Copyright © 1998
Mademoiselle Suzette stared at the starry sky wistfully. Compared to the vastness of the very heavens themselves, her troubles seemed so small, so trivial, so insignificant. Yet they were her troubles and thus commanded at least some small measure attention. Even here. For as glorious as the heavens were at reminding her of her true stature, the steady sea breezes that rippled through her long, luxurious hair also pushed the protesting ship ever forward, just as the winds of destiny were sweeping her inevitably to her fate.
"You should not be up at this hour mam’selle." a soft, scolding voice said behind her.
Suzette sighed and turned to her handmaiden. "I do not expect to have much time for my thoughts when we reach Italy, Marie. Grant me some time to find peace while I can still call my life my own."
Marie frowned deeply. "If I know you, you're not thinking so much as brooding. We all have our lot in life; at least your lot will be spent in a gilded cage."
"Is a gilded cage ever so much better, Marie?" Suzette sighed deeply. "Would it surprise you to know how much I envy you?"
Marie laughed mockingly. "Envy? Me? You've gone mad from all that thinking," Marie said. Then, remembering herself, added, "mam’selle."
"But it's true! No one tells you whom to marry, where to go, what to do."
Marie laughed again. "Mam’selle, you forget I am but a mere servant. Everyone tells me where to go and what to do. I've been bonded to your house since my birth, and will be until I die. No man was forced upon me, but none was offered. There are times at night, alone in my bed, that I regret that. No mam’selle, I'm free only in your imagination. Now come. Stop worrying about what you cannot change and come to bed."
Suzette bowed her head in defeat. "At least our dreams are free."
"Yes," Marie agreed, "and that is the worst thing of all."
"It wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't so old. And ugly. I mean, honestly. Can you picture us together on our wedding night?"
"It does seem humorous, mam’selle."
"Well if I am lucky, he will die quickly and I can pick someone better suited."
"There is that to look forward to, mam’selle. But really, you must come to bed. You'll catch your death in this air."
Suzette pulled away from the rail and followed her handmaiden across the wooden deck to their cabin.
The cabin was tiny, barely large enough for the two small beds it housed. The only luxuries were a small oil lamp and a secure iron bolt, both of which the Lord had insisted on before paying for their passage. Marie secured the bolt firmly before she turned to her lady and began to unlace the back of her dress.
The dress fell around Suzette's feet, and Suzette stepped forward, allowing Marie to retrieve it. The process of removing the Lady's undergarments and corset was almost as laborious as the time it took to fit them every morning.
"Ah!" Suzette sighed as the restrictive corset fell free. "This is true freedom, Marie. I have not the words to say how I truly despise that creation."
"Yes mam’selle." Marie agreed without hearing.
Gloriously nude save for a heavy bronze belt around her waist, Suzette turned, the smooth supple skin of her back giving way to the soft fleshy curves of her front.
"And this is the worst thing of all." Lady Suzette said, referring to her chastity belt.
"Yes mam’selle." Marie agreed again as she fished an iron key out of her pocket.
"I should one day like to meet the man who invented that machine and send him to hell where he belongs," Suzette grumbled as she used the nearby chamber pot.
Marie agreed a third time as she prepared the wash. Water was a precious commodity onboard ship, so there were no baths. She very much doubted the crew would use them even if they were plentiful. Still, Suzette was a Lady and Ladies should always be presentable. The captain might have grumbled at the bucket of water each night but the journey from France to Italy was not unnecessarily harsh and he was in no great danger of running out for the use of a few buckets.
"I felt as if I would bust!" Suzette said as she sat herself on the stool.
"It must be uncomfortable, mam’selle." Marie said as she ran the wet towel down Suzette's arm.
"Very." Suzette said, but without force.
She closed her eyes, letting her head fall slightly back as Marie ran the towel across her skin. At home, on the estate, she would be in a large tub of warm water as Marie cleaned her. Somehow this seemed more intimate, more personal.
Marie finished her back and reached around to wash the Lady's chest, then her breasts. As the moist towel touched Suzette's nipples, they spring instantly erect. The towel was soon replaced with a warm hand as Marie worked the soapy water around Suzette's nipples, sending tingles of pleasure through her mistress.
Suzette's breath became expectant as Marie retrieved the towel and worked her way slowly down, down to the place. Their place. The place, that thanks to the infernal belt, only Marie could touch.
The towel parted her, working through her folds and crevasses. As before, the towel was discarded as Marie worked Suzette's flesh. Every touch, every caress was a gift from the heavens, and Suzette's breath deepened as it always did. There was always one spot, one very special spot that Marie took special care with, and her slick fingers now sought out that spot, pressing, caressing, in an endless wave of pleasure.
Suzette leaned back into Marie, a low soft moan escaping from her lips.
The moan evoked a memory, and from the comfort of her pleasure, Suzette said, "I heard you last night. Moaning in your sleep as I am now. Since I was a girl you have done this for me. It does not seem fair that I not return this favor."
Marie's touches slowed but did not stop.
"It would not be proper mam’selle. I am your servant, take no notice of my needs."
"Do you enjoy this Marie?"
This time Marie did pause, but only briefly, before continuing her massage. "It is a pleasant duty, mam’selle."
"Would I not also find it pleasant? To touch you as you touch me?"
"You should not speak of such things, mam’selle. Just relax and be content for a while."
"I could order you…" Suzette started but let the thought drift as the pleasure built to a higher level. It was difficult to carry on a conversation like this!
"You could. A servant's body is not her own. This is one of my earliest memories. I beg you though, do not. This is something special between us."
Suzette remained silent, now far too gone in her pleasure to speak further. Marie continued to massage Suzette's swollen clitoris, her deft, well-practiced fingers retracing well traveled paths. Suzette's back arched as she pressed further back into Marie, her hips rising into Marie's fingers.
The orgasm was silent, as Suzette's body shuddered in Marie's arms. The only betrayals of Suzette's pleasure were the ragged gasps and ever-so-soft whimpers.
"There," Marie said with a satisfied smile as Suzette relaxed in her arms. "Now you'll be fresh and ready to greet a new day tomorrow," she said as she retrieved the towel and wiped away the evidence of Suzette's pleasure.
"And you? Will the night see you meet it alone again?" Suzette asked.
