Forced into Love
Okay I have to do this. This story has taken over my muse and I just have to put it out there. I have not forsaken my other stories but this one is demanding my attention.
Please take note, after I did the time travel in Gift, I found it very frustrating to stay in period speech so I will not be doing that. I will be using mostly modern American English. I may use an occasional period term but on the whole I won’t.
And a special thanks to Val and LJ for their wonderful help.
Colleen sits staring at her hands clasped in her lap.
Colleen: John, are you sure this is the right thing?
John: Yes, I know it is. He is 26 and it is time he accepted responsibility and grew up. He needs to learn to be a man.
Colleen: I know. But the colonies? Can’t he stay here?
John: He needs to get away from the people he knows here. Away from their influences. Besides what father here would have him
Colleen: None. But he is still my baby boy.
John: And that is part of the problem. You still treat him as a baby. And he acts like one most the time.
Colleen nods quietly and fights the tears. She takes a deep breath and looks into the fire.
John: End of the week. Captain Summer said he couldn’t stay longer. He needs to get back.
They both turn as the door opens and Liam strolls in. He looks from his father to his mother and suddenly gets very nervous.
John: Son, sit down.
Liam moves warily over and lowers himself into the chair closest to the door. He can feel the oppressive seriousness of his father’s voice. His mother is unable to meet his eyes.
John: I have made a decision about your future. I met with Captain Summers of the Joyce Marie. He is here picking up supplies for the colonies.
Liam shifts and glances at his mother who is staring into the flames of the fire.
John: He and I have agreed to your betrothal to his daughter. The marriage will be at the end of the week. You will return to the colonies with him and your bride. There you will run his port office allowing him more time to actually operate the ship.
Liam stands up angrily.
Liam: No. I won’t.
John: It has been decided.
Liam: You want me to marry some girl I have never met. She probably is fat and ugly. Why else would her father feel the need to come all the way to Ireland to procure a husband.
John: Actually he found none of the men there suitable. And when her mother passed he felt he needed to find a proper husband. He was coming here for supplies and could not leave her home alone. And you will meet her. We are to join him and his daughter tonight at the Inn for supper.
Liam looks toward his mother for help.
Colleen: Angel sweetling, your father is right. It is time for you to settle down. And you will have a business to run. It will be okay.
Liam: But the colonies.
Colleen: I know it is a long journey but it is for the best. I better change if we are going out for supper.
She stands up and moves toward the hall. Liam watches as she leaves.
Liam: What if I refuse?
John: Then I wash my hands of you. You will no longer be welcome under my roof. And you realize no one will hire you once they learn you have defied me. No father will allow you near his daughter after we announce the betrothal.
Liam: I have no say?
Liam turns and strides down the hall to his room.
John: We leave in an hour. You will be ready.
Liam does not answer and closes his door hard. The door down the hall opens and the twelve-year-old girl peeks out.
Kathy: What is wrong, father?
John: It is okay, Kathy. Liam is accepting his future.
John: Yes my dear. Your brother is getting married.
Her eyes get big and she quietly ducks back in her room and closes the door.
John escorts Colleen through the front door of the Inn. Liam trails behind sullenly. The owner approaches them.
Innkeeper: Ah Mr. O’Connor, I am pleased to see you here. Captain Summers left word to expect you. He has not arrived as of yet.
John: Thank you.
Innkeeper: I will make sure the private dining room is ready.
John: Most appreciated.
As the Innkeeper walks off, Liam moves to glance into the large dining room. He watches the petite blonde hustling about. He gets flashes of memory of her writhing naked below him. He takes one more look before turning away. He looks into his father’s angry face. He smirks at him. His head pivots quickly as the front door opens.
Entering the building is a tall blue eyed man with sandy blonde hair. Beside him is a small pale creature. Her face looks haunted and dark circles ring her flat green eyes. She has her dark blonde hair pulled severely back from her face in a tight bun. Her figure is clad in a black wool dress. She looks weak and almost morbid. Liam is unable to force a smile to his face.
Hank: John, sorry we are delayed. Buffy has not been traveling well. I can not believe my own child does not bide the sea.
John: That is unfortunate.
Hank glances over at Liam and then Buffy. They both are trying to avoid looking at each other.
Hank: John, I would like to talk to you and your wife in private if I may.
John: Of course. Is there a problem?
Hank: I am not sure.
John: Why don’t we go into the private dining room? It shall give the children a chance to talk.
He looks at his son.
John: Liam, please see to Buffy’s comfort while we talk.
Liam just nods and Hank and John walk off. His mother lays her hand on his arm as she passes.
