Treasure of Serpents Isle
Caribbean Sea, 1643
It was a dark and stormy night… Captain William C. Wilcott watched from the wheel as the waves of the ocean crashed against his ship. Tension filled his face as he glanced at the skies once more. The clouds hid the stars from his view. Not that he needed to find his way north. But his position. The storm had tossed the massive English galleon about until he had lost his bearings. He did know that land was coming close. A series of islands that no one went near. Not with the reef called the Serpents Fang waiting to tear up the bottom of his ship nearby.
Captain Wilcott listened as the rain hailed about him and his helmsman watching and waiting for the warning from the look out above. What he wouldn’t give to just ride out this storm in the middle of the ocean. Or better yet, in the harbor. They were on the last long leg of their trip from France and he had bypassed Jamaica for Trinidad. And now he was regretting it. Even the smaller island of Tobago was looking good.
The door to the decks below snapped open in the wind and the captain took a quick glance back. “Marquis! This isn’t the best time to come up here!” He shouted back in the wind to his esteemed passenger.
The blond headed man looked out into the storm. “I do have experience in sailing, Captain!” he replied with a heavy french accent.
The captain nodded. He knew. When the storm had picked up he had requested the man’s presence in his quarters for advice. He didn’t blame him for being worried. Jean Gautier St. Michel had his wife and small daughter on board. “There is nothing left but to wait out the storm!”
“And these Serpents Fang?” the Marquis asked as he held onto a post nearby.
Captain Wilcott grimaced. “We pray!”
The Marquis nodded and looked out into the storm, then returned down below. Weaving with the sharp rocking of the boat he headed back to his cabin sloshing through a few inches of water the ship had taken on. He opened the door and stumbled in to see his wife Liana curled up in the corner of the bed with their three year old daughter Nicola in her arms. The young girl was excited and scared stiff at the same time. Jean had to smile at the bright green eyes that peered up at him knowing that her father would take care of this. He looked to his young wife and saw that she didn’t see any excitement in this whatsoever.
“Jean?” Liana asked softly.
Jean shook his head as he held out his hand. “Give me Nicola. I want us to be near the deck.”
Liana frowned in concern as she relinquished her child to her husband. “Why?”
Jean tucked his child into his left arm and held out his hand for her. “Trust me.”
Liana let him help her up and Nicola shrieked in fear and delight as they tipped back hard. Jean pushed his wife gently but firmly to the door. “Hurry, love.”
Jean helped Liana up as a few others came out of their rooms as the ship shifted again and water began to fill up the hallway.
“Marquis?” an older man asked as they passed by. Colonel Marc Lefitte was a retired officer of the king’s army and he was amused with the family on board and respected the younger man’s position. The Marquis was level headed and strong willed. Not like other aristocracy in their homeland.
Jean looked back only once. “To the top, mon amie! The water comes too quickly to stay up much longer!”
Marc looked to the deck and swore to himself. He was getting to old for anymore excitement. He grabbed his boots and a small case and went after them.
Captain Wilcott heard the bottom of his ship tear before the deck trembled. Lightening flashed across the sky as a dark form of land was shown in front of them only to be thrown back into the inky black of the night. He knew the leviathan was out there and the Serpents Fang had found them with it’s first bite.
Jean and Marc helped Liana buffet the strong winds as they came up top. Wilcott looked back at them as the ship shuddered again and the bow of the ship began to go under and shook his head. Nicola shivered in the rain as Jean kissed the top of the wet red hair. “We have to get off before it pulls us under!” Jean yelled at everyone in his vicinity.
Liana’s eyes went wide at the thought of being marooned on the open sea. “There’s nothing out there!”
The lightening flashed across the sky again and everyone saw the peaks of the island in front of them. They were heading straight for it. Marc swore again and Jean headed for the side of the ship taking his wife with him. He looked down into the water and he handed Nicola to her as he kicked at the heavy railing. A few boards splintered off into the water. He looked to his wife. “Grab the board when you come up!”
Liana looked scared to death but she nodded and kissed him and then Nicola and braced herself as the ship rocked again. She took a breath and jumped. Jean looked to the others and cradled Nicola in his arms protectively. He saw her peer up at him as he stepped off.
The cold of the water shocked him as Jean kicked off quickly to the surface as he clamped a hand over Nicola’s nose and mouth so she wouldn’t breathe in the water. He faltered as his leg caught on something but he shrugged it off and kicked quickly to bring them to the surface.
Jean took in a breath as he made sure Nicola stayed above the water. He heard a tiny gasp for air right before the three year old began to wail. Jean held her close as Nicola locked a death grip around his neck and chest with her arms and legs as she continued to sob. Looking around the Marquis saw Marc and a few others jump overboard. Then he spotted Liana holding onto a board. With strong strokes he swam towards her.
Marc and four other men from the boat joined them as the ship began to go down. Others tried to get out of the wake of the ship only to be taken under with the force. Jean nodded towards the direction of the island. All of them began to swim.
Daylight was approaching as the island in front of them neared. Once they made it to dry land Liana dropped to the beach in relief swearing she would never set foot on another ship again. Jean sat down next to her rubbing his shivering child to produce some heat in her tiny body.
Marc knelt down. “She needs to get warm.” He nodded to Liana. “And so does she.”
Jean nodded as he held Nicola tighter. She was so cold and she had stopped holding on to him a long time ago. “Please god. Don’t take my child,” he whispered.
Liana looked up at him and then to Nicola’s still form. “No…” she was just on the verge of hysteria when the men that had joined them stood up.
Marc looked behind them into the tall tropical brush. Dark skinned figures looked at them curiously and cautiously. Most of them were brandishing spears or bows. Jean looked with the others as Liana began to sob. Somehow the courts in France looked good to him right now.
Long Bay, Jamaica, 1643
“She’s awful small looking.”
“Ain’t that small. Be taller comin’ soon.”
Captain John Briggs looked to the dark headed child in the dim cell. What in the hell was he supposed to do with her?
“Can’t leave ‘er. I need the space,” the pot bellied man said as if he had read his mind. “You got th’ marker. You gotta take ‘er.”
The captain looked down into the bright blue eyes that looked almost feral. The girl was filthy and her clothes weren’t more than rags. “European?” he asked the man.
The man shrugged. “Last owner said ‘er ma was one of those damn injuns.”
Captain Briggs closed his eyes in contempt for the stupid American. England was a much more refined place. “You mean she’s Arawak Indian.”
“Nope, the other. Damn things all o’er th’ place,” the man replied with a nod. “To damn vicious to be slaves. Kill the whole lot of those Awok ones.”
Briggs gave the man a glance. He may be a pirate, but he wasn’t a fool either. The Carib Indians were now native inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. They had decimated most of the peace loving Arawaks. Cannibals… That’s what the Spanish had named after the fierce indians. And it was true, they ate their prisoners. And it was rare to take any of them as slaves. He looked to the child again. She couldn’t be more than ten years old. Her skin was a pale tan and she didn’t look like any native around here except for the dark mane of ratted hair and the coloring in her skin. Either her mother had an affair with a European, or her master had gotten to frisky with the slaves.
He rubbed his nose and nodded. “I’ll get my first mate to bring her out.”
The jailer nodded. “Good luck ta ya, cap’n.”
The sun was shining brightly in the beautiful bay in the north end of Jamaica. The business done there was far away from Kingston where the King’s Governor had ships out on patrol for people of Captain Briggs’ kind.
The crew was busy at work bringing on supplies and trade for their next destination. Most of them looked up as Deacon Priest, the Crusader’s first mate hauled a dirty, struggling human on board. Or at least they thought it was human. It howled and tried to kick or bite anything near it. He didn’t even stop to ask the captain where he wanted her. He took her on down to the hold and shoved her in and locked the door.
The place was dark. Blue eyes scanned everything about her. Crates, chests, cannons, sides of meat, barrels of fruit. She looked up to the only light source. The cracks in the planks of the deck. The little shafts of light gave her more than enough to see where she was going. She was used to dark, dank places. And the place she was in smelled much better than many of the others.
The door opened and the girl backed away in defense. The man she had seen the first time with the fancy clothes and the one that had drug her there came in. “Does she have a name?” the fancy one asked.
The other one was big and tall and a lot younger than the fancy one. “Not that I know of captain.”
The fancy man nodded. “You think up something.”
The big man looked funny at the fancy one. “Captain?”
“You’re in charge of her. If she doesn’t help out I’ll sell her on in Fort Caroline.” The fancy man looked at her again. “Maybe I’ll sell her on anyway.”
He left and the tall man looked at the girl. Slowly he rubbed his grizzled cheeks and stared at her in wonderment. “What in the bloody hell am I supposed to do with you?”
The girl looked to the door and then to him. Before he could react she was headed for the door. He caught a handful of hair and pulled her back. She turned on him and he drew his fist back and struck her. The girl rolled with the punch and came up on her feet. She had a bloody lip but she was roaring mad. She came at him and he caught her by her hair and let her struggle in trying to reach him until she was worn out.
“Little wildcat, aren’t you?” he said as he kept his fist in her hair and led her unwillingly to the front of the hold. “Well wildcat, let’s see how you like a bath.” He picked her up and dropped her ungracefully into a barrel full of water. He grabbed her hair again and pulled her up as she gasped and spit out water. “Listen carefully, wildcat,” he said firmly and the blue eyes locked onto his. “Do as I tell you or you’ll get more than a split lip.” He held her hair tight until she finally winced in pain.
He dunked her back under then washed her pulling her rags off. He left her standing in the hold drenched as he locked her in and looked for some clothes.
Island off the Serpents Fang Reef, 1645
Liana St. Michel watched from the small lean-to as her daughter ran with the other children that inhabited this island. She looked back in to her husband. He was pale and sweating. For two years he had fought an illness. She was pretty sure it was consumption. Ever since Colonel Lefitte had to cut off his leg from the gangrene that had set in after the ship sunk Jean had never really regained his health.
The natives of the island had taken them in and saved Nicola from dying of chills. Now the very naked five year old was the very example of health. Her normally pale skin held a light tan as did Liana’s now. Two years ago she had been at the center of Louis XIII court. Her father a highly respected noble. She had married St. Michel, the known adventurer. He was a good twenty years older than her. But he had a spirit that she loved dearly. No one ever said impossible to Jean, he would prove them wrong.
This time was no different. He had been offered a place to settle in Trinidad by his friend Don Carlos, who was the Spanish Governor. Liana had heard of the beautiful islands and seen paintings but they were wild lands where slaves and natives still terrorized regular citizens. Nothing like her homeland where her world was cultured and refined. But Jean had his mind set to it. Even after Nicola was born. Liana moved back and knelt by her husband and cooled his forehead with a bit of cold water.
“What will I do without you, Jean?” Liana said softly.
For two years Jean and Marc and the four remaining men had tried to figure a way off the island. The natives of the land were peaceful and willing to take them into their tribe. But Jean was pretty sure because of Nicola. Family seemed to be pretty important to them and the girl had stole her way into their hearts quickly, even though they didn’t speak the same language. Most of the ships that sailed were either English or Spanish and Liana had started to teach her daughter and some of the other children English for the day when they might be rescued. Even now Nicola mixed French, English and the native tongue on the island.
Liana looked down as Jean’s breathing became weaker. His eyes fluttered open for a moment and with a last breath they closed. Liana leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Goodbye, my love.”
Marc Lafitte watched from a rock outcropping by the beach as the young children played. He had been given a good place in the village as an elder. Or at least that’s what he figured. The Colonel was down to his breeches. His shirt had gone for rags and his shoes were useless on the sand. Even his breeches were rather sad looking. One of the natives nudged him and he glanced back at the fish the man had caught. He nodded and smiled then looked back to the children. Nicola was easy to pick out. Her light red hair was even lighter than before. He looked back to the St. Michel’s lean-to and saw Liana standing in the opening with a blank look on her face. She usually stood and watched Nicola as she cared for Jean. But today she looked out to the ocean.
Standing Marc wiped his hands and strode over to her. She didn’t look at him and he gently touched her wrist. She glanced at him and she closed her eyes briefly as a tear fell. “He’s gone.”
Marc looked into the lean-to. Jean was still. He looked to the still slim figure next to him. “We will give him a funeral that would make the king green with envy.”
Liana nodded slowly her gaze moved to Nicola who was playing tag in the wet sand. She was laughing and partially covered with dried sand. “She could have had the world, Marc.” Both families were wealthy and had a lot of power in France. Nicola would have been included in all the social circles of the aristocracy.
Marc looked with her. “She’s still young, Liana. Don’t give up on her so easily.”
Liana sighed. “She has her father’s spirit.”
Marc nodded. “And your heart.” He watched sadly as she moved back into the lean-to and Marc glanced at Nicola before joining her. The daughter of Marquis St. Michel would most likely never see her homeland again.
Cape Charles, Virginia 1649
“Riley! Goddamit!” Deacon Priest bellowed out. The tall man watched as the tall, dark headed girl ran for the plank. Dressed in worn out boots, breeches and shirt she ducked as he reached out to cuff her on the back of the head as she jumped on board. He caught the back of her shirt and she struggled a bit. “Stop messin’ with the girls! Did you get your work done!?” he hollered at her.
“Yes, sir!” she managed to get out.
He gave her a stern look. “You leave them alone next time we come into port or the captain’s gonna have your head over it!”
Deacon let her go and she raced away from him. “Get to the rest of your chores or no supper!” The first mate smoothed down his shirt as he calmed himself. For the past six years she had been underfoot. She even got her name that way. She riled him to no end, so the crew started calling her Riley. The girl was in her mid teens and she would be a beauty if she didn’t look like she had come out of a fight all the time. She was tall, skinny and every inch of her was muscle.
Deacon passed Riggers, the bosun, who nodded to him. Riley could have been it, she was quick and smart and knew everything about the ship. But Captain Briggs wasn’t giving his slave any privileges. Not that the captain really thought of her as a slave anymore. She slept in the hold as she had for the past six years. She did her work, got a little money on occasion and caused more than her own share of trouble. One of them was girls. She had it bad just like any other guy, and he guessed that spending so much time on a ship filled with men and the talk about women and the few that came on board during heists was enough to make the dark headed girl want them. Hell, what did he know? He had seen a few guys that looked like girls and that was enough to set a torch to wanting.
Riley didn’t have a problem about unwanted attention on the ship anyway. She was a mean little wildcat. Even still she had a rage in her that scared most of the men. And she picked up fast on things too. She was a devil with a sword and a pistol. And nothing really scared her. One thing he did know was that Riley loved life on the sea.
“Sails up!” Deacon yelled as the men pulled up the anchor. “Put your backs into it! Captain wants to be out to sea by midday!”
He watched as the sails flew up the masts and the Crusader pulled forward. Moving behind the helmsman, Deacon waited for the captain to appear. It wasn’t long before Briggs came above. He looked a little hollow eyed as he handed a paper to him.
Deacon glanced over it and then read it again. “Are they serious?!” he asked.
John Briggs looked out to the sea and nodded. “All pirate ships are considered outlaws by the English government.” He glanced at his friend. “Seabrook’s giving us three days before he sends out patrols.”
Deacon shook his head in disbelief but was a little thankful that Cape Charles’ governor had given his friend a chance to take to the seas as a warning before stringing the man up without a second thought. “After all we did for them?”
“We haven’t done much of anything for his majesty in a long time, Deacon. But I’m pretty sure he wants a few of them on poles in the ports. We’re just caught in the tide.”
Deacon scowled. “It’s because of the Mongrel, isn’t it?”
Briggs nodded slightly. “Any governor would love to have Wesley strung up.” He looked to his own crew. Most of them were wanted for one thing or another. It wasn’t the same twenty years ago. Now the men were out for blood and loot and women. Or rum. That was almost as precious as gold to them.
“So what are we going to do?” the first mate finally asked.
The captain looked his way. “Head south. I want to stop in Fort Caroline and then we’ll go through the islands and head for Madagascar. Spanish Armada isn’t as fast as the English Fleet.”
Deacon folded his thick arms and gave the man a serious look. “You’re going to make us run?”
Briggs grunted. He knew he’d say that. “I’m to damn old to be stuck up in a damn cage letting the birds pick me to death.” He looked at him. “And until then we’re going.”
Deacon slowly nodded. “What about Riley? We taking her there?”
Briggs closed his eyes then looked to see the young woman do her work. She didn’t act like a girl, and half the time he forgot that she was. “We’ll drop her off in Jamaica,” he said as he turned to go to his cabin. “Might as well let someone go home.”
Forty miles south off the coast of Cuba, 1650
“Cap’n! It’s the Crusader!” the lookout called.
Captain Jack ‘Dog’ Wesley picked up his looking glass and pointed it in the direction the lookout pointed to. He smiled slightly as the wind picked up and sure enough, it was Captain Briggs’ ship. “Well, well…” he muttered. “It looks like old John has done well for himself. And with the way he’s sailing he’s caring a full cargo.” He looked once more. “Hard starboard, Mr. James! Let’s see if we can help old John out.”
Wesley tromped down the stairs to the main deck. The crew was working hard as the ship turned. Dressed in dirty black breeches, black vest and boots he was as fit as ever and he looked it. Only dirty. The ship was spotless, his crew was not. He didn’t care. Dog had what he wanted.
His was a name that terrorized the ports in the islands and on the coast of America. And when the Mongrel came into port it was treated with respect. And it was deserved. He fought dirty, played rough, and he always won. And he didn’t like Captain John Briggs. He gave pirating a bad name.
“Captain! Another ship!” one of the crew called out from high in the main mast.
Deacon and Briggs both looked. “God damn.” Briggs hissed. He didn’t need a looking glass. The Mongrel was that recognizable. It was big and black. Even the sails were black. He only had this trip through the islands an then they were off to Africa. And now Dog Wesley had found him.
“He’s turning to chase us, Captain,” Deacon said.
Briggs nodded. “We’ll make a run for Cuba.”
Deacon looked down to see Riley at the railing next to them watching the ship come. He grabbed her ear and she yelped in surprise. “Get your ass down below, Riley! I see a hair of your head come out and I’ll hand you over to Dog myself!” He gave her a shove and off she went. But not before she took another look.
Wesley laughed as he watched the Crusader go to full sails. No one could out run his ship. Even with it’s size it was fast. Especially since the cargo hold was pretty much empty. He looked to his crew. The cannons were being primed and the muskets and pistols loaded. “Let’s make it before Havana, men!” He yelled out. “I want to watch that damn ship sink!”
A roar of cheering went up and he joined in.
Dog watched with a smirk as the Mongrel slowly pulled along side. Muskets roared as they shot at each other. Grappling hooks were slung from the Mongrel’s side and the ships scraped together as they sailed closer to the Cuban coastline.
Riley peered carefully out of the hold’s door. Men were swinging over onto her ship. Swords flashed and she watched as the men she grew up around die. It wasn’t fair. She could fight just like any of them! Deacon always made her stay in the hold. And she wasn’t given a sword. She had a knife. But that wasn’t really for fighting either. She slammed the door shut as two men fought nearby. There was a thud on the door and then the noise was gone. Slowly Riley opened the door and found a crew mate stuck held against the door with a sword sticking out of his chest. The fighting had moved to the upper deck where the captain and the man in black were.
Riley slid out of the hold and tried to pull the sword out of the dead man’s body. It wouldn’t budge. She put her foot on the corpse and pulled with all her might on the handle. It popped loose and threw her to the deck.
Riley slid in the blood as she stood up. She was not happy. It had taken her the better part of the day to swab the deck and she’d be damned if she wasn’t going to get to make the mess! Riley felt the anger come as she spotted the closest enemy. He was facing away from her. Pointing her sword out she yelled a battle cry she had learned as a child and attacked.
Dog played with his quarry for a moment. “Briggs, you’re nothing but a pot bellied old sow now!” he stated with a smirk as he jabbed his long, serrated sword a little ways into his stomach as Briggs tried to defend himself. Dog was home free now that Deacon Priest was out of the way. He had taken his arm off with his heavy sword and knocked him out when he came on board. The yell of a savage caught his attention as he looked down onto the main deck.
A small crewman with long dark hair cut and slashed his way through his men. He was almost as tall as most of the men but skinny. Dog had to admit it was a fine display of swordsmanship for one so young. The young man’s sword sliced open a man’s gut before he looked up and the two locked eyes. They were the bluest eyes he had ever seen. He blinked as he realized it wasn’t a young man but an older girl. The rage in her eyes showed that the only thing that would stop her was death or winning the battle.
With ease Dog slit Briggs’ throat and grabbed a mast line and leaped over the side to meet the young terror of the doomed ship. He landed in front of her and she didn’t even blink as she swung her sword at him. He deflected it and smiled. “You got fire in ya, blue eyes.”
The eyes went flat with rage as he deflected each blow. Finally, he caught her sword with his and flicked his wrist and she lost it. “You’re damn good,” Dog said as he set the tip of his sword in the deck and leaned on it as the fighting began to wear down as most of the crew of the Crusader was captured or killed. “But you’re not good enough,” he said with a laugh. The blue eyes narrowed as her fists balled up. Dog’s lip curled at the thought of an unarmed girl taking him on. “I think I might take you on my own ship. You’d be a good fighter in my crew.”
The blue eyes got their first light of curiosity. “Bet old Briggs didn’t let you do that, did he?” He saw the look on her face and knew it was true. Dog leaned forward and looked her straight in the eye. “I’ll teach you to be the best damn first mate on the open seas.”
She stared at him for a moment. “No,” was her simple reply.
Dog leaned back a little surprised. “No?” He looked thoughtful and then he frowned. “NO!?” He stared at her incredulously. “Why the hell not?!”
“I want to be the best damn captain on the open seas,” she replied seriously.
Dog licked his lips as he thought about this. “Then you would have to kill me.”
She nodded. “Yes, sir. If that’s what it takes.”
He laughed at the thought of the girl taking him on. He backhanded her so fast she didn’t even see it coming. Blood trickled down from her split lip and the force of the blow almost knocked her to the ground. “Let me teach you your first lesson then, blue eyes,” he growled playfully as he lifted his sword and swung at her. She jumped back out of the way. The blade missed her chest by a hair.
“Don’t ever tell your enemy what you plan to do!” He swung again and she backed away to avoid the sharp blade, tripping over a couple of bodies.
“Keep the gold and the women until you can spend them both!” Dog slammed the blade down and she rolled away and quickly got to her feet backing up even farther.
“Don’t ever let your crew second guess you!” He swung deep this time and caught her cheek with the tip of his blade, giving her a thin slash. She staggered back landing against the railing as she wiped the blood from her face.
He came up with the blade pointed right at her face and stared her down with a look of pity and contempt. “And never let your enemy live!”
Dog planted his heavy boot on her chest and pushed her overboard. He watched the look of surprise on her face as she fell and smiled when he heard the splash. “Or sell them to the nearest slave trader,” he mostly said to himself. He nodded to a few crewmen. “Pull her out and chain her with the rest of them.”
“Aye Captain!” they replied.
Riley felt the cold water wash over her when she hit the water. And the salt of the sea stung her wounds. Holding her breath deep in her lungs Riley swam deeper. She made her way to the side of the Mongrel and slowly came up and took a much needed breath as she wiped the water from her eyes. She heard call that she couldn’t be found and the search for her ended.
She watched as dead bodies were dumped overboard knowing that the human chum would be a signal to the sea life in the area. And that included sharks and other predators. She’d have to do something soon or join the men of her ship anyway as a free meal. The sun was starting to set as Riley looked to the fading coastline of Cuba and with a quiet kick set off in a strong, steady stroke.
Island off the Serpents Fang Reef, 1654
Kelaku watched from the edge of the coast as his friend popped up out of the water. Nico. That’s what he’d always called her. For as long as he could remember. And that had been many moons ago.
The skinny, short boy looked up to where Nico’s mother sat with the pale skinned elder. ‘Konell’, or something like that. He could never get his tongue around the word. Nico’s mother was always watching out for his pale skinned friend. Usually to scold her for baring her skin. Kelaku didn’t understand her mother. His mother never worried about his going around with nothing on. Maybe a little more now since he was an adult but she really didn’t have a say in it anymore. He was part of the men’s group now. But Nico’s mother was shocked at seeing her petite, but strong daughter out swimming with the other kids her age with nothing on.
So here he was, watching out for Nico so she could go swimming without her mother getting angry. He shook his head. At least she had passed the rite of adulthood. Her mother didn’t want her to do it. And he remembered the arguing between the two. Finally within reason Nico’s mother had relented. Or at least he thought she had. They had argued in French. He knew a word or two, but he enjoyed listening to Nico talk in the soothing language rather than learn it himself. He knew some English. Nico’s mother had taught whomever wanted to listen as she taught Nico.
Kelaku motioned to his friend when she held up her catch of two nice pula fish. He grinned, letting his white smile shine from his dark skin. Easily Nico swam back to the beach and watched carefully as she crept out of the water dripping it everywhere. Kelaku picked up her discarded skirt and top and the two headed down the coast and up a slight hill overlooking the clear blue waters.
“Do you think she saw us?” he asked as Nico wiped as much of the water off from her lean body as she could.
Nico snorted as she ran her fingers through her long, pale red hair. There was more blond in it than red now, from the sun’s bleaching. “If she had we would have heard her. Or she’d send the Colonel to bring me back.”
Quickly she wrapped on her short leather skirt that barely covered her hips and the tops of her thighs, leaving nice legs to admire. Kelaku looked up at her with a respectful eye and made a shape of a curvy woman with his hands. Nico stopped midway of putting on her top only to look down at herself. “I am not!”
Kelaku laughed as she blushed and put on her top. It was leather and reed and it just covered her growing front. At fourteen she was getting a good start on becoming a woman. “Bayani thinks differently.”
Nico snorted. “Bayani thinks that about all the women around his age.” She knelt down next to her friend and as he set up tinder, she cleaned her catch. Kelaku brought out his flint and striker and soon had a small fire started. It wasn’t long before the two laid back in the sun as their dinner cooked on a spit over the open fire.
“Who would you mate with, Nico?” Kelaku asked after they had stared at the clouds and tried to guess what they most looked like. “Elder Haimi is going to talk to your mother about it soon.”
Nico rolled her eyes. “After Huyana mated… She wasn’t happy about the idea of me mating so young.”
Kelaku looked her way. “You are an adult.”
Nico shrugged. “She doesn’t think so.”
“Why don’t you move in with the other unmated women? That would show her that you are,” he said seriously.
Nico sighed. “She’s all I have left.” She looked at him. “I barely remember my father. I don’t want to lose her too.”
Kelaku nodded. He remembered the pyre for her father. Nico’s mother didn’t cry as she held her sobbing daughter. At least not that he remembered. Her mother never seemed the same after that. Both of his parents were still living. And he had plenty of siblings around. Nico was her mother’s only one. Even after some of the men had offered to mate with her. This was why the Elders gave her so much room with Nico’s welfare.
“Then you will be as lonely as her too,” he said sagely.
Nico glared at her friend briefly. “No.”
A chuckle came from Kelaku. “No?” He chuckled some more. “What do you plan to do, Nico? Have a sailor come and take you away?”
Nico backhanded his stomach hard from where she laid and he oofed in surprise and clutched at the body part. “Shut up, Kelu.”
Kelaku rolled up onto his stomach and rested up on his elbows to look down at his friend. “Why don’t you tell your mama that you like Maylea more than Bayani.” Nico glanced at him and slowly her tan skin flushed red. Kelaku smiled. “I don’t blame you, Nico. I like her too.”
Nico let out a deep breath as Kelaku rolled back onto his back. “I didn’t think you noticed.”
Kelaku shrugged. “You are my best friend, Nico. I notice what you notice.” He felt a soft hand on his arm and he looked over at Nico.
“I couldn’t ask for a better one,” she said sincerely.
He smiled at her. She smiled back and sat up to turn their fish over. Kelaku sat up a moment later. “So what are you going to do?”
Nico shrugged. “I don’t know.”
He looked at her face to see she was sad and confused at the same time. “Why don’t you ask her?”
Nico’s eyes went wide as she looked to her friend. “I can’t ask my mother about that!”
Kelaku smiled. “Not her. HER.” He motioned with a nod of his head to a dark headed young woman down in the small beach opening. Maylea was beautiful. Nico had had a crush on her for a long time. She itched to run her fingers through the long black locks of hair. But she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
Nico shook her head. “No.”
Kelaku chuckled and she whacked him again. “Why not?”
“Shut up, Kelu,” she warned him.
He shook his head. “Are the fish done yet?”
Nico peeled back a small layer of skin to see that the meat was white. She nodded and the two set into their lunch.
Kelaku looked up from where he watched as Nico tried to avoid watching Maylea when a shout came from down below.
Nico stood up and he joined her as they saw a large ship come sailing towards them. Both of them shook their heads. The reef would eat their ship before they ever made it to shore. It was only shortly after when another shout came up. This time from the Colonel. Nico and Kelaku looked at each other then stamped out their small fire and ran down to the beach to see what was going on.
“Pirates!” Marc exclaimed.
Haimi shook his head and pointed to the reef. “It will stop the ship.”
The Colonel sighed angrily. The tribe didn’t understand. Only he and Liana and the men from their ship looked concerned. As far as the natives were interested, the pirates were more white men like Marc and the others.
Nico watched from her mother’s side as the words were exchanged. The Colonel had told stories about pirates to her at bedtime. She didn’t really think they were real. But she saw the ship and the flag with the skull and crossbones that the Colonel had called the jolly roger. And she had never known the Colonel to lie to her before. She looked up to her mother and saw the worry and fear in her eyes. They were serious. The pirates really did what the Colonel had told her they did. Killing, stealing, rape, destruction. Slowly it dawned on her that there was evil in the world. She didn’t like that feeling.
Gently she reached out and touch Haimi’s hand. The elder looked to the young woman. She pointed to herself and the other white skinned islanders. “Arawak,” she said simply. He smiled. They were of the Arawak and he was glad they had become them as well. She pointed out to the ship. “Carib.”
That got everyone’s attention. At least the older ones anyway. They were a broken off segment that had run from a Carib attack on the large island to the south of them many years ago. Nico had heard the story many times and she knew they would take that seriously.
The Colonel smiled at the bright young woman then turned to the elder. “We need to get off the beach.” he pointed inland. “At least until they leave.”
Haimi frowned at this. “They will be crushed on the fang of the serpents.”
“What if they aren’t?” Marc responded. “It won’t hurt us to be prepared.”
Haimi looked between the white skinned people of his tribe and the other elders. Slowly he nodded. “For now.”
Nico looked back as they hiked inland almost single file. They had only taken their weapons and a few other items. But everything else had been left behind. She had her hunting knife made from a sharp section of hard stone. She was careful to make sure it stayed sharp since she used it for just about everything.
Most of the women had gone on ahead as the men stayed back to watch the ship’s progress. Kelaku strode beside her and her mother was in front of her with one of Malami’s children in her arms.
Nico looked about as they moved inward. It was rare to come in so deep. The brush was thick and the dense trees overhead made the sky almost invisible. If you didn’t know your way around you could easily get lost. Mostly only experienced hunters and gathers came in for animals or fruits. Not to mention the variety of snakes that slithered through the trees. She had learned early on not to touch certain things. And not to go anywhere near snakes if she could.
Kelaku nudged her shoulder and she looked to where he nodded his head. High up in the trees was a boa constrictor. It was massive in size and could easily eat a child. Nico swallowed in reflex to the sight if it. She had seen lots of other snakes. Bright colorful ones but none were as big as that.
