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Authors: Francine Howarth

Her Favoured Captain

BOOK: Her Favoured Captain
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Her Favoured Captain

 

Copyright © 2011 Francine Howarth

 

Black Velvet Books

All characters in
this book are fictitious.

Any fictitious
character resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental: whether alive or
dead.

Real towns and cities
feature alongside real persons of note per era.

 

All rights
reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted in any form, or by means electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior consent of the author.

 

Her Favoured
Captain is a novella!

A list of other books
by Ms Howarth can be found at the end of this novella inclusive blurbs & 1
st
chapters.

Chapter One

~

 

How could his stable be
empty?

  
Her heart lurched and dread washed over her.
She rushed across to a stable lad who had brush in hand and straw and dung
already pitched to a wheelbarrow. “Where is Tobias?”

  
His face flushed pink, and before she could question him further
two shots echoed across the valley.

  

Noooo
,” her wail, yet her voice
seemed somehow distant, not hers at all.

  
“I be so sorry yer ladyship, but his
lordship said as how Tobias were finished. No good to any man.”

  
“Where, where has he taken him?’

  
“To the meadow.”

  
She turned, fled, and on approach to the
meadow her heart sank for her brother came striding through the gateway a
triumphant air. “How could you do that?” she screamed, her heart utter wrenched
at loss of Tobias.

  
“It had to be done, Emerald,” replied her
brother, pistol to hand. “Would you have him die a slow death?”

  
“But he looked and sounded so much better
this morning.” Tears flooded forth, and although it was extreme childish in
action it felt so good to pummel her hateful brother’s chest. “We thought him
quite well last evening. His breathing was sound.”

  
Ned’s strength far greater than hers, and
in spite of pistol in hand he managed to brush her aside and hold her at arm’s
length. “We, who is we?”

  
“Your head groom, who else. Jenkins felt
sure Tobias had not broken his wind despite persistent cough, and if you walked
him to the meadow did you not hear his steady breath?”

  
“It is done, Emerald.’ He let slip his grip on her shoulder, and
began striding away. “The horse is now out of its misery, and no more to be
said about it.”

  
“How dare you take that tone with me.
Tobias was
my
horse.”

  
He paused, turned, his hooded eagle-like
eyes those of hardened soldier used to death and of killing. “Your horse, yes,
and had you heeded my warning to ride in the manner befitting a lady, Tobias
would be alive now, not dead.” She sensed him angered at her for reasons beyond
compassion toward her horse: Tobias was a mere weapon in his arsenal of do as
you are told or suffer the consequence. He wished to crush her defiance in
refusing the Earl of Moorby’s hand in marriage: confirmed in venomous outburst.
“With nothing to hold you here, now perhaps you will see your way to acceptance
of the Earl’s offer of marriage.”

  
“You
beast
, utter
beast
. You
murdered
Tobias, and I shall never forgive you,
never
.” She drew sob-choked
breaths and ran to the meadow. “Poor, poor Tobias. I shall love you always.”

  
She could not bear to stay there in bright
sunshine, for his blood-streaked head and dappled grey lifeless body tore at
her heartstrings. She turned and ran across the meadow, the woodland edge a
tear-laden blur of green and shadowed gloom. Once inside beneath its comforting
cool canopy she trod the path that led to the creek. She would not be wed to a
man more than twice her age.

  
The waters, the waters of the creek were so
cold, so inviting: she and Tobias would gallop for eternity. There was no other
solution. It would all be over with a few shocked breaths and drag of
undercurrents on her skirts.

  
In blind haste, not taking heed of the path
beneath her feet, something soft and slimy caused her to slip and lose her
balance. She tumbled sideways down a steep slope and bar for trees, there was
nothing to grab hold of to prevent gradual descent from top to bottom. With a
slight bump she landed on dry sand, her silk gown torn badly and hair decorated
with array of woodland flora and fauna. “Uh. Creepy crawlies,” she said,
brushing a spider from her face.

  
About to get to her feet to walk into the
waters of the creek and let its depths consume her, to her astonishment, there,
in the creek, a ship lay at anchor. Never before had she seen such a huge hulk
in creek waters. Small fishing boats on occasion, yes, but even then rare
sightings of such. This one had to be a warship, with three masts and cannon
portals. It had no identifiable flag, so why was it there and where had it come
from?

  
Wood smoke. She sniffed the air; her nose
lured toward a rocky outcrop. From behind it smoke drifted on a barely
noticeable breeze. Male voices, too, carried her way. A rowboat lay near to the
outcrop, its bow on sand and stern in water. Fearful of many seafarers the
other side of the outcrop, in a state of extreme panic she scrambled to her
feet and headed in the opposite direction.

  
It seemed prudent to glance over her
shoulder from time to time to be sure no one had spied her nor thinking of
coming after her. On a third glance backward it proved fatal, for she collided
with solid muscle of man. He too came from between trees and underbrush in a
speedy uncontrolled manner much like she had moments beforehand. Luckily for
her, he maintained good balance and she, too, did not disgrace herself by
falling flat on her rump.

  
“Well this is a delight to be sure,” he
said, a broad smile.

  
Nonetheless, startled, terrified, she
stepped back, and although his voice boded that of a gentleman of good
breeding, a well-worn smock implied otherwise and she feared him less than
honourable in display of noted interest in her state of dress. “Who are you,
and what are you doing here?” she asked, his blue-grey eyes intently focused on
hers. It was disconcerting to be scrutinised by one so tall and a stranger to
boot, his black hair tied back with black ribbon. “This is private land.”

  
He chuckled, his tanned face shrouded by
goatee and creased in amusement. She thought him quite young and rather
handsome, but his unlaced smock revealed manly status of hair upon chest so
perhaps older than he looked. His breeches and boots were also decorated with
woodland moss and ferns in like to her gown. “Private land, eh? Well, happen
you better tell me your name,’ he said, maintaining intense eye-to-eye contact,
“and apology for my trespass shall be yours.”

  
Damn the man. How dare he toy with her in
that manner? It was unbefitting of a true gentleman? “I live near here, and you
clearly do not.”

  
He bowed and heartily laughed. “I am of
mind to think you are recent tumbled in the hay.” His eyes mocked in laughter,
too. “A lady, methinks. Not a wayward harlot. Am I right?”

  
His expression implied him intrigued by
her, if a little unsure of her status and certain no knowledge of her rank. “A
tumble indeed, and unlucky to be alive.” She wished she had kept her mouth
shut, and to allay his seeming suspicious nature, said, “I fell down the bank a
little ways back.”

  
“Unlucky, did you say unlucky? How so, if
alive and unscathed.” A caring manly thumb to her cheek cast a tear aside.
“Tears, why tears?”

  
No man had done such a thing before and she
sensed pink flush to both cheeks. “It’s a long story. Now, may I pass on my
way?”

  
“I have the time if you feel need to
unburden what ever it is that has upset you so. You are clearly grieving and,
in much distress.”

  
How could this happen, one magical touch
from a complete stranger and her in wont to reveal her unhappy state? “I
cannot, cannot, it is all too painful, and . . .” Tears flooded forth, his
chest somehow comforting. His warm embrace was caring rather than suggestive of
villainous intent, and words spilled forth so easy in torrent of hate and dread
of Ned’s intentions for her. “He shot my horse, the brute shot my horse, and
all because I refused to agree to his bidding.”

  
He eased her away from his chest, his eyes
entreating absolute truth. “Who shot him?”

  
She wished nothing more than to drown in
the creek yet the depths of his eyes so honest in compassion, his embrace
quelled desire for death.

  
“My brother, my hateful brother.”

  
“Who is?”

  
“Lord Penhavean.”

  
“Ned?”

  
Astonished at his knowing her brother on
first-name terms, he was suddenly the enemy. She extricated herself from his
clutches, sidestepped his bulk and fled. He was far too quick for her, and arm
grabbed he spun her round to face him. “Ned Penhavean is no friend of mine . .
. if that is behind your reason for flight.”

  
“Then what . . . and who are you?”

  
He chuckled. “Captain, and buccaneer
extraordinaire, at your service.”

  
“A pirate?” came out as screech, and most
unladylike.

  
“Shush,” he said, finger to her lips.
“Could you keep a secret if your life depended on it remaining a secret?”

  
Oh God, how his touch fired the senses, his
voice as though drifting on a magical breeze. “I might have before today,’ her
reply, heart blatant in disturbed flutters of something indefinable from
within, “though my future at Ned’s hands is somewhat uninviting.”

  
“In that case, Lady Emerald, consider
yourself my prisoner.”

  
“Prisoner?” Was he jesting or being
serious?

  
“That or trust in me, and keep the presence
of my ship, here, in the creek, a secret.”

  
“How did you know my name?”

  
“When a Royal Marine officer Ned served
aboard the same ship as I, and although we were once great friends things went
awry, but he oft talked of you most fond.”

  
A tentative smile creased his face and
again something stirred within her, as it never had before. Out of her depth,
floundering in his honesty, her words flowed from the heart. “Fondness has been
far from Ned’s thoughts for a long while.” Her eyes drifted to the ship at
anchor. “And you, back then, a soldier too?”

  
“Lieutenant, in his majesty’s Royal Navy.”

  
Her eyes again levelled on his face, and
some-thing about his eyes implied him genuine. “Then why are you now a
buccaneer?”

  
“There are things, your ladyship, that I
cannot reveal.”

  
“Emerald, call me Emerald, for if we are to
share a secret, then I would like to think we can be friends on equal terms. So
tell me, what name shall you go by, Captain?”

  
“A pretty name is Emerald, and beautiful
emerald eyes you have, too.”

  
She laughed, the man before her most infuriating
and utterly desirable. “Give me a name. I cannot leave here thinking of you as
merely my buccaneer.”

  
“Your buccaneer, eh? I should be so lucky.”

  
His smile implied to be her buccaneer was a
wholly delightful prospect to him, and that alone caused palpitations of heart.
“You know very well what I meant.’

  
“Indeed, but a man has the right, surely,
to think that even a lady of rank might well look fondly upon his attributes
and consider him a potential suitor, or lover at best.”

  
She let slip a sigh indicating displeasure
at his presumptuous inference she was utter smitten. “Must you be as tiresome
as other men, in taking it upon yourself to think me enamoured by your charming
manner?”

  
“You are,” he said, his movement slight yet
the distance between them instantly bridged; his arm about her waist and hand
cupping her chin tortuous in extreme. “Tell me I cannot kiss you, and I will
step away.”

BOOK: Her Favoured Captain
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