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
Anne woke to find it dark, and she was finally warm. Delightfully so in fact. There was also the scent of freshly laundered linen. The bed was small, this she knew even with her eyes closed. It mattered not, and she was surprised that such mundane things as warmth and clean sheets would make her feel so cheerful, but they did. There was also the sound of a fire and the scent of cheese toasting. Her stomach protested its emptiness. Even with all of this, she had no strong urge to move or investigate her surroundings. To remain quiet and comfortable was enough.
The sound of metal clattering onto stone and a hushed male voice swearing a mild oath roused her curiosity enough that she opened her eyes. A bright blaze drew her attention and she turned her head to see Frederick Wentworth, shirt collar standing wide open, staring at her. He stood frozen, a knife in one hand and a slab of cheese—melting cheese—in the other. Neither of them spoke until a crown-sized gob of it oozed off the slab and landed on the top of his bare foot. Again he swore.
He was attending to his foot when she asked, “What are you doing here?” His presence was most welcome, but quite unexpected after a two-year absence. As she waited for a reply, she looked about and realised she did not even know where “here” was.
The fire cast a sinister sort of glow on his handsome face. For an instant, Anne was worried. To her relief, he put down the knife and the cheese, and moved carefully toward her. The two of them might as well have been the only man and woman in the world, for outside the fire’s light was nothing but pitch-blackness.
He settled by her side. She sensed unease as he looked to the other side of the room. When he turned back, he smiled. “How are you feeling?”
Anne now felt perfectly safe, though still ignorant of their location. “Well enough. I am tired though, very tired. What is this place? And what are you doing here?” He didn’t answer immediately and this didn’t disturb her in the least.
“We are staying in the cottage of Tomas and Maria.” He frowned and rubbed his unshaven chin. “Do you not remember the ship, the Baron’s Bride?”
The words sounded familiar, but held no special meaning, nothing which begged her to concentrate and remember fully. “Vaguely. Who is she?”
Wentworth opened his mouth to replay, but instead went back to the fire and melted more cheese, spreading it on some bread he’d left on the hearth. When he returned, he helped her sit up and gave it to her. “You must be hungry.” He cut small chunks of cheese and ate them as he watched her.
The toasted cheese was delicious. “This is the best thing I’ve had to eat in ages.” She almost didn’t care where they were, or who Tomas and Maria might be. They were comfortable and snug in this tiny cottage—with each bite of the cheese bread, she remembered about the ship and sailing to Ireland with her father and sister. There had been a chase, cannon fire, and pistols shooting. She remembered him standing close over her.
It was disappointing to remember earlier events. Everything outside this moment, everything outside this cottage became tainted with the knowledge of his fall from grace.
“You remember it all, do you not?”
“You still can read me like a book.”
“I have to be perceptive in my line of work.”
Without thinking, she reached out and touched a long white smear on his cheek. It resisted her touch. Realising what she’d done, she was shocked by her own casual handling of him. “Why is there a smudge on your face?” She struggled to keep her voice steady, then noticed more of the white stuff on his hands, pants, and speckling his shirt.
Wentworth smiled and glanced down. “It seems our host has built another room onto this cottage and needed help to finish the interior walls. I am painting and plastering in exchange for our elegant accommodations.”
“And what do you know of painting and plastering?”
“All sailors know how to paint. When there is nothing else to do, a good coat of paint will keep a crew marvellously employed for an afternoon.” She finished the toast, and he offered her pieces of raw cheese. “As for the plastering, Tomas is pleasantly surprised that I am not a complete booby at it. So, perhaps my fortune should be sought at the end of a trowel.”
Anne smiled and thought that while such a shift in careers would do nothing to elevate Frederick in the eyes of her father, but it would certainly be more desirable than smuggling. “Well, thank you for working to keep us sheltered. I now remember that last night was very uncomfortable.” She wanted to add only because of the cold and not in any way the company, but she thought it best not to delve too deeply into the matter.
Frederick looked at her in an odd way. The look was piercing and made her feel unexpectedly embarrassed. She was about to enquire when he spoke. “Keeping you safe was my only desire then, as it is now.” He looked away and then moved back to the fire. “How are your feet? Are they still sore from the cuts?”
She was happy to find that she’d completely forgotten about her painful feet. When she reached down she found they were no longer wrapped, and when she touched each one, she could feel the sores, but they caused her no pain. “They are practically healed. I do remember Maria putting an unguent on them. It burned like fire for quite some time. She gave me a draught of what I thought was wine, but now I realise it was something else, as it had a pungent aftertaste of mint.”
“That drink must be why you slept through the day. In fact, so that you did not miss the Christmas Eve feast, Maria has postponed it until tomorrow. Her nieces were extraordinarily disappointed when Cavan took them home.” He was spreading more cheese on a slice of bread.
Anne could barely remember anyone aside from Maria. “Are those girls his granddaughters?” She felt a pang of sympathy for them as she recalled the old man was extraordinarily cross.
Frederick glanced her way. “No, they are Cavan’s girls. He is Maria’s brother.”
“But he is so old.”
Wentworth paused for a moment. “Ah, no, the old man is Tomas and he is married to Maria. I think. There have been no proper introductions other than mine to them.”
Anne was certainly used to the notion of much older man marrying younger woman, but this pairing seemed quite wrong somehow. While she seemed to remember the younger man was not particularly bright, she now remember this Tomas fellow was more than cross, he was mean and vulgar, and that Maria was very beautiful.
Maria was very kind to her when she helped her get into bed, and then to tend to her. Anne thought that such beauty deserved something better than a vile old man. Quite unbidden, she remembered that Maria was with child. The thought of Tomas as a father was revolting.
Frederick fetched a cup of water. “I know it is off-putting, the thought of him, but he is grudgingly allowing us to stay under his roof. Such as it is.”
She took the cup and drank again of the wonderful water. “Yes, he is. That is something.” When she gave him the cup, her fingers brushed his. And he did not pull away. “Where are you sleeping?”
“There.” He gestured towards the hearth. “I said I would feed the fire through the night. Tomas informed me that would use too much wood. The old codger and I argued for some time, but I was eventually allowed to go out and cut a decent supply for the night.” She looked and saw his handiwork, a great pile of wood just to the left of the hearth.
She also saw no bed for him. “But you have nothing to sleep on. Or any covering.”
He lifted the arm of his great coat, spread on the bed. “You need it more. Besides, Tomas reasoned that were I too much at ease, I would neglect my task. He pointed out the cold will awaken me and I will not fail to do my duty.” He laughed a little.
“Tomas is a very hard man.”
“You do not know the half of it, Anne.”
to be continued…
Copyright © of graphic and text to Susan Kaye