Pacing and praying had become part of Christian’s repertoire. How long would he be left outside her room? How long would he have to wait before he could be reassured that she would survive her ordeal? What if she died? What would become of him if she left him here alone? The pain in his chest would not leave, only sharpening further each time he arrived at this point and he had to sit in an effort to bring his breathing under control. He hadn’t felt so completely out of control since…
Trevelyan Grange, 1817
… Ana was carefully placed in the back of the wagon with Christian nursing her battered and bruised body in his lap. Securing the horse carrying Hyde to the back of the wagon, Ethan drove the wagon back to the manor at a slow and steady pace. Far too slow for Christian’s liking. Every now and then he would glance at Hyde’s unconscious and prone form with such malevolence that it was a blessing Ana kept her eyes shut against the light. She would not recognize her husband’s rage.
“Stop looking at him.” Christian’s eyes went to her face, expecting to see her reprimand in those clear blue eyes, but her lids were tight. “I can feel your body tense each time you do. You will need to leave him to the magistrate along with your heightened need for vengeance.”
A small hand reached up for his cheek and he pressed his face into her palm. The coolness of her skin a soothing balm against the deep-seated need to kill. The rasp in her voice made her words barely audible, a function, Christian surmised, of the damage the cold salty brine had done to her lungs. She was, at least, breathing evenly.
“He deserves to die.” His words formed harsh against the breeze sending a shudder through her core. This small movement brought him back to attend to her and he snuggled her against his warmth, knowing that the wet dress would be allowing a chill to permeate her form. “Are you too cold? I would remove the dress but I have nothing to clothe you in.”
“Ah, protecting my modesty, Captain Grey. How very noble of you, Sir?” She smiled a wan smile until the coughing beset her and caused her to double over in pain.
Holding her closer still, he rubbed her back until the wracking cough subsided. His frown intensified with the wet, scratchy breaths from her choked lungs. There was too much fluid there for his liking. Ethan glanced back over his shoulder at them both and Christian gave him a nod of encouragement. They must not stop. They had to get her back to the manor, poste-haste. The tacit agreement was not to go through the tunnels where they would have to carry her on foot but to travel directly to the manor via the main roads. A slightly longer trip but infinitely more comfortable for her.
The shivering became too much and out of a sense of frustration, Christian ripped the fabric off Ana’s body. Bereft of the heavy layer of cold, damp cloth, Ana was fighting to keep any body heat in.
“Take her dress and your shirt off and hold her.” Ethan called over his shoulder. Christian grimly set about doing just that as they approached the intersection of the roads. Just as they were about to turn in the direction of the Grange, a fine barouche approached on the road from Faversham. The open carriage contained three ladies of the area and the Baron Blethwick. A look of pure shock went through all as they took in the sight of the half dressed Viscount of Trevelyan and his wife, huddled together in the back of an open wagon driven by the rather untidy and wild looking Earl of Ravensthwaite, followed by a fine steed with an unconscious Jackson Hyde strapped across the saddle. The collective gasp was enough to rouse Ana who smiled wanly and waved at the ladies, who in turn were in far too much shock not to wave back. Christian barely spared them a glance as Ethan eased the wagon ahead and onto the Grange road.
Ana giggled in Christian’s arms. “Oh, they will be dining out on that particular sight for months to come. I do wish I could be a fly on the Baron’s parlour wall when the neighbours all gather for afternoon tea.” Coughing overtook her momentarily and Christian stroked her back, urging her to sit up. The fury of her lung congestion soon passed quickly into giggles again and she snuggled into Christian’s chuckling chest dozing off until the carriage pulled into the gates of the Grange.
Taylor had been the first to meet them as Ethan climbed down from the carriage and handed the reigns to a stable hand. Christian lifted Ana down to Ethan’s waiting arms before climbing down himself and taking her again. The muscles rippled across his broad back but he could have been carrying a feather for the way that he swiftly made for the house.
“Taylor, remove Mr Hyde to the cellar, if you would be so kind. I believe that Lord Trevelyan will want to question him later.” Ethan’s voice commanded as much as requested and Taylor was quick to follow the order. Meanwhile the household had sprung into action to address the needs of their mistress. Within half an hour the doctor arrived at the house. Christian had not let Ana’s body go while Mrs Jones set about heating water for a bath. Once her body temperature had been brought back to a level of normalcy the doctor took his leave, instructing them to watch for resulting lung fever.
