Lucian loved her.
Nor did it matter that Marie Rose slept in the nursery. Whether they were separated by a floor or a continent, she felt Marie Rose's needs as she felt her own. The bond was so strong, so true, it could never be broken.
Madame Josephine may win battles, but Abigail knew she herself had won the war. She had Lucian and Marie Rose.
There were candles glowing in the nursery. Claudine, the nursemaid, didn't trust the gaslight. She already held Marie Rose and was trying to quiet her with a sugar tit, but the baby's fists were shaking, little balls of rage.
"Such a temper she has." Abigail set the candle down and was laughing as she crossed the room, her arms already outstretched.
"Knows what she wants, and when she wants it." Claudine, a pretty Cajun with sleepy dark eyes, gave the baby a quick cuddle, then passed her off. "She hardly made a fuss yet. Don't know how you hear her way off downstairs."
"I hear her in my heart. There now, bébé. Maman's here."
"I'll change her." Abigail rubbed her cheek on the baby's and smiled. Claudine was a friend-a battle won. Having her established in the nursery, in the household, gave Abigail comfort and the companionship none of Lucian's family would offer her.
"Go on back to bed. Once she's nursed, she'll sleep till morning."
"Good as gold, she is." Claudine brushed fingertips over Marie Rose's curly hair. "If you don't need me, maybe I'll take a walk down to the river. Jasper, he's gonna be there." Her dark eyes lit. "I told him maybe, if I can get away, I come down around midnight."
"You oughta make that boy marry you, chère."
"Oh, I'm gonna. Maybe I run down for an hour or two, if you don't mind, Abby."
"I don't mind, but you be careful you don't catch nothing more than some crawfish. Anything more," she corrected as she prepared to change Marie Rose's soiled linen.
"Don't you worry. I'll be back before two." She started out through the connecting door and glanced back. "Abby? You ever think, when we were kids, that you'd be mistress of this house one day?"
"I'm not mistress here." She tickled the baby's toes and had Marie Rose gurgling. "And the one who is'll probably live to a hundred and ten off of spite just to make sure I never am."
"If anybody could, it'd be that one. But you will be, one day. You fell into the luck, Abby, and it looks real fine on you."
Alone with the baby, Abby tickled and cooed. She powdered and smoothed, then tidily fastened the fresh diaper. When Marie Rose was tucked into a fresh gown and swaddled, Abby settled in the rocker, bared her breast for that tiny, hungry mouth. Those first greedy tugs, the answering pull in her womb, made her sigh. Yes, she'd fallen into the luck. Because Lucian Manet, the heir of Manet Hall, the shining knight of every fairy tale, had looked at her. And loved.
She bent her head to watch the baby nurse. Marie Rose's eyes were wide open, fixed on her mother's face. A tiny crease of concentration formed between her eyebrows.
Oh, she had such hope those eyes would stay blue, like Lucian's. The baby's hair was dark like her own. Dark and curling, but her skin was milk white-again like her papa's rather than the deeper tone, the dusky gold of her Cajun mama's.
She would have the best of both of them, Abby thought. She would have the best of everything.
It wasn't only the money, the grand house, the social position, though she wanted that for her children now that she had tasted it herself. It was the acceptance, the learning, the knowing you belonged in such a place. Her daughter, and all the children who came after, would read and write, would speak proper English, proper French, in fine voices.
No one would ever look down on them.
From Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts, Copyright (c) October 2001, Putnam Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam, used by permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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