~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Impressive, isn’t it?”
Lucas glanced back at Kristin
and nodded before turning back to stare at the towering white cliffs.
“Is this where you live?”
“No, I live in Cornwall
which is in the southwestern part of England.”
“It’s quite lovely
there,” Kristin told him.
“But we’re not going
there. We’re going to that
“Yes,” Kristin answered.
“I have a townhouse there and a small house just outside the city as
well as the estate in Cornwall.”
“Do you think Cynthia is
there? At the London house?”
“She should be,” Kristin
replied. “At this time of the
year her grandparents will be in the city and I am sure that she is with
Lucas turned to look at her
“Do you think Cynthia will
Kristin smiled and nodded as
she slipped her arm about Lucas’ shoulders.
“She will adore you. She’s
always wanted a little brother.”
“What about dad? Do you think she’ll like him too?” The smile fell from his face.
“What for?” Kristin asked. “It
is all right to talk about your father, Lucas.
I won’t get upset.”
“Are you sure?”
Lucas questioned. “I know how much you miss him.”
“I do miss him… something
fierce,” she told him. “But
that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about him.”
Lucas smiled and nodded.
“So… do you think she’ll like him too?”
I think she will.”
His questions answered, Lucas
turned his attention back to the water and the cliffs that were steadily growing
closer. “I miss him too,” he
said in a quiet voice.
Kristin wrapped her other arm
around him and drew him into her arms. “I
know,” she said and hugged him tight.
“How long till we get to
London from here?” Lucas asked as
he moved out of her arms and leaned on the railing.
“It’s two day ride by
carriage,” Kristin told him. “And
depending on how far behind us the seaQuest is will determine when we leave for
“According to Captain
Keller, they’re only about two hours behind us.”
“Good,” Kristin nodded.
“Then we should be on our way later today and be in London before we
“Mama,” Lucas turned to
look at Kristin. “When we get to
London, do you think we can find something to eat other than stew?”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Do you think sending the
seaQuest off to your shipyard like that was a good idea?”
Kreig asked Kristin as he settled into the seat across from her in the
“Yes, I do,” she said. “You
said the main mast was splintering again, right?”
“John Peterson is the best
ship builder in England,” Kristin told him.
“And I would trust no other person with my husband’s ship…”
“But what if he recognizes
“That is why I sent that
note with Mr. Shan.”
“What if he thinks it’s a
“How can you be sure?”
“Because I put a special
mark on the letter that only I would use,” Kristin told him. “When John sees that, he will know the note is
“Ah,” Ben said.
“So, how long till we get to London?”
With or without a stopover?”
Ben shifted around on the
seat and laid his head in Katie’s lap. “Wake
me when we get there.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Ben… Ben… wake up!”
Ben’s eyes fluttered open
as his wife gently shook his shoulder. “Wha…?”
Katherine told him excitedly.
Ben slowly sat up then leaned
in to give Katherine a quick kiss. “You
are by far, way more comfortable than that bed at the inn last night!”
“Thank you,” Katherine
“So… we’re here?
Already? That was fast!”
“To you maybe,” Lucas
said from across the coach. “You
slept the whole way.”
Ben just grinned at the teen
then looked out the window at the elegant home the carriage had stopped in front
of. “Nice house, Countess,” he
“Thank you,” Kristin
replied and slipped out of the coach.
“Kristin? What is it?” Katherine
asked as she climbed out to stand beside the older woman.
“I… I don’t know.
Something doesn’t seem right.”
Kristin shook her head then
gave Katherine a small smile. “I
guess I’m just anxious to see Cynthia again.”
“Well, you’re not going
to see her if you remain standing here.”
“Good point,” Kristin
laughed softly then walked up the few steps to the door and reached out to grab
the handle. “What the…?”
“What is it?”
Katherine asked as she quickly moved to Kristin’s side, Ben and Lucas
right there with her.
“The door is locked,”
Kristin said as she tried again to open it.
“It shouldn’t be…” she told them as she raised her hand to knock
on the hard wood.
“Let me, Countess,” Ben
said and gave the door a few solid raps.
Several minutes later the
sound of a lock sliding away could be heard and then the door slowly swung open.
“Yes…? Lady Westphalen?!”
“Is it really you?”
Stephens asked in disbelief.
“Yes, it’s really me,”
Kristin chuckled. “Why are you so
“Because… we were told…
we assumed that you were… that, that pirate killed you,” Stephens told her.
“We hadn’t heard anything since you were taken…”
But I sent Cynthia a note a couple months ago…” Kristin told him as
she moved past him into the house. “Where
is everything?” She asked as she
stepped into the almost barren room. “Stephens,
what is going on? Where is my
“All the furniture has been
put into storage,” Stephens answered his mistress.
“On whose orders?”
“Lady Carruthers,” the
man answered, his dislike for the woman obvious in his voice.
“What!?” Kristin spun around to face her butler.
“When you didn’t return
as scheduled from the test sail, your father sent out a ship to search for you.
They found nothing,” Stephens began to explain.
“A few weeks later, Captain Peterson and your crew returned to the
shipyard where he informed your father that the ship had been attacked and that
you and Miss Hitchcock has been taken by the infamous Blue Rogue.”
