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this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
Two days later Mr Farrow came below deck to visit Emerald and her mother with a smile splitting his lips.
He still had the look of a pirate, no matter that he wore his neckcloth, waistcoat and his shirt sleeves were down. It was the colour the sun had lifted in his skin.
She knew now, though, that beneath his tanned skin and his arrogant, self-assured façade was a trustable, likeable, considerate man.
She smiled too and swung her legs over the edge of the bunk so she could sit upright and look at him. Her stocking clad feet rested on the floor. She was clothed, as was Rita, though they remained down here with her mother. They were all still a little fragile. He looked down at Emerald’s toes peeping from beneath her dress then up to her face, his smile broadening.
He was very captivating when he smiled. It caught in his dark intuitive eyes. If he had smiled more genuinely like this in Calcutta her friends would have swooned at every ball.
Her smile broadened too. They had been sharing many smiles these last two days; smiles that seemed more like a secret conversation and private touches when he sat beside her bunk. Every time he read to them her hand found his – or perhaps it was his that found hers. She didn’t really know who led this thing that had begun between them or even what it was, she was fighting the urge to think about it and just letting it be. There was nothing particular to be defined in smiles and touches of hands and so she was waiting to see what might become of such things.
Nothing. She was to be married in England.
“What do you say to going back up to your cabin?”
“That I would like to go,” Emerald answered, “please.” Being below deck felt like being buried in the bowels of a giant fish. They had no light.
He turned his smile to her mother. “Are you well enough, Catherine?”
“I’m sorry, Richard, I doubt my legs will carry me.”
“They do no need to, I shall.”
“Then I would certainly appreciate a more comfortable bed.”
“It is agreed then. Prepare to move. The cabin has been cleaned and is nice and fresh and ready for you as soon as you are ready -.”
“We are ready now?” Emerald responded, standing. But she moved too quickly and as she did so the room took a quarter spin. She reached for the pillar supporting the bunks and found herself gripping Richard’s arm.
He grasped hers too.“I’ve got you. I’ll carry you up too, Miss Martin. In fact…” he looked at Rita, not letting go of Emerald’s arm, “I’ll carry you all, seeing as Rita must be just as weak. If you give me a moment, I’ll fetch some help.”
He let go of Emerald and left them then. She sat down.
After a couple of minutes he came back with Mr Bishop.
Richard said they’d take her mother first. Emerald had not seen Mr Bishop since he’d brought them below deck. None of the men other than Dr Steel and Richard had visited them here . She supposed it was inappropriate of Richard to have done so as they had lain abed in their nightdresses and yet without his company she would not have endured it.
Richard lifted her mother, still wrapped in blankets, and bid her to put her arms about his neck. She looked very light, thin. She was fading away. When they were back in their cabin Emerald decided she’d concentrate on making her mother eat.
With Mr Bishop holding the door, Richard carried her mother out.
Richard took Rita next. She resisted Richard’s insistence on picking her up and remained on her feet, letting him support her on one side with Mr Bishop hovering at the other.
When Richard returned, he was alone. He leant down to Emerald, smiling. “You, I am definitely picking up.”
“I am not protesting,” she responded, slipping her arms about his neck, her heartbeat thundering.
He lifted her with one arm beneath her knees and the second about her shoulders, the muscle bracing in his shoulders as he moved. Emerald held him tighter.
“How are you?” he whispered.
The warmth of his breath brushed over her lips as he met her gaze and a shiver twisted through her, but not from the cold or fever, it was with a sense of expectation. “Much better, just a little dizzy and my head still thuds with pain at times, but other than that fit-as-a-fiddle.”
His smile broadened. “You do amuse me, Miss Martin.”
“And you I, Mr Farrow, now I have broken through your surly looks and found the man with a sense of humour beneath them.”
“Good God is he there somewhere, a man who might laugh? God help me, do not tell my men.” He looked at the door not her.
“See,” she whispered, resting her head against his shoulder as he shifted her weight, grasping the door handle.
His embrace was a familiar feeling still. The dark nights when he’d held her would always stay with her.
When he carried her along the narrow hall she imagined her friends laughing, as they would if they could see the fearsome Mr Farrow with her draped about his neck.
