Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended. This is just a tribute.
Thank you to willowbae, for her excellent beta-ing skills and for her loyalty to Pirate Jake. :)
Lady Renesmee turned pale. She had not expected this forthright question and her mind went blank under Miss Weber's inquisitorial stare. She tried desperately to think of a convincing reply, but nothing sprung to mind. Miss Weber stood, waiting patiently for an answer, as Renesmee edged a little further into the cabin. Her eyes fell and she felt her throat tightening, but she forced herself to speak in a light tone.
"What on earth do you mean, Angela?"
Her maid was not remotely convinced by her mistress's show of innocence. She refused to be side-tracked and gravely pursued her line of questioning.
"Miss Renesmee, what is the captain to you?"
Renesmee's eyes flew up and she stuttered. "Nothing… he is nothing to me…"
But, even as she made this denial, a deeper loyalty – a loyalty that she had not even realised existed – won through. Her heart ached painfully as she realised exactly what Jacob had already become to her, what he would always be to her. She belonged to him and she knew it. And in a matter of hours he would be gone.
The weight of this knowledge, added to Miss Weber's critical gaze, made her feel completely overwhelmed. Renesmee sank down onto her bunk with her eyes fixed on her tightly clasped hands. She tried to speak, but her voice was suspended by tears.
Miss Weber was startled by Renesmee's tearful countenance. Her mistress was obviously extremely overwrought. Whatever was going on had undoubtedly upset the girl very badly. The older woman was filled with anxiety and her stern manner was replaced with deep concern.
"What has happened, Miss Renesmee? What did he do to you?"
Renesmee's lip wobbled and a moment later she turned away and buried her face in her pillow with a muffled sob. "I love him…"
When she heard these words Miss Weber was absolutely staggered. If the worst of her suspicions were true, she might have imagined Lady Renesmee admitting – in a very shamefaced manner – that the captain had flirted with her. After all, Renesmee was a beautiful and inexperienced girl and the captain clearly had a great deal of charm, even if he was a pirate. At no point had she envisaged her mistress bursting into tears and declaring that she was in love with the man!
For a moment, Miss Weber was shocked into a state of utter speechlessness. She finally managed to gasp.
She desperately hoped that she had misheard the girl, but the loud sobs issuing from the pillow made it very obvious that she had not. Miss Weber hardly knew how to respond. Although she was less than pleased by Renesmee's bombshell, she could not fight the habit of a lifetime. Before she knew it, she had stifled her disapproval and was sitting down on the bed beside her agitated mistress, comfortingly patting her hair, just as if Lady Renesmee was a small child.
"There, there… I'm sure there's nothing to cry about…"
But, even as the words left her mouth, Miss Weber was struck by an awful thought. How far had things actually gone between them? Maybe there really was something to cry about. She was stunned by her own neglectful foolishness. Why hadn't she insisted on chaperoning Lady Renesmee every moment since they had boarded the Rabbit? Why had she allowed her to spend even a second alone with the captain?
As Miss Weber inwardly chastised herself for this terrible dereliction of duty, Lady Renesmee gradually grew calmer. Her sobbing subsided and she realised that Miss Weber was not scolding her for her shocking confession. Just this knowledge was enough to make her take a deep breath and raise her head.
The expression on her tearstained face was so miserable that Miss Weber could not find it in her heart to be too angry. But, despite her sympathy for her afflicted mistress, Miss Weber's sense of duty compelled her to ask the most obvious question. Although she could hardly bring herself to say the words, she steeled herself and held Lady Renesmee's gaze.
"Miss Renesmee…" She spoke in a low, cautious voice and her expression was very serious. "Did… did the captain seduce you?"
Renesmee's eyes flew wide. "No…" She shook her head vehemently. "No, he would never have used me that way. He loves me."
Miss Weber was extremely relieved to hear this. She may not have been entirely convinced by Lady Renesmee's assertion that the captain loved her, but she could not doubt the sincerity in her mistress's eyes when she denied a seduction. Lady Renesmee was an honest girl and her maid could see that she was telling the truth.
It seemed as if the situation was not as disastrous as Miss Weber had imagined, for although Lady Renesmee had not behaved wisely, she had not actually ruined herself. They would leave the Rabbit that night and her foolish infatuation could be put behind her. She still had her virtue. Her reputation had not been shattered by the selfish actions of a handsome rogue.
Miss Weber felt comforted enough to say. "Don't worry, Miss Renesmee. Once we are in the palace, and you have spent time with your family and the people there, all of this will be completely forgotten."
These words did not have the effect that she had intended. Instead of looking reassured, Lady Renesmee raised her chin and glared at her maid.
"I don't want to forget him."
When Miss Weber saw her mistress's stubborn expression she gave an impatient sigh. Was Lady Renesmee determined to destroy her reputation? Miss Weber answered a little irritably.