"I would not disturb my Lady again. The journey has been long and I forget both myself and the lack of privacy."
Suzette turned her head to look up at Marie, "Do you think Lord Canelli will be half so gentle?"
Marie sighed. "No mam’selle, I do not believe he will."
Suzette's hand reached back and gently traced Marie's cheekbone with her knuckle. "Let me return the favor." Her voice trembled slightly.
"The last time I lay with a woman, I was young, as you are young now. We were caught by the master of servants. For our crime I was beaten into unconsciousness. I never saw my lover again. Should anyone see us, I am merely a maid washing her Lady. No harm may come of that."
Compassion welled in Suzette's eyes at the sorrow on Marie's face and the loss in her voice.
"The lock is strong and none will dare disturb us."
Marie shook herself free of her thoughts and gazed into Suzette's eyes. "What we have is enough." Then Marie laughed lightly. "And I think it is not me you desire so much as a night without your belt."
Suzette smiled despite herself and her melancholy mood. Marie always could make her laugh and feel better, and now, as the great ship made its way to her new home, things were little different.
With a resigned sigh, Suzette allowed Marie to refit the chastity belt around her waist.
Suzette and Marie appeared on the deck, curious as to the commotion. The sun was high in the sky though it was still morning. During the day, the deck was usually full of life and vigor as men ran to-and-fro, adjusting a rope or a sail, but this morning a tension lurked behind their activities. Gone was the ordinary chatter that always seemed to fill the deck, instead grim purpose filled the movement of the men.
Spying the ladies on the deck, the portly captain rushed over to them.
"Ladies! I must insist that you return to your quarters immediately and remain there until you are called!"
"What is going on?" Lady Suzette asked, suddenly nervous at the Captain's nervousness.
"A ship appears on the horizon and has declared her colors black."
"Black?" Lady Suzette asked, confused.
"Pirates." The captain said, his face folding into a worried frown.
"Oh dear!" Lady Suzette said, feeling her knees suddenly grow weak.
"Fear not, Lady. This is a good ship and a good crew. We shall see you safely to Italy. But you must return to your cabin now. It will not be safe on deck!"
Suzette nodded and the ladies returned to the cabin.
The first few minutes were spent in terrified silence, but it soon became apparent that the fighting, if there was to be any fighting, would not happen anytime soon. The morning droned on in terrifying boredom and then again into the afternoon. Suddenly much shouting could be heard on the deck and the ship shuddered as a loud crashing sound rumbled through the ship.
The women held each other as they sat on the bunk, too terrified for words as the sounds of steel upon steel rang out. For an hour the sounds of steel rang out, rising and falling in a grim symphony of life and death. Then the sounds of panic, fear, excitement, and the ringing of steel became intermittent, and it seemed that finally there was an end to it. But which end, neither of the women could say.
Suddenly there was a loud banging on the door.
"Open up!" A gruff voice cried. "Open up, I say, or I'll break it down!"
Swallowing hard and with fear in her eyes Suzette turned and nodded slowly to Marie. Suzette rose to her feet as Marie opened the door.
Standing in the doorway was an impossibly ugly man whose face was a patchwork of sun-ravaged scars. He looked both ladies up and down, his mouth forming a lewd grin that revealed many missing and rotting teeth.
"In here, Cap'n!" he shouted.
The ugly man stepped aside as a very large man appeared. At first Suzette was relieved because he did not look like a pirate, and there was hope that he was merely a member of the crew she had missed. But the man had called him Cap'n, and as she watched him studying her, she realized she could never have missed a man like this.
He was at least a head taller than her with very broad shoulders. His muscles were taut and well defined under his golden sun-bronzed skin. His tunic was parted down to the center of his powerful chest, revealing a large angry red cut, which still welled with blood. She was taken aback again as her eyes rose to his face. His skin was smooth and shaven, revealing a powerful jaw that was somehow highlighted by his long golden hair. Here was a man of undeniable stature and authority, and that assessment was confirmed as she gazed into his sea blue eyes and felt the power of his gaze upon her.
"Lady Gaston. I am Captain Jack and you, madam, are my prisoner."
With those words, Suzette's dire situation crashed around her. Time stretched and bent as darkness closed in around her.
"See to it she's brought safely to my cabin." Captain Jack said to the seaman beside him. "And not one hand where it should not be or you'll swim back to port."
"Aye-Aye, Cap'n," the seaman muttered. "And her?" he asked, pointing at Marie.
"She's worthless to us. Leave her here." He considered the shaking maid a moment. "Inform the prize crew that when this ship reaches port, she's to be put ashore safely, and I expect her to be well treated."
The look of disappointment on the man's face was almost comical.
Suzette groaned and opened her eyes. Instantly she remembered what had happened, and fear welled in her like molten lava. Hesitantly she felt her waist, feeling the hard metal through the fabric. She gave a mental sigh at that. For the first time in her life, she felt grateful for having the belt.
Gingerly she sat up and surveyed her surroundings. The room reminded her of the Captain's quarters, though it was different enough to convince her she was no longer aboard the "Brise de Mer."
The door opened and Captain Jack strode in. His gait carried the same sense of power and authority that surrounded his physique and, as she had felt the first time she saw him, Suzette felt awe at that sense of purpose.
"You're awake," he said noncommittally. "I was beginning to wonder if you would sleep the rest of the passage home."
"Why have you taken me? Where is Marie?" Suzette asked quickly, her voice high with fear.
"I've taken you for ransom. Your dowry made a nice down payment, but your father is a wealthy man and your marriage will enhance his power. I believe he will pay generously for your return. I assume Marie is your maid? This is not a passenger ship. I'll put up with one woman who will make me money but I'll not put up with two."
"Then your intentions are honorable?" Suzette asked incredulously.
Jack laughed uproariously at that. Despite the terror of her capture, Suzette felt the infectious nature of that laugh, and her frown became less severe.
"There is no honor in loot and pillaging, _Lady_ Gaston. But you need not fear for your virtue. I will not have by force what I can have freely given." His tone was mocking but his eyes twinkled as if he had just issued a challenge.
"Is this to be my cell, then?" Suzette asked, straightening her dress.
"Unless you would prefer to bunk with the crew." The way his lip curled into an amused smile indicated that he found the idea funny.
