Ray had awakened dull witted. She had slept well but found
it difficult to clear her mind. Kevin had her sent down in
the holds to check the accuracy of the manifests. Alex and
Nick joined her after the morning meal. Crates were opened
and checked against the documentation she had written. A specific
crate fascinated Ray until Nick gave her a nudge and whispered
for her to move along. The crate was filled with fabrics.
It had silks, velvets, laces, and satins. Nick caught the
expression on Alex's face as Ray studied the fabric. Although
Alex knew Ray was of the female persuasion, he hadn't told
Ray. Ray was still under the impression that the only people
who knew of her secret were Brian and Nick. Movement above
them and a creak of the ladder made both Nick and Alex go
on alert. Nick moved Ray along to the next crate. Coming around
the crate, she now stood in front of Kevin.
"Are you almost
done? You left my cabin early this morning." Kevin eyed
the crate that Ray was inspecting.
Ray focused on working, not the man speaking to her.
Kevin watched A.J.
move about, he now stood in front of a crate of fabric trying
to hide a small smile. "You still have J.C.'s docket
to do." Now Kevin wanted Ray in the other hold out of
Sir," Ray went to the next crate and waited for Nickolas
to pry the lid off.
so? The mid-day meal has yet to pass." Kevin was slightly
off kilter, What time had the child left his cabin?
A.J. rubbed his
eyes, "Aye, the boy is done. He woke me before sunrise."
"Oh I bet J.C. was none too happy about that."
"J.C. is doing fine."
"I would hope
so from all the commotion that comes from your cabin."
Kevin laughed and walked towards Alexander.
Ray and Nick ignored
the two older men and worked steadily to finish. This didn't
stop them from eavesdropping on the conversation.
Kevin could tell
he was being disregarded by the youngest members of his crew;
but he also knew that both of them were listening. So far,
Kevin had ignored Ray since the argument yesterday. He was
content with her sleeping in his cabin under his watchful
eye. His lust for her grew hourly but he was handling it by
staying away from her. "Alex, is J.C. ready to give her
answer to me tomorrow?"
A.J. hoisted his
body up on crate and sat. "I think she is going to say
"We can change
that, no worry," Kevin watched Ray's back tense. The
child didn't like the conversation. "You will marry J.C.
irregardless of her answer. The two of you can spend time
by yourselves on the Lady J, if you wish?"
bounced off the timbers of the hold. "I don't think it
will be that easy but I'm ready. I love my J.C. but she can
she would skewer me with the dirk," Kevin smirked.
would have if given the opportunity," Alex paused. "Kevin,
she will not like this and I wonder if it is the right thing
Kevin stared for
a moment at the backs of Nick and Ray. "Nick what do
you think Alex should do?"
face stared back at Kevin. "I don't know," Nick
waved his arms around.
you any thoughts on the matter?" Kevin thought maybe
he could get a rise out of her.
"I think J.C.
should marry Alex only if she wants to," Ray didn't look
at him when she spoke. Kevin had asked her and she answered.
"Look at me
when I'm speaking to you boy," Kevin's voice had a new
tone. He watched Ray slowly turn towards him. "What if
he is concerned about her safety and welfare?"
mean that he should marry her. They should marry because they
"I think they
should do what they want to do," Nick wrenched Ray's
hand and spun her around so she wasn't facing Kevin.
that you have said your thoughts," Kevin ground out;
he had almost had her snared by her showing her feminine side.
He didn't need her to finish the sentence knowing that she
thought they should marry for love. Disgruntled, Kevin turned
to Alex. "Wed her and bed her, make it legal! Make her
yours! When you see what you want, you take it. It works for
me," Kevin jumped up the ladder instead of climbing it.
Nick was cringing
and Ray just stared at him, then she whispered to Nick. "I
didn't do anything, he asked. I think I should make a raisin
worry about Kevin. He's a little off these past few weeks.
I love J.C., J.C. loves me. We are going to marry whether
she wants to or not. I want to protect her." A dirk landed
between his feet as he stood next to the ladder. Alex laughed
and looked up towards the opening of the hold. The sunlight
was streaming in and there was no mistaking the red-headed
lady dressed in man's clothes staring down at him. "I
love you J.C.!" A.J. laughed as he scurried up the ladder.
one that might need protection," Nick pulled the dirk
from the wooden floor and placed it in the waistband of his
Ray said nothing
to Nick. There were moments when Nick could speak up against
the Captain but he wouldn't do it. "Do you think they
should be forced into a marriage?"
how we found J.C. this time, yes I do." Nick didn't hide
his feelings in front of Ray.
Ray headed up the
ladder, stopping mid-way. "You are very much like him,"
she stated and continued up without him.
