A Merchant’s Scheme of Desire – Extended Epilogue

Cecilia walked slowly up the stairs to the seamstresses’ workroom. It was getting late. The shop had already closed for the day, but Mrs Hunter and two of her other seamstresses were still hard at work and she needed to check on them to see how they were going.

She sighed heavily. She didn’t like the seamstresses staying so late, but they had a last minute rush of orders for Christmas season, which was just around the corner. All the ladies had ordered their festive ball gowns and going-away dresses for their holidays in the country. It was always one of the busiest times of the year. But she made sure the seamstresses worked in shifts and were handsomely compensated for their hard work.

Mrs Hunter looked up as she walked in. “Mrs Carter. The gown for Lady Aston is almost finished. Beatrice is just doing the beading on the bodice now.”

Cecilia smiled, nodding, gazing at the three women. Beatrice was indeed hard at work on the beading. She had a talent for intricate beading. And Miriam, the other seamstress, was busily working on another gown for Mrs Desmond’s Christmas party. They had achieved much in the two hours since she had last checked upon them.

“I think you should pack up now, ladies,” she said slowly. “It is getting late. You have homes and families to get to. We are progressing nicely and it is enough for today.”

The women all smiled in relief. Cecilia could see how tired they were. Within minutes, they were packed up, putting on their coats and bonnets and out the door. She was alone. At long last. Sometimes it seemed she was never alone anymore. Her days were filled with frantic activity and her nights were devoted to Joshua. But that was just the way she liked it, after all.

She sighed deeply, gazing out the window. There was a hint of snow in the air. She should pack up herself and head across the road to Joshua’s shop. They would find a hackney and head home to sit in front of the fire and talk about their days. She smiled slowly. Even after two years, her heart always leapt eagerly at the thought of being with him. Their love had only grown deeper and stronger. They were each other’s best friend, as well as lovers.

“Penny for your thoughts,” said a voice behind her.

She spun around. It was Joshua, of course, grinning at her. It seemed he had decided to cross the road and come to her this evening.

Her breath caught in her throat as she gazed at him. He was still the handsomest man she had ever seen and had that commanding presence, almost filling the room. His hazel eyes were glittering. He had obviously had a good day.

She laughed. “I wasn’t thinking of anything, really. Just taking a breath after the day. It was so busy, Joshua. Three more last-minute orders. I don’t know how we are going to do it in time…”

He walked over to her, pulling her into her arms. “You always say that. And you always manage it. Have faith in yourself, Cecilia. You have proved beyond doubt how capable you are. You have one of the most successful modiste shops in London, you know.”

Cecilia gazed up at him gratefully. He was always the voice of calm reason when she got overwhelmed from time to time. How she loved him. She truly didn’t know what her life would be like without him, even if she still had the shop. Yes, she loved her work, but she loved him more. And she knew without a shadow of a doubt that the work would never be enough. She couldn’t believe she had once thought it could be and had fought their burgeoning love so fiercely.

He spoke the truth. Her shop was one of the most successful modiste businesses operating in London. It had taken a lot of work. For the first six months, business had been slow. But then word had gotten around about the quality of her designs. All the fine ladies of London were suddenly calling upon her, deliberately ignoring the fact that she had once been a member of the ton herself. The scandal over her low marriage had passed, as she knew it would eventually. She had been rushed off her feet ever since.

She sighed again, gazing up at her husband. Her life was so perfect she sometimes grew superstitious, wondering if some ill wind was going to blow through their lives and ruin it. How many people got everything they wanted in life, after all?

“What would I do without you?” she whispered, leaning her head on his chest, hearing his steady heartbeat. 

He laughed softly, stroking her hair tenderly. “I’m sure you would manage. You are the most capable woman I have ever met.” He paused, pulling back from her, gazing down at her. “Cecilia, there is something you must know. I have avoided telling you, not sure whether it would be good for you or not, but then I realised you would probably just hear it from someone else…”

“What is it?” she asked, frowning.

