Author's Note: Welcome, dear readers, to my first foray into the realm of swashbuckling sailors! Yes, I'm aware that I still owe updates to fans of my Lord of the Rings Stories, but please be patient, they're on their way. Unfortunately, this fic came to life as a ravening plot bunny that grabbed me in its teeth and dragged me away until I started writing. I hope you'll like it!
One other thing: Please be advised that I start law school exactly two weeks from now. (Dun dun DUN!) So my updates may be erratic for the next, oh, nine months, but I shall do my best to keep them coming. Please be patient and understanding, and feel free to send reviews to remind me!
Revision Notes: Yep, revising already. You have Joe Good to thank for this unexpected addition. On his advice, I did a little more research into the history of Port Royal, and some of the stuff I found is just too good to waste. So while I hinted to some readers previously that the date when this fic takes place is important, now you're going to find out why. With any luck, this'll keep people interested until the end!
Prologue: Twice Lucky
Kingston Harbor, Jamaica, 1992…
Dr. Alexander Cade was not a patient man, at least not by archeological standards. Then again, the limits of even the most cool-headed archeologist would be tested by the project Cade was currently working on. The climax of a historical dig was fraught with enough stress when one had to worry about weather conditions and interference from the curious and/or hostile local populace. But when you factored in currents, tides, and the activity of the fish populace—it was enough to make any man crazy.
"Get that goddamned yacht out of there!" Cade roared as yet another unauthorized boat tried to zip in for a closer look. "We're trying to get divers to the site!"
The pleasure boat was run off (with the tourists on board complaining loudly that they'd paid their tour fees and should have free access), and Cade's graduate assistant looked at her watch. "If we don't get them in the water in the next ten minutes, we'll miss our window. Tide starts back in at 11:43."
Despite himself, Cade shivered. "Seems like a bad omen."
"Or a good one," she countered.
"Okay, we're clear. Tell 'em to go, Fran. I'll be on the monitors."
Frances raised her radio. "All right, boys, in the water!"
Out on the harbor, two scuba gear-clad archeologists dove off their boat, the Donny Hamilton, to the site of the only authentic sunken city in the Western Hemisphere. On shore, at the site headquarters, Cade sat in front of the video screens to view the images relayed by the divers' handheld cameras. For over ten years, the Institute of Nautical Archeology at Texas A & M University had been sending its best alumni and students to a town Mother Nature had frozen in time. Today, Cade's divers were going deeper than ever before, taking careful calculation of just how far they could get during what they had calculated would be the lowest tide of their entire scheduled visit. In fact, it was the lowest tide that had been forecast for the area since excavation began. The earthquake that had destroyed one of the largest cities in the Caribbean had slid great chunks of it nearly completely intact to the bottom of Kingston Harbor—a treasure trove just waiting to be examined three hundred years later.
Cade resisted the urge to chew on his fingernails as the divers made their descent through the foggy water, past streaming fronds of seaweed and disinterested schools of fish. One would think that a project like this would have no shortage of eager investors, given that they were excavating a city that had rivaled Boston for importance in colonial days. But after a dozen years of diving and digging had revealed dearth of gold or precious stones, most of the popular interest had died down. On one hand, this was a good thing, because it allowed the academics to get their work done without the clamor to throw the site open to the destructive hands of treasure hunters. On the other hand…the budget was set, and it wasn't likely to get any bigger.
A change in the watery images on the screen caught his eye. "Hurry it up, Fran," he said to his radio. "They're into the red light district."
"The red light district took up over half of the city!" came her reply.
He grinned. "The 'richest and wickedest city in the world.' Welcome to Port Royal, me hearties."
His assistant came pelting into the little building and fell into a chair. "Ooh! Look! That's the gentlemen's club. We've never gotten so close before!"
"One of Hamilton's subs got inside two years ago," said Cade. Into the special radio that let him communicate with the divers, he ordered, "Keep going, guys. Let's get some nooks and crannies today."
There was a flash of a thumb in one monitor, and the progress continued down a perfectly-formed underwater street. "What's that, some kind of market?" Fran asked, pointing to the remains of a more open building.
"What street are we on," Cade muttered, checking their carefully-compiled map. "It's the fish market."
