As I See Fit - Part 7d
She reached for the buttons on his vest to undo the rest of them. He kept his arms around her waist until it was time to remove the weskit, then he had to break his touch with her. He allowed her to lift his shirt over his head and kneel to undo his breeches buckles. He was loath to let her move from his side, but she went to a trunk, which was standing open near the bulkhead.
She removed a brown paper wrapped package and untied the string. She pulled out a heavy silk nightshirt, intricate but masculine smocking across the shoulders and long sleeves gathered at the wrist. He ducked into it as Amanda loosened his breeches buttons, then his garters and stockings. He had walked in his hose between the coach and the main cabin.
When she was finished, he secured her in his grasp again. "You haven't undressed me since our wedding night."
"You haven't given me the chance." She led him to the four-poster, the covers still thrown back from when she had bolted from her resting place to come to him. She held them open as he slid beneath them. He felt the dampness on her pillow; his heart was hurt that she should have been crying.
He drew her close, the fabric of their nightclothes between them. He lay on his side, her head pillowed on his arm. Her hands rested on his chest. She did not try to pull out of his grasp, but neither did she try to initiate any intimacy. "Do you want to talk about it?" She asked.
"No, just be quiet and let me hold you." He answered.
He lay awake, waiting for the sun to rise. Sleep had fled from him, not to return this night. She turned her back him but he retained his embrace. He tightened his hands around her waist.
'If she ever asks what the dream was, I will tell her.' He thought, 'I will tell her that I saw her dead, but I will not, cannot tell her the rest.' He pillowed his head on her hair and breathed in her scent. 'I can never tell her the rest.'
He stood outside the admiral's day cabin on the flagship, once again his hat in his hand. The flag lieutenant had passed him, the officer's hair still wet from combing. Edward was the first appointment of the day.
Montague motioned him in to the cabin as he passed. "Pellew, are you ready for sea?"
"Yes sir, in all respects, save only some personal stores and last minute perishables remain to be delivered."
"Good. I take it that is not why you are here?"
"No sir, I have a favor to ask." Pellew hesitated, unsure of how to proceed.
"I would like permission to sleep out of the ship tonight, sir. If you please." Edward saw the amusement begin to shine in the Admiral's eyes.
"I'd like to spend some time with my wife." Once again, Edward drew to a stop. The Admiral seemed not to understand. Edward continued, "We're newly weds, as you know sir, and we have not had anytime without interruptions. You understand, sir?"
The old man's lips turned up at the corners. A muffled laugh was heard from the flag lieutenant at his desk in the rear of the cabin. "No." was the admiral's only reply.
Pellew drew a long breath. They were going to make him do this. He stood embarrassed before them. "Well, sir, she wants what I have, sir. And without ships business coming between us." He drew to a stop, his cheeks burning, his hands fidgeting with his hat.
"Ah, Pellew, I finally understand! Yes, of course, Edward, take the night. I'll see you at Faneuil?" The admiral laughed at him, good-humored and not cruel.
"Yes, sir. Thank you sir!" He breathed a sigh of relief. They were going to let him get away with some honor left. He had imagined that they would make him describe what he had in mind for the evening.
"These dances aren't what you expect, Pellew. I hope you enjoy it. Lot's of young ladies to dance with!" The admiral said.
"I only want to dance with one of them sir."
He had missed breakfast with her to meet with the admiral. He entered the coach with Rimble and Pengarth in tow. He was surprised to see a gaily-colored oblong box lying on the table. He immediately knew what it was and why it was there. He smiled, reached across to his writing desk and picked up his penknife. He slit the wrapper, pulled the box apart, removed the tissue and held the box out to the two men.
"Have a piece." He selected one for himself and the others took theirs as well. The marzipan candy melted in his mouth. 'This time,' He thought, 'I will be able to keep the sweet taste.' He called out to Grimes, who was filling a traveling case with clothing and the other necessities for an overnight stay ashore. "Put these in with those things." He offered Grimes a piece, which was accepted, then put the lid back on the box and held it out to his steward.
