps not," Barnabas agreed quietly. "But--I need to talk to you. Alone. With no chance of being overheard or interrupted." His voice lowered slightly. "Please, Angelique. Don't refuse me."
"Very well, sir."
"Thank you. I have some things to finish up here," he told her, allowing her to leave the room at last.
An hour later, Angelique decided that Barnabas had changed his mind and got ready for bed. She doused the last candle and was about to bank the fire when his knock came at the door. Noting his glance at her nightclothes, she explained, "I thought you had decided not to come after all."
"I had more work to do than I realized. May I come in?"
Angelique refused to give in to false modesty as she stepped back to allow him into the room. After all, he had seen her in far less than a cotton nightgown and robe. She closed the door behind him. The last time he had been in this room, he had kissed her, and then asked if they could be friends. "You wanted to talk?"
"Yes." He looked away from her and crossed the room, also recalling that last visit. Looking out of the window, he sought the words he needed to say. "Angelique, do you ever think about - Martinique?"
His back was toward her, and she took a couple of steps closer to him, then stopped, before answering, "Occasionally."
He turned back to her, asking quickly, "Why did you decide to stay here instead of returning with the Countess?"
Angelique knelt before the fire to add a small log. "I had-several reasons. I felt that Madame would be glad to have someone from home with her."
"And?" he prompted, entranced by the play of firelight on her hair.
She stood. "I like it here. There was nothing I needed to return to in Martinique."
His eyes met hers. "Everything you wanted was here." It was a statement, not a question.
She didn't hesitate before answering. "Yes. Is this leading somewhere?"
"I think so. But first, there is something I have to tell you." She was near enough for him to touch, but he fought the urge. "On Martinique, before Josette's arrival, I considered asking you to become my wife."
Her eyes grew wide. "What?"
"But when Josette arrived and I realized much she loved me, I was torn between what I wanted and duty to my family. Father expected me to marry Josette and secure the du Pres sugar business for the yards. He would gladly accept Josette-"
Angelique's tone was bitter. "But not a servant."
"Precisely. It made no sense to me," he assured her quickly, "but I had no other choice but to follow my duty. In order to do that, I transferred what I felt for you to Josette. I never wanted to hurt you, Angelique. I thought you would find someone else-someone who was free to give you the love you deserved."
He held up his hand. "Please. Let me finish. I never expected you to come here. When I opened that door downstairs and saw you there, I couldn't believe it. You were right that night. I was glad to see you."
"Then why did you push me away?" she asked softly.
"All I could have offered you was an affair, and that wouldn't have been fair to your-or to Josette."
"Why are you telling me this now, Barnabas?"
He turned away again to look unseeingly out the window. "I don't know." Perhaps, because-I made the wrong choice five years ago. I should never have married Josette."
"But you are married to her."
"Yes. And I share a son with her, but little else. I cannot end the marriage. My father would accept you even less now than before."
Angelique moved around him, facing him. "You are not a child, Barnabas, forever having to please your father."
"No," he agreed, "But I am a Collins. And I'm very aware of the responsibilities that entails."
"So you will continue this-this farce? Live with a woman you no longer love to please everyone by yourself? Growing more bitter and angry with each day, each year that passes?"
"No," he sighed, "I don't want that."
"Then what do you want?" she asked.
"I want - God help me, I want you," he told her, placing his hands on her arms. "I need you, Angelique. But I can't -" he released her to turn away from her.
Frustrated, Angelique shook her head. "Can't what?"
"I can offer you nothing more than a role as my mistress. And I can't ask that of you."
Angelique smiled, placing her palms on
his back, slowly sliding them forward until her arms were around
him, her cheek resting against the material of his coat. "Oh,
Barnabas. When I first entered this house, all I wanted was your
love. I was very angry when you insisted that you loved Josette
and that we were finished. And then you came here to this very
room and asked if we could be friends. I said yes, but I was
so furious that I almost did some very foolish things."
She stopped, knowing that she didn't dare say anymore.
He turned in her arms, frowning. "What things?"
She shook her head. "It doesn't matter now. Nothing matters except that I love you. I have since the first moment I saw you. I will accept any position in your life, Barnabas, as long as I know you care-even a little."
"I do care, Angelique, but I want to be fair-"
"I don't want fairness, my darling. I want you. Only you. Even if it's only in my bed-" Any further words were lost as Barnabas' mouth covered hers with a fierce passion that took her breath away . . .
Later, their passions temporarily sated, Barnabas held her close in his arms. "I'll find a house for you in Bangor-"
"No, Barnabas," she protested. "I don't want to leave."
"You can't stay as Josette's maid," he told her.
"But I can. She won't suspect a
thing," she promised. "I want to here, close to you.
Josette is already upset that you are so often away. Perhaps, now, you will be. And you'll be able to spend more time with Bramwell. Don't send me away, please."
