Her Sweetest Heritage – Extended Epilogue


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Summer – 1888

Christine strolled between the rows of vines, a gentle smile curving her lips as she took in the lush green leaves, the heavy clusters of grapes ready to pluck any day now, causing some of the vines to sag with their weight. It would be a good harvest, one of the best, Jasper had told her.

Two years ago, her life was in turmoil, and now she knew who she was and where she came from. She knew her purpose in life. Over the past two years, she had gained not only wisdom but confidence in her management of Rutherford Vineyards. Now, pausing to gaze over the acres of grapevines and into the distance, her heart swelled with pride. An early morning mist still hung onto the lower realms of the valley, the hills surrounding them bright green and glowing with morning sunshine.

“I thought I told you to take it easy today.”

Christine turned to find Jasper approaching, a smile on his face. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder, his other hand resting gently on her huge stomach, smiling as he felt the kick of the babe beneath his hand. He glanced at her with a lifted eyebrow.

“He’s getting impatient,” Christine grinned.

“You’re so certain it’s going to be a boy, aren’t you?”

“Within a month, we’re certain to find out for sure, but I have a feeling that yes, it’s going to be a boy.”

“You decided on a name yet?”

She nodded. “Monty for a boy, Margaret, if it’s a girl.”

Even though heavy with child, Christine continued to come out to the vineyards, trying to help the pickers if they allowed her, but most of them shooed her away, insisting that they had everything well under control for the upcoming harvest.

She glanced down, noticing for the first time that he held an envelope in his hand. “Who’s that from?” He hesitated only a moment before he supplied the answer she had half expected.

“It’s from Aunt Sabina.”

Christine said nothing but simply nodded. After the attack on Christine in Monty’s sitting room that day, Sabina had been arrested. After everything came out, Sabina was sent to a woman’s prison in southern Texas for six months, but then she was transferred to a facility in upstate New York to complete her fifteen-year sentence for her deeds. She worked now in an orphanage as a housekeeper. It was Sabina’s own fault. Occasionally, Jasper and Jesse got a letter from her. The earlier letters had been rambling excuses for her behavior and then, eventually, an acknowledgment that what she had done was wrong, although, in her mind, she only had the best of reasons, the interests of her nephews uppermost in her actions.

Sabina had endured her six-month sentence in the women’s prison, still believing that after she had claimed that since she had had an affair with Monty since she had been the one to birth Christine, somehow she would gain at least partial ownership of the vineyard. It really made no sense because even if it were true, Sabina would’ve had no legal right to the property. Yet Sabina hadn’t realized how misinformed she was.

After her six-month sentence, she learned of her fate and then sent a letter to Jasper and Jesse, acknowledging her deeds and expressing sorrow over them. While Christine wasn’t inclined to believe her, neither did her nephews. She had hoped they could convince the authorities that she had been punished enough and that she should be allowed to go free.

After much soul-searching, the brothers had written to Sabina, refusing to offer leniency on her behalf. It had been hard, but Christine had supported them both in their decision. Since then, neither she nor Jasper spoke of Sabina much, and eventually, the woman came to the realization that her plans were based on faulty knowledge. Though she wrote letters to Jasper and Jesse, they never replied, neither one of them wanting anything to do with her.

Christine looked up at him. “I think you should write her back, Jasper.”

He gazed down at her in surprise. “Why would I want to do that? She tried to kill you!”

Christine nodded. “Yes, she did, but she failed, and she’ll be spending the rest of her life, most of it anyway, in servitude. I think you need to get it all off your chest as well, and Jesse too. She was your aunt. You lived with her, worked side-by-side with her, and loved her until… well until her true character was made visible.”

He frowned. “I have nothing to say to her.” He looked out over the vineyards. “She shamed Monty and shamed this vineyard and betrayed everyone who worked here.” He glanced down at her. “And most especially you. Why aren’t you angry about that?”

Christine offered a slight shrug, her hand rubbing slow, gentle circles over her belly. “I sometimes wonder, if Sabina hadn’t behaved in the way she had if she hadn’t done the things that she did, would we be where we are today?”

He glanced down at her, not understanding. “What do you mean?”

“You told me once that day you pulled me out of the well; that fear made you realize your true feelings for me.” He nodded. “I just wonder, if that hadn’t happened, would you have changed your mind about me?”

He looked at her for several moments, slowly shaking his head. “You could’ve died. I could’ve lost you then and there. I don’t think I can ever forgive her for that.”

She smiled softly, reaching an arm around his waist. “But you didn’t lose me, and from that moment on, we worked together to save the vineyard after the sabotage, to determine who was to blame for all the incidents, and it was our unity, our shared goal, that brought us to where we are today.”