"I think not." Suzette answered, trying to sound like a Lady again instead of a terrified girl. "I assume you've taken other quarters."
Again that superior smile. "You assume wrongly. This may be _your_ cell, but it is _my_ cabin."
Suzette's demeanor was shattered as her mouth opened and closed in shock. "But you said my virtue…!"
"Your virtue will remain however your want your virtue to remain. A cot will be set up in here which you may use if you wish, or you may sleep on the floor. But when night falls I will be in _my_ room, in _my_ bed."
Suzette huffed angrily, folding her arms. "This is not at all proper! I am engaged to be married!"
Captain Jack chuckled lightly. "Ah yes. Lord Canelli, a mousy little man I believe you will dislike at first sight and definitely at first smell. Proper or not, this is the only place fit to store a _Lady_ of your station and rank. If people ask about it later on, lie."
"Lie?" Suzette asked, as if the thought would never occur to her.
"Tell them how you had your own room and were treated with the utmost respect and courtesy, why it was almost like being home! Or tell them how you were savaged by the men. How your beauty lit the fire of lust that drove those awful pirates to take your virtue." Jack chuckled at this. "Depending on the company you are in of course."
"You sir, are no gentleman!" Suzette said angrily.
"You're right," Jack said with a twinkle in his eye. "I'm a privateer."
Suzette was about to say more when there was a knock at the door.
"That would be dinner. I expect you'll find the food here more palatable than your last ship. I find loyalty is more easily bought at sea with warm food than with cold coin. Come!"
Several men appeared, and after briefly glancing at Suzette, hurried to set the table. As the meal became visible, Suzette did indeed have to admit that it looked far more appetizing than the fare aboard the ""Brise de Mer"."
"You seem to know much about me." Suzette said as she took her seat. "First my name, then my fiance."
"We do not roam the seas on chance alone, Lady Gaston. I have a lover in the French court who loves to chatter about the gossip of the day as she lays in my arms. And so when a ship sets sail with interesting cargo, I know about it and can plan my attacks accordingly."
The man's casual vulgarity disturbed Suzette greatly but she resolved not to take the bait. He may have been impressive, but every word that dropped from his mouth proved he was not her equal. She suddenly felt grateful for his vulgarity, grateful because it did remind her that he was beneath her, grateful because otherwise… She let the matter drop, disturbed at where the thought was taking her.
"And you have not been caught?"
Jack laughed. "Obviously not! A privateer's reward for being caught is the headsman's axe."
"If it is so dangerous why do you persist?"
Jack considered her for a moment as if deciding how to answer before replying, "It's not the money. I've more coin now than half the lords of the land. Nor even the charming company of ladies I intend to ransom. I love the sea. I love the freedom of setting a course and going where I wish."
Suddenly Suzette became afraid all over again, because wrapped up in a very attractive package was a man who had everything she had ever dreamed of.
The rest of the delicious dinner was spent in silence. Jack seemed comfortable with the silence. Suzette was grateful for it as she tried to keep the fact that Jack had abducted her firmly fixed in her mind. She did not want to like this man, and she was more than a little afraid that she could like him.
Jack gave her some privacy after the meal had been cleared away for her to wash and tend to the calls of nature. Her initial gratefulness for her chastity belt however, soon turned to dismay as she realized the difficulty that would be involved in tending her needs. Marie had the key, and Marie was not with her.
Tears welled to her eyes as she thought about Marie. Jack had not said if she were alive or dead -- perhaps she was alive alone on a ship adrift at sea and as good as dead. The pain of not knowing, and of Marie's absence hardened Suzette's heart, and she chided herself for even allowing herself the possibility of seeing Jack as human. The man was a monster!
After much discomfort, Suzette finished her task and Jack was true to his word as he had a cot brought in for her. It was not as comfortable as the Captain's bed, nor her own bed aboard the "Brise de Mer," but she was tired and upset and soon drifted off to a restless sleep.
Suzette woke up with the deck lurching below her. Loud thunder boomed in the distance and bright flashes of light would light the room brightly for a moment, only to leave a haunting imprint moments later. Jack was nowhere to be seen. No doubt in the storm, he had left to take charge of his ship.
A sense of wrongness flooded Suzette's awareness. She felt ill, much as she had the first few days aboard the "Brise de Mer." As the ship lurched again, fighting the angry waves, her illness grew until even death itself seemed preferable to living in such misery. Eventually, she slid into a fevered sleep.
When she woke again, the floor was at least steady, though she felt terribly weak. Jack was sitting on a wooden chair next to her, and she discovered to her surprise, that she was in his bed. Dark thoughts flooded her mind as she reached down to feel the metal around her. She was surprised at how much effort it took to do such a simple thing, and was further surprised at the sudden discomfort in her nether regions.
"You're awake!" Jack said as he retrieved a wet cloth and began to dab her forehead.
Suzette started to protest, but in addition to being too weak for words, the cool cloth against her fiery forehead was comforting.
"You gave me quite a scare. You've been in fevered sleep for the day. At times I feared you would never wake again."
She was too weak to think of anything save the tenderness of his voice and the note of genuine concern. If she were stronger, she would see that concern as concern for the reward money, but right now there was only a cold cloth on hot skin and a soothing voice as she drifted off to sleep again.
Suzette pushed the tray away, unable to eat or drink anything else, though she had to insist, and strongly at that, before Jack believed her. Though she was still weak from her illness, things were much better today. As Jack removed the tray, Suzette swung her legs around and put them unsteadily on the floor.
"You should stay in bed. If you had seen yourself a few days ago, you would offer yourself the same advice," Jack chided her gently.
"I'm a grown woman, and I need to wash and compose myself," she said resolutely.
Suddenly she became aware of a disturbing fact. She did not need a wash as badly as three days in a sick fever would demand. A slow blush crept up her neck to her cheeks, a blush of embarrassment and anger.
Jack looked away sheepishly. It was the first time she had ever seen him when he did not look as if he could command the forces of nature.
"I could not leave you to lie in your own filth, nor would I trust my men to do what needed to be done."
As disturbing as the admission was, Suzette could find no fault with his logic.
"Well, I'm up and about now. I'll tend my own needs."
"Of course. But do take things easy. You've had a rough time of it."
