This is the last chapter of Celui Qui Tient Mon Coeur. It's been a real pleasure writing this. By the time this chapter has been posted, the first chapter of the sequel will have been too. More detail on that below.
"I'm relieved Greer's mum is okay," Mary says as she and Francis snuggle up in bed. After getting the news that Mrs Seton-Norwood was hospitalised, they had been in limbo, unsure of whether to go back home to France or stay with Greer in Scotland. But hours later, Greer's father had assured them that his wife was in good health, leaving Greer to force her friends back home in time for their commitments. "She says she'll stay there a bit."
Francis brushes his nose over her cheek. "Yeah, Leith's gone to be with her. Said the kids will be with his parents for a bit," he tells her. "We can put off our trip to Hawaii."
"No, Greer said we shouldn't," Mary says. "And it will be tricky to change the flights and everything. I'll text her to be updated but it seems like her mother is okay now."
"Okay. Good," Francis says. "I started packing already. I've been writing up instructions for Charlie and Hercule."
Mary chuckles, grabbing the baby monitor to check on their youngest. "I'm sure they can handle the kids for two weeks," she tells him, getting out of their bed as she feels a wave of nausea.
"Yeah, I believe in them," Francis says lightly. "Where are you off to?"
"Going to check on Christy. I missed him a lot," Mary replies. "Set up a movie for us, yeah?"
"Romance or Action?"
Mary grins. "You should know me by now. I love a good Action film," she says before leaving their bedroom and closing their door with a click. She checks on Anne, James and Rose on her way to Christy's bedroom and when she enters, she finds the baby wide awake. "You're supposed to be asleep, buddy."
She places the monitor down as Christy gurgles, ready for her to lift him into her arms and shower him with kisses.
"My big, chunky baby. Hello, you..." Mary mutters, feeling Christy rest his head in the crook of her neck. "Mummy's going to go away for another two weeks but she'll be home before you know it. God, you've grown so much in only ten days!"
Babies change every other week and Mary finds herself seldom having light arguments with Francis about who Christy looks like more. Right now, he's identical to Francis again but with brown hair and eyes. She bets that by the time they return, he'll look like her all over again.
She feels another wave of nausea and gags. "Okay, time to sleep, baby boy," she whispers, taking a seat and rocking him to sleep. She manages to keep her bile down and when she lays her sleeping son back in his crib, she narrowly avoids throwing up everywhere as she manages to make it to the bathroom and throw up.
"I'm fine, Annie. I ate something bad," Mary mumbles.
"Do I get Papa?" Anne asks, backing out of the room. "But I need the toilet first."
Mary chuckles softly, turning to her daughter as she hovers her hand over her mouth. "Uh, tell Papa I'm letting you use the toilet in our bathroom," she replies. "Don't get him though, I'm okay."
"Okay!" Anne says before hurrying off.
Sighing heavily, Mary makes sure she has got everything out before standing up, closing the toilet lid and flushing it. She heads to the sink and scrubs her hands clean before heading back to her and Francis's bedroom.
"Anne's in the bathroom," Francis says.
"Yeah," Mary affirms, heading into the room to find Anne just finishing up and washing her hands. "All good?"
"Yeah. I'm going back to bed now," Anne tells her.
Mary nods. "Okay. Kiss Daddy 'goodnight'," she says, getting a kiss on the cheek from her daughter before Anne heads out. She closes the door, promising Francis she won't take long as she goes to the sink and grabs her toothbrush.
After brushing her teeth, she opens the cabinet for the floss and spots unopened pregnancy tests. She had got them when she was pregnant with Christy but hadn't bothered disposing of them when they thought they'd stop with four.
Shakily, she takes the test and fills a cup full of water to down.
"You okay in there, babe?!"
"Yeah!" She calls out. "Just flossing! Can you check on Christy? I forgot the baby monitor in his room!"
When she hears the door to the bedroom open and close shut, she feels her bladder full. She's relieved she didn't use the toilet before going to bed and adding more water to her bladder as put more needed pressure.
Before she knows it, she's taking the test.
"I thought you were going to miss our flight," Francis breathes out, kissing his wife as he helps her with her carry-on suitcase.
Having booked an emergency doctors' visit which happened to be available the day they were due to fly out, they decided to go separately much to Mary's insistence and the fact that Charlie was stuck in traffic and Francis had to wait with the kids.
"Never, I timed everything perfectly," Mary says, making them chuckle.
They are the first to board after Mary swung them first-class tickets, wanting to spoil her husband for their eighth wedding anniversary. After buckling in with their luggage in the overhead cabinets, Francis entwines his and Mary's fingers on his thigh.
"How was the doctors'?"
"It was okay. Just got a lowdown on what to be mindful of when we get there. Like insect bites and other stuff," she tells him. "I'm pale as shit, I can't be getting hives or allergic reactions abroad."
Francis chuckles. "So clean bill of health?"