She glanced down at her swollen belly, her hand still circling. “We have everything we could’ve ever asked for, Jasper, and Sabina has nothing. Her jealousy and resentment turned her into a miserable woman, one filled with anger and a sense that the world was so terribly unfair to her.”

She looked up at him. “But that’s all in the past now. She’s paying the punishment for her deeds, and I hate for you to carry the burden of hatred in your heart.”

Jasper sighed. “I don’t hate her, Chrissy. In fact, when I think of her, I don’t feel any emotions at all. Not anymore.” He turned and wrapped her in his arms. “I have you now, and I only want to look forward, not backward.”

They stood like that for several moments. He pulled her close, she resting her head against his chest, listening to his heart’s slow and steady beat, enveloped in the warmth of his arms. She could stand like this forever, his chin resting against the top of her head, her senses filled with the scent of him, of man, of the rich aroma of the dirt of the vineyard, and comforted by the strength of his arms as they held her close.

They were both distracted by the sound of a wagon pulling into the yard from the horse barn. Jasper lifted his head and glanced over her shoulder. “I better get going.”

She saw Jesse sitting on the wagon seat and waved to him. “Good luck today, Jasper.”

His grin broadened. “I don’t need luck. I have you.” He kissed her on the cheek. “I don’t expect I’ll be home before sundown, so don’t wait supper for me.”

Hand-in-hand, Chrissy strode back to the yard with Jasper, and after one final kiss, he climbed into the wagon. Jesse slapped the reins, and off they went. Christine smiled. Jesse had also married a young woman named Flora, whom he’d been courting for over a year before they married last spring. They, too, had a child on the way, and she had no doubt that soon the yard and the vineyards would be filled with the sound of their children playing and laughing together. Jesse and his wife had moved into Sabina’s former home.

Jasper had confided in her only days ago that he was excited not only for his own child’s birth but that of his brother’s, and he had sworn to always put her and their children first. She thought back to the day when she first arrived, the way that Jasper had relentlessly called her Chrissy even though she kept insisting that her name was Christine. While no one else called her Chrissy, he still did, in their home, during the quiet hours of the night when they lay side-by-side in bed, and early in the morning when they woke, he kissed her softly before he groaned and rose to start the day’s chores. She didn’t mind anymore.

With a sigh, Chrissy made her way back into the house, anxious for the baby to come, for truly, her own often cumbersome movements frustrated her. She found Minnie standing at the end of the hallway in front of the kitchen door, waiting for her.

“You have everything?” Christine asked her. The housemaid nodded, and Christine made her way down the hallway. The housemaids and Sarah, the cook, had become more than employees over the past couple of years, more like friends, loyal and true, all of them looking after one another. For the past couple of months, Christine had been teaching Minnie how to read and write. In fact, she had offered the same lessons to all the workers on the property if they wanted it.

An hour later, after Minnie’s reading lesson, Christine left the house and strolled in the backyard, eyeing the large vegetable garden she and Flora had planted a couple of months earlier. Moving carefully through the rows of lettuce and green beans and watching for the trailing vines of the butternut squash, she suddenly paused, frowning as she felt a hard twinge in her belly. She placed her hands on it and felt the muscles harden beneath her fingers. She gasped.

“Christine, are we going to—”

Flora, appearing around the side of the house, took one look at Christine and hurried forward, eyebrows raised in concern. She wrapped an arm around Christine’s shoulders as another pain gripped her, this one a bit harder than the first. Christine looked up at Flora and offered a nervous smile.

“I think… I think it’s time,” she said. “I’ve been having these pains off and on since the wee hours of the morning.” She slowly straightened, the pulse in her neck throbbing. The time had come. She felt both afraid and anxious as she wondered if she was going into true labor. The pain gone, she took a deep breath and gazed around the garden. “I wanted to get some weeding done today. See how the weeds are growing in that corner of the garden? We have to—”

Flora interrupted. “You’ll not be doing any weeding today, Christine. Let’s get you into the house.”

“But I’m still a couple of weeks away!”

Flora smiled and gently shook her head. “If the baby is ready to come, the baby will come, regardless of the date on the calendar.”

Christine and Flora had barely made it through the house and started up the stairs to the bedroom before another pain struck her, prompting her to pause as she winced and sucked in a breath, one hand gripping her distended abdomen, the other tightly clutching Flora’s hand.

“I’ll send one of the workers for the doctor,” Flora assured her.

“Yes, I think you’d better, and… and Jasper and Jesse will be at the bank for an important meeting with one of our distributors. Jasper needs to know that his son is on the way.”

