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Emerald’s fingers trembled as Richard held them.
“Will you, Richard Mark Farrow, Earl of Wroxeter, take Emerald Elizabeth Martin to be your lawful wedded wife?”
She wore a straw bonnet covered by fine white lace, and it was fine enough that he could see through it. She was looking at the vicar, not Richard. He squeezed her fingers slightly, then she looked at him.
He smiled, and she smiled in return.
“I will,” his voice was deep and coarse from the emotion in his chest.
“And will you, Miss Emerald Elizabeth Martin take Richard Mark Farrow, Earl of Wroxeter, as your lawful wedded husband?”
She turned fully towards him. The gold ring he had slid on to her finger glinted in the sunlight that stretched through a coloured window. He looked from that into her eyes.
“I will.” Her voice was strong and the words were formed with a precision that said they were her heart felt truth.
She had barely been apart from him in the last twenty-four hours, only for the few hours they had slept. He never wanted to be separated from her.
“I pronounce you man and wife.” The vicar’s voice echoed about the church. Applause came from the pews behind them. Their audience consisted of her father and his family and senior crew.
Richard smiled broadly as he tugged the bow of the lavender ribbon beneath her chin loose and caught the straw brim of her bonnet and the lace, before they fell to the floor, then he kissed her––a thorough kiss, nothing half-hearted.
* * *
Richard had carried her over the threshold from the day cabin into his cabin, having finally lost his patience and shooed the senior crew and her father away to their beds with such a lack of subtlety Emerald had felt herself blush.
Now he lay beside her, naked, so his skin touched her skin and she was mesmerised by the strokes of his hand across her side as they held each other. When she had lain in his bed before she had not really known him. “I love you,” she stated, her fingers combing through his hair.
“And I you, Emerald Farrow,” His leg slid between hers as he rolled her on to her back, his hand sliding to her hip.
“Lady Farrow. Countess of Wroxeter,” she teased in a proud voice.
He kissed her neck. “Is that why you decided to have me, because you had cast off a duke and wished to at least have an earl?”
“Do not be foolish, I changed my mind because I realised the truth, your sister told me about your parents.”
His body pulled away and he lifted a little, so he looked down at her. “So I am just another unloved child then, only more unloved than Sunderland’s.”
“His children were not unloved you were right. When I told them I had to leave they were not upset. They have their father. You had no one, did you?”
His head bowed and he kissed the corner of her lips, then said over her lips, “I can think of conversations I would prefer to have in bed, Emerald, sweetheart.”
“Did you?” she urged, she wanted him to admit how he felt. He had been denying the feelings of that child for years.
He leaned to her ear. “My love, it is our wedding night, cease talking.”
She laughed as she conceded and let him move between her legs. “Ah.”
“Hush, sweetheart,” he whispered as she cried out. “Remember there are men on the decks outside, they know we are here and they know what will be doing, do you want them to hear it?”
She was dazed and half in another world as he made love to her. She had forgotten the bliss of being loved physically as well as emotionally.
When they returned to earth she was smiling and she brushed a lock of hair from his brow as he stared into her eyes.
“Happy?” he whispered.
“Very, and you?”
She laughed as he withdrew and moved to his side.
“Do not mock me. I am serious.” She rolled to her side too, looking at him. He was smiling broadly and although he had called himself serious there had been humour in his voice. He was laughing inside.
“I am delirious too.” Her hand gripped the back of his head and pulled his mouth to hers while her leg slid across his hip so that she could hug him with her whole body.
His arm came about her shoulders and pulled her closer. “I love you,” he said against her lips.
“I love you too.” She was going to tell him every day: every hour. So that he always knew he was loved.
“Richard!” The door opened and a child’s vicious wail broke into the room. He had heard the sound approaching along the hall.
The two man who had been sitting on the far side of his desk stood and smiled thier greeting then bowed their heads to his wife.
Richard’s gaze dropped to their daughter in her arms, who was crying at full pitch.
“She will not sleep.” Emerald protested in an exasperated voice. “Half the staff have tried to settle her as well as me. You will have to do it.” She walked closer and held the precious bundle of waving arms and legs out in his direction.
Richard stood to receive his screaming offspring. Little Ruby was proving herself to be as strong willed as her parents. She had come into the world crying and she had done little else since. But God he adored her, his little fighter. He would lay odds on her conception occurring on their wedding night. Emerald had spent half their return journey suffering with morning sickness.
“I am in the middle of a business meeting, Sweetheart,” he chided, but even so, he embraced their daughter who was wrapped in a sheet of cool muslin and looked down at his squalling expressive daughter’s face.
“What are you discussing?” Emerald questioned, frustration and tiredness in her voice. She had been disturbed twice by Ruby in the night.
He looked at the men, then looked back at her. “Mr Brinkworth and his colleague have called to discuss a tea crop they would like me to purchase. Mr Brinkworth believes I will give them the best price.”
Emerald walked passed Richard, her skirt sweeping against his trousers, and offered Brinkworth her hand, he shook her hand but then Emerald glanced back at Richard. “As you know you will, but only if Mr Brinkworth’s tea is good-enough quality for you to still make a good profit. Have you tasted it?”