The hint of a smile flashed
across Kristin’s face at the mention of her husband before she masked it. “Then
“At that point, you were
presumed to be dead…”
“And Cynthia has not yet
reached her majority,” Kristin nodded with a frown on her face. “So Lavinia swooped in like a buzzard and took control.”
“That is about the size of
it, milady,” Stephens replied.
“But I sent Cynthia a
note,” Kristin said, “letting
her know I was all right and that I would be home as soon as I was able.”
“There was no such note
delivered, Countess,” Stephens said. “Unless…”
he began thoughtfully then shook his head.
“No. She wouldn’t…”
“You’re not thinking what
I think you’re thinking are you, Stephens?”
The old butler nodded.
“I’m afraid so. I do recall coming into the room to see her slipping
something in her pocket,” he said. “Now
it could be anything, but she did have this… almost triumphant look on her
She wouldn’t…” Kristin began.
“I know Lavinia Carruthers can be a cold-hearted bitch on the hottest
of days, but Cynthia is her granddaughter.
She wouldn’t let her believe… Where is my daughter?”
“At the summer house,”
Stephens told her with an uncomfortable look on his face.
“What is it?”
“In,” he pulled out a
pocket watch and popped it open, “about
four hours, Miss Cynthia is getting married.”
“Married?! To whom?”
“Some… wet behind the
ears pantywaist the dowager countess dug up from somewhere,” Stephens
“Are you telling me she’s
forcing my daughter to get married?!”
“That no good…” Kristin
began angrily. “Where is this
wedding taking place?”
“At the church in the
“Are my parents there?”
“They obviously know about
it though?” Kristin stated then
swore silently at Stephens’ answering nod.
“Your mother hasn’t been
well lately. I heard that she took
a fall and hurt her ankle. Perhaps
she didn’t feel well enough to travel to the wedding.”
Kristin twisted the sapphire
ring on her finger for a moment then moved towards the door. “Get back into the carriage,” she told Lucas, Katie and
Ben then turned to Stephens. “I
want you to go to my father, tell him I am alive and well, and on my way to the
summer house to put a stop to this… travesty of a wedding.
Have him join us as soon as he is able.”
“Yes, milady,” Stephens
nodded, “And good luck.”
“Thank you, Stephens,”
Kristin said then looked up at the coachman and told him where she wanted him to
take them. “And if you can get us
there in less than four hours, there will be some generous coin in it for
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“We are gathered together
today in the sight of God to witness the joining of Percy and Cynthia in holy
matrimony,” the reverend said. “If
any among you can show just cause why these two persons should not lawfully be
joined together this day, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”
After a moment of silence,
the reverend continued.
“Percy, wilt thou have this
Woman to thy wedded Wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy
estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in
sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so
long as ye both shall live?”
“Cynthia, wilt thou have
this Man to thy wedded Husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the
holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him and serve him, love, honour, and
keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only
unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”
Cynthia glared straight
ahead, her lips set in a grim line that turned into a frown at the poke in her
The reverend looked at her.
“I ask you again child, wilt thou have this Man to thy wedded Husband,
to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt
thou obey him and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in
health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both
“No she will NOT!”
The heads of the few people
in attendance whipped around to see a windswept, travel-stained Countess of
Kilhairn standing in the now open doors of the church.
A low murmur hummed through
the small church as Kristin smiled and slowly walked down the aisle towards the
alter, Lucas, Katie and Ben right behind her.
“Mummy?” Cynthia repeated. “Is
it really you?”
“Yes, my darling.
It’s really me,” Kristin answered and then she was pulling her
daughter into her arms; holding her tight as Cynthia began to weep.
“There, there… it’s all right…”
“I thought… they told
me…” Cynthia sobbed.
“I know,” Kristin told
her as she stroked her daughter’s auburn hair through the lace of her veil and
shot an angry look at her mother-in-law.
Cynthia asked through her tears.
“I’ll tell you when we
get back to the house,” Kristin answered then turned to Katie.
“Will you take her back to the manor?
I’ll be along once I take care of a few things here.”
Katie put her arms around a stunned Cynthia’s waist and led her down
the aisle, Ben following close behind.
“Lucas, go with them,”
Kristin told the youth.
Lucas shook his head.
“I’m staying here with you.”
Kristin smiled slightly at
the determined look on his face then nodded before turning to face the small
congregation where she recognized some of the faces. “Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize… but there will be no
wedding today.” Kristin turned to
face the minister. “Reverend
Hawkins, I am sorry we’ve wasted your time.”
“You can’t do this!”
“You have no right!”
Lavinia and Percy called out
at the same time as Kristin began to head up the aisle.
Kristin stopped then slowly
turned. “Oh, but I can,” she
said in a low, calm voice. “You
see, I am the countess; I control Cynthia’s estate until such a time as she
reaches her majority. Without my
permission she may not marry, and I do not give my permission for this union.”
Kristin smiled sweetly at them. “Good
Lucas grinned as Kristin
turned her back on the assembled company and once again glided up the aisle with
her son following after her.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Where is she?”
Kristin asked as soon as she stepped into the house.
“She’s in the front room
with Katie,” Ben told her.
“Thank you, Ben,” she
said then turned to Lucas. “I
know you’re anxious to meet your sister…”
“But you two need a little
time to catch up,” Lucas finished with a smile.
“I understand,” he said. “I
was actually going to ask you if I could go find the kitchen and get something
Kristin laughed and pointed
off in the general direction of the kitchen.
