Blurting out “Sorry,” and “Pardon me,” Andrew Wentworth pushed and shoved at the porters, sailors, and merchants who blocked his way as he sprinted along the wharf. Two riggers stretched lines across the pier, forcing him to leap over the ropes and race ahead. Blood pumped in his ears, muffling the curses that followed him. His heart pounded with the rhythm of his hurtling feet. He skidded to a stop, sliding to the edge of the pier.
The Destiny had already set sail.
“Jenny! Jonathon, turn back!”
He whistled and bellowed to the captain of the Destiny, waving his arms to get his brother-in-law’s attention, but Jonathon must not have heard him. Jenny did, for she waved from the ship’s rail. And did he hear her call his name?
He had been so close to embracing her, to pleading that she remain at Brentwood Plantation.
He had not run fast enough. Jenny was gone … perhaps forever. He fell to his knees, ignoring the pain of the jagged splinters digging into his skin. With his heart still hammering from the exertion of his swift horseback ride and sprint, he doubled over. Burying his face in his hands, he moaned. Why didn’t I ride faster? Why didn’t I read Jenny’s note sooner? I would have arrived in time to take her into my arms and convince her to stay.
He looked up, watching the Destiny sail away.
He closed his eyes. Her face floated in his mind: Jenny laughing, revealing the single dimple in her right cheek that tempted him so sorely, her gray eyes, soft as a summer’s dawn, alight with mischief. How he loved twining his fingers in her hair, as wayward ebony tendrils caressed her heart-shaped face. The determination in her face when, together, they faced certain death in rescuing Jonathon from the British. So brave. So beautiful.
He stared out at the ship as she sailed out of his life.
As he watched, the Destiny slipped down the York River toward Chesapeake Bay on her voyage to New York City. His shoulders drooped. He’d heard so many reports of increasing unrest there. Last September, a fire had destroyed a third of the Island of New York shortly after the British had arrived. Loyalists blamed Patriots, but nothing had been proven. Reports from New York had been grim, the British presence there ominous.
And now Jenny would be surrounded by that violence.
Damn. The opportunity to attend George Wythe’s lecture and hear him describe the pride with which he had signed the Declaration of Independence was a highlight of Andrew’s experience at the College of William and Mary. In his excitement, he’d tucked Jenny’s letter in his pocket. Why had he not read her letter first? Instead, he had wanted to enjoy it later, as he always did, sitting at the coffee house near the college, drinking in her every word. He might have made the ride from Williamsburg to Yorktown in time if he’d skipped the class. Through his blurred vision, the ship grew smaller as it slipped down the river. He stood.
“I love you, Jenny.” I love you.
Above him, the screeches of seagulls echoed his desolation. Sweat streamed from his brow and merged with the tears sliding down his face, catching in salty rivulets at the corners of his lips. He wiped his sleeve across his face, dampening the white linen. He threw his cocked hat on the wooden pier.
“Damn, damn, damn!”
A strong hand gripped his shoulder.
“Come, Andrew. I will buy you dinner and a tankard of ale.”
He turned, startled by the brogue of Randolph O’Connor.
He reached out as if to comfort Andrew, but Andrew pulled away. His blood was lava flowing through his veins, his mind unable to make sense of what was around him. A primal rage surged through him impelling him to strike out, to satisfy his anger.
Andrew punched the Irishman in the gut.
The burly man staggered back, more surprised than injured.
“What the devil are ya’ doing?” He stumbled toward Andrew again.
Andrew yielded to the fury that whirled within him like a hurricane. He wanted to hit something, throw something, break something. He swung again and landed an upper cut on Randy’s jaw.
Randy stood his ground, fists clenched at his sides. “Andrew …”
Andrew jabbed a fist at the Irishman again. Randy caught it midair, swung it forward, pivoting Andrew around, and locked his arm behind his back. Randy pulled up on it.
“Ow,” Andrew cried.
“You need to settle. Just settle.”
Randy held Andrew’s arm against his back, sending a sharp throbbing to his shoulder. Andrew almost welcomed it, merging the pain with the misery running through him. He finally relaxed and Randy let go.
“Sorry, Randy.” Shaking his head, he bent forward, leaning on his knees, breathing deeply to regain his senses. He stuck out his hand, which disappeared into Randy’s as they shook. He admired Randy whom he’d met upon his arrival in Virginia two years ago. Even back then, he had joined Randy and Jonathon in their battle to fight the British and further the Patriot cause. Now, the sympathy in the Randy’s hazel eyes only deepened Andrew’s sorrow—and fury.
Randy retrieved Andrew’s hat, handing it to him. Andrew crushed one of its three corners as he clutched it.
“I could have arrived in time. I failed to read her note when it arrived—I thought it was her weekly letter. I could have been here in time.” He bunched his wool felt hat into a crumpled mass.
Randy took the hat and shook it out, trying to reshape its three corners. “Lad, mind your hat. With the damned Parliament’s stranglehold on shipping, you might not find another to buy.” He clapped it on Andrew’s head. “Aye. Perhaps you could have done all those things, but the fact is, Jenny is gone. That is the truth of it.” He turned toward the shore. “Come. Let me buy you an ale and some food. I may have an idea that will help us both.”
Andrew turned to face him. “What do you mean, ‘help us both’?”
Randy smiled and slapped him on the shoulder, almost knocking him off the edge of the pier. Andrew scrambled to regain his balance.
“You’ll see, lad. You’ll see.
Love’s Courage is available for pre-order on Amazon. Release date is Jan. 8.