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Welsh Wench:
Thankfully, Mad Jack Wolfe had the forethought to save this story when the forum was having trouble.  :-*
It may take a bit of time but we shall transfer the story over to the new forum.

So the story is to be continued......

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This is a protection for our writing and applies to all subsequent posts under this topic.

Topic author: Blackjack Roberts
Subject: The Highwayman
Posted on: 09/12/2006 12:45:50

Her bare feet made wet slapping sounds as she ran down the cobblestone back streets of London's infamous west end that late night. Did she hear the boot falls of her pursuers behind her? Were they gaining ground even as she desperately tried to will her tired legs to greater speed? She knew she had been lucky to have escaped the small room were they had kept her. Surely by now they had discovered her keeper laying unconscious on the wooden floor of the small room which had been her prison these past six days. Yes, she was certain of it, the faint echo of the rapid staccato beat of running boots coming closer.

Jack Roberts walked out from the Pint and Crown into the foggy London night, a shapely barmaid upon his arm. Ahhhhh, he did enjoy his infrequent trips to the city, especially the west end. What better place in all of England was there to enjoy the fruits of several successful robberies? Nary a soul here would question where he had acquired his wealth, they only cared that he spent it, and spend it he did. The latest proof of that gently rested her head upon his shoulder as they strolled back toward his lodgings.

Rounding the far corner he was nearly knocked backwards as a lithesome shadow ran into his chest. Only the fact that the auburn haired barmaid had immediately released his arm and leapt away to protect herself had given him enough time to grab the girl's upper arms and prevent him from landing upon his rear. The golden haired beauty look at him with eyes as terrified as a cornered doe held at bay by the hounds. Her mouth worked silently, words which had no voice stuck in her fear. Then her deep, near azure, blue eyes rolled within their sockets and she collapsed into him.

Catching the girl in his arms Roberts instinctively looked up in the direction she had just came from, but the thick fog obscured any clear image that was not within twenty feet of them. He listened intently, yet all was quiet. Gently he propped the limp form against the brick wall and began looking for any sign of injury. All he found were deep red rope burns on the lass's wrists. The barmaid impatiently tapped her foot against the street.

"Ere now. What on Earth are ye fussin' wit 'er for?" She grumped, anxious for them to be on their way, her plans for the night interrupted. "Like as not she's some doxie what has run off from 'er pimp an a right sound beating."

"If this be all the help your going to be, Wench, then be off with ye!" He snapped over his shoulder. "I know enough about folk to know a doxie when I sees one, and make no mistake about it, this be no doxie!"

The barmaid huffed tossing her curls haughtily across her shoulder. "Well if that be the way of it, then good night to ye! There still be plenty what would prefer spending the night wit me, 'stead a pickin' up strays!" She turned swiftly around and stalked off into the mist back to the Pint and Crown. He watched her vanish, kneeling there beside the girl, and allowed himself a low chuckle. Then returned his attention to his sudden charge.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 09/12/2006 13:13:05

Jack Roberts continued his ministrations to the girl. He gently tapped her cheeks. No response except that she was still breathing, even if it was shallow. The color had drained from her face.
He took out his flask of rum and holding it up to her mouth, attempted to pour a bit in her mouth.
Suddenly, she coughed and choked. Her eyes flew open and she had the look of a hunted animal. She tried to crawl her way backwards and hit the wall. As she folded her knees up and hugged them, she whimpered, "Please! Don't hurt me!"
She looked fearfully around her, to the left and to the right. "They will be here soon. God help me, they will find me!"
"Men of trade. Pirates,"
'What do they want of you?"
"I'm what they consider 'merchandise' "
She stood up too quickly and had to lean against the brick wall.
"I need to go. I need to leave. I can't trust anyone."
She took two steps and had to sit down again.
"They raided our estate. I was alone with servants. My family is visiting in London. The killed the servants. But I was considered too valuable. So they put me on the ship."
"Where to?"
"The Middle East. After all, blondes are a highly prized commodity among the Arabian pashas."
"Ah. So you were bound for the Barbary Coast."
He offered her some fruit which she eagerly took. "I guess. I wasn't about to become anyone's concubine so I waited till the big dumb jailer came in with my food. I crashed some crockery over his head. He'll not remember his name if there is a God."
Suddenly a voice came from the darkness. "He remembered his name, lass. And what happened. So there goes yer belief system."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/12/2006 13:26:36

"Well now, lads, I was beginning ter think the tart weren't ever goin' ta leave." The deep gravely voice brought Jack's head up and sent his left covertly beneath his open wine colored long coat to rest on the thick braided leather handle. Three shadows detached themselves from the edges of the fog and moved toward him.

"This way there won't be but one body, and no witnesses." The lead shadow sneered coming into view. His scared, stubble face split by a pumpkin yellow gaped toothed grin, a long knife clasped in his filthy hand. They wanted to do this quietly, and quickly.

Suddenly Roberts concealed left hand shot from under his velvet coat as "Old Hob" uncoiled it's twelve foot length into the night. Fast as the tounge of an Adder the braided length of the whip sliced into the ruffian's hand between thumb and forefinger. His yelp of surprise and curses quickly cut off by the rapier which had materialized in Jack's right.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/12/2006 13:38:44

Without slowing his momentum Roberts stepped into the second rogue as the man made for his middle with the knife in his hand. Swinging the edge of his left hand into the man's wrist he felt the bone crack as Old Hobs handle with the steel ball connected. The villain's knife clattered to the stones as Jack's rapier exposed a good foot of it's length out of his back.

Seeing the fate of his companions the final mugger turned and had started to take to his heals when he felt the leather coils wrap themselves tightly around his neck. His feet flew from under him and the last thing he felt was the sudden jerk from the whip's owner, that ended in a sickening snap.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/12/2006 14:09:55

He quickly rewound the well oiled whip and fastened it back to his belt with the frog. Letting his coat fall back into place it all but vanished from sight. After wiping down the rapier blade and sheathing the weapon he held out his hand to the frightened girl pressing herself to the wall.

"Come, Lass. Ye've no more to fear from these three, but there may be more of their ilk a searching for ye. If ye wish ye can stay in my chamber. Upon my word as a man ye will have nothing to fear from Jack Roberts."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/12/2006 18:33:00

For a moment the frightened girl hesitates, then she tentatively takes his hand and allows him to escort her to the inn where Roberts has his rooms. As they walk down the streets his hand hovers protectively at her back just inches from touching her. Jack walks with the thumb of his right hand hooked in his belt next to the butt of one of the pair of French flintlocks tucked away there. His bluegreen eyes never stop moving as they make their way into the Soho district, searching the shadows for any possible movement. The scuttling of rats, and cats is his only reward for his vigilance.

The old doorman looks up as they enter. "See ye've found yerself a playmate fer this evening, Governor." Jack sees the young lass stiffen with outrage as her cheeks turn bright crimson.

"I'll be thanking ye not to speak that way in front of my sister, Old Man!" Robert's growls and the doorman visibly pales.

"I didn't mean nothin' by it, Governor, honest!" He replies with a shiver in his voice.

"No harm done." Jack smiles as he tosses a small sack of coins onto the man's lap. "Send out for a meal to be sent to me chambers, and a pair of ladies shoes. My sister has had too much to drink with me tonight and seems to have lost hers. What ever is left keep for yourself, but do not skimp on the meal nor the shoes."

The older man looks into the pouch for a moment and a broad grin rises to his face for the pouch contains far more than is necessary for the task. "Aye, Governor, I'll see to it personally, I will!" The man looks intently at the girls foot, making a mental note of the size. Jack nods to the man and smiles, then he leads the distraught girl up to his rooms.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/12/2006 19:16:47

He unlocks the door to his rooms and they enter the foyer. It is a rather small room with a dresser against the far wall two chairs, and a table. A old thread bare Persian rug covers the worn floorboards. A heavy curtain is tied back reviling the sleeping chamber. He lights the lanterns on the table and dresser, then motions to one of the chairs and the girl near falls into it with exaustion as he hangs his coat on the rack next to the door.

