A Penchant For Pirates

Chapter 20

She climbed the steps choking on the acrid smoke and sulfur that clung to the air. Covering her mouth, she disregarded Nick's warnings for her to come back. Soon she heard his footsteps falling in behind her; she knew he would follow her.

Nick watched her climb the railing and reach for a rope for balance. "Dammit Ray, Kevin will kill us both. He told us to stay below."

"Well I want to see her, she's a real pirate," Ray tried to see over to the other ship.

"Oh Ray…" Nick mumbled as he grabbed onto the rope only to have Ray latch onto it with him.

Landing wasn't as easy as she had anticipated, she almost fell into the ocean. However, Nick caught her so that they landed almost silently on the deck. They made their way around the crowd that had formed not far from where the Captain stood.

Kevin stood in the center and a circle had formed around him. Ray's eyes dropped to the deck since all eyes were focused there. She gasped but covered her mouth as to not call attention do herself. Lying on the floor of the ship was a man who did not speak but was in obvious fear of his life as a cutlass rested on the side of his neck. Shiny buttons rested around the man and his jacket was open, exposing a large ugly stomach. Ray recognized the fear in the man's form as he quivered and shook. She moved around so she just barely stood next to a woman. Ray gasped as she saw the woman; she was nothing like she had ever seen before. The woman was dressed like a man, just like her. Ray hid her smile as she stared at a real lady pirate, the woman had flaming red hair, like fire. She wore a white shirt that was open more than society would allow any female to expose herself. She wore leather boots to her knees and a tight black leather pants. A.J. had his arm around her waist.

Momentarily distracted by the site of the woman, her eyes turned back to the man lying on the deck. He was bleeding from a graze on his neck; his face bloodied. The cutlass was pressed even deeper into the man's neck causing more blood to flow. Ray's gaze followed the sword from the tip of the weapon, to the handle, to the arm of the owner of the cutlass, to the face. The face she saw was concentrating on his prey. The face that Kevin wore scared her. She looked down and felt the man's raw terror, whom was at the mercy of the man holding the weapon, race through her body. Ray had tasted the same terror before herself. Nobody should feel that kind of fear. This man was going to die if nobody helped him. Any death was horrible to someone even if not the people presently with them. Death affected someone's family.

A hand placed on his stopped him from performing the life-ending slice. Turning he saw Ray standing next to him with the boy's hand on his. He watched A.J. grabbed for Ray's hand only to have it shoved back at him. "This is not right. He is still a human," were the words Ray spoke at she pushed Nickolas and A.J. away.

Cocking his head to the side, he saw the scared look on Nick's face. Ray had just challenged Kevin, in front of not only his crew but also J.C.'s, as well as the blue coats. As Ray's body turned away, the cutlass in his hand swung swiftly upward. Howie reached for Nickolas as Nick screamed no, the blow contacted with Ray.

"Kevin," J.C.'s voice rose above the rest as Ray's tiny body rolled across the deck, slammed into and bounced off the wall of the quarterdeck.

A.J. pulled J.C. back into his arms, "He doesn't know," he whispered in her ear. "Do not interfere, he won't kill the child."

Moving her head to the side and touching her lips to A.J.'s "I don't understand, how could he not?"

"I'll explain later," A.J. kissed her back with his words.

J.C. now watched the child struggle with the pain as she tried to right herself with her own strength, at least what was left of it. She sighed with relief when the child stood and began to turn. Kevin had struck with the flat of the blade, not the tip, or the edge. He had drawn no blood. The blow had landed across the upper back and left shoulder. J.C. could still not understand why Kevin thought this girl was a boy, she would get to the bottom of it later.

Ray raised her eyes, her chin jutted out as she openly defied his punishment of her. Her eyes were filled with tears that she refuse to let fall and she bit her lips closed until she could taste the brackish taste of her own blood in her mouth. She would not cry in front of this man, she held breath, and gulped down the searing hurt that was running across her back and down her arm.

A few of Kevin's own crew could not believe that the child had the audacity to stand and confront the Captain again. In a small way, they were cheering for the lad, the boy had enough bravado for all of them.

