A Penchant For Pirates

Chapter 15

Ray slowly rolled from the hammock so that she didn't wake the Captain. It was hard to tell the time and it was even harder for her to admit to herself that last night was the best night of sleep she had since she had been on the ship. Even though there were days that she was exhausted from all of her duties, she still hadn't slept well. The slightest sound would wake her and Nick's snoring would send her back to sleep.

Sneaking back to the galley she found Nick cleaning after the first meal. "I missed the first meal?" Ray pulled a piece of bacon from the tray.

"Aye, you did. Sleep well?" Nick questioned her.

Ray noted the tone in Nick's voice; it was usually reserved for her when he was perturbed at her. "I didn't mean to," Ray stuttered back not wanting to upset him anymore. Walking towards him she laid one of her hands on his arm. "I couldn't tell what time it was."

"Help me clean up after you have eaten something and we'll get ready for the day. I need to start on the Captain's breakfast."

"Yes sir," Ray's mouth had now awaken and met up with the rest of her body. Nick's eye narrowed at her. Grabbing the soapy rag, he tossed it in her face.

Ray sputtered, and yelled at him.

"What's all the commotion in my galley?" Kevin entered fully clothed.

Ray turned to look at him in horror, "He hit me with that dirty rag."

Kevin suppressed the smile. It seemed the little one had some anger going on already this morning. His eyes shifted to Nick seeking a silent explanation.

Nick shrugged and smiled.

"You were late serving the morning meal and he had to cook and serve. Nick should have done much worse to you. Now, where is my meal?" Kevin sat down at the huge galley table. Ray's mouth hung open as she stared at Kevin and Nick's laughter filled the air. Kevin was smiling at her.

"Close your mouth boy, you got what you deserved. Now, my breakfast, I won't ask again. We need to discuss a few things so neither of you disappear while I eat."

Nick frowned, beyond last night he couldn't think of anything he had done to get yelled at. When Kevin spoke in the manner that he was now, it was an indication that he was displeased but not overly upset.

Ray sulked around the kitchen as she prepared a simple meal of eggs for him, along with what was left of the morning meal.

Most Captains would balk, but not Kevin. He would not waste food stores. His food was plated and set in front of him. Grabbing his fork, he waved it in the air, "Sit, both of you."

Ray sat down hard, causing the chair to thump back. Nick sat down even harder and groaned loudly as he stuffed his hands in his pockets and waited.

Kevin shook his head and rolled his eyes. "You two are very much alike." Kevin ate a forkful of eggs. "So much alike that there are going to be some changes." He watched both of them perk up a bit. "Nick, you are almost a man and have learned much, but…"

Nick groaned loudly as he looked at Kevin.

Kevin set his fork down, "I said you were a man. Do you have to whine like a child?"

"I wasn't whining," came out of Nick in a whiney voice.

Ray laughed aloud and covered her mouth.

Kevin turned and winked at her as Nick pouted at her. "I wasn't whining," Nick boomed.

"Fine Nickolas you weren't whining, now back to what I was saying. Ray, you can read, but do you know mathematics?"

Ray was nervous on the inside, he knew she had the ability to read, which was very uncommon for a woman that came from a lower station.

"Ray?" Kevin asked again as his eyebrows formed high arches.

Nick was nervous; he was sweating as he sat in the chair.
"Yes Captain, I can."

"Good, now after Brian enlightened me last night, there will be some changes in your duties, both of you."

"I get Quartermaster?" Nick was animated as he practically jumped out of the chair.

Kevin closed his eyes and shook his head, "No you get to play keeper when I'm not."

Nick stopped "Huh?"

"Pardon me?" Ray looked at Kevin.

Kevin thought about the angle he would take with this ever since he had spoken to Brian last night. He had wanted to be nice about this and hoped that Ray would be interested but he could tell that this was not going to be the case. "After the evening meal, you both will be spending time with me… learning."

"I did that already," Nick spit out quickly and full of anger.

"I really don't…" Ray interrupted Nick.

"Yes Nickolas you did that already. Do you remember the last journey that I had you chart to Barbados?"

Nick face flamed red at the reminder. "It was an accident."

"An accident that would have sent us to Spain," Kevin chuckled as he ate. "The intention here is for Ray to learn and you to brush up on your skills and that is all. Nick you are a natural and I would like Ray to learn as much as possible."

"From you?" Ray hissed.

Kevin was now amused; the boy had fire and passion that ran deep. "Yes from me. But also from Brian, A.J., Howie, and the rest of the crew. Shamus will be helping out in here to lighten the load and you will be a little more available to do what I want you to do."

Ray's head swam; the words jumped around in her head. Instead of distancing herself from Kevin and his commanders, she was being thrown right in with them. "Where did you get the idea that I needed to learn more? I know how to read and do mathematics. I don't need to study"

Now Kevin needed a few minutes to think. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place. This boy was not from the docks. Before he had stated that he had worked in the palace with his uncle. It was plausible but he doubted it. "Brian thinks that my problem is that I have no children. I've always wanted children, even after Isabella died. Then I found Nick, Nick has grown up. I need another son."

"Shit," flew out of Nick's mouth. He hadn't heard Kevin bring Isabella up to anyone outside of their circle for a very long time. Ray must be invoking some type of paternal instinct in Kevin. This had been what Brian wanted to tell him last night but he couldn't. Nick's stomach rolled with the ship as he thought about what would happen if Kevin found out Ray was a woman and that he had helped. There would be nothing paternal about how Kevin would react.

Ray stood up and slammed the chair under the table. "I am not your son, nor will I ever be. It's time you knew the truth."

"Please Ray," Kevin nodded.

Ray's gaze fell on Nick. His face was ashen and he indeed was afraid, now was not the time to confess the truth of her gender to Kevin.

Kevin looked at Nick and caught the look on his face. There was something going on between the two and Nick was confirming it as he nervously licked his lips.

"I know mathematics, reading, and I can keep books. I didn't want to hide it from you but I was afraid of you." Ray let tears slide down her face for effect, even though they were as false as the words she had just spoke. Yes she could do all of these skills but only because it was expected of her by Edmund. She had to have a full account of everything in the kitchen. For years she had found her own ways to keep track of things in an unconventional manner until Edmund finally sat her down and began to teach her. Someday she would thank the old curmudgeon for doing it. Not many women were educated and she was thankful that she was. Thinking she had talked her way out of the situation, she looked at Nick, anger was written all over his face.

Nick wanted to stop her but he couldn't without having Kevin get suspicious. Ray was now telling another lie. It was becoming lie upon lie to bail herself out and there would be no way to backtrack on them to support any of them. How were they going to keep all the stories straight? He hoped and prayed that she wasn't lying about being schooled because if she was, Kevin would make her life a living hell. There were times that Kevin would forsake insubordination and attitude for camaraderie with his direct friends. He didn't think Ray was included in the direct friends circle.

"In that case, it should be easy for you." Kevin pushed the plate towards her. "Clean up this galley and get on deck for lesson one. The book learning will wait until the evenings then. Just you and I. Right now, you're going to learn to be a sailor, one with scruples who doesn't lie and deceive to get on board a ship without signing any articles. One who doesn't take advantage of my friends." The entire time he spoke his words Kevin became angrier and angrier. The little waif had been deceiving them all along. It wasn't like he hadn't known it. It was bothering him more that the boy had confirmed it without one ounce of remorse.

"I'll correct that chit's attitude," Kevin mumbled as he walked up the galley stairs, his boots pounding into the steps. He headed right for the Quarterdeck, where Brian and A.J. were standing and shouting orders to the crew below.

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