Chapter 1, continued…
Lifting Jenny’s chin, Jonathon forced her to face him. His brows drew together as his eyes bored into hers. His mouth was pulled taut in a thin line. “You must understand the danger inherent in this voyage. The sea will always challenge those who sail her waters, and she is temperamental, changing from fair to foul in the blink of an eye. For your safety, you are bound to my orders, just like the crew. Also, there’s a good chance we’ll encounter British ships.” He glanced down the river toward its mouth, then back at her. “I cannot guarantee we won’t be captured…or sunk. My responsibility for your life weighs heavy. I wish you would reconsider this voyage.”
The temptation was great. Simply walk down the plank to the wharf and wait for Andrew. Run into his arms and never leave him. Return to the safety and comfort of Brentwood Manor. But the image of Father, lying wounded, perhaps dying, loomed in her mind. “Mother and Father need me.” She looked toward the shore as she spoke. Perhaps lying had become easier, but looking into a person’s eyes as you deceived them never would.
Following her gaze, he softened.
“It’s not easy leaving the one you love,” he said.
“No.” Jenny shook her head.
“Fighting for the cause of liberty is never easy. It requires sacrifice and courage. Your father understands that, and so did you and Andrew when you risked your lives to rescue me from the British. If not for you, I surely would have been hanged. As I recall, you were quite courageous in facing down a British contingent to rescue me.”
“Yes, but Andrew was beside me. We rescued you together—as a team. Somehow I don’t feel as brave without him by my side.” What was it about Andrew that made her feel she could accomplish anything? In her eighteen years, she had never met a man who so seemed to be a part of her, whom she had somehow known before they’d met, and recognized instantly.
The burden of also deceiving Andrew weighed her down like a ship’s anchor.
“How have you endured these past years, Uncle Jonathon? How have you left Emily behind, and now your daughters? Not knowing if you will ever return? Not knowing if they are safe or if you will be killed?” Her voice rose as she spoke. “How do you bear it?”
“When I was held captive by the British, I thought I would never see Emily and my children again.” He pulled her to him and kissed her forehead. “Every day was a struggle to survive. Every day they thought of new ways to torture me, trying to discover information about our fight for freedom.” He pulled back to look at her. “But you and Andrew faced possible capture to save my life.”
She placed her hand on his forearm. “A possibility well worth facing if it meant bringing you home to Emily. Andrew couldn’t bear to see his sister’s sorrow, nor could he bear the thought of you imprisoned and tortured by the British.”
“When I first sailed for the Committees of Correspondence and the Patriot cause, it was because of what Parliament’s laws are doing to the colonies.” He watched the seagulls swooping to the water’s surface. One rose triumphantly, a fish thrashing in its beak. The other birds chased and scolded as the first flew off with its prize. “Mine was an economic fight then. Brentwood Manor, the Destiny, my profits were at stake.” Straightening, he faced her. “Now I am fighting for freedom for the ones I love. For Emily and the children. Before, my antagonism stemmed from my wealth, my account books—now I feel it here.” He patted his hand against his chest. “Love gives me the courage to fight this war. And you, too, will find your courage in love. Remember, ‘love casts out fear.’”
She looked toward the shore. At this moment, for her, life cast out love.
“But I entreat you one last time to reconsider this voyage. I only agree to it because of your mother’s frantic plea for your presence. If she understood the potential danger, not only in the voyage, but in Manhattan, she would never ask you to return.”
His words were a knife through her heart. Did he suspect her subterfuge? She stood taller and shook her head.
He scowled. “I see. Now I must ready the ship to set sail.” He bowed slightly.
As he strode away, the breeze picked up again, blowing strands of hair across her eyes, a veil of curling, black lace. She brushed them away and tucked them back in her cap. One persisted, caressing her cheek softly like a kiss. Andrew’s kiss. Soft upon her cheek, nuzzling against her neck. Oh, God, how could she leave him?
Behind her, the crew hurried about setting the sails and weighing anchor. Men called to each other as they worked, and the ship slipped out of port. She stared out at the wash, waves rolling out from the ship to the shore in an eternal motion. Entranced, she surrendered to the gliding ship’s cadence.
She glanced at the shore again as the ship passed the end of the wharf on its journey up the York River to Chesapeake Bay and out into the Atlantic Ocean. A flash of color along the ridge caught her eye. Her heart thumped as a rider careened along the road that ran down the Great Valley leading from the ridge to the port. Even from this distance, she recognized Andrew. How could he possibly have made that journey so quickly?
The letter she had sent him should not have arrived in time for him to see her off. She had never intended it to. His presence would make her departure impossible, and she could not bear that. So, she had delayed sending her letter.
That had been first of her lies.
Snatching his hat off his head, he waved it and whistled, piercing the heavy air as he reached the base of the hill and thundered along the riverbank. He pulled the horse up causing it to plant its hooves, its rigid front legs angled straight out. As he slid from the saddle, he again whistled shrilly, waving his cocked hat.
“Jenny!” The sleeves of his white linen shirt billowed as he signaled to the ship.
How could it be? He must have ridden at break-neck speed.
“Jenny! Jonathon, turn back!” Andrew ran along the wharf until he reached its end.
Would his brother-in-law hear Andrew’s plea? But neither Jonathon nor anyone in his crew looked up. They would not hear him over the sails slapping the wind, arcing and spreading high above the deck, or over the bosun’s piping Jonathon’s orders. The crew were all occupied with raising the sails and navigating the departure from Yorktown.
She did nothing to call their attention to Andrew.
She could see errant strands of his light brown hair blowing about his head. The disheveled look of his shirt, untucked, flapping in the breeze was quite a contrast to how he had looked the last time they’d been together at a formal dinner at Brentwood Manor. Then, he’d worn a cream-colored long coat and russet breeches, his cravat billowing at his neck. His tawny hair had been tied back in a neat queue, as usual. He’d swept off his wool cocked hat in a regal bow, his blue eyes smoky with passion as they shared a secret smile. He’d pulled her to the empty parlor and wrapped her in his arms.
As the ship continued its slow passage along the York River, she leaned against the rail, Andrew’s form ever more distant. She stretched out her arm toward the shore as if, somehow, she could reach him. But it was no use. She dropped her arm to her side. This was what she had hoped for.
This was what she had dreaded.
“Andrew.” His name escaped her throat in a moan. How she had wanted to hold him and kiss him goodbye. She would never hold him again.
“Jenny. I love you, Jenny.”
Although he bellowed the words, they floated over the water to her in a shimmering, faint declaration. Tears ran down her cheeks, and she hugged herself to stop the sobs that shuddered against her ribs.
“I love you, too, my dearest Andrew,” she whispered against the catch in her throat.
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