"And you really believe your mother will go along with this, Captain?" The Admiral turned his face to Hannah, his expression apologetic. "Forgive me, Miss Hannah, but I have met Margaret Scott, and she is quite the forbidding woman. It is not enough that you are a colonist, albeit a lovely one," with a bow and a flourish in her direction. "The fact that you consented to come here with her son *unwed*, which she will consider you as she has not approved the match between you, makes you loose and whorish."
Donovan was on her feet before the Admiral could finish. "Just a moment, sir! I will not permit you to speak either to or about my bride in such a manner!"
"SIT DOWN CAPTAIN!!"
"NO, SIR! I do not need the Navy slandering Hannah, and I WILL NOT TOLERATE IT!!
Hannah's soft-spoken word cut easily through the shouting match that was quickly headed towards a brawl. Donovan glared at the Admiral a moment longer before she turned to face her beloved. She reached out her hands and grasped Hannah by the waist, forcing Hannah's hands to her chest to keep them from being pinned between them. Hannah allowed her hands to trail up Donovan's chest to her broad shoulders, and she noticed the barely repressed shiver that ran through the tall frame.
"Love, it doesn't matter what the Navy thinks, though all the Admiral was trying to do was warn me of your mother's possible reaction. Don't throw your career out the window when he was trying to help."
"Listen to your bride, Captain. She is a very wise woman."
Donovan's eyes never left Hannah's face, even when she answered the admiral. "Yes, sir, she is, but I still will not have you or anyone else disrespect her. I love her, sir, and I have every intention of making sure the entire world is aware of that fact. As far as anyone knows we have been married since the middle of June. The question is, sir, is whether the Navy supports me or not."
"It is not in the Navy's authority to decree on way or another on the marriage of its officers, Captain. But I personally would like to extend to you both my heartiest congratulations. It is good to see you found someone whom you are so willing to defend so fiercely."
"Then you understand my request for a bit of extended shore time, sir?"
"I do indeed Captain, and considering your desire to win your mother over, it will be granted. The Maiden has been due for a refit and overhaul for quite some time now, but you kept putting it off to go back out to sea." He smiled and motioned at Hannah who blushed quite prettily. "Now I understand your eagerness."
"Once your cargo has been unloaded, let your men know that they will be assigned shipyard duty. A majority of them will be assigned to do the overhauling and refit work. Your two senior officers will be in charge of the yard work to allow you to go home to tend to your pressing family business."
"And shore leave for my crew, sir?"
"Set up a rotating schedule, Captain. Give each of them a week off with pay. Rare, but not unheard of, especially considering the money you have saved the Crown in keeping the peace out there for years running. You are truly an asset to the uniform, Captain."
"Thank you, sir. I will have the roster on your desk in the morning. We will be here to unload the stores first thing, and then the Maiden can go into the yards immediately afterwards. I thought the men deserved a chance for a little entertainment tonight."
"Was that wise, Captain? Do you really believe the crew will be in any shape to carry out their duty tomorrow after they spend the day... ahem... in town?"
"Yes sir, my crew are all good men. They will do their duty, no matter the shape they come back in. They know their bonuses depend on the ship being unloaded in a timely manner. I trust them, and they know that too."
"It is your decision, Captain. I hope you are not disappointed for your faith." The Admiral opened the door, surprised to hear the sound of male singing coming from the direction of the Warrior Maiden. He stepped through the portal and stopped, stunned, at the picture before him.
Every man on the Maiden had changed from his dress uniform into his work clothes, and was busy getting the stores unloaded. John Merryweather noted the trio standing in the doorway of the Admiral's office, and he sketched them a salute, but otherwise, no notice was given to them as the men systematically moved the crates from the hold to the deck and down to the dock.
The Admiral turned to Donovan who had a stoic expression on her face, but whose eyes glittered with fierce satisfaction. "Well, Captain, it seems your faith is well justified. If only the rest of the fleet enjoyed such loyalty. Go tend to your crew, Captain, and get me that schedule. You have business at home that needs tending."
The Admiral turned and took Hannah's hand in his own, covering it and squeezing lightly. "It has been an honor and a privilege, my dear. I think you are just the balance Captain Scott needed in his life. I wish you luck in dealing with his mother."
"Thank you, Admiral. Your good wishes are appreciated."
"Go, Captain. I will see you in the morning, if not before," knowing Donovan's penchant for having things ready early. Donovan offered a salute which was acknowledged and then gave Hannah her arm, and the two made their way back to the ship.
"Captain on deck!"
"As you were! Mr. Merryweather, a word, if you please."
"Aye sir." John Merryweather handed his tally sheet to Mr. Roberts and moved to follow the Captain to her quarters. Her belongings and Hannah's sat neatly in two chests in the middle of the room waiting to be unloaded. Hannah went in first and took a seat on the bed, while Donovan took her desk and the first mate remained standing.
Donovan remained silent, and finally Merryweather asked, "Is there a problem, sir?"
"I am not sure, Mr. Merryweather. Would you care to explain to me why the men are unloading the cargo instead of taking their leave? I thought I gave an order."
"Hannah," Donovan said before she could speak further. "I understand your concern, but this is ship's business. Please...."
Hannah nodded reluctantly and sat back against the headboard. She bit her lip. She knew Donovan was right, and in this time and this place she had no responsibility or entitlement to speak. And she certainly had no desire to undermine Donovan's authority on her own vessel. But it was very hard to remain silent when it was clear that the crew had done it for Donovan's sake.
"I decided to have done with it, sir. It looks better for you and for us if we unload the cargo immediately. The Maiden has a reputation to maintain."
"So my orders mean nothing, then?" softly, sharply.
