A Penchant For Pirates

Chapter 21

"J.C. we need to discuss this," A.J. grabbed her arm so she wouldn't try to leave.

"How dare you. I…" J.C. registered the look on A.J.'s face, it wasn't anger it was concern.

"I need to explain this to you," A.J. opened his door and saw Brian and Nick standing in the hallway. "I'll talk to her. You need to get the galley; he has called a meeting. He'll be down here in a minute to clean up, things went unpleasant after you left. If you are here, it will make things worse." A.J. closed his door silently. He listened as he heard the oak plank dropped across Kevin's cabin door. A.J. turned to J.C., he wanted to give her the short version of Ray and what was taking place under the Captain's nose.

As Kevin headed back to his ship, his thoughts turned to what had taken place aboard the Lady J. Kevin and J.C. sorted through the crewmembers on J.C.'s ship. Her crew assembled as they were pulled from the mass of men. Then they went through the blue coats to see who had been enslaved and who had enlisted. The amount of men that had been pressed into service or imprisoned was staggering. Carefully Kevin sat back and watched. He didn't want all of the men to stay on either ship so he studied them. He watched to see who talked to whom and who would spit on the others. He separated the friends and tossed in a few enemies to keep balance. He felt safer keeping the most dangerous of the lot on his ship. His plan was to maroon them on one of the barrier islands that was little more than one day away. They were eight days away from New Providence and a nice Spanish ship loaded down with treasure. If his conquest was met they would sail northward afterwards and be home in a fortnight.

Kevin and J.C. waited as the dead blue coat Captain's body was prepared for burial at sea. Kevin would have let him live had it not been for the disparaging remark about the 'Young boy child with the tight arse that seem to rule the Captain's ability to think and command'. The man's laugh did not last long once his throat had been slit. The words, "Never judge or harm the innocents. The boy tried to save you," were the only words Kevin spoke as the man bled to death on the deck.

Kevin wearily dragged his tired body to his cabin. He needed to change, to get the stench of death off him and the blood splatter. The smell of smoke and sulfur assailed his senses to the point that he could no longer stand it and his head pounded. He shook his head as he walked by A.J.'s cabin listening to J.C. shout that she would go to purgatory and back before she married him. Kevin laughed and waited for A.J.'s reply. "I'll make you marry me." Kevin rolled his eyes when he heard J.C.'s lilted laughter followed by, "Sure you will, my love." He continued into his cabin after hearing the laugher and shook his head. Maybe that wasn't such a bad idea, he thought.

A scrub down in his washbasin and a change of clothes brought on a change of feelings. Going to the bureau that was anchored to the wall, he unlocked the small chest at the bottom. Removing a bottle he eyed is suspiciously, he had been drinking too much lately or one of his Officers had been helping themselves. Pouring a large glass, he savored the first sip. He watched the clouds drift over the yellow moon that hung in the sky. The moon now spliced in half by a cloud. The light reflected off the gently rippling waters casting a mirror image of the sky. It's a beautiful night. A perfect end to a horrible day he reflected. Throwing the balance of his rum to the back of his throat, he hissed at the burn, and then wiped his mouth on his shirtsleeve. He felt the heat unfurl in his belly, satisfied that it would stay there, he turned to the hammock, "Now I have to finish this day off properly."

Walking to the hammock, he stopped to check on the lad who had said nothing as he changed and drank his liquor. Peering down at the sleeping form, he moved a wisp of hair aside. "I'll check on you later after I talk to Brian. You and I will have a little talk about your actions today and what they caused."

After re-bolting his door from the outside he headed to the galley. Upon entering his eyes searched each and every face that was before him. Then his intense stare landed squarely on J.C. She knew what matter they were all here to discuss. Normally a discussion wouldn't even take place, however this was J.C. they were dealing with. She was a person known to them, a woman, and by the look on Alexander's besotted face, the love of the man's life.

Kevin made his way to the top of the table and was highly amused at J.C.'s actions.

J.C. slammed two glasses down on the table, pouring three fingers of rum in each glass. "I'll drink you for it."

"No," Kevin slowly ambled to his chair and took his seat. He smirked back at J.C., who returned to him a scowl. "You know how this works. I'm giving you respect and kindness that others wouldn't receive." Smiling he grabbed onto the glass and tossed the liquor back. Kevin looked at each one of his men, the rum that they were drinking was his own. By the look on Nick's face, he was the one who had pilfered it from his cabin.