He shook his head. God, he loved her.
She looked back at Mr Brinkworth having cast her first bid. “Is see you have some of this tea,” she looked at the samples on Richard’s desk, then looked at the servants. “Can we have some boiling water, and a pot and cups for the tea?”
The man looked stunned. Richard’s smile lifted.
Emerald looked at Richard once more. “Would you take Ruby outside? I cannot think with her screaming and I will finish up in here.”
He laughed internally as he turned away, cupping Ruby’s scalp and raising her so she was settled against his chest and shoulder, her short legs kicking downwards.
“Are you leaving this to your wife, Wroxeter?” Mr Brinkworth asked.
Richard glanced over his shoulder as he carried on walking away. “Yes. I trust her completely.” Richard pressed a kiss on the fluffy fine blonde hairs on his daughter’s head as he left the room. Her skin was hot from the effort she was putting into yelling, and her little fists balled and her whole body was tensed by the effort of drawing breath into her lungs to then scream it out.
“Ruby, my jewel,” he whispered over her head. “You are going to have to sleep whether you do it willingly or not. Stop fighting, sweetheart.”
Had he been this difficult as a child? Was this why his parents had hated him? He did not hate his daughter. He bounced her on his arm and stroked her head as he walked through the house, until he reached the veranda.
He looked down over Calcutta as he walked out. The air was cooler this far up.
He sat down in the swing chair and settled back, leaving Ruby against his chest and holding her head to his shoulder, while he rubbed her back through the muslin.
“Give up the fight, sweetheart, we all know you have your teeth coming through, there is no need to shout about it. Papa is here and he has heard you.” He rocked the seat back and forth as a soft breeze swept over them.
Her little hand rested on his chest over his heart and he covered it with his, uncurling her fingers and rubbing her palm as he continued whispering platitudes.
Slowly her crying eased as she tried to listen.
“That is it, Ruby, darling, sleep and build your energy to terrorise us again in an hour or two.”
* * *
Emerald found him sitting in the swing two hours later, in silence listening to the wildlife and the breeze rustling in the trees, with Ruby cradled on his shoulder asleep.
He smiled as Emerald walked passed and leaned against the wooden rail of the veranda, her buttocks pressed against it, her hands clasped it. Her head tipped a little sideward. “I know why she settles for you, she is comforted by your strength––you are more secure than the rest of us.”
He said nothing, just watched his beautiful wife.
She frequently made him smile with her choice of words. But she was strong too, in her attitude, and that often also made him smile.
When he had brought her home to her friends he had heard her boasting to them that she had won and tamed him. A year ago his pride would have been cut, this year it bolstered him to know she thought him worth boasting of. She was worth showing off too––he had his own bragging to do. He did it physically, though. Keeping her close and letting people see how important she was to him. Everyone in Calcutta knew they were in love. He let everyone know he had been snared by this siren and was willingly trapped.
“Did you come to a resolution on the tea?”
“I did, we agreed a fair price, much lower than he hoped for I think, but still better than he has been offered elsewhere and it is worth it, you will make a good profit, it is exceptional quality.”
“Perhaps I should leave the business to you.”
“No thank you, I like being with Ruby––when she is tolerant of my company.”
He laughed. It woke Ruby, who gurgled happily. He sat her up straighter and moved her to his knee, so she might see her Mama. A smile split the child’s lips.
“Monster,” Emerald breathed, but then she swept forward and took Ruby from his hands lifting her high and making her giggle before she brought her down and kissed her cheek. “Your aunt Rose is going to be so thrilled to meet you.”
“Until she screams,” Richard answered. “The ship should be due in next week. I cannot say I am looking forward to my mother’s company but at least Rose will make the visit tolerable.”
Emerald looked at him, deep sentiment in her pale eyes. “Ruby and I shall shame her into being nice to you. We intend to show her how a family ought to be.”
He stood up and hugged them both, kissing Emerald’s cheek and then Ruby’s hair.
“You have shown me how a family ought to be. I do not care about my mother’s opinion.”
“You do,” she answered, pulling a little away and looking at him.
Ruby clutched at his neckcloth and her fingers unraveled the smart knot. He freed it from her hand.
“I did care what she thought, but that was long ago,” he responded, “She shall not upset me now, if that is what you fear, because I have you and Ruby on my side.”
Emerald rose to her toes and kissed his cheek. “I remember a silent secretive man but I cannot see that old Richard in you. We are very glad that we have you on our side too.” Her gaze softened. “But I should admit something to you; our side will be bigger soon. I am late in my courses. Perhaps a son would make your mother happy.”
He shut his eyes and breathed deeply, he had thought that nothing could exceed the emotions he had known with his first child. But it was the same. His heart had room enough to love a dozen children. He hugged Emerald and Ruby tighter. “As I said, I do not care for my mother’s opinion. Boy or girl the child will be loved by us, and all those that come after it.”
It always feels really odd when you finish a story, because as a reader the characters are with you for awhile, but as a writer they are with you a hundred times more. Goodbye Richard and Emerald!
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) 😉
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback
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