Filling two glasses from the dresser with wine he sets one down in front of her, then sits in the opposite chair. The lantern light plays off of her features. Her skin is white and smooth, long, thick gold lashes frame her large azure eyes. He can see why the slavers would want her. A lass as comely as this would fetch a top dollar on the coast. Well some poor reprobate Sultan is going to be disappointed for Roberts is not about to let her be sold into slavery. A woman as fine as she deserves better than to become a forgotten member of some harem in India.

"So, Lass", he smiles his gentlest smile, "would ye care to give me your name? I can't go on referring to ye as Lass all of the time."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 09/12/2006 19:35:22

"Lass will be fine for now."
She chafed her wrists where the crimson lines were beginning to darken. She gratefully took the wine he offered.
Jack Roberts looked at them. "Those bindings cut pretty deep. How did you get free?"
She rubbed them. "They weren't on long. Just long enough."
"How did you get captured anyways?"
"My parents are in London. My father sits on the House of Lords and Mother wanted to take in the social season. This was my last trip with them. I am to be married by midsummer's eve. He's moneyed and he's prestigious and he's OLD. At least 35. And boring."
She made a motion that he wasn't all she thought he would be. In certain aspects of married life.
She continued. "I did not want to go to Court with them. Boring, nothing but old women talking of their aches and pains and young women talking about the pain of childbirth. Not for me. So I pretended to be ill and stayed with the servants. But someone had been watching and waiting and when my parents left, they raided the house. I hid in the broom closet but they found me anyways and dragged me to their ship. Waiting to sail. Six days I stayed there. I overheard they were set to sail for the Barbary Coast and that I would fetch a high price. I was beginning to think being part of a harem would be more fun that with old Sir What's-his-face-when-he's-at-home. Besides, he's already buried two wives. I don't intend to make number three."

Jack sat on the bed and marveled at the forthrightness of the lass. She may be too much for an old goat of 35. "So...shall I return you to your parents?"

She sat there. "I don't know. I was planning on running away anyhow. I want to see the world. Experience life. Not live a life of pushing out babies every year and getting fat. Or dying of the plague or worse yet, in whelping kids."

He quietly asked her again, "Your name, lass?"
She looked up at him and a look of indecision crossed her face. But she then took a deep breath and extended her hand to him.

"Cecily. Cecily Morley, at your service."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/12/2006 22:29:18

"Well, Miss Morley. being as ye be the guest here tonight, I'd think it better that I take the cot. Since I am not so sure we were not followed and the cot is easier to move into the foyer, ye'll be a savin' me the trouble of moving the bed. We can untie the curtains to give ye some privacy. The only way into these rooms are through the door, and by no small consequence, through me."

Just then a knock came at the door and Jack stood up from the bed. Unfastening old Hob from his belt he draped the lash across his left shoulder and drew one of the pistols. Motioning for Cecily to conceal herself behind one of the curtains he walked to the door and drew back the bolt. Keeping his foot behind the door and the flintlock behind his back he cautiously turned the knob and opened the door no more that three inches.

There in the hallway stood the doorman with two parcels in his arms, and a grin on his face. "Here be the things ye wanted, Mr. Smith."

Roberts slid the pistol into the back of his belt and took the packages, thanked the elderly doorman, and returned to the table to lay out the food for his unexpected guest. Cecily stepped from behind the curtain a slight look of accusation in her eyes. It puzzled him for a second.

"Ahh, I see, the difference in names." Damn, she didn't miss much. "Well, Luv, it's like this. I be a Highwayman by profession, rob from the rich and give to me. So I can't rightly keep lodgings under me own name now, can I? Ye do have the truth of it, me real name is Jack Roberts. At your service, Miss."

This last he said with an exaggerated bow which made her almost laugh. "I had supper brought up for ye, Lass. I've already had my own. Please, I know they couldn't have fed ye well over the last few days. When your ready I'll bring the cot in here, we'll drop the curtains, and ye can sleep safe and sound while I sleep out here."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/13/2006 12:29:18

Cecily Morley's appetite was near to ravenous for as Roberts had guessed her captors had not been over generous with the food. A single meal of stale bread, water, and a thin fish soup once per day was hardly enough to feed a family of mice let alone a young woman. Yet she ate as the highborn lady that she was, simply a bit faster than was usual. She even took the time to smile in his direction every now and again as he sat in the chair opposite her drinking wine, and cleaning his pistols. With an after thought he places the deadly flintlocks back into his belt and opened the second parcel.

A low whistle escaped his lips for there in the box was indeed a fine pair of ladies shoes. The black leather as supple as the finest cloth, with a gold clasp on the outside. The elderly doorman was true to his word for these were truly an expensive pair.

"Here ye are, Lass. We can't have ye runnin' around the streets of London in your bare feet now, can we?" He smiled as he placed the footwear on the table beside her.

"Thank you, Mr. Roberts." She smiled half teasing. A mischievous twinkle in the corner of her eye. "I am quite tired, if you please."

Jack grinned as he rose from his chair and sweepingly bowed. "As you wish, M'Lady."

He pulled the cot into the foyer, pushing the table over to the far wall to make room. As the shapely woman undid the velvet rope which held back one curtain he unfastened the other and the heavy cloth fell into each other with a slight whisper. Cecily parted the curtains and smiled. "A good night to you, Mr. Roberts, and again I thank you for your help."

"Think nothing of it, Miss Morley." The tall blonde rogue grinned back. "I'll see ye come the morn." Then he winked, and laughed at the speed with which she closed the curtain.

Placing the twins, his unsheathed rapier, and Old Hob onto the low table to the left of his cot he cupped his hand over the stack of the lantern and blew the flame out. He lay with his head to the curtains, his still booted feet toward the door. Pulling his cavalier hat down to the bridge of his nose so that he could see the door from under the brim. His last thoughts before slumber over took him were of the lovely lass sleeping under his protection behind him. Then he cursed himself for a fool, as if a highborn lady could ever love a common lowborn thief such as himself.

"Ahhh, Jack. If ever there were a romantic fool on God's green Earth......Ye be it!" he thought to himself as he finally drifted off.

Welsh Wench:
Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 09/13/2006 13:50:10

From behind the curtained gate, Cecily stretched and yawned. It will be so nice if I can finally get rid of these clothes. Six days in the same dress...thank goodness I never ran into anyone I knew!
Because Cecily Morley would NOT be seen in the same dress two days in a row, let alone six.

She yawned again and laid on the bed. Now..how to get out of these clothes since there is no floor space....
She untied the drawstring and raised her hips to slide the skirt off. Sitting up, she crumpled the skirt and threw it at the foot of the bed.
She unlaced her bodice and threw that. It landed on a hook above the foot of the bed. She was proud of that! As a young girl, she had always bested the young men in their games of tossing horseshoes.
She looked at her chemise and groaned. What a mess! It was streaked with dirt and oil from ropes where she had slid down to disembark from the ship.
If only I had remembered to look for the name of their god-forsaken tub! I could turn their name into the magistrates and file charges of 'unlawful detainment' agiainst them. Probably couldn't be kidnapping as I am not a kid and I haven't been napped. We never left port.

She dropped the chemise and then her face turned red. Is he really asleep?
She parted the curtains ever so slightly and saw his cavalier hat pulled down on his face. OK, so he's facing the opposite direction. This is good. No shadows...
She pulled the coverlet down and slid between the sheets.
The pillow had a faint smell of leather and rum. Not a bad combination, actually!
She somehow felt comforted and safe. Like being with Nanny Dawson in the next room when she was a tyke.

She tossed and turned, wondering what the next day would bring. I suppose I SHALL have to have Mr. Roberts contact my parents and turn me over to them. I need to make restitution for the new boots and the meal I just had. And something more thrown in for the inconvenience of sleeping on the cot.