Three days passed with Christian hardly leaving Ana’s side. The coughing had subsided into alternating waves of high fevers and bouts of intense pain. He knew when it was her head bothering her more than her chest. Her body would still, her breathing shallow, as if the slightest movement would cause her to scream in agony. As much as it bothered him to watch her, he knew that the headache was a better option.
Whenever the wet cough choked her body with spasms as she tried to clear her lungs, she would double over in the bed. This simple movement would bring tears to her eyes, as her head threatened to implode. During these moments, Christian would support her body and neck as carefully as he could to try to ease her way. Consequently, he was approaching 72 hours with very little sleep. Mrs Jones had kept him supplied with food and taken over nursing duties when he would allow it, but the care fell squarely on his shoulders and he was unwilling to have it any other way.
On the third day, all signs of fever broke and Ana slept peacefully. Ethan and Taylor took the opportunity to draw him from her side, once Mrs Jones had ensured that he had had a few hours sleep himself.
“Hyde is claiming that he acted alone. He told us that his accomplice was hired in the stews of London.” Ethan was leaning his shoulder against the study wall while Taylor delivered his report. The only betrayal of tension was a the grim set of his mouth. Christian looked from one man to the other, assessing, not the information but the delivery. If Christian had not been so caught in his own trevails, he might have noted that Ethan had cut his hair and was wearing a dress jacket for the first time since setting foot on English soil.
“You don’t believe him, I take it.” Christian’s tone demanded a quick response. His mind was still upstairs, by his wife’s side.
“No, Sir. After we secured Mr Hyde in the cellar, Lord Kavanagh and I fetched the body from the beach. I recognised him straight away. Hyde’s accomplice was Harold Stark, Sir.” Taylor said the name as if it should mean something to Christian, and at some subconscious level it did, but he couldn’t place it. That lack of connection annoyed him. He didn’t have the time or patience for games. Taylor read his employer’s mood. “Barbary Coast, Sir.”
Christian’s body stiffened at the reference while Ethan gave Taylor a questioning look.
“What happened on the Barbary Coast?”
On Christian’s signal, Taylor took up the story. “Harold Stark was a quartermaster on a sister ship from our fleet. We had won a particularly long and arduous battle with the French, off the coast of Algiers, before retreating to Gibraltar to regroup and replenish the ships. Many of the seamen had gone ashore on furlough for a night of well-earned revelry and Harold Stark had, in a wildly drunken state, raped and nearly killed a servant of the Governor’s household. As senior officer, the Captain had him court-marshalled and he was due for transportation when the Governor stepped in and pardoned him. Stark was summarily discharged from the navy and sent back to London. No one quite knew what had caused the change of heart but it was set aside as the fleet headed back to the Spanish coast. Speculation was that Stark was under the protection of Lord Castlereagh.”
“Who was the Governor?” Ethan’s relaxed stance wasn’t fooling anyone.
“Lord Lincoln, Sir,” Taylor replied. The long pause that followed had Christian curious about Ethan’s question.
“Why do you ask?”
Another silence before Ethan pushed away from the wall and crossed to the window. He reached out to slide the lace curtain open as if he expected to see some clandestine movement afoot. Without turning he spoke.
“I’ve seen Stark before although I did not know his name. He was working for the British envoy to Paris when Mallet and I were released from La Force.” The fact that Ethan and Mallet had been released from La Force was news to Christian. Until now, he and the others had believed that Ethan had escaped. Ethan continued to stare into the distance and Christian had no idea if his actions were another ploy to feign disinterest or if he really could sense a presence beyond the perimeter. Whatever was drawing his attention, this was the first time that Ethan had, of his own volition, talked to him about his time in France. Christian was torn between finding out more about the man who had tried to abduct Ana and hearing more about his friend’s ordeal. After a while, Ethan let the fabric drop back into place and turned his attention back to the room. “I am not sure that Mr Stark’s presence here is connected.”
Christian scrutinized his friend’s face but it was as if the shutters had closed and Ethan was clearly not prepared to say any more on the subject. The understanding that he was being deliberately blocked from some potential mitigating evidence against Hyde or Stark bothered him but he knew better than to press Ethan. Being a puppet of the spymaster carried its own code of conduct and Ethan’s duty was to Haverstock, not to the Viscount Trevelyan or the attempt on his wife’s life.
