~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Mummy, wake up, please!”
cried out for her husband as she slowly fought her way back toward
consciousness. Her cry struck fear
in Lucas’ heart.
“Not dad… oh, please not
Cynthia eyed Lucas curiously.
“What about your father?”
Lucas bit his lip.
“I know this sounds strange but… they are connected somehow, dad and
mama. They sense that the other is
near even if they haven’t seen each other.
When one is in danger the other one knows about it.
I know that sounds far fetched but I’ve seen it.
The bond is so strong… what if her pain and the fainting is because
something has happened to dad?”
“No.” Both children
looked down to see their mother struggling to open her eyes.
“Nothing has happened to him. I
refuse to accept that.” Kristin
tried to sit up but the room began to spin again and she sank back to the floor.
“Let’s see if we can move
her to the settee. Mummy, put your
arms around Lucas’ neck.”
Kristin did as she was bid
and together Cynthia and Lucas lifted her from the floor and laid her on the
“I really think that we
should send for Doctor Burgess, Mummy.”
“I don’t need that quack
to examine me. I just need to rest.
Once the dizziness goes away I will return to my bedchamber for the
afternoon. Cynthia, why don’t you
ring for some tea?”
Worry lined Cynthia’s face
as she did her mother’s bidding. Lucas
hovered nearby, his concern showing as well.
Kristin was extremely pale and he knew that she wasn’t being honest
“Lucas, I want you to get
Ben. Tell him that I need to see
The boy’s face fell.
“Something did happen to dad?” He whispered.
“No… Maybe… I felt…
something. But we are so far away,
Lucas. I can’t be sure. Please go get Ben.”
As soon as Cynthia returned
Lucas departed in search of Ben. The
young sailor had shown great interest in how the estate was run so Kristin was
letting him work with the manager to learn all that he could.
The acreage was vast and Ben could be anywhere on it but Kristin knew
that Lucas would find him as quickly as possible.
“The tea will be here in a
moment, Mother.” Cynthia smiled
as Kristin tucked her feet up and patted the edge of the sofa. She came and sat. “So…
Lucas tells me that you have some sort of mystical bond with this new husband of
“Sarcasm doesn’t become
you, my dear daughter.” Cynthia’s
face fell at her mother’s gentle rebuke.
“I know that it sounds strange but… sometimes… Nathan and I can
sense things about each other. I
know when he is near even if I can’t see him.
I know when he is in danger and he can feel the same about me.”
“But he is the one who put
you in danger.” Cynthia’s
pretty features hardened.
“Cynthia… It could be
argued that I put myself in danger by insisting on sailing out with John and the
other men on that voyage. Things
happen because they are supposed to. Fate
intended for Nathan and I to come together.
Nathan never endangered me intentionally.
He risked his own life time and again to save me.
He is risking his life now to protect me… and you.”
“Protect… what do you
“The pirate… Zellar… he developed a sort of… obsession with me…
with his image of me, at least.” Her hand dipped into her pocket and pulled out the pocket
watch that she had been waiting to show her daughter. “I told you I found your father’s watch… do you
Cynthia reached toward the
proffered timepiece with a trembling hand.
She smiled as she lifted it and felt the weight.
“Daddy used to let me sit on his lap and play with it sometimes.
Funny… it seems so much lighter than I remember.”
“You are a bit bigger than
you were the last time you held it. Look
A bubbly laugh escaped
Cynthia’s lips as she popped the cover open and saw the tiny portrait of her
mother and herself at age eight. “I
remember sitting for this. Daddy
said he wanted to always be able to look at us, even when he had to be away.
But… I don’t understand… why would that horrid man keep this?
It didn’t mean anything to him.”
isn’t true. Zellar keep the
picture because he seems to have developed some sort of tendre for me… or at
least for the woman that he imagined from that portrait.
He saw me while we were in port and gave chase.
I am the reason he attacked Nathan’s ship.”
“He recognized you after
all this time?”
“I haven’t changed so
very much, now have I?” Kristin winked at her daughter then grew serious
again. “He didn’t know in the
beginning that the woman and I were one and the same.
I concocted a story about being a poor widow working as a governess who
was traveling with her employers to America.
He didn’t care. He wanted
his fantasy woman so badly that he was willing to make me be her.”
“Mummy, did he… did he
hurt you?” Cynthia looked as if
she was going to be sick.
“He was very charming at
first but later… when I didn’t go along with his plans… he tried to…”
Kristin’s eyes closed as she went pale at the memory.
Cynthia leaned forward and grabbed her mother’s hands.
“It’s okay, Mummy.
You don’t have to…”
Kristin opened her eyes.
“He didn’t listen to me. I
told him that I was going to be sick and he didn’t pay attention until I lost
my tea all over him.”
Cynthia clapped her free hand
over her mother to hold back her giggle. “You
“I did. Zellar decided that I might be more amenable to his
attentions if Nathan were no longer around so he made him walk the plank.
I managed to break loose from his grip and went into the ocean after
Nathan… but not before I’d lost my temper and revealed who I really was.”
Lose your temper? Surely
Kristin raised her eyebrows
at her daughter but chose to let the comment pass.
“That is why Nathan isn’t here with me.
He went after Zellar… to stop him from trying to come after me… or
Cynthia looked as if she
wanted to say more but at that moment Lucas burst into the room dragging Ben
along with him. “I found him,
“You wanted to see me,
milady?” Ben whipped his hat off
of his head respectfully.
“Sit down, Ben.” Kristin
gestured at the chair across from her. “Cynthia,
would you mind pouring Ben a cup of tea? Thank
you, my dear. Now why don’t you
go get Lucas started on his lessons while I have a talk with Ben.”
Both of the children glared
at their mother, unhappy at being dismissed, but they did as they were bid.
Kristin waited until the door was closed before she turned back to Ben.
“What did Lucas tell
“He told me that you
collapsed, first from some sort of pain and then a few minutes later you
fainted. He seems to think that you
were reacting to something happening to the captain.
Tears rushed to Kristin’s
eyes and she fought to drive them back. “I…
I don’t know, Ben. I think that
perhaps I was. I’ve been sitting
here trying to ‘find’ Nathan but I can’t just make it happen because I
will it. I have to know if
something has happened to him, Ben.”
“What do you want me to do,
“Kristin, Ben… you used
to call me Kristin. Stop behaving
like all of them,” she made an inclusive gesture at the house.
“I really need a friend right now.”
“You know that Katie and I
are always here for you, mil… Kristin. I
can make arrangements for passage back to the Caribbean and try to find the
captain or I can travel to Cornwall and get the seaQuest…”
Kristin shook her head.
“I know that Nathan ordered you to stay with me until he came and I
won’t ask you to defy his orders or to leave your new bride.
But I have to know…”
“I could ride back to
Dover… to the other ports in the area. Sailors
are great gossips. If there is any
news to be had I am sure that I could pick it up there.”
“Good… that is quite a
good plan.” Kristin agreed. “Take
Ned from the stables with you. He
spent some time in the navy before joining us.
He may have contacts and he can act as your guide as well.
If you don’t find out anything perhaps you could pay someone to keep
“I’ll go find Ned now.
We’ll make arrangements to leave at first light… sooner if you’d
“Tomorrow will be fine.
Ben… thank you.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Cynthia knocked softly on the
parlor door but received no reply. She
placed an ear to the crack but heard nothing so she decided to chance an entry.
The room was empty except for her mother who was sleeping soundly on the
Cynthia tiptoed across the
room and carefully loosened Kristin’s grasp on the teacup she still held in
her hand then placed it back on the trolley.
The cup clattered against the saucer and Kristin came awake instantly.
“Wha…” She sat up, her
gaze disoriented as it lit on Cynthia. “Oh…
I must have… I didn’t mean to sleep. I
was dreaming… it was so dark and I was trying to fight my way toward the
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“No… that is quite all
right. I don’t need to be
sleeping my afternoon away. Did you
need me for something?” Kristin gestured to the envelope Cynthia held clasped
in her hand.
Cynthia held the letter out
to her mother. “This just arrived
by messenger from London. It’s
from grandfather. I thought that
you might want to read it.”
Kristin glared at the paper
as if it were actually her father. “I
am not at all sure that I do… want to read it, I mean.”
“Grandfather is just
concerned about you, Mummy. He
doesn’t understand… I don’t really either… but we are trying.
Why don’t I leave this here and you can think about it?”
Cynthia laid the envelope on
the table near her mother and swiftly left the room, leaving Kristin staring
after her. Finally she picked up
the missive and after another minute’s hesitation, tore it open.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Katie and Cynthia were
sipping tea when Kristin finally joined them on the terrace. She scanned for Lucas, smiling when she found him spread out
on a blanket on the lawn, his school books scattered around him as he worked
equally hard on conjugating his Latin verbs and stuffing cakes into his mouth.
“Katie, dear,” Kristin
bent over to kiss her cheek as she took her seat.
“I’m so glad you could join us.
You aren’t terribly put out with me, are you?”
Katie smiled wanly.
“No… I don’t want Ben to go, of course, but I understand why he
“Perhaps you could go with
Katie shook her head. “He
couldn’t travel as fast with me along. He
told me that he spoke with Ned and they can travel the distances needed in about
“Oh… let Ben know that I
need to speak with him again before he leaves.
Circumstances dictate that we depart for London in the next few days so
he might want to plan to meet us there.”
“London? Why would we go there?” Cynthia interjected, a touch of
fear in her eyes.
“The letter from your
grandfather… it seems that your grandmother is anxious to see with her own
eyes that I am alive and well but she has a touch of a cold and isn’t feeling
up to traveling.”
“But… I don’t want to
go to London. Everyone there will
be talking about me… about the wedding…”
“Nonsense! You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, Cynthia.
That entire debacle was your grandmother’s fault.
You’ve never cared a fig about society anyway.
What has changed?”
“Nothing… I just… I
don’t really care anything about making the party round and grandmother made
“Lavinia made you attend…
I guess she didn’t mourn my supposed passing long.
Cynni, you don’t have to go to a single function that you don’t want
to. I have little desire to be out
in society myself. We’ll go into
town for a few weeks, visit with your grandmother, and then come back here.
With any luck Nathan will be joining us by then.”
Are you going to be seeing him?”
Kristin closed her eyes and
swallowed hard. “What your
grandfather did… allowing that woman to try and force you into marriage… He
should have protected you during my absence.”
Cynthia reached out and
clasped her mother’s hand. “Grandfather
did try. He just couldn’t… Once
grandmother Carruthers gained control of the estate he couldn’t seem to stop
her. He knew that she was pushing a
match between Percy and me but she didn’t inform him about the wedding.