"Mr. Pengarth, I'm going ashore tonight, and Mr. Rimble will be going also for the evening, to return before morning. Mr. Baines will have the ship with Mr. Stanfield, you will also take a watch."
"Thank you, sir!" The young man exclaimed.
"Very well, enough. It's time you had the experience. Mr. Stanfield will be here and will be your officer if you need assistance. Call him first." Pellew had already discussed the third officer with Rimble and did not need to elaborate for the youngster. "The marines will be touring the ship often, a fire watch if you will. They will report after each tour to the officer of the watch. I've included it in my orders."
He really didn't know what to expect. The unease about the Altamira was gnawing at the back of his mind. The fire of a few days before had not been an accident. He thought about the crew that had been on the ship. Buckland was gone; he had finally passed his exam and was assigned to the flagship. Three of four others were transferred to other ships at their request. He had suspected none of these men in the arson. That meant the culprit was still aboard.
Rimble had indicated that he did not want to be gone from the ship, but he was also going to the dance, and had gained permission for his absence a week earlier. Together they had gone through the muster book and tried to fit the crime to the man. There were only four that were new to the ship, both of them had dismissed any crewman that had made passage from Kingston or were old Aurilies.
They had no proof of any of these four setting the fire. Baines was not among the four, but Pellew considered him a suspect anyway. Why would an officer want to disable his vessel? A vessel that he was in direct line to command should he, Rimble, and Stanfield be incapacitated. He shook his head at the thought. He knew that action was coming, this situation could happen.
He had watched Baines. His manner around the women, his care of the ship, Edward had seen nothing unusual. Baines watched Amanda a bit too much, but then, every man in the ship did as well. Including him.
He had restored the brace of pistols to Amanda's cabin.
Monday evening, at Faneuil Hall, Edward Pellew helped his wife off with her cloak. Once again, she was wearing that lace cap. "How is that thing held on? You haven't tied it."
"Pins." She replied. She had almost been silent from the ship to the door. She smiled and spoke when he needed an answer, but conversation seemed to have deserted her.
"Take them out, but leave the cap on."
"Yes Captain." She reached up and began to remove them. She did not meet his eyes.
"You are wearing your wedding dress." He had only seen the hem of her dress until this moment.
"I want to show it off. And, it's not practical to wear it only once."
Edward saw the workbag that hung over her arm. He frowned, the upside down Y making its appearance. "Why did you bring that?" He motioned to it.
"I will need something to do. This is going to be a hard evening for me." He was truly puzzled. Her head was bowed; she seemed to be staring at the floor.
They were passing into the main hall. He was wearing his best uniform. He noted that there were scarlet and other blue coats scattered throughout the crowd.
Her voice, while not angry was stilted and quiet and she still did not look at him. "There's your Admiral, Edward. Enjoy your evening." He heard the slight sob in her voice. He caught her elbow.
"Wait, Amanda, what do you mean?" She pulled away from him, turning halfway around. He could see the hurt in her eyes.
"I will be with the matrons, Edward. Married women do not dance in Boston." She disappeared into a sea of dresses on the side of the room. Still looking for her he moved toward the men standing beside a table laden with two big punch bowls. Lawrence welcomed him, they both turned to watch the dancers. He saw Charlie and Emmie moving through the dancers.
His eyes kept going back to the group of women, all in those hateful white caps, trying to find her. He finally spotted her. She sat just a little apart and next to her Aunt Deborah.
He passed a few moments chatting idly with the men. His foot began to move in time to the music.
Lawrence saw him. "Why don't you ask one of the young women to dance, Edward?" His father-in-law pointed out the knot of gaily-colored gowns. "I believe I will." Endicott continued as he started to move across the floor. Pellew caught his arm.
"Tell me, are men permitted to dance with their wives?" He asked.
"Of course, but it's just not done." Lawrence answered.
He backed up against the wall holding a punch cup between his hands. This was not going well. He could see something had happened in the women's area. Amanda had moved away from her kinswoman.