He set a bucket of water and a towel next to her before bowing slightly and leaving the room. Suzette's eyes never left him until the door was closed, and her blush only deepened as she considered the predicament while she undressed.
"If he had brought Marie along, it would not have been necessary," she thought grimly.
As she ran the towel across her arms though, she remembered Jack's worried face above hers, and the gentle way he would press the wet towel to her flesh. Why was it so hard to hate him? As she washed herself she was sure a part of her knew the answer to that question, but stubbornly she resisted the answers.
Suzette was playing a game of solitaire when Jack re-entered the cabin later that afternoon.
"Are you feeling better, Lady Gaston?"
"Much. Whatever it was has passed."
"Then perhaps you would like to accompany me to the deck. You have been too long in this stuffy cabin; the fresh sea air will complete your recovery."
"I think I'd like that, and I would not mind seeing a pirate crew. One hears such tales."
Jack laughed. "They are as any other crew. I imagine you will be most disappointed."
Suzette stood and then paused a moment, a look of deep thought on her face before she offered her arm to Jack. He smiled gallantly and took her arm in his.
Once they reached the deck, Suzette immediately saw that Jack had been right. The crew of this pirate ship looked no different from the crew on the "Brise de Mer."
"The man pulling the hoist is Jim Croft. He has a wife back in port and three children. Working for me, he makes three times what he'd make on another ship. The man on the yardarm is Ed Hawkins, he's been with me since before he could shave. He's no wife yet, but he's young still and has too much fun with the women in port to settle down yet anyway."
"And you?" Suzette asked. "Are you also having too much fun with the women in port, or should I say women in court?"
Jack laughed. "I'll not deny I have a spot of pleasure in port. But no woman has claimed me yet."
"By her choice or yours?" Suzette asked pointedly.
"Maybe a spot of both." Jack admitted as he led her to the railing.
"Do you know Lord Canelli?" Suzette asked.
"I met him at an embassy ball a few years ago."
"What was he like?"
"Annoying, rude, arrogant. We spoke very little but I'm a good judge of character. And smell. The man was foul."
"You do not give me much hope for my future." Suzette said glumly.
"Your average man or woman has a miserable lot in life, but every time I see a lord or lady, I marvel at how they have managed to contrive rules to bring misery to themselves. But this…," he swept his arm about the open seas, "this is true freedom."
"If my father does not pay your ransom, what will become of me?"
Jack pursed his lips and thought a moment. "After a suitable amount of time I would take your dowry as ransom and set you free. I bear you no ill-will."
"Maybe I would be better off working off my ransom aboard your ship. Us nobles being so miserable and all."
Jack laughed uproariously. "I would not have you! I could not have you! The men are fresh out of port and we have only been at sea a short time. They are fresh and contented now but often we are at sea for months on end. No order of mine could protect you then."
"Why, as we walked on deck, you made them seem so wholesome!" Suzette said.
Jack laughed again. "They are men and have needs! Just as women have needs."
Suzette blushed. "I know not what you mean."
This time, Jack's laugh was so loud it drew stares from the nearby crewmen.
"Do not play the innocent with me, dear Lady. I grew up in a house full of sisters and aunts. I know the heart and desires of women, and whatever your kind would have us believe, those desires are no less than those of men."
"You delude yourself!" Suzette protested, appalled at the conversation, yet also thrilled at the dangerous sense of freedom. A Lady simply did not discuss such things and especially with a man! It was part of the same rules that said she must marry an arrogant, rude, smelly Italian Lord who was three times her senior.
In answer, Jack took her hand in his, running his fingers through hers, and pressed the back of her hand against his bare chest so she could feel the beating of his heart. He lowered his head to hers, and as he pressed his cheek next to hers, he whispered in a low hushed voice, "Does this do nothing for you? Feel you no need? No desire? Knowing my heart beats for you, your flesh against mine, tell me a woman has no desires."
Suzette couldn't answer. Confusion at what he was doing melted away into the overpowering nearness of him, of the sensation of her hand against his chest, his cheek against her cheek, his hot breath against her ear, the low lusty timbre of his voice. Confusion stayed her protest at first, but it was that magical moment that stayed her voice at the second.
Jack pulled back with a very wide smile on his face, as if he had just won some private bet. "You see? Women also lust."
"You…!" Suzette said aghast. "You…! You…! OHHH!" And as she stormed off back to the cabin, the sound of Jack's laughter haunted her.
Slamming the door on her return she slumped down on the bed and cried.
Though he had tried to engage her in conversation over dinner, Suzette ignored him. Yet through it all, she warred with herself. She was quite sure she hated him, yet at the same time there was something else there as well. Something very uncomfortable to her.
Jack had given her his bunk again this night, something which she was grateful for. The cot, while serviceable, was hardly as comfortable as the bunk.
"I am sorry for the game I played on deck today." Jack said in the dark stillness. "Sometimes when I determine to prove myself right, I don't think of others."
Suzette turned over in bed to face the wall and said nothing as the ship gently rocked her to sleep.
Suzette sat in the shade on deck the next day, breathing in the fresh air and watching the men at work. And it was work -- hard, backbreaking work. The task of keeping the sails properly trimmed and angled required constant diligence.
"Beggin' your pardon, Mum," a gravely voice said.
Suzette looked up and spied the man who had found her back on the "Brise de Mer." In the harsh sunlight he seemed no less ugly now than he had then. Life had not treated this man kindly at all.
"It's my break, and I was wonderin' if I might share the shade with you for a spell."
Mentally Suzette grimaced, but with all the poise and dignity afforded her station, she smiled and replied, "I would be honored to share your company for a while."
"I ain't met no Ladies b'for Mum, so don't get all fussy if I say something 'taint 'propriate."
This time Suzette's smile was genuine at the man's concern for her sensibilities. The man sat down near to her, but not so near as to cause her any concern.
"I'm glad you decided to visit a while." Suzette said soothingly. "I've been meaning to ask if anyone knows what became of my maid."
"We left 'er on the Breeze, we did. Cap’n said no room for 'er 'ere."
"Do you think she'll be OK?"
The man rubbed the stubble on his jaw as he thought a moment. "Should be Mum. We left an able crew onboard to sail 'er to a friendly port for the selling and the Cap’n ordered she be treated well."