He exhaled slowly, his face suddenly grim. “Lord Snowden is back in town. Apparently, he arrived just last week. One of my customers mentioned his name in passing.”

Cecilia went cold all over. She had just been thinking about an ill wind blowing through their lives. Was this it? Their old enemy. Her former fiancé, who had tried to burn Joshua’s first shop in Cheapside to the ground. He had been made to leave the country by her father, under threat that the earl would tell the authorities what he had tried to do.

So far, it had been successful. She had almost forgotten about the marquess entirely. But now, he was back in London. She should have known that it couldn’t last forever. He was the bad penny always turning up again. 

“Do not worry,” said Joshua quickly, seeing the look upon her face. “I’m sure he won’t cause any trouble. It has been a long time, after all. Perhaps he just has some business here and will return to the continent soon.” He paused, gazing at her intently. “I shall protect you, in any case. All will be well.”

She leaned her head against his chest again, taking a deep, shuddering breath. She knew that he would. He always had. He had proved his love and loyalty over and over.

“We should get home,” he said gently. “It has been a long day for both of us. And we are sure to have another busy day tomorrow. And don’t forget we will probably have a late night tomorrow evening. We should get some rest.”

Cecilia gasped, pulling back. “Oh, I had entirely forgotten that Christmas party we promised my parents we would attend! Must we go?”

He smiled. “I fear we must, my love. Your parents really want us to be there and they ask so little of us. It is only one night.”

She nodded, biting her lip. He spoke the truth as always. It was only one night. And it would please her parents so much to see her dressed up, pretending to be a lady again amongst their friends. It was the least she could do for their ongoing support of her unconventional life.

“Let’s go home,” she whispered. “We will think about tomorrow, then. All I want to do is be with you now and shut out the world entirely.”

The kissed tenderly, then slowly walked out of the room, hand in hand. Cecilia tried to put her misgivings about the party and the threat of Lord Snowden out of her mind. As long as Joshua was by her side, all would be well. She must keep reminding herself of that.


The next night, they rushed into the fashionable townhouse, a little breathless. It had been another busy day and they had both finished late. Cecilia had wanted to cancel again, but Joshua had insisted. Now, here they were at the party, dressed in their finest evening attire, ready to mingle with the ton.

They both took flutes of champagne as they entered the drawing room. There were probably over two dozen people mingling and laughing. Cecilia’s parents waved to her across the room, looking pleased. She exhaled slowly. They were glad she and Joshua had come and that was all that mattered. They didn’t have to stay for very long.

Suddenly, she felt a hand on her arm. She spun around. It was Dorothy, smiling widely, clutching a glass of champagne. 

“Oh, my,” said Cecilia, her face lighting up. “This is a surprise! I did not even know you were coming tonight!”

Dorothy laughed. “I wanted to keep it a surprise. I knew how uncomfortable you were feeling about this party and thought it would help you if I just popped up.”

Cecilia hugged her friend. How she loved Dorothy, who was also one of her best customers, always coming into the store and ordering up big. Their friendship hadn’t changed one bit in the ensuing years. Not even now Cecilia was no longer a lady.

Dorothy’s life had progressed nicely, too. She was married now to Lord Cedric Blyton. It was a love match. They had a comfortable life in Mayfair with a country home in Sussex. Cecilia was so happy for her best friend.

“Well, you have made my night,” declared Cecilia, watching Joshua talking to her father. “I almost cancelled. Joshua forced me to come.” She shuddered. “I just feel out of place in this world now. As if I am playacting. And there are still people who look down their nose at a common tradeswoman mingling with the beau monde.”

“Let them,” sniffed Dorothy. “It is their loss! They should all feel honoured that one of the most successful modistes in London condescends to talk to them.”

Cecilia laughed, sipping her champagne. How loyal Dorothy was and always had been. And she would never forget how her friend found the courage to go to Joshua’s shop on her behalf when she had been imprisoned in her room, all those years ago, despite her misgivings. She was a true friend, indeed.

