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Taking Catherine Home (Morning 28/12)- Xmas 1677

Charles Whitehurst

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The disappearance of Frances continued to weigh on the Earl's mind but he was less worried than the last time his ward had run away. She would come to her senses once her childish jealousy vanished, or so he told himself.


By taking Catherine home, it would give them some privacy to discuss Frances, and it would afford Charles a chance to visit with Caroline. She might be his daughter after all.


"Keep an eye out for Frances will you?" he asked softly as they coach moved towards her house. "I doubt she will come to you, but she does like to spy, so I would not be surprised if she might be skulking around your house or mine."


There was talk that Frances was likely jealous of Catherine. "I will need to speak with her and assure her that she has my love notwithstanding our relationship."


It was but a short ride and Charles escorted Catherine inside. He had brought a peppermint candy that Cook had acquired for Frances, and Charles thought it a better gift for an infant to suck upon. The earl allowed Catherine to fetch the nurse and bring the child to him. They had met before, but briefly.

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“Of course I will,” Catherine replied when Charles asked her to keep an eye out for his ward. She was pleased that he had decided to take her home and see Caroline instead of looking for Frances. He did seem worried about her, though, which was, of course, why the silly girl had run away. Catherine had absolutely no sympathy for her and had quite a bit to say on the matter. But she decided to wait to voice her concerns until Charles was happily playing with the little girl who could very well be his own daughter.


She hoped that Frances had been lurking around Charles' house and had seen them get into the carriage together. Maybe she would hide so well that she would never be found. Catherine wondered how he had become her guardian. Was her mother a distant relative, perhaps? That was another question that she would save for later. “She has a crush on you, Charles. I doubt she is going to listen to reason. She is jealous of me because she thinks I'm taking you away from her.”


Once inside her house, Catherine led Charles to the drawing room and sent a servant to fetch Caroline and her nurse. They arrived about five minutes later. The baby was perched on her nurse's hip and when she saw her mother, she held out her chubby arms and cooed. She was a beautiful child with a head of thick dark curls, big brown eyes, and an adorable smile that showed the few teeth that had already emerged from her gums. She was eight months old now, and today she was dressed in a pretty pink gown trimmed with lace, and a matching bow in her hair.


“She has grown a lot since you saw her last,” Catherine said as she carried the child over to Charles. Caroline took one look at him and buried her face against her mother's shoulder and stuck her thumb in her mouth. Like most babies that age, she was a bit wary of strangers. “Don't be afraid, Caroline,” Catherine crooned. “This is … what do you want her to call you, Charles?”

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"She is just being silly," Charles agreed. "No one is taking me away from anyone." She will come to her senses he told himself. "At any rate, as much as she has a crush on me it is nothing compared to the adoration you have for me," he chuckled. He had not forgotten their game.


It was a smile that he offered Caroline when they were reunited. He gave the candy to Caterine, trusting that she would determine when it was best to present it. "She is a big girl now," he exclaimed as he moved to take her tiny hand in his. She had been only a couple of months old when he saw her last. "She will be walking soon." He was not really certain when babies started walking, but it sounded right.


"Brown eyes like mine." He tried to recall what color eyes York had. After a moment to ponder the question, Charles decided it was best to have the child believe York was her father. "She should call me Lord Langdon," he replied. "Best to keep things formal to insure that York does not withdraw his claim." He turned back to Catherine and declared "our second child can call me father." Other than washing, Charles was not aware that Catherine was doing much to avoid pregnancy.


Truth be told, he would welcome a child that he knew was his. In all of his sexual adventures, Charles was unsure whether he had fathered a child with a lover. Anne Scott had hinted that her son Henry was his, but that was a long shot in his mind. Maureen's child was definitely not his, nor was the whelp that Meg had tried to pin on him, Tessa, the daughter of a Duke had become pregnant and claimed her child was his, but that was impossible. She had been well along before they had become lovers. A man like Langdon needed reassurance that he could father a child.


The young earl could not stay long. He wished to get back home and then head to the palace. There was hope that Frances would have returned by the time he got back. Catherine had already been shagged a couple of times a few hours prior, so he doubted that she would insist on more. Actually, Charles could use the rest of the day to regenerate his strength.

