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Emerald drifted out of sleep and returned to the room as a cool hand pressed down on her forehead.
“She is much hotter. I think the wound’s infected.”
The ship was rocking back and forth, and up and down, confusing her senses and making nausea roll about in her stomach. She was hot and tired and fighting to hold on to reality, but reality slipped away into darkness once more.
The next time Emerald woke, someone had removed the pole from the side of the narrow bunk. All the bunks in the small cabin for sick crewmen had them. She presumed they were to stop men falling out when the sea was rough.
There were four bunks, two on each side, stacked one on top of the other with nothing more than a foot of space in the aisle in between them. Rita’s face came into focus in a haze. The ship swayed and took Rita with it, but Dr Steel caught Rita’s arm and stopped her fall.
“Miss Martin, we need to get you out of your wet clothes. Your maid is going to help me. You cannot stay as you are.” Dr Steel’s deep voice resonated about the narrow cabin. It hurt Emerald’s throbbing head. Her skull was thumping like a farrier’s hammer pounding on an anvil.
Dr Steel helped Emerald turn her back, and gripped her upper arms holding her steady, then Rita’s fingers began tugging the buttons of Emerald’s damp dress free.
She felt faint, dizzy – and confused…
“Emma, sweetheart.” Her mother’s voice.
Emerald looked to the sound. Her mother lay in the lower bunk, opposite Emerald.
Emerald remembered falling and being brought here, below deck, and gripping Mr Farrow’s hand while Dr Steel stitched her wound. The waves had been crashing over the deck.
“Do as Dr Steel asks,” her mother urged. He was asking Emerald to lift her arms and she had not. She did, and then Rita pulled her dress form her shoulders and her arms from the sleeves.
Her mother looked very pale.
Emerald’s dress hung loose at her waist. It was sopping wet and scented with sea water.
“Stand for me,”Dr Steel urged.
Emerald stood, and gripped Dr Steel’s arms as he held hers, while Rita eased down her dress, over her petticoats. Emerald began to shiver and her teeth chattered. She couldn’t stop it.
“We’ll have you back in bed in a moment,” Dr Steel murmured.
Rita retched suddenly and spun away to a bucket beside her, though she was barely sick. Her stomach must be empty, she’d been ill for hours. Rita turned back and slipped Emerald’s dress beneath her knees.
“I-I am s-sorry,” Emerald whispered to Rita, as she tried to step out of her dress and could not lift her foot.
“There is nothing to be sorry for,” Dr Steel stated. “Rita insisted on helping. We need to get you comfortable.”
“S-sorry,” she said again, a shiver raced through her body. She felt so cold, freezing… “I-I d-don’t m-mean t-to c-cause t-trouble.”
Dr Steel sighed. “Concentrate on yourself, Miss Martin. Do not worry about us.”
Rita untied the tapes of Emerald’s petticoats, and then slid them from her legs. They were wet, but not so tight and they peeled away more easily.
Rita’s fingers unlaced Emerald’s corset tugging the laces loose from the eyelets. When it was undone and it fell away from her breasts, Emerald drew in a deep breath that filled her lungs and swelled her breasts. She shivered violently. Dr Steel let one arm go then the other so Emerald’s chemise could be stripped off and taken over her head.
Even in her confusion Emerald felt the warmth of a blush as the ship rocked and Dr Steel gripped her bare shoulders. He stared her steadily in the face and smiled. He did not look down.
A clean, fresh smelling nightgown was placed over her head. It was warm and dry. It slipped to her waist before Rita slid Emerald’s drawers off her legs.
Emerald longed for home, her father and India, things she knew, comfort and safety. Tears suddenly gathered in her eyes and made the room shiver. “I-I am s-s-sorry.”
“There’s no need to be. Let’s get you back into bed. I’ll swap your damp mattress for the dry one from the bunk above and then let Rita help you use the closet alone and then I’ll come back and we’ll have you all tucked up and dry.”
The closet was a chamber pot set into a low chest with a lid that hid it. Rita was struggled to hold Emerald steady.
Once she had finished, Dr Steel returned to help her back to her bunk.
“I-I am s-so c-cold, a-are th-there n-not m-more b-blankets,” she said as he tucked a blanket about her.
“You may feel cold, Miss Martin, but you have a high temperature, your body heat is making you feel colder than you are. It would be foolish and dangerous to make you warmer.”
But she was not warm she was so cold, and she could not stop shivering.
She shut her eyes and saw Mr Farrow’s angry expression and stance as he’d stormed into Dr Steel’s cabin. He’d be angrier now. She had become a burden too. They were all burdens now. Then she remembered the feel of his hand on her hair steadying her head as Dr Steel had sewed her wound.
She drifted into sleep.
The next time she woke she was no longer shivering, she was very hot and kicking off the blanket, turning and sighing.
A hand lay on her forehead and a deep rumbling voice flooded the room. “She is no better?”
The hand lifted, then the ship swayed violently. It threw her into the bar along the edge of the bunk. A gruff voice spoke a curse and and then an apology.
“It is of no matter, Richard. I have heard such language before.”
Her mother was near. And Richard… Mr Farrow? He was angry with them.
“I am sorry,” Emerald whispered.
She began shivering, now the blanket no longer covered her.
Mr Farrow leant over her, his brown eyes intense.
“The poor girl keeps apologising. She has been saying nothing but I am sorry, for an hour.” Dr Steel?
Mr Farrow drew the sheets back over her, then a cold, heavy, rough, gloved hand rested on her shoulder. The leather was damp. “We’ll have you right again soon, Miss Martin. Duncan is good at what he does.”