Suddenly, she stiffened. A man was standing in the frame of the door, gazing around in a contemptuous manner. A man she hoped she would never see again in her life. A man who still haunted her nightmares from time to time.

The Marquess of Snowden.

“What is he doing here?” squeaked Dorothy, looking appalled. “I thought he was living abroad…”

“Apparently, he decided to come home,” said Cecilia grimly. “Joshua told me just last night that he heard he was back in town.”

“Just ignore him, dearest,” whispered Dorothy nervously. “He should behave. He knows the score. It shall be over and done with very soon.”

Cecilia nodded, taking a deep breath. But then, Lord Snowden suddenly saw her, across the room. His face darkened.

A chill went down her spine. He had not forgotten, nor forgiven. Quickly, she turned her face away. She would take Dorothy’s advice and try to ignore him. But she simply could not wait for this night to be over now. It couldn’t come quickly enough.


Cecilia’s face was stiff from smiling and her jaw was aching. She felt like a small animal being stalked by a predator. The effort of trying to avoid Lord Snowden was exhausting, but so far, it had worked. 

She was just about to find Joshua and whisper in his ear they should leave, when she felt a presence behind her. She turned quickly. It was the marquess, his eyes narrowed, gazing at her coldly.

“Well, if it isn’t the modiste,” he said, in a mocking voice. “How far you have fallen in the world, my dear. So far, you are practically mopping floors.”

She smiled tightly. “I would rather have fallen so far than remain on the level I was with you by my side, my lord.”

He didn’t like that. He was glowering at her, looking so furiously angry that she took a hasty step back. Her heart was racing now and her stomach lurched with fear. Desperately, she looked around the room. She couldn’t see Joshua, Dorothy, or her parents anywhere. They must be in the other room. The marquess had clearly known and seized his moment, cornering her like a rat.

“I am still biding my time,” he said, glaring at her. “I have not forgotten how you humiliated me. Revenge is a dish best served cold, my dear.”

Cecilia felt another chill run down her spine. He had just threatened her again. She had thought herself safe in her world, but he had reared up again, like a phantom of doom. Were they going to be looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives?

“There shall be no dishes served up by you, my lord,” said a tight voice behind them. “Not now. Not ever.”

Cecilia’s heart leapt with joy. It was Joshua, glaring at the man. She didn’t know when she had ever seen him look so furiously angry. Behind her husband stood her father, his face like a mask. 

“The linen draper,” said the marquess, in a contemptuous voice. 

“Yes, the liner draper,” said Joshua, stepping close to the man. “And may I remind you, sir, that we still have the witnesses to what you tried to do all those years ago. And we have the written testimony of your former manservant, tucked safely away in case this day ever eventuated. We shall not hesitate to forward it to the authorities.”

Cecilia’s eyes widened. She hadn’t known that. 

The marquess clearly didn’t know, either. He paled. Her father stepped forward.

“I suggest you leave this gathering, Lord Snowden,” he whispered furiously. “And if I see your face at another social event, we shall not hesitate. I also strongly suggest you get the first ship back to the continent. After the Christmas season is over, of course.”

The tables had turned. The marquess knew it. Muttering furiously to himself, he backed away. Joshua took her arm, gazing into her face.

“Are you alright?” he whispered.

Her eyes filled with tears. “I just want to go, Joshua.”

He nodded grimly, whisking her away. She slumped against him. The confrontation had rattled her, but she was also filled with relief. The man’s threats were idle. He knew it. She gazed up at her husband, her heart filling with love. He was still protecting her and always would. The man was fading into the shadows again.


At home, Joshua stoked the fire. They sat side by side on the sofa, staring into the flames. Cecilia felt exhausted, completely drained.

“Is it true about the manservant’s written confession?” she whispered.

Joshua smiled wryly. “It most certainly is. Your father and I tracked him down years ago. He knew he was implicated and wanted to ensure his own safety.” He chuckled. “The confession is in your father’s solicitor’s hands, ready to be activated if needed.”