"No sir, we followed your orders. I simply moved up the timetable on them a bit. It is my job as first officer to insure your orders are carried out in a timely manner in a way that befits the situation and your reputation. I exercised my prerogative to move the timetable up to ensure that."
Donovan bit down on a smile. The truth was, they had done her a good turn, and she wasn't going to punish anyone for that. But it didn't hurt to remind them that she was still the Captain, and she let John sweat for a few minutes while she stared at him in silence.
Finally, she rose from her chair and clapped Merryweather on the shoulder. "You did a good thing, John. All of you. The Admiral was most impressed. I would appreciate being made aware of a change before it is implemented if it happens again, however."
The first mate nearly sank to the floor in relief as his knees tried to unbuckle beneath him. Instead he smiled and said, "Aye, sir," recognizing the reprimand for what it was. "Thank you, sir. We wanted to make you proud."
"You did, John. You did very much. Now," she continued, reaching back to her desk, "I want you to call the men together. I have some news and our new orders they should be aware of before I leave. Then Hannah and I need to make our best speed home. It is time to introduce my bride to my mother."
John flinched involuntarily at the last statement. "Aye sir. Will you be needing some back-up on that front?"
"Not immediately Mr. Merryweather, though I doubt either of us would object to your coming to visit when you have some free time to spend."
"I believe I can arrange that, sir. And if you will be kind enough to let me know when and where the nuptials will be, I imagine I can find a way to be there as well."
"I hope so, my friend, as I would like you and the rest of the crew to stand with me. You especially, though." Donovan extended her hand.
John accepted it with alacrity. "Thank you, sir. You know it is my honor to stand with you and Miss Hannah."
"Good. I will let you know as soon as my mother has settled down with the idea. Now come along. Let us give the orders to the men. I think they will be well pleased."
"Aye, sir!" John held the door open and gestured the Captain to walk before him. Donovan gave a slight bow and proceeded to step through when she realized Hannah hadn't moved from the bed.
"Wait outside for me, Mr. Merryweather."
The door closed completely before Donovan turned to Hannah. "Are you coming, Angel?"
"I'm sorry, Donovan. I didn't mean to overstep my bounds." It was said mutely, but the Captain could hear the sadness, anger and frustration in Hannah's voice.
Donovan sat down and took Hannah in her arms. The writer held herself stiffly for a moment, but Donovan's large hands ran gently up and down her spine and she felt herself relaxing into the embrace. "It is all right Hannah, and quite understandable, given your nature. They did a good thing and you did not want to see them punished for it. I appreciate that about you. But I needed to handle it as I saw fit."
"I recognize that, love. I felt bad for putting you on the spot. I didn't mean to embarrass you by speaking out. I know I don't really behave like a woman from this century should."
"And why should you, beloved? You are not from this century. I treasure you even more for that very reason."
"You are a smooth talker, Donovan Scott. You could really turn a girl's head."
"I have already turned and caught the only girl whose head I was interested in turning."
"Oh you have, have you? Then I guess you better make an honest woman out of me pretty quick here, Captain."
"As quickly as I can, my love. As quickly as I can." She rose and pulled Hannah up with her, keeping their hands clasped as they moved to the door. "Come, let us go tell the men about their schedule, and then we can go."
Hannah pulled Donovan to a halt just before she opened the door. She slid her hands up Donovan's chest, locking her fingers around Donovan's neck so as not to disturb the hair that was neatly tied back and powdered. She urged the Captain's lips down to meet her own, and they spent a long moment in leisurely, teasing exploration. Hannah pulled away slightly to breathe and Donovan captured her lips a second time in fierce passion.
When they separated, Hannah laid her head on Donovan's chest, listening to the rapid heartbeat with a sense of satisfaction. It was nice to know that she affected Donovan with much the same intensity as Donovan did her. She'd seen stars for a minute there.
"Come, Angel," Donovan said again still slightly breathless. "Before I forget my manners and throw you down on the bed here and have my way with you."
"And this would be a bad thing how?"
Donovan growled. "Do not tempt me, woman! I have plans for you, for us, and it does not involve anything even remotely resembling a hurried affair on the ship. Now let us leave before I lose what little resolve I have remaining."
"I love you, Donovan."
"I love you too, Hannah Scott."
Hannah couldn't stop the little gasp that escaped. "I do like the sound of that. Let's go, Captain. We don't wanna keep your crew in suspense too long."
They opened the door and John Merryweather stood there blushing, but maintaining his gaze towards the stairs. Donovan led Hannah past him and up the stairs, and he followed without a word. He was as anxious as the rest to see what news the Captain had in store for them.
"The men seemed quite excited about the time off," Hannah commented as she settled into the small berth they had secured on the afternoon train. "And almost all of them expressed a desire to be at our wedding."
"It is quite an event for most of them beloved, and somewhat rare. Many men of the sea never marry."
"Yes, well, you're not an ordinary man of the sea, are you, love?"
Donovan chuckled and pulled Hannah into her and laying the blonde head gently on her shoulder. "No, Angel. Not exactly. Now rest. We have quite a ride before we reach town, and I imagine Mother will be something of a draining ordeal for both of us."
"But...." Hannah found her words cut off by a kiss.
"Hush and go to sleep. It will make the time pass a little faster." Donovan closed her eyes and snuggled close to Hannah. Hannah looked back at the serene face incredulously.
"Can't believe you kiss me like that then just expect me to turn over and go to sleep," Hannah muttered as she turned and twisted before settling down with her head on Donovan's shoulder. She mumbled a bit longer before nervous exhaustion won out and she felt into a light doze. She never saw the blue eyes that smiled fondly down at her before they closed in sleep as well.
It was nearly dark when they pulled into the train station, and Donovan groaned when she stretched to her full height before stepping from the train. Their nap hadn't been very long, and she was tired from just sitting and listening to Hannah worry. Not that she blamed her; she was not particularly thrilled to be facing her mother. But it had to be done, so she took their cases in one hand and Hannah's hand in the other, and made their way to the local tavern.
