An American Encounter
By Skihee :)

Chapter 5 "Desire"

Pamela was glad of the straw hat Oldroyd gave her. She had been sitting in the open boat for over an hour, waiting, as Dolphin was patched. She could see the men on deck going below, presumably to return the cannon and right the ship. How long would that take?

"I don't suppose they will take us back till the ship is righted. Is that correct, Mr. Oldroyd?"

"Yes, ma'am. They'll be busy movin' those cannon. Glad I'm out here the way that ship looks!"

"They will be all right?"

"Well, yes ma'am, I think so. Mr. Hornblower is a good officer. He comes up with some strange ways o' doin' things, but he ain't lost us yet." Oldroyd smiled confidently. "I expect things'll go well for ëim. He seems to ëave the luck about ëim. He does that, ma'am."

"So you have been with him for some time?"

"Yes, ma'am. Nigh on to six years now. Started with him when ëe was just a midshipman. Been through a lot wi'him actually. Boats sinkin', Spanish prison, ship wreck rescues, boardin' French ships an' takin' ëem. All sorts of adventures we've had with Mr. Hornblower. See? We're still ëere!" He grinned broadly at her. "Don't you worry, ma'am, we won't be in this boat too much longer. You'll see!"

Indeed, the men were on the gun deck readying to push and pull the cannon last moved. It was still tied to its bolt rings. Six men stood at the starboard side. Three on each of the cannon's stay lines ready to heave. They dug their heels in as best they could on the angled deck. Three men were at the back of the cannon ready to push, another two stood by with blocks to put behind the wheels to keep it from rolling back to larboard, and another two stood ready with lengths of lumber to hold the block in place. Hornblower opened the gun port for its home side. He wanted it moved as far starboard as possible. Thereby putting it in its run-out position.

"Ready men. On the count of three push and pull all together. One...two... three... Heave! ... Heave! ... Heave!" shouted Hornblower.

The men grunted under the strain. The cannon rolled to starboard, the block men keeping the blocks behind the front set of wheels to prevent any backward motion. The ropes ran through the cannon bolt rings in the ship side as it was pulled up into place, quickly. Hardy and Matthews tied it off. The incline of the deck altered perceptibly. Styles raised up from behind the cannon where he had been pushing along with Stephens and Bailey.

"Well done, men!" compliemented Hornblower, "Only five more to go!"

By the time the cannon were put back in place the sun was low on the horizon. The men were exhausted and it was near time for dinner. It would have to be a cold one this night as Jenkins and Cook had been employed as the rowers for the boat. As a tired captain and his men emerged on deck, they heard laughter coming from over the side. Looking down, they could see the boat had been rowed near and was tied to Dolphin's chains.

"Oldroyd. You lucky sod! Sittin' around all afternoon with her," Styles muttered under his breath. Matthews heard, then glanced at Hornblower, hoping he had not.

"I agree, Mr. Styles. Lucky indeed!" commented Hornblower. "Mr. Matthews, rig the swing for Mrs. Dandridge. Then get the boat back on board. That will be our last duty for this day. Thank you, men, for your efforts!" He looked over the side at Pamela and smiled. "Mrs. Dandridge, we shall have you back on board momentarily."

"Thank you, Captain," she called. She thought about climbing the side, but decided to let the men assist. The swing was lowered and she soon found herself standing on deck beside Hornblower. "Congratulations, Captain. It seems you have been successful."

"Indeed, Miss, but we are all weary, and I am afraid the dinner I hoped we would enjoy together this evening will be disappointing."

"Then, perhaps tomorrow night will be better. I believe I will go to my cabin, Mr. Hornblower. If you will excuse me." She, too, was exhausted from sitting in the boat all afternoon. It was hot, and she felt positively abominable.

Her cabin felt cool and welcoming. She decided to change her dress and cool off with a sponge bath. Her thoughts turned to Horatio as she bathed.

What was she to do about him? She hoped he had not realized she was staring at his full, captivating lips. She touched her own, and closing her eyes, she remembered the kiss, breathing deeply. She recalled his care that morning, the conversation, and feel of being held. The words he used - 'not let tomorrow give death to today'. *He must know how futile a relationship between the two of us would be.* Her feelings vacillated between wanting him and wishing she were off this ship, but both had their basis in the growing interest for Horatio Hornblower.