He looked down into her blue eyes. "Is that how you want it to be?"
"Yes. All I want is to be near you. To be here when you need me."
"Then you shall be," he declared.
Angelique returned his kiss, aware of her feeling of triumph. Josette might be Barnabas' wife in the eyes of the world, but Angelique knew that she was his wife in his heart and mind - and soul.
Josette watched in the mirror as Angelique deftly ran the gold-backed brush through her auburn hair and sighed. "Do you ever wish you were home, Angelique?"
"In Martinique? Oh, no, madame," Angelique assured her. "I am quite happy here. Collinsport is my home now." The maid's blue eyes sparkled with her secret. These last two years had been wonderful.
"I wish I could say the same. I miss Aunt Natalie and Papa."
"But madame has so much here," Angelique reminded her. "This lovely house, a wonderful son, and a husband you love very much."
"You left out an important part. I may still love Barnabas, but he no longer loves me. I am not the wife he wants or needs."
Even though she agreed with this statement, Angelique knew it was expected that she say something. "Surely you are wrong, madame."
"No. I am not. I have no interest in business matters, something which would give me a common subject to discuss with Barnabas. And without your help, running this house would be quite beyond me." She lowered her gaze to her hands as they lay in her lap. "Do you know that in the five years since Bramwell's birth, Barnabas has come to my bed only twice? And not at all during the last two years."
Angelique thought privately that much of the blame for that could be placed with Josette, but she deftly turned the accusation around. "Perhaps he is afraid of giving you another child," she reasoned. "You were so ill after Bramwell's birth, and that doctor did say another one might mean your death."
Josette looked desolate. "I failed him in that as well," she moaned. "Barnabas wanted a large family. He should have had them. Perhaps I should have put aside my fears-"
"Msr. Barnabas is quite satisfied with the son he has," Angelique said soothingly. Hoping to draw Josette away from her self pity, she said, "He does seem to be spending more time with Bramwell of late."
The woman in the mirror smiled at last. "Yes. I am grateful for that. And just knowing he is in the house is a comfort to me." Her eyes moved to meet those of her maid. "Angelique, do you have any friends in the village?"
""Why do you ask?"
"You go out so infrequently. I should like to think that you have something other than your work to fill your life."
Angelique's smile was shy. "Oh, I do madame."
"Is there-someone special?" Josette asked softly, amazed at the change in her friend's face. Strange that she hadn't noticed it before now.
"I have been - seeing someone, yes. But I would rather not discuss him, madame. If you please."
"As you wish. But I must admit that I the idea of losing you to some young man had never occurred to me before now."
Angelique thought it best to end the conversation. "Cook is expecting you to discuss the week's menu with her, madame," she said.
Josette stood. "I should go, then."
"And I will straighten your room while you are gone." She picked up a robe that Josette had discarded onto a chair and was folding it when she swayed and had to grab a bed post for support.
Seeing this, Josette ran to her side. "Angelique! What is wrong?"
The blonde woman closed her eyes for a moment as her head cleared. "I felt light-headed for a moment. But I am fine, now, madame."
"But you've never been ill. I'll send for a doctor-"
"Do not trouble him, madame," Angelique insisted. "I am quite recovered."
Josette looked doubtful. "If you're certain -. I think you should take the afternoon and rest."
"I would prefer to go into Collinsport, Madame."
Josette looked about to argue, and then stopped. "Very well. I will see you later, then."
After the evening meal, Barnabas and Josette sat in the parlour, watching Bramwell play with his wooden soldiers, answering the child's never ending questions when Angelique entered the room. She curtseyed before saying, "Excuse me, but Mrs. Burns asked me to remind you that it is past Master Bramwell's bed-time."
Josette made as if to rise. "Then I will take him up to her."
"Allow me, please," Angelique offered, stooping to lift the child. Again her head swam, and she paused, lifting a shaking hand to her head.
Barnabas was immediately at her side. "Are you all right?"
"Yes." The shakiness was fading now. "Yes. I am fine. I moved too quickly, perhaps-"
But Josette was still concerned. "She is not fine, Barnabas," she insisted, watching as he led Angelique a chair. "It happened earlier today as well."
"Oh?" He tried to will Angelique to look at him, to let him know what was going on. But she looked everywhere except at him.
"Please. I am really quite recovered," Angelique protested.
"Would you like a brandy?"
"No. I think I will go to my room and lie down for a few minutes-if you do not mind, madame?"
"Of course I don't mind. Take the remainder of the evening and rest."
"Thank you," she said, rising slowly to her feet. "But that will not be necessary."
Josette, worried, asked Barnabas, "Would you mind seeing her upstairs, Barnabas? If she were to have another spell-"
He took Angelique's arm and led her from the room.