Suzette let out a deep sigh of relief. "I am so happy to hear that! She was a very dear friend."
"The Cap’n's a fair man. Don't kill where 'e don't 'ave to."
Suzette turned to gaze at Jack, watching as he gave orders to a nearby crewman. "Would you call him a good man? For a pirate, I mean."
"I'd call him a good man by any measure, Mum. Man o' honor he is, and more gentleman than any noble."
"I don't know too many gentlemen that go around killing and stealing." Suzette said dryly.
"Oh sure ya do, mum!" The man laughed. "They're called the King's tax collectors!"
Despite herself, Suzette found herself smiling along with the man.
"If we were so close to Italy when you captured me, why have we been at sea for so long?"
"Our port 'taint in Italy, Mum. We're making our way back to England, we are."
Suzette was about to ask another question when "Ship-Ho!" sounded from the crow’s nest.
All activity on the ship ceased as all eyes and ears turned to the horizon.
"Spanish Black!" was the cry that followed.
"Is that bad?" Suzette asked her companion, already knowing the answer from the look of worry on the man's face.
"Yes'um. Black be pirates. But no Spaniard has any love for the English. We're just another ship to them. There'll be fightin' 'fore the day's over, you mark my words."
Jack began to bark out orders and the pace of the crew picked up even more. Suzette stayed in the shade as their ship tried to outrun their enemies.
The man rejoined her a few hours later, and amazingly, Suzette found he looked even worse when he was tired.
"Why is it taking so long?"
"We're using the same wind, mum. This is the fastest English ship ever made, but the Spaniards know a few more tricks than we do. Their ship is bigger, but it's also faster, but not much faster."
"So they'll catch us?"
The man nodded grimly.
As the day wore on, the mast of the approaching ship grew ever taller. Fascinated and terrified, Suzette stayed in her private area, unnoticed by all save the ugly man, who occasionally paused to rest nearby.
"'e'll give the order to turn soon." the man said.
"Aren't we trying to get away from them?"
The man shrugged. "Can't. The only thing we can do is pick the time of the fight."
"Will you be fighting?"
"Yes'um. I'd better go. The second's done talkin' with the Cap’n and there'll be orders to carry out."
"What's your name?" Suzette asked as the man turned to leave.
"William, mum. But everyone calls me Bill."
"Thank you for talking with me, Bill."
The man blushed and made a very awkward bow before turning and joining the controlled chaos around him.
Jack turned the ship sharply, and within minutes the Spanish masts dominated the horizon. Every man had a sword and several had longbows. Suzette knew she should return to the cabin and await the outcome, but she couldn't go back and wait blindly as she had the last time.
Shouts roared in her ear as the two ships banged against each other. She saw several men on the enemy ship fall to arrows in their chests, and several men on her own ship fall to a similar fate. Steel rang on steel as the Spaniards tried to cross the gangplanks.
A loud ripping sound could be heard above her, and Suzette gasped as she saw five Spaniards falling down the great sails, using their knives to slow their progress. They were met instantly by the Englishmen, and Suzette gasped as she saw one of those men was Jack.
Three of the Englishmen were holding their own, if barely. Jack was faring well, but the fifth was obviously in trouble. The other men were too busy fending off the attackers at the planks to worry at the battle behind them.
The fifth Englishman thrust wildly and lost his balance. The mistake quickly earned him a sword through the gullet. Suzette turned her head in horror as a dark red stain formed around the stricken man. The fifth Spaniard was now free to roam the deck, but before he could cause any harm, Jack, still parrying his opponent, pulled a knife from his belt and sent it sailing into the Spaniard's heart.
The distraction cost him, as his opponent used the opportunity to score a painful hit on Jack's throwing arm. Jack cried out and just barely managed to avoid dropping his sword before recovering enough to parry a second swing. Bleeding profusely, Jack parried blow after savage blow as color began to drain from his face.
Jack's opponent grinned as he sensed the advantage and made a powerful killing thrust. Jack sidestepped it, though not enough to avoid injury, and countered with a thrust of his own. As the Spaniard’s sword struck Jack's side, Jack's sword ran true and skewered his opponent's heart. With a disbelieving look on his face, the Spaniard could only stare at Jack as he collapsed onto the deck.
Jack remained on his feet, if weakly, and moved to meet another Spaniard. Suzette could plainly see that Jack was just barely holding his own as his life's blood continued to pour from the gash in his arm and side. Suzette stood and picked up a nearby bucket. It wasn't much of a weapon, but it was the only thing at hand. She strode over to the fight, and with a mighty heave, brought the bucket down on the Spaniard's head. It was enough of an opening for Jack to dispatch the pirate.
For a few seconds Jack remained on his feet. The sounds of battle raged around him. He gritted his teeth and took a step, but with the second step he faltered and collapsed onto the deck.
Suzette cried out, amazed and frightened at how much blood he was losing. Two men locked in heated battle came within five paces of her, and suddenly she feared for her own safety as much as Jack's. Steeling herself for the labor, she began to drag him back towards his cabin. Both of them had had enough of fighting for the day.
The trip back to the safety of the cabin seemed longer than it really was, mostly from Jack's weight and Suzette's fear. It took most of her strength to get him in the cabin and bolt the door; it took all of her strength to get him onto the bed. But exhausted as she was, she could not afford to rest.
Not if she wanted him to live.
But now was not the time for questions. With each passing second, more and more color drained from Jack's face and he was already whiter than the sheets on which he lay. Quickly, she retrieved a knife from a nearby weapons rack and turned some of the cot's bedding into tourniquets.
She had no skill at this. Nothing in her life had prepared her for so much blood. But she applied the tourniquets as best she could to staunch the bleeding, and though blood wormed its way through the fabric, the torrent did seem to slow.
Now she could only wait.
Suzette was dozing when a knock on the door awakened her. Jack was still, and white as death, though breathing shallowly as she went to the door. Taking a deep breath and preparing herself for the worst, she opened the door and saw Bill standing there!
"Is it over?" She asked.
"Yes'um. The Captain?"
"Alive." Her eyes darted to Jack and then quickly back. "Barely."
Bill nodded. "We beat them an' it was a glorious fight, but the toll be high. The Cap’n's the only one left alive that c'n steer us 'ome."
Suzette swallowed and nodded, acutely aware of the charge that had just been lain upon her.
