They’d been spotted, together, in port, shopping, of all things. They were gone by now, of course, or would be by the time he or any men he trusted could arrive to retrieve her, and yet John Eccleston, the Baron Ravenspurn, Third Earl of Northington, and newly made Duke of Hampshire, smiled, as he often did in his fashion, when he knew the goal of a fine and hard-won campaign would soon be his. Supposed “unattainable” and “unassailable” goals were the best, for they garnered the greater reward, both personally and careerwise, whether in masculine war or at power-filled, subtle royal court.
Eccleston scowled, she’d run from engagement with him, and he’d found her and carried her himself from the isolated hunting lodge, in that great cape of Irish wool. He’d not noticed it then, a man’s cape, he’d been so relieved to have found her well and unharmed, sighing in her sleep; for her popish pirate, no doubt.
The rogue Aidan O’Rourke had her, all right, that gentleman widower and foul Catholic loyalist turned pirate had walked up to her parent’s home and had had a whisky or two with a groom, as he’d seduced information from the man in easy conversation, after boldly raiding royal merchant ships and hiding in the cove nearby. And then, he’d sailed out of reach of Eccleston’s gunfire, sailed with the outgoing tide, with her, after she’d sprinted off again on her own from their untouched wedding bed, straight to this Free Irish scoundrel, leaving Eccleston, her legal bridegroom, asleep on the couch.
Betrayed and cuckolded, twice, before he could even have her, but have her he would, and he smiled again, in his fashion, which most called his serpentine smirk, for Becca Du…, no, Becca Eccleston was his most unattainable and unassailable goal; and he’d continue his relentless campaign to bring her home, despite other’s advice to the contrary. She was his choice and that was that, short of her being taken by every sailor on the Irishman’s ship, the “Hawk.”
This O’Rourke knew quality, though, especially structural quality, he was a ship designer and builder; and he’d not pass Becca about, because she was quality; and too damned independent for her own good.
So, her parent’s estate was under watch, and her own estate and properties, left by her husband. And if there was any draw upon her modestly respectable funds or for her deposited jewels, he’d be notified, because Becca was HIS, legally, and morally.
He’d reclaim her, no matter what. And O’Rourke and every man jack with him would hang for it, and for their treasonous crimes against the combined Crown of England and Ireland. And, on that glorious day, Eccleston would make her watch O’Rourke die. Eccleston smiled.
* * * *
Aidan felt Becca shiver against him.
“Cold, girline?” How could she be, they’d just made love and her vibrant flesh was warmed by his at every nude point of contact between them.
“No. But I think someone’s just walked on my grave.” Aidan shivered himself at that, and she’d tugged his hair and kissed him. “Don’t be superstitious, darling, it’s nothing.”
“It’s bad fortune to‑.” Little Rory burst in, and tugged hard on his hand to come. “Not now, my boy, can it not wait?” Jim knocked and called in, without looking.
“It’s trouble, sir.”
* * * *
Yes, great trouble. Aidan’s ship, the “Eagle,” which had been stolen, “confiscated,” in the name of the English crown, was near. He’d set out to retrieve it with a plan both clever and well executed, and he’d gotten it back. But, he’d lost her, lost his Becca.
It’d been a trap, of course, he knew that, and had prepared for it, in fact, but in the middle of the dusk battle, in that sea-bobbing, dark chaos, he’d boarded the Eagle and in looking back had seen his Rory dragged by a merchant seaman, who’d jumped from the Eagle to the Hawk. And Aidan’d seen Becca, in men’s trousers, plainly not staying below, as he’d ordered her. And good thing, for he couldn’t get to the boy, and though Becca had wretched at the violent sight of familiar men dead, she’d grabbed a cutlass and had run, slipping in their blood and stabbed the seaman with a valiant thrust.
The seaman’d let go of Rory, but seized her, as both ships abruptly rocked with a hard broadside from a third, leaving Rory alone, open-mouthed. The seaman’d blown overboard, taking her with him, into the freezing cold, black North Atlantic waters, and was no where in sight. And, feeling like a coward and a cad and a murderer, Aidan’d run, to protect his child. He ran in the moonless dark, with wind heavy in his sails, and had looked back through spyglass, to finally see the English fish a boy out the water.
* * * *
Eccleston had lost the Eagle and several merchant seamen, but one lost men in battle, for this was war, still, between him and O’Rourke, as he gazed with blank expression at the pirate boy lying unconscious, shivering, and bruised, but still exquisite, despite the wear and tear, and then he’d stripped his wife to her bare, wet skin, and stripped off his own soggy clothing, as he felt the ship turn for England, as he lay his warm body upon hers.