If he had known… you know that he would have risked everything to
“Father never should have
allowed things to reach that point.”
“Promise me that you will at least speak with grandfather again.
Try to be more understanding of his position.”
“I’ll… I’ll think
about it. But right now we have to
make travel plans.”
“Could I stay here?”
Cynthia blurted out.
Cynni, I don’t think… if you really don’t want to go to London then
I will write mother and tell her that we won’t be coming in.”
“No… I know grandmother
wants to see you… may I be excused, Mother?”
At Kristin’s nod, Cynthia pushed her chair back and fled down the
terrace steps and over the lawn toward the forest.
Kristin rose up in her chair.
“I should go after her. She
Lucas’ head popped up over
the terrace railing. “I wasn’t
eavesdropping but I couldn’t help hearing… let me go after her, Mama.”
Kristin gave her assent and
settled back in the chair as she watched Lucas scurry after Cynthia.
“At least she seems to be accepting Lucas.
That is something.”
“Is Cynthia having trouble
with your marriage?”
“Sometimes… she seems to
be all right with it and then other times she seems almost… angry. I am hoping that actually meeting Nathan will help.
He wants Cynthia to like him and I think she would benefit from a father
figure in her life as well.”
“She’ll come around,
Kristin. Everyone likes Captain
“I hope so, Katie.
I was so sure that Cynthia would be happy for me.
She seems so different since I returned home, though…”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Lucas found his new sister
sitting in a small glade sobbing into her hands.
He dropped down on the grass beside her and pulled the clean handkerchief
his mother insisted he always have out of his pocket and tucked it between her
fingers but didn’t say anything.
Cynthia blew her nose noisily
then looked over at him. “Why did
you follow me?”
“Because you looked upset and I thought maybe I could help.”
“How could you help?
How could you possibly understand how I feel?”
“Well…” Lucas shifted
until he was sitting cross-legged in front of Cynthia and propped his elbows on
his knees. “I have sort of been
thrust into an unfamiliar environment and I really don’t fit in very well.
It’s awkward for me here just like you feel awkward at those parties
“But… have we made you
“Of course not.
It isn’t a matter of being welcome or not… it’s just having to get
used to new surroundings… having to adapt.
I’m trying really hard to remember to be polite and to carry a
handkerchief and things like that but… you know what really bothers me the
Cynthia dabbed away the last
of her tears as she shook her head. “What?”
“Shoes… I don’t like to
wear shoes. I could climb the
ship’s rigging in my bare feet but now I can feel the soles going soft.”
A light tinkling sound
bubbled from Cynthia’s lips. “I
feel the same way about bonnets. I
don’t mind a hat when I go riding but all those frilly concoctions they expect
you to wear when you make calls in town? I
“Then why do you wear them?
I mean, I can understand why I have to wear shoes… sometimes… but if
you don’t like the fancy hats then wear a simple one.”
“But the style is…”
“Create a new style.
Create your own style. You
are a countess, aren’t you? You
don’t have to do what other people tell you.
Well, except mama of course. She’s
scary when crossed. The fights that
she and dad used to have…”
I thought that they were madly in love with each other.”
“They are. Dad told me once that fighting is just another form of
loving, at least between them. They
both have very strong personalities and they don’t always agree… I know that
you are having some trouble… with mama and dad getting married, I mean… but
they really are great together. I
can’t wait for you to see them.”
Cynthia’s face fell.
“It’s just… I can still remember my father, Lucas.
I’m not ready to forget him.”
Lucas made a face.
“Well that’s just silly. Why
would you think you would forget him? You
are lucky. You were old enough to
know your father. Mine died when I
was just a little kid. But I
remember my mother… my real mother. Just
because I have a new mama now doesn’t mean that I have to forget her.”
A look of regret crossed
Cynthia’s face. She hadn’t been
told much about Lucas’ background and she hadn’t bothered to ask. “Tell me… do you mind?
How did you end up here?”
“Sure… it’s the best
story. The beginning isn’t so
great but the ending… amazing. I
only remember mama and me. She was
so pretty when I was a little boy… but she worked hard and then she got sick.
When she couldn’t work we didn’t have any money… and she just got
sicker and sicker. I tried to
help… doing odd jobs for people, sweeping out the tavern floors in the
mornings… but it wasn’t enough. Sometimes
they wouldn’t pay me after they’d promised.
I was just a kid, after all. Then
I met this chap who taught me how to nick a purse real easy like.”
“You robbed people?”
Lucas nodded honestly.
“I didn’t want to but… I did a few times.
One night I was down at the docks and I was really desperate.
This fellow comes out of the pub and he looks like an easy mark so I go
after him. I got hold of the wallet
and was making a break for it when he grabs me and shakes me. It was the captain… dad.
I thought he was gonna turn me over to the watch but instead he gets me
to tell him about my mom and then he goes home with me.
He called a doctor in but nothing could be done.
My mother died a few days later… but she had a doctor there to help
ease her pain. When she was gone the cap told me to pack my things and come
“Just like that… he just
took you with him?”
“Just like that.
I’ve been with him ever since, almost five years now.
He taught me how to read and do maths and all about sailing.
Then your mother came on board and they fell in love.” Lucas was trying hard to hide the tears in his eyes.
“The day they got married they asked if I would let them adopt me… if
I wanted them to be my new parents. Well,
a guy would be a fool to turn down an offer like that.
I even got a pretty new sister in the bargain.”
“And I got a handsome
younger brother. I always wanted a
brother or sister… someone to play with…
It’s just a bit difficult to comprehend.
Mummy is dead and then mummy isn’t dead and then I have a new
stepfather and a new brother as well…”
You just need a little time to get used to it.
Promise me something, Cynni… when dad gets here… don’t be
closed-minded. Give him a chance.
I swear you won’t regret it.”
Cynthia looked skeptical but
finally she nodded. “I’ll think
about it, Lucas. I promise.”
Lucas stood and held his hand
out to Cynthia. “Perhaps we
should get back. Mama will be
worried about us.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“No luck?” Will asked his
mother as she blew into the library with a loud huff and collapsed in a chair.
“None. I did get an answer at the door today but all that damned
butler would tell me is that ‘Madame is in the country and her return has not
been announced’.” Janet was
fuming as she relayed her latest attempts to get in touch with Kristin.
“Did you ask for her
address in the country?”
“I wasn’t given a chance.
The butler dismissed me without any further conversation.”
Will tried to hide his
amusement at his mother’s fury because he knew she wouldn’t appreciate it.
They had arrived in London
nearly a week ago and one of Janet’s first questions to the American
ambassador’s wife had been a request for information on getting in touch with
Kristin. A note was quickly
dispatched but when several days had gone by without an answer, Janet called for
the carriage and went to the house herself.
She had been back twice more before finally getting an answer to her
“And then the bastard had
the audacity to shut the door in my face!”
“Why don’t you ask the
ambassador’s wife for Aunt Kristin’s address in the country?”
“I suppose I could… it
isn’t as if we have that many friends here.
It will take me a few weeks to build an information network. And I’m worried about Kristin.
She must be feeling terribly alone without Nathan… what are you working
Janet moved to stand behind
her son, peering over Will’s shoulder at the sketchpad in his lap.
“Oh, son… that is beautiful! Are
you going to do it in oils?”
“I… I thought that I
would do a more formal portrait as a gift to Uncle Nathan and Aunt Kristin…
perhaps have Lucas and some of the guests in it as well.
This one… I was just wondering if I could capture that look… the way
that their eyes shine when they look at each other.”
“I think you’ve done a
very good job of it. This is a
magnificent sketch. You are so
Will shrugged but Janet could
tell that he appreciated her praise. “It’s
just a hobby…”
“You should take advantage
of your surroundings until your father gets here.
London has many beautiful parks and buildings that you could practice on.
Promise me that you will go out every afternoon and see something new.”
“We have to much to do
“The servants are hired.
Mrs. Gordan will have the house whipped into shape in no time.
Your sister is already begging me for new dresses so I suspect that I am
going to be doing a great deal of shopping… at least until your father gets
here and sees the bills. Go out…
enjoy yourself.” Janet ruffled
her son’s hair affectionately.
“What about Aunt
“I am going to continue to
pound on the door of her home every day until I get some answers… and I might
ask the ambassador’s wife if she can find out the location of Kristin’s
country home.” Janet grinned
saucily at her son as she moved toward the door.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Cynthia moved silently down
the corridor, the candle in her hand shaking along with her body at each clap of
thunder or bolt of lightning. Finally
she reached her mother’s door and paused, wondering if she should wake her.
The next roar of thunder
shook the house and sent Cynthia scurrying into the safety of her mother’s
room. A cozy fire still flickered
in the grate, giving off just enough light for Cynthia to see that the bed was
empty. She quickly searched the
Kristin looked back from her
perch on the cushioned window seat to find Cynthia staring at her.
She smiled as she stood and moved back towards the bed, motioning for
Cynthia to follow.
Cynthia stared at her mother
in shock as Kristin shed her dressing gown and climbed into the bed, clothed
only in a deep blue… man’s shirt…. Cynthia
blinked hard but the image didn’t go away.
Before she could comment on Kristin’s bared legs they disappeared
beneath the comforter. Kristin
leaned back into the pile of pillows at the head of the bed and patted the
mattress beside her. Cynthia
quickly shed her own wrapper and climbed under the covers with her mother.
Kristin wrapped her arms
around Cynthia’s shoulders as her daughter cuddled into her side.
“It’s been quite some
time since you’ve admitted to being afraid of thunderstorms. Too much turmoil in other aspects of your life, maybe?”
“Maybe I’ve grown up enough to realize that I’m not so grown up.
When we thought you were… I’d lay awake during storms and realize
that I’d never be able to do this again…”
“And now here you are.”
Kristin tightened her hold briefly.
“But possibly for the last
time. I’m sure that your new
husband won’t appreciate me creeping in here.
Daddy never did.”
Kristin softly rubbed her
daughter’s hair. “Your father
adored you. He just wasn’t
expecting to find you in here that night. He
regretted his anger later.”
“So if your Nathan came in
to visit you and found me here he wouldn’t be angry?”
“Only if you didn’t knock
first. Nathan doesn’t visit me,
my dear. We sleep together,
“You… oh… but most
“Nathan and I aren’t most
couples. We sleep better in each
other’s arms. I can honestly say
that I wish nothing more for you than a husband who enjoys holding you all night
“This thing you are
wearing… it’s his, isn’t it?”
