tagNovels and NovellasThe Ravishing of Constance Ch. 08

The Ravishing of Constance Ch. 08


Lord Cuthburt's ship was the Ricarda, a stately vessel that proudly flew the British flag and held a crew of fifty stout men as well as a few women – a cook, maidservants, the captain's wife. Most were having a night ashore, leaving the shop moored at the docks.

In the cool darkness of the hour before sunrise, when the eastern horizon was touched with the faintest blush of rose, the deck was quiet. A sole watchman dozed by the mast, a lantern resting beside him.

Constance crept aboard, her heart hammering so that she was sure the noise of it would wake the sentry and indeed half the town. Every step caused her renewed pain as cloth scraped over the welts on her bottom. She had foregone her fancy gowns for the plainest and most sensible clothes in her wardrobe, pinned up her hair and covered it with a kerchief, and packed a small bag with other garments, jewelry, and what little money she possessed.

It had occurred to her that she might seek open passage from Lord Cuthburt. As a friend of her father's, he might have obliged. But then she shook her head at her own foolishness. She could not possibly tell him the entire circumstance of her wishing to leave Veradoga, and anything less would lead to him merely telling her she was being a silly and irresponsible girl.

Thus, she had to stow away. Over dinner, the genial lord had mentioned his plan to get an early start. She could only hope that her absence would go unnoticed until the Ricarda was well out to sea.

She stood on the deck with her bag in her arms, looking about and wondering where she could hide. She had never been on a ship before, not even to visit the nearest of the neighboring islands. Her father would not allow it. He held it as a certainty that she'd no sooner set foot on a ship than pirates would descend, seize her, and carry her off to sell to some harem in Madagascar when they had sated their lusts on her young body.

Little had he, or she, suspected that she'd find that fate lived out within the very walls of their home. What need was there of pirates when Robert was about? William deGranville had been so fixed on assuring that his daughter never shared her mother's fate, and look to what it had led.

Pirates, indeed. She'd sooner take her chances with pirates.

The very thought was enough to send a little thrill through her, one that she was ashamed to admit. She had been unhealthily fascinated ever since learning of Anna deGranville's time as a captive of the French pirate Philippe Merlion. The Black Falcon, the sailors called him, and to this day spoke of him in tones of fear and reverence.

What had it been like for her mother? Nearly two years had passed between the day her ship was taken and the day she was ransomed back to her frantic husband, all of this well before Constance was born. Two years in the hands of the Black Falcon.

Had he kept the blonde Englishwoman for his own use or given her to his savage crew? Constance preferred to think that Merlion had been so enchanted by her beauty that he'd claimed her as his own share of the prize. Would he have been gentle with her? Had her mother surrendered, and lain gasping her pleasure in the arms of the pirate? Had Anna grown to love her captor?

Many a night, she'd dreamed such things. She had envisioned herself as her mother, helpless to resist a dashing rogue with hair dark as the night and eyes like emeralds. He would be handsome, and clever, and buried beneath his cruel exterior would be a gentlemanly nature.

Those dreams had often stirred unknown longings in her loins. Even now, after Rob and Enrique, the ideas still held a power over her that made her go slightly breathless, and weak in the knees.

Constance knew the truth of it was likely far from her imaginings. Even the best-kept of sailors, like those on Lord Cuthburt's ship, were rough men with rough looks and rough manners.

She had to find a place to hide herself. Perhaps when the ship was well away from port, she could emerge and seek the aid of Lord Cuthburt. Perhaps he would take her to wherever her father might be rather than return her home.

The ship was grand and luxurious. Its aftcastle was a manor unto itself, with cabins and staterooms and servants' quarters. Constance explored quickly and quietly, mindful that someone else might be awake. She found a kitchen where Lord Cuthburt's meals were doubtless prepared, a pantry stocked with finer food than that in the sailors' galley below. At the rear of the pantry was a small storeroom. She made a little nest of a bed there, on empty sacks, and settled down to wait.

At some point, she slept. She would not have thought it possible, given the discomfort she was in, but her weariness and the remnants of whatever Rob had drugged her with soon outweighed the pain in her backside.

When she woke, the tiny room was rising and falling, dipping and swaying, in a manner that made Constance feel green with illness. She could hear the creak and groan of wood, the flap of canvas, the voices of men calling orders back and forth.

