The Truth by Jane Lark ~ a free book exclusive to my blog ~ part forty-four

The Truth

© Jane Lark Publishing rights belong to Jane Lark,

this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 67, 8, 9, 10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18 ,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33,34,35,36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43

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Richard

Half-an-hour later Richard walked into the day cabin and slipped off the outer coat he’d started wearing on the poop-deck to combat the chillier winds that now cut through his clothing when he was up there.

He threw the garment on to a chair and looked across the room. Mark stood near Joseph. Both men looked at him in an odd fashion. There was guilt and a question in their eyes.

“Captain Swallow.” Mark bowed suddenly. “Mr Farrow.”

God’s teeth! He did not need this. He felt like striking out at Mark. He did not do so. But his quartermaster must have seen the possibility in Richard’s gaze and that was why he was stating his apologies and withdrawing.

Mark gave Richard a swifter bow, then walked out of the cabin and shut the door behind him. It had taken Mark scarce hours to share this secret.

“Would you care for a cup of coffee. I intend ordering some for myself?” Richard looked at Joseph in a direct way that challenged the conversation he knew was about to happen.

“It is not my place to say this to you,” Joseph began with deep solemnity, without even answering.

“Then do not say it.” Richard interrupted crossing to the bell to ring for the cabin boy.

“How can I not in all conscience, Richard. Is it true?”

Richard stared at his captain. “Is it any of your business?”

“Miss Martin is a passenger aboard this ship. You appointed me captain of it. I am therefore responsible for Miss Martin while she is on it.” Joseph’s pitch was annoyingly restrained. He was turning the tables on Richard. Usually Richard was the calm dispassionate one. But Emerald had changed him.

“I absolve you of your responsibility.” Richard’s voice was a low growl. His hands fisted. “I shall take care of Miss Martin. Both the Governor and her mother placed her under my protection.”

“Is it true, Richard?” Joseph pressed, ignoring Richard’s physical and verbal warning to drop the subject. Did Mark hear Miss Martin in your cabin this morning?”

“Do not be ridiculous!” Richard barked, forcefully releasing his fingers and turning to the charts spread out across the table.

“She was not there then?” Joseph said to his back. He knew Richard was willing to lie, when a lie served a purpose.

Silent. Richard leaned over the charts and gripped the table.

“Richard…” Joseph pushed.

He tossed a glance over his shoulder, looking daggers at his captain. “Do you wish to keep your job, Joseph?” Then he looked back at the maps, as a convenient rap struck the door.

“Come!” Richard shouted, without looking up.

“Sir?”

He did not look back at the cabin boy. “Coffee, Tim, please. Make it strong.”

“Sir.” The boy disappeared again, letting the cabin door bang shut.

“If she was,” Joseph began, the minute the door shut, moving towards Richard, “then you ought to remember that her mother died little more than a fortnight ago. She needs comfort. She does not need someone preying on her isolation.”

“Is that what I am doing?” Richard released the table straightened and turned to look at Joseph who now stood beside him. “Preying on her? Have you ever known me prey upon a woman?”

 

Emerald

“Have you ever known me prey upon a woman?”

Richard’s raised voice woke Emerald, capturing her attention. Her thoughts picked through the words and her heart began to thump. She could not hear who he was talking to, or what their answer was.

 

Richard

“I have not,” Joseph said.

“Then why accuse me of this now?”

“Because she is vulnerable and I know you have an attraction to her. I understand your feelings, but wait, if it is not too late.” The look Joseph cast him was a reprimand, “She is grieving – seeking reassurance. She cannot think clearly in such a situation.” Joseph’s hand lifted to press Richard’s shoulder. “I am speaking as a friend. Have a care for the girl’s reputation and for yours. Mark will not speak of it to anyone else, but you have already changed his judgment of you.”

“Mark ought to have a mind for his own damned business! He will need to look out for another post if he is not more careful!”

 

Emerald 

Emerald scrambled off the bed, looking at Rita as panic cried out. “Help me dress.” She’d taken off her gown and her corset to go to sleep.