She shivered beneath his touch. He smelled salty, of sea water and air. He pulled his hand away. His hair was soaking wet, water dripped onto the sheet beside her arm. His hair clung to his forehead.
Her fingers lifted and touched his face, he grasped them and set her hand back on top of the sheet.
“I will come back later.” He held her gaze for a moment, looking into her eyes.
When he straightened, he looked back at Dr Steel. “I will sit with them when I return and let you retire. You need to keep yourself alert in case anymore of the men are injured.”
“How much longer is it likely to be before we are about The Cape?” Her mother asked, as Emerald’s eyes closed.
“A few more hours.”
* * *
When Emerald woke again, the cabin was dark. She could not remember where she was. Fear clasped around her, a cold stark sudden emptiness. She had left her papa behind, and her mother had been ill and now she was lost.
A sharp unbearable pain lanced through her head. Then images flooded back as she remembered falling.
“Miss Martin,” the voice was a whisper. Mr Farrow. He’d leant close to her. “Duncan asked that I help you to drink some of this medicine if you woke. Do you think you can manage it?” His quiet husky pitch ran through Emerald’s nerves.
He touched her arm.
“Miss Martin?” He’d taken off his gloves but he still smelt of the sea and the outdoors–fresh.
“Y-yes,” she whispered, through her shivering teeth.
“He hopes it will bring your temperature down and stop you shivering.”
She sensed him rise from a chair as the ship rocked sidewards. Her eyes had become a little used to the dark, and she aw his silhouette as he balanced himself, holding the chair back so that did not fall.
When the carriage righted itself and swayed more gently he straightened. “I’ll fetch a lantern.” He opened the door into the corridor. Light spilled in illuminating him, painting him in yellow and grey. He wore no coat, nor waistcoat, and his shirt hung open in a v from his throat without a neckcloth to hold the collar, revealing the definition of muscle and a dusting of dark hair. He looked elemental, part of nature and he’d smelt of the storming sea.
He returned in a moment with a copper lantern. He hung it on a nail beside her bunk, then looked down at her. His hair no longer clung to his head, nor dripped sea or rain water, he had dried it a little, and it was ruffled from the use of a towel.
“Can you sit up?” He came nearer and braced his shoulder against the pillar supporting the bunk.
She didn’t answer but moved, lifting herself up. His arm came about her, supporting her shoulders, while his other hand held her arm to help her. Her fingers clasped his forearm. His sleeves had been rolled up and his lower arm was covered in coarse hair. She held it more firmly, afraid of falling. He rested a hip on the edge of the bunk and pressed his back against the pillar, then drew her close against his side. The arm about her shoulders held her secure as the boat rocked heavily again, tipping down, then up and sidewards. His embrace felt intimate and the two of them isolated, even though her mother slept only a foot away.
“Are you Ready?” His deep whisper ran through her senses. He was solid, strong, and the sensation reassured her–she felt safer.
She nodded. Pressed up against the heat of his body, she’d ceased shaking. He was warm, and his shirt was dry. It smelt of washing soda and starch, smells she remembered from home.
His arm fell free from her grip . “I have a small bottle full for you to drink.” He withdrew it from his pocket then took out the cork with his teeth before holding it to her lips. The ship tipped backwards, suddenly and violently. His muscle braced her, holding her steady, and he changed the angle of the bottle, so it did not spill.
“How do you do that?” she whispered, “stay so steady when the boat rocks, we were tossed about like leaves on a breeze in our cabin.”
“Years of practice,” he answered in an amused voice. “Ready?”
“Put your lips fully over the bottle, then if the ship rocks it will not spill.”
She did as he advised, gripping his hand while he held the bottle and tipped it to her lips. The medicine was bitter. It tasted foul, of the laudanum she’d drunk earlier and something else.
When she pulled his hand away and made a face, he said, “I know it’s horrible, but if Duncan says it will help, it will. I would trust him with my own life.”
“Is your head still throbbing?”
“Then we’ll settle you back down and you can sleep.”
She lay back down as he continued to support her shoulders and then he drew the covers over her once more.
“I am sorry,” she whispered, remembering his earlier anger. Guilt, weakness and tiredness besieged her.
“Why do you keep apologising?” he whispered harshly, impatience ringing in his voice. He’d become no more than a dark shadow looking down on her.
“I try to do what I should,” she whispered back. “I try. But I am never what people wish.”
Even with his face cast into shadow by the angle of low light from the lantern, she glimpsed his frown. “And what do people wish you to be?” he asked in a low voice when he drew away.
“A biddable woman.”
“To please your father… I know. I have seen it.” His hand suddenly pressed onto her shoulder. “But you would rather swim than sew and learn interesting and unusual things more than paint or play pianoforte for others sitting in the corner of a room.” His brown eyes looked into hers and his fingers brushed across her cheek. “Sometimes, Miss Martin, you should just do as you please and be yourself – break the mould. I do not think your father would care.”
“He would. He loves me, but he is the Governor of Calcutta he cannot have a daughter who is an embarrassment to him, and I am his only child. I will not disgrace him. I just wish for something–”
“More – different.” he concluded. He smiled when she looked up at him, a rare look without artifice. She smiled too, as the drug he’d given her slipped into her veins and the darkness of sleep hovered.
“Comfortable?” he whispered as his arm drew away..
“Sleep then,” he stated. His hand brushed through her hair sweeping it back from her forehead and away from the wound. When he accidentally touched it with the tip of his finger the injury caught alight with pain. “Ahh.”
“I am sorry. It is I who ought to be apologising. Now shut your eyes and sleep.”
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 paperbackand, 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