At sea! She was at sea, and away from Veradoga at last.

She'd had the foresight to bring water and a bit of food with her. She had, however, neglected to make any arrangements for private functions. That need became overwhelming.

Finally, knowing that if she did not find relief she'd soil herself, Constance inched the storeroom door open. She heard women in the kitchen, bustling about. One was scolding the other.

"—what you think you're to do, Daisy-me-girl. His Lordship won't let you stay on with your belly rising."

"I'll marry Walter, that's what I'll do," came the reply. It was a young girl's voice, Daisy, sounding no older than Constance herself.

"Walter, is it? So Walter's the one."

"Who else would it be?" Daisy retorted defensively.

"He, and you, should have known better. You know how His Lordship is about servant-girls and sailors. Frowns on it, he does."

"Uhh … I fear I'm to be sick again, Greta."

"Here's the basin."

There followed the sounds of retching, and Greta's unsympathetic clucking of the tongue.

"You'll have a sorry voyage, that you will. At least, God be praised, you can blame it on seasickness. I'll get you a bite of dry biscuit –"

The door to the pantry, ajar, now opened the rest of the way and a tiny woman came in. She was dressed almost as a man, in trousers that belled at the knee-length cuffs, and a white muslin shirt beneath a striped apron. She stopped short when she saw Constance, who had ducked back too slowly to avoid being discovered.

"Here, now!" she cried. She might have been tiny, no more than a bird, but she strode forward fearless as a lioness and confronted Constance. "Who are you, and what are you doing lurking about in there? Come here, girl."

Having nowhere else to go, Constance obeyed and emerged into the kitchen. "Please, madame cook, do not tell anyone I'm here."

"I'll be the one to decide about that." Greta looked her up and down. "Why … you're deGranville's daughter! His Lordship mentioned you'd grown up to be the very image of your mother. What's the meaning of this?"

"I have run away from home. To … to find my father," Constance said, swiftly embroidering a tale that was not too far from true. "My brother is seeking to arrange a marriage for me. I'd hoped to reach my father and plead my case before Rob's letter does."

"So you stowed away?" Greta harumphed. "Unwise and dangerous, if you ask me. The best thing to do would be to march straight up there and tell your tale to Lord Cuthburt."

"Oh, no, I couldn't. He wouldn't understand. He'd say I should return to Veradoga and await Father there."

Daisy, meanwhile, was watching with a look of curiosity. She was Constance's age and of like height and size, with the shade of hair called strawberry-blonde and a dusting of freckles on her peach-colored skin. At the moment, she did not look as pretty as she warranted, being sallow from nausea.

"And that is just what you should do," Greta said. "My land, your brother will be worried sick. Didn't he just fight a duel in your honor, too? He'll be frantic."

Word of that had gotten out, too? Duel, hah … Rob and Enrique had brawled like common hooligans, driven by their mad and insatiable desires for her. Rob had slashed Enrique with a knife and bloodied him, then driven him out of the house. His punishment for Constance, whose submission to Enrique he had not been willing to overlook, had been to lash her bottom until it burned, and then violate her in the only way he had not previously done. She was still sore from it.

If Lord Cuthburt insisted on returning her to Veradoga, and to Rob, she couldn't imagine how he might deal with her rebellion. She threw all of her wit and will into persuading Greta, and in the end, the cook relented.

"You'll sleep on Daisy's cot," Greta said, pointing to a narrow cot in a small afterthought of a room just off the kitchen. "Daisy will stay with me. That may serve to keep her from sneaking out a'nights to be with her Walter."

Daisy went a bright pink. She took a breath as if about to speak, then decided the better of it after a scowl from Greta.

It was settled. Constance moved her bag to the alcove with the cot.

For the first time in her life, she was on a ship, out at sea, and wanted to stand at the rail and feel the Caribbean breeze lifting her hair. She wanted to see the clear blue-green waters and the lush profusion of islands other than the one on which she'd always lived. She wanted to watch the sailors at work on the sails and lines, and hear their sea-shanties.

But once she'd enlisted the aid of Greta and Daisy, she knew that to be found out would be to get them in trouble as well.