“So if Stark is so well-connected, how did he end up back in hovels? Had he fallen on hard times?” Taylor had obviously made the connections that Ethan was trying to avoid explaining. Christian caught a wink from Taylor and understood the message being conveyed. Ethan might not be able to talk about it but Christian and Taylor could. If Ethan chose to confirm or deny any of their speculation by word or deed, it need not contain any detail. A simple nod or shake of the head or a strategically placed clearing of the throat would suffice.
“I don’t know. But who is to say that he has fallen on hard times? His presence with Hyde could be well-planned.” Christian traversed the room with a speculative pace.
“You don’t honestly believe that, do you, Sir?”
“Right now, I’m not sure what I believe.” Glancing back at Ethan, he caught an almost imperceptible nod of agreement. “Hyde had his own motives for abducting Anastasia. The toad had proposed to her on several occasions, after all, and been rejected each time. Since his machinations to date have surrounded gaining control of Sir Raymond’s estate and securing Ana’s hand along with it, we must assume that to be motive enough.”
Christian turned to make his way back across the room when Ethan’s words stopped him in his tracks. “However, that does not explain the presence of Mr Stark.”
“What if Hyde was merely convenient? A way of Stark getting close to the Grange, if you will, Sir?” Taylor was playing this speculative role very well. Ethan’s head moved in more obvious assent. “Perhaps, Mr Stark was gathering evidence, Sir.”
“Yes, but evidence of what?” Ethan cleared his throat and Christian’s fears were confirmed. Stark had come to gather first-hand evidence that the Earl of Ravensthwaite had arrived on English soil. This changed everything. If word had gotten to London that Ethan was at the Grange then that information had to have come from a local source. The family had been sworn to secrecy and Sir Raymond had removed Lady Caroline to the country estate rather than returning her to the city. Hyde had not been on the estate long enough to have known of Ethan’s presence and Haverstock would protect Ethan with his dying breath. No. Someone must have recognised Ethan out riding on the estate and relayed that news north.
“I think the time might have come for me to return to London.” Ethan’s voice was low and quiet.
Within a week, Ethan had decamped to London, leaving Christian to wait out Ana’s condition. While Christian was driven by the need to find resolution on his friend’s behalf, he was even more anxious that his wife reach full recovery. He had been tempted to remove himself from her room at night, thinking that she needed space to heal. However, night after night, he found himself holding her over the edge of the bed and rubbing her back as she coughed up the liquid that refused to budge. She seemed to be more settled when he was on hand to attend her needs and he was prepared to do anything that would bring her rest.
They had to wait three full weeks for the local magistrate, the Earl of Summerton, to return from his trip north. During that time, Hyde had railed against his incarceration at the Grange, even though Taylor had ensured that the man was housed in relative comfort. When the Earl had sent a message to announce that he would be stopping by, Ana insisted that she felt well enough to greet him in the parlour. Against his better judgment, Christian carried his wife down to the sunny front room and settled her on a chaise with blankets tucked about her frail frame.
Hyde blanched when Ana launched into a coughing fit as he was brought into the room. It took only half an hour for the Earl to elicit the whole sordid tale from Hyde about a drunken night in a London tavern and being approached by Harold Stark, who offered him assistance. Hyde described Stark as unusually enthusiastic about his plan and when Hyde had asked Stark what he hoped to gain besides coin, the man had muttered something about paying back a debt. Christian omitted any mention of Ethan and the connection to Stark from his testimony but the Earl didn’t need any more evidence to convict Hyde of abducting of Lady Trevelyan with, he deduced, the intent of demanding ransom or causing bodily harm. The Earl made arrangements for Hyde to be transported to the colonies to live out his days as a guest of His Majesty.
The whole affair seemed to sap Ana of all energy and it was with a worried frown that Christian returned her to her bed. She slept fitfully that night and by the next morning, her coughing had become something more sinister as she spent hour after hour emptying the meager contents of her stomach. Mrs Jones made a range of plain offerings which Ana took willingly. Her appetite did not completely wain and the colour returned to her cheeks but her illness ebbed and flowed for the next few days.
Christian had taken up his usual station at her bedside, book in hand to read to her. However, a delivery had arrived this particular morning that he was keen to read first. “A letter has arrived from Scotland.”
Ana smiled, weakly. “Is it from Kate?”
