The Future Beckons



© 2021





“Florence. Florence, wake up! There’s someone at the door.”

With a small groan, Florence opened her eyes and saw Chester standing next to the bed, fully dressed. That woke her up completely.

“You’re dressed? Why are you dressed?”

“There’s someone at the door for you.”

“Who?” A glance around the room showed that it was still dark outside. “What is the time?”

“Almost midnight.” She raked her hand over her face. “Who would drop by this late?” Chester helped her into her dressing gown. “Please don’t leave.”

The dark eyes were soft. “I’m not leaving your sight, my darling.”

“Good. Maybe you could help me hide the body of whoever dared to wake us at this hour.”

Chester snorted softly. “I’ll meet you downstairs,” she said as she moved to the hidden door.

The lanterns on the landing were lit as she made her way down the stairs. She was on the last step when Chester appeared at the foot of the staircase. Her face was impassive as she waited for Florence. They hadn’t spoken about what had put Chester in such a morose mood earlier. Both had succumbed to sleep unexpectedly, but she hoped that they would have the chance to discuss it once she had seen to her visitor.

“We put them in the study,” Chester added.

Them? She frowned. Everyone she knew was known to Chester. Who else could it be? She waited for Chester to open the door leading to the study for her. A stocky man and a rather tall, slender woman were whispering furiously to each other.

“…the inconvenience is too much,” the man was saying and Florence stiffened as she recognized the voice.

“Good evening, Father.”

Mason Stafford spun around to face her, his face still showing his annoyance. “Florence.” His curt greeting made the woman with him turn slowly, but it was difficult to see the heavily-veiled woman’s face. “I take it you received the letter announcing my arrival?”

She held his gaze, for once not flinching by her father’s complete disregard towards her. Any other person would’ve recognized the discourteousness of rousing someone at this late hour and make apologies for it. Not her father. He never saw her as worthy of his respect since she rebuffed his attempts to marry her off and she eloped with Charles.

“It didn’t stipulate that you would arrive at such an ungodly hour.” Her response had surprised him, maybe even annoyed him some more. “In anticipation of your arrival, my staff have readied guestrooms for you. I wasn’t expecting a female companion, though. It will take but a few minutes to prepare a room in my wing for your guest.”

Her father dismissively waved his hand. “That won’t be necessary. I’ve arranged for accommodation at the Gentlemen’s Club. My guest…” He sighed. “Well, I guess you and my companion are already well-acquainted.” He folded his arms over his chest and glared at the woman.

Florence followed his gaze, assessing the lady. She was tall, almost as tall as her and dressed in dark clothing with a heavy cloak. There was too little for her to make an identification. Her mother was shorter than her guest. She watched as the woman’s hands lifted and she threw back the veil. Blue-grey eyes met hers and Florence had a vague sense that she knew the person. Her eyes roamed over the rather strong face, trying to gather as much detail as she could to nudge her memory along. It was only when the woman spoke that Florence blinked.

“Hello, Florence.”

She gasped as she stumbled back slightly and felt Chester’s presence behind her.


She gaped at the woman as her brain spun madly as it tried to make sense of what she was seeing.




Jane held onto the crumpled note as if her life depended on it. She had been awakened by Anais with a note from Hirsh. The simple one-liner had spurred her into action and in less than five minutes she was dressed and on her way to Oliver’s house with his driver.

She opened the note again and read the line. It still made her blood run cold even after the tenth read.


I urgently need your help.


            Her hand trembled slightly as she brought it to her mouth. She had known that one day she would get a summons like this, but she hadn’t expected it to be so early on in their relationship. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears as she watched the nightscape passing by the window. Was Hirsh hurt? Dying, perhaps? The tears came with the last thought and she sobbed into her fist. At that moment, she was overcome by the overwhelming regret that she hadn’t professed her love for Hirsh enough times. The carriage rounded the block on which Oliver’s house was located and she had to physically stop herself from jumping out of the moving carriage to reach the house quicker. When they stopped, she already had opened the door and the driver rushed to help her out. She hammered on the door and when it swung open, Jane barrelled past Oliver.