What would he think of her if he knew the thoughts she was thinking? How could she have such an interest in a man with her father's death so near? What kind of person was she? Does love only come in the spring time of happiness, or does it come in the wintery times of death? Death was becoming too familiar in her brief life.

Horatio was certainly a man of honor. The shock on his face when she gave her married name was sweet and priceless. Poor man! How could she tell him about her first husband? Was she a jinx to the men that loved her? Even her father was gone now. Tears welled at the memory. *Father! How could you leave me now? How can I allow myself to...to have feelings for this man?* The attraction was there, no denying that. What was she saying? Love? *No, no, I mustn't! But my heart warms when he is near. What am I to do?*

"Pamela?"

She gasped, pulling a towel to cover herself. Hornblower was outside her cabin door. "Yes, Mr. Hornblower?" she choked out her reply as she wiped her face. Speaking through the door, she leaned against it and closed her eyes. The wood was rough against her cheek, rough and forbidding. *Why did you have to come now?*

"Are... are you all right?" he asked hesitatingly.

"Yes, Mr. Hornblower. I am just a little tired. I am going to rest for a while," her voice trembled with emotion. *Go quickly, sir! Please!* she thought.

"Jenkins will be putting some food in the Captain's cabin should you be hungry later."

"Thank you, sir."

"Are you sure you are all right? You....you don't sound....well, I mean..."

"No. No, I am fine," she sniffed, failing to keep her voice steady.

"You ...you're crying."

"No. I'm not," she lied. "I'm just...I'm just tired."

"I'm sorry things took so long ...that our dinner tonight has been postponed."

"I, too, regret it," she said softly. If only she were dressed, she could open the door, but it was good that she was not, for she should not. She turned, leaning her back against the door. *I want you to go, but I do not want you to go.*

"Well, if you should need me for anything, I will be in my cabin."

*Need you? For anything?* "Thank you,..." She did not want him to leave. "Horatio?"

"Yes?" he answered hopefully.

"You did a fine job, today."

"The men worked hard." He took a step towards the door. "Thank you. Well...."

"Horatio?"

"Yes...Pamela?" He stepped nearer.

"Thank you for your kindness."

His heart was pounding. He closed his eyes and placed his hand upon the wooden wall. He started to say it was his duty, and it was, but she had become more than a duty. "You are ...more than welcome." God! He wanted to hold her. "Oldroyd and the other men did not say anything to upset you, did they?"

"No, Captain, they were very kind and enjoyable company. Do not concern yourself. I am fine."

*Do not call me captain,* he thought *Say my name. Say my name once more.* "Very well. I will ...I will see you, then."

"Horatio?"

He leaned against the door, head tilted back, closing his eyes drinking in the sound of her voice. "Yes, Pamela?"

"Nothing. Nevermind."

"No. Tell me. What do you need?"

*You,* she thought.. What could she say? Not what she thought. She saw the bandaged wrists. "Do you think I should remove my wrist wrappings tonight? You said I should let air get to them."

He thought. What would his father do? "No. Wait another day." He frowned. Helping remove them would have been a ploy to see her, but they should stay bandaged another day, recalling how they appeared that morning.

"Horatio?"

"Yes?"

"Thank you," *my darling,* she thought.

"Thank you."

She smiled. "Thank me for what? I have done nothing to be thanked."

"Yes, ...you have." He bowed his head. How could he tell her what effect she was having on him? He was not sure himself. Who would have believed that a person could enter his life so quickly, so suddenly, and in the space of two days, become so important, so much a part? If he had not held her in his arms,... but she needed the comfort. The forced contact MADE him spend time with her, care for her. His DUTY, she became a part of that, and now, he found it difficult to exclude her, as he should do now. She was all right. She should just be a passenger. But, he was the only officer on board. He was responsible... for his crew, for his ship, for her. If he had not kissed her. It was too late for that, too. He had tasted and now he was hungry. Just seeing her, hearing her, being near, fed him but increased his appetite for more. More of Pamela.