The leaders of the group stopped in a small surrounding where the trees opened into a space with a narrow stream nearby. The noise of talking stopped when the sound of a crack in the air rang across the sky. Liana held her daughter close as the others in the group looked to her. She knew the sound. “Gunfire,” she said softly so that the few around her could hear as she buried her face in Nico’s soft hair. “They’ve found a way to shore.”
Island off the Serpents Fang Reef, 1654
Marc watched in awe and horror as the ship kept it’s distance from the shore. He gripped Haimi’s shoulder as they lowered longboats into the water. “Let’s go.”
Haimi shook his head. “There are very few of them, Konell.”
He looked at the elder. “They’ll kill you.”
Haimi smiled. “A spear cannot reach that far.”
Marc shut his eyes in frustration. “No, but a musket rifle can.” Haimi looked at him and Marc made the motion of bringing the weapon up to his shoulder and pulled the imaginary trigger. “Boom.” he said seriously as he clasped his hands over his chest and made a motion like he was dying.
“Boom,” Haimi replied skeptically as did some of the younger men. The elder stoically thrust out his chin in the ‘let them come anyway’ pose.
The Colonel swore in French for a moment then turned back to his friend. “You can’t stand up against them.”
Haimi frowned. “We aren’t cowards.”
Marc shook his head. “I’m not saying that. But this time it’s better to leave it for another day.”
Haimi looked between his friend and the men in the longboats coming to the shore. The outcropping they stood on was in perfect view of the intruders progress. But it also made them a target. Slowly Haimi nodded. “We will watch them from the cover of the trees.”
Marc gave himself an internal sigh of relief. “Then we better…”
He was cut off as a shot rang out from a distance away. Instinctively he ducked. He glanced up at the natives that watched between him and the head elder. Marc looked to see Haimi staring at his chest. It was bright red with blood and a gaping hole that showed the entrance of the large iron ball from the rifle shot by the pirates.
The Colonel yelled at the rest of them to get down. But it did little good. The group brandished their weapons with a cry of outrage as Haimi collapsed onto his knees as he clutched his chest breathing the last breaths of his life. The two men watched as the men swarmed down the hillside onto the beach as the sound of shots rang out in the air.
Haimi looked to the beginning of the destruction of his tribe. He clenched Marc’s arm hard. “Protect them,” he pleaded.
Marc nodded slowly as blood dribbled from Haimi’s mouth and the man slumped to the ground. “As best I can,” he whispered as he took one more look as the pirates climbed out of their longboats and brandished sword and flintlock pistols. It was time to save what he could of his makeshift family. He headed inland.
His escape didn’t go unnoticed as a shot came close nicking a tree nearby and spraying him with wood pulp.
For a time the group could hear the sounds of gunfire and lesser noises such as metal clanging. Liana watched the surrounding area with fear from where she sat. She controlled it though. Learning through her younger years that one of a woman’s best weapons in the outside world was a calm face. And in the courts of the King they were priceless.
The stranded Marchioness looked down at her young daughter in her arms. She kissed the top of her head and held her close. Ever since the noise had started Nicola’s fierce pride in being strong and independent had left her. She couldn’t blame her. She felt the same way inside too.
Now she worried about Marc. The Colonel had been a part of her lifeline since Jean had died so many years ago. They talked about France and Europe and what most likely was happening within the nobility. She was surprised to find that he wasn’t a commoner by birth. His mother had been a young daughter of a Lord without much standing. The one thing that kept her from following her husband into the next life was her only child. Liana could still hear her mother’s disapproving tone when it was announced the small family was heading for Trinidad. Nicola wasn’t even two yet and she herself wasn’t sure about going.
She did have to give Jean credit. He swore to her when Nicola was born that she wouldn’t be just another Marchioness. She would be special. Liana rocked her child a little when she shivered as the sounds got louder. He was right, no French Marchioness will ever be like her.
Blinking, she woke out of her reverie. Closer… the sounds were closer! She saw that a few of the others noticed this too and she sat up straighter with Nicola looking around.
Her fears came to reality as Marc broke through the brush in a run. “Go!” he yelled as he ran for Nicola and Liana. “They’re right behind me!” He easily swung Nicola up into his arms letting the adrenaline help with the petite girl’s weight as he slung her over a shoulder and Liana stood up. “Into the trees! Hide!” he commanded as he herded Liana in front of him into the forests.
Two days later….
Nico watched from where she was perched up in the branches of a tree down at the beach below. The young woman’s views on life had changed drastically in the past few days. The Colonel had gotten both her and her mother and a few others away from the pirates as they searched for the inhabitants. For the first time in her life Nico felt something she never had before.
From her treetop lookout she saw all ages being dragged to the longboats in chains. There were dead bodies of the men that initially fought when they came ashore scattered about the beach that was once their home. Nico felt queasy when she saw Maylea was one of the young women among the group. She felt the anger for the men well up inside her.
She looked down to see Kelaku standing at the bottom of the tree. “What?” She had been grateful her friend had been one to follow along with them into hiding. But at the moment she didn’t want him to be around. She wanted to stay mad.
“Your mama sent me. Come on,” he whispered.
Nico frowned but she slid out of the tree quietly. Her mother had vetoed any outings whatsoever since the pirates came, and even now she shouldn’t be here. Kelaku started to walk away. “Don’t you want to see?” she asked as she started to catch up with him.
He shook his head. Kelaku had sobered over the passed few days too. He had only found a younger brother and an older sister out of his family. His father and an older brother had died in the first fight, and the others were missing or captured by the pirates. “Anger won’t get me anywhere, Nico.”
Nico caught his arm. “But it’s your family, Kelu.”
Brown eyes caught her green ones. “Do I have a choice in their fate?” his voice cracked as he shook his arm free and continued on. “If I could I would fight for them.”
Nico watched his back for a moment then followed on. He was right. All they could do was wait for the pirates to leave and get on with their lives. What little there was left of it.
The following morning Nico watched from her perch in the trees. All her extended family that had been caught were out of view on the ship. Now she watched with curiosity as five of the men drug a large chest off a longboat. A huge man wearing a long red coat and shiny black boots watched from the shore as they drug it along.
The huge man gave the orders to the men. The captain, Nico glared with disgust. The Colonel had talked about what when on, on a ship. The captain was the man in charge of everything. And this man seemed to be the one in charge. He had a long black beard that covered his chest and his face looked wrinkled and old.
Nico looked back to see that Kelaku or the others hadn’t followed her so early to watch. So she watched the group as they headed up into the hills. For hours the small group trudged along. The men carrying the chest groaned and complained while the captain said nothing but prodded them to move along.
Nico watched as the captain marked a paper in his hand with some kind of black liquid. Finally, aways from the shore and high in the hills where there was nothing around, the men set the chest down and pulled out small shovels and began to dig.
She was stumped. Nico watched with a furrowed brow as they buried the chest. Was it so old that it had gone bad? And now they were burying it to get rid of the smell? She scratched her chin as the men finished their job and looked to the captain. He nodded and the group started to head back as the captain pulled out the two pistols at his sides and shot two of the men at point blank range killing them instantly.
Nico jumped at the loud noise and the violence of the brutal murders. The remaining men stood stunned as the captain dropped the pistols and pulled out his sword. With a speed Nico couldn’t believe the captain cut down the men before they could get away. Picking up his pistols and the shovels the captain headed back to the shore without a concern about what he just did.
Nico sat in the forest looking at the dead men for a long time in shock. Slowly she got up and headed back to her mother but not before she relieved herself of her breakfast first.
It wasn’t much later when the last longboat docked at the ship and it set sail away from the island and out to sea. Over the next few days the islanders that remained came out of hiding. Over all there were twenty people left. The pirates had killed or taken over a hundred lives. They had decided that the Colonel was now the elder of the tribe.
With his first decision Marc moved the group off the beach and back inland. Not that anyone minded. They left the beach the way it was as a reminder of the pirates and the cruelty of the outside world.
Caribbean Sea, some distance from Cuba, 1656
Deacon Priest held on with his one hand as the ship he was in rocked hard again. Dirty, malnourished, and tired, the ex first mate of the Crusader wished for the umpteenth time that he was dead. He had woken up chained in the hold of the Crusader. Dog had taken great joy in cauterizing his wound with a hot iron when he woke up. There was some of the remaining crew in the hold with him. The captain was dead from what the others told him. And Riley had been pushed overboard and no one had found her.
Dog took him and the others to the slave ports in Cuba. No one wanted the one armed man but the English government. So he had sat in a prison cell for six years until just a week ago when an English ship came to take him and others like him back to the Virginia to be executed for pirating against the crown.
Now, not even half way to the colonies and someone was attacking the ship he was on. A heavy boom sounded close and he crouched halfway down expecting a cannonball to come straight into the hold. One had so far, but towards the middle of the ship. Not near the prow where as a prize prisoner for the governor of Virginia he was kept.
Deacon almost tipped over as the ship lurched hard to the starboard side when the scraping of wood on wood screamed through the hold. Then he heard the yells and he almost smiled.
Well, if he had to go one way this was better than on the docks of Port Charles. He and the others in the hold listened as swords clashed and men died just outside the hold. With those noises and the cannons firing he almost felt more relaxed where he was than back in the quiet of the prison. The ship keeled once more then the cannons went silent. They listened as a cheer went up. One side had won the battle. Either way he didn’t see a way out of this alive.
The door to the hold opened and a young man built like a tree trunk with a bloody sword in his hand stood in the doorway. “Ahright the lot of you! Time for a bit o’sunshine while tha cap’n cleans ship!”
Deacon and the other prisoners were led out and sat roughly down by the main mast. He looked over to see a large English galleon hooked up to the ship he was on. The people about worked like crazy tying up the new prisoners that lost the fight. The pirates had won again.
Bowing his head to stare at his dirty feet, Deacon had to smile. There were possibilities now. He looked up into the bright sunlight as heavy boots strode across the deck and the noise about them came to a halt. Deacon squinted, blinking furiously to see the figure only to have their face hidden in the shadows. Long black hair streamed out in the light wind. The figure was lean, tall and imposing. And with the sword strapped at their side and the long daggers in each knee high black boot showed that this wasn’t a person to mess with.
“Max,” the figure said firmly.
Deacon blinked harder when he heard the voice. It was a woman. A firm, soft and smoky voice with an air of confidence. The young man that had let them out came up. “Yes, Cap’n Hawke?”
“Find out if the rest of these men would like to join my crew. If not, stick them with the rest of the prisoners.” She nodded to Deacon. “Leave him to me.”
Max nodded briskly and set about to his task.
Deacon was confused. He had never heard of a woman captain by the name of Hawke.
“How long have you been in prison?” Captain Hawke asked.
Deacon looked up at her, still unable to see her face. “Six years, ma’am.”
He heard a soft chuckle and could tell by it there was a smile on her face. “Ma’am.” She crouched down and he looked at the imposing blue eyes and slim, beautiful features of a grown woman. “I believe your choice of name for me was wildcat.”
Deacon shook his head as his eyebrows crept up his forehead. “Riley…” he muttered.
“Damn straight,” she said as she stood back up. “Looks like the tables have turned, Deacon. I have my own ship. My own crew. A name on the seas.” She looked down at him. “And you’re just a slave.” Riley started to walk back towards her ship.
“Greenpoole!” she called out.
“Yes Captain?” a man yelled back.
“Have my guest taken care of and stick him in the hold!” she said with what Deacon believed was mirth.
He watched the lithe figure with awe as a man helped him up.
Riley nodded slightly to her men as she strode towards the door that led to the lower decks. Her gut eased as she left her former caretaker in her men’s hands. She wasn’t expecting that. Not Deacon. She swore he and the others on the Crusader were long dead after Dog had taken them away. She was stopped by a man that was a little larger than her and at one time had been handsome. But now he was missing an eye and deep scars riddled his face. Riley remembered stitching each one up individually. It was the day they first met. Langdon had been left for dead. “Langdon…” she said as she waited for news from her first mate.
He nodded slightly with an impish grin. “Two women on board. One’s quite a looker. Seems she’s a big ta do back in the colonies. Got the money and the husband. The other’s the maid. Both of them scared witless.” He leaned back against the wall next to the door. “I put the ta do in your cabin.”
Riley rolled her eyes. “Why do I get the whiny ones?”
Langdon grinned. “Can’t see the slap coming from the left. You know that.”
Riley chuckled softly and patted his shoulder. Langdon Thornley was the only one where she showed any humor that wasn’t malicious, only because he had been with her since she straggled her way into Havana and started to make a name for herself. They found when they worked together that they made a great pair in pirating. But Langdon didn’t have Riley’s drive or her fierceness. What she said she’d do, she’d do.
She headed down as he saw to the rest of the chaos around them. Riley heard wailing long before she reached her cabin. “Shit,” she muttered to herself. She was going to keelhaul Langdon if he did that again. Give her a maid anytime, at least they were sensible. But then he knew that she loved a challenge.
Opening the door the wailing stopped to a whimper. Riley paid no attention to the woman that sat primly on the side of her bed with tears streaking down the porcelain cheeks. Walking over to a sideboard she poured herself a glass of water and turned to lean against the edge of the sideboard and watch the woman as she slowly drank.
The woman looked confused. “You’re the captain?”
Riley set down her glass and leaned back, folding her arms over her loose white cotton shirt. “And if I am?” she replied with no tone of concern in her voice.
The woman swallowed as she looked into the dead eyes. “What do you want? Ransom? My husband he has money…” her fingers shook as she wrenched the small embroidered handkerchief in her tapered fingers.
“And if I don’t?” Riley asked.
The woman blinked. “All pirates want money. It’s what you do.”
Riley looked away from a moment and nodded. “Do you have any money on you?”
“No…. those nasty men.” the woman started until she remembered who she was talking to. “I don’t have anything. But my husband…”
“Has money,” Riley finished for her. “You said.” Riley stood up and moved to sit behind her desk. She relaxed back in her seat and crossed her long shapely legs that showed well in the form fitting black pants and high boots. “And if you don’t have any. And I don’t want any… from you. What do you think I want?” she asked as she arched a graceful eyebrow and gave the woman a slow, long once over. She wasn’t displeased with what she saw, but there wasn’t much firmness on her anywhere. She had lived a life of ease.
The woman looked thoughtful for a moment at the look, then horror showed in her eyes. “No!”
Riley smirked as she watched the woman with amused eyes. She loved this game. Women that thought it was the most awful thing they had heard of, sang a different tune when she pulled into a port and let them go. One thing she didn’t do. Kill women and children. Having her way with the women until port… that was another story.
She picked up a small dagger and cleaned her blood encrusted fingernails as the woman struggled with the thought. “That’s immoral!” the woman exclaimed.
Riley shrugged, not even looking at her. “I’m a pirate. I’m not supposed to have morals.”
“So you’re going to rape me?”
Riley glanced at her with a small smile. “If that term makes you happy.”
The woman snorted a little huff out that Riley rolled her eyes at as she trimmed her rough nails. “What would you call it then?”
“More fun than letting you loose in the crew’s quarters,” Riley stated seriously.
Eyes locked for a moment then the woman sat back in defeat. “Fine,” she sighed. “Have your way with me. But I won’t like it.”
Riley stood up. “As far as I know I didn’t need your permission. I could just take you to a slave port on Cuba and sell you for a sizeable price.” She removed her sword belt and slid the daggers out of her boots and laid them on the table behind her seat.
She moved forward to stand in front of the woman. She reached around and took out the gold clasp in her hair and let the shaded brown hair fall down around her shoulders. Riley crouched down so that they were face to face. Gently, strong fingers lightly traced over soft lips. “I’m going to show you what you’ve been missing.”
Leaning forward she replaced her fingers with her lips. Overwhelming the lady she slid a hand beneath her thigh and leaned forward to encourage her to lay back on the bed. The woman pushed against her shoulders as Riley deepened the kiss but all she felt was hard muscle beneath the thick shirt. The tall woman couldn’t be moved. Involuntarily she groaned as the captain slid her hand beneath her skirt to find a smooth leg. The strong fingers moved to touch her center and she gasped allowing Riley to kiss deeper.
Riley was gentle as she brought the woman. She kissed the smooth neck as she felt the heat in herself rise. She looked to the white sheets of her bed and envisioned what she dreamt every time she was in this position. It was another woman beneath her. A very special one she hadn’t met yet. But when she did, she wasn’t letting her off in any port. And her days seducing her captives would be over.
Langdon and two other crewmen passed by the captain’s quarters to hear a woman cry out with release and the men chuckled. The captain was known for her conquests, in and out of bed. They stopped as they went into the lower sections of the ship and Langdon spotted Greenpoole coming out of the galley. “What of that man the captain sent over here with you?”
Greenpoole nodded slightly as he cleaned off his knives. He was the ship’s surgeon and a good one at that. He had been run out of England four years ago for enjoying young men too much. And he had thought he could get away with it on Riley Hawke’s ship. Little did he know that the captain was only too happy to use her daggers to persuade him differently. Now he had little use for anyone other than making sure the crew was well cared for.
“He needs to eat. And bathe. And get some rest. But other than that, he’s fine.”
Langdon nodded. “Have Max keep an eye on him.”
Greenpoole nodded again as Langdon and his group passed by. “What’s she want with him?”
Langdon snorted. “Hell if I know. She’s never given a rats ass about a captive before.”
Greenpoole watched him turn the corner. “Not unless she could do something in private with them,” he said softly as he went back upstairs.
There were easy things Greenpoole had learned with his captain. He had been on her ship for a year. From the scuttlebutt about the place she had been a captain since she was seventeen and had spent most of her life on pirate ships. But unlike other captains he knew she was smart, fast and her senses were amazing. She could hear men whispering from across the deck and she could spot things that no human eye normally could. He watched her the first time he ever saw her fight in a battle. She was an extension of whatever weapon she had. That included herself. She fought barehanded against some huge men and won. But Greenpoole realized what she had over all of them. She had fire. At times he thought it would consume her in rage or fury. And he had never seen her smile, unless it was over one victory or another.
The crew respected her. Some in fear and others in awe. She had never led them wrong and she wasn’t afraid of anything. That made her dangerous. And he had been careful after that one time never to cross her again. She never said anything about it except right after he was coherent from waking up. ‘You’re lucky you have a second chance.’
That was it. She never apologized for anything. And a man that spit in her face was dead a second later. She was considered to be even more brutal that Dog Wesley.
Greenpoole shook his head as he headed for the hold. He opened the door to see the one armed man hungrily eating what was probably the most decent food he’d had in years. Fish oil covered his face as he popped the last piece of meat into his mouth and chewed, sighing with contentment. He had decimated two medium sized fish and a loaf of old bread in a short amount of time.
“So, how do you know Captain Hawke?” Greenpoole asked.
Deacon looked to the beady eyed man and set the metal plate with the remainder of the meal on it aside. “We were on a ship once. Sometime back.” He looked to the smaller man curiously. “I didn’t think an educated man would be on a pirate’s ship?”
Greenpoole shrugged. “I did a few things my mother wouldn’t be proud of and I was caught at it and sent as a slave over to the colonies. I was bought and sold and finally I ran away only to be caught as a stowaway on a pirate ship.” He leaned back against a barrel and stared at the man. “Little did I know then what I know now.”
Deacon looked surprised. The man was still haughty, but fearful of his place there. And it wasn’t respect that kept him with Riley. It was protection and more fear of being a lesser slave if she got tired of him. “I’m surprised she keeps you around.”
Greenpoole slowly smiled and held out his delicate hands. “I’ve cut open Duke’s with these hands. Captain Hawke knows talent when she sees it.”
Deacon nodded agreeing with him. “But you don’t respect her the way the other men do.”
Greenpoole snorted. “She knows that. I know that she knows that. I do my job and she doesn’t throw me to the sharks.”
“But she doesn’t trust you. That puts her in a bad position.” Deacon countered.
“I don’t trust anyone,” came a husky, firm voice from the doorway. The door was pushed open more and Riley showed herself. “You taught me that.” she said to Deacon. She looked to Greenpoole. “How is he?”
Greenpoole stood seeing the rock hard blue chips stare him down. “Food, rest and stay clean.”
She nodded and waved him away. “You can leave,” she said darkly. She pinned him with a look as he tried to scoot past her out the doorway. He shivered and the snooty attitude was completely gone. “I’d be careful, Greenpoole. Second chances can end quickly around here.”
He nodded and scurried off. Riley looked to the man left and she entered kicking the door shut with her boot. She took her time moving over to take the ex-surgeon’s seat on the barrel. Looking the man over she shook her head. “And here I thought I was going to be the one stuck in the hold forever.”
Deacon looked at the grown woman. She was only in her early twenties. Maybe not even that yet, but her eyes gave the look of a woman that had seen most everything. “You grew up nice, Riley.”
Riley shrugged as she relaxed back and folded her arms then her legs at the ankle. “Didn’t have much of a choice, did I? The growing up part anyway. The nice part… I don’t think so.”
Deacon noted the change. “What happened to you?”
Riley smiled briefly. “I swam to Cuba. Made my way to Havana and began to train myself to become the best damn pirate on the sea.”
“And have you?”
Riley raised an eyebrow a little. “It depends on who you talk to. Dog Wesley doesn’t think so. But then I don’t really give a damn what he thinks.”
“And how did you get this ship?”
Riley snorted in contempt. “I killed her captain for it. Changed her name and Captain Hawke was born.”
“I didn’t have a last name, if you remember correctly. Langdon was always put out with that. So the next man I killed I asked him what his name was before he died. Ethan Hawke… ugly man. Beautiful wife. I was sad to leave her behind,” she said without an ounce of sorrow in her voice.
Deacon looked at her seriously. “And what plans do you have for me?”
Riley looked thoughtfully at the ceiling for a moment. “Well, I could leave you in here. Langdon would probably say that’s good for my inner child. Whatever the hell that means. I could take you on to the next port and let you go.” She looked at him. “Or you could join me.”
Deacon blinked once at this. “You want a one armed old pirate that hasn’t seen a day of fighting in six years to join you?”
Riley shrugged as she stood. “If you don’t think you can handle it…”
Deacon stood up a little to face her. “I have more balls than you do, Riley. I always will.”
Riley snorted. “Then be careful where you put them, Deacon. Greenpoole found out the painful way where not too.” She moved to the door and looked back at him. The hardness was gone for just a moment. “I missed you too.”
Deacon looked at the door. She was gone. He could hear her confident stride as she left him to think about his future.
Riley returned to her quarters to find her new conquest right where she left her. Hands bound to a ring in the headboard and the woman very bare and highly embarrassed and excited. She shut her door and looked to the slightly plump figure on the bed. “Now tell me this isn’t the most fun you’ve ever had?”
The woman mumbled something around her silk gag that sounded half like a curse and half like a plea. Riley raised an eyebrow as she knelt on the edge of the bed and licked a delicate big toe. “Really? You don’t say.” She nibbled her way up the top of her foot as she crawled along on the bed to hang over her on all fours. The woman’s eyes went wide as Riley lowered herself and she moaned into the gag arching back as contact between her bare flesh and Riley’s mouth was made.
Deacon looked out to see the coast of Florida closing in fast. Spanish territory. Riley had spoken maybe a whole ten words to him since that first day. Weeks later, he was clean, well fed, in old clothes that to him were like new. And everyone kept a step clear from him once they realized who he was. Not that he was Deacon Priest, an ex-soldier and once great first mate of the Crusader. But the man that raised Riley. Even Greenpoole was short in words now. But he found Langdon as a talkative chap. Where Riley said nothing, Langdon made up for it. The only thing he didn’t find a joke in was talking bad about Riley.
She hadn’t asked him for an answer to her question. In fact, it almost seemed like she was avoiding him. She was up on deck every morning usually at the helm. He would watch her for a moment from the hold before she would look to him. She would give him a slight nod and turn the steering over to one of her crew and head up to the top deck to watch.
Now they were coming to shore and he could see the docks of the small town in the peninsula. He watched at the efficiency of the crew as the ship came into dock. ‘The Conqueror has landed.’ he thought to himself with a smile. He hadn’t been at all surprised when he learned what Riley named her ship.
“Something funny old man?” Langdon asked as he strode up to stand next to him.
Deacon turned to look at him. “Nothing much.”
Langdon nodded slowly. “So, you getting off here?”
The older man shrugged. “You want me to?”
Langdon mimicked the shrug. “That’s up to you, old man.” He looked at him fully. “She doesn’t want you to.”
A gray eyebrow raised up. “How do you know that?”
“She didn’t kick your ass overboard.”
Slowly the edges of Deacon’s lips curled. “And what would I be doing?”
“Beats the hell out of me, old man. I guess whatever she wants.”
Deacon glanced at him. “And you?”
Langdon curled one side of his lip up. “I personally think you’re a waste of space.” He looked at him. “But Riley respects you. Then so do I.”
“Nnnnoooooo!” the scream rang through the lower decks and across half the docks stopping their conversation. Langdon sighed. “You know, just once I wish she’d rough ‘em up a little.”
Deacon’s brow furrowed as the door to the lower decks opened. Two crewmates drug the ta do lady out of the doorway. “You can’t make me leave!” the woman screamed as she dug her heels in.
Deacon looked from the wild woman to Langdon. “She wants to stay?”
Langdon smirked. “They always do. Haven’t seen one yet that left this ship by her own will.”
Deacon blinked in surprise. “So she has a heart after all.”
Langdon snorted. “You think so?”
They watched as the woman was led off the boarding plank with the maid following behind. The maid glanced at Langdon and blushed but she left with a bag or two of their clothing. They set sail soon after to head up the coast to another town with a larger port. Riley showed up soon after and the entire crew cheered her until she glared at them and they went back to work. She came to stand in front of the two men.
“Nice job, Riley. What’s her name?” Langdon asked.
Riley’s brow furrowed. “Why should I care?”
Langdon gave Deacon a glance of ‘see’. “Are we headed up to Saint Joe’s?”
Riley nodded but looked to Deacon. “So, you’re staying.”
Deacon gave her a curious look. “I don’t have anything better to do.”
She looked past them into the waters then turned on her heel and left. Langdon smiled. “She still likes you.”
Deacon glanced at the younger man. “What did she do to that woman?”
Langdon laughed as he left the man at the side of the ship.
Island off the Serpents Fang Reef, 1656
Two years had past since most of Nico’s family had been taken away. The nights were more somber, but slowly bit by bit a little spark of life had come back into them. Younger people had to take on responsibilities that normally would have gone to older members of the tribe. Nico trapped and hunted, fished and gathered. The Colonel had begun to teach her how to use a staff since it was easy to use for more than just a weapon. That and Liana was bound and determined her daughter wasn’t going to kill anyone.
Nico stood high up in the hills to see out past the tree line to the coast. She missed the daily swimming and the carefree fishing and spit roasted fish on a lazy afternoon. The sixteen year old rested lightly on her staff and adjusted her heavy pack filled with fruits she had gathered as she gazed at the crystal blue ocean. She sighed once, then began to pick her way down the hillside back to home.
She was halfway down when she heard a faint noise back in the brush that sounded much different that the normal fair of the islands animal inhabitants. Using her staff to carefully bend back the thick green leaves she stepped off the path, cautious of where she went.
She heard the noise again. It sounded like a squeak. Or sort of like a squeak. But it wasn’t a happy sounding one regardless. With the tip of her staff she pushed back dense vines to see a nest. One little body was moving, two were still and they were joined by an intruder. Wrapped in thick constrictor coils, a full grown Ocelot was hanging lifeless.
It was rare to see the small cat. Easily three feet long, with a tail almost as long as it’s body with markings that her mama said looked like a small jaguar. Whatever that was. She had seen one occasionally, they had a pink nose and large translucent eyes. They were one of Nico’s favorite animals.
She watched with sad eyes as the giant, gentle boa lifted its head and with a flick of the tongue registered the human’s presence.
“How you eat it is beyond me,” Nico said softly as she guardedly kept the tip of her staff between her and the curious snake, hoping it wouldn’t try to strike at her. She looked down into the nest and slowly reached in with her free hand and scooped up the tiny cub. She glanced at the others and found they had died not to long ago. “This one’s a little too small for you anyway.”
Easing her way out, Nico let the vines drop back and she made her way back to the well worn path. She looked to her new charge and smiled as she headed home.
Liana looked to Nico’s latest interest that sat cradled in her lap, then to her daughter. Nicola had filled out nicely. She was a beautiful young woman and if they had been living in France it was certain the lady would have suitors. In what she wore though… Liana wasn’t so certain. Nico had kept her same kind of outfit like most other natives. Only for her mother’s sake she wore a top. Tanned skins and reed covered her chest and a little more for the most part. But her back was bare save a few straps to hold it in place. Her body was well defined and she was strong and happy. Liana didn’t think she could ask for more.
And trust her daughter to find something as interesting as a baby Ocelot to care for. Sitting next to her daughter she watched her try and feed him drops of coconut milk which the cub lapped up awkwardly. “Think you’ll get enough in him?”
Nico looked to her mother and smiled. “I’ll figure it out.”
Liana nodded and brushed back some of Nico’s stray blond hair. It had been a long time since she had seen it the light red of her childhood years. It was even cut short since the fire incident over a month ago and the long locks couldn’t be saved. She had to admit, her daughter looked older with it short. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. “So what are you going to do with him?” she asked as Nico concentrated on feeding it.
Nico looked at the cub curiously. “How do you know it’s a him?”
“I’m your mother, dear. I know everything,” she stated firmly.
Nico’s lips quirked in a disbelieving fashion for a moment. “Then why did Kelaku mate and leave me behind?”
Liana saw the sadness in her daughter’s eyes. Kelaku joined with a young woman to begin rebuilding the tribe. Now most of his time was spent with the elders since he too was considered one as well. “People grow up, love. That’s life.”
Nico’s jaw shifted to stubbornness. Liana winced since it reminded her of her late husband. He gave the exact same look when he was determined to stop the impossible. “Then I don’t want too.”
Liana smiled, then slowly chuckled and Nico had the grace to be slightly embarrassed at what she said. Liana leaned over and kissed her cheek. “You already have. You just need to find a husband.”
Nico sighed to herself as she fed her ward. She hadn’t ever told her mother about how she felt regarding sex and the same gender. Not that she had ever done something like that. She was one of the tribe and values like those her mother grew up with didn’t really exist. If you felt an attraction to someone that wasn’t joined and the feeling was mutual then there was no harm in enjoying a night or two with each other. Longer than that and becoming a couple was sort of expected.
Nico had never wanted to, maybe when she was younger and the pirates hadn’t come. She might have worked up the courage to talk to Maylea. But now it was too late for that. Two years and she had no idea where the young woman was, or what she was doing. The Colonel told her it was most likely that she had been sold into slavery. She hadn’t heard of such a thing until that time either. She was horrified to imagine that people were sold like animals to other people with money and power. All for their pleasure to do whatever they wished.
It was like a part of her died and she hadn’t really been attracted to anyone else. She liked being alone, but at the same time she wanted what seemed to come so easily to her best friend. Nico looked to the cub as it rolled up in a ball and slept now that it was full. She didn’t want just anyone, she wanted someone special. She thought Maylea was it. Maybe she was wrong.
Nico glanced at her mother. “I don’t think I want to, mama.”
Liana’s brow furrowed. “Does it have to do with the pirates coming?” she asked with a concerned voice.
Nico shrugged. “A little.” She darted another worried look at her and she squirmed a little where she sat. “I just….” She winced and shifted again. “Mama…”
Liana rested a hand on her daughter’s strong thigh. “It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me.”