Her last thoughts before drifting off to sleep was how comforting to have a man in the room. Even if there was a piece of cloth separating them....


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/13/2006 15:11:21

Cecily awoke to the smell of food her hunger returned with vengeance and she rose wrapping the coverlet about her supple form, loath to again put on the filthy clothes she had shed the night before. She cautiously opened the curtains to peek into the foyer. There sat Jack next to the table, the cot folded and placed against the wall. Eggs, cheese, bacon, fruit, and fresh toast nearly filled the table, the aroma of the breakfast almost maddening in it's promise. as she started to move forward her foot touched a soft parcel of brown paper tied with twine. The sound of the paper crinkling brought Roberts smiling eyes up to meet her own.

"And a good morn to ye, Lass." His blue green eyes held her own, his shoulder length dishwater blonde hair neatly combed and tied back with a black silk ribbon. "It be good to see ye about, I was getting a might hungry waitin' for ye. If ye wish there be some new clothes for ye in that there bundle. Didn't think ye'd want to wear the things ye had on last night. I can wait for ye to wash up and change, but ye may want to hurry before the bacon and eggs goes cold on ye."

He smiled warmly, once again winking at her. This time, however, she felt no need to quickly pull the curtains shut. Instead she actually felt complemented. She bent down and picked up the package with her free hand, holding the cover closed with the other. As she turned to the bedroom to clean and change she hesitated, half turned to him and spoke over her shoulder in the softest voice he had heard her use since she had near run him over.

"Thank you, again.................Jack."

The curtains whispered shut behind her.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 09/13/2006 21:41:23

Below a small washstand was a basin and a pitcher of water. She opened the drawer and in it found a bar of French-milled soap. She sniffed it appreciatively. Lavender!
Pouring the water into the basin, she took the soft cloth and soaped up. Washing her face, she glanced in the small mirror above.
The six days on that awful diet of bread, water and fish soup took its toll on her. Her cheeks were hollow and her face thinned. She sighed. In a week, I shall be back to normal.
She found a brush in the drawer and ran it through her hair, brushing it back and off her shoulders.
She went over to the bed and opened the parcel. Reaching in, she withdrew a few unmentionable garments in silk. She blushed. How did he even know about such things?
Well, after all, he DOES seem to be a man of the world.
She peeked out the curtain. A very handsome man, no doubt. And certainly younger than 35!
She wrinkled her nose at the thought of the man who would be her husband.
Over my dead body! I'll hold my breath until I turn blue and die!
Father just wants to get his hands on that land! Well, I'm not about to be anyone's broodmare. I'll be a mistress before I let that happen. At least it's because I WANT to, not because I HAVE to!
She reached into the parcel and withdrew a gown of the softest butter yellow. She gave an exclamation of delight.

From the other side of the curtain, Jack Roberts heard her delighted cry and chuckled to himself. Do I know women or what? he thought to himself.

She slid the dress over her head and shimmied herself into it, the dress gravitating towards the floor. She tried to reach behind to fasten it. Darn! Sukie was always there to lace the back up. She picked up a pale blue shawl of the softest wool. I could always wear this and have the back of my dress open. No, that won't do at all!
She shyly stuck her head out of the curtain.
"Mr. Roberts? Can I impose on you a minute?"
He smiled and walked over. "Problem?"
"A bit of one."
Her face coloured but she bravely turned around. Her back was wide open, all the way down to her curves.
She lifted up her hair. "Would you mind terribly if you could please lace me up?"
He laughed, "Not at all. Can't have you catching the sea breeze and coming down with some malaise."
He deftly laced her up. She thought, "Something tells me he's done this before. And 'un' also."

She left the stockings and shoes in the room. She glanced in the mirror, bit her lips to redden them and pinched her cheeks. Before she left the room, she glanced down. Well, this will never do!
She bent over and did a quick stuff-and-fluff and brushed her hair once more.
As she parted the curtains, she smiled brilliantly and said, "I certainly hope you saved me some food. Because it smells divine!"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/13/2006 22:42:14

"Aye, Miss Morley." A slightly teasing smile played about the edge of his lips belying his overly formal tone. "Since I must return to Devonshire this day I eat lightly. Tis never a good idea to travel the road with too full a belly."

He motioned gently to the empty chair for her to sit and breakfast in. Cecily glided to the chair, even through the abuse she had suffered her beauty shone through, he silently held his breath. As lovely as she had looked the night fortune had crossed their paths, now she seemed a vision of womanhood. Her grace and poise making his heart pound within his chest. Never before had any woman affected him this way, and he was fairly certain none ever would again. For while he had been with more than his share of beautiful ladies from York to London there was something different with this one, something he couldn't quite pin down. As elusive as a butterfly flitting from one spring flower to another.

While she concentrated on her appetite he shook his head slightly to clear it, berating himself for daydreaming. What could he possibly offer her? A life of being forever on the run, using false names from town to town. Knowing that at any moment someone might peg him as "Black" Jack Roberts, one of the most wanted highwaymen in all of England. Certainly it was fine enough for himself, a short life and a merry one fit him quite well, but it was not the life for a lady of quality.

For as long as he could recall his family had to resort to thievery to survive, the religious prejudice of the two Churches saw to that. So it had been only fitting that he should grow into the only profession he had ever knew after his parents died of the plague in their filthy hovel. Jack Roberts had swore that day he would never again do without. He would take all that he needed from those who had more than their share. Besides, how would she feel knowing that he preyed upon her class along the roads and byways of England?


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/14/2006 03:56:03

Once her hunger had been satisfied Jack stood up and put on the wine colored velvet coat. She noticed another garment was hanging on the hook next to it, a fine velvet jacket of a soft maroon color trimmed in cloth of gold. He held it open for her and she slipped her delicate arms into the silk lined interior. As she turned to face him she noticed that his eyes had changed, gone was the mischievous twinkle replaced by a warmth that here to fore she had never seen light a man's eyes. It made her heart beat a little faster, but not with fear.

If nothing else in life Jack Roberts had learned that he who risks nothing gains nothing. He had placed all of his inner arguments aside, and made the decision that he at lest had to try for Cecily's heart. Gently he reached up to stroke her soft cheek. The tips of his fingers as light as a breeze against her skin, as warm as a comforting fire on a winter's day. Her eyes closed and a shiver ran down her back at his touch.

" Ye know, Cecily," he whispered, "ye don't have to return to that life and an old man who will treat ye like the slavers, as a piece of property. If ye wish ye may come with me to Devonshire. I've a little inn there where ye could stay until ye decide what ye may want from this life. At the least ye'd be free to do as ye choose, not as another would choose for ye."

As he spoke his finger tips gently tilted her chin upwards, his face came closer to hers. As soft as the newly budded petals of a fresh rose his lips touched hers in a tender kiss that sent warm currents through her blood and her breath grew heavy. He lightly stroked her hair back.

"I'll leave that decision up to you, M'Lady." His voice low and soft. "All I can promise you is that if you decide to come with me, I will do everything in my power to see you never regret it."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/14/2006 11:27:14

He saw the confusion in her soft eyes and realized he may have gone too far, after all this was a highborn lady, not one of the many barmaids he had spent many an evening with. The curse of dealing with your own for so long, for he suddenly realized that although his actions would have been considered almost courtly to a lady of his station to her he may seem bold, even forward. Well there was nothing for it now. He had already been in London far longer than was good for him and three dead men left on the west end streets, though not an uncommon thing there, was sure to bring the footmen. It was one thing to flirt with disaster, it was far another to put your head in the noose foolishly.

"Well, Lass." He turned to retrieve his saddlebags by the door. Certain that once he had her safely to the outskirts of the west end he would see her no more. "We must be off. Are ye ready to leave?"