"Um, Donovan? Aren't we going home... to your mother's house, I mean?"
"We will in the morning, beloved. I do not feel up to facing her disappointment tonight. I would like a hot bath, a hot meal, a soft bed and you."
Suddenly Hannah understood Donovan's reluctance. It wasn't anger Donovan would be facing, though Hannah suspected she herself might be before all was said and done. It was disappointment, the kind that was deep and cutting. She nodded to more than just Donovan's words when she spoke.
"That sounds lovely. I think I'd like that very much." And they crossed the threshold into another world.
"Folks were very glad to see you, Donovan, and they were very gracious to me as well."
"I do not get home often, love, and you simply charmed them all."
They were comfortably sprawled on the bed, the remains of their dinner on a small table nearby. They had bathed first, and Hannah ran her fingers through the hair that was raven once more. "I definitely like it better dark than light," she said conversationally, which got her a raised eyebrow in return.
"So do I, Angel. Powdering is a formality that is slowly disappearing, thankfully."
Hannah looked closely at Donovan whose head was in her lap, and for the first time she saw the signs of strain and weariness on her features. "C'mon, love," she said, tugging gently at Donovan's shirt. "It's late, I'm tired, and I want to cuddle with you."
Donovan didn't answer; she just stood long enough to help pull the cover back, then crawled in and curled herself around Hannah. Hannah extinguished the lamp before brushing a light kiss across the nearby forehead. "Goodnight, love," she said. Her answer was a firm hug and the sound of even breathing in her ear.
Morning came early, as it is wont to do, and Hannah and Donovan were up with the sun. It wasn't particularly far to the Scott's homestead, but Donovan wanted to arrive early and get the unpleasantness out of the way first thing. That way, there would be plenty of time to find another place to stay if her mother turned them out.
So after a good hearty breakfast from the tavern kitchen, Donovan found a carriage for hire to take them the relatively short distance to her parents' home.
A man opened the door at their knock and then stood with surprise on his face for a long moment before he swept Donovan up in a big bear hug. Hannah would have recognized him as Ernst Scott even without Donovan's gasping. "Papa, please put me down."
"Donovan, it is so good to see you! When did you get in? How long can you stay? And who is the lovely lass with you?"
"Papa, allow me to present my bride, Hannah. Hannah, this is my father, Ernst Scott...."
"But you can call me Papa, lass. It would please me no end to have you do that, especially since you are already a member of the family apparently." Ernst took the opportunity to glare at Donovan. "It seems we have missed quite a bit since you have been gone from us."
"Not as much as you believe. Papa, can we go inside? I promise to answer all your questions."
"Of course. Where are my manners? Come in. We have just gotten up from table, but I think we could manage to feed you."
"We have eaten, thank you."
"Ernst? Who was at the door?"
"Come, Mama. Our wayward child has returned and brought us a new daughter."
Margaret turned without a word and went back into the kitchen. "Well, that went well," Ernst muttered, before grabbing the largest bag and ushering Donovan and Hannah into the house.
"So you are not actually, legally married yet?" Ernst asked when Donovan finished speaking.
"No, Papa. We wanted you to do it."
"So you traveled together as man and wife without the benefit of a minister? You dared to bring a whore into my house and expect me to treat her as a lady? Worse... as a daughter?? How dare you...."
"Now Mama," Ernst began, but he was overridden by both Mama and Donovan.
"Do not 'Now Mama' me, Ernst!"
"How dare *I*?? You do not speak...."
Margaret turned flashing brown eyes towards her daughter. "Do not raise your voice to me, Donovan! I had a daughter once, and I lost that daughter to the sea as surely as though she had died, and what was left in her place was a perversion! An abomination before God! And now you expect me to not only accept the fact that you will live as a man for the rest of your unnatural life, but that you have found a perverted whore who will share your bed!!"
The sound of a chair breaking across the desk stopped her tirade cold, and Margaret turned to find Donovan seething holding only the two remaining legs. "THAT'S ENOUGH!!" Donovan roared.
"GET. OUT. OF. MY. HOUSE. I want you gone when I come back to clean up this mess!"
Margaret stomped out of the room, and everyone took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry, Papa. Would... would you still be willing to marry us?"
"Donovan?" Hannah put her hands on Donovan's chest and waited for the anguished blue eyes to track to hers. She flinched at the raw pain she saw inflicted there. "Take your fa... take Papa out to the barn and curry the horses. Just for a little while. I am gonna talk to your Mama. When I am done, then we can go."
"But I... do you... are you sure, beloved?"
"Yes, love. You leave her to me."
Ernst covered his mouth with his hand. He recognized the fierce light in Hannah's eyes as something Margaret hadn't counted on. The woman Donovan had chosen had an intensity he'd never seen matched, and it was obvious by watching the two of them together that their love was real and abiding. He almost wished he could stay and watch the fireworks, then decided he was just not that stupid. He did watch as their lips came together, then turned away in respect for their privacy.
He waited a long moment, until he heard a slight moan. They had forgotten he was even in the room and were consuming one another with their kiss. Though loath to interrupt them, he cleared his throat rather loudly, forcing them reluctantly apart as they blushed darkly at their behavior.
"Come on, Donovan. I think Hannah can handle your Mama just fine on her own."
Donovan gently traced Hannah's lips with her fingers, smiling when they parted and her nostrils flared. "I love you," she said quietly, but audible to everyone in the room.
"That's a real good thing, Captain Scott, 'cause I love you too. Now go. I'll take care of your Mama, then we can go find a place to stay."