In the middle of the third set Pellew decided he had had enough of Boston society. He put the cup down on the corner of the table. They were going to dance or leave. He made his way straight across the floor through the dancers. His deep blue uniform, with its gold trim a stark contrast to the buff and blacks of the civilians.
He could see that Amanda had noticed his movement. She had stopped the hook in her hand and pulled up the stitch. Her hands, so busy before were quiet.
He could feel the eyes of the other women on him as he stood before her. He reached out and lifted the cap from her head, then drew her to her feet. He placed the white ruffled bonnet in the seat of the chair; she laid the workbag down beside it. He took both of her hands in his.
"Sarah Amanda Pellew. You are my equal. You are not subservient to me. You are my helpmeet and the love of my life. Will you dance with me?"
He did not need words to understand her answer. Her face, a countenance that had not held any animation for the last few days, now glowed with joy. He led her through the women and out onto the floor. Several of the younger wives reached out to touch her free arm as she moved through them. Their murmured words of encouragement followed her passing.
They never sat back down for the rest of the evening.
They had not been among the first to leave, but neither were they the last. She held to his arm as they left the hall, turning west, away from the bay.
"Captain, aren't we going back to the ship?"
"Not tonight. The Admiral has offered us his house for the night. He's in the flagship." He answered.
"No ship?" Amanda asked.
He shook his head. "No ship." His lips curled up slightly. She answered with her own bright smile, bright enough to be seen in the darkness. Her hand tightened on his arm. They walked on a little way. "Amanda?"
"Yes, Captain?" She answered.
"Some time ago, it seems like just a few minutes but it has been some weeks, you asked me if I was happy. Now, I will ask you the same question. Amanda, are you happy?" He had stopped, she walked on a step or two then turned to him.
She was silent, the smile gone. She finally answered, after drawing a long breath. The snow had started to fall again around them. "Yes, Edward. I am happy." Silence again. She did not move. 'There are things I need to learn to understand your duty and to know what is expected of me. I'm not sure what you want from me. Sometimes you order me about as if I were one of your crew, then there are other times you don't talk to me at all." He took her arm again and they walked on a few paces. "I seem to anger you and I do not know why." She continued.
He was the silent one this time. He reconsidered his thoughts. The snow was falling heavily around them and the wind was beginning to whip the flakes around. He stopped again, adjusting the hood of her cape around her head.
"Mandy, you have not made me mad at you. I was concerned, both for your safety and for our position. I needed you to realize that your behavior reflects on me and the ship." He took her hands in his. "Mandy, if it was just me," He said, shaking his head just a little bit, "It would not make any difference. I love you so much, you could do almost anything to me except take up with another man and I would accept it.
"But the ship and the ship's honor! That is another matter." His fingers tightened on hers. "Amanda, I am this ship, this ship is me. As long as I command her, it will be that way. There is nothing I can do about that, except resign my commission."
She looked him full in the face. "I know that, Edward. I've known it since Friday morning. I am so sorry that I did not listen to father. I knew the minute I was pulled away from Charlie that I had been mistaken in going to that meeting." She cast her eyes down.
"Amanda, we need to talk now, because neither of us will think about anything but pleasuring each other after we walk into that house." He shook his head again, looking upward into the falling flakes. His deep blue boat cloak whipped around her legs, it's color merging with the darkness of her maroon cape to join them together. "I don't know how to ask you this. Amanda, we go into peril when we leave this port on Thursday. I don't know quite what will happen. Amanda, will you stay here with your father and follow on a later packet?" Dropping one of her hands, he tilted up her chin to see her face.
"Do you want me to stay here in Boston?" She asked.
"Yes, no, oh Amanda, don't do this to me. I don't want to be separated from you at all, but I can't take you into danger just because I want you with me. I just can not."
"Is this my choice then?" She asked.
"Yes." It was his turn to look at the pavement between their feet.
"Edward, look at me." He met her eyes again. "I would rather spend three weeks of terror and die with you, than to stay here in Boston safe and sound and never see you again, husband."
He leaned toward her. "Wife." He kissed her gently, touching her cheek as he did so.
