Three Years Later
The wind caressed Helena’s face as she stood, James’s arm around her waist to support her as the ship left the calmer waters of the cove. She would gain her sea legs in a day or two, she knew, but rather than stay below until she adjusted to the change, she stood at the bow of the ship. She would not have missed this moment for anything.
“I was unsure that such a journey would be well for you, my love,” James murmured as his arms came around her to cradle her against him. His hand rested upon the soft swell of her stomach. “We should perhaps have waited. Our son is so very young. And you about to have another…”
“Nonsense!” Helena said briskly, her own hand covering his. “Little Edward is the perfect sailor and is doing just fine below with Tess. And I am months from my lying in. The war with the Americans is over and done with, and you have said yourself that the only way to extend trade with your Boston associates would be to travel there yourself. The very fact you have brought your family will be reassuring.”
But they were well guarded within the fleet. And the truth was since Helena had first set foot upon a ship for a short journey in the first year after their marriage, she had longed for the freedom of the open sea once again. After a lifetime of being hidden within the four walls of the estate or her father’s town house, the billowing ocean represented a freedom that finally gave her leave to breathe freely.
She turned to James now, face radiant. She loved the feel of the sting of the salt spray upon her cheeks. What’s more, she reveled even now after so long, in the sensation that came of wiping it away and feeling only unblemished skin beneath her palms. She prayed she would never lose that wonder.
James captured her wandering hand with his, lifting it to his lips to place a gentle kiss upon her palm, despite the thin glove that covered it. “You were always beautiful,” he reminded her softly, and she smiled for he always seemed to know her thoughts.
Helena blushed, for it had taken the past three years before she’d even started believing it.
“And you say we will be there within six weeks?” Helena asked, changing the subject abruptly for she had not quite learned the fine art of accepting a compliment.
“Within six weeks you will be exploring Boston to your heart’s content,” he said and tweaked her nose for he knew what she was doing.
“And from there to our new home in the West Indies. It hardly seems possible!” she exclaimed, setting her face into the salt spray again, but not minding it, for, in her mind’s eye, she was already seeing the end of their destination. “I never thought we would have a plantation of our own!”
“The trade in sugar is quite strong, and the British colonies in the islands provide endless opportunities. With your father handling the shipping arrangements, I am quite positive that we can expand our trading opportunities exponentially, especially with the trade routes re-opening to America.”
“But we shall not be shipping only what comes from our plantation,” Helena said, clasping her hands around the rail. She leaned into the wind as though that would somehow get them there faster.
“You like to dream, my beautiful girl. Yes, I think we can create a network of like-minded individuals who will ship their goods with our fleet. They will see that we are offering a fair price and a reliable service.” James laughed and grasped her hand to pull her away from the rail, ever over-protective.
Within her womb, their child leapt as if sensing her joy as James swept her into his arms. She felt the soft flutter and smiled, twisting in James’s arms in time to see the look of wonder cross his face as his hand shifted across her belly and knew he felt it too.
“See, even our child cannot wait to get there!” she said with a laugh. “To think, I never thought I would travel beyond what I could see from my window, and now I am traveling halfway around the world to our new home!”
He laughed with her. “Hardly halfway. What surprises me is that your father seemed happy about the arrangements,” James said as they both tilted their heads back as someone shouted overhead. Men climbed the rigging, laying out more sail. It was a wondrous sight as the canvas cascaded down. The ship lurched as if it too were ready to fly them there if it could.
It was a terrifying moment as the ship ploughed through the waves. For a moment Helena’s brave smile faltered. The trip west would be arduous against the wind and was still not entirely without risks. Even with the War of 1812 at an end, there was still a certain danger of privateers. Though right now she suspected the most terrifying thing they would encounter had just appeared on deck behind them.
“Er…yes. Quite,” Helena said, shooting a glance over her husband’s shoulder toward the quarterdeck, studying the tall figure who was in rapt conversation with the captain.
“What has captured your attention, dear one?” James asked, and froze as he followed her gaze. That he recognized the Duke of York was obvious in the way, he stiffened and drew away from her. “He came with.”
Helena stifled a giggle. She didn’t mean to laugh, not really, but since their marriage the one point of contention that had come between them was his insistence that her father had a way of manipulating things that was quite…well, overwhelming at times.
Not that she disagreed in the least. But since Helena had found out how much of a role her father had played in the two of them coming together, maybe she could be excused just a little if she was somewhat biased.
And had perhaps been hoping just a little that the two men would work out their differences in the weeks they would spend at sea together. Her father had been very unhappy when he’d found that James was taking Helena to a home halfway around the world from him. Which explained exactly why she hadn’t told James that her father was coming.
It is only as far as Boston. They will both meet with the partners there and work out the future of the Barrington-Campbell British Shipping Company together, as they should have before we left.
Harcourt Barrington strode toward them now, showing no difficulty with moving aboard ship. He seemed happier than Helena had ever seen him. For that matter, even the years had fallen away from his face. The Duke was in his element when at sea.
