Action and Romance on the High Seas!Please R&R!Should I end like it is or continue on?
|Caroline stepped off the rickety ramp of the ship onto the cobblestone ground. Her eyes scanned the city she’d be spending her summer in. England was nothing she expected. The roads were muddy and her skirts were turning soggy. The buildings looked run down and the people were just as rough looking.
“Caroline? Is that you darling?” a voice came from across the road.
Caroline came back to the present and saw her aunt coming towards her. She was plumper than Caroline last remembered, but of course she hadn’t seen her in nearly five years. Her jet-black hair now had streaks of silver in it. Caroline placed her purse on the ground in order to brace herself for the oncoming bear hug. If nothing else, she at least remembered this onslaught.
“Aunt Pamela, it’s so good to see you.”
As Caroline had predicted, the five years didn’t ease the grip on Pamela’s hugs.
“I’m so glad you decided to come see me. Let’s get your luggage onto our coach and we’ll get out of this ruffian place,” Pamela said. “Thomas, retrieve Miss Caroline’s luggage from the ship.”
A man appearing from nowhere bowed before them both and headed toward the ship. Pamela crooked her arm into Caroline’s and led her toward the coach. Caroline remembered her purse and turned back to retrieve it. A very handsome, rugged looking man was standing with it in his hand looking either for the owner or the quickest way to get away without being seen. His black hair shone almost blue in the bright sun against his dark skin. He was absolutely beautiful to Caroline. He looked at her and smiled showing off his brilliantly white teeth. Her heart fluttered at his smile. She felt she was the only one in the world with him at this moment. Then, he started towards her, the purse in his hand. When he reached her, he was at least a head taller and his muscular body just beckoned to be touched.
“This must be yours, my dear lady,” he said, his blue eyes staring into hers.
She took the proffered purse brushing his hand in the exchange, “Thank you ever so much, Mr.?”
“Joshua Hamilton, at your service.”
“Thank you, Mr. Hamilton. I’m forever grateful,” Caroline smiled.
“Caroline dear,” Pamela came up and put her arm around her niece. “Hello, Mr. Hamilton. I see you’ve met my niece, Caroline. We really must be going now.”
“I’m sure,” Joshua replied casting a menacing eye at Pamela. “It was very nice meeting you, Mrs. Caroline.”
“Miss. I’m not married,” Caroline threw in.
“Well, good meeting you Miss Caroline. I’d keep that purse close in these parts. Not many are as full of gentleman honor as I am,” he smiled taking her hand.
He leaned over and brushed his lips across her knuckles. She smiled and gave a semi-curtsy as her aunt pulled her away. She glanced back over her shoulder to see him one last time, but he was gone. Her heart fell with disappointment that he wasn't watching her. Safely encompassed in the privacy of her coach, Aunt Pamela began fanning herself with her kerchief and patting herself.
“Are you alright, Aunt Pamela?” Caroline asked coming out of her trance.
“Oh Caroline, please stay away from that man. He’s a vagabond that one. He may look the gentleman in view of society, but that man has a very nasty reputation. Your father would have my head if I allowed you to get mixed up with that man and ruin your reputation before he has a chance to marry you off to a high class gentleman,” Pamela cried.
“Don’t worry yourself, Aunt. I have no intention of being married off or ruining my reputation,” Caroline said.
“Oh heavens, child. Why don’t you just find you a good man and settle down? Is there something you’ve got against them or do you just like making your father agitated?” Pamela asked.
“I don’t have anything against them and I most definitely don’t like upsetting Father. I refuse to be married to someone I don’t love. When I find the right one then I’ll settle down. It’s my life not my fathers,” Caroline stated.
“Oh well, maybe you’ll change your mind over this summer. You might find someone here and perhaps he can straight out that silly notion. We have plenty of nice gentleman around here you could chose from. You’d have your pick too with that long brown hair and those big amber eyes. Not many women here can compete with that,” Pamela confided.
“We’ll just see when he shows up, Aunt Pamela. Please don’t pester me all summer,” Caroline said.
“Me? Pester? Well you should be ashamed for even considering. I don’t pester dear child. I advise. You’ll be kind enough never to refer to me as pestering,” Aunt Pamela said all huffy.
Caroline closed her eyes, refusing to be drawn into an argument on the manners of a lady. She knew she’d hear enough of them during the summer. She really didn’t want to begin so early. Pamela figured she was just resting from her trip from the Americas and they finished the ride in silence.
