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All day Richard sensed conversations passing behind his back, and caught his senior crew watching him at times. There was a sense of being undermined – of mutiny. It became an absurd anxiety that every man on the ship knew Emerald had spent the night in his cabin. Of course they did not. It was simply paranoia. But he was certain Mark knew.
If only Emerald had not laughed this morning. It had been an unmistakable feminine sound.
Richard leant on the poop-deck rail and looked down at Emerald and Mark, their heads were bowed over hands of cards as they played a game. Mark had been watching over her more solicitously this morning, like a damned older brother, and casting Richard judgmental looks as though Richard was a villain. His actions were none of his quartermaster’s business. He was not answerable to Mark. Mark answered to him. Perhaps Mark needed reminding of that fact.
Richard let go of the rail and turned to face Philip his arms crossing, over his chest.
They’d had no trouble from the French ship. It had let them sail past. Which was lucky, if they had been boarded and their loads examined, it cost a hefty bribe to get past without interference. The seas were rife with piracy and it was not always the outlaws performing it.
Yet in four or five more days they’d reach London. England.
A now familiar pain gripped in Richard’s stomach and his chest.
He was going to have to part with Emerald there, for a while at least. He’d begun fervently hoping she was with child. If she was, she’d have no other choice but to take him and he wanted her to have no choice. He did not think his attempt to bind her to him last night had succeeded. He was beginning to believe, with her sharp intelligent mind, he would never achieve it. She would never be biddable. She would always be independent and sparking fire. The thought made him smile. If she changed – if he changed her – she would not be the same woman, would she? He should not attempt to change her. Her independence, intelligence and fire were her attraction.
‘Then do not order me about like one of them and I shall not defy you.’ She was right. It was the easy answer, but it did not appease his need to be respected.
You self-absorbed fool. Why should she let him place her beneath him? She was equal to him in all else, in status, intelligence, and above him in human kindness. She had a way with people he would never have – his siren. Why should she let him quash those things in her nature?
He would not.
He would do as she said and let her do as she pleased. God, it would be a novelty to have someone to share his burdens with as he went into the future, if he let her be his partner –his equal – not just his wife. Perhaps he would even make it official and have her name added to the business.
He wondered what Charles Martin, Calcutta’s governor, her father, would say to that? What the whole of Calcutta would say to that? When they saw he had succumbed to the charms of the governor’s daughter. No one would believe he had given her access to all of his life.
All of his life.
That thought struck him like a fist. He was about to face a large portion of his life which he’d shut out for years. He actually wished she’d be there to face it with him, but it would be wrong to hold on to her, she had her own family to comfort her through the remainder of her period of mourning.
But if she was there, she would sooth him. She mellowed him. He would not feel so bitter if she were with him.
God he was terrified of losing her and he had never been scared of anything previously.
Yet she had already given herself to him physically, surely she could not renege in London? But what if he lost her?
“Well done, Miss Martin. As usual you have thrashed me.”
Richard turned and looked down again, his arms falling, as Mark stood up. Mark caught Richard’s gaze and his expression firmed before he looked back at Emerald.
“I am very tired today,” she said. Foolish girl, she’d slept in as far as his men were aware. “I think I shall rest until dinner.” She may be intelligent but she was not used to lying.
When they disappeared from view beneath the rail, Richard looked back at Philip and began a conversation. Then he heard Mr Bishop knocking on the day cabin door below. “Mr Swallow, may I speak to you?”
Richard shut Emerald, Mark, and England, and all Richard had to face there, out of his mind and focused on the ship – his ship – a part of his kingdom – his world. He was comfortable in this place. He could control it. Well, he could control everything bar Emerald – and mother nature – though even nature seemed easier to predict and tame than Emerald Martin.
“Shall I take the wheel?” Richard offered.
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