“Where is Hirsh?”

He mutely pointed in the direction of the library. She entered the room to find Hirsh and Jeremiah glaring at each other from across the room. At first glance, they both appeared uninjured and that was enough for her. Jane rushed into Hirsh’s arms and clung to her lover in desperation.

“You’re unharmed,” she croaked as she burrowed even deeper into her body. “I was so scared that something had happened to you.”  She looked up at Hirsh and her heart melted at the adoration she saw in the hazel eyes. Hirsh wiped at the tears on her cheeks and Jane stood on tiptoe to kiss Hirsh. “I love you. Don’t ever forget that.”

“I’ll never forget it.” The soft wonder in Hirsh’s voice made her tear up some more. “I love you, too.”

They kissed again—a gentle kiss of affirmation. When it ended, Jane pulled away from Hirsh to search the handsome face.

“What happened?” Hirsh’s face almost instantly grew hard as her gaze slid over to where Jeremiah stood. “Jeremiah? What is the problem?”

Jeremiah pursed his lips in disapproval. “I believe Hirsh hasn’t been honest with you about his true identity.”

Jane’s anxiety gradually began to fade as she studied her godfather. She was mildly surprised by his ignorance about Hirsh’s secret. “You didn’t know?”

The shock on Jeremiah’s face was almost comical as he blinked at her. “You know already?”

“I do. Hirsh told me.” She reached for Hirsh’s hand. “We have no secret between us.” Jeremiah was stunned as his gaze darted between her and Hirsh. She was sorry that he had to find out this way. “I genuinely thought that you knew.”

“How would I know that you were in love with a dangerous pirate if you weren’t going to tell me?” He sounded equally incredulous and angry. “You have put us all in danger by keeping this from us.”

It was on the tip of Jane’s tongue to snap back at him and assure him that Abigail was well-aware of Hirsh’s identity. Instead, she nodded at Jeremiah.

“I’m sorry you feel that way. Hirsh and I can assure you that you were never in any danger from him or anyone else.” She squeezed Hirsh’s hand. “I would have you know that you won’t need to fear for your safety anymore. The Raven should arrive anytime now and we will all leave England as soon as possible.” Jeremiah’s gasp corresponded with the shattering of glass nearby. Oliver stood frozen with a brandy tumbler broken at his feet. “I would appreciate it if you would not say anything until we’ve gone.”

“How soon do you…”

“You can’t leave with…”

Both Jeremiah and Oliver spoke at the same time. Jane held up her hand.

“I suggest we leave things for now and get some sleep. If necessary, we can continue with the conversation at a later stage.” She was tired and all she wanted was to fall asleep with Hirsh in her arms.

“Why?” Jeremiah’s tone was bitter. “Why are you speaking for them?” His eyes glittered with anger as he glared at Hirsh. Jane sensed, more than saw Hirsh’s reaction.

“Because I won’t waste my breath talking to you.” The insinuation was crystal clear as was the deadly edge to Hirsh’s tone. Jeremiah appeared angrier at the threat, but wisely decided to not respond. He focussed his attention on her instead.

“You and I will talk some more. There is no way you can leave England with…”

“Stop right there,” she snapped as she approached Jeremiah. “That is my decision and I’m not asking for your permission.” Before too much was said that would be impossible to take back, she tugged on Hirsh’s hand and led her to the door. “Goodnight.”

It was only when they were in the carriage and on their way to Geon’s that it all sunk in. She dropped her face in her hands and felt the gentle touch on her head.

“I’m sorry.”

She lifted her head. The regret in Hirsh’s eyes was painful to see. Without a word, she moved over to sit next to her.

“You have nothing to apologise for, darling.” She kissed her gently. “Let’s not talk about it now. I just want to hold you and know you’re safe.” She stifled a yawn as she leaned against Hirsh.




