Honour Bright

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Everything posted by Honour Bright

  1. Quest for Blackbeard

    Please check your dictionary. A lubber is a slow, clumsy fellow--a lout. I find this term..tacky, to say the least.
  2. The Pyracy Pub is Closing!

    Thank you for noticing us, William Brand. We are proud to have been a part of the Pub and wish everyone the best and success in all that they endeavor to do.
  3. The Pyracy Pub is Closing!

    Mad Jack and I will continue, moving our story to publishing. Thanks for the ride.
  4. El Lobo Del Mar

    "Why is it that everytime you go somewhere, I miss you?" Jack stood there on the gangway with an armful of Zara and a grin on his face. And here is where Honour's heart lie. With the two that made her the most happy."And just where are your parcels? Don't tell me you couldn't charm the vendors into giving you the price you wanted?""Hmm? Oh...I left them with a vendor that will arrange delivery for all the purchases I made. I have some silk for your shirts and you---"Honour held her arms out and Zara went willingly into them. "---you will have a few new clothes when we get to home, Missy!" Suddenly her reticule, which she had dropped, began to squirm."What the hell...?" Jack said.Honour handed Zara back to Jack and sighed. "You'll hate me for this.""No, I won't."Honour reached in the bag and brought out a little black kitten. She began to talk very fast."You see, there was this vendor on the end of the street and he had one kitten left. He wanted to go home and he didn't want to take the kitten with him. There was a man there who had a snake and he was going to...going to....well, I threw a few coins at him and shoved the kitten in my bag. And if you say we can't keep him then you can tell your daughter why she can't have the----""Kee! Kee!""--too late." Zara held out her hands to the little kitten that was wrapped around Honour's hands. Her eyes were wide. '"Gently, sweetheart. And if your Da says so, you may keep the 'kee'. What say you, Da?"Both Zara and Honour looked hopeful at Jack. He laughed. "I guess Puddin' can put up with a kitten.""I figured that Puddin would stay with the ship and this way, we are saving another kitten's life. She curled right up in my bag and slept the whole way here. I did buy her some milk when I stopped for tea."Jack sighed. "Honour, the next one better damn well be a boy. I can't be outnumbered!""Well, the next kitten we get will be a boy then." That night, over a meal of fresh beef and potatoes with the bread that Honour had bought, Jack totaled up the sums that Honour had spent. She looked at him hopefully.He sighed and then smiled. "Well done! You drive a hard bargain, Mrs. Wolfe. The shops are a little richer but poorer on their merchandise. And I do love the silk that you bought."She wrapped her arms around him from the back. "I am so pleased.""You seemed a bit preoccupied at dinner. Did Ponta del Sol live up to its name?""Oh yes! It was very crowded though and a few ships must have ported."She yawned and Jack drew her onto his lap. She rested her head against his chest and said in a small voice, "Jack?"He kissed the top of her head. "Yes, love?""Jack....did they ever find out what happened to Neptune Rising after...?"Jack gently stroked her hair. He knew it was a painful subject for both of them but he also understood Honour's need to verbalize things that were on her mind.Softly he said, "I think the quartermaster took her over.""Dolan?""Yeah, someone said Johnny outfitted her to suit himself and changed the name. Could just be tavern talk."She sighed and absentmindedly twirled one of Jack's curls on her finger. "I--I'm glad. She was a fine ship and deserved someone who loved her almost as much as..as much as...."And Honour burst out crying. Jack held her closely and let her cry. She broke away and then dabbed her eyes. "I--I'm so sorry, Jack. I don't know where that came from. I guess I was just feeling a bit...I don't know. A new port and all."He gently wiped the tears off her face and then cupped her face. "Darling, I don't want you to ever feel you can't talk to me about Rhys. He was a part of your---both--our lives and if not for him, I wouldn't be alive."She held Jack close and tried not to start crying again. "I just wondered if--if he is at peace now."Jack picked his words carefully. "I think things happen for a reason, Honour. And if Rhys couldn't be with you, then I think circumstances were maneuvered to make sure you were taken care of. And I think the privilege fell to me."He hesitated."Did something happen today to bring Rhys up?" The image of a salt-spattered green frock coat and a swagger that belonged to one man flashed through her mind. "No. Like I said, a new port....just a new adventure. And I am very tired."He set Honour on her feet and rubbed her shoulders. Looking into her eyes, he said, "I don't ever want you to be afraid to talk to me about Rhys, sweetheart. He was my friend too. And I miss him."She nodded and yawned. "And now it is high time you got some sleep. You had a busy day."As Honour slipped under the covers, Jack emerged from the curtained area where Zara was sleeping. "You have to see this."Jack led her to the cradle. Zara was curled up with the kitten resting on her pillow. Honour laid her head on Jack's shoulder as she looked at her little daughter. Yes, this is where her future lay.And her heart.~~~~~~~~~~ Jack laid there staring at the ceiling. Honour slept in his arms, curled up as if clinging to him for protection. Absent-mindedly he stroked her hair. It was on quiet nights like this that he fought his demons. The memory of Colonel Diego y Castille Mendoza.Having Honour with him helped him keep his sanity and his need for revenge throttled.He looked down on her sleeping face with tenderness. She was his epicenter, the thing that kept him on track and gave him a new lease on life. The eighteen months she had been gone was like hell on earth but after tearing the Caribbean apart, tavern by tavern--and brothel by brothel, convent by convent--good fortune had smiled on him once again. And in the bargain, he got a dividend.Zara. Carefully he disentangled himself from her and walked over to the porthole, the moonlight shining through onto their bed.He looked up at the stars and said quietly, 'Thank you, Da--talking with you while I was Mendoza's house guest was my lifeline to sanity. I don't know why, but I think you had a hand in helping me get her back. And laughing your arse off at the same time. I'll do you proud, Da. I promise. I'll always do right by her.'He lowered the blinds on the window and climbed back into bed."Jack? Are you alright?" Honour murmured sleepily."Just thinking about family. Hush and go back to sleep, love. I'm fine."She snuggled closer to him and her reply was soft breathing.Jack chuckled to himself, 'You always said women would be the death of me, Da. But I think you just proved yourself a liar. But I don't think you mind that. Because this one saved me.'He snuffed the candle out and before long, Jack too was asleep, the deep sleep of security.
  5. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour walked along the streets of Ponta del Sol, her boot heels clicking on the cobblestones as she perused the shop windows. As accustomed as she had become to life aboard ship, there was something satisfying about the feel of solid ground beneath her feet. She loved the sea because it was Jack's world and the stuff of her childhood dreams, but she would always be a child of the land. Secretly she wondered how Jack would make the transition to life on dry land in Barbados. Their first attempt was a spectacular failure, but she reminded herself that everything was different this time. He had torn the entire Caribbean apart looking for her. Even though he had originally meant only to recover that hideous gold key, they both discovered their love burned as hot as ever, and that their place was at each other's side. And of course there was little Zara, the most valuable jewel in all their treasure. Jack had taken to fatherhood as easily as he had taken ships in the past, to everyone's surprise. Most of all, there were no secrets between Jack and Honour any more. They'd all been chased out into the light and dealt with. No more ghosts. The skeletons were buried. This time everything will be different, she told herself without one twinge of doubt in her mind or her heart. Their happily ever after was close enough to taste, and it made her heart sing.Honour's steps slowed as she enjoyed the warmth of the sun on her face. It was good to be away from the chill of Wales. It would always mean home and family to her, but she was anxious to make the plantation in Barbados into a real home for herself, Jack, and Zara. It felt good to be running to something for a change. She took a deep breath, and the smell of fresh bread sparked her senses. A glance down the street revealed the bakery's sign, and she made a mental note to pick up fresh loaves to go with that night's supper. But that would wait. Honour pulled the shopping list from her reticule and looked to see what was next to find. She had already bought several new dresses for Zara, most of which she would have to grow into. Another shop had bolts of silk she wanted to have made into shirts for Jack. He may be adding “Retired” to his title of captain, but she could never resist the way he looked in a fine silk shirt. It took some persistence and walking out of the shop twice only to be called back by the owner, but she got the price she wanted. Now she had her eye on table linens. The dressmaker recommended a shop to look at. Honour had a feeling it belonged to a relative of the dressmaker, so she hoped this person was as easy to negotiate with. She took one more sniff of the bread-scented air, and went inside.An hour later, Honour was on her way back to the ship, with three long loaves of bread in a cloth sack tucked securely against her. The linen shop keeper had been a pushover, refusing to call her “Honour” or even “Mrs. Wolfe,” opting instead for “Pretty Lady.” She took the flattery in stride, and managed to talk him down to less than half price for a year's worth of tablecloths, charges, napkins, and tea towels. It felt so good to be buying things for the plantation house. Each step toward the security of a hearth and home that was truly hers was a welcome one, and they were coming faster every day.As she approached the docks, her pace slowed as she beheld the spectacle before her. A dozen or more tents had sprung up, deliberately arranged to choke foot traffic between the ships and town. Vendors noisily hawked their wares to sailors and townsfolk alike. Honour smiled as she thought back to the seasonal faires she remembered from her childhood. Since she still had money in her purse and no pressing need to get back to the ship just yet, she decided to see what was being offered for sale. She tore off a hunk of bread and nibbled it happily as she mixed in with the crowd.After Honour worked her way through several of the tents, each brimming with baskets and blankets and somewhat interesting nicknacks, she found herself at the far end of the docks from El Lobo. She cursed under her breath, because now she would have to go back through the crowd to get back to the ship. With a sigh, she tore off another hunk of bread and waded back into the sea of people. But before Honour could take a bite of bread, she saw something that made her stop as if rooted to the ground.“Not again,” she whispered.There, not more than fifty feet ahead of her, making his way toward the docks, was a man in a weatherbeaten green frock coat. The same green coat she'd seen during the stopover in the Azores, she was sure of it. His hair was mostly pulled back in a ponytail, but the wind blew tendrils of hair around his face, making it difficult to get a good look at his face as he looked from side to side. The swagger was the same. More than the usual sailor's gait, it was something all its own. And it belonged to only one man.Rhys Morgan.
  6. El Lobo Del Mar