“No, its from Elliot. Shall I read it to you?” Ana nodded, her eyes flashing disappointment that Kate had not written to her for almost a month.
“Dear brother,” Christian began in a strong, clear voice. “It has been some weeks since we departed for Scotland and there is much to tell you. It is not my desire to do so here, as there is some news best told face to face. Needless to say, our merry band are all well, although, perhaps a little homesick for London and the bosom of our family. Young Nicholas seems to have grown three or four inches in the time we have been away but he asks for you daily, and Mrs Jones, of course. We have promised him that he will see you and his new aunt, Anastasia, very soon in the capital. Am I correct in assuming so? On a more concerning note, I am worried about Mia. She is anxious and frightened for Nicholas’ safety, jumping at every shadow. While we were at the Grange, Mia received some disturbing letters. They gave every indication that the author knew of her connection to both Nick and Ethan. In her anxious state, she shared the letters with Kate who also thought the worst. Hence our rather rapid trip north. I thought it best to stay with them all, to ensure their safe passage. Now, however, we have heard the news that Ethan has returned to London and Kate is determined to be at her brother’s side as he reenters society. Mia is refusing to travel but I cannot leave her and Nick alone in Scotland, nor will I allow Kate to travel alone to London. So the long and short of it is that we shall be in London within a fortnight and I hope to see you and my new sister, dear Anastasia there. Your loving brother, Lord Elliot Grey.”
“Perhaps in a day or two we shall be able to leave for London.” Ana sighed as she sank back into the pillows with a sigh.
Christian frowned. “Yes. Perhaps.”
Only, they did not make it to London that month, nor the next few, and therefore were not present when Ethan and Mia saw each other for the first time in years, nor to hear the news that Elliot could not write in his letter. Instead, after another three weeks of energy-sapping illness, Ana and her doctor deduced that she was expecting their first child. Christian had been horrified at the potential for Ana’s reaction but instead of the resistance that he expected, she moved quickly from fearful to resigned. Her quiet acceptance worried Christian more than if she had chosen to scream and rail at him.
A few weeks later, Christian had taken up his habitual position dozing in the library chair, when the scream had echoed through the halls, rousing him from his sleep. Moving with haste through the darkened halls, he ran into Mrs Jones emerging from the servant stairs with a candle in her hand. They looked at each other in shock when the scream sounded again. They reached Ana’s room and threw open the door to see her crouched in fear on her pillows. Christian glanced around the room quickly, looking for some external menace before he finally took in the red stain on the bed sheets.
“Ana!” He ran to the bed and reached for her but she pulled away from his hands, her body trembling. “Darling, please, I’m here. Show me where you are hurt.”
Once more he reached for her and once more she scuttled back in the bed, pressing her body against the head board. Slowly she brought her shaking hand to her face, holding up bloody fingers. The sight set her off screaming again and Christian went to reach for her again when Mrs Jones laid a hand on his arm, pulling him back.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Oh, God, I’m so sorry.” Her face twisted in anguish as she choked out apology after apology through tracks of tears. Mrs Jones moved past Christian and wrapped an arm around Ana’s shoulders, pulling the young woman into her body.
“There, there, lass. It’s not your fault. Shhh…. Hush now. Calm yourself.” Mrs Jones was comforting Ana in earnest now, as she buried her head in the older woman’s shoulder, her mouth open in silent screams. Christian was at a complete loss, desperate to find out where her injury was and who had done this to her. Then Ana moved and he noticed the heavy read stains on the bottom of her night gown.
“My God, Anastasia!” Christian sank to his knees, taking her blood-stained hands in his. “My love. My sweet, sweet love.”
A teary-eyed Mrs Jones moved to the side and let Christian take over in comforting his wife. “I shall arrange a bath and call the doctor, Sir.” Then she retreated from the room turning her back on the young couple’s pain.
Late summer turned to autumn, days into weeks. They each retreated into their own private pain, unsure or unwilling to reach out to the other. At night, Christian would hold Ana as she cried herself to sleep before rising to spend the rest of his evening in bottom of a brandy decanter. During the day, Christian would ride the estate, throwing himself into physical labor with his tenants. Meanwhile, Ana would walk the cliffs alone. It was there that Christian found her, the wind swirling around her tragic figure. He swallowed deeply, unsure if he had the energy to step inside her sadness.