She stared at him admiringly. “You and my father thought he might reappear to cause trouble, then?”

Joshua nodded. “Of course. He is like a weasel, crawling out of his hole, if he thinks the coast is clear. But it never shall be. Do not worry, my love. Now that he knows about the manservant’s testimony, he will never bother us again.”

Cecilia clapped a hand over her mouth, suddenly bursting into tears. She hadn’t expected it. It just arrived out of nowhere.

Cursing under his breath, Joshua gathered her in his arms, stroking her hair. She slowly started to calm down. Just being near him and hearing his reassuring words was working its magic, as it always did.

“I love you so much,” she whispered fiercely. “Sometimes it haunts me that my life could have been so different. That we might never have been together…”

“But we are, Cecilia,” he whispered back. “Do not worry about the past. It is gone. I told you once that we were always meant to meet and I still believe it. Snowden was just a bit player in our lives. He is back in his box where he belongs.”

She shuddered. He tilted her chin, staring deeply into her eyes. And suddenly, they were kissing passionately, falling to the floor in a daze of desire.

He slowly undressed her. Cecilia hesitated for just a fraction of a second. But she knew Polly, their maid, was safely tucked away in bed and wouldn’t intrude.

It was like their first night together, she thought dreamily. After he had carried her over that threshold into their home and made love to her for the very first time. The moment he had claimed her forever, making her his own. 

They both reached their pinnacles quickly, bathed in sweat. Afterwards, she rested her head upon his shoulder, marvelling that it was always the same between them. Their fierce desire for each other had never dimmed. And she knew it never would. How could it, when they loved each other so much, and were meant to be together?

She took a deep breath as her heart started to slow. She was in his arms. She was safe. Their lives were wonderful and always would be. That didn’t mean they would never face any challenges, but she knew that whatever challenges were ahead, they would face them together as always.

She truly was the luckiest woman in the world. And how fervently glad she was that she had gone to that morning tea to see that French modiste all those years ago. It showed that if one followed their passion, only good things would come. She had found him, hadn’t she? The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Forever.


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25 thoughts on “A Merchant’s Scheme of Desire – Extended Epilogue”

    1. What a wonderful story! I was thoroughly engrossed as the tension ramped up and (no spoilers!) , was completely surprised and delighted with the resolution! Such a different type of love story -I loved it!

      1. I am humbled my dear Teresa! Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I truly appreciate it!

        So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

        Thank you again and have a lovely day!

    2. As is usual from Lucy an excellent & beautifully developed theme. The characters r well developed to create the story. The story contains so many aspects. A typical Victorian father, a to-be lover, a selfish &vile prospective husband with other interestin.g characters all drawn into the story. Last but not least the heroine who brings the story alive. A super read.

      1. I am humbled my dear Michael! Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I truly appreciate it!

        So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

        Thank you again and have a lovely day!

  1. A beautiful and lovely journey of trials and ending in a most amazing happiest ending. The extended epilogue wi the unexpected twists and turns made the story line quite interesting. Beautifully written.

    1. I am grateful for your lovely review my dear Lourdes! Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I truly appreciate it!

      So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

  2. A wonderful,very different love story!I enjoyed all the twists and turns that Cecelia and Joshua had to endure. A surprise ending, very satisfying. Loved the extended epilogue with its little surprise at the end,love and the good guys win!!

    1. I am humbled my dear Dorice! Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I truly appreciate it!

      So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      Thank you again and have a lovely day!

  3. I have read many novels like this, but none written quite so well! I thought it would be predictable, but to my surprise, it wasn’t predictable at all! Such well developed characters that were so relatable. Great story, I highly recommend it!

  4. A wonderfully written and intriguing story. It had me very concerned when the Marquess found them out and I did not foresee the solution to Celcilia’s problem happening the way it did. That one took me by surprise. Kept my interest to the very ending.



  6. What à delightful romance novel. Thé story was developed around thé normal caractères but with à very différent and unusual plot. Thanks for this wonderful story.

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