The Doctor

El Lobo Del Mar

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A gentle snow fell silently on the hamlet of Llanfaes, just outside Beaumaris. Drake Gander watched the drifting flakes settle on the sleeping farmlands from the window of the cottage he and his sister, Rose, were staying for the next few days. He sighed wistfully. As beautiful as the snow-covered hills were, he longed for the lush green islands and warming sun of the Caribbean. As a boy, he loved the wintertime. But now it felt almost claustrophobic. He was used to taking a book with him to sit upon the open deck and enjoy the fresh air. A seat indoors by the fire would have to suffice for now.

“One more day until this silly ball, then another four or five until the ship is in port,” Duckie said to himself. “You can hold on that long.”

It wasn't that he didn't love his sister. Rose could be trying, to say the least. A month under the same roof with her was proving to be his limit.

To call the house a cottage was an exercise in understatement. It would have easily served as a proper home for a family of six, with everyone having their own comfortable bedroom. The only thing preventing that was the lack of a kitchen. Meals were taken at the manor house, which belonged to Kiran Stapleton, a wealthy land baron and friend of Rose's departed husband, Edwin. The food was rich and plentiful, as was Kiran himself. He was a most accommodating host, as generous as he was rotund. His wife, Ffanci, made sure their every need was seen to. But for Duckie, it felt more like a gilded cage. He longed for the simplicity of life aboard ship again. His quarters, his surgery, his domain. The upcoming week couldn't pass fast enough.

Duckie took a sip of brandy, and turned as he heard the latch on the front door close. Rose stood at the entryway, shaking the snow from her cloak.

“Taking a stroll in the fresh air, sister of mine?” he asked.

Rose gave him a bemused look. “And why would I do such a thing in this beastly cold, brother of mine? I was dispatching the driver on an errand.”

“You did? I wish you had told me you were going to do that. I had a favour to ask of Mister Pertwee.”


“The driver. Silas Pertwee. Honestly, Rose, do you not even know the names of the people you employ?”

Rose waved her hand dismissively. “I have four drivers, Drake. You can't expect me to remember all their names.” She walked to the cabinet and poured herself a glass of cognac.

“No, I suppose not. That would take effort.”

She rolled her eyes as she sipped the honey-coloured liquor. “Oh, don't start. You really should learn to relax and enjoy the finer things.”

“Not when it means denying others simple respect, such as knowing their names.”

“You missed your calling, Drake,” she sighed. “The way you preach, the ministry would have been a good vocation choice. I'll have you know, I was doing you a favour.”

“How so?”

“I sent Mister Pertwee to the port, to enquire if your ship had arrived yet.”

Duckie gave her a dubious look. “And what name did you tell him to ask about?”

“El Londo de Par, of course!”

Duckie laughed and shook his head. “Close, but so very wrong. You told him nothing of the sort.”

“And how can you be so sure, Doctor Gander?”

“It's El Lobo del Mar. The Sea Wolf, in Spanish.”

“A trifling mistake. I never claimed to be conversant in Spanish. They'll correct him at the port,” she shot back, obviously flustered. She polished off her drink and poured another.

“You sent him to enquire about one Captain Jack Wolfe. Didn't you?”

“Drake, you see conspiracies where none exist,” she answered with a wounded tone. “Must you interrogate me over every kindness I try to give?”

Duckie sighed. “I'm sorry, Rose. I do appreciate what you're trying to do, but it was unnecessary. El Loboisn't due back in port for another six days, and Mister Briggs is a very punctual man.”

“Even so,” replied Rose, “He may have come back early. Either way it's a bit more coin in Mister Pertwee's pocket. If it will make you feel any better, I shall pay him double what I promised for his bother.”

“There's no need for that, now...”

“No, I insist! If I sent him on a wild goose chase, then I must make amends. End of discussion.”

“All right, then,” Duckie smiled resignedly. “I'm sure he'll appreciate your generosity.”

“He had better! I'm doing this to soothe your sensibilities. Honestly, Drake, your moral compass will drain me dry at this rate,” she teased.

Duckie smiled at his sister. There was the sense of humour he remembered Rose having. Perhaps he had misjudged her after all.

Meanwhile, a heavy black coach came to a stop outside the office of the Beaumaris harbour master. Silas Pertwee secured the reins and hopped down from driver's bench. A small bell attached to the door announced his arrival to the harbour master, Mister Wickliff, who looked up from his ledger in annoyance at the young man.

“Aye, lad? What can I help you with?” he asked.

“I've got an urgent message for Captain Jack Wolfe,” Silas said, just as Rose had instructed him. “Is his ship here? It's very important that I find him.”

“Oh, all right,” Wickliff scowled. “Wolfe, did you say? Do you have the name of his ship?”

“Yes, sir. El Lobo del Mar.”

Wickliff opened another heavy ledger and began leafing through it. “I'm certain there's no ship in port of that name, but let me look for this captain...” He turned to the most recent entries and ran his finger down the page, reciting names as he went. “Walters, Wembly, Whitting, ah! Here it is! Jack Wolfe. Nice penmanship. And just as I thought, his ship isn't due back in port for a week yet.”

“Oh,” Silas said with obvious disappointment. “Did he leave word as to where he would be staying?”

“I'm afraid I'll have to know the nature of your business to give you that, my young friend.”

Silas dug in his pocket and retrieved the envelope Rose had given him in case of this very situation. He handed it over to Wickliff, who opened it immediately. The harbour master's eyes grew wide as he read the bank promissory note for 20 pounds sterling.

“Well, this is urgent, indeed!” exclaimed Wickliff. “Says here your Captain Wolfe is staying at Bancroft Hall, right here near Beaumaris. I'm sorry, but I don't have directions for you.”

Silas Pertwee smiled broadly. “No worries, sir. I shall ask around and find my way. Thank you for your time.”

The young driver left the harbour master's office with a spring in his step, knowing his mistress would be very happy with the information he'd gained, and that he would be collecting the handsome reward she offered.

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Honour looked through boxes that were strewn over the floor.
"Now where did I put the slipper?...Ah! There it is. And now where is the other one..MUIR!"
Her wolfdog sat there with her peau de soie slipper delicately in his mouth. She said firmly, "Drop it!"
Jack chuckled, "You always did leave your boots anywhere you happened to take them off."
She reached into another box and retrieved a corset and bloomers.
Sitting back on her heels, she sighed. "I will be so glad when this fou-fou stuff is over with. As much as I enjoy being a woman---"
"And as much as I enjoy having you be a woman---"
"I feel so much more relaxed when I am just in a chemise or even a pair of breeches."
Jack fussed with his cravat, tying and untying it.
"I just can't seem to get it right. No matter how I try, it always ends up in a monkey's fist!"
Honour stood up.
"Here. Let me try."
She deftly tied it and put a stickpin in it. Standing back, she admired her work.
"I love that silk shirt on you."
He fastened cufflinks into the French cuffs. "Well, you won't catch me wearing any lace at the throat or cuffs."
She kissed him quickly, "I wouldn't have it any other way. Now let me try to get dressed."

She slipped behind the screen and five minutes later she emerged. Dressed in her bloomers and a very light chemise, she had a corset around her waist. "I think I need to ask Derwena to help me."
Jack shook his head.
"Why, Mrs Wolfe--how many times have we been over this? I can lace as quickly as I can 'un'."
She laughed, "Yes, but that usually involved a dagger and you made short work of those laces. Just a flick of the blade and moving upwards and it serves your purpose. Quick and tidy. I'm surprised I didn't get a chest cold!"
"Hey, you were kept plenty warm."
He turned her around.
"Now hold on to the bedpost and suck in. Not that you need this corset."
She held on tightly and Jack pulled the laces tight. He finally planted his foot gently on her bottom and pulled back.
"Whoa, Nelly!"
She reached behind her to smack him. "I am NOT a mare, Jack."
"Tight enough?"
"I can still breathe but yes, that is tight enough."
She disappeared behind the screen again.

