Read A Pirate's Love Online

Authors: Johanna Lindsey

A Pirate's Love

Johanna Lindsey

A Pirate's Love

Contents

1.­
Bettina Verlaine was more than apprehensive when she entered the…

2.­
Early in the evening, Jossel Verlaine came to Bettina's bedroom…

3.­
“Wake up. Wake up, Bettina.”

4.­
After a week at sea, Bettina missed the luxury of…

5.­
The Windsong was making rapid headway into warmer waters, but…

6.­
“Cap'n! The wench I told ye 'bout, she's got to…

7.­
“So, Tristan, what have you decided to do with the…

8.­
What Tristan witnessed when he staggered from his cabin brought…

9.­
Bettina's eyes fluttered open slowly, then widened to enormous dimensions…

10.­
Bettina awoke suddenly. She had been dreaming about Tristan, and…

11.­
It was a decidedly long day, or so it seemed…

12.­
Bettina lay on the narrow bed, silently counting the minutes…

13.­
The night was clear, and a full moon shone above…

14.­
A soft, gentle pressure on her lips awoke Bettina from…

15.­
“I took the old one into the hold.”

16.­
The morning was well under way, and Tristan tried to…

17.­
Bettina had spent eleven days aboard the Spirited Lady, and…

18.­
The water was pleasantly warm, and Bettina lazily watched the…

19.­
Bettina asked Tristan if she could walk on the grounds…

20.­
Pale moonlight touched the rug by the window and filled…

21.­
“I'd take you ashore myself, Mademoiselle Verlaine, but picking you…

22.­
Thousands of stars were like flickering candles against a velvet…

23.­
“Bettina, you are even more beautiful than I remembered,” Pierre…

24.­
Try as she might, Bettina couldn't sleep. The disgusting scene…

25.­
Sometime in the middle of the night, Bettina slowly drifted…

26.­
They had sailed beyond the storm, and the morning sun…

27.­
Bettina marched fretfully back and forth across the cabin, with…

28
Bettina awoke to a beautiful morning, with the sun streaming…

29.­
Bettina had tossed and turned fretfully most of the night,…

30.­
The tavern was small, and the many tables crowded closely…

31.­
The house was pleasantly cool throughout the morning, and only…

32.­
“Are you here with me, Tristan, or is your mind…

33.­
After a long two and a half months of absence,…

34.­
Summer came, bringing with it a glorious new burst of…

35.­
Bettina spent the rest of the morning and most of…

36.­
The wings of time seemed to be clipped, for a…

37.­
Tristan helped Bettina from her chair at the table and…

38.­
Jossel and Ryan O'Casey's wedding day was blessed with the…

39.­
Bettina awoke with a start, calling Tristan's name with torment…

40.­
It was well into the month of August, the time…

41.­
Bettina carefully controlled her emotions when she said good-bye to…

42
Bettina was a prisoner in Don Miguel's small house. It…

43.­
After questioning countless Spanish-speaking Santo Domingans, Tristan finally came across…

44.­
They didn't reach home until the end of October, for…

B
ettina Verlaine was more than apprehensive when she entered the sun-filled drawing room that morning and stood before her mother and father. It wasn't often that André Verlaine summoned her so early, and never before had he warned her to be present a day ahead. She knew that he must have something very important to tell her, something that would affect her life. She'd had the whole night to worry about it, but deep inside of her she knew what it would be. She was nineteen and marriageable.

She had expected to be married off three years ago, when she had come home from the convent school. Most girls from wealthy families were betrothed when they were only children, and married at the young age of fourteen or fifteen, as Bettina's mother had been. Many suitors had come to call on Bettina's father, though she had not been allowed to see them. But her father would consider none of the young men who sought her, for none was rich enough to suit him.

Bettina was sure that her future had now been decided. Soon she would be told the name of the man she would marry.

André Verlaine was seated at his desk and hadn't bothered to look up when Bettina entered the room. Could her father be deliberately putting off the task of telling her his decision? Perhaps he was feeling a trifle guilty about it now. But then, how could he? He was the same man who had sent her to the convent, saying she had become too troublesome to handle. She had spent most of her nineteen years away from home, and now she would be sent away again, forever.

Jossel Verlaine looked at her daughter anxiously. She had tried desperately to dissuade André from choosing Bettina's husband and thought she had succeeded until last night, when André had offhandedly informed her of his decision. Bettina wasn't like most girls; she was too spirited and too beautiful to be just given away. She might have chosen a good husband for herself, if only André had been reasonable. But no, André had to find a wealthy and titled husband for his daughter, and didn't care if Bettina found him repulsive or not.

Jossel sat before the open doors that led onto the terrace, as she did every morning, but today she hadn't been able to take one stitch in the tapestry before her. She couldn't stop thinking of the fate that awaited her daughter.

“Well, Bettina, this will not take long,” André Verlaine finally said brusquely.

But he didn't alarm Bettina. Her father was never one to show tenderness or love for her, or for her mother, either. He treated them both as he treated the servants. André Verlaine was a cold man, obsessed only with increasing his wealth. And this consumed nearly all his time and thoughts, leaving little for his family.

“Why don't you sit down,
ma chérie
,” Jossel said tenderly, before her husband had a chance to continue.

Bettina knew that her mother loved her. But she refused to sit, not wanting to appear relaxed and make it easier for her father. Bettina was feeling rebellious, and knew she had no right to be, for this was the way of things in the year 1667. It had been the same for centuries, and would probably never change. She just wished that her mother had not talked so much about falling in love and choosing her own husband.

