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Emerald hurried into the room and closed the door then turned to face Rita who was fully clothed and sitting silently on her bunk. She had put out Emerald’s clothes.
“Miss,” Rita stood up. “Is this wise? Your mother would–”
“My mother is dead,” Emerald answered in blunt denial, a cold pain breathing through her chest. “She is not here to care. Now help me dress. I am late for breakfast.”
As was Richard. The thought brought a smile back to her lips and warmed her inside.
Emerald stood still as Rita pulled tight the laces of her corset and then tied the tapes of her petticoats’. Her body ached from the delicious test of endurance Richard had challenged her with last night. He had displayed a new vitality and he’d seemed so desperate. She could not deny how good it felt to be able to make a powerful man like him desperate for her.
When she left the cabin in Mr Bishop’s company, her hand on his arm, she was smiling broadly, she could not help it. She was living in a dream. The memory of her argument with Richard only made her wish to smile more as she thought of its wicked conclusions.
Mr Bishop held open the day cabin door and she very nearly asked him what had happened about the French ship, when she walked past, only catching her tongue at the last moment when she remembered she should not know. But she had already taken the breath to speak and then stopped. He smiled in an odd way, but then a frown immediately furrowed his brow. He’d been silent as they crossed the deck. She supposed if he suspected, he would disapprove, as Rita who was walking behind them did.
Emerald had a feeling that she blushed. There was only Dr Steel in the room. “Are the others not eating?”
“Mr Pritchard is at the helm and Mr Farrow is with him. Mr Swallow is resting.” It was Dr Steel who answered as he stood.
Rita sat in a chair across the room and Mr Bishop walked ahead of Emerald to withdraw a chair at the table for her. Emerald sat opposite Dr Steel, and felt as though she faced a judge in a court room. But Dr Steel could not know. Mr Bishop would not dare defy Richard and speak even if he had guessed. This was Richard’s ship.
Dr Steel offered her the basket of fresh bread. She still did not want to speak to him. She had not forgiven him for not speaking up about her mother’s illness. Her smile was wiped away.
She accepted some bread and reached for jam. They had cured ham too, which they’d brought aboard in Gibraltar and oranges, with strong coffee or hot chocolate. As she helped herself, Dr Steel asked, “How are you?” His voice formally polite.
“As well as I might be when my mother died unexpectedly a little more than fortnight ago.”
“Am I never to be forgiven, Miss Martin,” he challenged quietly as Emerald took a slice of ham from a plate Mr Bishop held for her.
She looked directly at Dr Steel. “I should not think so. You cannot change the fact you did not tell me and I cannot change the fact my mother is dead and I had no chance to say goodbye. I must endure my pain. You may endure my lack of forgiveness.”
Dr Steel smiled, but it was only an acknowledgement that her jab had cut him as intended. “I am sorry my decision caused you such distress. Yet forgiven or not, if you need to talk to anyone, I am willing to listen.”
She frowned at him. Listen to what? She did not answer.
“Will you sit on the deck this morning?” Mr Bishop’s tone was curt, when normally he was always so pleasant.
She was sure she was blushing again when she looked at him. “Yes, please. I know it is getting colder and soon it will be too cold to do so.”
“Would you like a companion?” His tone was still terse.
The pitch in his voice brought a sense of uncertainty. She wished to ask if he knew about her and Richard and if so would he speak of it? If he would then she would beg him not to. She did not want Richard judged badly because of her. But she could not say anything because what if Mr Bishop had not guessed.
“I would be grateful, if you may spare the time?” Her gaze dropped from his and she focused on her food.
“I may. I know you prefer not to be alone.” There was a change to his voice, it held sincerity and it drew her eyes to look back at him.
She smiled too, remembering how in the beginning she had wanted Richard to be more like him. But she had never been attracted to Mr Bishop, he was kind and polite but he had no spark. It was Richard’s fire which ignited her.
The door into the day cabin from the deck opened. She looked across to see Richard enter accompanied by Mr Swallow.
Mr Bishop stood.
“Sit, Mr Bishop.” It was Mr Swallow who made the direction.
“Gentlemen, Miss Martin,” Richard said in greeting. He bowed his head formally towards her. Her smile became broader again, parting her lips . Less than an hour ago they had been in his bed, wrapped up in each other. She felt another blush and caught the movement of a twist in his lips that implied a smile. She looked away once more, at her food. But when he walked past she distinctly felt the tip of one of his fingers brush across her back.
“What are your plans today, Miss Martin?” he asked when he was seated as he began filling his plate.
She glanced at Richard, very aware of Mr Bishop watching them, and she could not seem to stop blushing. “I have agreed to sit with Mr Bishop on the deck this morning.”
“Then I shall entertain you this afternoon.”
He had not spent time with her for days to avoid suspicion. “Thank you.” She glanced at Mr Bishop and met a look of what seemed to be sympathy. Why? She frowned. Oh. But Richard was probably playing games and facing Mr Bishop’s suspicion head-on denying fear of any speculation. Richard Farrow at his most venomous. But then Mr Bishop would be foolish to speak out. She would not fear it either.
When they had finished breakfast they all stood. “Miss Martin,” Mr Bishop, lifted his arm. She looked back at Richard. He bowed his head then smiled slightly.
“Might I have a word with you later, Captain?” Mr Bishop asked as her hand rested on his arm.
Mr Swallow’s eyebrow’s lifted. “Of course, look me out when you have finished keeping Miss Martin company.”
“Thank you, sir.”
As Mr Bishop walked her from the room, with Rita following, Emerald glanced back again. Richard was talking to Mr Swallow but he saw her look and smiled at her over Mr Swallow’s shoulder, a lightness rising in his eyes. It was the greatest acknowledgement she would receive before his crew.
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