Colleen: Angel, it will be okay. You will see.
She follows the men to the room. He glances up to see the servant approach. He turns to Buffy quickly.
Liam: Would you like to sit?
Buffy nods her head and he holds out his hand. Darla stops and glares at him. She moves back toward the kitchen. He guides Buffy to the settee and once she sits he lowers himself down beside her. He closes his eyes and slouches down. Buffy takes the chance to look at him more closely. His large size and his tense features scare her. She bites her lip as she turns to stare at the still closed door.
They quietly sit down at the table.
John: So what is the problem.
Hank: I just got word from one of the other captains who just arrived. There are problems in Wilmington. Seems one ship never made it in and they are low on supplies. I need to get there as soon as possible.
John: Of course. When will you leave?
Hank: At first sun light. The men will have the ship loaded and ready to go.
John: And the wedding.
Hank: I was hoping we could take care of it tonight. I know it is sudden.
John: No, it is fine.
John: Let me see if they can send someone over to fetch Father O’Malley.
Colleen: What about Liam and Buffy?
John: Go ahead and have them come in.
Buffy watches as his father exits the room and heads toward the Innkeeper. She notices his mother walking towards her. Buffy looks into her kind eyes as she walks up.
Colleen: Hello Buffy. I am sorry we have not had time to speak.
Liam opens his eyes and watches
Liam: Are you all finished?
Colleen: Yes. Do you want to go inside?
Liam nods and stands up. He notices his mother watching and politely holds out his hand for Buffy. She takes it and quietly rises. Upon standing, she immediately releases it and the three walk to the closed door. Just outside Colleen touches his arm. Buffy glances at them before entering the room, closing the door behind her.
Colleen: Angel, I know you are confused but it will all be for the best.
Liam: Not confused. I’m angry. I’m not a child but he has given me no say in my future.
Colleen: You need to curtail your anger. Your father has sound reasons for his decision and your animosity will only hurt yourself and Buffy.
Liam: Hurt her? I am afraid to touch her or she will break. She looks like a fragile piece of glass. One hard breeze and she will fall over. She is like all the noble women. All delicate and no spirit.
Colleen: Angel, you could do far worse. She seems pleasant and is not unattractive. I can imagine the children you two will have.
Liam closes his eyes and bites his tongue to control his words.
Colleen: Accept it, sweetling.
Liam: I have.
He turns and opens the door. He stops in his tracks as he enters the room.
Buffy: I thought we had a week.
Hank: I’m sorry sweetheart, but we have to set sail in the morning.
Buffy: We can’t. I need time.
Hank: And I would give it to you if I could. But you know we can’t.
She bows her head and places her hands over her face. She takes a cleansing breath and nods.
Liam: Is there a problem?
Hank moves forward.
Hank: Hello there, Liam.
He holds out his hand and Liam takes it calmly.
Liam: What is wrong?
Hank: Buffy is just not too happy to be returning to sea. She appears not to have inherited my sea legs.
Colleen moves over and places her arm around the distraught girl.
Liam: I am sorry for her dismay. So you are leaving tomorrow?
Hank: I must apologize. I was hoping we had more time before the wedding so you both would have time to get comfortable with one another, but I can’t delay.
Liam cannot speak as he understands the implications. He tries to focus on staying calm.
Hank: But you will have many years for that.
Liam nods his head slowly. He watches quietly as his mother talks to Buffy. Time passes as the only sound in the room is the low murmurs from the ladies. Hank pulls out a pipe and expertly fills it before lighting. Liam is lost in a sea of emotions. He slowly clenches and unclenches his fists in a fight for control.
After a lengthy silence the door opens admitting John and Father O’Malley. Liam looks over and fights back his desire to bolt from the room. After John introduces Hank to the priest, he turns toward Liam.
O’Malley: Nice to see you Liam. I have not seen you at mass in quite awhile.
Liam: I think over the years I have attended enough of your services.
O’Malley: Well it looks like you shall attend one more.
Liam grimaces at the innuendo.
Colleen and Buffy approach the men and John introduces Buffy to the Father. Colleen takes Liam aside.
Colleen: Angel, I want you to take this.
She slips a silver and sapphire ring off her pinky. She places it in his large hand.
Colleen: It was your grandmother‘s. Every woman deserves a proper ring.
Liam: I guess.
They both turn back toward the others
O’Malley: Well, I am prepared if everyone else is.
John: I think we are.
O’Malley: Well then let’s have the couple join me in front of the fireplace and we shall begin.
