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She did beat him, after a long game, watched over by Rita, who sat near them, silent, despite Richard’s occasional verbal prodding to join the conversation.
“Checkmate!” Emma called, smiling gleefully. He had not let her win, he’d fought hard, but she’d been running rings about him for an hour, keeping him on his guard and fighting to stay in the game.
He leant back in the chair, smiling too. “You are very good, I admit defeat.”
“So tell me,” she said then, leaning forward and gripping the arms of her chair, smiling in a very open way and enchanting him once more. “After we have played chess for the three weeks and I become tired of this, what do you have up your sleeve next? What new thing shall you come up with to disperse the boredom?”
Damn. The corners of his lips lifted higher, raising his smile to almost match hers. A number of things slipped through his mind but her mother would frown upon them. “If I tell you, Miss Martin, it would no longer be a surprise and therefore the impact on the boredom would be slighted.”
She laughed, genuinely. He was relieved to hear it. His efforts this afternoon had eased her sorrow, for a while anyway.
Yet the feelings in him were more than a relief to lift her mood and help her. The emotions inside him had been swelling over the weeks since they’d come about The Cape, rising and falling, washing over him like the waves on the sea. There was a sexual need still, but she was a scarce woman on a ship, that said nothing, yet the protective urge within him, and like, and interest––her conversation, her quick mind––and she amused him with her wit––but there was something else too. An emotion he could not grasp. But it was that last which was the largest and strongest emotion, sometimes it swelled so high it stole his breath away. As it did now. It was because he cared about her, and sometimes that knowledge punched him in the stomach, knocking the air out of him.
He rested back in his chair for a minute and watched her, his fingers covering his lips as he felt the brow of the wave sweep over him and pass on.
She watched him too, her smile pulling up the edges of her lips. She made a perfect portrait with her bonnet removed and her pale blonde hair catching the sunlight that reached through the long windows of the cabin. Her hair was plaited in loops, which fell from her crown.
Colour bloomed in her cheeks.
He might not have touched her at all in the last couple of weeks, but he had made sure she knew his interest had not waned, he’d not hidden his liking for her from his gaze and it was that which she was looking at now, and smiling at, and blushing in recognition of.
Sweetheart, the word he’d used to her once was still there, she was very dear to him. The wave of emotion rose again and came over the top of his head, soaking him.
Guilt passed the image of June through his mind. She would be laughing at him, if she saw him, in a judging way, and if she had seen him playing chess she would have mocked him outrageously. ‘The great Richard Farrow playing chess with a girl.’ But Emma’s youth improved her beauty and the intelligence of her mind made her anything but a girl, and she was not really a girl anyway, she was young, yes, but not a girl. She was a woman. His body constantly reminded him of that.
June… She had been his companion for years––vibrant and a relief from business. He’d liked her company, been amused by her, laughed with her often, and argued with her outrageously at times. He’d felt fondness for her. She’d pleased him. But his feelings had never gone deeper than that. He could not imagine playing chess with June. After five minutes she would have been frustrated with the game and swept the pieces from the board, in a temper. He knew he could not go back to her. His mind was made up. He would end his relationship with June.
It would be a shock to her, she’d be hurt and upset, but she’d always known the place she had in his life. She was his mistress, no more, and he’d not been her first protector. She’d fought hard to win his interest and keep it for as long as she had and she had satisfied him for a long while. But she’d known her position was a finite thing. They were friends who shared a bed, nothing more. There were no deeper feelings on either side. Yet she would feel slighted, he knew, especially when she realised he was capable of deeper feelings.
He had always thought himself incapable of truly caring for another person––until now.
Yet he also thought June had feared this when they’d parted. She had told him not to look at anyone else, in her mocking manner, that genuinely threatened. But she had already known that too long had passed. They were not attached, if their relationship was to last he would have felt more attached. It was only her determination to keep him that had made him stay.
He sighed and looked away from Emma as the day cabin door opened. “Joseph…”
“Sorry to interrupt, I need to look at the charts.”
“Is there a problem?”
“No, I just wish to check the course and reset us if necessary.”
Reset the course. That is what Richard was doing. He would write to June from London. Perhaps it was the coward’s way out, but it would save them both the pain of an emotional argument. She would be angry, then she would cry and plead. She would not be June if she did not do those things. It was her way. Yet he knew within a month she would be with another man, and probably someone he knew, to try to jab him for his disloyalty and she would be just as happy with that man’s attention, and gifts, as she had been with Richard’s. She would be even happier when she bragged to Richard about those gifts. As she had done to the man before Richard, showing off the jewellery Richard had dress her in.
He would give her three months to leave the house he’d bought for her to use, though, and he’d give her money to settle elsewhere. He would write to his accountant in Calcutta and have the man manage both the payment and June’s departure. He would sell the house, then. He’d not keep another mistress.
A new decision suddenly shot through Richard and grasped at his heart. He wanted a wife.
He stood up, looking at Emma. “Would you like to see where we are, and see how Joseph plots our progression.”
She smiled brightly. Giving Emma information and knowledge was like giving June jewels. Emma’s expression could not be made brighter if he gave her diamonds.
To be continued…
To read the Marlow Intrigues series, you can start anywhere, but the actual order is listed below ~ and click like to follow my Facebook Page not to miss anything…
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