Fran wrinkled her nose. "Smells even from here. Can you imagine?"
"Couldn't have been any worse than medieval meat markets."
"It was a lot hotter in the Caribbean. I'll bet it was a lot worse. God, Alex, this street must've stayed entirely in one piece the whole way down."
"Mikey, get close to that wall, if you can. Let's see what it is."
The diver obliged, and they inched delicately toward what had been a small business with one wall still standing. Mike slipped around it, and Fran twirled her dark brown ponytail. "Too decayed. Damn. But I'm guessing a tailor. That might be what's left of a model."
"Joe, try the place across the street."
The other monitor pile of rubble, with some likely items visible beneath the half-collapsed walls, then the diver signaled that he wanted to go through. "Careful," Fran cautioned. She glanced at her watch. "We've got less than five minutes before they have to head back up."
Joe had inched his way through the door, and his camera and headlight revealed shelves and pails, lined with debris. The diver reached out and delicately picked up an object that looked like an ordinary rock at first glance. Then he brushed it off, and revealed a smooth, metal cylinder. "Christ!" laughed Cade. "What do you say, split peas?"
"Nah, anchovies. Definitely a general store," agreed Fran. "Three minutes left, guys, make it count!"
Mike was heading down the street again, investigating the remains of a larger building with big doors that had rotted off at the hinges. Playing his light across the wreckage, the diver displayed a large stone and metal stove. Or not a stove, but rather… "A forge," said Cade, grinning. "It's one of the smithies."
"Biggest one we've found so far," said Fran appreciatively. "We've never gone this deep. Just a bit further down the street, Mike, and then we'll call it a day."
"We'd have had another twenty minutes if those assholes hadn't ignored the buoys," grumbled Cade.
"Got some good shots though," Fran said. "It happens. And anyway, we…Alex?"
Cade was leaning forward, gaping at Mike's monitor. "Mike, stop!"
"What?" Fran exclaimed, sitting up straighter. "We've got ninety seconds!"
Something was shining in the far left lower corner of Mike's screen. "Mike, backtrack just a few feet and aim at seven o'clock!" The diver did so. "Jesus H. Christ, what is that?"
"Something made of a non-tarnishing metal, that's for sure," breathed Fran, seeing the object half-buried in the mud of the street. Her watch beeped. "Shit! Forty-five seconds!"
"Oh, nonono, that's not fair!" Cade cried, grabbing the sides of his head.
"Zoom in, Mike! Get as close as you can in the next thirty seconds!" Fran's voice had risen about an octave. "Good God, what is that?"
"Any chance he can grab it?" Cade demanded, already knowing the answer.
"Damn! No chance, Alex. We have to keep our safety window. Turn around, guys, it's journey's end."
Dr. Cade cursed furiously for the entire time it took the divers to return to the surface. Fran patted his shoulder. "We got a good close-up of it. Let's run the tapes at the museum and see if we can't figure out what it is."
Two hours later, the team was drinking coffee in the staff section of the historical museum that now stood on the part of Port Royal that remained above water. "We saw the shots, but did you get a good look?" Fran was asking Mike as the tape replayed.
"Yeah," said Mike, sounding dejected.
Cade looked over his shoulder at the other man. "And? Did you figure out what it was?"
"Wait. Look closer. You'll be even more pissed when you realize. We've got to figure out some way to get back down there with a pair of hands." Mike gestured to the screen as the video crept down the street, past the smithy, and honed in on the white object glistening softly in the mud. "Can you see?"
Fiddling with his glasses, Cade squinted with all his might. "Obviously something expensive. It looks like…pearl!"
"Gold wouldn't tarnish, but it's too pale," murmured Fran, her nose almost touching the screen. "Could be a piece of something larger. Handle of a knife, maybe?" She looked questioningly at Mike. "We give up, man. Spill it."
Cade glanced at the diver, and thought he detected that "Tut's tomb" look. Mike shook his head. "It's a scabbard."
Cade wandered through the museum, trying to figure out how best to get back to where they'd been. "That area is way too narrow for any submersibles the Institute has or can afford. Even Robert Ballard would have a hard time maneuvering down that street," Fran had groaned in despair. "And we don't have a big enough dive window with any of the coming tides. We were at our limit with this one!"