So she did as she was told and stayed closeted, feeling like a prisoner in the small, windowless alcove. She spied through cracks in the door and walls when she could. On deck, where she had the tiniest slices of views of the sailors and the sea. Into the dining room where Lord Cuthburt took his meals with the captain, the captain's wife, and the ship's officers.

On her third night, she was wakened by a whisper. "Daisy … Daisy, love."

Constance was immediately and fully awake, her mind spinning. The tiny space was all in darkness. She could not see him, but she knew it must be Walter, Daisy's lover and the ship's first mate. She'd glimpsed them talking together, flirting as much as they dared under the stern eye of Greta.

He approached the bed and touched her hip. She jumped.

Walter chuckled. "Sorry, love. Did I startle you?"

She didn't answer. What to do? If she spoke, told him she wasn't Daisy, he would demand to know who she was and all would be undone.

"You haven't come to my cabin," he said. "Is it Greta?"

"Yes," Constance whispered, keeping her voice a toneless hiss. "She said I mustn't go to you."

"Jealous old crone," Walter said. "Does she not care that we're in love? I miss you, Daisy." His hand touched her hip again, stroked it.

Constance stiffened beneath the blanket. "You really must go. Suppose she hears you, and comes to look in on me?"

"She won't. I can hear her snoring from here." He lifted his hand away. Cloth rustled.

With her ears so attuned to the blackness that left her eyes blind, Constance suddenly knew that he was undressing. He meant to slide into the cot with her … with Daisy … and …

"Walter, no, we cannot."

And yet … even as she said it, there was a furtive sort of appeal to the idea of letting the scene play out. A curiosity. He was a handsome man, lean and well-made, with rich auburn hair and a charming smile.

To be taken by a virtual stranger, in the dark of the night … him mistaking her for someone else, calling her by his lover's name … it should have been abhorrent yet she found it intriguing. Perhaps Rob and Enrique had truly ruined her, that she would be allowing herself such thoughts. Perhaps the sensations they'd kindled in her had led her to need them, crave them. She had been several days without a man and was shocked by how much she missed being touched, being taken.

"Shh, Daisy, love." He lifted the blanket and slid under it. She was wearing only a loose chemise, and could feel the heat of his bare skin through the thin cloth. "We'll be ever so quiet."

Constance was torn. Her body was already responding to his nearness, and she knew what would happen if she told him the truth or called for Greta. Yet he was not only a man she'd never met but Daisy's man as well, and Daisy was her friend. In so much as she could be said to have a friend, in her secret stowaway life. Rather say that Daisy had been kind to her.

She was on her side, facing the wall. He crowded close along her back and reached around to cup a breast. Her nipple immediately grew taut in his palm. He kneaded gently, and nibbled at her ear. She could feel his erection pressing against her buttocks, which were still tender but no longer sore from Rob's beating.

Walter kissed her neck, licked her earlobe. It felt good despite her misgivings. She couldn't help murmuring and pushing her bottom toward his hardness. He took this as a sign of assent and raised her chemise to her waist that he might fondle her mound while he breathed words of devotion into her ear.

What if he realized the deception? But she could not tell him now, not when she'd allowed him into the bed and was giving him the run of her body. Best that he continue to believe her to be Daisy. They were alike in height, in build. He might never know.

His fingers found the moist furrow of her cunny. "You've been thinking about me, have you, love?"

"Yes," Constance said, bending her knee and raising her thigh so he could bring his hand more fully upon her.

He stroked diligently, and soon Constance was nearly melting. The very wickedness of it only made her enjoy it more. With some careful maneuvering, he brought his cock to the opening of her cunny while still spooned against her back. She tilted her hips to him.

"Ah, Daisy," he sighed as he eased his length into her moist passage. "Ah, there we are, love. Is that nice?"

"Very nice," Constance said. For it was, very nice indeed, and terribly naughty as well to feel him enter her while calling her by another woman's name.

He went slowly, holding her close. It occurred to her that he was, yes, making love to her. Not fucking, as Rob did, not playing a cruel game to abase her, but making a sweet and gentle love. Soon, he had her panting in quickening heat.

"Oh, Daisy," he said softly. "Yes, oh, my dearest, yes! Let it be now."

She spent in a rush both turbulent and subdued, a melting tremor that drew from her a low, muffled cry. Walter showered kisses on her neck and cheek and shoulder, still hard and buried within her.

