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this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
When Emerald woke in the morning, it was as if she had slept the sleep of three nights in one she had been so deeply asleep. She felt as though she was swimming her way up from the bottom of the sea. Dr Steel had prescribed something to help her sleep and it had worked.
He’d spoken to her on the deck in the afternoon to reassure her he would do all he could for her mother and then persuaded Emerald a goodnight’s sleep would make her feel less anxious.
Last night she’d dined with her mother and helped her eat a little, then she had undressed and taken the concoction Dr Steel had sent to the cabin. She’d fallen asleep listening to the masculine voices talking in low hushed tones next door and picturing Richard’s face, when he had looked at her with kindness and concern. His eyes had hovered through her dreams, his words whispering into her sleep, ‘Whatever happens, Emma, just remember you are not alone’.
She yawned and sat upright, stretching. It was full daylight.
Rita was kneeling in the corner before a chest, praying to a small figure of one of her Hindu Gods, which she had placed on the chest.
Emerald got up as she looked at her mother. She was lying still and silent, looking even paler than yesterday. One of her arms rested on top of the covers.
Emerald leant to hold her mother’s hand. It was really cold, and limp.
“Mama.” Emerald said softly. Her mother’s hand did not move at all and nor did her eyes open. “Mama.” Emerald squeezed her mother’s hand and shook it a little. There was still no response. “Mama!” Fear swept the lingering cloak of sleep aside, and Emerald grasped her mother’s shoulder and shook her hard. “Mama!” She did not wake but she was breathing, her chest was lifting and lowering slightly.
“Mama!” Emerald cried again, shaking her harder, but there was no response.
The air clogged in Emerald’s throat and her breaths became a choking sound as she turned away, opened the door and left the cabin, panic roared at her as she ran across the quarterdeck. She tripped on the hem of her nightgown and stumbled, falling to her knees, then scrambled up and carried on.
Richard sat among his senior crew, eating breakfast, as they scanned the charts and planned for the day ahead. Then the cabin suddenly burst open. He turned to look, as they all did. Emma stood there, holding the door wide, wearing her nightgown and nothing else, and her hair was loose hanging to her waist in a fluid gold veil.
Richard rose, as the chairs scraped on the wooden floor as they all stood hurriedly.
Emerald’s breathing was unsteady and her gaze darted about them. “My mother!” She yelled at Richard. “She will not wake! Where is Dr Steel.”
Richard moved in an instant. “Fetch Duncan.” The order was cast across his shoulder as he took Emerald’s arm. “Is she breathing?”
“She is, but she will not open her eyes and she does not move,” Emma’s words were rushed out in a panicked voice.
He lead her back across the deck, his strides long and his teeth gritting. He had not expected this to come so soon. Hours, Duncan had said only the day before yesterday, or months. Richard had hoped for months.
When he reached their cabin, he let go of Emma’s arm and sat on the edge of Catherine’s bunk. She was whiter than the sheet and her chest barely lifted when she breathed. he held her hand, then lifted one eyelid to look into her eye. The dark pupil at the centre of her eye did not even move. It was as though she had slipped into the afterlife already but had not yet finished breathing.
Violent curses shouted through his head. At the far end of Catherine’s bunk her maid prayed for Catherine’s soul.
Still gripping Catherine’s hand, he laid his other hand on her forehead. She was intensely cold, she had very little life left in her body.
“I am here.”
Richard looked up as Duncan shut the door behind him. “Her vision has gone. She is unconscious and cold as ice.” He stood up as he spoke, getting out of Duncan’s way.
When Duncan sat on the bunk, Richard held Emma in his arms. She’d been standing motionless, solidified by fear. His mind sought words that might ease her pain. But there were none.
She’d been crying yesterday and desperate for comfort, now she was stiff and unreceptive as he sought to offer it. “Emma.” he whispered, his hand running over her loose hair. Behind him Duncan called Catherine’s name, attempting to stir her. “It will be all right?”
“No.” Emma drew away, pulling free from Richard’s hold. “No! It is not right! ”
She pushed past Richard and pushed Duncan aside, then dropped to her knees and gripped her mother’s hand, her shock turning to anger. Then her weeping became shouting. “Mama! Mama! You cannot leave me! You cannot!”
Richard gripped Emma’s shoulders, and tried to draw her back, her shoulders rocked from side to side and her arm swung out to push him away. But there was no benefit to her kneeling at Catherine’s bed and yelling at her.
His grip firmed and he pulled her up from floor and on to his lap as he sat down on Emerald’s bunk while she wrestled to be free, screaming and crying. Her body was slender and her skin warm beneath the thin cotton nightgown.
“Miss Martin!” Duncan barked at her, to make her hear some sense. “Your mother may yet hear you! This fuss will distress her, not help her!”
Immediately Emma’s battle against Richard stopped, and her cries died to a stilted sob.
He let her go. She span away to return to her mother’s side, kneeling on the floor again. Duncan grasped her hands. “She will not recover, Miss Martin. It is a only matter of time before she goes now. Will you make her last hours painful or allow her to pass peacefully?”
It was harsh, telling this young woman she must be strong when she was miles away from home, in the middle of nowhere, on a ship with men she barely knew, watching her mother die. But there was no other choice, Emma had to endure this, she could not choose to get up and walk away.
A sharp pain twisted in Richard’s gut, with the turn of a blade, as he watched Emma pull herself together, drawing on the strength which he’d known was within her. She pulled her hands from Duncan’s, then held one of Catherine’s hands in both of hers, and leaned closer to Catherine’s ear.
“I love you. I will miss you.” He heard her whisper. “I don’t want you to go.” She took a deep breath then said, “I will tell Papa you say goodbye and tell him you love him. And you know we love you, we always will, whether you are here or not.”
The emotion of empathy gritted as a pain in his gut, and he thought he could take no more, but then she turned away from Catherine, suddenly, still on her knees, and gripped Richard about the waist as he still sat on her bunk. Her forehead pressed on to his thigh.
Lord. God help them both.
His palm fell on top of her hair as he met Duncan’s gaze.
Richard had fallen in love with this young woman for her vibrancy, her beauty and intelligence, and now he must face her tragedy. His hand ran over her hair then rested on her shoulder. He could feel the quietened sobs jolting her body.
“Emma,” he whispered out of affection alone. Then he gripped her arms and drew her up so she knelt upright between his legs, and he held her against his chest, ignoring the presence of both Duncan and Rita, as her arms reached about his neck and she wept quietly.
He held Emma thus for half-an-hour as Duncan sat with Catherine’s hand in his, continually attempting to stir some response. There was none.
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 #5.75 now included in Jealous Love, (or free if you can persuade Amazon to price match with Kobo ebooks) 😉
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