Damn, damn, damn! As much as archeologists knew that finding anything of real monetary value in a dig was a double-edged sword, the youthful Indiana Jones wanna-be buried in each of them couldn't help dreaming of finding buried treasure. Port Royal had seemed like such a likely spot to the first divers in the '80's, but when nothing had turned up, Caribbean Atlantis had been given back to people who still found it interesting as just a perfectly-preserved colonial town. But this…we were lucky twice today, getting an extra-low tide and finding a scabbard covered in pearl. Who's to say good luck won't come in threes?
Walking around in the museum was one of Alexander Cade's favorite ways to relax and think. Surrounded by Port Royal's scandalous and colorful history, or what they had already unearthed, anyway, it was a way he could be there without the stress of the actual dig. Kind of like re-reading a favorite book over and over again. Speaking of favorite chapters, he stopped in front of his favorite artifact. It was a pocket watch, made in 1686, when the queen city of the Caribbean must have been at her peak. It was amazing that the thing had survived, considering how many years it had been before waterproof watches came about. But somehow, this one had, and in its frozen hands was marked the exact time of the earthquake that had shattered Port Royal, the richest and wickedest city in the world, when nearly two thirds of its homes, taverns, and streets were swallowed up by the Caribbean:
11:43 a.m., June 7, 1692.
Port Royal: mid-March, 1692
Smoke belched from the chimney of the smithy as though the devil himself had set up shop within. In the street without, the merry chatter of merchants and shopkeepers with their customers did little to silence the great clanging of hammer to anvil and the harsh hissing of the quenching barrels. The entire setup would have been rather a deterrent to visitors, were it not for the fact that today, not keeping with the traditions of metalworkers, the shop's doors were wide open, revealing the normally-dark smithy to the world without, and displaying to passers-by that the one responsible for the foreboding racket was a surprisingly young and unassuming man barely out of his apprenticeship.
William Turner, having only recently gained his mastery in the metalworkers' crafts, was accustomed to intense heat and darkness, but on this day, he had made an exception. It was only March, but already the burning Caribbean sun was beating down upon Port Royal with a zeal unusual even for this hot climate, and he had found it impossible to work with the doors closed and the forge lit without sweat blinding his eyes. Even now, with the doors wide open to let in every draft of cooling sea breeze, the smith's quenching barrels were being used to quench the heat of said smith's head as often as the swords he was making.
Thrusting yet another finished blade into a barrel to cool the hot metal down, Will fumbled for a cloth to dry his sweaty face and brushed his soaked hair back on his head. Since the death of Mr. Brown from pneumonia (undoubtedly brought on by his drinking) Will had been thrust into the position of the best-reputed blacksmith in Port Royal--as well as the only reputable swordsmith in the entire island of Jamaica.
On one hand, this had led to more commissions than ever before, and even the most condescending gentleman in the town could scarcely deny that the humbly-born Will Turner was making quite a…respectable living for himself.
On the other hand…if being accepted among the ranks of the gentry required idle hands, Will was most definitely still a confirmed member of the working class. In fact, the trouble with this newfound wealth was that Will found himself working harder and longer than ever before. His body throbbed with a heat that had nothing to do with the proximity of the forge, and his ears rang perpetually with the clanging of the hammers.
In short, mastery of his craft had left young William Turner respected, increasingly well-off, sought after--and thoroughly exhausted.
Glancing back down at the sword he had just finished, Will noticed that the water in the barrel had stopped boiling, and pulled it out, checking to make certain that the blade had sealed itself properly into the ornate gold filigreed handle. He tested the balance…perfect. Again.
Normally, Will would have felt a surge of pride at completing yet another flawless weapon, but today, he merely felt tired and frustrated. Yes, another sword finished…how many more to go? Would it ever end? How could one feel the care and devotion for one's craft when one could barely spare a half-second to stand back and admire it? There was always another sword to be rushed to completion, another dagger hilt to be repaired, more locks to be built, more door handles to be made, more windows to be barred, more horses to be shod…by God, would he ever get the chance to breathe?!
