Chapter 17

"Father, why are you here?" Ethan asked coming up behind Christian. Over the last few weeks he had seen his father become more distant and solitary. He looked down at the strong shoulders of his father that once looked like they could hold the weight of the world on them, but now seemed to slump under the weight of a heavy burden. Until recently, Ethan thought of his father as a larger than life man who could do anything. Ethan discovered he was only flesh and blood, nothing more.

Christian stooped in front of the carved marble headstone of the burial plot, laying a small bouquet of lavender and lily of the valley on the ground. His heart was torn from him when the woman resting there had died in front of him and there had been nothing he could do about it. He should have never allowed another woman in his life.

"Have you seen Olivia?" Christian absently asked Ethan while standing.

"No, they think I'm the spawn of the devil."

"Mother and Father are of the same opinion of them." Christian turned to his son.

What a great man he was turning out to be. He had, at first, been resentful and full of anger toward him for what he had done. He had, however, listened to his side of the story and found it in his heart to forgive him. He was adamant that Christian leave the service of the King and find another line of work. Christian had not decided what exactly he wanted to do. Nothing right now seemed to bring him any pleasure. Ethan had found a friend in Destiny's daughter, now they were not being allowed to see each other. Christian understood their plight and had given Ethan his blessing. He understood that it was not sitting well with his father and, if the Duke found out, there would be hell to pay. But he was not going to keep his son from finding happiness.

"Father," Ethan started, shifting his weight.

Christian looked up at his son and knew that he wanted to tell him something. He turned from his first wife's headstone giving Ethan his full attention. "What is it, son?"

"Father, she is in London." Ethan saw his father's head snap up and his eyes regain some of their spark. "Her ship was seen anchored in one of the slips off the Thames. Father, I think you should allow her to come and go without your interference."

"Then why are you telling me if that is how you feel?"

"Because you have the right to know." The true reason was that he was fearful that his father was going to pine away for his pirate wife.

"I think we shall pay the Duke and Duchess a little visit," Christian barked, slapping his son on the back, propelling him forward.

"Father, surely she will not be so bold."

Christian chuckled. "You have no idea how bold your stepmother is."

Ethan could not help the corners of his mouth from turning up at the change in his father. It was his old father.

Christian clapped the doorknocker sharply and waited for the pinched face butler to appear. As soon as the old man saw that it was the 'enemy', he tried to slam the door in their face. The frail looking old man was no match for Christian and did not stand a chance when the equally strong Ethan joined his father. The old man did not go down without calling for one of the servants to call the constable, but that was countermanded by the Duke as he came from the depths of the large house.

"She is here, otherwise you would not care that the constable was called. We are after all, lower than the dirt on your shoes. Is that not what you told my son?"

"I did not have the constable called because this family does not need anymore attention."

"She is my wife and, by God and the laws of this country, you have no right to keep me from seeing her," Christian ground out as he moved towards the Duke.

"You have a nerve to instruct me on your rights. I am the law, and as God as my witness, you nor your son will do no further damage to my family. If it had not been for you, she would not have laid on her deathbed for nearly two weeks. You will not see her, and I will have this marriage dissolved. Your son will desist in his attempts to see my granddaughter or I will have you both thrown in Newgate. Do I make myself perfectly clear?" The Duke asked, taking a step towards his soon to be ex-son-in-law.

"I will tear this house down around your ears if you do not produce my wife now," Christian said, his hand going to the hilt of his sword.

The Duke took another step towards the insolent man standing in front of him. "Threats do not sit well with me, Lord Courtenay."

"It was not meant as a threat. It is a fact that if my wife does not show herself straight away, I will tear London apart looking for her, starting here," he said pulling his sword from its sheath."

"Stop it, Christian!" Destiny yelled as she came from the study not ten feet from where they were standing.

The first thing he noticed upon seeing her was how beautiful she was, her paleness notwithstanding. She was in a dress that he had seen on her before, but now it hung from her; she had lost so much weight.