When she emerged, she was wearing a burgundy peau de soie gown. The dress was off-shoulder, the sleeves fitted, ending into a point above the middle finger. The bodice was fitted and dropped to the waist, black lace overlaid on top of the burgundy. The waist was form-fitted to her body and then flared out at the hips so that the slightest movement sent it into motion all its own.
Jack stared at her.
"Too much?" she asked.
"My Lord, no! It's just--"
"Honour, you take my breath away. Just when I thought you couldn't be more beautiful, you surprise me. I don't know if it is because we are on land, there is candlelight, or you are the mother of my child."
She looked up at him hopefully. "Then you approve?"
She rummaged in her jewelry box and pulled out a ruby necklace.
"I think this will be perfect. Would you fasten it for me?"
She swept her hair up and felt warm breath on her neck.
She giggled, "Not fair, Jack! You know just the right place..."
He whispered, "I should. I've visited this spot enough times."
Honour turned around and took his face in her hands. "As much as I would love to, we are due to make out debut in half an hour. And Father is already giving us the fisheye."
Jack burst out laughing. "The fisheye?"
She nodded. "You know--like this."
She squinted one eye and looked down, all the time screwing her mouth up like she was sucking on a pickle.
Jack roared with laughter. "Where did you ever learn to make that face?"
She laughed with him. "When Megan and I were younger--I must have only been about five--I made that face at Megan when Father was pontificating at one of his Sunday dinners. I looked over at her and I remembered it all too well--Megan snorted milk out of her nose!"
"Yes, and ever since then, she hasn't been able to drink milk!"

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Jack stretched out on the bed and patted the spot next to him.
"A half hour, you say?"
She held her hand up. "Oh, no, you don't, John Michael Wolfe!"
"What, you don't trust me?"
"Trust you? You know I have a low threshold of resistance as far as you are concerned and I----"

Jack and Honour looked up to see their little girl standing in the doorway.
Honour looked over and laughed, "My willpower just got a boost from my own daughter!"
Honour scooped the little girl up in her arms and deposited her in the place that Jack had previously tried to coax Honour to take.
"Well, hello, Miss Zara!"
Zara reached over to touch Jack's face and he let out a growl and pretended to nip her fingers. She squealed and tried it again.
Honour put her hand to her mouth to hold back her laughter. "I must say, Captain Wolfe, that you have charmed her."
He hugged his daughter and said, "Like I did her mother?"

Just then Nanny Greyson came in.
"And so like her mother she be! This one will be the one into the horse-stealing and the blueberries!"
Jack burst out laughing. Honour raised her eyebrow. "Not so funny, Jack Wolfe!"
He shook his head. "I just had a vision of Zara in one of the cannons, her little feet sticking out and kicking!"
Honour sighed. "Then I guess you will need to baby-proof the guns."
"With some sort of mesh."
"Honour, you DON'T baby-proof weapons."
Nanny Greyson picked Zara up and said over her shoulder, "You do with this one!"
Zara's mouth went into a trembling baby-pout as she reached for Jack over Nanny's shoulder. Her arms outstretched as she started to wail, "Da-da!"
Jack started after her and Honour stopped him. "There is such a thing as spoiling a child, Jack."
"I know, but she's my little girl."
"Jack, let's just have a nice time tonight. Just the two of us."
He sighed. "I suppose. Maybe we should enjoy it while we can. After all, I am sure this is not the end of the Wolfe pack."
She ran her finger up and down his arm. "I thought we were going to wait a while."
"Honour, I really would like another child. But this time I want to be in on the beginning."
"You were. At least for the important part. You just didn't know it."
She picked up a hand mirror to check the back of her hair in the tall mirror.
"I'd like a son."
"Jack, ALL men want sons. I'll see what I can come up with. But one thing I want to remind you of. I am NOT a broodmare. I don't intend to be standing behind a baby every nine months."
"How about a baker's dozen?"
"How about I see the stablemaster who happens to have a nice dagger? One snip and it's all over. Well, the part about you acting like a stallion."
Jack winced as Honour laughed. "OK you can act like a stallion with the equipment of a gelding. The factory will be shut down but we still have the playground."
He made a face at her. "You are a cruel, cruel woman, Honour Bright! You have these thoughts often?"
She laughed, "I did when I had my lying-in with Zara. But yes, Jack, when we get to Barbados, I don't see why we can't plan for future wolfes."
He looked a bit pensive. "I know what I would like to name our first born son."
"Jack, all men want to name their firstborn after themselves. But naming a chid 'junior' doesn't impart immortality on you."
Jack shook his head. "No, this is for a man that gave me my life."
"You want to name your son Charles after your father?"
"Darling, I am running out of options here."
"I want to name him Rhys. After the man who rescued me from Mendoza. Rhys Morgan Wolfe. How does that sound?"

Honour stooped to pick up the pieces of the shattered mirror with her trembling fingers.
She sucked on her finger.
Jack bent over to look at her finger.
"Just a surface cut. Here's a cloth to wrap around it. I'll pick this mess up. What happened? It just slip from your hand?"
She nodded. "Yes."
Jack smiled, "Guess the thought of more children has you rattled, love. But never fear--I shall be gentle! Times like this I wish we could just stay in our room and shut the whole world out."

"We don't have to stay till the end if you don't want to."
"I want to dance and have every woman there envying me my handsome husband, the commercial investor of exports and imports!"
He laughed as he put on his new frock coat of black and silver brocade.
"You like?"
She put her hands on his collar and drew him to her. In a small voice, she said, "Jack, hold me like you never want to let me go."
He wrapped his arms around her. "Like this?"
She nodded. "I do love you, Jack Wolfe."
Touching foreheads, he whispered, "I'll hold you to that."
She gave him a beguiling smile and whispered, "Rabbit!"

Honour took one last look in the mirror and pinched her cheeks to redden them. She dabbed a bit of scented water behind her ears as Jack waited impatiently at the door.
"Mrs. Wolfe, if you don't get your behind over here tout suite...."
She gathered up her skirt and said, "I'm coming....I'm coming..."

At the top of the staircase, Honour hesitated. "Now, remember, Jack...just for tonight your wife's name is Rhiannon. Tomorrow I go back to being 'Honour'."
"I've done alright so far, haven't I?"
"Yes, you have. And I love you for it."

The two descended the staircase, Honour's hand resting on Jack's arm. Partway down, they both stopped. There was someone looking up at them from the bottom of the staircase that neither of them thought they would ever see.
"Jack? Honour?
And then Jack froze.
"Hello, Jack."

A look of astonishment crossed Rose's face. Her eyes met the woman's on Jack's arm and a look of recognition registered on her face.

"Lady Castlemaine!"

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Jack and Honour looked at each other in surprise.
“You know her?” they asked simultaneously.
“An... old acquaintance, from years ago,” Jack said, regarding Rose coldly. “When I was still at university. How do you know her? She got your name wrong.”
“Like you said, and old acquaintance. A friend of my father's. Poor thing, she's must be in her cups already if she's forgotten my name,” replied Honour quickly.
Her mind was racing. Why that vindictive shrew Rose Carlisle, of all people? Everyone knew what a chatty gossip the Countess was, especially once she had started drinking. The fact she knew Jack made things even worse. The haughty older woman had looked down her nose at Honour from the moment they met. It had taken every bit of self control Honour had to trade polite nothings with Rose at official functions, chalking up the snide and condescending comments she endured to jealousy on the countess' part. Why did Rose have to show up now, and why did she have to blurt that name? Honour had to keep Jack away from her before she could say anything else.

