Authors: Margaret Bennett
Tags: #Nov. Rom
a dozen yards away from them, called out to his comrades, and Melvyrn felt Rosalind’s arms try to break his hold on her. He wrapped his legs around hers and closed his lips over hers before she could protest. He didn’t give her a chance to struggle but tightened his hold and, only half closing his eyes, deepened his kiss, thrusting his tongue through her parted lips. She pushed against him, but when the soldier came up to the bush and thrust his bayonet into the bushes, she froze, her eyes as large as saucers.
Melvyrn knew any movement might give them away. He held her tight, kissing her, even when
he felt the bayonet graze the heel of his boot. After a half dozen jabs, the soldier moved on to the next bush, and Melvyrn loosened his hold but continued to kiss Rosalind, to taste her. Closing his eyes, he breathed in her clean lemony scent and slid his hands up and down her back, reveling in the feel of her tiny waist, her slender hips. When he felt her arms encircle his torso, he let his senses savor the feel of the female in his arms. One hand slowly untied and removed the muffler, unbuttoned her coat, then slid his hand into her muslin shirt. He felt cloth binding her breasts and, frustrated, began to tug on it. She began to struggle, but hungry as he was for her, he couldn’t stop himself and pulled more instantly to loosen the muslin strips. Her struggles increased, yet he didn’t stop, couldn’t stop--
Until her fist with a rock in it
hit him soundly in the jaw!
“Are you crazy?” he hissed as he
jerked back and saw her fear--but not the kind of fear she’d had for the soldiers--and anger in her huge slate blue eyes. Taking a ragged breath, he reluctantly unwinded his limbs from her body and rested his head against the rock. Watching her adjust her shirt and button her coat, he mentally admonished himself for acting like a callous youth, completely forgetting about all else but the need to possess this beautiful woman. He looked down at her and saw confusion in her countenance. Oddly, he was gratified that she’d been as affected as he had by their kiss. Still, he acknowledged that if he didn’t put some distance between them, he was sorely tempted to resume his lovemaking.
Pushing some branches aside, he saw that the soldiers were
far down the beach, nearly out of sight. The sun was close to the horizon, and darkness would be upon them in minutes.
“I’d better find some food,” he said, trying for
a note of normalcy.
Could we buy some?” she said, sounding eager. “There is the cafe in the village.”
They had not eaten anything except a piece of bread each the farmer had given Melvyrn. He was hungry and knew she must be, too.
“Too risky. The soldiers will question anyone who looks like a stranger.” He was quite for a moment. “I noticed some of the gardens have started to ripen. Once it’s dark, I’ll pick some vegetables.”
“I’ll go with you.”
. . . you may need me.”
the note of panic in her voice and tried to explain. “The soldiers are looking for travelers. I’ll be less conspicuous by myself.” He took her hand. “You’re safer here where you’re well hidden. Besides, the soldiers won’t be back, and I won’t be long.”
He crawled out from the bushes and, using the rock to help him stand, stomped his feet to get the feeling back in them. L
ooking up and down the beach, he could see no one in the fading light. Turning, he climbed up over the dune and hurried toward the village.
the outskirts of Wissant, Melvyrn saw a woman come out of a cottage and pull a shawl around her head and shoulders before she set out on the road for the village. He looked about and then made for the cottage.
Inside, the place was small, one main room
dominated by a large stone fireplace with an oven on the side. There were two other doors which probably led to two tiny bedrooms. The table was set for three and he guessed the woman would be back momentarily with others, perhaps her husband and a son. Quickly he grabbed two of the six rolls in a wooden bowl and stuffed them in his pockets, then the small block of cheese on an earthenware plate. He left the bowl of steaming vegetables but took the open carafe of wine and let himself out the front door.
Sitting behind the bush, Rosalind listened to the night sounds of the occasional screeching seagull over the never changing rhythm of the waves pounding the beach. She shivered, not from the cold but from the memory of the soldiers coming down the beach. Never before had she feared discovery, for few French soldiers came to Wissant. And then hearing the sounds of poor Jacques being beaten, worrying that he may yet suffer far worse punishment for helping British soldiers caused Rosalind to comprehend what she herself might face if captured.
She also realized that the Earl had saved her from discovery
by kissing her to keep her silent. She’d been momentarily caught off guard, but he’d kept her from crying out and revealing herself to the soldiers. Closing her eyes, she remembered how his strong arms tightening around her tamped down her panic of discovery. The feel of his warm breath caressing her face, tickling her ear, gave her a sense of security. His kisses had worked a kind of magic, at first smoothing her, then arousing a desire, a need, a hunger in her that only he could fulfill. And heaven help her, she’d pressed her body against his chest, wanting . . . more!
he wondered if he’d shared similar feelings for her. Or was this something he’d felt many times with other women?
Her stomach growled loudly,
bringing her back to reality, and she hugged her knees to her chest and rested her chin on them. She wished he’d return, for not only was she hungry but she needed the solace, the soothing of her rattled nerves his presence brought.
Suddenly the bush pulled aside, making her jump.
“Did anyone come by?” Melvyrn asked. He squirmed his way behind the bush with his back to the rock before settling down beside her.
She accepted the
rolls and cheese he pulled from his pockets and smiled, deciding definitely the food was as much a welcomed sight as he was.
Quietly, they shared their meager fare,
sipping wine from the carafe. Afterwards, feeling sated, Rosalind allowed him to put his arm around her and pull her under his shoulder, close to his chest. “Try to sleep,” he said, and she nodded, knowing that he would keep her safe. She doubted that she would sleep, however, for she was far too aware of his closeness, his male scent, as she squirmed to get even closer to him.
Rosalind felt herself being gently shaken and opened her eyes. She was cradled in Melvyrn’s arms with her head resting on his chest.