Cecily was stunned. Never had a man been so bold with her. Usually they couched their words in honeyed phrases, flattering and false. Not looking at what she may want, but what she could gain for them. Even her own father willing to marry her off to a man she despised in an attempt to increase his stature and holdings. Was that all she was to them? Property? Thing to be bartered with?

She watched him turn to pick up his only luggage, the black leather saddle bags by the door. Regardless of what ever else he may be this Jack Roberts had been the first man she ever met who's offer to her was based upon what she wanted. Strange that he would travel with no more that a saddle bag, but then he had said that he was a highwayman. A highway man? Jack Roberts?

"Black Jack Roberts?" She said the name aloud and he froze with his back to her, one hand rested on the door handle.

Welsh Wench:
Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 09/14/2006 11:46:52

She repeated his name, this time with certainty.
"Black Jack Roberts. As I live and breathe!"
She sat back down in the chair, a look of bewilderment and astonishment on her face.
She whispered, "Oh my God."
He turned to her and said, "Yes. In the flesh."
He expected her to scream and he was ready with a hand to clap over her mouth until he could work out a deal of some kind for her silence.
She sat there in wonder and when she finally found her voice, she said, "I'll be damned!"

He raised an eyebrow as he never heard a lady swear before.
She started to laugh. "My brother and I used to go down to the caves by our land in Cornwall. Play a game. He'd be Black Jack Roberts and I would be his 'victim'. Many a time I lost the money Father had given me to him. I was a pauper all through my youth and my brother had the means to buy sweets from the baker. I went hungry and he took great delight in eating them in front of me. Many is the time I cursed your name--along with my brother's!"

He couldn't quite believe the ease of which she spoke. She continued, "And then when night would come, we would sit outside in the garden and Andrew would regale me with stories of how Black Jack Roberts would torture and kill me if I told anyone how he--Andrew, my brother--acquired his sudden wealth. He painted some very unappetizing--and tantalizing--scenarios! I must admit, many a night I would crawl in bed with Nanny Dawson and tell her I was afraid of mice, but in actuality, I was afraid that you would come and carry me off!"
He stood in silence. He didn't know whether to be flattered or aghast that his name had reached legendary proportions in the Morley household.

She gently touched his arm and said softly, "And to think that dastardly villain, the tormentor of my childhood dreams, should in fact be my very saviour!"

She continued. "I see I have a choice here. I can go with you to contemplate my future or I can go back to Cornwall and become the dutiful wife of Peter Culpepper."
He looked into her blue eyes and asked, "And what does Cecily Morley really want?"

She smiled and gave him a warm look.
"Certainly not to be saddled with a name like Cecily Culpepper!"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/14/2006 15:50:57

"Ha ha ha ha ha!" He threw his head back, laughing loudly. "Aye, M'Lady. I can not say I blame ye there!"

"Still I feel ye should know that your brother's accounts of me are greatly exaggerated, though I've no doubt your father's opinion of me be just as filled with ill stories of my exploits. In truth I have never kidnapped, nor tortured a living soul. Though I dare say I have lightened the king's pockets more than once. I fear my boldness has served me ill, for tales of adventure and daring which I had no part in have reached my ears on more than one occasion."

"Pray to also forgive my boldness of a few moments ago. I'll not make myself a liar and say I am not greatly attracted to your charms, for I am. Yet I forgot myself in the moment and that be my only defense, I beg your pardon for it. I ask only that if ye would, consider my offer during these few short moments we have left together, for it was an honest one. Then give me your answer once we have you safely out of the west end."

"For now we must leave. The bodies of your pursuers have surely been discovered and that will certainly bring the footmen, even in this den of scoundrels. I dare not tarry longer for my own safety." He held his hand out to the fascinating woman and could not help but be pleased when she took it without hesitation.

Emerging onto the street, already alive with the everyday events of city life, to find a stableboy holding the reigns of two magnificent horses. "Mr. Terrence Smith?" The young lad inquired the hope of being released from his boring task evident in his voice.

"Aye, Lad" Jack grinned as he secured the saddle bag to the large black stallion, whose polished black saddle gleamed with equally well polished silver accents.

"Then I'll be taking my leave, Sir." The child smiled back grateful to have been freed.

"One moment, Lad. Take this for your trouble and patience." The boy's eyes grew wide at the sight of the gold crown which now rested in his palm.

"Thank ye, Sir!" He beamed, suddenly rich for today. "If I may ever be of service to ye again, Sir!"

Roberts chuckled as he helped Cecily onto the side saddle of the dappled mare which awaited her. "I'll certainly keep that in mind, boy. Now be off with ye, before your employer thinks ye've skipped out for the day."

The stableboy bowed and ran off down the street as Jack swung easily on to the back of the dark stud and turned the well muscled horse to the east. Cecily's mare trotting beside him.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 09/14/2006 20:42:08

Cecily patted the mare's neck.
"I was wondering how we would manage to secure a mode of transportation. I must say that was ingenious!"
Jack looked over at her and had to ask. "Your family is from Cornwall?"
"Yes. Morland estate. Held by the family since the time of the Domesday Book. Came over from Normandy."
"Just Andrew and I. He is three years older and is to be married. The estates will go to him. Culpepper's would be mine as old Peter has no progeny. If I produce offspring, an heir as it were, I should be set for life."
Her jaw noticeably tightened and she stared straight ahead.

The streets of London's West Side were teeming with life. The outdoor fruit markets were doing a brisk business. Cecily and Jack steered their horses down a lane.
"Would you mind if I stopped for a minute?"
Jack looked at her quizzically. "We really should...."
"It will take only a few minutes. Please hold my horse. I only wish I knew her name."
She jumped down and removed her saddle. Jack, started to say, "But, Cecily, as a lady..."
She said over her shoulder, "Who said I was a 'lady'?"
She walked resolutely into a leather store. Jack was growing cautious. Even though London's commerce center was busy, it always paid to be wary of your surroundings. He began to tap the handle of his whip. Fine time for a saddle repair!

Cecily emerged five minutes later without the saddle and deftly mounted her steed. To Jack's unasked question on his face, she just replied with a grin, "I hate saddles. Let's go!"

He marveled at how much at ease she now was on the mare, like they were one. The urban scene began to fade as the pastoral views appeared. As they stopped at the edge of the woods that the main road ran through, they reined their horses in.
Cecily had been unusually quiet.
He said quietly, "Cecily, this is the end of London. To the west and south lie Devonshire. And beyond that Cornwall. For obvious reasons, I cannot take you directly to your family's house. I can take you as far as the Blade and Bone tavern in Plymouth but after that, will you be able to make arrangements to go to your family's estates?"
She looked straight ahead. Her heart sank. He doesn't want me after all to go with him.
I am just an obligation to him.
Before she could give him an answer, they both heard the noise behind them.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/14/2006 22:17:41

"You there, in the name of King George, stand down and surrender, Back Jack Roberts!!" Damn he had been recognized! Probably by some old victim who had glimpsed his face before he had grown sense enough to start wearing a mask during his vocation.

He quickly looked to Cecily and exclaimed. "If your decision would be with me, Lass my offer stands, but for now ride like the wind I'll be but moments behind ye!"

So saying he whirled his stallion around pulling the twins from his belt, the horses reigns clenched in his teeth. She knew she should run as he had asked, but she watched on fascinated by seeing a legend from her childhood brought to life. Galloping straight into the pursuing footmen she watched as the three of them knelt and leveled their muskets at him. Her breath caught in her throat, surely she was about to bear witness to the death of Black Jack.

A split second before the smoke and thunder of the muskets the raven stallion inexplicably turned to one side and the footmen unable to adjust their aim fired into the empty space the highwayman had just vacated. Quickly two of them began to reload their weapons as the third jerked his saber from the sheath in an attempt to buy them time to fire again. Again the horse turned as if of it's own will and Roberts brought the twins to bare on the hapless trio. Smoke and thunder roared from the flintlock muzzles. The two musketeers stiffened, then crumpled to the cobblestone street. The third raised his saber, still prepared to capture the rogue charging toward him. His thought to cut the horse from under the rider.