Donovan looked at her father and followed him out the door. Then Hannah turned her attention to the mess on the floor. She'd never seen Donovan get quite so angry... not when she'd gutted Blackthorne and not when she'd take the Admiral to task. Margaret Scott was lucky Donovan had broken the chair instead of her. The fury pounding through her veins at her mother's words was evident, and it was only Donovan's iron will that kept her from lashing out at her mother directly.
It's probably a very good thing that she did that. God knows my self-restraint was about to fly out the window. I was ready to bitch smack her into next week.
Hannah felt her ire rising again and took a deep, cleansing breath. Then she began methodically picking up the shards and splinters of wood that lay scattered across the desk and carpet area around it.
She was about halfway done when she heard a clattering at the doorway. "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?? GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!!" Margaret's face was so red, Hannah literally feared for her life.
"No." A single word, spoken with quietness and determination, and it threw Margaret off her stride.
"What do you mean NO??? Get out of my house!! You're not welcome here, you disgusting harlot!!"
"Mrs. Scott, you have every right to hate me. No real reason, since you don't even know me, but certainly every right. I suppose there will always be people in the world like you who are too busy judging others that they never take the time to get to know them as individuals. A real shame, that, because you miss out on a lot of things due to your petty hatred, but that is not my concern now." She held up a hand when Margaret drew breath to speak.
"Please do not interrupt me. I am going to say what I have to say and you are going to sit down and listen. Then I will leave, and it will be up to you what happens from there. Understood?"
It wasn't her planned reaction, but Margaret surprised herself by nodding dumbly and found herself eased into a chair at Hannah's gentle insistence.
"As I said, Mrs. Scott, your feelings for me are irrelevant at this point, except as they concern Donovan. But your feelings for Donovan, madam, are completely unacceptable and abhorrent to me. You gave birth to her, loved and nurtured her, and now you turn your back on her because she follows her heart?? What the hell kind of mother are you anyway??
"Now you wait...."
"NO MA'AM!! I am not finished. You know nothing of the wonderful human being Donovan has become. All you see is a perversion, an abomination. She is a respected Captain in the Royal Navy, well decorated, and revered by her men. She is a hero to the people of the islands. And she is a loving, caring woman forced to act out a role because of the path she has chosen to follow. But you don't see that, do you? You don't see the brilliant mind, the loving heart, the beautiful soul."
"It doesn't surprise me that you cannot accept the fact that Donovan and I love one another. You cannot love Donovan for the person she is or the person she has to be to follow her heart. It should give you a measure of peace to know that as far as the world is concerned, Donovan and I will be lawfully bound as man and wife. At least your neighbors won't sneer at you and the fact that your child is a disgrace." Hannah could hear the scorn in her voice, and just couldn't make herself care enough to stop it.
"I feel sorry for you, Mrs. Scott. You are so busy being cruel and petty that you're gonna miss out on a lot in life, not the least of which is the amazing person that Donovan is."
Hannah walked to the door and turned around when she reached the threshold. "I want you to remember something, Mrs. Scott. I don't know you or anything about you, except for the little bit I have seen and what little Donovan has said. I do not like you and I do not like your attitude. But I especially will not tolerate your attitude towards Donovan, because you hurt her and I don't like that at all."
She took a deep breath, and looked out the window towards the barn where she could see Donovan standing in the door. "Stay away from her, Margaret. She is no longer your concern."
"What gives you the right...?"
"I love her. That gives me the right. We are going to be married in just a few days. That gives me the right as well. And remember when she no longer comes around that you gave up your right to her love when you pushed her away to hold on to petty prejudices and hatred. Goodbye, Mrs. Scott. I wish I could say it's been nice, but it really hasn't."
Hannah stepped through the doorway and made her way swiftly out the front of the house on shaking limbs. She rounded the house and headed in the general direction of the barn, knowing Donovan would see her and meet her halfway or better.
Donovan caught hold of the cold hands, chafing them gently as she led Hannah towards the barn. They didn't speak; there was no need. Whatever needed to be said would wait til they were long gone from this place.
Ernst looked up at their approach and noted the paleness in Hannah's features. He was sure he'd hear from Margaret just exactly what had transpired, but his curiosity was overwhelming. He didn't think Margaret had gotten a word in edgewise; he hadn't heard her screaming. Whatever Hannah had done had been very draining, though she'd apparently had her say before leaving.
"Papa, will you bring the other bag out here?"
Ernst nodded and went into the house. He noticed Margaret was sitting in one of the wing back chairs unmoving, and he made a note to check her as soon as he got the children on their way. He brought the bag and placed it in the carriage, noting that a healthy color had already returned to Hannah's face. He took her hands in his.
"Are you all right, Hannah?"
"Yes, M... Papa. It just... I wasn't very pleasant. You might want to keep an eye on her, because eventually, something's gonna break."
"I will do that Hannah. Thank you for caring." He turned to Donovan. "I will be in town in three days. We can marry you on the Maiden, then you will have a bit of time for a wedding trip before duty will call you back to the sea."
"Thank you Papa," Donovan replied. "We will see you on Sunday."
"I'll take care of her, Papa," Hannah whispered. "She's the best thing in my life."
"Thank you, Hannah, I know you will. Donovan is one of the best things in mine as well, daughter. I am glad you are part of our family." Donovan reached over and took Hannah's hand in her own.
"So am I," she said with a smile, then she clucked to the horses and they started down the road back to town. Ernst turned back to the house and shook his head.
"Time to brave the lion's den." And he walked back to his home.
"Donovan?" The blonde head peered around the door and Donovan turned from the mirror and caught her breath. While she had been aboard the Maiden working with the yard master on repairs and refits the last three days, Hannah had spent her time finding them a small cottage to rent. They'd gotten it for a paltry sum, since there was a bit of repair work to do on it as well, but Hannah had thrown herself into the task, despite the talk her efforts stirred. Now, as Hannah appeared before her in bridal white, Donovan's thought was one of wonder and delight. Wondering when and where she'd found the time to find such a talented seamstress on such short notice and delight at just how beautiful Hannah was.
