In 1808, newly promoted Captain Frederick Wentworth is impatient to have a ship. He and Commander Timothy Harville figure posing as smugglers to catch the real thing in the act will grab the Admiralty’s attention. They set out on the frigid Irish Sea at Christmastime to put their plan into action. Anne Elliot’s father is pleased to find passage to Dublin so cheap at the holidays. He is not so pleased when all are taken captive by a band of smugglers. Or rather Wentworth posing as one.
A Plan of His Own Making is a Persuasion What-If in which Frederick Wentworth literally saves Anne’s life and saves her from murderous smugglers, and in return, Anne does likewise for Frederick.
PG-17 for adult situations and mild sensuality
This story is posted free-of-charge to readers, but is understood to be a rough first draft. As it is a work-in-progress, it’s all up for grabs and is subject to change when going through the rewriting process. In other words, what you read here may not be in the final, published edition. You are free to read and link to but please do not copy any of the story. It goes without saying there will be boatloads of misspellings, grammar goofs, and the occasional glaring continuity error; these will be fixed in final editing so just read and enjoy. — SK
A PLAN OF HIS OWN MAKING, Chapter 3
Wentworth woke to the sound of persistent scratching. The close air reminded him of the hide. And how the carefully laid plans to recover the Baron’s Bride had gone all arsy-versy when he discovered Anne Elliot was onboard—
“What is that noise?” Anne was with him and pressed against his back. Her soft voice reminded him that things had gone more wrong as the night went on.
She shifted and was now, if possibly, more tightly pressed against him. Frederick was instantly and uncomfortably aroused by the feel of her warm breath on his neck. If that was not agonizing enough, her arm was draped over his waist and her small hand had found its way inside his shirt, her soft fingers resting on his chest. Every impure fantasy about Anne, or any other woman for that matter, began to play out in his mind’s eye.
“What was that noise?” she whispered, thankfully removing her hand and taking hold of his shirt.
He liked the way she clutched him close, but endeavoured to give his answer the proper gravity to match her concern. “It is a fox, or a dog. They have caught the scent of—” He didn’t think it wise to mention her wounds and the blood. “—us. They think we have food.” He stroked her arm. “No animals can get in, the door is far too heavy.”
She said nothing in reply, and soon her breathing was regular and shallow.
The harsh wind still lashed at the entry, and set his mind on their predicament. The candles and lantern had burnt out. There was no hint of light outside and his inner clock assured him it was still hours before sunrise. A stone dug into his hip but he was afraid to move. None of that mattered. Anne was safe and the two of them were snug and warm. He felt around to see that she was still covered. More than anything he wanted to turn over and take her in his arms, like when they’d fallen asleep. But the temptation of that was too great, and if she woke, she might notice his … difficulty.
There was also no reason to torture himself completely. He took her hand, brought it to his lips and kissed it. Her dirty little hand was wonderful but too tempting. So as not to wake her, he slowly moved her hand and left it rest on her own hip.
Frederick shifted a little, not enough to relieve him in any way. “The gods certainly have a nasty sense of humour,” he muttered, thinking on their intimate, excruciating fix.
Anne opened her eyes but immediately closed them against the harsh shaft of light filling the hide. Her head ached along with all her joints, and she was nearly as cold as when they had climbed into the miserable hole. She gradually opened her eyes, and saw that Frederick was looking outside. “Is the fox gone?”
He glanced back to her, but was still deep in thought. “Yes, it is. They’re only on the prowl at night.” When he lowered the hatch he pulled a stone close to keep it from closing entirely. While she slept, he had managed to wrestle on his waistcoat, coat, neck cloth, and boots.
Anne pushed herself to sitting. He held out her spencer to her. She took it, but just held it in her lap.
Frederick moved close. Thankfully, he blocked the sun from her eyes. He smiled, and to her annoyance, looked rested. “The sun is well up and everything has dried out. For all the heaving and blowing, there was little rain last night.” He patted the coat vaguely. “I’ve no more linings with which to dress your feet, so I kept these for you.” He held up his own stockings. “I thought we could put them over the dressings. They will help to keep your feet a bit warm since we’ll be outside for a good part of the day.”
Anne took them and held them along with the jacket. “The thought of moving is unsupportable. I don’t believe I have the strength to walk.” Her feet ached more than her head or her joints. “I do not feel well at all.”
For an instant Frederick scowled, but then leant forward and pressed his lips to her forehead. His lips and the skin around his mouth were cool. His unshaven chin bristled uncomfortably against her brow. She remained still, unsure what he was about, for unbidden affection was hardly to be expected under the circumstances.
Frederick sat back, scowling again. They stared at one another for a moment. “That is how my mother would check for fever.”
Anne was shocked at his casualness. Without warning, she burst out laughing.
“Why do you laugh?”
She could not stop laughing try as she might. Eventually she mastered herself. “Did you ever use that method to check for fever in your fellow officers?” She put her hand over her mouth and laughed some more.
For a mere instant, Frederick looked disgusted. Just as quickly the look changed to amusement. “Hardly. That was the province of the ship’s surgeon. I cannot vouch for his methods.” He was still amazingly close, and he stared with an intensity she had not known since his departure from Somerset.
