"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Scheyfve." Emily curtsied.
"It's a pleasure to meet you as well, and please, just call me Max," he told her. "Are you ready to leave, then?"
"Quite ready, thank you." She knew that she was blushing and prayed that he didn't notice. He smiled, took her arm, and led her to the ship.
At first things went smoothly. Max and Emily went below deck, where he taught her how to play cards and they talked. Max told Emily what it was like to grow up as the son of the ambassador, and Emily told Max about her childhood in France.
"It was happy," she told him. "Pere always doted on me and called me his little princess. When I was four, he bought me a pony and taught me how to ride. He always bought me the latest fashions in Paris. I was the best-dressed child at court. Mama taught me to play the virginals, and I would entertain her friends when they would visit. Then when I was fifteen, my parents sent me to the English court to serve as a lady in waiting."
"That must have been quite an adjustment for you." Max had begun to lightly trail the fingers of one hand up and down Emily's arm.
"Oh, it was!" Emily exclaimed. "The greatest shock was meeting my half sister, Katherine. We look so much alike that we were able to fool the royal family for a little while."
"Intriguing." Max chuckled. "You're a very beautiful young lady, mademoiselle."
Emily smiled and blushed deeply. This time she was sure it must show. Max lightly touched her chin. "May I kiss you?"
His lips were warm against hers, awakening desire within her chest as well as producing an icy stab of fear at the base of her spine. His hands began to roam all over her body, exploring.
Suddenly Emily broke free. "No, please! You're going too fast!"
Max was disappointed. "Don't you like me?"
"I do like you, a lot," Emily told him. "It's just that I want to save my maidenhead for my wedding night. You see, my mother didn't, and because of that, I didn't find out who my real father was until I was fifteen, and I don't want any child of mine to go through what I went through."
"I see." Max looked thoughtful. "You're a very smart young lady, Emily."
"I'm so glad to see you!" Emily's mother, Frances, said as she hugged and kissed her daughter. "It seems like forever since I last held you in my arms! You look so grown up now!"
"How is he?" Emily asked breathlessly.
"He's holding his own," Frances told her. "He's awake if you'd like to see him now."
"Of course I would!"
Charles Boisseau was sitting up in bed, pale and weak but alert. His face brightened as soon as he saw Emily.
"Pere!" Emily rushed to him and kissed his cheek. "How have you been? I've been so worried about you!"
"Better now, sweetheart. It's so good to see you again."
It occurred to Emily that Charles was still unaware that she knew the truth about who her real father was, but when she saw how happy he was to see her, she simply didn't have the heart to tell him.
Charles' health improved rapidly after Emily arrived, and a few days later, she prepared to return to England with Max.
"But why do you need to return to England?" asked Charles. "Why not remain in France with us?"
"I love you, Pere," Emily told him. "But England is my home now, and after everything I've been through with the royal family, I feel such a connection to them that to me they really are my family. My second family, I mean," she amended quickly. It was on the tip of her tongue to say more, but somehow, the words just wouldn't come out.
A part of Emily dreaded the return trip to England with Max, fearing another situation in which she might feel compromised, but as it turned out, her fears were groundless, as Max was a perfect gentleman the entire time. In fact, Emily enjoyed the trip so much that she found it difficult to say good-bye to him when it was over.
"I really enjoyed getting to know you, Max," she told him. "I truly hope that our paths will cross again sometime."
"I hope for much more than that." Max grinned. "If it's all right with you, I'd like to ask the Queen for permission for us to wed."