Oliver was shaken as he stood before the fire. She was leaving soon. The piercing pain in his heart almost brought him to his knees. The prospect of losing Geon forever filled him with dread. She had wormed her way into the deepest crevices of his body and soul. It almost felt like they were sharing the same organs to stay alive.

It would kill him if she should leave.

“Oliver? Oliver!”

He was startled from his morose musings by the sharp call. Jeremiah stood next to him, a worried look on his face.

“It’s late. Maybe we should get some sleep.”

Sleep. The concept sounded so foreign to him, because of its elusiveness. There was no way he would get any sleep tonight. Or ever.

“You go ahead. I need a few more minutes to…” To what? He sighed. “Goodnight, Jeremiah.”

But Jeremiah didn’t move. He remained next to him as the silence stretched. Oliver stiffened when Jeremiah spoke, breaking the silence unexpectedly.

“I wish I knew what to say, Oli.”

Oliver closed his eyes tightly to stop the threatening tears. He hated to cry. It destroyed everything he had been conditioned to feel, expect and endure. An image of his father standing over him with a riding crop whipping him and at the same time threatening him not to cry. Crying was one of the ultimate weaknesses for a man, he was taught. A tear slipped through his closed eyes.

But he wasn’t a man.

Geon had made sure that he didn’t forget that. Her kisses and tender touch had coaxed his femininity to the surface.

“Oh, Oli,” Jeremiah whispered and Oliver felt more tears escape. He wiped at his cheeks.

“I can’t live without her.” He took a shuddering breath. “The simple thought of her leaving makes me breathless with fear.”

Jeremiah placed a hand on his shoulder. “You need to talk to her.”

“And say what?” He angrily wiped at the tears. “I left her standing there as I fell over my feet to flee her presence after she had confided in me.” The urge to put as much space between him and Geon at that moment had been so great; he hadn’t even risked taking a last look at her out of fear that he would crumble at her feet.  Now that he thought of it, he wished he had. Maybe then, he might have had an indication of what kind of a welcome to expect should he approach her again.

“Perhaps you shouldn’t leave it too late. Go see her later today and explain why you felt the need to leave so abruptly.”

“I can’t.” At Jeremiah’s questioning look, he shook his head. “I’m invited to the Palace for an audience with the French king, before the Welcoming Ball.”

“Perhaps afterwards?”

Afterwards, he had a meeting with the Morris’ to finalise the baptism of Eddie that was taking place the next day, on Friday. Maybe he could ask her to dinner that evening.

“I’ll send her a note and ask her to join me for dinner.” Jeremiah nodded his approval and turned to leave. “Why are you doing this, if you’re obviously not happy about Hirsh and Jane’s relationship because of who Hirsh is?”

There was a long silence before Jeremiah spoke. In that time, a myriad of emotions flitted over his friend’s face.

“I’m disappointed.” He exhaled noisily. “I’m disappointed that I was unaware of the danger to us. That Jane had kept it from me.” He raked his hands over his face. “I don’t know how to handle this, Oli. We could be accused of treason by way of association.”

That had been Oliver’s last thought before he had fled Geon’s house. His inconsiderate reaction to her disclosure would probably haunt him for the rest of his life. It remains to be seen whether Geon would even accept his dinner invitation. How many times did he have to abandon her before the woman finally expelled him from her life?

Treason could cost him everything. His reputation, his freedom and even his life. But weighed against losing Geon it didn’t have much impact.

“Goodnight, Jeremiah.”

“Goodnight, Oli.”

He reached for the brandy decanter as he listened to Jeremiah’s footstep on the stairs.




“What…I don’t…” Florence stumbled over her words as she gaped at the familiar, yet unusual face of her erstwhile paramour. Gone were the expensive three-piece suits and the neat men’s haircut. She took in the dreary, voluminous black gown and demure bonnet before she blinked slowly and turned her gaze to her father. He threw his hands up.

“Don’t ask me. You women would make better sense of this than I ever could.” He lifted his walking stick. “It’s late and I have a breakfast meeting with associates.”

