Slicing through the inky swells, the ship made good progress out through the heads and into open ocean. They hugged the coast as they rounded the northwestern tip with the French navy was in close pursuit, bearing down fast upon them as they made the northeast run to Guernsey. As their pursuers grew closer, Christian left Ana to right herself, and rejoined the crew on deck, taking charge of the helm. To her chagrin, when Ana went to check on her patients, James had already left his bunk. His shadowy guardian angel, Leila, was not far behind, throwing herself into the task of hauling ropes as James took over directing the gunners. Christian shouted orders from the helm, preparing the crew for an engagement that never quite came. The French ships were fast but the Black Diamond was faster, outrunning the armada at the heads of Roscoff. The Black Diamond’s crew didn’t rest until they had rounded the northern coast of Guernsey some hours later and reached their appointed rendezvous with the Ruby Queen.
Below deck, Ana sat on the floor of Taylor’s cabin with Ethan, holding the young man’s hand as he cringed with every shout and creak from above. The trembling of his body caused her heart to ache. As the noise began to die down, she coaxed Ethan to place his head in her lap and she stroked his face until he fell asleep. His body was thin but he had obviously found ways to keep his muscles as strong as possible during his incarceration. Whatever was concerning him, she was certain that his fears were exacerbated by feeling the ominous closeness of the French coast. The sooner they got him back to English soil the better. Relaxing back against the wall, she eventually drifted off to sleep.
When Christian finally found her there in the wee small hours, he felt his throat close. His beautiful wife had proved her competence, playing her role with alarming confidence in the rescue, keeping calm in both pursuit and in the face of injury. Now she was lending her strength to his broken brother-in-arms. If there had ever been any doubts in his heart, she was quickly and efficiently removing them. So effective was her campaign that he feared the moment when she realized that their recent love-making might run the risk of a pregnancy. He had had Louisa pack the supplies that Andrea had given Ana but he was quite certain that his wife had not yet found them and he, for reasons he could not quite justify, had forgotten to mention them.
After settling Ethan under blankets, away from Ana, Christian bent to scoop her up in his arms. Keeping her body tucked close to his, he carried her gingerly through to the cabin, trying not to rouse her. She had spent the last hours taking care of everyone and now he would care for her. The stripping of clothes from her body caused her to stir with a sleepy smile.
“Are we safe?” Eyes barely focused on his, her relaxed stretch gave no sign of fear. As if she expected that he should have complete control of the situation.
“For now, it appears so.” He continued to help her to strip and tucked her carefully under the blankets before removing his own clothes and joining her. It was only an hour or two before dawn and he needed to recoup but he did not think he would sleep. Her chilled body pressed back, seeking warmth as it molded against his. He draped an exhausted and aching arm over her waist, hoping to drift.
“Is James alright?” He grinned at the husky sleepiness of her voice. That tone could wake his tired body instantly, if he let it. But she needed sleep, even if he couldn’t.
“Yes, he’s fine.” She made a sound of disgust. “You wouldn’t have been able to stop him. He started bleeding again but Leila has redressed the wound.” The almost imperceptible rigidity of her body told him she not angry as much as worried about her patient.
“She’s in love with him, you know.” It was a statement of fact, however, Christian did not think it would bode well for Leila.
“James is a hard-headed fool. He will sabotage his own future.” All in the name of playing pirates. Christian hoped that as they had Ethan safely on his way home, and the war was finally ended, there would be no requirement for the continued services of Blackheart. However, history stated that James would not give up his alias so easily. He would determine new and more dangerous excuses for extending the game. And Haverstock would, no doubt, be his enabler.
“Then perhaps we should do something to help him get out of his own way.”
“You are plotting.” He kissed her hair. If he had learned anything in the past forty-eight hours, it was that his wife was as much of a strategist as he.
“I am. Will James go back to London?” He had mulled over the best course of action from here as they had outrun the French ships, trying to decide what would benefit Ethan the most. While it would be tempting to return Ethan straight to his seat and announce to London that the Earl of Ravensthwaite had made a triumphant return. However, they were certain that the threat would multiply with his return and he would need to be fighting fit to have a chance to combat his enemies. Whoever they might be. No, it made sense for James to take the Queen back to London while he took the Diamond, and Ethan, back to Faversham.
“Yes. I will be sending him with a missive.” Christian did not hold much hope that Haverstock would come to Trevelyan Grange but he hoped that James would be able to persuade the spymaster that Ethan could not yet enter London.