    "Well, here you are!"Honour climbed up to the quarterdeck. She had Zara by the hand as the little girl was tottering on her steps aboard a rolling ship deck. Her chestnut curls, so like her father's, was blowing in the wind and she scrunched her little face up to feel the ocean breeze, a smile on her face."I do believe Zara loves the sea air. What do we do when we smell the ocean air, Zara?"Mother and daughter both took an exaggerated sniff of the air.Jack burst out laughing. "She scrunches up her nose just like you do!"Duckie patted Jack on the back. "Got your work cut out for you with those two, Jack. Better pray the next one is a boy!"He finished off his drink and nodded to Honour. "I never did tell you, Honour. But you did good!" He touched Zara's curls as he walked by. Honour watched Duckie as he climbed down the stairs. "I always wondered what Duckie's life was like before you met up with him again.""Scattered. Not grounded. But he, like the rest of us, survived it."Zara tugged on her father's pants leg."Kee? Kee?"Jack scooped her up. "Kee is probably looking for mice, sweetheart."Zara peered over Jack's shoulder, her eyes wide. Honour laughed. "And if she is like me, she is petrified of them."Jack kissed her daughter's head. "I didn't know that.""We had them at Conaway Manor and once day, the cat left one on my pillow. I've been afraid of them ever since.""Well, we will have to make sure that Puddin doesn't get near Zara's crib." Zara snuggled herself against Jack's chest and idly played with one of his curls.Honour laughed. "Most children like security blankets. I remember your first introduction to your daughter.""Well, she seems to have gotten over it.""Yes, but will you?"Jack kissed the top of Zara's head. "Oh, I think all is forgiven. And now I am going to take Zara to the cabin. I think there are cookies there.""You mean YOU want a cookie. Or three.""Nothing wrong with thin mint cookies. Come on, Zara, let's see what Dada has stored away. Coming, Honour?""In a minute. I want to just stand here and feel the sun on my face. A month in Wales was long enough. When do we make port in Madeira?""I'd say by Thursday. We port in Ponta del Sol.""And how is the shopping?""Um...grand, I would say. Especially if the brethren have had an exceptionally good pillaging last summer.""Then, my love, I shall drain your coffers dry. Zara needs new boots, don't you sweetheart? Of course you do!"Honour tickled Zara's feet and she giggled, burying her face in Jack's hair."Come on, Zara...maybe we can find 'Kee' while we are at it. Muir? You coming?"Muir's tail wagged his body because he knew where Zara went, there was food. And crumbs. Honour breathed deeply the scent of the ocean breeze. It always invigorated her. She thought, 'And a home near the seashore where I can open the windows and...'"Honour?"She turned around and there was Rose Gander, Lady Carlisle standing on the steps."May I speak with you?"Honour looked over and then looked back to the sea. "Do I have a choice?"Rose climbed the steps. "I guess you do but I would prefer to say what I have to."Honour shrugged. "Then I'll listen." Rose took a deep breath before she started to speak. "This past ten days...I just wanted you to know that I have watched Jack Wolfe."Honour opened her mouth to speak and Rose held her hand up. "It's not what you think. I've watched Jack with his crew. With his child. And with you. And--I can't believe I am saying this--but I am happy for him."Rose stood next to Honour at the rail. "When I met Jack, he was a charming, idealistic young man. Head full of books and knowledge. And he was my brother's best friend. He was too innocent. Too...perfect.""And you think otherwise now.""There's an edge to Jack Wolfe. He's been through some hard times. It shows on his face. And his soul.""I hadn't noticed.""Of course not. You got the finished product. He has layers and layers of what he is. And I think each layer tells a story.""And you are in the mood for a bedtime story?" Rose held her hand up. "I'm not here to start trouble. This is so awkward...but please let me finish. When I told Jack about your past--yes, a part of me wanted him to thank me and see me again as the young woman I was twenty years ago. But there was one thing I didn't count on. His love for you. And his daughter. And...in a strange way, I am happy for him.""This surprises me, Lady Carlisle.""Please...after all the tricks you have played on me, at least call me 'Rose'. I have to admit, it surprised me too. I know we will never be friends, Honour. But I wanted to say one thing---I respect you. From what Drake has told me, you tamed him. And you saved his life a few times. The mutiny...the snakebite...and that business with that horrid Spaniard. I think the world would be a less bright place without Jack Wolfe in it." Rose walked down the stairs but turned to Honour. "I'll be gone when we get to Madeira. Drake and Jack will arrange passage on a safe ship and I will be back in merry old England inside of a month. But I wanted to tell you this."She walked down the steps and Honour said softly, "Thank you, Rose."From the companionway was heard, 'You are welcome....Rhiannon."
  7. El Lobo Del Mar

    Somewhere in the Caribbean..... The captain stood on the quarterdeck, his dark green frock coat spattered with sea salt. His hands never left the wheel, his eyes never moving from the sea ahead."POUR MORE CANVAS ON!" he shouted."Captain, this mast will only take so much!""DAMN YOU, I DON'T CARE! YOU SLAP IT ON OR YOU'LL BE IN THE BRINE BEFORE YOU KNOW IT!"The boatswain turned to the quartermaster. "What the HELL is his problem?"The quartermaster grimaced, "He's sensing a storm. Seems to have a sixth sense about it. Best heed it and do as he says. Captain never let us down before." The captain held the course, noting the winds had started to pick up. He held his side and winced."Still giving ye problems, Captain?"The captain nodded. "How do you think I know a storm is coming up? A divining rod?"The quartermaster looked to the left of him. "Wind is picking up. Ye be right again, Captain. Clouds are building in the east."The captain stared out with grey-green eyes. "We head for Madeira. Run before the wind, I always say.""Ye know best, Captain.""Take the wheel. I'll be back in a few minutes." The captain went down to his cabin and checked the charts briefly, holding his side. The pain always grew sharp during weather changes. It was something that he had come to accept over the last three years. Along with a few other realizations in life. He took a bottle of Jamaican rum and put it into his frock coat pocket, then joined his quartermaster on the deck. He took out his compass."Take us five points to the east.""But, Captain, that puts us right with the storm."The captain took a deep pull on the rum and handed the bottle to his quartermaster."Precisely. We are going to let the storm push us right to Ponta del Sol's front door.""You're crazy, you know.""Crazy doesn't begin to cover it.""Wound hurt?""As it always does." The quartermaster took a deep breath."Heard he got married.""Yeah...so what?"The quartermaster shrugged. "Just making idle conversation, that's all.""So now he gets to live the life I should have had. Damn Jack Wolfe. DAMN HIM!"He slammed his fist down on the ship's wheel."Never could trust an Oxford."The quartermaster knew better than to say anything at this point.The captain took out his bottle of rum. He took a deep drink and turned to his friend."She ran."The quartermaster nodded. "Door was wide open, safe was empty.""Dog gone?"He nodded. "Figures. Where she went, he went also.""Sounds like she planned it.""She was scared.""Think you will ever find her?"The captain shrugged. "I have no idea. She could be anywhere in this wide world."The men were silent as the quartermaster angled the ship.The captain said quietly, "I never did thank you.""For what?""For....everything."The quartermaster looked at his captain and gently touched his cap with his two fingers. "I did what I had to do for ye. No thanks needed."The captain nodded and looked out towards the horizon.
  8. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour wrapped her dressing gown around her and tied the sash. "I swear, the water never felt so....and what is this?""What is...what?""That."She pointed to Puddin who was sitting on the bed with a scowl on his face. Zara was attempting to pick him up. But that was not what Honour was perturbed about. It was the way Puddin was dressed. "Who's idea was it to put a ribbon on his neck and drape him in beads?""Um...Zara's?""I think not. Guess again."Zara tentatively reached her hand towards Puddin to touch one of the beads. His answer was a hiss."No, Zara! NO!" She drew her hand back. "And just WHY is Puddin wearing beads?""Um....well, it's in honour of Shrove Tuesday.""Jack, get those beads off that poor cat. I don't care if it is Shove--""--Shrove.""--Tuesday or Michaelmas. This cat had a wonderful existence before you started using him as a fashion plate for the amusement of your little daughter."Puddin scratched his head and the beads slipped over his eyes. Zara clapped her hands and laughed. "Kee! Kee!"Honour sighed and took the beads and ribbon off the cat. With a backward glare and an angry swish of his tail, he fled the scene of the crime. Honour picked Zara up and said, "It's time for bedtime, sweetheart. Kiss Daddy good night!""Good night, precious!' Zara leaned over and they gave each other an Eskimo kiss.As Honour pulled the curtain shut in the small alcove that was sectioned off for Zara to sleep, Jack reached over and opened a bottle of merlot for the two of them.Ten minute later, Honour emerged. "It took a few minutes but she finally settled down. Of course, Muir is sleeping at the foot of her bed."Jack laughed and handed a glass of wine to Honour."And shall we drink to our detente?"She took the glass and clinked it with his. "Is that what we are calling it now?"Jack smiled, "I guess what is behind that curtain is a joint communique." Honour sat on the bed cross-legged, looking at the scrolls. "Jack, I really don't know what to make of these. Just when I think I am close, something curtains off the thought process.""Darling, you only started to look at them when we were on our return to Wales. You haven't looked at them since."He took them out of her hands and put them back in the alabaster and ivory chest. "Lets put them aside. Then when we get to Barbados, we can spread them out and look at them carefully. We will be settled in and can take all the time in the world we want."She raised her eyebrow. "Jack Wolfe, why do I think you are trying to distract me?""Is it working?""You, Captain, are an incredible distraction!"He stood behind her chair and whispered in her ear, "Then close your eyes." Honour closed her eyes as Jack massaged her neck."You're very tense."She sighed. "You can feel that?""Honey, if you were any harder, you would be a brick wall. Let's see if I can turn you into plaster!"She bit back the clever wenchmouth that threatened to escape her lips. "Now just stretch out and let me see if I can unknot your muscles." She closed her eyes and enjoyed the massage. "I think alot of it comes from you-know-who down the hall. I swear, Jack, that woman is a raw nerve.""You're tensing up again....""Sorry. And I've been thinking about the scrolls. The wavy lines bother me. Are they a long-forgotten road? Is it water? And if so, is it a river?"She felt his hands releasing the tension in her back as she continued thinking out loud. "And those little pointed signs in the corner. The ones that look like inverted 'v's. Are they mountains? Or a direction?""Mmm hmmm..""And if they are.....mmm...what are you doing?""What do you think I am doing?""You know I melt when you do that. Don't...not when I am trying to concentrate. Now the...arrows...point....and..and the writing....at the...bottom.....oh, hell!" She rolled over and locked her hands behind Jack's neck, pulling him towards her. "I guess you found a way to shut me up."He smiled down at her with that look she loved to see, knowing what it would lead to.He whispered, "Dios mio, te amo, mi querido...."She kissed him deeply and whispered, "You know I can't resist you when you speak Spanish to me..."He laughed softly and said, "Pirate!"
  9. new pub layout???

