All at once he heard a baby crying. The shrill noise caused Logan to shoot to his feet. Chalk-white, he waited for what seemed like an hour, though in reality less than a minute passed.
The door opened, and Julia stood there wearing an expression of weary happiness. “Both mother and child are doing splendidly. Come in, Papa, and have a look at your beautiful daughter.”
Logan stared at her uncomprehendingly. “Is Maddy…” He stopped and tried to moisten his lips; his mouth was too dry.
Julia smiled and gently touched his cheek. “She did very well, Logan. She's fine.”
“Congratulations, brother,” Andrew said, taking the brandy bottle from Logan's nerveless grip. “Give that to me. You don't need it anymore.”
Scarcely aware of what was happening, Logan strode into the room.
Wistfully Andrew stared at the half-empty brandy bottle in his hand and gave it to Julia. “Here,” he muttered. “I don't trust myself with it. Thank God I still have plenty of other vices to indulge in.”
Barely aware of the hearty congratulations of the doctor and midwife, Logan went to the bed and sat beside Madeline. Her eyes half-opened, and she smiled at him.
“Maddy,” he said, his voice cracking. He took her free hand and brought it to his mouth, fervently pressing his lips into her palm.
Reading the anguished relief on his face, Madeline murmured soothingly and pulled him down to her. He pressed his face to her br**sts and made an inarticulate sound.
“I'm all right,” she murmured, stroking his hair. “It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.”
His lips found hers, and as he tasted her familiar sweet warmth, his panic faded. “I've been as scared as hell,” he said when their lips parted. “I don't ever want to go through this again.”
“I'm afraid you'll have to, darling. You'll want her to have a brother someday.”
Logan stared at the tiny form held in the crook of Madeline's arm. The baby was wrapped in linen and cotton, her small pink face wearing a perplexed pucker. There was a patch of downy chestnut hair on her head. Logan touched the silken strands wonderingly. “Hello,” he whispered, brushing his lips over the baby's forehead.
“She's beautiful, isn't she?” Madeline asked.
“Exquisite,” he said, staring at the miraculous creation, and his gaze returned to Madeline. “But she doesn't eclipse her mother.”
In spite of her discomfort and exhaustion, Madeline managed a chuckle. “Silly man. No woman looks beautiful immediately after childbirth.”
“I could stare at you for hours…weeks…months…and never get tired.”
“You'll have to do it while I'm sleeping,” she said with a yawn, blinking like a small owl.
“Rest,” Logan said. “Both of you.” His caressing gaze moved over his wife and infant daughter. “I'll watch over you.”
“Love me?” Madeline asked with a faint smile, and yawned again.
“It used to be love.” He brushed his lips over her closed eyelids. “Now there's no word for it.”
“You once told me that you thought love was a weakness.”
“I was wrong,” he whispered, kissing the corners of her mouth. “I've discovered it's my only strength.”
Madeline fell asleep with a smile still on her lips, her hand curled around his.
Hearing a quiet tap at the door, Logan went to answer it and found Mrs. Florence at the threshold. Of late she had been a frequent visitor to the household, ostensibly to call on Madeline, but she and Logan had both found unexpected enjoyment in their time together. They had a great deal in common, after all. They had shared many long, entertaining conversations about the theater…and sometimes they discussed his mother, Elizabeth. There was still much Logan wanted to know about her, as well as the man who had sired her. Piece by piece Mrs. Florence was providing the truth about his past, giving him a sense of wholeness he had never expected to find.
His grandmother was dressed as if for a grand occasion, her throat and wrists adorned with pearls, her faded red hair stylishly arranged.
“They're sleeping,” Logan said, protective of his wife and child's need for rest.
Imperiously Mrs. Florence pointed her silver cane at him. “Don't even think of turning me away after I ascended all those confounded stairs. I'll only stay a moment—I must have a look at my great-grandchild.”
“Very well,” he muttered, allowing her to pass. “Apparently there's no stopping you.”
As Mrs. Florence approached the bedside, she appeared enchanted by the sight of the infant in Madeline's arms. “My great-granddaughter,” she remarked softly, glancing back at Logan. “A gorgeous creature, and no less than I expected. Have you decided on a name?”
“Elizabeth,” Logan replied.
The elderly woman contemplated him with eyes that had grown suspiciously moist. She gestured for him to lean down to her and kissed him on the cheek. “Your mother would have liked that, dear boy. She would have liked it very much.”