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“Mark!” Richard snapped at his quartermaster to get on his way and gather his items from his lodgings. Richard had just announced to him that he was to board The Rose for departure on the next tide and Mark was fussing with the paperwork on his desk rather than simply leaving.
“Yes, my Lord,” Mr Bishop, bowed, grovelling like a deckhand. “I am grateful for you letting me return to the ship.”
“Cease scraping, Mark, and go,” Richard answered, in no mood to be pandered to. “I have forgiven you and we will forget what happened. You still have your job and your place on The Rose.” Richard’s loss of Emerald would be a cross they both carried. But she would be safe now her father had arrived and happy again. And he would leave Calcutta and get as far away from her as possible before she went home. If she went home? She may yet marry Sunderland.
A pain cut through Richard’s chest as he turned to his man of business. Once he was far away from her he hoped the pain would ease. “Mr Pepper, if you need an urgent answer to anything speak to my brother.”
Richard had ceased running, he had not tried to hide from the title. He had told the office this morning of his coming into it. But now he was enduring this my lording.
His fingers lifted and slipped through his hair, they trembled. He shook out his hand a little as it fell and the door closed behind Mark. It would not be long before the ship sailed, all his items were all ready aboard, Mark would have to be quick.
Richard nodded to the two clerks left in the room. “Mr Smith. Mr Ramsden. Good day.” Both men bowed and my lorded. It was quite likely to drive Richard mad. On the ship he would insist no one used the title. He looked at his business man again. “Thank you, Mr Pepper, good-day.”
“Goodbye, my Lord.” Mr Pepper bent in a deep bow too. Richard turned to the door and left.
The noise of the busy dock at the end of the narrow street struck him as he walked down the outside steps from the first floor office. The putrid scents of the soiled Thames filled the air too. The wind was coming up the estuary. The ship would have to tack into the wind as soon as the steam boats let her go.
As Richard walked across the uneven cobble he began to feel more human at least, it was being near the water. His hand slipped through his hair again. He had left his hat aboard the ship when he had come to fetch Mark.
An odd memory of riding across his land in Shropshire came to mind. The feeling of solid turf beneath the beating hooves of the horse. He had been used to shifting seas for years. Strange that the solid ground of this this country kept failing him while the sea felt a steady and surer place.
Richard could see the dock ahead, through the carts and people that cluttered the narrow street, and he could see the sails of the ship that awaited him. As it had always done, the sight of his ship made him draw comfort from the things he had achieved in life. But when Richard died and Fred inherited it, Richard did not doubt his brother would sell it all off. It was valueless in reality without a son to pass it to. But he had done one thing this morning to increase its value, he had changed his will this morning and left more to Rose and he had left her with an allowance now. He had informed her in a letter that would be given to her once he had gone, and told her in that letter that if she wished to live independently from a man he had given her an income to enable it. There was no need for her to marry unless she wanted to.
The dock was awash with people loading and unloading the ships. It was always like this when the tide neared its height.
A hired carriage hollered out angrily, trying to clear a path for his horses. It was foolish to bring a bloody carriage down to the dock at this hour. No doubt it was some gentleman traveler with no clue how things were done.
Richard looked up at the deck of The Rose. He hoped to feel entirely normal when he stood on the poop deck and watched the ship towed out.
Yet the thought that he would never feel normal again, without Emerald, whispered through his head.
His heart beat heavily.
The carriage stopped near his ship.
But good God, there would be the memories of her, in his cabin, her slim pliant body undulating beneath him in his bed. Her sharp wit and pointed looks piercing him with unfettered challenge in the day cabin. The sight of her watching the sea, her skirt blowing against the outline of her legs.
The sea lapped at the ship and the sound welcomed him as he reached the gangplank.
Richard looked back, seeking out the voice that had shouted him, his hand on the guide rope beside the planking that lead to the deck.
The Governor of Calcutta, Emerald’s father, was stepping out from the carriage.
Richard let go of the rope and turned around, facing the carriage, a heavy stone like sensation sliding through his blood. It was the strangest thing to see Charles not as a business colleague, but as Emerald’s father, the man who meant so much to the woman who meant so much to Richard.
“Charles,” Richard stated walking forward as Charles turned back to the carriage.
Some of Richard’s crew passed him, carrying crates and barrels on to the ship. Richard walked between them.
Charles was holding a feminine hand, that then became a slender arm and a slim foot reached from beneath a lifted skirt and stepped down.