"What choice do you have? You can't possibly marry him."
Renesmee winced and rose to her feet with a proud expression. "I am well aware of that, Angela. I don't expect anything." She turned away and rested her hand on the table, adding quietly. "I know that we are to be parted, but that won't stop me from loving him."
Something in her tone worried her Miss Weber. She wanted to believe that as soon as Renesmee was presented with some exciting new distractions, she would forget all about the captain, but her heart told her that this was just an optimistic dream. Her mistress was a very tender-hearted and loyal girl, and Miss Weber knew from experience that once a person had found a place in Lady Renesmee's affections, she would love them with an unwavering and tenacious devotion.
Just the way that she felt about her father was proof enough of that fact. In spite of Lord Edward's long absences, Renesmee would not hear a word said against him. She would even try to justify the brevity of his visits on the rare occasions when he did come to see her. And that deep loyalty, which was so pronounced in Renesmee, would ensure that if she had formed an attachment to the captain, she would not easily set it aside, however undeserving he might be.
But Miss Weber knew that on this occasion Lady Renesmee had no choice in the matter. There was absolutely no way that she would ever be permitted to make such a mésalliance. She could never marry the captain, even if he actually wanted to wed her – which seemed unlikely. It was an impossible match and the sooner that her mistress could accept the fact, the better it would be for all concerned.
So Miss Weber refrained from rebuking the girl, which would only lead to a fruitless argument, and took the practical approach. She stood up and spoke with a calm detachment.
"Well, that is a great shame, Miss Renesmee. But I believe that the sooner we leave this ship and forget all that has happened here, the better."
Lady Renesmee lowered her eyes. She knew that Miss Weber was disappointed in her and felt it keenly. She wanted to defend herself, but instead she bit her tongue and said nothing. However much it hurt, she understood that her maid was actually trying to be kind.
She was in a position to make Renesmee's life extremely difficult over this little indiscretion. If she chose to, Miss Weber could tell the de Cullens and the Swans exactly how their beloved child had behaved aboard the Rabbit. But instead, she was actually advocating that they overlook the whole affair.
Renesmee knew that she could never be able to explain her feelings for the captain to Miss Weber, any more than her maid would want to hear of them. But the truth was that she would never forget Jacob. When he sailed away, he would take her heart with him. And how could she forget her heart? Such a thing would be impossible.
But she was an intelligent girl and realised that Jacob was right. He had no choice but to take her to Sol Duc. He had given his word and there would be untold bloodshed if he did not keep it. Renesmee did not want that blood on her hands, or on his. And so she would have to face the inevitable loss of her heart, and no amount of tears or entreaties would make any difference.
As well as being a bright girl, Lady Renesmee was also a proud one, and once she had come to this conclusion, she was reluctant to expose herself any further, and so she dried her eyes and removed her coat, silently placing it in on the bed.
If Miss Weber noticed the absence of Lady Renesmee's fichu, she certainly did not mention the fact. She just poured her mistress a cup of tea and silently handed it to her.
The two women spent the rest of the afternoon, and the whole evening, in their cabin, awaiting their arrival in Sol Duc. The atmosphere remained tense. Miss Weber did not attempt to hide the fact that she was feeling rather vexed, while Renesmee battled inwardly with the knowledge that she was about to leave Jacob – and the fact that she was also in disgrace with her maid did little to lighten her mood. Needless to say, she was extremely subdued.
Neither seemed inclined to discuss their destination. They ate their dinner in virtual silence. It was almost a welcome relief when Ben came to the cabin to deliver their food. Miss Weber was a little frosty with him, since she now considered him to be an accomplice in the attempted seduction of her mistress. But he was so scrupulously polite that she managed to unbend enough to ask him how much longer it would be before they reached Sol Duc.
"It won't be long now, ma'am." He glanced at the window. "Now that it's dark, we will be able to sail close to shore. I will come for you when it is time to depart."
"Thank you." Miss Weber nodded firmly and the steward bowed himself out of the room, leaving the ladies to their awkward silence.
On deck things were far from silent. The ship had been in a flurry of activity for hours, as the crew prepared for the Rabbit's arrival in Sol Duc. Before the sun set, the captain took the time to share his plan with his men. By his standards the proposal was a fairly straightforward one. He wanted to leave Lady Renesmee and Miss Weber on the shores of a small fishing village, which lay several miles north of Port Angeles.
They planned to sail close to shore, where the Rabbit would remain out of sight, anchored in a cove just north of the village. Several men, including Ben, would row the ladies and their trunks to the beach, towing a small dinghy behind their boat. This dinghy would also be left on the shore in a discrete location. The larger rowing boat would return to the ship with all the men, except for Ben.