A full day passed as Suzette cared for her patient, changing his bandages, washing his wounds, and forcing him to drink. On the morning of the second day, the strong stench of urine told her the price of his drinking. For a moment she considered calling for Bill, but then stopped.
He had cleaned her. It seemed only fair.
And she was curious. Her mother had told her what to expect, but she had never exactly seen a man before.
With sudden resolve, she began to undress him, and as she did so, she realized that maybe she did not have cause to blush at what Jack had done for her. As she pulled down his trousers to reveal his manhood, she noted how it might be used as her mother had described, but it was only a small thought.
He was so helpless now. Two days ago he could order men to their deaths and now he was a shell.
The sight of him did not evoke desire. Only worry.
Suzette opened the door expecting to see Bill bringing her some new supplies. In this terrible time, the ugly little man had become a constant, always looking in on them, always seeing to their needs. He was ugly only in body, and Suzette had found much to like about him.
It was not Bill at the door though, but another man that she had not met before. He was almost as tall as Jack, and almost as powerfully built, but he carried none of the authority Jack did, what he did carry seemed menacing. Without a word, he brushed her aside, went over, and stared down at Jack.
"He does not seem healthy." The man said as if to himself.
"He's getting better," Suzette said resolutely, trying to make him believe it as much as herself. She got the impression that much would depend on how much this man believed.
The man bent down and poked Jack lightly, as if trying to wake him from slumber. His eyes narrowed in thought as he noted Jack's lack of response and shallow breathing.
The man turned and faced Suzette. "If this is better, then surely he must have been in death's arms."
Suzette remained quiet as the man stared at her, and shifted uncomfortably as his considering look raised the dark specter of fear in her thoughts.
"So you're the Lady we're going to ransom off. No wonder the Captain's kept you hidden away. I'll bet the two of you have had a spot of fun."
Suzette raised her chin defiantly. "He's been perfectly honorable."
The man walked forward and took her chin in his fingers.
Laughing, he said, "Oh that's our Captain all right." He looked over at Jack a moment. "But no one can command from his deathbed…" He let the thought drift.
Suzette slapped away the man's hand. "Leave."
The man sneered and took another step forward, pressing Suzette back up against the wall. His hand pressed against her bosom, working his hand as he gauged the bounty hidden beneath her clothes.
Suzette slapped him, appalled and terrified at what was happening.
The man's head turned with her slap, and when he looked back at her, hatred raged in his eyes as an angry red welt appeared on his face.
"I will command this ship. I will command you," he hissed as he ripped her dress, exposing her bare breasts to his eyes.
Suzette raised her hand to slap him again, but before she could, he caught her wrist and wrenched it painfully until she cried out from the pain.
His free hand slipped down her torso until he felt the cold metal of her belt. Frowning in frustration, he seemed rocked by indecision.
Then he grinned.
"No. I'm sure Daddy would want his little girl returned intact. But there are other things."
Her wrist still twisted painfully, he lowered her hand to his groin and pressed her into him.
Fear raged in Suzette's eyes.
With his free hand, the man let loose his trousers and pressed her hand against his inflamed flesh. He pushed her down to her knees until the angry thing filled her vision. Instinctively, she grasped what it was that he wanted. And almost as quickly, she resolved that if he forced himself upon her she would bite. She would bite hard, whatever the costs.
Suddenly the man tensed, his grip on her becoming loose, and she fell back.
"If you leave now," Jack's voice rasped painfully, "you will only have to scrub the decks for the rest of the voyage until I can put you ashore. If you do not leave now, you never will."
"Ahhh! Captain! I was just checking on you…"
"Your concern is touching." Jack interrupted sarcastically. "But I do not see you leaving."
Holding his trousers up with one hand the man stumbled quickly out of the room. The sword Jack was holding tumbled to the floor, and he sat wearily on the bed before collapsing again into unconsciousness.
Fearfully, Suzette bolted the door then slumped against it as she panted for breath.
Suzette woke to see Jack leaning on his elbow, staring at her. The first rays of morning were just beginning to light the world outside the window.
"I seem to be naked."
"It was easier than constantly changing you and washing your clothes. The men that remain are needed to keep the ship going, not washing your dirty linens." Suzette said, refusing to be embarrassed.
"How is it that we can know each other so well, yet have never tasted each other's kiss?"
"How is it you can be so vulgar just hours off your deathbed?"
Jack laughed weakly then sat up. Suzette watched him as he dressed.
"At least you are speaking to me. I am glad for that."
Suzette didn't know what to say to that, and by the time she had a reply, Jack had finished dressing and had left the room.
He returned at lunch, looking weak and tired, but he had regained some of his poise and demeanor.
"Not as bad as I feared. But bad enough. If there are no storms we'll make it back safe enough, but a powerful norther will surely test us to our breaking point. The crew kept a northerly course, but we've drifted and that will add another day and a half to our journey."
"Sounds like you've been busy." Suzette said.
"I have. There's much to do."
"Well, you've done all you're going to do for a few hours. I insist you get some rest."
"_I_ run this ship," Jack said.
"And _I_ say you need some rest. You're looking better, but you're also looking very tired and very weak."
Jack smiled lightly, "I feel very tired and weak. But I can't let that stop me. The crew needs me to keep things running smoothly and to hold our course, and in that way you need me as well."
He rose, dropping his napkin on his plate and strode to the door. He paused for a second before turning and saying, "But I'm touched by your concern."
Suzette ground her teeth as the door closed, barely keeping a reign on the cold fury that consumed her thoughts.
Jack did not return until dusk, managing only to make it as far as his bed before he collapsed in slumber.
"Fool!" Suzette thought as she pulled the blankets over him. "Stubborn, pigheaded, arrogant fool." But beneath her disdain lurked a sneaking admiration at the way he had put the needs of his crew above his own.
The weak light of sunrise cast the room in a warm gentle glow as they made ready to face the new day the next morning.
"Have you ever loved a woman?" Suzette asked.
"As often as I can!" Jack's eyes twinkled with delight.
Suzette frowned. "No, I mean really loved a woman."