Fighting a groan of frustration, Will rubbed the back of his neck. It ached as always, as did his back from too many hours spent leaning over anvil and forge and not enough rest to make up for it. He knew he should get back to work; there were still many orders to be filled. Where to start next…his eyes wandered over the half-finished sword handles awaiting blades, the bars that would form the gate of iron fence for Commodore Norrington's new house, the door handles waiting to be cast in brass…
Heaving a heavy sigh, Will Turner stood facing the great mountain of weapons, tools, and ornaments just waiting for the craftsman's hand…and felt utterly and completely helpless.
Fanning herself vigorously in the noonday sun, Miss Elizabeth Swann stepped cautiously through the bustling market street around haggling merchants and their chattering wives, blinking in the sunlight at the column of dark smoke that marked her destination. It wasn't as if they were unaccustomed to seeing her in this part of town anymore, but the merchant folk still acted startled at the sight of her smooth skin, finely-made hats, and silk skirts in these streets women lived and worked their lives away in rough linen and muslin, with equally-roughened hands. It sometimes made her feel uneasy.
Not today, however. However startling and uncustomary it was for the daughter of a thriving colony's governor to be engaged to a humble smith--even one as respected and successful as William Turner--the townspeople had evidently decided that such a match reflected well upon both Elizabeth and Will. Will, as a sign of his great skill and worth as a man that could overcome his humble upbringing, and Elizabeth, that a fine lady such as her would be willing to overlook his common blood. (Even though, rumor had it, William Turner had not merely common blood but pirate blood! Scandalous indeed!)
"Afternoon, Miss Swann!"
"Awfully hot out today for you to be traipsing about town, Miss Swann!"
Greetings rang out from the townfolk as Elizabeth passed, knowing full well where she was headed with her basket slung on one arm and a faint smile of anticipation upon her face. Will Turner had been formally courting Elizabeth Swann for nearly two years, and had proposed six months ago, but it was well-known in town that he and the governor's daughter were not to marry until Will had amassed enough money to support her in the "proper style" befitting a gentlewoman.
Elizabeth, for her part, would have been perfectly happy to do without a few of the conveniences of the English gentry (particularly corsets) if it had meant marrying Will sooner, but she did not begrudge Will his pride, and so resigned herself to wait. Will's main obsession in the mean time was saving the necessary funds to build them a house, and that she did not mind at all. Not that Elizabeth had ever been unhappy in the governor's mansion with her father, but once Will had tentatively broached the subject, the thought of living in a home of her own--her home, not her father's--had lit a fire of longing within Elizabeth equal to Will's, and so they bore the waiting with full hearts in anticipation of great things to come.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Tapling," said Elizabeth cheerfully, pausing to greet the friendly, round-faced old wife of the merchant who owned the shop next to Will's smithy.
The elderly shopkeeper in particular had embraced Elizabeth's presence among the common folk with a motherly delight, and behaved occasionally as a chaperone when the swordsmith's fiancée came to visit. Today, she dropped the broom where she had been sweeping dust away from the baskets of fruit and vegetables for sale outside the shop and exclaimed in dismay, "Oh, I say, Marm, frightful good o' ye ter walk all the way down here in this fell heat, so it is! And yer young lad been workin' so dreadful 'ard these days! A wonder 'e 'asn't keeled right over. But such a good, devoted man, 'e'll make a fine--yeh, well," the plump old woman's round cheeks went pinker in the sun, and she grinned sheepishly, beckoning to Elizabeth. "If ye'll jest wait a minute, dearie," she disappeared into the shop. Elizabeth grinned at the sound of her rummaging about, then Mrs. Tapling scurried back out with a small jug in hand, dripping from where it had been immersed in a pail of cold seawater. "Got some nice lemonade fer ye and yer young man. Ye tell 'im fer me 'e'd best keep 'imself from getting' too hot. Baker Jones's poor lil' apprentice fainted dead away after too long in front of the ovens this mornin', she did!"
Elizabeth laughingly promised to see to Will's well-being, and reached into her skirt pocket for a shilling, but Mrs. Tapling refused with a vigorous shake of her head. "Oh, no no, Miss, wouldn' dream of it!"