    Any more generic, we may as well eat vanilla ice cream.
  10. El Lobo Del Mar

    The door to Duckie's quarters slammed shut."You break Jack's door and it won't sit too well with him."Rose sat down on the chair."I am so bored I could just scream!"Duckie leaned back and sighed. "Rose, it is only a week left---""NINE DAYS!""---until we port in Madeira. Jack and I will make sure you are booked for passage on a reputable ship and under the captain's protection. With any luck, you will be back in your own bed by the first of March." Rose tried to smooth down the dress she had on. It was a satin dress in purple. Too short for a woman of Rose's stature. The waist hit her under her bust and the sleeves pulled every time she reached. "These clothes---they are hideous! What kind of woman would wear a dress like this?"Duckie looked up from the ledger where he was taking a few notes. "That? Oh....I can't really recall her name. Buxom girl with brown hair."Rose stretched her arm and the sleeve ripped in the armhole. "She must have been a dwarf! Was there ANY kind of woman that Jack did not consort with?"Duckie put his pen down and thought. "Um....no. If they were female, they qualified.""So Jack Wolfe had no morals."Duckie thought for a moment. "I wouldn't say that. He never bothered Bonita again.""Who's Bonita?"Duckie waved his hand. "Just someone...spooky."She crossed her arms in front of her. "I was up on deck a few minutes ago.""Taking in the night air?""Yes. Is it a crime?""Not at all. If that was really your reason for being there."Rose hesitated. "I saw...them.""Them who?""Rhiannon and her child. With Jack. They looked like a...""Family?"Rose looked away. "It could have been me.." her voice trailed off.Duckie shook his head. "No. It couldn't have been. You two weren't right for each other.""But Jack has matured.""The Jack you see now has. It wasn't even Honour--Rhiannon--that changed him as much as it was that little girl he holds in his arms. Honour tamed him. Zara refined him.""And you are saying I couldn't?""Jack was wild, Rose. He endured situations no one should have. When Honour got him, he was coming to terms with alot things. He talked to a friend about his dream of quitting the account.""And so that little tart was his key to freedom." Duckie rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. "Please don't call her a tart, Rose. She's not.""Carrying on like she did behind Madoc's back? And what makes you think she wouldn't do the same to Jack? Once a cheating wife, always a cheating wife. Madoc was good to her. He gave her the world. And did she appreciate it? No! She was more like his pampered pet. And from what I can see, Jack is treating her the same way."Duckie burst out laughing. "I know what is bothering you! The same thing that bothered you about her and Madoc! She's warming Jack's bed!"Rose retorted hotly, "Of course not! I was just mentioning that a woman like that falls backwards into money and position. Everyone knows that she was sent home in disgrace from the abbey. And the next thing we hear, Lord Madoc Castlemaine takes a wife. And that child-bride was barely seventeen!""Rose, from what I understand, Madoc Castlemaine wore two masks. The one he kept for the nobility of the land and the one he wore behind closed doors. Honour and I talked one evening when Jack was recuperating from a bullet wound. She painted a portrait of a controlling, cruel man. He used to pinch her and grab her for any slight breach of etiquette or any conduct that he felt didn't reflect well on the House of Castlemaine." Rose sniffed, "Regardless, she took a lover. Who would have thought it? It was so...so common.""What is, Rose?"Her words were biting. "Cuckolding your husband with the help.""The help?"She laughed derisively, "And who would have thought Mortimer capable of doing that to Madoc?""Rose, I'm not following."Rose took another deep drink. "Of course. Who do you think was found dead there? Madoc and his wife's lover. Edmund Mortimer. His very own valet." Duckie dropped his wine glass. Rose looked down. "Drake, you made a mess." She handed him her napkin. As Duckie picked up the shards, he found his voice. "You--you mean she was having an affair with her husband's valet?"Crossly, Rose said, "Isn't that what cuckolding is all about? Madoc's son Henry came home and found two dead bodies in the bedroom. Madoc Castlemaine and his servant Edmund Mortimer. Edmund was sprawled across the bed. And the girl was gone. No one knew where she went. But Henry said the jewels were missing. Also gold coins and family heirlooms. And then the truth came out. She had a lover. And Madoc struck the blow that felled him before he himself died." Duckie's head was swimming. Two bodies.Madoc Castlemaine and his valet.But then...what happened to Rhys Morgan's body?
  11. El Lobo Del Mar

    "See the moon, Zara?"The little toddler looked up in the night sky. Her father had her on his shoulders and brought her down to his chest. "Now look up and say, 'Moon, come closer!' See it? See it come to Zara?"Her eyes grew wide and she reached her hand out.Jack laughed. "And now you can hold the moon in your hands, sweetheart!""Jack, what are you telling her?"He turned around to see his bemused wife standing there, her hands on her hips. "Just showing her that if she wants something, nothing is out of her grasp!""But the moon?""Why not? She already holds the world in the palm of her hand.""Yes. YOUR world!"He leaned towards his wife and as she brought her face near his, a little face stuck hers between the two of them. Zara patted both their faces and laughed.Jack sighed. "I think she is on to us!""Well, I came outside for two reasons. One--please get the baby out of the night air. I don't need her coming down with the sniffles."Jack protested, "Oh, come on, Honour. I have her bundled up. What is the second reason?""Cook brought dinner. Grady caught some fresh fish and we still have some field greens. So come in before the fish gets cold."Jack put his arm around his wife's waist and whispered, "And you are now over your snit-fit regarding you know who?"She gave him that smile he loved to see. "I figured why should I punish myself along with you?"Zara pouted, "Da-da!"Jack shook her head. "She can't possibly be jealous of her own mother, can she?""Certainly not! But you keep spoiling her and she will be the diva of Barbados!""Well, why not? I like spoiling my girls!"He bounced Zara up and down gently as the little toddler laid her head against her father's chest.Honour leaned over and kissed Jack's cheek. "And we like being spoiled! Now, come in so we can have a nice, quiet dinner."'"And later?""Dessert?""And after dessert?""Let's just see what transpires," Honour laughed.Jack laughed and opened up the door to their cabin. "After you, munequita!"As their door shut, her voice was heard to giggle, "No, Jack! Not until after I have my dessert!"
  12. El Lobo Del Mar

    "See the moon, Zara?"The little toddler looked up in the night sky. Her father had her on his shoulders and brought her down to his chest. "Now look up and say, 'Moon, come closer!' See it? See it come to Zara?"Her eyes grew wide and she reached her hand out.Jack laughed. "And now you can hold the moon in your hands, sweetheart!""Jack, what are you telling her?"He turned around to see his bemused wife standing there, her hands on her hips. "Just showing her that if she wants something, nothing is out of her grasp!""But the moon?""Why not? She already holds the world in the palm of her hand.""Yes. YOUR world!"He leaned towards his wife and as she brought her face near his, a little face stuck hers between the two of them. Zara patted both their faces and laughed.Jack sighed. "I think she is on to us!""Well, I came outside for two reasons. One--please get the baby out of the night air. I don't need her coming down with the sniffles."Jack protested, "Oh, come on, Honour. I have her bundled up. What is the second reason?""Cook brought dinner. Grady caught some fresh fish and we still have some field greens. So come in before the fish gets cold."Jack put his arm around his wife's waist and whispered, "And you are now over your snit-fit regarding you know who?"She gave him that smile he loved to see. "I figured why should I punish myself along with you?"Zara pouted, "Da-da!"Jack shook her head. "She can't possibly be jealous of her own mother, can she?""Certainly not! But you keep spoiling her and she will be the diva of Barbados!""Well, why not? I like spoiling my girls!"He bounced Zara up and down gently as the little toddler laid her head against her father's chest.Honour leaned over and kissed Jack's cheek. "And we like being spoiled! Now, come in so we can have a nice, quiet dinner."'"And later?""Dessert?""And after dessert?""Let's just see what transpires," Honour laughed.Jack laughed and opened up the door to their cabin. "After you, munequita!"As their door shut, her voice was heard to giggle, "No, Jack! Not until after I have my dessert!"
  13. El Lobo Del Mar