“Go… I’ll call you when it’s time.”
“Thanks, Mama,” he said
and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before tearing off down the hall.
“I’ll go with him,” Ben
told her as he followed the teen at a much slower pace,
“and keep him out of trouble. Tell
Katie to come join us.”
“Thank you, Ben,” Kristin
called out to him as she moved to the parlour door.
Cynthia and Katherine looked
up as the door opened. Katie gave
Cynthia a quick hug then stood and made her way across the room.
“Lucas and Ben are in the
kitchen,” Kristin told the young woman.
Katherine nodded and left the
room, pulling the door shut behind her as Kristin moved deeper into the
Mother and daughter met each
other halfway; arms wrapping around each other in a fierce hug as tears poured
down their faces.
Why were you gone so long?” Cynthia
sobbed into her mother’s shoulder. “Why
didn’t you let me know that you were alive?”
“Come… let’s sit
down,” Kristin said as she guided Cynthia over to the lounge,
“and I’ll tell you everything.”
“You were taken by
pirates… more specifically, the Blue Rogue,” Cynthia told her. “John told us that much.”
“Yes, both Katie and I were taken by the Blue Rogue.”
“That must have been
“At first, yes… it
“At first?” Cynthia gave her mother a questioning look.
“I’d fallen and hit my
head and when I woke up, I found myself trussed up in the Rogue’s cabin…”
“No,” Kristin shook her
head quickly then went on to explain about the first couple of weeks on the
seaQuest, the battle of wills between her and Nathan.
“And then Lucas got sick.”
“Lucas? Is that the young boy you brought with you?”
“Yes,” Kristin nodded.
“When he got sick, the Rogue and I took care of him… then I got sick
and he took care of me…”
Cynthia watched her mother
carefully, seeing something in her eyes she couldn’t identify. “And then…?”
“Then he got sick and I
took care of him,” Kristin told her and continued with the tale, leaving out
her and Nathan’s stay on Monito, moving on to the attack on the British naval
vessel and the rescue of William.
“He attacked a British
“Yes, to save his godson
who’d been taken by a press gang,” Kristin explained.
“Damned press gangs!”
Cynthia hissed and shook her head.
Kristin couldn’t help the
small smile that came to her lips. “So,
once he found William, he sailed away.”
“After looting the ship and
killing the crew no doubt,” Cynthia said sarcastically.
No one was hurt. No one was
killed,” Kristin stated. “He’s
never killed anyone, only freed those who’d been pressed into service.”
“But… but the
“Are just that.
Rumours,” Kristin told her daughter.
“Nathan is not that kind of man.”
“Nathan?” Cynthia raised her eyebrows at her mother.
“You’re on a first name basis with this pirate?”
“Yes…” Kristin answered
as she unconsciously began to play with her sapphire ring. “I got to know him quite well…”
“How well?” Cynthia asked as her eyes drifted down to her mother’s
Kristin lifted her left hand
and showed Cynthia her rings. “Very
“You married him!?
How could you? He’s a pirate! Just
like the one that killed daddy,” Cynthia said,
“and Uncle James.”
“Nathan is nothing like the
pirate that killed your father!” Kristin
fairly shouted. “The man that
killed your father and your uncle is an odious, vile and evil bastard!
Nathan is a kind… loving and gentle man,” she told her daughter.
“He’s generous and caring…”
“He’s a bloody pirate!”
“No… he’s not.
Not really,” Kristin replied. “He’s
a man, who lost his only son to a press gang… who vowed revenge but in the
end, couldn’t take that final step and kill the men on the ships he attacked.
He instead resorted to rescuing any men who’d been pressed into
“You’re making him out to
be some kind of hero! He kidnapped
you for heaven’s sake!” Cynthia
retorted. “And left Captain
Peterson and your crew to die on some island in the middle of nowhere.”
“He didn’t leave them to
die,” Kristin said. “He left
them food and damaged the ship in such a way that they could repair it.” A large smile formed on her face and she chuckled.
“But yes… Nathan did kidnap me, and I thank God every night that he
Cynthia sat back in her
chair, stunned. She didn’t know
what to make of her mother’s revelation that she’d married the man… the
“May I finish the story?”
“Once we’d rescued
William, another ship attacked us,” Kristin told her.
“Nathan and I were taken prisoner by the pirates…”
Cynthia reached out to grab
her mother’s hand at the visible shudder that passed through her.
“It was the pirate that
killed your father… and your Uncle James,” Kristin whispered.
“Oh God…” Cynthia
uttered and slipped her arm around her mother’s shoulders.
“How did you know… find out this was the pirate that…”
“He kept me in his cabin…
and when he went down to the hold where he’d tossed Nathan, I looked around
the room,” Kristin told Cynthia. “I
found your father’s pocket watch and your uncle’s signet ring in the desk…
and it was the desk that made me realize that he’d kept your father’s
“Your father built a
chessboard into his desk… it was your father’s ship,” Kristin repeated in
a quiet voice. “Zellar killed
Oliver and kept his ship.”
“Zellar? It was Zellar who…?”
Cynthia’s eyes widened and she tightened her embrace.
“You don’t have to tell me anymore…”
“Needless to say, we
managed to escape… actually, Zellar made Nathan walk the plank and I dove
“You dove after him?!”