"Oh, Mrs. Tapling, I must insist, you are so very kind--"
Firmly, Mrs. Tapling raised her hands, "Now see 'ere, Miss, yer young Will's been right good to Mr. Tapling when 'e wasn't able to pay fer them window bars quite on time last month. Right patient, 'e was, and we's in 'is debt for bein' so understandin', thought we'd never be able to get ourselves back up after that dreadful raid two years ago. You take 'im that lemonade as a gift from me, please, Miss."
Helpless to refuse, Elizabeth thanked the old shopkeeper profusely, and headed on her way. She found the smithy's doors wide open, a testament to just how hot it was this afternoon. The air rang with the usual clanging of the hammer, and while most passers-by clapped their hands over their ears, Elizabeth felt a smile come unbidden to her face, as it always did.
"So this is the path you've chosen, is it?" her father had asked when she had openly declared her love for Will. "After all, he is a blacksmith."
"No," she had replied lightly. "He's a pirate."
Standing in the doorway, seeing the figure silhouetted against the cherry heat of the forge raising sparks from another red-hot piece of metal, she grinned to herself at the memory. She might have playfully implied that the idea of Will as a pirate made him all the more desirable to her, but the truth of the matter was…she would just as gladly take the blacksmith.
Not that being a simple blacksmith's wife would bother Elizabeth in the slightest, but she felt as much pride in Will's accomplishments as he did, and would never allow anyone, least of all herself, to overlook them. Will was by far the best blacksmith in the colony, the only swordsmith that any reputable soldier or gentleman commissioned, and he was even able to work gold and silver on occasion.
At the moment, the object of her contemplation sensed her presence, and straightened, slowly setting down the hammer and coming toward the door, tossing a finished iron door handle into the quenching barrel as he passed. As Will came into the light streaming from the doors, Elizabeth frowned. It wasn't merely the failure of her presence to bring a smile to his face as it usually did, nor the careless fashion in which he had tossed the door handle into the water, nor the sweat, soot, and slump of his proud shoulders that bespoke many hours of hard labor. It was the lack of usual sparkle in his black eyes that raised an inkling of dismay in her, that slightly dazed look as if he weren't quite certain what she was doing there, what day of the week it was, or even what he himself was doing. It was quite normal for Will to become immersed in his work--"care and devotion" Commodore Norrington had called it, and rightly so--but this was the first time since Elizabeth had known Will that he appeared to be drowning in it.
So without preamble, she set down the basket with the picnic lunch she'd brought for them and the jug of Mrs. Tapling's lemonade, and walked up to him. "You look terrible," she observed calmly.
Will blinked as though coming out of a trance. "What?" he asked in confusion, but before he could request that she elaborate, she seized his shoulders and kissed him soundly. She had always liked the fact that she was very nearly his height. She had always thought it would be rather undignified to be forced to kiss a man while balancing on her toes.
If Will was in a foul mood, his reaction to her kiss did not show it, and he responded hesitantly at first, but then pulled her into a deeper kiss with all the intensity that a man dying of thirst might cling to the edge of a newly-found stream. For a few moments at least, Elizabeth was content to stand in his embrace, despite the heat of the forge and the sun upon the roof, the smell of sweat and soot. Will himself tasted like spiced coffee, and the firm muscles of his strong arms felt wonderful under her hands. But then she felt him tremble slightly in her grasp and pulled back, frowning at him. "What is it?" she asked softly.
He was smiling at last, but it was a rather forced smile. "It's nothing," he replied, his eyes soft as they took in her face. They still hadn't lost that "drowning" look, and it troubled her.
"It is not nothing," she said firmly, narrowing her eyes at him. "You look…different."
"Just a little tired," he insisted, stepping back and dropping his eyes. Elizabeth found herself wishing she had paid more attention to what Jack Sparrow and his crew had actually said when they had casually shouted curses at each other and everything during her stint in their company. She now found herself feeling that she'd have a use for such words.
"In that case," she retorted archly, seizing his arm and forcibly linking it with hers, "we shall have to remedy it. Come. I've brought a picnic and dear Mrs. Tapling was kind enough to give me a jug of her lemonade to go with it."
