A Plan of His Own Making, part 13

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. You are welcome to read this story here, HERE  if you prefer reading in a full page format. If you are new to Plan, the easiest way to catch up is to click on A Plan of His Own Making in either Categories or Tags. This will bring up all the postings and you can navigate from there.

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 8

Anne took a seat at Elizabeth’s dressing and the maid began to comb out her hair. There had been no opportunity for Elizabeth to speak until now, and she did not fail to take it. “When we return to Kellynch, you should reprimand your maid, Anne. She packed you nothing but mended rags. The one on your back was the least offensive gown I could find.”

The maid just then pulled her hair and Anne yelped involuntarily. To Elizabeth, she said, “What does the condition of my under garments signify? They are clean and presentable enough for just myself.” Anne and her sister never saw eye-to-eye on what she was coming to consider trivial matters.

Very little of Anne’s interior life had altered after her broken engagement and Frederick’s departure. For quite some time she had fully expected another young man to come along and enliven her heart and mind, sparking within her the same feelings of excitement, anticipation, and adventure that Frederick Wentworth had. However, this had not happened. In fact, this spring, she had noticed small things about herself shifting. This was particularly true after, unbeknownst to her family or friends, she turned down a respectable proposal offered by a young man from Uppercross.

Charles Musgrove was a kind and generous young fellow. He was not handsome or remarkable in any way, but he was of solid character, good family, and was genuinely kind to her. This was proven many times when he would forgo playing cards—which he adored—at parties to instead walk about the room and converse with her.

Soon came the evening he had stammered through the proposal while they admired a grouping of Elizabeth’s houseplants. His words were complimentary in every way and his sentiments genuine. Charles was heir to Uppercross; a property second in prominence only to Kellynch and the future he offered her was blissfully secure.

But she did not love Charles Musgrove.

After she had, as gently as possible, refused him, she excused herself to take some time to walk and to think about what she had done. Her refusal could be, at first, be put down to sheer astonishment. Even after a time of quiet reflection, she realised she felt neither regret, nor the desire to repeat such a self-conscious occasion with any other man.

Over the years of Frederick’s absence, a coldness had grown up inside Anne, and she had begun to take an odd sort of pride in her little denials of pleasure. It had started with turning down her favourite foods when offered at mealtimes.  She too was becoming stinting about her personal needs. As long as her behaviour went unnoticed, she felt safe, but having these little oddities discovered by her sister was unsettling.

She was startled to notice Elizabeth now stood over her. “How you could present yourself to our noble cousin when you are so disdainful of your appearance is beyond me. Honestly, Anne, you are becoming a frump, and now I see it is from the skin out.” She stalked off an took a chair by the fire. “I was frankly embarrassed when the maid opened your cases to unpack them.”

Her sister was right of course, but hearing it out loud left Anne surprisingly untouched. What did touch her was the invasion of her privacy. She turned to Elizabeth. “Why did you take it upon yourself to unpack my cases? You brought two trunks of your own. You could not possibly have need of anything of mine.”

Elizabeth hesitated. She went to the window and looked over the street below. “Father’s explanations made it necessary for me to claim all the cases as my own. It would have looked ridiculous if I had not unpacked all of them.” She looked out the window and worried a tassel dangling from the curtain.

The maid finished and was dismissed. Anne rose and put on her robe. “I suppose it has been a great burden to bear since Father told the viscountess that I did not make the journey at all. And it will be more difficult now that the reprobate child has dared to come across the channel on my own.”

“What else was he to say when you went off with that pirate? How were we to present ourselves to Lady Dalrymple? ‘You see, Cousin, Anne chose to leave us for the company of a masked bandit of the sea.'”

“I did not leave you and father, and I did not go off of my own accord. What would have been wrong with telling her the truth?”

“What precisely is the truth, sister? We were told that when you were taken from us you allowed yourself to be locked in a room with that horrible man with the disgusting black kerchief. When we were released, we were told you were seen rowing off with him and his colleague. I hope he was at least handsome.” She took Anne’s place at the dressing table and clacked a rapid tattoo on the back of the brush with the matching comb. Within seconds she tossed the comb down and Anne wondered that her sister did not break in two as her posture was so erect.

Frederick Wentworth was indeed handsome, but Anne knew it was not a wise thing to admit. Instead she said, “I did not go willingly. I fell overboard and nearly drowned. I could not be returned to the ship. If it were not for Frederick risking his own life to pull me from the water, I would have died.” Just speaking of it made her feel the frigid water closing over her head, the wet clothes, the fetid smell of the hide, and all the rest.

