| Thanks to my sexy muse, who wishes to remain unnamed.
This is my first attempt at a story, so please be easy on me! J
Captain Messing peered intently through the spyglass a second time, just to be certain. What he saw put a knot in his stomach. Three corsair privateers were just visible over the slowly darkening horizon, and from their heading it appeared that his ship had been spotted. He swallowed the rising feeling of dread welling up inside him, knowing he alone might be - might be - the only thing that could save his ship, his men - and his very, very valuable cargo. If I can maintain this distance past nightfall, a sudden course change in the dark might throw theses bloody corsairs off our scent, he thought. And if not... Messing swallowed again. Better not to think about what would happen if not.
In a voice much more confident than he felt, he gave his orders. "All hands on deck! Battle stations! All sails full! We'll outrun the bastards, but if they manage to catch us, we'll blow them to hell out of the Atlantic!" His crew cheered lustily as they set to their work. Their captain had never been caught yet, and they had full confidence that this time would be no different.
Stephen H. Messing, captain of His Royal Britannic Majesty's flagship, The Drake, had not wanted this assignment. He was the most prominent officer of the best navy the world had ever seen. And with this voyage, he was reduced to no better than a ferry-boat captain, or so it seemed to him. His mission, in this hazy Summer of the year 1704, was to lead a flotilla of five merchant-fighter vessels across the vast depths of the Atlantic, his destination the quickly building colony of Carolina on the eastern coast of the New World. Much of his cargo was the usual export to the Americas - tea, sugar, spices, and textiles - but on this voyage he also carried another, very dangerous and unwanted piece of cargo.
Two months earlier, just days before departure, he had been assigned the passenger that had changed the entire nature of his voyage, and infuriated him to no end. The governor of Carolina's daughter had to be protected at all costs, he was told. When he voiced his protests, Messing was "requested and required" to do exactly as ordered, on pain of instant court-marshal. The voyage would be one of delivery only - fighting of any kind to be avoided, even enemy shipping that could be easily taken as a prize. The governor was a close relation of the king, and the girl's safety was not to be risked in any way, shape, or form.
Not that Miss Rebecca Atherton needed much protecting, Captain Messing mused to himself on the endlessly long summer nights aboard The Drake. More likely any foe foolish enough to antagonize the young spitfire would be the one in need of assistance, not her. He had had a very difficult time reigning in the young lady's adventuresome spirit and love of danger over the long journey. Bad enough she ruins our chance at taking prizes and reduces my lovely fleet of fighting ships to pack-mules, he thought. Bad enough she takes my personal cabin and orders my crew around like her personal servants. But she had insisted on staying on deck of his flagship in fair weather and foul to "see the action" as she put it, putting herself, and therefore his entire mission, as dreadful as it might be, in jeopardy. When the great storm had hit a week before, he had had to order her dragged off and locked in her cabin before she would go, her screams and curses trailing after her all the way down below decks.
Captain Messing shook his head ruefully. Why didn't he keep her locked up the entire voyage? Certainly that would be the safest option, for her and for him. And for his crew. More than one sailor had been caught with his eyes unhealthily straying from his work to follow the lovely brunette as she sauntered about on deck. There's something about her, he thought. Even with her hellcat attitude, even with her whip of a tongue, she has some kind of innocent sexuality about her that seems to ooze without any conscious effort on her part. He had studied her closely, though of course discreetly. She wasn't classically beautiful. Not that she was ugly by any far cry, but he had seen better. She just had that intangible something that made him want to keep her around.
And truth be told, he wouldn't have minded a closer, more intimate view. Her chocolaty brown eyes seemed to dance with an inner fire. Her lustrous light brown hair that seemed to fall upon her back like the waves of the sea combined well with her fair skin and high, delicate cheekbones. He dreamt of kissing the full, pouting red lips, of feeling them on his body. The long, modest gowns, layers of petticoats, and very fashionable but proper attire couldn't fully hide her slender loveliness, but they also left too much to the imagination. My, but what an adventure she could be in bed. He smiled. If you could tame her, he told himself. She wouldn't be one to submit herself to a husband's authority very easily. Not quite the "good little wife" most men would naturally expect. He imagined what type of man the governor had found for her in Carolina, whether he would manage her or be broken by her ferocity. Good luck to him. I don't think I'd want that task, no matter how seductive she is. She'd be just as likely to stab a man in his sleep as to gentle him with a sweet caress.
But these thoughts were far from the mind of Captain Stephen Messing on this evening of August 28, 1704. He had ordered her below hours before, as soon as he had confirmed the forward lookout's warning cry. She hadn't gone willingly of course, but this was no time for any woman, let alone this woman, to be on deck. Messing glanced to aft uneasily, his eyes futilely scanning the night, the sea calm after its recent gorging. He had lost at least three of his five ships to the storm, with all hands. Where the fourth was, he did not know. They had been separated by the gale, driven far apart. The evil weather had lasted days, and by the time it abated, they were alone, off course, and severely depleted of manpower and stores. Fully half of his own crew had been taken by the menacing winds and monstrous waves that crashed upon them, and his ship badly damaged. They had just been finishing repairs as best they could and plotting a new course when the pirates had been spotted. Damn the storm, he thought. Damn this bloody mission. And damn that girl who had caused him nothing but trouble since she had come aboard.