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“I only knew she had a crush on you because she looks at you in much the same way as you gaze at me … just without the obsession I see in your eyes.” Catherine never got tired of their game, and the fact that he could play it now told her that he didn't take Frances' tantrum too seriously.


Inside, Catherine did not take the peppermint from him. “If you give it to her yourself,” she suggested, “it will help her warm up to you. She is already developing a sweet tooth, and it will help her with her teething.”


Caroline lifted her head and stared at him when he took her hand. To her credit, she did not pull away or start crying. She just looked at him curiously. In her mother's arms, she knew she was safe. “Oh, she's already trying to walk. She's very smart.” Charles seemed pleased that their eyes were the same color. Catherine's eyes were brown too, so it was no surprise that Caroline's were as well.


Secretly she hoped that her daughter was Charles' and not York's, and he seemed to feel the same way. Her heart leapt in her chest when he said that their second child could call him 'Father.' She had been doing nothing to avoid becoming pregnant again because she wanted a child who she knew for a fact to be his. Caroline would have all the benefits of being a bastard daughter of a Prince, but if York wished, he could take her away and have her raised wherever he chose. Charles would never take her child away from her, and she knew that he would provide well for his son or daughter. Maybe he would even marry her to give his baby his name.


Catherine still wanted York back, but she could wait for nine months. By that time, maybe he would be tired of Lady O'Roarke and seeing her carrying another man's child might make him so jealous he would want to possess her again. It was a rare man who didn't want what he couldn't have.


“Then Lord Langdon it is.” She set Caroline down on the floor. “Hold out the candy and she might crawl to you in order to get it.”

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Catherine's reply to their game was so good that Charles found himself chuckling. "Touche." Though he had expected to earn the point in their ongoing game, it was she that had topped him with the quip about obsession. As a gentleman, he needed to acknowledge her when her wit had proven exemplary. "My eyes only reflect your own," he attempted feebly.


Charles nodded an smiled as Catherine declared Caroline to be smart. Did any mother think their infant anything but smart? Charles was too young to know that answer.


Upon Catherine's advance, Charles knelt before Caroline and held forth the candy, close enough to entice her. "Happy Christmas Caroline," he cooed. "Would you like a sweetie?" It was hard to have a dignified conversation with an infant.

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Catherine felt that Charles had won the last round of their game, and she felt quite smug when he conceded this point to her. His response was a bit uninspired and she just smiled sweetly, savoring her victory and worrying that Caroline would not be on her best behavior during Charles' visit.


But the baby was happy and content. She had probably just awakened from a nap and been fed. Catherine trusted the nurses who had been hired to care for her, or she wouldn't have spent the night with Charles.


Caroline sat on the floor, looking up at her mother, as if wondering why she had put her down. Her big brown eyes turned to Charles as he knelt and spoke to her. Catherine thought that her daughter already recognized her name, but it was hard to tell for certain.


The baby just sat there for a minute, gazing at Charles and then at the candy. Her pretty face broke into a charming smile and she immediately began crawling toward him. “Dadadadadadadada,” she babbled happily.


“Don't worry,” Catherine laughed. “She's not calling you 'Dada.' It is just her current favorite sound. She says it to everyone, even me.”


As Caroline reached Charles, she pulled herself to a standing position using his knee for leverage, and reached for the candy, holding onto him for balance, She was not able to stand on her own yet. “Dadadadadada,” she said again.

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Charles ws a bit shocked by the sound that Caroline made. It sure sounded like dada to him, despite Catherine's warning. "Let's get her to see York quickly while this is still her favorite sound," he only jested in part.


"A sweetie for a sweetie," he cooed as the baby that might be his own reached for the candy. He let the tiny hand clasp the candy, likely to be lifted to her mouth.


Not forgetting their ongoing game, Charles could not help but announce when confronted by the eager smile and rush towards him "you are just like your mother when she sees me." He turned to give Catherine a smile that announced he planned to score a point back.

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“He has other children and would probably know that she is just babbling. Still, I wish he would show interest in her. I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him yet. I was hoping he would contact me after he saw me flirting and having a good time at the ball, but I have heard nothing from him.” Caroline was so adorable that Catherine just knew that York would fall in love with her.


Caroline grinned and plucked the candy from Charles' hand, stuffing it into her mouth and sucking on it while silently observing the stranger who had given it to her. It looked to her mother that she was deciding whether or not she could trust him.