“It is not like that!” Another shout pierced the wall of her cabin.

Her throat was dry and her breaths refused to catch in her lungs as she grasped her dress. It would not fit without her corset.

Whomever Richard was speaking to it was not Mr Bishop, and they knew, and if he was not careful the entire ship would know if he raised his voice any louder.

 

Richard

“No?” Joseph questioned, his eyebrows lifting. “How did it begin then?”

The memory of Emerald weeping in the day cabin punctured Richard’s thoughts. She had sought solitude, not him. He had gone to her. He’d kissed her.

“I have daughters,” Joseph pressed on, “I would not welcome any man pre-empting marriage with my girls. As I said, I know you have feelings for Miss Martin. I am not challenging your motivation. However I doubt her ability to make considered judgments at this time. You should step back – and if it is too late to do so she will have to live with the consequences. You must marry her.”

Consequences. Richard had determinedly ignored any thought of consequences from her perspective, because he’d wanted her bound to him. Yet every word Joseph said rang true. But it was not guilt which assaulted him, it was fear. What if her interest was only an element of her grief?

Richard faced the judgment in Joseph’s eyes and  saw Joseph recognise that it was too late for this speech. “We have an agreement,” Richard answered.

“Will you have me perform the marriage on board?”

“No! I will not shame her like that! She is not of age. Everyone would know. She should meet her family and complete her mourning and I will stay in England until her father comes and formerly offer for her then.”

And why the hell am I accounting for myself to you! It is none of your business!

Joseph stared. Not deferring to Richard at all. Yet he was Richard’s captain and he had been employed for his ability to command respect. “You have put her to shame already I think. Leave the girl alone and make amends as soon as you may.”

The cabin boy’s foot kicked the cabin door.

“Come in!” Richard shouted, aggressively, angry at himself as much as Joseph and Mark.

The boy balanced a swaying tray bearing their coffee.

“What of June?” Joseph asked as Richard looked back. “She will not react well to this.”

“I have written to, June,” Richard answered impatiently “I sent word to her when we reached Gibraltar and I–.”

“Who is June?” Richard’s head spun to the open cabin door. It framed Emerald in a halo of day light. “Who is June?” she repeated, her voice edged with suspicion and doubt.

To be continued…

The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama, like Victoria and Poldark.

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The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all 

The Illicit Love of a Courtesan #2 

Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #2.5 

The Passionate Love of a Rake #3 

The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #3.5 

The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4

The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #5

The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel #5.5

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) 😉

The Secret Love of a Gentleman #6 

The Reckless Love of an Heir #7

Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback and, yes, there are more to come  :-) 

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Go to the index

For

  • 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

The Scandalous Love of a Duke ~ Prequel elements from the Marlow Intrigues Series ~ The past haunts Ellen, John’s mother’s

CONTAINS SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE ILLICIT LOVE OF A COURTESAN! 

Leading up to the release of the 3rd book in

~
The Marlow Intrigues Series
~
The Scandalous Love of a Duke
 ~
all about John, who has grown up, fractured ~ I am going to share excerpts of John in the earlier books to remind you of his past before his book is released on the April 3rd.
The Scandalous Love of a Duke High Res
Excerpts from The Illicit Love of a Courtesan
~
The past haunts Ellen, John’s mother’s … (taken from the 1st edition published in the USA)
~

Ellen felt her eyes fill with tears which brimmed over. His thumb wiped one aside.

“I didn’t mean to distress you by saying that. I’m sorry. I don’t care about what’s happened before, Ellen, its past. From today, we’ve no history, we’ll make our own.”

Ellen held her breath. There was a past she could not escape, not when she had John, but she would not burden him with it. She trusted him, but she refused to let him look that demon in the eye on their wedding night. She hoped he never would. And if he did she would cling to her rock, Edward. She would hold on for dear life if she had to, no matter how bad the storm grew about her, or how much the tide pulled her back. She’d fight to keep him. He’d hauled her from the wreck she’d made of her life and she was holding fast to him until they reached calm water; if they ever could…

~

An hour or so later the bed covers were sticky, and John also, after drinking three cups of chocolate and eating three slices of bread with jam. Taking her son’s sticky fingers in her hand, Ellen led John from the room and back upstairs, to pass him into the care of his nursemaid.