Nico winced again and lightly bit her lip. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Liana smiled and leaned her forehead against her daughter’s. “What? That you like girls more than boys?” She felt Nicola stiffen and she sighed. “Did you think I didn’t notice? Maylea was a beautiful girl. I didn’t grow up that way. But I know I didn’t teach you that. It came on your own and I’m not going to try and change you or tell you it’s wrong.” She wrapped a loving arm about her still daughter as the flush of embarrassment crept up her cheeks.
“But I’m going to warn you, my love. Many people outside of our home here don’t believe in what you feel. And a day may come when you leave here. They could hurt you, even try and kill you for that. So be careful. And when you find that someone hold them close and cherish every moment you get with them.” Liana kissed her cheek. “I wish I had many more years with your father. But I remember the time that I did with joy.” She looked up to the cloudless sky. “I think he’s been watching over us for a long time.”
Nico looked up with her into the bright blue. “I wish I could remember him.” She let out a breath as she slowly began to relax from the fear that had coursed through her body. “Or more than just images that seem like a dream.”
Liana smiled and held her daughter close. “You would have wrapped him around your finger. Just like you do everyone else.”
They stayed that way for some time. Liana reached down with gentle fingers and stroked the soft, mottled fur of the Ocelot cub. “What are you going to name…” she peeked. “Her?”
Nico smiled faintly. “Aya.”
Liana nodded as she rested her cheek on the top of her daughter’s head. “I think that fits you more.”
Nico rolled her eyes. “Mama…”
Liana chuckled. “Beautiful one. I’m sure she will be as beautiful as her mistress.”
Nico shook her head. “I don’t want to own anything, mama. She’s going to be my friend. Not my pet.”
Liana nodded and hugged her lightly before she let her go. “Then I’m sure you will be best of friends.”
Spieghtsfield Harbor, Barbados 1657
Deacon Priest watched the surrounding area as the crew of the Conqueror was enjoying their stay at the pirate town. There were three other pirate ships docked at the harbor and the added confusion of more mercenaries made the melee loud. Deacon found during his three years on Riley’s ship that there was a vast difference between her ship and most other ships.
The Crusader had been more of a privateer ship where Briggs had been placed in charge. They had only became pirates when Briggs and the rest of the men liked the money more than following orders from higher ups in the government. They never really abused their prisoners and usually let them go.
Others, like Dog Wesley rarely left prisoners alive. Deacon still had nightmares about watching most of his crew being slaughtered for sport. He still wasn’t sure how he made it into the prisons.
Another thing that varied was that Riley ruled her ship. Other ships, the captain was elected by a majority vote of the crew. Not on the Conqueror. You wanted a shot at the Captaincy, then you fought her. Over the past few years, three that were new to her crew tried it. It wasn’t long before their corpses were thrown overboard. And Riley didn’t mind some of the cruel acts her crew inflicted on prisoners. But it was rare for many of them to be alive once the fighting was over. Bloodlust sang in Riley’s veins. He could see the thrill of battle in her eyes when she fought. And her crew followed right along behind her.
Deacon’s eyes glanced over at the woman in question. She had grown so much since he had seen her as a girl. She had a couple of scars on her, including the slight mar on her cheek that could only be seen at an angle in the light. She rarely drank more than she could handle and she found her indulgence was in the beautiful women in places like this. Even now a native woman with most of her chest spilling out of worn out dress, sat on her lap letting herself be fondled in front of everyone for a price so that she could live.
He sighed as he watched the crowds for any problems. He was still the young woman’s protector, even though she really didn’t need one. That was another thing that amazed him. Watching her fight. She was masterful with a cutlass and her aim with a pistol or rifle was true. No one could defeat Captain Hawke or her crew. And many merchants and kings had paid the price for it.
Riley listened to the rabble around her as she took a sip of ale from her mug and slid her hand up the thigh of the woman on her lap up to the juncture. She was beautiful for someone that looked a lot older than she probably was. Whores never had it easy. Riley was so hungry for soft flesh beneath her she was tempted to take her upstairs to a room. It had been too long since there had been any women on board ships she overtook.
She slid her fingers between folds and glanced up when the woman winced slightly. Damn it! She thought to herself as she probed for a second as the woman slid back into her mask of indifference. Riley felt the bump and slid her fingers out careful to wipe her fingers off on the hem of the woman’s skirt and not touch anything. The whore had syphilis, that was nothing new. Most of them did and she avoided them. But this one had looked healthy, she must have contracted it not too long ago.
Riley bit her lip at the loss of not getting what she wanted, again. She wasn’t stupid like most of the men. She watched herself. They took what they wanted and paid for it later with the disease. She worked too damn hard to get where she was to end up violently ill and dying from the damn thing. She looked around the area as she changed her venue to cup an overflowing breast and nibble on the dark flesh of the woman’s neck as she watched the crowds.
She caught Deacon’s eye and he nodded off to their left. Riley noticed what he saw. Captain Francis King of the Death’s Head was over in the center of the room living it up with his men. Personally Riley was surprised to see the pompous man in a low station place like this. She would have thought he’d weasel his way over on the other side of the small island where the rich English people fought for the island as their own.
Little did they know that ignorance was bliss. If they ever got the notion that pirates made a roost there it would be bloody hell to pay in one way or the other overrunning the small piece of land in the ocean.
Riley took notice in the captain’s disheveled appearance. King was a man that loved fine clothes, pretty boys, and gold. His shiny black boots were scuffed and his standard fine red coat was a little haggard. He was a demon swordsman, but he had begun to lose his edge. Riley had heard that a few years back that King had scored a massive load of Spanish gold doubloons off of a ship headed for Florida out in the Atlantic.
No one had seen this cache of currency anywhere. Even his own crew wasn’t talking about it. And it wasn’t out of loyalty. It was out of fear. Riley had decided she wanted it. Not just the gold itself. No… that was a sweet deal. But to get one up on the snooty captain would make it much more worth it. What made the thing more interesting was that Dog Wesley had been hounding King for it. He had caught a few of King’s crew and tortured them to death, only to find that King was the sole person that knew the location of the gold.
Riley watched curiously as King staggered to his feet and pushed his way through the crowd up the stairs with four of his men following. Two men stood at the end of the stairs and two outside the door he went into.
Riley waited a good while as she finished her drink and refusing more with a glare to the serving girl before wrapping an arm about the waist of the woman on her lap. She stood abruptly and thunked her mug down on the table making a lot of the patrons around her look up. She glared as she firmly led the woman in her arm to the stairs. King’s men watched as the pair past them and went into a room a ways down the hall.
Entering, Riley shut the door and pressed the woman onto the bed and gave her a firm look that the woman swallowed at. “Don’t move and make it sound like you’re enjoying yourself,” she muttered softly.
Riley stood up and turned to see Max in the shadows. “Did you get it ready?”
Max nodded. He was a few years older than Riley, but he looked mean. He was built like a tree trunk with thick corded muscles beneath his leather vest and various tattoos laced over tanned skin. He was short like a tree trunk too, but many had made the mistake that he was some kind of dumb freak and they ended up dead. Riley had seen past that and Max had been her loyal quartermaster since. “It’s up. But I don’ wanna hav’ ta come see ya wif’ your guts spilled all over if’n he catches ya off.”
Riley glared and Max leered at the woman on the bed. “Can I play wif’ her while you’re gone?”
“No. I need you to watch my back, stupid.” She turned back to the whore. “You tell anyone about this and I’ll make you live to regret it, understand?”
The woman nodded vigorously. Riley looked to Max who nodded that he’d keep an eye on her. Stepping out onto the small balcony, Riley saw the rope to the grappling hook that Max had secured through the early evening to a section of the roof. She looked to her right and saw candlelight two windows down.
Captain King’s room.
Looking down and around on the cobblestone streets below she saw it wasn’t that busy and that most people had gone off drinking. Pulling on a pair of soft, thin kid leather gloves Riley looked back in at the woman. “If you don’t start making some noise NOW, I’m going to let him have you!” she hissed.
The woman looked startled and Max grinned showing off his yellow teeth. The woman started to make noises like she was supposed to and Max grinned wider. Riley shook her head as she grabbed the rope and stepped up onto the small ledge. “Lech,” she said to Max right before she swung off.
Max frowned. “I ain’t no leech,” he said to the air where Riley had been. “The’ taste good cooked though.”
Riley swung silently over to the next balcony and peered in. It was silent and she took it no one was home, or they were sleeping. She hopped over to the other side of the balcony and jumped up a little, grabbing on high as she swung to keep herself level with the next balcony so she could land quietly.
With a light step she caught the edge of King’s balcony railing and hung back staying out of sight. Slowly she leaned forward and glanced in. Her lip curled up on one side as all her worries receded and that spark of rage began to flicker inside her. It helped as she watched King have his way with a few boys that were sold by the hour.
King belched out a drunken stupor, groaning as Riley slipped in behind the curtains and quietly pulled out a long dagger and held the point down curling her strong grip about the hilt. She crept forward out of his view. One of the boys saw her and she gave him a look to be silent if he wanted to get out of here. The dagger helped her position too. The boy did nothing but watch. Riley saw King’s blade to one side of him and she watched carefully as she moved closer.
One of the other boys saw her and gasped. King heard it and knocked the last boy off him as he grabbed his sword and struggled to get his portly, inebriated body up off the smelly bed.
Riley leaped forward and batted the larger blade away with a swift kick. King was almost thrown back with the force of it. “Goddamnit, Hawke!” he hissed, as he formed the words drool ran down his face.
There was a knock at the door and Riley grabbed his throat and braced her boot hard on top of his hand with the sword in it. She pressed her own sharp blade into his throat. “I’d be careful what you say if you want to see your ship again.”
King looked at the ice blue eyes and he knew she’d do it. “It’s alright!” he called out.
“Aye, sir!” came the reply.
“You want the gold, don’t you?” he said with a smile. “You all want what’s mine,” he spat out.
Riley could see that his secret had taken a toll on his mind. He wasn’t the same man she had seen just a few years ago. “That’s right, Francis. Why don’t you just tell me where it is,” she encouraged.
He snorted out a laugh. “Can’t!” he shushed himself as he remember to keep quiet. “I don’t remember!” He laughed harder this time. Even with her blade on his throat it didn’t stop him.
“You’ve lost you’re mind, you idiot,” Riley muttered. Great, the fortune in gold was gone forever if the fool didn’t remember.
“You’d like what I picked up from there,” he said with a leering look at the boys on the floor watching in fear. “Nice little bits of flesh. Nubile young women and tasty young boys. Ripe for the picking.” He looked at her. “There might even be some left.”
Riley frowned at him. “Where is it? This place?”
He nodded vigorously. “I heard about you. Every woman in every port talks about Captain Hawke.” King leaned in closer, oblivious to the dagger. “Serpents Isle.” he whispered for her ears only. “Damn thing to navigate.”
Riley blinked. “Serpents Fang.” She glanced at him. “The reef.”
King chuckled as he laughed and nodded his head. “Gotta get off early. With longboats so the reef doesn’t eat your hull to tinder.”
“Where’s the gold at on this Isle?”
King grinned. “I hid it.”
Riley smiled with annoyance as she watched the heavy lids begin to close. “No kidding…” His head slumped back and she let him go. She looked at the boys. “You know anything about a map?” There had to be one if he couldn’t even remember where it was.
The three boys shook their heads. She pointed at the captain. “Want to be free of him?” They all nodded. Riley gave them a lazy smile and with a quick swipe she cut both jugular veins on his neck and let him bleed to death. The boys smiled with her as she wiped her blade off on the once magnificent red coat.
Sliding the blade home into her boot she began to rummage around the room looking for any kind of map leaving the boys where they were. “Missus,” she heard one of the boys call out softly. She turned to look at him and saw behind him the form of Dog Wesley with blood dripping from his blade.
“Hawke!” he spat out. He looked to see the dead form of King with blood pooling around his body. “Where’s the treasure at?!” he demanded.
Riley smirked. “Didn’t your mama teach you that it’s not polite to just barge in without knocking first?”
Dog smiled. “Oh, I did. Several times over.” He held up his blade. “I got my calling card right here.”
Damn, she hadn’t hear the telltale signs that anyone was coming. The main area was always so rowdy anyway, it was hard to figure out what was steam being let off and what was a serious fight. “I don’t know,” she replied. “He didn’t tell me.”
Dog’s eyebrows rose. “You killed the man before he told you!? How stupid can a goddamn bitch be?!!” he yelled.
“Gotta be smarter than you. I got to him first,” she shot back.
Dog snarled and he swung out making her jump back. Automatically she unsheathed her blade and held it out defensively. Dog snorted and without a second thought he beheaded the three boys on the floor. “You’re next, Hawke!”
Riley smiled as fear rippled through her this time. He slashed at her and she caught his blade and parried it off to the side.
Dog looked impressed. “So the bitch captain has got muscle.” He attacked swiftly and Riley deflected them and began to push him back to the door with her own series of assault. She waited until he was wide open and with a kick to his chest she knocked him back through the doorway letting him land on his own men.
Dog struggled to get up as Riley shut and locked the door then headed for the window. The rope was gone and she looked to see Max staring at her with concern as the strike and boom of a flintlock went off. Riley felt pain rip through her thigh as she jumped off the balcony onto the street below.
Riley flailed as she hit the stones hard on her shoulder. She slowly shifted onto her feet as another shot hit nearby. She grimaced as pain lanced through her right leg as she forced herself to walk. She heard more gunfire and men came running from down below and two sets of strong arms lifted her up and she was dragged away.
“Hawke! God damn you!” Wesley yelled as she was taken into the night. “I’m going to hunt you down and rip out your heart!”
Spieghtsfield Harbor, Barbados 1657
Langdon and Deacon both hovered over Greenpoole as he carefully worked the iron ball out of Riley’s thigh. The men had dragged the limp captain back to their ship and Langdon had them set sail before anyone at the docks was the wiser.
Riley cursed and muttered a few threats to Greenpoole and she was silenced only by a bottle of whiskey Max had handed her. Reaching down with a pair of large metal tweezers into the torn flesh he grasped and pulled out the black ball. Riley’s eyes rolled back for a moment before she came to her senses. Before Greenpoole could do anything she poured half the bottle of whiskey onto her wound.
“Clean bandages,” she said hoarsely. “No infections, or you lose your own damn leg.”
Greenpoole nodded as he set about sterilizing strips of cloth in hot water. Riley saw it and quickly dipped her hand in the scalding liquid and then covered it in whiskey before she wiped it off. Greenpoole looked oddly at her. “Nothing wrong with your hand.”
“Not now there isn’t,” she said as he wrapped her leg.
Deacon looked to her as he watched between Greenpoole’s work and her pain. “You aren’t going to be moving about much, Riley.”
Riley snorted as she let the whiskey take away a lot of the pain. “I have time.” She looked to Max. “Head for Curaçao.”
Langdon’s eyebrow went up. “King buried the gold there?” he said with some disbelief in his voice.
Riley gave him a very short smile. “No, but it’ll give me time to heal. For now we have to stay away from Dog and the Mongrel. He’ll be looking for us.”
Max sat back on a sideboard. “So he tol’ you where it is?”
Riley grunted as she slowly sat up on her desk where they had set her. “Not exactly.”
Langdon looked curiously at her. “What does that mean?”
Riley glared at him as she slid of the desk. “Just what I said! I don’t remember this being a democracy!” She looked angrily at Max. “Did you not hear me the first time?!”
Max stood up straight. “Aye Captain,” he muttered as he left.
“Good god!” Riley retorted as she limped over to her bed and began to pull off the remains of her pants. “When did I lose control?!” She looked up at them as she pulled off her boots and stripped the cloth off showing beautiful, long muscles legs. Langdon sat down in the captain’s seat with his eyes glued to her body. Deacon averted his eyes and Greenpoole smirked.
“That’s right,” she growled at Greenpoole. “I have more damn balls than you do, don’t I?” Greenpoole flushed and Riley snorted in contempt. “Get out!”
Greenpoole scurried out and Riley turned her glare on Langdon. “You get out too!”
Langdon smiled as he stood, never taking his eyes off of her. “Whatever you want, Riley. But you know…”
“I don’t want to know!” Riley scooped up a heavy boot and threw it at him. Langdon ducked but the boot hit him in the head. “I’m never going to bed with you! So get over it!”
The door slammed shut as Langdon left. Riley looked to Deacon who sat against the desk and stared at the floor. Riley pulled off her dirty shirt and let it drop on the floor. “You know, Deacon. I hated you growing up.” Deacon looked up at her and took in the sight of the tall, large woman. He looked to the raised eyebrow on her face. “But I always trusted you,” she finished.
Sliding back she leaned against the wall her bed was bolted to. She wrapped her lower body in a blanket and watched him. “Even now. Even more than Langdon, I trust you.” She shrugged as she settled back and started to let her mind wander to push the pain in her leg away so she could get some rest.
Deacon watched her for a moment as he bit gently on his trim moustache. “What do you want from me, Riley?”
Riley smiled. “Nothing, Deacon. Amazingly enough, I don’t want a damn thing.” Blue eyes opened a little more than the half lidded look just a moment earlier. “I saw Briggs’ body hanging on a post in Cape Charles a few years ago. And Robert Moore’s when I first got my ship. He was rotting in a cage in Havana.” She looked up at him. “All I ever wanted to be was a pirate. Sail the seas, fight for glory, get the gold and the girl.” She gave him a wicked grin. “You came on board. And I see myself twenty years later.” She looked at him with sorrow. “I’ll be damned if I hang from a cage.”
Deacon nodded slowly. This was something rare. Even as a child Riley never said much. Now she was baring her soul to him. “What do you plan to do?”
Riley shrugged as she laid her head back. “What do you want to do with your life?”
Deacon smiled. “What’s left of it, you mean?”
Riley slowly grinned. “Yes.”
Deacon sat back. “I want to find a beautiful woman. Settle down somewhere. And die in the middle of the night with a smile on my face.”
Riley snorted. “Coward.”
Deacon smiled. “Maybe. But I’m an old man now. Not the spring chicken you saw years ago when I hauled you on board.”
Riley snorted again. “You were old then, Deacon.” She sighed as she opened her eyes to look at him again. “I want to die in the heat of the battle. And kill my opponent right before I go down.”
Deacon shrugged. “I’m sure you will.”
Riley’s eyes closed. “Have someone bring a hot bath in an hour or so,” she said, ending the conversation.
Deacon stood up and moved to the door. “Aye, aye Captain.”
Riley smiled as she drifted off the sleep as the door closed leaving her alone.
Serpents Isle, 1658
“Aya!” Nico called out as the small cat ran ahead of her on the trail. The ocelot was coming close to a year old and as Nico had predicted, the two were very close. Where one was, the other was sure to follow.
Nico looked around warily. They were almost on the other side of the island. Where few people go. It was the land belonging to the diamond snake. Even the Colonel didn’t know what they were called. But no one went near them. You didn’t hunt them, they hunted you. Unlike most snakes these were mean and vicious. They would chase you until they struck. And once struck, you were dead.
“Aya!” she said firmly and the cat stopped with a little skid in the dirt. Large golden eyes looked back at her and Nico crooked her finger at her like her mother did to her. “Come on. We aren’t going that way!”
Aya slunk back hearing the displeased tone in her voice. She curled her lithe little body around Nico’s leg wrapping her tail around a toned shin. “Very cute, you little sneak. But we have to go back.”
Nico gave up carrying the cat around anymore a few months back when Aya began to grow rapidly. The ocelot weighed half as much as she did and two armfuls of cat with sharp claws wasn’t a joyous time for either of them. Aya’s coloring had grown from a mottled tan and black to distinctive golden brown with black dots.
Aya looked back down the trail then up and Nico rolled her eyes. “No,” she said firmly and began to head back the way they came. “Come on.”
Aya scurried to catch up with her. That was Nico’s tactic with the cat. Aya didn’t like being too far from her blond friend. That didn’t mean she stayed right next to her either. One little move in the brush and Aya was off after it. Soon the cat was back, next to her side with some small little rodent or snake. And when Nico would stop Aya would drop down and begin to gnaw on her prize.
Nico jogged at a slow pace as Aya had yet to come back. She glanced south to the sloping peak a valley away. Five dead pirates and a chest sat in the ground up there. She had always been curious to see why the red coated man had buried it. But it was a dead man’s land and cursed with their ghosts. Even the beach where her tribe had been slaughtered was no longer visited except once a year to pay respects to them.
Coming to the edge of the trail before heading down, Nico stopped and waited for Aya to come back as she wondered more about where the ones of her tribe that were taken would be now. The hatred for the pirates still dwelled within her. But not as bright as when it first happened. Nico heard the leaves above her move and she stilled, gripping her staff defensively without moving much. She hated tree snakes. With a quick glance up she rolled her eyes and smiled.
“Be glad you aren’t a snake, Aya.”
Looking up she saw the ocelot on the end of a branch that bent under her weight. Hunched over and watching the blond. The colonel said she looked like a vulture when she did that. He had described one, and personally, Nico hoped she never saw one. They sounded ugly.
“And don’t think about jumping on me either,” she warned.
As a cub it was fun for Aya to climb up and wait for her friend before leaping onto her. And now, when she could she would do it, usually to Nico’s surprise, knocking her down the cat would clean her face with a long, wet tongue until Nico would wrestle the cat off her.
Aya looked irritated that her fun was over as she smoothly jumped down to the ground and the two headed back to the small village.
Liana looked up to see Nico walk along the edges of the huts to their own and she frowned slightly. Her daughter had taken to wandering in the forests more and more these days. She looked across the large fire at Ayita, Kelaku’s mate. She was close to being due with their first child. Ever since the announcement, Kelaku had become one of the top men in the tribe and Nico had taken to being more on her own.
Nico was still friendly with everyone. She would sit around the fire and share stories at night and watch the children for a time. But she refused any offer by man and woman in the tribe to become intimate. Liana worried her bottom lip for a moment then rose, excusing herself as she headed for where she knew her daughter would be.
Liana was getting on in years. Her hair was still a gentle brown, but it was beginning to touch with white. The years had gotten to the marchioness. She was slowing down. Even the Colonel was faltering. He was getting close to ancient in the tribe’s mind. He no longer wielded a staff for defense, but now for support. The last year had not been kind to him and the tribe was soon going to have to look for a new leader. It worried Liana that one day Nico would be the only survivor of that fateful crash left on the island. It worried her to leave her daughter alone if one day, fate happened and took her life.
She found her, curled up on her side on her woven bed mat asleep, with Aya curled up at her stomach along most of her length. The cat watched her curiously before she put her head down on Nico’s still arm. Liana gracefully knelt down and stroked Nico’s warm forehead. She did a quick once over to see that she hadn’t been injured or bitten. Green eyes blinked open and Nico looked up at her mother.
Liana smiled fondly at her. “Where have you two been today?”
Nico gave her a gentle smile as she reveled in her mother’s touch. “Aya wanted to go to the other side of the island,” she said softly.
Liana’s brow furrowed. “You didn’t.”
Nico shook her head slowly not wanting her mother’s hand to move from stroking her hair. “Diamond snakes.”
Liana breathed out a little sigh of relief. “Are you feeling okay?”
Nico’s eyes lowered and she nodded her head. “I’m fine.”
Liana’s lip slowly curled up. “I know you love Aya, sweetheart. But a cat is no substitute for human affection.”
Nico slowly looked up at her. She knew that her mother had been friends with a few of the older men. “I’ll be okay.”
Liana closed her eyes briefly as she tried to beat back the retort that was on her lips. “Maylea’s capture isn’t the end of the world for you. Sokanon is a beautiful young woman….”
“No,” Nico whispered.
“Nicola,” Liana began with her temper rising.
Nico sat up making Aya grumble from the loss of warmth she had been in. “I don’t need anyone, mama.”
Liana sighed as she clenched her jaw. “How do you know that if you’ve never been with anyone?”
Nico scowled. “Mama…” she began in an angry voice.
Liana let out a breath. “Just….” she interrupted. “Think about it,” she asked. She captured Nico’s slender face in her hands and looked firmly at her daughter. “You need someone to love.”
Nico closed her eyes and a tear trickled down her cheek. “I don’t think I can,” she whispered. “It’s like everything is dead inside.”
Liana kissed her forehead. “Just try, love. That’s all I ask.” Nico looked up at her. “I’m sure Sokanon will let you sit next to her tonight if you want.”
Nico breathed deeply as she controlled her emotions then she nodded in defeat. “Okay.”
Liana smiled softly as Aya sat up in between the two of them. Liana smiled and let Nico go and stroked the soft head and Aya leaned into her. “I’ll get you when dinner is ready.” She looked to Nico. “You too.”
Nico smiled slightly as her mother got up and left the tent. “Guess I must be what the Colonel calls an ‘old maid’,” she grumbled to Aya who turned and licked her face. She pushed her gently away. “No baths, you nut.” she bumped her forehead with Aya’s as the cat was satisfied and laid halfway on the mat and in her lap. “We can go to the beach tomorrow.”
Nico came to dinner and saw her mother watching her. Nico sighed to herself and went over to where Sokanon was serving a few something to eat. The young woman was a year younger than Nico and had been nice to her. She often served her first but Nico never acted on the gesture.
Sitting down next to her, Sokanon looked surprised then smiled. She handed her a large portion of meat and cooked fruits and Nico blushed furiously as the Colonel chuckled. She looked over to where the old man sat at the head of the tribe. He had lost most of his hair and teeth. He was still clear eyed most of the time. But his senses were slipping.
“Nicola St. Michel,” he said. “Let me tell you about a story I heard of your father when I was in the King’s Court.”
Nico sat back and didn’t say anything as Sokanon leaned against her shoulder. She loved stories. She remember any of them told. Ones of her father were cherished since she could hardly remember anything about him at all.
Nico was half asleep when she realized she was being led into a darkened hut. She could smell wood smoke from the fire and hear soft breathing. It was late into the night and she remembered looking to Sokanon who had offered her hand to her. She took it. Why? she didn’t know. But just the feel of the hand in hers….
She felt Sokanon stop and kneel. The hand gently pulled at hers. She knelt too. Soft gentle hands ran along her arms and she shivered.
“Nico,” Sokanon whispered right before she kissed her.
Nico was surprised at the soft lips. She had kissed a girl before in play. But never as a prelude to sex. The kiss was longing and filled with want of more.
It was nice, Nico decided as she felt hands at the tie to her top. She let the young woman remove it and through the filtered moonlight of the reeds that made the roof she could make out dark hands covet firm breasts. It felt nice. But it wasn’t as soul shattering as she always dreamt it would be.
Maybe it took longer? She decided. She leaned her head back as Sokanon’s lips found her and she shuttered at the feeling. Minutes slowly passed as Nico waited. It just felt nice. Nothing more. She sighed and bent her head forward and caught Sokanon’s face in her hands. The woman looked up and saw the sadness in her eyes.
“Did I do something wrong, Nico?” she whispered.
Nico gave her a soft smile. “No…. I’m sorry.”
Sokanon nodded slowly. “You don’t feel it.” She rested her hand on Nico’s bare chest. “In here.”
Nico shook her head. “No.” she leaned forward and gave her a tender kiss. “I’m sorry.”
Sokanon watched as Nico took up her top and headed out of the hut. “So am I,” she whispered.
It had gone around the tribe that Nico’s heart was not with her. It had been stolen by the pirates and had yet to be given back. Sokanon was hoping she would be the one to return it to her.
Nico scrambled down the last of the embankment towards the clear blue waters and the pure sands of the beach. It was early in the morning and she had spent most of the night just outside of the small village looking at the stars. She knew her mother would ask questions and Nico just wasn’t up to answering them.
Aya found and kept her company. Just before daybreak she headed for the beach. She would fish for most of the day and bring back enough to show that she hadn’t just been wandering. Nico was sure she was still going to have to face her mother when the time came.
Nico caught three lines of fish before she began to come back for her last time with two more fish. That was enough for a while. She deftly swam with her catch as she looked up to see Aya pacing the shoreline. Aya wasn’t big on water. And she was less happy about Nico going in without her. Her toes touched bottom as she walked her way up to dry land. She dropped the fish on the ground and glanced to see that Aya was still pacing.
Nico’s brow furrowed. “What’s wrong?”
She moved closer and she heard the cat growl. Her eyebrows went up. Aya had never done that to her before. Not seriously. But Aya wasn’t even looking at her. Nico looked out over the water and she went white at the sight. High above the sails of a ship just beyond the reef flickered a black flag with a skull and crossbones.
She looked to see that longboats had been launched and at the forefront of the first one stood a menacing figure with flowing black hair.
Fish forgotten. Nico grabbed up her clothes and staff and she and Aya ran for the treeline and safety.
Off Serpents Fang Reef,1658
Riley watched from the edge of the Conqueror as the slim figure dove down and back up with two more fish. She glanced over to the small cat watching her with contempt. It was a beautiful creature. A flicker of a wanton grin passed her lips as she looked back to the wet, naked figure leaving her catch and heading back for more. Almost as beautiful as that creature. She wanted them both. Very alive and very healthy.
The crew had the longboats down and just from her look they knew the woman on shore was off limits. Enough men were on board the first longboat when she easily put herself at the front of it. “Hurry men! I lose that catch and you’ll be making up for it!”
The men laughed as they rowed. They had heard about the island briefly. They didn’t know where it was. And they didn’t mind. Dog had followed them to Curaçao and for a year Riley healed and avoided him. She was ready to face him. She just didn’t want to. Not yet. She wanted that gold first. Then she’d go after Dog.
She watched the small figure and the cat run off into the brush as she leapt the last few feet from the boat onto the dry sand. Before anyone could follow her she was off.
She bypassed most of the rising hill with a brisk run and a flip up to bring her closer to the edge of the treeline. The young woman looked back and was shocked to see the woman not that far away. Doing something daring the blond took off into the brush away from the path and the cat followed right behind with Riley hot on their trail.
‘Don’t let there be any snakes! Don’t let their be any snakes! Let them get the pirate!’ Nico thought to herself as she ran as fast as her legs could take her through the brush. Her bare legs and arms were marked with blood from scratches as she didn’t slow down. She was sweating and was already exhausted from her swim. She could hear the pirate come after her. A few branches moving, but no harsh breathing. She could sense the frightening figure behind her. She watched as Aya moved ahead and easily jumped a small fallen tree and leapt from there up into the tree above ready to move on with her.
Nico swore her foot cleared the tree. She jumped and it must have reached out and grabbed her and down she went. She let out a hard breath as the wind was knocked from her lungs. She looked up at movement in front of her to see a yellow diamond snake rear up and it’s mouth open to show one inch fangs. She winced as she tensed for the strike. She felt something hit the ground hard to either side of her waist and the hiss of the snake was gone.
No strike. Nothing.
She slowly opened her eyes to look up and see the snake writhe around in a black gloved hand about the base behind it’s head. The hand squeezed and Nico could hear the snap of bones and the snake went limp.
“Can’t have my newest possession become target practice. Can I?” a low, husky voice above her said.
A hand pressed into her back as the snake was flung away. Nico swallowed as the hand stroked down her back. The free hand slid beneath her and lifted her up. Nico swung back with her elbow to connect with something hard and she grimly smiled as she heard a grunt. The hold didn’t break and she heard a low breath being released. “That wasn’t very smart.”
She looked back into very angry blue eyes and Nico blinked when she saw it was a woman. A woman as a pirate? She fought as her arms were forced behind her with a strong hand holding her wrists when she heard Aya growl.
