A Penchant For Pirates

Chapter 31

For three days and nights, Kevin tormented Ray mentally and her physical body as well. He pushed her to nearly collapse on the third evening. Collectively the officers had tried to intercede on Ray's behalf. Kevin ignored their requests continuing to try to force a confession out of Ray by breaking her down physically and psychologically.

Shamus had approached him before this evening's meal and offered his help to Ray and Nick in the galley. "The wee ones are tired. They need to rest." Kevin was hard-pressed to resist Shamus's request since the entire crew needed to rest. In one day's time, they would be at the destination that Kevin had planned to isolate his ship from the view of the Spaniards. A day of rest and they would be up to a good fight.

Captain's Entry-

A natural jetty forms a safe harbor for my men and I to rest. From this point, we will lay waiting for the Spanish gold. We can out-sail them and we can out-maneuver their ship due to our size. My entire plan hinges on the ability of my crew to easily sail around them and board the vessel before they have the opportunity to fire upon us. If we succeed, the ship and its riches will be ours for the taking.

This evening's meal was unusually quiet. Tension was evident in the room but I couldn't seem to pinpoint why. Part of me knows that it is because of me. I have taken Ray and Nickolas to task as of late. I'm angry at Ray, for the child is still carrying a secret, one that I want revealed to me by Ray and only Ray.

Nicholas has stuck close by, never really leaving me alone with Ray. I suppose I could command the time to be alone with the brat but my mind is weighing heavily on the Spanish treasures. Nicholas is harmless yet protective as bear when it comes to Ray. My instinct is to beat a confession from Nick. I'm angry that he is still hiding this from me. Yet, on the other hand, I'm sickly proud that he is so loyal to the little one. I wonder where I went wrong on teaching that principle, the boy is supposed to be loyal to me and only to me.

For now, I have to set my emotions aside for Ray. I will deal with the matter after we have taken the taxes. I need to restore my wealth, my lands, and my good name.

I must admit begrudgingly that Ray is a good sailor. The last three days I have been a beast with the child and set forth many goals that needed to be accomplished with perfection. The waif, unfortunately for me, attained all of them. As Ray met each of my challenges, that stubborn chin would jut out at me. It taunted me, yet tantalizing me at the same time. The lips would form in slight pucker and I had all I could do not to ravish them in front of all.

This is where my difficulty lies in dealing with Ray. One moment I would like to thrash the child and in the next, I want to seduce. I'm torn on the inside from so many different angles, the masquerade itself and my crews' involvement, as well as the lies. The attitude and behavior; also the lack of manners, which is usually reserved solely for me. All others are treated appropriately to their station on the ship. Some have even fallen in favor with Ray and seem to get more out of the child than I can. I'm beginning to resent Alex being on this ship. When Ray is not with Nick, she is with A.J. I guess I should not complain, I was the one who requested that they watch over Ray.

As of this moment, that sweet body is gently swaying in a hammock above my bed. Even after learning of the sexual preference, it no longer seems to even factor into my thinking or my lust. I would say that I care, however, I truly do not. I would like nothing more to than to slam Nick to the floor from his hammock and throw him out of my quarters. I would bar the door and deny entrance to anyone and from Ray leaving. Ray would be mine for the taking. Yet, something inside is making me hold back, I need the confession first. I detest having scruples. A privateer has morals, I don't feel very moral as I sit here and gaze at her body while she innocently sleeps. How I dream of her, my body covering hers. To touch her in ways that only a man can enjoy, the friction of her body against mine, as I take what I want.

I close for now, on the 'morrow we will rest and then take what is there for the taking.

Kevin S. Richardson

"Bloody hell," Kevin mumbled through clenched teeth. He had given Ray another task and yet again, she had accomplished it. What annoyed him even more was the cheer from some of the crew. It now had become a competition even though it was to be a day of relaxation, a competition between him and his errant Cabin Boy. If he didn't know better, he would swear on his mother's life that somebody was helping the child beat him at every challenge.

Nick smirked as he raised his head to the Quarterdeck. With his hand shielding his eyes from the sun he spoke, "He's not happy."

"He's never happy, he needs to go back and see Celestine," Ray disguised her laugh since A.J. and Shamus stood next to her. Shamus gave her a look that made her think twice about speaking so derisively about the Captain.

"Ray!" Kevin barked from Quarterdeck.

Ray's shoulder slumped as she locked her eyes on A.J.