“Well, then, that’s settled.” Ana yawned and before drifting off to sleep, outlined the skeleton of her plan and the role she wished Christian to play. He was not surprised by her desire and ability to plan and execute that plan. No, what surprised him was finding that he trusted her judgment.
The sun’s first rays streamed through the window kissing her forehead as she slept. Exquisite, from the cultured arch of her brow to the soft pout of her lips. His desire hit with full force, demanding satisfaction but he held back. The entirety of the past few days had exhausted her, but it was the memory of their sexual encounter last night that brought a concerned smile to his face. She was badly in need of more rest and her body was likely sore as a result of his animal passions. Somehow, he would apologise for taking such liberties and that would start with leaving her to sleep.
Checking that the blankets were firmly tucked around her body, keeping the chill at bay, Christian quickly dressed and went out on deck. James was head bowed in low discussion with Taylor as they pulled alongside another ship; the sleek low-bellied Diamond was dwarfed by the magnificence of the swollen hull of the Ruby Queen. The conversation on deck temporarily ceased, as the crew carefully weighed anchor and tethered lines bringing the boats close enough to transfer James and the other rescued officers across to the Ruby Queen.
Turning to face his cousin, Christian noted that James had his arm carefully wrapped in a sling against his body, protecting him from any undue movement that might disrupt the wound. Obviously, this was something that Leila had fashioned for him. Other than that, James looked remarkably well, his exuberant demeanor evident in spite of the pain he must still be feeling.
“Where is that vicious harridan you call a wife?” James’ teasing brought an easy smile to Christian’s face. He would not take the bait.
“I want you to take the Queen back to London. You need to let Haverstock know what has happened.” The unspoken was that this message could not be passed on in any other fashion than face to face. Ethan’s life depended on complete discretion.
“Are you sure about this, cousin?” James asked, his face twisted in an arrogant smirk. “You could captain your fine ship up the Thames and be hailed a hero for returning our fallen comrade home.”
In other circumstances, that statement would have made him uncomfortable. Coming from James, he understood the tease behind his words. The thought of taking back his ship and crew and sailing Ana back to the safety of home was tempting but Ethan’s welfare was foremost in their minds. Christian chuckled at the irony, in spite of himself. His cousin would not maliciously hurt him but his humor came to the fore at the most inappropriate moments, however, this was not unusual. James had been known to pull the pigtails of little girls when they had all been young lads as well. The man had tame boundaries and little filter.
“You and I both know that will never happen. The only person who will welcome Ethan home is his sister. While he is still weak, he is a target and we have yet to discover who has done this to him.” Christian’s initial smile was quickly replaced by a grim line. “How was he when you found him?”
“Beaten. Weaker than I would have liked. Unable to tell us anything about what had happened to him.”
“Unable or unwilling.” Christian worried his lips with his fingers.
“I don’t know. He seems intent on speaking with Haverstock.”
“All in good time.” James heard the reticence in his cousin’s voice. Christian carried far too much guilt about Ethan for his liking.
James shook his head wondering if his cousin would ever really be happy and proud of all he had achieved. Many thought his standoffish nature to be its own form of arrogance. James, and others who loved Christian, knew better.
“I have every hope that you will be able to get him to talk.” James grimaced as he tried to flex the fingers of his injured arm. “You will need to tell him all that has happened since he left England.”
“Yes, and bear the consequences of that conversation.” There was bitter edge to Christian’s voice that alarmed James.
“Christian, this is a time to let the past go. You will take Ethan back to Trevelyan Grange and bring him back to health and all that needs to be, will be forgiven.” While James and Elliot truly believed this and had discussed it often, it was clear from the pain in Christian’s eyes that he did not. A movement to their left caught his eye. Ana had emerged on deck, fresh and smiling, clad in a simple dress.
James sauntered toward her with a broad grin and gallantly bowed over her hand. “Lady Anastasia. I do believe I owe you an apology for my half-witted, pain-addled rantings last night. I am a poor patient.”
Ana returned his smile with one raised eyebrow. “I do not think your wits were addled with the pain as much as they may have been drowning in my husband’s brandy, Sir,” she smoothly replied.
James’ hand went to his heart. “You wound me, Madame.” Then he winked. “Although, I will say that the brandy was inordinately effective.”
With a laugh she glanced around, noticing the scowls that came from both Christian and Leila. The latter stood some distance away, coiling a rope with angry flicks of her hands. Christian might have been a little miffed at the easy banter but Leila looked like she was ready to cry. Or lash out in a jealous rage.