We managed to swim to a nearby island, where Nathan’s crew rescued
us,” Kristin said. “And then we
sailed to Nathan’s island… where, after some talking, we got married.”
“About that… I’m sure
if you talked to grandfather, you could get the marriage dissolved,” Cynthia
“Dissolved? Why on earth would I want to do that?”
“You obviously were coerced
“I wasn’t coerced…”
“Cynthia… I married
Nathan of my own free will,” Kristin told her.
“I married him because I am in love with him.”
“After only a month?
Come on, Mother, be realistic,” Cynthia sighed.
“Where love is concerned…
there is no such thing as realistic,” Kristin smiled at her daughter.
“Then where is my new
step-father, this noble paragon of virtue?”
Cynthia asked. “Why
didn’t he come with you?”
“Nathan had some business
he needed to take care of,” Kristin answered.
“He will be joining us as soon as that’s been concluded. Cynthia, the information that I’ve given you about Nathan
could be very dangerous for him if the wrong people found out.
I trust you to keep it a secret.”
Cynthia merely nodded.
“So… who is the boy? My
He’s your new brother,” Kristin answered. “Well, he will be as soon as Nathan and I can officially
A knock at the door stopped
Cynthia from commenting.
“Come in,” Kristin called
“I thought you could use a
cup of tea,” Katherine said as she entered the room carrying a tray.
“That sounds wonderful,”
Cynthia smiled at her friend.
“Ben and Lucas are
following with some sandwiches,” Katie said as she laid the tray on the coffee
table. “That is unless Lucas has
eaten them all.”
“I didn’t touch any of
them,” Lucas said as he walked into the room.
“You better not have,”
“He didn’t,” Ben said
as he set the plate he was carrying, down beside the tea then sat next to Katie
on the love seat.
Cynthia watched curiously as
Ben and Katherine’s hands laced together then turned her attention in time to
see Lucas sit on the floor beside her mother and watched her mother reach out to
ruffle the young man’s messy brown hair.
“Cynthia, this is Lucas…
your new brother,” Kristin told her then turned to Lucas. “And this is your new sister, Lucas.”
Lucas grinned at Cynthia as
he quickly got to his feet and walked over to her.
He stretched out his hand to her as he continued to smile.
Cynthia regarded the gangly
youth for a moment before placing her hand in his, surprised when he leaned down
and pressed a quick kiss to her knuckles.
“I’m very glad to finally
meet you, Cynthia,” Lucas said. “Mama’s
told me all about you and I’ve been very anxious to meet my big sister.”
Cynthia found herself smiling
at the charming young man, despite telling herself not to. “It’s nice to meet you too, Lucas.”
Lucas beamed then sat beside
her on the couch, obviously pleased at her response and reached for one of the
Kristin watched with a smile,
relieved to see that Cynthia was accepting of Lucas, even if she wasn’t overly
keen on the idea of her marriage. She
was just about to reach for one of the sandwiches when there was an urgent knock
on the door.
The door opened and the
butler stepped in. “Begging your
pardon, Countess, but the dowager is demanding to see you.”
She was just too tired to deal with Lavina Carruthers right now.
She shook her head. “Godard,
please tell the dowager that I will see her tomorrow.
I am currently catching up with my daughter.”
Godard couldn’t hide the
slight grimace that came to his face as he nodded and left the room.
Moments later, shouting could be heard.
“I didn’t think she would
take too kindly to that,” Kristin said and cringed as another loud shout could
Suddenly the parlour door
flew open and an irate Lavinia burst into the room.
“How dare you refuse to see me!? Me!?”
“Lavinia… I am tired,”
Kristin told her. “We’ve been
in a carriage for the last two days. I
am dirty, hungry and exhausted.”
“That is of no concern of
mine,” Lavinia said. “You will
explain yourself and your actions earlier in the church.”
Kristin rose to her feet and
slowly advanced on the elder woman while the four others exchanged glances.
“I repeat, Lavinia,” she said in a deadly calm voice and stopped just
in front of her mother-in-law. “I
am tired, dirty and hungry. I am
going to have a sandwich then go upstairs where I am planning on taking a bath
and then I am going to bed. Anything
you’d care to discuss can wait until tomorrow when I have sufficiently
Lavinia’s face grew red as
she lifted her hand, finger pointed at Kristin.
“No! We will discuss it now!”
“No we will not!”
Kristin replied and placed her hands on her hips.
“I told you what will be happening tonight and that is that!”
She said then called out for Godard.
“Please have the maids make
up the spare room on the first floor for the dowager,” Kristin told him.
“And then you can retire for the evening.”
“Yes, milady and thank
you,” Godard nodded and left.
“I will talk with you
tomorrow, Lavinia,” Kristin told her as she turned and settled back on the
lounge beside Cynthia.
Lavinia’s eyes narrowed
then with a flip of her skirts, she left the parlour.
“Mama…?” Lucas looked over his sister at his mother and asked in a
slightly worried voice. “With you
adopting me… that doesn’t make that woman my grandma does it?”
Kristin bit her lip to keep
from laughing and shook her head. “No,
“Whew… thank you.
I was worried,” he said then turned to Cynthia.
“Sorry… no insult intended.”
Cynthia, like her mother was
biting her lip. “None taken.
Grandmother can be… quite scary at times.”