The two were silent for some moments, thinking about each other so near, but yet so far. What was happening? Why were they having this ridiculous conversation that said nothing yet said so much by its mere existence?

"Are you still there?"

"Yes, ...Pamela,... I am."

"You should get some rest."

"I know. And, I should let you rest."

"Yes, ...yes." A tear escaped her eyes. She wanted him. She wanted the physical him. She knew of men and women who existed only as lovers, not husband and wife. It was a subject hidden in society, but she knew of such liasons. Two husbands dead. A physical relationship might be all she could ever expect from life, but she wanted children, a family, a husband, a home. What would he think of her? In this world of war and pirates and foreign lands, maybe she expected too much. What could she settle for? Moments of passion? Nothing more? *I don't want to love him. He might leave me as all the rest have left me. Let it be passion. Passion and nothing more.* She closed her eyes and put her hand on the wooden door that separated them. "Goodnight, Horatio."

"Goodnight, Pamela." He listened for moments, hoping she would call again.

At last, she heard his footsteps as he walked to his cabin. In her heart, she wished he would come back, take her in his arms, and .... *Stop!* she thought. Finishing her bath, she dressed in a clean off white dress found in the pirate's trunk. It was a little large, but comfortable, as she lay upon her bunk. The cabin was cooling further with the setting of the sun and she shivered and pulled up a blanket.

Horatio sat himself down heavily at the table in his cabin. His log books lay open. He needed to record the day's events. Weariness descended upon him...and thoughts of her. Each time he saw her on deck he had wanted to go to her, release her hair to the wind. To laugh with her and feel her hand upon his chest or on his cheek. To take her in his arms and never let her go. His brow knitted. What was this he was thinking? He shook himself from this fantasy and wondered at his own musings. This was a ship of His Majesty's Navy. He would never be able to do any of those things.

Styles was enamored of Miss Pamela, or should he be thinking of her as Mrs. Dandridge? A widow, so not a virgin. Of course, neither was he. That girl in Portsmouth with the red hair had beguiled him! Moments of passion in the church loft of all places! He thought she would be the end all for him, but she had other plans, and the Navy had plans. So young, had he been. He smiled, as he knew there were men on this ship that would still call him young.

And, then there was that girl in France. He did not wish to recall her. It was too sad.

Just down the hall was this beautiful creature whose laugh he heard today, struck his heart like a 24 pound cannon ball! And she was laughing with Oldroyd of all people! Even Styles was jealous! What could they have been laughing over? It did not really matter. She had been laughing and that was wonderful, whatever the reason. He smiled thoughtfully and wondered what he could do to illicit such a hearty laugh. Then, he scowled, recalling failed attempts at humor with the men.

The duchess was right he would have to learn some quips. Captain Pellew knew how to joke with people. He had certainly done it at his expense enough, thank you very much! He snorted a smile as he remembered his Captain teasing him. A moment of homesickness crossed his mind as he thought of Indefatigable. "My, I am in a reverie tonight!" he said.

So, Pamela was not a virgin. He was not a virgin. How could he be thinking these things? *Come on, Horatio,* he thought to himself, *you know why. You want her, that's why. Be honest with yourself. But I respect her too much to allow myself such familiarity. Respect, be damned!* he thought. He breathed deeply and ran his hand over his hair. "Stop thinking about her and do your logs," he commanded, audibly.

He pulled a book towards him. Picking up the quill he dipped it in the ink well. "The repatching of Dolphin was successful." he wrote. Was that enough? That pretty much told it. *I am so weary,* he thought. *Where are we?* He forgot to note their position. Later. He would get it later.

He moved to his bunk and stretched out. Pamela. He closed his eyes and envisioned her face smiling sweetly across the gun deck. Her eyes softened upon meeting his, he was sure. He wished Archie were here. He would be a good sounding board, if he could bring himself to tell him what he was thinking. He would never believe a girl, a woman, had so affected him! Horatio Hornblower? He would be a source of jesting from ALL the officers, if they knew...but he liked her. He liked her very much.