“Excuse me, Sir.” Ana pulled away from James and walked toward Christian. Without pause, she tipped her head up to kiss him and he was powerless to resist, his arms wrapping around her protectively. “Good morning, husband. Thank you for letting me sleep.”
Christian smiled into her hair but then lifted his head, sending a warning glare at a broadly grinning James, who helled both hands up in supplication as he stepped back from the happy couple. His face, the picture of mortification and innocence mixed with devilry and merriment, made Christian smile, knowing that his cousin was as much a rogue and scoundrel as his brother but it was all good-natured fun where his wife was concerned. There was no competition for her favors here. Christian had branded her has his and his band of brothers knew it.
Ana felt his body relax beneath her touch and was grateful that, in this short time that they had come to know each other truly as man and wife, she seemed to have this effect on him. If that was all she could offer him then she was prepared to do so with mundane consistency.
Pulling out of his arms, she placed a hand on Christian’s chest and looked up at him. “Now, my love, play nice with your cousin.” She grinned and with a saucy flick of her skirts that brought on a sigh from both men, she walked over to the still frowning Leila. Weaving her hand through the other woman’s elbow, she pulled her away from the task that she was hardly performing with any effectiveness. “Walk with me.”
The two women made their way down the length of the deck, away from the men’s ears.
“Is it so very difficult?” Ana asked, finally.
Leila frowned at her. “Is what difficult, m’Lady?”
Ana didn’t break their stride but she held a hand over her eyes and glanced up at the men climbing in the rigging above them. “Loving James Grey.”
“I do not…”
“Piffle.” Ana halted Leila’s next words. “Blind Freddy could see that you are in love with that man. Although, given his many charms, it is a wonder why.” They arrived at the railing and dropped arms to hold the wooden balustrade.
“You are mistaken, M’Lady. I have no feelings for James Grey. He is a thorn in my side, a pebble in my shoe; nothing more, nothing less.”
“It is strange how we can learn to love the pain.” Something flashed in Leila’s eyes just before she cast her eyes down. Interesting. “Perhaps I am wrong, I am often wrong about affairs of the heart, after all. You know that I resisted my feelings for Christian. I had no idea what to do with all of that…emotion. It has been the most annoying, unseemly and disconcerting thing. In fact, I am still learning.”
“M’Lady, I do not know why you would tell me such personal things. Mr Grey and I had a business arrangement. That is all it was. It would seem that this arrangement is about to come to an end.”
“Is it?” Ana tipped her head to the side as she regarded the woman.
“Yes, and I am glad of that. I hope never to have to see the man again.”
“And yet, you will board the Ruby Queen with him.”
“An inconvenience, I assure you. I need to get to London and he will make that happen.”
Ana glanced back at James and wondered.
“Do you have plans once you reach London?”
“I need to make myself known to… someone. And then…” Her voice trailed off. Lifting a hand to guard her eyes against the sun, Leila looked out to sea. She seemed lost, leaving Ana to wonder about her secrets. Neither James nor Leila had been particularly forthcoming on how they had met and the little history Ana had gleaned from Leila’s conversation and demeanor hinted at a painful past.
“I don’t mean to pry but what happens then?”
Leila dropped her hand and her eyes, both movements punctuated with a small shrug of her shoulders. Her small wipe of her eyes would have been missed by most. Ana noted the despair in the set of the other woman’s upper body. Ana knew a little of what it meant to suddenly be cast adrift in a society. The more she thought about it, the more she understood that they all seemed to have this in common. It gave her hope that Leila would listen to her proposition. She took Leila’s hands in her own, forcing the young woman to look at her.
“Leila, I want to secure your services.” Leila gave a confused frown that Ana mistook for resistance. “I can pay. I will make it worth your while.” At least, she thought Christian would pay. They hadn’t exactly agreed on the sums but James was his cousin, after all.
“What is it that you want me to do?”
“It occurs to me that James will need to recover. He might think he is capable but that injury has done more damage than he knows. It will need special care and exercise and no man can be trusted to take care of such things with any degree of certainty. I know this is a lot to ask of you, but you are a mercenary soul and the money will be worth your while, I promise you that. I should like you to remain with him while he recuperates.”
Leila’s mouth dropped open. “But he will sail to London and go back to his life. There will be no place for me in those arrangements.”