“You can say that again,”
Kristin chuckled softly then
suddenly yawned. “Oh my…” she
covered her mouth with her hand. “Yes,
I think it is time we all call it a night.”
“But, Mama…” Lucas
began. “It’s not even
completely dark yet.”
“I know, Lucas,” Kristin
said as she stood. “But we’ve
had a hectic couple of days…”
“I’m not tired,” he
tried again. “I don’t want to
go to bed…”
“Then you can read a book
in your room,” Kristin told him then smiled as he sighed in defeat and nodded
with a muttered ‘yes, Mama’. “And
I’ll bet you’ll be asleep before you finish a page.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Kristin and Cynthia walked
arm in arm down the hall towards their respective rooms after having settled
Lucas in his room and Ben and Katie in their room.
“I am so glad you’re
home, Mummy,” Cynthia told her mother when they stopped in front of her
bedroom. “I’ve missed you
“I’ve missed you too,
sweetheart,” Kristin replied and drew Cynthia into her arms for a fierce hug.
Cynthia pulled out of the hug
and looked at her mother. “You
didn’t say you were glad to be home… you are glad aren’t you, Mummy?”
“I’m glad to be with you,
Cynni,” Kristin told her daughter. “But…
home for me now is with Nathan. And
whether that is here in England or the Americas or even his Caribbean island,
that remains to be seen.”
“You could leave
England?” Cynthia gave her mother
a questionable look before she turned and entered her room.
Kristin followed, shutting
the door behind her. “Yes, I
England is your home. It is
where you were born… raised… your family is here. How could you leave it?
And for some man you’ve only known for a couple of months?”
“For my husband… a man I
love with all my heart and who is the other half of my soul…” Kristin told
her. “For that reason… I could
live anywhere, as long as he was with me.”
Cynthia shook her head as she
reached behind her to begin undoing the fasteners of her dress.
Kristin stepped up behind her daughter, brushed away her hands and began
to undo the tiny buttons.
“You’re still young,
Cynni and you’ve not yet been in love,” Kristin told her.
“And when you finally find that one certain someone you’re destined
to be with, then you will understand what I’m talking about.”
“Destined?? Are you saying that you and this pirate were destined to be
together? What about Daddy?”
Cynthia turned to face her mother. “What
was he? Just a stop along the way?”
“Oh, Cynthia… I loved
your father,” Kristin told her. “And
we had a very good marriage, but what I felt for Oliver is nothing compared to
what I feel for Nathan, because Nathan returns my love in a way your father
“Daddy loved you!”
“Your father cared about
me, and I suppose in his own way loved me,” Kristin said. “But he was never in love with me. You know what society is about… marriages arranged for
status and profit where most women are forced to marry a man they don’t even
know much less have feelings for…”
“Much like grandmother
almost made me do today.”
“Exactly. With your father and I it was a little different.
He chose me… and I was agreeable to the match,” Kristin replied.
“With Nathan… we didn’t have a choice either… our not being
together just wasn’t and isn’t an option.”
“I don’t understand,
Mummy…” Cynthia sighed as she shrugged out of her dress.
“It was a big enough shock to find out that you were still alive… and
now I learn that I have a new step-father and a new brother…” her voice
trailed off and she looked helplessly at her mother.
“I know, Cynni… it will
just take time for you to get used to the idea,” Kristin said as she placed
her hands on Cynthia’s shoulders. “And
you can have all the time you need.”
Cynthia smiled at her mother.
“Thank you, Mummy.”
“Nothing to thank me
for,” Kristin said. “You’re
my daughter… and I love you. Nothing
will ever change that.”
“I love you too, mum,”
Cynthia replied and hugged her mother. “Now…
go to bed. You really do look
Kristin nodded and moved to
the door. She paused before opening
it and looked back at her daughter. “I
do have one favour to ask…”
“I would like it if you did
not mention to anyone that Nathan and the Blue Rogue are one in the same,”
Kristin said. “At least until you
have met your new step-father.”
Cynthia thought a moment then
nodded. “I promise.
I won’t say a word.”
“Thank you, Cynni.”
“For you too.”
Kristin smiled, opened the
door then left her daughter’s bedroom and headed for her own.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Kristin stepped into her
bedroom, closed the door and leaned against it with a sigh. It’d been a long day.
‘Cynthia is right… I’m exhausted.’
With an obvious effort,
Kristin pushed herself off the door and moved across the room to where her
luggage had been placed on the settee. She
opened the case and rifled through it for one of her nightgowns until a flash of
deep blue caught her eye. She
grabbed the silky material and pulled it out of the case.
“Oh… Nathan…” Kristin
sighed his name as she brought Nathan’s shirt to her nose and inhaled deeply,
a low moan escaping her as his scent overwhelmed her.
‘Could I…?’ she
wondered as she rubbed the cool silk against her cheek.
A slow smile spread across her face as she placed the shirt on top of her
open luggage then began to unfasten her dress.
Several minutes later,
wrapped in the familiar comfort of Nathan’s shirt, Kristin slipped beneath the
blankets and curled up around her pillow. She
gently fingered her sapphire ring and stared out the window at the night sky as
she whispered Nathan’s name. “Be
well, my love…” Kristin prayed before she fell asleep.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Kristin looked over the rim
of her cup as her mother-in-law swept into the breakfast room.
“Mama?” Lucas spoke
softly. “May I please be
Kristin smiled and nodded.
