Ann’s limbs ached as she pushed up off of the ground. She steadied herself the best she could on legs that weren’t capable of separating as they should. What would the handsome lighthouse keeper think when he realized her situation? He would certainly riddle her with questions. Ann let her face crack into a smile for a brief second as she pondered all of the questions he’d peppered her with earlier. She wondered if he spoke aloud to himself when he was alone or if he’d been keeping it all in for however long it had been since he’d seen another soul.
It was difficult to make her way across the rocky terrain in the shackles, though she had grown accustomed to walking in them to some extent since they’d been forced on her months ago by the jailer in London. Not that she did much ambling around the ship; most of her time was spent below deck in the dark. The only time she’d seen the sun since boarding The Esteemed Lady, an ironic name for a vessel crewed by heathens, was on the brief afternoon walk she was afforded when the parson was available to take her, as he had been today.
She felt sorry for frightening him when she’d flung herself over the side. The sound of the water muffled the prayer he’d been shouting as she tried to stay afloat and propel herself toward the island in the distance. The only explanation she could give for why she was still alive was that perhaps God had finally seen fit to lend her a hand.
Ann made it to the cottage, her flesh aching from straining against her chains, and blood trickling over the top of her ankle-high boot. Bleeding all over Jeb’s floorboards wasn’t ideal, but she needed to find fresh water. Ann managed to open the door and step in. Now, she needed to quench her thirst.
She downed a glass of water, thankful that the burning in her throat had calmed to some degree. She wiped the wetness from her lips with the back of her hand and contemplated what to do next.
The door swung open, and Jeb stepped in, his forehead wrinkled in concern. “You are bleeding?” His blue eyes bulged as he took in her hands. With a deep breath, Ann raised both arms and lifted her hand in a wave. Still staring at her in shock, Jeb waved back. Then, for once, he was quiet.
Ann pondered how much of an explanation she should give. His eyes were wide with concern, but she did not sense judgment coming from the blue orbs. She cleared her throat, hoping the water had softened her tone, though she still felt a fire raging inside of her that wouldn’t be extinguished by the concern of one man. “I am not dangerous.”
His eyebrows rose, and she assumed he was taking into account the fact that he had to be almost two feet taller than her. His broad shoulders and muscular arms strained against the fabric of his white shirt. Even sopping wet as she was now, Ann didn’t weigh more than eighty pounds. Of course, she was not dangerous to him.
He didn’t mention that, though. “You should sit. I will go fetch the medicinal kit and some tools.”
Ann looked down at her bound wrists. She’d been wearing the iron so long, she’d almost forgotten what it was like to be able to move freely. The idea that he would rid her of them soon was enough to send her heart racing, as were the beautiful blue eyes of the man who intended to free her.