Wherein the Duke encounters a Mysterious Opponent in his first pirate attack.
Colin sat on the wooden deck of the Motley Crew gazing out over the undulating turquoise waters of the Caribbean, listening to the pirates sing songs and tell bawdy jokes. The ship sat anchored off a tiny island of white sand and palm trees. The sun beat down on him, warming his body through his loose shirt and breeches, the ship bobbing on the waves in a rhythmic rocking motion that had him pleasantly relaxed and soporific. Which was exceedingly better than the dry heaving and puking he’d done in the first weeks at sea.
“Batten down the hatches!” squawked Pemberley. Colin ignored him. The cork-brained bird. There was nary in cloud in sight and certainly no need for battening of any hatches.
After a month at sea and not a single looting or pillaging under his belt, he was ready for some action. Neither Captain Keelhaul nor his crew wore sashes stuffed with pistols and daggers. Nor did they have lit fuses in their long hair. Although Sam the Rum-Swiller did have braids in his beard, which Colin greatly admired. He stroked the scruff on his chin.
Thus far his pirate life hadn’t turned out to be the thrilling life of adventure he’d hoped for.
“Avast!” This time one of the crew shouted.
Colin’s eyes flew open and he leaped to his feet.
“Avast, ye! Ship ahoy!”
Excitement coursed through his veins as he raced to the rails where the crew had gathered. “Is it…?”
“Aye.” Sam the Rum-Swiller stared across the azure expanse, the sun illuminating the sails of the other ship a sparkling white.
“Are we going to attack?” Colin asked, excitement mingling with dread in the pit of his stomach. Much as he’d wanted to see some pirate action, now it was actually upon him, apprehension tightened his muscles and his fingers curled tighter around the rail.
“All hands on deck!” Captain Keelhaul barked. “Weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen!” Everyone hastened to do his bidding to prepare to attack the schooner.
Quinn Fitzgerald entered the captain’s cabin of La Mѐche de Fouet looking for the ship’s log as her men secured the ship. Boarding the vessel had been easy, not even a challenge for her Ninjutsu trained crew. They would soon have the slaves quartered below moved to their own craft, The Mizigumo. They would return control of the ship to the captain and crew, then sail to Cuba to release the slaves.
The boom of a cannon had her head jerking up. What the…?? She froze as more noises reached her ears—the pounding of booted feet running across the deck, shouts, the crack of gunfire.
“By the goddess O-Wata-Tsumi,” she whispered. “What is happening?”
Thudding footsteps came closer.
She quickly looked around the cabin, training and reflexes coming to the fore. She reached for her grappling hook on her belt and flung it upwards. With a few agile moves, she was up clinging to the ceiling in the shadows of the dim cabin.
The door burst open and a man rushed in. He paused at seeing the empty cabin.
She blinked. A bandana covered his hair. Dark whiskers shadowed his deeply-tanned face and square jaw. Was this one of the crew who had escaped her men?
Then his eyes fell on the chest against one wall and he moved toward it with masculine grace, his legs long and muscular. More muscles in his arms and broad shoulders flexed beneath his loose white shirt as he lifted the lid.
He was going to steal the captain’s treasure chest! Was he a pirate? Her eyes narrowed. He wore no eye patch, had no peg leg, nor did he reek of rum. Yet she was almost certain he was a pirate.
Pirate versus ninja.
This could not happen. She was a ninja. She could remove a man’s spleen with one swift motion. She could run a hundred miles on her hands. She could make her shadow disappear. No pirate could ever triumph over a ninja.
She glanced upward to the poop deck. What was happening above? Were her men defending themselves and protecting the lives of the slaves and the crew of La Mѐche de Fouet? She had every confidence in her crew against a band of ruthless murdering buccaneers who cared naught about the lives of others, unlike her own ninja crew whose mission was to help those too weak and vulnerable to defend themselves.
As the man raised the lid of the trunk, gold and multi-colored jewels glinted and sparkled in the dim light of the cabin and she heard his sharply indrawn breath. “Booty,” he murmured.
At that moment a strange fluttering, flapping noise drew Quinn’s gaze from the man to a bird flying into the cabin. It perched atop one of the posts of the four poster bed and regarded her with shiny dark eyes. It tipped its head to one side and squawked, “Avast, me proud beauty!”
Quinn glared at the bird, a putrid purple color. A parrot.
“Shut up, Pemberley,” the man said, without looking up from the booty he’d discovered.