Ben would remain with the ladies, in the guise of Lady Renesmee's servant, and help them find assistance and transportation in the village. Once the ladies were safely en route to the palace, he would be free to slip away, return to the dinghy, and row himself around the headland to the Rabbit.
The captain intended to accompany the ladies ashore and leave the quartermaster in command of the ship in his absence. He knew that this mission held a certain risk and he was reluctant to order any of his crew to come with him, but he did need several good men and so he asked if anyone would be willing to volunteer. This request was immediately answered by a number of willing men.
The captain threw them an appraising glance and chose the three most suitable for the task, one of whom was the master gunner. Paul might have been a slightly unexpected volunteer, but the captain instantly accepted him. The master gunner had an abrasive personality, but he was always useful in a dangerous situation and the captain could only feel grateful to have him on side.
Once the plan was agreed, the crew made their preparations with stunning efficiency and everything was in place before the sun sank below the horizon. There was very little for the crew to do until they reached Sol Duc, and so the captain ordered the men to eat dinner and conserve their strength for the long night ahead.
The captain himself did not go below to eat; instead he remained on deck to oversee the approach to Sol Duc. Fortunately, Ben remembered to bring him some food and drink. As the captain's steward, he would have taken it as a personal failing if his master had gone hungry, especially as he was undertaking a potentially dangerous mission that very night.
After Ben disappeared with the empty tray, the captain strolled to the ship's prow. When he reached it, he paused at the rail to watch the sunset. He had been given no time for contemplation since leaving Renesmee at her cabin door, but looking out to sea, he finally had the chance to consider their situation.
His eyes followed the path of rich, orange sunlight, blazing its way across the ocean. It made a contrast to the cool moonlight of the previous evening. He found himself wishing that Renesmee was with him to witness it. He felt sure that she would appreciate the view, almost as much as he would appreciate the sight of her on deck beside him. He smiled at the thought.
Renesmee had only been on the Rabbit for a day, but she already seemed at home. She had a great deal of courage and he was very proud of how quickly she had adapted to her new surroundings. But there was more to it than that; the sea was in her blood. He could feel it. She belonged there, and the captain could hardly imagine what the ship would be like without her.
His brow lowered into a deep frown at thought of leaving her behind. He could never have imagined that anyone would mean so much to him so quickly. He could never have imagined that anyone would mean so much to him ever. The strength of his own feelings shocked him, but the captain suffered no uncertainty. Lady de Cullen belonged to him.
He abruptly turned his back on the sun and crossed the prow. Facing east, he glared defiantly at the distant cliffs of Sol Duc, which shone a fiery red, reflecting the last of the fading sunlight.
The captain thrived on adventure and risk-taking, and as the cover of darkness approached he felt the familiar thrill of danger. But, for the very first time, his eagerness for adventure was tempered by the knowledge that he was putting the girl he loved into a hazardous position.
Being the commander of a ship of privateers, the captain was accustomed to responsibility. He never forgot that the lives of his men were in his hands and he did not take that burden lightly, but they were men of action. His warlike crew had no illusions about life on the Rabbit and accepted its accompanying hardships and dangers.
But Lady Renesmee was not one of his crew, nor had she chosen to board his ship. He had seized her from her grandfather's flagship against her will and had vowed that no harm would come to her. He was honour bound to see her safely to Sol Duc, but in truth the captain felt a burning desire to protect his charge that had absolutely nothing to do with his honour and everything to do with his feelings for her.
And he realised that once he left Renesmee on the shores of Sol Duc, he would no longer be in a position to guard her from danger. It was this thought that made his blood run cold. His black eyes scanned the horizon and he clenched the ship's rail, turning his knuckles white.
How could he let her go?
The captain drew a long breath and reminded himself that Renesmee was from a powerful family. When she reached Prince Carlisle's palace she would be placed in the lap of luxury. She would be safe, even if a hundred miles of ocean lay between them. He told himself to hold onto this hope and crush the doubt lurking in his heart, even though it seemed almost impossible to do.
When the quartermaster came on deck a short while later, he found the captain still staring out to sea.
"Jake?" Mr Call threw him a quizzical look as he crossed the prow. "Is everything well?"
The captain pulled himself out of his reverie with a slight smile. "As far as I know…"
Mr Call did not pretend to be fooled. They had known each other for too many years. He came to a standstill beside his friend and gazed towards Sol Duc.
The captain considered dismissing the question, but thought better of it and gave an honest answer.
"I am afraid, Embry." He did not elaborate.
His quartermaster remained quiet for a moment, before replying calmly. "Good."
The captain cocked an eyebrow and glanced at his companion. Mr Call continued with a grave countenance.
"You abducted an innocent girl, Jake. You stole Lady de Cullen from her people and forced her aboard your ship. Her care lies in your hands and I am glad to hear that you take that responsibility seriously."
