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The following night, when Emerald returned to her cabin, it was to sleep in the comfortable bunk. Rita slept on the pallet. Emerald was glad to be back on a soft mattress but pitied Rita her discomfort.
On the next evening Rita was well enough to join the men with Emerald, which restored some semblance of propriety. Of course it was inappropriate for Rita to sit at the table, so she ate early and when they entered the room went to sit in a chair to one side, her hands resting in her lap and her head down.
Guilt swirled through Emerald. At home it was easier to set aside her childhood friendships, when the servants were in their own quarters, but here… It was excruciating to watch Rita treated as a lesser mortal, not allowed to eat at the table nor speak. Emerald glanced at Rita when she sat down. Then she looked at the men.Dining with them was losing its novelty. She was tired this evening and in no mood to suffer Mr Farrow’s company. They seated themselves about Emerald, though Mr Farrow remained on his feet.
Mr Farrow looked at Rita. “You are looking better at least, Rita, is it? Have you eaten?”
Rita’s head lifted instantly, and her eyes were wide with her surprise. It was not normal for her presence to be acknowledged. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Rita’s gaze dropped from his face to his chest and then she looked back at the floor.
“Well if you will, Rita, you may dine at the table tomorrow evening.”
Even though Rita’s skin was a dark olive, Emerald saw Rita redden. Rita knew her station and her responsibilities as much as Emerald knew hers.
“No, thank you, Sir, I am happy here.”
Mr Farrow’s interaction confounded Emerald. It was a habit of Mr Farrow’s. As when he’d insisted Emerald came out of her cabin, and when he’d held the upper-deck stair-rail then slid down. Or stood so his shadow cast over Emerald’s book as though he did so deliberately, or challenged Emerald over her mother’s health as if he cared.
Mr Farrow sat down.
Emerald was uncomfortable with treating Rita as a lesser person but she did know that breaking the expected boundary between them in public would only embarrass them both. Yet Mr Farrow had taken the step without any care for how it might be judged by others.
But this was his ship, and the room only contained his employees. Who was here to judge him?
Emerald looked at him. He was sitting opposite her again. Nothing in his expression gave away his thoughts. There was no compassion. She had always taken his blank expression for arrogance but now she defined it better – it was self-assurance.
Emerald took a breath, steeling herself for the night ahead of her, then opened the conversation. “Where are we exactly? How many more miles do we have to travel? How many more weeks will we be at sea?” Her heart beat raced as Mr Farrow’s gaze fell on her. She looked at Mr Swallow, who sat on Mr Farrow’s right.
“I will show you on the charts after dinner if you wish,” It was not Mr Swallow who answered, it was Mr Farrow, “or tomorrow, Miss Martin. Currently we are sailing along the coast of Africa, you will see land in a few days, but we will not be stopping at any port, we will be carrying on around The Cape of Good Hope before travelling back up the other side of Africa and past Europe to reach England. If we are lucky, we will complete the journey in four months. If not, it may be as many as six.”
They had passed a very meagre time aboard. Emerald’s smile fell as her gaze passed back to Mr Farrow.
Four months – six…
“You will become accustomed to being onboard, the same faces, the same things to do. It will become normality in the end and when you reach dry land and face the noise and the bustle of an English dock that will seem abnormal.”
A sound of amusement came from Mr Bishop’s throat.
Mr Swallow laughed.
Emerald’s eyes held Mr Farrow’s brown un-humorous, intense gaze, yet he had spoken to reassure her.
“It is true,” Mr Swallow stated, “I always find it hard, especially returning to my wife and children. Each time I must become accustomed to being a husband and a father again. I pity my poor wife, who grows equally used to living without me.”
“Except each time you return there’s another child on the way when you leave, so reuniting cannot be such a painful chore,” Mr Farrow responded.
A laugh ripped from Mr Swallow’s throat, then he answered, “Quite.” With a twisted smile for Mr Farrow.
“And Duncan has the same problem I believe.” Mr Farrow smiled at the doctor. It was the second expression she had seen on Mar Farrow’s face she would say was genuine – neither forced nor restrained.
Dr Steel laughed too. “It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
“Or just makes a man forget what he does not like,” Mr Farrow said.
“Perhaps that too,” Mr Swallow agreed, as they were served.
“Still, Daphne will be pleased to see you, and the children too. I suppose there is another due.” Mr Farrow’s broad smile creased the corners of his eyes when he turned to Mr Swallow once more.
“There is,” Mr Swallow, answered. “It is due next month, the child will arrive before I do.”
“Margaret is also expecting again,” Dr Steel said.
“Will you never cease producing? The two of you will bleed me dry, what with Mr Prichard now having a sweetheart to go home to too. I am beginning to lose count of the trinkets I must send back with you all.”
Trinkets… He sent their families gifts…
“And perhaps I should warn you I intend offering for her this time, Richard. If I do not I’ll risk losing her to someone else, she’ll not wait forever,” Mr Prichard inserted.
Emerald’s gaze passed about the men as they spoke and then returned to Mr Farrow. His lieutenant had used his forename.
Mr Farrow’s eyebrows rose but his smile did not fall. The look he gave Mr Pritchard was benevolent. “We wish you happy then, Philip.” He lifted his wineglass and made a toast that the others echoed.
“You cannot toast me. I have not even asked her yet. She may refuse me.”
“She’ll not turn down your income, nor your face.” Mr Farrow answered.
Mr Prichard laughed. “I hope there is more than that to commend me.”
The conversation progressed. Mr Farrow tackled Mr Bishop on any sweetheart he might have tucked away. Emerald’s gaze darted from one man to another. But it stopped most frequently on Mr Farrow. She’d never heard him speak in such an unguarded style before. He clearly felt comfortable with his crew and he knew them well. Of course they must have spent hours together like this, months, on numerous voyages, and if they liked him so well, there must be something to commend him.
She did not speak, leaving the conversation to the men.
When she returned to her cabin, her mother was asleep. Rita helped Emerald undress in silence, by the moonlight reflecting back from the sea and flooding through their window. Then Emerald slipped between the sheets of her bunk, appreciating the luxury of its comfort. But she didn’t sleep for a long time. Richard Farrow’s image would no leave her head. It was the image of him as he’d smiled at Mr Prichard.
Stupidly something within her craved a smile like that from him.
She did not even like him.
But as she laid there, in the moonlight, thinking of him, her heart thumped harder and her stomach fluttered.
To be continued…
The Marlow Intrigues
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all
The Illicit Love of a Courtesan #2
Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #2.5
The Passionate Love of a Rake #3
The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #3.5
The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4
The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #5
The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel #5.5
The Secret Love of a Gentleman #6
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