Jack grew serious. "I did once. Long ago, when I was a young serf in love with my Lord's daughter. When the Lord discovered that we had been spending time together, he sent me to London, where he thought I would die on the streets. But I resolved to make a place for myself in the world so that I could earn enough money for the Lord to consider me a suitor for his daughter’s hand. When I finally thought I had enough money, I returned to find she had been married off -- a political marriage like yours."
Suzette sighed. "At least you knew love. It's something I wish for but know I'll never have."
A short silence passed between them before Jack got up from the table and sat beside Suzette on her bed. A lone fingertip traced gently along her cheek as he lifted her head to his.
"And if you knew love, would it be as gentle as this touch, as sweet as this kiss?" he asked before lowering his head to hers, letting his lips press softly against hers.
As he pulled back, Suzette stiffened and looked away.
"You toy with me again."
Again the lightest of touches turned her to him.
"On the deck that day, I told you a woman has desires. But do you forget so easily that men have them as well? Do you think I could hold a woman as beautiful as you in my arms, and not feel the same desires you feel?""
"But is desire love? When we are home safely, you will return to your lady of the court, and I will return to do my duty. Where is the love in that?"
Jack took her hand and raised it to his cheek. "Deny to me that your blood does not run hot at our touch, and I shall leave this room without hesitation."
Suzette looked down. "Were it mine to give at this moment, I would deny you nothing. Whether it be from love or lust, I cannot say. But it is not mine to give."
"Your belt." Jack said as his head slumped.
"To insure my virtue and protect me from my lust."
Jack stood and walked over to his chest. After a bit of rummaging he returned with a small metal tool.
"The streets of London are a harsh taskmaster. It takes many skills to survive there, and the street urchin that can not pick a lock usually goes hungry." His grin was broad.
Without asking, he knelt on the floor and lifted her dress. Suzette felt awkwardness and discomfort at his position. She reminded herself again that he had already seen her in far more intimate ways than this. Never the less, when the still smiling Captain extracted himself from her dress, holding an open lock in a crooked finger, Suzette knew the moment had passed. From the look on her face, Jack realized this as well.
With a sigh he handed her the lock and left to begin the day.
Suzette trembled as she looked at the lock in her hands. She no longer denied that she liked Jack, even cared for him. But how far she had been willing to let him go shocked her. Where it not for that infernal contraption, she might…
She might have known the true pleasures of his touch. The feel of his skin on hers. His lips against hers. The lock slipped from her hand and tumbled to the floor.
For the rest of the morning she debated what to do about her suddenly unsecured belt.
Dinner was spent in awkward silence. And they both felt the momentum had been lost. Suzette didn't know whether to be disappointed or relieved. Her practical side reminded her that Jack was a dangerous man, who lived by his own rules, a man who had known many lovers and would probably know many more after her. But the part of her that dreamed, that yearned for the freedom Jack had in abundance, the part of her that admired his spirit, his confidence, his authority, and yes, his rugged good looks; that part of her was falling in love. He excited her. He terrified her.
"Why don't you come on deck with me a while." Jack said. It was both a command and invitation.
"Where is everyone?" Suzette asked as they got up on deck.
"Below. Asleep. They've each been doing the work of two or three men. With this calm, I sent them off to rest."
Only when he mentioned it, did Suzette notice how calm the air was. As they neared the rail, she saw the full moon reflected off an ocean as flat as glass.
"It's lovely," she said
"Yes. But the calm brings the storm which follows. You get a feel for the weather out here, so close to it."
"Do you think we'll make it?"
Jack shrugged. "We can only do our best and let God decide if that's good enough."
"I cannot believe that so little time has passed since I last stood on a deck like this, on a night like this, Marie by my side, chiding me for dreaming like a girl instead of a Lady."
"Dreams of love?"
"Dreams of freedom. With freedom, even love is possible."
Jack grasped her shoulders and turned her to him. He said with more force than he intended, "I was born a Serf to live and die at the whim of my Lord. I was cast out to be a beggar on the streets of the city to live and die at the mercy of strangers. Nothing worth having is ever given, it must be taken. Wanting isn't enough. We all want. It's only when you want something bad enough to reach out and take it, that you get what you want."
Suzette pulled away. "It's different for you. You're a man. Don't talk to me of taking. It's a man’s world and women can only try to make the best of that world."
Jack laughed. "If I were you, I would have run away. I would have taken a fistful of jewelry, enough to live on for awhile, and run away. Then you could seek out happiness. Oh, there'd be no servants, no pretty clothing. You wouldn't be a Lady anymore, but you would be free, not on your way to marry Lord Canelli."
"Would it really be that easy?" Suzette asked, her voice breaking. "To turn your back on everyone you've ever known, the only life you've ever known, to flee to a life even the servants are afraid of?"
"No. It wouldn't be easy. But it is an option. You might have failed. But you might have succeeded. Was it any easier when you stepped on that ship knowing that if you ever returned home it would be at the sufferance of a man you did not know?"
Jack turned her around to face him again and lost himself in her eyes as he said, "You are a beautiful woman, but you are also a smart woman. Beauty could take you far, but your intelligence will take you farther. There's nothing in this world you can't have, if you just reach out and take it."
"Why didn't you take your love?"
"She was married."
"Does love stop that easily?"
Jack sighed. "No. But it does fade. I did seek her out, but she was no longer the girl I remembered."
After a short silence he added, "You very much remind me of her."
When he took her in his arms, she felt herself grow weak, as she had that morning, allowing all the pleasant things from being near him overwhelm her. When he leaned in for a kiss, she responded, thrilling in the sensations of his lips pressed to hers, letting herself melt into him.
Was this love?
She pulled back and gazed into his eyes. This was surely desire. He had proven that easily enough. But was it love?
She feared the answer.
When he leaned forward again, she pushed him away gently.
"No. No more. Do not speak to me of desire and passion. I feel those things too keenly already. You play with my heart as if it were a child's toy. But it is my heart, and I cannot trust you not to break it."
"I do not share my bed with every woman I chance to meet." Jack protested smoothly.
"Though it flatters me to hear it, it changes nothing. When you look at me, I know not if you see a woman or a ransom."
Jack laughed lightly. "Why, a woman of course! A beautiful, desirable woman!"
"Yet, no doubt the women you do see fit to share your bed are beautiful and desirable. No. You have inspired my anger, my loathing, my pity, and my compassion. If I allow you to inspire me further, I do not think I would have the strength to endure our parting."