The couple continued together down the stairs toward their friend and his inebriated companion. All eyes were on them as they did. Jack felt uncomfortable being the centre of attention. Commanding the attention of a rowdy tavern crowd was one thing. This felt more like being on display. Honour was taking it all in stride with grace and charm. This was a special night for the Welsh social elite. And here was Jack Wolfe, pirate and smuggler, in attendance as a member of the esteemed Conaway family. He smiled at the absurdity of this cosmic joke, and resolved then and there to enjoy every moment of rubbing elbows with the monied blue-bloods. All right, so he was technically a former pirate, now a wealthy plantation owner. That didn't detract from the sweetness of the situation.
“Are you all right, Jack?” Honour asked. “You had a strange look on your face for a moment.”
“No, darling,” he smiled. “Everything is fine. And why wouldn't it be? I have the most beautiful woman in all of Wales on my arm. The most beautiful woman in all the world.”
Why, Captain Wolfe! You make me blush.”
“I'll do more than that once this party is over, Mrs. Wolfe,” he said with a wink.
“I'm counting on it,” she giggled as they reached the foot of the stairs, and Honour gave her husband a smile that could only belong to a woman in love.
They crossed the marble tiled floor over to where the perplexed Duckie and a smirking Rose stood waiting.

“Ducks!” beamed Jack. “Rose,” he said, with far less enthusiasm before turning back to his friend. “What an unexpected surprise! I didn't expect to see you here!”
“That makes two of us, Jack!” laughed Duckie. “Dear God, I barely recognised you! I haven't seen you dressed like this, well... ever! And Honour! Look at you! My dear, aren't you beautiful!”
Honour smiled and kissed his cheek. “It's so good to see you, Duckie! We didn't expect to see you until the ship was back in port.”
“Yes, well, it would seem Fate had different plans for us all,” he chuckled.
“'Honour',” interrupted Rose. “Have you quit going by Rhiannon, Lady Cas--”
Honour cut her off fast. “Mrs. WOLFE will suffice, Rose. Mrs. Rhiannon Wolfe. 'Honour' is a nickname I picked up in my travels.”
Jack had no idea what had transpired between Honour and Rose to cause such palpable tension between them, but he did not care for his wife being spoken to in such a patronising manner. He'd heard that particular tone in Rose's voice too often.
“Hello, Rose,” he said as cordially as his temper would allow. “Seeing you here is an unexpected surprise as well. Who here are you the guest of this evening?”
Rose's mouth popped open in a look of complete indignation. “Why, I'll have you know...”
“I'm Rose's guest, Jack,” said Duckie before his sister could make a scene. Still scowling, she took a large sip of her drink. “Rose was married to the late Lord Edwin Carlisle, Earl of Shrewsbury.”
“Your sister is a Countess?” asked Jack. “Well, you managed to follow your ambitions, Rose. Congratulations.”
“Rose is your sister?” Honour asked incredulously.
“Yes, Jack, I am the Countess of Shrewsbury, Lady Rose Carlisle,” Rose answered hotly. “And yes, Rhiannon, or whatever you call yourself now, I am Drake's sister. But look at you! You managed to get yourself a brand new husband. I'd like to know how you managed that, but I have an idea. Did Jack tell you he courted me once?”
“Let me think,” said Honour, seeming to search her memory. “No! Not once. Ever.”
“I'll bet there's lot you haven't told him, either--”
“Rose!” said Duckie sharply. “Would you please give me a moment with my friends? I have some business to discuss with them. I'll only be a few moments.”
“Fine,” Rose answered curtly. With a defiant jut of her chin, she turned and unsteadily made her way across the room to the punchbowl.

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Once the countess was out of hearing, Jack broke the trio's silence.

“What the hell was all that about?”

Duckie shook his head. “I am so sorry. Rose has once again... overindulged. A habit she was good at hiding when I last visited, but now... now it seems to be the largest part of her life.”

“She hasn't changed a bit from the last time I saw her,” said Honour.

“And she really has it in for you!” said Jack. “I thought you said she was a friend of the family.”

“Of my father. Rose focuses on where the money is. Otherwise, you're useless to her.” Honour looked at Duckie and felt her face colour. “I'm sorry, Duckie. I shouldn't have said that.”

“No, no, you're quite right, Honour,” Duckie said wearily. “Rose has always been a social climber. But she never understood that status is a vehicle, not a destination. She got everything she ever wanted, and a few things she never expected. Loneliness, for one.” He slowly shook his head. “It's terrible to say, but I pity her. I have to say, though, I thought she'd be happier to see you, Jack. You've been a topic of conversation almost from the moment I arrived at her home, even more so the past couple of days. It's almost as if she knew you'd be here.”

“Me? Why on earth would she be talking about me, after all these years?”

“I, well... I made the mistake of mentioning that you've become something of a success in your field,” began Duckie.

Jack's mouth fell open. “Please tell me you didn't tell her...”

“Oh, no! I told her you've done well for yourself as a ship's captain. Nothing beyond that. I also told her you are happily married, with a darling baby daughter.”

“Forgive me, Ducks. I know how well you keep confidences,” said Jack.

“Quite all right, Jack. I think we're all a bit off balance this evening. But it's early yet! I think we can still rally and enjoy the party,” Duckie said. “I'll tend to Rose unless she's already trapped some poor bloke in a conversation.”

Strains of music could be heard starting in the great hall as the musicians took up their instruments.

“Ah, see?” smiled Duckie. “Why don't you lovebirds run along enjoy the dance?”

Jack held out his arm. “A dance, Mrs Wolfe?”

“I thought you would never ask, Captain Wolfe,” she said with a smile as she took his arm.

The couple started toward the great hall when Honour paused after a few steps.

“Just a moment, Jack. I need to thank Duckie.”

“All right, love.”

Honour hurried back to their friend and kissed his cheek.

“Please keep Rose away from Jack, Duckie,” she whispered.

Duckie could see the dread in her eyes. “This is about what you told me on the ship, yes?”

She bit her lip and nodded.

“I will. I promise,” he said with a squeeze of her hands.

“Thank you.” Honour smiled, then hurried back to her husband's side.

The great hall was alive with light, music, people dancing, and people watching others dance. Jack led Honour inside the circle of spectators and bowed deeply before her with just a hint of a mock flourish, a muted version of the foppish bow he would tease her with on board ship. She covered her mouth as she giggled and returned his bow with an exaggerated curtsy. Jack grinned as he took her into his arms, and they began the dance.

“So,” Honour began, “you and the countess...”

“Yes, me and the countess.”

“You actually courted her?”

“I did. Though she wasn't a countess then, of course. Just an aspiring social climber who had no time for an aspiring professor.”

“I hope you never proposed to her.”

Jack looked at her, and after a couple seconds, cocked an eyebrow.

“Oh, you did not!” she said, aghast. “Seriously? No!”

“What can I say? I was young and foolish. I made a lot of stupid mistakes.”

“To hear Briggs tell it, you never stopped making those.”

“Why should I stop? I got very good at it.”

Honour laughed merrily. “All right, then. What about me?”

“I would say you've made stupid mistakes, but there have been a couple that get right up there...”

She playfully slapped his chest. “That's not what I was asking, and you know it! I mean, what about me? Was I a stupid mistake?”

Jack gazed lovingly into her eyes as the corners of his mouth drew softly into a smile.

“No, Honour. You are by far the most brilliant mistake I've ever made,” he said with a wink. “And I shall love you forever.”

She touched his cheek as they moved in time to the music. “You'd better, mister. Because I'll love you just as long, and more.”

“Then we'd better pick out a really nice china pattern. Forever is a very long time to eat off boring plates.”

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Honour eventually relaxed as the evening went along without incident. Duckie kept his word, ensuring Rose was occupied and distracted. It seemed that whenever the countess' eyes began to scan the room for Jack, her brother found some interesting looking person or couple he wanted to be introduced to, and proceeded to converse with them what she felt was an inordinate amount of time. Damn him for being so charming and well-read, she thought. He never failed to find a topic to banter on engagingly, always sure that she was included in the discussion. Rose had wanted nothing more than to talk to Jack alone for a few minutes and unmask that scheming girl who she was certain had tricked him into marriage. But as the hour grew later and the cognac numbed her senses further, revealing the Conaway's dirty little secret seemed less and less important.