Suddenly unbidden, or perhaps because of seeing him in harm's way, she remembered his words, "If your decision would be with me." She then understood it was not that he did not want her with him, he did. He had confessed as much to her at the boarding house. Jack Roberts was a man true to his word he was leaving the choosing of her fate to her. For the first time in her life he had given her the right to choose for herself without him trying to influence, or trick her into following his desires. Now she truly felt fear for his fate. The thought of losing him now tightened in her throat.

He had shoved the twins back into his belt. Taking the reigns in his right hand his left snaked out from under his coat and Old Hobs length uncoiled in front of him. He jerked the horse to the right not ten feet from the confused footman. His left arm a blur of motion as he sent the whip cutting through the air to wrap it's self around the saber, jerking it from the stunned man's grip to pull it up in a graceful arc ending in his own right hand. Roberts smiled as the defeated soldier of King George turned to run. Drawing his arm back and rising in the stirrups he threw the sword with all his strength, watching as it tumbled end over end to bury it's length between the man's shoulder blades. Curling Old Hob quickly up he spurred the horse back to where Cecily sat waiting him.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/14/2006 22:56:32

"Come on, Lass!" he shouted as he prepared to gallop past her. "The fats in the fire for sure now!!"

Her heels dug into the dapple mare's flanks sending the animal forward at the same moment he came to her position. They both galloped full speed down the road to Devonshire a white dust cloud raised in their wake. Then suddenly he turned at the crossroads to the north taping the stallion's flanks with the curled bullwhip. The thrill of flight sent thrills through Cecily, this was what she had craved for so long, adventure, and freedom instead of the dreary existence of a rich housewife. This was truly living life to it's fullest.

Once the city was out of sight Jack slowed his mount to a walk and pulled a spyglass from inside his coat. Carefully he searched the road behind and in front of them. Soon they entered the part of the road that wound its way through the forest. Satisfied that they were yet to be caught up with, he motioned for her to follow him to the west into the woodlands.

"Well, M'Lady, it would seem that we may have to take a while longer to make Devonshire. The roads will be cursed hot for us now. So I must keep to the woods. I have an extra sleeping roll for you within mine, so you should be quite comfortable. I would have preferred an Inn for you, but the king's men have made that impossible for the now."

Now it was her turn to dim bulb an eyebrow at him. "An extra sleeping roll, Mr. Roberts?"

He laughed to the trees. "Aye, Miss Morley. I bought it with the hopes your decision will be to stay with me." Then he winked at her again. She looked forward, and smiled.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/15/2006 13:08:23

They rode on through the trees walking their horses, the canopy of shimmering green casting comforting shadows upon and about them. The fresh woody odor of the forest surrounding them with a feeling that for the moment all was right in the world. Roberts though, never one to take his surroundings for granted, would scan the foliage for any sign of sudden danger, every now and again allowing his gaze to rest for a moment or two on the face of his fair companion. Knowing that though she could have left him there during his battle with London's authorities, she had chosen to stay and even flee with him.

Cecily, on one of these occasions which she had been quite aware of though pretending not to, leaned out to stroke the night black stallion's mane.

"He is a remarkable horse, Jack. What's his name?"

Roberts reached down to pat the opposite side of the animals thickly muscled neck. " Aye, that he is, Cecily. His name is Raven. I took him from a fat merchant who had ill used him, maybe two years ago. I've a fine stable at me Inn, so I nursed him back to full health and we've been friends ever since, have we not, old chum?" The stud whinnied in response shaking out it's long coal colored mane. Roberts chuckled.

"I trained him to respond to certain taps from me knees when me hands are otherwise occupied. Two taps on one side, or the other of his chest will cause him to turn in that direction. A tap on both sides followed by a squeeze will cause him to stop. Three taps on both sides will bring him up on his hind quarters and God help the fool in front of him." He grinned.

She stared in amazement at the robber, this was quite the clever scoundrel indeed. "And what is the name of this fine mount I ride?"

"In truth, M'Lady, I do not know having purchased her and her livery only this morn while ye slept. I was a in a bit of a hurry being fairly certain the villains I killed last night would bring the footmen, and many questions. So ye may name her as ye wish"

As they passed through a Oak grove he noticed a wild rose bush to his right. Reaching out a leather gloved hand he deftly snapped a single full bloom from amongst it's fellows offering it to Cecily.


"Why thank you, kind sir." She spoke softly lifting the fragrant blossom to her nose as much to half hide her smile as to enjoy it's perfume. Nothing could hide the smile in her azure eyes.

Welsh Wench:
Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 09/15/2006 15:46:12

As they rode through the woods, they traveled in companionable silence. Cecily had placed the rose that Jack had given her tucked in the front lacings. The flower gave off a waft of delicate scent all throughout the morning.
She was aware of the glances that Jack had given her all morning and the courty way in which he treated her. Yet he also treated her as if she had a brain, which was more than the other gentlemen she knew at Court. Foppish fools they all were, concerned only with landholdings and increasing their riches and hiding their gambling debts from their fathers!
She looked at Jack covertly and wondered how old he REALLY was. He was young enough. Certainly not like old Peter Culpepper, who had to be pushing 40. Dragging it was more like it.

She began to get a bit hungry. It was now getting towards evening. Soon darkness would come as quickly as a thief. The breakfast had long been over. As if he could sense what she was thinking, Jack reined Raven in. She pulled up on the mare's reins.
"About a mile through this forest there is a clearing with an overhang of shale. It will provide shelter yet we shall be able to watch the comings and goings in the woods. Let's press on and then stop for the night."

True to what Jack had said, they came to the clearing which had a stream running on the edge of it. They both alighted from their horses, Jack taking both and tethering them to nearby trees. He reached in his saddlebag and withdrew a blanket and spread it down on the ground.
"It's not a fancy inn, Cecily...but it is the best I can do under these pressing circumstances."
He took a loaf of bread, some cheese, fruit and a bottle of wine out of the foodpouch. Taking his knife, he cut off slices of the bread and cheese, handing her some. He opened the bottle of wine and handed it to her.
"I'm sorry but there are no goblets."
She laughed, "It makes no nevermind to me!" She took a healthy swig of it and handed it back to him.
Enjoying thier evening meal, they watched as the sun set in the sky. When the food was consumed to their satisfaction, they carefully wrapped it and put it back in the saddle bag.
Jack got the sleeping rolls down and unfurled them.
"It may be a good idea to butt these up together as there ARE wild animals here."
He took a measure of delight in the wary look in her eyes.
"I've never slept outside under the stars before."
"Well, then, it is to be a first experience."

She placed her boots next to the roll and under the cover, she shimmied out of her dress, placing it at the bottom of the roll. Cecily was feeling self-conscious.
She glanced over as he hung his doublet on a tree branch and slid into the roll. He placed the pistols beneath the cover and put the sword next to him.
"All that armory!"
"Can never be to careful. You know--highwaymen!"
She laughed and said, "Goodnight, Jack."
"Goodnight, Miss Morley. Pleasant dreams."
She faced away from him and curled up.
From the darkness, she said, "Jack?"
"I thought of a name for the mare."
"And that would be?"

Jack replied, "A fine name, to be sure."
He smiled to himself in the darkness.
The Goddess of Love.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/15/2006 21:06:19

As the night wore on Cecily found sleep elusive. She thought back to the stories her brother would tell her of Black Jack Roberts, the boyhood admiration for the outlaw evident in his voice even then. She thought of how different the man himself was, gentlemanly in his treatment of her, his manner one of respect. And something else she was sure of it. Could it be? Was he falling in love with her? She found that the thought of having such a man love her was not as bad as she thought it would be.