“Thank you,” he said as
he pushed back his chair, rose and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before
scampering out of the room and leaving Kristin alone with the dowager countess.
“Did I hear right?
Did that young… boy just call you his mother?”
Lavinia asked Kristin as she sat down at the end of the table.
“Yes he did,” Kristin
replied and took another sip of her tea.
“His accent is American is
“And where did you… find
“He was on board the ship I
was on…” Kristin said as she put her cup back on the saucer. “But you didn’t come here to talk about my son… so what
do you want, Lavinia?”
Lavinia’s eyes narrowed as
she stared down the table at Kristin. “You
know very well what I want. You
will explain your actions yesterday in the church.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me!
You had no right bursting into the church as you did and stopping that
wedding,” Lavinia said. “Do you know how hard I worked to find that young man for
“You should have worked a
little harder,” Kristin muttered sarcastically.
Lavinia’s eyes flashed.
“I’ll have you know that Percy comes from a very good, very old
“And is more feminine than
my daughter!” Kristin told her.
“That is… he is… no he
isn’t!” Lavinia stuttered then
frowned. “Well, if you had
exerted more control over the girl she would be more feminine… more befitting
her station in society…”
“Like those uppity society
girls you would have her socialize with?”
“Better than the riff raff
you would have her be around,” Lavinia said.
“Imagine, a girl of Cynthia’s position milling about with sailors and
“Good, honest, hard working
men,” Kristin told her.
“They are commoners…”
“Men who have had to work
hard for their money and their place in this world,” Kristin said.
“I will not have my daughter thinking that everything is to be handed
to her on a silver platter simply because she was born into money.”
“So you let her go wild…
traipse around without her shoes… her hair flying about…” Lavinia told
her. “Turning down proposals from
Dukes… she is a spinster!”
“She is only twenty-three
“My point exactly,”
Lavinia interrupted. “She should
be married already with a couple of heirs…”
“I disagree,” Kristin
said. “And I will not force my
daughter to marry a man she does not love.”
“Like you were forced to
marry my son?” Lavinia spat out.
“I was not forced to marry
your son,” Kristin said. “Oliver
and I had a good marriage, despite your repeated attempts at interfering.
I know you did not want Oliver to marry me… and I know it eats at you
that you were unable to control my every move, but I will not allow you to
interfere in Cynthia’s life.”
“She should be married!”
“She will be!
When she is damn good and ready,” Kristin told Lavinia,
“and not a moment before.”
“And just who will want to
marry her? She will be too old!”
“She will find the one she
is meant to be with when she is meant to find him,” Kristin retorted, refusing
“You are doing her a grave
disservice by allowing her this freedom,” Lavinia told Kristin. “Mark my words. She
will either end up old and alone, or married to some… nobody who is only after
“Like the young… man you
tried to marry her off to?”
“How can you do this?
This was not the way you were raised,” Lavinia said.
“You know it is a woman’s duty to marry and provide heirs for her
Kristin winced slightly at
the words she’d been taught and grown up with.
At the same moment, conversations she’d had with Nathan and Janet came
back to her and she shook her head. “No!
Marriage and children should be a joy… not a duty!
I will not have my daughter marry some stuffed-shirt who is only
interested in her inheritance and having her be his breeder.”
Lavinia looked at Kristin
thoughtfully. “There is something
different about you,” she said suddenly, completely changing the subject.
“Something happened to you when you were gone.
Something to alter your way of thinking.”
“I’ve always thought this
way… at least where Cynthia was concerned, and you know that,” Kristin
“No,” Lavinia shook her
head. “I can’t place my finger
on it… that boy… you called him your son…”
“Yes,” Kristin nodded,
not seeing where Lavinia was headed.
“You are adopting him?”
Lavinia stated more than asked.
“Yes, as a matter of fact I
am,” Kristin replied as she unconsciously began to twist her engagement ring.
Lavinia’s eyes darted to
the movement and widened at the sight of the large sapphire and diamond ring.
“What is that!?”
“What is what?”
“On your finger…”
Lavinia pointed at Kristin’s hands.
Kristin looked down at her
hands and realized that she’d been playing with her rings. She couldn’t help the small smile that came to her lips as
she thought about Nathan. “Oh,”
Kristin held up her left hand and wiggled her fingers slightly,
“did I forget to mention that I married?”
answered. “To a wonderful man.”
“So these last few months
while your family has been sick with worry, you’ve been off… gallivanting
across the ocean and marrying a stranger?”
Lavinia said. “What kind
of mother does that to her child? Stays
away without so much as even a word…”
“Now hold it right
there!” Kristin planted her hands
on the table and stood up. “You
know very well that I sent Cynthia a note telling her I was all right and that I
would be home as soon as possible.”
“I know no such thing!”
“You’re lying and we both
know it, Lavinia,” Kristin told her. “Why’d
you do it? Why did you let Cynthia
believe… your own granddaughter! How
could you do it?”
“I did nothing!”
Lavinia said as she stood. “Perhaps…
it is your own guilt you are feeling.”
“My… my guilt?”
Kristin almost laughed.
“Yes… your guilt for
gallivanting across the ocean while your daughter… your family grieved for
you…” Lavinia stated. “Tell
me, Kristin… how do you live with yourself knowing the hurt you caused your
“It was not I who hurt
Cynthia, it was you,” Kristin said. “You
kept the note I wrote to Cynthia away from her… and let her continue to
believe I was dead so that you could get control over her estates and marry her
off to some milksop of your choosing… someone you knew you could control.”