Nico turned a little to see the pirate holding a long dagger as Aya perched in a tree ready to jump at her. “NO!” she yelled. Both the pirate and Aya looked at her. “Aya! No!” She looked to the pirate. “Don’t hurt her.”
The pirate felt her jaw where the captive had caught her hard and saw that the cat backed off. “Then you both better behave.”
Nico blinked back tears as her hands were roughly tied and she was lifted up. Aya watched them both and Nico took in a breath as the pirate moved forward with a bit of rope at the cat. “No, don’t.” The pirate glared at her. “She’ll follow me,” Nico whispered.
Riley looked to the shock in the blond woman’s eyes. She herself was angry and stunned at the same time. When she had seen her off the side of her ship she knew she wanted her, just for the pleasure of pleasure’s sake. But now that she had her, she could see more than what was in most of the women she bedded. Whether it was a reluctant heiress or a willing whore. What it was? She wasn’t sure. Maybe she was the one. She wasn’t sure about that either. But she’d find out. And for the moment the shapely blond was naked, tired and bound.
Could she ask for more?
She heard the men coming and she made a decision. She took the skirt and tied it about the woman’s waist. Her thumb brushed the soft tan skin beneath her finger and she longed to kiss it. Then she tied on the top. She took the rope she was going to use for the cat and looped it about her neck and gently forced her to look into her eyes. “You fight me. You try and leave. You do anything to make me mad and I’ll gut your cat as you watch,” she hissed. “Do you understand me?” The woman nodded. “What’s your name?”
“Nico,” the woman whispered.
Riley nodded slowly. “Where’s your village?”
Nico snorted. “Kill me now. I won’t tell you that.”
Riley smiled grimly. “I didn’t think so.”
The men came running up. A few flintlocks pointed at the cat that watched angrily. Riley put up her hand. “No. It’s mine.” She pointed to the bound Nico. “As is this.” She nodded with her chin. “Go spread out and look for the village. And where King would have landed.”
Riley looked back to her. “You should be thanking me for saving your life.”
“If you hadn’t of chased me I wouldn’t have done that,” Nico bit back.
Riley smiled to herself.
She liked it.
Nico watched as the pirate led her by her leash back to the shore. Six men were near the longboats. They all looked over her body and she backed away subconsciously. The pirate looked behind to see the fear heighten in her eyes. “They won’t touch you.” She nodded to the ground. “Sit for a while, you aren’t going anywhere.”
Nico did. She was tired. And her arms and wrists were killing her. Slowly Aya slunk up and curled up next to her and laid her head in her lap. The pirate looked down and gave a small grin. “Trained it well.”
“I didn’t train her. She’s my friend,” Nico said as she tried to get the feeling back into her left hand. “I’m sure you know nothing about that,” she muttered under her breath.
The pirate watched her shift her arms and Nico grunted as the leash became tight forcing her to lean forward. “What are you doing?” The woman moved around and saw Nico’s hands were almost purple. “Goddamit! Why didn’t you say anything?!” She cut the rope and rubbed her arms.
Nico almost cried as the feeling came back. It hurt worse than the numbness. “Like you care,” she shot back.
A hand caught her short hair and pulled her back. “You don’t know anything about me! So watch it!” the pirate said tersely to her.
Nico fell silent and the pirate let her go. Her wrists were rebound with a little slack and she sat there staring at the beach.
Night fell and Riley ordered them to set up camp. They cooked the fish that Nico had caught and Riley crouched down next to the young woman. “I’ll untie you so you can eat. But don’t try anything stupid.”
Nico glared at her but said nothing.
“Do you want it?” Riley asked as she held the plate of fish and bread under her nose. Still nothing. Riley shrugged and moved back to her seat.
Langdon sat next to her. “Still nothing on the village. Hargraves found a weird grave site to the south, a bit or so. Doesn’t look too old.”
Riley nodded. “Have the men move farther in to look. I’ll take the girl with us down to the grave. Maybe she knows something.”
Langdon looked curiously at her. “You think they’re all white?”
Riley shrugged. “Probably here from a shipwreck. We heard enough about the reef in Curaçao to last a lifetime.”
“I didn’t think you were up to hunting for the slave trade, Riley,” he said softly so the rest of the group couldn’t hear.
Riley ate a piece of fish and licked the juice off her fingers. “I’m not. Too much trouble. I want that treasure, before Dog finds out where we went.”
Langdon nodded. “You heard the rumor too then.”
Riley gave him a look. “If he has the damn map then why isn’t he here already?”
Langdon shrugged. “Hell if I know! But it’s just really odd…” He gave her a look and she nodded slowly. “So you think one of them knows?”
Riley nodded again. “It’s their island. Nothing goes by without them knowing.”
He looked to her. She would know. Riley had admitted to him long ago that she was a child of a war faring people. The Carib. Who hadn’t heard of them? She had even gone looking for them when she had her own ship. But he and the rest of the crew weren’t too pleased with the idea. And Riley had to give up the notion for awhile.
“What about her?” He nodded towards Nico.
Riley looked at him then thoughtfully at the blond, she shrugged and gave him a wicked grin. “Let’s just say you get first pick of the ships we take over.”
Langdon blinked. “What?!”
Riley shrugged as she finished her meal. “I think I’ve found what I want. It’ll take time to tame her and make sure. But I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Langdon’s eyes were wide and he nodded slowly. “And what about when the challenge is over?”
Riley looked back to Nico and Aya. The young woman was trying hard to stay awake. “Don’t worry about it.” She got up and moved to Nico.
Langdon watched for a moment. “That’s what I worry about.”
Serpents Isle, 1658
Riley crouched down and looked to the tired young woman. “Come on,” she muttered. “It’s time to go to bed.”
Nico didn’t move. Even when Riley took the leash about her neck and jerked on it lightly. Riley pulled out a dagger and looked at the cat. Nico still didn’t move. Riley frowned and slammed the dagger back into her boot, seeing Nico flinch at the anger. She easily picked her up and carried her into the lean to that was set up for her. The men whistled and cheered as tears ran down Nico’s cheeks.
Riley dumped her lightly onto the ground in the lean to and removed her sword belt. Aya crept up and laid down next to Nico and washed her face. Riley watched as the tears silent slid down the pale face and she looked black. She wanted her so bad she could taste her. Sweet, soft skin. Firm body. God! She sat down in the lean to and watched as Nico curled up into a ball and the cat growled at her.
Riley growled back and the cat glared. “You aren’t so tough,” she muttered. She looked closer. “You aren’t that old either.” She looked to Nico then to the prone body and she fingered the slim ankles lightly. Nico flinched. Riley scowled. “I’m not going to hurt you!”
She heard a slight snort of disbelief. Riley sat for sometime listening to the men as they got drunker. She looked back to the beautiful legs nearby and noticed the scratches. She looked closer. Some were inflamed. “What the hell did you run through?” She got up and rummaged nearby for a small sack. She lit a torch with her flint and striker and then knelt down to look at the woman below.
Most of the scratches would heal. Some were red and swollen. One ran up past her skirt and she had a few on her bound arms. They had to hurt. Riley looked to Nico’s silent, tired face. She didn’t say a damn thing. Taking out a bottle Riley dabbed some of the clear liquid onto a clean cloth then onto the wounds. She removed the skirt and top with Nico flinching a little. But she held her back against her chest as she finished.
She had been gentle and Nico had slowly relaxed in her arms as she fought to keep her eyes open only to fall asleep from her exhausting day. Riley softly stroked the warm body. Nothing to arouse, but to make her calm. She leaned over and kissed along her neck, gently nibbling and sucking the soft, warm skin. Nico subconsciously leaned into the warmth as Riley nuzzled the warm spot behind her ear.
Riley sighed as she grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around them both and held her close wishing she knew why she didn’t have the nerve to take her right now.
Somehow it just seemed wrong.
Nico awoke in a hazy state. She was warm and safe. She never felt like that before.
Then she woke up.
She looked to see the still face of her captor sleeping. She could feel that she was naked beneath the rough blanket. But she was untouched. The pirate hadn’t hurt her. Riley, that’s what the scarred man called her. And since everyone deferred to her she figured she was the captain.
Not only was she a prisoner of pirates. She was the Captain’s new pet. She looked across to where Aya lay against her feet. She saw that the captain’s legs, clad in long black boots, were a lot longer than hers. She was a lot bigger too. Nico was trying to think of a way to get out of this mess when her stomach growled. Loudly. She winced. She hadn’t eaten since the night before last. And for her that was a long time ago.
“Are you hungry now?” Riley asked into her ear.
Nico didn’t say anything. She knew the captain wasn’t going to hurt Aya. She might slap her around a bit. But as long as they didn’t find her mother, or hurt Aya. She didn’t care what happened to her. Her stomach betrayed her silence and growled in protest to not being fed. Nico felt a silent laugh run through the pirate.
The blanket was pulled away and Aya wriggled about, caught underneath. The ocelot found her way out and glared as she sat out of range. Long fingers splayed over Nico’s flat stomach showing the strong hand that almost covered the entire area. She shivered as she felt the heat from the captain’s eyes rake over her.
Nothing more happened. Riley stood, bringing her up with her. Nico winced at the pain in her arms. Slowly the rope was undone and her wrists held. “Don’t be foolish,” Riley warned and she stepped slightly back allowing Nico to stretch and winced as abused and stiff muscles resisted.
Nico looked up at her. “What are you going to do with me?”
Riley blinked in surprise. She hadn’t expected her to talk. Let alone ask something. “You’re going to stay with me,” she told her. A little surprised at her answer herself. But she had thought about it late into the night and she wanted time with the blond to see if the things she was feeling were correct.
Nico looked out to the ship in the distance. “What if I don’t want to?”
Riley leaned back and looked amused. “You think you have a choice?”
“I hate ships,” Nico replied seriously.
Riley shrugged. “I don’t care. You’ll learn to like them.”
“Why do you want me?” Nico asked as she looked back to the lean to, but focused on the mad ocelot.
Riley looked her over then back at the flushed face as Nico caught the look. “I think you know why.”
“And when you’re done with me?” she asked. “You’re going to sell me off? Throw me over? Give me to the crew?”
Riley frowned. “How do you know so much about pirates?”
Nico clammed up and Riley made a discontented face. “I see.” She bound her hands in front of her then put her skirt on. This time she let her fingers trail up over her skin. She cupped her breasts feeling the light weight and Nico gasped in a breath that was beyond her control at the new and uncomfortable feeling. Riley leaned over and nibbled on her jaw before she said softly in her ear, “Don’t disobey me, Nico. You wouldn’t like that.”
Riley felt her shiver and she let her go and put her top on and led her down to the main fire. She sat down and forcefully put Nico on her lap. Most of the men weren’t up. A few of the guards, and that was about it. A side of cured beef was on the spit and Nico looked at it curiously. She had never seen a carcass of such a large animal.
Riley looked to one of her men. “Get a fish, I’m not feeding her that.”
He looked at her oddly until she glared and he ran off to do what she said. Aya came up and sat near Nico’s feet. “Doesn’t she hunt?”
Nico looked to the cat. “When we go into the trees. But we don’t go that far from each other.”
Riley grunted as she found some fish leftover from the night before and threw it to the cat. Aya snapped it out of the air with lethal grace and began to eat. Riley was impressed. She watched with interest as Aya licked her chops and looked to her for more. She threw her another a bit farther and Aya caught it and Nico let out a breath at how close she had come to the fire.
Aya came back to her feet and ate what she had caught.
Riley finally started to boot men out of their bed rolls once she had hand fed Nico a good part of the large fish the crewman caught for her. She enjoyed the flush in the lightly tanned skin as she paid special attention to the small woman. Feeding the rest to Aya then ate a bit of beef and some bread herself. Nico wrinkled her nose at the smell of the cured meat when offered to her.
It wasn’t too long before a large group headed down to the site Hargraves had found a day earlier. She kept Nico in sight and her hand lightly covering the hilt of her cutlass as she scanned the area. She didn’t like being out in plain sight. She would have preferred the cover that the trees would provide, but her men were fighters, not hunters. And that’s what made her better than them by a long shot. That’s another reason why she kept her eye on Nico. The blond may not be a born native of the island, but she knew more than her men about surviving in the jungle. Anyone else chasing her and she most likely would have gotten away.
Riley almost ran into the back of Nico as they crested the last small hill. She looked down to see the remains of a massacre. White bones lay scattered across the ground. Some with bits of cloth. Others with shirts and pants. She glanced at Nico to see her face was white.
“We can’t go there,” Nico whispered.
Riley frowned. “Why not?”
“Ghosts of the dead. They’ll haunt us if we disturb it,” she replied.
Riley sighed. “No they won’t. That’s a superstition.” Nico glanced up at her confused. Riley nodded. “Come on.” Nico didn’t budge and Riley’s temper rose. “I won’t let anything hurt you.”
“You can’t fight ghosts,” Nico said firmly as she dug her feet in.
Riley slid an arm about her waist and picked her up as though she weighed nothing and strode down the hill. “There’s aren’t any to fight. Elders say it to keep the children from playing there.”
Nico looked back to see Aya pacing alongside them. “How do you know?” she finally asked.
Riley gave a grim smile. “The Carib do the same thing.” She felt Nico stiffen. Riley snorted. “That’s right…” She pulled her up so that she could whisper to her. “But don’t worry,” she said softly. “After a few months you’ll be begging for me to eat you.”
Nico looked at her with a scared and curious look. It was half what she said and half how she said it. Like she wasn’t going to take a spit and roast her, but some other way that sounded lustful. Riley grinned as she met up with the rest of her men. She set her load down but didn’t let her go as Aya rubbed up against Nico’s leg to comfort the scared woman. “Spread out and see what you can find,” Riley told them. She looked to Langdon. “Why don’t you go back and let Deacon come out for a while.”
Langdon slowly nodded. Riley wanted the person in charge of the ship on total watch for the Mongrel or any other ships that may have gotten the notion to follow them. They couldn’t afford to take any chances. “You think the rest of her tribe is somewhere along the beach?”
Nico glanced at him and Riley noticed the look was thoughtful, but not concerned. “Not likely. Not after this.” She nodded to the view around them. “Have the men look for unused paths inland. But no charging in. I want them taken, not killed.”
Langdon nodded and strode away calling out to the men. Riley looked to Nico. “Do you know what happened here?” Nico nodded slowly. “Tell me.”
Nico shuddered. “Pirates came. Killed most of the men.”
Riley waited. “And?”
“They took a lot of my tribe as slaves,” Nico gave up grudgingly.
“Did they do anything else?” came the patient reply.
“No,” Nico bit off humorlessly.
Riley nodded slowly. “I think you’re lying.”
Nico snorted in disgust that she really didn’t care. Riley looked up as Langdon headed off on a longboat and the call came up about a few unused paths. The captain leaned over and held her close and lightly nuzzled the curve of Nico’s ear with her nose. “We’ll find out soon enough,” she said, admonishing her.
Nico watched from the coast as a tall man with dark gray hair and one arm got out of the longboat when it touched the beach. He came over to where she and Riley stood. Nico had to crane her neck to see him. Riley must really be good if she can order the likes of him about. Nico frowned to herself. Pirate. Not Riley. ‘Don’t even think about her that way!’ she chided herself. She only wants you for one thing and then she’ll do what the Colonel warned them all about. Sell her off, or probably something worse. Then there was another thing, The pirate had been kind to her last night. She could have taken her and there was nothing she could have done about it. She shivered mentally at the thought.
Why? She was a slave now! The Colonel never said anything about captors being kind to slaves? She felt the fear stick in her throat just at the word. And it was worse that she saw the interest Riley had taken in Aya. She would die before she let the pirate have her. If,… No! When, she could she’d get free and warn the others. She’d get her mother and Aya far away from the dark haired woman.
Riley watched as Nico kept quiet. The blond was deep within her thoughts. She wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. Deacon came up and looked to the brooding captive then to Riley. “You don’t waste any time.”
Riley almost smiled. Almost. She glared at the older man who grinned briefly. He had enjoyed the rest on Curaçao. Found lots of Dutch women interested in some time with him and he looked better than she had ever seen. He had been a good advisor to her on many things and Riley found that her relationship with Deacon hadn’t really changed. Only he couldn’t cuff her ear and send her back to the hold.
Even Langdon liked Deacon’s wisdom, and even more, his ability to see into Riley. Farther than he ever could. He didn’t know what he’d do if Deacon ever decided to leave the ship and settle.
“Come on,” Riley muttered to him as she turned Nico around and walked her along towards the paths.
Deacon noticed the small Ocelot walking along side the blond woman and Riley. “You found you a pet too?”
Riley snorted. “Follows her,” she replied nodding to the woman next to her.
Deacon saw the tired look on the blond’s face and felt a little sorry for her. He knew the feeling. And after seeing how Riley played on women’s emotions it would be interesting to see what happened between the two since the blond looked ready to jump ship, as they say, any moment.
They walked for sometime. The men in front of the group cut and chopped at the offending leaves and branches. Watching the ground after the first snake slithered by them. Nico frowned when the men chopped it to pieces. Riley grunted at the wasted effort of her men. A bushmaster, like the one she had saved Nico from. That was worth the trouble. Damn bloody things! Not the harmless one that had the misfortune of being nearby.
It was mid morning when the large group entered a rather big clearing. Riley handed Nico’s leash to Deacon and began to wander over the ground, stopping here and there as her eyes swept the area. She smiled a little then nodded north. “They moved that way.” She looked to Nico who did not look very happy and knew her tracking skills were still good. “Probably before the seasons changed.” Riley gave Deacon a firm look. “Stay in the back with her. And don’t lose her, Deacon.”
Deacon nodded, knowing that even their odd friendship wouldn’t withstand failure to do as she asked. Riley headed off at the lead of the group setting a quick pace.
It didn’t take long before she found the clearing. Riley silenced the group as they watched the small village work. Nico had been right. There were hardly any of them left. There were a few children, maybe three or four. A couple of babies and a few young women were with child. More adults, but some of them old, she saw the old white man. He looked practically ancient. She looked at him more closely. Nico’s father? He looked to old even for that, and she didn’t look much like him. The she smiled as she saw a beautiful older woman. That was most definitely Nico’s mother. And she was still beautiful.
Carefully Riley spotted the warriors in this group and knew that they would be no match for her alone, let alone her and her men. She looked back and gave the men a look that they did not kill, rape or anything until she said so. She just wanted them taken captive.
Riley looked back again when she heard noise from behind and a low grunt. Deacon had his hand clamped over Nico’s mouth and held her close to him, as the young woman fought with him to yell or get free to warn her tribe. Aya paced angrily about Nico, but did nothing to leave her mistress. Riley smiled grimly as she made a forward motion with her hand. It didn’t matter now anyway.
Nico watched in horror as the men let out a battle cry and tore from the bush into the clearing. Screams and yelling followed from her own people. She fought the strong arms wrapped around her as she tried in vain to warn them. The blond looked up at the man and he didn’t let go, but he gave her a look of sympathy. He knew. He knew what it was like to be held captive. Nico let out a breath through her nose and sagged in his arm.
“I’m sorry, young lady,” he said softly as he carried her through towards the clearing. “Nothing in life is easy, is it?”
Nico snorted out in discontent. It would be a lot easier if he had let her go!
They entered the clearing to find that only a few that fought back lay dead. None of them pirates. Nico closed her eyes for a second and stopped fighting. She had seen her mother and the Colonel on their knees by the main fire. The children had been collected and stuck in a lean to. And Riley… Nico looked at her with pure hatred. She walked around the group like she was god himself.
The dark headed pirate stopped near Nico and looked out to the tribe. She felt more than heard Nico shift and she reached down and caught the blond’s shin before her foot connected with Riley’s knee. She looked over at the blond who was seething. “If you aren’t careful I’ll tie your feet too.”
Nico looked to her mother and saw that she was scared for her. She stopped fighting and Riley let her go.
Riley sat down on a fallen log that served as a bench. She looked directly at the two white people in the group. “You’re Nico’s mother?”
Liana slowly nodded. “Yes.”
Riley looked to the Colonel. “Father?” she asked skeptically.
Liana slowly shook her head. “He was one of the passengers on the ship we were sailing for Trinidad.”
Riley nodded. “How long have you been here?”
Liana looked up at her and saw the beautiful woman closely for the first time. “What year is it?”
“Fifteen years,” Liana replied after a moments thought.
“Interesting accent. French?” Riley asked.
Liana nodded and the Colonel snorted. Riley looked to him curiously. She could tell a fighter, even an old one. “Something to add, old man?”
“She’s more than just French, you thieving whore,” he muttered through a half mouthful of teeth. Liana closed her eyes and prayed he’d shut up. “She’s the widow of Marquis St. Michel. The greatest french adventurer of the 17th century.”
Riley looked to Liana and saw that the woman looked blank. But she didn’t look innocent either. She wasn’t going to tell her anything. “And her?” she nodded with her head back to Nico.
The Colonel nodded eagerly as he grinned. “The heir to the St. Michel title. Nicola St. Michel.” He scratched his long scraggly beard. “Though now… it was probably given to a cousin or something. Being gone so long. Not like you’d care! No honor among ya!” he added at the end, like he just remembered that she was one of the bad guys.
Riley watched him for a few seconds more to see if he was going to add anything. But the Colonel began to brood. She sat back and took in the view of the group of adults. “I’m going to tell you what I want. And if you behave I’ll walk away with what I came for, and leave you to yourselves. If not,” She shrugged. “I’ll kill the rest of you, children and all.”
All of her men looked at her but said nothing. Captain Hawke didn’t kill women or children.
“The pirate that came before. That took a good share of your people. He left something on this island. Something I want very much. I know that one of you, or maybe even all of you know where it is. You lead me to it. I leave with my men.”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a warrior, not very big and he didn’t look very strong, shift. He wasn’t looking at her or the ground or into the trees as most of the rest of the natives were. He was looking behind her with a knowing glance. She looked at him directly and he looked to the ground. Riley looked behind her to see Nico look worried, truly, for the first time.
Riley waited. They said nothing. She frowned. Fine. They’ll see just how nasty Captain Hawke can be. “Deacon. Put my little playmate in one of the lean to’s with her mother. “They’re off limits.” She nodded to the warrior. “String him out on the nearest tree.” She stood up. “Bleed him a little.” Riley looked directly at Nico. “Let’s see how long it takes before someone talks. The rest of the group…”
“No,” Nico whispered somberly. Riley’s ice blue eyes caught her defeated green ones. “I’ll tell you what you want.”
Riley surprised her by walking away from her instead of closer to her. “If you’re lying…”
“I don’t lie. I don’t have any reason too,” she replied. A little of her anger coming back into her voice.
Riley nodded slowly as she circled her men holding the warrior. She could see the look of fear rise in Nico’s eyes. Who was the young warrior to the blond? A brother? She looked to her mother and saw concern, but not fear. No… A lover? She scanned the group to see a pregnant young native watch closely. Probably. With a surge of power she slammed a fist into the warrior’s back where his kidneys were and the man groan and slumped in her men’s grasp. Bending over him she slid her gloved hand into his hair and pulled his head back hard.
“Why should I believe her?” Riley asked seriously.
The warrior spit in her face. Very daring, and he earned another strike in the same spot making his eyes roll back for a moment as the pain course through him with a bigger groan.
“That’s not very wise. I’m sure you want to live longer than today,” she growled out as she wiped the spit off her face. Nico moved to speak and Riley glared her down and the young woman lowered her gaze. “The lean to, Deacon!” She waited until Nico and her mother were gone from sight to the far end of the camp. She looked down at the warrior, her eyes narrowing. “Let’s play a little game.”
Nico buried her head in her mother’s shoulder as Kelaku’s screams registered throughout the site. Liana held her closely as Deacon looked somewhat confused. He glanced back in and slowly crouched. “What does the lad mean to you?” he asked Nico seriously.
Liana looked his way. “What difference does that make?” she asked angrily.
Deacon cleaned off the front of his teeth with a roll of his tongue as he thought about what to say. “Captain Hawke doesn’t take disrespect from anyone. What that boy did out there only brought out the dark fire in her. He should have just answered.” He sat back a little and closed his eyes at another scream.
“I was going too,” Nico whispered as tears coursed over her cheeks.
Deacon shook his head. “You don’t understand. He’s a link to you. Anyone could see that.” He nodded to Aya who was half laying on top of Nico and giving her arm a bath. “As is that one.” He looked to Liana. “And her.” He looked back at her. “You have every reason to lie. To keep them safe. Riley doesn’t trust you. But she wouldn’t hurt you either. Nor either of you, but that young man is different.” He stood up. “Through a pound of flesh and blood….” he glanced back down. “Either he’ll be singing the truth. Or he’ll die. One way or the other, Riley doesn’t care.”
Nico glared. “She’s an animal.”
Deacon smiled briefly. “No… she’s practical. She was raised to trust her instinct and survive.” He looked back at them before he moved to the edge of the lean to. “And she’s at the top of the food chain, young lady. Don’t trifle with her unless you want to have to deal with the consequences.”
Liana waited until Deacon was a little ways away, but not out of sight. She looked her daughter over seeing the healing scratches but other than exhaustion and fear she looked okay. “What happened?”
Nico sighed heavily. “Nothing good,” she replied before she started into her nightmarish tale.
Riley looked to the bloody back in front of her. She had worked up a good sweat from whipping the warrior. She moved around and caught underneath his chin with the butt of the whip. “You feel like talking yet?” he glared through the pain. She smirked as she looked over her shoulder and motioned what she saw forward. She saw his look change to fear as the pregnant woman was forced to kneel down beside her. “I could get double my asking price for her alone in a slave market.”
He looked up at her angrily. “Nico watched the pirates everyday. One morning she was gone a lot longer than usual. It was the day the pirates left.” Riley waited. “She seemed upset that last day more than the others. I asked but she wouldn’t tell me.”
Riley nodded slowly. “Why was she so interested in the pirates?”
He bit his lip as he thought then he grimaced as Riley stroked his mate’s hair like she was a pet. “They took the woman she loved as a slave,” he bit out.
Riley raised an eyebrow at this. “And since then?”
He pursed his mouth as he muttered. “No one.”
The captain nodded then left. The warrior looked down at his mate who looked scared. At least they were still alive.
Deacon watched as Riley came striding up to him. She glanced over to see that Nico was asleep in her mother’s arms and Aya had taken up guard by laying behind the blond with her head resting in the curve of Nico’s hip. For the first time in her life she felt jealous. Shaking it off and looking away she came over to her advisor.
“Tomorrow morning I’m going to take Nico and ten men out to look for that treasure. Apparently she’s the one who might know where it is.” She looked directly at him. “You guard the place and her mother. Anything happens to her and she won’t cooperate.”
Deacon nodded slowly. “And what happens after we find the treasure?”
Riley gave him a wicked grin. “Let me worry about that.”
Deacon watched as Riley made her way into the lean to watching for a moment as the captain and the marchioness began to talk.
She didn’t like it. But then the thought of pirates never made one happy. She knew the young woman called Captain Hawke was as good as her word when she meant something. And she could see fearlessness in her eyes. Deacon had been right. Kelaku shouldn’t have angered her so. Nico had slept through the somewhat one sided chat. The captain had been bluntly direct. Nico would be going with her when she found what she wanted. She was surprised to hear the offer extended to take her to a dock where she could return to wherever. But she had not offered a place on her ship.
A woman of her upbringing would sell high in a slave market. As would Nico, but she could tell from the look on the captain’s face that selling was not in mind. As Liana looked closer she also noticed it wasn’t total lust. Nor was it complete love. Not yet. But it was building quickly.
Looking out into the dark of the night she kissed the top of Nico’s head and held her close. She had promised to go quietly on two conditions. One she guarded Nico with her life. The captain easily gave it. Two, That she would bring Nico to France to visit since she had decided to return home.
Liana had almost decided to stay on the island. It was more her home now, but without Nico there. There wasn’t much left. She had three sisters in France and a lot of family. Hopefully Nico would return home as well and get to know them. She had also heard in the undercurrent of talk about another pirate who was hunting for what Captain Hawke was. And apparently he was more cruel and vicious that the dark headed woman. Some of the men seemed a little concerned. But not too much. She was under the impression that their Captain could take him on.
Dawn began to break and Riley woke up from her light sleep to look at her, then to Nico and the vigilant cat next to her. She nodded briefly and left for a moment. Liana heard a breath from her lap and looked down to see Nico shift and look up at her.
“I thought she’d never leave,” came the soft reply.
Liana smiled. “How long have you been awake?”
Nico slowly sat up. “A while.” She warily looked outside to see a pirate not that far away. And over near the main fire crouched Riley. Looking back at her mother she saw a look of resignation in her eyes. Nico’s brow furrowed as she sat up straighter. “What’s wrong?”
Liana stroked the soft blond hair from her daughter’s forehead. “When you were first born. I always believed you would grow up to marry a handsome duke or prince.” She saw Nico was watching her curiously, wondering where this story would lead. “When we set sail for Trinidad I wondered if you would marry the governor’s son and watch over the island for Spain with him.” She sighed as she held her daughter closer. “For a time after we were shipwrecked, I believed that one day we would be saved and the door way to possibilities would be open to how you lived your life as an adult.”
Nico sat up, brow furrowed as she looked to her mother. “What are you saying, mama?”
Liana smiled softly as she memorized her child’s face. “Your life is taking a path I didn’t expect. And I am saddened I cannot be there to see it with you.”
The brow furrowed deeper. “Mama…” Nico replied upset.
“The captain, she has feelings for you.”
Nico rolled her eyes. “The kind I don’t want.”
“She is different,” Liana tried another tactic.
“She’s a pirate!” Nico hissed as she tried to figure out what her mother was telling her.
Liana caught her daughter’s face gently between her hands, forcing her to look directly at her. “Nico… you have heard tell of slavery by the Colonel.” Nico nodded as much as she could. “He did not tell it all.” She became very serious. “The Colonel let out some information last night that could have doomed both you and myself to the slave port on Jamaica, love.” The young brow furrowed again. She didn’t understand. “Women of high bearing… noble blood, they are worth much, much more than a native of an unknown island.”
“She’s going to sell us?!” Nico said angrily.
Liana covered her mouth quickly before the pirate watching them would take notice of the outburst. “That is my point, Nicola. She’s not. The captain has offered to leave me at the port I wish to return to France.”
Nico nodded slowly with a surprised look on her face. The looked changed to chagrin when she replayed the words in her head. “She’s going to sell me?” she whispered fearfully.
“No,” Liana replied as she held her close. For a moment she thought Nico would balk at it. “She’s going to keep you on her ship.”
It broke her heart to say it. Nico could hear her mother’s heartbeat pick up and her chest tighten at the words. “Until she gets bored of me,” she said softly. “Mother…” Liana looked down at her as the formal name was spoken. Nico had never called her mother before. She saw a tear drip down Nico’s face as she fought to hold them back. “You will look for me in the slave prisons after a time won’t you?”
Liana broke down and held her close letting the tears come. “I will, love.” She wiped the tears from Nico’s face then her own. “I promise. We may be separated for a while, but not forever.”
Nico nodded somberly. Now she knew her fate and god damn the captain that was sending her mother away.
Riley stood to the back of the lean to. She had heard the conversation between mother and daughter. And for one moment she felt guilty. She vaguely remember being ripped from her mother’s grasp as a young child. She had known enough from her tribe that she was unusual. Her blue eyes stood out and her light tan skin was a mark that she was someone different. But she had the heart of a warrior. Even at a young age she was vicious enough to be accepted among her tribe even for her differences.
