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Authors: Iris Gower

Sea Mistress

BOOK: Sea Mistress
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Bridie Marchant had been brought up with every advantage, a wealthy background, a convent education, and a father who eventually willed her a fleet of merchant sailing ships. When she married Paul marchant it seemed a perfect match, for Paul, owner of a much smaller fleet of ships, could take care both of Bridie and of her business interests.
But slowly Bridie began to have her doubts about Paul, about his love, and about his business dealings. When he tried to inflict upon her the greatest insult of all, and also attempted to seize her fortune, Bridie decided she must fight back. With the help of Ellie Hopkins, she sought to trap Paul in a web of his own making. In the dramatic events that followed, both Ellie and Bridie were nearly destroyed before they finally found happiness with the men they loved.
Sea Mistress
is the fifth book in Iris Gower's powerful
Iris Gower was born in Swansea to an Army family. Married early, she was a mother of four and a well-published author by the time she was in her mid-twenties. She still lives in Swansea with her husband in a house on top of a Welsh hill facing the sea she loves. Iris Gower wrote the libretto and lyrics for a new musical,
Copper Kingdom
, which was first staged in 1995. She is the author of the highly successful
Sweyn's Eye
series of novels and
Sea Mistress
is the fifth title in her
Also by Iris Gower
and published by Corgi Books
Iris Gower
This ebook is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form (including any digital form) other than this in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Epub ISBN: 9781446463680
Version 1.0
A CORGI BOOK : 0 552 14097 X
Originally published in Great Britain by Bantam Press,
a division of Transworld Publishers
Bantam Press edition published 1995
Corgi edition published 1996
3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Copyright © Iris Gower 1995
The right of Iris Gower to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Corgi Books are published by Transworld Publishers,
61–63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA,
a division of The Random House Group Ltd,
in Australia by Random House Australia (Pty) Ltd,
20 Alfred Street, Milsons Point, Sydney, NSW 2061, Australia,
and in New Zealand by Random House New Zealand Ltd,
18 Poland Road, Glenfield, Auckland 10, New Zealand
and in South Africa by Random House (Pty) Ltd,
Endulini, 5a Jubilee Road, Parktown 2193, South Africa.
To Christopher, Emily
and JoJo with love.
Her husband had taken a mistress, she knew it as surely as if the word ‘betrayal' was written in blood upon his forehead. Bridie Marchant lay beside Paul in their large bed, her emotions in turmoil, jealousy searing her, and stared at his naked back.
When he had come home from sea (was it only yesterday?) he had been as warm and as happy as he'd always been to see his two young sons. His presents had been lavish, his gifts of silks from the East and perfume from the Americas were, as always, generous but when he took Bridie in his arms, something about him was different.
They had made love, if you could call their quick coupling that. It had seemed more of a duty to him rather than the passionate response of a man returned to his wife after a long absence at sea. Once he would have been eager for her, he would have taken his time, made her sing with happiness but this time it was different. When it was over, Paul had promptly turned away from her and fallen asleep, leaving Bridie feeling disappointed, bewildered and used.
Bridie had been unable to sleep; usually, after one of his trips, they sat up in bed, he talking of his adventures in foreign lands. She had enjoyed the moments of closeness when he would listen with rapt attention while she brought him up to date on the progress of his sons.
Was this the normal pattern of marriage after several years, a case of familiarity breeding contempt? Had Paul tired of her already?
Bridie felt tears on her lashes and brushed them away, she was the one who was always in control of her emotions. Bridie Marchant, sensible mother to her children, partner in a large shipping fleet, the senior partner to all intents and purposes, she reminded herself sternly. The thought gave her a small feeling of security. To keep control of the shares left to her by her father was something she had made a decision on before her marriage even though Paul had protested vigorously. He felt that women knew little or nothing about business, especially a business that involved the sea. And yet hadn't there been some instinct warning her even then, that she would need to keep an ace in her hand where her husband was concerned?
As though aware of her scrutiny, Paul stirred, muttering words that Bridie strove to hear. He was between sleep and wakefulness as he reached out for her. He drew her close and she lay against him, listening to the strong beat of his heart, miserably contemplating the identity of the woman he had last held this way. Had he fallen in love or had the long weeks at sea made him eager for release? Questions worried at her mind, she imagined him making love to some faceless hussy, kissing unknown lips, and anger raged through her.
She disentangled herself from his arms and slid from between the sheets. She stood looking down at him for a moment, his curling hair hung over his brow, his broad shoulders were golden from the sun, she loved him so much she ached.
Softly, she padded across the room. Soon her sons would be awake and, in spite of an undoubted fondness for Annie their nurse, it was their mother the boys turned to first thing on rising in the morning. Her features softened; her sons, Andrew and Christopher, were so dear to her, they were her life. She clenched her hands into fists; for them, she would do anything to retain her interest in the shipping line, she would protect their future. For somehow she felt it might prove necessary one day.
‘Where are you going?' Paul was sitting up in bed, watching her as she stood, hand on the doorknob.
‘To the children, of course.' She knew her voice lacked warmth and Paul knew it too. For a moment, his violet eyes were guarded and then, he held out his hand and smiled. ‘Come back to bed, it's early yet.'
‘The boys . . .' Her words died away as Paul held back the blankets invitingly.
‘The children have a nurse, that's what she's for, to take care of our sons while we . . . while we.'
‘Make love?' She supplied the word he seemed reluctant to say aloud. ‘It's all right, Paul, it's quite legal, we are married.'
‘Come here.' He was assessing her, he sensed something was wrong but he had no intention of recognizing her mood. Slowly, Bridie returned to the bed and climbed into the warmth beside her husband.
‘Paul . . .' There was a question in her voice but Paul, clearly, didn't want to enter into any sort of discussion. His mouth was on hers, silencing her.
This time there was more warmth in his approach, more tenderness, and she tried to tell herself that she had been foolish, imagining a problem which didn't exist.
His hands were caressing and in spite of herself she responded to his touch with her usual rush of desire. She loved Paul, she wanted him desperately. He took his time, he kissed her eyelids, her cheeks, her lips, and then his mouth tantalizingly moved to her breasts. Her breathing became ragged.
‘Do you love me, Paul?'
‘Of course, Bridie, you are my wife.' His voice was thick with emotion and mingled with Bridie's passion was a great thankfulness. His reassurances were like water to her parched senses, she wanted to believe him so much. She must believe him.
She flung back her head, her back arching to enjoy all the more his possession of her. Her hands clasped his back, sliding silkily over his skin, feeling with delight the firmness of his buttocks. She wanted the moments of happiness never to end, for Paul, her husband, was hers once more.
The mill was filled with wood dust. In the slant of the early sun the motes appeared as snow drifting and falling in the cold spring air. The sound of the machinery macerating plates of oak bark reverberated around the mill, seeming to shake the frail wooden structure with the force of its power.
Ellie Hopkins stopped the mill and made her way down the rickety wooden stairs to the room below, to where the chute was discharging the slivers of bark, and with an effort shifted the overflowing basket away from the foot of the machine. She sighed and rubbed at her spine before bending to place an empty basket beneath the chute. She paused for a moment, day-dreaming in the relief of the freedom from noise. It was a fine day, a good day for being out of doors, she thought wistfully.
The splash of sunlight from the doorway was suddenly blocked by the huge bulk of Jubilee Hopkins. ‘
, Ellie, you're like a little ghost there, standing silent in the dust. Pull your finger out girl or the work will never be done.'
Ellie looked up and smiled, she knew the rebuke, though harsh-sounding, was good naturedly given. ‘So? Why not do a bit of graft yourself then, Jubie?' She looked at him with fondness, his craggy brows formed a grey forest over his lined eyes, his hair hung around his shoulders in a white cloud. He appeared, Ellie thought, like a prophet from the Old Testament.
BOOK: Sea Mistress
2.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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