Joshua smiled as he watched Miss Caroline sway towards the carriage. She was very beautiful. He just wanted to run his fingers through that silky brown hair of hers and those eyes - amber like a wolf's. He imagined himself with his fingers locked in her hair and her wolven eyes calling out for more from him.
“Mr. Hamilton?” a voice came from behind.
Joshua shook his head out of his daydream and turned around. He saw a coarse looking man standing at the foot of the ramp.
“You must be Mr. Cartee I presume,” Joshua replied.
“I am. If you’ll follow me to the Captain’s quarters I believe we have some business to attend.”
“Straight to the point. I like that about my businessmen. Lead the way.”
Joshua followed Mr. Cartee to the deck of the ship. Then, he followed him through the door, down a flight of stairs, and then down a short hallway. Finally, they arrived at the door and went in. The room was very refined for a ship. There was a desk to the left, a round table and three chairs in the center, and a nicely sized bed to the right. The desk was strewn from one end to the other with papers and pencils and a compass. There were maps all over the table. Mr. Cartee rolled the maps up and placed them on the desk. Then, after a few minutes searching, came up with a book and one of the ink quills. He motioned for Joshua to take a seat.
“Would you care for any wine before we get started?” Mr. Cartee asked.
“No thank you. Let’s just make this quick. I have other business to tend to,” Joshua replied hastily.
“Very well. We’re going to need to ask for more money if we are to continue to do business.”
“How much more? The contract is already for 1500 pounds,” Joshua asked.
“We’re going to need 2000 pounds.”
“What? That’s outlandish. We had an agreement on the 1500 pounds. Why do you want more you greedy scum?”
“It’s just that there have been three incidents of pirates this week. It’s getting to where merchants are sending their goods inland now. No on wants to send them overseas with the risk of losing everything so high. I have to be able to pay my men, sir,” Mr. Cartee complained.
“I can understand that, Mr. Cartee. However, you can’t bankrupt the ones being loyal to you. I can afford to pay 1700 pounds but not a cent more. As much business as I give you that should be sufficient,” Joshua stated.
“Yes, sir. You do give us much and you have stayed with us. It’s just with the men worrying about pirates they’re thinking of mutiny if not paid more. With no crew we can’t sail. Can you please at least make it 1800? I hate to ask but I have many men on board and not very many vendors left, Mr. Hamilton.”
"I can see where a short crew could put a damper on things. Well, Mr. Cartee you’ve caught me on a good day. You tell me everything you know on Miss Caroline, the female passenger you had on board and I’ll give you the 2000 you originally asked for.”
“That would be wonderful. I don’t know much about her. She pretty much kept to herself while on board. We picked her up when we docked in Maryland. Her last name is Welbourne. Her family is apparently wealthy and one of the upper class. She’s visiting her aunt for the summer. Very sweet girl, but definitely has a mind of her own. One of my men had too much ale one night and decided to get a little too friendly with Miss Welbourne. Well, she didn’t take it too kindly. She kneed him right in the balls and kicked him in the butt when he fell down. The rest of the men got a crack out of it and threw him overboard to cool him off. She’s a rowdy lass that one.”
“Thank you very much. I’ll see to your payment. Although I am a gentleman, I have other things in mind for that catch,” Mr. Hamilton allowed. “It was good talking to you, Mr. Cartee. I’ll be in touch.”
“Thank you, Mr. Hamilton.”
Joshua shook his hand as he walked out of the room. Now to find out if any of the invites to parties were ones that Mrs. Pamela Albright would be attending and would be sure to bring her niece, Miss Caroline Welbourne. Not only was she beautiful, she was wealthy. He was sure he could tame that temper of hers if put in the right position. A grin came upon his face. He lingered on the picture of her in his mind. That traveling dress did nothing for her. Hopefully she wasn’t as modest as an old woman with a neckline up to her chin. If it were, he’d have to send her a dress or two and insist she wear them if only for his pleasure.
He took off in the direction of the local working class' pub before heading home. He had another business venture as he had told Mr. Cartee.
* * * *
When they reached Pamela’s house, the coach came to a jerking stop waking Caroline up. She blinked against the sunlight and glanced around through the window. The house was two stories with a big wrap around porch. The gardens were to the rear, but there were a few trees and flowers lining the front. The footman came around and helped her get out of the carriage. She bent to pick up her luggage but Thomas was at her side at once picking them up for her. Pamela came beside her and motioned for Caroline to follow her.