It was only when she noticed the color that flushed prettily up Hannah's cheeks that Donovan realized she was staring with her mouth agape. She blushed herself and cleared her throat in an effort to dispel her embarrassment.
"Hannah? You look... incredible... simply amazing. But what are you doing here, beloved? We are not supposed to see one another until the ceremony."
"Donovan, we haven't followed the rules for anything else? Why should we start now?"
Donovan couldn't stop the grin that creased her face. "Very true. Come here."
Hannah obeyed, and found herself swept away on toe-tingling sensations for a very long moment. When she opened her eyes again, she blinked dazedly until she could find her voice. "Wow!" she whispered.
"I have missed you, Angel. The nights are not the same when you do not share my dreams."
"I know, love," Hannah answered quietly. She laid her head on Donovan's chest, unmindful of her hair. Her only concern was listening to Donovan's heartbeat, and she found great comfort in its steady rhythm. "I've missed you too. I think we have both been exhausted by our various labors."
"Probably, but you have done a wonderful job with the cottage, Hannah. Even though this is temporary for us, it is so nice to have a place to come home to that we can call ours." Hannah flushed faintly at the praise.
"I just want you to be as happy as I am being with you."
"I am afraid that is not possible, Angel." Donovan felt Hannah stiffen in her arms. "I passed that level of happiness the first time I held you in my arms." She returned Hannah's firm embrace eagerly. "Now what do you say to you and I going up to the Maiden's deck and being married?"
"I say I think I like that idea... a lot. I have waited a lifetime for this."
Donovan leaned down until she was a hairsbreadth from Hannah's lips. "So have I, beloved." Then she was swept away on a world of sensation until the door opened and someone was tapping her on the shoulder.
"Yes?" Donovan growled, keeping her attention on placing butterfly kissing around Hannah's lips. "What is it?"
"Um, Captain? I apologize for intruding, but everything is ready sir. We need to get you both topside to get the ceremony started." John Merryweather kept his eyes downcast to keep from prying. He could feel the heat they radiated just being together, and had no desire to see if it would singe.
Donovan groaned and pulled away reluctantly. "We will continue this later," Donovan said to Hannah sotto voce. Hannah bit her lip to keep from whimpering at the desire apparent in Donovan's eyes and voice. Donovan turned to Merryweather. "Are you giving away the bride, John?
"Very well, then," she said, placing Hannah's hand on the first mate's uniformed arm. "Give me two minutes to get into position, then escort her up."
Donovan turned to Hannah once more and cupped her cheek gently. "I love you."
"And I love you."
Without another word, Donovan left the small cabin and walked to the bridge where her father and her crew waited.
"She came to find you, did she not?"
"You can tell?" As much an admission as it was a question.
"She has a fire I recognize, and she is not one to let tradition stand in the way of desire. Besides, you wear a look of contentment."
"I am quite satisfied. A number of dreams come true for me today."
"Thank you for giving me the honor of presiding, Donovan."
A slight stir from the aft area of the boat delayed Donovan's reply, and she looked up in surprise to see her mother step off the gangplank onto the deck of the ship. Before she could formulate a response, another motion caught her attention, and Donovan focused on her bride.
Hannah really did look stunning. Her gown was simple; plain white silk with a while lace overlay on the bodice and sleeves. She wore a wreath of braided wildflowers as a crown for her head, and in her arms she carried a bouquet of roses from the prized garden of the Admiral's wife.
The Admiral stood beside Ernst, having been asked by Donovan to bless the union once it was official on this side of the pond. His wife Elizabeth stood to one side, having been happy to stand for Hannah when asked.
But Donovan wasn't really concerned with anything else but Hannah, and found her gaze captured but the vivid, sparkling green that reflected the sheer joy she felt at the moment. Another second and she was taking Hannah's hand from John, who moved to stand beside her as her best man. Then the crew closed around them, and Ernst began to speak.
"This union is recognized on one side of the pond, but of course it is not truly official until we do it the Royal Navy way," Ernst said with a smile, garnering chuckles from the crew. "So let us get to it then."
When he reached the question about opposition, he more than anyone there held his breath. No one had been more shocked at her arrival than he had. He'd spent two days listening to Margaret waffle between anger and tears. When he'd left the morning before, he'd done so to silence, and he was unsure of the welcome he would receive when he got home. Margaret hadn't condemned him, but she'd been clear in showing her hurt of his support of Donovan and Hannah over her.
Silence passed, and he continued the traditional ceremony. Then the Admiral offered his blessing. "The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. Now and always."
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to present to you Captain and Mrs. Donovan Scott."
"Present arms!" John Merryweather's command rang out and the
officers quickly formed a canopy with their swords. The crew threw rice and the flower petals
The first order of business was the cutting of the cake, and Donovan was hesitant to offer the use of her ceremonial sword to cut it... not with both of them knowing very well where it had last been. Unwittingly, the Admiral came to the rescue.
"Captain Scott, you did not give us much time to complete this, but...." He reached onto the table and drew forward a long, thin, wooden box. "A token of the Navy's esteem, sir, and a welcome aboard for Mrs. Scott."
Donovan held the box while Hannah slid the cover off, then both gasped in surprise at the contents. Inside, cradled gently in a bed of rich blue velvet, lay a new ceremonial sword. It was delicately etched in a pattern Donovan had never seen and see looked at the Admiral with wide, questioning eyes.
"Mr. Merryweather took care of the design. He said you would understand them."