"You have seen me, now be on your way," Destiny spat out. It was a sin for any man to look as good as he did. He had caused her more heartache than anyone ever had and still all she wanted was to run to him. She wanted his arms around her, holding her. Her body wanted him as well, her stomach pitched and lurched, and passion fires swirled and licked at her insides.

"You are my wife, damn it, and I will not be told to go away." Christian managed to control the almost unbearable urge to grab her by the hair and pull her from the house, kicking and screaming.

"Why are you so concerned with this now? You did not seem so concerned when you betrayed me and kidnapped my daughter. She could have been killed out there, do you understand?"

"Destiny, Father helped us. I did not know until we returned home, but he saw us escaping and made sure the horses were there," Ethan supplied

"Ethan, you are his son and." Destiny was about to tell him he would believe anything, but no matter how she felt about Christian, he loved his son and she would not ruin their relationship. "Christian, there is nothing left to talk about. I can't forgive as easily as your son."

Several footmen came into the entry hall. Christian knew that he could not win this now and conceded. "This is far from resolved, Princess."

****

Olivia stole from the house and went to the carriage house to meet Ethan. She entered through the tack room and an arm came around her. "Ethan," she breathed as he turned her to face him. Her hand stroked the side of his face. "We have got to do something to get our families back together."

"Your mother is still more than a little upset with Father."

"Your father storming Grandfather's house today caused a major ruckus. He ranted and raved for two hours straight on the shortcomings of Lord Courtenay and you. He told me under no circumstance was I to see you or any member of your family."

"I see you listen well."

"I am my mother's daughter; seriously, what are we going to do?"

"We must get them together," Ethan said. He took a step away from the wisp of a girl who stood before him. He continued to be amazed at how she had stolen his heart from the moment he had first laid eyes on her.

"We are going to Durry Lane to see a play tomorrow. Do you think you can get your father there?" Olivia asked, unable to take her eyes from him.

"I think so, but what then?"

"Mother still loves Lord Courtenay; we must remind her of that fact. Ethan, please be careful; if my grandfather finds out."

Ethan stopped her words with a sweet brief touch of his lips to hers. It was as innocent as a kiss could be, but it was the first stirrings of a romance like no other he had ever known. He knew the ways between a woman and a man; he had used every ploy he knew just to feel a woman around him. He was like most men of his age at school; he had very few things on his mind other than seduction. This girl was different; he did not intend to spoil her innocence.

Olivia looked up into the face of Ethan and her mind drifted to the memory of him protecting her from their captors, feeling his strong arms through his shirt as she had clung to him for support. Now she still felt the heat from his lips on hers; feeling the blush rise in her cheeks, she cast her eyes to the ground.

Olivia was innocent of everything when it came to the relations between a man and a woman. She did, however, know that she was drawn to Ethan like nothing she had ever been drawn to. The only thing she thought of all day was him, hoping they would happen to cross paths. She knew that her grandsire and mother would split something if they knew of her feelings. Therefore, she guarded them well whenever the topic of the Courtenay's arose. Her parents, the Shermans, were more understanding of her feelings, but they had still gone along with the Duke's wishes and not allowed him to call on her.

"You had best return before anyone notices you are missing," he said, touching her hair.

Olivia turned and was about to go back to the house when she remembered that she had a gift for him and turned back to him. Reaching in the folds of her dress, she pulled out a kerchief. "It isn't much."

Ethan took the modest gift and brought it to his nose. "I will carry it always."

*****

The play that was opening was supposed to be very good and the crowd proved that everyone wanted to be the first to see it. Olivia made sure that her mother was dressed to the teeth in her best gown, a beautiful purple creation that made her waist look nearly nonexistent. The neckline was square and showed her attributes to perfection. Olivia ordered the maid to pile Destiny's hair up on her head and weave a gold ribbon through it that matched the trim of the gown

Olivia admired her mother as she laughed at something Grandfather said about one of the other women in attendance. She knew that the Courtenay's were to be at the play and was looking for them. Spotting father and son immediately, she discreetly steered her family towards them until Destiny was directly behind Christian. They were so engrossed in a conversation about the play that neither realized their company until Olivia feigned a case of the vapors knocking Destiny into Christian's back.