Her right breast brushed against his chest as he walked. The sensation stirred up an awareness of how much closer she would like him to be – very close. She’d never kissed a man. She would like to kiss Richard.
Her fingers lifted and stroked over his clean shaven jaw. He smelled nice, of soap today.
He did not look down at her.
She continued to try and torment him, running her fingers from his cheek to his nape and then into his soft dark hair.
He said nothing and continued to look ahead. He was only making the game more amusing.
Her fingers ruffled his hair, then she ran just her fingertips along the line of his jaw to his lips.
He took a deep breath then said quietly, “Very amusing.” They had reached the stairs to the quarterdeck, the door above was open and voices filtered through. “My men are up there, Miss Martin, would you have them see me thus and think you fast?” His pitch was all business man Mr Farrow once more, not Richard.
She smiled regardless, speaking to Richard. “Fast?” she mocked, “God forbid!” She looked up and stroked his hair flat, though, setting it to order.
An amused sound left his throat, even though he had sounded unamused before. “You are a witch, Miss Martin, do you know that? You put men under a spell. My entire crew have fallen beneath it. Now hold on tight.”
She did, gripping his shoulders with both hands and bracing herself, lifting her head from his chest. But as he took the first step, resting his elbow on the rail as he climbed, she answered, “Should I not be a siren – while we are at sea. Is it not a siren who enchants men to their deaths?”
“God woman,” he complained still in his business voice, “will you never learn? Cease casting ill omens on my ship. You do not mention Sirens; mention them and you’ll hear them call.”
“Are they real then?”
He continued climbing the stairs, not looking at her but ahead of him.
“They are. They are enchanting noises you hear in the night and can never explain. It is like St Elmo’s fire.”
“What is St Elmo’s fire?”
“A miracle,” he answered in an amused tone again as they reached the deck and a breeze caught at her hair. It wrapped about them both. “It is coloured lights,” he progressed, “they dance in the rigging and in the sky when you sail north, like mystical fay creatures. You can see them but never touch them.”
“Yes, really.” He looked down at her and smiled as they crossed the deck.
“Good afternoon, Miss Martin!”
She looked up, Mr Prichard had called from the poop-deck. Mr Swallow was standing up there too.
Mr Swallow, lifted his hat a little. “Miss Martin!”
“Good day, Mr Swallow! Mr Prichard!” She lifted one hand and waved.
“Siren,” Richard whispered through the corner of his mouth.
“Don’t mention the name, you’ll curse your ship,” she said as her fingers gripped the back of his neck.
“You curse my ship, sweetheart,” he answered as he reached the cabin she shared with her mother and Rita. Mr Bishop stood before it, holding the door open.
Richard walked on and carried her through. Their moment to speak privately was gone as he set her down on her bunk..
But he had called her, sweetheart, so she had not imagined this thing between them. He had been flirting with her.
Her mother lay in her bunk. She smiled at Emerald and Emerald smiled back intensely happy – even though her father was not here and this was not Calcutta.
She looked up at Mr Farrow. “Thank you.”
He gave her a heartbreaking smile, then shook his head at her for her mischief. “Rest, Miss Martin, and preserve your strength, tomorrow you may all sit out on deck if you wish. We are travelling up the west coast of Africa now and if we’re lucky we’ll hit no storms, you’ll be safe from sea-sickness for the rest of the passage.”
He was a rotten liar, of course they would hit storms, they had weeks of travel yet. But she liked him more for his kindness in trying to cheer them up.
“I remember you saying you had a pack of cards aboard. Can we have them? Can we play?”
His eyes flooded with benevolence. “You may have them but I have work to do today so I cannot join you. Mr Bishop will bring them to you. We’ll play a game another time.”
She was to be cast off then, now that she was no longer so very ill. A sense of being cut by a little knife pierced Emerald’s skin, and yet when he turned to her mother, behind his hip, he touched her shoulder. The gesture was brief, an instant only, a slight reassurance that he had not forgotten, that was all, yet as she glanced across the cabin she saw Mr Bishop watching. His expression blanked when he caught Emerald’s gaze and he looked away, in the same moment Richard’s hand lifted… Of course Richard was Mr Bishop’s employer. Mr Bishop would neither comment nor cast judgment anymore than Rita had in their small cabin below deck when she had seen Richard hold Emerald’s hand.