“I’ll give you a quick tour and then show you to your room,” Pamela smiled.
Caroline followed her through the big double doors and entered the front hallway. The house seemed immaculate, yet warm in it's surroundings. She could sense there wasn't much life in the house, but that it was cared for with love. She felt safe and comfortable inside the walls. Pamela pointed as she walked.
“The sitting room is to the left and the kitchen is toward the back. The dining room is to your right. The study is next to the parlor. That’s pretty much the downstairs. Follow me.”
Caroline peeked into the three front rooms and looked up the staircase her Aunt was taking. The floors were a light colored hardwood. The parlor had shades of red throughout. The dining room had a grand chandelier over the table, but that was it. The study was small with a desk and a chaise in front of a fireplace. She quickly hurried up the stairs after her Aunt. There were five bedrooms total and three of those had their own washroom. The other two had an adjoining one.
“This will be your room for your stay. Feel free to make it your own. There are extra bedclothes in the closet. There is a woodpile next to the fireplace. I doubt you’ll need it since its summer. The summers here usually aren’t unbearable. There is a lot of rain as you could tell from the streets at the dock. You might want to take a short nap; we were invited to the Williams for dinner tonight. I told them you were coming to visit and they insisted on meeting you. They’re a really nice family. I believe they have a daughter about your age and a son a few years older. The daughter’s name is Anne and the son’s name is Hugh. He’s a very charming, handsome young man,” Pamela said.
“Aunt Pamela, this isn’t by any chance a matchmaking dinner is it? I told you I came to relax not to get married,” Caroline replied.
“Oh you don’t have to marry him just yet, just get to know him,” Pamela said.
“I’m not looking to get to know any men either. I’ll go to dinner only because there is no way you’re going to let me stay home, but do not push or even expect anything to happen tonight,” Caroline said.
“Alright, alright. I’ll go downstairs to the kitchen and have them send you up some sandwiches. I know you must be famished. Then you can unpack and take a little nap. We’ll leave here by six. That will give you at least two hours to unpack and sleep since it’s only three,” Pamela said.
She turned around and closed the door behind her. Caroline looked around the room. There was a queen size bed that looked very much inviting, a beautiful wooden dresser with a mirror that was worn around the edges as if an antique, and an porcelain water pitcher atop it. She felt very much at home in this room. She walked to the window and looked out at the view of the garden. Pamela had a maze of walls covered with bright colored flowers and vines and huge trees. She turned around and walked to the wash room. There was a folding screen hiding the toiletry area. It had brilliant colored birds all over it with great wingspans. There was a sink with a small mirror above it and a vanity next to that with a bigger mirror and an assortment of makeup. Caroline smiled knowing she’d probably rarely use any of the makeup. Her whole room seemed charming in that everything was meticulously placed.
She turned around, headed back to the room, and picked up her first suitcase, plopping it on the bed. She started putting her things away and placed one of her dresses on a hook on the back of the door. It was a deep green color with a low, but not too low, neckline and the sleeves hung off the shoulders a bit. Just because she wasn’t looking for a man didn’t mean the men couldn’t look for her. After she had unpacked, a servant girl brought up the sandwiches and placed them on the dresser. She didn’t feel really hungry until she started eating them and then realized she hadn’t eaten since breakfast this morning on the ship. After filling her small stomach, Caroline lay down on the bed and relaxed. Before long she was fast asleep in the warm, soft bed.
* * * *
Pamela knocked on Caroline’s bedroom door. When no one answered, she opened it and walked on in. Caroline was still asleep and they would be leaving in an hour. Pamela walked over to the window and slung open the drapes. Caroline groaned and threw her arm over her eyes.
“Caroline, dear. We’re leaving in less than an hour and you haven’t even begun to get dressed. Get up and hurry along. I’ll be waiting downstairs,” Pamela said.
Caroline groaned again in reply. Pamela walked out and closed the door. Caroline moved her arm to make sure she was gone then rolled back over. Another knock came on the door a few minutes later and another serving girl popped her head in.
“Mrs. Pamela wanted me to make sure you were up, Miss Caroline.”
“Fine, I’m awake. I’ll be down in a moment,” Caroline replied.