So many of the courtly fools, whom she despised, had nearly soured her upon the whole notion of love. Yet here she lay beside an outlaw, a highwayman who had demonstrated far more care for her in a short while than the lot of them had in her entire life! Slowly she rolled to face him not wanting to disturb his sleep, just desirous to look at him once again. And what of her feelings, what did she feel for him, honestly, deep down? Would an honest answer frighten her? Did she indeed love him? In such a short time? Was such a thing possible outside of the storybooks she read as a child? Did she dare believe in something as ethereal as love for the sake of love? Not land, title, or possession simply love as she had read it should be. A fantasy come to life.

Gently, not daring to belive what she had in mind she inched closer to the sleeping form. Not giving herself a chance to think, or talk herself out of that which she had decided to do she moved ever closer to a school girl's dream. The full moon provided her with all the soft bluish white light she needed as she reached out to place one trembling hand on his chest. She felt the beat of his heart through the silk, the rise and fall of his chest beneath her hand. She felt her desire for him rise unbidden like a caged animal finally set free.

Her body lay next to his now separated only by the bedrolls, and she shivered at how right it actually felt. Half raising, her arms encircled him, pulling him closer to her and he awoke.

"Lass?" She put one soft finger to his lips silencing him. Then bent her golden haired head to his, their lips touched for the second time with a tenderness she had not thought possible. She surrendered herself to the kiss, felt his hand rise to cup the back of her neck, cradling her head as would a mother with a new born child. His other hand encircled her waist with infinite tenderness and care.

As the kiss ended she looked deeply into his moonlit eyes and saw the answer she secretly had longed to see. Yes, he did love her for herself and nothing more. She allowed herself to smile tenderly to him.

"I have made my decision, Jack." she whispered in the night. "I do not wish to return to Cornwall. It is my wish to be with you. This is what Cecily Morley wants."

The warmth of his smile melted her heart as he tenderly drew her back to him. "Cecily." The only word he spoke, and only the twinkling stars bore witness. to the first time Cecily Morley made love.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/16/2006 22:34:36

The dawning came with the sound of the songbirds flitting through the trees. Jack awoke for real this time the lovely dream of a woman curled close to him in his bedroll. Gently enough so as not to awaken the sleeping vision he idly stroked her golden tresses. It had not been a dream after all, or if it was he feverishly hoped never to awake. Of all the treasure within the world she was now the most precious to him, a jewel without price nor equal. Lightly she stirred and snuggled closer to his warmth softly murmuring his name in her sleep. He whispered her's back.

He too had been unable to sleep last night, spending it thinking of how lonely it would feel had she decided to return to her family in Cornwall. Wracking is brain for someway to let her know that she had stolen his heart, as he had stolen so many prizes before. He did not know how, in truth he did not care, he only knew that he loved her and he knew not how to keep her with him. Then the miracle that he had dared not hope for came upon it's own. He had lain there pretending to sleep, giving her the chance to change her mind if she wished, but she had not.

"Ah, Jack me boy," he thought, "without doubt ye be the luckiest man in all of England this day."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/17/2006 11:35:21

Her eyes fluttered open and he held his breath, would his love's feelings still hold true? She yawned delicately, raising her gaze to meet his and he felt his heart soar as she gently smiled. Her willowy fingers reached up to stroke his cheek tenderly as her lips sought his. His hand tenderly tracing the arch of her back.

"Good morn, Dear one." He smiled when she released the embrace of their kiss. Her smile filled with joy.

"And a good morn to you, Mr. Roberts." She teased, her eyes belieing her heart, then she lay her head against his breast sighing with content. "So this be love. I had feared it was no more than the fancy of poets, something never to be mine."

"Your's it is, My love, for as long as you wish to hold it." He assured her ernestly. "But come, though nothing would please me more than to spend the day within your arms, we should breakfast and be on our way to better lodgings. These woods may hide thieves."

Her laughter at his joke filled the small clearing and she hugged him all the closer for a moment. "Aye, maybe a master thief well skilled in the art of stealing hearts." She smiled and rose to dress while he rolled their bed rolls up to be stored away. She was well aware his eyes paid more attention to her than to the task of his hands and it pleased her no end.

After breakfast they wound their way through the woodland making the Devonshire road by noon. Their talk of things new lovers found the most useful to speak of. Hopes of the future, times together yet to be spent, and sweet loving jests which promised passion yet to be played out once privacy had been obtained. The few short miles to the Blade and Bone tavern melted away. Handing the reigns of the horses to the stable boy along with a couple silver coins they entered, their hands entwined.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/17/2006 13:32:07

As was his habit Roberts scanned the main room. A few farmhands were spending their leisure hours discussing the breeding of cows, and the rise in the price of feed. Another couple sat in a far corner nervously, obviously doing their best to avoid the attention for the other patrons. Three officials from the neighboring township were gathered at a table to the left discussing how to empty the pockets of the taxpayers more efficiently. Jack scanned their purses well and made mental note of the heaviness of each. Two rather rough looking cads were playing a game of darts at the far right wall and he noted with care their leering glances in Cecily's direction.

The barkeep was a short balding man, thickly built his forearms bulged from the rolled up sleeves of his shirt, his leather apron was unstained showing his care in the keeping of his establishment. His round jovial face broke into a genuine smile of welcome as the lovers approached the bar. An equally robust barmaid hurried past with tankards for the three towns men. Plump and equally jovial he took her for the owner's wife and touched the brim of his hat to her in greeting, to which she smiled in good nature.

"What be yer pleasure, Governor?" The smiling keep spoke in a rich voice.

"A table and a good meal with your best wine for M'Lady and your finest ale for my self, Good Sir." He happily replied. "And should ye have a room for the night, we have a long way to travel yet, and I fear the hour grows late for such endeavors."

"Aye, Sir, ye can't be too careful these day's." A look of severity crossing the man's cheerful expression for a moment. "Why just last eve we 'ad word that the villain Black Jack Roberts killed five of the king's footmen, and kidnapped a betrothed woman. No doubt to hold her for ransom. She'll be a ruined woman by the time that scoundrel be done with her, yer pardon, Miss. Her fiancee, a Mr. Culpepper told us himself on his way to Cornwall to give her father the news. A damned shame it is, Mr........"

Roberts smiled and extended his hand, "Johnson, Robert Johnson, and this be me lovely wife, Elisabeth."

"A pleasure to meet the both of ye." The tavern keeper's former cheerful expression returned. "don't let me gossip frighten ye none, Mam, I'm sure yer husband will be adequate protection fer ye. Besides they say he rode toward York, the poor lass protesting to the last. Ah, here come me Mary now."

After they had been seated, and their drinks brought Cecily allowed her self a soft giggle. "Five? I counted but three."

"Aye, My Love," he smiled as he filled her goblet, "and by the time the tale be finished they will swear I murdered twenty and deflowered ye while riding across fields of fire. Ye now know how I gained my reputation for bold villainy."

Cecily laughed aloud. "My but you are the scoundrel, Mr. Johnson." Her eyes merrily twinkling with her mischief.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/17/2006 14:43:33

The meal was fine, roasted beef and vegetables, cheese and fruit. While they ate they joked and talked over the events of the day. Patrons came and went. The nervous couple went upstairs returning a couple of hours later and leaving separately. The Townsmen still remained, as did the ruffians covertly looking in their direction, then speaking low to one another, bawdy laughter escaping from their direction. Roberts and Cecily all but ignoring them.

Just before they had finished their meal Mary called for her husband and the tavern keep disappeared into the back. The two unsavory characters watching him vanish. As one they rose from their table swaggering over to the couple. One stood to the right and slightly behind Jack, the other pulled a chair up next to Cecily and boldly sat down.

"Here now, Lass, and what be your name me pretty?" He smirked.

Her eyes were cold as ice on a winter's day. "My name is none of your concern, Rogue, and I will thank you to be on your way."

The dark haired cad merely smiled and reached up for her chin, his partner giving out an evil chuckle. "Here now, Miss. Don't be like that. Me and old Jake here can show ye a far better night than this dandy ever could."