Ethan grabbed Olivia before she could fall to the ground and Christian caught his wife. The crowd around them quieted so that a pin could have been heard if it had hit the cobbles. Both families knew that the crowd was waiting for an explosion that could be gossiped about tomorrow.

"Miss Olivia, are you well?" Ethan asked as he righted her.

"I am sorry; the crush of people is overwhelming."

Destiny narrowed her gaze on her manipulative daughter knowing this was all a ruse to get Christian and her back together.

Ethan gave his son a glance now knowing why he had been so insistent they come tonight. "My Lady, there you are. I was beginning to think you had gotten lost," Christian said as he pushed them forward. He felt her pulling against his fingers curled around her arm, but he was not letting go of her. He knew that the Duke would not cause a scene here. So he ushered them in and the entire group sat together. The whole theater audience talked about them until the play began. They watched them carefully wondering when the fa├žade would crumble.

Destiny was so aggravated that she could have done bodily harm if hundreds of people had not been watching. 'Wait until I get you home, Olivia,' she thought, glancing at her daughter who could not stop looking towards Ethan. Ethan, on the other hand, had the poise of his father and was not letting on anything.

Destiny had to admit that her heart had nearly stopped when she felt Christian's hands on her. She blamed her treacherous body on the fact that it had been quite a while since they had been together. She had done a nice job of keeping her mind occupied during the day, but at night he invaded her dreams, causing her to wake aroused and aching to feel his hands on her; his mouth doing sinful things to her and his staff filling her. Now here he was, his leg touching her, his massive shoulders invading into her seat, touching her. She groaned softly and tried to retreat from him, but his hand clamped down on her wrist and his finger gently caressed the inside of her wrist. She looked up at him but his eyes never left the stage.

Christian could feel the heat from her arm and leg through the layers of fabric. He could feel her pulse quicken under his finger, but he wasn't sure if it was because of him touching her or her anger. All he did know was that he had to get her to understand that he never meant to harm her. He loved her with everything in him and if he had to take her away and make her his prisoner until she realized his intentions, he would.

The play ended and everyone stood to clap; it was her chance to escape. When she tried to move, she found that Christian's foot was on the hem of her dress. She was sure that he had done it on purpose.

He had. Christian waited for Destiny's family to start filing out of the row of seats, took her by the arm, and pulled her in the opposite direction. She again restrained herself quite nicely as far as he was concerned. He led her out of the theater to his coach. It wasn't until he had her away from the crowds that he had to fend himself against bodily harm. She kicked him in the leg and managed only to harm herself on his boots. He was graced with a line of curses.

"Let me out of here now, Christian, or I swear to God himself that you will rue the day that you ever heard my name."

"I already do."

Destiny squealed and swung her purse at him, causing him to lift his arms to keep from being hit over the head.

"What the bloody hell do you have in that thing?" He asked, grabbing the silk cord and yanking it from her hands. He pulled it open and found a small pearl handle flintlock. "Swinging this in a purse is quite ladylike but ineffective."

"You pig, I hate you!" She snarled out as she leaned forward and pummeled him with her fist.

"Stop it," Christian barked as he reached for her wrists, but before he could control her, he was rewarded with a blow to the eye. "Goddamn it!" He barked out as his hand went to his eye. Then instantly he reached out and pulled her in his lap, wrapping her legs up with his and seized both hands with one of his. She still fought him anyway she could. "Destiny, stop it now or I will bind your hands and legs and carry you to my ship."

"If you think I am going any where with you willingly, you are insane."

"Willing or not, you are going."

"I hate you," Destiny threw at him once more.