    Jack tentatively opened the cabin door. "Umm....Honour? Sweetheart?" She poured herself another glass of claret. "Yes, darling?" He looked around. "Where did that other Honour go? The one with the morbid ideas?" Honour waved him off. "Oh...that. That was just a momentary hissy fit. I've calmed down now." Jack looked at his wife skeptically. "Oh, you have, have you? It's when you get that angel-pie look that I REALLY worry!" Honour sat down and put her bare feet up on the chair opposite her. She gently nudged it away from her and gave Jack an innocent look. He sat down opposite her and gently began rubbing her feet. She giggled. "You aren't playing fair, Jack Wolfe!" He gave her a grin and said, "Take what you can..." She raised her eyebrow. "..give nothing back?" He leaned forward and whispered, "You know that isn't how it works around here.!" She leaned forward and whispered too, "I know." He kissed the tip of her nose and asked, "I want to know why the sudden change of attitude. You are up to something, Honour Wolfe. And I don't know whether to be proud of you or worried!" She pulled her foot back. "Are you impugning my hospitality?" He sighed. "Not at all." She stared back at him. He relented, "Alright, maybe just a little...A LITTLE!" Honour took a sip of her claret and ran her finger idly around the rim. "The countess is about to learn a lesson in humility." "Humility? Or humiliation?" Honour flared up. "Are you protective of your former sweetheart?" He sighed. "I wish to God she never set foot on this ship. Ducks is second only to Briggs as my best friend." Honour stood up. "And it is because of Duckie that I don't rip her to shreds. She can spend her time with her brother and sitting in his quarters. I don't want to see or hear her." "You won't." Jack put his arms around his wife and kissed her. She gently took his hands at the wrist and disentangled him from her. "No." "What do you mean, 'no'?" She drew the sheets back. "You can thank your countess for this." "For what?" "She ruined the mood. Now extinguish the candle, please. I am going to SLEEP!" Jack sighed and from the dark, he said, "You sure?" "I'm sure." "Damn Rose." From the other side of the bed, she sighed, "You can say that again." Rose struggled down the hallway under the burden of the clothes Honour had thrust upon her. "Whoa now, Rose! What do you have here?" Duckie looked up from his medical book. Rose peeked over the load of garments she was carrying. "It seems the esteemed Mrs. Jack Wolfe decided I should wear what is available." Duckie took the clothes out of Rose's arms. "Here. Let me take that for you." "And I am to take your quarters and you are to bunk with Mr. Briggs." "Oh, I am, am I? Well, if it is alright with Josiah, it's alright with me." He kicked the door to his quarters open. "It isn't much, Rose, but I guess it will have to do." She looked around. "My butler lives in quarters bigger than this, Drake." "Well, I am not your butler. You should be glad that Honour didn't push you overboard as soon as she saw you." "Oh, if she had her way, she would have. Jack's gallantry rescued me." Duckie held up his hand. "Hold it right there! Jack is NOT being gallant. He is NOT your knight in shining armor to rescue you, princess. He's trying to protect his wife from any undue aggravation." She sat down and crossed her arms over her chest. "I was only trying to protect Jack. I knew Lady Castlemaine. Why Madoc married her is beyond me. He was a well-respected and courtly man. Why, he even was involved with the political machinations to restore the House of Lords!" Duckie sat down opposite her. "And what did Lady Castlemaine ever do to you?" Rose said hotly, "She was all wrong for him. Everyone knew about Lord Conaway's wayward daughter. She was in a convent and was turned out for...well, for unseemly conduct. It wasn't hard to figure out. News travels fast in my social circle...." "...with you being the herald of rumours..." "..and no one was invited to the wedding. Just family. And it was within a month after she returned home that she was now an....equal!" "Is that what bothers you?" "What?" "The fact that she was so young and was now your peer. Maybe even the fact that Lord Castlemaine was a rung up on the social ladder than Edward?" She glared. "It is NOT! She played Madoc for a fool!" "And what did he get out of it?" Rose's mouth went into a thin line and she said nothing. Duckie started laughing. "You were jealous!" "Jealous? Of HER?" "Yes. Because she was young and beautiful and Madoc Castlemaine was rogering her roundly!" Rose stood up and put her hands on her hips, her face flaming red. "You never would have talked to me like that before, Drake! Mother would be appalled!" "You have a bigger problem than that, as far as I can see." "And what is that?" "The blue dress on top is Desdemona's dress." "Desdemona?" "Yes. One of Jack's....close friends. Jack and Honour were separated for a time. And the man does have an insatiable appetite." "You mean...this dress....?" "I wouldn't worry about it. After all, who is going to know if it is last year's fashion? Goodnight, Rose!"
  14. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour stood there and gazed at an imaginary spot on the wall. Jack groaned, "Uh oh, I know that look, Honour. Your wheels are turning." She turned back to Jack and smiled sweetly, "You are absolutely right, Jack." He narrowed his eyes, "I don't like the sound of that, Honour." She patted his face. "We certainly can't have a guest--however unwelcome--be cheated out of our hospitality, can we?" Before Jack could stop Honour, she breezed back into the room. Briggs was chatting quietly with Rose, as she gave him a dimpled smile. Honour gave Rose a welcoming smile. "Countess, my manners were a bit out of line. Please chalk it up to the surprise of seeing you so soon after the ball. I would like to extend a warm welcome to you as befitting the Captain's wife." She let the word hang there. "Jack, would you please give the Countess a glass of claret and then please leave us to have a little girl-chat?" Jack and Briggs exchanged looks. "Honour, I don't know about this...." "Oh, fiddle faddle! It will be just fine. Frankly, it may be nice to have another woman to chat with for the next week." Briggs handed Rose a glass of wine which she took readily. Jack looked skeptically at his wife. "Honour..." She gave him a smile and pushed him out the door. "Please, Jack!" He whispered, "Don't forget. I know where you live if she disappears and we have shark for dinner...." Honour closed the door in his face. Honour poured herself a glass of wine and raised it to Rose. "I want to propose a toast, Countess." Rose looked quizzically at her. "A toast?" "Yes. To you. If you hadn't opened up your big mouth, this would have always been between Jack and me. It made our love even more stronger." "But--" "Oh, Countess, no need to thank me! It is I who should be thanking YOU! And while you are staying with us, I want to make you feel comfortable." Honour flung open the armoire. "Now there should be some in--ah ha! Here!" She pulled out a armful of clothes and shoved them in Rose's arms "These should fit you. I hope you don't mind that they belonged to some of Jack's strumpets. After all, we WERE separated. But then I was no saint, as you have already told him." Honour walked over to the basin. "Oh, and here's some soap. I'm sorry it is what I use for washing the basin but I am sure your creamy skin can take it. And here's a towel." Honour piled a rough cloth on top of it all. "I must say---" "No need to thank me, Rose. After all, this is the LEAST I can do for you." She spun Rose around and propelled her to the door. Shoving her gently outside the door, Honour said as the door closed, "Enjoy your stay. And please watch out for Puddin'. Sometimes he likes to show off his latest catch when you are sleeping!" As Rose stood there with her cast-offs, Jack nodded and said, "Duckie's quarters are down the hall and to the right. The RIGHT. And please tell him he will bunk with Briggs." As they watched her walk down the hall, Briggs smiled at Jack and said, "Ye keep tellin' me ye will teach me about women, Jack. But I think ye be the wrong gender for it." Jack smiled. "I don't know what happened...but I think I like it!"
  15. El Lobo Del Mar

    Meanwhile in Castara Bay..... The door to the tavern opened, its bright morning light streaming in behind the tall figure sillouetted in it. "Bonita? You around?" A head popped up from behind the tavern bar. "Her not here. Her went to shore to collect her purification salt and her geckos. What you want?" Cade Jennings looked over at the woman with the bright red ribbon in her hair, the dreadlocks swirling around her shoulders. "Ah, I see you are still here!" Drusilla broke out in a grin. "I know you! You be de man dat been here when de earth do a shake!" Cade laughed. "You remembered me." Drusilla nodded. "You be havin' de face of an angel, dat I remember. And you give lots of coin." He sat down. "So let me have an ale." She poured and he handed her the coins. "Still de same man!" "And can you give me any information?" "Maybe. Maybe not. Depend." "Depends on how much?" "No. Depend on what I know." "Has El Lobo del Mar been ported here since I was here last?" Drusilla wiped the bar down. "Not dat I know. You look for anyone special?" "Just trying to avoid the captain. And a blonde woman who used to come here with said captain. I seem to have....misplaced her." Drusilla snorted, "You not be de-placing a person. You not be dat careless, man." "The woman I am looking for is Honour Bright. Seen her?" He slid another coin across the bar top. "I see her. Her on Little Muelle Cay." Cade turned around to see Bonita standing there, her arms holding four jars filled with salt. She dropped a bag that squirmed and she kicked it under a chair. "Little Muelle Cay? What the hell? I was with her in Bridgetown. How did she get there?" "How you t'ink?" "I have no idea. She was in my bed and said she had to run an errand but she knew I was leaving that morning. When she didn't come back I thought she had been delayed with whatever it was she was doing." 'What she doing was being wit' de great Jack Wolfe. Dey be t'gether." "He tracked her down? He ported in GlenLIvet as I was planning to leave. I expected Honour to come back quickly and I was planning on taking her with me but I had to leave. I left her a note I'd catch up with her in a week or so but her landlady Mrs Washburn said she never came for her things. I didn't know what to think. Thought maybe she went to Wales to see family. She talked about arranging passage ahd she had planned to go back to Barbardos. So I figured that is what she did and I would catch up with her through Amos." "Amos not know where de child be but Bonita do. I see wit' my own eyes." "And what were they up to?" Bonita took a deep breath. "Dey were looking for de treasure of de Ancients. Dey find it." "WHAT?" She nodded. "It not go too well. But dis I promise you, young Cade. Bonita get de trreasure. It be wit' dem and dey do not know how to read. It useless to dem." "So you can have the treasure, Bonita. I just want one thing." "And you t'ink Bonita not know what dat is? Dat be what dance t'rough you mind, Cade Jennings and get you in de trouble to begin wit'." She opened up the box she kept beneath the tavern counter and withdrew her tools of the trade. "Bones. Bones no lie." She shook them, spit on them and cast them on the table top. Cade peered over her shoulder. She looked closely at them. "De two bones touch. Dis bone off to de side. You pushed to de side. But look! De bone chip. Dat mean somet'ing little come into de lives of dem." Cade laughed. "Impossible. I know Honour. If she is with Jack then it is to get the annulment and they got sidetracked by a business deal. She loves me, Bonita. ME! Jack Wolfe treated her like dirt the last few weeks they were together. I know. She told me the whole story." Bonita shook her head. "I see somet'ing else. I see two faces. De faces of Jack Wolfe and dat golden child. Dey overlap. Bonita not sure yet what dat mean...but dis I know. Whatever it be, it be serious."
  16. El Lobo Del Mar

