A Penchant For Pirates

Chapter 23

Kevin wanted to sleep later but the incessant tapping on his door interrupted his sleep. Swinging his feet to the floor, he walked to the door. Raising the timber from the cradles, he signaled to whomever that they might enter.

Once during the night he awoke to relive himself. He had thought about moving the timber then but one glance at Ray lying in his bed coupled with the blue coats aboard his ship sent him back to his hammock with the door still bolted.

Standing by the washstand, Kevin waited for the door to open as he splashed water on his face.

"It's time," Alex murmured as his eyes fixed on Kevin's bed.

Kevin watched his Quartermaster from his mirror. Sir Alex was studying Ray rather intently. "Did you do as I requested?" 'Oh tell me that he is not involved in the ruse too,' he studied the man behind him in the mirror.

A.J. nodded, still fixated on the bed, "Naturally."

Ray turned uncomfortably in the bed; the sheet fell from the upper half of her body. A.J. could see Ray's clothing was undisturbed, even the cap remained in its place. A.J. literally sighed with relief. Now he was satisfied that the secret was still a secret. He started to grin as his hand referred to the bed, "What's the meaning of this?"

"Mind your own Alex," Kevin slid a shirt on as he hurried out the door. Striding down the hall with a purpose, he took the metal mug of coffee that was thrust in his hand. Turning to see who had been so kind, Nick retuned a smile to him. If he didn't have an agenda for the day he probably would have thrown a punch at the boy. He needed more time for his head to clear from too much liquor. Some clarity had formed and he seemed more settled now that he knew he wasn't lusting after a lad.

Kevin turned to cast a stare at Brian and Nick. They were looking into his cabin without entering the room. "Tend to Ray Brian. I want to know what shape the child is in when I get back." Kevin cleared the steps up to the deck two at a time.

Five sets of eyes peered into Kevin's cabin, all of them wondering the same thing. "Alexander! Howard!" Kevin yelled down into the ship.

Hastily they ran up the stairs. Howard still having one question unanswered, "Did Kevin know Ray was a female?"

"Ow," Ray cringed as she struggled to sit up. She rubbed her arm cautiously. "He yells to loud." Ray grimaced at her audience.

Nick bounded to her like an over protective large dog. Nick yanked the covering from her and frowned.

Ray's mouth opened to scream as she looked at where she had slept.

"It would only alarm him and he will race down here to what has happened," Brian spoke as he entered the room.

J.C. smiled at Ray, "'Tis a good thing the Captain is fond of you. I didn't think he would give-up his bed so willingly."

Ray weighed J.C.'s words. "Oh."

Brian, "Why would Kevin do this?" Nick scratched his head; this was strange, even for Kevin.

Brian helped Ray to stand. "I would guess guilt would be the reason that he gave up his bed. Obviously he doesn't know because we would have arrived this morning to a different situation, entirely."

Ray had yet to speak as Brian went through the motions of touching the tender areas, pushing and prodding. When he began to rotate the shoulder slowly, Ray winced slightly and nothing more.

"Does it hurt?" Nick studied Ray's face as he hovered over her.

"Just a little, nothing like what Edmond has done to me."

Brian wasn't sure if she was hiding her pain or if some of the medicine was still in her body. "Here hold this," Brian handed her a book from Kevin's bookshelf. The book fell to the floor with a loud thud.

Brian grabbed Ray's face. "Do not lie to me Ray. It will make it worse if you go back to your regular duties."

"It didn't hurt at first. Then it felt like I had been struck again by that monster." Ray seethed with anger and she was beginning to plot how to get even with the good Captain Richardson.

"Monster you say?" J.C. stepped forward. Clearly, Ray didn't see the real man that was behind the Commander. Ray didn't know Kevin as a compassionate man that his close friends did, maybe an example was all that was needed. "Kevin is marooning the blue coats that were troublesome to me, and would be to him."

Brian laughed, "Is that what you call that? Marooning?"

"They'll die! He should take them to New Providence with us," Ray spewed at the lady pirate.

J.C. laughed even harder than Brian, "Oh I don't think so youngster. They truly are dangerous men. Kevin will not risk his crew and cargo being taken over. Kevin is thinking about the safety of everyone on this ship first and foremost."

"Killing others doesn't justify safety," Ray balked as Brian continued.

Nick was glaring at her for arguing with J.C. to begin with.

J.C. switched her gaze from Brian to Nick and back again. She could not believe this child. "Aye it does, when it protects all the ones that you care about. The men are being put out to sea a half-day row from an outer island."

Ray still thought leaving the men on an island was cruel.

J.C. watched Ray; the child seemed unimpressed. "Along with another rowboat of provisions and water, so that they can survive until another ship passes by them. This will leave them at least two days behind us."