"Yes, you have established that point quite nicely; but you see, Destiny, I still love you and I will not allow you to leave me."

"I will fight you until I am toes up in my grave."

"Then you shall live the rest of your days locked away for my eyes only."

The coach came to a stop and Christian threw open the door. He was prepared to toss her over his shoulder and carry her when she muttered that she would walk quietly. She rubbed her wrists as they approached the gangplank. Christian winced; hurting her was the last thing he wanted to do. The men on the ship saw them approaching and knew that something was amiss; the Captain had not planned on leaving England for a while. The ship was not supplied and half the crew was still ashore.

"Mr. Jones, weight the anchor."

"Aye, Captain." He followed the orders without question.

Christian took Destiny below and locked her in his cabin. He then went back to his first officer.

"Captain, we do not have a full crew and no supplies."

"I know, Mr. Jones. Just take us from the harbor into the straight, then we will drop anchor."

"Captain, nice shiner."

"She is a scrapper."

"Is she worth the trouble?"

"Absolutely," Christian said, slapping the older man on the back and going back to his cabin. He opened the door warily; afraid of what would come sailing at him. What he saw caused him to chuckle. She had stripped down to her knickers and corset and was trying desperately to squeeze through the small window. She had gotten her head and shoulder through the window, but had become stuck at her hips. "Such beautiful sight," Christian muttered as he approached her; his hands slid up her legs to her round bottom.

"Stop it, you big oaf."

"If you had asked, I would have told you that this beautiful thing would not make it through the window." His hands once again smoothed over her bottom.

"Get your hands off me," Destiny cried as she tried to kick him. She looked up and saw several crewmembers hanging over the railing gawking at her. She tried to wriggle back into the ship, but she was stuck. She laid out a line of curses before she asked Christian to help her back inside.

"I will help you, only if you promise to be a good girl and stop all this nonsense."

"Go kiss a monkey's arse, Christian. I am the one that was wronged, you seemed to forget that."

"I have not forgotten anything, but you have been so damn stubborn you will not give me the chance to explain."

"You want a chance to explain? Here it is. Because as soon as I get free, I am going to take every chance I get at running as far away from you as possible."

Christian was tired of her sharp tongue and burley attitude towards him. He grabbed her by the hips and with one swift tug, pulled her back in the cabin. He proceeded to toss her on the bed and cover her, pinning her hands over her head. He realized his mistake as soon as he came face to face her; he did not see anger he saw terror. He cursed and pushed from her, sitting on the edge of the bed, shoving his hands through his hair.

"I'm sorry, Destiny. I wouldn't.I didn't mean to."

Destiny had not moved from her position. "I know, Christian," she breathed, sitting up. "I felt betrayed when I saw you with Alberti and Redbeard."

"Princess, I only did what I did to apprehend them. I knew from the start that you had nothing to do with the Alana Shea but I had to prove it."

"Pirates are a distrustful lot; we are always looking for treachery in everyone around us. I guess part of me was looking for that in you, and at the first sign, I used it against you." Destiny came up behind him, running her hands along his shoulders. She felt Christian stiffen and she placed a small kiss on the side of his neck. His hand came up and caressed the side of her face. "Please forgive me," she breathed, wrapping her arms around him and resting her head on his shoulder.

"Only if you forgive me," Christian said, turning to her.

"Already done." She smiled, running the back of her hand down his cheek. She winced seeing his eye that was starting to bruise. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to hit you."

"Yes you did; next time, I will remember to move a bit faster."

"There will never be a next time. What are we going to do about our families?"

"There is nothing to do. We are married; they can either accept it or not. They will become more tolerant over time. Our fathers will never like it, but that as I see it is their problem not ours."

******

Epilogue

Five Years later

Destiny sat on the terrace of their London home, halfway between the Courtenays and the Duke and Duchess. The Duke had offered them a place in their home, but both Destiny and Christian felt it was best for everyone that they have a home of their own. Destiny ordered a servant to place a large arrangement of lilac and dogwood in the center of one of the tables in the back yard.

