“Don’t you think that it would be better to tell Leigha about Robert’s problem after we have found him and know for certain what has really happened?” Simon asked as they walked down the hall to the galley. “I don’t believe that Stephen is telling the truth, and I don’t want to upset Leigha if it’s not necessary to at this time beyond the worry that she already has. If Robert returns safely and his disappearance was not caused by his drinking, I’m sure that he will be all right as far as his addiction is concerned once he knows that she is safe as well. I only hope that he is all right and that Stephen hasn’t done anything to hurt him.”
“Yes, Simon, let us pray that he hasn’t.” Charles nodded his head as they came to the door of the galley. They could hear voices coming from within and so Charles lowered his voice so as not to be overheard as he said, “I agree with you about not telling Leigha the whole truth just yet. There is time enough for that later if we have to. Now, let’s get something to eat.”
The men went through the door together to find Leigha finishing the telling of her story to Jesep and Gordon. Simon walked over to stand beside Leigha, smiling down at her as she turned her lovely face up to him.
“Is there any food left for us?” he chuckled, indicating Leigha’s now empty plate. “By the looks of the serving tray, you have eaten enough for all of us!”
“You have no idea how much I have missed this kind of food! Besides, I’m eating for two now, Simon, remember?” Leigha said with a wide grin.
“Are you certain that is all that you are eating for?” he asked as he put his arms around her and gave her a kiss on her forehead. Patting her rounded belly, he then said, “Perhaps you are carrying more than one babe?”
Leigha looked quizzically down at her stomach, holding its roundness with both hands before blinking up at Simon. Everyone laughed at the look on her face with her mouth slightly open and round at the thought. Realizing the joke, she too joined in the laughter as Simon sent the steward to bring them more food, then turned to hold her in his arms again as he spoke now more seriously.
“We have talked with Stephen, and there is little more to be said about Robert’s disappearance beyond what Jesep and Gordon have already told us,” he began, catching her eyes with his. Loosing himself in their depths, his heart filling with his love for her, he had to clear his throat to be able to speak again, “Ahem. Well, it seems that Stephen and Robert agreed to separate in order to cover a last bit of ground before returning to the ship. Robert didn’t show up at the time and place they had agreed to meet at. Stephen waited as long as he could, then he returned without him in order to let us know what had happened.”
“I’m sorry that I agreed with the man about separating in our search,” Stephen said as he came into the room, surprising them all, for they had not heard his footsteps. “For if I had known that such a lovely woman awaited him, I would have bound him and dragged him back!”
“Stephen, as you’ve assumed correctly, this is our Leigha. Leigha, this is Sir Stephen Montieth.” Charles stood and introduced the two though no introduction was necessary for Leigha had known instantly who he was and was shocked by the uncanny resemblance between the twins.
“Leigha, it is my pleasure!” Stephen said, smiling smoothly at her as he came to hold her hand and bent to kiss her fingers. “Truly, I don’t believe that I have ever had the pleasure of casting my eyes on such loveliness before in my life! Is that some kind of Turkish dress that you are wearing? It certainly enhances your beauty!”
Leigha nodded her head, slowly trying to release her gaze from his as his clear blue eyes penetrated her deep green ones before glancing briefly at her partially exposed breasts. She pulled her hand quickly from his grasp, repulsed by the feeling that her skin had been plunged into something cold and clammy. She could find no reason for her reaction to the man save that perhaps it was only due to what Simon had told her of him.
“Are you feeling all right, my dear?” Stephen asked, showing true concern, for he had found himself quite attracted to her, despite her obvious pregnancy. “Mayhap a small glass of wine would help. Jesep, since the decanter is nearest to you, would you mind pouring our lady a glassful?”
“I’m quite well, really,” Leigha said and then smiled softly at Stephen’s questioning gaze. “It’s just that it is a bit of a shock seeing you. I know that you are Simon’s twin, but I’m afraid that I did not expect you to be such mirror images of each other.”
“Ah, a soft, musical voice to match your beauty as well!” Stephen smiled. “‘Tis no wonder that so many have traveled so far to find you. I myself would have gone the world over with a smile in my heart had I but known what a treasure lay waiting!”
“You have quite a gift with words,” Leigha spoke softly, embarrassed by his attention.
“My brother has always been quite the ladies man and has developed that silver tongue through years of practice,” Simon said, his voice edged and face darkened in anger at the obvious play Stephen was making on Leigha.
“Unlike my brother here who speaks so bluntly that his words are cold and chapping as the wind,” Stephen snapped at him and then smiled back down at Leigha. “Really, I cannot fathom what you see in such a heartless bore, my dear. You are deserving of much better.”
“That’s quite enough!” Charles interrupted as Simon stood tall and glared ominously at Stephen. “We have no need of any arguments this night. Leigha has just been found, and though Robert is missing, I’m sure that he will be all right as well,” he said quickly to reassure the anxious look Leigha cast him. Smiling around at them all, he said, “So, tonight is a night for rejoicing! Let there be no more bad feelings for now.”
“I agree wholeheartedly, Lord Dagon.” Stephen smiled. “I for one can put aside any disagreements I may have with Simon though he seems unwilling to do so,” he spoke, glancing towards Simon’s still glowering eyes. “May I propose a toast to our Leigha?”
“She is not our Leigha, at least not yours,” Simon growled. “And a toast has already been given in thanks for her safe return.”
“Why, brother dear, are you jealous of me?” Stephen smiled vexingly at him.
“I said that is enough now out of both of you!” Charles ordered sternly. “Let’s not spoil this reunion any further. Leigha, I believe it’s time for you to—”
“My lord, please forgive me for interrupting,” the first mate said as he came into the room, “but there is a man and a ragged boy on the wharf and they say that they know the whereabouts of your son! I didn’t know quite what to do about them and so have come to tell you. If you wish, sir, I shall send them away immediately so that you won’t be bothered any further.”
“No, wait!” Charles called out as the man turned to go. “Robert is missing. Send them down to me at once!”
The first mate hurried from the room to carry out Lord Dagon’s order, leaving silence behind him as everyone exchanged looks, anxious to learn about what had happened to Robert, all except Stephen who stared blank-faced at the now empty doorway. He took the moment to prepare himself to act surprised when the two would come to report finding Robert’s dead body. He had no idea that his surprise would be authentic as he smiled to himself, feeling the stolen amulet where it now rested heavily in his pocket.