Flora smiled, and as they reached the top of the stairway, Minnie emerged from the sitting room of what used to be Monty’s room and was now Jasper and Christine’s. The maid saw the two of them, instantly put it together, and smiled with joy.

“It’s time?” she asked, voice filled with excitement.

“It’s time,” Flora said. “We need to send for the doctor, and then we need to prepare her room, the bed, the cradle, and—”

“Yes, right away!” Minnie exclaimed. “I’ll tell Sarah to get some hot water boiling, and then I’ll bring up the extra linens.”

Minnie dashed off to alert the household that the babe was on the way. A worker was sent into town to fetch the doctor and then find Jasper and Jesse, telling them to hurry back to the vineyard. An hour passed, then two, then three, and Christine lay in her bed and worked through the contractions, gasping at times as the pains grew worse, growing worried before finally, the doctor arrived.

As he rushed into the bedroom, he was pulling on an office frock and rolling up his sleeves. “So sorry for the delay, Christine. I was over at Sanderson’s place. That old fool Martin fell from his barn roof.”

Christine glanced at the doctor, her cheeks flushed with warmth, a fine sheen of sweat covering her skin. “Is he all right?”

The doctor muttered an affirmative, then sat down next to the bed and grasped Christine’s hand. “Tell me, how far apart of the contractions?”

Flora answered. “About five minutes now.”

The doctor frowned at Christine. “When did they start?”

Christine managed a small shrug as another construction gripped her. She waited until it passed, wincing with pain before she replied. “A little bit after midnight.”

Eventually, everything became somewhat blurry to Christine. She feared that something was wrong, and the look on the doctor’s face as he tried to help her through the birthing process brought her little comfort. Finally, she muttered. “Tell me.”

“It’s a breach, Christine,” he said calmly.

Christine’s heart skipped a beat. A breach? That meant that the baby was positioned feet first. She bit back a moan, horrified that she might… she knew that her mother had died during childbirth, and she feared that the same might happen to her. She glanced frantically at Flora and Minnie, sitting on either side of the bed, both of them holding her hands.

“Jasper…” she moaned. “Where’s Jasper?”

“He and Jesse just got here,” Flora said. “They’re downstairs in the parlor, waiting for your babe.”

Christine nodded, wincing with pain as the doctor massaged her belly, trying to prompt the babe to move, to shift around into the proper position. For the next hour, she labored, the pain excruciating, and she grew exhausted. More than once, she heard Jasper’s voice on the other side of the door, offering encouragement, telling her that he loved her, that he was looking forward to holding the baby in his arms…

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the doctor had managed to turn the baby around, and moments later, she gave birth to a wailing and rather insulted baby boy whose cry brought happy tears to Christine’s eyes as he was placed in her arms. Moments later, with Flora and Minnie attending her, the doctor stood, stretched his back, and shook his head at Christine.

“You’re a strong woman, Christine. You and your baby are going to be just fine. But I don’t want to see you up and out of this bed for at least a week.”

With that, the doctor left the room, allowing Jasper to enter. The look on his face when he saw her and the baby in her arms was something that she would never forget no matter how old she grew. His eyes wide with amazement and adoration, he gently sat on the side of the bed, leaned over, and gave Christine a kiss on her forehead and then another one on the babe’s. He lifted an eyebrow in question.

“Monty Michael Kemble, meet your father, Jasper.”

With that, she gave a nod to Jasper. Ever so slowly, he reached to take the bundle from Chrissy’s arms. Her heart tugged, and her eyes grew hot with tears as she observed the care with which Jasper held his firstborn son. Seconds later, another soft knock came at the door, and Jesse peeked his head in, his features also transforming from concern to relief and joy as he saw that Christine was all right. He eyed the babe in Jasper’s arms.

“Congratulations, Jasper, Christine,” Jesse said. He moved to stand behind his wife, his hand on her shoulder as she cradled her own enlarged belly. “Is it a boy or girl?”

Jasper looked at him, pride shining in his eyes. “Monty Michael Kemble, meet your uncle, Jesse.”

Jesse swallowed hard and quickly looked away, attempting to maintain his sense of control as Flora leaned her head against his arm. “Soon, Jasper will be an uncle to our babe. Our children will play together.”

Christine smiled through her weariness. It was a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by so many friends and loved ones, knowing that her child would not grow up alone but would grow up with loving parents, an aunt, an uncle, and a cousin, likely more over the years. It was such a wonderful feeling, this sense of belonging, and she was ever so blessed.

Jasper returned to the bed and gently placed the baby in her arms once more. She stared down at the baby’s face, an angelic face, the babe now sleeping.