“They’re here,” he said, releasing his hold on her.
She sat up and then followed him, crawling out from behind the bushes. Accepting his hand to stand, she saw the waning half moon had risen high in the sky. She looked down toward the surf and made out the dark shape of the
at the water’s edge.
Melvyrn took her hand. “Come on.”
As they raced down the beach toward the lugger, Tolly’s massive figure jump into the surf, then make for the beach. “Thank the heavens!” Tolly said with more emotion than she’d ever seen the burly fisherman show before when they drew nearer. He came on the other side of Rosalind and picked her up. “I feared them Frenchies might’ve gotten you.”
“It wasn’t for lack of trying,” Melvyrn said. “What happened?”
Tolly put Rosalind in the boat. Then following Melvyrn, he climbed in. “Sergeant-major Andrews, ‘shamed to say, he got the drop on me and commandeered the
for his two men. Both of them in pretty bad shape.” He barked out some orders, and Rosalind felt the lugger’s sails catch the wind. “Ain’t the only problem,” Tolly said, looking at her. “Lady Stainthrope’s at the Hall.”
“Who’s Lady Stainthrope?” Melvyrn asked Rosalind.
“My aunt,” she said, wondering why Lady Stainthrope would come from London to see her. “What did Mrs. Boroughs tell her?” she asked Tolly.
That you’d gone to visit friends. But her ladyship keeps asking questions.”
“Don’t worry,” Rosalind said, although she was doing just that. It was imperative that her aunt not learn about her smuggling activities. If she did, Rosalind knew
no amount of kicking and screaming would keep her Aunt Eugenia from dragging her to London. “I will come up with a plausible tale.”
“Don’t know how you’ll explain being dressed like a boy?”
“If we get back before daybreak, I can slip in without being noticed,” Rosalind said.
“There’s that,” Tolly said. “Better get some rest.”
Sliding down the
starboard side of the bulkhead, Rosalind sat with her knees drawn up to her chest. Moments later, she was joined by Melvyrn, although he kept some distance between them.
“Does your aunt visit often?” he asked.
“No, she considers a visit to Folkestone the worst sort of rusticating. Mostly, she writes letters, pleading with me to join her in London.” Thinking she’d find it hard to sleep, she put her head on her knees. “Worst things could happen,” she added philosophically, “like getting caught by French soldiers.” She closed her eyes and allowed herself to concentrate on the swaying of the boat instead of Aunt Eugenia.
Rosalind awoke when she felt Melvyrn rising from beside her. She had no idea how long she’d slept
as she too stood. Although it was only a half moon, it was still bright, and she saw the outline of Folkestone’s cliffs in the distance.
“How much lon
ger before we make land?” she asked Tolly who stood at the rudder.
“Nary an hour,” he said gazing up at the
sky. “That’s if we ain’t spotted.”
Rosalind understood his concern. She’d heard the rumors of another revenue clipper being sent down from Dover. Beside her, she felt Melvyrn’s eyes on her. When she glanced at him, he said, “The War Office is redoubling their efforts to catch smugglers.”
What could she say? After all, she was one of the smugglers.
e wind coming in from the south-east, events were going their way. So she settled back down on the lugger’s floor and tried to relax. She reminded herself that she was in good hands, surrounded by competent men, Tolly and the Earl of Melvyrn, and experienced fishermen.
inutes later, Tolly called out, “Look to port. Revenuer closing in. Looks to be the
pulled herself up and saw a sleek cutter silhouetted against the eastern horizon headed toward them on the port side. Tolly turned the lugger, bringing the
parallel to the shoreline.
Finley, Jefferies, tie the kegs off,” Tolly ordered. “Cleggs, get them markers.” Then he turned to Melvyrn. “If the cutter gets any closer, we toss the kegs,” he said and then looked at Rosalind. “If they catch us--”
“You worry about the boat
and crew,” Melvyrn interrupted. “I’ll see to Miss Wensley’s welfare.”
Tolly looked at Rosalind, then back to Melvyrn and nodded his head. “
We’ll meet tomorrow, God willing.”
Before long, Rosalind realized the
was no match for the sleek cutter. She heard Tolly order the men to pitch the kegs overboard. Then he looked at Melvyrn. “She’s going to overtake us. With no contraband, they can’t arrest us.” Tolly slewed a glance toward Rosalind. “They’ll give us a hard time, though.”
looked at Rosalind. “You’ll never pass muster if the revenuers search the boat. How far are we from shore?” Melvyrn asked Tolly.
Four, maybe five hundred yards,” Tolly said.
Melvyrn turned to Rosalind. “Can you swim?”
Rosalind nodded and he gripped her arm. “The water’s cold and we’re a good distance from shore.” His eyes fixed on hers, as if he were trying to read her mind. “I can help you, but you must not fight me.”
“I am a good swimmer,” she said with confidence. “I swam in these waters when I was a small child.”
“If you’re going,” Tolly said, “it’s best you go now. The cutter’ll soon overtake us.”
Melvyrn held her gaze a moment longer, then
leaned down and pulled off his boots. “Take your boots off,” he told Rosalind. After she’d shucked her boots, he took her hand and asked, “Ready?”
She wasn’t, but she bit her lip and nodded her head and let him help her over the
starboard side of the boat. She went in feet first. The water covered her head, and its frigid temperature stole her breath. Her chest felt constricted as she began clawing her way up. Then she felt Melvyrn next to her, grabbing the sleeve of her jacket, pulling her toward the surface. Her head broke the water, she gasped for air. Still holding on to her, he said softly, “Come on.” He released her and began to swim with powerful strokes. Looking back over his shoulder, he said, more gruffly, “Come on.”