The captain was not offended by these cool words. He was pleased that his friend should concern himself with Renesmee's wellbeing. He nodded slowly.
"I have never forgotten my responsibility. I know what must be done and I will do it. She will reach Sol Duc in safety…" He fell silent and a shadow crossed his features.
"But…?" Mr Call prompted him quietly.
"But… I don't know how I will leave her there, unprotected."
"Lady de Cullen will not be unprotected. Ben will guard her well – though I am sure the villagers will prove to be quite harmless. And once her family take her home, they will look after her."
"The de Cullens." The captain curled his lip in contempt. "I wouldn't trust them to do the job properly. They barely know her."
Mr Call gave an uncommitted shrug. "That may be true, but she is still one of them, and we are all aware that they do know how to look after themselves."
The captain gave a bitter smile. "Yes, they do."
The quartermaster watched his friend thoughtfully. "May I speak plainly?"
"Could I stop you, if I wanted to?" Was the somewhat sardonic reply.
"Concentrate on the mission at hand. If your thoughts are distracted with worries, you will not only increase the danger to us, but also to Lady de Cullen."
The captain considered these words for a moment and inwardly acknowledged their truth. He needed to stay on the alert if he was to keep Renesmee safe. He turned from the rail and put his hand on his friend's shoulder, speaking bracingly.
"You're right, Embry. We must prepare."
"Of course." The quartermaster took his commander's cue and answered in kind. "What are your orders, Captain?"
The captain appreciated his friend's tact and gave his orders without delay. He then hurried to the quarterdeck and focused his attention on the command of his ship.
Night fell and the wind rose, catching the ship's sails and driving the Rabbit swiftly towards the coast of Sol Duc. The beach where they intended to leave the ladies was enclosed by low cliffs, which ran to the headland on either side. A fishing village was nestled slightly inland. It consisted of small stone cottages built on the gentle slopes of the cliffs. The cove where the Rabbit was to anchor was not visible from the village. It was concealed behind the headland cliffs.
As they sailed towards the cove, the captain gazed across the dark water. He was pleased that the moon was obscured by thick clouds, making it difficult for anyone to observe the Rabbit from the shore. The village itself was only visible because of the lamplight shining from the cottage windows.
As he stared at the tiny village the captain took a deep breath. He was going to have to leave Renesmee there. He did not believe that the villagers would pose a threat to her, especially not with Ben on guard duty, but he still felt fear, cold and persistent, creeping up his spine. He took another breath and told himself to trust that she would be safe. Following his quartermaster's advice, he turned his focus to the task at hand, which was navigating a safe route through the darkness to the cove and avoiding the sharp rocks at the tip of the headland.
The Rabbit cut through the water without mishap and once she was anchored safely out of sight, the large rowing boat and the dinghy were loaded with the trunks and lowered into the sea. It was only then that Lady Renesmee and Miss Weber were brought above deck by Ben.
The ladies both wore thick cloaks to protect themselves from the chilly night breeze, but they still shivered as they stepped into the cold air. All the lights on deck had been lowered and it took a moment for Renesmee's eyes to adjust to the darkness, as she glanced about her, in search of the captain.
She did not need to look for him. He spotted her the second that she appeared and hurried to her side. He slipped his hands around her waist before she realised that he was there. Renesmee gave a small start and then sighed with relief when she realised who was holding her.
"Oh, you startled me." She glanced up with an ingenuous smile and tried to make out the captain's face in the dim light. "I didn't know who it was."
The captain gave her an affectionate squeeze and leaned in close. His eyes burned into hers and she heard the possessiveness in his deep voice and a note of menace.
"Don't worry; I know how to guard my own."
Lady Renesmee nestled instinctively against his big body and gave him a timid smile. "If you always look that fierce, Jacob, I doubt that anyone would ever dare come anywhere near me…"
The captain smiled at this naïve statement and tugged her a little closer. "I wouldn't be so sure. There is no limit to the foolishness a man will commit in pursuit of an attractive woman. And your beauty could cloud any man's reason."
Renesmee blushed and lowered her eyes. "That's not true. You're just being nice."
He slipped a hand under her jaw. Lifting her chin, his black eyes drew her gaze, holding her captive. "Don't you remember, Nessie? I almost started a war to keep you."
Without thinking, she raised a hand to the velvet skin of his neck and leaned towards him. Their eyes remained locked and Renesmee was sure that the captain was going to kiss her. She felt his hold tighten as he lowered his head. At precisely that moment Miss Weber, who was standing nearby, gave a disapproving tut and Renesmee froze.
She was perfectly aware that Miss Weber wanted her to stay away from the captain, but she was not prepared to sacrifice the very last of their time together. She would stay by his side for as long as she could, and was willing to endure the censure of her maid, or anyone else, in doing so.