He knew nothing about her, or her dead husband. How long had they been married? She is so young, certainly not long. Pamela. He had never known anyone by that name. And she is an American. He had never known an American before. What does she think of me? She wanted me to kiss her. That day seemed an eternity ago! But, it was only, one, ...two...two days ago! Is that all? God, that kiss! He opened his eyes as he remembered how he kissed her. Sitting up he removed his coat. His cabin seemed unusually warm. He pulled off his waistcoat and shirt, poured a basin of water, and began to douse himself. Goose flesh appeared on his skin. He splashed his face and rubbed it, threw water over his neck, under his queue, felt trickles running down his back. He picked up a towel and rubbed the wet dry. He pulled a clean shirt over his head. Elbows resting on his knees, he cradled his head. He looked at his door. Before he knew what he was doing he found himself standing outside her cabin.

"Pamela?" he whispered. There was no answer. He tried the door. It was not locked. He opened it gently. The room was illumined from the light in the companion, and the dim lantern hung from the deck beam. He closed the door. She lay on her bed. *What am I doing?* he thought. He pulled the blanket up over her shoulders and heard her breathe deeply.

She moved her head and snuggled her cheek on the pillow. Her eyes opened ever so slightly. She was looking at his hand hanging at his side. A slight smile moved over her lips, as she closed her eyes and then, she said his name, softly as in a dream. "Horatio."

He knelt beside the bed, and smiled, seeing her eyes closed. Was he in her dreams? He touched her head lightly with his fingertips, running them down the side of her face to her lips. They puckered to form a kiss. Her brow knitted, then, her eyes opened slightly and she smiled at him.

"I thought I was dreaming," she spoke softly. She looked into his eyes, and he started to speak. She raised her fingers to his lips to silence him and lingered there. He was gazing intently at her and she felt his mouth move into a gentle smile under her finger tips. She looked at his mouth and parted her lips, moistening them with her tongue. He was watching her every move. At the sight of her opened lips, he began to move slowly toward them.

 

"I'm going to kiss you," he stated in a whisper.

"I know," she whispered back.

"Is that all right with you?"

"Mr. Hornblower, I believe you enjoy torturing me."

He let his lips brush hers. "Is it all right with you then ... that I kiss you?"

"I don't know. Why do you want to?"

He breathed in deeply, still hovering near her lips. "Oh ... well... I've been thinking about you ...off and on ... all day." He planted a light closed-lip kiss on her.

"With all you had to do today?" She stroked the side of his face as her lips brushed his while she talked.

"Hmhmm." He could feel his body temperature rising.

"About ... kissing me?" she asked.

"Among... other... things," he answered haltingly, kissing her lightly between his words.

"Other things?" she questioned.

"Hmhmm," he smiled as he continued to kiss her lips. "Has anyone ever told you, you ask...too many questions?"

"I mmm...." was all she got out as he covered her mouth ... their tongues met. He leaned hard on her lips, her sweet mouth open to his. Slipping his hands underneath, he embraced her. Slim arms wrapped around his back. He moved to her cheek and kissed it hotly.

"Mr. Hornblower, you are such a master at kissing!" She said breathlessly. He moved back to her lips and kissed her again.

He shifted his body to lay upon her breasts that rose with the lift of her arms as she caressed his hair. Then, the cool touch of her hand on his skin. A shiver ran up his spine as her hand slid to his chest. Her other hand was under his shirt. She pulled it off over his head in one movement. His heart was pounding. He kissed her again wrapping his arms around her shoulders and loosing her hair. It fell onto her back and his arms. His lips kissed down her neck to her shoulder and he lay his hand upon her breast. He held her head and hair, feeling her mouth on his neck. He winced with pleasure as she pressed his skin. She placed her hand over his upon her breast, he entwined his fingers with hers.

"Pamela!" he whispered breathlessly, "What are we doing? I ... I shouldn't be here with you like this."

"Don't you want me?" she whispered.

"God! I burn for you!"

"I am not a virgin, Horatio!" she invited.

"You are to me," he answered passionately.

She bowed her head at his shoulder, breathing heavily. She bent her head back, inches from his. Her eyes glistened as they searched his.

"God! You're beautiful!" he cried.