Meanwhile, Jack and Honour enjoyed themselves and the party. They would take occasional breaks from dancing to chat with Megan and Daffyd. Honour's oldest sister, Gwyneth, was there with her husband James Hamilton. Her ever-feisty sister Dilys was in attendance as well with her husband, Angus McFarland. Dilys' frank and witty comments kept everyone in stitches, as usual.

“Would you look at Mrs Havershire? Doesn't she look lovely?” she asked. “All right, lovely for having crawled out of a three-hour bath. We should call her Prunella!”

“Oh, Dilys!” laughed Gwyneth. “You're so wicked!”

“You've been talking to Angus again, haven't you?” quipped Dilys.

Megan and Daffyd made certain to introduce the Wolfes to the most important people at the ball, taking impish delight in how the guests listened with rapt attention to this rather mysterious but charming gentleman who, they were certain, was of the most impeccable breeding and social stature. It wasn't the first time Jack had been in this situation, but this time it felt very different. Now, he wasn't passing himself off as a member of legitimate society. He really was now, or at least moving rapidly in that direction. Husband, father, plantation and ship owner. It was a life Jack found very appealing.

Standing off to the side, well out of the merry making, stood the stoic form of Lord Rhodri Conaway. He watched Jack with analytical coldness. Something was terribly wrong about this man, this surprise son-in-law, who was at once mannered and wild. Jack Wolfe was a walking contradiction in his eyes, and Rhodri disliked contradictions. Especially when the Conaway name was involved. Between Jack's evasiveness and Rhiannon's wilfulness, he had his suspicions, but no evidence. Perhaps one day he would get his answers.

After finishing a delightful conversation with a wealthy exporter of furniture and other durable goods to the New World, Jack was surprised to find Honour was leading him back to the dance floor.

“Why, Mrs Wolfe! I thought you were still resting after our last dance?”

“Not hardly, Mr Wolfe!” she answered with a coquettish smile. “I still have plenty of energy. Dance with me.”

Jack took his wife in his arms, perhaps holding her closer than politeness dictated, but they were married after all. Together, they began to move across the dance floor.

“Plenty of energy, eh?” he smiled. “I know a much better way to expend it than dancing.”

“No, that's still dancing. The way you prefer to dance. But the night is still young.”

“You do love to tempt me, don't you, my love?”

Honour felt herself blush. “And why should you have all the fun?” she giggled. “You're the handsomest man here, and more than one woman has had her eye on you this evening. I intend to keep them all jealous.”

“There have been a great many eyes on you, too,” smiled Jack. “I do enjoy being the envy of the men around me.”

“They may envy you, but the information still comes pouring out. It's incredible how easily you get people to tell you things.”

Jack gave her a puzzled look. “What on earth do you mean?”

Honour searched his eyes. “You really don't know? In that short space of time we talked to Mr Griffith and his wife, he told you the nature of his business, how many ships he uses and from which ports they sail, the kinds of goods and typical size of each shipment, how frequently they sail and where to.”

“You're joking.”

She shook her head, her golden tresses swaying as she did. “Think about it. Every bit of information a pirate would want to know. What to strike, where, and when, and the kind of cargo to expect.”

“Why, my dear, you sound just like a villainous pirate!”

“I was taught by the very best of the best. You honestly didn't realise that's how the conversation had turned?”

Jack thought about it, then laughed out loud in surprise. “I guess I didn't! That wasn't my intention, Honour. What it terribly obvious?”

“Only to me,” she replied tenderly. “I know you're done with that life.”

“Yes, I am. And happily so.”

“Old habits die hard?”

He gave her a sly smile and leaned in close as they continued to dance. “Let me tell you about one old habit that will never die...”

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As Jack was about to whisper in Honour's ear, the sound of someone nervously clearing her throat interrupted the moment. They turned to find Enydd, the girl who worked in the kitchen as a server, standing there looking anxious and uncomfortably out of place. She gave a clumsy curtsy.

“Beggin' your pardon, Mrs Wolfe, but Nanny Grayson needs you right away,” she said.

“Is something the matter with Zara?” asked Honour worriedly.

“Nanny Grayson says the wee one won't stop cryin', mum.”

“Have Nanny Grayson give Zara her toy rabbit. That always quiets her,” instructed Jack.

“That's the problem, sir,” said Enydd. “She can't find the babe's rabbit nowhere.”

“Oh, she's tossed it out of her crib again,” said Honour. “I know where it usually lands. Please tell Nanny Grayson I'll be up in a moment, would you?”

Enydd gave another clumsy curtsy. “Yes, mum,” said the girl, and she hurried away.

Honour looked around the room quickly and was relieved to see no sign of Rose. “I'll only be a couple of minutes, I promise,” she assured Jack. “Why don't you get us something to drink? All the dancing has made me thirsty.”

Jack smiled and stroked her cheek. “All right, love. I can bear to have you away for that long, if it's our daughter taking you from me.”

Honour smiled and kissed him quickly. “I promise! Oh, and could you find brandy or something? The punch is terribly sweet. Even rum would do.”

“For you, anything,” he smiled back. “I know just where to look.”

Jack watched as Honour hurried to the stairs and started up to their daughter's room. He never tired of looking at Honour or having her near. Every day, he found himself giving thanks that they had been given a second chance together to build a happy life, and he was determined to get it right this time. And Zara! What a blessing that little angel was. For all his years of avoiding commitments, much less fatherhood, Jack couldn't imagine returning to what he now knew was a hollow, empty existence. Finally, he could say he had found happiness and contentment.

Jack made his way through the revellers, trading nods and smiles and the occasional brief pleasantry as he went. It really wasn't that much different than a busy port tavern, except this time he didn't have to keep a watchful eye for a drawn knife or pistol, even though he found himself checking for them. Honour was right, old habits die hard. Finally, he reached the hallway and followed it to Daffyd's study. A low fire had been left in the fireplace to keep the chill off. Jack took a slender stick of kindling and held one end of it in the coals until it caught flame. Using the improvised match, he lit one of the lamps and tossed the stick into the fireplace where it popped and crackled. Light from the lamp played dimly on the walls, providing just enough illumination for him to find the bottles of liquor Daffyd kept on one shelf of an enormous bookcase. Jack reached for the cut crystal decanter he knew contained a most excellent brandy when a smaller amber bottle caught his eye. It was squat and onion-shaped. A knowing smile spread across his lips as he picked it up and removed the cork. One sniff confirmed it: West Indies rum. With a practised eye, he held the bottle up to the light. Just enough for two healthy glasses, he judged.

“Bad luck to empty a man's bottle when he's not there to enjoy it,” he said aloud. But Jack knew just how to counteract it. He had plenty of fine Barbados rum to replace it with once El Lobo was back in port. He filled two glasses with the dark liquid, then turned to put out the lamp and return to the party and his beloved.

“Hello, Jack.”

“Rose!” he said, surprised. “I didn't hear you come in. I was just headed back to the party.”

“I don't suppose one of those is for me?”


“Oh, don't be so cold, Jack. You were fond of me at one time. Remember?”

“And you made it clear what a waste of time that was,” he said impatiently. “Look, I have no interest in rehashing dead history with you. You'll excuse me. I need to find my wife.”

Rose gave him an oily smile. “It's her history I want to rehash with you.”

“It's obvious you don't like her, Rose. Why, I don't particularly care. But I won't sit by and listen to slander.”

Rose took a couple more wobbly steps into the room and leaned against the desk more for support than effect. “The truth isn't slander.”

“You're drunk.”

“Maybe I am. That doesn't change the value of what I know. What you need to know about your sweet, young bride.”

Jack rolled his eyes in disdain. “I know everything there is to know about Rhiannon. We keep no secrets. Now, good night,” he said as he walked past her toward the door.

“Everything?” Rose asked loudly. “Even about her poor, dead, murdered husband?”

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He froze at the doorway and turned back to her with an incredulous look on his face.


“Oh, she didn't tell you that bit? I thought you knew everything about the former Lady Castlemaine. For your sake, I certainly hope you sleep with your back to the wall.”

Seething, Jack set the glasses down on the desk as carefully as he could and stood glaring at Rose. “Rose, I'm being calm, very calm about all this, in spite of your ridiculous claims! How dare you?”