A.J. smirked at her, "You child, have become a major thorn in that man's side." A.J. watched Ray take her time strolling to the Quarterdeck after laughing at her. He didn't miss her cursed mutterings and calling Kevin a brute as she left them.

"Sir Alex?" Shamus spoke quietly.

A.J. nodded approval for Shamus to speak.

Dropping his head so that his lips could not be read by others, he expressed his concerns. "You have to talk to that boy. The Captain is just about ready to skin him alive."

A.J. stole a glance to Nick who seemed to want to join Ray and Kevin. He was hesitant to do so, since Kevin had just turned Brian and Howard away from the private discussion. "The Captain is tense; we have too much at stake on this. If Ray is not careful, I would agree with you. However, if Kevin discovers that you, Colin, and William have been helping Ray with his…. obstacles… who do you think will suffer more?"

Shamus's eyes froze on Alex's as for him to speak again. This news could encourage a punishment if A.J. were in inclined to do so.

"Stop helping Ray, you are only making matters worse."

"Aye Sir," Shamus's head bobbed up and down with agreement. Slowly he backed away from the Quartermaster. "I will tell Colin and William the same."

"You do that. The Captain can handle Ray." A.J. began to bark orders across the deck. It was time to ready ship to hunt its prey. Carefully he watched the men neatly stack ropes and double check lines. He began to sing an old sea shanty song and the crew sang along with him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kevin stop and look at the men. When Kevin's lips began to move, Alex smiled then he launched into the chorus. Kevin seemed to relax as the music and work flowed together in harmony. The Boatswain checked sails and rigging, objects were anchored so as not to cause harm. Guns were cleaned and prepared, as well as the cannons. Cutlasses and knives were sharpened to the finest edge.

Ray sat on a barrel next to the ship's wheel studying a piece of paper. Yanking on Kevin's shirtsleeve, she then pointed to the map. "Correct," Kevin mumbled and then looked back over the deck. "Let's get ready, tomorrow will be a long day of waiting." Kevin walked away leaving Ray to sit. Bringing her knee up, she propped her elbow on her knee. Her chin rested in her hand, her other leg began to swing to the time of the music. She examined the map closely and read the markings that Kevin had made. Time passed by as she listened to the singing and studied the papers in front of her.

"If you start singing, you will give yourself away," Brian chuckled as Ray quickly snapped to attention. "I think you should go below deck now and start the evening meal. Night will come soon and we have to have all fires out."

Ray surveyed the deck and found Kevin working the lines. His shirt had been removed and he was working along side his crew. Kevin's muscles tensed on his back as he began to tug at the long rope. Sweat glistened on his body as he pulled with his men. She shook as she boldly watched him. His muscled rippled with each tug, his back strong, and his shoulders wide. A feeling began to move through her body, the same one she had felt before. She still couldn't identify what caused it to begin or what it was. She could only sense that her body was changing as she watched the Captain. A warm feeling slowly grew from her stomach, the muscles in her legs tightened, and she felt something different deep inside her body. The sensation seemed to grow with each passing moment.

Kevin felt her eyes on his body and refused to acknowledge it. The last thing he needed was the real Ray to be revealed before they attacked. It would cause a situation that could get out of his control quickly. His eyes followed the rope down the crew as many hands were on the rope. As he studied each face down the line, they all had one thing in common. All of them seemed focused on the Quarterdeck and not on the job. This needed to cease immediately. Dropping the rope, he turned and placed his hands on his hips. His feet apart holding his body steady and full of power, he glared at Ray openly.

Brian's gaze switched from to Ray to Kevin and then back again. "Go below deck now." He didn't miss the small shiver that rattled Ray's body as Kevin stared at her with lust laden eyes.

Nickolas jumped up to the Quarterdeck and pulled Ray down. He towed her to the stairs by her arm. She didn't balk or argue as he dragged her down to the galley. "Why in the world would you stare at him like that?" Nick almost screamed the question.

"I didn't stare, he was staring at me," Ray started the preparations for dinner. The way Kevin had stared at her rolled around in her mind. His body gleamed in the bright sunshine with sweat.

Nick closed his eyes, some day she would understand what she could do to Kevin without even trying. "Don't do it again," Nick's hands whisked the bowl away from her.

Ray stuck her tongue out at Nick causing him to give her a lopsided grin. "I mean it," Nick brandished a ladle at her.