"How delicious you are, Daisy, how dear to me!"

He waited until the storm of her climax had subsided before he began to move again, slowly, firmly.

"Mmm, Walter, that's lovely," Constance said, moving with him.

"Oh, yes … it'll be soon now, Daisy … soon …"

Walter gasped, then abruptly withdrew. She stifled a cry as she felt him leave her. The sudden emptiness was unbearable.

His hand seized hers and brought it around to the throbbing slippery stiffness. She held him, unsure what he wanted her to do … so she guided him into her cunny again.

"Huh – oh!" Walter cried. "Oh, Daisy … too late!"

His body strained against her. His cock spasmed, loosing its flood into her dark depths with several convulsive jerks. He trembled and let out a breath that was a shaky moan, and finally relaxed.

They lay like that, curled together, still joined, for a contented while. Then Walter asked, "Why did you do that? Why did you put it back in?"

"I wanted to feel you come in me," she said.

This seemed to surprise him, for he was silent so long that Constance was grimly sure she'd committed some terrible blunder. He'd know now that he wasn't with Daisy, and what recriminations might follow, she could only fearfully guess.

"But if I get you with child, we'll have to marry," he said at last.

It was Constance's turn to be surprised. Daisy was already with child, and surely Walter had to know that, because she had told Greta she meant to marry him. Or did he not know? Had Daisy not confided that news to him yet?

"I … I thought you wanted to marry me," she said.

"I do, but you told me it was too soon."

"Perhaps I've changed my mind." She rolled enough to brush her lips against his, and felt him smile.

"I hoped you would. You were so different tonight, Daisy, so … so wonderful. So passionate. I hoped it was for a reason like that."

Constance winced. "But now you really must go," she said. "Before we're found. It's best if we say nothing about this, not even to each other."

"Yes." He kissed her again, then disengaged from her and groped in the dark for his clothes.

Moments later, he was gone and Constance was alone in the narrow cot, unable to believe what had just happened. What she'd permitted, and what she had done. Daisy would be furious if ever she knew what had gone on this night, and Walter … what might he do?

She rose and washed herself, then climbed back into bed. Her sleep was full of soft-hued dreams of what had just gone on. Made love, she had been made love to for the first time. Not taken, not used, not made to succumb to foul desires.

All the next day her thoughts were consumed by it. This was perhaps how it was meant to be. Something pure and right … yet even as she thought that she would blush to recall how she had deceived him. Her pensiveness was remarked on by both Greta and Daisy, and Constance could barely meet the latter's eyes for fear she would give herself away.

And what of Walter? What if he, in one of his murmured conversations with Daisy, happened to mention the previous night? Daisy would know. What would she do upon learning that her lover had bedded Constance by her name?

Her mind was busy with these questions even after she had finally retired again to bed. Then new questions joined in. Would he return tonight? Would he make love with her again? The very possibility left her breathless and aroused. Sleep eluded her, so busily did her ears strain for the stealthy click of the latch or the rasp of the hinges.

At last, she was rewarded by the very sounds she'd been waiting to hear. She did not play at sleep this time.

"Who's there?" she whispered coyly. "Greta?"

"Only me, my little dumpling."

The voice was one she knew, and she was so astounded that she could not formulate a reply.

"Where are you, my pet? I cannot see a blasted thing in here. I should have brought a candle, but it'd be the end of us if that nosy cow Greta were to find us out."

His shins bumped the cot. Constance scrambled to a sitting position. Her jaw was hanging agape.

Lord Cuthburt and Daisy?

And it was suddenly clear to her that the babe in Daisy's belly was not Walter's after all. He had been so careful not to plant his seed and give their affair away, while she had been rutting behind his back with none other than their own lord and employer.

And now Lord Cuthburt was mistaking her for Daisy as well!

What was she to do? Surely she couldn't … not with Lord Cuthburt, who had been a friend of the deGranvilles for as long as Constance could remember. He'd brought presents for her and Rob, given them candies, patted them on the head. She never would have imagined that he'd be visiting the bed of a girl young enough to be his daughter.

He reached out in the darkness and touched her shoulder. Constance was too late to squirm away.

"Aha, there she is," he chortled. "Now, I've got a pretty bauble for my favorite lady. Would you like it?"

"Lord Cuthburt –"

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