He took her arm again and urged her along the street. "Edward?"
"Yes, Amanda." He answered staring forward into the darkness.
"The next time you want me to act in a certain way, please, just tell me. You have to tell me what you need me to do. I am totally unable to read your mind."
"How can you read and react to your father so well and not be able to understand me?"
"I have lived with him since I was born, Captain. I have only been with you for four months. You have to talk to me!" She shook her head; he could see the hood of her cape move back and forth. He knew that if they were standing still she would be stamping her foot to punctuate that statement. He smiled to himself. He shook off her hand to put his arm around her, drawing her closer.
"Let's go inside Amanda." He turned her onto a short walk to a brick townhouse, four steps further he pressed the latch to open the door. He swept her up into his arms and crossed the threshold of the house.
"Teddy!" He laughed at her; a grin broke across his face. "We've been married for a month. You have already done this!"
"I will carry you across every doorstep until I carry you into our own house." He did not set her down in the entryway. He could see that the servants had laid a fire in the grate and out of the corner of his eye, he saw the housekeeper, in her wrapper, poke her nose in the main room and back out of sight.
He went directly to the broad stairway leading up to the second floor. Her arms went around his shoulders. "Teddy, you can't do this, you'll never make it all the way up!"
"Yes I will!" He said with a laugh. He lurched against the wall, her weight throwing him off balance as he climbed the stairs. She caught his hat as it was knocked from his head when he ran into the wall. He made it three more risers before he tripped over her trailing skirts and fell forward, dropping her onto the treads and reaching out across her to stop his tumble.
She lost the grip on the hat and it rolled down the stairs, her workbag following it, the contents tinkling on the wood as her hooks and scissors escaped the drawstring. He looked around to see what the metallic noise was. She turned his face back to her. She leaned back against the wall, her shoes braced on the railing supports. He knelt on the stairs, the almost silent laughter racking his body. She kissed his forehead, her lips brushing the great scar that ran into his dark reddish brown hair.
"You called me Teddy!" He touched his lips to her eyes and reached for the pins and combs that held her tresses in place tight against her head. He bit gently at her nose.
She captured his face between her hands and drew his mouth to hers, "Yes." She whispered. His kiss began innocently, she met him with ferocity and sliding her hands around his head and down around his shoulders, she ran her tongue across his lips and he answered by forcing her lips further apart and deepening his kiss.
He trailed his lips and tongue down to the tip of her chin, then around to her ear, where he took the lobe of her ear between his teeth, pulling at it gently, then began kissing her neck. He straightened her out to lay beside him on the stair, his free hand found her waist and moved of it's own accord to her breast. She answered with a short gasp and broke away from nuzzling his shoulder to stretch out under his hand.
His boat cloak, still wet from the snow, was caught between them. The pressure of his body, stretched out halfway across hers and moving against her, wrung the water out onto her. "Teddy?" She whispered, her hands still busy finding their way under his coat and weskit to pull up his shirt and touch the bare skin under the waistband of his breeches.
"Yes?" He said, the word almost a gasp as he tried to undo her cloaks clasp and kiss her neck at the same time. Her answer came dimly to him as the metal hook parted under his fingers.
"I'm getting wet."
"You are going to get wetter." He answered, his lips and tongue never still on her neck. But she had his attention.
"Let me up, there must be somewhere more comfortable in this house to do this." His cloak fell from his shoulders as he came back to his knees on the stairs. She rolled onto her stomach and his big hands wrapped themselves around her middle to help her up.
Standing on the stairs above him, her own cape still laying on the stairs, her combs and hair pins laying in the folds of the hood, she extended her hand to him with a giggle. He answered with another throaty laugh, took it and allowed her to pull him up. As she did so, his other hand found it's way under her skirt to touch her thigh, running his hand lightly around her garter, she shrieked with laughter and still holding his hand, led him, running, up the stairs.
On the landing he drew her to him again, this time his hands reaching to free the lacings on the back of her dress. She pulled his jacket back from his shoulders and he stopped working at her clothing to let it drop. He turned her around to see what he was doing because the laces had not come undone under his fingers.