The game was still on, it seemed, and she didn't know how she was going to best that remark. Maybe she would have to concede another point to him, even thought she didn't think either of them was keeping track. His smug smile made her laugh. “You just don't want to admit how much you crave my candy.”


Making suggestive jokes in front of the baby made her feel a bit guilty, even though it would be many years before Caroline would be able to understand that kind of innuendo. As if to give Charles more ammunition against her, the child lifted both of her arms toward him, clearly wanting him to pick her up.

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Sadly, it was not likely to be Caroline's adorability that would influence York's decision. The prince was enamored of another lady and had enough bastards to keep him occupied. In contrast, Charles had no offspring to call his own, so he might marvel a moment at the nature of an eight month old child.


Caroline obviously liked the candy because she raised her hands to be lifted up. Catherine was a bit naughty with her innuendo, freeing Charles to be likewise. "Just like your mama indeed," he continued. "Whatever I stick out she wants to put it in her mouth." He was not referring to her hand. "And always wants me to hold her. Shall I sweep you off your feet little one, as I did with your mother?" With that, he lifted the infant and held her to his breast lightly, not quite sure how to hold her. She better not urinate on my tunic! With that worry, he held her a bit more away from his body.


Catherine attempted a volley in their ongoing game. Indeed, no real score was kept. Rather, it depended upon a general understanding of who was ahead in the game. The exact points did not matter. "I wonder whose candy is craved the most," Charles inquired in a mock serious tone. "No doubt you are planning to whisk away Caroline so that you can replace her in my embrace." He was chuckling as he looked about thinking of putting the child down on the floor. There was not much to do with an infant. They were a positive danger when held up to one's face, as their fingers might poke or pull just about anything.


"I should be on my way," he announced.

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Another reason that she hoped that Caroline was Charles' was that he seemed genuinely interested in her. Every little girl needed a father figure, and even if York did fall in love with her, Catherine doubted he would involve himself much in her life. But Charles could, and she thought that he would make a better father than York. If she could just get pregnant again, then he would visit Caroline when he came to see his own child.


Catherine barely suppressed a scowl at his naughty contribution to their continuous game. No matter how hard she racked her brain for a witty retort, nothing came to mind. And another point to him, she thought as she watched him pick Caroline up. Not content to be held away from him, the baby wrapped her little legs around his waist, one hand still holding the candy. She looked up into his face and laughed sweetly.


Her mother was still trying to figure out how to reply when he gave her another opening. “Do you see me trying to take her away from you? You want her nurse to come and get her so that you can try to convince me to suck your candy. This morning wasn't enough for you. You crave me every moment of every day.”


Caroline was more interested in the shiny buttons on his uniform than she was in poking out his eyes. She pulled at them with her free hand while still enjoying the peppermint. When he said he needed to be going, Catherine held out her arms to Caroline and she leaned toward her. She took her from Charles and held her on one hip.


“Are you going to look for Frances?” she asked. “Maybe it would be better for her to live with another family until she's a bit older. It seems to me that she is lacking a strong female influence in her life and all girls need a sympathetic woman to encourage them and give them advice.”

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Catherine's silence was an indication that he had scored another point in their ongoing game. He could not fully repress a smile. The quip about summoning the nurse so that he might have Catherine suck his candy, called for one in response. "Too much candy is not healthy," he noted aloud. "I shall need to ration my candy, perhaps, because you cannot seem to get enough of it."


Caroline's fingers sought the brass buttons on his tunic. As proud as he was of that tunic, Charles became concerned, only too happy to return the child to her mother. "What a happy baby," he noted. Other children he had seen at that age seemed to be squawking all the time. "Like her mother, I assume she is happiest when she is near me," he boasted with a laugh. Caroline was, indeed, very well behaved. If a child was that loving, he supposed he might spend some time with children of his own. The convention seemed to be to leave one's children with a governess until they were old enough to reason with, with occasional glimpses for discipline during the year.


"I am not sure where to look for her," Charles admitted. "Last time she came back of her own accord. I am hoping she will do the same this time."