Without a second's thought Cecily emptied the contents of her goblet into the ruffian's face. The man behind Roberts grabbed his shoulders then emitted a howl of surprise and pain. There in his right thigh was Roberts steak knife buried to it's hilt. Jake fell backwards onto his back clutching his leg. His compatriot looked up in shock, frozen with one hand locked around Cecily's wrist, the other drawn back to strike the girl. Absolute fury blazed behind Roberts eyes as he started forward, rapier in hand.

Suddenly the man echoed his companion's howl as he released his grip on the young woman. Jack looked down to witness her right foot buried in the man's crotch. As the uncouth villain fell backward clutching his injured area and retching Roberts fury abated long enough to give way to hearty laughter.

"Well struck, My Sweet!" He grinned. "Now for these two dogs."

"Hold, kind sir, I pray you!" The Tavern owner roused by the commotion had returned. "My apologies, and I assure you these two villains will disturb ye no more this night. Bill! Come here, Lad!!" A large man of well over six feet came from the back.

"Yes, Papa?" He rumbled.

"Fetch the carriage, me boy, and help me take these two afore the magistrate! So help me Jake and Mark Thomas ye'll spend the night in geaol, and ye'll never again set foot in me tavern!!" So saying he turned to Roberts. "Please sir, accept my apologies. You and your wife have a round on the house."

Jack smiled sheathing his rapier. "Think nothing of it, Good Landlord. Geaol be just the place for these two, but mark me should they ever see fit to accost my wife again I will wet my blade on their innards."

"Fair enough, Mr. Johnson. Please enjoy the rest of your evening." Then turning the short wide man grabbed each of the ruffians by the collar, dragging them out side with ease.

Welsh Wench:
Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 09/17/2006 21:15:26

The landlord's wife, Mary, said, "No doubt ye shall be wantin' a room for the night, eh?"
Cecily found her heart quickening at the prospect of spending the entire night with the man she had just spent a wonderful night under the stars.
Jack held her hand and gazed into her eyes.
"Aye, Ma'am, that we do, " without even taking hs eyes from Cecily. She could feel the rise of heat from her inner core spreading in all directions.
Mary grabbed a candle and yelled to her son. "Bill! Tend the patron whilst I get this fine couple their room."
She took a candle and led the way to the upstairs. Opening the door, she showed them in. There was a brass bed with a dresser and a washbasin.
"Nothin' fancy, mind ye. But it is clean. And no one to disturb ye. How long ye been married, darlin's?"
Jack answered, "Only a short three days. But it seems like we have known each other forever."
Mary smiled, "Ah! I see it in yer eyes. Never lose that feelin', duckies. It what keeps ye alive."
As they both were staring at each other, Mary laughed to herself and handed Jack the key.
"No one be disturbin' ye, fer sure."
She added, "Shame about the young lass Black Jack Roberts abducted. Best t' put 'er out in the field and put a bullet in her head. No decent man would want a tainted woman."
Cecily looked a bit shocked by the bluntness of Mary. Jack pressed a gold crown in her hand and said "Thank ye, Ma'am. We are a bit fatigued from the long ride from London. We are on our way to visit Elisabeth's sister in Exeter. A surprise to be sure since Emily could not make our wedding due to her being with child."
Mary winked and said, "Have ye a good night then, and see me in the morning about food. I shall pack ye a mid-day meal to take with ye."
She left the candle and closed the door.

The candle cast shadows on the wall. All of a sudden, Cecily felt self-conscious. It was one thing to make love on a shadowed ground with nothing but a blanket of stars. Last night they were like two lost leaves drifting on the wind of the night.
Tonight it seemed so...definite. So...planned. She could feel the rise of a blush on her face.
Jack could see her apprehension and drew her tenderly to him. He encircled her waist and looked deeply in her eyes. She barely nodded her head.
He slowly unlaced the back of the butter-yellow dress and slid it off her shoulders. Her breath caught in her throat as it slowly slid down and became a puddle of silk and lacings on the floor. He gently picked her up and lowered her onto the bed.
And blew out the candle.

As she laid there with her head resting on his chest and her legs entwined around his, she wound her fingers through his hand. Her hair lay in a tangle around her shoulders and ever so gently spread across his chest.
How could she tell him she lied to him?

"Hmm.?" he replied drowsily. How luxuriating she felt curled up next to him, sharing body heat on a decent bed.
"I lied to you."
She propped herself up on her elbow and traced her finger across his chest. She lowered her head so her hair was a curtain of silk hiding her shame.
"About what, love?"
She found the words hard to say. "About my parents. About the kidnapping."
"But I saw you pursued. The abductors--I killed them."
"I never intended to lie to you. But in view of what the innkeeper said, I need to tell you the whole truth. About Peter Culpepper knowing about her alleged abduction. What I told you was a half-truth."
He laid there patiently waiting for Cecily to find the right words.
She took a deep breath. "I was not in London with my parents. They were not at Court. Father does sit on the House of Lords. But they are in Cornwall right now."
"I don't understand. What were you doing in London?"
She couldn't look him in the eyes. She lied to the man she loved. Only when she spun the lie, he wasn't the man she was in love with. Did that make sound reasoning? It seemed to be the only way she could live with herself.
She continued. "I was in London to be fitted for my wedding gown. The wedding was to be the social event of the year in Cornwall. The house of Morley united with the Culpepper lands. Since Peter was going to London, I also went."
She said quickly, "It wasn't what you think it was, Jack. There was never any--"
"I know."
"As I was being fitted for the gown, I came to the realization that I was to be MARRIED. To this man I didn't love. This stern, strict man. I finally understood the headaches and the stomach aches I had been experiencing. I told the seamstress that I needed some fresh air and I was going down to the square to get some fruit, that I was light-headed."
"What did you have planned, Cecily?"
"To throw myself off a cliff when I got back to Cornwall. To throw myself under a carriage. To take poison. To run away. Anything--ANYTHING!--to keep from marrying the biggest mistake of my life. As I was walking down the docks to clear my head, I was shang-haied by those three pirates that you dispatched. The intent was to sell me off the Barbary Coast. They had ship repairs and were delayed a week. Obviously they couldn't say, 'Hey, chickie, why don't you come back at a more convenient time?"
When the jailer came to give me the food, I hid behind the door and cracked his head with a piece of crockery. I saw that the crew was into their grog so I hid under the pile of canvas and inched my way over the side. I slid down the rope, landed in the water and swam to the dock. And that was when I literally ran into you."
"So you mean----"
"Peter Culpepper was in London and was most likely making enquiries as to my disappearance. Not that he cared! He just wanted the daughter of Wallace Morley. Prestige."
"Do you think he saw me with you?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. Perhaps his description of me reached someone's ears. The stableboy who held your horse? The man who brought us breakfast in your rooms? Maybe even that bar wench you had on your arm when I ran into you. Peter has deep pockets and uses them to get what he wants."

"Cecily, what do you intend to do?"
She tried to put on a brave front. "I need to pay a visit to my parents. Alone. We can go to the Blade and Bone and take rooms there. And I can send word to my parents that I need a private audience with them. WITHOUT Culpepper."
"Cecily, I'm sorry but that is out of the question! For obvious reasons, I can't accompany you and I don't want you to go alone."
She looked at him seriously. "I'll be alright. They will be made to see reason. And Andrew will back me up."
She kissed him slow and she kissed him well.
And when all was said and done, she laid there in his arms in the dark, feeling safe and secure for the first time in her life.
Her final thoughts were this--Wallace Morley would be easy.
Alice Morley would be another story.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/18/2006 01:32:14

He lay there deep in thought, gently stroking her hair. That he held her heart he had no doubt, and this was the most precious of things to him. That she had told him an untruth mattered not a wit, for she had not known him at the beginning and there was nothing he could not forgive her. Her going to Cornwall alone though was another matter and his fear was for her safety. He had known many men like Culpepper, men who would stop at nothing to gain that which they desired. Such men were dangerous, and not above destroying that which they could not have. His fear caused him to pull her closer.