The girl closed the door and disappeared. Caroline threw the covers back and sat up wiping her eyes and ran her hand through her hair. Then, she got up and headed to the wash room. She did her toiletries and walked back into her room. Pulling her dress off the hanger she proceeded to put it on. She smoothed out a few wrinkles from being in the luggage and straightened the sleeves so that her drooping neckline was still modest. Caroline walked back into the washroom and sat before the vanity. She looked in the mirror and sighed at her sleepy eyes. Picking up her brush, she set out to put some order to her unruly hair. She looked down at the makeup and decided she should wear a little tonight to try to cover her tiredness. She added a little color to her eyelids and a faint red to her lips. Pinching her cheeks slightly, the rose color brightened her up.
She got up and went back to her room to look at her full complexion and make sure she was presentable. Her long brown hair flowed over her shoulders and down her back. She still had that youthful glow in her face, which her father always said made her look beautiful. A pang of loneliness went through her. She already missed her father and the only one she knew here was her aunt and she only through letters. Her mother had died when she was ten, during childbirth with her little brother. He also had not made it through. Her father had never remarried saying her mother was the only one for him. She remembered seeing the pain in his eyes every time Caroline had done something that reminded him of her mother. She knew he loved her, but she thought the main reason he wasn’t really pushing her to stay at home was so he wouldn’t have to be reminded of her mother.
Then, there was this mysterious man she met at the dock. Caroline was hoping she'd see him again. His dark hair and bright blue eyes had captivated her and she wanted to get to know him no matter how much her aunt was against it. She put a drop of perfume down between her breasts and another behind each ear. Then, she checked her reflection once more and opened the door to go downstairs. Pamela was already waiting impatiently in the carriage. When she saw Caroline walk out of the house it all vanished.
“Oh my dear. You look as beautiful as my sister did. Your mother would be so proud to know how you turned out. Let’s get on now. They’ll be waiting on us.”
Caroline climbed up into the carriage with the help of the footman, her skirt rustling with every move. She rested her eyes on the way over there, just thinking of her father. They arrived at the William’s house in no time. They were rushed inside as the rain began to start. They left their parasols at the door and went on in to the sitting room. Mr. and Mrs. Williams greeted them as they entered. They doted over Caroline until her face blushed. Finally, they introduced her to Anne and Hugh. She had seen Hugh when she walked in and had wanted to laugh when his jaw dropped. He wasn’t bad looking, tall, dark hair, green eyes, and a cheerful face. He just didn’t seem to appeal to her though. Anne was very pretty. She had medium length blonde hair, blue eyes, a very slender build, and creamy white skin. She must be nineteen at the most.
After making introductions to the hosts, they pulled Caroline along to meet the other couple who was there. They were an elderly couple, probably close to seventy in Caroline’s eyes. They were introduced as the Raines, Lawrence and Elsie. Finally, the introductions were finished and Caroline took a seat next to Anne. She feared Hugh might be older than she, but from the way his eyes kept raking her body, he might attempt something right there. Plus, she really didn’t want to lead him on. Anne pulled her into conversation about the Americas and she tried to tell Caroline something of England. Hugh wanted to get up and go talk to her. She would make a beautiful trophy and her eyes told him she'd be an animal in the bedroom. He'd use her like he did his other women and then when he tired of her, he'd push her aside. It had always worked in the past. He saw no reason why it wouldn't work this time. Besides, what woman could resist him?
He stood up, but was quickly stopped as Joshua Hamilton walked in through the doors. Joshua shook hands with Mr. Williams and kissed Mrs. Williams’ hand. He made his way up to the Raines and said hello. Then, he spoke to Pamela and patted Hugh on the back. When he made it to Anne, he glanced at Caroline and then turned quickly back to Anne. When it came time for Caroline, he took hold of her hand and kissed her knuckles like he had at the dock.
“It’s so good to see you again, Miss Caroline. I didn’t expect you to be accepting invitations with you fresh off the ship,” Joshua said.
“Yes, well, my aunt thought it would be best. She thought it would give me a chance to make a few acquaintances from the beginning,” Caroline said.
A servant walked into the room and announced dinner was ready. Everyone stood up to go. Hugh made an effort to get to Caroline to escort her, but was intercepted when Joshua took her arm. Instead, he graciously took his sister’s arm and Pamela’s on each of his own. Caroline smiled at him and then looked back to Joshua who was looking straight ahead. They followed the hosts to the dining room and seated themselves.