The captain heard Miss Weber's tut and felt the young lady stiffen in his arms. He loosened his hold and glanced down in concern, but before he could speak, Renesmee grabbed his hand and manoeuvred him away from her disapproving maid, giving that worthy lady no chance to interfere.
The captain willingly assisted Renesmee in her efforts to escape her servant. He led her towards the unlit quarterdeck, well away from Miss Weber. They mounted the steps and crossed the wooden boards, pausing at the rail to stare into the night. He then turned to her with a thoughtful glance.
"Your maid seems troubled," he said in a low voice, with only the hint of a smile.
"Yes… she is." Renesmee glanced up with a guilty smile. "I told her that I was in love with you."
The captain appeared stunned. He gave a short laugh. "No wonder she's unhappy. What possessed you to tell her that?"
Renesmee searched his eyes in the darkness and replied a little defensively. "Would you rather I hadn't?"
He spoke gently, trying to reassure her. "I'm glad to know that you feel that way. But I wasn't demanding that you confess it to anyone."
She gave an apologetic shrug. "I didn't intend to make the confession, but Angela questioned me and I told the truth."
Renesmee waited for the captain to reply and when he did not, her cheeks warmed with a flush of shame. Did Jacob think her a romantic dreamer, or simply a fool? Did he believe that she was too innocent to understand their situation?
Whatever else might have been said of her, Lady Renesmee had the blood of two notoriously proud families in her veins, and before she could collapse into a state of wretched embarrassment that infamous pride came to her rescue. She drew herself to her full height and kept her eyes fixed on the rolling black waves.
"You will never know how lucky I feel to have met you, Jacob; this has been the most wonderful experience of my life. But please don't misunderstand my declaration. I may not be a woman of the world, but I am not wholly naïve. When I spoke to Angela, I was honest about my feelings, but I was also honest about our situation, both to her and myself.
"I have no claim on you. And I did not, at any point, pretend that we had exchanged promises, or made any plans for the future." The captain glanced at her sharply, but Renesmee kept her gaze locked on the sea. "I made it perfectly clear that I expect absolutely nothing from you, Jacob."
The captain finally replied, his voice deceptively cool. "Really?"
Renesmee refused to meet his eye. It was painful to acknowledge the truth. In fact, she would much rather have avoided the discussion altogether, but it seemed that there was no way around it. She suddenly felt far older than her years, and unspeakably weary.
"Yes… really. I hope for nothing…" She brushed her fingers over her eyes and sighed. "But I also regret nothing."
Renesmee did not know what else to say and she stepped back from the rail, moving away from the captain. Before she could take another step, he reached out and caught her arm in a firm hold. He slowly turned her to face him. Even in the darkness, his anger was unmistakeable. Strong hands ran up her arms, gripping her shoulders and pulling her close. He glared down, searching her eyes.
"Is that true, Nessie?" He asked in a low, dangerous voice. "You expect nothing? You believe you have no claim on me?"
She stared up at him, her breath catching in her throat. "I…"
The captain cut her short, clasping one arm around her waist and lifting a hand to her cheek, his gentle touch strangely at odds with his fierce countenance.
"Have you so little faith in me – in our future – that you don't even hope? Or would you prefer this to end now?" He asked bitterly. "Would you rather tell yourself that our time together was nothing more than a dream?"
Renesmee leaned towards the captain, gripping the thick lapels of his coat in her small fingers. "Jacob, what do you mean?"
"Don't you understand?" He growled, lowering his head, until their faces were barely inches apart. "You are the only woman with a claim on me, Nessie. And I don't want to lose you."
"I don't want to lose you either." She clung to him helplessly. "My heart bleeds at the thought of leaving you, Jacob, but we have no choice."
The captain lifted her chin and gazed intently into her eyes. "Would you trust me to find a way?"
"What can we do?" Renesmee cried. "What future can there ever be for us?"
His expression became purposeful. "I want to marry you, Nessie."
Renesmee stared at him in astonishment. For a moment she wondered if she had actually imagined his words. She had been so convinced that their cause was entirely lost, she had not considered any alternative – especially not that one.
"Jacob," she gasped. "Are you serious?"
"I have never been more serious in my life. We met only yesterday, but I already know that I could never be happy without you. You are more precious to me than any other woman could ever be, Nessie. I love you and I would wed you now, if I could, but I am forced to return you to your people tonight." His eyes never left her face. "If I promise to come back for you, will you wait for me? Or will I return to find that you have given yourself to another?"
"Do you really mean it, Jacob?" Renesmee slipped a hand to the captain's broad shoulder and stared at him beseechingly. "Will you come for me? Will you find me again?"