Father O’Malley stands before the fire with Liam and Buffy before him. The parents stand back watching. Colleen begins quietly weeping as she watches her baby boy. The priest has them hold hands as he begins the rites. The couple softly follow his directions through their vows.
Father O’Malley concludes the ceremony.
O’Malley: I now declare you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.
They both had been preparing themselves for this moment. Liam leans over and chastely brushes his lips over hers. She closes her eyes and reins in her sigh of relief. The parents come forward and congratulate the newlyweds. Each calmly accepts the words with grace and dignity.
After a few minutes they all sit around the table and John lets the Innkeeper know they are ready for supper. A few polite words pass between the men as they wait. The door opens and two young males enter. One places a large tureen on the sideboard. The second fills glasses of water and wine for each. Behind him Darla enters and quickly begins to serve the hot cream soup. She moves slowly around the table. John takes in her curious attention and turns to Liam.
John: Son, your mother and I will have your things delivered to the ship before day break. You should not have to worry when you have a new bride to concern with.
Darla nearly drops the bowl in her hands at the words. She glares at Liam before turning her eyes on the waif beside him.
Liam nods his head and avoids Darla’s eyes. Buffy lifts her hand to her glass of water and Darla sees the sparkle of silver and blue. She sets down the last bowl and quickly exits the room.
John: I must speak to the owner about that lady’s inattentive behavior.
Liam staves off his defense knowing it will only incite his father more.
Hank steps down from the wagon and assists Buffy to the ground. Liam follows them.
Hank: Buffy, can you show Liam to your cabin? I need to check on the cargo.
Buffy nods her head and moves slowly up the gangplank. Liam glances around the docks as he follows her. She trips on a raised plank and he quickly catches and steadies her.
Buffy: I’m sorry. I need to be more careful.
Liam: It is fine. They need to fix that board.
He takes her arm as they proceed onto the deck. She leads them through a doorway and down the dark passage.
Buffy: That is my father’s cabin. Mine is next door. Willow is on the other side.
Buffy: My maid.
Liam: I see.
He reaches out and opens the door she indicated. As she steps nervously inside, he looks around. Against one side of the room is a low bunk secured to the wall. On the floor rests a ceramic basin. There are two trunks on the floor against the opposing wall. The remaining floor space contains a small wooden chair upon which sits a woman with warm red hair. She is sewing by the light of the one oil lamp secured on the wall.
Upon seeing them enter she jumps to her feet.
Willow: Miss Buffy. How are you feeling?
Buffy: A little better. It was nice to be on solid ground for a while.
Buffy notices Willow’s attention on the imposing male behind her.
Buffy: Willow, this is Mr. O’Connor. He ….he……..well, he is my husband.
Willow’s mouth opens but no words come forth.
Liam: Why don’t I let you get settled in?
Buffy looks up at him and smiles gratefully.
Buffy: Thank you.
Liam steps out of the cabin and moves back down the dark passage. He steps onto the deck and stands at the railing taking in the sights of the only city he has ever known. His hands grip the rail in anger but with even a twinge of excitement about the adventure. If only he had not been forced into this loveless charade. He catches himself as he wonders if she will live long. No matter his anger at the situation he can not wish her death. He wants to scream in frustration.
In the cabin, Willow catches her breath.
Willow: Husband? You have wed?
Buffy: Yes. This evening before supper. Our fathers arranged it. He will run the port office.
Willow: Well he is quite handsome. You could do worse.
Buffy: I suppose.
Willow: Well I packed all your things back in the trunks. I know you are disappointed we are not staying on shore longer.
Buffy: I am but we are going home. I never shall set foot on a ship again.
Willow: Do you want me to help you dress for bed?
Buffy looks nervously around and nods slowly. Willow pastes a reassuring smile on her face and begins to help her out of her dress, hoops and stays. She slips her flannel gown over her head and assist her with the buttons.
Willow: Do you want your hair down?
Buffy: No just braid it. It looks awful. I so wanted to really wash it.
Willow: I know but it is still pretty.
Buffy: No it’s not. It looks like dirty straw.
Willow picks up the brush and strokes out the limp locks before plaiting them and securing with a small length of twine.
Buffy: Thank you.
Willow: Any thing more I can get you?
Buffy: No. I will see you in the morning.
Willow smiles at her encouragingly.
Willow: Just tap on the wall if I am needed.
Buffy: I shall.
Willow slips out of the room and Buffy stands alone. She grips the chair as she feels the simple rocking of the ship.
Buffy: Oh no.
She dives toward the basin and grips it in her hands while waves of nausea pass through her. Sweat beads on her face and chest as she tries to calm the rolling of her stomach. She never even hears the door open.