    Josiah reached in the binnacle and got the bottle of rum out. He put a splash in his coffee and added some to Jack's. "Heard a really interesting story." "Oh?" "Yeah. We had stopped in Aberdeen for a day or two. We saved some of that swag to trade off the rum for some Scots whisky and ran into an old acquaintance." "Who?" Briggs took a deep drink. "Remember Jonas Corwin of the Golden Phoenix?" "Yeah, I remember him. Calculating SOB who always ended up with the prettiest tavern wench but he used to rough them up. I remember him and that one tavern wench in Marigot. What brought Corwin to mind?" Briggs chuckled. "Guess he met his match in one of the ports." "Oh, really? What did she do? Turn him into a eunuch?" "No, not quite that bad. Jonas came into port in Aberdeen. His hands were like this---" Briggs curled each of his hands up in a contortion. "--it seems he picked up the wrong wench. At least this one was more creative. She threw his clothes out the window. Left him with nothing but his boots and sword. Then it seems he tracked her down and they mixed into it a bit. She kicked him where he wishes he had been a eunuch and then clocked him on the chin. He goes unconscious and she ties him up and then steps on his hands." "Wow, that is harsh!" "Corwin says that if he ever lays a hand--" and here Josiah demonstrated again the crippled hands--"he will wring her neck." "Is he able to function?" "Aye. Just looks kind of freakish. You know how he prided himself on his looks. Now he really is ticked off." "Wonder where it was?" "Didn't say. Just said somewhere in the Caribbean. But I think he's been searching for her when he gets into each port. Barkeep told him she ran off somewhere." Jack chuckled. "I'd like to meet her and buy her a drink! Pretty creative what she did." Briggs laughed. "Some of these women get wild ideas. Look at what Honour has done to you. Remember when you kidnapped her to get that Sun key?" Jack threw his head back and laughed. "Yeah. She took that sgian dubh out of her boot and nailed my shirt--with me in it--against the mast." "Or when she threw you out of the cabin in what God gave ye and I had to get ye a blanket to wrap in--" "You would have to bring that one up." "And when she almost dumped the hot candle wax on your--" "Alright, Briggs. That's enough," as Jack winced. Josiah laughed. "Glad she and that tavern wench never got together and compared notes." Jack drew deeply on his pipe before he dumped out the remains. He knew how Honour hated it and he didn't want her creative side to kick in. All of a sudden he had a notion on that tavern wench. "Naw...couldn't be. No. Not Honour." "What did you say, Jack?" "Oh..nothing." "Wonder what is taking Duckie so long?" Jack said. "We should sail as soon as the evening tide. Old Ducks had better be here or he can swim after us!" Briggs took out his spyglass and scanned the docks. "Well, speak of the devil! I see him over by those barrels. And he ain't alone. Got a woman with him." Jack grabbed the spyglass out of Josiah's hand. He put it to his eye and shouted, "Bollocks!" There, following close behind Duckie was none other than the next to the last person Jack wanted to see. First place would always go to Colonel Mendoza. But now there was a new contender for second place. Rose Gander, widow on a mission. Or the prowl. Made no difference, it was all the same to Jack.
  17. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour held Zara's hand as they walked around the ship. Mostly it was Honour doing the walking with Zara toddling. She picked Zara up so she could feel the wind in her hair. "See, Zara? It's not so bad. And now take a deep breath." Honour inhaled deeply and Zara imitated her, then sneezed. "Ooops! But see? Don't you feel better?" Jack came up behind them and put his hands over Zara's eyes. "Guess who?" She pulled his hands away and said, "Da! Da!" Briggs, standing behind Jack, shook his head. "I swear, Jack, I never thought I would see the day when some tyke would call you that. And ye be liking it!" Jack took Zara from Honour and pointed out the crow's nest. "See? Maybe we should put Zara's crib up there? What do you think, Zara?" Her eyes grew wide. Honour laughed. "I don't think so, Zara. Don't worry." "I'm going to show her the helm. Maybe let her steer it." "Jack! We aren't even out of port yet." "It's alright. She can just play." As Jack walked off with his little girl in his arms, Josiah and Honour looked after him. "Aye, Honour, it really does do my heart good to see Jack with a young'un." She gave his arm an affectionate squeeze. "I'm so happy you feel that way, Josiah." "He needed something to be grounded with. And you gave it to him." She looked off to the harbour of Beaumaris. "Jack gave me something too, Josiah. He gave me a second chance at life." Honour turned to look at Josiah. "He told you, didn't he?" "Yes, he did." "Can you ever forgive me for what happened to Rhys?" "Not my place to forgive, Honour." "I know. But when I met you and Jack that night in the tavern, I was a real mess. I never told Jack--and I don't intend to--but I had reached the lowest point in my life." "Then I guess ye saved each other, girl. Maybe Rhys Morgan did have something to do with it." "He was a wonderful man, too. And he rescued me too. He taught me what love is. And Jack perfected it. I don't know what would have become of me if Jack hadn't come into my life." Josiah patted her on the shoulder. "And now ye have the little lassie." "She's the best thing that ever happened to me. Besides Jack. " Josiah looked over at the dock. "Best I be getting things rolling. Looks like Jack won't be any use for a bit." They both looked up and there was Zara with her hands on the helm pretending to steer it and Jack giving her a few pointers. They both laughed. "Yep. Looks like I will be hearing, 'Mr. Briggs? The ship is yours' alot more often." Honour watched as Briggs went to join his captain and his little girl on the quarterdeck. She ran her fingers through her hair and breathed deep the scent of the seawater. 'Jack, you have no idea how you really did rescue me...' "Mama! Mama! Kee! Kee!" Honour broke away from her reverie to see Jack and Zara walking towards her. Jack was laughing and Zara had a proud look on her face. Except her quarry didn't feel the same way. There, clutched in her hand, was a tail. And that tail was attached to Puddin. His claws left scratches in the deck. The very deck that Jack was so meticulous about. Honour laughed and shook her head. Oh yes, this one will have Captain Mad Jack Wolfe twisted around her finger. No doubt about that. Puddin glared at Honour as if to say, 'you had to go and have her'. Honour gently pried Zara's clutches from Puddin. "No, no, sweetheart. 'Kee' doesn't like to be dragged by his tail through the ship." The cat looked relieved and tried to resume a measure of dignity as his position as the ship's master ratter. He ambled off casually, but bumped into the mizzen mast. Honour turned to Jack. "You really shouldn't let her get away with things like that, Jack. Allow Puddin some pride." "But, Honour, she kept reaching for him and exclaiming, 'Kee! Kee!' What else could I do?" Honour put her hands on her hips and said, "You could have said 'No.' " "And what fun would that be?" "Puddn would have kept his pride. I think he deserves an extra ration of rum tonight. And now I think Zara and I will head back to the cabin. She needs her nap and I need to put a few things away." Reluctantly, Jack handed her back to her mother. "I suppose. She has been rubbing her eyes." He kissed the tip of Zara's nose and then kissed his wife's cheek. "I'll be on the quarterdeck playing captain. Briggs is only pretending to let me be in charge." Jack met Josiah up on the quarterdeck. He opened the binnacle and took out his pouch of pipeweed and his pipe. Lighting it, he inhaled deeply. "Ahhh! I've been waiting for that!" Josiah chuckled. "Glad to see you haven't totally gone soft on me! Seeing you with the little one is jarring. I can't quite get the 'Mad' Jack out of my mind. Jack stood looking out over the port. "As much as it was nice to spend time in Beaumaris, I'll be glad to get back to Barbados." "Family treat you right?" "Megan and Daffyd and the other two sisters--Dilys and Gwyneth--were wonderful! The father was something else." "Not accepting of you?" "Not accepting of his daughter although he did look on my daughter as a leaf in the family tree. Not realizing that her name was Zara Wolfe and not Lady Zara Conaway." The men gazed over the harbor. "Hear anything on what happened? You know....the aftermath?" "I'm guessing Dolan was the one to see that Rhys...you know...." "It's not really the kind of thing you want to find out or talk about." "I don't suppose you have heard where Johnny Dolan is, have you?" Briggs shook his head. "After Rhys left the account, I heard he was talking about Boston in the Colonies. I am guessing that is where he ended up." "Good guy. You all are. Were." The two men were silent. Briggs asked, "You think about him often?" Jack nodded. "I do. Lately I have been playing the 'what if' game. What if I never went into that tavern...what if I never heard of Mercedes...what if you didn't get to me in time." Josiah clapped him on the shoulder in a brotherly fashion. "Stop torturning yourself like that, Jack. Things turned out good." "For me. Not for Rhys." "Rhys was a grown man who got involved with a girl. A married girl. Not a woman. No sense in wondering what would have been if you hadn't been kidnapped. You were. You were saved. And if you weren't then that little lass would not have been." "I know, Josiah. The best I can do is take care of her for Rhys. And I will."
  18. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour gently smacked Zara's hand. "No! No! We don't do that!" Briggs turned to Eli, "Is my nose broken?" Eli looked closely. "If it moves to the left, is it broken?" "Hell yes!" "Then it's not broken! It ain't movin'!" Briggs glared at Eli who burst out laughing. Jack laughed too. "He got you there, Josiah! I sense there was a bit of bonding between the two of you while you were in Amsterdam." Briggs grumbled, "The kid ain't so bad." Honour shifted Zara in her arms. "Why don't I get settled in? I'm sure you have alot of business to catch up on." Jack leaned over and Zara gave him a kiss. "Doggie!" Muir got up and followed them to the captain's cabin. Briggs looked at the two as they walked down the companionway. "Feisty!" "You always knew Honour was." "Not her--the youngun. She's gonna have you in knots, Jack. I just know it!" Jack sighed. "I know. The rest had better be boys. Don't think I can fathom having another girl." "She's as pretty as I thought she would be. Except for that powerful right hook!" "Sorry about that, Josiah. She's a bit wary of strangers. You should have seen her with me." "She clobber you one?" "No, on our first introduction, she tried to scalp me! Bare-handed. Two fistfuls of hair and she was screaming with those Wolfe lungs! But she came around." "Smacked her bum, eh?" No, I bought her off with a stuffed rabbit. That and my charming ways with her mother. I guess she figured if Mama liked me, I must be a bit of alright. Anyways, she won't go to sleep without that rabbit." Just then, Puddin came up to Jack and rubbed against Jack's leg. He scooped the cat up and Briggs pointed at him. "That one---he's been a right royal pain in the arse since you've been gone." "What did he do, throw up a hairball on your bed?" "Yeah, well, that's a given. He just had an attitude, that's all." Jack put the cat down. "Alright, let's go down to your quarters and talk a bit of business before we get shipped out. Duckie been around?" "He sent word he would be here later this afternoon. Some baggage he had to get rid of." "I'll bet." Jack muttered. "Come again?" "Never mind. I have a plan that I want to run by you." Jack came into the cabin as Honour was folding a few things and putting them away. Zara was bouncing on the bed. Puddin had found his way into the room and as Zara bounced up, the ship's cat bounced down with a scowl on his face. "I'm just getting a bit of brandy for Josiah and myself. I wanted to run a few things by him and wanted to find out about the Amsterdam transactions." Honour offered her cheek and Jack kissed her as he headed out the door. "When do we sail, Jack?" "Mid-afternoon with the tide." From the bed came, "Squee!" "Rawr!" "Squee!" "Rawr!" Jack shook his head. 'Poor Puddin has met his match in that one....' Josiah had his ledgers and notes open. Jack poured each of them a snifter and they raise their glasses. "To El Lobo!" "Long may she sail!" They both became quiet as they both knew that Jack was going off account. Josiah cleared his throat. "Yes, well, it's all in the ledger. De Witt tried to drive a hard bargain, as you told me he would but we held out for the price we wanted. I swear, it was a fine haul! Tobacco, coffee, textiles and spices. Came back with some cheeses and delftware, glassware and some artworks. More textiles and even some of those bulbs that you put in the ground and they give you those flowers that are red, yellow, pink..even a few that look almost black!" "How did the kid work out?" Josiah chuckled and shook his head. "That one! Should have seen his eyes as we pulled into port! If his eyes got any wider, I could have used them for dinner plates! T'was a real eye-opener for the lad!" Jack laughed, "I'll bet! Remember the first time we took Davis there?" "We had to comb every brothel in town! Took two days and he was as poor as a churchmouse but we couldn't pry the smile from his face for nigh on a month!" Jack took the ledger. "Nice, Josiah! Very nice! This will give you a very nice commission for your retirement plans!" "What retirement? Jack, I suppose with El Lobo being sold, I'll have to sign on with another ship. I hate to do that, probably will be just another tar. Hard to deal with when you've been second in command and actually acting captain sometimes." "Which brings me to what I wanted to talk to you about. I've thought long and hard about this, Josiah. This crew is top of the line. I would hate to lose them. Most have been together for a long time. McGlynn, for example. He helped you and Rhys rescue me. If it weren't for Cade finding that doxy, what took me in..." Jack's face became a mask of sadness. "dangnubbit, sometimes I find myself missing Cade fierce!" Josiah nodded. "But the whelp turned traitor on you." Jack shrugged, "In retrospect, he didn't set out to. He fell in love. And in a strange way, I can't blame him. Oh, sure, I find it hard to forgive but in a way I understand. Rhiannon has a way of undoing men. Cade...me...Rhys...." "Rhiannon? Wait a minute! You found the woman who got Rhys killed?" Jack sighed. "I keep forgetting that you've been out of the loop, Josiah. We were right all along. The woman who shares my bed and gave me a child is none other than the Lady Rhiannon Conaway Castlemaine. She was the 'Rhiannon' that Rhys was so anxious to get back to. And if I hadn't been taken prisoner by Mendoza, he would have been with her." "Jack, ye lost me." Jack poured another snifter of brandy for each of them. "It's a long story, Josiah. Better tuck in for this one...." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "I just can't believe it, Jack! What are the chances? And the way you found out. Who would have guessed? Duckie..Rose...Rhys...." "And now it is all out in the open. No more secrets, Josiah." "Now we know what really happened to Rhys. And not that he was set up. The man was in love." "And I believe that Rhys sent her to me for safekeeping. For someone to look out for her and love her like she deserves to be loved." "Just hard to believe." "Well, we are moving forward. She will always be 'Honour' to me. As she said, Rhiannon belongs in the past. When she stepped on the ship for Barbados, Rhiannon Conaway Castlemaine died and Honour Bright was born. But enough of that! Let me fill you in on the plans. How would you like to be captain of El Lobo del Mar?" Josiah choked on his brandy. "WHAT?" "When I saw El Lobo in port, I realized that I could never let her go. So let's do this--I retain ownership. You are the acting captain. Become a legitimate merchant ship if you want. Occasionally plunder if the spirit moves you. I'll make sure you have your letters of marque. Whatever you take or import-export, I take ten percent. And I reserve the right to take back being a captain any time I want. Josiah, I can't foresee lettingEl Lobo go to someone who wouldn't love her as we do. And I can't separate this crew. The man the crew and I respect is sitting right in front of me. In reality, it will be like Amsterdam but on a very long, extended plan. Do we have an accord?" Josiah broke out in a grin. "Aye! Jack, this is the answer for all concerned!" They spit on their hands and shook on it. Lifting their tankards high, they toasted each other. Jack wasn't sure--but he thought he saw a tear in Josiah's eye. Josiah had the crew and ship. Jack didn't have to give up El Lobo del Mar. He had the best of both worlds. His ship and the woman he loved and the promise of a new family. Life was, indeed, good.
  19. El Lobo Del Mar