Will's slightly frantic expression confirmed her suspicions that his work was the cause for this quietness of spirit. "I can't, Elizabeth!" he protested, lowering his voice. "There is so much left to--"
Elizabeth stepped back and put her hands on her hips in the best imitation of her old governess, the implacable Mrs. Simms, that she could manage. "William Turner, I will have none of that," she announced sternly. "Mrs. Tapling herself worries that you will keel over if you continue to work at this frenzied pace, and I see now she was not far from the truth. You are coming with me out of this inferno to take a proper meal in the open air--by heaven, I should have done this sooner. How long has it been since you have eaten while sitting down--do not answer that," she added. Will's face, she was pleased to note, was slowly losing that disgruntled look.
Resigned in the face of her determination, Will bent to pick up the basket and lemonade jug, not quite able to hide his body's stiffness from his fiancée's observant eyes. "As you will, Miss Swann," he replied formally. "But in that case, you might at least do me the kindness of explaining my absence to my clientele when they come in search of orders not yet filled due to this delay."
Allowing herself a snort of laughter, Elizabeth retorted, "I'll do nothing of the kind, Mr. Turner, for it is your clients' fault for overburdening all their needs upon a single pair of hands, and yours for taking on this great mountain of orders rather than directing them elsewhere." She indicated the cluttered shop with a jerk of her head as she propelled him out the door by the arm. "You'll find yourself better able to face all that with a full stomach and a rested mind later. It's no wonder you're so overworked."
Will just shook his head, aware that it was useless to argue with her.
They settled down for their picnic on a hillside in the shade of an old citrus grove, overlooking one of the island's many sugar plantations. Will spread their blanket in the shade of a large orange tree--and frightened Elizabeth by promptly climbing up said tree in search of late-season fruit.
"Come back down here!" she shrieked as his feet disappeared into the leaves. "You'll break your neck!"
"No, I won't," came the response from somewhere in the thick green mass. "Aha…bring the basket!"
Elizabeth hastily emptied their lunch onto the blanket and scurried under the tree, giggling like a schoolgirl. "All right, I'm ready!"
"Catch!" Three fat oranges came toppling from the foliage. She managed to catch one, a second survived intact, but the third struck a root and exploded with a ripe splat.
"No matter. Here!" Two more came tumbling into her view, and she yelped with delight when she managed to capture them both.
"Now come down from there!" she ordered, her attempt to sound stern thwarted by her laughter. His laughter was smug as he descended and jumped down from the last branch to land beside her. "You look better already."
"It must be the company," he replied, and they sank down onto the blanket for their lunch.
She handed him a sandwich stuffed with sliced tuna, and hid her amusement at the way he attacked it. Having known him so long--and, she now realized, having loved him as long as she had known him--Elizabeth was well acquainted with her betrothed's moods, and knew that the best way to handle him in a difficult frame of mind was not to let on that she had noticed. Will tended to grow flustered and embarrassed if he believed he had made a social error in her presence, and so she took care not to notice his overly-hearty appetite and instead concentrated on slipping food surreptitiously into his hand without comment. To her relief, he was too hungry to notice.
Perhaps I shall end twice lucky this afternoon, and he will be so full that he'll fall asleep, she thought with a smile. That her fiancé noticed. "What?"
Her smile grew broader, and she scooted closer to him on the blanket. "I was merely thinking how glad I was that I persuaded you to come."
That little flicker of consternation in his dark eyes made her want to scream in frustration. His "care and devotion" was one of many things about him that she loved, along with his sense of discipline and responsibility and dedication but…for heaven's sake, must he devote so much to that wretched shop of his?! It felt absurd to her that Will, still very much a boy by the standards of nearly everyone in Port Royal, should be practically consumed with guilt for taking the time to eat lunch sitting down instead of with one hand on the hammer or bellows.
Well, she'd have none of it. Folding her arms across her chest in an Anamaria-like fashion and leaning toward him, she said curtly, "Now see here, Mr. Turner. I will not tolerate any protestations of responsibilities to your work. You've worked yourself to exhaustion with not a day off in weeks--don't think I did not hear of you getting into trouble for working last Sunday--and if you continue this way, it will reflect badly in your crafts, not to mention that I've scarcely seen you in a month!"