"You speak of what might be. No one may say what the morrow will bring. Happiness is a rare thing in the world and should be treasured wherever it is found."
"When the Spanish appeared on the horizon, you knew they would catch us. You knew the future then, just as I know it now."
Jack's eyes probed her, testing her resolve. Finding it firm, his eyes narrowed in a brief flash of anger for a moment, but it passed quickly. His shoulders slumped in disappointment.
"We should retire. The morning will come quickly."
"I should like to stay awhile on deck. The stars are lovely, and I would like some time with my thoughts."
Jack nodded and strode away as Suzette turned to face the heavens, lost in her tumultuous thoughts.
She was so absorbed that she did not hear Bill approach or call out to her. She jumped when he put his hand on her shoulder.
"Sorry Mum, didn't mean ta startl' ya." he said as he quickly removed his hand.
"It's all right, Bill. I was just surprised."
"I comes ta see if you're alright Mum. Ya looked kinda sad up 'ear all alone an' all."
"Maybe a little sad." Suzette said.
"If it's about ol' Jeremy, don't you put no mind in him. Cap’n set him right straight, he did." Bill chuckled.
"The man in the cabin?" Suzette asked. In all that had happened, she had forgotten to inquire of the man.
"Yes'um. Cap’n sent him on a short walk to the sea once 'e got the full story. Good riddance, too. Always was a trouble maker, that one."
Despite herself, Suzette shivered. The man had assaulted her, if Jack had not managed to wake in time… She shivered again.
"No doubt Jack disliked the man's ambition."
Bill rubbed the stubble on his beard in thought. "Don't know if’n I should say anythin' mum, but Jack's not a man to punish ambition. If’n someone gets disorderly, he'll put 'im ashore with a bag o' coins in hand and let him go ambition someone else. No mum. I think the Cap’n has an eye for you, if'n you don't mind my sayin'."
Suzette smiled shyly. "No, I don't mind you saying. I have been wondering much the same."
"He's a good man, mum. Give my life for him, I would."
"You know him well?"
"As well as any, I suppose."
"Is his lady in court pretty?"
Bill laughed uproariously at that. "'e once told me that next to 'er I would be so beautiful that women would throw themselves at my feet and beg my favors!"
"What a dreadful thing to say!"
"'bout her or me mum? I'm an ol' sea dog. I never was fair to look on and as the years pass I only get worse. Better to laugh at it than pretend I'm sumthin' I'm not. Cap’n's one of the few people that treats me like a man."
"Then there must be other women…" Suzette said, eager to change the subject.
"Not that I know of mum. As soon as we're in port, 'e's preparin' for the next trip. Only woman in 'is life is Lady Farthing and way 'e tells it, that's just work too."
"So if a woman caught his eye…" Suzette mused to herself.
"Then she's a mighty special woman, mum."
Suzette turned and smiled at him. "Thank you, Bill."
Bill looked confused a moment, but accepted her thanks.
"And what are you doing up on deck at this hour?" Suzette asked. "Jack had led me to believe that everyone was resting after a hard day's work."
"Well, tonight's dinner sat a mite heavy on me, mum. The younger fellows can handle it easy nuff, but I ain't as young as I used to be."
"Well I hope it passes quickly. I think I should turn in now, though I have enjoyed our talk."
Bill smiled and Suzette managed not to be repelled by it before she turned and walked thoughtfully back towards the cabin. Jack was asleep in his bunk when she returned. After a considering glance, she sighed and slipped into the cot.
Suzette leaned into Marie's arms as Marie's fingers deftly touched her as only she could do. This time though, Marie was unclothed, and Suzette's body pressed against her soft flesh. Hesitantly, she lowered her own hand, and Marie's legs parted in anticipation of her. Moist velvety flesh sent a tingle through Suzette as her fingers emulated Marie's motions on her own flesh.
Hesitantly, again, Suzette leaned forward and kissed Marie, glorying at the contact between them. The kiss was not like those she had shared with Jack. Always with him, there had been an insistence, a passion, a need, a lust behind those kisses. As Suzette's lips met Marie's, it was a soft thing, a tender thing. Just as Marie's touches had been: something safe, something comfortable. Could it ever be this way with a man?
The skies grew dark and thunder rumbled in the background as Suzette found herself still naked in front of Lord Canelli, her future husband. Instantly she was repulsed by him, and a foul odor assaulted her senses. Behind him stood her mother, reciting the duties of a wife to her husband.
"He will demand to touch you and this you must allow," her mother said. "If the touches pain you, then endure them. It will not last long. Think of pleasant things like the garden or a concert."
"You must do your duty." Lord Canelli said in a whining high-pitched voice. He grabbed the base of her neck and pulled her forward, pulling her face into his penis. A penis that looked exactly like the one… before Jack had saved her.
Though the skies remained dark and stormy, the terror of her future husband dissolved. Standing in the distance was Jack. Somehow, he looked larger, more imposing, more desirable than she had ever seen him before. Fleeing from the previous terror, she ran to him. He took her in his arms, soothing her. Her head rested against his chest. His strong arms wrapped around her, comforting her, soothing her, making her feel safe.
Desire coursed through her like magma, burning, searing, inevitable in its movements. She could lose herself in these arms. She gazed up into his face, that powerful face, so confident, so sure, even of this. Their lips touched. As before, there was an urgency to his kiss that spoke of need. But she realized in herself that her own responses to his kiss also spoke of such things.
This was no safe comfortable thing. Excitement, need, desires, consumed her as her flesh pressed to his. She felt the stirring of his loins against her belly and desire flashed over to lust. This was no duty. She wanted him inside her, she needed to feel him pleasure her. So close…
Jack shook her as he spoke. "Suzette?"
Suzette woke from the image of Jack's face over her to see his concerned expression hovering over her. The effect was confusing.
"You were thrashing in your sleep. I feared your dreams were not pleasant." Jack said.
It took a moment to realize the dream was over and reality had begun.
"It was not too terrible a dream." Suzette said. "I think."
"Then I am sorry for the waking. But it is morning, and the dream would have ended soon enough, I think. The sky grows dark with clouds. I fear the weather shall turn on us soon."
Suzette sighed and rose from bed.
Over breakfast, