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
Out of the blue, Anne was reticent to obey him. There was no reason to distrust him, but she now did. He was no longer the gallant, noble officer, Frederick Wentworth of two summers ago. His demand that she should undress for him was frightening.
There was no escape from him. But there was no need for escape, his eyes told her the truth about that. There was no excitement in his eyes or his expression at all. Nothing in his manner presupposed any anticipation of seduction. Even in the dim light, there was little more than exhaustion about his expression, confirmed by the slight stoop of his shoulders. Though Frederick might want her intimately, Anne now was certain she was nothing but a stumbling block to his plans for a warm bed somewhere out of the weather.
Anne relented and uncovered her leg. “This is nonsense,” she muttered, as she untied the ribbon on her left leg.
“It is not nonsense, your feet are injured and must be tended immediately.”
She pushed the one filthy stocking down and untied the other. Their bodies were crammed together so tightly that there was no room for her to finish the task. Frederick took the toes of the stockings and pulled them off. He gathered the two flimsy ribbons and said, “These will do very nicely.”
Anne tried to pull her feet away, but he touched her ankles. His cool fingers felt heavy on her skin. “It’s not—” She wouldn’t lie to him. “I was suspicious of your motives for just an instant.”
Frederick paused, looked at her, and smiled. “I see. You thought perhaps I’d hunted you down, got us both drenched to the skin, dragged you across that nasty shingle, and dropped us into this smelly hole in order to ravish you?” His laughter filled the hide and was so loud it might have carried across to the ship. He continued to chuckle as he poured out a palmful of wine and began to cleanse the wounds on her feet.
Though the wine was freezing cold, but as it warmed it stung cruelly. “It sounds extraordinarily silly when you say it that way.” Her lips were so cold, she could only hoped he understood her.
“Yes, it does. But the Elliots have always thought a lot of themselves.” He glanced up and they stared at one another for a short time.
He used the wide end of one of the stockings to wipe her foot, carefully daubing at the wound. “Fortunately, the stockings kept the worst of the sand and dirt out, but the wounds are still filthy.” Again, this was more to himself than to her. He next took the sleeve lining and began to wrap it around her foot. “Why did you keep quiet? I would have carried you rather than make you walk up those cruel rocks. I thought you had shoes.” He finished by tying the ribbon around the sleeve. When he released her foot, she pulled it back.
Anne put out her other foot. “Of course you did not do it on purpose. No caring person would do that to another. To be honest, I did not even notice they were gone. I was just so cold.” She pulled his great coat closer at the thought of the water.
Her tone was sad and resigned. She at least recognised that while he neglected to inquire about her shoes, he did not take her up the slope on purpose. He began the ministrations on her right foot and was determined to distract her. “When it comes to weather, both the heat and cold are wicked indeed. While I would very much welcome searing heat at the moment, when it’s too hot, it makes every bit of you uncomfortable—especially of there have been biting insects at you—” he smiled, “—but the cold has the singular knack of separating your mind from your body.” He held her foot for a moment but did nothing to it.
He again applied the wine, but this time Anne cried out and drew away suddenly. “I’m sorry, it hurt very much.” Of her own accord, she put her foot back in his hand. “So, you have experienced both great heat and cold?” She grimaced as he continued.
He looked more closely at her left foot. She’d trod on a sharp bit of shell and sliced open her heel. “Oh yes. When I was first at sea, I was here on the Irish coast for a time. Though—” he looked up, “I never took a swim in the winter.” She smiled at this. “I have seen men so befuddled by the cold they did not know they’d been desperately injured. Not until they saw the blood—” He looked away. “Sorry, no need to mention that.” He resumed cleaning her wounds.
“You must think me ridiculous. I did not go into the water on purpose, I promise you that.”
“Of course you did not. No rational creature willingly jumps into the Irish Sea at Christmastime. And you, above all things, are a rational creature.” He finished tying the ribbon around her foot and studied it for a moment.
Having her so close reminded Frederick how delicate Anne was. Which was ironic as everything he’d done this evening took advantage of her inferior size and frailer nature. He was ashamed of having bullied her earlier. It was best to put such thoughts aside. The ribbons were blue and uncannily matched the lining of his coat. He struggled to tie the ends, preventing them from unravelling.
Had things gone differently, she might have been lost to the sea that night. Had Providence chosen to drown her, he was certain he would not have fought the water and cold, but surrendered and gone to the bottom with her.
This thought too disturbed him greatly. During their two-year separation, he’d entertained anger, bitterness, and jealousy. He’d also taken comfort in not having Sir Walter Elliot for a father-in-law, but he’d never given over to thoughts of self-murder. The shock of seeing her again, the violent interruption of his plan for the Baron’s Bride, her being forced into his care, and now, their close proximity was playing havoc with his normally sanguine temperament and good judgement. He was completely knackered and knew she was more so. He released her foot. “We should settle in for the night.”