It was the wrong card to play. Will's eyes widened, and his mouth opened in a look of utter devastation, and he whispered, "I'm so sorry, Elizabeth. I've been neglecting you--"
"Oh, blast it!" Elizabeth snatched off her hat and flung it onto the blanket, then kissed him furiously. "That was not what I meant."
"But you said--"
"I said you had been working too hard to feel guilty for taking a few hours off. Now stop," she said in a softer voice, putting a hand over his lips when he would have argued. "I was not speaking for myself; I've been worried about you. You take too much upon yourself."
Will reached up and pulled her hand away from his face gently. "Many people in Port Royal rely upon my work, Elizabeth," he told her seriously. "The governor said it himself when he sent me to apprentice for Mr. Brown ten years ago, that no craft was more necessary to the success of a colony than the blacksmith's--"
"Oh hush," Elizabeth said, swatting him with her hat. "I recall more recently that he seemed to feel it was that very craft that made you somehow unworthy of me. I love my father, Will, but he often speaks what he considers 'best suited to the occasion' rather than what he truly thinks. Your craft is important, but not so much that you must wear yourself down to nothing to satisfy your impatient customers." To take the sting out of her words, she kissed his brow softly. "They will survive waiting an extra day for their door handles or horse shoes. Even their swords. We have no great shortage of swords in Port Royal that requires you slaving away day and night to make more."
"Oh?" Will leaned back and raised an eyebrow at her challengingly. "And pray tell, when have you been skulking about the fort counting swords so that you would know?"
Elizabeth laughed aloud, and delivered her final coup de grâce. "I did not need to. I heard dear Commodore Norrington telling my father that very thing after placing yet another absurd order with you." She rolled her eyes in mild annoyance. "I also heard my father asking why he felt it necessary to burden you with so many orders, and Mr. Gillette said something to the effect of 'one never knows when more swords will come in handy, but it's useful to take advantage of a craftsman as eager to please as Turner.'" She glanced sideways at Will and grinned at his outraged expression. "Perhaps you should follow a bit of the late Mr. Brown's example, Will. No one ever beat down the door when a sword or horse shoe wasn't ready precisely on time. You're spoiling your customers."
Looking highly disgruntled, Will muttered, "I shall have to rethink my work ethic."
Chuckling, Elizabeth reached for the basket. "In which case, you can certainly spare enough time for more lemonade and one of these oranges you risked life and limb for. Come," she patted the blanket next to her. "Tell me of something other than that wretched smithy. Tell me of your plans for our house."
Will obliged, and they shared oranges and the last of the lemonade as a cooling breeze off the sea chased the worst of the heat away. As Elizabeth had hoped, all the food after long days of heavy labor lulled Will into a drowsy inertia, and she was able to sidle up to him without causing embarrassment. (Despite all they'd been through, he could be so frustratingly proper at times!) Today, however, that did not seem likely to be a problem, and when she stole an arm around him and began gently stroking his hair, Will only sighed contentedly and closed his eyes, leaning back against her chest.
Elizabeth could scarcely keep still in her delight. Thoughts of their house and their future were usually enough to keep her impatience at bay, but at other times, it was all she could do to keep from crying in despair. Two years! Two years since she'd made her chosen path known, and still they were unmarried, still Will blushed if she so much as took his hand in the presence of her father, still they were expected to behave as naught more than proper acquaintances, when in truth she felt that he was the other half of her soul, and that she would die if kept apart from him too long.
However, today need not be a frustrating day. Maneuvering as carefully as possible, she eased Will's head from her shoulder to her lap, then leaned back against the bole of the orange tree and watched the ships coming in. Tomorrow she would be back to lonely boredom in her father's house, longing for the day that still seemed so far in the future, and Will would be back in that stifling little shop single-handedly shouldering the iron and weapon needs of practically all Port Royal. Tomorrow they would be back to frustrating unwedded life.
Will stirred in her lap and she glanced down at him apprehensively, but then he settled again, and she bent down and gently kissed his forehead.
At least for now, everything else, including tomorrow, seemed very far away.
To Be Continued…
Coming up next: It's the wedding of the year…but not Elizabeth and Will's, and a wealthy, handsome stranger makes some unpleasant waves in Port Royal.
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