"On my honour, I swear it." His fingers moved to her jaw, sliding behind her head and twisting through her thick tresses. He tilted her head to kiss her. "And when I do, I'll take you away and marry you, sweetheart." Black eyes burned into hers. "Will you have me?"
Lady Renesmee knew what the world expected of her, she knew that she should not entertain the captain's suggestion, even for a second, but when she met his scorching gaze there was no doubt in her heart. She loved him and they belonged together. This man, this adventurer, was her destiny and she knew it. If she rejected Jacob now, she would regret it forever. But if she wanted to keep him, she had to trust that he was telling the truth. Renesmee suddenly realised that she had no choice to make at all, she already trusted him completely. He would never betray her.
"Yes, I will have you," she replied earnestly.
The captain pulled back sharply, searching her face, as if he could hardly believe his ears. "Truly? You mean it, Nessie?"
She nodded, gazing up at him with wide, serious eyes. "I will wait for you, Jacob. I promise."
He surprised Lady Renesmee, by going down on one knee and clasping her hands. He was so tall that they were almost at eye level, even though he knelt before her. The strength of his feelings could not be hidden as he stared at their joined hands. His voice was rough with emotion and she could hear the reverence in his words.
"For the faith you show me now, I vow that I will never give you cause to regret your promise. You will have my love, my allegiance for as long as I live, and I will protect you with my life."
Renesmee's eyes filled with tears and she pulled her hands free to throw them around his neck as she burst into tears. The captain gave a short laugh of surprise and with a swift move, caught her legs from under her and swept her into his arms as he rose to his feet. He cradled her to his chest as she pressed her soft lips to his, exchanging vows without another word.
Who knows how long they would have lingered? But their time together was soon ended, when Mr Call discreetly climbed onto the quarterdeck to tell them that the crew were waiting to take the ladies ashore. The captain did not release Renesmee. Instead, he carried her from the quarterdeck to the main deck. He finally put her on her feet when they reached the top of the ladder which ran down to the rowing boat.
Ben and two other crewmen were already waiting in the boat below, as was Miss Weber. Paul still stood on deck, ready to assist his commander and the young lady. The captain gave his final orders to Mr Call and then climbed onto the ladder. Renesmee followed him cautiously, but quickly gained confidence. The captain helped her find her footing and the master gunner descended after her, guiding her from above.
The captain stepped into the rowing boat without hesitation and reached for Lady Renesmee. The master gunner steadied her as she clasped the captain's hand and clambered in after him. She sighed with relief when she was safely installed in her seat, beside her maid. Once Paul was aboard, the men lifted their oars and began to row towards the shore with sure strokes.
Lady Renesmee noticed Miss Weber's rigid posture as they sat side by side. She was as straight as a rod and refused to even look at her mistress. It was obvious that she was feeling both angry and disapproving, and Renesmee was sorry for it, but she did not try to appease her. She knew that any attempt would be futile. The only thing that would make that loyal servant feel better would be to see captain sailing in the opposite direction.
And so, instead of speaking to her maid, Renesmee sat quietly, snuggled in her sable cloak, listening to the waves lapping at the sides of the boat and the sound of the oars, cutting cleanly through the water. The captain sat behind Renesmee and she tried to resist the temptation to turn her head and look at him, which was difficult since she could feel his eyes burning into her back.
When she finally lost the battle and peeked over her shoulder, her eyes straining in the darkness to see his face, it was impossible to miss the white, roguish smile that greeted her. She hurriedly glanced away, ignoring the fluttering of her heart and captain's low chuckle.
The boat made steady progress around the looming headland and soon the beach came into view, and behind it the cosy fishing village. No one made a sound as they approached the shore. Renesmee's heart was in her throat as she scanned the beach, looking for signs of life. She was terrified that someone would spot their boat and raise the alarm. But luck was on their side. If the village had a watchman, he was not doing his job that night, and they reached the beach unobserved.
The moment they reached the shoreline, the men leapt out of the boat, wading through the waves and dragging it onto the sand. As Paul and the two unfamiliar crewmen began to unload the trunks and pull the tiny dinghy ashore, the captain came to the side of the boat and reached out to Renesmee. She happily allowed herself to be lifted in his arms and carried onto the beach without getting her feet wet.
As the captain stepped out of the waves, Renesmee happened to glance over her shoulder. She caught sight of the captain's steward offering her maid assistance. Ben may have been noticeably shorter than Miss Weber, but he did not let this deter him. As Miss Weber opened her mouth to reject his offer, he swept her feet from under her and turned determinedly towards the shore.
"Oh…" gasped Miss Weber, looking unusually flustered. "It's quite alright… you really needn't trouble yourself, sir. I can quite easily walk…!"
Her protests were in vain. Ben just smiled benevolently. "It is no trouble, Miss Weber. What kind of man would I be, if I let you get your shoes wet?"