He edged into the space past her. The walls were rough and as he leant against various places, he found no comfort. A small, somewhat smooth section was reluctantly chosen. “Take off my coat.” He sat up and reached towards her to unbutton it, but saw that his hands were shaking. He stopped.
She looked confused, but began to unbutton the coat.
“Hand it over.”
She did as he told her. He arranged the coat to cover both of them. When he looked up to summon her, she was removing her outer clothes.
“What do you think you are doing?”
She was struggling to remove a close-fitting jacket. “What you said about the cold and our clothing made a great deal of sense. This spencer is unfashionably thick and will take some time to dry. The ship was cold and I always wore this. Father was quite put out with me. ‘I am very tired of seeing it, Anne,’ he would say.” She was finally free and spread it on the bale along with his things.
He couldn’t help but smile. For a moment, they sat perfectly still, looking at one another. There was nothing left for them to do but make the final sleeping arrangements. He held out his hand, “Now you.”
His intentions were clear. She would sleep in his arms. “This will be extraordinarily uncomfortable for you, lying against that cold earth, Captain.” The thought of being so close to him again was bewitching, but frightening as well. “Surely there is another way.”
Frederick peered at her for a moment. He had the advantage. She shivered before him in her wet dress, icy errant breezes that inveigling their way under the lid of the hide caused her entire frame to tense with cold. “With those wet clothes, I hardly think you will survive otherwise.” He beckoned her to come to him.
Anne looked around the hide and saw little that might aid her.
He pulled back his hand, tossed away the coat, and crawled next to her. “If you’ll let me pass, you may go lay down. I’ll cover you.” His eyes were unreadable in the gloom.
“We are both soaking wet. If you are not covered, you will freeze.” Her only tools were the wine, the crates, and the bale of wool.
“True. Nevertheless, there is only one cloak. Either we both use it, or you alone use it. You make the choice.” A loud bang outside made them turn towards the lid. The lantern was struggling to give off more than just a flicker of light, and his stern face was colder than the wind. In a moment, he said, “Trash being tossed about.” He was serious that he would remain exposed in order for her to be warm.
Anne shook her head. “I have an idea. Would you hear it?”
“The bale. In cases such as this, I am sure the thieves would not begrudge us the warmth of that wool. Or the comfort of it.”
“You obviously have few smugglers in your social circle.” He nodded to her and struggled to get close to the bale. He found his boots and took a knife from one of them. The cords made a muted popping sound when he cut them. The wool spilled out in a heap.
The hide was soon filled even more fully with the smell of dirty sheep. Thankfully, the wool itself was cleaner than the smell would indicate.
They said nothing as they spread it out, keeping it on the small area of the rough cloth. Frederick sat back and looked at Anne. “As much as I dislike the fact I didn’t think of this, it is a good idea and we shall be warm in no time. As I said, the candle will put off a surprising amount of heat.” He arranged the coat and himself and offered her his hand.
It was suddenly all too much. Just seeing him again so unexpectedly would have been sickening enough, but to see him in his now corrupted state was an even worse shock. Then, to be thrust into the midst of his crimes, and now expected to depend upon him for warmth, and sleep with him in this place that was little more than an animal’s den, was the last straw.
Before Anne knew what was happening, he pulled her to him and held her tightly. “Don’t make too much of this.” He shifted to accommodate her.
She now shifted. “You need not hold me so closely. I’ve nowhere to run.” A breeze slid over them and touched her back.
He adjusted the coat. Warmth replaced the chill air. “Not that you could. There is nothing nefarious in this, but the closer we are, the warmer we will be.” There was more adjusting. Soon they were quiet.
The wind continued to screech and skip above them. The space was warming and she grew inured to the scents of the moist earth and the wool. He now and then chaffed her arms to warm her more quickly. She endeavoured to remain awake and keep her dignity by not allowing herself to relax.
Even with such precautions, she occasionally let go—though quickly resuming her posture of caution—and grew warm at his touch.
“Really Anne, you are taut as a bow string. Please, settle down, or neither of us will ever sleep.” He did not sound angry, merely a little out of sorts. “If it eases your mind, let me assure you that I am not in the least pleased to have you back in my arms,” he whispered.
It was impossible to tell what his attitude truly was by the tone of his voice. He could be serious and be holding her for purely practical reasons. Or, perhaps he was teasing. There had been glimpses of such in a small number of comments earlier. She hoped for the teasing and the hidden message that would convey.
Either way, weariness forced her to let go. Though it annoyed her greatly, she enjoyed melting into the warmth of his arms. The sound of the wind soon disappeared and was replaced by the rhythm of his breathing and the steady tattoo of his heart. It was not long before she began to drift off, and regardless of how he might genuinely feel, she was happy to be in his embrace once again.
Graphic and text the copyright © of Susan Kaye