The Master's Wife

The Master's Wife by Jane Jackson Read Free Book Online

Book: The Master's Wife by Jane Jackson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jane Jackson
free from the mould that was always a risk on a long voyage.
    Cool and refreshed she put on her nightgown, brushed and braided her hair, and was sitting at the table, a soft shawl around her shoulders, writing her journal when Jago came in, yawning.
    ‘I thought to find you asleep.’ He closed the door and wearily took off his jacket.
    ‘I wasn’t tired.’
    ‘What are you writing? Surely Pawlyn didn’t give you written work to do?’
    ‘No, thank goodness. The book is just a journal. I write a little about each day’s events. I must say I never expected to write that I’m learning Arabic.’
    ‘It was a good idea to refresh your French.’
    Martin knocked, calling through the wood. ‘Hot water, Skip.’
    Jago took the ewer and bucket. ‘You needn’t wait; I’ll bring them when I relieve Nathan.’ The door closed. ‘As you’re still up, would you mind me using the nightstand basin?’
    ‘No, of course not.’ She had left the curtain pulled back to allow air to circulate in the small space.
    Re-corking the squat inkbottle, she heard the bucket clank as he put it down then water poured into the basin.
    ‘When you’ve finished writing, leave the pen and ink out, will you? I need to update the log.’
    She glanced round and saw him strip off his shirt, revealing a broad back and muscular shoulders. Longing pierced her and a flush burned her cheeks. He was her husband, the only man she had ever kissed, touched, held, loved. He was her husband and he had lain naked with Louise Downing; made love with Louise Downing...
    She choked down a painful stiffness in her throat and carefully wiped the pen nib on a cotton square before laying it on the grooved wooden tray.
    Water splashed, she smelled the fragrance of the soap she had used too, heard the soft rasp of the towel as he rubbed himself dry, then the rustle of clothing as he dressed again.
    He emptied and replaced the basin then carried the bucket and ewer to the door.
    ‘Goodnight.’ Caseley limped into the sleeping cabin, pulling off her shawl and dropping it over the foot of the berth. She reached for the curtain but didn’t touch it. With it drawn across, the small space that had once been a cosy, private haven now felt lonely and claustrophobic. She lay down and pulled the blankets over her. Had she no pride? What kind of fool longed for a man who preferred someone else? A tear soaked into the pillow.
    When Jago returned to the cabin he sat down and opened the log. Elbows propped on the table, he raked both hands through his hair. Tension made his scalp ache.
    He was ashamed of his pleasure at seeing Caseley out of the black that constantly reminded him of his failure. Recognising her uncertainty about wearing a summery dress, he had hoped to reassure her. She was still hurting, her loss still a raw wound. She hadn’t uttered a word of complaint. That made it worse. He didn’t know what to do and hated his helplessness.
    After meeting the reporter in the Custom House, he and Pawlyn had walked along the quay to Cygnet. Making conversation, Pawlyn had asked if he had family. He’d said no, and left it at that. Explanations would invite commiserations that were pointless and painful. They reminded him too vividly of Caseley’s drawn, grief-ravaged face as he arrived home too late.
    How could he ever make it up to her? Did she even want him to? That her rage seemed to have dissolved only increased his guilt. Their conversations were pleasant and their unspoken understanding of each other’s thinking on all other matters was still intact. If only she would meet his gaze, she would surely see everything he could not find words for: how much he missed her, needed her.
    Several times, about to blurt it out, he had bitten his tongue to stop himself. Such a confession would make it about him, and that was self-indulgent while she was coming to terms with such devastating loss. He would live with the permanent ache at the base of his skull and a gut tied in

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