The room was finally, gloriously, blissfully quiet. The doctors had reassured that everything had gone to plan, and the dowager Viscountess had finally returned home to share the good news with the various siblings and in-laws roaming the halls of Bridgerton House. Daphne had stated she was just going to rest her eyes for a few moments before feeding baby Amelia again, but had drifted off to a deep, well-earned sleep. The baby nurse, Maria, had asked the Duke if he wanted to leave the baby with her, but he could not seem to find the wherewithal to remove the squirming, wiggling child from his arms.
The room was aglow in the late summer evening sun. Simon had removed his shirt as the family and staff had left the room, his babe resting as close to his heart as she could get. He walked her around the bedroom, swaying and snuggling her, gently kissing her cheeks, humming soft lullabies. He was continually amazed at how small she was - shorter than his forearm and light as a feather; her head was smaller than his bicep.
Simon stared down at the infant, cooing at her and stroking her smooth, new tawny skin with the pads of his fingers. He took purchase of each finger and toe, and the delicate nails on each. Her eyelashes were devastatingly long and dark. Her nose was so sweet and gently upturned. And her hair… her hair was thin and wispy, swirled in a circle against her scalp.
‘So that’s how baby hair grows’, Simon thought in awe. He’d never considered the way his daughter’s hair would surprise him so.
He looked over to Daphne, deep in slumber, her long, chestnut tresses tossed upon the white of the pillows. He looked back to their child and smiled. He was certain Amelia would have her mother’s hair. But her eyes… well, that was all him. The deep rich chocolate, the shape, the way she captivated everyone who looked at her. Yes, those were Basset eyes.
Simon gently sat on the bed and relaxed into the softness of the headboard. They had moved from the Duchess’s bedchamber to his after the birth, to allow the staff to clean and sanitize. He and Daphne had shared a bedroom since Simon had come back to her after the Hastings Ball; needy and wanting and scared. They deigned to never spend another night separated if they could help it. And as such, Daphne chose to give birth in the bed in which her husband was born, deciding to leave their marital bed sacred for love and lovemaking.
The Duke was anxious about the thought of his beloved giving birth in the bed in which his mother had died. He had nightmares about it; spent other nights awake until dawn about it. The thought of history repeating itself was almost too much to bear. There were other bedrooms in Hastings House, or she could give birth at Bridgerton House if she wanted. Or certainly Clyvedon Castle, although it would have given Simon more of a challenge to ensure every single doctor in London was ready to support the Duchess in childbirth. But Daphne was insistent. She was in good physical condition, strong. And she wanted her child to be born as her beautiful husband had; into the world in its mother’s bed, into her arms.
It wasn’t until Daphne went into labor, clutching the banister as she walked down the stairs, holding the small of her back, that he understood. She wasn’t scared of history repeating itself; she was determined to have history right itself. To bear a child into her welcoming, healthy arms. To bear a child to a father who wanted a baby, not an heir. She was righting a ship that for 32 years had been precariously adrift, taking on water and slowly drowning. She was giving Simon a new life.
And here Amelia was. Not an heir, simply given her gender, but the child he had never given himself permission to want before he’d met Daphne. The baby he had envisioned his wife growing inside of her before proclamations of love, and by the Grace of whatever God existed, allowed it to happen in real life. Here she was, about to bellow her desire to eat.
And bellow she did.
Daphne awoke with a start, opening her eyes to Simon cradling the tiny, swaddled babe in his large arms. He looked up in surprise.
“Powerful lungs, she’s got,” he said sheepishly, suddenly very aware of his daughter’s needs.
Daphne smiled to herself, trying to hoist her back up onto the headboard. She was sore; oh, so sore. Sore like she’d never known. But her child needed her. Simon slid the infant into her arms as she unbuttoned her nightdress and shrugged it down her shoulders, exposing her heavy breasts. She was already leaking colostrum. Amelia latched easily, suckling at her mother’s nipple, quieting instantly.
Simon watched in admiration and appreciation as Daphne laid her head back against the headboard, closing her eyes in exhaustion.
“Amazing,” he whispered softly, overcome by the vision of his beautiful, forgiving wife, giving their baby sustenance. Daphne opened her eyes and turned to him, smiling softly, and humming in agreement. He ran his finger over Amelia’s downy soft curls.
“I am so blissfully happy,” she said, the corners of her mouth turning down and tears forming in her eyes. “This is truly everything I have ever dreamed of.” A tear threatened to spill down her cheek.
The Duke brushed a kiss against her lips, running his thumb under her eye to catch the droplet.
“My love, I never knew… I simply never knew…” Simon was at a loss of words. Something that happened rarely in his life.
His heart was so full. He never imagined feeling like that. He was gloriously happy with Daphne, with their life, with how things had turned out for them. They had the world at their fingertips; a loving family, friends, a duchy that was doing fantastically well. But now… now everything was different. He was different.
Yesterday, he’d been a man. He’d been a Duke, a husband, a brother, a friend. He’d been master of an estate, a former rake, a decent shot and an expert gambler.
But today he was a father. Today he learned what it meant to be protective, for he knew that he would fall into fire or jump into glass for the seven-pound infant who was laying in her mother’s tired arms, satiated.
Daphne nodded at his words, understanding wholeheartedly. For today, she was a mother. Today she understood why Simon was so scared. The thought of her daughter growing without her was enough to bring her to her knees.
Amelia had finished eating and stretched lazily against her blanket. Pink and snow white, handmade by Violet herself. Of course she’d also made a blue and white one, just in case the babe had happened to be a boy, but assured Simon and Daphne that they’d get good use out of it eventually, winking as she left the room.
More babies. Simon stared down at his daughter and vowed silently to himself that he would make a dozen babies with his wife if they all were like sweet Amelia. He said as such out loud.
“And just a year ago, I could barely get one out of you. Now you want twelve?”
Simon considered that. His past certainly preceded him. He leaned into his wife, kissing her temple, and letting Amelia grab onto his first finger. Her eyes opened and he melted into the deep indulgent chocolate of them. He was smitten. She was less than eight hours old and had him wrapped tightly around her finger. They most certainly couldn’t have that many, he didn’t have enough fingers. If he included his toes, however…
“Mmm, we might want to make that a baker’s dozen. Thirteen sounds so much more fun than twelve, wouldn’t you say?”
Daphne looked up and grinned.
“Thirteen sounds divine, your Grace.”