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Chapter Nine

Emma, seated at the sturdy kitchen table, hunched over her private treasure, her brow creased in concentration.

With determined strokes, she held the quill pen just so, its inked tip scratching against the top sheet of the pile of precious paper, creating a line of perfect handwriting.

There's always somethin' what comes from somethin'.

She nodded in confirmation to herself as she sat back and admired her penmanship. The Big House had a well-equipped study, including all manners of quills and bottles of ink, not to mention the sheets of good quality paper. Grinning, she carried on, scratching and dipping her pen, her contentment increasing with each successful letter formed.

Never thought I'd ever be masterin' me letters, an' now look at me!

Yes, a strange twist in fate had dumped them all on this island, frighteningly far from anyone and anything familiar, but secretly she acknowledged and delighted in the fact that the Big House had provided her with so many new opportunities.

An' there's prolly lots worse places we coulda' washed up on, she mused. In the couple of years since the hurricane and their escape from the sinking Mary Jane, Emma had settled quite contentedly into her life at the plantation's Big House. Nearly as well equipped as the grand house she had been housekeeper for back in London, this house was much better in other ways. Better not only for the wonderful kitchen and its pantry, the beautifully decorated bedrooms, and the sugar cane business that supported it, but better because it was their own.

And a perfectly forged transfer-of-ownership document said so.

Captain Thomas Graham would never be coming back to claim it, himself having been claimed as a meal by the swamp crocodiles that populated the island's far shoreline. Emma recalled the small detail with only a small twinge of disgust. As far as Emma was concerned, the world was ultimately a better place for that to have happened.

May he be forever roastin' with his brother Edward in the flames of Hell!

She glanced over at Hannah, her great-granddaughter, who now once again slept contentedly in the large cradle, a nap having been made possible only because one of the women had offered to take the boisterous Nathaniel out to the creek at the back of the property to catch bugs and to play with Gerta, a miniature black goat who was treated as a pet, rather than one of the livestock. Tess had not yet returned, but with one child gone and the other asleep, it was the perfect time to continue with her writing exercise.

Good things come in three's, she repeated her often stated belief to herself, as she reread her script on the paper in her hand.

Having children back in her life was surely one of those good things. Emma's newly acquired skill to read and write was, of course, a second good thing. And as for the third good thing, well, there were just so many things to choose from but most definitely there was only one magnificent enough to qualify being grouped with those other two marvels in her life, and that was her Brigs.

Never dreamed at my age that I'd find a man whose smile could make me giddy as a girl –"


The sudden yelp of her name startled her and she heaved herself up from her stool at the table, momentarily upending the table, sending her writing materials skittering across the kitchen's stone floor.

Her jaw dropped in surprise as Tess burst though the kitchen's doorway. Emma glanced at Hannah but the child remained sleeping, oblivious to the noisy intrusion.

"Gram! There's a ship just arrived! William saw something about it – I don't know what – but I was sent to warn and gather the men and send them down to the bay with weapons."

Without asking for further details, Emma scrabbled frantically at her scattered papers, scooping them into a flat satchel. "Grab the wee girl!" she commanded and directed Tess towards the corner where Hannah lay sleeping, wrapped in a thin crib blanket. Emma hurried over towards the doorway. Swinging the heavy timbered door shut, she slid its heavy bolt into place. Her cheeks flushed with the sudden effort and she leaned against the secured door to catch her breath.

"Gram!" Tess's eyes were wide, her pupils dilated. "I think we should leave and run inland! To the caves." Being locked inside the room felt like a trap to Tess.

"Ah, me darlin' Tess, carryin' the young miss will slow ya down, an' Lord knows so would I," Emma puffed. "To be seen runnin' would make it look suspicious right away, wouldn't it? We don't even know what or who the ship brings," Emma wheezed, slowly catching her breath, then added, "If only we had a weapon or two, though, jus' in case." She scanned the room. "Well, we've had lots of practice makin' do with what we have, haven't we, me darlin'?" Her eyes locked on the far wall. "A-hah!" Stepping over to the hearth, she broke out in a triumphant grin.

"Lord in heaven, I do love this kitchen!"

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