Once in Angelique's third floor room, Barnabas closed the door and spoke softly. "What is wrong, Angelique?"
"I told you downstairs that it was nothing. Just-overwork, perhaps."
"I heard what you said, but you haven't looked at me once. Now look at me."
"What will that prove?" she wanted to know.
"Angelique-" he forced her to turn and lifted her head. She closed her eyes for a moment before the lashes lifted and Barnabas could easily read the truth. "Good Lord. How long have you known?"
"I've suspected it for two months."
Barnabas pulled her into his arms with more gentleness than usual. "Oh, Angelique. I have to think. Make plans."
"Plans?" she questioned, frowning up at him.
"About where you will go. A small house-in Boston, perhaps."
"I don't want to leave, Barnabas," she told him firmly.
He looked at her, shaking his head. "You can't stay here. Josette will want to know who the father is-"
"I have a plan, Barnabas. I know what I am going to say. Don't send me away. I want our child to be born here. Please."
Josette entered her bedroom an hour later to find Angelique there as she had always been, turning down the bedclothes. "Angelique, I thought I told you to take the evening-"
"I know, but I want to help you, madame. I may not have many more chances to do so."
Confusion was evident in Josette's expression. "What do you mean?"
Angelique laid out Josette's night gown and robe. "I must leave you soon."
"Leave? But-why?" When her maid didn't answer right away, Josette frowned. "Angelique, please sit down and tell me why you must leave."
Angelique seated herself on the edge of the divan, folding her hands in her lap and focusing on them. "I have been so foolish, madame. So very foolish." She was visibly upset, Josette thought, and sat down beside her.
"What's happened, Angelique?" she asked softly.
"The young man I told you about-he's a sailor. He's very handsome, madame, and I thought he loved me, he said we would be married as soon as he had enough money. We became-very close. Today-Today he told me that he is already married. His wife is in New York."
"Oh, poor Angelique. But I still don't understand why that would make it imperative for you to leave me."
A tear escaped Angelique's eye to roll down her cheek. "Oh, I am so ashamed, madame. I believed him when he said he loved me and would marry me. I-"
Sudden realization dawned, and Josette's eyes widened. "Oh, Angelique. You're with child?"
Angelique nodded jerkily. "You see why I have to leave."
"Nonsense. Where would you go? You have no family, no friends to speak of-"
"I would find-some place-"
"You will stay here," Josette decided.
"But - will Msr. Barnabas allow me to stay when he finds out how foolish I've been?"
"I'm sure he will," Josette told her, hoping she was right. "Once he's heard your story, I'm certain he'll agree that you belong here, with people who care about you." She placed her hand over Angelique's. "No more tears, Angelique. Barnabas will see to everything. I will go and speak with him immediately."
That gentleman was down in his study, a glass of sherry in his hand as he gazed unseeingly out of the window. He started when he heard his wife's voice. "Barnabas?" He turned toward her as she entered the room. "May I speak to you for a moment?"
"Of course. Would you like a sherry?"
"Yes, thank you." She sat down before the fire, and took a sip of the liqueur. "Angelique just told me what is causing these fainting spells," she said quickly.
"Indeed?" Barnabas stood looking into the fire as she spoke.
"It seems that she's fallen in love with a sailor who was in Collinsport. He promised to marry her and took advantage of her. Today, he informed her that he's returning to New York-and to his wife. Unfortunately, he has left poor Angelique with a - problem."
Barnabas took a deep breath. "I see."
Josette hurried on. "She was planning to leave, but she has no where to go. I cannot allow her to go through this all alone, Barnabas."
"What do you suggest, then?" he wanted to know.
"That she remain here, where she belongs."
Barnabas frowned slightly. "I'm not sure that would be wise."
"You would send her away? To be with people she does not know, who don't care about her?" She rose from the chair. "Please, Barnabas. I don't ask much of you, but this is important to me."
He looked at her. "So I see." He looked back at the fire for a moment. "Very well. She can stay."
"Oh, thank you, Barnabas. I'll go and tell her now. Excuse me."
Barnabas allowed himself to relax when the door closed behind her. Angelique had done what she had said she would do. His fist clenched in self-directed anger. Why had he not seen how right she was for him all those years ago in Martinique and had the courage to follow that knowledge? They might have had several children by now. As it was, he would never be able to openly acknowledge this one. The family history would contain the name of only one descendant: Bramwell Collins. The stem of the crystal glass broke as Barnabas' fingers tightened.
As it turned out, there was no need to explain Angelique's being with child to anyone outside of the Old House. Unless one knew she was going to have a baby, her condition was barely noticeable. Ignoring Josette's insistence that she take things easier, Angelique continued to do her work, knowing all the while that Josette was remembering that she herself had been confined to her bed during the time she had been expecting Bramwell. When the time came, Mrs. Burns, being a competent mid-wife, delivered Angelique's son.
