~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“KRISTIN! KRISTIN! ANSWER
ME, DAMMIT!” Nathan screamed into
the rising wind as he ran across the sandy beach.
He’d searched the meadow high and low but found no trace of his
Finally he stopped and stared
at the ground swept smooth by the ebb and flow of the waves. The only marks in the otherwise glassy sand were the ones he
had made himself. Kristin hadn’t
been to the beach.
Nathan racked his brain
trying to think of another place that she might have gone. ‘The ship… maybe she went to the ship!’ The distance to the inlet where the ship was docked could be
better covered on horseback so he ran up the cliff path and headed toward the
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Kristin stumbled through the
undergrowth completely unaware of the briars and brambles ripping at her clothes
and her skin. She fell too many
times to count but always dragged herself back up and staggered forward, the
need to get as far away from the house driving her on.
Her mind was at war with her
heart, the latter insisting that Nathan loved her and would never have misused
her this way while the former was adamant that Lexie Smith wouldn’t have lied
to her daughter. She didn’t know
Kristin was there after all.
She didn’t notice the sky
darkening above her until a clap of thunder shook the heavens. She spared a glance up into the thunderous clouds but
The edge of the cliff loomed
up without warning, Kristin not realizing she was approaching it until she
almost stepped off. The sight of
angry waves crashing into the jagged rocks fifty feet below her pulled her back
to her senses and she whirled away.
Kristin wasn’t aware when
the ground opened up then began crumbling beneath her feet. She only knew that she was falling and there was nothing
solid to hang on to.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Nathan fell to his knees at
the door of the stables as an indefinable pain shot through his brain.
Bill was at his side instantly.
“Nathan, are you all right?
Janet said that Kristin was missing.
Did you find her?”
Nathan struggled to his feet.
“No…” he answered as he shook his head to clear away the last
residue of receding pain. “I
didn’t find her. I think that
maybe she went to the ship. I’ve
got to find her, Bill. They hurt
“Janet told me.
Lucas and Will have gone to find Ben.
I’m sure that Kristin is at the ship but if she isn’t we will
organize search squads. We’ll
find her, Nathan.” He clapped a
reassuring hand on his best friend’s shoulder then moved off to saddle the
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Raleigh leaned into the wind
and grasped his pack a bit tighter as he struggled down the almost non-existent
“You old fool,” he
muttered as the sky sputtered white fire at the ocean.
“You could be at home in front of a nice fire right now instead of
facing the prospect of yet another deluge.
Why do you have such a great need to explore?”
Even as he asked himself the
question Raleigh smiled, knowing the answer in his heart. As a young boy his father had taken him out in a rowboat one
day, far into the ocean. As they
had rocked in the surf, his dad pointed toward an island in the distance, a
plume of smoke rising from the tallest mountain.
See the power of nature at work.”
Even as his father spoke the smoke sputtered and spewed a black cloud
into the air. Rivers of orange
began to flow from the top of the mountain down over the sides and into the
“What is it, papa?” Young
Raleigh had asked; his eyes riveted to the scene.
“It’s the Earth’s
blood, son. She is bleeding out her
precious life force so that more land can be made.”
Weeks later his father had
taken him back to the island and showed him how the lava had cooled and made the
island larger. From that point on
Raleigh was fascinated with volcanoes.
He had grown into a man,
traveled from his island home to the British colonies and stayed there once
he’d met a dark-eyed, dark-haired woman with a sassy mouth and a loving heart.
Together they had raised several beautiful children.
But his heart always longed to return to the islands… to observe the
volcanoes again. When Nathan had
purchased this island and offered them the opportunity to return he’d been
The peak on Bridger’s
island had been extinct for all known history but it still fascinated Raleigh.
He made the climb often, camping overnight as he wandered the rim and
tramped over the terrain, sharp eyes marking the paths of lava flow from
centuries past. He visited other
islands as well, wondering all the while about the great network of blood
vessels that he was convinced flowed beneath the surface of the planet.
The sound of crashing waves
caught his attention and he looked toward the cliffs in the distance, surprised
at how close he was to the edge. He
stepped back and measure the distance from the path to the edge with a practiced
eye, shaking his head as he realized that more of the unstable cliff face had
His ears pricked up at the
sound of a mournful cry and he raised his eyes to the sky just as the heavens
opened up and poured down.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
A dejected Nathan followed
Bill to the house, caring little about the rain washing over him. Bill had to physically drag him the last few feet.
“I can’t stop, Bill.
I’ve got to find her.” Nathan sputtered as his friend pulled him
through the front door.
“Did you ever think that
maybe she is already home?”
That thought perked Nathan up
and he moved quickly toward the parlor only to swear when he saw Janet and the
Smiths sitting there.
“Have you heard
anything?” He asked Janet, completely ignoring the other people in the room.
“Well, I think this is
remarkably inconsiderate and a mark of poor breeding.
What business has a nurse getting lost anyway? She should have been looking after her charge.” Lexie
“Can… can I help you
look, Nathan?” Wendell offered as he tentatively took a step forward.
Nathan was pleased to see the man was obviously still in pain.
“No thank you, Wendell.
I think you’ve made enough… attempts today as it is.”
The look in Nathan’s eye left little doubt in Wendell’s mind that he
knew about his attempted seduction of Nathan’s woman.
Nathan turned and stalked
back into the hallway, too angry with all of them to stay in the same room.
Janet and Bill followed him.
“What do you want us to
do?” Bill asked.
“I’m going to look… I
don’t know where to go look, Bill.” A
look of hopelessness crossed his face.
“Nathan?” Janet asked,
fear rushing across her. “What is
“I… I can’t feel her,
Janet. I know that I am upset but
since we first… I’ve been able to feel her… Earlier I had a stab of
pain… a sense that Kristin was in trouble… but since then I can’t seem to
touch her. I know that sounds crazy
“No… it isn’t crazy at
all. But you are upset, Nathan.
And wherever she is, Kristin is very upset too.
That’s why you aren’t aware of her.
You have to calm down and try to concentrate.”
“The sun will be gone
soon… not that it makes that much difference with so many dark clouds in the
sky. If Kristin comes back have
Lucas fire two shots in the air. Hopefully
I’ll hear them.”
Nathan turned and moved
toward the door.
“Can’t we do anything
else?” Janet called after him.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Nathan was saddling a fresh
horse when he sensed movement behind him and turned to find Bill pulling riding
gear off the wall.
“You’re cold and wet.
Go back to the house.”
Bill looked at his friend
sardonically. “I’m no colder
and wetter than you are. You went
through a hell of a lot worse than this to save the boy I love. Do you really think I’d abandon you in your search for the
woman you love?”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Raleigh shook the excess
water off of his body as he stomped into the warm kitchen and headed straight
for the crackling fire.
“Bess! I’m back! I
decided not to brave another night of rain…” Raleigh’s voice trailed off
as he heard muffled sobs and turned to find Bess in the corner crying.
“What is wrong, dear?” He
asked as he moved to her side and laid a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“My boy’s lady… Miss
Kristin is gone missing. She
overheard some hurtful things those two bitches said then the man tried to have
his way with her. She put him in
his place and his family jewels back inside his body but then she ran into the
woods and we haven’t seen hide nor hair of her since.
Nathan has been searching all afternoon… he is going out again in this
terrible storm to try and track her through the brambles but the rain is sure to
wash away any trace…”
“Nathan will find her,
Bess. You know he will.” Raleigh
“But she was so upset…
she was sobbing something fierce Miss Janet said.”
“Sobbing…” the mournful
cry that Raleigh had heard at the cliffs echoed in his ears. What if it hadn’t been the wind?
“Where is Nathan?”
“I… Miss Janet just came
back and said he and Billy were headed back to the stables… Raleigh?
Where you going? You need to dry off.”
“I’m going to help Nathan
find his way.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Nathan led the horse to the
stable doorway and was about to swing into the saddle when he heard his name
being called. He peered into the
darkness trying to see who was approaching through the pounding rain.
Raleigh emerged into the
light, water dripping from his kinky gray curls.
“I may know where she is.”
Nathan dropped the reins and
grabbed Raleigh’s shoulders. “Where?”
“I was walking home by the
north point and I noticed that more of the cliff face fell in the rain.”
Terror tinged Nathan’s
“Nathan, I heard crying…
I attributed it to the wind but knowing that Kristin is missing… I am sure
that it had to be her. If she was
standing near the edge when it fell away…”
Nathan released Raleigh and
grabbed at the bridle of his horse. “Bill,
send Lucas to gather as many men as he can then bring them to the north cliff.
Raleigh will lead you there. Bring
ropes, lanterns, blankets… anything that you can think of that we might
“We’ll be there as
quickly as we can.” Bill called as Nathan galloped out of the barn.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Kristin raised her head and
stared up at the black sky, relieved that the pounding rain had gentled into a
light mist. She listened intently,
thinking that she had heard her name.
‘That is ridiculous,
Kristin,’ her subconscious berated her. ‘No
one knows that you are out here.’
Then the shout came again,
Nathan’s voice screaming out her name.
“Nathan!” Her throat was
swollen from sobbing and her outcry was little more than a whisper.
Kristin cleared her throat and tried again.
“Nathan! I’m here! NATHAN!”
“Kris… keep talking to me. I
need to find you.”
“I’m here… I’m on a
ledge… the ground fell away. I
didn’t mean to fall, Nathan. When
I realized how close I was I tried to back up but the dirt just slid away…”
Nathan’s head popped over
the edge of the cliff about fifteen feet above her, the lantern in his hand
illuminating her dirt streaked tear-stained face.
“I know that you didn’t
mean to fall, sweetheart. Just calm
down. We are going to have you out
of there in just a little while. Tell
me… are you hurt?”