“Dare? Dare to tell the truth and help an old friend?” she said with an innocent shrug. “Jack, really. I only have your best interest at heart. I'd hate for you to end up like poor, dear Madoc. At least he was able to kill his attacker. Her lover.”

Jack shook his head in disbelief. “This is beyond the pale, even for you.”

“You want to know my theory?” she pressed on. “I think she put her lover up to it. Kill her husband, and they both run off with his fortune. Madoc Castlemaine was an expert with a sword. Everyone knew it. Except for her accomplice, that is. To his credit, the scoundrel was able to strike Madoc down. Not before Madoc ran him through, though.”

“Rose, that's enough! Rhiannon would never be part of such a scheme!”

“Then Rhiannon took all the jewels and money in the house and was never seen again. Until now, that is. Don't take my word for it, Jack. Everyone knows. Just ask. Frankly, I'm shocked she dared to show her face. Poor Madoc. He never deserved what she did to him.”

Jack's mind reeled. He knew that name. Madoc. Honour would scream it in her nightmares, night after night. 'No, Madoc! Please, don't! NO!!' It physically sickened him to consider what Rose was telling him, but how could he ignore the words out of Honour's own mouth?

“When?” he asked, barely above a whisper.

“I'm sorry?”


“Oh, let me see,” pondered Rose, clearly enjoying the turn of events. “A little over two years ago, I believe.”

“Two years...” he echoed hollowly. The timeline matched. She would have been in the Caribbean about six months before they met. Six months after the murder of her husband, and she willing to remarry on a whim? And that name! Castlemaine. Why was it so familiar? Suddenly, the pieces came together in his mind. Rhiannon Conaway Castlemaine. R.C. Castlemaine! It wasn't some mysterious party that had purchased the plantation in Barbados. It had been Honour herself! The realisation felt like a knife through Jack's heart. More secrets. More deception. How could she have kept this from him?

He was startled by the touch of a hand on his arm. It was Rose, attempting to comfort him. She wore a doe-eyed look of sympathy that would have been laughable under any other circumstances.

“Oh, Jack. My poor, sweet Jack. I'm so sorry to be the one to tell you the truth about her. This must be terrible for you. Here,” she said, offering one of the glasses, “Have some of this to settle your nerves.”

“Dear God, Rose. What have you done?” came a voice from the doorway.

Duckie stood at the entrance to the room, with a look of anger and shame on his face. Anger at his sister for her twisted games, and shame for failing his friends.

Rose looked at her brother in exasperation. “Drake, how rude of you! We're having an important conversation. I'm sure whatever it is will wait.”

“No,” Jack said quietly, “I've heard all I need to.” He turned on his heel to leave, but Duckie stopped him.

“Jack, wait. You're not... You only have half the story. The wrong half. Please, don't believe what Rose has told you,” he implored.

“How do you know what she...?” Jack's eyes went flinty. “You knew.”

Duckie nodded regretfully. “Honour told me. After you were shot.”

“The whole world knew about this, except for me?!” Jack asked hotly. But he stopped and stared when he looked over at Rose.

She was laughing.

“'Honour',” she snickered. “There's a joke of a name! I have to give it to her, though, she's an exceptional liar!”

Jack gritted his teeth in anger and humiliation and stalked from the room.

“Jack, she had no choice! Jack!” Duckie called after his friend. Finally, he turned back to glare at his sister. “You had no right to tell him.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “Obviously somebody had to tell him. His closest friends couldn't be bothered.”

“Damn you, Rose!” was the only reply Duckie could muster.

She walked past her brother, casually sipping her rum. “Too late. I've been there a long time,” she answered as she strolled from the room.

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“Aha! There it is!” said Honour triumphantly as she produced the toy rabbit from its hiding place. Zara had managed to fling the little bunny farther than ever before, and it had landed between a trunk and the wall. “Our little girl is getting so strong! Here you are, sweetheart. Safe and sound.”

She gave the toy back to Zara, and the little girl's cries faded almost immediately into happier coos as she pulled its ears and squeezed its nose.

“She'll be a strong one,” said Nanny Greyson. “Just like her mother.”

Honour smiled at the woman who had done more to raise her than her father ever had then looked back at her own daughter. Zara's eyes were growing heavier by the second.

“And probably just as strong-willed, I'll be bound,” the nanny continued with a teasing note in her voice. “She's a beautiful little girl, Rhiannon. Your mother would have been proud to have such a grandchild.”

“I'd like to think she would be,” said Honour softly. It was in times like this she wished most that her mother was still alive, to ask advice and share in the joy. “Oh! What am I doing? Jack will be wondering where I am by now. I told him I'd only be a few minutes.”

Nanny Grayson gently patted Honour's hand. “She'll be fine now, Rhiannon. And so will your husband. Sometimes you need to keep the men waiting. Keeps them on their toes. Now, back to the party with you!”

Honour hugged the older woman, and stopped at the mirror to adjust her hair and smooth her dress out after crawling about on the floor. Satisfied she was presentable for the party, she quietly closed the door to Zara's room and hurried to the stairs. When she reached the top of the staircase, she could see Jack just starting up. She quickly made her way down to meet him.

“Jack!” Honour called. “Here I am! Everything is fine now. I'm sorry it took so long.”

She met him at the midpoint of the stairs and immediately noticed his cravat was askew.

“Here, let me fix this for you.” She went about straightening it as she continued telling him about Zara. “You wouldn't believe it! Zara found a new place to throw the rabbit. Nanny Grayson agrees she's going to be a strong little girl... Jack, what... what's wrong? Why are you looking at me that way?”

Jack's brow was furrowed like a storm cloud, his eyes cold and accusing. She'd seen that look before. In Barbados. Slowly and deliberately, he took her hands and removed them from his necktie.

“The party is over, Lady Castlemaine,” he said icily.

He brushed past her and continued up the stairs to their room. A stunned Honour watched his back as he climbed the steps, then disappeared around the corner. A few seconds later she heard the door close solidly. Not slammed, but near enough. Bewildered, Honour began to look around the grand foyer, as if someone had the answers she needed. All she saw were the faces of the curious, politely averting their gaze while still taking in the spectacle. All except one, however.

Rose Carlisle stood at the entrance to the foyer, drink in hand. Smiling like an assassin.

She could feel her blood run suddenly ice cold. Rose had told him. The gossip-laden, lie-encrusted version of the events, but now he knew. Honour swallowed hard, fighting the back the tears that threatened to flow, and with legs that felt like lead she climbed the stairs again. As she did, she prayed that she could find the words that would make her husband understand. And forgive.

As Honour rounded the corner to the hall that led to their room, she nearly ran into Nanny Grayson. The older woman's eyes were full of worry.

“Mister Wolfe asked me to leave the room. He seems in a dark, terrible mood. Is something the matter, Rhiannon?”

Honour looked the governess in the eyes and nodded her head slowly. “Yes. Everything. And it's my fault. I don't know how I'll ever make it right.”

Nanny Grayson touched Honour's cheek and gave her a look of sympathy.

“God will show you how, little one. Listen, and He will.”

Honour blinked back tears, took a ragged breath, and went to the door. To her surprise, it wasn't locked. She took heart in that Jack hadn't completely shut her out. Not yet, anyway. She turned the knob the rest of the way and opened the door.

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Jack's coat was flung on the bed, with his cravat on the floor beside it. Jack himself was leaning against the open door to Zara's room, looking at their daughter's crib. Honour closed the bedroom door quietly and stood there watching him, desperately trying to find her voice. The fear that all her lies, all her mistakes, all her bad decisions, had finally ruined everything gripped her heart.

“Jack, I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry,” she began haltingly. But suddenly, the words came tumbling forth, and her tears with them. “I wanted to tell you, God knows I did. So many times, the words were right there, but I was too afraid!”

Without turning toward her, Jack shut the door to Zara's room. “I can't even bear to look at you right now,” he said heavily.