Donovan looked closer and saw several things that she recognized that would mean nothing to the Navy. There was a book, a quill and a parchment for Hannah. For herself there was her standard, her captain's insignia and her family crest. Right at the very top, nearest the hilt were the eyes that were part of her pirate's banner.
"That is incredible." Hannah whispered, sparing Donovan the need for immediate comment. "Thank you, Admiral, Mr. Merryweather."
"Yes, thank you gentlemen. I am overwhelmed."
"Wonderful! Now will you and your bride please cut the
cake? I have been waiting since
yesterday for a piece, and
Donovan chuckled nervously and nodded for Hannah to lift the blade from the case. She had to secretly smile at Merryweather's nerve. If the true meaning behind at least one of those symbols became public knowledge, disgrace would be the least of their worries.
Hannah was surprised at the weight of the sword, and smiled thankfully when Donovan wrapped her much larger hand around her own on the hilt. Then they cut the cake to much cheering, and fed one another carefully before moving to the punchbowl where John waited with a glass for each of them and one for himself. He raised his own in toast.
"No finer Captain could a crew ask for than Captain Scott, and we are thrilled he has found a lady who is worthy of him." A cheer broke out from the crew. John held up his hand for silence. "So to Captain and Mrs. Donovan Scott, I would like to wish happiness, joy and strength. May you find your dreams in one another."
The entire room raised their drink in toast. Contrarily, Donovan put hers down and took Hannah's face in her hands. "I already have," she whispered, before capturing her lips in a kiss that blocked out everything but each other for a very long time.
Eventually, they became aware of the calls and cheers of their audience and pulled away blushing.
"Well, now," the Admiral boomed, "looks like we need to get this young couple on their way!"
Their friends laughed and cheered again, and twin blushes deepened further. "Sorry, beloved," Donovan started as she wrapped Hannah in her strong arms. Hannah snaked an arm out and placed her fingers across the pliant lips.
"Never be sorry for loving me, Donovan. You make me too happy for me to worry about what the rest of the world thinks anyway."
"I love you, Mrs. Scott."
"I love you back, Captain Scott, with all my heart."
They stepped back slightly and altered their positions so they were standing side by side and not face to face. Then they began making a circuit of the room, making sure to stop and speak to each and every person there.
"I know you are both anxious to leave. The basket contains some of the food," motioning around the room, "and a bit of cake. The girls and I will pack up what is left and bring it over to your place tomorrow." She paused. "Late tomorrow," she added with an almost girlish giggle. "Now go, before they discover you are leaving."
Hannah leaned forward and
... and ran smack dab into the imposing figure of Margaret Scott.
The trio stared at one another for a long moment before Margaret's eyes fell to the ground. "Donovan, I would like to speak to your bride. Would you excuse us, please?"
"No ma'am," Donovan answered succinctly. "Whatever you have to say will be said to both of us or not at all." Hannah had been very honest in her telling of exactly had occurred during her confrontation with Margaret. Donovan had no intention of leaving Hannah to her mother's tantrum, especially given how she felt about Hannah standing up for her like that. It still sent warm tingles up and down her spine.
Margaret flinched, but nodded her head. "Very well." She turned to Hannah. "I still do not like you, but you were right in saying I do not know you either. I do respect your willingness to stand up for yourself and Donovan. It says a lot about your character, and frankly reminds me more than a little of myself." She drew a deep breath. "I cannot bring myself to bless this marriage... not now; maybe not ever. I am... there are a lot of things that... well, perhaps with time...? I cannot say. But I would like you to know that you have given me a lot to think about. And anything is possible."
She turned back to Donovan. "I do sincerely hope for your happiness, Donovan. It is all I have ever wanted for you, though our ideas of what should make you happy vary widely. Go with God, children, both of you." Then without another word, Margaret turned and headed down the street in the opposite direction from the one they needed to be going to reach their small cottage.
Donovan watched her walk off for a long moment before she turned and extended her arm to Hannah once more. "Mrs. Scott? Shall we go home?"
"Absofriggenlutely, Captain. I have plans for you tonight." Then she had to laugh aloud as Donovan's pace suddenly redoubled.
They nearly fell in the door. Donovan had insisted on lifting Hannah over the threshold and was loath to give up the basket to do it. So she was fairly unbalanced as they stumbled in and it was merely saving grace that kept them upright as she fell back against the door to close it. She stood for a minute breathing hard with her eyes closed before she noticed the bouncing in her arms. Donovan cracked one eye open and peered down at the silently laughing Hannah.
"What, pray tell, is so funny, madam?"
The silent laughter became real laughter, and Donovan was having a hard time keeping her face a stoic mask. There was something in Hannah's laugh that made her warm and happy and a stern faŤade was almost impossible to maintain.
"We are, Captain. We survive decades between us, pirates, storms and any other number of things to nearly crash and burn just before our honeymoon starts?! There is something cosmically wrong with that picture. Especially since we could have avoided it." She tenderly stroked the smooth face above hers. "You didn't need to carry me over the threshold, love. Particularly since you were unbalanced by the basket."
Donovan processed what Hannah had said, understanding the meaning behind the words, then she pouted just the least little bit. "But I wanted us to have the whole starry-eyed, fairy tale experience. We have done too much to be together not to do the best we can for us."
"Drop the basket, Donovan." The low husky voice made her obey, and she heard the rattle of dishes before she found her lips covered by Hannah's. She immediately found another reason to be thankful for the solid construction of the thick oak door as it was all that was keeping the two of them from falling to the floor.
Hannah's hands began a gentle wandering, scratching her scalp and the back of her neck before coming around to the front of her dress tunic. Her lips left little butterfly kisses everywhere they could reach before she started nibbling down the side of Donovan's neck.