Kristin knew she had shocked
her daughter. “Nathan slipped one
of his shirts into my luggage and I enjoy sleeping in it. I feel closer to him. I
wore one of these shirts so often on the ship that I am more comfortable in it
than in dresses.”
“You wore… his clothes…
on his ship? But you told me you
didn’t get married until…” Cynthia’s voice trailed off and her eyes
widened as she realized where her thoughts were going.
“Nathan and I became… intimate… before we were married, it’s
true. But the relationship wasn’t
forced on either one of us and it didn’t happen for almost a month after… As
a widow I do have a certain degree of latitude as long as I behave with
“But grandmother said…
‘that’ is something every proper lady had to endure so that she could have
children. Even you told me that.
Why would you choose to be… that way… with the man before you had
“I taught you as I had been
taught… but I was wrong. Nathan
has taught me so much about the physical side of loving and it can be wonderful,
Cynni. Enjoying sexual congress
with my husband doesn’t make me a bad person or an immoral woman. It simply enhances all the other aspects of our lives
together. I want the same thing for
you and the man that you fall in love with.”
“Was wrong. Maybe if Lavinia had enjoyed sleeping with her husband, she
wouldn’t be the sour old biddy she is today.”
“I don’t think she means to be cruel.
She really thought that she was doing the best thing by forcing me to
“Percy? I would like grandchildren to spoil, my dear, and I don’t
think that Percy was capable of siring them.”
“But your captain obviously
“Oh very capa… Oh no you
don’t. Some aspects of my married
life are going to remain private.”
“Tell me about your
husband. What makes him so very
Kristin smiled broadly.
“Where do I begin? When we first met we fought like cats and dogs.
He blamed the British for his son’s death and I blamed all pirates for
your father and Uncle James’ deaths. But
as time went by we reached a happy medium.
Then Lucas got sick and I saw the man behind the pirate mask.”
“The real ‘Blue
“No, the real Nathan
Bridger. He cares so much… so
deeply… about pain and injustice. But
he makes me laugh as well. He took
me up to the crow’s nest of his ship once.
The view was absolutely breathtaking and he wanted to share that with
“You climbed the rigging?
How did you manage that?”
“I wore a pair of
“You don’t have a license
on being unconventional, my dear. I
wore men’s trousers and climbed the rigging and had a ball doing it.
It wasn’t all fun and games, though.
There were several battles. I
was locked below deck during those but Zellar managed to find me during the last
“What about my new
stepfather’s island? Is it
beautiful?” Cynthia felt her
mother’s body tense when she mentioned the pirate and wanted to draw her
“The island is lovely.
Nathan has the most wonderful home, lots of doors and windows to catch
the breezes and you can see the ocean from the upstairs balconies.
The kitchen is ruled with an iron hand by his housekeeper, a wonderful
old lady named Bess. She was
Nathan’s nurse and she’s stayed with him all these years.
After a bit of a rocky start there she taught me how to make her secret
“I knew that you would get back around to healing somehow.
But back to Nathan… what is he like?
What does he look like?”
“His eyes are bluer than
the ocean. That’s the very first
thing that I noticed about him.”
prompted, more than a little amused by the dreamy quality in her mother’s
voice and eyes.
“Nathan’s hair is gray…
with a little brown still sprinkled in. He’s
taller than I am but not too tall… lean… he has a long face with a strong
jaw and long wonderful fingers.” Kristin sighed.
“His voice is deep and resonant… I love listening to him read poetry
to me or telling a story.”
“He reads you poetry?”
“Coleridge is his favorite
poet. We had a picnic in a meadow
one afternoon and after we’d eaten we read poetry aloud.
It was a wonderful afternoon… a wonderful day, in fact, because that is
the day that Bill and Janet arrived.”
“The boy you rescued… his
“William is hardly a boy,
Cynthia. I know I tend to speak of
him as if he were a child but he is your age… a very nice young man with
wonderful parents. Bill and Nathan
have been dear friends since their youth. Janet
and I became very close in a very short time.”
“You sound… so happy,
Mummy. Happier than I’ve heard
you sound in a very long time. If
your… husband… makes you feel this way than I am happy too.”
Kristin smoothed Cynthia’s
hair, knowing what it had cost her daughter to utter those words.
“Nathan makes me very happy, so happy that I’m very miserable right
now with missing him. Being with
you is the only thing keeping me sane. I
did miss you so much, Cynthia. If
I’d known that you thought I was dead…”
“But you are here.
That’s what is important.”
hesitated, “I haven’t pushed you but… would you tell me what happened
while I was gone? If you can…”
A deep sigh escaped
Cynthia’s lips and Kristin felt her daughter’s grip tighten then finally she
began to speak.
“We weren’t worried that
much at first… I think you were about a week overdue when grandfather began to
be concerned that he hadn’t heard from you.
But I know how you can be when you are working on a new ship design so I
thought that perhaps you found a problem that you were studying or that you were
just having a marvelous time.
“We were planning to turn
back to port the next morning, but that afternoon Nathan’s ship came.”
“As the weeks went by we
began to worry more and more. I
went out riding one morning with just Ned as groom.
I wanted some time to myself. When I got home…”
raced across the meadow at a breakneck pace, enjoying the freedom that she felt
as the wind raced through her hair. For
a few moments she was able to put her worry for her mother behind her.
The hedge was coming up
quickly and Cynthia leaned low over Diablo’s neck, her hands gripping the
reins tightly as she urged him forward. She
felt the horse’s muscles clench tightly seconds before he launched himself up
and over the high brush.
Diablo landed perfectly and
continued his trot without a single missed step, racing across the large expanse
of lawn toward the front of her grandfather’s country manor. A slight tug on the reins brought the stallion up just in
front of the entrance stairway and Cynthia slid gracefully off of his back, a
smile on her face. She was so happy
that she even ignored Ned’s chastising look as she handed Diablo over to him.
Ned simply shook his head, knowing that cautioning Lady Cynthia
about the danger of her jump would do no good.
She was known to be just as hardheaded as her mother.
Cynthia ran up the stairs, anxious to share her happy mood with her
grandparents. They needed cheering
up. She approached the library with
a song on her lips, knocking lightly then pushing the door open.
“The weather is so wonderful today, Grandmother…” Her voice
trailed off as she realized that another man shared the room with her
grandparents. “Excuse me, I
didn’t mean to interrupt…”
Her eyes grew wide as the slump shouldered man stepped into the
light and she identified him. “Captain
Peterson! You’re back!
This is wonderful! Is mummy upstairs?” She
turned to search for her mother but a broken voice held her back.
“No… your mother isn’t upstairs.”
“Then where… Where is mummy?” A touch of hysteria tinged her
voice as she fought against her rising panic.
“She isn’t here, child.” Lionel Westphalen’s face was drawn,
his features heavy with sorrow.
“Where is she…? Grandfather?”
When no answer was forthcoming Cynthia turned toward her grandmother but
Millicent lowered her face into a delicate lace handkerchief to hide her tears.
“Grandmother…? Someone tell me where my mother is!”
John Peterson stepped forward, his hands gripping the brim of his
battered hat tightly. “We had a
spot of trouble, miss… Ran into a pirate ship.”
“No…” Cynthia’s lips formed the word but she hadn’t the
voice to say it.
“Your mama, she was a real trouper. She wouldn’t let the crew fight… could see immediately
that we hadn’t a prayer in armed combat so she tried to negotiate with the
Rogue to get us released. Stood up
to him real good, she did. He
didn’t hurt none of us… just ran us aground and damaged the ship… but he
took your ma and Miss Hitchcock with him on his ship.”
“Took… pirates kidnapped my mother?”
“Yessum… Thing is… your mother was hurt… not from the
pirate, mind you, but because she slipped and hit her head but she was bleeding
something fierce and… Pirates don’t release their prisoners real often.
I was hopin’ that maybe your grandfather had got a ransom note but
after all this time…” John’s eyes spoke the words he couldn’t voice.
My mother is NOT DEAD!!!”
Lionel moved toward his granddaughter. “I don’t want to believe it either, child, but we must
consider the possibility…”
“I WON’T!” Cynthia wheeled and ran from the room, through the
front entryway and out the door…
“I hid all day, crying and
praying… I am ashamed at how my behavior worried grandmother and
“Ssh…” Kristin soothed
Cynthia. “They understood.”
“Grandfather sent out
search parties but after weeks went by… no one could find a trace of you… we
all began to give up hope. About
two months after your disappearance grandmother Carruthers came driving up in
your carriage and told me to pack my things.
Grandfather tried to argue with her but she had arranged to take complete
control of the Kilhairn estates. Grandfather
told her that he would continue to provide for me but she would have none of
“Two months… somehow
Lavinia must have intercepted my letter telling you that I was alive and well.
She realized that I would be coming home soon and she had to act quickly
if she wanted to have you in her power.”
“She certainly did that.
Before nightfall I found myself ensconced in her London townhouse, being
fitted for ‘proper gowns’ by her modiste and given the first of many stern
lectures about doing my duty for the Kilhairn line.”
“My dear, I am so sorry.
If I’d had any idea she would behave like this I would have made more
detailed plans. But you are a grown
woman. How could she expect to
“She didn’t and I think
that made her even madder. She kept
throwing the money and the title up in my face but I couldn’t give a
tinker’s damn about those.”
Kristin bit her lip to keep
from smiling as she did the motherly thing and gently chastised Cynthia for her
“But it’s the truth,
Mummy. She thought that she was
going to use the threat of losing everything to force me to marry that horrid
man. Percy showed up at the first
ball she forced me to attend. I
didn’t want to go. I told her
that I was in mourning but she said that until your death was official I could
“Lavinia certainly didn’t
miss a trick, did she?”
“A few weeks ago
grandmother Carruthers came to me and told me that Percy had asked for my hand
and that she had accepted on my behalf. I
refused to go through with the wedding but she kept picking at me.
She locked me in my room and took my books away.
I wasn’t allowed to speak to any of my friends or to attend any of the
academic lectures at the museums. The
servants brought my food on trays but they weren’t allowed to speak to me
Pure unadulterated rage
boiled through Kristin as she listened to the way her daughter had been
mistreated. “Never again, my
baby… never again.”
“Grandmother told me that
if I didn’t agree to marry Percy she would arrange for him to compromise me so
that we would have to marry.” Dampness seeped through the blue silk shirt as
Cynthia’s tears stained it. “I’m
so glad that you got home in time, Mummy. I
didn’t want to marry him. He was
so horrible. He tried to kiss me
once… it was awful… like kissing a dead fish.”