A small group of them on a journey to a nearby island had been caught off-guard by a passing ship. Most of them slaughtered, her mother included as they fought back. She and one other child had been taken captive. And one unlucky sailor had made the mistake of wanting a piece of Carib flesh for the night. Riley had attacked him until he was half dead. The next thing she remembered was being holed up in the stinking prisons on Jamaica.
“It won’t be that way,” Riley whispered before she moved around to the front of the lean to. The two women looked up at her and Nico quickly wiped away the tears and her eyes became hard as agate.
“Did you two get fed?” Riley asked abruptly.
Liana shook her head as she kept her hand on Nico’s arm as the ire in the young blond’s eyes grew. “No. Captain could you give me one moment along with my daughter?”
Riley looked warily at them. “Why?”
“To say goodbye,” was the reply.
“You’re staying on the island?” Riley asked surprised.
Liana gave a short smile. “No. But I find it’s better never to tempt fate, Captain.”
“I don’t believe in fate,” she said.
Liana looked up to her. “Then you have a lot to learn, young woman.”
That got a snort of glee from Nico and a scowl from Riley. “Fine! But don’t take too long! I’ll be back for you in a few minutes,” she replied crossly at Nico.
“The only feelings she has for me is to kill me, mama,” Nico said as the Captain stormed off.
“Hush, child,” Liana reached behind her neck and unclasped a necklace which she put around Nico’s neck and closed it. “Take this.”
Nico looked to the small pendant that hung just below the hollow of her throat. “I can’t mama. It’s yours,” she replied quietly.
Liana smiled. “Now it’s yours. That was given to me by your father when we were married. It’s the family seal.” She looked into her daughter’s face. “The day may come when you need to prove your heritage, love. The courts of France know my face. But they don’t know yours.” She brushed back the wisps of short hair that surrounded Nico’s face. “The St. Michel’s and the Valois’ will watch out for you.”
Nico refused breakfast and Riley only seemed to get angrier over her stubbornness as she tied her wrists together and put the leash back on before they set out on their journey.
“You don’t need to do that,” Nico said as she furrowed her brow, watching as the rope closed loosely about her throat.
Riley snorted. “What makes you think I don’t know you won’t try and get away the first chance you get?” she said darkly.
Nico looked back into the village and Riley looked with her to where her mother was watching them leave, towered over by Deacon’s form. Riley scowled but led her on anyway.
“What makes you think I know where this thing you want is?” Nico asked as she walked, Aya still at her side.
“Did you see your bloody friend hanging on that tree?” Nico stiffened. Riley chuckled darkly but didn’t say any more.
The sun had risen to midday by the time the group reached the summit of the closest hill. From that view they could see almost everything. Nico had been in the lead with Riley right behind her and ten crewmen following them. The journey so far had been somewhat silent. A few words from the men until the search for snakes, that were plentiful overwhelmed them. Both Nico and Riley were disgusted at the cowardly display of fear from the men. Most of the snakes they had cut down were harmless. Some that were poisonous wouldn’t even do anything to them as long as they stayed away.
Riley held Nico fast as they stopped for a breather and the men sat down. “Which way?” she asked.
Nico nodded to the south. “We can go across here,” she nodded towards the almost invisible path. “And head up into the higher hill.” She point towards the hill across from where they had just come.
“Why didn’t we go through the valley, instead of climbing all the way up here?”
“More snakes down there.” She looked to the men that were a little dirty from snake blood on their weapons and clothes. “We do want to get there one day, right?”
Riley’s lip curled up in amusement. “I knew there was a reason I liked you.” She leaned over her small captive and stroked her lips lightly along the bare nape of her neck placing gentle kisses in a trail to the strap of her top on her shoulder. She could feel Nico stiffen under the closeness. But one thing about bodies was that they didn’t lie about what they wanted. Whether the owner did or not. Nico’s skin was lightly flushed and her breathing was a little stronger in slow arousal.
So what the warrior had said was true. Nico was attracted to the same sex. Good for Riley and in the long run for Nico. She just didn’t know it yet. Riley smiled as she moved back a little and Nico almost staggered at the loss of her support. Green eyes glanced briefly at the blue ones. Anger mixed with uncertainty. Riley chuckled softly letting the sound drift around Nico who straightened her shoulders and scowled.
Riley kicked the closest man in the thigh. “Come on! Let’s get moving! And stop killing all the damn snakes! They aren’t doing anything to you!”
The men grumbled and she glared at them until they shut up. The sun rose higher making it a lot hotter as they continued on. They had to stop for the men again and Nico found herself resting in the captain’s arms once again. Strong fingers smoothed across her bare torso and she bit the inside of her lip telling her body to stop it. She did not like this woman. She didn’t want anything to do with her. And her body was saying ‘YES!’ to anything the captain did. Maybe if she had just let Sokanon do what she wanted a few nights ago this wouldn’t be a problem.
Riley watched as Aya came out of the brush with a fair sized snake and laid down at Nico’s feet and began to chew the dead creature apart. “Are you hungry?” she asked as she leaned in a little to talk softly to her.
Nico looked to the captain. “Not that hungry.”
Riley blinked for a second as she realized she was talking about the dead snake and she slowly smiled. “I want you to try something.” She pulled out a small bag from her belt and took out a piece of dried meat. It was black and leathery and Nico looked skeptically between her and it.
“You aren’t going to force me to, are you?”
Riley looked to it and ripped off a bite herself and held the large piece out again as she chewed slowly on the bite in her mouth letting her saliva rehydrate it. “You didn’t eat any breakfast. And you only ate what I fed you yesterday morning. That’s not enough.”
“What is it?” Nico asked a little less unfriendly. She was hungry, she just didn’t want to show the captain that she was.
“Just try it!” Riley said exasperated.
Nico took it from her and sniffed it apprehensively. Taking a little bite, wincing at the strong salty flavor of cured meat. But it wasn’t like the light colored fish she was use to. Finally she bit off a small piece and tried to chew it. It was as hard as rock and she looked to Riley who waited to see what she thought, noticing that the captain was still chewing on her piece. She let her jaw rest and soon the meat became soft.
“So?” Riley asked.
Nico shrugged. “It’s not bad.” It wasn’t a very convincing performance but Riley just smiled and Nico found that when the captain did smile she looked beautiful. Frowning at that thought she turned away and Riley’s brow furrowed wondering what she’d done.
The group resumed their journey to head up into the highest hill on the island. Nico and Aya lead them through the brush. Nico desperately wishing she had her staff. It was much safer against the snakes than any sword might be. Finally they came closer to the small clearing where Nico had not been for a few years. Personally she didn’t want to come back at all. Just like she hadn’t wanted to go down to the beach with the remains of her tribe and the pirates on it. No matter what Riley said she still believed that the ghosts of the dead dwelled there. And she didn’t want to upset them.
She slowed down and Riley looked over the top of her head to the small clearing to see the yellowish points of human bones scattered about the ground, half buried by new foliage and dirt. She grinned when she saw that there were a few tatters of cloth on the bones. Not natives, that’s for certain. “Where?” she asked.
Nico stopped at the edge of the clearing and pointed. “About in the center.”
Riley looked at her. Nico didn’t want to go in. Fine. Riley honestly didn’t want to do any digging anyway. “You know what will happen if you’re lying.”
Nico glared at her. “How many times are you going to say that?! I’m not stupid! I know!”
Riley blinked in surprise as her crew stiffened. No one talked to her that way. Ever. Then a smile came and she began to laugh. The crew looked at her oddly as she wrapped an arm about Nico’s shoulders and held the even more surprised young woman close. “Go on!” she told them. “Get to digging!” Riley leaned over as the men got to work. “I can’t wait to get you back on my ship,” she told her softly.
Nico was quite certain that was not a good thing.
As usual Riley sat down on a nearby fallen tree and tucked the reluctant Nico into her arms as the men set about with shovels and began to dig. Nico at first was forced to lean back into Riley’s chest but she found it to be more comfortable than struggling. She hoped that the captain would loosen her hold on her and she could make a break for it. It didn’t work, Riley’s embrace surrounded her more and soon gentle lips found their way to nibble behind her ear and Nico could feel herself flush regardless of what her mind was telling her.
She tried to tear herself away from the feelings that were building as she watched the men grunt and heave as they dug. “What did the pirate bury?” Nico asked taking careful breaths not to reveal how she was feeling at the attention Riley was giving her.
Riley glanced up at the strong jaw then her blue eyes flickered to the scene with her men before she looked back to the soft jaw near her lips. “Gold,” she said in a dark voice as her lips slowly worked up to nuzzle her jaw and Nico was forced to take in a breath.
“You kill people over gold,” Nico said a bit more breathlessly than before. She had heard about gold from both her mother and the Colonel. Personally she didn’t see what was so wonderful about it. “That’s wrong.”
Riley chuckled into Nico’s neck and the hot breath made Nico flush even more. “Have you ever killed anyone, Nicola?”
Nico blinked at that. She hadn’t heard her full name used in ages. Well, not since the last time her mother got really mad at her. But the way Riley said it was enough to make her resolve wither a little. ‘Pirates… bad…’ she reminded herself trying to make herself not like what she was feeling. “No,” she whispered.
She felt the chuckle run through Riley’s form rather than hear it and Nico was not pleased with herself. Her resolve had up and left with that ‘no’. She sounded like the many times she had dreamt of Maylea, before the first pirate came and her dreams died with the loss of the young woman.
“I assure you Nicola,” Riley continued on with her soft conversation interspersed with kisses. “You will never have to kill as long as I have anything to say about it. But trust me, killing is quite enjoyable.”
Nico frowned. “That’s disgusting!”
Riley shrugged. “I didn’t get where I am by being nice,” she said as she changed sides and began an assault on Nico’s left ear. “But then I’m no lady. Unlike some people I know,” she said with a smirk as she stroked the fine hairs on Nico’s cheek with her nose and her hand rubbed her stomach gently and Nico’s resolve shattered. Riley reached up and cupped her cheek, turning her head enough she kissed her fully and Nico gave in.
Riley rejoiced at the sensation of the kiss. She took hungrily and Nico made a low keening noise at being devoured until the men laughed at the sight and Nico forcefully pulled away and looked embarrassed. Riley held her close as Nico stared at the ground and Riley glared at her men. They looked startled at the fierceness in her eyes and quickly got back to work. She looked down at the blond woman and saw that Nico had locked her out and the moment was broken. She’d have to work her way in again. Riley shrugged mentally, it was a start.
It wasn’t long before the soft shovel of dirt turned to a clank as the tip of one found the top of something metal. Riley stood up and moved to the edge of the clearing with Nico still in her embrace watching intently as the men hurried to uncover the chest with their hands.
Nico watched as they heaved and pulled and slowly the chest popped out of it’s home in the ground and they grunted at the weight as they hauled it over to set it down with a thud at the edge of the clearing near Riley. The captain handed Nico’s leash to one of her men and knelt down to the side of the chest.
“Damn fool would put a lock on it,” Riley muttered.
One of her men crouched down a little to look at it with her. It was an ominous lock on the sand encrusted chest. At least two inches thick with a sturdy clasp and the keyhole was almost invisible from the sand that filled it. “What we gonna’ do now, cap’n?” he asked.
Riley was thoughtful before she shrugged and drew out her pistol. She looked to make sure Nico was out of the way as she put the barrel near the lock and fired.
Everything was deathly quiet as the sound of the shot reverberated through the valley and over the island. A puff from the gunpowder drifted up towards the sky as Riley opened her eyes and looked to see that not only was the lock open and partially torn apart but there was a nice hole in the side of the chest. She looked over to Nico to find her hunched down with her ears covered. Riley touched her shoulder and Nico jumped back a little as she opened her eyes. Riley made certain the young woman was alright through eye contact before she turned back to the chest and pulled the remainder of the lock off.
Pulling back the lid of the chest the group looked in and even Riley was surprised at what they found. “Good god,” one of the men muttered.
Nico moved in a little closer and looked at the large shiny coins. “That’s gold?” she asked quietly.
Riley smiled hugely as she reached in and cupped two huge handfuls of doubloons. “This is what pirating is all about,” she said softly. “It’s not just gold,” she answered Nico’s question. “These are Spanish gold doubloons. Useable anywhere in the world, no questions asked.” She looked back to Nico who’s brow was furrowed, not understanding what the importance was. Riley let the currency slip through her fingers save one piece. She stood holding the piece up towards Nico. “This will by a case of the finest rum the islands have to offer,” she said in all seriousness.
Riley took Nico’s bound hands and held the right one palm up and placed the doubloon in it. “You could buy a fine cutlass with ten of them.” She watched as Nico held the piece and looked at it curiously rubbing her fingers over the minted impressions. “For fifty of them I could buy a very valuable slave.”
Nico looked up from the piece to her and blanched at the thought that her life was only worth that much. She held it out for Riley to take back. Riley smiled slowly but shook her head. “It’s yours.”
Nico blinked at her confused. “What am I suppose to do with it?”
Riley shrugged. “When we get to a port I’ll show you the markets and you may buy what you wish with it.”
“I don’t want anything,” Nico answered back trying to return it to her again.
Riley smiled. “Everyone wants something.”
Nico looked at the piece. “So if I had fifty of these I could buy my freedom from you?”
The men had been watching this conversation with great interest as Riley took a step closer to the blond woman and leaned in close and whispered into her ear. Nico bent her head as her face flushed red at what Riley told her. The captain gently kissed her cheek and turned to her men. “You can take turns carrying it back to shore.”
They all groaned at that, the thing weighed a ton. But no one said a word and two of the burly men hefted the handles while the rest of them found large tree branches and helped carry from underneath as Riley took control of Nico once again.
They stayed behind the group and some distance from the site Riley finally called a break and the men gratefully dropped the chest to the ground. Nico was silent the entire time and Riley found a spot to hold her as she watched the young woman turn the coin in her fingers. Riley bent in close. “My master bought me from a card game. To my knowledge I wasn’t even worth one of those.”
Nico glanced back at her. “If you know how awful it is then why do you do it?”
Riley smirked. “I’ve never had slaves. I don’t want them. Not until you.” She kissed her jaw. “You will be the only one.”
“But you do what that other captain did…”
Riley snorted lightly. “Now you’re assuming things. I don’t sell children or women. And it is very rare that any ship I attack that the men are left alive.”
Nico went pale at that. Riley watched her for a moment as she turned that concept over in her mind. Finally she stood bringing Nico up with her. “Let’s get a move on.” She looked to the skies. The sun was far to the west and clouds were building. “I want to make it a bit farther before dark.”
Nico watched from her view tucked up high in the thick branches of a tree as the first huge droplet of rain splattered on the ground. She looked up to the darkening skies as more drops began to fall. It was the rainy season and this looked to be a bad one. One thing she had to admit was that Riley was a very efficient woman. The chest was on a bed of leaves with more leaves tucked around it to protect and hide it. Then she had the men look for places to stay the night off the ground informing them that a storm was going to hit. Lastly she found a big enough place for her and Nico that was well sheltered. Now she sat in very strong warm arms as the rain started and night fell.
Aya sat curled up on the branch above them pleased as well with the spot they were spending the night at. If there was one thing the ocelot hated was to be wet. It hadn’t been until their first stop from coming back with the chest that Nico noticed the cat was missing. It was only when they stopped for the night that the young animal wound itself around Nico’s legs and the young blond was overjoyed. Riley suspected that it was the gunfire that set the cat into hiding.
Riley removed the leash from Nico’s neck and gave her some dried meat and a piece of fruit which the woman ate hungrily as she leaned tiredly into Riley’s body not caring for the moment who she was as she rested. Content for the moment Riley ate her own meager dinner as she looked out into the night.
Nico wiped the fruit juice from her chin as she nodded out to the east as the rain almost made the air opaque. “Do you have another ship?”
Riley shook her head and looked out with her. “No, why?”
“Whoever they are landed on the wrong side.”
Riley peered out and saw the black sails and huge black girth of the ship. She went still and Nico looked up at her. “Are they pirates too?”
Nico smirked as she finished off her supper with a flourish. “Good.”
Riley glanced down at her then back out to see that a longboat was being launched for the shore. “How is that good?”
Nico looked thoughtful not sure if she wanted to share her secret until she finally took in a breath. “We leave that side alone. There are many more snakes over there. Most of them the diamond snake.” She glanced up at Riley. “Going over there is asking to die.”
Riley stared in thought over the top of Nico’s head as she slowly smiled.
Lightening cracked across the sky and the thunder boomed so loud Nico leaned in closer to Riley. The dark pirate held her closer as the wet scents from the forest pervaded her senses. It rained so hard that Riley wondered if everything was going to wash away. Small channels of water were created and streamed down the sides of the hill. She held Nico watching from their nest in the tree as they stayed relatively dry. Lightening shot overhead again and she looked up to see Aya was curled up in a nook of the tree trunk to stay dry. Riley had to give the cat and her mistress credit, one wouldn’t leave the other.
“Cap’n!” one of the men called out bringing the young pirate out of her thoughts. “Cap’n! The treasure!” he hollered.
Riley looked down through the deluge of water but couldn’t see much of anything. “What is it?!” she yelled out shifting about with Nico in her arms getting ready to come down.
“It’s sliding!” the man said with a grunt. “Too… heavy….” He grunted more. “It’s goin’ down the mountain!”
Riley grabbed firmly around Nico’s middle and quickly slipped and climbed her way out of the tree. Both of them were drenched by the time they reached the bottom and Riley jumped the last five feet splashing them both with mud. “Where are you?!” she called out to the man as two more crewmates joined her and Aya stayed unhappily near Nico’s feet also drenched.
“Cap…” the man yelled out from a distance away.
Nico gasped, it was on the wrong side, the snake side. Riley started to move with her men but Nico dug her feet into the sticky mud. “Nico!” Riley exclaimed angry as she lifted Nico off her feet and ran down the mountain side.
“NO!” Nico exclaimed.
Riley didn’t listen as she made her way down with her heavy load of struggling woman in her arm. She was almost blind as she went downward with the driving rain coming straight at her. She could hear her men call out but she couldn’t see anything except for the various bushes and branches that caught in her way. She came across a deep furrow in the mud, it was wide enough to be the chest and there were men’s footprints being quickly washed out that trailed behind it. She was jolted back and she looked up to see that Nico had grabbed a hold of a tree branch with her bound hands.
Growling in frustration Riley looked down below then to Nico. With a swift fist she knocked Nico out. The blond’s eyes rolled slightly and then she went limp. Riley hoisted the unconscious woman over her shoulder then continued on down the hillside. Thunder boomed again followed by a man screaming. Riley moved faster through the thick trees only to skid to a stop when she came upon where the chest had stopped. It and one of her men were out in the middle of a pool of quicksand. The chest was floating but one end was beginning to tip. Her crewman was thrashing about screaming. Both were to far out to reach to get them without help.
“Stop moving!” she yelled at him as she wiped water out of her eyes.
The man tried moving for the edge. “Get me out!!!” he pleaded.
“If you keep moving you’ll sink faster. Stay still!” she yelled back at him. She was looking about in the trees. She pointed up. “Hurry, get some of those vines!” Riley hoisted Nico up onto a thick branch nearby resting her limp form on it tying her bound hands about it. She moved to help as the man whimpered but stayed still. The sand had crept up to his neck and his eyes were huge as he watched it come closer.
The rest of them cut down a few thick vines and Riley and one man lashed them together quickly. She tossed it out to him and he made a quick grab for it holding on tight as the men grabbed hold of the other end.
“Can you tie the end onto the chest?!” Riley yelled out.
The man shook his head vigorously. “No way I’m lettin’ go!”
Riley looked to the chest that was almost tilted completely on end. “Shit,” she muttered under her breath. “Pull!” she told her men. Nothing really happened and she looked back.
“You ain’t lettin’ it go are you, Cap’n?” one of the older men said from behind her.
She glared at him. “You volunteering to go get it?! Now help pull, or you can join him!”
“He could tie it on,” another man said over the thunderstorm. “He ain’t gonna sink now.”
Riley growled and grabbed his shirt and threw him in. “You tie it on!”
The man thrashed about grabbing for the man hanging on. She stood waiting as the first man pushed him away from sending him under. They fought for a moment then Riley drew out her flintlock and pointed at the second man. “Tie it on or I’ll shoot you,” she said angrily. She looked to the first man. “Help him, or you both drown.”
With that threat they both got it done and they heaved all of them out and fought to get the chest out. It slid back. “No way we’re movin’ it Cap’n,” one finally said.
They watched it sink as the sun slowly began to rise showing the new day and Riley turned on them her eyes furious and her wet form shimmering with anger. “We could have saved it if you would have done what I told you to!” she hissed at them. She drew out her flintlock in an easy motion and pointed it at the older man who questioned her first aiming it right at his head. “YOU DO NOT QUESTION ME,” she told him just loud enough to be heard over the storm.
“No…” she heard a weak voice just barely carry over the storm. She looked back to see Nico slightly awake and watching from where she had tied her. “Don’t.”
A shot went off and Nico cried out. Riley hadn’t shot and the man looked at himself to see he was still alive. Chunks of wood sprayed near Nico and Riley turned to see a group of men start to come through the trees. In the lead was Wesley with a smoking pistol. All of his men had drawn guns.
“Hawke!” he yelled, pulling out another gun from his belt and he shot at her. “Where’s my gold!”
Riley ducked as the shot rang out. She looked to her men then ran for Nico. Her men scrambled into the forest as Riley drew out her sword on the run and with a quick swipe cut Nico loose and pulled her out of the tree. “Run!” she hissed dragging her along into the trees.
Nico stumbled a bit at first then when she heard another shot and felt mud and debris hit her legs she kept up well with the tall pirate. They stopped for a moment and Nico gasped in the air. “Where…” she gasped again. “Where are we going?”
Riley watched the through the deluge warily with her sword ready. “Dog will follow me. We’ll lead him north then head for the boat.”
Nico looked at her. “My mother…”
Riley shook her head. “Deacon will watch out for her.”
“What about…” she didn’t get to finish as Riley pulled her into a run again.
“Hawke!” Dog bellowed behind them.
Riley headed up the mountain fighting against the mudslides. They fought their way up finally, both of them heaving air into their lungs then Riley pulled Nico up with her. “Come on,” she told her as he wiped the mud off her face.
“But where…” Nico said only to be carted off along the ridge they had walked only a few hours before on the way to get the treasure.
Riley led them north until Nico pulled on her hard to stop her and the captain didn’t look amused. “This way,” Nico said. “To camp.” She nodded to the west and Riley shook her head looked back over the top of Nico’s head.
“Not with Dog coming right behind us. We’ll go north for a while then loop back and lose them in the brush.” Riley glared at her firmly daring her to object but Nico nodded finally, her mother’s safety was important to her. Riley smirked at this and leaned over grabbing her chin with a firm hand and kissed her hard. “Just in case,” she told her before she grabbed the remains of her bonds and led her along.
The weather grew worse as the heavy rain picked up to a torrent or water flooding the lush paradise. Riley finally had to stop heaving in a breath as Nico almost slumped into the back of her trying to take oxygen into her depraved lungs. Riley wiped her bangs back along with water from her face, not that it did much good.
“We need to find some shelter!” Riley told Nico loudly trying to be heard over the flow about them.
Nico took in another breath and looked around, she nodded to the east. “I have seen a few small caves over there. But we can’t go… it’s the wrong side.”
Riley’s eyes narrowed. No damn snake was going to stop her. However, that is where the snakes would go in such a storm. She reasoned that’s how Dog got so far inland from the wrong side of the island. The snakes wouldn’t come out in the rain, even for as humid and warm it was here, it was still too cold for the reptiles.
“We’ll keep north then!” she told her.
Nico shook her head. “No one goes up that way! To easy to lose your way!”
Riley gave her a smirk as she led her on. “Then that’s perfect.”
Nico looked at her in disbelief as they were pulled along. “You’re mad!”
Riley laughed into the rain almost proving Nico’s point. If there was one thing Riley never did was lost her way. Another of her uncanny abilities. “Hurry up, Dog can’t be that far behind.”
Riley cut their way through the underbrush and Nico was slightly grateful for it since the rain couldn’t reach them in the overwhelming growth around them. They walked on until Nico had no clue as to where they were when she bumped into the back of the tall captain. She looked around to see that there was an opening in the dense rainforest and she looked up to the stunned pirate. There was a rumbling thunder in the background of noise that made the blond nervous and she wondered if that was what had stopped her.
“What?” she questioned. She looked behind her to find that the sounds of their pursuers had kept good time behind them, but then Nico knew what that rage and anger could drive someone to move pretty fast. However, her fear was no wimp either when it came to wanting to survive. “They’re coming,” she told her captor with great urgency.
Riley must have heard her since she turned to look at the smaller woman then to the growth behind them. “Come on,” she said as she wrapped an arm about Nico’s trim waist and before Nico could get anything out the pirate jumped into the clearing.
Nico must have screamed. She was certain that the pirate wouldn’t. And the crashing sound of water nearby almost drowned her voice out. The islander felt the movement of air surround her as she and Riley fell at a tremendous speed downward. She couldn’t look as she wrapped her arms about the captain’s neck and shut her eyes tight. The pirate had jumped off a ledge at least sixty feet high surrendering them to gravity and the water below. Nearby was a cascading waterfall that lent it’s support to the lake they were headed for.
Soon as Nico thought it she was brought to a stop as the pair hit the water and she fought to not take in a breath as the powerful body that held her propelled them towards the surface.
Riley spit out a mouthful of water as Nico spluttered about. “I hate you!” the small blond proclaimed as soon as she took in a couple of breaths of air.
Riley nodded with a short smile. “What else is new?” the woman said dryly.
She led the younger woman to the side of the small pool and they began to climb out. They both ducked as another shot rang out spraying dirt near Riley’s feet. Riley looked up as she pulled Nico behind her to see Dog at the top where they had jumped holding a smoking pistol in his hand and his sword in the other. He sneered at her as he passed the pistol back without taking his eyes off of her and he was handed a loaded one from someone behind him.
“Hawke!” Dog bellowed her name out so she could hear him over the deafening waterfall as the rain began to lighten up. “I won’t miss this time! But I’ll make it fast if you tell me where the treasure is!”
Riley smiled as Nico slowly stood still behind her with a strong hand about her arm. “Back where you met us you idiot!” she hollered back. “In the quicksand!”
Dog’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t believe you!”
Riley shrugged. “Believe me or not, but it’s there!”
Nico looked to the dark haired woman. She went through all of this and she give up the location of the chest full of gold?
Dog’s slowly grinned and on him it didn’t look pretty. “I’ll check it out… but only after I kill you.”
Riley gave him the same smile back. “I was thinking you would! But I doubt you can hit me from this far away!”
“A challenge!” Dog replied. “I’m never one to forgo a challenge Hawke! You know me better than that!”
Riley grinned. “One that for the moment you will lose.” She pushed Nico back into the brush with her as a shot rang out again. Riley stumbled over Nico as the young woman went down. “Come on!” she hissed at her. “We haven’t long before he heads back!” She moved from the woman and found her clasping her leg as blood slowly trickled from between her fingers. “Shit!” she muttered as she pried Nico’s fingers to see the damage.
Nico groaned from the blinding pain. She had never felt anything so awful in her life! One second Riley was forcing her along and then the next it was like when she had caught her foot over some coral in the ocean. It burned fiercely. “No…” she said painfully between clenched teeth as the tall pirate pulled her fingers off from her leg. “It hurts!”
“I know,” Riley said. She looked as she held Nico’s hands off. The iron ball had entered Nico’s left calf and was lodged there. Quickly she ripped off a bit of cloth from her shirt and wrapped it tightly about Nico’s leg to stanch the flow of blood.
“Don’t leave me,” Nico said through tears. “Please.”
Riley looked to the beautiful blond. “I won’t.” She picked her up and put her over her shoulder as she began to head south hopefully making it to the tribe’s camp before Dog’s men did.
Riley paced herself. It was easy for her to move through the brush but with an adult over her shoulder and she was already worn out herself. Not likely. She still made good time and soon she found herself to the north of the camp site. She listened as she heard steel on steel and knew that those who had followed her men had found their way to the innocent islanders.
Riley put Nico down and the woman groaned softly. She checked to see that the bleeding had stopped but it had to hurt like hell and she needed to get Greenpoole to take the ball out before it started to rust among other things.
“Stay here,” she whispered to her.
Nico caught her hand. “No, take me with you.”
Riley sighed. “Only to the perimeter, I can’t afford to let you any closer.”
Nico looked up at her with a furrowed brow. “Why does it matter? I’m just another slave to you.”
Riley glanced at her as she picked her up shoving feelings aside. “You’re a valuable one,” she answered.
She moved in closer to see that the natives were fighting along with some of her men as bodies littered the ground and some of them had disappeared most likely heading back to the ship. There was nothing she could do here, gritting her teeth at the thought of losing to Dog, but right now her life and Nico’s depended on her getting them to the ‘Conqueror’.
Riley lifted Nico back up over her shoulder and quietly headed for the beach where the longboats were. Soon as she left Dog came storming out into the clearing and the tide turned killing all of those that remained behind. Stepping over dead bodies Dog hurried on, none of them noticed as a young bloodied warrior slowly moved to where his dead wife heavy with child lay lifeless on the ground.
“I would fight now, Nico,” Kelaku whispered with his last breath as he held onto Ayita and died.
“Deacon Priest!” came the call from not to far away.
The tall one armed man turned to look behind him as he protected Liana with his body. He had gotten the older woman out as the first of Riley’s men came back scared to death with quick words of Dog and his men behind them. They didn’t know where the captain was and they weren’t waiting to find out. They ran on and he grabbed the Frenchwoman and moved her with him. Now he faced his tormentor from seven years ago. Dog Wesley.
“How’s the arm?” the spiteful man asked as he moved closer swinging his serrated sword deftly. “Must hurt like hell in weather like this.”
Deacon glared at him but fell fear run through him and the woman behind him. “’Bout like it always does… I’ve had a long time to get used to it.”
Dog nodded as he looked to Liana. “Pretty thing you’ve got there… a little old. But then so are you.”
Deacon watched Dog’s sword. He had his own sword out, but time and the years spent in prison had hurt his skill with the weapon. Both of them knew that Deacon would lose if they fought. “What do you want Dog?”
Dog looked at him a little then to the open beach not that far away from them and the sight of the ‘Conqueror’ was picturesque in the open ocean beyond that. “I think you know what I want,” he growled at him. “What did that bitch of a captain do with it?!” he screamed as he lifted his sword. “Because if I don’t find out real soon, I’m going to take more than your other arm!”
Deacon nudged Liana to run for the ship. That he could hold him off long enough for. “Captain Hawke went out to get it, she never came back.”
Dog glared evilly at him. “That was not what I wanted to hear,” he warned him. He took a pistol from the man behind him and pointed it at his heart. “I grow tired of this, once more and you better tell me what I want,” he told him gravely.
Deacon watched the pistol knowing that his life was pretty much over. The winds picked up a little as the storm had finally ended and he nudged Liana back a bit more. “Go,” he said under his breath.
Liana looked between the group of men and the man who was protecting her. She didn’t like any of this and she was worried sick about her daughter. She didn’t want to leave without her. She also didn’t want to die. She took a step back as Deacon realized she was planning on running.
“Well Dog, it has to be somewhere on the island. Why don’t we go find it?” Deacon said taking a step forward.
Dog watched him skeptically as the woman ran for the beach. Dog hitched up a lip in a small disbelieving smirk from him to the old first mate of the Crusader then back to the woman. He fired and Liana went down. “I honestly thought you could be a little more original than that, you old fool,” he told Deacon.