She popped the first button and slid her hand in the two inches it would go before she proceeded to work the second one free. The third button allowed her access to Donovan's breasts just as her lips reached the sensitive juncture between Donovan's neck and shoulder. She heard and felt the moan that rose from deep in Donovan's chest, and she reached up to grasp Donovan's face in her palm. The desire in the darkened orbs was scorching and she pulled the lips to her own once more, devouring them with unexpected intensity. Then she pulled back until they were barely apart... lips still touching and breathing the same air.
"Take me to bed, Donovan. I'm gonna make love to you til the sun comes up."
Donovan didn't answer verbally. She couldn't, and there was no need. Instead, she traced her tongue over Hannah's lips until Hannah despaired of the teasing and declared war with her own tongue. Donovan pushed herself away from the door on shaking legs and headed for their tiny bedroom, glad beyond reason that it was only a very few steps. She had sincere doubt in her ability to make it farther than that.
Donovan's knees hit the edge of the bed and she lowered Hannah the short distance to the mattress. Gradually she pulled back from their kiss and devoured Hannah with her eyes, keeping her hands in constant motion on Hannah's body. She was quickly coming to understand that her dreams couldn't begin to hold a candle to the sensations reality caused in her body.
Donovan traced lightly up Hannah's torso with trembling fingers, watching in fascination the play of muscles beneath its silk covering. Gently she tugged Hannah into a sitting position, covering her face and hair with light kisses as she struggled to unfasten the multitude of tiny buttons that held the dress together. She growled in frustration over her lack of progress, especially when Hannah's own hand became busy and she quickly unbuttoned Donovan's tunic. Then she started her fingers running up the silky skin in an effort to touch Donovan everywhere at once.
When she brought her lips to Donovan's neck again, the growl became a purr and the Captain shifted her head to one side to allow Hannah the access she needed. Hannah pushed at the dress coat, anxious to have it out of the way. "Let me love you, Donovan," she whispered.
Donovan nodded and stood, then slipped the jacket from her shoulders. Hannah knelt before her and almost immediately Donovan lifted her up to stand in front of her. "Do not kneel before me, beloved. You are neither slave nor servant to me."
"No, but I need your boots and trousers off, love, and I have waited a lifetime to undress you." Donovan swallowed hard at the words and nodded her agreement. "Would you prefer to sit for your boots? It might be easier."
In response, Donovan took a seat, nearly missing the bed in her haste. Hannah worked the right boot off, taking the time to tickle her toes when she slid the sock off her foot. Donovan jerked in surprise and chuckled. "That was not very nice."
Hannah laughed lightly. "No, but it sure was funny." Then she turned her attention to the left boot. It came off a little easier, but instead of tickling the foot she cradled, Hannah stroked her hands up and down the now naked calf, raising the foot to place delicate kisses on each toe. Donovan sucked in a breath at the sheer eroticism of the act, and almost missed Hannah's low command.
"Stand up for me love."
Donovan did so on shaky legs, wondering why she felt so nervous. She and Hannah had loved one another many times in their dreams, and had indulged in some private necking on their crossing over. But this is the first time we will love each other for real, Donovan thought, and felt the butterflies twitch in her belly. Then she lost all coherent thought as Hannah's hands slid her trousers off, managing to hit every sensitive spot on her ass and the back of her legs.
"Oh, God, Hannah," she moaned, gripping the sheets in her clenched fists as she fell to the bed. "Undress for me, Angel. I need to see you; I want to feel your skin touching mine."
Hannah whimpered at the husky tone in Donovan's voice, and turned her back. "Unbutton me, Captain. But no touching."
Eagerly Donovan complied, finding it much easier to deal with the myriad of tiny buttons now that she could see them. Of course the unsteadiness of her hands was somewhat detrimental to her cause, but not enough to keep her from doing Hannah's bidding.
At last the dress lay open from neck to waist, and Donovan could not resist the temptation of the golden skin that lay beneath the silk covering. Starting at Hannah's slim waist, she placed her open palms on Hannah's bare back. Slowly she traced upward with her thumbs along Hannah's spine, and she smiled when she felt Hannah push back into her touch.
When she reached the strong shoulders, Donovan pushed the material down her arms, being sure to keep her hands in light, teasing contact all the way to Hannah's fingertips. Donovan let the dress fall to Hannah's waist, and when Hannah turned, stared unabashedly at the now naked chest. Donovan entwined their fingers and slowly brought them one by one to her mouth to be kissed. Then her hands dropped to Hannah's waist, and she eased the dress the remainder of the way to the floor.
"So beautiful," she murmured. "Even better than in my dreams."
"Mine too," Hannah replied, wrapping her arms around Donovan's neck and pulling her in for a kiss. Donovan edged them to the bed once more, and Hannah proceeded to maneuver herself on top, straddling Donovan at the waist. "Now it is time to make our dreams become reality, love."
Donovan's answer was made in her kiss as she pulled Hannah down until skin met skin. Then everything became about sensation - touch and scent and taste and sound - and the world went on its way without them for quite a little while.
Sunlight streaming in was the first thing that woke Donovan out of a deep, dreamless sleep, and only because it was falling directly in her eyes. They had spent the previous day intermittently loving one another and laughing and talking. It had been both frightening and wonderful, and Donovan had felt something settle into place at least.
They had finally fallen to sleep just as the sun had begun to tint the sky with morning, both relaxed and sated and utterly exhausted. Donovan scowled, not happy to be awake yet, though her inner clock told her it was close to midday. She shifted to find a better position out of the glare when the warmth in her arms mewled and stirred slightly. Then Hannah renewed her grip, and settled back into a peaceful slumber.
Donovan smiled and focused her attention on Hannah. What they had shared yesterday had been a culmination of a lifetime of dreaming and waiting and.... And it had been more wonderful than Donovan had imagined it could be. Dreams had nothing on the reality they shared together, and even the slight pain and discomfort she felt now couldn't diminish the true suitability they shared together.