Kevin's smile returned when a platter of food was set before him. He stifled the laugh as he heard the definitive 'Hmmpf" come out of J.C. Stabbing at the unknown concoction on his plate, he pushed it away, his lips twisted back and forth, as he glared at Shamus. "Nickolas could do better than this."

"Nickolas was tendin' to that wee brat of yours so he couldn't ready your evening meal."

A.J. read the signs on Kevin's face and then he looked at Shamus. He was wondering how the man could be such a fool. "Take your leave Shamus. Nick, make the Captain something fit to eat."

"He can make his own damn…"

"Nick!" Brian ceased his sentence.

With as much noise as he could make, Nick prepared a meal for Kevin and the rest of the Officers.

In between Kevin trying not to smile over Nick's temper tantrum that he was having, and the strange looks from his officers because he was saying nothing to the man about it his behavior. Kevin waited it out. J.C. was boiling mad over her provisions being taken from her hold and some of it wasted as well.

A short while later a plate of cold beef was slammed in front of every person at the table. Warm buttered potatoes and fried corn bread sat neatly on the plate. The entire meal had come from J.C.'s ship. Her mouth fell open as Kevin smiled and delicately sliced the beef.

"This came from my stores!" she glared at Kevin.

"You mean my stores," Kevin gave her a shit-eating grin. "It's delicious… I'm surprised he forgot the raisins." Kevin gave Nick a droll stare as Howie outright laughed at the comment.

"I didn't realize you were so much like your two children," J.C. emphasized the word two. She squeaked as A.J. pinched her backside, warning her to be quiet as the table fell silent.

Kevin's grin didn't turn into a frown, instead it grew wider. "Yes, I have two boys now," Kevin waved his fork at Nick. "One is prone to temper tantrums and the other refuses to listen."

"Boys will be boys," J.C. smiled a smile that frightened those who knew what she was up to.

Brian choked on the beef in his mouth as he looked at A.J. He thought for sure A.J. would have explained it all to J.C. However, J.C. kept forging ahead.

"And how did you come to meet the newest member of your lovely little family?" J.C. ignored the pain that A.J. was causing her as he latched onto any limb he could and squeezed as hard as he could.

"Street waif, a small time thief… I'm guessing. He had some help from Nickolas getting onboard. I'm grateful though, the boy is an excellent cook." Kevin didn't shoot any glares at Nick's direction, he actually smiled.

J.C. wasn't making head way on her problem with Kevin. She wanted her ship and her riches back; she had fought hard for them. "To think that he challenged you in front of everyone…"

Nick had to move the conversation, he of all people knew how mad Kevin still was over the incident, and it was far from being over. "So do we get to split the bounty from J.C.'s ship? We did capture it." Nick wore his angelic, fresh face, which usually inferred to outsiders that he was dim-witted. To those who knew him, Nick was beginning launch an attack of his own.

A.J. laughed loudly as J.C. began to spit and sputter her ale. "What do you mean Capture? I thought you were coming to my aid and rescuing me." J.C. reached across the table to slap Nick, only to have her hand caught in an iron grasp mid-strike.

"Don't raise your hand to Nickolas again J.C.," the stern warning came from none other than Kevin.

Slowly J.C. lowered her hand and she fixed her gaze on Kevin. "Fifty-fifty," she ground her teeth together.

Kevin laughed at the redhead's audacity. "Seventy-thirty."

"Well if that's all you want," J.C. smoothed her hair back into place as she tied the mass of curls with a ribbon.

"You get thirty," Kevin lifted his tankard to this lips.

"No! I earned it!"

"You stole it," A.J. corrected her.

Howard, Brian, Nick could barely control their laugher at J.C.'s next move.

"We're friends," she spoke as she leaned forward over the table causing an ample amount of her breasts to be exposed to Kevin's view. She batted her eyelashes at him. "Old friends," she smiled.

Kevin's loud laughter boomeranged off the timbers of the galley. "No wonder A.J. is always smitten around you."

"Hey!" A.J. jumped in to defend himself.

The entire table was laughing at A.J.'s offended face and J.C.'s red one, her embarrassment evident to all.

