An Undeniable Passion Ch. 12byopels©
With a heavy sigh Drake lowered the spyglass, staring out across the ocean. The coastline wasn't visible to the naked eye, at least not yet. But within the hour it would be and soon they would be docking in Williamsburg and she would be gone. He was surprised at the emotions that flooded through him as he thought of it. Of course he had always known that eventually they would reach America and she would leave the ship but now the reality of it was here and he felt as though he had been punched in the stomach.
"Thank you," he muttered to the crew member, returning the spyglass to him. Taking a deep, steadying breath he walked across the wooden planks to the hatch leading below deck, leading him to her for the last few hours they had left.
Entering the cabin, he stood by the bed for a few moments watching her sleep. What had this woman done to him? He had had women before, women who had claimed to have loved him, women who had tried desperately to get him to marry them, but he had never loved them back. In fact, he had begun to wonder if he was capable of love, blaming the coldness in his heart on being abandoned as an infant. But now, he was beginning to believe that he could love someone. But would she love him back?
Virginia's eyes fluttered open and she saw Drake standing by the bed with a look of wonder and amazement on his face. However, his eyes held a sadness. "Good morning," she whispered.
Her words snapped him out of his trance and he smiled at her. "Good morning," he answered.
"What's wrong?" she asked, wondering about the look that had been in his eyes.
"Nothing's wrong. We've spotted land. We're close to America and should be docking later today," he said quietly.
"Today?" she exclaimed, sitting up.
He gazed at her and felt something hurting deep inside him. She was so breathtakingly lovely. Her eyes were wide with the excitement of the news, her hair in wild disarray, the fiery curls trailing everywhere it seemed, and as she hadn't bothered to pull up the blankets, he could see a pink nipple winking at him through the coppery strands.
Impulsively he pulled her to him. "I'm going to miss you," he whispered.
"What do you mean?" she asked, a sudden fear creeping through her.
"Well, during the unloading and loading of the ship, I'll be extremely busy and then I'll be gone. I won't really have a chance to see you after you disembark," he explained.
"You're leaving right away?" she asked with alarm.
"Well, yes, but it's-" he started to explain but she cut him off.
"You're just going to leave me here? All alone? Just like that?" she almost shouted at him. "You're just going to dump me off on the dock and sail away without a backward glance or a second thought! And to think I was actually beginning to believe that you cared for me. You've used me this entire time, haven't you? Used me to satisfy your sick carnal cravings. You really are horrid! I'm glad we'll be docking soon, so that I never have to lay eyes on you again!" She burst into tears and collapsed onto the bed.
"V, please..." he said gently, touching her trembling shoulder.
"Don't touch me and don't call me that!" She shouted at him. "Just leave me alone!"
He knew he couldn't reason with her so he left her alone to cool off. He would try again later. He dejectedly climbed back up on deck and from the looks he received from some of the crew he knew they had heard her accusations.
He went back down to their cabin a few hours later to find her packing her bag. "We'll be docking soon and I was wondering if we could talk about this."
"There's nothing to talk about. You'll be rid of me soon enough and then you can start work on your next conquest." She didn't look at him, but continued gathering her few belongings together, checking to make sure she hadn't lost any of the jewelry or money she had brought with her.
"V, I told you weeks ago that I can't marry you. I'm sorry if you thought I had changed my mind, but I haven't. And I had assumed you would know that I have to go back to Liverpool. That's my home." He was trying to explain, trying to make her realize that her accusations were wrong, but he could tell she wasn't listening to him. "V, please listen to me."
Seeing that she had all her belongings, she picked up her bag. Brushing past him she said, "Don't call me that." And without a backward glance she went upstairs to wait on the deck. She was eager to see her new home and to get off this boat.
Drake sat down in the his chair, racking his brain, trying to think of a way to convince her that he loved her. Yes, damn it, he finally admitted to himself, he loved her. But if he just came out and told her she wouldn't believe him. But if he didn't do something quickly he was going to lose her forever. A thought struck him and he quickly ran up to the deck and located Simpson. "Simpson, do you know if any of the men would be interested in staying in America. I want someone reliable and trustworthy to keep an eye on Virginia for me."
