“Are you enjoying your visit to Faversham?” Mrs Jones looked like she knew the answer already. Somehow Ana was going to have to pick the woman’s brains regarding the strange attitudes she had encountered. Mrs Jones didn’t pause for Ana’s answer but picked up the cup and carefully raised it to her lips.
The murmur of voices had resumed enough for Ana to be sure that they could not be overheard. “Yes. The town is very pretty and surprisingly busy.” She refused to say anything else about the strange attitudes that she sensed. Not yet, anyway.
“The bastard Captain’s new mistress, no doubt.” Two women were seated at the table adjacent to Ana’s. They were smartly, if somewhat unfashionably attired, so she was sure that they must be wives of important local landowners or businessmen. Both women paused their cups at their lips, as they leaned in to talk in raised whispers. “I hear she was a servant. Rising above her station, thinking to marry the son of a Duke. A failed naval captain, if you please. She’ll be another slut, like the others. Probably leave her brats all over the countryside and run back to the city. More for his collection of waifs and strays. Wouldn’t be surprised if she’s foreign, like the others.”
Christian sat at his desk studying the papers before him. The candle flickered, breaking his concentration and not for the first time tonight, his thoughts went to his wife. Her cool demeanor was a mask. He knew this for certain because he had perfected his own over the years. She was protecting herself, against what, he was not sure. All he knew was that the feisty and passionate woman who had confronted him on his ship and challenged his alter ego on the dance floor, had suddenly retreated into this empty husk, who had barely walked through the past few days leading up to their wedding.Her reserve had warned him to be patient but her latent tears had ripped at his heart. Within those pathetic murmurs he heard all of the passion she had been denying and he had very nearly gone to her. Instead, he had stilled his hand upon the handle, rested his forehead against the door and simply listened to all of her pain, wishing for the first time since he had approached her father, that he had done things differently. All of the decisions he had made were for their collective good. At the time he had been certain of his motives, but in being so convinced of what he thought was right, he had removed her choice in the matter. So he had stopped himself from going to her tonight, choosing not to force himself on her, as many husbands did to their wives. Instead, he hoped that, as unworthy as he was to be a husband, he could love her enough for the both of them, and in time, she might learn to love him in return.The clock chimed two and Taylor entered the room.”We're ready, Sir.”Christian nodded, locked the papers in his drawer, donned hat and cloak and followed his man through to the library.
Read Blackheart: Chapter 7 here
“Really, Christian, it wouldn’t hurt you to smile.” Grace spoke through her own perfectly open visage, her eyes twinkling under a delicate frame of sea foam lace, as Lady Myrston and her tedious son drifted on to the ballroom wearing matching peacock masks that looked for all the world like they might take flight.
“I do believe that it would be the most painful experience of my life, Your Grace, second only to listening to your outrageous conversations with Sir Raymond over canapes.” The Grey men all wore understated silver-grey eye masks to match their dark green jackets and dove-grey breeches. Since they were all of a height and wore powdered wigs (their half-hearted attempt at dressing in costume for the occasion), they were easily confused by those who did not know them well. Elliot and Carrick both grinned at Christian, delighting in his discomfort, meanwhile Christian had plans that would mean he would not be joining them at 3am when their wigs would become overly hot and itchy, for which he was entirely grateful.
“Piffle! We were merely doing what people of our dotage tend to do. What else is left for me but to speculate on my lack of grandchildren? Speaking of which, when are you going to marry, young man? I shall be one foot in the grave and too old to enjoy your progeny if you don’t at least make half an effort to find a suitable wife.” Her Grace also wore a high powdered wig and a gown from the previous century, her waist cinched to show off the girlish figure she still maintained. She had toyed with affecting a French accent all evening until her daughter, Lady Mia, had pointed out that Marie Antionette was, in fact, Austrian and that the effort would be lost on their guests.
“Not for lack of trying,” Christian muttered under his breath.
“What was that?”
“Nothing, Your Grace. Be assured, I shall marry when my brother does.” Christian’s announcement was loud enough for Elliot to turn and thump him in the arm.
“Boys! Really! Please show some decorum,” the duchess hissed from behind her fan.
“Yes, mother.” The young men chimed in unison while their father chuckled.
Read Blackheart: Chapter 5 here
Check the menu for Chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9
“Good heavens. Are you by any chance related to the Duke of Carrick? I knew him in my youth. Did a spot of grouse shooting and salmon fishing with him as a lad and did you know that you’re the spitting image?”
Christian felt his heart crash to the floor along with any hopes that Sir Raymond would grant his request. Elliot shuffled uncomfortably in his seat in a most ungentlemanly way. For a moment Christian wondered if he hadn’t caught something from one of Miriam’s whores. Elliot, to his credit, recovered quickly.
“Why, yes, I’m his son. Lord Elliot Grey at your service, Sir.” Elliot smiled broadly and Sir Raymond was up out of his seat, leaning over offering one slightly gnarled hand. Without a glance or grimace, Elliot took it and shook, clasping it with his other hand. “It is a delight to meet you, Sir. My father has spoken highly of you.”
“Has he indeed?” Sir Raymond looked pleased with the flattery. At first. A slight frown creased his eyebrows as he sat back down. “Well, m’Lord. What can I do for you?”