“Yes, there will. Christian and I would like to offer you a retainer as a paid companion. You will be nurse, secretary, whatever James requires. Just until his wound recovers. At this moment, he has lost use of his arm. While there is no reason why it should remain so, there is always the risk that the pain will cause him to protect its use and therefore cause the muscles to atrophy. Or worse, he should neglect the wound and let infection set in. This cannot be allowed to happen.” Ana had no doubt that James would not rest on his laurels in this regard, but in the end the injury was a catalyst rather than a restriction. While she and Christian had not exactly discussed every aspect of this ‘situation’ before they fell abed in the wee small hours of the morning, she felt no doubt that they were in agreement that this plan of action, throwing the two together, might resolve whatever tension there was between James and Leila. Not being one for matchmaking, Ana had hesitated to make the suggestion overtly to Christian. However, he had once explained how James had, for all his life, been wandering. A man cut loose without benefit of a father and a mother who did not know how to make her son act more socially acceptable. The thought that James had spent much of his life trying to emulate a father he had never really known, had spurred Ana on to plan a way to keep Leila close to James. Yes, the Leila situation needed resolution.
Ana looked back at the two dark-haired men, with their steel gray eyes and the sunlight glinting off the copper tones of their tousled and unruly hair, and was astounded at how alike they were. James was darker in hair color and complexion than Christian, but anyone would think them brothers, not cousins, and one would be forgiven for thinking that they might in fact be twins. Her mind went back to the little boy from her dreams and she had a vision of exactly what these two would have looked like in their youth. Their mothers must have had the devil of a time telling them apart as they ran amok in the grounds of Bellevue, their older brother the ringleader of their errant games and their younger sister tormented and protected by their bond. An ache formed in her heart as she imagined that vision of family for herself and in that same moment she felt her stomach roil with a bile as her mistake hit her full force.
Suppressing the need to talk with Christian, she turned to Leila, and tried to effect some sort of control over her features. “So, will you take the assignment?” Leila did not look convinced. “When I married my husband, I vowed to love and protect those he loves. James is as much brother as cousin and his love for him is fiercely protective. I cannot watch over James while he is in London and I will need you to be my eyes and ears.”
Leila’s mouth seemed twisted with bitter distaste as she mulled the proposal in her mind. For a moment, Ana thought they had read the situation incorrectly and far from wanting to spend time with James, the young woman was about to turn away.
“I will be his paid whore?” In that one question, Ana understood her reservations. This was something with which she could deal. The young woman threw her shoulders back and peered down her proud Parisian nose at Ana. The fight, the pride, was promising. James would not ride roughshod over this girl, and nor should he. Ana could see that she was a woman of worth, even if James thought her only a dalliance. Christian assured her that he saw something of a longing in his cousin. She prayed for his sake that James would not stumble or he would find himself trampled beneath Leila’s feet. However, the girl need reassurance in this moment and Ana already had a plan for that.
“Good gracious, no. The payment will remain secret between you and I. No. You might be the same age as I, but you can pass for younger. You shall be his ward. The daughter of an old friend of his father’s. A diplomat.” Leila cast an accusatory glance at Ana that was slightly unsettling. After a moment she seemed to see something in Ana’s face that calmed and reassured her. Pushing on, Ana tried not to lose her courage. “As far as society is concerned, you shall be under his protection, when in fact, he will be under yours.”
Leila looked at where James was standing with Christian. The heat in her eyes was tinged with sadness. There was trepidation in her next question. “H-how will you convince him of this?”
Ana patted her hand. “Don’t you worry. Christian is dealing with exactly this problem right now.”
They glanced down the length of the boat at the duo once again, who were standing, heads bowed in conversation. At that moment, James threw his one good hand in the air and began pacing back and forth, while Christian stood still as a statue and watched him. A few words were cast back and forth between them but the wind swallowed the sound before they arrived at the women’s ears. All they could tell was that James was agitated at the nature of Christian’s suggestion until Christian finally grabbed his arm and made a final plea. Defeat descended on the set of James’ shoulders as he gazed at Leila and she back. The flare of heat and longing and desire was so evident to Ana that she almost had to look away. Instead, she focused on Christian who raised an eyebrow at her. Finally, James nodded and turned his back on them.
“It looks like he has agreed.” There was concern in her voice that she knew she wasn’t hiding completely. James had obviously acquiesced to Christian’s request but he was far from happy. Spreading a bright smile across her face she turned her attention back to Leila. “Now… you will have to attend social events. I shall ensure that James takes you to the right modiste. I am sure that I can have the Duchess of Carrick sponsor you and if you should have need of a dance master or…”
“There is no need, Ana.” Leila held up a hand and Ana’s eyes widened at the use of her first name. Something in Leila’s stance had changed to one of regal bearing, quite different from the pirate-cum-spy that she had presented so far in their dealings. “I am the granddaughter of a Prussian Comte, step-daughter of an English earl and schooled enough not to embarrass your family in the ballrooms of London.”