This seemed to be a rhetorical question for which Miss Weber had no answer. She remained rigid and angular in the wiry steward's arms as he cheerfully carried her ashore. When they reached the rough sand he gently placed her on her feet and she smoothed her skirts and turned to him stiffly.
Ben smiled. "Don't thank me, ma'am. It has been my pleasure to assist you during your time with us."
She looked a little less composed than usual and avoided his gaze. "Um… yes, well… that is most obliging of you… sir."
"Not at all," he replied pleasantly, oblivious to her embarrassment.
Miss Weber pulled herself together and turned to the trunks, which were being carried up the beach by the rest of the crew.
"What shall we do with our things?" She said, quickly changing the subject.
"As far as I know, the villagers in these parts are good, law-abiding people. Those trunks will be safe enough on the beach, for now. As soon as we find help, we will hire a wagon and transport them to the palace."
Miss Weber nodded firmly and Renesmee turned away and smothered a smile, hiding her face against the captain's shoulder as he carried her across the sand. When they were a short distance from the rest of the party, the captain put Renesmee on her feet. His reluctance to release her was obvious, and the second that her shoes touched the ground, he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her into a warm embrace. Renesmee raised her face to his. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears.
"Oh, Jacob. I cannot bear to see you go."
"This is not forever." He comforted her, ignoring the twisting pain in his chest. "You know I'll come back for you, Nessie. We will be together again."
Renesmee clung to him, begging. "Please, come for me soon."
"I will, I swear it." The captain sensed her uncertainty and tried to speak lightly. "What's wrong, sweetheart. Don't you believe me?"
"Do… do you think…?" Her lip quivered, before she forced herself to say. "You… you won't forget me… will you, Jacob?"
The pain in his chest increased tenfold, but the captain replied gently, trying to reassure her. "That would be impossible. I could never forget you, Nessie. And I will always come for you."
Renesmee gave a trembling sigh and hugged him tightly. "And I will be waiting when you do..."
The captain held her close for a long moment without speaking, just trying to memorise the feel of her in his arms, the warmth of her slender body as she moulded against him. But, all too soon, their time together came to a close, as the captain raised his head and glanced at his men, who were standing a little way along the dark shore. His crew were ready to depart and Miss Weber stood stiffly beside Ben, also waiting for them to leave.
He slowly loosened his hold. "Sweetheart, it's time for me to go."
"Oh, my goodness." Renesmee suddenly seemed to realise the danger of his situation and replied hastily. "Yes. You must leave right away. You mustn't say here, you might be discovered and taken prisoner!"
"Yes, thank you for reminding me."
He tucked her hand under his arm and grinned in spite of himself, but before he could say more, Renesmee was tugging him towards the boat, anxious for his departure.
The captain allowed himself to be led back to his crew and his lady's disapproving maid. When he reached them, he ignored the maid – and her disapproval – and gave his final instructions to his men. As they launched the boat he turned to Renesmee to say goodbye. He did not want to embarrass her by kissing her in front of an audience, and so he lifted her hand to his lips instead, and spoke in a low voice that only she could hear.
"Goodbye, my angel. May the Gods watch over you and protect you." As his lips pressed her delicate fingers, he glanced up and caught her eyes in the dim light. "Wait for me, Nessie, and I will come for you."
Renesmee squeezed his hand and met his dark gaze. Her eyes filled with tears and her words caught in her throat. She nodded and whispered. "I will…"
He released her fingers and reached into his coat pocket. "Keep this with you. And don't be afraid to use it," he said, pressing a gift into her outstretched hand.
She stared down in confusion and found in her palm a beautiful silver dagger, still in its leather sheath. She recognised the embossed handle. It was the very same dagger that he had lent her on the previous evening.
"Oh," Renesmee gasped in awe. "Jacob, I cannot. This belongs to you."
She tried to hand the dagger back, but he refused to accept it and gently closed her fingers around the hilt. "No, I will rest easier to know that you have it in your possession."
Renesmee noticed his earnest expression and nodded thoughtfully. "Alright, I will keep it until you return… and when you do, I will give it back." She discretely slipped the dagger into the pocket of her cloak.
The captain did not want the dagger back, but he was relieved that she had agreed to keep the weapon, and so he made no objection. He just gave a brief smile and glanced at his crewmen, who were now waiting in the boat. Renesmee watched his face and nodded bravely.
"You must go..."
The captain lifted a hand to her cheek. A gentle caress, a loving smile, and then he was gone, hastening to the craft, which was already just beyond the breaking waves. He waded through the black foam and deftly hoisted himself over the side.
Once aboard, the captain turned to see the figures of Ben, Miss Weber and Lady Renesmee silhouetted on the shore. Renesmee give a small wave and he returned it, making a silent promise that when he returned he would not lose her again.