“You get some rest now,” Jasper said. He leaned down to kiss her, his lips warm and soft upon hers. Then he whispered in her ear. “I love you, Chrissy Blue.”

She smiled and looked up at him. “I love you too, Jasper.”

As the others shuffled out of the room, Jasper last, Christine felt the weariness tugging at her, and as Minnie lifted the baby from her arms and placed him in the cradle nearby, she couldn’t help but smile. Everything she had gone through over the past few years had been more than worth it. She had a home, the love of her life, and now, a child to fill the spaces in her heart that had been empty for so many years. With such thoughts on her mind, she slept, her dreams now filled with love and laughter and boundless hopes for her future.

THE END


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63 thoughts on “Her Sweetest Heritage – Extended Epilogue”

    1. Another precious story. Your characters are so alive it is hard to not feel you are reading about a loved ones story. Thank you for the truly heroic characters in your books.

    2. I found myself getting lost in this story and feeling every emotion that Christine felt. I was right there in the vineyard with her. Thanks for a great read!

    3. I enjoyed reading the book. What a lot of challenges Christine went through. Christine and Jasper had their happy ending and a son called Monty was a blessing for them, especially after what Jasper’s Aunty did to Christine.

      Thank you.

    4. Everything an avid reader is looking for in a book is found in this book. The best one I’ve read in a while. I enjoy all the books I pick but they all don’t cover all the emotions that a life can experience as well as this one. Thank you – thank you!

    5. Love this story. This felt so real like it really happened. It probably did at one time . I just hope they had a happy ending.

    6. Oh my goodness. I really felt for Chrissy. I was right there with her. Your characters really came to life for me. It was also a great mystery. Loved the happy ending in the extended episode. A reall great read!!

    7. Just the right conclusion to this story as Christine and Jasper’s baby is born. Now there is a family for Christine and the first of the next generation for the vineyard.

    8. I loved this book it had mystery and romance and kept you guessing. In the end it was a happy ending for Chrissy and Jasper and the evil aunt was paying for her crimes. Also enjoyed the extended episode reading about their baby boy being born and also how well the vineyard was doing also his brother Jesse and his wife having a baby also. 😄

    9. Loved this book, could not put it down. Family issues in every one of our families…Christine’s response with love and humility is an example to follow.

      Fran

    10. I loved this book. Your characters were so real. You could almost feel their joy, anguish, love, hatred, all of the emotions of your characters.

    11. WOW!! What a great mystery & suspenseful story!! It was hard not to keep on reading to see what was going to happen next & who did what!! Very good story which you will enjoy reading!!

    12. I see most of your readers are female, I am a 73 year old male and can tell you l thought this story was epic, you have a fine pen, I think I will be looking out for more from your hand.

    13. I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping story, and was rooting for Christine all the way.
      I would have liked to have known if she had decided to make Jasper joint owner of Rutherford Vineyard. She probably did.
      Please keep your amazing stories coming :-))))

    14. I have really enjoyed reading this for a second time. I really felt for Chrissy as she tried to find a place and family of herown. All of the characters were outstanding. The extended episode brought it all together. Thank you for sharing your talent.

  1. Great book! Loved the additional epilogue. It was a wonderful continuation of the story. Easy to follow the characters!

  2. An amazing story. I read it in one day to my hubby’s dismay. I loved the expended epilogue also. Great close!

  3. Fantastic tale intricately weaved its way into my heart with strong characters who overcame immense challenges. Sabina was lucky to have been let off so lightly for her evil doings.

  4. What a beautiful story! Couldn’t put it down. I read these on my tablet in dialysis and today I started on Chap 15 came home and had to finish it. Good job!

  5. Best story I’ve read in many years & I read books on my Kindle 365 days a year – since my 1st Kindle in. 2010. Well written, great characters, suspense & romance… what more could you want! Perfection!!

  6. What a great read this was. I ought to have gone to bed more than hour ago but could’nt stop until I finished this absolutely riveting story.Once again Aurora has not disappointed.

  7. I So Much enjoyed this story from the beginning to the end …. And then the extended epilogue made it more than perfect !

  8. I loved that the story was alive in a beautifully described vineyard. I truly enjoyed how you led me on an adventure of intrigue and ending in unrequited love! My anxiety over the mystery of Christine’s parentage, the danger surrounding her and the fortitude she showed kept my attention, word for word. Thank you again for giving us those words to read. Keep them coming! Be Blessed Aurora Hanson.

  9. This book was amazing! I feel like I could actually run a Vineyard now that I’ve read this book because there was so much detail LOL. I loved all of the mystery and the romance and it was really fun. I would be interested in hearing a book too from this series.u

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