“No!” came the cry of another woman from somewhere and the group of men began to look around as a wounded Nico crawled out from the brush towards her mother.
Dog looked surprised at this as he handed his pistol back to be reloaded. “Never a dull day around this place, is it?” he muttered to himself but it could be heard by all and he looked back when his weapon hadn’t been taken.
“Not really,” Riley said from where she stood behind him. All of his men silently cut down from behind. There was a fury in the woman’s eyes. “I doubt it will get much duller.”
Dog sneered at her as he dropped the used pistol and brought his sword up. “Hawke, you finally come out to play with the big boys.” He watched her as she lithely moved to the right and he tracked her with the tip of his blade and his eyes. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”
Riley’s face didn’t change, it still held the look of utter death and destruction in it. “Guess it’s time then.” She lashed out with fast strong strokes and the older captain had to work at deflecting them.
Riley had watched Deacon protect Nico’s mother as she set the young woman down preparing to fight them if she had to. She couldn’t believe it when Deacon encouraged Liana to run. Dog did what she would have done, shot her. Come to think of it, she wouldn’t have. She would have let her go and caught her later. Deacon was in no position to protect her for long. Even more surprising was when Nico cried out and Riley tried to hold her back only to have Nico fight her fiercely, she couldn’t hold onto her and she decided to play her hand. She moved quickly to the back and began to slit throats of the unsuspecting men behind Dog.
Dog came back with a countermove and Riley gave him a feral grin as she held him off easily. “You’re going to have to do better than that old man,” she told him darkly. “I’m not that young girl anymore.”
Dog felt sweat form on his brow as he parried and lunged the ring of their blades crossing one another. She was good… better than good. He had never fought her before, but the rumors that she was a demon with the blade was true.
Deacon watched as the two captains fought. He turned back to see the young woman Riley had taken with her the morning before clinging to her mother. “Mama,” came a sob from the blond. He moved over and looked to the older woman. Gently he reached down and felt no breath of life coming from her. The bullet Dog had shot was at point blank range and had easily pierced her chest.
“Get her out of here Deacon!” Riley told him as she fought.
Deacon looked back at the fiery woman as Dog used brute strength to force her back as they clashed crosspieces together. He touched Nico’s shoulder. “Let me get you to the longboat.”
Nico didn’t even look up at him as she whispered. “Je meurs ici avec ma mère.”
Deacon didn’t know what she said, only knowing it was French and it didn’t sound like she was going to capitulate to what he asked. He grabbed around her waist and she wrenched herself out of his grasp.
She glared at him. “No! I will not go with you! This is my home, you have destroyed my life! I will die here with my mother!” she snarled at him then held her mother close again as the tears came.
Deacon looked from her back to the captains as the fighting continued. They were almost evenly matched. If he was younger and maybe had both arms he could just pick the girl up and carry her back, but there was no way it was going to happen now.
Riley had watched from the corner of her eye as she fought with Dog that Deacon couldn’t move Nico from her mother. She was already tired from the long night before. Albeit the small amount of time she spent up in the tree holding the spry young blond was wonderful. But she had to dig into her reserves to fight Dog now.
They had edged back into the brush a little as Riley caught and pushed Dog’s sword back from cutting into her arm just in time.
“What the matter girl,” Dog hissed at her as he struck at her again. “Wearin’ ya down?”
Riley glared at him as she did a quick move and swung low surprising him she caught the side of his leg showing a thin line of blood seep out from the black leather pants he was in. “Not at all,” she replied. “Just starting.”
He scowled at her as he caught her with his fist on her cheek moving their swords to the side. Riley reeled back a little with that only to turn and drive her foot into his stomach. He oofed but came back at her with an over handed blow. She saw it coming and drove in low before he could swing the full arch with his blade. She struck on the same leg at the knee level. He let out a grunt of pain as she whirled down and out to get away from his blade as it came down and lit into a tree behind her tearing a chuck of wood and bark out with the force behind it.
Her blade got caught between Dog and the tree and she had to let it go to get out of his range. Dog turned with a heavy limp and looked between her and her blade on the ground and he hefted his up with an arched eyebrow. “What are you going to do now?” he asked with a nasty smile. “Glare me to death?” He laughed with that as he lashed out at her quickly.
It was Riley’s fast reflexes that saved her as she moved back farther into the underbrush using the dense vegetation in her defense. She dodged as took out her boot daggers and deflected his sword with one and cut at his wounded leg again neatly severing many muscles with the sharp blade. This time he went down. She kicked his sword out of the way and looked down at the man sheathing one dagger.
She could see the white bone in his leg where she had pretty much cut through. The dark pirate grabbed his hair and jerked him up and put the tip of her dagger to his throat. “I’m glad to see you gone, Dog.” She kicked his wounded leg and he hissed with the pain. “That’s for what you did to the women back there.”
Dog sneered at her. “This isn’t the last of me, Hawke. I’ll kill you, if it’s the last thing I do.”
Riley looked him square in the eye and she swore she saw the older man start to sweat. “Big words for a dead man.” She pushed the tip of her dagger into the skin on his throat.
The sound of a pistol went off nearby. “Riley!” Deacon called out. Riley glared at Dog and slit his throat and dropped him to the ground and ran for the clearing.
Deacon watched as more of Dog’s men came out from the makeshift trail to see the pirate and two women. One shot at them barely missing all of them. “Riley!” he called out hoping beyond hope that the woman was winning in the duel between the two captains.
“Damn!” came a soft remark as the dark haired woman stumbled out into the clearing. All eyes focused on her and she smiled at the men. “Your captain is that way,” she told them, pointing with her thumb over her shoulder into the brush. She smiled as six loaded pistols pointed her way.
Deacon stood up with his sword ready, but there was no way all six would miss her from a few yards away. The captain didn’t seem worried though. She looked a little bloody and messy from the fight and it was odd how she kept part of her body turned away from the men pointing the weapons at her, she almost seemed to be shaking from the way that part of her body seemed to move.
Riley watched them for a moment with a lifted eyebrow then shifted her body and from around her arm a yellowish thing was flung at them and a few pistols went off. Riley was running for Deacon and Nico before they even knew what it was. There were screams as the bushmaster Riley had caught bit at anything it could find. The captain came up to them. “Thank god they aren’t all on the other side,” she told Deacon as she bodily lifted Nico up. “Hurry, it won’t get them all.”
“No!” Nico screamed fighting Riley as she was taken away from her lifeless mother. “No!”
Riley didn’t pay her any attention as the sound of pistols went off and the screams continued. There was one longboat coming for the shore and as Riley and Deacon got Nico in the captain looked up to see the small ocelot of Nico’s leap out of the brush for the boat. “Hurry cat!” she yelled at it. “Move us out!” she ordered her men.
Aya ran to the beach and leapt hard thumping into Riley and scrambling for purchase in the moving longboat.
“No,” Nico begged. “Mama…” she whispered.
Deacon kept a hold of her legs while Riley basically sat on top of her and Aya moved to sit next to her head and lick Nico’s face as the straggling remainder of Dog’s men came out to the beach. They hurried to load their pistols but Riley’s men made good time and were soon out of reach.
Riley looked back to Deacon. “Remind me why we came here again?”
Deacon looked at her oddly. “For gold apparently.”
Riley nodded. “God…” she muttered leaning back as Nico calmed down burying her face in Aya’s soft fur. “Fun as it was I don’t want to go through that again.”
“And no treasure from it either,” Deacon reminded her.
Riley nodded a little but looked to the woman beneath her. “Depends on your point of view, I guess.”
Langdon strolled up to where Riley leaned against the railing looking out into the night sky of the Caribbean Sea. It was quiet and dusk had just come. The ship had taken losses and the crew was somber. They had taken some joy in the knowledge that their captain had gone up against Dog Wesley and won. However, there was no gold and their captain was not happy.
“Long couple of days,” the first mate said lightly to break the mood.
Riley nodded keeping watch out on the open seas. “Yup.”
“What of the girl you brought back?” he asked.
Riley glanced at him. All of the survivors had been treated. And now Riley was cleaned up and back in charge. “What do you mean?”
Langdon looked back out to sea with her. “Do we drop her off at the next port?” as was the usual thing the captain did with women she captured with ships.
Riley shook her head. “No.”
Langdon nodded a little remembering their conversation. “The cat?”
“Stays with her…” Riley said. “I don’t think she’d let it go right now anyway.”
“Greenpoole’s about done with her,” he told her.
He got a nod in reply as the captain straightened up. “I’ll retire then,” she said.
Langdon watched her go down below and wondered just where all of this was going to take them. Max had asked for where they were headed. Riley told him anywhere for now. Just away from here. The quartermaster looked to him and Langdon nodded. He set sail for Jamaica knowing that the crew needed to relax after this as well as recruiting some new sailors.
Riley headed down below. She had carried a subdued Nico down to her own quarters and had in no terms threatened Greenpoole to do everything in his power to heal her. She left when he began to dig the iron ball from the pistol out and Nico screamed in pain. Now she came back through the door to find the smallish man carefully wrapping a clean bandage around Nico’s leg and the young woman was out cold. He looked up as the dark tempered pirate glared at him.
“She passed out,” he told her somberly. “I got the ball out and cleaned it as best I could.” He waited for a moment but she stared at him. “I’ll come check on it tomorrow.”
Finally she nodded. “You do that.” She waited until he picked up all of his stuff and left in a hurry. She glanced around to see Aya was underneath the desk not looking at all amused at where she was and the pain in Nico’s voice from what had happened.
Riley disregarded the cat as she went over to Nico and began to undress her from the clammy top and skirt she had worn the entire time. There was blood all over them from her mother and Riley gritted her teeth as she shoved the anger she felt down. She never would have killed the woman. Riley dropped the clothes onto a chair and took a cloth and dipped it into the water Greenpoole had used. It was a nice warm instead of boiling hot. She bathed Nico careful to get all of the blood and dirt out of her hair she dried her and placed her between the sheets on her bed and tucked her in.
Setting down on the side she watched as she unbuckled her boots as Aya slunk out and hopped up on the bed watching Riley carefully she curled up near Nico’s head and bathed her face. Riley finished pulling off her boots as she moved into the bed herself and wrapped herself around Nico’s sleeping form and drifted off into a restless sleep.
Nico awoke slowly, like her head was stuck in sand everything seemed to hurt when she moved it, especially in her leg. She blinked a little looking out of sleepy lids to see cloth and skin in front of her. She carefully tilted her head back to see blue eyes watching her closely. She tried to move away only to be held tighter to the dark pirate.
“How are you feeling?” came a sleepy rumble from the tall woman.
“Why should you care?” Nico said sadly as tears began to well up in her eyes.
Riley rolled her own eyes a little at this but gently wiped the tears away. “Crying isn’t going to bring your mother back,” she told her frankly.
Nico knocked her hands out of the way angrily and wiped the rest of her tears away, still unable to keep them back. “Go away,” she replied turning over to face Aya who was watching the whole curiously.
Riley slid an arm about her waist and pulled her against her. “You’re the one in my bed.”
“You didn’t have to bring me with you,” Nico countered back. “You should have let me die with my mama.”
“I don’t leave what I own behind,” Riley growled into her ear. She didn’t know why but the younger woman was starting to make her angry and horny by being obstinate.
“Your slave,” Nico spat out with discontent. “My whole family dead just for gold and you having a slave.” She was silent and the rocking of the boat and the far away shouts of the men above were all that where heard for some time. “I hope you’re happy,” came a whisper at last.
Riley bit her tongue; she had a lot of things she could have said that weren’t very nice. Most of them would have been to someone that she only had a few concerns over. Sex, more sex, and… lots more sex. She knew in her heart, now knowing that she had the one that she wanted for more than just sex. Riley could have just taken her the first night on the island and enjoyed that. The small blond still made her angry, the islander wasn’t afraid of her, not in the sense that most women are. And she was smart; most of the women captured were rich emptied-headed bimbos with nothing more concerning them than what they wore and their position from marriage.
The dark headed woman mustered up her will to control her basic instincts to dominate the woman before she spoke.
“I’m sorry about your mother.”
It took a moment and Nico replayed that in her mind, the captain was sincere. Or at least she was good enough to make it sound like she was. She looked over her shoulder at Riley and searched her eyes and face intently to see if she was mocking her. Unexpectedly Riley leaned over and kissed her.
Nico felt a warmth spread through her, one she rarely felt. She moved away from the kiss and turned back to face Aya. “I still hate you,” she told her.
Riley smirked at this and lay back down keeping her hold on the woman knowing that the kiss was enjoyed by the blond and herself. “I know,” she replied happy with herself that she had made the right decision. Nico wasn’t as tense at she was when she first woke up.
“Where are we going?” Nico asked as she reached out and petted Aya who leaned into the welcoming hand happily. The cat had lost her friend during the storm and had been waiting near the beach knowing the woman would show up eventually.
“Jamaica, I believe,” Riley said softly.
“My mama and the Colonel spoke of Jamaica before,” Nico replied. “Is it far away?”
Riley smiled slightly. “A good journey, but not as far as the Colonies, or France.”
Nico looked back at her again. “Have you been to France?” she asked curiously.
Riley shook her head. “The islands are my home. The Colonies are the farthest I have been.”
Nico nodded. “I would like to see France someday,” she said wistfully. “Maybe one day, when I am free.”
Riley felt her stiffen up at these words. “I would not sell you for any price, Nicola St. Michel.”
Nico nodded unbelievingly. “You will tire of me. I have heard your men talk about such things.”
Riley shrugged mentally. Nothing she said at the moment was going to change her mind. “I will take you to France one day.”
Tears came to Nico’s eyes as she closed them. Riley’s hand slowly began to stroke her belly in a soothing motion and the pirate leaned in closer. “First I will show you Jamaica,” she told her lightly kissing her ear as they rested silently the rest of the morning away.
Riley came out onto the deck and Langdon called the men to come to the deck. Riley watched them as they filled the deck. She noticed that some sported bandages and a few missing limbs and as many as ten men missing and that was going to hurt the performance of the ship and the morale of the crew. However, she looked as fierce as ever as she stood there near the wheel in her trademark knee high boots with the daggers. Her sword to her side and a white shirt and her dark hair flowing free as they sailed, her blue eyes caught each of them.
“Dog Wesley is dead!” she told them and a rousing cheer went up. “I slit his throat myself.” She looked to them. “We didn’t get the gold, but neither did Dog’s crew.” Her eyes met those remaining men that were with her when the gold sank in the quicksand and they looked away. “I’m sure you’ve heard stories from the men with me how it was lost.” She shrugged. “It is gone, it is the will of the fates, so be it. There is much more treasure out there for us to take.” A wicked grin formed on her face. “For now, we’ll go to Jamaica, we need men to replace the ones we lost, so find those you would dare to have fighting at your back.”
“What of the woman?” one crewman spoke up. “What of her?”
Riley looked to the man who asked. He was tall and lanky, a mediocre sailor, Jepson, she believed his name was. “She’s mine,” she told him firmly.
“We lose all that treasure, our crewmates and friends and the woman is yours?” Jepson asked.
Riley settled her hand on the hilt of her sword. “I challenge you come closer and speak those words,” came a dark answer.
The man looked to her then to his crewmates to help him out, half of them looked at him like he was insane and the others looked elsewhere. “We could all take you… we could take this ship for ourselves…”
Riley’s lip curled up in a sneer as Langdon and Deacon came to back her up. “Then do so, and lose your lives. You are either loyal to me or you leave.”
Jepson nodded. Hawke was a good captain but she didn’t share equally and he was sick of it. “I’ll get off at port then.”
Riley’s sneer left and a deadly look of no compromising came and settled over her face like a death mask. “No, you’ll get off now. And any of those that agree with him.”
Jepson looked to the waters, it was midday and there was no land anywhere in sight. He looked back to the captain in disbelief and a fearful sweat came to his brow.
“The island is back that way,” she pointed behind her with a jerk of her thumb.
“You gonna do it?” he asked trying to play up the last of the bravado he had.
Riley smiled at that. “Am I men?” she darkly asked to the crew. Jepson was roughly grabbed and quickly thrown overboard with a scream. “Any other takers?”
The crew was silent as Jepson’s screams stopped when he drowned. Just like most pirates, the man didn’t know how to swim.
“No?” came the next question. She nodded. “Then listen up, Nico, the woman in MY cabin is off limits to any of you, you touch her other than a helping hand and I take it off the next second later along with your head.” She turned to head to the upper deck of the ship before she turned back to look at them. “The cat is too,” she said as an afterthought.
Nico woke up feeling a bit better than she had earlier in the day. She sighed in relief when she couldn’t feel the heat of the captain behind her. As much as she was angry with the captain the kiss had felt nice. She began to worry that maybe the captain was what she had been waiting for. That someone she thought Maylea would have been. She struggled to put that out of her mind as she shifted feeling the pain through her leg again. Slowly she lowered the covers to look at the myriad of bruises and scratches from her awful time with the captain hunting for the accursed thing called gold.
Then she saw the bandage around her leg, which was where it had hurt so much from being shot by Dog. Carefully she sat up feeling a bit woozy for a moment. She unwrapped the bandage to look at it closer. The pinch-faced man that was scared of Riley had done this, she was quite sure of that. It was sewn closed with neat stitches and it would take some time to heal. Nico smiled slightly wondering what Kelaku would have thought about that. The smile faded when she realized that her friend was probably dead.
She felt so sad thinking that maybe if she had only run faster, if she hadn’t of tripped and the pirate hadn’t of caught her she could have got her tribe to safety and all of them would still be alive.
“Ifs, ands, and buts don’t get you anywhere,” Nico told Aya. It was something her mama said to her when Nico was trying to get out of trouble. The young blond winced as she pulled her legs up and folded her arms about them. “Guess I’m the grown up now,” she whispered.
Nico looked around and found her clothes in a bloody pile on the floor. Carefully she got out of bed and limped over to them feeling the pain from her wound stem all the way up her leg into her stomach.
“Ugh,” she groaned as she lowered herself near her clothes and picked through them. They looked fine; they just needed to be washed.
The door opened and Nico looked up to see Riley enter. The dark woman gave her the once over with a small leer. “What are you doing?” the Captain asked.
Nico’s gaze didn’t back down as both sets of blue and green hardened. “I was looking to see what I could wear.” She held up her skirt. “Any way I could clean this?”
Riley smirked. “You don’t seem to have a problem with nothing on at all.”
Nico looked down at herself. “Is this how slaves are expected to dress? In nothing?”
Riley shook her head realizing that the joke was lost on her. “Depends on the master I guess,” she replied knowing that it wouldn’t be understood as she leaned against the cabin wall drinking in the sight of her, how beautiful the smaller woman was. “Don’t think it would do well on a ship full of men, so I guess not.”
Nico gave her a look of mock gratitude. “Am I supposed to thank you now? Or after they’ve had their way with me?”
Riley smiled at the guts the woman had. “They won’t touch you,” she told her.
Nico looked her way as she stood up her full body in view. “But you will,” she supplied.
Riley shrugged. “I have a very nice touch.”
Nico frowned. “So you expect me to wear this bloody then?” she said glancing to her clothing.
Riley smiled wider. “Pushy for a slave, gods above,” she rumbled as she left the room in search of water.
Riley watched from her desk as Nico cleaned her clothes feeling herself get hotter by the minute watching her work in a sitting position near the bed in nothing at all. She felt a growl of desire come up out of her throat and Nico looked up to see that the captain’s eyes were slits watching her every move. She felt a shiver of fear run up her spine, and another bolt of something run down to her groin.
It was when their eyes locked that Riley saw something more in Nico’s eyes. Uncertainty. She was afraid of her, but that was a given. And there was interest, which made her sit up and take notice. She stood up and walked over to stand above her and Nico watched her until she lowered her head to look at her wet clothes and swallow hard.
The captain stilled herself, holding back the desire of just ripping the clothes out of Nico’s hands and forcing her back onto the bed.
Instead she knelt between her legs gently shifting them apart she took her clothes and set them to the side with a calmness that surprised even her. She looked up to her and leaned in and kissed her as she placed her hands on the bed to the sides of Nico’s body.
Nico took in a breath and jerked back a little at the initial contact but she felt the power of that kiss. It set her on fire making the ache go to her belly and she let out a breath as she leaned back in and Riley eagerly kissed her again. Nico broke it off as she tried to digest the feelings that coursed through her.
Riley tried to wait for Nico and she clenched her strong hands into the sheets beneath her fingers as she leaned in a little more and nibbled at the blond’s bottom lip with soft kisses, feeling the breath of the smaller woman increase with each touch between them. She couldn’t help it, as she let the sheets go and ran her calloused fingers along Nico’s bare thighs. “You are so beautiful,” Riley whispered as she kissed her deeper.
Nico leaned back a little more to take in a breath. “Why?” she asked.
Riley smiled as she moved down and kissed along her smooth neck and instinctively Nico grabbed her shoulders to keep herself steady. “Because I said so,” she murmured as she licked the hollow of her throat and moved her kisses to the other side and ran her tongue over her pulse feeling it move quickly. “I’m sure many of your lovers have told you this,” she got out as her hands went to her hips and pulled her closer, her thumbs running over the soft skin.
Nico looked down the length of Riley’s long back as she tried to stay in control of the overwhelming feelings running through her. This was nothing like her short-lived night with Sokanon. “I’ve…” she swallowed as the kisses began to go lower on her body moving on course toward her left breast where her nipple was becoming hard, knowing, or at least hoping for Riley’s mouth to join with it. “I’ve never been with another,” she whispered.
Riley broke off her kisses and looked up at her. “Never?” she asked. She had never been with a virgin before.
Nico shook her head not daring to look into the captain’s eyes. “I lost the one I thought I wanted to be with when that first pirate came.” She hazarded a glance at her to see that Riley’s eyes were alight with lust and curiosity. “I felt so dead inside when she was taken… as a slave.” She swallowed as the sadness over that welled up. “I watched them, so angry, that’s how I knew where the gold was.” She looked back to see Riley had straightened a little watching her closely as she was still held close. “I tried to be with another the night before you came,” she got out as she looked away from her embarrassed. “There was nothing there.”
Riley leaned in and captured her lips and kissed her long, enveloping her mouth and gently requesting her to open her mouth with her tongue as she cupped the back of Nico’s head and held them together. Nico closed her eyes and let herself relax into her feeling the energy from the captain flow through her. Finally her mouth was released and she opened her eyes to see blue ones staring right into hers.
“Is this how slaves are treated?” she asked breathlessly.
Riley took in a breath and licked her lips wanting a lot more. “My slave, yes. Other slaves, no.” She kissed her again and leaned her back into the bedding letting her body lightly press again Nico’s.
“So you plan to take me now?” Nico asked as she was released again.
Riley looked down at her. “You don’t want to… be taken?”
“By someone I love,” Nico replied honestly. “By someone… who loves me.”
Riley blinked a couple of times at this. “There’s no such thing as love,” she told her sitting up a little as she slowed her breathing down. This was an area she didn’t want to get into because even though she wanted it to be true, she believed it wasn’t something that someone could obtain.
“Have you tried?” Nico asked. “To fall in love?”
Riley stood up as her face darkened. “Finish your washing, I’ll be back.” She left and Nico watched her leave with a look of confusion on her face.
She knew what the captain wanted. There was a part of her that wanted it also even though it wasn’t love. Her body ached for the closeness of another, even that of nasty pirate, Captain Hawke. Nico looked up over to the other side of the bed where Aya was curled up watching with half interested eyes. “And you thought I was odd,” she told her as she slowly sat up and retrieved her clothing.
Riley stormed to the main deck and headed for the bow of the massive ship letting the wind breeze through her hair as she took all of her will power and calmed her heated body down. ‘You should have taken her!’ her body screamed at her. ‘A little native girl! A nothing!’ She shook her head and let out a long breath. Riley knew there was something to Nico when she first stopped herself those few nights ago at the fire on the beach when she had caught her. She watched the ocean for hours until she decided she was cold enough to head back down for supper.
‘Maybe,’ she told herself. ‘Maybe she’s the one.’ She let out a snort at that and headed back downstairs.
Two days passed. Riley had stolen a few more kisses and they had spent the night wrapped up in each other. But Riley did nothing more than lightly touch her ‘slave’. Even Langdon and Deacon noticed that Riley was a little more than agitated, and slightly confused. For the first time in her life, the wild creature that roamed through the powerful young woman was being put in it’s place and Deacon thought it was a good thing, whereas Langdon wasn’t so sure.
“I wouldn’t suggest that,” Deacon told the younger man quietly from where they stood at on the upper deck looking out as they sailed along. “She’s very protective of the girl.”
Langdon let out a breath of impatience through his nose and bit his lip chewing a little at the five-day growth of beard there. “She’s another woman, another conquest,” he countered. “She won’t keep her,” he told him. Even though Riley had said differently. “We’ve been sailing together for years and she’s never kept one on with her.”
“Times change, Riley can change too,” Deacon told him a little more firmly. Langdon gave him a disbelieving look and Deacon smiled a little. “I’ve known her longer than you.”
Langdon glared at that as he watched the main deck to make sure that Riley didn’t come out and overhear them. “There’s not a passive bone in Riley’s entire body, and you know it. She’s not going to change.”
“Love doesn’t make you passive,” Deacon said, wanting to put ‘you idiot’ on the end of his sentence.
Langdon’s eyebrow went up his forehead. “LOVE?” he hissed. “Riley doesn’t believe in love,” he warned him.
Deacon rolled his eyes at that. “You don’t have to believe in it. It comes whether you want it to or not. And that girl is…”
“Shut up!” Langdon barked at him, cutting him off. “It ain’t gonna happen!” He stormed off and Deacon watched him go.
“No wonder they get along so well,” he muttered to himself.
Nico finished tying on her skirt as the door to the captain’s quarters opened. Riley came in with a straight staff as tall as her and Nico looked her way a bit surprised. Riley looked back with a smirk. “You need something to help you get around,” she said looking from her to the stick in her hand. “It’s the closest thing we have to a crutch, and you look like you need a little sun.”
Nico blinked at this, she wanted to say something, but she stopped herself. She was hoping the captain would let her go outside. She was getting cabin fever, and personally she hated being inside. She had tried the door when she was alone once, only to find it was locked. She wasn’t sure if it was to keep her in or the men out. It didn’t matter than Riley was the captain or as strong as she was. Men were men, her mama had warned her long ago. They took what they wanted and women were always for the taking.
Nico stood up balancing herself on her good foot as Riley came over and handed her the staff. But then her mama didn’t raise a fool either. She took the shaft in her hand and flicked it around and caught Riley in the back of the head hoping for a blow that wouldn’t kill her, but incapacitate her until she and Aya could find a way off, even if they had to swim, or die trying.
Riley saw when Nico took the staff that she instantly found the center of balance and she readied herself if any blows came her way. Sure enough it did, right at the back of her head. She got her arm up to block most of the blow but the tip cracked on her skull and she ripped the wood out of Nico’s hands.
“That was a stupid thing to do,” she growled at the younger woman. She easily flipped the staff with a twirl in her hands and smacked her hard on the butt and Nico winced as she landed on the bed from being toppled off of balance. Riley stood over her and glared at her. “You try that again and I’ll chain you in here and you won’t see the light of day until we reach Jamaica,” she warned her.
The captain leaned in closer and Nico began to tremble a little feeling the dark waves roll off the woman telling her that she was deadly serious. “And don’t try anything up top either. Because I bet I can swim a hell of a lot faster than you, and your precious cat may just be on the receiving end of my temper,” Riley ground out. “Am I clear?”
Nico nodded shakily. “Yes,” she got out.
Riley nodded with her and moved back rubbing her head and the bump that had formed there. In all honesty, she wasn’t that mad at her, a little proud actually that the young woman would do what she could to protect herself, just not against her. Riley handed her the staff back. “You do have my permission to do that if one of my men come near.”
Nico warily took the staff back but didn’t stand. She didn’t think her legs could hold her up now. “Is there anything you don’t know how to do well?”
“No,” Riley grumbled as she leaned against her desk. “And you would be wise to remember that.” She waited for Nico to finally stand. “I don’t want you out of this room unless you’re with me, Deacon, or Langdon,” she told her as she opened the door and Nico went out with Aya slinking after her.
Nico pushed the door to the main deck open and smelled the wonderful scent of the ocean and fresh air. She half stepped, half hobbled along using her strength to move her along. The men stopped what they were doing and watched the young woman come out. Then they looked as Riley came out behind her glaring at everyone with a silent warning of what she had told them earlier.
Nico looked back to her. “We’re the only women on the ship?” she asked quietly.
Riley smiled a little and nodded. “To them it’s just you. I’m one of the guys.” She nodded to Max, who was at the wheel and looked back at them too. “Come on.” She led her over. “Max, this is Nico.”
Max looked her over only to get a hard hand on the back of his head. “Mine,” Riley growled into his ear.
Max rubbed the back of his head and nodded. “Ma’am,” he said gruffly. “No offense to ya cap’n,” he grumbled. “But I was thinkin’ ya kept them below until port.”
Riley smiled at him, and not kindly. “Max… she’s staying. Remember that and tell the others. She’s part of the ship now too.”
Max’s eyes went wide. “Wha’ for?” he asked, looking the slim woman over. “Tain’t no fighter,” he told her. With that he felt another whack, this time a sharp pain on the other side of his head and he clasped it to see Nico lower her staff and hold herself up.
Riley laughed hard at that. She hung onto the stunned quartermaster until she couldn’t breathe. Nico watched her with a little smile and soon Max was smiling too. “Seems hitting on others is all pirates understand,” the blond told the stumpy man.
He nodded as he came away with a small amount of blood from behind his ear. “Aye,” he agreed. “Yer a fighter then?”
“No,” Riley said firmly. “Nico does not fight.” Nico leaned against her staff looking at her curiously. “Not unless she has to,” Riley amended. “Which will be never.”
Max chuckled a little at that and nodded to the young woman and held out his hand. “Don’t much like woman on board. But then I got me cap’n, and she’s a woman. Guess one more can’t hurt. Just so long as ya don’t be pickin’ at me with yer whittlin’ stick.”
Nico smiled a little at the name he had given her staff but she took his hand anyway.
Then as the two went around the ship Riley found that most of the crew took the polite and friendly young woman to heart. Swearing to treat her like a sister. Riley knew for most it wasn’t to be believed. But at least there wasn’t so much animosity as before.
Riley came up next to Nico as she stood at the bow of the ship watching as they moved faster than she could ever remember and saw the look of wonder in her eyes as dusk began to settle. Nico looked her way sensing the woman was near. “I see you haven’t jumped overboard yet,” the dark woman said quietly, not wanting to spoil the ambiance of the golden pink sunset.
Nico looked back to the horizon. “I didn’t realize it was so big,” she replied just as quietly. She took in her surroundings as the captain slowly walked her about the ship and it got to her that there was nothing out there but water as far as the eye could see, in a way that frightened her and excited her. She glanced back at the captain. “From the way your men looked at me I have the feeling you shouldn’t be treating me so nicely, or that I should even be up here at all.”
Riley nodded a little. “Most have sailed with other captains besides me. Slaves are chained and kept in the hold until the ship makes a port and then sold either to other owners, or slave traders. But you knew that,” she said seriously.
Nico nodded silently waiting a minute before she spoke. “And you do this?”
Riley shrugged. “Men, I do, women and children, no. But then most don’t survive a takeover.”
“You set them free,” she said quietly.
Riley watched her for a few minutes. “You know that I don’t just set them free. Women anyway.” She looked out to the ocean. “Children deserve whatever happiness they can without the horror of slavery.”