Ray's eyes enlarged and J.C. saw the striking violet coloring for the first time and knew that Kevin must have been driven crazy for the past months. The girl mimicked a young lad but the eyes were a give away. The figure was disguised with a baggy shirt and torn pants. J.C. began to speak again. "He doesn't want them to die Ray. He's not a cruel man. At times when he does these things it seems as if he is, but you need to understand the meaning behind his actions."

Ray's demeanor lighted as she listened to J.C. but in the back of her mind, she still plotted against Kevin. 'Raisins in his food, I'll taint his ale. I'll make him sick with my cooking,' Ray's smile returned.

J.C. walked around Kevin's cabin appreciating the fine qualities of the items he kept to himself. "Take for instance yesterday. He didn't strike you because he wanted to. It was because he had to. You forced him into a position where he would have to show weakness in front of many men. That would have been dangerous for all of us considering you are a mere child. Your compassion for others overruled your common sense." J.C. had defended Kevin and left Ray to think about what she had said.

Nick sides were paining him as he tried to hold in the laughter. He had listened to J.C.'s little speech and could only hope that in a few days when she was shackled to A.J. for the rest of her life, she would be just as forgiving to Kevin. Brian punched his arm lightly and winked, they both were thinking along the same lines.

"She's still pissed but that was at least an accurate account of Kevin." Nick snorted.

Brian chuckled along with Nick. Ray sat on the bed; she felt her shoulder throb as Brain cleaned the wound on her arm.

Ray stared at Nick, "Why is she upset with the Captain?"

Nick laughed, "Kevin is making her marry Alex." A chorus of laughter followed the sentence from both Brian and Nick.

Ray grasped at them, "He can't do that."

"Oh yes he can and he is. He's worried about J.C. getting hurt. Alex loves her but they have never been forced to work out their relationship. She thinks she has a choice but she really doesn't." Brian grinned at Ray.

Ray laughed for the first time. "Where I come from you don't have choices. You don't work things out. You have to do as you're told without question."

"I'm so happy I heard those words come from you." Kevin leaned on the door with a sly smile.

Ray's lips curled down into a frown as the Captain continued to grin at her at his place from the doorway.

"So Brian, how is the whelp?"

Brian dropped his eyes slightly. "He'll be fine in a couple of days. I don't want him to be lifting anything heavy or doing any tasks that would tax him. You dislocated his shoulder but its now, as it should be. The wound from hitting the rail that will have to be watched."

Pulling himself from the doorway, Kevin entered the room fully and shot Nick a look. Nick didn't take off running or wither under his glare as he would have normally. Kevin was impressed with him in an odd sort of way. Maybe Ray was teaching Nick something. "So what do I do with a stowaway who can't earn his keep?"

"I have earned my keep until you struck me yesterday!"

Ray's outburst caused Kevin's eyebrows to rise and Nick's eyes to bulge. Brian coughed his warning to her.

"Can you do anything that is worthwhile to me?" Kevin's voice had a devilish lilt to it as he glanced from Nickolas and then to Brian. Brian stared directly back at Kevin unsure of what his true meaning had been.

"I will help Nick in the galley. I just can't lift the pots…"

"Or cut or stir…" Kevin was enjoying needling the creature.

Ray stood back a distance from Kevin. "Well what would you have me do?" she snarled back at the Captain in a manner that made Nick take a long look at her.

Kevin took it in stride, yet faked some anger for the sake of the people in the room and the ones looming in the hall waiting for the clash that they knew was inevitable. Ray refused to rein in under Kevin's command. When he glanced out the door and down the hall, he saw traces of snickering and smiling. Now he was angry, they were laughing at him. Reaching Ray in three strides, he grabbed her by her wrist and pulled her to his desk. Not letting go, he flipped open a loosely bound book. "You have an intelligent mind to match your insubordination. If you were in any condition, I would have you whipped for your lack of respect!" Kevin took care not to grab the arm that he had injured, but he made doubly sure that her bottom connected soundly with his hard oak chair. What this child needed was a good paddling to set her in her place.

Ray said nothing as her teeth still clattered since Kevin had just slammed her into the chair, her bottom smarting from the contact. Now she was afraid to look at him, again she had not minded her place. Next to her, an index finger began to thump on the sheets of paper. "This is J.C.'s Manifest. I want a fair accounting so that she gets her due share. Double check the sheet with what we have in holds. When you are done, you will do the same for our docket. That should keep you occupied and out of my way!" Kevin fought the rage to slap Ray, since she wouldn't look at him. "Alexander. will escort you when you are ready. I guess as a child, you need more adult supervision than I can give you at this moment!" Kevin slammed the huge door, which for most would have been impossible to do because of the nature of the hulking piece of wood.

Ray raised her head slowly, braving a look to both Nick and Brian who just closed their eyes at her. "I did it again," she mumbled. She was having a terrible time controlling herself around Kevin. He angered one moment and then she would feel strange things happening inside of her if looked at her a certain way or touched her.

Brian swiped his hand down his face, "You, little one, need to remember your place around that man. Yesterday he killed a man over a simple remark. A remark the man made about you." Brian grabbed his leather satchel and walked out the door.

Nick sat on the bed and stared at Ray, he hadn't had the opportunity to tell Ray what he had learned of yesterday. Tiny tears slid down her cheeks, Nick needed to explain. Before Kevin retired for the evening last night, he stopped and spoke to Nick. Kevin dressed him down about his insubordination. However, he also said he would not measure out any punishment since Ray was the instigator. Kevin had relayed part of what happen aboard the Lady J to him. Nick had watched Kevin numb his feelings at the meal and didn't know why. Something upset Kevin drastically, now Nick knew what was troubling his mentor. Kevin wasn't a killing man. "I don't know what was exactly said but Kevin was very angry. All I know is that it was a remark the man had made about you referring to a relationship with Kevin. Kevin didn't like it and killed him."

Nick stood up and took a few steps. Turning he looked at Ray, who was very pale. "Please just do what he wants, at least until we get to New Providence. It is only four days from now. Please Ray, watch what you say. If anything else happens I can't imagine what he would do."

"I will," Ray whispered as she looked at the book that was before her. The feeling that Kevin could kill a person made her stomach flip, especially over mere words. Now she had to take care not to create any more trouble for those who were helping her. Angering him at every turn was only causing misery for everyone.

Ray read down the manifest but couldn't concentrate. It seemed that she couldn't reconcile what J.C. had told her earlier with what Nick had just told her. She didn't have anyone to speak to about the things that were happening to her. She missed Jocelyn terribly, even her mother would be nice to talk too. She couldn't tell Nick or any of the other Officers. She wasn't comfortable with J.C. either. The woman respected the Captain immensely.

She began to speak to herself, "He kills one day and maroons the next with enough provisions that they will surely survive." Time slipped by and her arm began to ache. Holding it close to her body, she tried to ignore the pain that had started out as a throb. She heard Kevin yelling above at the men along with Sir Alex. By the conversations she heard, Ray could tell that they were cleaning the ship from top to bottom since there were so many extra hands aboard. The clanking of chains along with grunts and groans of the men; objects being dragged on deck, dulled her senses. Placing her head down on the desk after finishing the first manifest, she yawned. Her arm hurt and she was tired.

A loud noise startled her awake, she sat straight up and blinked, not immediately knowing where she was. Her head whipped to the side, the shock registered, she was in Kevin's bed again. Confusion cluttered her mind; she had been doing as he had asked.

Blinking her eyes into focus, she now saw Kevin sitting where she had been with an oil lamp burning on the desktop. Her eyes flashed to the portal and she groaned loudly, it was dark outside now.

"Well good evening," he spoke as he sat at his desk with his back to her.

Ray's eyes were sharper now. She saw the strong back that faced her. His muscles rippled as she stared at him. Sitting at his desk, he was only wearing his breeches.

"Nick brought you a tray to eat. According to Brian, you are to drink the tankard of whatever concoction he has mixed for you after you have eaten. Then you are to go back to sleep." Kevin didn't turn to look at her because when he did his blood would begin to pulsate and his body would quiver, but not out of anger. He lusted for the woman/child and he would have her but in his due time and in his manner. "Do as I say and don't question me," Kevin forced his eyes to stare at the numbers she had finished. Ray had even gone through the trouble of putting down estimates of what the goods should bring on the market. He was very impressed but he was not willing to tell her that. When he heard the silver moving about the tray, he surmised that she was doing as he had requested and eating. "Wonders will never cease," he muttered under his breath. Going over the figures, the totals were more than he expected but not as much as he needed. He still had the Spanish taxes to seize on their way home. This would be more than enough to recapture his lands, sorely not his reputation or his pride. Sighing he listened as the bed covers were moved. Yet still he refused to look at her, for he knew if he did he would end up in the bed with her, willing or not to serve his baser needs. Fiddling with things on the desk, he waited a long while. Once he was satisfied she was asleep, he rose from his chair. Extinguishing the flame, he stretched and cautiously moved towards the bed. She was sleeping on her back but holding onto her arm. Slowly he loosened the grip she had on her arm and let the injured limb slip to the mattress. "In due time Ray, things will change and you will admit your folly and repay me in manner I would expect from a tavern wench," Kevin whispered as he walked away to the hammock.

When he had come in earlier, he couldn't stand to see her curled up at the desk with arm folded around the other protectively. Gently he moved her from the chair to the bed without her stirring even slightly. Hanging his trousers on a peg next to the hammock, he flipped into the swaying object. Kevin felt the breeze waft through the portal, his gaze turned to Ray and his hand moved to his manhood as he stared at her in the moonlight.

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