The Ravishing of Constance Ch. 10bySabledrake©
Walter had closed the door to Daisy's room, and the sounds of his voice raised in accusation and hers in tearful protest could still plainly be heard. Bosun Guthrie, with his shirt in his hands, slunk past and up the stairs. He earned many a sly look from the other sailors as he went, and more than a few socked him on the upper arm as if in congratulations. A few, though, regarded him as one might regard a man whose warrant of execution had just been signed and delivered.
"I'm frightfully sorry, Lord Cuthburt," Constance said. "I know it was a foolish thing to do, but I had to leave Veradoga. My brother was trying to arrange a marriage for me against my will."
"But to stow away on a ship! My word!" He bustled toward her, all paternal concern. She found it hard to reconcile this fussy, benign man with the one who'd wanted to play that he was molesting his niece. "This will not do, my dear, this will not do at all."
"Please, Lord Cuthburt, do not take me back to Veradoga." "What I meant was that it won't do at all to have you staying in the ship's galley. Especially with these sorts of goings-on." He turned to the officer o' the watch, and the bleary-eyed captain who was now beside him. "I'm quite surprised at Mr. Smythe, Mr. Guthrie, and Miss Fitzworth, Captain Whittington."
"Yes, sir," the captain said.
"See to it that you get to the bottom of this. In the meanwhile, Miss deGranville is going to need more suitable accommodations."
So it was that, in a flurry and bustle of activity, Constance found herself in the cabin of the ship's navigator, while he in turn moved into the bosun's quarters and the bosun, disciplined, was relegated to a hammock among the rest of the crew. Captain Whittington's wife, Lisabeth, took charge of her.
The next morning, after a restful sleep, Constance was properly bathed courtesy of the captain's own clawfoot tub, and attired in a simple dress of dark blue that Lisabeth Whittington had been about to discard for being too small. The captain's wife was a large and statuesque woman, more solidly built than was fashionable. But she had a genial disposition and treated Constance like a high-ranking passenger and not a stowaway who'd fled her own family. The dress was loose on Constance even laced as tight as could be, and the hem bunched around her feet, but she welcomed it.
She paid close attention to the gossip of the crew over the next two days. No mention ever reached her ears of her own presence in Daisy's room for the first several nights of her time aboard the Ricarda.
Walter had broken his engagement with Daisy, and her tearful plea of being with child fell on an unforgiving heart – how, he asked, was he to know that the babe was his? He had always been careful, at her insistence, not to spend inside her. While as had been blatantly clear to the witnesses, Bosun Guthrie had not been so careful.
Lord Cuthburt never spoke up as regards that matter. He never made the slightest sign of impropriety toward Constance. She did not think that he could present such a blameless façade if he had known what had truly taken place that night when he believed himself to be paying a visit to Daisy.
As for Greta, it became the chief topic of conversation when she and the officer o' the watch were caught embracing in the kitchen one evening.
Constance could not approach Walter. She dined with Lord Cuthburt, the captain, and the officers at supper, and it was almost a sort of torture to sit across the table from him, making polite conversation, while the memory of their encounters burned in her mind. She felt sorry a time or two for Daisy, but always reminded herself that Daisy had been the one to play Walter false. What was most interesting was that Walter and Bosun Guthrie never came to duels, or blows, or even harsh words after that initial confrontation. Many of the crew supposed that it was because both had received a severe lecture from Captain Whittington and were under orders to let the matter drop … but more and more it began to seem to Constance that the entire affair had been orchestrated. That Walter had given Daisy back some of her own by putting Guthrie up to it, thereby also giving him convenient reason to rescind his offer of marriage.
As for Daisy, it was perhaps no great surprise that she left the Ricarda at the next port of call. Lord Cuthburt was on good terms with the governor of this island as well and was able to secure her a spot on the household staff. A noble gesture, many said.
The governor had seen Constance's father not long in the past. He offered to take her in as a guest to await his return, but as Lord Cuthburt had no objections, Constance chose to stay on with the Ricarda in hopes of catching up with her father. She was frankly afraid that word would get back to Rob and he would come find her first.
They set sail again after three days. Constance had accepted when Lord Cuthburt insisted on sending her shopping with Lisabeth Whittington, that she might have a trunk full of clothes more fitting to her station. He did not want to deliver her to her father in a cast-off dress, perish the thought.
She relished finally being able to go openly on the deck. The sea air was as refreshing as she had hoped it would be, the panorama of the vivid blue Caribbean waters and the lush profusion of islands as dazzling to the eye. The sailors were unfailingly polite and answered her many questions about the ship and their travels, and when the sea-shanties were sung, she quickly learned the songs and joined in.
Her worst hardship was seeing Walter all through the day, dining with him, and then returning alone to her empty bed. Time and again, she resorted to pleasuring herself with her hands while thinking of him, wishing he were there with her.
While those sessions never failed to bring her to climax, she was always left feeling unfulfilled. It wasn't enough. She needed a man, wanted a man, craved one with every nerve and fiber of her being.
And then, when they were four days out of port and passing through a stretch of uninhabited islands, the lookout sighted a ship on the horizon.
A ship flying the flag of the Black Falcon.
Continued in Chapter Eleven