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The five men who surrounded Emerald were going to considerable effort to make her welcome, all of them keeping her talking as they ate. Well all bar Mr Farrow who observed her with a dark gaze from across the dinner table and let the others talk. Frequently when she looked up she met his gaze. But the food was divine after so many days of bread and cheese and she decided she did not care what he did. She had the other men to make the meal pleasant.
They discussed flippant things, the English countryside, the young Queen, the recently completed Buckingham Palace, the price of indian muslins and silks, the fickleness of fashion. Topics she could participate in. She knew the topics were deliberate too and she enjoyed the conversation, smiling as she had not done for days. But then she laughed and remembered her mother lying sick in the cabin next door, listening to the tones of their conversation. He burned in Emerald’s cheeks. Perhaps she’d had too much wine.
She let the conversation pass over her, then, answering in single symbol words when the men attempted to draw her in until they had finished the meal and as soon as the meal was finished, she rose. The gentlemen stood too. “I think, I should return to my mother.”
“Yes, of course,” Dr Steel agreed.
“I shall accompany you,” Mr Bishop said.
“It has been a pleasure, Miss Martin,” Mr Swallow stated.
“I am glad you joined us, you must do so again tomorrow, Miss Martin,” Mr Prichard concluded.
She looked at Mr Farrow, expecting him to speak too. He did not, just looked back and lifted an eyebrow, perhaps expecting her to speak. She suddenly remembered her manners. “Thank you for inviting me.”
He nodded, visually accepting her words, and then said, “Miss Martin,” bowing slightly, in his way of offering respect and not offering it at the same time, his gaze not lowering as he did so. She blushed, not knowing how to respond and turned away.
“Goodnight.” he said behind her.
Emerald kept walking but at the door she turned and looked back at them all. Mr Bishop was a little behind her. She smiled at Dr Steel, Mr Prichard and Mr Swallow, then looked at him, bobbed a curtsy and said, “Goodnight,” in as formal and as cold a tone as he’d used.
The next morning Emerald’s mother and Rita seemed a little better, although Emerald’s mother looked very tired and Rita was weak. When the cabin boy brought the water they both bathed and afterwards Emerald helped them dress.
Her mother even attempted a boiled egg for breakfast. Rita ate bread. But neither of them were sick. So when Mr Bishop and Dr Steel knocked, Emerald greeted them with a smile. “Mama and Rita are much better today. Have you come to help them out on to the deck? They are dressed.” There was no sign of Mr Farrow.
“We have,” Dr Steel stated, “there are chairs on deck.”
With a man holding either arm, her mother and then Rita were helped out. Once Emerald’s mother was seated in the fresh air, she actually smiled.
The young boy, who usually brought their water and breakfast, and took the laundry, occupied their cabin and began stripping the beds with the door open to the breeze.
Relief clasped in Emerald’s chest and held around her heart. For the first time she believed all would be well.
After they’d been on deck for about half an hour Mr Farrow appeared. Not from the day cabin or the door she knew led to his cabin, but from the far side of the deck. “Ma’am,” he stated, nodding at Emerald’s mother. “How are you feeling? You appear a little better today?”
“I am, thank you, Mr Farrow.” He came closer and took her mother’s hand from the arm of the chair, ignoring Emerald, exactly as he would have done in Calcutta, and bowed over her mother’s hand.
“Catherine,” he stated, wielding her mother’s forename in his manipulative style. It annoyed Emerald more than ever that he was choosing to do so while her mother was ill.
Emerald did not trust him and her eyes probably told him so as he straightened up and nodded at her before letting her mother’s hand fall.
He glanced at Rita. “It is good to see you all looking much better.” Then he looked at Emerald’s mother again and continued, “We have a small library in the day cabin, Catherine, if you would like something to read. May I fetch you a book?”
“Yes, please.” She instantly brightened, her eyes smiling as much as her lips. Emerald internally scoffed, wondering if her mother was as blinded by a handsome face and sporting masculine physique as Emerald’s friends were. Her mother had always ignored the negatives of Mr Farrow; she was too openhearted to see the man for what he was, rude, empty and obsessed with wealth.
He asked Emerald’s mother what she liked to read, before finally acknowledging Emerald properly. “Would you like to choose a book too, Miss Martin?”
Emerald frowned, but nodded, feeling Trojan – not wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth. She was bored of sewing.
“I am sure you will wish to choose for yourself,” he said, lifting his hand, implying Emerald should lead the way towards the day cabin.
She stood up, wondering if she would regret her trust as the Trojans had done.
“I wish to ask how your mother is, Miss Martin?” He stated when he opened the day cabin door. So the offer was a deceit. He merely wanted information. “I am well aware Catherine may exaggerate her recovery to Dr Steel, I doubt she could hide it from you. I see she looks extremely frail.”
“She has been ill for a week, Mr Farrow?” Emerald snapped, annoyed by his inquisitive questioning. Why did he care? He had not cared for a week. “We would have our own books but you only allowed us to bring aboard two trunks,” she added angrily, casting blame to excuse her outburst. She did not even know why he annoyed her so much. He just did.
He stopped and faced her. Being alone in the room with him disconcerted her, yet they were barely in it and he’d left the door ajar, following all propriety. The same situation did not bother her with other man.
What was it about him?
“Mr Farrow?” she stated meeting his gaze, rich brown eyes as dark as coffee glimmered back, intelligent and defiant. She’d be a fool to challenge him. No one did in India and she had nowhere to hide from him here, this was his ship and she already knew he controlled everyone upon it with a will of iron.
“And you would be at the bottom of the sea if we overloaded the ship, Miss Martin,” he answered bluntly, in a deep pitch. “I am doing your father a favour in letting you and your mother aboard. My cargo is my first priority. It is the reason for my voyage. I was not casting off my cargo to enable you to travel. Now, I am offering you books, Miss Martin, out of kindness. I am asking after your mother, out of concern. Pray, tell me what has induced this sudden assault?”
It was the calm pitch of his voice which irritated her. Nothing ever ruffled his feathers. He was so – so – unemotional – cold. Coldness was the essence of him. She kept coming back to that word. He was unfeeling and unsympathetic. Yet he had just asked after her mother and offered them books.
“There is tiredness in your mother’s eyes, an exhaustion which seems deeper than a few days of sea-sickness. Was she well when she came aboard? Has she other issues?”
Emerald shook her head, suddenly bemused. She had thought the same thing the day they’d boarded? He may be unemotional but he was observant.
She cast the thought aside and shook her head again. There was nothing wrong with her mother, she’d been tired that day and ill for a week – of course she was exhausted. “No, she was well. It is just the sea-sickness.”
His gaze seemed more intense for a moment, then he concluded, turning away, “I hope so. The books are here.” He pointed to a closed mahogany cupboard, which was built into the wall and walked across to it, then turned a small key which rested in the lock to open it.
The books were perched behind a wooden rail, as well as being locked inside, to stop them tumbling about.
Emerald chose Persuasion and took Gulliver’s Travels for her mother.
When she turned around Mr Farrow was standing a little behind her, waiting for her. His presence struck her like a slap. There was just something about him, something dark and elemental; he made her body tingle and her senses aware.
“Thank you, Mr Farrow,” she acknowledged swiftly, then walked past him.
He did not follow but stayed in the day cabin.
To be continued…
The Marlow Intrigues
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all
Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #2.5
The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #3.5
The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback and, yes, there are more to come 🙂
Go to the index
- the story of the real courtesan who inspired The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
- another free short story, about characters from book #2, A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
- the prequel excerpts for book #3 The Scandalous Love of a Duke
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark