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Authors: Christina Courtenay

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BOOK: Trade Winds (Choc Lit)
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‘Surely you didn’t believe him, Grandfather?’ Farquhar said, taken aback by his grandfather’s defence of Killian. ‘You know he’s a liar
extraordinaire
.’

Lord Rosyth sent him a glance he couldn’t quite understand and which made him feel more than a little uncomfortable. ‘As a matter of fact, I did believe him for once. Do you doubt my ability to tell truth from falsehood, Farquhar?’

‘No, no of course not, I just wondered …’

‘Well, don’t.’

Farquhar refrained from answering back although it went against the grain.

There was a lot of muttering amongst the Cameron men, but at last they appeared to come to an agreement. ‘Very well,’ the spokesperson said, ‘we’ll go have a wee word with Hamilton, but if you set eyes on that grandson of yours again, don’t let him escape a second time.’

‘I didn’t
let
him escape,’ Lord Rosyth said, his patience obviously wearing thin, ‘he hit me over the head. I’m an old man, what chance did I stand? But naturally, I’ll have him watched, should I set eyes on him again. I give you my word.’

When the Camerons had trooped off, Farquhar blurted out, ‘You don’t expect to see Killian for some time, do you?’ It wasn’t really a question, but his grandfather replied nonetheless.

‘No. I’ve sent him away.’

‘Why? Shouldn’t you have made him stay to face up to his crimes?’

Lord Rosyth sent Farquhar another quizzical look, his grey eyes boring into his grandson’s. ‘Are you so sure he was responsible, then? I told you, I don’t believe he is.’

‘But it’s as plain as a pikestaff. He’s forever seducing young women, why not Iona? I’ve told you before of the rumours circulating about him. You must have heard them yourself?’

‘To be sure, I know he has a reputation with the ladies, but I was given to understand he normally sticks to more, shall we say, mature females. Not young virgins, which incidentally I don’t believe Iona to have been. He may be reckless, but he’s not stupid.’

‘I thought you disapproved of Killian’s way of life.’ Farquhar couldn’t believe his grandfather was suddenly condoning his cousin’s behaviour. It was the outside of enough, after all his efforts to foster enmity between the two men.

Lord Rosyth turned thoughtful. ‘Well, it’s been a few years since I’ve seen him, and I have to admit I found him changed.’

‘Changed? How can you say that? He’s as debauched as ever. No, worse, in fact.’ Farquhar felt as if he was grasping at straws and all his schemes were rapidly slipping out of his hands.

‘Perhaps,’ Lord Rosyth conceded, ‘but although he’s as insolent and full of himself as before, I detected a subtle difference. He looked wary, as though he didn’t trust anyone. There was a sharp edge to his voice, showing steely resolve perhaps, although why, I’m sure I don’t know.’

‘It’s what you need as a hardened gambler.’

‘Yes, yes, I know.’ Lord Rosyth sighed and suddenly looked his age. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have been so hard on him though. I can’t in all conscience blame him for being alive when his brothers are not and a man doesn’t choose who gives birth to him.’

‘Brice was a good man, and so was Blake. A completely different sort altogether,’ Farquhar lied. He hadn’t liked Killian’s older brothers any more than he liked Killian himself, but at least they’d had the sense to get themselves killed while fighting for the Jacobites in the ’15. And the old man’s love for his oldest grandson, the oh-so-perfect Brice, had worked to Farquhar’s advantage. His death had made Lord Rosyth resent Killian all the more. Was he changing his tune now? Farquhar couldn’t allow that to happen. Being the only other surviving grandson, he had always tried his best to fill the void left by Brice and Blake, doing everything his grandfather asked of him and more. Compared to Killian, he’d been a veritable saint, at least outwardly.

‘Yes, he was − brave, fearless, strong and loyal − they both were, but they’re gone, never to return, killed by the damned Sassenachs.’ The old man sighed again. ‘Perhaps because of them I haven’t given Killian the benefit of the doubt? He never bothered to deny the accusations after all, but I’m beginning to wonder if all these stories about him can really be true.’

‘Believe me, they are.’

Lord Rosyth sent him yet another appraising look which made Farquhar want to squirm like a worm on a hook. He quashed the impulse and nodded for emphasis. ‘I hear tales about him I would blush to tell you.’

‘Hmm, well be that as it may, I think it’s time I made my own enquiries rather than rely on hearsay.’

‘What, you’re going to Edinburgh?’ Farquhar was stunned.

‘Yes, I believe I shall.’

‘But, your health … Surely that isn’t wise?’ Lord Rosyth never ventured that far normally. Travelling was an ordeal for him and he considered the capital a den of iniquity, not to mention a disgustingly dirty place. ‘Auld Reekie’ was just that – full of smoke and as filthy as any chimney, overcrowded and malodorous. There was no doubt the city deserved its nickname. This had been a godsend to Farquhar, who could pick and choose which tales to tell and which to suppress. ‘Really, Grandfather, this isn’t necessary. You have loyal servants who can be trusted to use their eyes and ears on your behalf.’

‘No, I want to see for myself. I shall pay a visit to my friends, they’ll not lie to me. You’re welcome to accompany me if you wish?’

‘Of course I’ll come, if you’re dead set on going, but I still think ...’

Lord Rosyth held up a hand. ‘Enough, lad. When I want your advice, I’ll ask for it. Now kindly order the servants to make everything ready for the journey.’

‘Very well, if that’s what you want.’ Farquhar made himself smile as if the proposed trip was something he was looking forward to already. In truth, nothing would stop him from going. He had to make sure Lord Rosyth didn’t accidentally hear anything bad about himself. He shivered. Now that really would be a disaster, although after today, he didn’t know how matters could possibly get any worse.

His plan had failed and now there was only one course open to him – Killian, damn him, had to be eliminated altogether, and soon.

 

 

Chapter Six

Gothenburg, Sweden

Jess soon settled into life in Gothenburg once more and in some ways it felt as if she’d never been away. There were subtle differences, however, and the most obvious one was that Robert ruled the household with an even firmer hand than ever before. Katrijna had never been a strong-minded woman, but now she deferred to her husband in all things. It was as though she had no will of her own at all, and Jess began to see why her mother hadn’t been able to do anything about her daughter’s banishment.

Although Jess knew a woman’s duty was to be subservient, she had always thought that in a marriage there would be some give and take. That wasn’t the case here and she found the situation unbearable, while her mother seemed not to mind or even notice.

Robert had been her father’s junior business associate and had proved himself a pillar of strength when Aaron died. He’d taken on the burden of running the family’s merchant company, as well as sorting out all the legal and practical details. Jess was grateful to him for that. The fact that he had also made himself indispensable to her mother had been an unexpected and unwelcome surprise. Their marriage, only six months after Aaron’s death, seemed nothing short of sacrilege to his grieving daughter.

It wasn’t unusual for a widow to remarry though, and even Jess had to admit Katrijna wasn’t the type of woman who could cope without a man to take care of her. Her mother was also ecstatically happy with her new husband, which made Jess swallow any protests, but secretly she felt it was all wrong.

He has no right to be here.

Jess tried to stop herself from thinking such thoughts. She knew they were probably just born of her resentment that Robert had so easily insinuated himself into their lives. The truth was she couldn’t fault his behaviour in any way. She also knew his efficiency and orderliness ought to be praised, not criticised.

Her suspicious mind had other ideas. It refused to let her rest and what she needed was some kind of proof of wrong-doing.
If only I could find a way of showing that Robert’s been using money which is legally mine
, she thought,
then I might be able to take my claim to the magistrate.
It was her only hope, unless she could find someone to marry her, which seemed unlikely.

Her lack of marriage prospects was confirmed beyond doubt the very first time she went out with Mrs Forbes. As luck would have it, in the market square she ran into Karl Adelsten, the man she wanted to speak to. She had wandered a little way off from her chaperone, who was busy trying to haggle over a purchase. Swerving to avoid someone, she almost walked into Karl instead. She gasped and he stopped dead and stared at her, clearly flustered.

‘M-Miss van Sandt,’ he stammered. ‘I, er, didn’t expect, ... that is to say, a pleasure to meet you as always.’ He bowed and Jess curtseyed, while studying him carefully. He was dressed in dark blue, with ostentatiously large silver buttons adorning both his coat and waistcoat. There was nothing in his demeanour to suggest he’d been pining for her. On the contrary, he had the air of a man who had everything he could wish for in life. It seemed inappropriate to raise the subject of their failed engagement, but Jess felt she had no choice. As time was important, she decided to come straight to the point.

‘It’s nice to see you too, although I had rather hoped to hear from you before now. What did my stepfather say to put you off marrying me?’

Karl, who was a handsome blond giant, flushed to the roots of his hair. ‘Really, Miss van Sandt, I don’t think we ought to discuss such matters here.’ He looked around, as if he expected everyone to be watching their every move. Fortunately, no one was paying them any attention and Mrs Forbes was still occupied.

‘I’m sorry, but I have no option, Mr Adelsten.’ Jess gritted her teeth. ‘I was under the impression you were very keen to marry me last year. Yet your proposal came to nothing once you had spoken to my stepfather. As there couldn’t have been any reason for him to reject such an exalted man as yourself, I can only assume he told you something about me which put you off. I need to know what that was.’

‘This is plain speaking indeed.’ Karl tugged at his neckcloth as if it was too tight for him. ‘The thing is, uhm, well, you see, my father wished me to wed someone else. I’m now married to Elsa Leijonberg. I’m sorry if you thought there was more to our little flirtation than I meant.’

Jess threw him a scornful glance.
Little flirtation, was it?
Less than a year ago, Karl had proclaimed his undying love and couldn’t take his eyes off her whenever they met. When she was packed off to Askeberga Manor, he had never so much as tried to contact her though, at least not to her knowledge.
Some grand passion that turned out to be,
she thought
.

She looked the fickle man up and down, noticing for the first time that despite his good looks he had a rather weak chin and a tendency to plumpness round the middle. The sight of him no longer made her go weak at the knees. Perhaps Robert had actually done her a favour, but it still annoyed her that her stepfather had the power to ruin her
 life.

‘Mr Adelsten, I’m neither stupid nor blind and I would appreciate it if you’d have the courtesy to tell me the truth. I know my stepfather influenced your decision. I only want to know what he said so that I can prevent it happening again, if someone else should want to marry me. It’s a reasonable request, don’t you think?’

Karl now desperately scanned his surroundings as if searching for a way out, but when he couldn’t find one, he mumbled, ‘Oh, very well, I may as well tell you. He said that although your father wished you to have a dowry, the business was in deep trouble when he died and Mr Fergusson was still trying to put it back on an even keel. Therefore he couldn’t see his way clear to paying more than a very small amount, although he did say he might be in a position to remedy this some time in the future. In short, you have no dowry to speak of at the moment and, uhm, my father would never have agreed to a match on such terms.’

‘What, none at all?’

‘Well, a paltry sum. A few hundred
daler
...’

‘A few hundred?’ Robert had told her three thousand, if she remembered correctly. Jess took several deep breaths as anger threatened to choke her. She knew none of this was Karl’s fault and she had pushed him far enough as it was.

‘Thank you,’ she said curtly. ‘I bid you good day then, and wish you and your wife all the best for the future.’

She turned away just as Mrs Forbes came striding over with an angry expression on her face. ‘What do you think you’re doing, talking to that man?’ she hissed. ‘My cousin told me that he specifically asked you not to.’ Mrs Forbes was small in stature, but she made up for it with a very forceful manner. Her eyes, deep-set like those of her cousin Robert, although hazel rather than brown, were now flashing with suppressed fury and Jess hurried to defend herself.

‘I’m sorry, Mrs Forbes, I couldn’t avoid greeting him as a former acquaintance. It would have seemed odd otherwise. Mr Adelsten just stopped briefly to tell me about his marriage to Miss Leijongren. I wished him happy and that was all.’

BOOK: Trade Winds (Choc Lit)
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