Her hair hung down her back and across the dresses closure, he swept the tresses away from the small of her waist and over her shoulder, he kissed the bare skin on the base of her neck, his tongue tasting of her as the ties finally came loose. He dug his fingers into her ribs, causing her to yelp in surprise and round on him, hand raised to slap at his face.
His grin totally disarmed her and the slap became a caress, he caught her hand and drew it downward to feel of his arousal. "I need you, Mandy." He whispered as his other hand pressed her body into his, trapping their clasped hands between them.
"Take me then, Edward." She answered. He turned to open the double doors to the room at the end of the landing, when he turned around her dress was on the floor and she stood before him in her shift. It was loose on her body; she was not wearing any stays.
He stopped, looking at her in the dim candlelight. "I can't leave you alone." He said as he handed her into the room and closed the doors behind him. He pulled at the ribbons that held the top of her shift closed as she began to loosen the buttons of his vest. He backed her across the room as she removed his weskit, stock, undid the sleeves of his shirt and helped him to pull it over his head.
He left their shoes at the edge of the deep piled Persian carpet. His breeches followed them on the border of the rug and her shift dropped onto them. There was a distinct pause as they rid themselves of stockings and garters.
Her hands touched the faint scars on his back as he lifted her up and set her on the edge of the big bed. "Teddy, we left a trail." A burst of laughs broke out of him, making his shoulders ripple under her fingers. His own hands ran upward from her waist as he joined her under the counterpane. He looked over his upper arm as he stretched out beside her, yes; there was a distinct line of clothing from the door to the bed.
"At least they will know where to find us when they bring our breakfast."
She sat, cross-legged in the bed, beside him. The sheet was wound around her shoulders and across his legs. His hands were locked behind his head, he was going to have to poke up the fire in a few minutes if she did not lie down and cover them up again. Her hand, the one that stuck out from the sheet, was idly playing with the wisps of hair on his chest. The candles were guttering in their holders and several of them had gone out completely. He could see, very dimly, the hollows of her collarbones. He reached out one hand to touch them.
She caught his hand and pulled it into her lap. "Edward, promise me you will talk to me and tell me what you want me to do. Don't leave me to try to guess what you want."
"I promise. I will add that to our marriage vows." He said as he pulled her forward to lie against his chest, his other arm drawing her close. "I will never withhold myself from you again. I can't stand to see you cry."
She kissed his lower lip; then pulled at it gently with her teeth. "Edward, I love you." She sighed as she turned in the bed to align herself to him.
He knew he would not have to take care of the fire, he wrapped the blankets around them and slipped his hand down her arm and across her hip as she nestled deeper into the feather mattress and under his body.
He watched her as she found her dressing gown draped across a chair and her hair things on a chest of drawers. The room was obviously a man's room; there were no big mirrors or dressing tables. She sat looking out the window that flanked the bed; the snow had stopped sometime during the night. She let Grimes in and he had left a pot of coffee and it's accompaniments, taken care of the fire and withdrawn.
She had not noticed he was awake. It was a rare treat to watch her as she began to brush her hair. Hair who's red highlights shown in the bright sunshine as each stroke smoothed the tangles. His heart was full this morning, she had rarely told him that she loved him, almost never as they lay entwined together. She had said it twice during the night and once this morning as the grayness of the dawn had awakened them to another round of passion.
'We own each other now.' He thought as he got out of bed, shrugged into his own dressing gown and took the brush from her hand. She didn't speak as he began to draw the bristles through her hair. 'We were married legally and lay together before, but this,' his thoughts ran on, 'this is real attachment. I feel her.' The wonder filled his being. 'I feel her all the time.' He rubbed his hand across his chest, the tightness almost unbearable.
She looked up at him as she captured his hand as it made this last brushstroke. She was still quiet but the emotion was plain in her eyes. He didn't speak aloud either, unwilling to break the moment. 'Thank you, Lord; for bringing this woman back to me. I will keep my vows and love her all my life.' He prayed silently as they held themselves motionless in the sunshine.