Kevin glared back at Ray, daring him to say anything, when he knew the child understood him his voice didn't boom across the deck of both ships, it was just above a hiss, hinting that his anger could grow more. "Nickolas, return Ray to his proper place, where I told both of you to stay."

"I… I… I…" Nick was trying to cover for Ray's folly of usurping the his authority and challenging the Captain in front of all of these men, then showing defiance by not backing down. He stopped when he saw Kevin's shoulders ripple and the man licked his lips. It was a sign to all who knew him that he was at his breaking point and one more wrong move by anyone would end up in death for someone. Nick watched the cutlass begin to swing and he grabbed Ray, who had yet to speak. Dashing to the side of the ship, he grabbed a rope and swung back to their own ship, praying to God he would at least land on the ship.

Brian had seen all with Kevin's spyglass. When they landed, he began to help Nick with Ray. "That bastard!" Nick cursed loudly but not loud enough for it to travel to the other ship. He ran down the steps to his cabin with Ray in his arms. He was trying everything to help but only causing more pain from his own agitation by jostling Ray.

"Easy Nicky, easy, you're only hurting Ray." Brian reached behind him and pushed the door closed.

Nick set Ray down on his bed that he had neatly made this morning. Tears flowed down her face as she sniffed and still bit her lips closed as so she did not howl out in pain.

"Relax little one," Brian tried to soothe her in a tone he used with his own child. Brian began to peel back the fabric of her shirt. "I know it hurts honey. When Kevin is angry, he lashes out quickly and mercilessly, no matter who you are."

Ray coughed and cried as the pain seared her to the core. The tears ran down her face even faster than they were before. Her hands clutched at her shirt to stop him from opening it.

"I already know Ray, remember, we talked. You need to take a deep breath for a minute." Brian was trying his best and Nick pacing back forth in the tight space commanding Kevin to hell for eternity wasn't helping. "Quiet Nick and help me!"

Ray was shaking from the pain in her back and shoulder. The more Brian moved her, the worse she felt. It hurt to breathe and cough. It was agony as Brian tried to remove her shirt and balance her at the same time in a prone position.

Nick moved to the bed to aid Brian. He maneuvered Ray's body so that Brian could view Ray's back. Brian could see the odd angle of her shoulder but he could take care of that, right now he wanted to see her breathe. "I want you to take a deep breath." Brian couldn't feel anything under the mound of the cloth strips that Ray wore to bind her breasts closely to her body. They were preventing him from seeing properly as well.

Brian was shaking his head to Nick that he couldn't do anything. "I'm sorry Raina," Nick mumbled as he began to pull at the knots. "It's okay Raina. You need to relax or it is going to hurt even more if you don't." Nick pulled at the knots. "I'll pay him back for this, you can count on it."

"Enough of this talk Nick," Brian chastised him as he began to help Nick unbind the strips. "If both of you had remained where he had ordered you to, none of this would have taken place." Brian continued to have a conversation with Nick since it seemed to calm Ray down. Once her back was laid bare, he frowned and began to search with his fingers and his eyes. Reaching into his bag, he removed an instrument. "Breathe as deep as you can honey."

Ray did and repeated what he requested each time he asked. Brian repeated more instructions as he felt closer to her shoulder. Feeling six or seven more times Brian asked her again almost knowing what was going to happen.

Ray cried out a 'No' and fell forward into Nick's arms.

"What did you do to her!" Nick yelled as Ray fell forward into his embrace. "I'll kill you."

"I put her shoulder partly back in place, Kevin dislocated it." Brian paused, "I wanted her to pass out so that she wouldn't remember it."

Nick closed his eyes as he heard a snap. His mouth fell open when he heard Brian say. "And that should feel better to her soon for her." Nick cradled Ray, as Brian looked closer at the girl.

Since she had passed out, it was a little easier for both of him and her, especially Nick. "She will have a bruise for quite awhile. It is already very ugly looking. I really don't think he meant to harm her Nick. If he even had the slightest knowledge that Ray was a woman it wouldn't have happened."

"He's an asshole," Nick growled back at Brian.