“But…” She glanced at Israel who was watching them calmly. “Your rooms are ready,” she ended lamely. This was a little too much, too unexpected and too late in the day to take in for her.

“I’m staying at the Club. You and Is…” He pursed his lips. “You two can catch up in the meantime. Goodnight.” He practically fled the room and the front door closed behind him a few moments later. Florence knew it was rude to stare, but she simply couldn’t help herself. Israel hadn’t been the most exciting ‘man’ she had ever met, but he had been a man in all the sense of the word. She recalled him as having been just as maddening as all the other men in Boston.  He used to drive her insane when he took her out for lunch and ordered for the both of them. That had been one of the many reasons she had refused to continue seeing him. Her mother had been flabbergasted when she had cited his tendency to take control of her life as one of the reasons that she didn’t want him courting her anymore.

“But that’s what men do, my dear. They are there to take care of us—to make our lives easier for us.”

“I can practically see your mind racing from where I stand.” The voice was still the same, low and oddly seductive. Maybe the seductive part she had only added now that she knew Israel was a woman.

She took a deep breath. “Well, you can’t blame me now, can you? It’s late and you must be exhausted after your journey.”

Israel shrugged and took a step closer only to stop abruptly just as Florence felt a presence moving up behind her. Israel’s eyes were hooded when they met hers.

“I see you’re well protected.” The remark was a subtle enquiry to Chester’s identity, which Florence ignored.

“Alexander will show you to your room. Feel free to sleep in tomorrow. I’ll have the kitchen send up a breakfast tray.” She nodded at Alexander and noticed Israel hesitate briefly to glance at Chester before following the butler out of the room. As soon as they were alone, she exhaled loudly and turned to face Chester who gave her a concerned look. Florence held out her hand and felt her confusion lessen somewhat at the sure grip on her fingers. “I’m tired.”

“Let me help you to your room.”

They were quiet as they made their way upstairs and Florence’s footsteps faltered as they passed the room Israel had been assigned. As exhausted as she was, she doubted she would get much sleep tonight.




Geon felt sad and betrayed as she met the eyes of the others around the table.

“I guess my choice in whom to trust with our secret was flawed?” The faces remained impassive. “I’m sorry.”

“No need for that.” Hirsh took a sip of her tea. “He didn’t betray you as much as he was shocked and needed someone to talk to. Maybe you two could…”

“No.” Her sharp tone drew everyone’s gaze to her. It even surprised her. “It’s over and done with. As soon as The Raven arrives, I’ll be ready to leave.” Her heart shattered as she uttered the words, but there was no other way for her to deal with the situation. Her family was more important to her than a capricious love affair. She had survived a decade without it, another decade or more wouldn’t make a difference. Once she was back on the deck of The Raven, she would be fine. There was a big world out there filled with many potential lovers. She rose and met the three pairs of eyes directed at her head-on. “It’s late. Maybe we could talk about this some more later.” Hirsh and Marlin nodded curtly, but Jane only stared at her with a deep sadness in her eyes. She would love to know what the woman was thinking about at that moment.  As long as it wasn’t pity. Geon couldn’t handle any pity right now, not when she was fighting so hard to keep the tears at bay.

Her tread was heavy as she climbed the stairs to her room and locked the door behind her. She didn’t want any company tonight—not even from Marlin. She began to disrobe and as she was stepping out of her breeches, the first tear fell. She barely made it to her bed before the torrent came.




The morning dawned with a tired Jeremiah turning over in bed to find Abigail getting dressed. He recalled that she had made plans to meet with Florence and Emily. The idea had been that he would accompany her, but after last night’s discovery he wasn’t sure what to expect should Jane and Hirsh also be in attendance. The events of the previous night flitted through his mind and he sighed heavily as he closed his eyes. 

Jane was planning on leaving England. For good, it would seem. A shaft of pain sliced through his heart at the mere thought of never seeing his goddaughter again. Once again, he seemed to have failed his friend. Vincent was turning in his grave for sure and rueing the day he had made him his beloved daughter’s protector. 

