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Richard drew in a breath to stop himself from yelling his frustration into the air, then he picked up his cup of coffee and drank from it. He needed to hold back his temper.
He was not angry with Emerald, though. He was angry with Mark and Joseph, and most of all with himself. Yet he could not allow her thoughts stew on what Maria had been to him . He needed to make her understand. He drained the cup. Set it down. Then left the cabin.
It was a resigned air that took him outside as he held his emotions in check, the muscles in his shoulders and his jaw were stiff as he cast his eyes about the deck, glaring at any man who looked at him while he walked. They had seen Emerald run from the day cabin, pursued by her maid and now him following.
He stood straight, in a formal way, as he knocked on Emerald’s cabin door. There was no response. He leant to the wood and commanded in a quiet, low pitch. “Open up, Rita.”
“Go away!” Emerald shouted, her voice coming from a distance away from the door.
He tried the handle but the door had been locked.
“Go away! I do not want to speak to you!”
He cursed on a whisper, then knocked harder, aware that his crew now also knew she was refusing to open the door to him. “Open the door, Miss Martin.” His voice had become louder. He was not going to let her cut him.
“Go away!” Her shouts had risen to a scream.
“Miss Martin…” he warned, in a voice she ought know was a threat.
“I said go away! I do not want to even see you!”
His patience disappeared like the dry dust of Calcutta blown on a wind as the ship behind him fell silent. “Miss Martin, open this damned door, or I’ll kick the bloody thing in. I am not going away!”
Almost instantly he heard the lock shift and felt the handle turn within his grip. His voiced threat had worked. She opened the door slightly, only just enough to look about it with one eye.
He pushed it open fully, forcing her to step back, and stepped in.
“I am not playing this foolish bloody game” he whispered in a harsh tone as he shut the door behind him. There were tears in her blue eyes making the colour appear crystal like. “My relationship with June can be no insult to you. There was nothing between you and me until we stepped onto this ship and all men have mistresses.”
“Not my father,” she answered, her chin tipping up.“Not all men.”
“Not all men, admittedly,” he growled, “but enough. What would you rather?”
“I would rather nothing,” she bit back at him, in hurt anger – but she had no cause to be hurt. “I would rather nothing at all.”
She would have turned away from him, but he caught hold of her wrist. “Emerald. Stop this. June and me… It is over. You are who I want. I will not take another mistress if that is what you fear. I have told June it’s over and asked my accountant to have her leave the house. I did not know you before we boarded this ship. How was I to have known there would be this between us. There is no comparison for my feelings for you.”
“That makes no difference?”
“Does it not? Why? She is nothing to do with us.” He did not understand.
Her arm pulled against his grip. He let her go. She was trembling…
“When did you last share a bed with her?” Her gaze dropped from his eyes to his cravat pin.
“Why?” What difference did that make?
Her gaze snapped up to his eyes again. “I want to know.”
“It is of no matter.”
“It matters to me,” her answer rang with vehemence.
“Then guess,” he shot back, irritated by her need for details that were unimportant.
“The day before you boarded,” she answered, her gaze holding his.
He look hard at her. He was not prepared to argue with her about this, it was irrelevant.
“You got out of her bed and came aboard and now I am in your bed on the ship. It matters!” she yelled her last words.
His gaze caught on Rita. The maid stood behind Emerald trying to blend into the wooden boarding of the ship.
“You wrote to her from Gibraltar!” The words were an accusation. Though he still did not understand what he was being accused of. She was implying he had leapt out of June’s bed and into hers. There had been weeks in between. And she had come to him! Begged him! He had neither planned nor intended it. Still it was hardly gentlemanly to declare that in front of her maid.
“Emerald.” His hand lifted as his pitch became a command. He needed to regain control. “This is folly. It is nothing for us to argue over.”
“The woman who shared a bed with you for three years, is nothing? I am to forget you have only just left her, without remorse, and proposed to me, and trust my life to you?” Her pitch peeked, in a shrill yell at the end.
“For God sake, Emerald.”
“I am sure God does not care to know about your mistress or your profligacy.”
He caught hold of her arm again, because he could not seem to control her words or her thoughts. “Stop being ridiculous.”
“Naïve then. Calm yourself.” She pulled her arm free, her expression saying she was about to launch at him verbally again. But his patience was at an end. He lifted his hands palm outward. “Stop this. For heaven’s sake. The past is in the past. Your mother did not care. She did not judge me for it. She would have known of June and it did not deter her from asking me to care for you following her death, there is nothing wrong with–”
Her palm struck his cheek with a hard sharp stinging slap.
He caught hold of her wrist before she could hit him again as she would have done.
“Emerald. You mother asked me to look after you.”
She yanked her hand free and did strike him again. The cracking sound of the slap rang about the cabin as the pain burned his skin.
“You knew! You knew!” Her scream was no longer anger, it had the high note of shock and horror again.
Devil take it, why had he been foolish enough to say that, she was still not speaking to Duncan. Richard closed his eyes for a moment, pleading for patience. When he opened them she was glaring her accusation at him, anger flaring in her eyes once more as the truth clearly sank in. His damned virago. Was he mad offering to take such a woman on as a wife? No he was not mad – he was insane for her. She would, however, make a formidable business partner and he could easily picture the pleasure of experiencing her anger in a bed.
“You lied to me!” she screamed for the benefit of the whole ship
He did not deny it. There was no point. He had.
“Liar. You knew about my mother and you had a mistress. You did not tell me either thing! I shall not believe a word you say ever again!”
“You are a liar!” She declared again. When she struck him this time it was with a closed hand and it was not against his cheek but his temple.Then her other hand began raining punches at him too.
He grasped hold both of her hands. “Emerald!” her name was a bark of anger to make the girl listen. “Your mother told me, yes. She asked to see me when she spoke to Duncan. She wanted to know if she did not reach England that I would take you to your family, that I would take care of you.”
“Oh, you have been taking care of me, have you not?” she answered caustically.
“You came to me,” he whispered harshly, despite her maid, gentlemanly discipline dispatched. “Remember that.”
“Did I? I did not do so in the beginning, I went into the day cabin to be alone.” She pulled her arm free from one of his hands and swept it at the door that went into the day cabin. “If you had been a stranger to me and your mother was dying I would have told you. Because I would have known you would want a chance to say goodbye. I would have imagined how I would have felt and told you regardless of her wishes.”
“I made her a promise not to speak of it to you. A promise she begged me to make.”
“You were willing enough to lie to me! Surely you could just as easily have broken a promise to her. I shall never marry you!” The expression in her words snarled the denial at him. “I shan’t. I do not want to be a woman left at home and made a mockery of when you are bored and play your games with someone else.”
This was feminine dramatics. June had loved to rage at him when she was in a temper. He had thought Emerald too intelligent for this behaviour. It seemed that intelligence did not smite a feminine storm. His thoughts tore through his options. She was in no mood to listen to him. It would be better to wait until this temper blew itself out. Then he would speak to her. Once she was calm and in a mood to listen.
“What if it had been your mother?” she thrust at him.
What then? What then indeed? Emerald would have no understanding of that.
To be continued…
Thank you so much to everyone who read the post and went back to the top to score it last week, that was lovely to see. Best wishes, Jane xx
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
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)
Coming soon, the last part in the story, The Tainted Love of a Captain
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