Miss Rebecca Atherton sat morosely on the bunk of the great cabin, her mind jumbled with many conflicting thoughts. She had stopped her ranting at the guards hours ago when all hands had been ordered on deck, and had eventually stayed the restless pacing that had followed. Must be really serious this time, she thought. I've never been left without guards before. On the one hand, I hate being locked up in the cabin... I can't stand this feeling of trapped helplessness. And the impertinence of those scoundrels, laying their filthy hands on me, the daughter of a governor, and almost a princess in my own right! Not that it's a bad room. It is the largest and most luxurious cabin on the best ship of the fleet, and I couldn't realistically have had any better. And if there's any real danger, I know this is the safest place to be. But that dratted Messing and his domineering ways! I realize it's his bloody ship, but shouldn't I have at least some say in my own fate? He treats me like I'm nothing more than a pesky child. I wish he would realize I'm a woman, let alone acknowledge my noble status. He might even be interesting if he could let go of some of his utterly boring "duty" for once.
Rebecca smiled to herself without realizing it as she thought about him. She had noticed Captain Messing's glances, as she had noticed the glances of the crew when she was on deck. She knew he was attracted to her, that he wanted her. That knowledge gave her a certain rush, a feeling of control over him. He wanted her, but he could never have her. The great, mighty, fierce captain of the king's flagship, in her power. She knew why he didn't have her confined to her cabin. Her cabin she thought, and smiled again to herself. The look on his face when she had announced she was taking the ship's main cabin for herself had been priceless. And there wasn't a thing he could do about it.
Her thoughts drifted back to their current situation. I wonder when we'll finally reach landfall. I hope Father hasn't arranged for me to marry some old crony of his. I'll be sure to make his life a living hell if he does. And I wonder if there really is any danger to the ship now. But no, that couldn't happen. Pirate ships, they said, right? Ha! We've the grandest ship of the line, and impertinent though he might be, that Messing is surely the best there is. He's never lost a ship, they say. We'll crush those pirate scum before they know what hit them, if it even has to come to that.
Rebecca's head jerked off the pillow of her bunk with startled suddenness. I must have fallen asleep, she thought. And slept the whole night too, by the look of it. A ray of sunlight came dimly through the porthole, heralding the dawn of a new day. But what was that sound? Did I dream it?
Suddenly, the timbers of the ship creaked loudly as if under great strain, and the room seemed to shudder. She clutched the bunk in panic, trying to brace against the unusual sudden motion. Just as suddenly as it had begun, the ship's swinging movement stopped. What the hell was going on? She carefully made her way to the cabin door and pressed her ear up against it. The heavy oak door didn't allow much sound through, but she thought she could hear crashing noises. Crashing, breaking, and... was that screaming? Her blood ran cold. It couldn't be. It just couldn't! She began pounding on the door frantically, screaming for someone to let her out.
But her pounding went unanswered for a long while. Hours later, as it seemed to her, she finally heard the sound of people approaching her cabin. Her hope turned to ash as she heard the voices. Rough, uncouth, foul voices. Pirate voices. Terror of a kind she had never known welled up in her breast. She staggered back to her bunk, groping for some kind of weapon. Damn that Messing anyway! How could he lock me in here, and not even a pistol to protect myself! Her hand found the knife from her previous night's dinner plate as a key turned in the lock.
If she was surprised by the man who walked through the door, she could tell he was even more surprised to find her there. He was tall, very tall and well built, with jet black hair shorn at his shoulders. She could tell that he was strong just by looking at him, and very rich by the quality of his now blood-smeared clothing. But it was his eyes that caught and held her, making her blanch within. His grey-green eyes were intense and piercing. As he stared into hers it seemed to her that he could see into very depths of her soul. His eyes, alert and wary at first, flicked to the knife in her hands in what seemed to her to be amusement. Three unruly and thoroughly blood-stained men entered the large cabin after him, all with pistols and cutlasses drawn and pointed at her. Their stench - unwashed bodies, mixed with sweat and blood, made her want to gag.
"Drop the knife," he said. His voice was quiet but commanding, with a hint of menace that made even the defiant hellcat in her tremble. This was not a man to trifle with.
But she would not be so easily taken. She bravely faced up to the pirates, her arm holding the knife visibly shaking, a tremor in her voice. "Who are you?" she screamed shrilly. "Stay back!" Her brown eyes were unable to hide her fear even as they shouted their defiance.
At a signal from their leader, the pirates, chuckling grimly to themselves, lowered their weapons. The leader advanced in calm, measured steps. She backed away as he advanced, the knife wavering in her tiny hand. Finally, she had nowhere left to run. Her back hit the wooden wall next to the bunk and she cried out desperately "I'll kill you! Stay back or I swear I'll do it!" He paused, and then quickly lunged. Her arm slashed forward at him in a vicious arc, but his trained and experienced reflexes were quicker. He caught her knife-arm, and with one twist of his arms had her pinned, her back to his chest, his hand controlling hers with the knife still in it, bringing it to her own throat.
He murmured into her ear, his voice chilling. "You were saying?"
She strained against him with all her might, her arm trying to push the blade down now, away from her. But he was stronger, far stronger, and he brought her own hand still clutching the knife closer, till it was pointing sharply against her throat. His voice was mocking. "Are you so frightened of us that you wish to commit suicide? Hmm?" He dug the blade deeper, cutting the skin of her throat. She moaned in terror as she felt the blade cut, and barely managed to squeak out a "No!"
His voice was ruthless. "Then do as you're told, bitch." And he threw her to the ground. Her head struck the floor hard, and the room, spinning suddenly out of control, faded slowly to black.