Nico turned and looked at her intently. “Like you were.”
Riley nodded without taking her eyes off the ocean. “I can barely remember my own tribe. My mother died fighting when we were captured. I have no knowledge of my father. I was put in a prison for years until I was lost in a bet to a captain.” She nodded to the upper deck where Deacon was. “He was told to raise me.”
Finally she looked to the smaller woman. “I will never allow a child to go through what I did, nor any woman to experience the humiliation and torture of slavery. Men make the rules in the world; they have the rights where women do not. I gladly kill them or sell them on,” she finished.
“But you plan to keep me?” Nico asked trying to understand where she was different in all of this. “You plan to bed me, to make me a slave in that way.”
Riley let out a sigh. “I don’t know what you are to me,” she told her as her blue eyes pinned Nico’s. “But if the day ever comes where I decide I don’t want you, I would never sell you. I would just set you free.” She leaned in and kissed her lightly. “That, will never happen,” came the afterthought of the kiss and feeling the connection between the two of them. “There’s something about you, and I don’t want to lose it, or you.”
Nico gave her a look that all but openly questioned her and Riley smiled a little at that finding that she enjoyed the stubborn woman’s company. “Let’s go in before it gets too dark.”
Nico looked out to the night. “Is it different at night?”
Riley nodded. “You know you’re moving, but the ocean is to dark to see.”
Nico shivered at that. She grew up listening to the waves of the ocean at night and though in a way that relaxed her she never really thought about the idea of sleeping while sailing on them. She let Riley lead her back.
Aya hopped up onto the bed as Nico and Riley undressed. Nico slid in first and Riley followed in behind her instantly wrapping her arms about the smaller woman and nestling her face into her hair and taking in a deep breath.
For the moment, the dark pirate was content.
Nico watched from the upper deck as the crew moved about working. She was sitting on a low bench resting her wounded leg, nearby Langdon bit out a response to a lackey. She knew how to read people. She spent the past few years just watching people in her tribe. Nico could tell he wasn’t that fond of her and that irate mood was rubbing of on how he was treating others. Why didn’t he like her? She wasn’t sure, but men were odd that way.
She knew that Deacon liked her. They got along great and she enjoyed talking with the old man. He had seen France briefly and told her what he could remember, and of England, his homeland and what went on there. Nico glanced back to the first mate of the Conqueror. He had been polite and even charming at first. Then he seemed to do a complete about face and all he had was contempt for her. Nico bit the inside of her cheek softly as she contemplated this.
Her attention broke away as she spotted Aya coming up the stairs and head straight for her. Nico watched as she petted her friend and soon enough Riley came sauntering up the steps. Aya had initially hated the tall captain. But now that they had been sailing on the ocean for over a week and the togetherness had been forced she found a playmate.
It had been unexpected of course, Riley would wake up sometimes with Aya laying half across her and the captain would push her off only to have the medium sized cat roll right back on and soon it was a tussle.
Then last night when the winds had picked up and Riley spent the better share of her night steering the ship so that they came through intact, she had come into her cabin and leaned her tired body against the desk and watched Nico sleep for a moment when something grabbed her boot and almost knocked her off balance. She had her sword out in an instant only to look down in the dim lantern light to see two ocelot paws waving about beneath her desk trying to find her.
Nico smiled at that, she had woken up at Riley’s cursing and she softly told her that Aya loved to play. Riley looked her way almost annoyed but then she smiled wickedly at that and soon Aya learned that the woman gave ten times worse than she got and Nico was her safe haven from the captain teasing her.
Regardless, the young cat adored the captain and began to follow her everywhere.
Nico looked up at the captain as her lanky body shaded her from the sun. “I’m surprised she came to me at all.”
Riley smiled at that. “You’re still her mother.”
Nico looked at her curiously before she slowly nodded. She had never thought of it that way before. Nico looked to Langdon. “Did I do something to upset him?”
Riley raised an eyebrow at this unexpected question and looked over her shoulder at the scar-faced man. “Nooo… why?” she countered.
Nico shrugged. “I don’t think he likes me being around.”
Riley was quiet for a moment. “If he gives you problems, let me know,” she told her.
Nico nodded slowly. “When do we reach Jamaica?”
Riley watched her for a moment. “Planning on leaving when we get there?”
Nico shook her head. “And suffer the wrath of Captain Hawke?”
Riley smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “The day after tomorrow,” she replied then she turned and left.
Nico watched her leave and looked to Aya. “Somehow, I have the feeling I won’t be there alone.” Aya yawned and settled down at her feet. Nico smiled at this and propped her hurt leg on the cat. She got a golden eye of outrage looking in her direction but soon enough Aya was asleep. Nico looked up to see Langdon watching her and not happily. The man caught her eyes and turned away. “I’ll have to make sure he’s not one I’m alone with,” she told the sleeping cat quietly.
Not if she wanted to be safe.
Off shore, Jamaica 1658
Deacon looked out over the ocean seeing the coast of Jamaica brought back some bad memories but at least he was no longer a prisoner anymore. And he was relieved that the horror of what had happened on Serpents Isle was behind them too. He watched over young Nico regretful about her mother. She had seen the small blond shed tears when she thought no one was looking and he knew what they were for.
He had been more surprised about the change the young woman brought about in the volatile captain of the ship. She was just as headstrong and forthright as ever, and she expected you to do as she asked, no questions until you wanted to lose something vital, like your life. But around Nico she smiled, she was concerned and pleasant.
And he knew that the dark headed beauty had fallen for the blond.
Now the problem was how to make her understand what it was she was actually feeling and not have her ruin it by taking it out on Nico.
The old man glanced up as the door to below opened. Nico came out with Langdon behind her, the first mate did not look amused. Their eyes locked for a moment and Langdon finally looked away.
Deacon understood that too. He was concerned about things changing. For years it had been Langdon and Riley out conquering the open seas, and Nico was a kink in the works that could destroy everything the man knew. Even Deacon’s arrival hadn’t rocked the boat that much.
But there was something wrong, and it looked like it was taking it’s toll on the younger man, from his eyes it was not enough sleep and too much drink. He had the feeling though, if the first mate did anything to harm Nico he would pay dearly for it. For as much as the two were friends, love and the growing bond between Riley and Nico were much stronger and deeper than their friendship could manage.
Worst of all, Riley had noticed the change in her friend too. Everyone else on board either respected Nico and took her presence with a grain of salt, or they became her friend. Max, as rough and vulgar as he was enjoyed Nico and the two were always laughing about something. Greenpoole had been one of indifference. But then Riley didn’t harass him as much since she had a blond on her mind. And he let the young woman about in peace.
Nico came limping over to where Deacon was at the deck. She was walking easier now. Still needing the staff for a bit of balance, but she was stronger for the most part. He smiled easily at her.
“How are you today?” he asked.
Nico returned the smile. “Good,” she replied as she looked out the ocean leaning a little on the railing. “That is amazing,” she breathed out quietly, taking in her first sight of the island with so many ships docked that it looked like an odd, leafless forest. Even from their vantage point people could be seen about, more than Nico had ever seen before in her life.
Deacon nodded. “I’ll be interested to see what you think of it when we get to shore.” He turned around and leaned against the rail to look at her more fully. “It will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”
Nico nodded back. “Riley says it’s good to have variation in your life.”
She got a smile from the one armed man for that. “Variation is a mild word for what’s in store for you,” he replied.
She grinned. “I think I can handle that.”
“Where’s our dubious captain at?” Deacon asked.
Nico looked out to the green coast. “She’s still asleep, Aya’s purring in her ear.” She looked up at him. “That’ll keep anyone asleep.”
“Why aren’t you then?” he asked with a smile.
Nico blushed a little. “I couldn’t sleep.”
Deacon nodded. “Understandable.” Her first look a civilization, he couldn’t blame her. He looked about the ship for a moment to see that they were by themselves for the most part. “How are you and Riley getting along?” he asked under his breath. It was a very private question and if anyone heard it and Riley found out about it he’d probably lose his other arm. But he was concerned.
Nico looked up at him for a moment trying to figure out what he fully meant and that earned him a full red faced blush. Deacon grimaced hoping no one noticed. “We’re…” she looked around and quieted down her voice. “Taking things slow.”
Deacon’s jaw would have dropped if it hadn’t of been wound up so tight. “You mean…” he started. She looked away as the blush got deeper and shook her head. “But she and you…” he tried again as he took in the concept that Riley hadn’t fully taken the young blond. “Why?” he finally got out.
Nico shrugged. “I think she’s waiting for something.”
Deacon’s eyes went wide. “For what?!”
Nico shrugged again as the blush worsened. “I don’t know.”
The old man’s face still held an incredulous look. “Don’t you want to?”
Nico bit her bottom lip as she fidgeted. “I think so?” she said finally.
Deacon slumped down a little and let out an explosive breath. “Dear god,” he muttered. “I never thought it would happen.”
Nico’s brow furrowed as she looked to him. “What?”
He glanced her way. “She’s waiting for you to make the first move. She’s actually waiting.”
“Why?” she asked.
He looked at her. “As much as she’ll never admit it… she’s really cares about you,” he told her with a look on his face that made her curious. “REALLY CARES,” he stressed again.
Nico blinked once in surprise at this and then looked back at him. “You mean she’s…” he hushed her up looking around. “With me?” she asked in disbelief.
Deacon nodded slowly. “Be careful with what you know Nicola St. Michel.” He pointed with his chin to the upper deck where Langdon watched. “Some don’t want things to change around here. And a certain captain can stick her foot in her mouth if embarrassed.”
Nico glanced up at Langdon and nodded. She understood.
Kingston, Jamaica 1658
“Are you sure about this?” Langdon asked as Max began the final leg to dock the ship into the largest town on the Island.
Riley looked at him with angry eyes. “Why are you questioning me?” she asked unhappily. And for the past week she had been happy. She was well-rested and enjoying Nico’s company. She had seen small changes in her normally happy-go-lucky friend. She could smell alcohol on him, normally she didn’t allow excessive drinking on her ship, but she had overlooked her friend indulging, hoping that whatever was making him miserable could work its way out.
“I’m not,” he told her trying to cover up his previous remark. “It’s just not the best idea. The British own Jamaica now. Not the Spaniards.”
“I’m not stupid, Langdon. I know this as well as you. You also know that there are more pirates here working for the British to capture Spanish ships than there are free roaming ones,” she finished pushing a finger into his chest as her dark anger built up, angry at him and herself for letting it get this far. “They’re spending more of their time bringing in slaves and capturing the ones they lost during the takeover three years ago!” she growled at him. “I’m getting tired of your mood,” she warned him. “Friends we may be, but I’m the captain for a reason and you know it.” Blue eyes pinned his and he almost wet his pants at the look on them. “Deal with it Langdon, before I have to put you in your place.”
The ship docked and the men left headed for taverns and whorehouses. Langdon decided to stay onboard while Riley, Nico and Deacon left together along with a skittish Aya hovering between the two women.
Nico watched everything with wide eyes. There were people everywhere! More than she had ever seen in her entire life! Women dressed in long dresses like she remembered her mama wearing when she was very little. And men were dressed in all different kinds of pants and jackets. There were different colors of skin, some almost black and others so white it almost didn’t look real.
Some dressed in fine clothing rode about on big animals called horses. She had heard about them from her mama but she had never seen one before. There were fishermen out on the edge of the docks fixing big nets. And then there were lines of slaves, held on by chains as they were led along in rags and looking lifeless. Nico shivered at the sight glad that her fate, so far, was not the same as them.
Soon enough the wonderment of it all made the vision of the captives fade to the back of her mind as she looked to see the stone buildings they lived in, all huddle together. Her mama and the colonel had told her all about them. One thing they hadn’t mentioned was the smell. To Nico’s nose it was awful, like that of a long dead animal. She looked up to her two protectors with a wrinkled nose and they laughed.
“Too many humans in one place,” Deacon said lightly. “They all need a place to go…”
Nico frowned at this for a moment as she thought about that then made a face. “Didn’t they think about that before?”
Deacon, the more worldly of the two older people shook his head. “Big cities, like London and Paris… the lower classes have no way to deal with things like that. Illness runs rampant through the slums.” He nodded to a grand house apart from the rest of the city. “That’s the governor’s house. It would be very different there.”
Nico looked up from her sights when Riley put an arm about her shoulder. The captain had flat, angry eyes, but not for her. She looked out to see that men and women were looking at her. Some she could tell it was lust, others out of curiosity. “There are other women about,” she said quietly. “Why do they look at me that way?”
Riley snorted out a pent up breath. “You’re a white woman in native clothing. The two don’t mix here,” she told her as she glared at three men who were about to make lewd comments only to be stopped by the deadly look they were getting. MINE, it stated.
Nico looked down to her minimal attire. “What’s wrong with it?”
Riley looked down with her and she growled to herself knowing exactly the reason why. “Just stay next to me and if you have to hit a few skulls with your staff until we find some clothing for you that will blend you in with the crowd.”
Nico frowned looking at the cumbersome clothing the other women were wearing. “I’ve never worn that much in my entire life,” she complained lightly.
Riley agreed with a nod and directed her to another alleyway. “This way,” she told her.
Soon enough they were deep into the streets and Riley stopped them in an alcove that held a door. She rapped on it hard and it was opened a crack and brown eyes peered out and opened wide to see Riley there. The door came open. “Riley,” a large woman in flowing silks and beads said happily. She had skin the color of native islanders with a friendly but wise face. “Come in!” she told her.
Riley looked back to Deacon as she let Nico go in first. “Stand guard, we won’t be long,” she told him and soon he was all that was left as the door shut behind her.
Nico looked about the small room, no sunlight was available but candles were lit giving it a moody atmosphere. Odds and ends, bits of metal that Nico had no idea what they were scattered about the place making it cluttered. Riley came up next to her as the large woman groaned as she took a seat. “I have not seen you for many years, Riley,” the woman said seriously.
Riley nodded. “I’ve been busy.” She looked to Nico who was curious but a little taken back by the woman. “Lanai, I need some clothing for my… friend,” she said nodding to Nico.
Lanai’s eyebrows went up, as she looked to Nico more seriously taking in everything about her. “Not a place to stay?”
Riley glared for a second but the woman only smiled at that until Riley nodded. “That too.”
Lanai looked Nico over. “Not exactly common for around here. We could dress you as any white woman about Kingston.” She spotted the curious cat and she smiled.
Riley shook her head. “I like this, and so does she,” she told her lightly touching Nico’s top only to run her thumb over the soft skin nearby. “Just something that doesn’t make it noticeable…” she started.
Lanai raised a hand up to stop her watching with a little surprise. “I know just what this little beauty needs,” she said looking about her place as she started to rifle through the many items about her place.
Deacon was resting against the wall looking unobtrusive when Riley and Nico came out without Aya. Nico now sported thin lace up sandals to somewhat protect her feet and a long flowing robe of forest green. It wasn’t belted and looked more like a long overcoat of linen. The blond fingered the hem of the robe. It was so smooth. “What do you think, Deacon?” Nico asked.
Deacon nodded. It was open only about four inches in front but left her free from leering eyes. “Very nice,” he agreed.
Riley snorted and nodded. “Let’s go get a drink and see what we can find.”
They headed down more towards the docks, which amassed more people in the small space than normal. Nico was telling Deacon that they left Aya back with Lanai so she didn’t get in the way and about all the things she saw in there when she saw the large tavern and she stopped looking about in awe.
She wasn’t really sure how to describe what she was seeing. If she knew of the word she would have said chaos. It was loud, smelly, and wild. Women in lewd dresses hung all over the men who fondled them brashly. There was boisterous music being played and the smell of old ale, musty straw, and human sweat combined to make Nico a little nauseous.
“What do you do here?” she asked Deacon as she tried to hold Riley back from where the tall captain had a hold of her hand.
Riley looked back and came to her instead. “Get lost Deacon,” she told him as she picked Nico up easily in her arms and headed for a dimly lit corner.
Men stomped and whistled as they passed. Some call out to Riley, but she paid no attention to them as she settled the two of them into one chair with Nico on her lap. The blond was blushing and not looking very happy about what had just taken place.
“It’s okay,” Riley whispered to her as she nibbled on her ear. “If we sat next to each other they would think I was crazy,” she told her. Nico looked to her curiously and Riley gave her a roguish grin. “I always have a beautiful woman on my lap in a tavern.” She cupped her cheek and looked at her seriously. “You are the most beautiful of them all,” came the response right before she kissed her.
Nico leaned into her as the kiss deepened. Tongues battling until Riley took over and leaned into the kiss, her hand went up Nico’s bare thigh sliding the robe out of the way. Men watched enviously as Nico wrapped her arm about Riley’s neck holding the kiss longer. Riley moved back taking in a breath. “Gods…” Riley let out. “We should have stayed at Lanai’s.”
Nico blushed and Riley ran her fingers gently over the heated skin. “They’re staring,” she said.
Riley looked up and her eyes became hard and the men turned away. The captain, however, didn’t intimidate some. One half drunk man that was bigger than an ox with bristling muscles came up to the table soon after they were served with two mugs of ale.
“Hawke,” he said as he belched a little. “Heard you went after King’s treasure.”
Riley shrugged. “So?”
He sat down hard in a chair next to them and smiled at Nico only to look back to Riley. “Heard Dog went after it too.”
“Well, you hear lots of things, O’Reilly. Guess it would help you and your crew if you went out and did some of the things you heard about, instead of sitting around here drinking yourself blind,” Riley said sarcastically.
He grunted a bit at that with a frown as he took another swallow from his mug and Nico looked into her own and sniffed it making a face. “Got on with the British now,” he told her. “Better pay.” Riley just watched him and he finally got to the point. “Dog’s head alone is worth a thousand pounds…”
“And how much is mine worth?” she asked in a dark tone.
O’Reilly held up a hand. “Ain’t after yours, but if Dog is dead…”
“Then you have nothing to worry about,” Riley finished for him. “Get out of my face before I find out how much yours is worth.
That earned her a bit of a glare but the man got up and left them alone. Nico looked to her. “Do you want to leave?” she asked.
Riley shook her head not daring to say anything at the moment. She took a long drink of her ale and Nico grimaced at the sight. “I’m not kissing you now,” she told the captain.
Riley looked to her then to the ale and smiled a little. “You think so?” she asked as a challenge.
It never got answered as Max came up to them. “Cap’n, Nico,” he said nodding to the blond. “They got th’ auction goin’. Talbot says some o’ the men up was like us, only caught. Might be worth it ta look.”
Riley nodded and turned to Nico. “I’ll have Deacon take you…”
Nico shook her head. “Please, let me go.”
Riley let out a sigh. “Then you be silent, it’s not pretty. But what ever happens, happens.”
Nico nodded that she would and they left.
Riley walked into the prison yards feeling the rush of memories come over her. In the years she had been gone it still looked the same. The cells were housed in a three story building that was formed into three sides of a square leaving one end open with a platform that functioned as both an auction block and for hangings. Each entryway into the building went deep, lined with cells leading into the darkness, which gave way to the stench of human waste and unwashed bodies.
Riley easily noted every guard about the prison, each with a flintlock in hand and sword at their hip. They outnumbered her and to know that Captain Hawke, one of the wanted pirates of the Caribbean was in there midst would not be wise. But then, Captain Riley Hawke would die killing them all as they took her down before she would be put back into this hell hole and anyone that caught her eye knew it.
The captain had been in nothing but rags when she was a child here. She had known of nothing else, except for the men and women that came through to look at them and pick which they wanted to bid for. She had come to hate those people and she swore she would not only kill each one of them, but she would become one as well. From slave to master and they, the rich, would bow down to her.
The dark pirate smiled a little at that as Max led them to a particular section. She had had many a lord, captain, admiral, master, and lady at her feet begging for mercy only to have her laugh seeing that they were no better than the prisoners that filled this place.
She stepped through into the darkness and felt a trembling hand curl about her arm at her elbow and she looked down to see that Nico had sidled up next to her taking in everything all at once, to be overwhelmed. She gently removed her hand and moved her to the other side and let her hold on there, she needed her sword arm to be free, just in case.
Nico looked about taking a hard swallow as she looked to how these people lived. They were filthy, some looked like they hadn’t eaten in ages. Others were injured or in chains. The floors were covered in rotting straw filled with rats and her stomach threatened to let out anything that might be in there.
Never in her life could she imagine such an existence for anyone, even when the colonel told her about slaves and prisons. She looked to the cells to see they were made of a flat metal bolted together and set into the mortar that made up the prison. There were no windows except at the very end of the corridor. Torches barely lit up the way to see there were people in the shadows of the cells.
She had wanted to ask questions, but the look on Riley’s face wouldn’t allow that. Even the others in their party looked distant and hard, like they had back on the island. So she remained silent only to watch.
Max nodded to a cell and Riley released Nico to Deacon and stepped forward just out of arm’s length from the bars. A man, tall and broad shouldered came up. He had the tattered remains of a shirt about his torso, a good growth of brown hair past his shoulders and a long beard, and baggy pants from being underfed.
“Deacon,” the man muttered looking to the tall man then to Riley. “You Hawke?”
Riley nodded a little. “How do you know Deacon?”
The man chuckled. “Rumor been about that my brother hooked up with you.”
Riley glanced back at Deacon who nodded a little then back to the man in the cell. He stuck his hand out through the bars. “Val Priest,” he told her.
“Valiant, actually,” Deacon muttered.
“Shut up you old rot,” the younger man growled his way.
Riley smiled and took his hand with a hard grip surprising him. “How long have you been in here?” she asked.
Val shook his head. “Not long, governor up in Port Charles sent me down now that the place is run by them too. Spent four years up there, probably another down here. At least it wasn’t so bloody hot up in the colonies.”
Riley watched him. Deacon had a noble air about him that his brother didn’t seem to share. “I hear you’re up for auction today.”
Val nodded. “If not, I’m strung. Governor here doesn’t want pirates around at all. Least not the ones he can’t control.” He looked to Deacon. “And I got both my arms.”
Deacon snorted at that. “I’m not the one in there, so I’d shut up.”
Val smiled at that and looked to Riley seriously. “Dog was the one that put me in. Sold the lot of us on the ‘Morning Star’, except those he killed for sport. I’d follow you all the way.”
Riley watched him for a moment noting that he was sincere. But then men about to get hanged were always sincere about saving their own necks. “I’m not like other captains,” she warned him.
He nodded. “Heard about that. S’okay with me, so long as I’m on the one that wins.”
Max laughed at that and Riley nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”
They moved on and spotted two others then made their way out into the open. Riley looked to Deacon. “You never mentioned a brother to me,” she said.
He shrugged. “Val and I never really saw eye to eye. I left long before he was out and about, different mothers. By then I was with Briggs, and Val was with Bloody Jack and we’ve been amicable, but that’s about it.”
“He worth the trouble?” she asked knowing he would answer her honestly.
He nodded. “Priest’s word is always good.”
They headed out into the open and watched as prisoner after prisoner were led roughly up to the platform and bid on. Riley had never been led up when she was one. She fought and bit and usually got beaten for it until they just left her alone.
Nico stayed by her side watching as the horror grew in her that it might easily have been her fate twice over now. She was grateful to her mother and the Colonel for protecting her as best they could and sorrowful to know the fate of some of her tribe those few years ago.
She watched everything that she could, noting that the pirate, the one who was Deacon’s brother was in a line of prisoners waiting to be led up to the platform. They were all in dirty rags. Men, women, children, the masters of this ‘civilized’ world didn’t care so long as they could make a profit. It was then that she hesitated a glance up at Riley. Had it only been a few weeks since she had captured her on the island and forced her onto her ship?
Nico had truly hated the dark woman. Even now she wasn’t sure where she stood in the older woman’s plans. She feared that one day, something would happen and she would find herself where these prisoners were now.
Her gaze shifted to Deacon and the words he had spoken to her rang out in her mind as she glanced back at Riley. Did she ‘love’ her? Deacon seemed to think so. More importantly did she love Riley?
The young blond nibbled on her lip a little as she half watched the proceedings and half stood in deep thought. She had grow accustomed over the years to just the softness of Aya against her legs where the ocelot curled up against her at night and now… Now she longed for the tall woman holding her at night. The heat of the larger body against her skin and the protected way it made her feel.
Her thought was lost as a commotion started in front of her as the bidding was dropped off. She and the others looked up to a high terrace that overlooked the whole area. There, a white man dressed in fine clothes sat in a high backed chair and all the soldiers and guards saluted to him.
Nico looked to Riley as the tall woman stiffened a little and her eyes narrowed. That darkness she had seen in her reared up in her eyes and Nico watched as Riley battled it, but didn’t let it go. She looked back up as men who looked just as grand as him, some in uniform sat in seats nearby or stood in the background. Then slaves and servants came out moving around or waiting for an order. It was then that her blood ran cold.
Riley blinked back her control as she felt something dig into her arm. She looked down seeing that Nico’s strong, slender fingers were grasping to her tightly. The young woman wasn’t paying any attention to her. She was watching the terrace with the governor of the island like she had seen a ghost. Carefully she pried her fingers off only to have Nico grasp onto her hand like she was her only lifeline to living left. She looked back up, squinting in the bright sun to try and figure just what had her attention.
It was then that she saw a young islander sitting at the governor’s feet. She was a beauty, or Riley would have guessed she had been once upon a time. She looked tired, aged and underfed. Riley had seen that many times over during her younger years here. The young woman was dark skinned and her long black hair was stringy. She was barely dressed in bits of colored cloth with a chain about her neck. Riley snorted lightly at that. Apparently the young slave wasn’t even worth a collar to him.
Nico couldn’t take her eyes off the apparition in front of her. She took her in, seeing dull brown eyes look back at her. She waited for some kind of acknowledgment from them. But they only moved on to look back to the floor where she knelt. Nico shook her head a little. “No,” she said out loud begging for the young woman to notice her.
Riley clapped a hand over her mouth as some looked to them and she moved her off into the crowd watching as the auctioning started up again. “What’s wrong with you?” she hissed.
Nico felt the anger she had pent up so long ago rise as she elbowed Riley in the stomach shaking the strong hands off she took off into the crowd her green robe fluttering out as she sprinted away.
Riley watched her for a second then headed after her. Deacon and Max watched them for a moment and decided to follow when a group of dark skinned men came out of the crowd all of them brandishing some kind of weapon and began to fight the soldiers blocking them off as the scene erupted.
“This is not the time for a revolution,” Deacon muttered as he decked a soldier that took a swing at him and weaved through the now building throng to find he had lost sight of his captain and the young blond. “Bloody hell,” he said as he ducked under a sword that flashed out wildly as the platform was taken over by the black rebels who were intent on freeing the prisoners.
Nico looked around wildly as she ran along dodging people who were headed towards the insurrection, ignoring the pain flaring up in her healing leg as she finally found what she was looking for. Stairs that headed up, there were black men already there with drawn swords guarding the area. Nico headed for them and with two quick blows she took them down twirling her staff easily as she butted one still standing in the stomach with a blunt end of her weapon. She dashed over them wincing as the muscle in her leg screamed when she took the steps two at a time.
Riley skidded to a halt as she watched the fighter in Nico burst out of the young woman. She was impressed by her skill as she dispatched of the men in front of the stairs. The staff was almost a blur as it moved and Riley realized that if Nico hadn’t of been disabled on the ship when she first handed her that staff she seriously could have done damage to her.
The captain headed off after her again as Nico climbed the stairs. She was headed right for the governor and the men that surrounded him were experienced soldiers, more than the dissidents of this fight were. Nico would get her head taken off quickly if she didn’t stop her.
She let out a breath as she took the stairs more quickly while she thought about that. She liked the girl. A lot. She was willing to admit that to herself. But if the blond was so intent on getting herself killed then why should she get in her way?
Riley grunted as she grabbed for Nico as the younger woman made it to the top of the landing, bringing her down just outside of the curve where the men were fighting. The rebels had made it up the stairs, proving so by the bodies that lay in their wake.
She knew why she went after her as she felt the smaller body beneath her… because Nico was more than just another woman to bed; she was in love with her. She never believed she’d taste that, and now that she had, she wanted it all.
And damn anyone that told her otherwise.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Riley demanded as Nico tried to use her staff to get Riley off so she could continue on.
“Let me go!” Nico yelled as she watched the fight and struggled fiercely, clawing into the dirt and wood beneath her to get some kind of traction to move the heavier woman off.
Riley pressed all of her weight into her forcing Nico to slow down her resistance. “Is that it?! Are you so willing to die?! Just to get away from me?” she growled angrily into her ear as Nico fought to breathe. She looked up to see the young slave huddled into a corner by a supporting pole to get away from the fighting, wincing at everyone that came near her. “Who is that girl?” she asked curtly.
Nico gasped as Riley came up off her a little taking in a huge lungful of air. “Maylea,” she got out. “It’s Maylea.”
Riley glanced up at the girl again with Nico to see one of the soldiers fall back onto her as he had a sword run through his chest. They both went over the side into the crowds below.
“No!” Nico cried out thrashing about to get free to save her.
The captain looked back down as Nico let go of her staff and buried her face into her hands and cried as Maylea’s screams died out.
“I’m so sorry,” Nico sobbed.
Riley knew she wasn’t saying that to her. It was to Maylea and to her tribe, all that she had lost. Now she had found one and gone to save her only to lose her again.
Two fighters came back towards them clashing swords with each other, forcing Riley to haul Nico up and pull them both out of the way.
Max had rammed into a few people clearing out a small area swearing up a storm as he went, while Deacon ran to get free of the mass of people only to be held back by a hand on his arm. He looked back planning to throw the individual off to see his own eyes looking back at him, only from a dirty face.
Val was still in chains even though the prisoners had scattered about trying to find a way to freedom. Even those who had already been sold were fighting in a way.
Deacon nodded to him. “Hurry,” he said as the tall man followed him knowing that he had a way out of the town.
None were surprised as most of the pirates that were held there, that knew of Deacon and Captain Hawke followed him as well knowing that there might be a hope for them that the dark woman would take them on board. He looked up to the terrace seeing Riley holding on to Nico for only a brief second before they disappeared from view and he prayed that the two would be okay.
Dusk was setting as Riley led Nico to a small drinking hole set deep in the city now that they had gotten free from the hold of the crowd that surrounded the open area to the prison. Nico hadn’t done anything. She went where Riley led her, she hadn’t uttered a single word and she hadn’t focused on anything as her eyes were glazed over in shock.
“Sit,” she told the blond pressing her into a chair in the corner.
Nico slumped as she sat staring out into space. Riley headed over to the small counter and slapped a coin onto the rough wood. “Whiskey, as much as that will buy,” she told the man who attended it.
The man took the coin, looked at her and bit it. He nodded realizing it was good silver and took down two bottles of amber colored liquid along with two glasses. Riley took them all and sat across from Nico who hadn’t moved an inch. The dark woman drew out a small dagger and cut the tax seal off the bottle, impressed alone that the man had the money to buy the real stuff. Pouring a glass full of it she slid it over to Nico.
“Drink that,” she told her.
Nico didn’t even look at it so Riley took the glass and pressed it into her palm. “DRINK!” she ordered loudly scaring the small drift of customers already watching the two women. Nico blinked once and looked hazily at her then to the drink and as told she knocked it back in two swallows.
Riley waited as Nico coughed hard at the alcohol, making her face go red and her eyes water as it burned down in her stomach. The tall woman smiled as it woke the blond up from her daze. She refilled the glass and Nico shook her head as she tried to catch her breath.
