A Special Excerpt from For Love of the Earl
Miss Nora and Nathan already? Here’s a little something from them in For Love of the Earl: Book Two of the Spy Series.
Unbeknownst to our hero and heroine in the port of Dover
Also at the same moment
Nathan grabbed the back of his wife’s coat before she could move out of arm’s reach. He snapped her back toward him.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he muttered in her ear.
Nora’s eyes flashed in the dim light of the alley, barely visible underneath the floppy hat he’d stuck on her head to hide her identity.
“I’m going to save my family if it’s all the same to you,” she whispered, her tone firm but not accusing.
“And are you going to do that all by yourself, my lady?”
Nora grinned back, her white teeth flashing in the darkness.
“If you continue to be so slow, perhaps, I shall, my lord.”
Nathan stopped grinning and started pulling on his wife’s arm as they made their way through the rest of the alley.
They came out of the small space just yards from the docks. They were on the backside of the thoroughfare, and Nathan could hear the boisterous voices of dockhands and sailors looking for a place to lay their head that night along with a woman as company. This part of the port was seedy at best and repugnant at worst. He felt a twinge of guilt for bringing his new wife here in the middle of a cold spring night, but she had insisted. And if there was one thing Nathan was learning, it was never to tell Nora no if she said she were to do something. No matter what that something entailed.
“Do you think they’re still in port?” Nora whispered.
Nathan shook his head, the cold air sweeping in from off the water, sending a chill along his neck and down his greatcoat. He pulled Nora closer.
“Thatcher has firm intelligence that they were already traded over to the French. They are now following the men who traded him. We need to see if this was a one time event or if they are going to take more Englishmen.”
Nora turned to him.
Nathan looked down at her, pausing for a moment to admire the shape of her face in the glow of moon.
“Lady Cavanaugh. I’m not sure you’ve had the pleasure of meeting her.”
Nora’s head tilted.
“I cannot say I have. She sounds lovely though,” she finished and turned back toward the thoroughfare with its constant stream of rowdy seamen.
Nathan waited patiently even as the cold air began to rattle his teeth. He looked out to the water, at the outlines of ships bobbing in the quiet ocean and saw the clouds in the distance moving closer. Soon they would lose the moonlight. The water in the port already kicked up fierce waves, and the port was filled with the sound of ships hitting against piers and each other. But the sailors in port took no heed. The ships were safely anchored for the night. They had more interesting pursuits to tend to.
“It’s that one there,” Nathan said, pointing discreetly to a dock nearly ten yards down the wharf from their hiding spot.
He could not be sure if Nora looked where he pointed or simply took his word for it.
“That is where they will meet us?” she asked.
“That is where the ship is docked. The one we are going to use to find Alec and Sarah.”
Nora turned her face up to him.
“And we are certain they are still in the port. They must have been traded quite some time ago. Would they not have gotten underway for France? It seems dangerous to linger.”
Nathan now pointed to the clouds he had spotted earlier, dark masses encroaching on the pale moonlight.
“Storm is moving in. They’ll not risk their precious cargo for a mere storm.”
“Not even in the Channel? It’s not as if they’ll be moving in the open ocean.”
“The Channel can be equally as dangerous as open sea.”
“I’ve never been on a ship, so I must take your word for it, Mr. Black.”
Nathan waited a moment more and then carefully gripped Nora’s elbow before slipping into the stream of people moving along the thoroughfare.
The smell grew worse once they were inside the throng of seamen, and Nathan felt his throat constrict. They reached the dock in question and turned off, slipping out of the crowd of people just as easily as they had slipped in. They made their way carefully along the dock, dodging crates and coils of rope and the odd drunken sailor, perched precariously against both. The wind grew sharper as they moved further along the dock, and Nathan kept his grip firm on Nora’s elbow. They had nearly reached the end of the pier, when the last ship on the dock came into view, looming out of the darkness like a sudden beacon. Nathan slowly stopped, putting his back to the stack of crates resting four feet from the ship. He looked up at the vessel, noting its worn wood and wind scarred mast poles. It wasn’t a big ship, but it would do for their purposes.
Nora pressed against him, and his grip on her tightened.
“Is this it then?”
“And how is it that you know the captain of this ship?”
“He saved me bloody life even if he did not save me blinkin’ leg.”
Nathan felt Nora jump, startled, but the gravelly voice and its owner were nothing that frightened Nathan.
“Reginald Davis,” Nathan said, stepping forward as the man came off the gangplank of the ship before them.
The man looked no different from the last time Nathan had seen him except for the wooden peg he stood on. He was still tall and broad shouldered with a barrel chest and beefy hands. He looked as if he should be shoveling dung from a stable rather than captaining a ship, but this was where the War Office had reassigned him after his injury. And Nathan suspected it was the perfect outfit for his fellow soldier.
“Sorry again about the leg, old chap,” Nathan said then, extending a hand to his comrade, “But it’s better your leg than your life.”
Nora looked between them.
“I believe I am not familiar with this tale.”
Davis approached Nora then, bowing over her extended hand.
“Tis a pleasure to meet the honorable Mrs. Black. But allow me one question. Why the bloody ‘ell did you marry this whelp when you could have had someone as charming as meself?”
Nathan saw Nora blush in the moonlight and stepped closer to remove his wife from Davis’s grip.
“Because she has common sense,” Nathan said, and Davis laughed.
“Shall we be aboard then, chaps?” he said, turning back to the gangplank.
It was then that Nathan noticed the ship had come alive with sailors moving along the ropes and up into the masts. It vibrated with the energy of preparing to set sail.
Davis was well ahead of them when they began their way up the plank.
“How is it that you know him?” Nora whispered.
“He was in my regiment on the Continent.”
“Your regiment? But how did he get into a regiment with noblemen’s sons?”
“Who said he’s not a nobleman’s son?”
Nora looked straight ahead at Davis, her jaw hanging slack.
Nathan called up the gangplank.
“What is it you have in mind for our rescue mission, Captain?”
Davis turned at the top of the plank, the moonlight hitting him full in the back and silhouetting his impressive person in an ethereal light.
“How do ye feel about pirates, Nathan?”