She shook her head and collapsed against his shoulder.

Why did he stop? Her breathing was short and quick. She touched his chin moving her fingers to his lips. Head still bowed at his shoulder she shook her head. "Don't talk, Horatio." Moisture filled her eyes.

He allowed himself to touch her flowing locks, pulling her closer.

She rested her head on his bare chest and kissed him there. "Horatio,"

He kissed her forehead and breathed in the perfume of her body, her hair. His eyes closed as he held her. They remained in this position, letting their passion ebb away. Horatio felt his chest becoming wet.

"You're crying."

She shook her head no, but he knew she was. He moved back and tried to look at her, but her head remained bowed. Taking her chin, he lifted it. "Have I upset you?"

She smiled, laughed and cried at the same time. "Not in the way you think, I am sure, sir,"

"Tell me. Tell me, Pamela." He brushed away the silent tears from her face.

"You will think the less of me if I do," she said, looking into the deep brown eyes.

"Never."

Her lips moved to tell him how much she wanted him, but she could not make
the words come. Finally, she looked down and leaned against him.

He hugged her, feeling her hands, her face, her hair upon his bare chest. His lungs caught breath in scoops. He rested his chin upon her hair. They stayed this way for he did not know how long. He heard the ship bell ring the hour.

"You are getting cold," she said as she felt his upper arms. Reaching behind her, she found his shirt. She helped it over his head and smoothed the material over his broad pectoral muscles. She looked at his handsome face and ran the back of her hand over his cheek. He took it and pulled it to his lips, looking into her eyes all the while.

"You are so beautiful, my lady."

She smiled, leaned against his chest, and sighed.

"I am pleased you find me so, sir."

Hornblower exhaled as he embraced Pamela. He needed to talk to her. He could not take her, even though he burned with desire to do so. Thank God, he had come to his senses before he did something he might come to regret. The raw passion he felt nearly swept them both away for she seemed totally willing to succumb to his machinations.

As he felt the warmth of her body next to his, he tried to think of what to say. Tried to think of what he wanted to say. His mind was a blur when it came to Pamela. If he were sailing this ship, or any other, his logical mind would weigh the wind, the wave, and the sail and he would know what to do. But this girl, this woman, in his arms - what was he to do! *If I cannot think straight, then, whatever I say will come out all mumbled and jumbled and I will feel like a fool. She may misunderstand me. I might offend her in some way. Oh, Lord, what am I to do? As if the Lord would answer me! The Lord would probably be very displeased with me here with her alone in her cabin. How was she able to allow it? Was it because she has been with a man before? Is it the closeness, the bond we have formed with one another because of the trauma she suffered over her father?*

As he thought of her loss, he hugged her closer and shifted the lay of his head on hers. What were they doing now? Both of them content just to hold each other, after he had nearly done that which only a husband should do? He blinked as he thought of how close he had come to taking her. *She was going to let me, was she not? She did not protest or push me from her. Indeed, she helped to remove my shirt!"* He kissed her hair and snuggled his cheek in it as he remembered. *Oh Pamela,* he wanted to say, and then what? *I love you? I need you? I most definitely want you! What should I say to her? Dear Lord, what should I say? What would Captain Pellew say?* At this self talk of consulting Pellew, he made himself laugh. She stirred in his arms and turned to him. A sadness was in her eyes, and a wondering curve to her lips.

"What is it you find funny, dear?"

He felt her tremble in his arms. She tried to pull from his embrace in embarrassment. It flowed off her tongue most naturally, but in her hearing it startled her, ... and him.

"Don't move away from me, Pamela!" He was astonished at the sound of his own voice, so desperate to keep her where she was. She relaxed in his embrace. "I... I have been trying to think what to say to you."

She tried to think of something as well, of what to say, as the words they spoke to one another were beginning to cause a change in the atmosphere of the room . They
could both feel it, though neither knew what it was.

"What was it that made you laugh, Horatio?"

"I have been trying to think of what to say to you ... for... I don't know how long.... My mind is such a muddle, I turned in thought to my Captain for words to say."

She looked up at him with a huge smile.

"Your Captain? You mean the Captain Pellew I have heard the men talking about? I think I should be trembling in my shoes if your Captain should say anything to me!"

