He dropped to one knee and stared up at the woman he loved. “Will you marry me, Coral Smythe?”

Epilogue

At the Ice Princess’ words the soldier threw back his head and laughed. “Have I not just given you my heart? Come with me and be my bride and we shall live in blissful happiness all the days of our lives.”

He held out his hand. The Ice Princess took it and gladly for she’d had enough of her icy throne.

And the soldier and the Ice Princess did indeed live happily ever after.

--from The Ice Princess

Coral lifted her face, feeling the salt spray hit her lips. The wind was playful today, the sun shone brightly on the turquoise waves, and the Challenger rode the sea like a porpoise.

“We’ll make Gibraltar in another day,” Lieutenant Green said beside her.

Coral turned and smiled at him, watching in some amusement as the young man’s face suffused with red. He couldn’t be more than nineteen.

“How exciting, Mr. Green,” she murmured. “Have you seen the rock yourself?”

“Me? Oh, no, ma’am.” The poor man’s ears were fiery now. “Of course the Captain has been there many a time. But this’ll be my first.”

He stopped suddenly as if fearful of babbling on too long.

Coral took pity. “Then you must be as excited as I, Mr. Green. Would you care to join the captain and me at dinner tonight? We shall both bombard him with requests for his recollections of his visits to Gibraltar.”

The lieutenant’s eyes widened. This was his first voyage on the Challenger and it was something of an honor to be asked to dine at the captain’s table.

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Green,” came a deep voice from behind them.

The young lieutenant whirled, snapping to attention. “Sir!”

Isaac’s black eyes were impassive. “If you’re to dine with Mrs. Wargate and me tonight you’d best see to your linen.”

The boy blushed again, darted a look at his cuffs—which were sadly dingy—and darted off with a strangled, “Aye, sir!”

“You’ve scared him witless,” Coral murmured as she watched poor Mr. Green disappear below deck.

Her husband clasped his hands behind his back, still looking quite austere—if one didn’t note the twinkle in his hawkish gaze. “It’s my job to scare new lieutenants witless. Besides, I had the distinct impression that you were flirting, Mrs. Wargate.”

Coral widened her eyes innocently. “I, Captain Wargate?”

He leaned a little closer to breath in her ear. “You, Mrs. Wargate. We’re not a week out of port and already you’ve wrapped the entire crew around your little finger. As usual, I might add.”

Coral fluttered her eyelashes. “Well, it does give me something to do.”

One ebony eyebrow lifted slowly. “If you find you haven’t enough to do on board, madam, that can easily be corrected.”

Coral felt a familiar quickening of her pulse. “Whatever do you mean, Captain Wargate?”

“I’ll be most pleased to show you,” he growled low, “tonight in our quarters.”

“Ah, captain?” One of the officers stood behind Isaac, trying to look as if he hadn’t overheard their exchange.

Coral hid a smile as Isaac turned to the man and they consulted on some business of navigation. This was her third voyage on the Challenger. On her first she’d held some trepidation that confined to a ship for months on end she might become bored. But to her surprise, the sea had won her over. Every day held a new horizon, a new possible adventure. She’d found, too, that there was something to be said for being the only female on a craft full of men. They all, from the youngest cabin boy to the most grizzled sailor, treated her as if she were a queen and, it must be confessed, she rather liked it.

But best of all, she was with Isaac. She watched as he completed his business with the officer and came toward her. He was magnificently handsome in his uniform, respected by every man aboard, and he was hers. The mere thought made her shiver.

He must’ve caught her shiver for his black brows snapped together. “Are you cold?”

“No, I--”

He stood beside her and placed one broad palm against her belly, hiding the movement with their bodies. “You are to remember to take special care of yourself now, madam.”

She lifted her chin, placing her own hand over his, both their palms against the new life that grew within her. “I know,” she said softly. “Never fear.”

His wide mouth curved into a smile, both rare and wickedly seductive. “I love you, my wife.”

“And I love you, my husband,” Coral replied with all the joy in her heart.

And Captain Isaac Wargate bent and kissed Mrs. Wargate there on the poop deck in full view of his crew and officers.

But then they were becoming somewhat used to the sight.
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