The captain lifted an oar and joined his men in rowing swiftly away from the beach. Although he performed a familiar task, he could not help feeling as if something was wrong, that something was missing. Glancing back, he suddenly knew exactly what it was. He had left his heart behind. It now rested in the hands of the beautiful girl who stood on the shore, watching him go.
The crew remained as silent as their captain; the only sounds to be heard were the quiet strokes of the oars and the waves around the boat. The silence was finally broken when the master gunner muttered darkly.
"I told Ben that if she comes to harm, I'll feed him to the sharks."
This unexpected comment brought a reluctant smile to the captain's lips. This was the greatest compliment that Paul could have paid Lady de Cullen. He must have thought very highly of their captive to show such concern for her safety, or issue any kind of threat on her behalf.
The captain was warmed to realise that Renesmee had won over his crew so quickly, but he could not bring himself to reply to Paul's remark. He knew that if Renesmee was harmed, neither Ben, nor any other member of his crew, should hold the blame. Her safety was his responsibility alone, and he would happily feed himself to the sharks if anything happened to her.
On the shore, Renesmee watched the boat drift further and further away. She barely noticed the tears which streamed down her cheeks, she could think of nothing but Jacob. It was only when the craft finally rounded the shadowy headland and disappeared from sight, that Ben's quiet voice claimed her attention.
"My Lady, it is time to go to the village."
She came to her senses and rubbed her damp cheeks with her fingers, unsuccessfully trying to remove the tracks of her tears, before turning to the Ben.
"Yes… of course. Whatever you think is best."
Renesmee felt hopelessly small and lost, and was only too happy to follow the resourceful steward's lead. She stumbled forward and might have tripped, had it not been for the sure hand of her maid, catching her arm and steadying her.
"Let me help you, Miss Renesmee. Hold onto me."
Lady Renesmee glanced at Miss Weber. She had expected censure, but was surprised to find kindness in that familiar face, and compassion. For, however disapproving her maid might be of Renesmee's involvement with the captain, she deeply regretted that her mistress was suffering, and she showed her sympathy in the only way she could, by offering the girl her arm and quietly guiding her up the beach, towards the sleepy village.
And so, as Renesmee sought assistance from her father's own countrymen, the captain reached the Rabbit. Mr Call greeted him gladly as he climbed aboard. He was relieved to see the captain returned unharmed, but he sighed inwardly at his commander's sombre expression.
Of course, Ben was still ashore, and Mr Call realised that the captain would be unlikely to relax until his steward was safely back on the ship. The Rabbit was forced to remain hidden for some time, behind the headland, lying in wait for Ben's return. The whole time, the captain stood on the quarterdeck, his eyes on the dark cliffs. When his steward was finally sighted, rounding the headland in the tiny dinghy, the crew readied themselves to set sail.
Once Ben was aboard, the captain spoke to him briefly and then gave the order to sail, and the Rabbit turned from Sol Duc and struck out, towards the open sea. Mr Call kept a polite distance from the captain during that time. It was only when they were safely on their way that he finally approached his friend.
The captain had remained on the quarterdeck the whole time, and when Mr Call sought him out, he found him leaning on the ship's rail, watching the shores of Sol Duc as they faded into the distance. The captain's expression was thoughtful, none of his usual exuberance was present, and when Mr Call saw him, he grieved for his friend. He knew that Jacob had found it difficult to let Lady Renesmee go and he wished, for his sake, that things could have been different.
He crossed the quarterdeck and came to a standstill beside the captain. They stood in silence and Mr Call wished for the right words. He wanted to say something helpful, something that would instantly restore Jacob's natural cheerfulness. But that was beyond him, and so he said the next best thing.
"I'm sorry, Jake… I really am."
The captain broke out of his quiet contemplation and glanced at Mr Call in bewilderment. "You're sorry…?"
The quartermaster tactfully explained himself, sensitive to his friend's raw emotions. "I'm very sorry that you couldn't keep her, Jacob."
The captain's puzzled expression disappeared as he finally understood his friend. He shook his head and his face broke into an unexpected smile.
"Not keep her?" He grinned. "Embry, I intend to marry her."
Hello again :)
Oh my goodness, I just checked to see when I last updated this story and was shocked to discover that it was about eighteen months ago!
I didn't intend to leave it so long, but that's how it worked out. I put my energy into finishing the other story that I'd been working on (and already invested a lot of time in) and so, out of necessity, Pirate Jake was put on the back burner... but not forgotten! This story remained in my head and I always hoped to work on it again.
It also helped that now and again I would receive a lovely review, reminding me that I needed to post another chapter (thank you to those reviewers, your messages definitely motivated me to get the ball rolling again).
So anyway, it's great to be back, have a lovely Easter, and I will do my best to post the next chapter much more quickly...