Axel and Abby Belmont were secondary characters in “The Virtuoso,” but they have a story too, one in which they anticipate their vows just a smidgeon. Even though Axel knows Valentine Windham, Devlin St. Just, and his half grown sons by his first marriage are about to descend on Candlewick Manor, Axel encourages his lady to remain abed, and for good reason…
“What was that?” Axel Belmont addressed his wife’s tummy, with which he was spending an increasing amount of time. Before and after lovemaking, he’d become inclined to rest his cheek over the swell of her womb, as her pregnancy was approaching it half-way mark. A few more weeks, and she might start grousing about lying on her back.
“What was what?” Abby’s hands drifted through his hair, and her voice held the utter, boneless repletion of a well satisfied woman.
“There it was again,” Axel stayed right where he was. “My love, I believe we woke the baby. Give me your hand.” He grabbed her hand, and put it where his cheek had been, pressing firmly against Abby’s womb until the little flutter repeated itself.
“That’s the baby?” Abby asked softly. “You’re sure?”
“I wouldn’t bet Day and Phillip on it,” Axel said, “But if you’ve no indigestion, then I’d bet Ivan on it.”
His horse, which should convey his near certainty.
“Oh… My.” Abby kept her hand exactly where Axel had put it. He watched her face as the child moved again, and again. “It feels like a bubble went drifting past my hand. A tiny, quick, beautiful little bubble.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” The look on her face had his heart nigh to bubbling. “And now can we start arguing over names?”
“We’re having a child,” Abby said, her expression distracted. “You once told me I could have a baby by Christmas.”
He had said that—never dreaming at the time they might share that miracle. “I am a prophet in addition to a gentleman farmer. Be glad I did not challenge you to twins.”
“Oh, husband…” Abby wrapped herself against him. “I never thought…”
“You never thought what?” Axel kissed her crown. She was so adorably weepy with her pregnancy, and affectionate, and passionate, and wonderful.
“We’re going to have a child, and very likely by Christmas,” Abby replied. “I can hardly bear the wonder of it.”
“Just safely bear the child,” Axel suggested softly, “I’ll be in charge of the wonder. Shall you sleep in a bit, Abby love?”
She offered him a teary smile. “I can’t imagine I’d sleep.”
“Then let’s be lazy and visit with our offspring.”
As morning sun stretched across their room, they stayed close in bed, talking, dozing, teasing, and daring each other to think of increasingly outrageous names for their unborn child. When Abby wrestled Axel over her, they made love again, slowly and tenderly, saying with their bodies what went beyond words. It was a moment to share and savor, and savor some more, and even when the morning was half gone, Axel didn’t want to leave his wife as she slept in their bed.
Except all manner of company was going to arrive much sooner than the baby, and as Abby needed her sleep, Axel nominated himself to get up and get dressed. He heard the jingle of a wagon coming up his lane just as he got his second boot on.
With a last, longing glance at his sleeping wife, Axel told himself to go greet his guests. He bent down by Abby’s ear and whispered, “If it’s a girl, we must name her Joy.”