A soft touch on his cheek made his eyes fly open. Abigail sat next to him on the bed, her fingers stroking his cheek. He had been so absorbed by his thoughts that he hadn’t even felt the bed dip under her weight.

“What’s the matter?”

He twisted his head to kiss the fingertips. “I’m still a bit tired.”

“I’m not surprised. You were restless in your sleep.” She brushed a lock of hair from his forehead. “Do you want to tell me why you were tossing and turning for most of the night?”

Jeremiah knew he could trust her—that he trusted her with his life. But he wasn’t sure how she would react to him having been the one to push Jane to leave England. Jane had become Abigail’s closest and only friend. He couldn’t live with the thought that he would be responsible for reverting her life to a time before she had enjoyed the camaraderie and joy of Jane’s acquaintance. 

But could he lie to her?

“Jane and Hirsh were here last night.”

Abigail frowned. “When? We went to bed around ten.”

Kicking himself for forgetting that he had slipped from their bed to trail Hirsh, Jeremiah steeled himself for telling her the truth.

“I actually left an hour after you fell asleep.” He noticed a wary look entering her eyes. “I met with Oliver.”

“To drink brandy and smoke cigars?” Abigail’s tone showed her relief. She tapped his cheek. “As long as it doesn’t become a habit, my darling.”

He could leave it there and she would be none the wiser of what his role had been in last night’s events. But he couldn’t run the risk of Jane confiding in Abigail. Nothing terrified him more than losing Abigail. Of her cancelling their wedding. He slowly sat up and reached for her hand.

“We went out to follow Hirsh.”

The wariness was back in Abigail’s eyes. “What? Why?”

He held her gaze, wanting to let her know that he would protect her, if what he was about to say caused her to be afraid for them.

“We suspected that Hirsh could be Cutthroat Beau.”

Twin eyebrows shot upwards as Abigail pulled away from him. “Who…? How did you come to that conclusion?” Her eyes narrowed. “What were you two planning on doing when you followed Hirsh?”

Jeremiah didn’t have an answer for the second question, but he bought some time answering the first one. When he was done filling her in on Geon and Oliver’s conversation, he noticed that she was still watching him expectantly.

“Why did you follow Hirsh, Jeremiah?”

Still at a loss for an answer, he went on the defence. “Why should that matter? I’m telling you that we’ve unveiled the truth about Hirsh and you’re more worried about us having followed her. Why’s that?” Abigail was unpredictable, maybe even fearless, but this was big news. Even she should be rocked by the truth. Unless…

Abigail watched him closely. “Because Hirsh is the love of Jane’s life.”

Shame and regret made his gaze slide from Abigail’s. “I know.”

“And? What were you going to tell Jane after you’d alerted the authorities and Hirsh had been dragged off to Newgate Prison?”

Was that perhaps the elusive answer to their late-night pursuit of Hirsh, Jeremiah wondered? Were they going to turn Hirsh and the others in? Even Geon?

“She knows.”

“Of course, she does. There are no secrets between those two.”

Jeremiah’s head snapped up to fix a piercing look on Abigail. Realizing what she had said and how it could be interpreted, Abigail bit down on her lip. He wasn’t sure how to react, but anger and betrayal came to mind. Abigail stood and walked over to the window.

“How long have you known?”

The slender shoulders sagged. “She told me that day we returned from getting my wedding dress.”

He did the calculation and pursed his lips.  That was almost a month ago. More than enough time to have confided in him…if she had wanted to. Why didn’t she?

“You had ample time to tell me. Why haven’t you?”

Abigail turned away from the window. Her face was tense as she gave him a humourless smile. “And have you react the way you’re doing right now?” It hurt hearing her say that and it must’ve shown on his face. Abigail came to sit on the bed, but when she reached for his hand, he gently pulled away. She exhaled softly. “You’re an officer of the law, Jeremiah. I knew you might be caught in a predicament as to what to do with the information. I was going to tell you, but I wasn’t sure on how to deal with the outcome.” She stood and walked over to collect her bag. “I’m running late, but I hope we can talk about this when I get back.” She approached the bed, but Jeremiah turned his head away to look at the window. He needed time to think about this and to rid himself of the guilt and anger he felt.