    The carriage from Bancroft Hall pulled up on the docks. Jack's breath quickened as he gazed towards the harbor. And there she stood, proud as can be. El Lobo del Mar. "Look, Zara! Look! Big boat!" He held Zara up so she could look out the window of the carriage. Zara's eyes grew wide and her lower lip trembled. "What is wrong, sweetheart?" Zara pointed and said one word. "Doggie! Doggie!" Honour could barely stifle her giggles. "What is she talking about, Honour?" She still dissolved in laughter. "She means the wolf figurehead. She thinks the wolf is a doggy. You know, it does resemble Megan's Irish wolfhounds." Jack laughed. "I guess it does look like a doggy to you, sweetheart." Honour looked back at Beaumaris. "In a way I am glad to be leaving but I will be missing my sisters." "Darling, they all said they would be down next year to visit. But will we have room?" She put her arm through Jack's. "Yes, we do. Jack, the Picou plantation is just gorgeous! Mr. and Mrs. Avery have been doing a marvelous job of running it for me--US!" "Then I can't wait to see it. Lord, I wish Thomas could see me! He would never believe it." "Where is your brother?" "Somewhere patrolling the waters of the Mediterranean, I would daresay. Making the high seas of Mother England safe and protected." "And you haven't seen him?" "Oh...I did see him once in port. Morocco to be exact. Of course, I wasn't exactly presentable." "Jack, you always are presentable!" "No, it would be hard for an admiral in the King's Navy to introduce his brother, Captain Mad Jack Wolfe. Pirate extraordinaire." She frowned. "I see your point. Did he snub you?" "Not at all. I met him in a little tavern on the outskirts of Casablanca and we got rip-roarin' drunk together!" "So how long ago?" "Oh, I'd say fifteen years ago. And...Zara, no touch! NO TOUCH!" Zara had bent over to pet a wharf cat. Honour reached down and scooped her up. "No, Zara. Bad kitty!" The wharf cat glared and ambled off. "Where do you want these chests, Captain?" Jack motioned to the dock near one of El Lobo's mooring lines. "Right there will be fine." Honour turned to Jack. "How long has El Lobo been in port?" "Briggs sent word four days ago they had ported. I sent him a note back for him and the crew to enjoy theirselves in port and we would be down here Friday morning." "So he is expecting us." "See for yourself! The gangplank is down. Are you ready to leave Wales and all it has to offer you for a life in paradise?" She leaned over and kissed hs cheek. "I am so ready. To finally be in a place we can call home." Zara pointed and started to cry. "Kee! Kee!" Honour took out a handkerchief and dabbed the tears on Zara's cheeks. "No, darling. You can't have that 'kee'." Jack looked quizzically at his wife. "Kee?" "She means kitty. She wants to bring it with us." "I wish she had come with sub-titles or a translator." Honour laughed. "It won't be long before the baby talk gets clearer." "Well, at least she isn't speaking Arabic!" One of the men who was unloading the chests opened up the carriage door. Bounding out was Honour's beloved Muir. Zara laughed. "Doggie!" Muir jumped up on Jack and he grabbed the wolf-dog's leash. "Come, boy! I just know that Briggs will be happy to see you!" As the newly formed family walked up the gangplank, the first person standing there waiting their arrival was none other than Eli Meredith. "Captain! Mrs. Wolfe!" Honour raised up her finger in warning. He quickly corrrected himself. "I mean...Honour. And this is the little lassie!" Eli reached out and gently laid his finger on her hand. "Welcome aboard El Lobo, young lassie!" Zara rewarded him with a small smile. To Jack, Honour whispered, "Zara knows gentleness when she sees it. I told you Eli had redeeming qualities." Jack affected a scowl. "Alright, so you were right....will you ever let me live it down?" She thought for a moment. "Um...probably not!" Jack nodded to Eli, "You are looking well, son! How were things in Amsterdam?" Eli spoke, "It went very---" "Shouldn't it be ME you are asking?" There stood Josiah Briggs in all his glory. "You old sod, you are looking better than I ever saw you look before in your life, Briggs! Acting--and emphasis on ACTING--Captain has agreed with you!" Jack and Briggs clasped each other. "And ye can have it back, Captain Wolfe! T'is fun to play captain for a few weeks but after that, it gets tiresome." In an affected loud voice, Briggs said, " 'Captain, he did this to me!' 'Captain, he ain't doing his job!' 'Captain, can I have some apple dumplings?' And I swear the worst one was, 'Captain, are we there yet? Are we there yet?' " Briggs looked over at Honour. "And if ye ain't a sight for sore eyes! I swear, Honour, ye get prettier and prettier each time I see you! Oh....and well, here is the one me and the crew have been dyin' to meet!" He looked at the little toddler that Honour had in her arms. To Jack, he said, "Can't be denyin' that one, Jackie me boy! It ain't the hair--although them curls are a dead giveaway--but it is something else. That look in her eyes. That chin I just bet juts out in defiance when she ain't gettin' her way. Am I right?" Jack laughed. "Pretty much so." Josiah broke out in a grin. "A real chip off the old block, Jack, she is. Here...come to Uncle Briggs...' As he held his arms out, Zara reached back. And bonked Briggs on the nose with her rattle. He covered his nose, looking for blood, his eyes watering. "Aye, she be your daughter alright, Jack."
  20. El Lobo Del Mar

