(Dedicated to silvermissstt aka the Samantha to my Nellie)
Cornelia took in a deep breath of country air. Had it only been a month since she'd last ridden through the streets of Mount Bedford? She loved the city and traveling the world with Gard, but there was something to be said about the quiet and cleanliness of the country.
"Are you sure about this?" Gard nudged her, a hint of a smile touching his lips knowing well he'd interrupted her daydream.
"You know I'm sure," she answered. "Why do you keep asking me?"
"I know it's a lot to ask. I know this should be the most romantic time of our lives. We won't be able to travel as much with Samantha. Not until she's older, maybe. Mother wouldn't hear of it – not chaperoned by us."
Cornelia laughed. "We've seen the world, Gard. I'm ready for a family."
"Samantha's a wonderful child."
Squeezing his hand, she looked at him assuredly. "I know she is."
His smile faded after a moment, leaning back against his seat as he took the final turn towards Grandmary's. "I'll admit I am a bit nervous."
"You? Nervous?" she teased. "I don't think I've ever heard those words from you."
He chuckled but turned serious again. "I know she wasn't thrilled with the idea of moving away. I hate to take her away from those neighbor girls, too."
"I think it's sweet how close she's become with them. Most girls in her position wouldn't have treated them any better than that Ryland boy."
"They wouldn't have given them the time of day, that's for sure. But Samantha's always had a good heart… Just like her mother."
"I'm sure she'd be proud to see what a wonderful woman she's growing up to be. I've only known her for a couple of months and she's won my heart. I hope I will be able to win hers in time…"
"You already have."
Shaking her head, she rebutted. "Not quite. She's been strange to me from the start. That's why I was so touched when she gave me her mother's veil. I know how important that was to her. I know she did it for you more than me, but it was a start."
"You haven't done anything to ward off her affections," he insisted. "She was angry with me for forgetting our summer plans. I'm not sure how much she overheard of my conversation with Mother, but what she heard upset her, leading her to believe she was being punished by sending her away. Please, Cornelia, don't take it personally."
With a soft smile, she said, "I won't." The smile faded as she went on. "She's had a rough time of it."
Gard nodded. "I love Mother dearly, but I'm afraid she doesn't show her nurturing side often. She wasn't always so cold. Never soft, mind you. Lydia's death hardened her. Samantha managed to adopt her spirit and zest. I can't tell you how grateful I am for it."
Fighting off tears, Cornelia cleared her throat, making sure her voice was steady before she spoke. "We'll be sure to make up for what was lost."
"In more ways than one," he said softly.
Pulling up to the mansion, each of them let out a final breath. The honeymoon was over. Long voyages to Europe were over. Spontaneous trips around America were over. Brushes with fame would be put on hold. A chapter of uncertainty was about to open, but what was certain was their love for their niece and their excitement to bring her home.
Opening his bride's door, Gard tipped his head as he took her hand. "To new beginnings."
Cornelia curtsied. "For all of us."