Please read the two previous posts for the whole story.
“Damn it, woman! You always see things in the worst way!” Jeremy stepped in front of her, scowling. “Stephen left you penniless. If you stay here with the children, I can take care of you. That’s all I ever wanted to do.”
“You’re very good with the children. Perhaps I should go to Bristol and try my hand at the business.”
His scowl lightened, then disappeared altogether as he laughed. “I vow, you would no doubt do quite well.”
“I’m serious, Jeremy Harrington. If I stay, we will have a business deal. You are to handle the children, and I will take care of your shipyard.”
“What do you know of accounts?”
“I ran a household for five years.”
“What do you know about ships?”
“Only what you taught me.” Angelica smiled and held out her hand. “Do we have a deal, my lord?”
“Good God, you are serious!” He laughed again. “Let’s compromise, Angie. We’ll both stay with the children until the New Year. Then I will go to Bristol while you find a few good servants to stay with the children. I’ll show you the business after that.”
“Good evening, Jeremy. I’ve loved seeing you again.” Angelica headed for the door. A large, calloused hand held it shut.
“Stubborn girl! Very well, we shall both interview servants, and go to Bristol together.”
She turned to face him and found herself in his arms. “I think we have a deal, sir.”
“Do you still hate me, Angie?” His smile faded, concern filled his blue eyes.
Angelica raised a hand and brushed his too-long hair off his forehead. “Did I hate you? I don’t remember.”
“Thank you.” His eyes lowered to her mouth, soon followed by his lips. The first gentle touch thrilled her, as did the growing passion in his caress. “Angie. I’m afraid I might have to send you away again.”
“Really?” She laid her head on his chest, smiling. “Why is that?”
“If we both stay here, things might happen. Things beyond our control.”
Angelica nodded, but held him tighter. “Terrible things?”
“Oh, no. Wonderful things.” He kissed her hair and played with a falling curl. “You’ll have to marry me.”
“You’ll have to ask me.”
She heard the laughter in his voice. “Mrs. Finch, would you like to become the Countess of Harrington?”
“Yes, Jeremy, I believe I would. As long as the shipyard goes with the title.”
He kissed her again, warming to the task, laughing at her response. “We’d best see that the children get to bed. I’ll introduce you to a few of them at a time.” Worry crept into his expression. “Will you be alright?”
“I will, now.” She placed her hand in his and took a deep breath.
In the parlor, they found the children raptly listening to Nathan, the oldest boy, reading out loud. Jeremy held Angelica next to him as they watched the intent faces around the reader.
” `The star, which they had observed at its rising, went ahead of them until it came to a standstill over the place where the Child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house found the Child with Mary, His mother.’ “
Jeremy placed a finger to her cheek. “Angie! You’re crying!”
Everyone turned to look at her. She blinked, freeing more drops. “Am I?”
The little girl whom Jeremy had swung and teased earlier came to stare at Angelica. “Don’t cry, ma’am. You can stay here with us. We got lots of rooms.”
“Merry Christmas, Angelica,” Jeremy whispered in her ear. “Welcome home.”
Angelica picked up the child and hugged her and Jeremy at the same time. Home to stay, at last.