    Megan carried Zara down the stairs as Honour held the last of the boxes to be sent on the ship. "It's hard to believe Zara will be gone, Rhiannon. This house will seem so quiet without her." Honour laughed, "Then maybe it is high time you and Daffyd got busy and filled that cradle with the next Llewellyn baby." Zara played with her aunt Megan's curl as Megan laughed. "You never know. It may be something we need to dis.....Father!" Honour almost dropped the box she was carrying. At the foot of the stairs stood Lord Rhodri Conaway, proud as always. "It looks like I arrived just in time. Am I to assume you are leaving us, Rhiannon?" She said stiffly, "You assume correctly." "And you are going through with this hare-brained scheme to leave your homeland and raise my granddaughter in a tropical jungle?" Rhiannon's chin tilted in a defiant gesture. Megan hastily said, "Why don't I take Zara to the kitchen so the cook can spoil her one last time? I think Mrs. Quigley will never be the same after this little one goes. She always made her shortbread. Come, sweetheart, let's see if there is a cookie for you." She glanced back worriedly at Rhiannon but thought it best to remove the baby from what could be a bit of unpleasantness. Honour imperceptibly nodded to her sister. "Shall we go in the study, daughter, to chat?" Honour returned her father's stare with a steely gaze of her own. "Nothing would give me more pleasure, Father." Rhodri led the way to the study and closed the door. He poured himself a brandy. Honour looked at him expectantly and when no offer was coming her way, she said sarcastically, " 'May I get you a brandy, my darling daughter?' 'Oh, don't mind if I do, dear Father.' " Rhodri nodded stiffly, "I keep forgetting you are not a child anymore." Honour walked over and poured herself a snifter. "Funny---I used to serve this and other spirits to men of lower station than you, Father. And they paid me well." "No doubt," he said dryly. She took a deep sip and flippantly remarked, 'It's not what you think, Father. In fact, in view of my overall life, I would have to say that laying whisky down for the dregs of humanity was far more fun that the scant time I spent with you. Lord knows it was more fun that the time I spent getting my thrashings from that misanthropist who passed herself off as a bride of Christ. Lord. If his bride is the Mother Superior, then he is probably wishing he stayed single." "Rhiannon! Such blasphemy!" "And then you married me off to that monster Madoc. Did you ever come to see me? To inquire as to my well-being? No, you did not." He said coldly, "So you found adultery to be the answer?" Honour stood there, pretending to be deep in thought. "Why, yes. Yes, I did." Rhiannon walked over to her father and stood in front of him. She placed her hands on her hips and looked up at him, her gaze never wavering. "For years I had tried for your approval. Sought it. Craved it. I tried to find a morsel--just a shred--of familial love. But sadly, it was lacking. I always sought your approval, Father. Did I get it? No. I was the recipient of all your resentment. Dare I say hatred? No, that is too cruel. You wanted me out of the way. Why didn't you ever remarry?" Lord Conaway sat there, stonefaced, trying for once to find words. "There was no one to fill your mother's place...." "Oh, cut the bid for sympathy, Father. You were too selfish to find someone else." 'WHAT?" 'You would rather wallow in the pity. 'Oh, poor Lord Conaway! Grieving all these years after the tragic death of his wife.' You used it as a license to run roughshod over people. You turned your heart to stone. If you had no feelings then you weren't accountable for what you inflicted on others. Therefore, you had no conscience." "That's not true!" "No? Did you ever try to understand me? I suppose you loved me once. Maybe until I was three. And then you got rid of me so you could nurse your broken heart. Nurture it and cultivate it. And in the end, you turned it to stone and pushed everyone away." So taken aback by Honour's stinging words, Lord Conaway opened his mouth to speak but the words wouldn't come. Honour continued, "I was fortunate that Rhys Morgan came into my life when he did. Three times he entered my life. When I was ten. When I was sixteen. And when I was seventeen. It helped keep me sane. Otherwise, I may have turned into the wreck of human nature knew as Mother Superior or a hard-hearted bitter woman, a female counterpart of YOU." He sat there silently, shocked that his younger daughter, who had always sought his love and approval, had finally unburdened herself. "When I ran away to Barbados, I found a strength in myself I didn't know I had. I ran away. I found a way to make a living. And I found a man who loves me. ME, father. He fell in love with me as Honour Bright, tavern wench. Not the daughter of the esteemed Lord Conaway, landed gentry. And in return, what did Captain John Wolfe get? He got a woman who loves him. And a fine daughter. And God willing, he will find a houseful of children and a life of contentment. I am prepared to be the best wife I can be and all I ask in return is a man who loves me. And I found it." She paused to catch her breath. "Fortunately, you taught me about love. You didn't know it. Oddly, I had to be deprived of it to know what I want. My Zara will never know what it is like not to be loved. And if I have my way, you will never lay eyes on her again. Or me." She turned to her father and shook her head. "I feel sorry for you. What a waste of a life. And now you can die old and lonely in your bed." She turned to go. "Yes, I feel sorry for you. Goodbye, Father."
  21. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour carefully folded her new clothes in the new trunks that Jack had bought. He held Zara as she started to fall asleep, her rabbit clutched in her hands. Finally her eyes shut and Jack quietly put her in her cradle. "Anything I can help you with, darling?" Honour shook her head. "No. I think I can fit all these things in the trunks. I had no idea how much I really had." "It was very thoughtful of Megan to have retrieved the things out of your room before you married...um, before you left." She sat down on the bed and took Jack's hand, holding it in hers. "Jack, I still don't know if I can ever make up to you for not telling you. It was just a chance for a clean start. I never meant to hurt you. I love you." He brushed the hair back from her face and nodded solemnly. "I know, Honour. We both did wrong things, made bad choices. But if you hadn't crawled out on your hands and knees in that tavern--what was the name of it again?--" "The Bilge Pump Pub." "Right. If you hadn't crawled out and I hadn't seen you--rather hear the swish of your skirt on the floor. And if I hadn't been so full of rum...." She put her fingers to his lips. "Enough of that. It's more proof that we were meant to be together. And Jack, wait till you see Henri Picou's plantation. It is just beautiful!" "I am sure it is everything you say it is. A new start. For both of us. And Zara now has both her mother and her father with her. Do you think she will be traumatized in later years over the separation?" "She won't even remember. Can you remember anything from your childhood?" "Well, yes, I can remember alot. But not from Zara's age." "So she will be fine." Just then a knock was at the door. Jack crossed over and opened it. Megan stood there looking a bit distressed. Alarmed, Honour asked, "Megan! Is everything alright?" "Yes. And no. Oh, Rhiannon, I don't want you to leave! Jack either! And the baby! The children are upset because Zara is leaving here. Especially Morwenna. She always looked at Zara as if she were her baby doll. And now you are taking her away!" Megan was on the verge of tears. Honour gave Jack a look. "Why don't I go down and see what needs to be done? I'd like to say goodbye to Dafydd. Share a brandy..." He looked at Megan and put his hand on her shoulder as he went out the door. It was then that Megan gave way to tears. Honour felt herself misting up. Megan sniffled, "I don't see why the two of you can't just settle down here? Father squared away that little....incident. And there is no need for Jack to worry about making a living. He could always go in the horsebreeding business with Dafydd." Rhiannon looked down at her hands. "I can't do that, Megan. I don't belong here anymore." "But it is your home! Your daughter was even born here!" She reached over to touch her sister's hand. "Megan, let me see if I can explain how I feel. Wales is Zara, it's true. And my sisters. Wales was also Rhys. It was his and my dream to settle down here. Now Rhys is dead. If I stayed here, I would be seeing Rhys around every corner. Megan, he is finally letting me go." "I don't understand...." "Megan, by Jack finally finding out the truth---the truth about me, about Rhys, about Madoc--it was almost as if Rhys was giving me his blessing to live again. To love again. It was almost his way of saying, 'if I can't be with you, then I am sending you Jack to love you.' " She looked down and said softly, "I know. It sounds far-fetched." Megan blew her nose delicately, "No, it doesn't. It makes perfect sense." Honour continued, "Except for you and Dafydd, Gwyneth and James, Dilys and Angus, I have nothing to hold me to Wales. Jack has no ties here. But don't you see, Megan? Barbados is US. Jack and I. And we can make a life there. Oh, Megan, you should see it! How blue the water is!" "But what if I never see you again, Rhiannon?" She hugged her sister. "We shall! I promise! I am not saying I won't come back for a visit. And you will come see me too." Megan nodded. "You have a fine man there, Rhiannon. He loves you." Honour sighed happily. "I do, don't I? And sometimes I ask myself what did I finally do right to deserve it?" "You always deserved it, my dear. More so than anyone. Jack is exactly what I pictured him as. I'm sure I would have liked Rhys Morgan too. But I didn't like the way it ended up. You having to take the guilt over it all. Madoc was a bastard. We all knew that. And he deserved what he got. But yes, if you are to move on, then you need to put Wales behind you and go where your heart is. To Barbados." Honour was quiet for a minute and then she asked Megan a question she dreaded asking but she had to know the answer. "Megan, did you ever hear what happened...after?" The words stuck in her throat a bit. "What I mean is, did Rhys get...taken away by someone? Did he ever get a proper burial?" Megan picked her way carefully through her thoughts and what she knew for a fact. "After you ran, Madoc's sons---Henry and Oliver---well, Henry found his father. The initial thought was that it was a robbery and you were kidnapped since there was no trace of you. But someone who saw you in Cardiff with Rhys deduced that you had a lover and the word spread. You know how stablehands love to talk to milkmaids and they talk to the cook and it works its way up the system. But there was talk then of you having a lover and the search was on from one of seeking to rescue to seeking to bring you to an inquest." "And that was the little mess that Father spent all that time cleaning up." "Yes. You now have a self-defense excuse." "And how can it be self-defense when it was evident that Rhys was my.....guest?" "I guess Father covered that over too, dear. Why question it too deeply? Just accept it. You are a free woman" "But what of Rhys? Who...took him away? When it was all over? His family?" Megan hesitated, then picked her words carefully. "I am pretty sure it was his quartermaster who...arranged everything." "Dolan." "Tall man, sandy hair, broad shouldered, good looking?" "Thomas Dolan. He was like a brother to Rhys. Megan, where is Rhys buried?" Megan answered slowly and carefully. "No one knows, dear. I am sure he was returned to his family but they kept it quiet. I never heard. You were our only concern at that point." "I'd like to make sure. As closure." Megan shook her head. "Rhiannon, let it be. And let Rhys rest in peace. He wouldn't want you fretting. Go and be happy for the rest of your life." Honour hugged her sister. Megan blew her nose and through her tears, she laughed a bit. "One favor?" "Anything!" "Leave Zara here with me and we will call it even!"
  22. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour could feel her eyes starting to close as Megan pulled the door shut. She remembered in bits and pieces now what had happened when she met Jack on the stairs. The fury. The bewilderment. The hurt. Most of all, the hurt. The disjointed way she tried to explain why she never told him about Madoc or Rhys. But it came out wrong. Oh, so wrong! She tried to sit up but her body felt like lead. She vaguely recalled Nanny Greyson and Megan talking in soft whispers and Nanny taking Zara out of her crib. Honour tried to protest weakly but the words just wouldn't come. The only thing that she was sure of was that Jack was gone. It was her last thoughts as a laudanum haze took over her consciousness. All through the night, tossed thoughts went through her mind like jumbled pieces of a puzzle where the pieces would never fit. The heartbreak of the supposed desertion by Rhys. The terrible, torturous marriage to Madoc Castlemaine. The disastrous failed escape plan and the nightmare that followed. Father Simon.....Kate....Amos....even the highwayman that had attempted to rape her. The search in tavern after tavern for Captain Fox. All floated in and out of her subconsciousness, exhausting her. By dawn the effects of the laudanum were starting to wear off. Honour felt as if she were underwater and was swimming to the surface. Slowly her consciousness was returning. She sat bolt upright in bed and blurted out, 'It wasn't Fox! It never was Fox! It--it was...WOLFE!' From next to her, a sleepy voice said, "Wolfe....with an 'e' no less...' She looked over to see Jack looking at her with bleary eyes. "I've had about three hours of sleep, Honour. I could use about twenty more." She looked at him, hardly daring to believe that Jack had come back to her. "Jack..." she whispered. Jack shook his head and put his arm around her. "Later, munequita. We can talk later....' as he fell asleep with Honour in his arms once again.
  23. El Lobo Del Mar

    "By now I imagine you can fill in the blanks. She met you and that story is the one you lived. Then when it all fell apart, she decided to---" "Run. Again. Why couldn't she just TALK to me, Megan?" "Because running was always her survival instinct, Jack. And if she didn't run, where would she be today? I have no idea what Madoc's sons had planned. Lord, we were worried sick about her! No news, nothing. For all we knew, she could have been kidnapped by robbers. The safe was empty. But she came back to us." "And she ran from me. Back to you." "Yes. And it took alot for her to go. But she was having a baby and with the way you had been acting--don't look so surprised, that last month--" "I was a right bastard to her." "You will get no argument from me there. Yes, you were. Pulling a gun on her. She ran. But this time she ran to keep her child alive. She booked passage and came back to us. We didn't know until a note had been sent from the ship. I dropped everything and hurried to meet her. She told me everything that happened." "And when she needed me most, I let her down. Like Rhys did. If it weren't for me, Rhys may still be alive. He would have met Rhiannon and married her." A mask of sheer misery enveloped Jack's face. Megan reached out and touched his hand. "Don't think of it that way, Jack. What is meant to be will be." "But why couldn't she tell me about Rhys?" "She didn't know Rhys was your best friend until you inadvertently let her know he was your best friend. She was afraid that you wouldn't love her anymore. And she couldn't bear that." "She also didn't tell me about the plantation. Under the name of R. C. Castlemaine." "She bought that when you left her for Martinique. She purchased it that afternoon from Henri Picou. It was the one she wanted. And she only put it in her name because it was a home for her baby. She only took those chests to provide for your child. I know she intended to surprised you with it when you arrived in Barbados. It was not an intentional withholding of information at this point now. It was to be a surprise. That she bought the one you both talked about." Megan stood up and yawned. "I can't believe it is three o'clock in the morning. I do believe I shall sleep till noon. Jack, I don't know if you have it in your head to leave Rhiannon or not. But don't. My advice. Don't." "But the secrets..." "She has no more. I have told you the complete unvarnished truth. Rhiannon could have told you but the emotions would get in the way of the bare facts. Now you know it all." Jack gathered up the pillow and blanket. "Where are you going?" "Back to my room. Things may not be perfect. But I think Rhiannon needs me right now." Megan smiled and whispered, "Then I shall see you in the morning." "Noon. Let's give ourselves all the time to rest. And thank you, Megan. My wife and I have alot to talk about." She gave him a hug and picked up her candle. "Good night, brother!" Jack smiled slightly. It was the first time Megan had acknowledged without thinking that Jack was indeed her brother in law. Things were far from perfect but at last things were beginning to add up. And finally making sense. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Megan closed the door behind her and went to her room. As she slid into bed, Daffyd was half-asleep when she snuggled next to him. "Things better, Megan?" "I think so. We will know for sure in the morning." "Did you tell him all?" "As much as he needed to know." Daffyd yawned, "That's good." He kissed her and rolled over, sound asleep before Megan knew it. She stared at the ceiling. 'Was I wrong to not tell Jack that yes, two bodies were found. One was Madoc Castlemaine. But the other one....'
  24. El Lobo Del Mar