Joshua sat next to Caroline and Anne on the other side of her. Since Hugh couldn’t be seated next to her, he sat across from her and Pamela sat across from Joshua to keep an eye on him. The waiters brought out soup and some white wine as the first course. Then, the conversation began again, mainly of politics or gossip. Caroline knew nothing of anyone so just politely listened. Hugh took the opportunity to be noticed.
“Miss Caroline, what brings you to England?” Hugh asked.
“I just came to visit with my aunt and have a little vacation. Mainly I just came to relax,” Caroline replied.
Caroline was getting very warm being so close to Joshua. Her heart sped up everytime he looked at her. There was no help for her once he flashed his smile again. Dinner finally finished and the men went to the study for their cigars and brandy and the women went back to the sitting room. More gossip continued and Caroline was starting to get very tired. The events of the day were really starting to take their toll. She looked out the window and noticed the rain had stopped. She politely excused herself and stepped out on the back patio that led to the gardens. She walked on through the flowers until she reached the fountain in the middle. She sat down on one of the benches beside it and twirled her fingers in the water causing the small goldfish to investigate. It was so peaceful in a garden. It seemed there was something magical encompassing it and blocking all the chaos of the world out.
“Miss Caroline, it seems we had the same notion. I was beginning to feel lightheaded amidst all that smoke,” Joshua said standing right beside her.
Caroline started at having her peace interrupted, but calmed down when she saw Joshua.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I just didn’t realize you were here until I was already upon you,” Joshua apologized.
“It’s alright, Mr. Hamilton. I just didn’t hear you approach,” Caroline replied.
“Please, call me Joshua. Might I sit with you?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been warned about you. I was told my virtue was at stake if I associated myself with you,” Caroline smiled.
“Ugh, my pride has been wounded. I would never harm a beautiful woman’s virtue, that is, unless she consented,” Joshua smiled raising his eyebrows.
“I don’t have anything to worry about then, since I won’t be consenting to anything. Where are you from, Joshua? I can’t place that charming accent of yours. Surely it’s not English.”
“Well, my parents were English, but they moved to Scotland with my father’s business when I was young. I guess I might’ve picked up a thing or two from my neighbors down there,” Joshua smiled.
“Is it true the Scotsmen wear skirts there? I’ve always heard but never seen,” Caroline asked interested.
“Aye, they do,” Joshua said thickening his accent for her.
Caroline laughed and her whole face lit up. Joshua paused, stunned, and stared at her. The moonlight was shining silver on her brown hair, her eyes were hazy from being tired, and her cheeks were all rosy from the cool night air. She looked like a beautiful nymph sitting next to the fountain.
“Why do you keep looking at me like that?” Caroline asked awakening him from his reverie.
“Do you realize how beautiful you are when you laugh? Your whole face lights up. It’s breathtaking,” Joshua whispered.
“Thank you, but I am far from beautiful. I have many flaws, Joshua.”
“None that I can see right now,” he replied.
Joshua leaned in to kiss her. Caroline’s heart fluttered from the effect his lips had had on her knuckles that morning.
“Caroline,” Pamela called, “It’s time to go.”
Caroline caught her breath just inches from Joshua's bright blue eyes, “I have to go.”
Joshua sighed, “Very well. I’ll see you again.”
Caroline stood up to go. Joshua stood up and grabbed her hand and pulled her against him. Then, his lips were on hers and Caroline couldn’t breathe. His lips were so soft on hers and she could sense his hunger. Suddenly, she was afraid and struggled to get away from him. He held on to her hand and looked into her eyes, seeing the fear, before releasing her. She ran to her Aunt and calmed herself by inhaling deeply and smoothing out her dress before meeting her.
* * * *
Caroline changed into her nightgown and plopped across her bed when she got home. She sighed as she recalled the evening. She thought it was going to be a bore and then Joshua came in. She had tried to act normally, but one moment she was hoping he’d try to kiss her and the next she was running from him. It wasn’t the kiss that scared her so badly, lord it was nice, she had just never had the other feelings so powerful before. He was a womanizer and it would take a lot of time to get him out of her head. Those sparkling blue eyes were entrancing and those lips were so soft and when they pressed against hers…. She had to stop this. She was going to drive herself insane. She finally rolled up under the covers and fell asleep.