An hour or so later, Ana’s eyebrows were still raised in surprise, as James, the officers and Leila had all disembarked and transfered to the Ruby Queen and set sail for London. Now, the Black Diamond was cutting a path through the waters towards the Southeastern coast and the inlets of Swale.
She was perfectly still, looking out to sea, a silhouette against the setting sun. Christian stood firm, hesitating to approach and break her reverie. He hoped that whatever troubled her had nothing to do with a delayed reaction to the danger she had found herself in last night. After years of fighting the in the war against France, this was a reaction he knew all too well. When she finally turned around and faced where he was standing at the helm, he had to take a deep breath. She was magnificent, her blue eyes blazing with strength and promise. A pink flush in her wind-kissed skin. The errant strands of her thick, lush hair, whipping her cheeks and neck. Whatever had been troubling her, there was resolution in her face. He wanted to go to her but he waited.
Her strident and purposeful walk to his side was cause for alarm and celebration, the dichotomous emotions traveling side by side through his being as efficiently as a well-heeled and perfectly trained pair of horses pulling a racing curricle. Another example of all that he loved about her and a reminder of that day when she had invaded his soul in the same way she had invaded his cabin on the Ruby Queen. She had taken his breath away on that occasion as well, her innocence and fire blending into the perfect storm on his heart. Something was definitely on her mind and he suspected that he was about to discover what. He signaled to Taylor who took over at the wheel as he stepped into her path.
“We need to talk.” She hardly looked at him as she strode past him and through to the stairs. Without hesitation he turned to follow her, ignoring the chuckle from his first mate as he did so.
They were secured inside the cabin with the doors closed but she had not said a word, choosing instead to walk the walls, inspecting the exotic prints. He watched her without speaking as she turned her head this way and that. Moving in close to one engraving, she frowned in her careful study and then stepped away.
“I like this one the most.” She finally announced. He moved to see which one she had chosen. It was a picture where the female was sitting astride the male who lay back on the bed, their bodies in coitus. “While I have enjoyed everything that we have done, I think I felt the most powerful and in control in this one. I liked that feeling of control. It gave me some insight into the way you think. And most of all, I liked the way I could read your face. We were partners in love.”
For one horrific moment he thought this was about last night. She was prone and helpless in their lovemaking, nay, their coupling, last night. Unable to move, unable to see him, she had ceded all power and control to him. It had been all animal power and little in the way of seductive finesse but he had needed it as much as he had needed to breathe. He needed to explain but struggled to find the words.
His silence made her turn. “Don’t misunderstand me, Christian. I was in awe of last night. I enjoyed your… how did you put it? Ah, yes…. ‘Fucking’…I believe the word was. Yes, I enjoyed it all immensely and would happily engage in that again.” A frown appeared as she bit her lip in consternation. “Although, I should like it with a little less danger as the foreplay.”
“You have developed a dirty mouth, wife.” Delight coursed through him when his words made her cast her eyes down and a blush to creep up her neck. Slowly, he moved in closer, reminding himself that she had an issue to discuss even when that lip-biting made him harden with desire. He tipped her chin up and pressed his lips to hers. “I love your dirty mouth… your smart mouth…your mouth.” He kissed her more thoroughly to prove his point. The moist warmth of her lips urged him on, deepening and taking from her until she had to pull away to catch her breath.
“I had a revelation earlier. It has somewhat unsettled me.” Her hands had wrapped around his shoulders as she whispered into his neck. He loved the heat of her breath as it teased his skin. She was, however, far from relaxed in his arms. The trouble was coming.
“Are you going to tell me of this revelation or keep me guessing?” One hand stroked her hair, while the other tended to her back, trying to settle her. This was not having the effect he had hoped. It took a few more moments for her to speak her mind.
“Since we have been on the ship we have hardly kept our physical love at bay.” He stilled for a second, suddenly knowing exactly where this was going. For her part, Ana seemed somewhat unable to look at him. “It has only just occurred to me that I have not taken any precautions with our love.”
Christian stiffened as she went to pull away from him but he held her close, refusing to release his grip. This had occurred to him on the first night but he was damned if he was going to mention it to her and frighten her from her sexual awakening. His beautiful wife was proving to be his match in the bedroom and in life and for that he was eternally grateful.