Mariage de convenance
was what daughters were for, at least daughters of wealthy parents. Besides, no eligible men lived in their small hometown of Argentan, only peasants and petty tradesmen. If Bettina had chanced to fall in love, her father would never have consented, and she had been kept isolated from young men of her own class.

“I have arranged for your marriage to Comte Pierre de Lambert,” André continued. “It will take place soon after the beginning of the new year.”

Bettina flashed her dark-green eyes at him angrily, one last show of defiance to let him know what she thought about his crude announcement; then she bowed her head meekly as a good, obedient daughter was expected to do.

“Yes, Papa,” Bettina said quietly, amazed at her own self-control.

“You will leave in a month. This will not give you much time to make your trousseau, so I will hire dressmakers to help you. Comte de Lambert resides on Saint Martin, an island in the Caribbean, so you will travel by ship. Unfortunately, it will be a long and tedious voyage. Madeleine, your old nurse, will
go with you as chaperone and companion.”

“Why must I go so far away?” Bettina exploded. “Surely there must be someone here in France I could marry.”

“By the Blessed Virgin!” André shouted, his otherwise milky complexion turning quite red. He stood up and glared at his wife. “I sent her to that convent to learn obedience! But all those years were wasted, I can see. She still questions my authority.”

“If you would only take her wishes into consideration, André. Is that too much to ask?” Jossel ventured.

“Her wishes are of no concern,
madame
,” said André. “And I will not stand for any more of your opposition. The betrothal has been arranged and cannot be undone. Bettina will marry Comte Pierre de Lambert. I pray God he can curb her defiance where I have failed!”

Bettina bristled. Did her father always have to talk as if she were not even present, as if she were of no consequence at all? She loved her father, but sometimes—in fact, most times—he made her so mad she could scream.

“May I be excused now, Papa?” she asked.

“Yes, yes,” he replied irritably. “You have been told all that you need to know.”

Bettina hurried from the drawing room, wanting to laugh, for what had she actually been told? She knew the man's name, where he lived, and that she would marry him after the new year arrived, that was all. Well, at least her father hadn't married her off fresh out of the convent. No, it had taken him three years to find her a husband, a man who could make it possible for him to increase his own wealth.

Bettina was full of conflicting emotions as she
quickly ran up the stairs. She was angry with her father for sending her to a man who lived so far away. She would be in a new land, a land of strangers, and this terrified her. She wasn't really angry with him for arranging the marriage, for she had expected no less, and she was relieved in a way that it was finally done. She felt deep sorrow that she would be leaving her mother. But to counteract these feelings was a kind of joy—joy that she would not be completely alone on this journey. Madeleine would be with her, dear Maddy, whom she loved as much as she loved her mother.

Before going to her own room, Bettina stopped at the door next to hers and rapped softly. At the sound of Madeleine's voice, Bettina walked into the room, only a little smaller than her own. She crossed to the window where Madeleine was sitting, and took the chair beside her.

When Bettina didn't speak, but just stared pensively down at the empty street in front of the house, Madeleine smiled and set aside her needlework.

“Your papa told you, eh?” she asked softly.

Bettina turned slowly to the woman who had cared for her when she was a child, who had cared for her mother too, from the day she was born. Madeleine was fifty-five, slightly plump now, but still agile. Her brown hair was half-streaked with gray, a silvery gray that matched her gentle eyes.

“So you knew,” Bettina said passively. “Why didn't you warn me, Maddy?”

“You also knew, my pet. You have expected this for three years.”

“Yes, but I didn't know I would be sent across the ocean. I don't want to leave France,” Bettina
said, her anger coming to the surface again. “I will run away!”

“You will do no such thing, young lady!” Madeleine scolded, shaking a pudgy finger at her. “You will accept this and make the best of it, just as you finally accepted being sent away to school. You should be glad that you will have a fine husband. He will give you many children, and, God willing, I will be there to see them grow.

Bettina smiled and leaned back in the chair. Madeleine was right. She would accept this marriage, for there was nothing else she could do. She was past the age of throwing tantrums to get what she wanted. The sisters had taught her to make the best of things.

Bettina had been a cheerful child until she began to wonder why her father didn't love her. This weighed heavily on her young mind, and she tried desperately to gain her father's love and approval. When she didn't succeed and he still ignored her, she began to be troublesome, just to gain his attention. It wasn't enough that she was showered with love by her mother and Madeleine. She had to have her father's love, too. At her young age, she couldn't understand why her father disliked her; she didn't know that he had wanted a son. And a daughter was all he would ever have, for Jossel couldn't have any more children.

So Bettina developed a temper. She began to throw tantrums, to be defiant and disrespectful. She hated her father when he sent her away to school, and continued with her troublesome ways at the convent. But after a few years she learned to accept her fate.

She realized that it was her own fault that she had been sent away. The sisters taught her to control her
temper. They taught her obedience and patience. When she came home, she no longer resented her father.

Nothing had changed. Her father was still a stranger to her, but Bettina accepted this, too. She stopped feeling sorry for herself and gave up trying to win his approval. She had her mother's love, and she had Maddy. She learned to be grateful for what she did have.

But sometimes Bettina couldn't help wondering how different she could have been if her father had been a loving man. She might not have developed the maddening temper that she had to fight to control. But what did it matter? Only her father could drive her into a rage, and she would be leaving that cold, insensitive man very soon.