Nick sat on the
crate for some time thinking. Everything seemed to stream
through his mind at one time. Ray had almost clued Kevin in
on her this time. "Marrying for love, there is no such
thing. Everything is arranged." Soured for the day, Nick
made his way to the galley from the hold. Ray had begun the
officer's meal for the evening. Nick watched her carefully
maneuver pots, "Is your arm feeling better?"
Ray glared at him.
He sighed loudly. "I'm sorry I just think that is what
is best for them. She could get captured again, raped, who
knows what could happen."
"So all of
the men aboard this ship have decided what is best for the
female?" Ray's voice laced with sarcasm came back at
way, I can't help that," Nick started to whine back at
her as he worked next to her.
ever think to question the Captain's mind set?" Ray's
shrill echoed off the pots.
"Not if they
want to live to talk about it," J.C. entered the galley.
Ray dropped her
head, just what she needed more trouble.
"Ray, I have
resigned myself to the fact that no matter what, I will have
to marry Alex. A.J. won't tether me to him, even if Kevin
wants him too. Kevin gets overly protective when it comes
to women. I think he feels responsible for Isabella's death.
Isabella was a different woman, much like us. Kevin gave her
the freedom that she craved and she left this world, and in
turn, left him." J.C. sat down and waited to see if Ray
was going to admit or deny what she had just inferred.
Ray's eyes dropped
to the floor. "You should marry Sir Alex because you
love him and want to. The Captain shouldn't force you."
The word deny flipped
over in J.C.'s head. "You heard me Ray, I know what you
are. You had better hope that you are far away from Kevin
when you are discovered." J.C. stood and looked at Nick.
"You boy had better run for your life," J.C. held
her hand out.
hard and handed J.C. back her dirk that she had thrown at
A.J. when they were in the hold. Even if Ray was ignoring
it, he was not going to make that mistake. "Don't tell,"
he asked quietly.
J.C. smiled. "No, I don't think I will. I plan on being
far, far away by then." J.C. winked at Ray.
"But Sir Alex
won't leave Kevin," Ray's eyes lit up.
"Hmmm, I know.
But I'm not taking Alex with me." J.C. heard the noise
in the corridor pressing her index finger to her lips she
winked at both them.
sweet beloved," A.J. made a mocking bow towards J.C.
Standing up, he reached for her and she stepped away.
Kevin laughed as
he walked by J.C. and swatted her on the backside. "Please
don't make tomorrow difficult on all of us." The Officers
filed in to take their seats.
J.C. tossed a few
obscenities at him as Kevin dropped in his seat. Kevin's eyes
quickly traveled to Ray who had her back turned to him. His
eyes raked over her body from the top of her head to the back
of her legs and trailed back up again. Dropping his eyes,
he turned to his cousin quickly. "You've done a fine
job with Ray, Brian. He should be up to taking lessons tomorrow.
Don't you think?"
the hardened look Kevin was wearing. Kevin was going to make
Ray's life a pure hell. He was in a dilemma at this point
and could no longer lie. Ray was healed and by the way she
was wielding the cast iron kettle, he would look like damn
fool if he said otherwise. "I would think so," he
The pot was dropped
on the table and boiling liquid spilled out, a little to close
to Kevin. He jerked his hand away before the scalding stew
landed on his hand. "Beware boy and tread lightly."
Nick needed to
tell Kevin what J.C. was plotting. If he spoke his mind at
the table, he would incur the wrath of J.C. and he would guess
by Ray's feelings on the subject, hers as well. If he outright
told Kevin that J.C. had a plan of escape, he would be back
in Kevin's good graces. Looking at J.C., he wondered if he
did inform Kevin if he would survive the night without J.C.
slitting his throat.
Ray stood off to
the side until a chair next to Kevin was kicked out from underneath
the table. "Sit and eat with us since you're staring
at me like you have poisoned my food." Kevin eyed her
to be sure that what he had spoken was taken as a command
and not a request. Kevin moved the stew around checking for
raisins, God he hated those infernal things.
Grabbing a dish,
she ladled the chicken stew on her plate. She sat away from
the table with the plate in her lap. The plate was pulled
from her hands and the chair dragged back under the table
with a boot, whilst she was still sitting in it. The plate
banged on the table. "I said eat with us, not next to
Nick sat across
from Ray and was sure he heard a few words escape her lips
and he frowned. By the cock of his head, Kevin had heard them
as well. Just as Kevin opened his mouth with what Nick thought
was a reprimand, Nick opened his. "I think you should
marry J.C. tomorrow instead of waiting. If she says yes than
we can start cooking tonight. Ray and I would have more time
to prepare a true wedding feast. If we get too close to port
than we have to get ready to dock."
Ray's eyes rolled
around in her head as she looked at Nick. Ray shook her head
at him from side to side, "We'll have time, she needs
the time to
." Ray knew Nick had understood what
J.C. had told them just a bit ago. She was going to try and
escape before they were married. "Prepare," was
the only word that could come to mind.
J.C. need to prepare for?" Kevin was directing his question
to Ray. "A.J. has bedded her before, there will be no
wedding night jitters. Of course, if A.J. has a problem with
performing his husbandly duties and consummating the vows."
Ray's face burned
as red as blood sun. Her eyes were wide, she needed to tell
herself to breath.
"I beg your
pardon," A.J. looked angrily at Kevin. "I don't
really think that will be a problem."
Nick needed to
save Ray from Kevin, as Kevin's arm came across the table.
His Captain knew something was amiss and it would be easier
to scare it out of Ray. "J.C. plans on leaving and she's
not taking A.J.," Nick blurted the words and then ducked
behind his Captain. The dirk flew through the air only to
be latched onto and knocked to the table. The knife made a
thunk noise as it landed and wobbled slightly on the large
boards that made up the table.
Ray's face registered
horror as she saw Nick physically hide behind Kevin. Kevin
grabbed the knife and tossed it back to J.C. causing J.C.
to back up as the dagger stuck in the table in front of her
with sheer accuracy and precision. "You will stay and
we will talk," Kevin glared at J.C. "Won't we Alexander,"
Kevin's fierce stare never left J.C.'s face.
hard, she should have known better than to trust Nick. Now
she would reveal his secret. Before she could speak a word,
Alex grabbed her hard and yanked her out of the galley and
up the stairs. No screaming, no words, nothing was heard.
Nickolas," Kevin nodded as he poured ale into his tankard.
"I wish for you to sleep in my quarters tonight for your
own protection. J.C. is upset with you."
sir," Nick made nothing of the comment but he did push
his plate away. Now feelings of guilt and not being a friend
were instantly plaguing him. He had served J.C. up as an offering
to protect Ray and himself. "I'll be back, I need some
Nick's stride was
uneven, as he left Brian, Howie, Kevin, and Ray in the galley.
He wandered up on deck and frowned.
"Ray, I want
you to try and handle the clean up yourself tonight. Nick
needs some space. He broke one friend's confidence for another;
that is never an easy task." Kevin tossed his napkin
in his plate. Standing up, he sighed and left the galley.
Brian and Howie
were left with Ray and both unsure of what to say. Ray sensed
the uneasiness and began the conversation as she picked up
the plates that were abandoned. "Is he going to go speak
Brian and Howie
nodded a yes to her. "Why would Nick tell Kevin of J.C.'s
Howie wanted no
part of this conversation. The truth was that Ray's secret
was going to be divulged at the table, and she didn't realize
that J.C. intended on being the one to tell Kevin. Howie envisioned
a huge battle and J.C. somehow slipping away unnoticed. "I
need to go check on the Lady J and her crew. If J.C. had a
plan to slip away, then we need to make some changes."
Howie trotted out of the galley and up the stairs calling
for some of their own crew.
Left alone, Brian
spoke to Ray. "Nick respects Kevin like a father, the
father that he never had. What J.C. was about to do would
have angered Kevin even more if he found out that Nick knew
and didn't warn him. J. C. is not above saving herself in
all of this. She was about to tell Kevin what you really are."
The plate slid
to the table, "Why?" Ray sat, now she was worried
if J.C. would keep her secret.
wants to marry A.J. but she wants to continuing sailing."
go with her then," Ray scrapped the plates for the cats
that would crawl all over soon.
leave Kevin. Kevin wants them to marry because he thinks everyone
should be married and protect their women." Brian gave
Ray a grin when she smiled at him.
"That is insane,
women can protect themselves."
can but small boys can't. I want you in my quarters as soon
as you are done. You are going to learn to load this."
Kevin held a small pistol in his hand. He had left as fast
as he appeared.
Brian let out a
soft mutter of the word, "Close," and left.
Ray struggled with
a few pots until the largest was lifted from her hand. Turning
she smiled at her confidant. "Are you feeling better?"
the shaggy blonde wagged his head at her. "I'm sleeping
on the floor in the cabin tonight. Kevin and I talked, I feel
bad, but I didn't want him to find out that I knew and I didn't
happen when he finds out what I truly am?" Ray whispered
An arm dropped
around her and squeezed her. "We won't worry about that.
I just hope it's on land when he does."
A puzzled face
with long lashes and a cute nose stared back him. She didn't
ask him but he knew what she was asking. "So I can run
as fast as I can, because he is going to hurt me like he never
"Maybe I should
Nick barked back at her. "We're almost home. We might
get through this and he will be none the wiser."
Brian ducked his head in the galley. "All hell is breaking
lose in A.J.'s cabin. Kevin just went in there. Hurry up and
get back to his cabin before he decides to beat you for fun."
Nick rushed around
the galley as a confused Ray stood watching him. "He
"Oh yes he
would!" Nick grabbed her hand and dragged her as fast
as he could to the Captain's quarters.