Doc Buzzard’s cottage was stifling hot. Everyone in the room was forced to repeatedly wipe sweat from their brows to keep it from dripping into eyes that were already stinging from the noxious odor in the room. Lynna wasn’t altogether certain whether it was sweat or tears running in rivulets down her flushed cheeks, nor did she really care. As her watery eyes met her husband’s steely gaze she was positive of only one thing. She had never seen his eyes as cold, as hard, or as unforgiving as in that very moment.
You could have heard a pin drop before the silence was broken by the haunting refrain of an owl hooting in one of the towering trees of the rainforest. Every eye in the room was riveted on Sean Devereux as his worshiping gaze fell upon the lavender eyed baby in his arms, his daughter. Unwrapping her blanket gently, he inhaled a sharp breath, his smile rapidly dissolving at the sight of her withered body.
Joshua watched quietly from across the room, suddenly overcome by an almost desperate urge to snatch the baby girl from the pirate’s possessive grasp and flee with her into the night, as his pounding heart warned it might be his last chance. Instead, he turned questioning eyes that shimmered with pain toward his wife and whispered one word, “Lynna?”
Lynna couldn’t look him in the eyes. He would see the truth, know she had lied. Instead she stared into the crackling flames of the fire, her voice trembling as she was forced to say the words she had prayed never to have to speak. “Sean is Makenna’s father, Joshua.”
Sean, ignoring the others in the room, couldn't pull his eyes away from the pitiful sight of his daughter’s emaciated little body. The urge was strong to rush Makenna to his grandmama. Lisbeth would undoubtedly pass out from the sheer joy of having a granddaughter and heir to Devereux Acres, but she and Chantilly would know how to fatten the little girl up and put color back in her cheeks.
All at once Doc Buzzard glanced nervously at Clara, seemingly in a dither about something. None of them had ever once seen Doc move at any speed quicker than a slow shuffle, but he actually almost scurried to the table and grabbed a candle to thrust at Clara. “Clara, you must take this candle to the creek behind the house and extinguish it in running water in order to completely break the spell on the girl.” When Clara didn’t move, but continued to gaze sadly at Joshua’s miserable countenance, he urged, “Hurry, child! It must be done immediately.”
Willing to do anything for Makenna, Clara turned her back on Joshua, rushing toward the door with one hand cupped around the candle to prevent the flame from blowing out. Still worried about what this latest heartwrenching revelation might do to Joshua, she paused to glance over her shoulder and stumbled, almost dropping the candle at what she saw.
The man Clara loved as she would her own father appeared to have aged ten years in the last few minutes, slumped back in a chair with a forlorn look of defeat and loss that caused her heart to crumble.
Sadness was firmly etched in the troubled lines of Joshua's forehead, and his blood pounded through his veins as he watched Sean Devereux hold his daughter close to his heart, the pirate’s face glowing with pride, and pure joy.
With eyes gone cold and dark, Joshua felt his body go rigid as he watched Lynna move toward him, felt her tiny hand grasp his sleeve. Forcing his eyes to meet hers, he found her peering at him with pleading crystal blue eyes brimming with tears. Unfortunately his true feelings for her were accurately mirrored in his own unwavering gaze, sending icy shivers to rush down Lynna’s spine as she put both hands over her face to sob hopelessly.
What a mockery of the institution of marriage. She had done nothing but lie to him since the day he had rescued her from the pirate.