“I like my new Papa, Mama.”

“I know, sweetheart. Are we not very lucky to have him?” Unexpectedly John spun about, securing his arms about her waist.

“You won’t send me away again, Mama, will you?”

Ignoring the instant rush of tears to her eyes, Ellen held him tight in return, the two of them clinging to each other in the way only two people who’d known separation could. “No, John,” she lied, unable to face the possibility of the truth. She would never let him go by choice, but so many times the choice had not been hers. Then bending to kiss his sticky cheek, she prayed she would have control over it, but even as she did so, she felt the web of lies, of half-truths, weaving about her, hemming her in. “Never willingly,” she said more quietly, then in a more bolstering voice, rising back up she patted his shoulder, “Now run along to your room, the quicker we are ready, the quicker we may look for that pony of yours.”

~

The strength she’d held on to for years, was worn down to the very marrow of her bones. Since Edward had broken the ice about her heart and unleashed her emotions, she seemed unable to hold them back anymore. She had seen more of John in the last week than she had for years, but she was terrified of what was to come, of losing him again…

She knew how soiled her life had been, she felt it eating at her soul every day and Edward could never understand that. But what she couldn’t comprehend was that he didn’t even seem to care about what she had been.

Her head still bent to the lapel of his evening coat Ellen whispered, “I have to look into John’s face every day knowing the things I’ve done. How can I teach him right from wrong when one day he may find out the truth and judge me? I do not feel fit to face my own son, let alone look into the faces of your friends, knowing how false I am.”

His palm brushed over her hair, the deep timbre of his voice rumbling in his chest beneath her ear as he spoke. “You are not false, Ellen. The false woman was the one forced to live with Gainsborough. That part of your life is over. You are not alone anymore, sweetheart, you have me.”

His voice was a soft deep caress, his words a balm which touched places inside her she longed to be healed. Hope, was the one word, she longed to wholly claim. She wanted to believe in a future in which John would be hers. She wanted to look at herself in a mirror and not feel disgust.

“I love you, Ellen. You are a good woman, with a good heart, despite everything you have endured, that makes you a better person than most.”

He was her rock. Lifting her head her fingers flattened his crumpled, tear

stained lapel. Then his fingers crooked beneath her chin, urging her to lift her head. Her gaze met the glinting dark blue-gray as it caught the candlelight, the onyx circles at their center a mirror which reflected back her pain.

Did he understand after all, had she misjudged him in this too?

~

“Now, John, what shall we do this afternoon?” Edward said, looking at John.

“Can we play backgammon, father?”

Father. That word sounded so natural on John’s lips now. It had become common place, a fact, the truth.

She looked at John. For his age he was a needy child, not for things, but for love. He’d been so starved of it through the years. She had tried to offer it in the written word but it was not the same as her physical presence in his life. He’d clung to her through their journey here and accepted Edward without hesitation. John had longed for a father as much as his mother and Edward had fulfilled John’s wish. Edward’s willingness to give often overwhelmed her, and her son soaked it up.

Edward had wanted to heal her and he had. She could feel the wounds and scars in her soul mending, disappearing, thanks to Edward. But he was healing her son too.

Ellen turned to Edward, who was sprawled beside her, resting on one elbow, and hugged him. Pressing his head to her chest, she summarily cut off the conversation which had continued between him and John.

He freed himself, laughing. “What was that for?”

She didn’t deem to give him an answer. Instead holding out an arm, she encouraged John to come for a cuddle too. He did, accepting her possessive and comforting grip.

~

Preorder The Scandalous Love of a Duke
out
~
April 3rd
~
He is all grown up now, my gorgeous fractured, tender-hearted, Duke
 All my normally blogging stuff will carry on around these excerpts
😀