"Definitely," Mary promises, kissing him.
Their flight is almost sixteen hours long and they will arrive on the 1st of September, their anniversary itself. Mary already has plans in place, spending the day in their hotel suite with room service and the room set in a romantic ambience to ease them into their stay and allow them to suffer the effects of jet-lag in relaxation.
By the time the plane is in the air, Mary's eyes start blinking slowly and she yawns, gaining Francis's attention as he sets up a movie.
"You alright there?"
"Yeah, just tired," she mumbles, using her fist to stifle another yawn.
Francis reaches over and holds her hand. "You didn't sleep well last night. Nervous about travelling? I know how much you hate planes."
"I'm fine, I have you," she ensures him. "Just had a few patients on my mind. Two weeks is a long time to be away and I'm sorry I'll have to video call two during our trip."
"It's fine. I've even got a few stuff to do about the restaurants," Francis replies. "I guess we can escape our kids but not our jobs."
She smiles wryly. "Yeah... I'm going to sleep. Wake me up when it's dinner time."
"I will," Francis promises, kissing her knuckles and remaining holding her hand as she closes her eyes and he turns his attention to the film.
She's been quite strange lately, ever since she came back home from Scotland and the doctors' trip didn't sway his worries. Glancing at his wife, surprised that she's already sleeping deeply, he studies her and just makes sure that she's safe and well.
"Love you," he mouths before a flight attendant stops by his side, offering drinks. "Yeah, I'll have a white wine..."
"Babe? It's dinner time," Francis says softly, gently waking his wife up.
Her eyes flutter open and she yawns, squinting her eyes shut. "God, how long was I out for?"
"About most of our trip actually. I told the flight attendant to let you be," Francis tells her, flagging the one from earlier down. "We're landing in two hours, thought you'd be hungry by now."
"Sorry. I've been a terrible flight partner," she tells him, blushing as the flight attendant beams and serves Mary her meal. It's nice and hot and the woman also offers a small bottle of white wine.
"Heard it is your anniversary today. Complimentary wine, madame?"
"Oh, I shouldn't," Mary says, smiling a little. "Just a Coke, please. If I drink, I'll go right back asleep."
The flight attendant chuckles as she hands Mary her drink. "Enjoy your meal, ma'am," she says before leaving.
"Don't worry about it," Francis finally says. "About being asleep for most of the flight. You look like you needed the sleep."
Mary brings his hand to her lips and kisses it. "I love you."
"I love you too, babe. Happy anniversary," Francis tells her.
Mary's eyes sting with tears as she grins. "Eight years of bliss and happiness," she says, raising her Coke as he raises his water to clink with her drink. "Happy anniversary."
After she's fed and watered, Mary's bladder feels full and she hurries to use the toilet and throw up. She mentally curses, the vomiting now being the bane of her existence but she composes herself, brushes her teeth and cleans herself up before heading back to her seat.
With an hour left of their flight, Mary and Francis settle in watching a cartoon at the same time, snuggled up in their cubbies. She's glad she's pitched in for first-class seats, especially as it makes it easy to make a double 'bed' so to speak. She listens to Francis's heart under her ear and smiles, drawing circles on his arm.
Eventually, they're forced to unwind from each other and put their seats back up properly in time to land. As the plane descends, Mary holds Francis's hand tightly and closes her eyes, feeling the nausea return.
"Oh... God," she mutters.
"You're okay, babe," Francis tells her gently. "Just breathe through it. We'll be down in a minute."
Mary swallows hard, nodding. "Mhm," she hums. She hates the plane going up and going down. And down is worse because there is almost always bumpiness along the way and her anxiety spikes up.
What if we burn and become balls of flames? We could die and crash and-
"We have landed, Mary."
Mary slowly opens her eyes and releases the breath she was holding in. She looks around as the flight attendants shift to bid people 'goodbye' and everyone starts unclicking from their seats and opening the cabinets.
"Yeah, I'm good," Mary says in relief as she and Francis undo their seatbelts and get up to grab their stuff.
When they get off the plane, their hands link as Francis presses a kiss on the side of her head.
"Wait," Francis says, placing their suitcases down and turning to Mary, lifting her into his arms easily.
"Francis!" Mary giggles as she blushes. "Someone will see."
"Let them. I'm carrying my wife into our suite on our anniversary," he says, Mary using one of their keycards to scan on the reader and pull the door open. He deposits her down onto the floor as she gasps.
"I didn't know it would be this beautiful!" She cries out. "Look at the views, Francis!"
Francis brings their stuff inside, his eyes widening at the views from their hotel suite. "Shit, how much did this cost?"
Mary gives him a look. "It's our anniversary and we haven't been on a trip alone in years."
"I'm not complaining but this is too nice," Francis replies. "Can we afford it?"
"I most certainly can," Mary tells him, closing the door. "So you can too."