She lay there with a smile on her face, concentrating so hard that she didn't notice Hannah was awake until a tender touch on her face brought her back to reality and the woman who shared it.
"Problems, love? You had a very peculiar look on your face."
"No, Angel. Contemplating the rightness of my world as it is at this very moment."
"I see," Hannah yawned, scrubbing her face with the hand not currently running lightly up Donovan's torso. "And what brought you out of a sound sleep that you felt the need to ponder that?"
Donovan twisted enough to allow the glare of the late morning sun to hit Hannah squarely in the eyes. Hannah flinched, and buried her face in Donovan's warm, soft chest.
"Ow," she mumbled from her cocoon. "That hurt."
"Yes. It was much more pleasant to concentrate on us than continue to face that."
"Well, now that we are awake," Hannah hesitated when the surface below her began to rumble with laughter. "What's so funny?"
"You are tickling me," Donovan growled out, even as another ripple of laughter shudder through her frame.
"Huh?" Hannah asked. "Donovan, I haven't moved my hands."
"No, but you are breathing, talking and blinking. And it all tickles."
"Heh heh heh. Ammunition... gotta love it," Hannah mumbled, proceeding to blink, breathe and nuzzle until Donovan was squirming. Then without warning she found herself on the bottom of a very small pile with Donovan's long fingers grazing up and down her sides.
"Yes, well, all is fair, beloved," were Donovan's last words until Hannah pleaded for mercy with tears running from her eyes and laughter rolling from her belly.
Their laughter finally wound down and they remained wrapped in the warmth of one another's arms for a while. Finally though, full bladders and empty stomachs forced them from the bed to take care of some of life's other most basic needs.
In the early afternoon, the couple decided to take a walk down the beach. The air in late August was warm, but there were hints of cooler weather not far behind. Hannah shivered, unused to the difference in temperature, and Donovan naturally wrapped an arm about her and held her closer.
"A little. I'm not used to this kind of weather at this time of year. This is winter for me."
"Um, Hannah... this may not be the best time for me to mention this, but it is going to get a lot colder before it gets warm again."
"How much colder, love?"
"It has been a few years since I actually tried to winter here, but if memory serves... quite a bit. It is one reason we hate to come in. We will head out as soon as we are able, but we will be here for at least part of the winter, I am afraid."
"You are taking me with you when the Maiden heads out again, correct?"
"Yes. I will make the arrangements."
"Then I can bear the cold for a few months. I will need some heavier clothing, though."
"I think we can manage that, Angel. That does remind me, though," Donovan added as they turned around and headed back down the beach towards their cottage.
"Yes?" Hannah asked when Donovan didn't continue to speak. She noticed Donovan's eyes were focused on her and she blushed under the intensity of the stare.
"So very beautiful," she commented, stroking Hannah's cheek with the backs of her fingers. "Have I told you today just how much I love you?"
Hannah's blush deepened and she grinned. "You might've mentioned it once or twice, but I certainly never get tired of hearing it said."
Donovan put her hands at Hannah's waist and slid them around the back. Hannah naturally slid them up Donovan's chest and shoulders to lock around the Captain's neck.
"I do love you... more than life or breath or the sea. You changed everything for me. You are the best part of me, and I am thankful every single day that you are in my life."
Hannah would have responded, honestly, had not Donovan stolen her breath first by her words, then by her actions. When they finally separated, breathless, Hannah simply took Donovan's hand again and quickened their pace towards the cottage. The writer had lost her words for the moment, but she was sure that Donovan would understand her message.
They were in the small living area preparing dinner when a knock sounded at the door. They looked at one another puzzled til the second knock brought a recognizable voice with it.
"Hannah? Captain Scott? It's Elizabeth. Is it safe for me to come in for a moment?"
Both women were in robes, so Donovan hastily moved to the bedroom and shut the door. Hannah tightened the robe around her midsection and went to open the door for Elizabeth, who promptly blushed at Hannah's state of undress. That caused a blush of her own, and Hannah was thankful for the distraction of taking the large basket out of Elizabeth's hands and resting it on the table.
"You would think after more than thirty years of marriage to the same man and six children, I would not be embarrassed about sex. And I am not, exactly, I suppose. I just hate interrupting newlyweds."
"You weren't interrupting, Elizabeth. I was just getting ready to fix a little dinner for the Captain and myself."
"Then I will not keep you, my dear. I just wanted to drop of the remainders of your feast from yesterday, not that there was much left. Enough for a meal or two, perhaps. It will save you the trouble of having to prepare anything this evening, at any rate."
"I appreciate that Elizabeth, and so will Donovan."
"Good, good." She sighed and put her hand on the door knob. "In a few days, when the Captain returns to his duties, perhaps you could spare a bit of time for me. You have the most interesting pattern of speech I have ever come across, and I wish to know more about it if you would be willing."
"I can do that. Do you know of a place I could get a journal?"
Just then, Donovan walked out of the bedroom, cutting a fine figure in loose britches and a linen shirt. She looked between Hannah and Elizabeth, one brow slightly raised.
"Excuse me, Captain Scott. I was just leaving. Hannah, if you ask your husband to take you to Mills and Rowe, I believe they will have a journal like the one you need."
"Yes, thank you, Elizabeth," Donovan echoed.
"You are both most welcome. Now if you will excuse me, I still need to prepare dinner for my husband and family. We will see you both soon, because you will have to join us for dinner when you return to duty, Captain."
"Thank you, madam. We are happy to accept."
"Then we will plan on
it. Good evening," and
Donovan stared at the closed door a moment longer before joining Hannah at the table. "Let us see what fine repast my crew left for us, Angel. I am surprised there was anything for her to bring at all."
Hannah laughed and the two sat down to a fine evening meal.