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After a while Emerald heard the men retire and the sounds about her became only the ship creaking as it rocked on the sea. The noises had become as familiar and reassuring as her father’s voice had once been.
The next morning, when the cabin boy brought their water for washing, Emerald asked him for fried bacon. She hoped it would stir her mother’s hunger. When their breakfast arrived the smell of the bacon and chocolate was glorious and it filled the cabin.
Emerald took the tray from the boy and turned to her mother, who Rita was helping to sit upright. “Will you eat something?”
“I will do my best, sweetheart, that chocolate does smell good.” Her mother smiled.
At least she was trying today.
Emerald set down the tray and then perched on the edge of her mother’s bunk, smiling too. She cut up the bacon while Rita poured the chocolate.
Even if her mother just drank the chocolate that would be good. But she did eat some bacon and even a couple of bites of bread, as Emerald ate her breakfast and spoke of India and her father.
An hour later, when Mr Bishop knocked on the cabin door, Emerald was hopeful and feeling better than she had done for days.
“Do you wish to sit out on the deck?” he asked.
Emerald looked back at her mother. “Mama?”
“Not today, dear. I shall rest and tonight I will join you in dining with the gentlemen, you cannot stay in here all the time nursing me, Emma. Sit out on deck with Rita. I will sleep and preserve my energy for this evening.”
Emerald did not know whether to be happy or sad. But her mother had eaten breakfast and she must intend to continue making an effort to eat if she would dine with the men. “Very well.”
She looked back at Mr Bishop. “Thank you, we shall be ready in a moment.”
He bowed his head, in an informal acknowledgement as he smiled at her. All the senior crew had become even more like friends since The Cape. Yet it would have been difficult not to become close to them in the confines of the ship.
She picked up a bonnet, slipped it on and tied the ribbons, then wrapped a shawl about her shoulders.
“Are you sure you are well enough to be left alone, Mama?”
“Rita may come back and check on me occasionally.” Her voice held a note of tiredness.
Simply eating breakfast had taken all her mother’s energy. But Emerald was already looking forward to the evening, to having her mother sit beside her at the table. She leant and kissed her mother’s forehead. “Rest, Mama, I love you and Papa loves you. You’ll get better because neither of us shall accept anything else.”
When Emerald straightened her mother caught her hand. “I love you too, dear, very much.”
* * *
Emma was standing by the rail looking out at the sea. Richard strode across the quarterdeck to join her, a smile tugging at his lips.
She was a beautiful ornament for his ship. Perhaps he ought to have her cast in wood and placed at the stern to keep him entertained on future voyages.
The wind caught her skirts, sweeping them sideward, framing her figure, revealing the length and shape of her legs. Those legs still haunted his dreams, as did the feel of her fingers gripping his hand in the middle of the night, and the memory of their fingers weaving together as he’d read to the women, sitting beside by Emma’s bunk. Those moments seemed an age ago now.
But since then he had withdrawn from her a little and stopped being indiscreet. He had not touched her in weeks, not even offered his arm. Because Joseph and Duncan had mistaken his intentions and he’d feared gossip developing below decks. They’d assumed his interest had leaned towards marriage, it would lead nowhere. It was merely admiration. She amused and enthralled him, no more than that.
Yet despite his renewed caution, his hunger for the girl was not dulled, it grew daily. So to pacify it he did not wholly keep his distance, he continued to have some contact with her every day, in the guise of entertaining the women; he often played cards with them or read aloud. After all his men had duties on the ship and he did not, so who better to entertain them, it was the perfect excuse.
He walked to her side, dismissing Mark with a nod and stood against the rail next to her, gripping it with both hands to control the temptation to hold her arm. “Miss Martin,” he stated, looking out to sea and not at her. “I see Mrs Martin remained in the cabin again today. How is she?”
Her head turned to look at him.
He looked t her. Her face was framed by the wide rim of her straw bonnet. There were dark shadows beneath her eyes. She had not been sleeping. He sighed out a breath. She was worried about her mother. Justifiably. Duncan was worried too. But her mother was adamant she’d recover enough to reach London and refused to tell her daughter the truth. Lying to Emma was torture.
“She ate breakfast,” Emma answered,” She is sleeping now. She has agreed to dine at your table tonight, if we may?”
“You may,” he answered, longing to grip Emma’s hand and offer comfort. It was a strange man standing in his body. He’d never known much compassion until he’d met her. His eyebrows lifted though. He was surprised to hear Catherine would able to sit at the table. Her health had become worse in the last weeks, not better. Life seemed to be gradually ebbing from her body, like sand trickling through an hour glass. “Yet, is she well enough?”
“She is resting now so she will be.”
He wondered if this was a reaction to the outcry they’d heard in the women’s cabin last night. It had clearly been Emma shouting, and shouting at her mother not the maid.
Catherine must feel the burden of watching her daughter suffer. And Emma was clearly suffering. Her pain was etched on her face in a constant frown, creasing the jagged line of the raw scar her injury had left on her forehead.
“Would you like to walk with me?” he offered.
“No not really,” she looked upward at the rigging. “I am mortally sick of strolling about a space no larger than Papa’s drawing-room at home. I wish there was somewhere new to go.” To take her mind of her mother––he heard the words she did not speak.
“A stroll about the poop-deck then,” he jested.
She met his gaze again, the pale blue a cold colour suddenly. “Hilarious,” she answered with a hollow humour.
“Cards then?” he suggested softly.
“I am tired of those too.”
“Chess?” he said, watching her face, his eyes absorbing every detail.
“Chess? I didn’t know you had a set aboard.”
“I was saving it for just this moment; the moment you became bored of every other option.”
She laughed. It was a hard won, half-hearted laugh.
“The board is set into a low table in the day cabin.”
“Then let’s play. I am glad of anything that is something new to do.”
“Very well then, I shall thrash you at chess. You had better be prepared for it.”
“You have never succeeded when playing cards. I think it is you who ought to prepare to be thrashed. I always beat my father.”
He smiled and shook his head at her. She was forever valiant, she would not be put down, and she would probably win too.
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
The Persuasive Love of a Libertine A Free Novella #5.75 😉 Coming soon – but already available at the end of The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel
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