He looked suspicious and so he should be. To Christian’s knowledge, their father had never mentioned Sir Raymond. Be that as it may, the conversation was settling into something he felt he could manage so he approached the table once more.
“May I introduce my brother, Captain Christian Grey of the Ruby Queen.”
Christian offered his hand, which for an awful moment, he thought Sir Raymond was not about to take. Finally, with pursed lips and a deep look of consternation, Sir Raymond reached to grasp his hand.
“A pleasure to meet you, Sir Raymond.” There was very little confidence left in Christian at this present moment but his voice did not betray him. He ran over several possible approaches to his request in his head and none of them were arriving at the desired result. He had hoped to find a man who was a little desperate to marry off his only daughter, announce that she had been compromised and offer to make her an honest woman. Instead, he had the sinking feeling that that particular offer would be met by pistols at dawn, which although outlawed, Christian was certain that Sir Raymond would have conveniently forgotten that little detail.
“I take it that this is not a courtesy call.” The shrewd older eyes flickered between the brothers, leaving Christian momentarily at a loss.
“Well, yes. I wondered if you would accept my mother’s invitation to the family dinner tonight prior to her masque. You see, my brother here has had the honor of a chance meeting with your daughter at Lady Katherine’s townhouse and has become, I’m afraid, quite unreasonably enamored. He has insisted on having both young ladies in attendance tonight and when I heard that you were in town I thought it would be wonderful for you to renew your acquaintance with my father and have you escort the young ladies.”
Read Blackheart: Chapter 4 here
“Lord Elliot, I was delighted to receive your card.” Kate’s smile was far too wide. Obviously, she was pleased that Ana was about to be rescued but she had forgotten just how presumptuous and arrogant the Grey men could be. It all came flooding back to her as she spoke through gritted teeth. “Tell me, how is your mother, Her Grace.”
A small whimper came from the floor as Hyde obviously realized whose presence he was in. He went on all fours, placing his hands on the ground so that he might rise to his feet. When he did, he barely came to Christian’s shoulder and that realization caused yet another small whimper. Ana was so embarrassed at the whole scene that she could do nothing more than focus on the Aubusson carpet. Christian was here, with his brother and he had no doubt circumvented the most horrideous proposal from Mr Hyde. But why was he here? He had made it quite clear that she would not see him again. Her heart ached at the confusion of it all.
“Miss Steele, Anastasia.” Christian moved past Hyde who almost tripped over the chaise in his efforts to get out of the way. “My darling, please tell me that you were not going back on our understanding?”
Read Blackheart: Chapter 3 here
The captain’s power is uncontrollable in chase or in battle, drubbing, cutting, or even shooting any one who dares deny his command.
French, Joseph Lewis (2011-03-24). Great Pirate Stories (Kindle Locations 2030-2031). . Kindle Edition.
Several seconds passed with Ana’s jaw dropped open in shock before she came to her senses and snapped her mouth shut. He could not possibly be serious. No sooner had that thought entered her head than he had her by the elbow, physically removing her from his cabin. His grip was strong, somewhat limiting her ability to resist, although he grasped tightly without hurting her. All she could do was a rather ineffective scurry to keep up with his pace.
They approached the stairs and he released her elbow but kept hold of her hand. He continued on ahead of her, leading the way while blocking her vision of what was ahead. As they approached the final stairs, he all but hauled her up on to the deck, causing her cloak to fling back off her shoulders and the clasp of her jacket to slip open. Struggling to catch her breath had Ana’s bosom heaving to the collective gasp of the sailors on deck. Captain Grey glared down at her, his eyes angry and disgusted. “Cover yourself, madam.”
If he hadn’t been so eager to remove her from his cabin, then she would not have had such a malfunction of her wardrobe. Turning her back on the crew as best she could, Ana fumbled to bring her fastenings back under control. When she turned back to him, Christian was breathing heavily, fingers flexing ominously at this sides. The look of a man who wanted to hit something, hard.
The carriage arrived at the dock at that moment but rather than waving her through, Christian grabbed her hand again, towing her down the gang plank to the jeers of the women below. Ana kept her head down as her blush rose, creeping up over her neck, to colour her fair-skinned cheeks. She was sure she must look like an overripe tomato. If he had thought to conceal her departure in any way, he was failing miserably, for now it seemed that every eye within shouting distance of the ship, was witnessing their unseemly departure. Ana no longer had the good sense to be anything other than mortified.
Once inside the carriage, she slunk back away from the window, hoping that no one was looking in their direction. Christian climbed in behind her, roughly pulling the blinds down before tapping on the ceiling with his cane. She made several attempts to begin to state her disgust at his behavior but each time she found herself biting back the words inside her head. The sheer arrogance of the man was beyond her experience. She simply could not speculate what had possessed him to manhandle her into his carriage in front of half of London? Subtlety was obviously not his strong suit. Finally, she could remain silent no longer.
“Captain Grey, I do not appreciate being treated like some sort of … of … wharf-side doxy. You, Sir, are no gentleman.”
“No, madam, I am not. And if you care for your reputation at all, it would serve you well to remember that in future.”
Read Blackheart: Chapter 2 here