Her head turned at his approach, even though she kept the rest of her frame in contained stillness.
“It’s getting late and the day turns cold. I brought you another shawl.” She smiled at his thoughtfulness.
“Thank you. Your kindness is unsettling but I welcome it.” Her voice was soft, formal. This was the tenure of their conversation of late. Lacking any of the nuances that lovers share. Her reserve pulled at his heart as he settled the woollen layer about her shoulders. He was about to withdraw when her hand snaked out and covered his. “Do you hate me?”
The question hurt and confounded him. “I beg your pardon?” Perhaps, he was not hearing clearly.
“Do you hate me, Christian?” He had waited for weeks for her talk, but he had not expected this.
He stepped away placing some much needed distance between her question and his answer. Eventually, he offered some carefully chosen words. “Hate is a wasteful emotion. I don’t know why you would ask such a thing.”
She lowered her eyes with a sigh. “You’re being evasive. It doesn’t become you.” The tone of her voice held a lifetime of fatigue. “It is a simple enough question. Do you blame me for what happened?”
Christian stared, unseeing, out to sea. Her persistence unsettled him. “How can I blame you? It was God’s will, not yours.”
“But you knew that I had my doubts about having children. You must have your suspicions.”
Did he? There were moments, when the liquor took hold in the dead of night, that he fleetingly wondered if she had gathered that particular knowledge from the dockside whores. In the cold light of day, as sobriety took hold, he knew that she was not capable of taking her own child’s life. There was no doubt that she needed to hear that certainty in his response.
“No, Ana. I do not hate you. I saw the light in your eyes when the doctor confirmed you were with child. If there is any blame, it is with Hyde and Stark for putting you through such an ordeal. Perhaps, if you had not been ill from their mistreatment, you might not have lost…” His throat choked with emotion, enough to make Ana turn to face him.
“Is it wrong of me to want a child with you? Even with the knowledge of what that might mean?”
“What are you talking about? We discussed this. You’re not mad. Your mother, God bless her, might have avoided her dementia with better medical treatment and less intervention from Hyde. Our children may have their own issues but they will be ours and they will be loved.” He made sure that she was looking in his eyes. “No. Matter. What.”
For the next few moments, they simply looked upon each other, their hearts reaching through their eyes. They willed each other to see the truth. To see the unconditional nature of their love. Christian’s eyes welled with unshed tears as he fought to hold his stronger emotions in check. This small powerhouse of a female, held his heart in her hands. From the moment she had burst into his cabin aboard the Ruby Queen, she had held him in thrall. He had fallen in love with her from the first impatient tap of her tiny feet, the first challenge from her smart mouth. She lifted his soul, believed him capable of taking on the world and stood beside him as he did exactly that. There was nothing that he would not offer her. Nothing he would not do for her. He had held back from sharing his pain because hers seemed so much greater. Everything word he had held back in recent weeks had been about giving her the space to grieve. Now, she was reaching out to him and he would prostrate himself to have his wife back.
“Ana, nothing about this changes how I feel about you. I will love you until the end of my days and beyond. With or without children. You are mine.” Before she could glance away, he bowed his head to hold her gaze. “And I, will forever, be yours.”
“I wanted this baby. I wanted it so much.” Tears flowed too easily down her cheeks as she fell into his arms.
“I know, my love.” Christian murmured into her hair as he tried to comfort her. His own sadness moistened her tresses as the turbulent wind whipped around them. “I know.”
“CHRISTIAN!” Her blood-curdling scream broke through his reverie and he was on his feet before he could register a clear thought. “Get your arse in here!”
Reaching for Ana’s hand involved pushing the well-meaning disapproval of the midwife aside. He did not care. All emotion was in his throat as he gripped his wife’s small hand in his and breathed with her through the next contraction. She almost broke his fingers with the force of her grip, bringing tears to his eyes for all the wrong reasons. He willed them back, knowing that if she could take the pain, he could, too.
When the wave of agony was over, the midwife stepped in and tried to ease her back against the pillows but Ana would have none of it.
“No. I need to sit up. Move behind me. MOVE!” The order was shouted directly to Christian and there was no question that he would obey her. The midwife held her legs, scooting her forward in the bed so that Christian could slide his body behind.
