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this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
Seven days after her mother had died Richard told Emerald during dinner that they would arrive at Gibraltar the next day and dock there. He asked her to ensure what she did not need of her mother’s things were packed in her mother’s trunk and said he would send that back to India with her letter to her father and her mother’s letter.
He was just being practical, but sorting through her mother’s things brought the pain back. Emerald did not go into the day cabin to see him that night. She stayed with her mother’s possessions before she lost their comfort forever.
When the trunk was unloaded it was only lighter by a few valuable things Emerald couldn’t let go of; her mother’s jewels and her shawls, which Emerald had begun wearing each day to hold on to something of her mother. It felt unreal watching the dock below as she stood on the quarterdeck, viewing the sailors carrying off the trunk. It had been so many weeks since she’d seen land, and there were so many buildings, boats and people, and the noise and the smells were intense to her starved senses. The smell of fish, spices, tea and coffee mingled in the air.
“Will you come ashore?”
Richard was at her side, she looked at him. A part of her shivered at the thought of talking a single step that would take her off the ship. The world beyond the ship suddenly seemed frightening – too unfamiliar – when her mother would not be there.
“I think you should,” he persisted, “Mark and Rita will accompany us. We’ll visit my offices then find a hotel and stay ashore tonight. You should have a break from your cabin and this deck.”
He was being kind. She smiled. “Thank you. I accept.” He was right.
Her heart thumped, though, when they descended from the gang plank and she kept jumping when people passed too near as she navigated the dock, her fingers gripped the crook of Richard’s arm tighter. He laid his other hand over hers for a moment. The dock was so busy it was a crush of people and no one would have noticed the gesture of affectionate concern.
“The earth is rocking like the ship? Does Gibraltar float?” She whispered.
He laughed, making Mr Bishop who was walking in front of them look back.
“If I told you it did, what would you say?”
“I would call you a liar.”
“Then I shan’t lie. You have your sea legs still – that is all. You’ve learnt to balance on shifting ground and now you have to learn to balance on solid ground again. Your head is muddled by it.”
“How long before I have my land legs back?”
“Sadly longer than we will be in Gibraltar you’ll not get them back here.”
“I feel as though I need to take giant steps to catch the earth as its moving.” He laughed, again. “Oh!” She stumbled and he caught her, gripping her arm to stop her falling.
“Sea legs,” she said to Mr Bishop and Rita who looked back.
He laughed once more.
His offices were in a side street running away from the dock, in a large three storey building, on the ground floor. His agent lived above them. She had known Richard was a senior member of Calcutta’s society, if not the second most senior beyond her father and he had a thriving business. She had not realised that his business spread his influence across the world. She had even known that he traded all over the world. She had not understood what it meant before. It meant he had property and people dotted across the globe.
“How many offices do you have?” she asked benignly as a clerk held the front door open for him, then bent double in supplication.
“I am not certain,” he answered casually, in his business like tone. “Thirty. Forty. I lost count a while ago.”
“In different countries?”
He smiled benevolently as they traversed the white marble clad hall. “It would make poor trade if they were all based in one country.”
She smiled, sucking in a deep breath. His business was huge. He’d established an empire of his own to rival the East India Company. Caution whispered in her ear, perhaps I ought to think more carefully about becoming embroiled with such a powerful man. But it was no terrifying. It was exciting.
When Richard disappeared into a separate room to discuss business and the return of her mother’s things, his agent’s wife offered to take Emerald on a tour of the house. It made her feel important in her own right not just as her father’s daughter as the woman treated her like royalty, bobbing curtsey’s and blushing if Emerald said she liked anything. After walking her about the house, the woman then sat with Emerald in the parlour to drink tea. Her supplication was not really because Emerald was important, though, it was because she was Richard’s guest. It was Richard who was important. But it did not feel as though, that mattered. If she became his wife it would mean she had the possibility of a welcome across the world, and he had promised to show her everything.
When they reached the hotel it was the same. Richard was fussed over and other customers were left to wait while room bookings were changed to accommodate him, allocating him the very best suites. Her father would not command such respect. Not here. In Calcutta, yes. But not half way across the world.
They ate luncheon and then Richard took her on an excursion to the top of the rock to see the view, with Mr Bishop and Rita accompanying them for proprieties sake. The antics of the Barbary monkeys there made Emerald laugh as they unsuccessfully tried to steal Rita’s bonnet.
When their small party returned she and Richard ate an exquisite Dinner in the hotel including a fresh lobster and a very fine wine.
Her bed felt luxurious too; the mattress was so soft she sank into it. It was heavenly, but as she lay there, feeling her bed rock as the boat had done, she thought of Richard. It had been two days and two nights since she had been able to kiss him. She missed him, even though she’d been with him all day, she missed the man who was hers at night. She fell asleep dreaming of him, and woke late. The wonderfully comfortable bed had helped her sleep all night for the first time since her mother had died.
To be continued…
The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama, like Victoria and Poldark.
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