“I can explain, I swear! Just give me a chance...”

“Explain?? I'm sure you can, now that you have no choice.” He turned and looked at her after all. The anger she expected was there, yes, but joined with hurt, confusion, and worst of all, distrust. “I don't want to believe Rose, Honour. I want to write her off as a drunk, spiteful woman. But... I can't ignore the things you've said and done. Like the plantation? All this time I thought it was bought out from under us by the mysterious R.C. Castlemaine. Rhiannon Conaway Castlemaine. You bought it, and never told me the truth! Were you too afraid to tell me that, too?”


“You could have told me. I would have understood. That night on the ship, when we reconciled, you agreed we needed complete truth between us. Yet, here are more surprises. More secrets. Honour, I can't go on like this.”

Honour gasped. “No, you're not leaving. Please say you're not!”

“Then help me understand! Rose says you're the reason this Madoc was killed. Hell, she believes you arranged it! Between her story and your own words, I don't know who to believe.”

“My... my words?”

“Your nightmares, remember? Crying out Madoc's name, begging him not to do something-- it was when he died, isn't it? It wasn't a nightmare at all, it was a memory!”

“Jack, Madoc was such a horrible, cruel man who loved his power and money more than anything else. I hated him, I wanted to get away from him, but I never wanted it to happen the way it did!”

“Didn't you know the man's disposition before you married him? Or did you do it for the money?”

“No! It wasn't like that at all! My father forced me into marrying Madoc. I didn't want to. I hated him from the moment I laid eyes on him. But I had no choice.”

Jack shook his head. “I don't understand. You're a beautiful woman! I can't believe there weren't any prospective suitors.”

She swallowed hard and let out a shaking sigh. “There was. And we loved each other. But he had to go away. I waited for him, but something happened and he didn't come back. Not until it was too late.”

“If he loved you so much, why did he leave?”

“On business. He was a... a man of the sea. Besides, my father never would have approved of him.”

“I'm beginning to see a pattern.”

“Please, Jack, don't joke. Not now.”

“Then what happened?”

Honour sat down on the edge of the bed, her eyes downcast. She picked up his cravat and began wringing it nervously. “He came back and found out I was married to that monster. I had thought he was dead, or worse found someone else. But he vowed he would take me away from Madoc. No matter what, he would rescue me from that awful existence. When he tried, it all went wrong. And he and Madoc died. So I ran.”

Jack shook his head as he tried to grasp her explanation. “You fell in love with a man your father disapproved of, he left and didn't return as promised, you were forced into marriage with a wealthy old fossil, your love returned and tried to take you away. And died in the process. Am I following so far?”


“I've heard this story before. Most of it, anyway.”

“Jack, I swear, I'm not making this up! I couldn't!”

“No. I know you couldn't. But I have heard part of this before. From a young man.”

Honour's eyes grew wide. “You... you did?”

“Tell me his name, Honour,” Jack demanded.

“Jack, please...”

“Tell me! Because I already know it.”

“Please, don't make me...”

“Rhys Morgan! My God, it was Rhys! You're the Rhiannon he talked about endlessly. He told me his plan to spirit you off. And that's the last I ever saw of him. Months later I learned he was dead, just as I'd warned him. All because of you.”

“No, Jack! Please, you're not being fair!” Honour sobbed.

“I can't. I can't do this. It's all too much...” Jack's voice trailed off as he struggled to make sense of the night's revelations. Without another word, he took a pillow and blanket from the bed and walked toward the door.

“Where are you going?” cried Honour.

“Somewhere else. To think, to sleep. I can't do that here. Not with you.”

“Please, Jack, stay! I love you!”

He opened the door and turned back to his sobbing wife. “I love you, too, Honour. So very, very much. That's the problem.” With a saddened look, he closed the door and left Honour to her own bitter tears.

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The door to Daffyd's den opened slowly. The light from a single candle cast shadows on the wall.
"Jack? Are you asleep?"
He turned from facing the wall, his pillow punched up and his blankets a tumble. He had been curled up on the overstuffed chair. His shirt was hanging out and wrinkled. Boots were kicked across the room.
"Megan. I'm sorry. I dozed off."
"No, you weren't. You are brooding. And you are sleeping here purposely."
He didn't say anything.
"I talked to Rhiannon."
Jack stared straight ahead. Megan sighed and put her candle down.
"I can see this is going to be a long night."
"Then perhaps you should get to bed, Megan. You had one hell of a party."
"I'm too keyed up to go to bed. Daffyd fetched me when he saw what was going on but I couldn't break away. I had to wait till the last guest left."
"I understand. After all, you and Daffyd were the hosts. You can't keep dropping your life every time Rhiannon has a crisis in her life."
Well, I just came down from seeing Rhiannon."
Jack said nothing.
"Rhiannon is a wreck. I gave her some laudanum and sat with her till she fell asleep."
"Megan, you must be exhausted. Go to bed."
She shook her head. "I think you and I need a serious chat. You aren't planning on walking out on her, are you?"
Jack reached for a bottle of brandy and poured himself a drink. "I'll pay Daffyd back double in spirits I have on the El Lobo."
"That isn't a problem. But I think you need to listen to the story."
"I know enough. I can fill in the blanks. She was the woman to blame. My best friend was killed and she is the reason."

Megan poured herself a drink. "I am trying very hard to keep my temper, Mr. Jack Wolfe. Do you have any idea what Rhys Morgan did to my sister? To her life? What her life ended up? Or where she even started?"
"I know that her mother slipped and hit her head on a rock and drowned and she was raised in a convent."
Megan took a healthy sip of her brandy. "This always calms me down. And I need it. Because if I don't, I just may punch you in the face, Jack Wolfe!"
"ME? What did I do?"
"That little sister of mine has been to hell and back in her life. Our father shipped her off as soon as he was able to. Never showed her an ounce of love after our mother died. He blamed her and couldn't get past that. Good Lord, Jack! You met him. Have you ever seen a more unfeeling man in your life?"
Jack started, "Well, not really but--"
"So Rhiannon is shipped off to a convent where the Mother Superior used to beat her. BEAT her, Jack! And why? Because she and Muir used to love to go to the docks and watch the ships. Rhiannon put up with them because to her, the few hours she had to escape that convent were worth the beatings. She lacked for love all her life. And when she found it, the man was Rhys Morgan."

"But how did she meet him if she was in a convent?"
She poured another glass of brandy for Jack and one for herself.
"This seems to calm me. Rhys was on the bluffs to sketch when Rhiannon was up there writing poetry."
"I never knew that she---"
"Wrote poetry? She stopped writing. She stopped when Rhys was killed. She had met Rhys when she was ten years old and he was twenty. She rowed out on a skiff to look at a ship--which happened to be the Neptune Rising. It capsized and Rhys fished her and Muir out of the sea. They met again six years later. Only this time, Rhiannon was on the verge of womanhood. Rhys pushed her over the edge. If you get my meaning."

Jack grimaced. "So, my friend Rhys was my wife's first lover. Somehow this isn't making me feel any better, Megan."
"Do you want to hear the story or don't you? Because I am giving it to you without the emotional factors you would get from Rhiannon. You are getting the plain facts."
He drank his brandy quickly.
"I have no choice, do I?"
She smiled wryly. "Not when you are sleeping in my husband's study."
"Then you have a captive audience."
"Alright then. Be quiet. Rhys had planned on quitting the life of a privateer and coming back to respectfully ask for Rhiannon's hand. If he couldn't have it, then they were going to run off to the Caribbean. A captain by the name of Fox was going to help Rhys."
Jack broke out in derisive laughter. "Fox was Wolfe. I was the man to help Rhys and his darling if things went awry."
Megan poured herself another drink. "Lord, I need this now! This has all the makings of a Greek tragedy. Rhiannon said he had to go back and sell his share of a venture to his friend. But when Rhys got there, his friend needed help. He had been taken captive by some Spanish monster and the quartermaster, whose heart was in the right place but wasn't much of a tactician, was hell-bent on rescuing his captain. Rhys knew that if he didn't help, not only would his friend be dead but also the quartermaster. So, honour bound, he had to put his plans with Rhiannon aside to save his friend. He thought Rhiannon would wait and she would understand once he got back."
"So why didn't she wait?"
"She was found out by a novitiate who told a priest who told the Mother Superior. She used that as a reason to humiliate Rhiannon and send her packing in disgrace."
"And you wonder why I have no use for the Church?"
"Rhiannon came back home. Try to put yourself in her mindset, Jack. To her, the man she loved with her heart and soul deserted her. Add my father chiding her on it and then he got the name of the man. The man who incidentally used the Conaway caves for storing his ill-gotten gains. He ended up giving her an ultimatum. Marriage to Lord Madoc Castlemaine in exchange for Rhys Morgan--if he was still alive--in exchange for his life."
"She loved Rhys that much?"
"She loved him that much."