The moment was sweet and Anne was taken back to a summer garden in the year ’06. The damp, dank hide was gone and the smell of roses was everywhere. Frederick’s brother, a curate in a nearby parish, had introduced them early in the summer season. Over the course of the next month, she had made a point of engaging in conversation with him whenever they met. His stories of his life at sea left her marvelling, and lamenting her limited knowledge of the wider world. The tales were the perfect blend of explanations of life aboard ship, wry observations of his fellow officers and the men who served under him, and the battles that had brought him to the notice of his superiors. The stories allowed her to know him more intimately and moreover understand him as a man. Even with other young ladies hanging on his every word, she fancied he told them with such energy and wit just for her.
Summer passed and with each social engagement it grew clearer to the natives that Commander Frederick Wentworth had made his choice. On the other hand, the naive Anne Elliot did not even recognise herself as the victor until one evening she noticed him entering the garden of the Pooles. He was one of many guests invited to their weekly rout, and while young ladies unreservedly offered up their company as he crossed the lawn, he responded with barely enough politeness to keep him in their good graces. When he spotted her, he came straight to her and began to tell her about his brother and a set-to he’d with a neighbour. The story itself was mundane, but his telling was bewitching.
As he continued, Anne confirmed to herself that she was deeply and ecstatically in love with Frederick.
His intensity of spirit and enjoyment of the simplicities of life were captivating. Everything he deigned to touch in her small, cloistered world, took on a brightness that was at once foreign, enchanting, and a touch frightening. And here they were again, in a tiny, dirty little world only large enough for two.
Though the world was small, everything took great exertion. Just to be comfortable, all movements struggled through mud. Breathing was an effort, as was staying awake. Anne could remember they had laughed a great deal together in the past, but she feared she would never again have the strength to do so again.
Frederick sat back, still examining her. “You are not very feverish, but just a bit warm.”
She pulled the coat close. “I am cold, and I am very thirsty.”
He nodded and reached into the coat, pulling a small bag from an interior pocket. “You likely swallowed a lot of water last night. All that salt is working on you.” He handed her a round, flat, lightly browned bun. It was stiff, and very light. “It’s a ship’s biscuit.”
She handed it back immediately. “I remember you telling me about these. They are always infested with weevils, you said.” Merely touching it made her queasy.
Frederick laughed. “It was fresh Tuesday. It’s had no chance to become infested, I assure you.” He took her hand and placed the biscuit in it. “Go on, take a bite.”
It crumbled in her hand and she took a small bit and chewed. “I am stunned. It has absolutely no flavour.” She examined it closely despite his assurances.
“May I?” He broke off a small bite for himself. “It is astonishing that something made from good, wholesome, English corn, flavourful in practically any other application, can be stripped completely of any sort of character. White Hall has several of these sorts of miracles up its official sleeves, I assure you.”
His cheeriness and good humour would have won her over any other time. But, this morning, it was tiresome. She wished fervently she could feel differently. She offered him the last of the biscuit.
He took it and ate it up. “As soon as I find some fresh water, it is yours.”
She began to put on the spencer, but his heavy coat got in the way. The cramped quarters worked against her, and her weak limbs made the chore nearly impossible. He knelt before her and without a word, guided her hands and arms in the proper places. When he began to button it, she intended to strongly object to his touching her so intimately. However, in the end, she allowed it without protest. He then pushed up the hatch, stood, and offered her a hand.
She held tightly as she willed herself to rise. “I still don’t think I can walk.” Her feet shrieked when her full weight was on them, and her legs ached all the more.
Without warning, he took her by the waist and lifted her onto the ledge of the hide. “I never expected you to walk. I shall carry you.” He leaned on the ledge, his hands on either side of her. He did not move.
For a moment they communed with the light refreshing wind, and the healthful air off the nearby sea. It was glorious after their night in the close quarters and dank air of the hide.
Anne had gained all she could from her new surroundings. It was back to the situation at hand. “I cannot allow you to carry me.” She looked about, and said, “I see nothing of civilisation, what if it is a great distance to help?”
He scoffed. “You are light as a pin—I would be surprised if you are more than eight-and-a-half, nine stone.” He handed her the coat and jumped out of the pit in one smooth motion.
She took his hand and struggled to her feet. “How can you know such a thing?” He too was looking around, most likely calculating what direction they should walk.
He was resolved and pointed towards the north. “I am making a guess. I have had considerable time through the night to make all sorts of estimations.”
Anne warmed at the idea he’d given her much thought at all. Lying beside him all night was sweet and joyous, and now to know he’d not been angry about having to be trapped with her was a thrill. She would tell him she was grateful for his tender care. Before she could find a way to express her emotions, he offered up the coat. “On it goes.”
She began to comply, and then stopped herself. “You should wear the coat. It is after all yours.”
“Yes, but you are not up to a long walk,” he said, as he took her hand and placed it in the sleeve. “I will be carrying you. And though you are very light, even a light load, after time, is an effort. I shall be warm enough thanks to you.” He continued to put her in the garment.
His point was very sensible and completely unassailable. To have her own sentiments handed back to her with such ease reminded her how capable he was in presenting the rightness of his thinking. She silently surrendered as he buttoned the coat. In a moment, he picked her up with such grace and ease that perhaps he was right about her weighing so little.
to be continued
Copyright © for text and graphics to Susan Kaye