They both laughed lightly. As he looked into her eyes he felt a warmth and caring he had never known for anyone, beaming from his face. It made him think back to the laughing smiles of his mother when he was but a boy. As this thought impressed his conscious mind, he knew the feeling might be similar but it was also most definitely different. He narrowed his eyes and tilted his head at the thought of his mother. He had loved his mother dearly, but he had not thought of her for some time. Was there something about Pamela that was like his mother? Her hair was dark, like his mother's. Was it her smile? He breathed deeply as he studied her face.

"What is this new look I see on your face, M...?" she caught herself from calling him Mr. Hornblower, biting her lip.

He grinned at her. "Thank you," he said decidedly, "Thank you, for not calling me that just now. You do that to tease me, don't you." And he found himself doing another amazing thing. He was tickling her.

"Oh Horatio! Don't do that!" she giggled and tried to pull herself away from his fingers tickling her sides. "Stop! What if someone hears us!" He did stop and pulled her tightly to him, laughing quietly and kissing her hair as he rested his cheek on her head. She hugged him close with her arms reaching around him.

They stood embracing one another as their frivolity died down. He spoke.

"Pamela, are you..." he halted trying to choose his words as best he could. He did not want to say the wrong thing. "Would you..." he stopped again. "Did I..." She looked up at him with a smile on her face and incredulity in her eyes. He grinned at her. "Don't say a word. You are enjoying my frustrations. I can see it in your face."

She shifted her position, reached up with both arms, and placed her hands behind his neck. He looked at the cleavage formed by this new stance. She followed his gaze to her bosom and she pulled the dress up so it was no longer visible.

"Now listen here... dear," she said forcing herself not to call him Mr. Hornblower. He knew it and he smirked at her. "Whatever it is you want to ask me, I will not be offended. I will not be hurt," at that statement she looked away from him and then said, "At least, I hope I will not be hurt. Ask me plainly what it is you want to know and I will answer you as plainly as I can. Becalm yourself, sir. Fire away!" She had the look of a line of crewmen waiting to be examined.

He snorted at her demeanor and pressed his fingertips into her side. She flinched at his tickling and gave him a determined look. "Very well, my lady. ... Did my actions this evening offend you?"

She breathed deeply and sighed. "No." That one word dripped with a sweetness that made him melt.

"Would you rather I did not bother you?"

She shifted her weight and tilted her head. She could not believe her ears. She opened her mouth as if she were going to expound on her answer, but merely replied. "No." And she blinked at him.

"Is that ëno, I don't want you to bother me,' or ëno, you bother me?" he faltered feeling like an idiot school boy.

She looked at him, looked towards the floor, and shook her head. Breathing deeply she replied, "Horatio, you are undoubtedly one of the sweetest men I have ever met. The most considerate, the most kind, ...the most..." she looked at him wondering if she should say the next word, "The most..." she let go of his neck and turned away from him, but he grabbed her and turned her back.

"You are starting to sound like me, Pamela. Come on, the most what? You promised you would answer me plainly."

She looked at him and blurted out "The most exasperating! No, no that is not true." She looked down not wanting to meet his gaze. She felt his finger lightly on her chin, trying to get her to look at him. Oh God, her eyes were starting to fill.

"Pamela."

She felt herself melting as he said her name.

"You will think me forward!" she said nearly stomping her foot.

He laughed almost out loud. "I nearly beded you tonight! I think we are both forward! Tell me, my lady what were you going to say? Please. Please."

A sweeter voice had she never heard from a man. Her knees were weakening. What was it she saw in his face? Heard in his voice? Something that she found wonderful and frightening all at once.

He waited.

She let out the breath she had been holding and began to move her head from side to side which emphasized the words that she finally allowed to be spoken. "The most...many things,... considerate, kind, intelligent, strong, handsome..." she slowed the words pouring from her and looked at him, " ...delightful, ..." he had begun to pull her towards him slowly "... maddening, ...." closer he pulled her, "... loving ... passionate..." He was holding her very close now, "...a fantastic kisser..." and so he did, ... kiss her.

