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this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
Half-an-hour later Richard walked into the day cabin and slipped off the outer coat he’d started wearing on the poop-deck to combat the chillier winds that now cut through his clothing when he was up there.
He threw the garment on to a chair and looked across the room. Mark stood near Joseph. Both men looked at him in an odd fashion. There was guilt and a question in their eyes.
“Captain Swallow.” Mark bowed suddenly. “Mr Farrow.”
God’s teeth! He did not need this. He felt like striking out at Mark. He did not do so. But his quartermaster must have seen the possibility in Richard’s gaze and that was why he was stating his apologies and withdrawing.
Mark gave Richard a swifter bow, then walked out of the cabin and shut the door behind him. It had taken Mark scarce hours to share this secret.
“Would you care for a cup of coffee. I intend ordering some for myself?” Richard looked at Joseph in a direct way that challenged the conversation he knew was about to happen.
“It is not my place to say this to you,” Joseph began with deep solemnity, without even answering.
“Then do not say it.” Richard interrupted crossing to the bell to ring for the cabin boy.
“How can I not in all conscience, Richard. Is it true?”
Richard stared at his captain. “Is it any of your business?”
“Miss Martin is a passenger aboard this ship. You appointed me captain of it. I am therefore responsible for Miss Martin while she is on it.” Joseph’s pitch was annoyingly restrained. He was turning the tables on Richard. Usually Richard was the calm dispassionate one. But Emerald had changed him.
“I absolve you of your responsibility.” Richard’s voice was a low growl. His hands fisted. “I shall take care of Miss Martin. Both the Governor and her mother placed her under my protection.”
“Is it true, Richard?” Joseph pressed, ignoring Richard’s physical and verbal warning to drop the subject. “Did Mark hear Miss Martin in your cabin this morning?”
“Do not be ridiculous!” Richard barked, forcefully releasing his fingers and turning to the charts spread out across the table.
“She was not there then?” Joseph said to his back. He knew Richard was willing to lie, when a lie served a purpose.
Silent. Richard leaned over the charts and gripped the table.
“Richard…” Joseph pushed.
He tossed a glance over his shoulder, looking daggers at his captain. “Do you wish to keep your job, Joseph?” Then he looked back at the maps, as a convenient rap struck the door.
“Come!” Richard shouted, without looking up.
He did not look back at the cabin boy. “Coffee, Tim, please. Make it strong.”
“Sir.” The boy disappeared again, letting the cabin door bang shut.
“If she was,” Joseph began, the minute the door shut, moving towards Richard, “then you ought to remember that her mother died little more than a fortnight ago. She needs comfort. She does not need someone preying on her isolation.”
“Is that what I am doing?” Richard released the table straightened and turned to look at Joseph who now stood beside him. “Preying on her? Have you ever known me prey upon a woman?”
“Have you ever known me prey upon a woman?”
Richard’s raised voice woke Emerald, capturing her attention. Her thoughts picked through the words and her heart began to thump. She could not hear who he was talking to, or what their answer was.
“I have not,” Joseph said.
“Then why accuse me of this now?”
“Because she is vulnerable and I know you have an attraction to her. I understand your feelings, but wait, if it is not too late.” The look Joseph cast him was a reprimand, “She is grieving – seeking reassurance. She cannot think clearly in such a situation.” Joseph’s hand lifted to press Richard’s shoulder. “I am speaking as a friend. Have a care for the girl’s reputation and for yours. Mark will not speak of it to anyone else, but you have already changed his judgment of you.”
“Mark ought to have a mind for his own damned business! He will need to look out for another post if he is not more careful!”
Emerald scrambled off the bed, looking at Rita as panic cried out. “Help me dress.” She’d taken off her gown and her corset to go to sleep.
“It is not like that!” Another shout pierced the wall of her cabin.
Her throat was dry and her breaths refused to catch in her lungs as she grasped her dress. It would not fit without her corset.
Whomever Richard was speaking to it was not Mr Bishop, and they knew, and if he was not careful the entire ship would know if he raised his voice any louder.
“No?” Joseph questioned, his eyebrows lifting. “How did it begin then?”
The memory of Emerald weeping in the day cabin punctured Richard’s thoughts. She had sought solitude, not him. He had gone to her. He’d kissed her.
“I have daughters,” Joseph pressed on, “I would not welcome any man pre-empting marriage with my girls. As I said, I know you have feelings for Miss Martin. I am not challenging your motivation. However I doubt her ability to make considered judgments at this time. You should step back – and if it is too late to do so she will have to live with the consequences. You must marry her.”
Consequences. Richard had determinedly ignored any thought of consequences from her perspective, because he’d wanted her bound to him. Yet every word Joseph said rang true. But it was not guilt which assaulted him, it was fear. What if her interest was only an element of her grief?
Richard faced the judgment in Joseph’s eyes and saw Joseph recognise that it was too late for this speech. “We have an agreement,” Richard answered.
“Will you have me perform the marriage on board?”
“No! I will not shame her like that! She is not of age. Everyone would know. She should meet her family and complete her mourning and I will stay in England until her father comes and formerly offer for her then.”
And why the hell am I accounting for myself to you! It is none of your business!”
Joseph stared. Not deferring to Richard at all. Yet he was Richard’s captain and he had been employed for his ability to command respect. “You have put her to shame already I think. Leave the girl alone and make amends as soon as you may.”
The cabin boy’s foot kicked the cabin door.
“Come in!” Richard shouted, aggressively, angry at himself as much as Joseph and Mark.
The boy balanced a swaying tray bearing their coffee.
“What of June?” Joseph asked as Richard looked back. “She will not react well to this.”
“I have written to, June,” Richard answered impatiently “I sent word to her when we reached Gibraltar and I–.”
“Who is June?” Richard’s head spun to the open cabin door. It framed Emerald in a halo of day light. “Who is June?” she repeated, her voice edged with suspicion and doubt.
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