Elizabeth’s brow shot up. “Frederick!” She stood and Anne was surprised she did not shatter. “That man was Captain Wentworth?” Her natural grace never faltered as she rose and approached Anne. “No wonder you went with him. You have been mooning over that wretched sailor for two years now.” Anne stepped back. Elizabeth was so close, Anne could smell her sweet, floral perfume. She was almost certain she could feel the heat of her rage as well.

Elizabeth turned away suddenly. “I can only pray that no one at home will find out about you and a proven libertine cavorting in the wilds of Ireland together.”

Anne could not endure her taunts. “No such thing happened! He took care of me. I was injured and he cared for my wounds. He was a perfect gentleman the entire time.” She could feel her fingernails biting into the flesh of her hands. “We stayed in a cottage with a family who gave us aide and shelter in exchange for Frederick’s helping with painting and plastering.” The lie about the family slipped out so easily, Anne wondered at her own integrity.

Elizabeth turned on her. “Plastering and painting! Is that the story he said to tell? And why would he bother as he has obviously tired of you and left you off here, damaged. You might as well have run off and married him two years ago, Anne. The gossip would have died down by now, and there would not be any danger of scandal to your sisters’ reputations.” She left the room, slamming the door behind her.

*

Maria pressed herself close to Frederick. “This makes a difference, now don’t it?”

The passion was evident in her eyes. Wentworth could only hope he looked the same. “What sort of game are you playing at? I thought you were Tomas’s wife.” He raised a brow and stared.

Maria widened her eyes and put her hand to her mouth. She shook her head and chuckled. “I suppose it did look like that.”

“You slept in the loft with him.”

“Don’t think that because I keep an old man warm through a few cold nights I have allowed him the privilege of planting a seed in my belly.”

This aspect of Maria was too bewildering to pursue. “I am sorry I have offended you.” He decided a compliment was in order. “You are generous to be so good to him.”

Maria smiled. “Tomas thought it best that I not be too appealing to the fellas. They are new to the trade and undisciplined. He thought it would keep their minds on their studies.” She glanced behind, out the window to see about the others, and then turned back. “His idea was to dirty my face and cover my hair with a filthy cap. I am too vain for such a thing. I thought this,” she moved his hands over the lump, “more fitting.” She brought his hands down her sides but he pulled them away.

She felt his rejection and her eyes shifted from a shiny welcome to a wintry caution. He watched as she reached under her skirt. She reached about and gave a hard pull. The move was grace itself when she straightened and slithered this way and that. Again, she tugged at the skirt and it shifted. She stepped over a bundle at her feet and returned to the table to take a seat. There was none of awkward heaviness from the past few days. She ignored him and instead of resuming their conversation, picked through the scattered serving plates for bits of meat.

The sight of her movements and the danger of the situation warred in Wentworth’s mind. He knew he must keep her engaged, keep her as an ally if the plan to learn their patterns was to come off. A large gob of beef was hiding beneath a half-eaten chunk of bread on a plate next to him. He speared it with a fork and placed it before her. “How do you come to be with this lot? Your accent says you weren’t born to this.”

Maria tried to take his hand with the fork from him, but he was quicker. “And your accent says—” She paused to take a bit, watching him, studying him. After a drink of wine, she said, “You don’t belong here either.”

“I told Tomas, I wasn’t getting anywhere with the King and so struck off on me own.”

Again Maria’s clear laugh filled the cottage. “It truly pains you to speak improperly, doesn’t it?”

Frederick smiled and did not allow his eyes to waiver from hers. If he looked away, she would perceive him weak. There was no circumstance under which he could escape alive if she thought for a moment he feared her and the others. At fourteen, when he first went to sea, he had learnt to read men by playing cards during boring stretches of sea duty. It did not take him long to notice that down to a man, each had small gestures, unconscious signals that when read properly, could give him the advantage. Unfortunately for Frederick, he had been studying Tomas and Cavan’s ways and not Maria’s.

Her ability to read him was on the mark and disconcerting to say the least.

Maria finished the meat. A drop of fat glistened on her lip. Instead of licking it away, she precisely spread it onto her lips. “The sea wind dries them so.” She stretched in the languid way a cat ready to nap would do, even to the purr in her throat.

This was another show of offering herself to him. He must play the game but manage not lose himself to her in the process.

 

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