He shouted to them now as he approached. “I wonder that I had not thought of this before. If I might have taken Helena to sea when she was small, perhaps everything would have worked out differently. Campbell, how fare you? Your color seems a little off. No need to worry, your sea legs will catch up with you!”
James’s face stiffened. “I assure you, I—”
“Papa!” The happy shout of their two-year old son interrupted what might have been the start of an argument. Little Edward came toddling toward them, holding the hand of Tess who was acting as his nursemaid for the voyage. The boy seemed unfazed by the motion of the ship. Tess, on the other hand, was quite green.
“I am sorry to interrupt,” Tess began, quite apologetically. “I had thought perhaps some air might help. And your mother wished to lay down for a nap.”
Helena gathered her boy into her arms though lifting him was starting to prove something more of a challenge with the expansion of her waistline. “I am amazed that Lucy wished to come at all,” she said, her brows furrowing slightly. “This trip will be too much for her.”
“Fiddlesticks!” Surprisingly it was her father who spoke up. “Since that whole nonsense regarding your parentage, I beg your pardon, Duke, for being so blunt, but ’tis true enough. Since then, I have seen in Miss Davenport a certain strength that is to be much admired. What problems the good Lady has had with her heart seem well enough mended. Not to mention, I am positive in the healing power of the good sea air!”
“She has been quite energetic since Edward was born,” James said, taking the child from Helena who relinquished the boy with relief, for he’d been trying to scramble down, wanting to try climbing the ropes like the sailors. She shuddered to think it.
“Indeed, and has been quite the help to Tess and me, as well,” Helena said with a soft smile. “Perhaps I should go check on her.”
“No!” Surprisingly it was Tess and the Duke of York who both spoke in the same instant.
Helena and James exchanged glances. “I think I should—” Helena said, as Edward lunged suddenly in his father’s arms and shouted, “GRAMMA!”
Helena turned to see Lucy having just arrived on deck. She caught her breath for Lucy was actually quite…beautiful.
Apparently, she was not the only one to think so, for James was quite flummoxed by the dark brocade of his mother’s dress, and the radiant smile upon her face as she stood there on the deck next to the captain who seemed most pleased to see her.
But it was her own father, whose expression arrested them all. He stood, absolutely rapt with a look of absolute wonder as he started toward Lucy, meeting her halfway and taking her hands in his.
Helena reached for James’s hand. “They are surely not…” she started.
“I daresay they are.”
For indeed the conversation with the captain had been to arrange for a wedding once they were well on their way. That good gentleman came forward now, ready to conduct the ceremony, with James and Helena to stand as witness. Tess took the child, all smiles, for she had known all along, and had played a part in readying the bride.
“I am still not quite sure I understand,” James whispered to Helena as the service commenced.
Helena did, but she could not put it into words. Not long after Phoebe had been sent away, she and her father had had many long discussions. Her father had known all along about the truth of James’s parentage. As time passed, Helena had learned of his longtime respect for Lucy, whom he had known before she had gone into service as a lady’s maid.
As it turned out, Lucy had been the daughter of a minor noble, who had very little good sense and had lost everything. When he’d died, his meager estate had been entailed and his daughters forced to find positions within the households of those who had once been their peers.
But she’d enjoyed a very brief London season a very long time ago, and in that season had met Harcourt Barrington. Had she not been forced to return home in the wake of her father’s disaster, things might have gone very differently, for Harcourt had been much smitten with Lucy at the time.
Sadly, he had lost track of her. Not long after, Harcourt had met Helena’s mother, and so life had gone on.
Why Lucy had taken such a menial position within the Duke of Durham’s household was anyone’s guess. Had it been because she had realized her love for Barrington was hopeless and so had needed desperately to get away from London and any reminder of him?
Whatever the case, she had likewise moved on, and then lost her heart to the Duke of Durham, which had then led to the series of events that had brought James into the world.
But since the wedding of Helena and James, and the subsequent birth of their first child, Lucy had been an integral part of the household, and a very vocal presence when Helena’s father came to visit.
Now, as Helena stood there and watched the union of the father she adored and the mother-in-law she had come to love, Helena couldn’t help but think how terribly right this all was. Her father and Lucy would be quite the match, and she could only imagine that things would never be the same.
In a sense, maybe this was the settling of several very old wrongs.
James put his arm around Helena as the captain said the words that would bind the elderly lovers. Maybe he too was thinking of weddings and a love that was taking them all where they’d never expected to go.
Helena rested her head upon her husband’s shoulder, and as the older couple kissed at the close of the ceremony, propriety having been entirely lost at sea, Helena turned and found James’ eyes upon hers in that way that made her insides quiver deliciously. In that look was the promise of many many such kisses of their own.
“I love you, Helena Campbell,” James whispered, and squeezed her hand.
“As I adore you, James Campbell,” she replied, with happiness in her eyes.
A cheer went up from the crew in celebration of the new couple.
James and Helena turned as one to offer their congratulations as the ship fairly leapt through the waters, taking them all into a world of new possibilities.
They were finally going home.
Ah, before you go...
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