A little black head shot out the open door and looked the surroundings over with bright green eyes. Randy and Max must be on the lookout for her right now after an eternity of hiding! Nicolette pondered on her hiding strategy with care, thinking whether to run for the nearest tree or to hide behind the bushes. Her cream dress would be soiled, but that was the farthest from the little Lady's mind.
Nodding with her chosen decision, the little girl counted to three and ran for the designated tree a far distance away from the Estate, her ribbon adorned black hair swaying with each step. She was halfway across the grassland when she saw Max appear beside the tree with his finger pointing at her and eyes brimmed with laughter.
The little boy grinned coyly. "I gotcha, Nic!"
To make matters worse, Randy jumped out from behind the trunk to join his little brother with the same sneering smile. "You are sooo predictable, Nic! Girls are boring to play with!"
Nicolette pouted at the two boys, having always been a sore loser. She folded her arms and frowned. "Nu-uh! You take that back Randolph Marcus or . . . or I'll tell my daddy!" She stuck out her tongue, knowing that her father was a powerful man, like a king!
The boy of seven didn't take it well and stuck his tongue out in return. "Stupid girls like you are always telling on the adults! Tattle tale!"
Nicolette flashed him an angry look and took off in sprints to the estate.
The adults were chatting and having their tea when she screamed from behind, the two boys hot on her tracks.
The Duke of Norton whipped his head around and grinned to see the little girl running toward them. In a matter of seconds, he caught the three year old safely in his arms, giving the child a tight hug and a kiss on her dirty forehead.
"Hello, my little Duchess! What were you and the boys playing?"
Nicolette turned to the two boys with a triumphant grin before answering. "Hide and seek, Daddy!"
"Well where have you been hiding? Your dress is a mess, sweetheart!"
The three year old pouted with crossed fingers that it will work on her father. "Am I in trouble?" she pronounced sweetly.
Derek looked at his wife talking with Emily and smiled. He remembered how the woman came home equally as dirty on occasions. "Of course not, sweetheart. But if you're going to get this dirty, you should've worn your play dresses! You're going to drive the washers crazy!"
"But I like this dress better!"
The Duke kissed the child and put her down to let the girl alone with her play. "Alright, then I'll buy you more dresses just like this one! Kiss your mother and run along with the boys."
Serena smiled when the girl tiptoed to kiss her on the cheek and ran off to play with the boys. She shot the Duke a stern look, her lips forming a well-defined pout. "It's so unfair!"
"How come you call Nicolette your 'little Duchess' whereas I—your wife—is a peasant? It's not fair, I tell you!"
Derek grinned at the woman's tone. She was having her tantrum—it was all too adorable!
"But, darling, you are my peasant! And I love you as one."
The Marchioness giggled at this remark as the Duke sat down beside his wife. "Oh, Serena, I'm so glad we could be mothers together! It took you long enough to get married, dear, that I thought I would have to arrange play dates with Victoria first!" Emily said, with a radiant smile, referring to the blonde who was wedded to a wealthy old Earl even before Serena could publicly announce her engagement.
"Well, how did I know you have developed feelings for the Duke? I still thought you hated him! I remember you telling me that the man is worse than a frog and is like unwanted nose dirt—"
Emily's eyes widened at her mistake, biting her tongue a little too late. She watched as the Duke shot his wife a tempered glare and mouthed her apologies to Serena. The Marchioness hastily excused herself from the table with an excuse of refilling their tea pot before the pair could start their endless banter. Their little fights were a common occurrence in the household; and while Emily was ever the pacifist, she thought the pair adorable when they fought!
"Unwanted nose dirt, am I?" Derek muttered with a scowl. "That just about adds to my long list of horrid names!"
Serena leaned her head on the man's shoulder in apology. "Well, you were such a beast back then! And I still didn't realize that I love you."
The Duke chuckled, failing to get angry at the sight of her pout. He was reminded once again whom his little Nicolette learned it from. However, as much as the little girl sported the same black hair and awful temper as her mother, she resembled her great-grand mother even more from whom she was named after. That's why he called her his 'little' Duchess.
Alexandria had been thrice as excited as they were when they finally reported Serena with child. Since then, she had even been stuffing his peasant with food and made regular visits to ensure the woman's and the child's well being. Derek smiled. His stubborn grandmother had been made the happiest being alive now that they had Nicolette, but he knew very well that the old woman was still tapping her foot for more heirs!
They stayed in the cozy embrace, watching the kids play their noisy game of tag. Derek snorted as a thought came to his mind all of a sudden, his eyes trailing his little Duchess racing across the field.
"Say, Serena, can three year olds have crushes?"
His wife looked up at him with a curious expression. "I don't know. Why?"
Derek smirked. "Well, didn't you fall for my irresistible charms at the age of six? Oh, no, technically it was at the age of five. Darling, you'll never know!"
Serena released herself from the embrace and glared the man down. "You arrogant Duke!"
"You tempered peasant!" he countered with a teasing grin that provoked the woman to laugh. She tipped her chin to kiss the man lovingly. Four years of marriage and they were still very much in love! Why, she can't withhold the joy in spending the rest of her life with the Duke—even if he did always get on her temper!
Derek kissed the woman back and leaned over to plant another one on her swollen stomach, feeling a hard kick in return.
Yes, his demanding and scheming grandmother would have yet another reason to celebrate!
Well, my dearest readers, this would have to be the end! I know it's short, but it's just like a cherry on top of the sundae, tiny yet sweet!
Now for my speech (ahem ahem). Thank you so much for the faithfulness, love, and support you showed for this story-some from the very beginning. I don't have the words to express my sincerest gratitude for the time you took of your lives to read my work. I love writing, and hope to improve more with each story I write. I know ODAP had LOTS of mistakes in it, but thanks for bearing with it till the end! I lacked research for this era, it seems (sorry!), but you guys kept on encouraging me anyway. Thank you for waiting patiently for every chapter! You guys made me very happy :)
I will continue writing, definitely. In fact, I have another story under works in my laptop though I don't know when I'll be able to post something. I'll be taking some time off for a break to spend more time with studies and my family.
So till next time!
With much love, hugs, and kisses,
P.S. a last review for ODAP? Please?