Ray giggled, "Aye Captain."

"No I'm the Captain," Kevin announced his arrival into the galley.

Turning away, Ray took a deep breath. He still was shirtless. Closing her eyes, she braced herself for the brunt of his words. Something about him being shirtless stirred something inside her. She wasn't quite sure what made her stare at him in such a manner that he had acknowledged her and then chastised her for it without saying a word.

"When you are done, take a tray, and eat in the cabin. Both of you," Kevin spoke from the door. "Nick, bolt the door."

"See, he's really pissed now," Nick grumbled as he slammed objects around the kitchen. "I can't wait until tomorrow. I'm going to enjoy this raid and release all of my energy."

Ray said nothing and let him rant. She tried to figure out what was happening to her and why Kevin always seemed to be the cause. Working steady and quietly together, they finished the meal. Picking up her tray, she excused herself as the Officers and Kevin began to file in behind her. Nick never joined her for the meal as she ate in solitude and appreciated the luxury of time by herself, it happened very little lately. She decided against returning the tray to the galley when she finished. Climbing into the hammock, she relaxed and let the gently swaying of the seas rock her to sleep. She never woke when Kevin and Nick entered the cabin and retired for the evening.

Ray woke to the sound of shots and shouts. Stumbling from the hammock, she grabbed her boots and fled up the stairs to the deck. Running as she fought to dress herself, she stood on the deck. She was shocked to find that Kevin was engaging the galleon. Her body slammed into the deck as their ship cut through the waters quickly and tightly. Grabbing onto the side of the stair housing, she pulled herself up and held on.

"What are you doing up here?" Nick yelled as he let go of the rail that he held fast too so he could remain upright.

Ray couldn't hear above the cannon fire. The Galleon had at least 20 cannons aimed at them, no wonder A.J. and Kevin were steering frantically to avoid being hit. She peeked over the shed room and saw them on the Quarterdeck. One of the cannonballs had flown over the shanty roof and landed on the other side of her into the sea with a loud bang. She jumped but didn't scream. The cannonball had been followed by three sets of eyes.
The green set now locked on her and looked murderously at her.

"GET BELOW!" Kevin shouted. "NICKOLAS GET RAY BELOW!"

Nick shook his head as he ran to Ray's side. "This isn't the time to annoy him, we could be killed."

"I just want to watch," Ray stood clinging to a beam on the shanty.

Both of them heard A.J.'s call as Kevin's ship swiftly rode up to the Galleon on the opposite that had been firing on them. Within a split second, Kevin's crew swarmed the rigging of their ship and swung to the Spanish vessel. Ray couldn't believe her eyes. The crew swarmed like bees in the rigging as they boarded by ropes and any other means they could to get on the other ship. Then she heard the screams of true men in battle and she swallowed back the contents of her stomach. A hard shove forced her down the stairs and back into the cabin. Musket fire, cannon fire, and screams of death assailed her ears. Opening her eyes, she saw she was alone; Nickolas hadn't followed her to the cabin. She huddled up on Kevin's bed as she listened; this wasn't the romantic vision she had of being a pirate or privateer. Waiting and waiting she rocked her body with her arms wrapped around her knees. She needed Nick; she was scared.

Untangling her limbs, she stood up, walked to the door. Kevin had issued an order, however she was too frightened to stay below and curiosity overshadowed her ability to follow orders. Creeping to the top of the stairs, she saw that most of the crew had abandoned their ship for the other. The smoke burned her eyes and the taste of sulfur hit her nose and mixed with the salt of the sea. Ray could taste both in her mouth. The sounds that accompanied the taste and smells made her stomach churn. Slowly she ventured to the rail where ropes danced from high in the rigging. Smoke rose from the other ship as well as the cries of battle. The sounds of muskets shots filled the air with puffs of smoke to mark their location.

As her eyes moved over the deck of the ship, she could see Shamus fighting with a man, A.J. as well. She smiled as A.J. swiftly out maneuvered the man. A.J. could move quickly as he was small. Her eyes searched more and watched as Colin received a slash to his side blood gushed from the wound and she moaned. One of Kevin's men skewered the villain that had slashed Colin. Something slapped her in the back and caught her off guard. Pulling her knife from her boot, she turned and aimed for whatever had hit her. A long rope from the rigging had assaulted her. She returned her knife to its proper place.