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"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?"
"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."
" 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."
"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."

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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 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."

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"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....'

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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.

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Jack stirred, and he could smell the gentle scent of Honour's perfume. It brought a smile to his lips as it always did. He opened his eyes and blinked the sleep away from them. He found himself looking into Honour's deeply puzzled eyes.

“Oh, please tell me you haven't been looking at me like that all night,” he smiled.

“No, I've only been awake a few minutes.”

He cocked an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Well... closer to an hour.”

“That's what I thought.”

Honour touched his face. “Why? Why did you come back?”

“Why not? As I said at the door before I so foolishly left, I love you.”

She gave him a sceptical look. “Really? You're not known for sudden changes of heart, Jack Wolfe.”

“All right, you've caught me. But it is true that I love you.”

“Are you going to be honest with me?”

“I honestly love you.”

“I mean completely honest, you pirate!” she said, looking hard into his eyes.

“Oh, that!” he tried to laugh, but quickly sobered. “Megan and I had a very long talk in the wee hours.”

Honour's eyes grew wide and then became resigned. “What did she tell you?”

“Everything she knows.”

“Oh, God,” she said, he eyes welling with tears. “Jack, I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry! I should have been the one to tell you, but I didn't know how...”

“Honour, sweetheart! It's all right! I understand, I honestly do!"

“You... what?”

Jack brushed her hair away from her face, dabbing away a tear as he did so. “I understand why you didn't tell me. And more importantly, I know it wasn't your fault.”

Honour shook her head. “Jack, I don't understand.”

“Megan explained the whole series of events. She told me that Rhys was delayed in returning to Wales. If he had returned when he promised, your father never would have had the chance to marry you off to that tyrant. You and Rhys would have run off together, and you would be living your happily ever after. Did he ever tell you why it took so long for him to get back?”

“Yes. He said that some mad Spaniard had taken a friend prisoner, and he had to stay and lead the rescue. I don't remember the friend's name, though. Were you with him on that adventure?”

“Honour, think about it. Does any of this sound familiar with what you know about a certain crazed colonel and me?”

Realisation dawned in Honour's eyes. She put her hand to her mouth and gasped. “It was you! And the Spaniard was that horrible Mendoza! Briggs told me that Mendoza had kidnapped you, but I never made the connection.”

“I haven't exactly been talkative about that part of my life. If I could forget it, I gladly would.”

“Is... is that where some of the scars came from?” she asked tentatively.

“Most of them, in fact. I'm surprised you never asked.”

“You don't quite live the life of a gardener, Jack. I assumed they were from some of your more harrowing exploits. There are a lot of tavern stories about you.”

“Well, now you know, and that one was real. But the reason I brought all this up is to explain why I know what happened couldn't possibly be your fault.” He looked into her brilliant blue eyes and sighed.

“It's mine. I'm the reason Rhys is dead.”

Honour shook her head. “Why would you say that? You weren't there. You didn't put the sword in Madoc's hand. You didn't make him...” Her voice caught, and she let the sentence hang in the air.

“If I hadn't been a damned fool and fallen for Mendoza's trap, there would have been no reason to come after me. Briggs was in a panic when Rhys showed up in St. Lawrence. It was obvious to him Josiah was out of his depth. So Rhys...”

“Rhys was a Morgan,” she said with a note of pride in her voice. “He stepped in and took charge.”

“Yes, he did. If it weren't for him, I'd be dead.” Jack's mouth became a grim line. “And if it weren't for me, he'd still be alive.”

Honour thought about his words for a few moments, and to his surprise, she began to smile. He searched her eyes, confused.


“You really don't see it, do you?” she asked.

Jack shook his head. “You've lost me.”

“If Rhys hadn't saved you, we never would have met. We wouldn't have Zara. Jack, think about it! Rhys rescued us both. We were prisoners; you literally, me figuratively. But bound equally nonetheless.” Honour's eyes practically shone with the epiphany. “If Rhys hadn't freed both of us, Zara would never have been born. Maybe that was Rhys' role in all of this. To bring us together!”

Jack's brow furrowed as he thought about what she said. “Honour, that sounds an awful lot like destiny. You know destiny and I have never gotten along well.”

“That's because you're a stubborn Englishman.”

“Oh, and the Welsh have a lock on destiny and its workings?”

She looked her husband in the eye with a cocky smile. “As a matter of fact, yes. We do. So you'd best listen to an expert.”

Jack made a face as he mulled it over. “Well, when you put it that way... And it does make a certain poetic sense.”

“I think it makes perfect sense. Rhys brought us together, just as we were meant to be. We have Zara to prove it.”

“Who am I to argue with an expert?” he said with a smile and gently kissed her. “I don't feel like getting out of bed just yet. Do you?”

Honour returned his kiss. “No, not yet. Not for a while,” she murmured.

“In that case...”

“I'm still exhausted from that accursed laudanum Megan gave me.”

“Oh,” he winced. “So, no...”

“No,” she said with a giggle. “But tonight... who knows?”

“What does destiny have to say about it, ye Oracle of the Welsh?”

She closed her eyes and pretended to concentrate. Finally, she opened her eyes again. “Ask again later,” she said with a wink.

“Believe me, I shall,” he said and wrapped his arms around his wife.

Honour snuggled against him, and her eyes slowly closed. She felt safe, loved, and blissfully free. Finally, truly free of her past and the demons that had kept her running for so long. Everything made sense to her now, with crystal clarity. As she drifted off to sleep, she thought one more time of Rhys. Her heart was still filled with pain for the loss of her first love. But she began to realise that with the revelation of what had happened those few years ago, she was finally able to let Rhys go. She knew that as much as she loved Jack with all her heart, a piece of it would always belong to Rhys Morgan.

Rhys Morgan... the man who had rescued her from Lord Madoc Castlemaine but paid the ultimate price with his life.

He did love her. As she loved him.

But with the catharsis of this confession, she now knew that Rhys was finally letting her go.

She would always feel the pain of his death. But Father Simon's words came back to her.

Never forget, Rhiannon, that which was shed. But what has now been absolved.

“Thank you, Rhys. Thank you for everything. I'll never forget you. But my place is with Jack and Zara. May you rest in peace.”

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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, 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."
"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?"
"Leave Zara here with me and we will call it even!"

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Jack stood at the doorway of Daffyd's study and rapped on the frame. Daffyd looked up from the papers he had scattered across his desk and smiled broadly.

“Jack! Do come in! How many times do I have to tell you, you never need knock? Sit down, and I'll pour us some brandy.”

“I know, it's perfectly reprehensible of me to show such respect,” Jack laughed as he settled into one of the high-backed leather chairs by the fire. “Believe me, it's a consideration I believe I'll be insisting on from my quartermaster. He has a habit of barging in. Not so much anymore now that Honour-- I mean, Rhiannon, has been on board. Embarrassment is a very good teacher.”

Daffyd had to quickly swallow his brandy to avoid spraying it all over the study in laughter. “I'm sure having a woman aboard is something the men aren't used to.”

“Certainly whilst not at sea.”

This time, Daffyd was able to laugh readily without fear for his brandy. “Sounds like you led quite the bachelor's life, Jack!”

