At the Highwayman's Pleasure(90)

By: Sarah Mallory

 He saw that she was staring at him and laughed.

 ‘John took Hannah and Phineas to the coast, where they were put aboard a small sloop along with an armed guard, who would make sure they were put ashore on the French coast. Phineas is so keen on Bonaparte’s rule that he might as well live under it—although as an Englishman he might not find them as tolerant and friendly as he imagines.’ Ross sat back in his chair, grinning at her. ‘No, I think he and Hannah will have a very uncomfortable time of it, but Armstrong has made it very clear to them that if they show their faces in this country again they will regret it.’

 ‘But what about your prize money? If Hannah is not here to stand trial...’

 He shrugged. ‘I will have to live without it.’

 She looked at him, her heart swelling with so much love and gratitude that she thought it would burst.

 ‘You would let it go, let her go free, for my sake?’

 ‘It is not such a big thing. Better to let her go with her husband and make his life a misery.’ The smile that she had seen on his face almost constantly since yesterday appeared again. ‘After all, I can’t have my father-in-law dragged through a hideous court case.’

 ‘Oh, Ross....’ Her lip quivered. ‘I don’t know what to say.’

 ‘Say you will marry me. Armstrong tells me there is a substantial reward on its way, which should help in restoring Wheelston to its former glory, but in truth, my love, the only reward I want is you for my wife.’

 He came round the table and dropped to one knee before her.

 ‘Well, Charity, will you marry me now? There may be rumours, but no one will know for sure what happened to Phineas. Not that I would care if you had a dozen traitors in your family. I would still want you for my wife, now and always.’

 Happiness choked her and, mistaking her silence, he added, ‘If you want to continue with your acting, then I will not stand in your way.’

 She knew she must speak, and quickly, before he thought she was rejecting him.

 ‘No, no, well, perhaps occasionally I might perform—but not if it conflicts with your own duties. Captain Armstrong said you would be reinstated in the navy, and I think you would like to go back to sea?’

 He took her hands. ‘I would, very much. There is work to be done there while this war continues, but not if you would dislike it.’

 She looked down at him, hoping he could see the love she felt at this moment shining from her eyes and in the huge smile that was bursting forth.

 ‘I should like very much to be the wife of a sea captain—’

 Hardly were the words from her mouth than he was on his feet and dragging her out of her chair. She was in his arms, her face upturned for his kiss, which she returned with all the love she could convey.

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