Simpson thought for a moment and said, "Yes, actually Forrester had mentioned something about it."
"Perfect. Where can I find him?"
"He'll be down in the hold, sir, preparing the cargo for off loading."
Without another word Drake raced for the hold. With the shore fast approaching he didn't have much time.
Dropping down into the gloom of the hold, he quickly located Forrester and outlined his plan. The young man eagerly agreed. He offered to help him get set up but first and foremost he had to leave the ship with Virginia and find out where she went and report back before they set sail for England in a couple of weeks. During that time, he had to locate a bank and set up an account for Forrester. He was going to be very busy. He sent the sailor off to collect his belongings.
A few minutes later Forrester joined Virginia at the railing of the ship. His blonde hair shone in the bright sunshine and his blue eyes sparkled with excitement. "Oh, miss, I'm so excited! Aren't you excited? A whole new beginning, a whole new life just waiting out there!"
Virginia looked at the young crew member. He wasn't very tall, just a bit more than she and she guessed he was in his early twenties. Noticing the large duffel bag he carried with him, she inquired, "You're staying behind Forrester? You're not sailing back to England?"
"Oh no, miss. I was just working my way across."
You and me both, she thought grimly.
"I don't know if you know anybody over here, miss, but I certainly don't and I was wondering if you'd mind sticking together for a bit." He began to blush and stumbled on quickly "I was just thinking it's always nice to have a friend around in a strange place. And no offence miss, but you being a lady and all, it might be helpful to have a man, such as I am, to travel with."
The young man did seem sincere, although given her recent experiences she remained suspicious of him. He did, however, present some good points. Who knew what awaited her out there? If she kept her wits about her and didn't fall for any dreamy eyed stares or flattery she would be fine. "All right, Forrester. We'll venture out into this new land together." She held her hand out for him to shake which he did eagerly.
"Capital, miss, just capital!"
"And Forrester, please, call me Virginia."
"Are you sure, miss? I don't want to seem too familiar."
"It's fine, really."
"Alright...Virginia," he said, blushing again.
Virginia turned her attention back to the shoreline as they navigated into the busy harbor. She didn't notice Forrester turn to Drake, who stood watching them, and give him a quick nod.
Drake breathed a sigh of relief knowing that at least she wouldn't be alone and that he wouldn't lose track of her.
When the ship docked at Williamsburg, he wondered if he should speak to her one last time. As the gangplank was being set in place she was the first in line to get off the ship. She turned briefly and looked at him, but he couldn't read her expression. He tried to smile but she just turned and walked off.
As Virginia walked down the gangplank and into the frantically busy harbor, it took all of her resolve not to burst into tears and rush back to Drake. She was dreading having to start again in this strange place. She should have stayed in Liverpool, she thought to herself. At least there, she knew what she was in for. But Forrester's irrepressible excitement was contagious and she soon found her dark cloud lifting.
They found a number of carriages for hire at the dock and she asked one to take them to a reasonable hotel. The one they were taken to was right in the middle of town and it seemed comfortable enough. For the sake of propriety, they took separate rooms on separate floors and once they were each settled, they met in the dining room for something to eat and set out a plan for what they were going to do now that they were here.
"I don't really know miss...um...Virginia...I haven't really given it much thought."
"It was your plan to come here, you made arrangements with Mr. Stratford to work your passage, yet you hadn't given any thought to what you would do once you arrived?"
"I guess I figured something would just come up." Forrester wasn't used to having to come up with lies and stories right off the top of his head and he felt bad lying to Miss Templeton, she seemed so nice, and so sad too for some reason, he thought to himself. He knew she'd had a row with the Captain several hours before they docked. The whole crew could hear her shouting at him. She sure was angry at him about something. He himself hadn't had much experience with women so he just tried to be as polite and respectful as he could and that usually kept him out of trouble.
"Well...uh...Virginia, I know a bit about farming. We could try that. Do you know anything about it?"
"No, Forrester. All is know how to do is be a lady. I've lived in the city my whole life, in a house, with servants. I don't know how to do anything. But if you show me, I'm sure I can learn. We can give it a try." She was trying to sound optimistic but quite frankly she didn't hold out much hope of them making a go of it.