“As soon as we return to
the city I will be making some changes to the estate.
Your father left your care to his mother should anything happen to me but
I am going to change that. Your
maturity is such that I think you are capable of handling your own finances.
I can’t change the age at which you reach your majority but I can
arrange for a different guardian and I will go over all of the estate accounts
“That sounds like so much fun.”
“Now you sound like your
brother.” Kristin chided Cynthia gently. “I know it isn’t the most
exciting stuff but it is necessary.”
“Do you think… will I
“What is it, darling?”
“After kissing Percy I
couldn’t stand the thought of having to share a bed with him, much less being
married to him for the rest of my life. Do
you think that I will ever find someone? Someone
who makes me feel like your Nathan makes you feel?”
Kristin eyes glowed as she
nodded determinedly. “There is
someone very special waiting out there for you, Cynthia.
I know that. You will find
him when the time is right.”
Both women giggled as they
yawned in unison. “I guess I
should go back to bed…” Cynthia stared across the dark room at the window,
watching the receding thunderstorm.
Kristin slipped down further
into the bed beside her daughter. “Why?
You can stay here with me… no one will be bursting in tonight.”
Cynthia laughed softly as she
snuggled into a deep pillow. She
was asleep in seconds.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“I am sorry, missus but it
just won’t fasten. I am pulling
as tight as I can but it needs another two inches.”
anger softened when she saw the look of horror on her young maid’s face.
“I’m sorry, Lizzie. I’m
not angry with you. I just don’t
understand why my clothes don’t fit any longer.
I haven’t gained weight in twenty years and now I do?”
Lizzie lowered her head.
“Begging your pardon, ma’am…”
“What is it, Lizzie?”
Kristin encouraged the girl to speak, taking care to keep her voice low and
“The gowns, milady… they
don’t fit anymore because they was made to be worn with a corset.”
Kristin’s face fell as
realization struck. “No… I will
not go back to wearing that infernal straitjacket!
You’re right, Lizzie. I’ll
have to wear one of my dresses that I brought back from the Caribbean.
They were measured without corsets.”
“But what about all your
other lovely dresses? You won’t
have anything fine enough to wear in London!”
Kristin knew that the other ladies of the ton would judge Lizzie’s
worth as a maid by the finery that her lady wore.
She sighed. “I’ll
contact my dressmaker as soon as we get to London and order a new corset or
two… along with several new dresses that can be worn without the damned
“You’d appear in public
without the proper foundation garments?” Lizzie was mortified.
“I will wear a corset only
when I absolutely have to. Bring me
the pale blue gown. I can wear my
navy cloak with it in the carriage if I need the added warmth.”
Lizzie bobbed a quick curtsey
and moved to the wardrobe to pull out the dress just as a knock sounded on the
door. Kristin grabbed her dressing
gown and wrapped it around her before calling for the person to enter.
Cynthia popped her head in
the door, a less than happy look on her face.
“May I come in, Mummy?”
“Close the door firmly behind you, please.
I don’t need Lucas bursting in just yet.”
Cynthia made sure the door
was latched before joining her mother in the center of the room. She made herself comfortable, pouring a cup of tea and
stealing a biscuit from her mother’s breakfast tray while Lizzie helped
Kristin into a lovely light blue day dress.
“I haven’t seen that gown
before. It’s very pretty.”
Kristin’s head appeared
through the scooped neckline. “Nathan
had several gowns done up for me… part of my wedding trousseau. This is one of them. Apparently
I am going to have to have a new corset made so that I can wear my old gowns and
Lizzie won’t be ashamed to have me seen in public.”
“What happened to all of
your corsets?” Cynthia mumbled, her mouth full of cookie.
An impish smile touched
Kristin’s lips. “One was lost
at sea and a couple are still at the manor in Cornwall.
The one that I was wearing was… destroyed.”
A quick glance at Lizzie
settling the blue skirt over Kristin’s petticoats stopped Cynthia from asking
the question that she wanted to but Kristin could tell that her daughter
wouldn’t soon forget the subject.
“How is that, Lizzie?”
“Fastens up real lovely,
milady. No problem at all.”
“Thank you, Lizzie.
I’m just going to braid my hair for the journey so I won’t need you
to dress it. Why don’t you get a
bit to eat and then check on the trunks. We
should be ready to pull out in about an hour I should think.”
“Very good, ma’am.”
Lizzie dropped another curtsey then left the room.
“So…” Kristin dropped
into the chair opposite Cynthia and picked up her teacup.
“Why the long face?”
“I’m sorry, Mummy.
I’m just not terribly excited about going back.
Everyone will be talking about my aborted wedding and I don’t know how
Kristin sat the cup down and
leaned forward. “You’ll face
them with a straight back and a proud look.
You were not at fault, Cynthia. I
won’t let you act as if you were. I
don’t intend for us to attend every social event on the calendar but we will
make an appearance at several well-chosen events.
I won’t let you bury yourself away over this.”
“I wish I had your courage,
“You have plenty of courage
of your own, my sweet girl. Come
now… isn’t there anything good about going to London?
Can’t you think of just one thing?”
Cynthia laughed at her
mother’s tone of voice. She
remembered it well from her childhood. “I
guess… I will love being able to buy some new books.
I’ve missed all of the latest novels.”
“Then you shall go to the
bookstore this very afternoon.”
“What about me?
Do I have to go to the bookstore as well?”
The women looked up to see Lucas lounging in the doorway.
Kristin held her arms out to
her son. “You are going to have
to learn to knock, Lucas.”
“I saw Lizzie in the hall.
She said you were decent.”
“That isn’t the point,
young man.” Kristin told him sternly as she hugged him.
“We could have been speaking privately.
Have you eaten breakfast?”
“Twice. And I’ve been to the stables and helped load the coach.
When we get to London can I go to Vauxhall Gardens?
And I’d really like to see the British Museum, too.”
“We will be there for
several weeks so you will have time to see all of the sights, my son.”
“Maybe dad will be here
before much longer! He could take
me to Tattersall’s to see the horses… I’m sorry, Mama.”
Kristin flicked away the tear
in the corner of her eye. “I miss
Nathan too, Lucas. It would be
wonderful if he arrives soon.”
“London will be the first
place that he will look for you, won’t it?” Cynthia asked. “Then why don’t we make haste to get there?”
She linked arms with her mother and her brother and dragged them towards
the door with a laugh.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Cynthia breathed a sigh of
relief as she stepped out of the carriage in front of her favorite bookseller.
Cynthia knew her grandmother Carruthers had dismissed most of the staff at her
mother’s London townhouse, claiming the expense was unnecessary when Cynthia
would be staying with her while in London.
Her mother had been livid when Cynthia told her this and had dispatched a
letter to Stephens posthaste, authorizing him to rehire any servant who wished
his position back. All of the staff
had returned, down to the last man.
Her mother had been true to
her word and as soon as the coach had been unloaded she had bade Cynthia to go
on her way while she dealt with the unpacking.
Although she was growing fond of the boy, Cynthia was glad that Lucas had
opted to stay at the house. The
last few weeks had been so overwhelming that she welcomed some time alone among
her beloved books.
After selecting several new
gothic mysteries and the latest treatise on Egyptian history, Cynthia paid for
her selections and stepped out onto the sidewalk, intent on reaching the park
and settling down on her favorite bench to read for a while.
She was so focused on her goal that she didn’t see the large shape
looming up in front of her until it was too late.
Books scattered along the
pavement as strong male hands grabbed her torso to prevent her from falling into
the muddy street.
“I’m so sorry, Miss… I
didn’t see you coming out of the door. Please
forgive my clumsiness. Are you
Unfamiliar hands worked
across her chest and arms, checking for injuries.
Cynthia blushed and stepped back out of the man’s reach.
“I’m fine, sir…
really…” her voice trailed off as she found herself captivated by beautiful
hazel eyes flecked with green and gold. “No
damage was done to my person.”
“Your books, however…”
The man bent over and quickly picked up the books, brushing away the water spots
as he did so. Only one title was
damaged beyond repair.
“I ruined your book.
I am so very sorry. Please
let me buy you another to replace it, Miss…”
automatically gave her birth name, the name that her grandmother had insisted
she use once her mother disappeared. “It
isn’t necessary, Mister…”
“Noyce, William Noyce.”
Will doffed his hat and bent over Cynthia’s hand to brush his lips
across her fingers. “I’m very
pleased to meet you, Miss Carruthers, although I am sorry that I had to plow
into you to do so.”
“The fault is equally mine,
Mr. Noyce. Please don’t feel that
you have to replace the book. I
should have been paying more attention. I
was in a hurry to get to the park. I
like to go there in the afternoons and read.”
“What a coincidence!
I was headed that way as well. In
the few weeks that I’ve been in London, I’ve been going there to sketch.
I found a lovely little spot with a bench, right beside the duck
“With a beautiful rose
bower nearby?” Cynthia smiled with delight.
“Perhaps we were fated to meet, if not here then certainly there.”
“That is the spot where you
read? I’ve never noticed you
“I’ve only just returned
to London. I’ve been in the
country with my family for a long visit. How
long will you be staying in England?”
“I am not really sure.
My father is to be attached to the American embassy here and I escorted
my mother and younger sister over to set up the household.
Once my father arrives I am to act as his attaché, at least for a time.
We aren’t sure how long his assignment will be.”
William Noyce smiled
brilliantly at the lovely woman before him and Cynthia’s heart flipped.
Shyness suddenly overcame her. “I
really must be going… It was very nice to meet you.”
“Pleased to make your
acquaintance as well, Miss Carruthers. Perhaps…
I might see you in the park some afternoon.”
Cynthia didn’t really
understand why that thought gave her so much pleasure but she returned his
smile. “Perhaps, Mr. Noyce.
I must be getting home now, though.
I didn’t realize how late it was.
“Goodbye, Miss Carruth…
oh… your books.” Will carefully
returned the bundle to Cynthia’s arms. “Good
The young man with the
beautiful eyes stood on the sidewalk and watched Cynthia until she disappeared
into the back of her carriage. She
chanced a peek out of the window as the coach pulled away and noted with
pleasure that he was still watching.
A happy sigh escaped her lips
as she thought of William Noyce and made plans to slip away to the park the next
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
A sigh of relief escaped
Kristin’s lips as she finally closed the door to her bedroom, determined not
to open it again until morning. She
had dismissed Lizzie earlier, wanting nothing more than to be alone for a while,
so she worked at the fastenings of her dress as she moved toward her small desk.