“It had its moments. But I can't imagine going back to it, nor would I care to. Rhiannon and Zara complete me in ways I never knew I was lacking.”

“The right woman will do that to a man. Children even more so. I know Rhiannon loves you with all her heart.”

“As I love her, Daffyd. More than I could ever put into words. Life is misery without her. I've tasted it once. Never again.”

“It's a shame you have to leave us. Are you certain you can't stay on a while longer?”

Jack took a sip of brandy and shook his head. “As much as I'd like to, we can't. I have a ship and crew that depend on me, for one final voyage together at least.”

“Are you looking forward to getting back out on the open sea?”

“Part of me is, and I imagine always will. But I've made peace with it. I'm truly ready to settle down to a life on dry land.”

“You know,” said Daffyd, “Now that the... unpleasantness from her past is finally put to rest, you and Rhiannon could make a life here. You'd be close to family, and Zara would have her cousins to play with.”

“Megan put you up to this, didn't she?” smiled Jack.

“Well, yes, she did. But it's a sentiment I share. We love having you as part of our lives here. We could even go into business together. You have a wonderful eye for horseflesh, Jack. I'd dare say you're a natural.”

“You're too kind, Daffyd. I admit, it's an enticing offer. We've even talked seriously about whether or not to stay. Who knows, perhaps one day we will make Wales our home. But we have too much unfinished business in Barbados. A life interrupted, you could say.” Jack paused, then looked his brother-in-law in the eye. “We've been given a second chance, Rhiannon and I. A chance to get it right this time. We've managed to get this far in spite of ourselves. Imagine what she and I can do together?”

“She was right to take you back. And you were right to hunt her down.”

“If only my goals had been so noble at the time. All I wanted was that damned relic. Here I thought it would bring me the riches of the Ancients. Instead, it brought me greater riddles, but the greatest treasure I've ever known. I've frittered away more in my life than I care to account for. But I will not squander this.”

Daffyd shook his head and smiled. “Jack, I was certain no man could be more in love than I am with Megan. Today, I've met that man. Rhiannon is a very lucky woman. And Zara is one very lucky little girl!”

“I'm the lucky one, mate. It took losing it all for me to finally understand just how much. I'll spend the rest of my life doing whatever it takes to keep it.”

“I genuinely admire your intensity, Jack. You have such clarity of what is important in life, and all the rest is burned away. Such a quality is something I wish I had more of. I suppose it's a necessity when commanding a ship and crew, especially one comprised of, um, rough individuals.”

Jack chuckled. “You mean pirates? Daffyd, it's perfectly fine to use that word around me. Yes, I suppose that's part of it. But I never felt the need to apply that to the long term until now. When you know your next encounter may be your last, planning isn't a priority. Hopes and dreams are just that, nothing more. Now, they're everything.”

“If the way you handled Rhodri is any indication, I can imagine how masterfully you manage a crew!” Daffyd laughed.

“Him? He's easy. Rhodri is so used to having everyone bend a knee without thinking, he's forgotten how to deal with anyone who dares think himself an equal. You'd think with four strong-willed daughters, he'd be a bit more on his game.”

“I believe he's come to expect a certain amount of unwavering wilfulness from them.”

“Lord knows as their husbands, we have! And what a glorious thing it is!” laughed Jack.

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“Well, I know you've said before that a life at sea is anything but the glamorous adventure books and broadsheets would have us believe. But I'll tell you one thing that makes me envious about you lighting out for the Caribbean,” said Daffyd, almost conspiratorially. “Never having to endure another evening in the company of the Countess of Shrewsbury! Or as we've been known to call her... no, I shouldn't.”

“Ah, no, you've started it! Come on, give it up!”

“The Shrew of Shrewsbury.”

Jack laughed loudly. “Truer words were never spoken! She's certainly earned that title in my eyes.”

“You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out you knew her!”

“That was a long time ago. If anything, she's gotten worse. God, I can't believe I asked her to marry me...”

This time, Daffyd's drink didn't get swallowed. He had to spit it back into the glass to keep from choking. “You... you did WHAT??”

“Oh, it was years and years ago. I was still at university. Young, idealistic, and stupid.”

“Well, she had to have had some redeeming qualities if you fancied her so.”

“Whatever I thought they were, they evaporated when she turned me down. And after the other night, I'm very glad she did. Fair play to her, though, she got her money and title. That's what she wanted most out of life.”

“Now it's a solitary life with only shopping sprees and the occasional party to break things up. Megan has already decreed that Rose Carlisle and all her thorniness will never be welcome in this home again.”

Jack held up his glass. “To Megan! And to the fierceness of the Conaway women!”

“Hear, hear!” chuckled Daffyd.

“I do wish I'd gotten a chance to talk with her brother after all that foolishness,” said Jack.

“Oh, yes. Poor chap. He was positively mortified by it all. Rose wanted to stay a while longer – there was still plenty of spirits left in the house – but he wouldn't have it. Saved Megan the trouble of throwing her out on her ear. He seems a nice enough fellow. Your ship's surgeon, yes?”

“Yes, and a dear friend. Drake and I were at Oxford together. No matter, we'll have plenty of time to talk on the way back to Barbados. The main thing is we'll never have to lay eyes on Rose again.”

“To small blessings,” smiled Daffyd.

Jack thought for a moment and took a sip of brandy. “Well, I wasn't going to ask, but curiosity is getting the best of me.”

“About what?”

“Rhys Morgan. I'm sure Megan told you he was my friend.”

Daffyd nodded grimly. “I was bowled over to hear that revelation. Amazing what a small world it is. I can only imagine how you felt.”

“Bowled over doesn't scratch the surface, let me tell you.”

“What is it you want to know?”

Jack sighed heavily. “Whatever happened to him? His body, I mean?”

Daffyd fought the urge to polish off the rest of his drink. There had been so much wild conjecture surrounding the deaths and Rhiannon's disappearance that the only thing anyone could be sure of was that the two men were dead and that Rhodri had done everything necessary to sanitise the Conaway name. But he and Megan had thought it best for everyone that Rhys' memory be truly put to rest once and for all, to ensure Rhiannon could truly move one with her life with no questions, no regrets.

“It's all a bit muddy to be honest. From what I understand, someone from Morgan's ship claimed his body.”

“That would have been Dolan, his quartermaster and first,” Jack said thoughtfully. “Good. Then Rhys got the burial at sea he deserves.”

“God rest his soul,” Daffyd said quietly.

“He was a good man and a good friend. I owed him my life. Loving and caring for Rhiannon is how I shall honour him and repay that debt.” Jack gazed into the fire and began to smile. “You know, I recall a time where Rhys and I were in a tavern, in the Azores I believe it was. He was on his way back here to Wales, to quit life on the sea and marry Rhiannon.”

Daffyd's eyes went wide. “Marry her? Rhodri would have never allowed it!”

“Well, elope was more like it. The plan was he'd fetch her, and they'd come to Barbados. I was going to make sure they had a place to get started, a wedding gift of sorts. He was going to completely abandon his world to live in hers, which was something I simply couldn't square with no matter how much he tried to convince me it was the right thing for him to do. And once he got started talking about her, you couldn't shut him up! But this one time, he told me that if I ever met Rhiannon, I'd understand how he could love her so much and be willing to risk everything just to be with her.” He paused and smiled at the irony of it all. “And you know what? He was absolutely right. In fact, he's probably up there getting a great bloody laugh at proving me wrong!”

Daffyd lifted his glass and entreated Jack to do the same. “Another toast. To Rhys Morgan.”

“Aye!” replied Jack. “To Rhys.”

He looked up and nodded slowly. “Godspeed, my friend. And thank you. For everything. I promise to take good care of her.”

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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."
'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."

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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.
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."

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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.
Muir got up and followed them to the captain's cabin.
Briggs looked at the two as they walked down the companionway.
"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!"
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."
"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.
"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.

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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 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."

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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."
"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."
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?"

"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.

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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."
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."

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