    Jack exhaled a breath he didn't even know he was holding. "Are you--are you sure it wasn't Rhys that killed Madoc defending Rhiannon?" Megan shook her head. "If only it were that simple. Then the dead would bury the dead. This is the guilt that Rhiannon has been carrying around with her the past two years." Jack sat there, a look of bewilderment on his face. If anyone but Megan had explained this to him, he would have scoffed and called them a liar. Megan got up and looked out the window. "The snow is coming down harder. Just like it did that night." She turned back to Jack and handed him a poker. "It's cold in here. I'll let you tend to the fire. You look like you could use something to do with your hands." He took the poker and stirred the embers, throwing some kindling on the dying flames. The fire roared to life. Megan took a blanket and wrapped it around her. "Will Daffyd not be wondering where you are?" Megan shook her head. "Daffyd is very understanding. He is one of the most loving men I know. And he immediately took to Rhiannon. He knows I am down here. And he urged me to tell you the whole story." "Does my wife know you are down here?" At that Megan shook her head. "No, she was too distraught. The laudanum will make her sleep till the evening. Nanny Greyson took Zara to her room so if she wakes up, she is cared for. Rhiannon needs to sleep. This has been preying on her mind for the last two years. The nightmares are proof of that. Lady Carlisle's brother---Drake, I believe his name is--had a talk with Daffyd. I found out she was the witch that couldn't wait to tell you. She took an instant dislike to Rhiannon the minute she met her." "I guess it is because of Rhiannon's looks and youth." "And also because it was known that Lady Carlisle was unable to give the Earl a child. The Earl had a couple children by his first wife. She envied Rhiannon all that. And the fact that Rhiannon had it and didn't want it." "Sounds like Rose. Not the fact that Rose wanted children. But the fact that it would have cemented her place as Lady Carlisle." "Back to what happened--and we only had a supposition on it until Rhiannon came back to us." Megan took a deep breath before she continued. "When Rhys came to fetch her, Rhiannon wanted to leave right away. But Rhys had arranged with his friend--" "Dolan. Must have been Dolan." "He arranged for his friend to arrive with a carriage and take them to Rhys' ship. They were to sail the next day for Barbados. But Rhys, being a man, well, he knew they had time and he HAD been away from her for a bit..." Her voice trailed off before she cleared her throat and resumed her story. "To make a long story short, Madoc had a suspicion that something was going on. Whether it was a servant....or maybe someone had seen them on holiday in Cardiff, we will never know. But Madoc came home and caught them. Rhiannon implored him to please let Rhys live. But Madoc was simply either out of his mind or just plain cruel like we always knew him to be. He ran Rhys through in front of Rhiannon. As he pulled his sword from Rhys' body, he raised it again. His intention was to do to her as he had done to Rhys." Jack's mouth set. "Two lovers. Dead. Madoc defended his honour and they got what they deserved is the way it would be gossiped by the populace." Megan nodded. "English and Welsh society can be so judgmental." "And then she killed him. In self-defense." "Yes. Her bodice dagger was next to her on the floor. In one movement, she grabbed it and hurled it. Just as Madoc was about to come down with the sword to run her through too, the dagger caught him right where his heart was. If he had one, that is." Jack ran his fingers through his hair. "She was so close....so close to dying. Why didn't she tell me any of this?" "Because she was afraid. Don't forget, Jack--she was only seventeen. Madoc was hurled back against the wall and died. Rhiannon's concern was for Rhys. She held him as he was bleeding out. His last words were that he loved her." "God. I had no idea..." "So here she is. Seventeen, cut off from her family and two dead men in her bedroom. One of them by her own hand. She had no idea what to do so she did what she does best." "She ran." "She panicked. She took the jewels and any money that was in the safe. There was nothing she could do for Rhys. And she was afraid that Madoc's sons would try to exact vengeance from her. All she could think of was swinging from the gallows." "And she ended up in Barbados." "She ended up that night at a church. A priest who heard her confession gave her sanctuary that night. He helped her book passage. "To the one place she knew to go. Barbados." "Yes. When she arrived, she kept asking at taverns if anyone knew the whereabouts of a Captain Fox. Of course, no one did. A tavern keeper took a liking to her and gave her a job." "That must have been Amos at the Varlet and Vixen."
  25. El Lobo Del Mar

    "Alright, so she married. She moved on with her life." "Not exactly." "What do you mean?" "When she agreed to marry Madoc, Dilys went wild. She chewed Father up and down and poor Gwyneth was trying to convince Rhiannon she was doing the right thing. To make her feel better. I had all I could do to keep Rhiannon from going out of her mind." "He must have loved her though." "Oh, Jack, wake up to reason! Lord Madoc Castlemaine was in the market for a fresh young bride. And the land between the two estates. Father struck a devil's bargain. With the devil himself. Madoc was thirty years older than Rhiannon. She was only seventeen. And she was mourning the love of her life." Jack was uncomfortable hearing Rhys referred as that. He knew there were other men in his wife's life before they met but they had always been nameless and faceless. "So, what made Madoc Castlemaine so bad? Did he have a wart on his face and a hook nose? Did he drool? Was he gluttonous?" Megan shook her head. "If you must know, Madoc Castlemaine was a handsome man. But he had a streak of cruelty. As soon as Madoc married her, he shut her up behind those cold, stone grey walls and whenever Dilys or Gwyneth tried to see her, some excuse was given. 'She is indisposed,' was the most common one. Even I was never allowed near her." "Couldn't you insist?" "Jack, we may be Welsh but we do have a code of social understanding. You don't burst in unannounced on a couple who are newly married. Now to get back to the story--Madoc shut her away from us. Cut her off from the family. We found out later that Madoc was to be given the meadowland when Rhiannon produced an heir. And when she did, she would receive an allowance of one hundred pounds a year." "I'm almost afraid to ask with all the revelations here tonight...but did Rhiannon ever give him a child?" "JACK!" "Megan, I don't know what to think anymore. Does Rhiannon have any children hidden away? I don't want one showing up on the doorstep and claim to be looking for their mother." "No, Jack, I can assure you this--Zara is her first and only child. Can you make the same claim? Do you have any chance of a young man or woman coming to call, wanting to meet Daddy?" "Not that I know of." "Alright then. Back to what happened. Rhys and Rhiannon had made arrangements for Rhys to get word to her friend Athena to let her know when Rhys was back. Rhiannon would be ready to go that night. Can you imagine her anguish when she had her bags packed since December and waited day after day, night after night for a man who didn't come back? She gave him a two month leeway. When he didn't show, that was when her world fell apart." "But I am sure Madoc must have loved her. Who wouldn't?" Megan snorted in derision. "Jack, Madoc Castlemaine was a possessor. He surrounded himself with opulent furniture, the finest velvets and silks, brocades, Scottish wool. His estate was vast and his horses were the best this side of England. Rhiannon was one more possession. But he lacked something. It was what Rhiannon needed most." Jack nodded slowly, "She needed love." "Damn right she needed love! Jack, excuse me. I don't swear often. But whenever I think about it, it makes my blood boil. Madoc Castlemaine was the counterpart of Mother Superior." "He used to beat her?" "Not per se. But he was controlling and cruel. He used mental manipulations. Don't forget that we are dealing with a heartbroken seventeen year old who only wanted to be loved." "And have a happy ever after." Megan began to feel her eyes fill with tears as she remembered it all. "I saw Rhiannon once. Just once! And when I did, she had lost weight. Her eyes were lackluster. And there were bruises on her arms. But the cruelest thing he did...he wouldn't let her keep Muir." "Oh God." "Muir had to live in the barn. She used to slip out whenever she could and see him. That hurt her most of all." "So...how does this all get to where she ends up with a dead husband?" "Patience, grasshopper. I am getting to that." Jack felt a slight smile as he had heard Megan use that phrase with her children. "Madoc had Rhiannon's portrait painted. He wanted her to wear a dress that belonged to his first wife. But a bit of the old Rhiannon surfaced. She wore a deep purple dress laced tight to show her assets. She managed to bring a defiance back to her face long enough for the artist to capture it. And Madoc beat her for it." Jack felt his hands clench. "I thought he never really laid a hand on her?" "He did that night. Madoc arranged a ball to unveil it. Only it wasn't the demure subservient wife. It was a young woman who wore a questionable dress and a look of rebellion on her face." "So how did she meet Rhys again?" "Now what did I say about patience?" "Alright. I am listening." "Rhys Morgan not only stored his booty on Conaway land but also in Lord Castlemaine's caves. But for a price." "WHAT?" "Yes. Madoc had a few skeletons in his own closet. Rhys Morgan was at that ball. He and Rhiannon were reunited. They began meeting in secret. And they had made arrangements to run off together. Madoc was supposed to be in London sitting on the House of Lords. But it was all a ruse." "He knew?" "He suspected. Rhys and Rhiannon had spent a week in Cardiff and then Rhys sailed away once more to meet with his friend. This time it was nearby. Otherwise Rhiannon wouldn't have let him go. If only they had left a half hour earlier! Madoc caught them and ran Rhys through." "And he killed Madoc?" Megan shook her head no. Jack raised his eyes towards the stairs."You mean...?" Megan said quietly, "Rhiannon killed her husband."