The house was in shambles
when they arrived, Lavinia having dismissed most of the staff. Kristin knew that Stephens and Elsie had done their best to
keep everything up but the house was too large for two people to clean.
Both of her servants had been genuinely pleased to see her and had done
her bidding without hesitation. Stephens
had immediately set out to contact members of the dismissed staff when Kristin
had notified him of their impending arrival but several of the returning
employees had to work out notices and hadn’t yet returned.
Stephens was aghast when Kristin had rolled up her sleeves and started
cleaning bedrooms but the hard work had been good for her and helped to keep her
Now, alone in her room, her
thoughts once again returned to her husband in full force; the emptiness left by
his absence nearly causing her to fall to her knees and weep.
Kristin fought against the
tears as she stepped out of the dress and draped it over a nearby chair then
dropped her petticoats to the floor. She
grabbed the silky dressing gown that Lizzie had left laid across the foot of the
bed and wrapped it around her then sank into a chair and stared at the pile of
mail covering every square inch of the desk’s surface.
‘I don’t want to do this
right now.’ Kristin reluctantly picked up the top envelope and ripped into it,
grimacing at the invitation to Lord and Lady Carrington’s ball. Without a qualm she dropped the elegantly printed vellum into
the trash receptacle.
Several more invitations
quickly followed before Kristin finally tucked one to the side, thinking that a
small gathering would be much more pleasant than a large crush.
She had little desire to socialize at all but remaining reclusive would
lead to more talk about Cynthia's aborted wedding.
‘Anything for my
children.’ Kristin also tucked back a few payment requests from various
vendors, amazed that Elsie and Stephens had been able to feed themselves on so
little money. Her anger at Lavinia
flared again but she quickly stamped it down, determining to do her best to
reward her servant’s loyalty herself.
Most of the mail had been
sorted when she reached the thick packet near the bottom.
Her hand brushed across the outer wrapping and Kristin knew… She
grabbed the string and ripped it away from the letters then frantically opened
the top one…
been gone from me for less than an hour and already I am bereft without your
sweet presence. At this moment I
doubt my very sanity. How could I
have sent you away from me? How can
I live without your gentle laugh? Your
sweet kiss? The need to keep you
safe must be paramount but to be without you… I no longer feel alive…
Tears streamed down
Kristin’s face as she read Nathan’s letter, felt the anguish he felt at her
parting just as acutely as she’d felt her own that day.
Once she had read the letter through twice she laid it carefully aside
and moved on to the next missive in the stack.
It was dated the day after their parting and like the first, appeared to
have been written over the length of the entire day.
There were fourteen letters
in all, one for each day that Nathan had remained on the island after she had
departed. The letters were lengthy,
full of news about everyone on the island.
Nathan dutifully reported new ‘Bessisms’ along with daily greetings
sent from Sarah and even an occasion hello from Crocker.
He reported all the
reconnaissance that he received about Zellar although Kristin could tell he did
so reluctantly. Every detail of his
plan was recorded for her along with his daily movements about the island.
Interspersed with these ramblings were sudden bursts of feeling,
declarations of love that made Kristin weep.
Near the end of the stack she
found two letters that weren’t for her. One
had the name Lucas followed by the words my son, written in Nathan’s strong
hand and the other simply said Cynthia. Kristin
was tempted to open the notes and read them anyway, hungry for every word from
her husband but in the end she refrained.
Kristin hesitated for a
moment as she picked up the last letter, wanting to devour it but also wanting
to make it last. Finally she
carefully slid the flap open and unfolded the sheaf of papers.
Trapped in the folds of the top page was a pressed flower of blue; the
same type of blossom that Nathan had gifted her with their first morning on
Kristin imagined Nathan
picking the bloom, pressing it carefully between the pages of a book then
tucking it into the letter as a special gift for her.
She pulled open a drawer of the secretary and removed the journal that
she had kept sporadically since she was a teenager. The book fell open to the back page and Kristin gently
transferred the flower there for safekeeping.
Once the page was clear
Kristin pulled her feet up beneath her in the chair and sank back to read about
Nathan’s last day at their home.
The day started as all the
rest had. He woke at sunrise, her
name on his lips. He dutifully ate
the large breakfast that Bess insisted he consume but that he had no appetite
for then made his way down to the sloop. He
and Crocker had carefully gone over the supplies, checking yet again to make
sure that they would have everything they might possibly need to confront the
Once this was done Nathan had
called the men who had volunteered to accompany him together and explained the
final plan. Then he had given those
men a chance to back out with honor; had encouraged them to do so.
There was no reason for any of them to risk their lives he had told them.
Not a single man had taken him up on his offer.
I sail away from this place where we have found such happiness to confront the
threat to our joy. If love alone
can defeat this evil then we have already won because the love that I have for
you, my darling wife, continues to grow day by day. Should the worst happen and
for some reason I am unable to return please believe that my love will never
leave you. I shall always be with
you just as you are with me.
then, just below Nathan’s name, the letter continued.
I signed my name I had thought this letter done but I now see that was foolish
of me. A few hours ago I climbed
into our bed alone, wrapped my arms around your pillow as I have done every
night for the last two weeks, and laid my cheek on one of your chemises… the
one you were wearing the night I cut your corset away.
It is my favorite… you have probably guessed that I kept it back when
Bess packed your luggage. I hope
that you found my shirt. I like to
picture you wearing it, thinking of me as I think of you.
was elusive tonight, as it has been since you departed.
I am amazed at how quickly I grew used to sharing my bed and now I find
that I can’t sleep alone. My
heartbeat sounds so lonely without yours beating in unison.
Are you thinking of me right now, I wonder?
Do you miss feeling me curled up next to you? Do you long for the touch of my hand as I long for yours?
I could have thought of any other way to keep you safe and with me at the same
time I would have done so. Even now
my mind races trying to think of any alternative but I cannot.
Please try to understand and forgive me; your safety is paramount.
I have to protect you no matter what the cost.
You mean that much to me; and so much more, my love.
supplies are packed, the ship has been made ready and the men are resting in
anticipation of our departure at first light.
I am sending out the packet for mailing tomorrow in hopes that my notes
will find you. I do not know when I
will be able to send more letters although I will be writing to you every day.
God willing, I shall deliver those letters to your hand personally and
very very soon, my precious wife.
enclosed notes for both Lucas and Cynthia.
I hope that your daughter is taking the news of our marriage well.
Let both children give you comfort during this time that we are apart. Promise me that you will keep yourself safe and well.
Try not to be too sad or to neglect your health.
You will need all of your energy when we see each other again, I promise
first rays of sun are just beginning their slow journey across the water as I
stare out the window and imagine you standing on the balcony as you were our
last night together, silver streaks of moonlight caressing your hair and your
naked body… A gentle breeze
washes over me, tinged with the sound of your voice calling out my name, your
sweet sighs and moans as we loved each other in the moonlight.
The scent of you touches my nostrils, lavender and vanilla, salt and sun,
and your own special perfume, that sweet special essence that is uniquely
cautioning my men so strongly I dare not be late myself so I must not tarry even
though I would write you an epic if I had time to do so.
Some nights, in my sleeplessness, I lay in our bed and read, imagining
your voice once again reciting those memorable lines from Coleridge as you did
in the meadow. I happened across a
verse that spoke to me particularly and long to share them with you.
by: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
in Life’s noisiest hour,
There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee,
The heart's Self-solace and soliloquy.
You mould my Hopes, you fashion me within;
And to the leading Love-throb in the Heart
Thro’ all my Being, thro’ my pulse's beat;
You lie in all my many Thoughts, like Light,
Like the fair light of Dawn, or summer Eve
On rippling Stream, or cloud-reflecting Lake.
And looking to the Heaven, that bends above you,
How oft! I bless the Lot that made me love you.
close with these final words. You
are my love. You are my life.
My soul was not complete until we met, until we loved.
It shan’t be complete again until we are together.
I will remove this threat from our lives and I will return to you as soon
as possible. Hold fast to our love
until we are together again, my heart.
The letter slipped and fell
from Kristin’s fingers, floating slowly to the floor as she wrapped her arms
around her torso and sobbed uncontrollably.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Kristin muttered a sailor’s
curse as the sunlight filtered in through her window, pulling her from the
restless slumber that she had finally managed to fall in to just before dawn.
“Go away!” She yelled at
the gentle scratch at the door, then immediately regretted her grumpiness.
“Come in, Lizzie.”
The maid entered timidly with
a tray in her hands. “I brought
your morning tea, milady.”
Kristin nodded and waved her
hand at the bedside table. “Just
put it there, Lizzie. I’m a bit
out of sorts this morning… a headache. I
think I will lie in for another half hour.”
“I could bring you a dose
of laudanum if you like.”
Kristin shook her head.
“I think resting my eyes for a few more minutes and a sip or two of the
tea will help. Could you come back
in three-quarters of an hour?”
Cursing silently once again,
Kristin yanked a pillow over her face.
‘Oh, Nathan! Where are you?’ The
man she loved had invaded her dreams as he did most nights, only this time he
was searching for her, crying out her name.
She could hear him but she couldn’t find him. Every time she got near he seemed to move further away.
She woke in the night screaming out to him and each time she managed to
fall back asleep the dream returned, only to end the same way.
‘I need you so desperately,
my love. Please come to me as
quickly as you can.’
Kristin tried to distract
herself with thoughts of her family but that didn’t work either. She dreaded the visit to her father’s home that she would
have to make this morning, pleased at the thought of seeing her mother but
knowing that her father would be there as well.
‘I don’t want to be angry
with you, Father, but I can’t help it! Why
can’t you trust me?’ There was
sure to be another confrontation.
At least Cynthia’s dismay
at having to return to the city seemed to have lifted.
She had returned from her outing to the bookstore the previous afternoon
in fine spirits.
A slight tap pulled Kristin
from her musings. ‘Has it been
almost an hour already?’ She
threw the pillow away and pulled up in the bed as she called out for her visitor
Kristin was expecting Lizzie
but the face that appeared in the door way belonged to Katie.
“Katherine, what are you…
is something wrong?” Kristin
jerked up into a sitting position and gasped, her eyes clenching shut as the
room began to spin and the pain in her head sharpened.
Katie was at her side
instantly, easing her back down into the pillows.
She rubbed Kristin’s temples soothingly until her eyes finally opened.
“You look like hell,
milady. When was the last time you
had a decent night’s sleep?”
“I’m fine. I just have a bit of a headache.”
“And very dark circles
under your eyes… and very little color in your cheeks.”
“Did you want something,
Katherine, or did you just come in to tell me how awful I look?” Kristin snapped.
“I’m sorry, Kristin.