Before Lavinia could respond,
the parlour door swung open and a tall, distinguished older gentleman strode
into the room. Kristin smiled as
she moved away from the table and into the man’s arms.
“Father,” she sighed as
he wrapped his arms around her.
Westphalen whispered his daughter’s name as he embraced her.
“Oh thank God…” he said with a glance heavenward before he gripped
her shoulders and pushed her away so that he could look at her face.
“We didn’t believe it when Stephens came to the door with the news…
but it really is you.”
“Yes, Father… it is
me,” Kristin said.
Where have you been? Peterson
said you’d been taken by pirates… your mother and I thought… since we
hadn’t heard anything, we were afraid that you were dead,” Lionel told her.
“I know… I’m sorry you
and mother have been so worried,” Kristin said.
“I did send a note to Cynthia,” she glanced over at Lavinia and shot
her a dirty look, “but apparently
Cynni never received it.”
“That doesn’t matter any
longer,” Lionel said with a wave of his hand.
“All that matters is that you’re home and alive!”
Kristin smiled and looked
around her father. “Where is
“Still in London…”
Lionel answered. “When Stephens
came to the house with the news, I immediately arranged an audience with the
king and had control of Cynthia’s estates returned to you.”
“Thank you, Father,”
Kristin replied then turned to her mother-in-law.
“You can go home, Lavinia,” she said.
“Your presence is no longer needed or required.”
Lavinia scowled as she
stalked out of the room.
“What was that about?”
Kristin shook her head.
“Lavinia and I were having a disagreement about how my daughter has
been raised. She was not very happy
with me for having stopped Cynthia’s wedding yesterday.”
Kristin gave her father a
dirty look. “Don’t tell me you
didn’t know that horrid woman was all set to marry Cynthia off yesterday.”
“I swear to you, I did not
know…” Lionel began then sighed at the glare Kristin shot at him and moved
over to the table to sit. “You
get that look from your mother,” he said as Kristin continued to glare at him.
“All right… I was aware that Lavinia was looking for suitors, and I
had heard a rumour that she had found someone but I dismissed them when I heard
she’d chosen the Granger boy…”
“You shouldn’t have
“You mean… she actually
approved of a match between Cynthia and that… that boy?!”
“Yes,” Kristin replied.
“And I got here just in time to stop it.”
Lionel swore. “I swear to you, Krissy… if I’d known… I would have
“Would you have stopped it
if she’d found someone you did approve of?”
“If it was not something
Cynthia wanted… you know I would have,” Lionel replied. “But, Kristin… it is time that the girl seriously thinks
about settling down and getting married.”
Kristin frowned as she tried
to fight back the sudden surge of anger she felt at her father’s words.
“I can’t believe you just said that!”
“What? Cynthia is twenty-three years old… she is long past the
acceptable marrying age…”
“You yourself were
“That was me!
We are talking about my daughter,” Kristin said in an angry voice.
“Yes, we are,” Lionel
said as he stood. “I love my
granddaughter and I would never interfere with how you’re raising her, but it
is about time that she settles down in a good marriage…”
“And starts having
babies… right, Father?” Kristin
retorted sarcastically then shook her head.
“No! When Cynthia is ready
to be married and has found a man she loves… then she will be married. I will not force her to marry a man she does not love and
does not know… simply to appease society or her grandparents’ outdated
Lionel held up his hands in
supplication. “I do not wish to
argue with you, daughter.”
Kristin closed her eyes and
took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,
Father. I did not mean to yell.
Perhaps I am still tired from the journey.”
Lionel nodded then gestured
to the table. “Come… sit and
let’s have some tea.”
Kristin smiled and returned
to the table. She sat down and
poured them each a cup of tea. After
several minutes of silence, her father finally spoke.
“Will you tell me what
happened? All I know is what
Peterson told us. That you and
young Katherine had been taken by pirates.”
Kristin took a long sip of
her tea. “I’d gotten hurt in
the melee… I’d tripped and banged my head against a barrel.
When I woke up, I found myself in the captain’s cabin…” she told
him. “Needless to say, I wasn’t
too pleased and let him know it in no uncertain terms.”
Lionel couldn’t help but
smile. His daughter had a wicked
and sharp tongue, and woe to the man she chose to use it on.
“Then what happened?”
“There was an engagement with another ship… and both Katherine and I
were rescued by an American captain.”
Lionel’s eyes narrowed.
She was leaving something out. He
could sense it. “You were gone for over three months…”
“Yes… the American
captain had some urgent business he needed to attend to before he could sail us
home,” Kristin told her father. “At
one of the ports we stopped at, he arranged it so that I could send Cynthia a
note… but because we had no coin, we could not arrange passage home.”
“I’m sure you would have
been able to do so,” Lionel said. “You
are a countess… surely someone would have issued you a credit for passage?”
“Father… all my clothes
had been left on the Spirit,” Kristin said.
“And the one dress I had, had seen better days.
The American captain had already promised to take us home, so I saw no
need to try and haggle passage somewhere else.”
Lionel set down his teacup
and regarded his daughter. Again he
was sure that she was leaving something out and his knowledge of pirates had him
fearing the worst. “Kristin…”
her father began in a serious voice as he laid down his teacup.