Bloody hell. The parrot belonged to the man! He was a pirate!
She clung tighter to the ceiling, blending into the shadows.
The man began to drag the chest toward the door. No! This could not be allowed! She eyed him, preparing herself, every sense alert, her body poised, waiting for the right…moment…yes.
Silently she dropped from the ceiling and landed on the man’s back, taking him to the floor. His cry of surprise was echoed by the parrot’s, “Awk! Shiver me timbers!”
She curled one arm around his throat as she reached behind her for her katana.
Colin’s breath left him on a whoosh at the impact. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! On the floor with a weight on top of him and something pressing against his windpipe, his heart slammed into his ribs and his breath froze in his throat. He’d never been good at wrestling, he’d fared much better at fencing, and he needed to get to his sword. He was not going to let his first pirate attack end in humiliation. He’d anticipated the pleased reaction of the captain and the crew when they saw what he’d discovered there, and nobody was going to take away his one chance to prove himself on the high seas. Nobody would call him landlubber again. With all his strength, he rolled.
He wrestled with his attacker, a small but fierce and astonishingly strong individual. Who or what was this creature? With a grunt, he dodged a knee aimed at his bollocks, adrenaline rushing through his veins and giving him the strength to finally throw the attacker off.
They both leaped to their feet and stood there, facing each other, chests heaving. His attacker held a sword, an oddly shaped sword, and he whipped out his own weapon. They stepped lightly around each other, assessing, planning. He focused on the creature, garbed all in black—soft black breeches, a black shirt and a black hood covering its head and most of its face. A belt around the waist held an arsenal of tools and weapons. Ninja.
His eyes met those of his attacker—aquamarine as clear and sparkling as the Caribbean, framed with long, thick lashes. He sucked in a breath. His momentary lapse cost him the advantage and the ninja lunged with his weapon. At the last second Colin was able to deflect the blow and they parried, swords clanging. A thrill raced through him, heating his veins.
His opponent’s skill with the sword met his own, and sweat stung his eyes and rolled down his back beneath his shirt as they dueled. The ninja seemed unaffected, fighting on until, with a lunge, Colin disarmed him. The unusual sword crashed into the wall. Ha! He had the blackguard now.
Then something whizzed by his ear. Thunk. He turned his head, his eyes locking onto something embedded in the wall behind him. Shuriken. As his attacker reached for another throwing star, Colin lunged toward him.
With blinding swiftness, the creature spun and kicked, knocking Colin’s sword out of his hands. The ninja launched at him, again taking him to the floor and they wrestled, rolling around the floor of the cabin, knocking into the desk, then a cabinet, a decanter of spirits crashing beside their heads.
“Blow me down!” Pemberly squawked, wings flapping above them. “Blow me down!”
No. He was not going to be humiliated. Landlubber. He was not going to let down his captain and the crew fighting above. Though things on the poop deck above had gone strangely quiet.
Colin closed his hand around soft black fabric. He yanked. The hood came off in his hand, his small but strong attacker now pinned beneath him on the floor.
Golden waves of silky hair spilled out from beneath the hood, framing a face that was pure perfection. Those limpid aqua eyes gazed back at him in shock, lush lips parted slightly. Her hair gleamed like fine Puerto Rican gold, like Jamaican rum...like the ocean at sunset.
They lay there, staring at each other, bodies pressed together, and he became aware of the softness of the curves beneath him.
“Governess!” Pemberly squeaked. Colin ignored the daft bird as his body hardened. A month at sea listening to bawdy pirate talk had him as randy as a three-balled tomcat and he moved against her soft bosom.
“That is some treasure chest you have there,” he murmured.
Her eyes widened.
And then with more of that astonishing strength, she flipped him onto his back with a quick move. In seconds she had a length of rope out and his hands bound in front of him.
Blasted with double barrels!
“Hempen jig! Hempen jig!” Pemberly cried, wings flapping wildly.
Colin lay helpless on the floor staring up at her.
“Pirate versus ninja,” she said, rising before him. Her golden hair curled riotously down her slender back and her turquoise eyes flashed with triumph. “You will never win. Now you are mine.”
A Word to you, Our Dear and Gentle Readers: If you enjoyed this small offering, please do us the honor of returning to grace our humble blog with your presence one week hence, when we shall be delighted to bring to you the next installment of our little saga, which is to be entitled, Chapter Three: The Dread Highwayman ...Colin?
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