Brian re-worked the cotton strips so not only did they hide Ray's chest from curious eyes but offered support for her back and shoulder. Next, he tended to her arm. After cleaning the wound with liquor that Nick had removed from Kevin's cabin, he pulled wood splinters from her arm. He bandaged her arm as discreetly as he had her body.

Nick gently lay her down on his bed as he went in search of Ray's only other shirt, in Kevin's cabin. Coming back empty handed he squeezed his fists closed. "Ray only has two shirts. The other is not yet washed."

Brian had placed his supplies back in his leather satchel. "I have one that might fit her. It won't be as big on her as one of yours would be." Stepping out of the cabin and down the corridor, he left Nick alone with Ray.

Nick fixed Ray's cap, then pulled it off. Touching her hair, it as soft and silky. "I'm sorry Raina. I'll protect you from all of them. I won't let him or anyone else hurt you again."

Brian hovered at the door and watched Nick stroke her hair. Brian was confused, Nick needed to calm down or this would not go right for any of them, especially Ray. He had no idea how Kevin was going to handle the situation when he returned to the ship. Brian had a vial that he clutched in his hand tightly. Ray needed rest and he was almost sure Kevin wouldn't be giving any under the circumstances. Now he thought Nick was in love, this was not going to be pleasant.

"I'll take of you Ray, I promise. We'll do whatever you want to do when we get back home or wherever Kevin's decides to go. We could open a pub and we could have a business…"

Brian cleared his throat, letting Nick know that he had returned.

Nick smiled, "She reminds me of my sister. I miss my sister."

Brian's heart leaped hearing those words; Nick wasn't in love with Ray except in a family sort of way. Nick had spoke of his family on many nights when they were at sea. None of it was pleasant except for the love of his sister, who he truly missed. Crossing the room, he sat on the edge of the bed and helped Nick dress Ray. "Help me give her some of this." Brian steadied the bottle to Ray's lips.

"What is that?" Nick wrinkled his nose at the pungent odor as he rested Ray's upper body on his chest and held her head in one of his hands.

"Laudanum. She should sleep for a good while," Brian answered him.

"Is that a good idea?" Nick watched as Brian dribbled a generous amount of the opiate into Ray's mouth. She coughed, swallowed, and sputtered.

"Kevin would never take his anger out on a sleeping child," Brian was trying to get his thoughts across to Nick.

"She isn't a child," Nick corrected Brian.

"And he doesn't know that Nickolas, nor does he know that Ray is a woman. He's going to be very angry over this for some time to come. Three crews, one of them being the royal navy and J.C."

Nick blinked as the insight hit him. "Sleep is good."

Brian laughed, "Yes in this case it is. Now let's move her back to his cabin."

"No," Nick crossed his arms around the sleeping form in his arms.

Brian closed his eyes and then opened them. He let out a deep sigh, "Nicky if Ray stays in here, he will only come looking for him, her, whatever." Brian shook his head in his own confusion. Nick wasn't budging, Brian tried again. "Nick you have to. If Ray isn't in the hammock, what is the first thing Kevin is going to do; since I could have thought I distinctly heard your Captain give you an order to return Ray to where he had told both of you to remain."

"But…"

"No Nicky! I know Kevin as well as you do, he is my cousin. Ray has to be in his cabin when he gets back here or all hell will start. He will go off on both of you. Look at her, can she take anymore of this?" Brian was playing the guilt card and hoping it would work.

Brian placed Ray's cap back on and tucked the long hair back under it. They heard footsteps above them. "Do it now Nick."

Nick picked up Ray as quickly as he dared. Brian held the one door open and then pushed the door to Kevin's cabin open. They deposited her in the hammock. Nick covered her up with a crude blanket and shook his head.

"Trust me Nick. A couple of days of sleeping and a talk from me and Kevin will be guilt ridden."

"Don't tell Brian," Nick pulled Kevin's cabin door closed.

"I won't," Brian blinked as J.C. stood in front of him.

"Hmmm, interesting… Does Kevin know you know?"

An arm jerked her backwards and into a room. They both sighed when they heard A.J. giving orders and J.C. balking and barking back at him.

"Some things never change," Brian grinned.

"Lucky him," Nick winked back at Brian as they stood and listened for the entertainment value alone.

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