Liam: You okay.
Buffy slowly shakes her head.
Liam moves closer and looks into her ghostly white face.
Liam: Where is Willow?
Buffy: She…she can’t help. No one can.
She begins crying softly.
Liam: Is it the movement of the ship?
Liam looks at the bed and moves closer. He lifts her up and places her on it. She balls up and clutches the pillow tightly to her head.
Liam: I will be right back.
He exits the room and moves toward the galley he saw on his way back. He slips in and finds a soft cloth and grabs a pitcher of cool water in a stand on the counter. He heads back to the room. He drenches the fabric with water and lays it on the back of her neck. She shivers from the contact and sighs.
Liam: Have you been like this the entire trip?
Buffy nods as Liam moves the cloth over her clammy skin.
Liam: Maybe we should go on shore.
Buffy: No. This is the only way home.
Liam continues to stroke the cool rag over her neck and face. After a while she opens her eyes and smiles at him.
Buffy: I’m sorry. I feel a little better. I know……….well it is………..tonight is……...
Liam: Tonight is what?
Buffy: Well we are married.
Liam: Oh. Well relax. I am not expecting anything tonight. We barely know each other.
Liam: Now try to sleep.
Buffy closes her eyes and Liam removes the cloth and rewets it. As he lays it on her neck he hears her faint words of thanks. Minutes later she seems to relax as sleep claims her. He pulls the chair closer and continues to keep the cool compresses on her skin. He nods off and on in the chair but never too long.
Hours later he feels the strong lurching of the ship. Buffy’s eyes fly open and she reaches for the basin. He quickly moves beside her and holds her as she retches until she has nothing left to heave. He takes away the basin and gently rinses her face. He lays her back down and gets up and taps on the adjoining wall.
Willow enters with her robe wrapped around her slight figure.
Angel: Please get dressed. I need you to dispose of that and see if you can find some toast or porridge. And another pitcher of water.
Willow: Of course.
She scurries out of the room. He looks down at Buffy. He can see the tears clinging to her eyelashes.
The voyage continues and a hot oppressive heat surrounds the ship and permeates the cabins. Liam and Willow take turns easing Buffy’s discomfort. His trunks now sit with hers. He arranges them in a makeshift bed for the times he is able to rests his eyes. He is weary but his growing concern for the waif who is unable to keep food down is more urgent.
A week into the voyage, Liam is on deck staring out across the endless water. The hot air flows over his equally hot flesh. Hank walks up beside him.
Hank: How is she?
Liam: The same.
Hank: I have to say you have been quite attentive to her.
Liam: She’s a victim in all this too.
Hank: She’s not a victim.
Liam turns to face him.
Liam: She and I are just pawns for you and my father to manipulate. We have less say than Willow. At least when her servitude is over in a few years, she will be free to choose her future. We were not given a choice.
Hank: I have done what I feel is right for my daughter.
Liam: Right? It is right to trap her in a marriage to a total stranger. It is right to put her on this ship for two months. I don’t see any right. All I see is selfishness. I know why my father made his decision. He wanted to get rid of me. But I do not understand you. Your daughter loves you and you use her to secure someone to help your business.
Hank: Your father failed to mention you were an arrogant fool. I do not have to defend myself to you.
Liam: No, you don’t. Just to your daughter. Whom I need to get back to.
He turns to walk away.
Hank: Does she know how you feel?
Liam: No and she never will.
Hank: I am glad to hear that.
Liam turns to leave.
Hank: One more thing.
Hank: There is a storm coming. The seas will get a bit rough. What I mean is she will really need you then.
Liam nods and walks off.
For almost twenty-four hours the large ship rocked heavily as the waves crashed against the hull and the rain battered the deck. It had begun to list less and seems to be returning to its normal pitch and roll. Liam sits on the chair gently caressing the damp rag over her face and neck. She lies quietly staring at his soiled boot. Willow walks in.
Willow: The storm is letting up, why don’t you go get a bit of fresh air.
Liam: I’m not the one needing fresh air.
He looks down at the sad face on the pillow. He turns back to Willow.
Liam: Get her a dress. And not that wool one. Something cool.
Willow: You want me to dress her? She will be miserable with all the hoops and stays.
Liam: Then don’t use them.
Liam: Who will know? There is no one here but us. And I don’t care.
Willow: If you are sure.
Liam leans over to Buffy.
Liam: Buffy, sit up. Willow is going to help you get dressed. Then we can go outside for a little while.
Buffy: Outside? Why?
Liam: The storm has let up. It should be cooler out there.
He eases her up to a sitting position.