“Ana if this is about your mother…” her finger halted his next words as she shook her head.
“No. Please don’t bring my mother into our bedroom. It is unseemly.” A smile from her brought a wry chuckle from him. At least she was not going to lose her sense of humor over this. “I have not protected my body against the possibility of children.”
“Does this trouble you?” He offered up a silent prayer.
“Not as much as I had thought it would. I’m sorry, you must think me fickle and stupid. It is a great risk that our children will inherit the madness and yet, I find I cannot regret the possibility that we might have actually created a child. It is confusing and somewhat disconcerting. I was so sure that I would never want a child and then I was watching you and James and wondering how your mother coped with you all as children. It must have been wonderful.”
Christian smiled. “I’m sure she would tell you some tales that would make you think otherwise.”
“Yes, as all mothers can, no doubt. Am I being so completely selfish that I should want that for myself, regardless of the risk?”
Christian paused, unsure what the right thing to say would be. He opted for a version of the truth as he understood it.
“Ana, I have some education in such things and I believe that you might be wrong. About our children and your mother. Of course, I do not know her well enough, but the time she spent at Bellevue for the wedding gave me enough cause to suspect that the doctors assessments that you spoke of might be wrong.”
“But they are men of science…”
“And not infallible. I wondered about the papers that you have read and if there are others that refute their wisdom. I am simply not convinced that what you have been told is completely accurate.”
Ana frowned, her body went rigid in his arms and then she pulled away from him and faced back to the picture. After a moment of silence she quietly asked, “You read the papers? How do you know what papers I have consulted?” Christian found himself unable to speak. She whirled on him and thrust a finger into his chest. “How did you know, Christian?”
He stepped back, not because he wanted to but because he had to, with the force of her actions. Again, the truth seemed both the right and the wrong thing.
Eventually he said, “Your father told me.” She was about to explode with rage and he had to protect her relationship with her father, at all costs. “You have to understand that he was worried about you. Not that you were falling victim to a madness but that you had believed the information that had been given to you. Ana, did you ever think about where that information had come from?”
“Of course, I did. The doctors who diagnosed her had given it to our agent and he had delivered them to us…” The light dawned in her eyes. “Hyde? He did this?”
Collapsing down on a chair, Ana clasped her hand over her mouth. Christian moved to kneel before her. Should he tell her the rest? About the agreement he had made with her father? He wanted complete honesty in their relationship, he craved that. But would he drive a wedge between father and daughter? Sir Raymond had demanded his agreement in good faith, believing that abstinence was the best course. Would Ana feel the same? Somehow, given the way that she had quickly and effectively allowed her sensuality to surface on board this ship, he sincerely doubted that she would see it the same way. In fact, he suspected she would see him strung from the mast by his testicles. Which was why he felt the blood drain from his face on her next words.
“I will kill him.” The quiet malice in Ana’s words hit him full force. “I will wrench his heart from his chest with my bare hands and throw it on the ground before I stomp on it with my riding boots. That weasel has tried to have his way one too many times.”
No, now was definitely not the time for absolute truths. Christian quite liked his father-in-law and he was inordinately fond of his own private parts.
“Darling, I hope for my sake that you will never do that. I could not entertain the notion of a life lived without you should they cart you off to Newgate.” The sharp look she threw his way caused him to change tack. “I do agree that the ‘weasel’ needs punishment and I am sure that it will come.”
“I shall simply have to hire Blackheart to rescue me.” Ana quipped with a smile before a serious look settled over her face. “I cannot believe that he has done this damage. My heart is terrified to think of the ways he might be taking advantage of his position. I begged my father to get rid of him years ago but the man has been impossible to shift.”
“Ana, my father and Elliot are ensuring that Hyde loses whatever control he has over your father’s estate as we speak.” At her horrified look, Christian added, “They’re doing this at your father’s request. I am sure that we can extricate him from the family sooner rather than later.”
“And you didn’t think to tell me any of this?” The narrowing of her eyes caused Christian a moment’s pause. A knock on the door halted any more explanation. A member of the crew entered, placed a tray of food on the table and left as silently as he had arrived. When the door closed, Christian lifted the cloche to reveal a plate of cured meat, cheese and bread. Ana scowled as he pushed the food toward her.
“I’m not hungry.” She crossed her arms, defiantly resisting him.
With a deep breath, he reached out and gently released tightly wound hands and offered up the assortment of food again. In a tone that brooked no argument he instructed her again, “I said, eat.”