She ducked her head, hating to admit her one weakness. Not ever her crew knew the repercussions of such an event. “I break out in a pox. It is not contagious, but it occurs on…on—”
Colin gasped. “Your face? Your beautiful visage?”
Her habitual scowl—he did, after all, interrupt her—barely concealed the grin that tried to break across her face. He thought her beautiful?
Oh O-Wata-Tsumi , would this man ever stop twisting her into advanced Lotus position? “No, not on my face, captive. On my,” her voice lowered to a whisper, “On my behind.”
Coughs erupted from his mouth and she whacked him on the back until he waved her away.
“On your perfect arse? What a travesty! You mustn’t ever eat gluten!” He paused for a moment, looked pained, then said, “But I ate that cookie—can you catch it from me?”
Oh, wasn’t he the most adorable thing? “No, my pet, I cannot. Just as you are safe from my pox, I am safe from your gluten-eating.”
Like a typhoon he overwhelmed her senses, pinning her to the bed and capturing her lips in a rough, deep kiss. She wouldn’t have been able move even if her brain hadn’t turned to pure mush, and O-Wata-Tsumi she loved it.
His knee parted her thighs and she felt his naked flesh burn through her breeches. The solid weight of his purple-headed one-eyed monster, more awe-inspiring than Odysseus’ Cyclops, made her ache with need.
“Take me, my fierce pirate, I need you now!”
He growled and pulled at her clothes. She half-expected them to rip apart—one of her first lovers had done that trick and she’d practically swooned in the face of his strength—but after a few moments of struggling against the fabric she helped him out and shimmied out of her clothes. She couldn’t stand waiting any longer.
He kissed her lips, her neck, nuzzled the overlarge breasts she always tried to bind flat…he made her feel beautiful, even with her large rack and curved hips. Until then, she would have been happier having a boy-shaped figure, but she knew Colin would not have found such pleasure in it.
His breathing hitched as his fingers trailed between her thighs, dipped into her honeypot, and then shoved her legs apart to settle between them. His hardness rested against her entrance and she wiggled against him, needing this empty ache to be soothed.
The muscles of his torso bunched in taut, defined lines. She leaned up to run her tongue across his rugged, hairless chest. His skin tasted sweet like dried peaches, a rare treat for every ship except hers.
Scurvy prevention was nothing to scrimp on.
He positioned himself to enter her and she held her breath, waiting for the pure bliss to wash over her like a giant wave across the ship’s rails.
Her heart pounded so loud she was certain Colin could hear it, or so she thought until she heard voices shouting along with it.
“Open up, Captain, you’re needed starboard!”
Colin growled and ripped himself away from her body. She bit back a whimper and shook aside the girlish feeling he inspired in her. The ship needed a fierce captain, not a woman in…
Oh blast and damnation, as the English were wont to say.
She threw on her clothes, slipped her weapons into their various pockets, pouches, and sheaths, and hit the door running. She didn’t have time for kind words from Colin.
In her haste she forgot to pin back her hair and it billowed around her face in the wind. She saw her crew trying not to stare, but she still received many a sideways, bug-eyed stare.
“What is our status, Môri?”
“We have spotted a bottled message. The crocodile has wandered off for now, like he does every four hours, as you know.”
“The message must be fetched. Lower me in the harness and I will bring it back.”
“No!” a fully clothed Colin protested.
Her smile slipped onto her lips before she could censor it and her crew gasped. But she cared naught.
“Sweet, sweet Colin, I shall be fine. I climb up and down these ropes daily, without a harness.”
“But the crocodile!”
Now she scowled and stroked her assortment of weapons. “I have naught to fear from that ancient beast.” If her legs started quivering at the thought of his dry, jagged skin, she would never admit it. “I’m going to get this message, and that’s the end of the discussion!”
Before he could protest, she slipped into the waiting harness and climbed over the rail, knowing her crew would control her descent in the swiftest, most careful way possible.
The trip down was as easy as gluten-free pie. She snatched the bottle from where it bobbed up against the ship and tugged the rope to signal the crew to pull her up.
Despite her reassurances to Colin, she heaved a sigh of relief when she was high enough to be out of the crocodile’s reach.
Speaking of…Colin leaned over the side and dropped down a bucket on a string. “Put the bottle in there, Captain, so you may use both hands to grip the rope!”
She almost smiled. Since she’d become captain of the ship, none had cared for her so tenderly. She obeyed simply to encourage his behavior, not because she needed it. She could, after all, shimmy up and down these ropes one-handed.
Once the bottle was safely onboard, her crew continued pulling her up.
Their gasps alerted her the same time she heard ticking from the water below her—the water that seemed much closer than she’d before thought.
Her heart started beating double-time to the crocodile’s ticking. Her crew tried hauling her up faster, but she bounced against the side of the ship so hard her knife arm went numb. “Halt, ye ruffians! We must go slowly unless you want to brain me on the Mizigumo!”
Every crew member leaned over the rail, eyes wide and fearful. Colin leaned so far forward she feared he would fall in.
“Colin, you keep your sweet ass on that deck, y’hear?” She had bigger things to worry about—she couldn’t waste concern on the man right now.
She looked down and saw the croc circling beneath her, a veritable smile on his evil face. He leaped from the water and only her ninja reflexes bent her legs in time to avoid those long, sharp teeth from sinking into her flesh. The crew yelped and shouted, but there was nothing they could do.
No one could come over the side and they’d traded the whaling harpoon’s they’d confiscated for more of her coveted dried fruit and rice flour.
She was on her own. Her deft, practiced hands slipped a shuriken from each of her two pouches. When the croc circled closer once more, she threw, but her aim was disturbed by the rocking ship which had her swinging alongside it like a pendulum.
Each star landed on the creature’s back, embedding in his rough flesh. The beast didn’t even notice the intrusion.
Whatever was she going to do?
The crew started pulling her up again until Colin shouted, “Halt! Don’t move her an inch!”
She’d never heard such fear in a man’s voice. Keeping her eyes on the beast and her voice level as she could, she shouted up to the deck. “Colin, what seems to be the problem?”
“Uh, Quinn, Captain…”
“The rope is fraying, Captain,” her second finally answered.
Her last hope shredded. She was doomed! They would have been fine had the crocodile not been a threat, but they had no time to send down secondary ropes, secure them to her harness, and ease her up.
She was on her own.
The beast’s muscles bunched. She palmed another star and waited until he heaved up out of the water, jaws wide. She aimed down his throat, and she knew her aim was true, but the ship jostled in the water at the wrong moment, dipping her closer to the grasping jaws.
Her shot went wide, skimming across his brow instead. A mere irritant, not a disabling blow.
These would be her final moments, hanging alongside the ship she loved, with the crew she’d devoted her life to. And the man who had come to mean ever so much to her.
“Colin,” she called up, accepting her face but needing to tie up this loose end, “Colin, I love you too. Never forget me, my pale beloved captive.”
The ticking croc circled once more, his beady black eyes seeming to be filled with all the malice of hell. Why had she thrown her prized alarm clock overboard that fateful morning? She had been so frustrated with the damn thing—it would not stop chiming!—that she’d thrown it into the open sea.
And right into the waiting jaws of a crocodile sunning himself on the nearby riverbank. Anytime they entered his aqueous territory, which had grown over the years, he stalked their ship, ticking the whole time and chiming on the hour.
She pulled her eyes from the threat long enough to stare into Colin’s beautiful face.
“I love you too, Quinn.” Then his face went hard and he jumped over the side with only a rope to secure him. “But I’m not letting you go that easily.”
The croc leapt up as Colin dropped downward. She’d never felt such terror!
When the beast splashed back down into the water, Colin landed upon his back and swung the wine bottle upon the croc’s head. It shattered, releasing the message, which Colin snatched up before the crew heaved him upward at nauseating speed. He bumped and thumbed against the ship with each tug, but he was out of harm’s way.
She studied the croc who was swimming in shaky circles. His eyes looked to be practically spinning in his head. He tilted one way, then the other, like an off-balance ship. With each passing moment, he drew farther from their ship.
She was saved! Two new ropes dropped down to her sides and she tied swift sailor’s knots against the harness, providing an extra layer of security against the fraying rope. She tugged and the crew slowly pulled her aloft.
She had so much to say to Colin—her love, her savior! She was pulled over the rail and into him arms. She nuzzled there, not caring what her crew thought.
There she would have stayed for ages had Môri not tapped her on the shoulder.
“Captain, you must read this message. It seems imperative.”
Grudgingly she pulled away from her lover’s arms and read the lines.
She gasped and her heart beat like a savage’s drum as the story unfolded on the parchment.
“We must turn toward England at once!” she commanded.
The crew stared at her.
“But, Captain, weren’t we headed for a Caribbean vacation?” Sparrow asked.
Her scowl silenced any further protest. “I’m going to assume we have no further objections. My sister, who I thought long dead, has written this letter. She is even now living there. On to England—to Netherloin!”
Colin gulped beside her. “Ne—Netherloin, my love?”
She turned her steely aquamarine stare on him. “I know you are not objecting to this, my sweetling.”
He pulled away from her and shook his head. “No, my dumpling, certainly not. But there is something I must tell you…”
To be continued...
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The Naughty Nine
Click to read Chapter 11A
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