The next morning, Giselle was in a surly mood as she stepped off the stairs into the hall. Every time she was close to drifting off, she would remember Alastair’s hands on her breasts or she’d imagine what might have happened if they had gone into her room. She was frustrated and tired.
As she continued down the hall she heard the deep rumbling of Alastair’s voice. He was in the library and wasn’t alone. Giselle approached quietly and listened.
“This should do, my lovely! I’ll read and you can sit on my lap.” His voice was soft and warm. Giselle stifled a gasp and felt rage surge within her.
Was it one of the maids? Did they have a longstanding arrangement? He was often at Winthorpe, it wouldn’t surprise her if he had any number of maids waiting to do his bidding. Why would he toy with her, then? Giselle sensed that he was insatiable and experienced but she couldn’t imagine he would require more than one woman. Ready to confront him, she swung into the library and nearly tripped when she saw who his paramour was.
Alastair stared up at her, one brow raised as he reclined in an overstuffed chair with a book in one hand. On his lap, supported by his other hand, sat a very petite, red haired angel. She looked to be a little more than a month old. He set the book on the table and cradled the cooing, gurgling baby as he stood.
“Giselle, allow me to introduce Lady Charlotte.” Alastair said gently as he lowered his face to the bundle in his arms. She made a “Gah!” sound and he laughed softly as he playfully nibbled on her tiny, waving fist. Giselle felt dizzy and lowered herself to the couch. His entire demeanor had changed. Alastair was relaxed and joyful, holding his niece. Everything about him had softened as he adored her.
Giselle felt something within her ache and an emotion suspiciously similar to jealousy overwhelmed her as realization bloomed. He loved children. He wanted to be a father. The idea that someone might give him a child and that he would love that child and worship the woman that gave it to him made her want to set something on fire, to tear things apart with her hands. She swallowed loudly and smiled as he sat next to her.
“Mirabelle and Lucien are out riding and I offered to watch Charlotte.” He murmured. “Would you like to hold her?” He asked as he leaned close. Giselle felt her eyes grow wide as panic filled her. She had never held an infant before, she’d barely seen one this close. He looked at her expectantly and she was afraid to decline. She looked into his eyes and saw that he was waiting, assessing. She nodded weakly.
“I’ve never held a baby, Alastair.” She confided. He smiled softly as he lowered the bundle into her arms. She gasped as she adjusted. Charlotte was so tiny and light, she felt so fragile. Giselle looked up in alarm.
“Just relax. They’re very flexible and remarkably forgiving.” Again, his voice was soothing and low. “I find that as long as you remain calm and talk to them gently, babies are very easy to handle and quite enjoyable.”
Giselle nodded and sank back against the couch. Charlotte looked up at her with large, unblinking eyes.
“Pffrrtz!” She declared as she devoured her fingers. Giselle looked up at Alastair and laughed. His expression made her stomach flip. His eyes were so intent, they flicked rapidly over the two of them. She sensed his yearning. Something within her wanted to answer. She shook her head inwardly and turned back to Charlotte and was shocked at how perfect she was.
What if I had one of my own? The thought came from nowhere and Giselle pushed it away quickly.
“You should take her. I’m afraid I’ll upset her.” Giselle lied as she passed Charlotte back to Alastair. He frowned slightly as he took her. He held her comfortably in both hands and lifted her to his face and inhaled before leaning back and settling her against his chest. Giselle rested her arm on the back of the couch and watched him. “You’re very good with her.” She said. He shrugged as he rubbed Charlotte’s back soothingly.
“Children aren’t difficult to understand at this age. They are either tired, hungry or need to be cleaned. At the moment, Lady Charlotte is clean and has recently been fed. All I have to do is entertain her until she falls asleep. She will remain pleasant or asleep until she soils herself or becomes hungry. When either of these occur, I will merely summon someone more capable than myself to see to her needs.” Alastair reclined and looked content to remain as long as Charlotte was. Giselle couldn’t help but smile.
“What do you do with her when she isn’t sleeping?” She asked quietly. Alastair’s head tilted.
“Anything I wish, really. As long as you keep your voice low and reassuring, you could read crop reports and she wouldn’t complain. But I believe infants are rather like vessels.”
“Vessels?” Giselle laughed softly. He nodded.
“They are waiting to be filled with anything you wish to pour into them. So many people fill their offspring with dribble and they end up useless and boring. We were fortunate to have parents that were more selective.” He made a shushing sound as Charlotte squirmed against him. Giselle leaned and picked up the book he had selected. She looked dubious.
“Goethe? Isn’t Faust a bit dark for an infant?” She whispered as she at back. Alastair shook his head gently.
“I am confident that she doesn’t understand German yet and as long as I read it as if it were about princesses and fairies, she doesn’t object.”
“You’re quite knowledgeable.” Giselle teased.
“I have spent a great deal of time with Ethan and he is quite similar in his needs and temperament. I find both to be much easier to comprehend than most of the adults I encounter.” With that, he closed his eyes and let his head fall back. It was inexplicably the most arousing scene Giselle had ever witnessed. She opened the book and pretended to read it for the better part of an hour while her entire being was focused on Alastair and the baby in his arms.