When their lips parted she was breathless. Breathing in and then out slowly, the room had become ethereal and she felt as if she were in a dream "Horatio, my first two husbands can't hold a candle to the way you kiss."

He looked at her startled. "Two?"

A look of astonishment was on her face as if suddenly awakened. "Oh, do you hate me that I did not tell you there have been two?"

"Two? What happened to the other one?" He was near laughter and he wondered why. How could one so young ...how old was she anyway?... have had two...TWO... husbands? But he caught himself. He did not want to offend her.

"Are you laughing about my dead husbands?" And she felt herself on the verge of laughter as well, and thought herself horrible for it! Snickering was slipping out of her mouth. "You must think I am terrible!" she laughed, "My first husband, Tom, was killed after about two weeks of marriage, and Captain Dandridge, the one you know of, that died at sea."

"What happened to the first one? Tom, is it?"

"He was working as a load leader for my father on the docks. He was only nineteen. One of the bales swung up for loading came loose from its rigging, knocking him into the water. A wave came up and crushed him between the ship and a dock pylon." She stopped her snickering as she recalled his death. "Poor Tom, forgive me for laughing," she said absently as if she were speaking to the dead man.

Hornblower looked at her and pulled her close to him before she could realize he was not holding her.

"That must have been awful for you. Did you love him deeply?"

"We were very young. I was eighteen when I married him. I think it was more infatuation than love, as I look back on it now. He was a sweet boy. It was sad when he died. Captain Dandridge was older than I, by twelve years. I met him through my father, of course. He was kind and attentive, when he was around. We were barely married a year when he died. We never did find his body, but his men said they saw him go under." She shuddered. "It was a fierce storm." She looked at Horatio's face wondering what effect this news had on his male ego. "I am used goods, Horatio. And, I think I may be a jinx to men who care for me." She was amazed that she shared these thoughts she had about herself. She felt her eyes fill up with tears.

"Don't say that, Pamela. It isn't true!"

She tried to pull away from him. A sob escaped her, "Let me go, Horatio!" She was turned now with her back to him, but his arms hugged at her waist.

"I'll never let you go, Pamela!" he whispered.

"Aren't you sick of seeing me cry?" She tried to pull away. He forcibly turned her so her head rested in the hollow of his shoulder. She gave into his arms. He stroked her hair and she became quiet under his touch.

"I meant what I said tonight. You aren't used goods to me."

"Horatio?"

"Yes?"

"That was the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me."

Well, here they were again. Holding each other. They had gone around another circle. What had he learned? Did what she say change his feelings for her? Feelings? Yes, he did have feelings for her. What were they? Had they changed? No, they had not changed. He put his emotions under close scrutiny. This was new for him, like learning a new language, he needed to know the inflections, the pronunciations, the syntax. No, whatever his feelings were for her, they had not changed. Or, if they had, it was not to lessen them, but strengthen. What was the feeling? Why could he not put a name on it? Can one trust feelings? Certainly, his intuition had stood him in good stead when it came to making decisions. What did his intuition tell him? He thought.

He still wanted to be with her, perhaps even more so. He still wanted to make love to her. Had that changed in any way? It was like letting the lead down in the well. No, that was at the same intensity as before, and was held in check. So what else was there that was there? It was something. His mother. Why was a thought of her returning? Did he think of Pamela as his mother? No! That was ridiculous! His mother had taken care of him. She had been the light of his young life. He had loved her and she had loved him. Was that it? Love? Did he *love* her? Should he say this to her? No. Not until he could be very sure. He cared enough not to take her, to make them both wait. Wait for what? What were they waiting for? The thought escaped him as he remembered to rebutt another statement.

"And you are not a jinx."

She nodded. "I am. I must be. Don't care for me, Horatio!"

"It's too late for that."

"No. I couldn't bear for something to happen to you. You have been kind. All the men I've loved are dead. I am a jinx."

"Pamela. I never want to hear you say that about yourself again." He felt her start to protest. He squeezed her in his arms. "Never. Do you hear me? If you do, I
.. I... I shall have to spank you and treat you like the child such thoughts suggest. I mean it, Pamela. You are never to say that again."