“You do know… no matter what happened… you can talk to me…”
“Well…” Kristin began
slowly, wishing Nathan was with her to tell her father the news of their
marriage. “I got married,
Westphalen did a double take.
“I got married,” Kristin
“The American captain,”
she told him.
“Of all the foolish…”
Lionel exploded. “Why on earth
would you do something so idiotic like that!?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I thought you were smarter
than that!” Lionel told her.
“Foolish? Idiotic?” Kristin
repeated in a low, angry voice.
How could you do such a thing?” Lionel
asked then his face paled. “You
weren’t… compromised by those pirates were you?”
“No, I wasn’t compromised
by the pirates.”
“Then why? Did that American force you to marry him?
Is that it?!” Lionel asked as he pushed himself to his feet, knocking the
chair over as he began to pace the room. “Well…
I will go back to London… have the marriage dissolved…”
“You were forced into
“This… this American,”
he spat out the term, “will not
get his hand on one cent of your money…”
“FATHER!!” Kristin yelled.
Westphalen stopped and looked
“I was not forced into this
marriage. I chose to marry him,”
she told him through clenched teeth. “I
love him… and he loves me.”
“Of course he does,”
Lionel said. “And of course, the
fact that you are a member of the peerage and a very wealthy woman has no
bearing on his feelings or why he married you.”
“They weren’t,” Kristin
said. “My title and my wealth
were not an issue when he proposed to me.”
“Of course they
weren’t,” Lionel repeated with a sneer.
“Well then… where is he?”
“He’s off on business,”
“Naturally,” Lionel shook
his head. “Sometimes, Krissy, I
don’t think you use that head God put on your shoulders.”
“Kristin! My name is Kristin,” she told him. “Krissy is what you called me when I was a little girl.
I am not a child, Father!” Kristin
stopped and took a deep breath. “You
will not have my marriage dissolved. Nathan
and I married because we love each other and want to spend the rest of our lives
together. He has his own money and
doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about mine.”
Lionel shook his head as he
made his way across the room to the cabinet holding the spirits.
He opened the cabinet, took out a bottle of brandy, poured a fifth in a
glass then knocked it back.
“Isn’t it a little early
“Probably…” he said as
he poured himself another splash. He
quickly downed that then replaced the stopper in the bottle and returned the
brandy to the cupboard. “How long
until my new son-in-law makes an appearance?”
“I don’t know…”
“You don’t know!?”
Lionel questioned in a loud voice.
I don’t!” Kristin
replied in an equally loud voice. “But
as soon as his business is finished, he will be here.”
Westphalen shook his head.
“Oh, daughter… I believe you have been taken for a fool!
This man will never turn up, or if he does… it will only be to try and
get his hands on your money.”
Kristin’s eyes narrowed and
she glared at her father. All of a
sudden Lucas burst into the room.
“I saw the old cow leave.
May I help myself to some more breakfast?”
He asked in a breathless rush then came to a sudden halt when he realized
his mother had company. “I’m
sorry, Mama…” Lucas began to apologize for his hasty entrance then stopped
when he sensed the tension in the room and stepped closer to Kristin.
Kristin bit back the small
smile that sprang to her lips as Lucas moved to her side and assumed a
protective stance. “It’s all
right, Lucas…” she said and laid her hand on his arm.
“Krissy, who is this?”
Lionel demanded as he stared at the gangly youth.
“This is my son, Father.
His name is Lucas,” Kristin answered.
“Your… your…?” Lionel
stuttered. “Your son?”
My son,” Kristin said. “Lucas…
this is my father… your grandfather, Lionel Westphalen.”
“Nice to meet you, sir,”
Lucas spoke to the older man and held out his hand.
Lionel frowned even as he
reached out to shake the young man’s hand.
“Go get your food,
Lucas,” Kristin told her son. “And
take it out onto the patio to eat.”
“Yes, Mama,” Lucas
replied as he left his mother’s side and moved over to where the food was laid
out. As he filled his plate, he
kept a wary eye on his new grandfather. When
his plate was full he turned to Kristin. “Mama…?”
“Go on, Lucas,” she
nodded at him and favoured him with a small smile.
“Yes, ma’am,” Lucas
said before he left the room though the open French doors.
“What was that all
about?” Lionel asked in a loud
voice once Lucas was gone. “Your
“Yes… my son,” Kristin
repeated her earlier words.
“Nathan and I are adopting
him,” she said.
“Because he has no family.
Because it is the humane thing to do,” Kristin told him.
“But most importantly because we love him!”
“First you tell me you’ve
gotten married to some lowly American sailor and now you’re telling me that
you’re adopting some… some skinny, snot-nosed child?”
“He is not…”
“It’s just like when you
were a child,” Lionel said, talking over her.
“You’d always bring home strays… wanting to adopt and take care of
them all… you can’t keep doing this. You
Kristin said in a loud voice. “That’s
“I beg your pardon?!”
Lionel replied in a low voice, his eyes narrowed.
“You heard me!
Enough. I will not tolerate
you coming into my house and insulting my choice in husbands and my son!”
Kristin told him. “Now,
please… give my best to mother and tell her I will be up to see her soon.”
With that, Kristin turned and
swept out of the room, leaving her father to stare open-mouthed after her.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~