"Frances is my ward, as is her mother," he replied as he thought about any other motherly type he knew that he could send her safely. "I know of nowhere else to send her. I have no female relations. Besides, I am fond of her and would be concerned about her safety." He paused to think further on the subject. "Maybe I need to find a strict governess to add to the household." He was musing aloud, but that seemed an appropriate response. He was not sure how to handle young ladies as a parent.

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“You are so addicted to my candy that you can't live without it. Perhaps it does make you ill, for you are sick with desire for me whenever I am away from you. My kisses are the medicine that cures you.” Her response was a bit convoluted, perhaps, but Catherine felt that she was holding her own. He was still one point ahead of her, though, but she would get him back, if not today then the next time they were together. Their game never got old and they would probably be playing it in the afterlife, if there was one.


Caroline was usually a happy child, but she did have a temper and could be quite irritable, especially when she was overtired. Catherine had never expected she would take so well to motherhood, and she liked to keep her daughter near. Her nurses took care of her basic needs, but Catherine spent time playing with her every day and she was proud of each milestone she achieved. Perhaps after York saw her, she would not bring her to court again, but that decision was still in the future.


Catherine lowered her to the ground, holding her arms up, so that Charles could see the way she walked with support. The baby cooed and giggled as she toddled forward. This was one of her favorite activities. “Like her mother, she will not dwell on your absence. But you will not be content until I am in your arms again, no matter how hard you try to deny it.”


As to Frances, Catherine hoped she disappeared forever, but she suspected that she would have returned by the time Charles got home. She would not leave her mother, and Charles obviously doted on her. The girl had a stable life with him, and she could never find that on the streets. “Hiring a governess is a splendid idea. I think you will find that her behavior improves with an experienced woman to guide her.”

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Charles just shook his head at her attempt to try and best him. It came out too manufactured to his liking so he just smiled contentedly.


As to her claim that they would not dwell on his absence, he laughed "hardly. This house will be in tears the moment I leave. It is for the best that I am not here to see it. Ladies tears make me sad." He then laughed and swept into a bow. "Till next we meet, though I shan't worry about the length of it, knowing that you claim to worry not." With that, and a wave to Caroline, he was on his way.

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Perhaps she wasn't holding her own after all. Catherine didn't know why her wit wasn't as sharp as it usually was. Maybe it was because she didn't feel quite comfortable trading racy jests in her daughter's presence or perhaps she was tired after their recent boisterous bout of lovemaking. After he left, she was thinking about taking a nap. Shagging Charles was always thrilling but it took a lot of energy.


Or was she more concerned about his ward than she cared to admit? Frances was just a child now, but in a few years, she would be grown. If she didn't shake the crush she had on her guardian, she could become competition for his affections. He had already admitted that he was fond of her. What if that fondness turned into love?


Catherine would just make certain that their own relationship didn't lack for excitement. Then he would have no desire to look elsewhere for companionship. Although they were lovers, she believed that they were friends as well.


“Of course I don't have to worry,” she replied, hoping to score one more point before he left. “You can't stay away from me and will coming running back as soon as you can. That's one thing I can always count on.”


There. That was good, wasn't it? Caroline waved back at him and Catherine watched him go, hoping that there was some truth to her jest and that he would seek her company again soon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Mornin' Major."* A no doubt familiar voice called out as Charles exited the house. It wasn't his house, Douglas knew that. The big Scotsman was riding down the road in the direction of Whitehall, his black Arab walking with a high step and flick of the tail that suggested it was feeling spirited.


Douglas's cornflower gaze regarded Charles as he drew his horse to a stop. "Yer luikin' weel. I haena seen ye sin last season." He observed. "A merry Christmas tae ye."** He added, though he suspected that it was unnecessary. Rumours abounded about Whitehurst taking up with York's old mistress, something Douglas would hardly begrudge him.



* "Morning Major."

** "You're looking well. I haven't seen you since last season. A merry Christmas to you."


OOC: I hope you don't mind if I jump in?

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He had not seen the Captain approach, so he looked up quickly as the Scot addressed him. "Ah, FitzJames," he acknowledged. "And a Merry Christmas to you as well." He paused before getting back in his coach. Though concerned about the whereabouts of his young ward, he could spare a few minutes to banter.


"Did you just arrive back in London? Are Catriona and her sisters with you? I did not see her at the ball." He had seen Fiona but chose not to speak of her. That was a dangerous subject.



OOC~ sure

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