Francis chuckles softly. "Sorry, I won't have heart failure every time we pay for something expensive," he replies. "This is how the other half lives..."
They look around the hotel suite, the bedroom and living area separate from each other. There's even a little kitchenette with a washing machine and dryer and they have a microwave, kettle, fridge and treats basket. When they get to the bedroom, roses are littered on the floor and on the bed, they're formed into a heart shape. On the bedside tables are lit candles and a card that wishes them a happy wedding anniversary from the staff at the hotel.
"They did so much!" Mary says as Francis checks the bathroom. His gasp gains her attention and she heads inside, gasping herself. "Oh, wow!"
"Bubble bath, my lady?" Francis asks, already stripping.
Mary giggles giddily. "I'd love that, kind sir!"
After making love in the jacuzzi tub, they have a second round on the bed, the rose petals flying everywhere. Afterwards, Francis pours them both glasses of champagne as Mary lifts the chocolates, strawberries, marshmallows and melted chocolate from the serving trolley.
"Oh, I don't want any," Mary says when Francis shifts a flute her way.
He frowns. "It's our anniversary. I know it says it makes you sleepy but surely one glass is-"
"We haven't given each other our presents yet," Mary cuts him off, watching him take a sip of the flute intended for her. "Gentlemen first."
Smirking, Francis goes to his suitcase and retrieves a medium-sized giftbox. "Here," he says, handing it to her.
Mary opens the gift and she smiles, tears springing to her eyes. "Oh, Francis!" It's a family photo taken on James's birthday. Christy is in her arms and Rose is almost climbing Francis as Anne and James grin at the camera. Her family. Then she bites her lip meekly. "We might need to update this in a year or so."
"Obviously," Francis says. "Because Christy will be one and-"
"He'll be a big brother," Mary cuts him off softly.
Francis freezes, his eyes widening. They shift to her non-existent bump before they go back to her face. Then they go to all the other areas visible to him, trying to determine any signs he might have missed.
"Wh-What?" He breathes out.
Swallowing hard, Mary smiles. "I'm pregnant, Francis. We're going to have five children... Happy anniversary..."
Slowly, a smile grows on Francis's face as he holds a fist against his mouth to stop himself from screaming at the top of his lungs. He holds a finger up towards his wife, composes himself and sighs heavily.
"Okay?" Mary questions him. "Only, 'okay'?"
"Well, I want to say more but I'd probably run out naked and scream it to the world that I'm going to be a dad again. So, 'okay' is enough right now," he says. "I am currently leaping for joy inside and shitting myself. Five kids, Mary."
She bursts out laughing, nodding. "Five, Francis," she confirms. "I'm roughly eleven weeks gone."
Stepping closer to her, he places a hand on her flat stomach and beams. "Wow. Mary, I told you."
"Shut up," she laughs.
"I swear to you, this is all because I was smart enough not to get the snip. Because I knew you'd be broody all over again. I know you, you're my wife," Francis tells her. "Five kids, Mary!"
"I know!" She cries out, giggling.
Then his smile leaves his face and he feels sick. "Five kids."
She swallows hard, nodding. "Yeah, five..."
"Can we handle five?"
"Your parents did," Mary says nervously.
Francis takes a much-needed seat, downing half of his champagne. "More nappies, midnight feeds, school tuitions! Five kids, Mary. We'll put five kids through university!"
"Aren't children worth one million per child?" Mary asks. "We'll be five million out of pocket! And God, Rose will flip out. She'll hate me all over again!"
Francis nods sadly before a smile grows back onto his face. "But five kids though."
"Yeah," Mary drawls, grinning too. "We do make great kids."
He stands up, places his glass on the table and cups her cheek. "We'll be fine. We can handle five kids. We've been outnumbered for three years, I think we're good with another one."
"And we have the means and the space to raise another kid. I was even thinking... We can afford to open up another restaurant," he tells her, smiling hopefully.
Mary blinks in surprise. "Really? Francis, that's amazing! You're incredible, do you know that? I am so lucky to have you as my husband."
"I'm lucky to have you too," Francis says, kissing her deeply. He gets on his knees and comes face to face with her tummy. "Hello, in there. I'm your papa and I can't believe you're going to be a little person one day. I already love you so much and your siblings will love you too."
"And me," Mary chimes in, making them laugh.
"And your mama," Francis adds. "You're going to be loved, my child." He looks up at his wife. "This is the best anniversary gift you've ever given me. Thank you."
Mary blushes. "I just wish you didn't have to wait for it."
"The news is just as valued," Francis replies, kissing her tummy. "You're amazing."
"Well, celui qui tient mon coeur," she whispers.
Surprised, Francis looks back up at her and grins. "You hold my heart too. Forever and always."
So, that is the end of CQTMC! It's been incredible and I'm excited for you to read the first chapter of Celui Qui Protège Mon Cœur. Thanks for the support and can't wait to see you in the sequel.