“I… I don’t think so.
I may have twisted my ankle just a bit and I’m scraped up but I don’t
have any serious injuries.”
“How secure are you?”
“The ledge seems stable.
It’s solid rock. It isn’t very wide… about two feet maybe… but I don’t
think I’m in any danger of falling. I
tried to climb back up but the mud just slides away beneath my feet.
Every root that I grabbed on to came out in my hands.
I could try again…”
You stay right where you are. Bill
is on the way with help… wait… I’ll be right back.”
His face disappeared, taking the lantern light with it.
“Nathan? Don’t leave me, Nathan!
“It’s okay, Kristin.
I am right here. I am just getting some things off the horse and I will be
right back.” Nathan heard the
alarm in her voice and continued speaking to reassure her until he was ready to
return to the edge. He staked the
horse out about twenty feet from the cliff and quickly unbuckled the saddle.
A length of rope from the pillion went around his neck and the blanket
was tucked under one arm. Nathan
picked up the saddle in one hand and the lantern in the other then moved
carefully back to toward the brink.
The saddle was dropped about
five feet from the cliff to mark the spot where Kristin had fallen then Nathan
took the rope and tied one end securely around a large jagged stone jutting out
from the precipice. He secured the
lantern to the other end, tying the blanket just above it. Then he lay down on his belly and traversed the last few
He saw relief flow across her
face in the flickering lantern light. “Thank
you for coming back. I wouldn’t
blame you if you left me here but…”
“Kristin… I love you.
There is no way in hell that I would leave you here.
Listen to me. I am going to
lower the lantern and a blanket down to you.
I need to close the shades to prevent the flame from dying so you will
have to watch carefully.”
Hand over hand Nathan slowly
lowered the lantern and blanket down the almost sheer wall of mud until it came
to rest in Kristin’s hands.
“Good… untie the lantern
and the blanket and let the rope drop over the side.”
Kristin did as Nathan bid
her, not understanding his instructions until she looked up and saw him swing a
leg over the edge of the mountain.
“Nathan… no! You don’t have to.”
He paid no attention to her
words and soon his feet touched the narrow ledge beside her. Tears began to flow down Kristin’s face as Nathan sank down
beside her and pulled her into his arms.
“I was so scared.”
Kristin stuttered as she wept into his shoulder.
Nathan reached behind her and grabbed the blanket, swinging it out and
then over both of them.
“I know you were scared, my
love. I was scared as well.
But you are safe now. I
won’t let anything happen to you.” Kristin
looked up to find that tears were running out of Nathan’s eyes as well.
She embraced him even harder as he lowered his mouth down to touch hers.
The touch of Kristin’s lips
was like ice and Nathan rubbed his mouth back and forth to warm them before
seeking entrance. He was shocked to
find that Kristin was cold through and through.
He broke the kiss to glance up the cliff face.
“I guess that we need to
try and climb up now? The rope will
help. I can hang on and…”
Nathan shushed her.
“Bill is on the way with the men.
They will pull us up. I
don’t want to take any chance of you falling.
Your fingers are so cold you probably couldn’t grip the rope.”
Kristin tried to flex her
fingers and found out that Nathan was right.
The cold had seeped in slowly but she suddenly realized that it permeated
her entire body. Nathan felt her
shiver and pulled her even closer, tucking the blanket securely around them.
“How… how did you find
me? I don’t even know where I am.
I just ran…” Kristin tapered off, suddenly afraid that Nathan would
ask for a reason for her flight.
“Raleigh decided to come
home early because of the rain moving in. He
passed this way just an hour or so ago and heard you crying.
He thought it was the wind but then he returned home and found out you
were missing. He caught me at the
stables just as I was about to ride out searching for you again.”
“Again… you’ve been
searching for me? How did you
“I saw you run from the
house. I was going after you but I
heard moaning. You nailed that
bastard right where he lives, sweetheart. I
am sorry that letch tried to… I should have known he would. I warned him away from you but… I don’t think he can help
himself. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry… He does this
often? It wasn’t just because he
thought that I was…”
Wendell makes a habit of preying on helpless women, only you weren’t so
helpless. I’ve had to stop him
from preying on the women on the island several times. I don’t know how Wendell found out about us but I will make
“No… you can’t
challenge every person who says something bad about me.”
Nathan reached behind Kristin
again and flipped the shade off of the lantern so that they could see each other
clearly. He slipped his hand
beneath her chin and lifted her face until she met his gaze.
“Janet overheard Lexie and
Wendy’s conversation in our room. She
told me exactly what they said and it isn’t true, Kris. Not one word of it. I
never spoke to Wendell about courting his daughter and I never had any intention
of marrying her. I swear, Kristin.
It was all a lie.”
His eyes begged Kristin to
believe him and her heart told her that his words were true. Finally she nodded. But
her eyes were still sad. Nathan
gripped her tighter.
“NOTHING that they said was
“Of course it was, Nathan.
You do need to marry again. You
are ready and somewhere out there is a lovely young woman who will make a
wonderful mother for your children. I
am only holding you back and I can’t do that any more.”
“You are NOT leaving me.”
“I have to. I love you too much to ruin your life… to prevent you from
having the wife and family you deserve.”
“The only woman that I am
going to marry is you.” The words slipped from Nathan’s lips before he could
stop them, his resolve to wait forgotten in the terror of the thought of losing
Kristin looked stunned and
Nathan continued before she had a chance to protest.
“I love you… no one else.
I want to marry you. Please,
Kristin… marry me. I know that I
am just a beat up old sailor and I’ll never be able to compete with your
social status but no one will ever love you like I do.
“Marry me? You want to marry… men don’t marry their mistresses.”
“Dammit, Kristin, you
aren’t my mistress. You are the woman that I love and I want to marry you!
I’ve wanted to marry you from the beginning… from the moment that I
realized how I felt… how you felt… I’ve wanted that.”
“But your island… your
business… you deserve a woman who is young enough to give you children.”
“I don’t give a damn
about having more children. I want
you. We… we can adopt. Lucas is already like a son to both of us… we’ll just
make it legal. Now I have an heir.
You are without a doubt the most stubborn woman I have ever known.”
Nathan wrestled his hand beneath the blanket and into his pocket,
emerging with a small box. He
flipped the lid open to reveal a brilliant emerald-cut sapphire ring, the large
center stone flanked by smaller diamonds and sapphires.
“I’ve been carrying this around since we arrived back at the island,
waiting for the right moment. Tell
me that you will marry me, Kris…”
Kristin stared at the ring
and swallowed hard. “I… I want
“Do you love me?”
“I love you with all my
“Do you love Lucas?”
“Would you be opposed to
having Lucas call you mother?”
“Oh, Nathan. Of course I wouldn’t.”
“So perhaps you hesitate
because I don’t have a title or a lot of estates.”
“That is ridiculous. I
don’t give a tinker’s damn about any of that.”
“Then perhaps you just
don’t want to marry an upstart American.”
“You are being ludicrous.
None of those things matter to me at all.”
“Do you want to stay with
me… love me… share my bed and my life forever?”
“I… want to…” Kristin
repeated her earlier words.
“Then do. All you have to do is say ‘Yes, Nathan. I will marry you’ right now.”
Kristin stared into his eyes
and saw nothing but love. “Yes,
Nathan. I will marry you.”
“Finally!” Nathan grinned
as he lowered his mouth to hers. When
they parted he slipped lifted her left hand from beneath the blanket and
carefully slid the sapphire onto her ring finger.
It fit perfectly.
“I don’t believe it,”
Nathan murmured. “She was
right.” He lifted Kristin’s
hand to his lips and kissed it.
“What… I don’t
understand what you mean.”
Nathan squeezed Kristin’s
hand as he tucked it back beneath the blanket then kissed her once again.
“The ring… I want to tell
you about the ring.”
Kristin rubbed her finger
across the stone, already comfortable with the weight resting there.
“It’s a beautiful ring. Did
it… belong to Carol?”
“No… I wouldn’t give
you an engagement ring that had belonged to my late wife.
I’ve had this ring for years… over thirty years… but you are the
first woman to wear it… the first to ever see it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I told you about my trip
to the Orient when I was a young man. While
I was there Gator and I managed to get into some… situations.”
“Janet Noyce has a really
big mouth sometimes. I am going to
have to speak to her husband about that.”
“As if Bill could do
anything… tell me about the ring.” Kristin snuggled closer into Nathan’s
side, absorbing all of his warmth that she could.
“I was in a market one day
and an wizened old oriental woman called me over.
She had a display of rings and wanted me to buy one.
She said that I was ‘meant to find the perfect ring’ in her display.
I laughed and looked over the rings.
I could tell that the quality of the stones was exceptional and I had
money in my pocket. I thought
‘why not’. Perhaps the ring
would be a gift for one of the… ‘ladies’ I had been keeping company
Kristin raised a quizzical
eyebrow at Nathan but said nothing.
“I picked up one of the
rings carelessly and the old woman told me to put it back down and choose again.
Then I saw this ring and I knew… I didn’t really understand it but I
knew that this was the ring I was meant to have.
The lady smiled at me and told me that I’d made the right choice.”
“The right choice for
“I paid her and as she gave
me my change she told me. ‘This
ring is meant for one person, one woman. Don’t
give it lightly and don’t give it hastily.
If there is any hesitation in your heart then that woman isn’t meant to
have it. When you find the right
woman the ring will know and it will fit her perfectly’.”
Kristin felt the ring on her
finger again, double-checking the fit; it was exact.
“You didn’t give it to
“I thought about it.
I started to once… took it out of the box and stared at it… but there
was doubt in my heart. It never felt right. Not
until you, Kristin. I knew the ring
was meant for you. And I was right.