That night as Virginia lay in bed she found sleep to be elusive. She was surprised to find that she missed the gentle rocking of the ship and the still bed would take some getting used to again. She hated to admit it but she also missed Drake. She missed laying in bed watching him work at his large table, plotting out their course and keeping them on track. She remembered the way the muscles in his legs moved as he walked around the table. They way his breeches hugged his thighs and how his shirt stretched across his back. She also missed sharing his large bed with him. She allowed herself a small smile as she recalled her initial horror at having to do so.
She shifted uncomfortably as other memories drifted into her mind. The night of his unsuccessful seduction and then the night that she had finally seduced him. The hours they had spent in bed together, making love and the times they had snuck up on deck and enjoyed the moonlight. The night of her birthday party...had they danced about the deck only last night? It seemed an eternity. A tear slipped down her cheek and she swiped at it angrily. He was not worth her tears. She would put him out of her mind and get on with her life. She rolled over again and eventually drifted off into an uneasy sleep.
After a couple of days of familiarizing themselves with Williamsburg and the surrounding farming options, Forrester had finally come up with a reasonable and mostly true reason for going back to the ship so that he could report to Drake. He'd written his mother a letter telling her that he was staying in America. He was going to give it to Drake to take back to England. And since he doubted that Virginia would want to see him, he didn't have to worry about her coming along.
"Miss...um...Virginia, I've written a letter to me mum that I was hoping Cap'in Stratford would take back to England for me. Do you have any letters you'd like to send? If so, I can take them with me."
Virginia thought she should write to Violet and let her know that she had arrived safely. She would love the twist in the tale that Drake Stratford turned out to be the captain of the ship. However, she was afraid that he would read the letter and maybe not deliver it. "I think I'll write a letter later and take it to one of the other ships. Thank you for asking though."
"I can take your letter to another ship if you like. It's no bother."
"Are you sure, Forrester?"
"Yes miss. Um, I mean, Virginia." He stopped, momentarily flustered, and a blush rose on his cheeks. He was having a hard time keeping his stories straight and remembering what lies he had told and what truths, and now he had the added burden of remembering to call her Virginia. He was used to using his muscles, not his brains. "I just don't think the harbor is a particularly safe place for a lady by herself, no matter what the time of day. But I'm used to harbors and sailors, so if you have a letter I can take it with me."
"All right, if you can wait a few minutes." She sat down and tried to tell Violet the whole story of being caught stealing food, and discovering that Drake Stratford was the captain and how he had tricked and used her and now she was stuck in this strange town where everything was different. She was certain that the letter was going to make even Violet's hair curl when she read it. She also asked to let her know what was happening in regards to her disappearance especially where Charles was concerned. She folded the letter and put it in an envelope which she addressed to Violet.
"Here you go Forrester. I do appreciate you doing this for me."
"Not a problem...Virginia." He left the hotel and headed for the harbor where Drake was anxiously awaiting him.
"She hardly mentions you Cap'in. I can see that she's not happy and I think she wishes she was back home in England. She has this letter that she wants to send. I told her that I would send it on another ship and not give it to you. I don't think she trusts you to not read it, sir."
Drake took the letter from him and recognized the name of Virginia's flirtatious friend. Thankfully there wasn't a letter to Charles. He would find Violet and deliver the letter personally. Maybe he could find out a little more about Virginia, if Violet was willing to talk.
"So, Forrester, what are her plans?"
"Well, sir, I told her that I know quite a bit about farming, which I do, and we're thinking of trying that. She said that all she knows how to do is be a lady, but that she would try her hand at it."
He looked sharply at the young man. "You said 'we'. You're going to do this together?"
"Yes sir. Is that alright?" Forrester asked worriedly.
"That's more than alright. I'm glad she has a good man around her," he replied with a relieved smile.
"Oh, but Cap'in, all the lies are getting mixed up with the truth and I'm having trouble already keeping my stories straight. I just know I'm going to make a mistake, and she's so smart she's sure to see it. Then what do I do?"
"Blame it all on me, she already hates me," he said with a sad smile.