I am just worried about you. The
captain wouldn’t want you to neglect your own health worrying over him.”
softened. “I am sorry as well.
My head really is pounding. I
thank you for your concern… but why the early morning visit?”
“I thought you would want
to know that Ben is back.”
Kristin bolted upright again,
one hand grabbing the bedpost to steady herself.
“Where is he?”
“He’s in the hallway.
I didn’t know that you weren’t feeling well and I thought you would
want to see him immediately. I’ll have him wait in the breakfast room.”
“No,” Kristin clutched
Katie’s arm to prevent her from leaving.
“I do want to see him now. Will
you hand me my dressing gown?”
Katie held the wrapper while
Kristin thrust her arms into the sleeves then went to beckon her husband in as
Kristin pulled the bedclothes up modestly to her neck.
Ben hurried into the room and
moved without hesitation toward Kristin, taking her outstretched hands in his as
he sat down beside her on the edge of the bed.
Katie moved in beside him and he dropped one hand to wrap his arm around
his wife’s waist.
“What did…?” Kristin
swallowed hard as she struggled to continue.
“Did you find out anything?”
Ben’s look was sad as he
shook his head. “Nothing,
milady… Kristin. Not one single
word. Ned and I scoured every port
and heard nothing.”
Kristin mumbled something
nearly intelligible as relief flooded her face but worry quickly replaced it
again. “But shouldn’t there be
some news? Either way?”
Ben tightened his grip on her
hand. “Not necessarily.
We don’t know how long it took the captain to get ready for his trip.
We don’t even know if the actual confrontation has taken place yet.”
Kristin remembered the
unexplained pain she had suffered the morning she sent Ben on his mission.
“They’ve met. I know they have even though I can’t really explain how I
know. It sounds crazy but…”
“Kristin… we’ve all
seen this bond between you and the captain.
If you say that the captain and Zellar met then I believe they have.
But news takes time… the captain wouldn’t take time to write a
letter. He’ll bring it
These words brought a bit of
a smile to Kristin’s lips. “You
are right. I know you are right.
I just need him so desperately…”
Both Ben and Katie were
amazed as they watched Kristin struggle for a few moments with her emotions then
seemingly pull herself together and give them a bright smile. “I’m sure that Nathan is on his way to me even as we
speak. Did you make arrangements
for any information to be sent to us, Ben?”
“Ned’s connections and
some freely spread coin came in very handy.
We will know within hours if any news comes in.”
Kristin clasped Ben’s hand
with both of hers. “Thank you so
much for taking on this task for me, Ben. Now
go spend some time with your wife. I
know that she has missed you this last week.”
“You’ll be all right,
“I’m fine, Katie.
My headache is much better. I
was hoping to use it as an excuse to delay another confrontation with my father
but I guess that isn’t to be.” She
smiled as she gently encouraged the couple to go enjoy their reunion.
Once she was alone in the
room Kristin cuddled back into the pillow and sighed Nathan’s name as a single
tear escaped and ran down her cheek.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Kristin plastered a large
smile on her face as she listened to her parent’s butler announce her arrival,
something that had never happened before. In
the past she’d never felt the need for such formality in the home she had
grown up in.
At the servant’s gesture,
Kristin entered the room and breathed a sigh of relief to find her mother there
alone. A small cry of joy spilled
from Millicent Westphalen’s lips as she held out her arms to the daughter
she’d never thought to see again.
Kristin flew to her
mother’s embrace, falling to her knees beside Millicent’s chair and burying
her head in her mother’s chest. Tears
flowed freely down Millicent’s cheeks.
“Oh my darling girl!
I never thought… I couldn’t bear to lose another child.
I prayed and prayed and God brought you back to me.”
Kristin looked up and
carefully wiped away her mother’s tears.
“I would never have distressed you like this intentionally… I swear
that I sent Cynthia word but apparently she never got it.”
“You think Lavinia took
“She must have, Mummy.”
“You and Lavinia Carruthers
have never gotten along…” Millicent paused and patted the ottoman near her
feet. “Come sit and tell me…”
Kristin dutifully shifted to
the seat, her mother still clasping her hands tightly.
“I am sorry that I took so long to get back to London to see you.”
Her mother shushed her.
“I know that you needed to spend time with Cynthia and I also know that
you and your father had a falling out. I
was a bit afraid that you wouldn’t come at all.”
“I couldn’t stay away
from you but… I wasn’t sure that I would be welcome.
The words that father and I spoke were quite harsh.”
“He told me about your
argument… and the reasons behind it. Kristin,
the thought of losing you almost destroyed your father. He barely slept… never more than a few hours a night… and
that sleep was troubled. He
tortured himself with images of what might be happening to you… feeling guilty
because he never tried to stop you from going out on your short voyages… I am
not saying that he was right… but try to understand his point of view.”
“Not only does he not
protect my daughter while I’m gone but he is treating me as if I don’t know
my own mind, Mother.”
“We did everything we could
to protect Cynthia but yes, we were derelict when it came to Lavinia.
She is the child’s grandmother. When
she came to take her for a visit we thought that it might be good for Cynni.
She needed to be away from all the sorrow in our home. We had no idea that Lavinia was intending to force her into
an unwanted marriage.”
“I understand but…
she’s my child. The thought that
she might have been condemned to spend the rest of her life with that pale
imitation of a man…” A shudder shook Kristin’s shoulders.
“I guess that I always looked up to father as my protector and he let
me down horribly in this.”
“He feels that too,
daughter. Have you thought about
“He said that I had been
raising Cynthia wrong… that I should force her to marry.”
“Did he? Or did he say that it was time that she thought about
marriage? We all want a good match
for our girl… but a happy match as well.
Is your match happy, my love?”
“Father told you about Nathan?”
“He told me that you
married your rescuer, an American captain… so his name is Nathan? I like that. Tell
me about him.”
eyes narrowed as she observed Kristin’s face when she spoke her husband’s
name. “Nathan is handsome and
strong and brave… kind and loving… He is so wonderful to me.”
“This man is in love with
“And I am in love with him.” She
observed her mother in turn. “Do
you believe me?”
Millicent chuckled ruefully.
“It is a mother’s curse to be caught between her husband and her
child. I want to believe you,
Kristin, so until I have proof to the contrary I will believe you.
I just wish that this wonderful man who has captured your heart would
show himself very soon.”
“You can’t wish it
anymore fervently than I do, Mummy. I
miss him so…”
“How can you have let this
man fool you so completely? You
aren’t that stupid, Krissy!” Lionel Westphalen’s voice exploded from the
doorway. “Over a week has passed.
Where is this ‘wonderful’ man? I
thought he was following you… couldn’t bear to be parted from you…”
Kristin leapt to her feet and
turned slowly, her eyes icy with anger. “I
am not stupid and Nathan has done nothing except show me what true love really
is. He will be here soon.
Thank God that I am not required to explain his actions or mine to
“STOP IT! Both of you!” Millicent’s
voice cut through the thick wall of tension between father and daughter.
“Lionel, sit down and be quiet. You
have already made your views well known. There
is no reason for you to continue to berate Kristin.”
“But Mils… she’s
“Our daughter is a grown
woman who no longer needs our permission for anything that she chooses to do.
She is here today by my invitation and you will treat her with respect.
Do you understand me, Lionel?”
Kristin’s father threw his
body down onto the settee, folded his arms and glared at his wife, his lips
poking out in an obvious pout. Millicent
“Kristin, would you call
for tea please?”
“Of course, Mummy… and my
name is Kristin!” She bit out at her father as she moved toward the door,
sensing her mother move to her father’s side as she did so.
Her parent’s butler was
absent in the front hall so Kristin walked to the kitchen and spoke with the
cook herself. After being assured
that tea would soon be served she filched a tart and walked slowly back toward
the parlor, enjoying her sticky treat while steeling herself to face her father
Kristin pushed the door open
and took a step into the room, coming up suddenly as she stared at the scene
before her. Millicent was sitting
in Lionel’s lap, locked in his arms. The
kiss they shared was anything but chaste. Her
eyes grew wide as she watched her father’s hand slide down her mother’s back
to firmly cup her bottom.
Face flushing, Kristin
stepped back into the hallway and swallowed hard, patting her enflamed cheeks as
she tried to comprehend what she had just seen.
Millicent had raised Kristin as she had been raised; affection in a
marriage was welcome but physical contact was a wife’s duty.
Based on what she had just witnessed, Kristin realized that her
parent’s had obviously found more together, just as she had found with Nathan.
The tea trolley rattled
behind her as the downstairs maid pushed it carefully towards the parlour,
breaking Kristin’s reverie. She
tapped loudly on the door twice before pushing it open again.
Millicent was back in her
chair, not a hair out of place. Lionel
was still on the settee but his countenance had improved slightly. Kristin would have doubted what she herself had seen except
for the small smile touching both of her parent’s lips. ‘When did this happen?’
This time Kristin took her
seat in an empty chair as her mother poured the tea and passed it around.
Finally Lionel spoke in a conversational tone.
“The young man… Lucas?
May I ask what your plans are for him?”
Kristin felt her hackles
rising but she fought the urge and answered pleasantly.
“We plan to adopt him… make him legally the son he already is in both
“He seems very polite…
and very protective of you.” Lionel was also struggling to keep his promise to
his wife not to yell anymore.
“He is. Lucas is also quite brilliant.
His skills in mathematics and science are phenomenal for someone with
little formal schooling. Once
we’ve settled in I am going to hire a tutor to continue his studies.
When he is ready he will go to university.”
Silence fell for a few
moments before being broken by a tap on the door.
Lionel looked vastly relieved when the butler announced a visitor for him
and he made his excuses as he stood and left the room.
“Thank you, Kristin,”
Millicent told her daughter once they were alone again.
“I appreciate you making the effort to be polite.
I worked hard to persuade your father to do the same.”
“I saw how you
persuaded…” Kristin stopped, not believing that she’d spoken the words
aloud. “I’m sorry.
I wasn’t spying.”
“You saw your father and
“Yes, I did… May I ask
you a question, Mother?”
Millicent inclined her head
“When did this… I never
remember you and father being so… affectionate… You enjoyed… you were
encouraging… but you told me… you don’t still… do you?”
Kristin shivered at the thought of the question she couldn’t give voice
To her great surprise,
Millicent laughed. “Yes we do.
And yes, we still enjoy it. The
nature of the relationship between your father and I has changed vastly over the
“Our marriage was brokered
amongst the socials and parties of the ton but we were lucky. We grew to care for each other.
I had hoped for the same with you and Oliver.”
“Oliver and I did care for
each other… love each other… but never like what I saw…”
“When we knew that your
brother was lost your father went to pieces.
He stopped sleeping and would spend the nights pacing through the house.
Many of those nights he finally found some measure of peace with me,
holding me… loving me. We reached out to each other in our grief and found a new
dimension to our married life. We’ve
not spent a night apart since then.”
Kristin’s eyes widened in
shock once again. “You and daddy
share a room… a bed? At your age?”
Millicent eyed her daughter
Losing the ability to conceive children only seemed to enhance our
physical joining. Aren’t you glad
to know that part of a relationship doesn’t have to stop with the onset of old
“What?” Kristin’s mind
was still reeling and she didn’t fully comprehend her mother’s question.
“Aren’t you glad to know
that the physical aspects of loving your husband can continue for years to come?
Because you do enjoy your new husband, don’t you?
You’ve found great happiness with him… in many ways.”
The astute look was back in Millicent’s eye.
Kristin blushed but answered
her mother with a small nod. “Nathan
makes me very happy,” she whispered.
Before Kristin could ask any
more questions Millicent changed the subject.
“Now tell me, what are your plans while you are in town?
Everyone is going to want you to attend their functions.
Your adventures have been the talk of the town…”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“I’ll be back to visit
soon, Mummy.” Kristin pressed a
kiss to her mother’s cheek.
“And you will bring my new
grandson? I am anxious to meet
Kristin artfully tied the bow
of her simple but becoming bonnet beneath her chin.
“He is chafing to meet you as well.
Once you are feeling up to being out you must come to the house to
Millicent patted her gown
above the leg with the sprained ankle. “That
won’t be much longer. I can walk
short distances and stand for short periods of time with no problem.”
She impulsively embraced her daughter again.
“Thank God for bringing you home to me.” Kristin heard her murmur.
The women pulled apart at the
sound of a clearing throat to find Lionel approaching them with a middle-aged
man that Kristin didn’t recognize.
“Let me introduce you to my
daughter. Kris… tin… this is
General Francis Thomas, of Connecticut, currently attached to the American
Embassy. General Thomas, my
daughter, Lady Kristin Westphalen, Countess of Kilhairn.”
“Countess, I am pleased to
make your acquaintance. I’ve
heard so much about you from your father. I
must confess that Lord Westphalen’s description did not do your beauty
justice.” Thomas bent low over
Kristin’s hand, his lips actually touching her fingers.
Kristin shuddered inwardly,
her skin crawling from the man’s much too familiar caress. “Thank you, General. If
you will excuse me… I must be going.”
“The general is headed back
towards Mayfair as well, Kristin. Could
you offer him a lift?”
“I… of course.”
Kristin inclined her head graciously, too mannerly to refuse.
“My carriage is waiting outside, General.”
She moved rapidly through the
front door, her quickness sparing her the necessity of taking the general’s
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Kristin stepped down from the
carriage in front of her town house gladly, relieved that the morning’s events
were done. Her time with her
parents had exhausted what little emotional reserve she had left and all she
wanted was to climb back into her bed and rest.
“I won’t require your
services again today.” Kristin told the coachman as he helped her to the
pavement. “I’m not sure about
the others… Miss Cynthia might want another trip to the bookshops.”
“I’ll just rest the
horses but keep the carriage ready just in case, milady.”
Kristin smiled then moved up
the front walkway. Before she
reached the first step the door flew open and both of her children descended.
“Lucas wants to get out of
the house for a while so I thought that if you approved, we might visit the
museum across from the park. He
could do some exploring and I could sit in the park with my book. Katie wants to bring Ben along as well.”
Thoughts of a quiet house
made Kristin agree instantly. “Just
as long as you don’t abandon him. Lucas
doesn’t know his way around.” She
turned back to the carriage. “John,
can you have the carriage ready for the children in half an hour?”
“Of course, milady.”
“Good.” She turned back to the children.
“Lucas, you cannot go out in public in those horrible boots.
Why don’t you wear the ones that Nathan bought you in Port San Luis?”
“They don’t fit as well as these do.”
“That is because you never
wear them. Go put them on… and
comb your hair as well.”
“Yes, Mama.” Lucas hesitated a minute.
“Would you like to go to the museum with us, Mama?”
“I would like very much to
go with you but perhaps the next time, hmm?
I didn’t sleep very well last night and this morning has been…
emotionally intensive. I think I
might nap a bit before tea.”
“Did you and grandfather
have another confrontation?” Cynthia
wrapped her arm around her mother’s waist sympathetically as they slowly
climbed the stairs.
“Not really… the
potential was there but your grandmother diffused it very quickly.
Things remained a bit tense, however.
Then your grandfather put me in the position of offering an acquaintance
of his a ride, an American general named Francis Thomas.”
“Was he rude to you,
Mama?” Lucas saw something in his mother’s eyes.
“No, he was actually very
polite… but there was just something about him that made me uncomfortable…
the way he kept looking at me, perhaps.”
“Then you won’t be put in
that position again. I’ll speak
to your father about it,” Lucas said.
Kristin clamped down her
chuckle, knowing that Lucas was taking Nathan’s admonishment to look after her
very seriously. “Very well, my
son, but right now I want you and your sister to get ready, go to the museum and
have a lovely afternoon out with your friends.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Are you sure that you
won’t be needing me, milady?” Lizzie asked worriedly as she helped Kristin
pull her dress over her head.
“I’m very sure, Lizzie.
All I want to do right now is rest a bit.
We will be staying in this evening so I won’t need changing again.
Go out and enjoy an afternoon with your young man.”
“Thank you, ma’am… but dinner?
Won’t you be needing me to help you?”
Kristin shook her head as she
slipped a loose emerald green sheath over her head then loosed the ties of her
petticoat. “I wouldn’t wear
this in company but for the children and the Kreig’s… They won’t mind if I
She stepped out of her
undergarments and Lizzie gathered them into her arms to put away. “If you really don’t need me…”
Kristin put her hands on her
hips. “Go!” She commanded in a
mock angry tone.
Once Lizzie vacated the room
Kristin pulled the draperies closed to block most of the light and climbed into
her large lonely bed to sleep and dream once more of Nathan.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Kristin! Kristin, where are you?”
The sound of her name pulled Kristin’s slumbering conscious back to
“Nathan? Are you there, darling?”
She called out groggily as her hands flew up to rub her eyes.
The voice that called her
name again didn’t belong to Nathan but Kristin suddenly realized that it did
belong to someone she knew. She
slid down the side of the bed and grabbed her dressing gown then flew into the
Kristin had managed to get
her arms through the sleeves and was in the process of belting the wrapper when
she reached the top of the stairs and looked down at the melee taking place in
her front hall.
Stephens, ever the dutiful
butler, was physically blocking the path of the determined looking woman trying
to reach the stairs. In response to
the obstacle Janet Noyce was calling for Kristin at the top of her lungs.
“Oh, Janet,” Kristin
breathed the words at the same instant that Janet looked up and saw her standing
there. “Oh god, Janet!”
Kristin was halfway down the
winding staircase before the scream came and Stephens barely had time to step
out of the way before his mistress came barreling past him and into the embrace
of their intruder.
Janet wrapped her arms
tightly around Kristin, who immediately began to sob.
Janet murmured comforting words to her friend as she clung to Janet and
broke down completely.
Stephens was stunned at Lady
Westphalen’s reaction to the annoying woman who had been calling every day for
over two weeks but he was also glad that the woman was there to deal with it.
He cleared his throat slightly to get the woman’s attention then
motioned her toward the front parlor. She
gave him a grateful smile and slowly led Kristin toward the open door.
Once the women were inside
Stephens closed the door firmly behind them.
Janet led Kristin to the settee and sat them both down, never breaking
her hold on her distraught friend. She
simply held Kristin and let her cry until the tears had run their course.
When Kristin finally pulled
back a bit, Janet dug one hand into her reticule and came out with a
handkerchief and started wiping tears away.
Kristin couldn’t help but laugh as she took the lace square and dabbed
it at her eyes.
“I’m sorry… I’m just
so very glad to see you. I’ve
missed you… I’ve been so lonely to talk to you… and suddenly here you
“I’ve been here for
several weeks, visiting this house, annoying your very proper butler, trying to
get word to you. When I arrived
today I could tell that something was different… there was more activity.
I asked for you and was told that your maid had left word that you
weren’t to be disturbed. Knowing you were right here in the house… I don’t know
what came over me but I wanted to see you so badly.
I shouldn’t have created such a scene though.”
“I am so happy you did!
Stephens will get over his pique.”
Kristin gripped her friend’s hands tightly as the colour slowly drained
from her face. “But… what are
you doing here? Do you have word of
“No, no… I don’t have
bad news… unfortunately I don’t have any news at all and I’m beginning to
feel a little desperate myself.”
Kristin’s eyes widened but
she held her tongue as Janet continued. “Bill
has temporarily been assigned to the American embassy staff here in London.
Having just gotten Will back we couldn’t bear to leave the children so
soon so Bill arranged for Will to be assigned as his attaché.
We found this out not long after we arrived back in Boston.”
“So Bill and your children
are here as well?”
“Will and Clarissa are here
with me. We came ahead to find
lodging and get settled. Bill had
other business to attend to before he could join us here.”
“He’s gone after
Nathan.” Kristin didn’t need
Janet’s confirming nod to know the answer to her statement.
“How long had Nathan been planning this?”
“Nathan and Bill had talked
about the consequences of Zellar finding out that the two of you had survived
and Nathan promised Bill that as long as the pirate left you alone he wouldn’t
go after him. We guessed that
something must have changed…”
“One of Zellar’s men came
to the island. He didn’t see us
but his words and actions made it very clear that the bastard wasn’t giving
up. Nathan felt that he had no
“He loves you and he wants
the two of you to have a peaceful life together.
That couldn’t happen as long as Zellar was stalking you.”
“How did Bill know?”
“Nathan sent to his Boston
shipyard for a smaller boat. Will
heard about it and brought the news to us.
Bill knew immediately what the request meant.
He also knew that Nathan would get you as far from danger as possible…
back to England.”
He wouldn’t even allow Lucas and me to stay on the island.”
“Bill knew. He couldn’t allow Nathan to go it alone so he went after
him. A few days ago I finally
received a letter from my husband. He
had it posted when he stopped at Nathan’s island.
Nathan wasn’t there. He’d
been gone just a few days. Bill had
some idea of the location of Zellar’s hideout so he was going to follow
“Dammit, dammit, dammit!
Why did they have to do this? I’ve
been back in England over two weeks. There
were letters here from Nathan while he was still on the island but once he left
to track that bastard… nothing! Why
haven’t I heard from Nathan?” Kristin
pounded her knee as she cursed.
“You will hear from him,
Kristin. You’ll hear from him
soon, I just know it.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“I’ll just be on the
bench by the pond with my book. Katie
knows the place. Enjoy your
game.” Cynthia told Ben and Lucas as they stripped off their jackets and
waistcoats, having been invited by a group of young men playing bowls in the
park to join them.
“I could come with you.”
Katie offered tentatively but Cynthia knew that she really wanted to stay and
enjoy the sport.
“There is no need.
I sit on the bench nearly every afternoon.
No one will harm me and I will have a little peace and quiet to read my
book. Someone must stay here and cheer for the fellows, don’t you
“If you are sure…”
I will see all of you in a bit.” Cynthia
picked up her skirts and with a friendly wave headed toward the pond.
The outing to the museum with
Lucas had been quite an adventure and even though Cynthia was becoming more and
more enchanted with her new brother every day his rowdy ways did shock her
sometimes. He’d been the picture
of a perfect gentleman while in the museum but once they’d entered the park he
became positively wild. Katie had
explained that Lucas was used to wide opened spaces and bare feet but Cynthia
still relished the idea of a little quiet time.
Her favorite bench was empty
and as she settled onto it she scanned the area, unconsciously looking for the
tall young man she had met the previous day.
Cynthia was surprised at the disappointment she felt when she didn’t
‘Perhaps another day…’
she shrugged her shoulders and bent to her book.
She was quickly absorbed by the perils of the beautiful heroine, so much
so that she didn’t notice anyone approaching until a shadow fell across her
Cynthia’s heart flipped as
she stared up into those same fascinating eyes that she had first noticed the
previous afternoon. “Mr. Noyce.
How lovely to see you!”
Will bent low over
Cynthia’s offered fingers then, at the gesture of her hand, sat down beside
her. “I was hoping to run into
you today. I had actually packed up
and headed toward the exit when I looked back and saw you just sitting down.”
He gestured toward the small black portfolio at his feet.
“I visited the museum this
afternoon with my younger brother so I was late in arriving.”
“Is your brother here?”
Will quickly scanned the area.
“He is just over the rise
there, playing a rousing game of bowls. I
was taking advantage of his interest to have some quiet time.”
“I don’t mean to
intrude…” Will made to stand but Cynthia laid a hand on his arm to keep him
in place then just as quickly pulled it back when she realized the impropriety
of the gesture.
“Your presence isn’t an
intrusion. I was hoping… well,
you said that you came here sometimes in the afternoons.”
Will leaned over and pulled a
plain wrapped package out of this bag. “I
hope you don’t think me too forward but I bought this for you today.”
Cynthia took the bundle
without hesitation and tore the paper away to find a new unblemished copy of the
book she had dropped in the puddle the day before.
“This is very thoughtful of
you, Mr. Noyce, but you didn’t have to…”
“I wanted to.
I know that I may be too forward speaking for your liking but couldn’t
you call me Will? Mr. Noyce is my
Cynthia relented when Will’s face fell. “But
here in the park… when no one is around… I shall call you Will… and you
will call me Cyn?”
“I’d like that…Cyn.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Janet was grateful for the
calmness that slowly came over Kristin throughout their long conversation even
though she knew it was mostly a façade. She
suspected that Kristin had bottled everything in for so long that she seldom let
it out, unwilling to let her children know how deeply she was hurting.
They’d spent the last half
hour talking about the whims of society; Janet encouraging Kristin’s ramblings
in an attempt to keep her mind occupied for a while.
“And tomorrow morning my
dress maker is coming. None of my
clothes fit properly without a corset so I’m having some new gowns made.
In a concession to my maid I am also going to get a new corset but I will
only wear it when I absolutely have to.”
“I’m going to have to
arrange for some new gowns soon as well. We’ve
already had to attend a few small functions at the embassy but there are some
larger ones coming up and I’m afraid that my wardrobe is a little out of date.
Fashion trends travel slowly to America.”
Kristin set her cup down, a
smile on her face. “Why don’t
you come over tomorrow morning? Madame
Dussault is an excellent modiste… one of the best in London.
I’m sure that she would be willing to take you on as a client.
She could do your measurements while she does mine.”
“That would be the ideal
solution…” Janet knew from rumor that the dressmaker in question was indeed
the best in the city. “But I
wouldn’t dare to presume on our friendship…”
You know damn well there is no presumption involved!
I’ll send a note round to the lady this afternoon informing her that
you will be here as well. You can
come early! We’ll have breakfast
together before she arrives. Please
say yes, Janet. I’ve missed you
so very much and I desperately need you…
Now I am the one who is presuming. I’m
sure you have other things to do besides baby me…”
Janet reached out and grabbed
Kristin’s hand, clenching it tightly. “Stop
that. I am here for you always…
we are here for each other. There
is no place in London that I would rather be than with you.”
“Until Bill comes home,
that is…” Kristin smiled saucily and winked at her friend.
“Until Bill comes home.”
Janet confirmed. “And brings
Nathan with him.”
A clatter in the hallway
heralded the swinging of the door and Lucas burst into the room, his eyes zeroed
in on the generous platter of pastries that cook had provided with the tea.
He didn’t even notice that his mother wasn’t alone until he was
almost on the ladies.
“Aunt Janet!” Lucas
rushed to Janet’s side and threw his arms around her, genuinely delighted to
see her. “What are you doing
“I’m visiting with your
mother. Uncle Bill has been sent to
a post here for a few months so I came ahead to set up the household.”
Lucas knew without asking why
Bill had been delayed and seeing the cautionary look on Janet’s face he
didn’t pursue it.
Kristin beckoned to the
lovely young woman standing in the doorway watching the scene with interest.
“Cynthia, come meet my dear friend Janet.
I told you about her… how kind she was to me while I was staying on the
Cynthia moved forward
graciously to take Janet’s hand. “Mother
has spoken so much about you that I feel like I know you already.
Welcome to England. I know
that mother is delighted to have you so close.”
Janet surprised Cynthia by
pulling her forward and hugging her. She
resisted just an instant before returning the hug.
Janet laughed as she released the young girl. “I’m sorry. I
just couldn’t help myself. Kristin
told me so much about you that I feel as if I’ve known you forever.
There is something about you… not looks so much, although you do
resemble your mother… but… you carry yourself like your mother does.
I would have picked you as her daughter.”
“She’s just as stubborn
as mama is, too.” Lucas mumbled through a mouthful of tarts. “She wouldn’t even play bowls with us in the park today.
She wanted to go ‘read’… can you imagine?”
Kristin noted the pretty
blush that touched Cynthia’s cheeks at Lucas’ words and resolved to ask her
daughter about her afternoon trips to the park when they were alone. Meanwhile, she was glad that brother and sister had grown
close enough to tease without hurt feelings.
“Some people enjoy things
besides games and calculations, Lucas. Don’t
think I couldn’t see your brain whirling as your figured out the best speed
and trajectory for your ball. How
much money did you win from your opponents?”
Lucas hurled a pillow at
Cynthia, which she deftly caught and tossed back.
“It was just a friendly game… a few sovereigns…” He finally
admitted at his mother’s pointed stare.
“It was just a few and we
won them fairly, Ben and I. There
was no scam involved.”
“I’m glad that you had a
nice afternoon, then. Janet, you
will stay to supper, won’t you?”
Janet glanced down at the
watch pinned to her gown and started. “I
would love to but I am already committed to another engagement this evening.
I could break it…”
“No, no. Don’t do that. You
will be here in the morning and we can continue our chat then.
Lucas, would you go ask John to pull the coach around and drive Janet
“No, really… I can catch
a hack on the street. I really do
need to get home. I hadn’t
realized the time and the children will be worried…”
“Why don’t I escort Aunt
Janet home, Mama?”
“You aren’t familiar
enough with the streets, Lucas…” Kristin relented at the eager look in the
boy’s face. “Why don’t you
ask Ned to go with you? He can show
you how to hail a cab and help you get a lay of the city.”
Janet leaned over and
embraced Kristin, whispering a few words of encouragement in her ear before
rising. “Don’t get up, dear.
I shall see you in the morning. Try
to get some rest this evening.”
“Come about half eight.
Janet… thank you for not giving up.”
Janet offered one last
understanding smile before she followed Lucas out of the room, Cynthia following
“I am so very pleased to
meet you, Mrs…?”
“Call me Janet, please?”
“All right then, Janet.
Your visit has done wonders for mummy’s spirits, I can tell.
She tries to hide her sadness from us but I can still sense it…”
“Kristin is desperately
lonely without Nathan, even though she is ecstatic to be with you again.
We shall have to work together to try and keep her spirits up.”
Cynthia chatted with Janet
just inside the doorway until Lucas returned with Ned.
After one last wave when the group reached the street she closed the door
and returned to the parlor.
Kristin was still curled up
in the chair, her eyes closed as she rested her head against the cushioned back.
For a moment Cynthia thought that her mother was asleep but then Kristin
stirred, sensing her daughter’s presence.
“Did you have a nice time
at the park, lovey?”
“We had a wonderful time,
Mummy. Lucas and Ben really enjoyed
the exercise. I think that we
should see about getting Lucas a horse of his own.”
“That wasn’t what I meant
and you know it.” Kristin gently scolded.
“Did YOU have a nice time at the park?”
Cynthia blushed again.
“I always enjoy sitting on my bench reading… Ben could help Lucas
pick out a mount, don’t you think?”
Kristin let the subject drop,
knowing that Cynthia would talk to her about what was making her blush whenever
she was ready. “I’m glad.
You deserve a break from all the mayhem of the last few months.”
“Having Janet here has
certainly improved your spirits. You’ve
been keeping to yourself so much since you returned home. Even when you are in the same room with us you seem to be
Kristin didn’t realize that
her daughter had seen through her façade and knew that if Cynthia had then
Lucas had as well. “I’m worried
about Nathan. I can’t help but
think about him… I think that something may have happened to him… that he
might be hurt.”
“That is why you sent Ben
and Ned… to see if they could find anything.”
“Yes… I truly am happy to
be here with you, my sweet daughter. Please
don’t think otherwise. I just
miss…” Kristin shook her head then smiled softly.
“I promise that I shall try to improve my spirits.”
Cynthia squeezed her
mother’s hand. “I just… I
want you to be happy, Mother. If
this Nathan makes you happy then I hope he arrives very soon.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~