Still she knew her mind and this was important to her. He resolved that she be allowed to see it through, but mayhap not as alone as she would think. His years as a highway man had brought him many friends, for he was neither greedy, nor stingy with his ill gotten gains. This had given him an extensive network of spies in the most common of places where they were looked for the least. This was how he had managed to elude capture for so long and now it would serve a far more noble purpose, the protection of the only thing in this world he would ever truly care for. Life without Cecily at his side was a thing he could no longer fathom.

For this night, though he was content. The love he thought would never be his had come unto him. Fate had delivered to him the greatest treasure any man could wish for, true love. Let other fools seek prestige, power, and holdings for though they thought themselves rich, in truth they were paupers. None of that was worth the smallest of her smiles. Those were things easily taken away, what he held this night in his arms, and in his heart, was eternal. He curled himself deeper into her embrace, happier than ever he had been in a life by no means unhappy.

"Cecily, my love." he whispered into her perfumed hair, gently kissing her forehead and drifting off to sleep wrapped in a lover's embrace.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/18/2006 11:16:24

Cecily and Jack awoke early the next morning, the soft light of dawn and sweet morning breeze causing both to be swept up in their passion for each other. Afterwards he bade her to remain there and rest while he rode to town to purchase more clothing for her.

"After all, My Love, ye have worn the same dress far too long and though it be a right bonnie outfit a lady should have choices." He reasoned. " I shall return within the hour. Should you hunger ye will find breakfast paid for before I leave."

He then bent down into her arms tenderly kissing her. His eyes filled with love he softly stroked her cheek to see her smile and strode from the room. Cecily stretched lazily in the bed contented, the smell of him lingering upon his pillow. She watched with new eyes as the light outside the open window grew and listened to Raven's hoof beats fade into the distance. A small wistfulness crept into her heart at his departure tempered only with the knowledge he would soon return.

She sighed deeply, marveling at the power the emotion had to change one so completely. Where once she would have used her mother's methods to gain an advantage over a man, she now felt only a desire to be one with him. The cold ice of many years of courtly life had melted away to be replaced by the warm springtime of being the most important thing in his life. She had seen it in his gaze, he cared only for her. He saw nothing of gain or power, only a woman who he would cherish for all his days. The knowledge thrilled her to unknown measure, and she hugged his pillow tightly gently rocking it in sheer joy.

She stopped as thoughts of her mother intruded on her happiness. Yes, there was the fly in her ointment, the serpent in her paradise. For Alice Morely was a scheming, shrewish woman, beaten down by the disappointments life had handed her she now lived only for advancement and wealth. She had nearly turned her only daughter into a copy of herself, bitter and lonely.

"Oh my dear Jack," the thought, "if only you knew what you have truly saved me from."

Still mother would have to be dealt with, and Culpepper as well. For if she didn't they would hound him to the ends of the Earth. Not for the love of Cecily, but for the loss of the wealth she represented to them both. She sat up on the edge of the bed and began to formulate a plan.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 09/18/2006 21:52:08

Roberts patrolled the small hamlet noticing with glee that the two brothers from the night before were spending time in the stocks. He swung into the clothiers and purchased three dresses for Cecily and a shirt and riding breeches he was certain would fit her. They would make riding Aphrodite far more comfortable for her. then he turned to the messengers office, hastily scribbled a note, sealed it shut, and paid the man double to see it was delivered in record time.

Stopping at the saddler he bought a saddle bag for the mare. Once all of the things he could think of to make the remainder of their journey comfortable for his love was finished he had the lot sent back to the tavern with a note for Cecily stating he would arrive shortly following. Hoping he had not missed his guess he stood across the street idly smoking a long thin cigar, and covertly watching the taxhouse. As he saw the three fat officials come outside he grinned. He had over heard them correctly. They were off to collect on some delinquent taxes owed by a poor farmer named Malory some five miles south of town, the Tavern lay two miles north.

Leaping into Raven's saddle he rode quickly toward the tavern. once out of sight he circled into the woods and opened Raven's saddlebag. There in the bottom lay his working clothes, the ones that had inadvertently gained him his nick name. Folding his white silk shirt and velvet coat he quickly slipped into the black linen one, pulled the black silk hood over his face and fastened the night hued cloak at his throat. Placing the black felt Cavalier's hat back onto his head after changing the white and burgundy feathers for the black ones his disguise was complete, and Black jack Roberts rode like the wind for the southern highway.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 09/18/2006 22:38:57

"I'm here to see Sir Wallace and Lady Alice."
The tall man with mudspattered clothes stood there. The servant stepped aside.
"I'll announce you at once, Sir."
Within a few minutes, the servant said, "You may go in. They are expecting you in the parlor."

Sir Wallace stood up and extended his hand to the man.
"Peter! How wonderful to see you back."
Lady Alice stood up and offered her cheek to Peter Culpepper.
Sir Wallace looked over Peter's shoulder. "Where's Cecily?"
Peter Culpepper stood there, his cavalier hat pulled low over his brow. He removed it. His cloak was streaked with mud. Peter said, "I am afraid I have bad news."
Sir Wallace paled. "Cecily--she is alright, isn't she?"
"I'm not sure."
Lady Alice knew her daughter's headstrong ways well. "And what has she gotten into this time?"
Peter said, "I am afraid she has been abducted. By Black Jack Roberts, no less."
Cecily's father's face registered disbelief. "Abducted? Are--are you sure?"
Lady Alice, being the ever gracious host, offered her seat by the fire to Peter. "Something to drink? Barnabas, some mulled wine, please!"
Sir Peter sat down. "She was getting fitted for her wedding gown and the seamstress said she went out for fresh air. And disappeared into thin air. A floozy barmaid said she couldn't be sure. But there was a blonde woman, fitting Cecily's description, with a man who may or may not have been Black Jack Roberts."
Lady Alice said cooly, "But you have no proof."
"No, I don't. But where is she?"
Sir Wallace was visibly upset with the news of his missing daughter. "Have you tried to find her?"
Sir Peter snapped, "Of course I tried to find her! Where do you think this mud came from? The Kings' castle? I've put out the word she is to be brought back, unharmed. I've crossed a few palms with coin. And I have seen the magistrates. If she has indeed been kidnapped, a price will be on the abductor's head. One thousand gold coins. For her safe return. I need to go back to my estate and check things out. We shall find her, make no mistake about that."

Lady Alice said, "I shall be back in a minute. I need to check on something."
She smiled beguilingly at Sir Peter Culpepper. Lady Alice Morley was a beauty in her day. She was still a beauty, and unbeknownst to Sir Wallace, a former mistress of the Duke of Somerset. But all good things in the life of a mistress must end. She was replaced by a younger version of herself and was hastily married off to Sir Wallace Morley. A nice enough gentleman. But boring. She still had fanciful ideas and had tried to live them through her daughter. Yet Lady Alice had a hard look in her eyes. The look was speculative and fueled by a fondness Lady Alice had for honeyed wine. Cecily had always been in awe of her mother, and her mother knew it. And used it.
But Cecily was the apple of her father's eye. To which Lady Alice had resented.
Because to Sir Wallace, his daughter could do no wrong.

Sir Peter watched as Lady Alice left the room. He then turned to Sir Wallace and said emphatically, "I want her back. And the marriage shall take place. And if it does not, then you know what that means."
Sir Wallace nodded. "The gambling debts were to be forfeited on the terms of a marriage between you and Cecily."
"And if that doesn't happen?"
Sir Wallace said miserably, "The debts become due and my lands will then be yours."
Sir Peter put his hat back on and turned to leave. He said over his shoulder, "See that she is back. I shall not be made the fool of the duchy just because you have a daughter you cannot control."
With that he left Sir Wallace, deep in thought.


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