"Oh." Forrester didn't know what else to say. "Well, I guess I should be going sir. I don't want her to get suspicious if I'm gone too long."
"Thank you for letting me know how things are going. I appreciate it. There's an account set up in your name at the bank in town. I think there should be enough for you to get settled."
"Oh, thank you, sir."
"Well, good luck to you both. And before you go, you should find the name of a ship in the harbor that is sailing in the next couple of days to England in case she asks which one her letter is on."
"Good idea, sir. I wouldn't have thought of that."
Oh, this lying is a tricky business, he thought to himself and he scanned the ships in the harbor.
Virginia and Forrester were at the court house checking the availability of land that they could buy. This was the third time they had been to check and Virginia was beginning to lose hope that they would find anything. They didn't have much money but she had her diamond ring which she was sure she could get enough money for. She just had to find a place to sell it. As they were checking the notices a clerk came up and placed a new one on the board. 150 acres for $400. There was a map indicating that the lot was on the James River in Charles City County bordered by other farms. Virginia wasn't sure how much $400 was, as she was used to pounds but she thought 150 acres was a good size.
"What do you think, Forrester? Is 150 acres a good size to start with?"
"I don't know Ginny, it's not much. But I guess to start with, while you're learning, it's good." They had finally agreed that he would call her Ginny. Virginia seemed too formal and she had missed being called by her nickname.
She asked the man posting the sign how to get in touch with the seller.
The man nodded his head towards another, "He's right over there miss."
"Maybe you should talk to him," she whispered to Forrester.
He nodded. "Alright."
As they approached him, she didn't think the chances of trading her ring for the land were very good. He was old and looked worn out. His hair was long and thin and he hadn't shaved in days. The lines were deeply etched on his face and his clothes were patched and dirty. He didn't look like the type who could use fancy jewelry. What have I got to lose she thought.
"Hello, sir. I understand you're selling 150 acres," Forrester said brightly.
The man looked them both up and down. "Yep."
"Well, we were wondering if you would be willing to trade for the land."
"Who'er you?" he asked.
"Well, I am William Forrester and this is Miss Virginia Templeton. And you are?"
"Pleased to meet you Mr. Green," Forrester replied, holding out his hand for the man to shake.
Ignoring his extended hand, Otis asked suspiciously, "What'er ya got?"
"A six carat diamond ring," Virginia replied.
"Now, what would I want wi' dat?" he scoffed. He appeared to be uninterested, but the look in his eye told her otherwise.
"Well, you could sell it, or give it to someone...," Virginia said.
He began to chuckle. "Give it t'someone! Now, dat's a good'un!" He continued to chuckle.
"Well, then, I guess, just sell it," she replied tersely.
He stopped laughing and looked at them again. "Lemme see it"
"Oh, I don't have it with me," Virginia said.
"Well, I ain't gonna sell my land fer a diamond wi'out seein' it first. It could jist be a piece o' glass. Where is it?" he asked.
"It's in a box at the bank. Why don't we go there and you can look at it," Virginia suggested.
"But I ain't gonna know a real diamond from a fake," he said.
Virginia asked, "Is there an appraiser in town, or someone else who would know?"
He thought for a moment and then said, "Well, I guess ol' Freddy could take a look-see at it. I'd trust his word."
"We'd like to see the land first as well," Forrester said.
"Why don't we go an' have a look then? Ya got horses?" he asked skeptically.
"No, we'll take a carriage and meet you there," Virginia said.
Twenty minutes later they were standing outside a large, old, run down house next to a barn that was in only slightly better condition. Behind the house were the stables and they mirrored the condition of the other two buildings. Virginia's heart sank. Forrester ignored the buildings and headed straight for the fields. Virginia followed him as he knelt down and dug his hands into the soil.
"Oh, it's good Ginny," he said, rolling the black dirt around in his hands. He looked up at her with a big smile and repeated, "It's very good."
While Virginia waited with the carriage, Otis gave Forrester a tour of the farm, showing him where everything was. When they returned he took Virginia aside. "This would be a good place to start," he said happily. "We can fix up the house and the barn. Then, if we have to, we can build a nicer house later." Looking around he said, "Yes, it could be just grand."