"J.C. my holds are almost empty. I've had a rather unsuccessful voyage. We still have to maroon the blue coats and I have to continue on to New Providence..." He stopped short of the information that he had acquired. A Spanish ship carrying taxes back to Spain was directly in their path and it was his primary target.

"It's not fair!" J.C. was steaming as she stood up quickly.

"I could always follow the code or I could render the Lady J helpless or better yet, take it from you and give it to another?" Kevin's eyes rested on A.J. "Couldn't I Alex?"

A grin exploded on A.J.'s face knowing damn well Kevin wouldn't give in but Kevin was up to something. "Aye, you could."

J.C. had lost her footing in the negotiations. Something went wrong by the looks of things, A.J. was going to command her ship and in turn by the look on Kevin's face, her as well. "I want another deal," J.C. walked towards Kevin. She stood next to him, she was actually pleading with him in her own way.

Kevin thought for a moment and looked at the incredible sexy pirate with the red hair and a temper, as well as a reputation to match. She had been taken over and he wasn't sure that she would have come out of the situation whole had they not arrived on the scene. Stretching his legs out, he leaned back, and looked at her. "Last deal."

J.C. nodded her acceptance at her only option left. She had hoped for sixty-forty she could get by on that for now.

Moving his hands behind his head, he laced his fingers together. "Marry A.J., we'll go Fifty-fifty."

"No!" J.C. pulled her dirk from her boot and shoved it in Kevin's face.

"Oh, big bad lady pirate, give me that before he hurts you with it. Then he will demand that I give 20 lashes in front of the entire crew. I'm rather fond of your back as well as the rest of you. I would like you to remain intact." A.J. stood next to her as the entire table froze. Not one of them had anticipated J.C. reacting the way she had, nor had they ever seen A.J. move so quickly and fluently.

Kevin lips moved from side to side, this was not a good day at all. From his peripheral vision, he watched A.J.'s hand open to a flat palm. J.C. exhaled and then placed the weapon his palm.

In a flash J.C. was resting in Kevin's lap, being held tightly to his body. She struggled to free herself and yelled for help. Finally settling down when A.J. told her to do so.

With his arms wrapped around her arms, he spoke words directly into her ear, but loud enough for the others to hear. "We saved you this time. We might not be around for a second. I do not want my life long friend to be as sad as I am some days. You have four days to think about your answer. In one day we'll maroon the blue coats. Until those four days have passed you are to be locked in Alex's cabin to do with you what he pleases. I will send part of my crew to tow the Lady J along with us so your ship will be safe. When we enter the harbor of New Providence eight days from now, you will be married or penniless."

"I bet you weren't counting on that one," A.J.'s languid laughter echoed of the walls as he dragged J.C. from the galley.

"I'll let you keep the Lady J," Kevin laughed at her retreating figure and listened to her spout off about the way she would torture and kill him for this; at the very least maim him.

Brian shook his head as he began to laugh; he never thought that even his cousin could come up with such a punishment. "He needs a good woman, he's loved her forever."

"It's about time he dry docked her and started a family," Howie tossed into the conversation only to have Kevin shake his head at the comment.

Kevin became mellow at the word family as he searched for the answer in his tankard of ale. His friends were well on their way to getting drunk and he wasn't in the mood. The tall tales began as old friends reminisced. Kevin listened to them for hours but he was still hearing the word 'family' in his head. His eyes fell on Nick's empty chair; Nick had retired earlier in the evening. He was saddened to see the boy grow up on him. Kevin's thoughts settled on Ray. Thinking back he began to feel that he might have gone slightly overboard on the disciplining the child. "I'm off to bed," Kevin announced. Making his way to his cabin, he paused to check on Nick, who was sound asleep in his bunk. Listening at A.J.'s door, the distinct noises of lovemaking were audible. Looking up he smiled, he thought he had done at least one thing right today.

Removing the bar, he quietly entered his cabin. He set the oak barrier on his side, in its iron cradles. "Well Ray, it seems as though we have a problem between you and I," Kevin swaggered to the hammock. "I didn't get to speak to Brian so I am at a loss as to what to do with you."

Pausing, something was out of place here. He needed to think, to reflect on things. Tossing his shirt aside, he stood in breeches pouring more rum to dull the pain of the day away. "Something isn't not as it should be, is it Ray?"

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