“Drink it,” Riley commanded.
“It’s awful,” Nico got out.
“I don’t give a damn what you think, drink it!” Riley told her. A few men left and others watched to see what would happen.
Nico glared at her and drank it just like she had done before. “Happy?” she retorted hoarsely as she began to cough again.
“Not in the slightest, but I suppose it will do,” Riley bit back as she took a long swallow from the bottle itself feeling the beautiful warmth of it like that of an old friend she knew well, letting it settle her nerves.
Nico regained her breath and just sat, not wanting to think about anything. Riley had drained half the bottle when Nico’s glass slid in front of her and the dark pirate looked her way. “If you don’t mind,” Nico said somberly.
Riley filled it and set it back in front of her and watched as Nico sipped it more slowly this time as she watched a dirty wall, but that was about it.
Langdon watched as Deacon, Max and a load of dirty men filed across the gangplank onto the ship as he took a long drink from a bottle of rum that had kept him company that day. Even their regular crew hadn’t come back yet. Not that he expected them to. It was just past dusk and they were planning on staying for a week or so. He caught Deacon’s eye.
“Where’s Riley?” he asked as the raggedy men all slumped down onto the deck, chains on their wrists rattling in the quiet of the day. “I didn’t think she wanted that many,” he finished. Or had the money for it, he concluded silently.
Deacon nodded. “She’s staying on shore for the night,” he replied.
“With her,” Langdon said somberly.
Deacon shrugged. “I would assume so. But what the captain does is none of my business. Nor is it any of yours.”
Langdon looked at him sourly. “I’m going off, you can watch over your motley crew here,” he told him as he headed for the gangplank only to have Deacon grasp his arm tightly.
“Don’t do something stupid,” Deacon warned him.
Langdon’s mouth settled into a grim line as he balled up his fist and struck the older man hard in the face. Deacon was a little surprised at that but went with the punch and let him go. “I don’t need you to assume anything about me either, old man,” Langdon said to him. “Be glad Riley likes you so much or I’d gut you where you stand.” With that he stomped off the ship and into the settling darkness of the city.
Deacon shook his head as Max set about chiseling off the restraints from the men about them. Val was the only one standing out of the men and he looked to his brother. “What’s up with him?”
Deacon looked his way. “He’s looking to get himself killed by his best friend if he doesn’t watch himself, that’s what,” he told him.
Val made a noise of disapproval. “Hawke and the girl?” Deacon nodded as he began to help with the chains on his wrists. “He’s a damn fool,” he told his brother.
Deacon agreed with him silently as he settled in to work.
Hours had passed leaving the light of the sun behind, but the moon had come out in full glory lighting the way as two women stumbled out onto the cobblestone street in the middle of the city. The shorter of the two even more so as the taller one held her up as the few people left on the street watched as they passed by, but not to intrude.
They had finished off the two bottles, Nico had drunk no where near the amount that Riley had, but the blond was smaller and had never tasted alcohol before and now it was showing clearly.
“Come on,” Riley told Nico who had leaned into her as she helped her down the street. “Let’s get you home.”
Nico jerked back slightly to peer up at the captain. “Nbdy left,” she slurred out as she swept her arm around almost toppling over as she did so, once again staffless. “Nbdy… all did… ded…” she tried again her tongue unwilling to form the words.
“Dead,” Riley supplied. She forced herself to let the alcohol haziness settle in the back of her mind knowing that she had drunk too much for good measure and this was not a safe place to be incapacitated.
“Yup,” Nico agreed nodding at that as she wrapped her arms about the captain’s waist. “Jus you,” she said as she closed her eyes and dropped weightless to the ground. Riley caught her before she landed. Nico’s eyes opened looking into the blue ones so close. “Butafl,” Nico whispered loudly and she kissed her, grabbing Riley’s face and sealing them tightly at the lips.
Riley was shocked at Nico’s boldness but she enjoyed it. She pulled back and Nico smiled in her drunken state and Riley kissed her again as Nico sank willingly into her arms. Reluctantly the pirate stepped back still hanging on to the blond to keep her up. “I really need to get you home,” she said seriously.
Nico shook her head and tried to move back in for another kiss. “All gone… hommme…” she said as she suddenly moved away from Riley who couldn’t keep her grip on her and Nico tumbled back onto her butt as the blond stared up at her in disbelief. “Evrythin gone. You!” she got out. “Why?!” she exclaimed as she got to her feet and swung at Riley easily missing her by three feet as she stumbled again and tears came. “Gld,” she muttered thickly through her sauced brain. “All ded, for gold!” she glared at Riley. “Wuld give it away,” she cried. “Don’t wan’ it.”
She moved back in and Riley watched her warily waiting to see if she’d try to strike at her again. “Jus you,” Nico got out through the tears. “S’not fair,” she said as she pushed Riley hard and the captain let her shuffling back a couple of steps. “Luv you,” Nico admitted. “Why?” she asked as she passed out and Riley caught her this time and picked her up in her arms.
The captain was silent as she looked to the younger woman. “I don’t know why,” she finally answered to her. “I wish I knew.”
She carried Nico back to the section of the city where they had been before. She banged on the door with the heel of her boot and Lanai was there in a minute. “Did something happen?” the older woman asked worriedly as Riley brought Nico inside.
“Drunk,” Riley muttered as Nico jerked a little and the green eyes fluttered but stayed closed. “A room?”
Lanai nodded as she watched the captain with the girl noting the close way that the dark woman held her. Aya came down the hallway and curled around Riley’s feet looking to jump up to where Nico was. Riley gently pushed the cat out of the way as Lanai led them to a small, but cozy room.
“Do you want me to keep the cat?” Lanai asked as Riley laid Nico on the small bed. Riley sighed as she sat down on the bed and petted the animal then nodded. Lanai nudged the cat out towards her own much bigger bedroom.
Riley sat there for a while as she took her time pulling off her boots and her belt. “What the hell am I going to do?” she muttered to herself.
Nico apparently loved her, but she still was angry over what had happened earlier. Not that she could blame her, that was the way life was sometimes. You got dealt a terrible hand, then you moved on. Riley had learned that long ago. She glanced back to Nico before she worked on removing her shirt. Then again, Nico had grown up very sheltered in the idyllic setting of the island with her mother and her family around her, having seen only a tiny glimpse of that known as ‘civilization’.
“Believe me,” Riley said as she stood and stripped fully. “Life is not a pretty thing.” She looked to Nico and blinked. “I wish I could keep you believing that it’s all good, I really do,” she whispered sadly as she got Nico undressed and tucked both of them under the covers.
Nico rolled over and snuggled into her chest letting out a warm breath of air across her and Riley kissed her forehead. She watched her for a moment as she tilted Nico’s chin up kissing her lips. Long and slow she tasted them, reveling in the softness of it all. The part of her that longed to be sated sang out in her blood wanting more. She kissed her again then tucked the limp body into hers and let the alcohol take her into a dreamless sleep.
Langdon had wandered about Kingston for the better part of the night. He cursed and drank and found whores along his inebriated journey looking for Riley. He got to the point where he didn’t care about the captain anymore. He just wanted to believe everything was back to normal again.
And now, as the morning sun rose up Langdon was passed out in a pool of ale in a corner of a large ale hall. Covered with bits of straw and his clothes stained with alcohol and sick. He groaned as his leg was nudged.
He settled back down only to cry out in pain when his hair was grabbed with a strong hand and he was forcibly lifted up. He swung about as his stomach planned to rebel. “This him?” came a sneer from close by.
“Yup,” another voice said from a distance. “Hawke’s first mate. Bloody fool coming about alone.”
Langdon was slammed up again the cold stone wall nearby. He tried as hard as it could to open his eyes only to groan at the pain in his body and his head. “Disgustin’,” the man close by said.
“Aye, that he is,” said the first man.
Langdon slowly opened his eyes to see Snub Montgomery, first mate of the Mongrel holding him up. He was as mean as Dog had been and was even uglier than the now dead captain. He was almost bald, some say it was from getting his scalp torn off by a bad sword swipe, but no was sure about it. His face was pockmarked and he had a variety of scars about like Langdon did, but without the severity of it all.
“Thornley,” he spat into his face. “I woulda thought you’d be out sailing for the Americas wit’ all that gold you took from Serpents Isle…” he smiled showing his stained and crooked teeth. “But then your cap’n ran off scared wif out it!” he laughed and so did the men behind him. “You followin’ a woman around make you a sissy too?” he said as he spit on him again.
Langdon knew he didn’t have a chance in hell of getting away. “What do you want?” he asked tiredly feeling the sick in him want to rise up.
“Ain’t what I want,” Montgomery told him as he pulled him along and the small crowd followed. “My cap’n be wantin’ ya.”
Langdon looked at him like he was stupid. “Wesley’s dead,” he muttered.
Snub smiled at that. “You think?” He laughed as he pulled him along out away from the buildings.
It was still dark as Langdon’s mind began to clear up and he saw what was left of the Mongrel. Apparently it had taken quite a few hits from something. It was still big and black, but now it was more like a ghost ship than anything else. He watched as they boarded and all the men glared at him when he realized that the men were in shackles and chains. They were underfed and in tattered clothes.
“I brung him cap’n!” Snub called out to the back of the boat.
“Good…” came a reply that sounded like a voice mixed with the grate of rocks and the gurgle of blood on it.
Langdon looked to the doorway going below the decks to see a horrific form of Wesley coming at a slow gate towards him. He had a badly stitched wound across his throat and one leg was being drug like it didn’t work right. Upon closer inspection Langdon swallowed his bile when he saw the pasty green look cast on the man’s skin. “You…” he stuttered. “You’re… dead!”
“Undead is what the witch woman told me,” Dog replied in his same gravelly voice. He tapped a small medicine bag around his neck. “This is the only thing that saved me from going to Hell,” he got out as he forced his stiff mouth to work. “But I plan on taking Hawke with me.” He stopped just scant inches away from him and Langdon could smell the reek of a corpse about him making him gag for real this time. “So, either you help me, or I let you join my sad lot of a crew,” he finished and Langdon looked over to the dirty chained up crew.
Langdon looked to him. “On one condition,” he replied.
Wesley snorted a little at that not believing his audacity. “What?”
“Kill the girl she’s got too,” he told him stone faced. “And I’ll do whatever you want.”
Dog laughed at that and all the men were sickened at the sound of it. “Took that little bit of flesh did she?” He laughed again. He turned and left him to head back down below as the sun fully began to show itself.
Nico groaned as she slowly woke, her head felt like it was going to split open. Slowly she opened an eye to look around to shut it immediately. Even the soft glow of the lantern made her wince. She felt fur brush against her back and she rolled over with a groan and wrapped her arms about the form of Aya who was sleeping against her. “Make it stop,” she whispered to her friend as her brain began to throb.
The door to the room opened and movement followed. “Nico?” came a soft whisper.
“Shhh…” Nico told Riley who hung over her. “Hurts.”
Nico protested with moans a little as she was moved into warm arms in a sitting position. “Drink,” she was told.
Nico cringed at the smell of what was beneath her nose and she opened her right eye to look down to see something sort of red with brown floating in it. She clapped a hand over her mouth and paled.
Riley hauled her out of the bed and knelt her over a wash basin as she threw up. “Better?” Riley asked as she handed her a wet cloth and Nico wiped her face off.
“No,” Nico got out.
The drink was thrust back underneath her. “Drink it,” Riley told her.
Nico pushed it out of the way. “That’s disgusting!” she said as she knelt back.
Riley scowled. “You drink it or I’ll make you drink it.” Nico looked to her warily. “It really will help,” the dark woman said as she tried not to get angry with the strong-willed girl.
“Would you?” Nico asked.
Riley’s features showed that she really wanted to, but she finally slammed the cup down on the ground next to Nico. “Do what you want,” she muttered and left the room.
Nico watched the door for a minute then back to the cup. Aya came off the bed and sniffed at the concoction and cringed moving away from it. “Thanks,” Nico replied as she lifted it up and sniffed it again. She took a sip of it and immediately turned and threw up again.
Riley waited outside the room until the retching had stopped and she had control of her temper. It wasn’t the girl’s fault. And she wasn’t feeling her best at the moment as she drank the vile concoction down herself. She opened the door to see Nico was leaning against the wall with her head resting against it. She didn’t look too good. “Did you drink it?” she asked.
Nico didn’t even move her head as green eyes rolled over to look at her. “Every time I try it makes me throw up,” she got out tiredly. “Why didn’t you tell me I’d feel this awful?”
Riley smiled a little. “Would you have believed me?”
Nico whimpered out painfully as she closed her eyes and held her stomach. “I’m never doing that again.”
Riley nodded. “Good for you.” She crouched down and held up the drink. “Drink.”
The green eyes opened again and Riley sorely wanted to kiss her. She had the feeling Nico wouldn’t be very receptive to that idea. “No,” Nico told her.
Riley cocked her head a little and when Nico had closed her eyes again Riley leaned over and rubbed her finger along her lips. They parted a little and she poured a little of the liquid into her mouth. Nico swallowed instinctively but her eyes flew open as she leaned over the basin and threw up again.
Riley sighed to herself. This was going to take a little while.
Langdon watched as Riley and Nico made it back to the Conqueror with the ocelot. His eyes narrowed as he saw that they walked closer together than before. And the blond looked as if she had grown a year or two over night that and she looked a little hung over on top of it. More like a woman than an older child. She slipped her hand into Riley’s and the captain held it tight and Langdon’s face set into a scowl and the deal struck with Dog was all the more pleasant in his mind. He looked out over the deck to see the ship was much different than Dog’s. Almost all the men liked Nico and with a healthy bit of respect for her tempering the captain somewhat and fear from what might happen if they overstepped the bounds that Riley had set for them when she first brought Nico onto the ship.
Nico stood with her as the ship set off and soon they slipped from the docks and headed for the Americas. Langdon smiled grimly as the two women headed down below. The scar-faced man made his way down from the upper deck to where Max stood at the wheel.
“I’ll take over now,” he told the short, ugly stump of a pirate.
Max looked to him. “X’cuse me?” he belched out. The man had been drinking all night but unlike most of their companions he could hold his liquor to a point.
Langdon waved at the stench in the air. “I’ll take the wheel,” he ground out. “Go get some rest!”
Max nodded a bit at that. “Due north,” he told him as he let the wheel go. “Cap’n wants us to make good time.”
Langdon nodded as he clenched his jaw at that. “Go.”
Max went off down below to his cot in the sailor’s quarters. Val watched from the galley with Deacon as the quartermaster made his way along. “Not good,” the older brother muttered. He looked to him. “Only ones releasing him from the wheel is the Captain and Langdon.”
Val nodded at this as he bit into the bread with his meal loving the taste of real food that hadn’t gone bad, or moldy. “Sounds like first mate is isn’t being very loyal…” he swallowed as he wiped up the remains of his stew with the last crust of bread. “And from what I see, Hawke don’t take kindly to treason.”
Deacon snorted out a bit at that as he rolled his spoon around in his fingers. “No… now she doesn’t.”
Val nodded again. “Ship’s changing course.”
Deacon nodded with him. “He’s a good friend to Riley.” He glanced back at his brother. “Can’t go to her without proof.”
Val finished off his meal and stood. “I’ll keep a watch up deck. Back in a bit.”
Deacon watched him go admiring that the younger Priest had taken on the values of the family. At least those that there were. Loyal to your leader, fight to the death, protect what’s yours. He thought to Riley, if they were right and Langdon was double crossing her she was going to be madder than a cat in a cage and Nico may come out on the wrong end of that deal. He stood up and headed out to keep a watch on the captain’s quarters, the young women were his first concern but if he had to he’d protect the young noble islander from the captain’s wrath.
Riley looked from where she sat at her desk to where Nico lay sleeping in their bed sound asleep with Aya resting just behind the blond’s knees. She had finally coaxed most of the evil brew into the young woman and Nico had to admit that she had started to feel better. It was getting time for them to leave and with thanks and a bit of money to Lanai and taking their possessions and the cat they headed back for the docks.
The walk had been silent but it hadn’t bothered her like it normally would of. They reached the docks and Nico had slid her hand into hers. She looked to the young woman who looked like it was totally perfect and she was content. Riley smiled to herself as she gripped it tighter showing the younger woman what the touch had meant to her as they boarded her ship.
Now they were into their journey and she didn’t feel like going up on deck and pacing around as she usually did. Even when she had other women in her bed she was never with them long. But she was happy just sitting at her desk watching the blond sleep. Was she getting old? Was she slowing down? She froze in thought. Did she want to slow down now that she had the one she had been looking for? She thought about that as she smiled at the thought of being with Nico forever.
How was she going to manage being a blood and guts pirate and keep the one she loved safe? Sinking deeper into thought she slouched back into her chair as she kept an eye on the sleeping woman. Her subconscious noted to her that the boat rocked a little more than normal. ‘Storm’s coming up,’ she thought vaguely as her mind wandered to a bare thigh as Nico shifted beneath the thin blanket about her body.
The ship rocked heavily with the waves as the door to a small room below deck on the Conqueror opened. A water-soaked Val came stumbling in to see Deacon was waiting up for him. “We’re headed to a group of islands!” he burst out as he slammed the door shut. “He’s been backtrackin’ all bloody day!” Val waved his hand about above his head. “Bloody lightenin’ showed the land just in front of us. We’re nowhere near Florida!”
Deacon nodded as he stood fearing that this was truly the case. “Let me talk to Riley. She’ll trust me more than anyone.” He grabbed his arm. “Keep watch on the blond. Don’t let no one touch her, not until this is settled.”
Val nodded as he headed out with him to take up a spot in the shadows where he could see the door to the Captain’s quarters as Deacon knocked on them loudly enough to be heard over the waves. A moment later he slipped in and Val settled back warily. It wasn’t anything like his first ship, but then it wasn’t anything like prison and god be damned he was never going back there.
“What?!” Riley yelled as she grabbed her right boot and shoved her foot into it. She had her pants belted up as Nico woke to the angry words. The other boot was on and Riley grabbed for her sword belt as the young woman sat up pushing her short locks back from her face.
“Riley?” she asked.
The pirate looked back to her as Deacon opened the door. “Stay here!” she told her. “I’m going to kill him!”
Nico blinked at this as she and Aya were soon left alone and she hugged the anxious cat to her. “At least she didn’t say ‘her’,” she told the cat. “Come on,” she said getting out of the bed feeling much better than she had that morning. “Least I can do is get dressed.”
Riley stormed her way up the stairs and was almost blown off her feet as a strong wind knocked her a bit. She gritted her teeth as she was instantly soaked through to the bone making her way to the wheel. There holding onto it with all of their strength was Max. She grabbed him by the collar and heaved him up. “What the hell is going on!” she screamed at him. “Where’s Langdon?!”
“Don’ know cap’n!” he yelled back. “Came up a moment ago to see the wheel flinging about like a fish on a line!”
Riley let out a roar as she looked about for the wayward first mate when the lightening flashed across the sky showing that they were on a collision course for the island in front of her. She grabbed Deacon this time pulling him close. “Get everybody up and on deck!” She found another man and ordered him to cut down the sails as she turned back and began to help Max with the wheel as the tried to turn the ship away from the island. “I’m going to rip his bloody head off!” she screamed into the rain.
Langdon held onto the side of the ship for dear life. He had barely gotten over the side when Max came out. There was no way they could avoid the island now. He had done his job, but he knew Riley. She would put something off and get out of it. Which meant he needed something to hold over the captain. He heard her scream out bloody murder and he knew it was directed at him.
The ledge he was on was wide and with enough grips in the wood to make it to the back of the ship. He found the slot in the wood he was looking for and pulled it out about eight inches, as far as it would go. He wriggled his body through and landed unceremoniously onto a built in desk in the Captain’s quarters. He stood up to see Nico look shocked he was there.
“Thank god I made it here!” he told her breathlessly as he headed for her. “The main door is blocked! Riley wasn’t you off the ship!”
The boat rocked wildly as Nico held onto a post of the bed. “Where is she?”
Langdon pointed above them. “Up top! She wants you up there, incase we sink!”
Nico’s face paled at this. “What?” she said as she sat down. She had brief flashbacks from her childhood. Holding onto a man, she couldn’t remember what he looked like. But the water was so cold, and so dark. She had tried to scream only to be held tight.
Langdon came around and helped her up by grabbing onto her arm and lifting her up. “Hurry!” he said as he propelled her to the door. He opened it and drug her out. “This way!” he said.
The corridor filled with a tall man. Val came up to them. “Let her go, Langdon,” he warned. “Deacon and I know what you’ve been doing!”
Nico gasped as a sharp dagger came to her throat. “You want me to slit her pretty throat, bastard!” Langdon said as he held her close to him. “I don’t think Riley’d like that!” he warned him. “Move away!”
Val glared at him but moved aside. “She’s gonna slit your throat you damn fool.”
Langdon laughed almost like a crazed man. “Not likely.” He led Nico around him then to the front of the ship where the hold was and Val followed them.
Langdon pushed her through grateful to see that the sailor’s quarters were empty. Everyone would be up top trying to save the ship. He grabbed her throat and almost choked her as he used his other hand to slam the door shut and push the wood slat over the mounts to keep Val from following. Weight was thrown against the door as he led Nico on up to the other end of the hold.
They made their way to the outer door of the hold, just across from the door to the cabins and the steering wheel. “Open it!” he told her.
Nico did and the rain soaked her as he led her out. There at the wheel was Max, Deacon and Riley. The dark woman looked up as they came out. The glint of steel at Nico’s throat showed her in an instant that Nico was a hostage.
“Langdon!” Riley screamed as she let the wheel go making Deacon and Max struggle all the more to keep it in place. It seemed as if she almost grew in size as she stalked towards them. “You let her go!” she demanded.
Langdon drug Nico towards the edge of the boat nearest the island. “Come get her!” he challenged as he jumped over with Nico in his grip.
Nico didn’t even have a chance as she watched Riley run for them then the blackness of water rushed over her again, just like so many years ago. They surfaced as Riley watched them. A moment later she plunged over the edge as well. “You better swim fast,” Nico gasped out as she became a dead weight in Langdon’s arms. “She’ll leave you for the sharks when she reaches us.”
Langdon saw that Riley was gaining on him and he had a distance before he’d reach the shore. With that he rapped Nico on the back of the head and left her as he swam full out for the shore and Riley swam faster as Nico began to sink beneath the water.
With an expert dive Riley dove under the water desperately searching the dark waters to finally grab onto a limp arm. Jerking them both up to the surface she took in a breath as she checks Nico out. “Don’t you dare die on me!” she commanded to the young woman.
The blond was limp and her face slack as Riley wrapped her arm around her chest and swam as fast she could for the shore line.
It was a rough swim through the choppy waters but she made it to the beach pulling Nico to the wet sand she knelt down over the form and listened to her chest. She wasn’t breathing. Quickly she turned her over and pushed on her back watching as water was forced out of Nico’s lungs.
“Please…” Riley whispered worriedly. “Please don’t leave me.”
When she could put no more water out she turned her back over and watched from where she knelt. Nico still didn’t move. Carefully Riley wiped away the sand on Nico’s cheek as the rain drove down onto them like tears from the heavens mourning the loss of the blond woman. “Don’t leave me,” Riley said as a tear slid down her cheek. She bent and kissed her hard. “I love you,” she told her as she released her lips and gently picked her up in her arms and kissed her again.
Riley watched the night slowly turned to day as the rains continued to fall. Her ship was no longer in sight as it had gone around the bend of the island. She had no idea if it was afloat or on the bottom of the sea. Right then, she didn’t really care. Nico hadn’t moved. The fearsome pirate hadn’t dared to see if she was breathing, she didn’t want to chance that the woman was dead.
She shook her head at the thought.
“Hawke…” came a coarse whisper on the wind.
Riley blinked out of her reverie and looked to Nico. She still hadn’t moved so she looked around the shore. There were few trees nearby and the rain had started to slack off to a drizzle.
“No boat…” the whisper came as Riley carefully set Nico down and stood warily watching the dense grove of trees a few yards away from where she stood. “No lover…” it hissed out.
Riley’s eyes narrowed as she crouched down a little feeling for her sword but found it was missing, probably somewhere out in the ocean.
“What is it like to see her die in your arms?” the voice asked and Riley finally pinpointed it coming from her right down the beach a ways.
“Dog,” she muttered as her lip curled up cruelly.
With that the grotesque man stepped out of the trees with sword in hand. “In the flesh,” the hissing of the voice continued as she watched his destroyed voice box try to work. “So to speak,” he said with a smile. The sword came up. “Time for you to die,” he stated to her.
Riley felt the urge to kill rise up in her. She saw red cloud her vision until she looked down to see Nico laying at her feet. Blue eyes flickered up at the man. “Soon,” she said as she stalked towards him. “But only after I tear you to bits for the fishes to feed on.”
Dog looked to her as her eyes took on a look of pure hatred and rage. Something in her had changed. He glanced to the woman laying on the beach and knew what it was. Riley had fallen for something stronger than blood, stronger than gold, stronger than power.
She had found love.
He looked back as she leapt at him with a battle cry of pure fury. Bare handed she struck him. Riley knocked his sword out of the way and rushed at him taking them both into the brush. “I don’t know what you did to Langdon, you bastard,” she growled as she threw in a punch that crushed his throat. He gasped as he tried to fight back. Little did he know that dying and coming back to life didn’t do much for the reflexes. “But if I find the son of a bitch dying will be the least of his worries!”
She pummeled his stomach and kicked him hard flinging him back into the brush. Riley was about to move when natives of the island came out from hiding, surrounding her along with five of Dog’s men. “Not a surprise,” she said as Dog struggled to get up. “Even for a pirate you never had any honor.” She growled at the natives, her eyes almost slits as she got ready for them to attack. They were Caribs and she’d be damned if they were going to do anything to her without her taking most of them out.
“Kill her,” Dog got out as he slumped down to the ground, he had no strength left, but he turned to watch his nemesis be mauled to death by the fierce warriors.
Silence filled the area as all of the animals that inhabited the place were quiet waited for the larger predators to battle. The natives watched as Riley lifted her chin in superiority to them and spoke in Carib. “What are you waiting for, afraid a woman will hurt you?” A snarl came to the native as another one stopped him and looked to her.
“You are from the islands?” he asked.
Riley looked to him. He was an elder, almost too old to be a hunter/warrior. “I am Carib,” she replied. “My tribe was the greatest in all the islands.”
That got the warriors moving in angrily, but the elder stopped them. “Only one Carib had eyes the color of the skies. A young girl child…”
“KILL HER!” Dog yelled at them, interrupting their conversation. He moved to his knees as he glared at his own men. “NOW!” he screamed as best he could. All of the men moved towards Riley with their spears and swords out.
“No,” came a weak voice from behind Dog. The man looked back as the others glanced over. Stumbling over a bedraggled Nico moved towards him and with a swift jerk she pulled the small bag from his neck. “She’s mine,” she told him as she slumped to the ground heavily as her eyes took in Riley. “Hurry,” she said as her eyes fluttered shut and she passed out.
Dog seized up as he fought to take in a breath of air. His skin began to decompose and he shook as his body crumbled apart and he landed face first into the ground in about a dozen pieces.
Riley knocked the spears and swords away as she ran towards the blond and caught her up into her arms. Green eyes slowly opened as the two looked to each other. There was a tired smile on Nico’s lips. “Heard you,” she whispered to her. “Had to come back,” she said softly.
“Yes you did,” Riley told her. Tears streamed down her face as she looked back to the men. “Leave,” she warned them. “Or I’ll kill you all.”
Dog’s men looked at each other and took off into the brush. The natives watched as the elder man came forward, but a safe distance away. “Great magic you have,” he said seriously.
Riley shook her head. “Only love,” she told him.
“Once, many years ago, the chief of our tribe sired a female child. Beautiful she was,” he told her as he sat on a fallen tree nearby. “Eyes blue as the sky. Great magic in this one, he told all. Warrior to our tribe, chief of all Carib.” He watched her as she glanced his way. “Gone in a fight she was, very young. Chief died soon after, but we know,” he said nodding. “Warrior come back, lead Carib to great victory.” He stood. “Bring your woman. Shamaness will care for her, let elders decide if you are warrior with eyes like sky.”
Riley stood with Nico in her arms not saying a word as she followed them back into the village.
Nico woke up feeling so tired and achy. She rubbed her forehead with a shaky hand as she looked around. Carib everywhere… she felt her heart stop with fear as her brain took this information in. She was still alive, and wrapped up in a blanket. She listened closely as the women around her talked. It was almost like the language of her tribe and she found out that the men from Dog’s ship were gone and a few men from Riley’s were there now.
She jerked a little as a cold cloth was pressed to her forehead. “Sun hair is awake,” someone said.
Sun hair? Nico thought as she slowly opened her eyes to see two women with Riley’s coloring looking back at her.
“You must rest more,” the older woman said to her. Nico looked her way fearfully. She wore a bone necklace and had symbols in her skin as that of a shamaness. The woman smiled at her. “Do not be afraid young Arawak. No harm will come to the mate of Caieta.”
Nico blinked at that as a familiar form came into the small hut. She took in the sight and smiled. Riley was dressed like a native. Which showed a great expanse of skin. The women moved out of the way as Riley knelt down in front of her and stroked her cheek. “How are you?” she asked.
Nico nodded a little. “Tired.”
Riley smiled as she leaned in and kissed her. “But alive,” she responded. She stood and picked Nico up in her arms and headed out of the hut.
Nico looked up at her. “Where are we going?”
Riley smirked. “To my hut,” she told her.
Nico looked to the best hut in the place. “That’s the chief’s, right?”
Riley nodded. “Blue eyes are big around here,” she told her as she laid her down on blanket that made up the bed. The blue eyes took her in seriously. “I thought I’d lost you,” she whispered to her in the quiet of the hut.
Green eyes filled with tears. “I couldn’t leave you.” She reached up and cupped her face with her hands. “Not when I heard what was in here,” she told her as she touched Riley’s chest.
Riley rested her forehead on Nico’s chest lightly. “I love you,” she told her.
Nico smiled at this. “I know.” Blue eyes peered up at her. “And I love you.” They kissed as the tribe began to chant and dance outside the tent. “Riley?” Nico asked as they broke apart for air.
“Hmmm…?” Riley asked as she watched her.
“What is Caieta?”
Riley grinned. “Apparently I’m the heir of the chief to this tribe…” she looked thoughtful. “My tribe. Caieta was my name then.”
“Sooooo…” she said. “They aren’t going to eat us, or anything like that?”
Riley shook her head. “Nope, you are one safe Arawak.” She looked to her and leaned over and kissed her again. “Nico,” she whispered to her.
Nico smiled as she smoothed her hand on the firm skin of Riley’s arm and another kiss came, deep with all intents applied with it. Soft lips traveled over her neck and Nico had never wanted anything more in her life as her body ignited beneath Riley’s touch. She tangled her fingers in long black locks and brought her up to capture her lips again. Nico closed her eyes as Riley possessed her mouth as a strong hand slid down her hip. Her body shuddered into overload as she pressed herself toward the dark woman. Slowly, they entangled their bodies and for the first time, but certainly not the last Nico’s voice shared in the joy as her soul joined with another’s.
Riley held her close as night settled in. Nico was drowsy but awake. “France,” she whispered to her mate. “One day soon, I will take you to France and we will both see your homeland.”
Nico looked up to her as she slid her hand into hers. “Not soon,” she whispered back. “This is home.”
Riley smiled as she curled her body around Nico’s and watched as she drifted off that her mate was right. This was home.