'Mother,' Destiny heard Olivia bellow out the window of her room upstairs. Olivia remained with the Shermans, they were her parents, but she also saw Destiny as her mother. She had a bedroom in their house; she came over a couple times a week and spent the night. Destiny did not intrude into the Shermans' lives or their decisions when it came to Olivia. Destiny had had a hard time convincing her father that he could not take her away from the Shermans, but eventually he saw the light and stood back allowing Olivia to come to them.

'Mother' Destiny heard Olivia yell once more. "April, sweetie can you go see what Olivia wants."

"Okay, Mummy. She is probably missing something again. I will go up there and find it right under her nose."

"You are such a good sister."

"I am only doing it so that she will get married and then I can have her room," the precocious five year old said as she went off to Olivia.

Destiny thought of how close they had come to losing April five years ago. When the trial for Alberti and Redbeard had dragged on for months, Destiny was called to testify. The stress of the entire event caused her to go into early labor. April had been born a month early and for quite a while was not expected to make it. But she did she pull through and was now a healthy tomboy, to the chagrin of both grandmothers. Alberti and Redbeard both were sentenced to death for their crimes against the Crown, and Carmella was transported to the Australian colony. When Destiny was expecting their second child, Colin, three years later, Christian was like a mother hen -- hiring extra staff, not allowing her to lift a finger. It drove her insane.

"Destiny," Lady Courtenay called as she came out on the terrace.

Destiny pushed to her feet and waddled to meet her.

"You should not be on your feet, dear," Lady Courtenay said, kissing her cheek.

"I have done nothing but sit all day."

"You do not have much longer, so you shall sit for the remainder of the day."

"Grandmamma," April cried as she came running from the house. "Olivia says that something is wrong with her dress."

"Where are Mr. and Mrs. Sherman?"

"They were sent to their house to find a missing shoe."

"I have seen her room here and you have servants to pick up after her. I will see to her," Lady Courtenay said going back in the house. "You should not be climbing the stairs."

Destiny sat back down in the chair; it was early June and the heat had already set in. It was not oppressively hot, but with Destiny's added burden, she felt like she was going to melt away. Destiny picked up her fan and waved it in front of her.

Christian emerged from the house carrying Colin. Lord Courtenay and Ethan following close behind.

"Mama," Colin cried, pushing from Christian's arms and running to her. Destiny helped the boy into her lap, felt a tightening around her midsection, and knew that within the next few hours their next child would be entering this world. That gave her great satisfaction.

Christian missed nothing. He saw the knitting of her brow and stooped down next to her. "Princess, are you feeling well?" He asked softly knowing she did not want a big fuss. She nodded and he was pacified for the moment. He stood and took the boy with him.

"Mama," Colin yelled, trying to squirm from Christian's arms. When it got him nowhere, he kicked his feet and started crying.

"Colin, do you want to go to the nursery for a nap?" Christian asked, knowing the last thing the boy wanted was to miss anything; Colin's crying subsided immediately.

Destiny looked up at Christian; he was a wonderful father. He made time for all the children no matter their problem or need. When Ethan and Olivia had come to him telling him that they wished to marry, Christian was the one that gathered the Grandparents together and fought for their right to marry. He ultimately told everyone that the marriage would take place whether anyone liked it or not.

Christian looked down at his wife; still to this day, he could hardly understand how he was so blessed to wake up next to her every morning. He thanked God for it every day. She was beautiful, even more so now. She took to child bearing as she did to the deck of a ship. He could deny her nothing; even their two and three day excursions on the ocean where he allowed her to captain and sail her ship. He loved to see the pure joy on her face as she steered the Sea Mistress into the wind. He looked to their first daughter together and feared that she had much of her mother's adventurous blood in her. He knew that their life together had just started, but he could not wait for what was still to come with his Princess Pirate.

The End