Richard’s heart pounded and he stopped. If they wished to travel back on his ship he could not allow it. He could not stand to be that close to her for months when internally she would be ripping him apart. He could not allow it.
“Charles, with respect, I am sorry, if––,” Richard began, but he got no further as Emerald rushed at him, and then her arms were about his neck and her kiss pressed to his cheek.
Through instinct his arms wrapped about her middle, but then he let her go, unsure what this was. His voice was husky with trapped, confused emotion, when he said her name. “Emerald?”
She pulled back and smiled at him.
His fingers cupped her nape and then he pressed a kiss to her cheek, unable to prevent himself. The smell of her. The feel of her.
But they were providing entertainment for half his crew watching them from the deck, and they had an equal audience on the dock. He held her shoulders and broke the embrace.
“You cannot go,” she cast at him, in a hurried concerned tone, her pale eyes glimmering with tears. “I love you. I want to marry you. You cannot go!”
He shook his head, his fingers cupping her cheek. Such tragedy was expressed in her pitch and her eyes. But this was how it had been before––dramatic emotions and then bitter regret. “Today perhaps, Emerald, but tomorrow… It is all built on lies, remember?”
“I was wrong, Richard. I was wrong. You were right. I care about nothing other than that you love me.”
Richard glanced at the deck of the ship. Her voice had carried. When he looked down Mark was by the gangplank, he must have told someone at his lodging to bring his trunk. He nodded, informing Richard silently to ignore the crew, and then he looked up with an invisible command that sent the men back to work.
“You won’t go, will you?” Emerald said more quietly.
He sighed. If he stayed tomorrow she would regret her outburst. “Sweetheart,” he answered in a low voice. “I love you to distraction, you know that, but England is not for me and you need a man you choose, not one you fell for only because you were isolated on a ship with him and in need of comfort.”
Emerald moved and hugged him fiercely again. His hands hovered behind her back, not holding her because he feared he would not have the strength to let her go again.
Oh Lord, she had pushed him away so thoroughly he did not even believe her. She let him go and instead braced his smooth shaven cheeks and looked into his dark eyes. “Richard Farrow, I love you. If you dare go, I will never forgive you. We will fetch our things, we will come too.” She looked back at her father, urging him to agree.
“Emerald, darling.” Richard drew her gaze back to him. “The tide goes out in an hour, there is not time, and if you think I wish to be trapped on a ship with you for months when I cannot be with you, I do not.”
“You can be with me. You cannot go today, you cannot go without us, you will have to sail tomorrow, and we shall marry before you leave.”
His mouth opened as though he would speak but he did not respond.
“Farrow?” Her father moved forward, prompting Richard for response.
Her hands fell away from Richard and oh a wicked thought came to her mind. She turned around, looking at her father. So what if this trapped him, he loved her. “Papa,” she spoke quietly as she walked towards him, meeting his gaze and then taking hold of her father’s hands. “You must make him have me. We slept together on the ship. You must insist he has me.”
Behind her Richard coughed, or rather chocked, he had heard.
Her father’s skin flushed with a rush of blood, anger flaring in his eyes as his gaze turned to Richard and his hands pulled from hers. He stepped towards Richard. “Then there is no discussion, Farrow, is there? You will hold the ship until tomorrow and we shall travel with you and you will marry Emma before we sail. You had better get about obtaining a licence.” Her father looked at the bottom of the gangplank. “Mr Bishop, The Rose is not sailing today, you had better tell Mr Swallow and the crew. You will sail tomorrow instead.”
Emerald looked at Richard. He nodded his confirmation at Mr Bishop.
Emerald ran to hug him again.
His hands stroked across her back briefly as he leaned to her ear. “Was that wise, sweetheart? I hardly think your father is going to like me now.”
She pulled away. “Oh he does. He does. And now we are going to visit your family and announce this. You are not leaving without telling Rose.”
His eyebrows lifted. “And what of your cousin the Duke?”
“He will know tomorrow along with the rest of London when the announcement appears in the papers,” her father interjected. “But right now I concur with my daughter, you may introduce me to your family, Farrow.”
Emerald smiled, clasping Richard’s hand to pull him towards the waiting carraige
Follow the blog by email on the righthand index and join me for the conclusion next week!
The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama
The Tainted Love of a Captain #8 – The last episode in the Marlow Intrigues series
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) 😉
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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