The next wave of pain gripped her and she in turn bit her fingers into Christian’s thighs with such force that he rose off the bed. Biting his tongue rather than cry out, he waited for it to subside before lowering them both down again. Ana leaned forward and between gritted teeth ordered him to rub her back. The next wave of pain had her up on her knees and facing him, her hands on his shoulders while he held her steady at the waist.
“Eeeh, m’lady. I’ve never seen such a thing.” Christian was sure that most modern ladies did not engage so physically with their own labors, content instead to lie back and take orders from doctors and midwives. The thought of her spitting out some vitriolic curse that would condemn the midwife to the bowels of hell had him stepping in to mediate.
“If my wife wants to swing from the chandeliers, we shall permit it. Do you understand?” Christian bit out without taking his eyes from Ana’s. Her hair limp with sweat, clung to her face. Her breaths came in long steady pants.
“I hate you.”
“I know.” Christian tried not to smile. He’d seen this before. His lady was about to become the most unladylike creature on earth. “You’re doing fine, Ana. You’re nearly there.”
“Nearly there? Nearly there? I’ve been nearly there for the last eight hours, you scurvy swine! You did this to me. I hope you rot in the pits of hell, you…aaaarrrghhh!”
He rubbed her back in broad circles and breathed with her through the worst of the pain. “There, there. And yet, you still love me.”
“Yes, I love you, you fucker but I will never let you touch me again. Do you understand?”
He smiled. “Yes, my love. I will remind you of that when you beg me to touch your body and take you to heaven.”
She leveled him with a look of pure malevolence. “You are so full of yourself, Lord Trevelyan.” Ana spat out her words between desperate breaths. Another wave was about to hit and she tried to move.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to roll over, you stupid pirate. Your child is coming and I’ll be damned if I will do this with my naked arse pointing at the ceiling!” Trying not to laugh, Christian helped her settle back against him when the next wave hit with full force.
“Is that normal?” He frowned as he peered over Ana’s shoulder at the small mound of hair on what could only be a head. Having been somewhat preoccupied as a first time father, Christian had not taken in all of the elements of the processes of childbirth when his son was born. The second time around, he was more relaxed, although the fear of losing Ana hovered nearer to his heart that he cared to think about.
“She’s crowning, Sir. Next push should get the rest of the ‘ead out and then we’ll be nearly there.” Christian was relieved to see that the woman didn’t take her focus off the goings on between his wife’s legs, instead, feeling around with her hands, that all was as it should be with a sage nodding of head between Ana’s heartfelt panting.
“Bear down, m’lady.” The midwife called out from between Ana’s legs. Christian braced himself to support her for the last push. A moment later, a small scream rent the air as the midwife pulled the babe into the light of the room for his parents to see. “Tis a fine baby girl.”
The midwife laid the babe on her mother’s breast and brought Christian a warm cloth to bathe it’s skin before she returned to attending to his wife. Both parents cried gently as they held their daughter.
“You caused your mother a lot of grief, young lady.” Christian encouraged the babe to take his finger as he wrapped his wife and daughter in his arms.
“Yes, and you must promise me that you shall continue to cause your father a great deal of grief from this day forth.” Ana smiled down at her child. “Phoebe Ella.”
“Pheobe Ella.” Christian repeated. “Perfect. Just like her mother.”
Just then a squeal was heard beyond the door, followed by the pounding of feet and a deep booming voice. “I’ll get you, you little pirate.”
“I thought Elliot was taking Teddy away to Bellevue.” Ana snuggled the blanket more firmly around her new daughter who had begun to fuss.
“Apparently, Teddy wanted to stay here to meet his new sibling and threatened to make Uncle Elliot walk the plank.” Edward ‘Teddy’ Christian Trevelyan Grey was nothing if not precocious. At three years old, he had the run of the household and the Ruby Queen, if his father would let him have his way. Certainly, his ‘uncle’ James was a terrible influence on the young lad who was already showing all the signs of becoming the next Captain Blackheart. That was if his cousin Ava didn’t beat him to the task.
“You permit him too much, Christian,” Ana scolded.
” I have nothing to do with it. I am overridden by his uncles and aunts, as you well know.” Christian reached over and tucked his little finger into his daughter’s hands, allowing her to suckle gently. “Besides, you know that Nicholas is likely to be the next Blackheart.”
“Let’s just hope that Blackheart is not needed again in their lifetime.”
With an uncharacteristic and somewhat nostalgically, wistful tone, Christian replied, “And where would the adventure be in that.”