Her eyes caught sight of a Spanish officer now traversing the rigging of the two ships. His knife slashed at the ropes that held two vessels tied together. If the ships became separated, Kevin and his crew would be abandoned on the Galleon. The vessels needed to stay moored together. Swiftly and silently, she climbed the rigging to cut the rope that the man had been clinging too. The preoccupied officer didn't notice her rapid or quiet climb to the ropes above him. Hooking her knee into the rigging, she leaned down to cut the rope. Carefully she made two slices, and the third would part the rope.

"CHICO!" the man yelled up to the boy hanging in the rigging. Pulling his pistol, he aimed at the child. "PRADA!" He shouted at her.

Ray didn't hesitate as she sliced the rope for the final time. Closing her eyes as she heard the man scream as he fell to his death below, it was something she did not want to see. She waited for the noise of bones crashing to the deck below but only heard a splash. Sighing with relief, the man had fallen into the sea instead of to the deck below. From her vantage point, she could see the deck of the Galleon easily. Her eyes darted around the deck to find Nickolas when she did she was horrified. Nick was fighting two men by himself. Racing down the rigging, she grabbed a rope and swung to the Galleon. Landing with a soft thud, she dodged two of the adversaries on her way as they tried to grab her. She saw their faces and she ran in terror to help Nick and to escape them. Racing up the stairs to the Quarterdeck of the Galleon, she pulled her knife and plunged it in the back of one of Nick's attackers.

For a split second Nick stood facing the man whose expression was now marred with pain. The man dropped from his hands as the other attacked. The second man attacking him fell backward with a loud thud. Nick was standing by himself. Looking down at his feet he blinked twice, smiled, and then groaned.

Ray popped up from the deck, "You needed help don't yell at me…." Ray's voice was cut off as Nick swung out with his cutlass and Ray ducked thinking that Nick was swinging at her. When a man landed on the boards next to her, she shot to her feet.

Nick yanked her arm and began to search for Kevin. He couldn't fight and protect Ray at the same time, he needed help. He didn't have to search long as both his and Ray's name were yelled from the deck below. Closing his eyes for a scant second, the look on Kevin's face told it all. He was going to get the thrashing of a lifetime when this was over. Nick didn't have long to argue as Kevin was besieged by three men and jumped to his aid from the Quarterdeck.

Ray followed Nick out of habit; jumping down to the deck. She became pressed between two bodies, Kevin and Nick's as they continued the battle. They fought off the three men and one who had joined them. Ray felt trapped between the two men. Pulling her own knife from her waistband, she slashed at the attackers and landed her blows with accuracy.

Kevin fought hard both externally and internally. His emotions were getting the better of him in the battle. Ray had no business being in the middle of this fight. A woman didn't belong in battle. A small knife swept up in front of the man he was fighting and stabbed him in the belly. Kevin saw the look of horror on the man's face as he looked at the waif who had inflicted the injury who was between the two hulking men. The man growled and went directly for the person who had injured him. Her small frame pressed tightly next to him seeking protection. He felt her shoulders tremble against his back. His instinct to shield her went full bore. Kevin struck one hard blow and watched the man tumble backwards to the deck. Ray's pensive face met his gaze briefly, her face registered fear as he grimaced at her.

Ray said nothing to him but continued to slash out at the men who were attacking them. She wouldn't run from the battle even though she was ill with the thought that she was killing people. It was their lives or hers.

As fast as the battle had started, it ended. Bodies lay strewn across the deck in unnatural positions where they had met their death. Pools of blood had marked where some had fallen and others had hauled them off.

Ray stood and watched as if she was not present. Men dragged off in chains to an empty hold below; Brian tended to the injured. The lives that were lost from Kevin's crew were returned to his ship for a proper burial. The unloading of cargo had begun. After watching for what seemed like hours, a hand gently clasped hers. Looking up she saw Nick's blue eyes shimmering back at her. "Come, you don't need to be here. This is not a place for you." Quietly he led her to their ship and down to Kevin's cabin. She said nothing as the door shut. She waited for the timber to slide into place, barring her from leaving the cabin but it never did.

Sitting silently for more than an hour, she tried to reconcile in her mind the deeds that she had done. She needed to justify to herself that the acts were for self-preservation. Ray was shaken from her introspective by the screams of a familiar voice. The voice of Nickolas from the deck above, the second scream came as a plea and she heard the words. "NO KEVIN PLEASE DON'T!"

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