Barnabas, also recalling the trouble Josette had suffered at Bramwell's birth, paced the study until he overheard Mrs. Burns informing Josette that Angelique had delivered a healthy son, and that mother and child were both well. Relaxing, Barnabas poured himself a glass of the port wine that Angelique favored and drank a silent toast to her.
Late that night, after everyone else in the house was in their beds, Barnabas made his way up to Angelique's room to find her sitting up in bed, holding their sleeping son. Smiling up at him, she said, "I hoped you would come."
"I thought you would be sleeping," Barnabas told her softly.
"I was," she said, smiling. "But he had other ideas. He was hungry," she explained. "Come and meet your son," she invited. Barnabas sat carefully on the edge of the bed, peering at the small infant. "I've decided to name him Lucas," she said, watching his reaction.
He smiled gently. "Are you all right?" he wanted to know.
His concern touched her deeply. "I am fine," she assured him. "In a few weeks, I'll be fully recovered. Would you mind putting him in his cradle?"
Barnabas took the sleeping child carefully to the cradle that had been set before the hearth. It had been in the family for generations, last used by Bramwell. Angelique watched as he drew the cover over their son, and then held out her hand to him in silent invitation. He took it and returned to sit beside her on the bed, lifting her hand to his lips. "I love you, Angelique," he said solemnly. He had never said those words aloud to her before. "I know I can never acknowledge Lucas, but you have my word that neither of you will ever want for anything. I made out a new will this evening-"
Angelique touched her fingers to his lips to silence him, frowning. "Don't talk of such things. You will live for years."
"I hope so," he said, pressing another kiss into her palm. "I have much to live for now." He lowered his head to kiss her lips, wondering that he could feel this way about her -and that she responded to that feeling- only hours after she had presented him with a son. "You get some sleep," he told her. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Josette met him as he entered the house the next evening. After exchanging the usual banal greetings, he poured them each a glass of sherry. "How is Angelique?" he inquired, hoping he sounded no more concerned than he might about Mrs. Burns or Ben.
"Up and about," Josette informed him, shaking her head in admiration. "She truly is remarkable. She named the baby Lucas."
"A good name," Barnabas commented, refilling his glass.
"Barnabas, I am concerned about something-" she paused, as if uncertain how to continue.
She seemed truly distraught, and Barnabas, knowing that she usually only seemed so where it concerned her own son, asked, "Is Bramwell ill?"
"Oh, no," she quickly assured him. "He is quite well. It is Lucas that concerns me now."
"Lucas?" Barnabas frowned.
"No one outside of this house knows that Angelique was even going to have a child. We cannot keep his existence hidden forever. How are we to explain his sudden appearance?"
He looked at her steadily. "Do you have a suggestion?"
"Yes," She admitted, wringing her hands. "But I am not certain that Angelique will agree to it."
"What is this plan?" he questioned, privately agreeing with her assessment already.
"We could-adopt him. Raise him as our son. We could tell everyone that he is the son of a friend of yours in-New York who died suddenly-"
As much as the idea appealed to Barnabas, he shook his head. "My family is acquainted with all of my friends," he told her.
"Then - an old friend of mine," she suggested. "It is the truth, after all."
"Josette-" Barnabas began, only to find himself surprised by the intense light in his wife's eyes.
"I know how much you wanted more children, Barnabas. You have been a wonderful father to Bramwell. And - Angelique would still be here with him, able to help take care of him."
Barnabas took a deep breath. "Have you mentioned this to Angelique?"
"No. I thought I should discuss it with you first."
"Then I'll discuss it with her - but alone."
Josette frowned. "Alone?"
"You said yourself that she might not agree - and she might respond better to my suggesting it than you. I will seem - less threatening that way. Where is she now?"
"Ask her to join me in the study, please."
Angelique heard him out in silence,
her eyes flashing with blue fire as she said, "NO! He is
my son. I will not simply hand him over to someone else to raise."
"Lower your voice," Barnabas warned. "You would not be handing him over, Angelique," he began, but she paced away from him to stare into the fire.
Barnabas came close to her. "Consider it, Angelique. For Lucas' sake. What future does he have now? In the eyes of the world, his has no father. The ridicule he will suffer because of that - he will be an outcast -"
"He will have ME!" she declared, whirling to face him.
He took her hands in his. "If you agree to allow Josette and me to adopt him, he will have legal right to my name and a portion of my estate. You would still be with him, Angelique, able to guide him, take care of him. Josette doesn't want to take him from you, only make life easier for him. You will always be his mother. Nothing can change that."
She sat down, gazing again into the fire. "Very well, Barnabas. For my son's sake, I will agree to your plan."
He knelt before her, bringing her
hands to his lips. "Thank you. You won't regret it. I
swear to you."