“I’m sorry for keeping the truth from you.”

He heard the door open and close softly.




The sound of a bottle smashing jerked Marlin upright, a hand under the pillow to find her pistol. Geon stood frozen at the bedside with wide, bloodshot eyes.

“Sorry,” she said in a stage whisper before she was overcome by giggles, which almost immediately changed into soft sobs.

Marlin swung her feet out of bed and pulled the woman onto her lap. Geon’s body shook with the power of her silent cries. Seeing Geon like this was really starting to annoy her. She didn’t care how much Geon loved Oliver Potts; she was having murderous fantasies about the butch. How stupid could the painter be to allow a rare gem like Geon to slip through his fingers? More powerful men than him had put everything on the line to be in the presence of the redhead. Kings, princes, dukes and maharajahs had offered jewels and castles to entice Geon to become their paramour. The butch didn’t deserve her.

She slowly lay back on the bed and took Geon with her. She knew it wouldn’t take long before the copious amounts of brandy the woman had imbibed and the lack of sleep would do her in. As expected, the sobs grew softer until soft snores echoed in the room. Marlin carefully undressed Geon and covered her with a blanket before she took a quick bath and got ready for the day. She had a few errands to run but hoped to be back before Geon woke up. The woman shouldn’t be left alone today.

Bloody Oliver Potts.

An hour later, as she was about to enter the registry office to submit the wedding license application, she spotted the tall butch crossing the street. The urge to approach Potts and punch him in the face was strong, but she quickly suppressed it. Geon loved the idiot and probably wouldn’t want anyone messing up his handsome face.  Oliver looked up probably having felt her hostile glare and their eyes met.  He stopped and stared at Marlin. She was too far away to make out the expression on his face before he tapped his hat and continued on his way.

Marlin cursed softly as she entered the building. Ten minutes later she rushed down the stairs towards the nearest carriage. It deposited her in front of Anne’s house and Marlin had to take a moment to compose herself before she knocked on the door. It was only half past eight and she hoped she wasn’t going to wake the women with her early call. A maid opened the door and invited Marlin in with the news that both Anne and Catherine were awake and having breakfast. They hadn’t expected any visitors for both women were surprised to see him. Anne quickly invited her to join them, whereas Catherine’s eyes were trailing over Marlin’s form before she looked away with a soft blush on her face.

“Thank you. I left the house quite early this morning to make it to the registry office before any lines had formed.” She took a sip of her tea and carefully placed the cup back on the table. “In fact, that’s the reason for my unannounced…early visit.” She removed the folded license from her jacket pocket and held it out to Catherine. “We’ve received a date.”

Catherine hastily reached for the document and blushed when Anne softly cleared her throat in amusement. She scanned the document and Marlin saw her blanch. Catherine was taking it much better than she had.

“Tomorrow?! We’re getting married tomorrow?” She glanced up from the document to blink at him. “It’s…I…”

“It’s sudden, I know.” Marlin shrugged. “They had a cancellation for tomorrow with the only other available date being in three months.”

“Three months!”

Anne chuckled. “I guess we’re having a wedding tomorrow.” She pushed away from the table. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a few appointments to postpone.”

Catherine was still staring at the document with wide eyes and it made Marlin wonder if the young woman had perhaps changed her mind.

“There is so much to do before tomorrow.” She looked up with a small smile on her lips and Marlin returned it with one of relief. Catherine Poole would never realize how much she was looking forward to marrying her.

“You should leave everything to me. Just give me an indication of what you would like to see happen and I’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”

A soft look washed over Catherine's face. “I’ll never be able to thank you enough for doing this, Marlin.”

“I can say the same about you, Catherine.” He reached out and squeezed her hand that rested on the table. “Once you’re done with breakfast, we’ll start planning our life together.”

Catherine blushed and nodded.


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