Liam: I’ll wait outside.
He steps out and Willow eases her out of the flannel gown and slips the light cotton dress over her head. The pale yellow normally brings out the green in her eyes and highlights her blonde tresses. Now it just accentuates her sallow complexion. She smoothes it outs and gets behind her and nimbly buttons the back. Even without the stays the fabric hangs loosely on her thin frame.
Willow: When we get home, all the other girls will envy your new svelte shape. I bet Master Liam can span your waist with his hands.
Buffy: How come you can always find the cherry amongst the pits?
Willow: It’s a gift.
Willow quickly brushes and rebraids her hair. She kneels down and assists her with her soft leather slippers.
Willow: There you go. Let me get Master Liam.
She opens the door and Liam pivots off the wall where he is leaning.
Liam: She ready?
Willow: Yes sir.
He strides in and scoops her into his arms. He carries her out the door, down the passage and onto the still wet deck. He moves over to the railing and lowers her feet to the ground. He stands behind her and snakes his arm protectively around her waist. She rests her arms on the railing and leans forward as a breeze flows over them. A soft sigh escapes her lips.
Liam: You want me to let go?
Buffy: Please no.
Liam: Okay I won’t.
She looks over the rail and watches the cool water swell and recede again.
Buffy: I hate this.
Buffy: Being like this. I hate being weak. I never get sick.
Liam: We all get sick.
Buffy: Not me. I guess I had it coming.
Liam: I don’t think so.
Another strong breeze whips over them.
Buffy: Mmmmm. This is wonderful.
Liam glances over his shoulder and sees Hank approaching.
Liam: Here comes your father.
Buffy turns her head too quickly and has to grip the railing. Her knees sway.
Liam: Whoa. You okay?
Buffy turns back to the ocean.
Buffy: I think I need to focus on the water.
Liam: Whatever helps.
Hank: Hello sweetheart. I’m glad to see you venturing out.
Liam: We suspected the cool air would feel good.
Hank: It should. It actually should be cooler from now on. The storm carried away the heat.
Buffy: How much longer?
Hank: I would say another three weeks. Could be less if we keep getting the strong winds left from the storm.
Buffy: You know I will never set foot on this thing again.
Hank: I know.
The days move on. Hank has set up a bench in front of the rail. Willow and Liam take turns sitting with Buffy. Her time on the deck has allowed her to keep down enough fluids to survive. Liam still stays up at night insuring her comfort. He grabs short naps when he can.
The days turn into weeks and their lives continue. One afternoon Liam leaves the two ladies on the deck and enters the cabin. He collapses on the cot and falls into a much-needed sleep.
Hours later as the sun begins to set, Willow looks around.
Willow: Master Liam has not returned.
Buffy: He couldn’t get too far.
Willow: I guess you are right. We are in the middle of the sea.
As the last rays of sun glow across the water, Buffy turns to Willow.
Buffy: We best be going in.
Willow stands and holds out her hand. She assists Buffy to her feet and the ladies walk toward their cabins. Buffy opens her door and glances in. Liam lays sprawled across the small bunk snoring softly. They close the door and stand in the dark hallway.
Buffy whispers: Well we know what he’s been doing.
Willow whispers: Are you going to wake him?
Buffy (w): Not for the world.
Willow (w): Do you want help changing?
Buffy (w): Not tonight. I will see you in the morning.
Willow (w): Very well Miss Buffy.
Willow moves on to her own cabin and disappears inside. Buffy opens her door quietly and looks around. Liam is lying on his back with his side pressed against the wall. His bare feet dangle off the end of the bunk. Buffy opens her trunk and quickly decides to forgo the hot thick flannel gown. She turns and looks at the bed and the large male. She stands arguing with herself. She is his wife and as such there is nothing wrong with sharing the bed but she has never slept with anyone before and definitely not with a man.
She dampens the rag with cool water and sits on the edge of the bunk. She lies down gently and bends her knees up. She places the rag across her neck. She makes certain she does not disturb the slumbering man behind her. She lies listening to his steady breaths wondering if she will listen to them every night of her life. The feeling is scary and yet comforting. She is finally able to fall into a light slumber.
Hours later Liam awakens and glances to his left. He carefully rolls onto his side and looks down at his bed partner. He smiles as he sees her sleeping. He surprises himself when he leans over and brushes his lips over her temple. He gently lifts the damp cloth and moves it over her flesh. He freezes as she shifts in her sleep. When she does not awaken he continues his gentle ministrations. He lays his head back down and relaxes as his hand strokes the fabric against her skin. He eventually falls back asleep with her cradled against his chest.