That ring was made for you just like you were made for me.”
“And you for me.”
Kristin’s tears flowed freely as she and Nathan kissed once again.
A scream tore from
Kristin’s lips as the ground shifted around them and a fresh stream of mud
rained down over their heads. Nathan
held her securely as he flipped the blanket up over her head to protect her. He groped the cliff face blindly, his hand falling on the
rope, which he grabbed and held as he struggled to hold them both on the narrow
Finally the slide stopped but
Kristin’s screaming continued as she clung to Nathan with a death grip.
The lantern that had provided them light was gone, knocked into the ocean
by the onslaught.
Nathan soothed Kristin
tentatively as he continued to grasp the rope, unable to see what was happening
above them and unwilling to take a chance at being caught off guard again.
‘Where the hell are you,
As if knowing that Nathan was
questioning him, Bill Noyce’s face appeared over the cliff face framed in a
halo of lantern light.
“Nathan! We’re here.”
“It’s about damned time!
The face is eroding again. You’ve
got to get us out of here quickly.” Nathan
yelled back over Kristin’s sobbing.
“I’ve got twelve strong
men here. We’ll have you pulled
up in no time. Is Kristin hurt?”
“She’s banged up pretty
badly and suffering from exposure but nothing is broken.
She won’t be able to hang on to a rope.”
“We’ll drop two ropes for
you to harness her into and then we will pull her up.
I’ll be right back.”
Bill crawled back from the
edge and stood, barking out orders all the while.
Then he turned to his son. “Will,
take a horse and ride back to the house. Tell
Bess to get the bath ready… as hot as possible.
Kristin is going to need to be warmed up quickly.
Bess will know what to do.”
“But, Father… I want to
stay here and help.”
“Your leg can’t take the
pressure of helping pull Kristin up. Someone
has to warn Bess to have things ready. Now go!”
Will recognized the tone in his father’s voice and moved toward the
horses without further argument.
“Okay, men. Open up all of those lanterns and give us light.
Ben! You and Jonathan take
those lengths of rope and tie them together so tight that they will never come
apart. So I thought a fisherman’s bend to
the tree, and then a slip bowline. It
will hold fast, but it releases in a pinch.
We need plenty of line to make sure Kristin is secure… What?”
Bill didn’t understand the look of confusion passing between Ben and
“Uhm… sir…” Ben began
“Don’t tell me?
You two call yourself sailors and you don’t know a few simple knots?”
Bill laughed heartily as he grabbed two ends of rope and went to work.
“Well don’t just stand there! Find
something sturdy to anchor the rope to.”
Back on the ledge below
Kristin had finally calmed down although she still clung tightly to Nathan.
He’d found the end of the rope he’d use to descend and knotted it
securely around her waist to give her an added sense of security.
“We are going to be out of
here in just a few minutes, my love. Then
I’m going to take you back to the house and get you all warmed up.
After that we are going to plan our wedding.
I am not going to give you a chance to change your mind.”
“I wouldn’t do that,”
Something in Kristin’s tone
worried Nathan. “Kris… are you
“Mmm… so cold.”
Nathan grabbed Kristin’s
shoulders and shook her vigorously, knowing that falling asleep was the most
dangerous thing she could do. “Wake
Stop it! I don’t want
to…” Kristin began to pummel Nathan’s chest in protest.
“That’s it, love.
Talk to me.” Nathan began to rub Kristin’s arms furiously.
“Think about tomorrow. I
know that the rain and wind have made you cold now but tomorrow the sun will
shine again and you will be warm.”
“I don’t want the sun…
I want you to warm me up.” A
playful tone touched Kristin’s voice, telling Nathan that she was coming back
“BILL!” He yelled up the
side of the cliff. “What’s
happening up there?”
“Just a minute,
Nathan…” In a few moments Bill’s head appeared.
“I’m going to lower down the ropes now.
I’ll try to get them as close to you as possible.”
Noyce heard the desperate
tone in Nathan’s voice. “Throw
me those ropes and get ready to hang on.”
Ben checked the anchoring one
last time before tossing the heavy bundle toward the admiral then moved into the
anchor position on the rope behind Ortiz and O’Neill.
Crocker, Ford and Phillips
moved forward along the rope as far as they safely could then pulled on their
gloves and grasped the cord in readiness.
“We are all ready, sir.”
The signal given, Noyce
grabbed the roll of line and threw it over the edge, attempting to get it as
close to Nathan as possible without hitting them.
His aim was true.
Nathan reached out about
three feet and grabbed the two dangling ropes and pulled them in.
“Sweetheart, I’m going to
have to take the blanket. I know
that you will be cold but I promise that we will get you warm very soon.
Hang on to me while I tie the ropes around you.”
Nathan worked quickly but he
could feel Kristin shivering against him. “Have
a knife ready, Bill. You’ll
probably have to cut the ropes to get them off her.
“Pull men!” Noyce’s command echoed out and Kristin slowly began to rise
off the ledge.
“No… Nathan! You have to come with me.”
She fought against the pull of the ropes as she reached for Nathan and
clung to him tightly.
“I’ll be up right after
you. Use your hands to keep your
face away from the mud.” Nathan
tried to loosen Kristin’s grip but she refused to let go.
“I don’t want to leave
Kristin was becoming
hysterical. Nathan spied the
original rope he had wrapped around Kristin hanging from loosely from her waist
and reached out to grab the loop.
“Let go, sweetheart.
Let Bill pull you up. I’ll
be right beside you, I promise.”
After a few moments
hesitation, Kristin reluctantly released Nathan.
At Nathan’s shout, the men on top of the cliff began to pull and
Kristin’s feet rose away from the ledge.
She screamed his name and reached for him again.
Nathan hoisted himself up to
stay even with Kristin. “We’ll
be on top in just a few minutes. Stay
calm, darling and hold on.” The
rock anchor held his weight and he climbed up hand over hand, keeping pace with
her up the cliff side.
The trip up wasn’t easy
even though the distance wasn’t terribly great.
Kristin didn’t have the strength to push away from the muddy ground and
the pull on the rope was jerky. Nathan
stopped several times to speak to her, trying to keep her calm when her voice
grew shaky or her legs began to swing wildly.
As soon as she came within
reach Bill grabbed Kristin’s hands and added his bulk to the force pulling her
up. She slid easily over the side
of the mountain and back along the slick grass to safety. Nathan topped the cliff just in time to see Lucas throw a
blanket around her, his arms moving to hold it in place.
Nathan barely felt his men
slap him on the back as he passed them, all his concentration focused on the
woman huddled by the small fire. Bill
moved to intercept him as Nathan approached.
“Thank God you are both
safe. I sent William to have Bess
get things ready. As soon as you
warm up a little we will head back…”
Kristin needs to be warm now. A
fire isn’t enough. I’m taking
her back to the house.”
Bill waved his hand at
Crocker. By the time Nathan reached
Kristin’s side Gator was moving toward them with a saddled horse.
Nathan knelt in front of
Kristin and Lucas, his hand reaching out to brush both of their cheeks.
“I’m going to take you home, sweetheart.
You will be warm in just a few minutes.”
Lucas let go of Kristin
reluctantly as Nathan mounted the horse. Crocker
scooped Kristin up carefully and passed her into Nathan’s outstretched arms.
“Look after her, sir.”
“Thank you, Gator… thank
all of you.” Every member of
Nathan’s crew was moved by the emotion in his voice as he thanked them and
then wheeled his horse and galloped away.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Janet and Bess heard the
heavy tread of feet running up the stairs and hurried to swing the bedroom door
open. Moments later Nathan crossed
into the room, his entire body nearly black from the mud coating him.
The woman in his arms had faired no better.
“Praise be to God.” Bess
murmured as she reached toward Kristin’s cheek.
Kristin smiled weakly at both
women but she couldn’t seem to let go of Nathan’s shoulders even though she
tried. “My fingers won’t
Nathan sank to his knees with
Kristin still cradled in his arms. “We’ve
got to warm her up quickly, Bess. She
was out there through the worst of the storm.”
“I’ve got the bath all
ready and I’ve got some hot tea and some hot soup.
The bath isn’t boiling, boy… just hot.
You can’t do too much too quickly.
You will throw the body into shock.”
Kristin’s arms fell limply
to Nathan’s side as Janet carefully pried her fingers loose from Nathan’s
shirt. “I’m sorry.
I’ll be all right once I get in the bath… I must look such a
Janet smile was one of
relief. If Kristin was making jokes
then she was going to be all right. She
picked up a steaming cup of tea and held it out to her friend. “You British think tea cures everything, don’t you?”
“It does… but I can’t
hold the cup.” Kristin lifted one hand slightly and slowly flexed her fingers
but the effort the action took was obvious.
“That’s all right.
I’ll hold it for you.”
Kristin rested her head
against Nathan’s broad chest and slowly sipped the warming liquid as Bess
quickly stripped away her stockings and slippers then moved around to unfasten
her dress. Soon Kristin was clothed
in nothing but her dirty chemise.
“Put her in the bath,
Nathan. I’ll go bring the soup
and more hot tea.”
Nathan stood and moved toward
the bath, Kristin still locked in his arms.
“Thanks, Bess.” He told the old woman just before she left the room.
Bess rewarded him with a toothy grin and closed the door behind her.
Janet followed Nathan into
the bath and together they stripped Kristin of her last garment and lowered her
into the warm water. When Nathan
began to pull off his own clothes Janet turned to leave.
“Promise me that you will
call me if you need me tonight.” Her voice floated back to Nathan.
He yanked his mud caked boot
free and dropped it to the floor. “I
promise. Janet… I hate to ask it
of you but… will you…?”
“Consider it done.
They didn’t see you come in?”
“I came in the back way.
I never saw the parlor door open to see who was running up the stairs.”
“I will keep them
“Don’t say anything,
Janet. I want the ‘pleasure’ of
dealing with that pack of vipers myself… but that will have to wait until
“Tomorrow… I look forward
to it.” Janet smiled with
satisfaction as she moved back into the bedroom.
Nathan turned back to the tub
to see Kristin huddled over, her arms crossed over her chest and wrapped around
her shoulders. He stripped off his
pants and climbed in behind her.
“Everything is all right
now, my love.” Nathan wrapped his arms and legs around Kristin and began to
rock back and forth slowly. “You
are safe in my arms and I am never letting you go again.”
Finally Kristin relaxed
against him as the heat of the water and his body finally began to seep into her
numb body. “I have never been so
frightened… not even on Zellar’s ship.
You were with me there but this time I was alone and I couldn’t… I
couldn’t feel you, Nathan.”
“I had the same problem.
Janet thinks that it is because we were both so upset.
We couldn’t find each other through the fear.
But once I calmed down I knew that you needed me.”
“And once I calmed down I
knew that you were coming for me.”
Nathan picked up the bar of
soap and the washcloth that Bess had left and dipped them into the gray water
then began working up a heavy lather.
“That tickles…” Kristin
giggled as he lifted her foot from the water and scrubbed it with the cloth.
Her laughter warmed Nathan’s heart.
He scrubbed the mud and grass from her body then took the soap and
lathered her hair, working his hands through the tangled tresses until they hung
clean and straight, gleaming in the lantern lighting the room.
“Close your eyes,” Nathan
told her as he picked up the pitcher of warm clear water that Bess had left and
gave her hair one final rinse.
“How are you feeling?” He
asked as Kristin sputtered, pushing the water that Nathan had dumped over her
head out of her face.
“I feel much better.”
Nathan quickly scrubbed the
mud from his own body then climbed out of the tub and toweled dry, swinging the
damp cloth around his hips when he finished.
He then helped Kristin out and toweled her dry, his hands rubbing her
vigorously with the cloth as she clung to his neck.
“Kris… uh… Kristin… I
need to dry you off…” Nathan’s hands locked on her waist when he felt
Kristin’s soft lips caress his jaw.
“I’m not stopping you,”
she whispered into his neck.
“I can’t think… when
you…” Nathan was on the point of giving in to his baser desires when he
happened to glance down and see the dark angry bruises scattered across
Kristin’s body. He pulled back
sharply, his fingers tracing one particularly dark abrasion at her waist.
“Oh my love… This should
never have happened.”
They both looked up at the
knock on the door. Before either
one could respond it opened and Bess came in with several long white strips of
cloth. She eyed them both
speculatively as Nathan quickly draped the towel around Kristin then grabbed
another and swung it around his hips.
Nathan turned to glare at her
but Bess laughed and motioned him away. “Go
pull on one of them fancy nightshirts you ain’t got no use for.
We don’t need you getting a chill either.
I pulled out a nightrail and wrapper for Miss Kristin so you warm them by
the fire while I take care of these cuts.”
“I am capable of looking
after Kristin’s needs, Bess.”
“I’m sure you are. But
she’s bruised and scraped and what she needs most now is warmth and
rest. The lovin’ part can wait
“I wasn’t going to…”
Nathan gave up and threw his hands in the air, knowing that arguing with Bess
was useless. “I’ll have
everything ready whenever you are.”
Once Nathan was gone Bess
turned back to Kristin and gestured for her to set on the wide ledge at the back
of the bath. “That goes for you
too, missy. You need rest right
now, not hard lovin’ and after the last few days it’s bound to be that.
You stop tempting that boy.”
Kristin nodded obediently as
Bess coated her cuts with her special ointment and efficiently bandaged them
with the cloths she had brought in. Once
the scratches were taken care of another brown bottle of foul smelling liquid
appeared from Bess’ pocket. The
old woman doused Kristin’s bruises liberally and worked the liniment in with
“I know it smells bad,
child, but it will help the soreness. By
tomorrow those spots won’t trouble you a bit.
And if it dampens your ardor a bit well that’s just a blessin’
Kristin opened her mouth to
protest but quickly thought better of it. Bess
gave her a knowing nod.
“Wise move, missy.”
She turned toward the door. “Nathan,
get your scrawny butt in here with those clothes.”
Nathan appeared immediately
holding a light short-sleeved nightgown and matching wrapper. He sniffed the air appreciatively.
“Eau d’ointment a la
Bess… my favorite.”
Kristin laughed as Bess
helped her slide the gown over her head and stand so that the towel slipped out
to her feet. When the dressing gown
was in place Nathan once again picked Kristin up, despite her loud protests, and
carried her to the bedroom. She was
tucked into the big bed, the sheets made warm by heated bricks wrapped in
“I am sorry to cause so
much trouble.” She told Bess as a tray was pressed onto her lap.
“You aren’t any trouble.
We are just glad that you are all right.
Kristin followed Bess’
command without further protest, spooning the light soup into her mouth quickly.
Bess nodded in satisfaction.
“I’m gonna go downstairs
now and leave the two of you be. But
if you need me all you gots to do is call. There
is soup for you on the table, boy and I expect all the dishes to be empty when I
get them in the morning.”
Nathan walked with his old
nurse toward the door. “Thank
you, Bess… for everything.” He murmured once they reached it then continued
at her pointed look, “Only sleeping, Bess… only sleeping.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Janet took a deep breath
behind the closed door then resolutely grasped the knob and swung it open.
Three sets of eyes turned to stare at her.
“We heard someone on the
stairs a little while ago. Has
Nathan returned?” Wendy asked.
Janet nodded, determined to
keep her countenance pleasant although she was seething inside.
“The men found Kristin. The
ground of the north cliff gave way beneath her and she slipped down the side to
a ledge but Raleigh Young heard her cry.”
“I hope that she is
properly contrite for causing all of this trouble.
She ruined dinner. We
finally went ahead and ate without Nathan and Bill but his food will be ruined
from standing so long.” Lexie
moved toward the door. “I’ll go
have Bess get it ready for him.”
Janet quickly blocked her.
“Bess is busy at the moment taking care of Kristin.
I doubt that Nathan is interested in food either.
He was covered in mud so he has gone upstairs to clean up. I would imagine that he will go to bed after he finishes his
“You mean that he won’t
be joining us tonight?”
“He really is rather tired.
I believe that he had to do a great deal of climbing.
He actually climbed down the mountain to secure the ropes to Kristin and
then climbed back up. There was a
second mudslide while they were down there.”
Lexie’s nose wrinkled.
“So he is really dirty?”
“Very. I believe I heard Bess say something about both Nathan and
Kristin’s clothing being beyond salvaging.”
“I was just about to ring
for tea. I guess that old woman
won’t be in the kitchen to make it now.” Lexie pouted.
I expect that Bess will be busy with Kristin for several hours.
I would be glad to go to the kitchen and make all of us some tea.
Bill and the men will probably want some as soon as they return as well.
Sit down, Lexie. I’ll be back soon.”
Janet had to fight to keep
from running as she glided toward the door.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Nathan slid the bolt firmly
into place and locked it down, securing the door against any outside intruders.
Then he turned back toward the bed and stopped, his jaw dropping in
amazement as he stared at Kristin cuddled up in the bed.
She sat in the middle of the
mattress, leaning back into a mound of pillows.
Her lavender dressing gown was wrapped snugly around her shoulders, the
flowing sleeves falling back to show slender wrists and arms as she stared at
Nathan over her teacup.
“What are you thinking?”
Kristin asked, her warm brown eyes staring at Nathan over the rim.
“I am thinking about how
beautiful you are.”
Kristin blushed but her eyes
sparkled. She lowered the empty cup
back to the tray and held out her hand. “Come
join me. I want to feel your arms
Nathan didn’t need a second
invitation. He almost ran to the
side of the bed and grabbed the tray, moving it to the small table before he
placed his hand in Kristin’s and sat down on the side of the bed.
“You’re staring again.
Come get into bed.” Kristin
tugged at his hand. Nathan resisted
but didn’t let go of hers.
“You have every right to
“Hate? Nathan, I love you. How
could I ever hate you?”
“Where do I begin?
I kidnapped you. I chained you to my bed.
I almost forced you… You’ve walked a plank because of me, been
marooned on a desert island and fallen off of a cliff.
I couldn’t blame you if ran away from me as fast as you could.”
Kristin tugged Nathan closer
and raised a hand to his cheek. “Being
kidnapped was the best thing that ever happened to me. It brought me to you.
As for the other… I thoroughly enjoyed our time together on that
island. I ran down that plank
gladly because I wanted to be with you. As
for the forcing me… you didn’t and you wouldn’t have.”
“I’m glad that you think
so. The first time I was so angry I
wanted to punish you… but your lips were so soft and your body felt so…
right pressed against mine… like we were made for each other... The second time… I almost… You don’t know how close I
was to taking you up against that wall…”
“But you didn’t, darling.
You know that I wanted you just as much as you wanted me… if not more.
So no more talk about force. And
tonight was hardly your fault…”
“But it was. I know these people. Wendell
is a lecherous old man and I knew that he would find you attractive.
I should have known that a verbal warning wouldn’t be enough to keep
him away from you. As for Alexandra
and Wendy… I knew that they had their eye on me.
I never thought that they would act the way they did but…”
“You didn’t make them
hurt me, my love. They are vicious
“Janet and I had a talk not
long after she and Bill arrived. She
warned me… You told me how other
people would react and Janet told me how other people would react… but I
didn’t understand until I actually saw it.
You are the woman that I intend to make my wife.
I never saw anything sordid or tawdry in what we were doing.
We love each other… why shouldn’t we show each other how we feel.”
“I am beginning to
understand that now. But you cannot
hold yourself responsible for their hurtful words and actions.”
I should have married you when we were in Port San Luis… but I was
afraid that you wouldn’t have me… that you wouldn’t even consider marrying
“I wouldn’t consider
marrying a pirate. I would only
marry you… but you don’t have to…”
“Kris… are you trying to
back out on me?” Nathan leaned
forward and gripped both her forearms.
“No… I want to marry
you… but I know that tonight was very stressful.
If you want to wait… give your proposal more thought… I would
“We are getting married.
I don’t need to think about it any more.
You agreed and I am not letting you out of your acceptance.”
Kristin grabbed his arms in
return and pulled him forward until she was inches from his face.
“I am not trying to back out of anything.
We will get married whenever you wish.
Now would you please come to bed?”
A huge grin lit up Nathan’s
face. “I’ll come to bed.”
He stood and quickly blew out all of the brightly burning candles so that
the light from the fireplace was the only illumination in the room.
“Are you sure you are warm
enough?” He asked as he moved around to his side of the bed.
“I will be in just a few
moments. Why don’t you take off
the nightshirt? It looks ridiculous
“And I thought I was being
quite stylish.” Nathan laughed as he yanked the garment over his head and
climbed naked into the bed. “I
thought you said you weren’t quite warm enough yet?”
Kristin was busy unknotting
her voluminous dressing gown and tugging it from beneath her legs.
“I said I would be warm in a few minutes.
Body heat, my love, remember?” The
lavender wrapper fluttered to the ground as Kristin turned into Nathan’s arms
and snuggled beneath the covers. “Now
I am warming up.”
Nathan tucked the comforter
more securely around them then bent to place a kiss on the top of Kristin’s
head. “You were so cold on the
side of the mountain. I was scared
that we wouldn’t be able to get you up in time… that Raleigh couldn’t find
the spot again.”
“I don’t know if I could
have held on much longer if you hadn’t found me when you did.”
“You would have held on,”
Nathan told her fiercely. “You
wouldn’t have given up and left me… not knowing how desperately I need
“No… I wouldn’t leave
“Kris… I know I told you
earlier but… I wasn’t lying. I
swear I never made any kind of offer for Wendy Smith.
The woman bores me senseless. All
that talk about reading other people’s thoughts… if she could really do that
then she would know that she never had a chance… because I am hopelessly in
love with you.”
“And that I feel the same
way about you, my rogue.” A
wicked gleam entered Kristin’s eye as she licked her lips then lowered her
head. Nathan expected to feel the
warm smooth skin of her cheek press against his chest but instead he was
overwhelmed with sensation as Kristin’s wet mouth closed around his flat
“Oh… Kris…” Nathan
moaned as he unconsciously arched into her touch; her tongue teasing the rapidly
rising peak as his fingers threaded through her hair.
“We… no… Bess will kill… oh GOD!”
He was lost as her fingers crept down the center of his body to take him
firmly in hand.
Nathan wouldn’t have cared
if Bess had been standing over him threatening him with a cast iron skillet.
Kristin wanted him and he wanted her.
He rolled her into the mattress and moved on top of her, his hands
grabbing the nightgown at her waist.
A grimace of pain flitted
across Kristin’s face and with sudden clarity Nathan remembered the huge
purpling bruise exactly where his hand was.
“Oh, my love. I’m so
“It’s all right.”
Kristin lowered her head back toward Nathan’s chest but he stopped her.
“Maybe this is for the
best. I have a feeling that if Bess
finds out we… that I… she’ll take it upon herself to make sure that it
won’t happen ever again. She told
me that you needed sleep tonight and I think maybe she is right.”
Kristin’s lower lip slipped
out slightly. “She told me the
same thing. But we haven’t been
together in days and I…” Her voice faded away to silence.
“You what, Kris?
What do you want?” Nathan knew exactly what Kristin wanted but he
desperately wanted her to say it out loud.
He needed to hear the words.
“I want… you.
I want you to love me… I want you to make love to me.”
“I want that too.
And after tomorrow night neither one of us will probably be able to walk.
But tonight you rest and give Bess’ foul concoctions a chance to
Kristin laughed quietly.
“So now the truth comes out. You
don’t want me because I smell like an apothecary shop.”
Nathan shifted his hips
slightly to show Kristin exactly how much he did want her.
“Just one more day.”
“But what if those two witches do something else?
Or that horrid little man…” Nathan felt the shiver that ran through
Kristin’s body and pulled her even closer.
“They won’t. Tomorrow I am going to take care of the entire Smith
Kristin didn’t respond and
Nathan glanced down to notice her eyelids drooping.
“You would probably fall asleep on me anyway,” he whispered.
“Not me…” A yawn
punctuated Kristin’s words. “If
you won’t make love to me… talk to me… I love the sound of your voice.”
Nathan thought a moment.
“How about a poem? We had an assignment one time in grammar school where we were
to write a verse about something we knew.”
“Oh dear…” Kristin
raised an eyebrow at her lover.
“Yes… I hung around the
harbor quite a bit and yes, my verse got me caned.
But my friend Peter wrote a lovely little bit of poetry… something that
I think applies to both you and I right now.
Would you like to hear it?”
“I would love to hear
Nathan cleared his voice
dramatically then began to recite:
“When eyelids make good pillows
Give in to the sleep
Let it take you over.
Let heavy eyes be seduced
By a peaceful end.
Forget about yesterday or
Today and greet tomorrow
As a distant friend.”
“You’re wicked,” Kristin murmured as she
tried to stop a yawn with minimal success.
Nathan just laughed and continued his recitation:
“Give in to this slumber
The way dizzy bumblebees do
Drifting off late October morns
Do no fight those windswept thoughts
Of sandy shores – the world will be as
It was at wake.
Lay down your book, your Chinese look
A childhood nap you will take.”
“Mmm… tomorrow…” Kristin was
struggling against the exhaustion that was quickly overwhelming her.
Nathan caressed her back soothingly with one
strong hand, her cheek with the other. “Sleep,
my love. Tomorrow everything will
be all right.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Nathan moved an arm carefully
away from Kristin and reached back to plump his pillow before returning it to
her waist. He shifted around in the
pillow trying to get comfortable but as tired as he was sleep wouldn’t come.
The last words he had spoken
to Kristin kept ringing in his ears.
‘Tomorrow everything will
be all right.’
Nathan desperately wanted to
make those words fact but to do that he had to rid his island of the Smith
infestation. He had been doing
business with Wendell for years but Smith was dependent on him, not the other
way around. He had no compunction
about dropping Wendell immediately as a business partner. But the women… Lexie Smith was so vindictive that Nathan
had no doubt she would slander Kristin’s name all over the islands.
The only way to stop her would be…
Nathan sat up suddenly as the
solution to his problem leapt into his mind.
Kristin protested sleepily but responded to his soothing caress of her
back and quickly slipped back into sleep.
Once Nathan was sure that
Kristin was sleeping he slipped from the bed and headed toward the door, taking
care to grab his dressing gown. He
silently slid the bolt back from the door and padded across the hallway.
His quiet tap on the door
across the corridor sent its occupants into a frenzy of motion and whispers.
Finally the door cracked to reveal Bill peering out intently.
When he saw Nathan he turned and murmured to Janet then, at her obvious
urging, opened it wider and allowed Nathan to step in.
“Is everything all right?
Has something happened with Kristin?” Janet asked from behind the wall
of bedclothes that she held clutched around her naked shoulders.
Nathan grinned when he
realized what he had interrupted. “Sorry.”
He glanced back at Bill to find him furiously fastening his trousers.
“Kristin?” Janet asked
“That’s what I want to
talk to you about. Tonight, on the
cliff, I asked Kristin to marry me.”
“Oh Nathan! That’s wonderful…”
“I thought you weren’t
going to ask her now…” Both Bill and Janet started and stopped speaking at
the same time. Janet stared from
Bill to Nathan.
“Why wouldn’t you ask her
Nathan’s face fell.
“Because I didn’t want to marry her then have to leave her so
quickly. I have to finish things,
Janet… or neither of us will ever be safe.
I won’t have her in danger.”
Janet nodded in
understanding. “But… you
changed your mind?”
“I almost lost her…
because of that bitch’s silly machinations but also because I just wasn’t
thinking… I couldn’t bear to go on if that happened.
So I proposed and Kristin accepted.”
“Of course she did.
She loves you. I am so happy for both of you.
And can you imagine the look on Lexie’s face when she finds out that
the two of you are engaged! Promise
me that I can be there when you tell her!”
“I’m glad that you
relented, Nathan. I haven’t seen
you this happy in years.” Bill
held out a hand to his friend and they shared a vigorous shake before laughing
and embracing. “Nathan Bridger
getting married again… women will be weeping up and down the eastern
“I thought I saw a ring,”
Janet told them smugly. “Sapphire,
wasn’t it? I would give you a hug
as well, Nathan, but I don’t think my husband would appreciate me climbing out
from under the covers in my current state of undress.”
“I’ll take a rain check
on the hug, Janet, and I’ll let you and Bill get back to waking the guests in
just a minute but first… I need to ask a favour… a couple of favours as a
matter of fact.”
Bill gestured to the chair
for Nathan to sit then moved back to perch on the edge of the bed.
One of Janet’s hands subtly worked its way into her husband’s.
“All you have to do is ask,
Nathan. We will do anything…”
Nathan nodded, knowing that
his friend’s words were true. “This
is what I have in mind…”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Thankfully no Smith appeared
during Nathan’s brief conversation with Bill and Janet or while he was
returning to his room. He slid the
bolt back into place with a sigh of relief then turned towards the bed.
Kristin had cuddled down into
the warm spot left by his body, her arms clinging to his pillow.
Her hair spread out like liquid fire over her headrest and the white
comforter covering her. Her countenance was peaceful.
A wave of love almost
crippling in its intensity washed over Nathan as he stared at her. His mind made up, he moved to his closet and slid the door
open then stepped inside and pressed a hidden notch in the end.
A small hatch popped loose and Nathan pulled it open.
He reached inside and removed a box, opening the lid carefully to check
With another look at Kristin
and a final nod he moved over to the small writing desk in the corner and sat
down on the stool, pulling out a drawer to reveal blank paper.
As he picked up a crisp blue sheet his fingers brushed over a small frame
tucked in the corner. He picked up
the picture of Carol and stared at it a moment.
“I don’t regret our time
together, Carol. Although it
wasn’t quite like this… I did love you.
I loved our son and I loved our life together.
If you and Robert were still here with me I would be perfectly content…
But you are gone and I’ve been lonely so long.
I think that you would like Kristin.
She’s beautiful and strong… you would be a bit shocked at some of the
things she and Janet come up with… but then Janet always did shock you.”
He brushed a finger over the
portrait of the blonde-haired woman. “I
guess what I am saying is that I am ready to move on. I’ll never forget you… or our son. Neither of you will ever be replaced in my heart.
But I have room for more and I’ve found a wonderful woman to share my
life. I hope you will be happy for
me, where ever you are.”
With one last caress Nathan
slipped the miniature back into the bottom of the drawer then closed it firmly.
He turned back to the bed and stared at his lover for a long moment
before he dipped the pen into the inkwell and began to write…
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Not so quiet voices broke
through the haze of Kristin’s dream as she rolled over and pulled the pillow
over her head to try and block them.
“Oh no you don’t…”
The pillow was suddenly
yanked off her head.
Kristin rolled onto her back
and slowly opened her eyes to see Janet standing over the bed, her hands on her
hips with a large smile on her face.
“What do you mean, still
being in bed at this hour on today of all days?”
“Wha… what are you
talking about, Janet?” Kristin
asked sleepily as she stretched. “What
“What is today?”
Janet turned to speak to a person that Kristin couldn’t see.
“Can you believe that she doesn’t know what today is?!”
Soft laughter reached
Kristin’s ears. “Then I suppose
you best be telling her, Miss Janet while I go an’ get things ready in
Janet turned back to Kristin.
“Well, don’t just lie there, get up.
You have a big day ahead of you. We
have to get you bathed… dressed… put your hair up…”
“Janet Noyce,” Kristin
interrupted as she slowly sat up and slipped out of the bed to stand before her
friend, her hands on her hips. “Would
you please tell me what in God’s creation you are talking about?”
A large smile filled
Janet’s face and her eyes twinkled with merriment as she leaned close. “I am talking about getting you ready to marry that man of
“Mar…” Kristin sank
back onto the bed and looked up at Janet with a stunned expression on her face.
But Nathan… he just asked me last night,” she said.
“Today? There isn’t
enough time… there’s so much that needs to be done…”
“…we’ll need to get a
“…and the ring…”
“And then there are those
Kristin stopped rambling and
looked up at Janet.
“Everything has been taken
care of,” Janet told her with a smile.
“Yes, Miss Kristin,” Bess
answered as she walked out of the bathing room.
“My boy has taken care of pretty much everything ‘cept gettin’ you
“And he was headed up here
to do just that when we stopped him, eh, Bess?”
Janet said with a laugh.
Bess nodded and laughed as
she walked over to Kristin. “I am
so happy he’s finally doing right by you.”
Bess grasped Kristin’s hands and pulled her to her feet. “He loves you so much.
And I know, that if his mama was here today, she would love you too.”
Kristin’s eyes filled with
tears. “Thank you, Bess…”
“Now, you get yourself into
“But I just had a bath last
“Makes no difference,”
Bess said. “The hot water will
help soothe any aching muscles you may still have from your fall last night and
will wash away the ointment and liniment still on your skin.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Kristin
smiled as she leaned in and placed a kiss on the old black woman’s cheek.
“Go on now,” Bess said,
swatting Kristin on the bottom then moved towards the bedroom door.
“And don’t forget to wash your hair.”
“Yes, Bess,” Kristin
answered with a smile as she watched the woman leave then with a nod to Janet
she stepped into the bathroom.
Janet smiled and once she
heard the sound of water splashing, she headed for the closet.
Janet turned and walked over
to the bathroom door. “Yes,
“Would you… would you
come talk with me?”
Janet smiled, hearing the
nervous anticipation in Kristin’s voice.
She pushed the door open and walked in, chuckling at the sight of Kristin
buried in a mound of bubbles with just her head visible.
“Don’t you look all
“Ha ha…” Kristin shook
her head as she watched Janet seat herself on the edge of the bathtub.
“Relax, Kristin…” Janet
told her. “Nathan has taken care
How could he have done all this in one night… unless…” Kristin
brushed an errant strand of hair out of her face, leaving a trail of suds on her
cheek. “Unless he’d been… oh
god… he really had been planning to marry me all along. I didn’t quite…” her voice trailed off as she looked at
Janet with tear-filled eyes.
“It was a lie, Kristin.
What Lexie said about Nathan asking for permission to court Wendy… it
was a lie. She was lying to her own
daughter,” Janet told her. “The
woman is a slave to her own ambition and no one or nothing is more important to
her than her own wants and needs.”
“So…” Janet said after
a moment or two. “Should we do
your hair up or leave it down?”
“Well, Nathan likes it down
but I guess it would depend on the dr…” Kristin stopped. “I don’t have a proper dress to wear,” she said.
“At least not one nice enough to get married in.”
Janet merely smiled.
“Hair. Up or down?”
Kristin rolled her eyes.
“I told you, Nathan has
taken care of everything. All you
have to do is… show up and marry that man.”
A brilliant smile lit
Kristin’s face. “Oh, Janet… I
“Wash your hair…” she said and stood.
“Then when you’re finished, come back into the bedroom so we can see
about getting you ready.”
Kristin nodded and as Janet
closed the door behind her, Kristin slipped beneath the water and released an
Fifteen minutes later,
wrapped in one of the light dressing gowns Nathan had had made for her, Kristin
stepped back into the bedroom.
“Good. Sit over here,” Janet indicated the vanity,
“and let’s get started on drying your hair and putting it up.
I think that style will look best with your gown.”
“I’ll have to take your
word for it,” Kristin said as she walked over and sat down,
“as I’ve not seen the dress.”
Janet merely smiled and
reached for the silver-handled brush. Just
as she began to run the brush through Kristin’s wet hair, the bedroom door
“Look who I found,” Bess
called out as she entered the room, tray in hand.
“Katherine!” Kristin smiled at the young woman through the mirror.
Katherine smiled back as she moved to stand beside Janet.
“Congratulations. I am so
happy for you.”
“Thank you,” Kristin
replied then winced as Janet caught a tangle of hair with the brush.
“Sorry,” Janet whispered.
“Here, child,” Bess
placed the tray on the vanity before Kristin.
Kristin looked down at the
assortment of foods – scrambled eggs, ham, biscuits, and gravy – and felt
her stomach roll. She shook her
head. “Oh, Bess… I…”
Kristin placed her hand on her on chest just below her throat.
“I can’t. I must be more
nervous than I thought… I’m sorry.” She
pushed the tray away.
“At least eat the
biscuits,” Bess said, lifting the small plate off the tray along with a bowl
of jam. “You need something in
“I’ll try,” Kristin
said and lifted one of the biscuits to her lips then took a small bite.
“That’s my girl,” Bess
beamed then moved over to the bed and began to straighten the bed linens.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Would you stop!?”
“What if she changes her
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because that woman loves
“Anyone can see that, Uncle
“Yeah, Cap… the lady
really does have it bad for you.”
“Nathan… would you please
stop!!” Bill reached out and
grabbed his friend by the arm. “You’re
going to wear a hole in your carpet then Bess will take a switch to you. The women are all up there getting your bride ready for you.
And in,” Bill pulled out his pocket watch and opened it,
“just over an hour you’ll be married.”
repeated softly as a large grin formed on his face.
“To one of the most stubborn, opinionated, mouthy women I have ever
The men in the room laughed.
“Still time to change your
mind, Cap,” Ben said with a smile.
“Not a chance, Ben,”
Nathan continued to grin. “There
is no force on this planet that can keep me from making that woman my wife.”
“Speaking of forces,”
William spoke up. “Where are the
terrible twosome and their lapdog?”
“Oh… they are out on the beach on a picnic…”
“Waiting for the rest of us
to join them,” Bill said with an amused grin.
“What’s so funny?”
William asked as he watched his father, uncle and Crocker all give into
their mirth. He glanced at Lucas
and Ben to see the same confused looks on their faces.
“If your uncle ever decides
to give up sailing, he could make a living performing on stage,” Bill answered
his son. “The performance he gave
this morning was just incredible.”
“Do tell,” Ben said as
Lucas nodded eagerly.
“When he entered the dining
room this morning, he immediately apologized to them for disappearing on them
last night and then went so far as to be quite amiable to Wendy.”
“Almost lost my breakfast
doing that,” Nathan muttered.
The men all chuckled at the
look on his face.
“Lexie once again suggested
a beach picnic,” Crocker took over the telling of the story. “And Nathan here tells her that it is a wonderful idea then
tells them to go on ahead, which of course raises her hackles… but then he
told her that he was going to ‘take care’ of things here and once he was
finished he would join them.”
“I’ve never seen that
woman move so fast in my life,” Bill said with a grin.
“So…” a slow smile
started to form on William’s face. “They
think that you’re…”
“Giving the countess her
walking papers,” Ben finished the sentence, a grin on his face as well.
“But in all actuality…”
“You’re marrying her,”
Lucas said, grinning. “Oh… are
they gonna be bloody well pissed.”
“You, young man, have been
spending entirely too much time with Lady Westphalen,” Nathan told Lucas as
the other men laughed. “But
you’re right, they aren’t going to be too happy about it, and I don’t give
At that moment, Raleigh
walked into the room.
“All set up on the far
north beach just like you wanted,” Raleigh answered with a grin.
“Good. Thanks, Raleigh,” Nathan said.
“As soon as Kristin and I are married, I want those people off my
“I’ve got some of the men
already working on getting their ship ready,” Crocker told Nathan.
“Thanks, Gator,” Nathan
replied as he walked over to Lucas and clasped him on the shoulder. “I need to talk to you about something important,” he
told the young man and led him over to the fireplace.
“Lady Westphalen and I were talking last night… what would you say if
I told you that after we get married we want to adopt you?”
“You mean… you… you two
want to be my… my folks?”
“Yes we do.”
“Does this mean that I’d
get to call you dad?”
A large smile formed on
Nathan’s face and he nodded. “Yes.”
“And Lady Westphalen…
would I get to call her mama?”
Again Nathan nodded.
“Yes, I think she would like that.”
Lucas’ eyes filled with
tears, which he quickly brushed away as the grin on his face grew.
“Now, why don’t you run
upstairs and see what’s keeping the women.”
“Yes, Cap…” Lucas said
as he turned and headed for the door.
Lucas stopped and looked
“If you like… you can
start now,” Nathan told him then grinned as he watched Lucas nod then leave
the room, his head held high.
“I think you made his day,
Nathan,” Bill said, walking over to join his friend.
“It’s a fine thing you’re doing.”
“He’s a good kid,”
Nathan said. “Any person in their
right mind would be proud to have him as a son.”
“You’re right, they
would,” Bill agreed then released an exasperated breath when he turned back to
his friend. “Dammit, Nathan!
Would you stop!! Think of the poor rug!”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“I can’t eat anymore,”
Kristin said as she dropped the half-eaten biscuit onto the plate and pushed it
“Hmmph…” Bess leaned
over her shoulder. “Well at least
you managed to get one in you.”
“I’ll eat more later,
Bess. I promise,” Kristin told
the older woman. “I just…”
she placed her hand on her stomach as it rolled slightly.
“If you wasn’t nervous…
I’d be even more worried,” Bess told her as she moved over to the closet.
Janet and Kristin exchanged
amused glances before Janet took a step back then gestured to Kristin’s hair.
“Well… what do you think?”
Kristin gazed at herself in
the mirror. Janet had pulled her
long auburn curls into a loose but elegant roll.
A minimum number of pins held the chignon in place allowing only a few
tendrils to hang down and frame her face. “It’s…
oh, Janet, it’s wonderful. How
ever did you get it to stay up like that? And the flowers…” Kristin reached up to softly touch the
light blue flowers that had been carefully woven into the upswept strands.
“It’s just… thank you.”
“You’re very welcome,”
Janet smiled at her through the mirror. “I
was under orders to keep the hairpins to a minimum.”
“Yes, I can imagine Nathan telling you that.
He loves my hair…”
“Now, it’s time for your
dress,” Janet said. “Stand up,
turn around and close your eyes.”
Kristin did as she was told.
“Are they closed?”
“Really? You’re not peeking?”
“Good… okay… now you
can open them.”
“Oh… my…” Kristin
gasped. “He didn’t… I can’t
Bess, Janet and Katie watched
quietly as Kristin slowly walked toward the dress hanging on one of the
“Oh, Nathan…” Kristin
whispered as she reached out to finger the sapphire blue silk of the dress.
It was the same style of dress she’d seen but refused at the
dressmaker’s shop in Port San Luis. The
bolt of blue silk that Nathan had continually wrapped her in on the ship had
been cut and sewn into the most elegant dress… with an empire waist, off the
shoulder sleeves and a low-cut rounded neckline.
“He… he’d wanted to
have this dress made for me when we were in San Luis but I refused,” Kristin
told them in a quiet voice. “I
told him it was too much… too impractical for wearing on the ship…”
“My boy’s got good
taste!” Bess said
matter-of-factly. “Gets that from
Kristin turned to look at her
friends with a teary smile on her face. “Where…”
A knock on the door
“Go away, Nathan!”
Janet called out. “You can’t see her till the ceremony starts.”
“Uhm… it’s me,
Lucas,” came the voice from the other side of the door.
“Come in, Lucas,” Kristin
The door opened and Lucas
slowly walked in. “Uh… da…
the cap sent me up here to find out how much longer you were going to be.”
“Not too much longer,
Lucas,” Janet told him. “Tell
Nathan to keep his britches on.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lucas
said as he backed toward the door.
“Lucas…” Kristin called
out to him. “How is Nathan?”
A large grin split Lucas’
face as he answered. “He’s
wearing a hole in the carpet.”
The women laughed.
“He can’t wait to marry
you, milady,” Lucas told Kristin as he once again inched his way towards the
“Lucas,” Kristin walked
over to him. “Are you happy with
this? With Nathan and I? I know it’s been just the two of you for a long time
“I’m okay with it.
I like that you two want to get married and…” his voice trailed off
as he looked down at his feet.
“What is it, Lucas?”
Kristin asked as she slipped her hand beneath his chin and lifted his
“The cap… he said… told
me that you and he…” Lucas stopped, took a deep breath.
“Is it true that you would like to adopt me?”
A large smile formed on
Kristin’s lips. “Yes, it is.”
“Yes, really,” Kristin
told him. “I love you, Lucas.
I couldn’t love you more if you were biologically my own child, and I
would be proud to call you my son.”
“What do you want me to call you?”
“Whatever you are
comfortable with calling me,” Kristin told him.
“Could I… would you mind
if I called you mama?”
“I would like that very much… son.”
Lucas smiled and gave Kristin
a quick hug.
“Now, why don’t you go
downstairs and tell your father I will be down shortly.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lucas
replied as he took a step away, stopped then quickly turned and threw his arms
around her again. “I love you
too, Mama,” he whispered before quickly releasing her and taking off down the
Kristin watched him scamper
away until he disappeared then turned and walked back into the bedroom.
“Is everything all
“No,” Kristin said.
What’s wrong?” The three
women chorused together.
“The only thing that’s
wrong…” Kristin began slowly as she closed the door behind her. “Is that I am not in that dress and downstairs marrying my
Janet snorted, Bess hooted
and Katherine shook her head.
“Very funny,” Katie said,
biting her lip as she tried not to laugh.
“I thought it was,”
Kristin replied with a giggle as she walked over to the bed, picked up the light
chemise laid out over the blanket then turned to the three women. “Well…”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Well… Mrs. Noyce said
for me to tell you to keep your britches on,” Lucas told Nathan with a grin.
“And mama said she’d be down shortly.”
“There, you see,” Bill
clasped Nathan on the shoulder. “Nothing
to worry about. She’ll be down
here and before you know it, the two of you will be married.”
“I know… I just wish she’d hurry up.
I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for her.”
“I have a feeling Kristin
feels the same way about you,” Bill said with a grin.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“You look beautiful!”
My boy’s gonna be tongue-tied when he sets eyes on you!”
“You are stunning!”
Kristin blushed under the
compliments from her friends. “Thank
you,” she said softly and stepped in front of the mirror.
As Kristin studied her
reflection, Janet caught Bess’ eye and indicated that she would like a few
moments alone with Kristin.
“We’re gonna head down
now…” Bess spoke up and gestured for Katie to join her,
“let the menfolk know that you’ll be down in just a few more
“Thank you, Bess,”
“You just don’t be too
much longer, child,” Bess said. “My
boy’s waited a mighty long time for you and my carpets are suffering.”
“Yes, Bess,” Kristin
smiled as the old woman left the room, Katherine following.
“You really do look
gorgeous!” Janet told her with a
smile. “How are you feeling
anxious,” Kristin answered. “I
can’t wait to marry Nathan.”
“What…” Kristin bit her
lip. “What about Lexie and Wendy?
They’re not going to just stand aside and let this happen.
Not after everything she’s done.”
“Don’t you worry about
them,” Janet replied. “I told
you. Nathan has taken care of
“All right,” Janet sighed
and began to tell Kristin what had happened at breakfast that morning.
“And then when Lexie turned to Nathan and said, ‘something really
ought to be done with that nurse for being so rude as to get lost and delay our
dinner last night’, Nathan looked at her, his eyes sparkling and said, ‘You
know, Lexie, you’re absolutely right. I
should do something about that woman.’”
Janet laughed. “Oh you
should have seen the delight on Lexie’s face… she was so convinced that
Nathan had come to his senses and was planning on sending you away…”
Kristin couldn’t help but
chuckle at the excited way in which Janet was regaling the story.
“Then Nathan suggested a
picnic and when Lexie protested, Nathan told her that he would be ‘taking care
of business’ and then would join them,” Janet began to laugh harder.
“Oh… you should… I wish that you had seen her!
I’ve never seen… that woman move… so fast in my life, hauling that
demon-seed she calls a daughter behind her!”
“So… they’re not
“Absolutely not,” Janet
smiled as she calmed down, the occasional chuckle still bubbling up.
“They are all sitting out on the north beach waiting for Nathan to join
“That is…” Kristin
shook her head as she tried to bite back a smile but was unsuccessful. “That is terrible… but I just can’t find it in myself
to be upset about it.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Lexie is going to be
bloody well pissed when she returns to find that Nathan and I have gotten
“Yes she is,” Janet
replied with a slight laugh.
“It really isn’t
“Oh yes it is,” Janet
Kristin shook her head.
“Okay, it is.”
“Well, I should go and quickly change.
Nathan has asked Bill and I to stand as witnesses…” her voice trailed
off. “Unless you would prefer
Katherine to stand up with you?”
“Oh no… you and Bill are
“Are you sure?
I won’t be offended if you would rather have Katherine.
You have known her much longer, after all.”
“Katherine is a wonderful
young lady but she is more Cynthia’s friend than mine,” Kristin answered.
“The only reason she was on my ship is that she is very interested in
the engineering principles in building the ships,” she paused and walked over
to Janet. “I would be very
honoured to have you stand up with me.”
Janet smiled then turned to
leave. She stopped suddenly then
quickly strode across the room to the vanity, opened the drawer and pulled out a
velvet-covered box with an envelope tied to it with a matching blue ribbon.
“I almost forgot,” Janet
said as she walked over to Kristin. “Nathan
asked me to give this to you.”
“What is it?”
Kristin asked, taking what was obviously a jeweler’s box from her
“I don’t know,” Janet
said and moved to the door. “Nathan
just asked me to make sure I gave it to you before you came downstairs.
So, while I go change, you open it.”
With that, Janet swept out of
the room and closed the door behind her. Kristin
looked down at the items she held in her hand and smiled at the sight of her
name in an elegant, obviously male scrawl on the top of the blue envelope.
Kristin walked over to the
bed, sat down on the edge and laid the box down beside her.
She ran her fingers over her name on the envelope before turning it over,
opening it and pulling out a couple pieces of blue stationary.
She unfolded the stationary and began to read.
I write this, you are fast asleep in our bed and I am sitting here, haunted by
the memory of how very near to losing you I came tonight.
while it is that memory… that fear of losing you that has prompted me to write
this letter to you, to put down in words the thoughts and feelings that are
running through my head at this moment; that is not the only reason.
is the reason.
wish I could be more poetic in telling you that, but I haven’t the words.
All I know, is that since you’ve come into my life… I feel that life
is worth living again.
is a part of me that still finds it hard to believe that you, a woman with your
breeding, your status… a Countess could love me… an old sailor with just a
few small estates and a shipyard; but then I remember the look in your eyes as
I’m moving in and above you, and I am filled such peace… and such love that
I know it is true.
have touched and healed my soul, Kristin. Before
I found you, I was a lonely, bitter man who really had nothing to live for.
You changed all that. You…
with your beauty, your wit and your indomitable spirit and zest for life
breathed new life into my withered soul.
know that despite my promise that you would not suffer for loving me, you have
indeed suffered, and I cannot begin to tell you how profoundly sorry I am that
you were hurt. I would sooner give
my life than to see you hurting in any way and I will spend the rest of our
lives together making it up to you.
agreeing to marry me has filled me with such elation of a kind that I have only
felt once… at the birth of my son… and I have decided that I do not wish to
wait any longer than necessary to make you my wife.
with that in mind… I ask you again, my darling Kristin, will you please do me
the great honour of becoming my wife?
your answer is still yes, then open the box I’ve had Janet give to you and
join me downstairs, where I await with our friends and a minister… for you to
become my wife.
heart is eternally yours…
Kristin swiped the tears out
of her eyes as she folded the letter and placed it back inside the envelope then
reached beside her to the blue-velvet box.
Her fingers shook as she slowly lifted the lid.
She inhaled sharply and her eyes grew wide.
Lying on a bed of crushed
velvet lay the most exquisite sapphire and diamond necklace Kristin had ever
seen in her life. The cut and
colour of the stones in the necklace matched her ring exactly.
“So that’s what he did
Kristin jumped slightly at
the soft voice at her shoulder. “I
didn’t hear you come in,” she said to Janet.
“Yes it is,” Kristin
replied in a quiet voice. “What
did you mean… ‘So that’s what he did with them’?”
“Over the years, since his
trip to the Orient, Nathan has been collecting sapphires,” Janet answered.
“But not just any sapphires. They
had to be a certain colour, a certain cut… he was always very particular about
them. Only Bill and I knew were
aware that he was collecting them and we’d even asked him why one time, but he
wouldn’t tell us,” she paused. “We
assumed it was because he’s always liked the colour… we didn’t know about
the ring until I saw it on your finger last night.”
Kristin glanced down at her
ring and smiled, Nathan’s words while hanging on the cliff coming back to her.
‘I’ve had this ring for years… over thirty years… but you are the
first woman to wear it… the first to ever see it.’
“He bought it in the
Orient… he was told by the old woman who sold it to him that it was meant for
one woman, and one woman only. If
there was any hesitation on his part about giving it, then that woman was not
the woman who was meant to have the ring… and that the ring would fit
perfectly on the finger of the right woman.
“And Nathan had absolutely
no qualms, fears or hesitations about giving you the ring,” Janet stated with
a smile, “Because that ring fits
you perfectly. You two were
definitely meant to be together.”
Kristin returned her smile.
“So… why don’t I help
you put that gorgeous necklace on and then get you downstairs and married to
“That sounds wonderful to
me,” Kristin replied and carefully removed the necklace from its box then
“Here, let me…” Janet
said as she grasped the ends of the necklace and quickly secured them together.
“How does it look?”
“Just perfect,” Janet
answered. She gestured to the
cheval mirror in the corner. “Go
see for yourself.”
Kristin walked over to the
mirror and stared at her reflection.
“Blue is definitely your
colour,” Janet told her as she walked up behind her friend. “One last thing…” she held up a pair of dangling
sapphire earrings that matched Kristin’s necklace.
Kristin smiled as she took
the earrings from Janet and quickly put them on.
“Perfect,” Janet smiled.
“Nathan is going to be speechless.”
“I hope not! I want him to be able to recite his vows!”
Kristin nodded then turned
away from the mirror. “Yes.”
Kristin shook her head.
“No… more anxious than nervous,” she replied as she took a deep
breath then slowly released it. “I… I still can’t believe this is happening.
It’s all been so quick, and yet I feel as if I’ve known and loved him
all my life.”
Janet smiled as Kristin
“I love him so much, Janet.
Nathan completes me in ways I never thought were possible.”
Janet’s smile grew as she
opened the bedroom door. “Well
then… let’s not keep that man waiting.”
Kristin nodded and with
another deep breath, she swept out of the room, Janet following with a large
smile and a giggle on her lips.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Where are they?”
“They’ll be here,
“Why’s it taking so
“I don’t know.”
“She’s changed her
mind… I know she has! Kristin has
changed her mind and she doesn’t want to marry me.”
“Don’t be silly, Nathan!
Kristin loves you. She hasn’t changed her mind!”
“Then where is she?”
“Getting ready to marry
you,” Bill answered as his friend began to pace again.
“Nathan, would you stop…”
Nathan stopped pacing and
looked up expectantly as the parlour room door opened.
He sighed as the minister walked in.
“Ah, good morning,”
Reverend Law called out with a smile. “I
see we’re almost ready for the ceremony.”
“Almost,” Bill answered
and walked over to shake the vicar’s hand.
“We’re just awaiting the bride,” he gestured to Nathan. “The groom here is getting nervous.”
“I’m not nervous… I’m
anxious,” Nathan said.
The reverend chuckled.
“It is the bride’s prerogative to be fashionably late for her own
“See, I don’t understand
that,” Nathan said. “Kristin is
already an extremely beautiful woman… it’s not like she needs to be
excessively made up. I…”
“Don’t worry, Captain,”
Law told him. “If your Kristin
loves you as much as you obviously love her… I am sure she won’t be too much
longer. But in the meantime, why
don’t you come with me and let’s get started on the paperwork…”
As the reverend pulled Nathan
over to the other side of the room, the parlour doors opened and the room began
to fill with various members of Nathan’s crew and their families.
Several moments later, the
doors opened again and Katie rushed in with a large smile on her face.
“She’s coming down the stairs.”
“About time! Gator…”
“Already on my way, Cap,”
Crocker answered as he walked through the doors out into the hallway.
Shutting the doors behind him, he looked up and released a low whistle.
“If I may say so, you look wonderful, Countess.”
“Thank you, Gator,”
Kristin replied as she stepped off the last stair and walked over to stand
before the parlour doors. “Is…”
“Everything is all set,
we’re just waiting for you.”
“And how is Nathan?”
“Nervous as a long-tailed
cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” Crocker answered with a grin then
chuckled. “I have never seen him
Kristin laughed softly as she
glanced at the closed doors.
“If you would allow me,”
Crocker began. “I would be
honoured to escort you down the aisle.”
A large smile formed on
Kristin’s face as she nodded. “Oh,
Gator, that would be wonderful. I
can’t imagine who I would like more,” she told him.
“After all, Nathan told me you knew before we did that we’d end up
“I saw the sparks, yes
Kristin flushed as Janet
stepped up to them. “You have to
stand back and over there, Kristin,” Janet told her and pointed to a spot away
from the doors. “It wouldn’t do
for Nathan to see you just yet. You
“Yes, ma’am,” Crocker
nodded and led Kristin over to the place Janet indicated.
Assured they were safely out
of sight, Janet opened the doors and smiled when she saw Nathan look up
anxiously. She gave a small nod and
as Nathan took his place next to Reverend Law, soft music from the pianoforte in
the library began to filter through the room.
“Now remember, Reverend,”
Nathan said with a smile. “Short
“I remember, Captain.”
Janet turned her head to look
at Kristin and Crocker. “Count to
twenty, then come on in,” she told them and with that said, she entered the
Crocker asked her a few moments later, offering her his left arm.
“Very ready, Gator,”
Kristin replied as she slipped her hand into the crook of his arm.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~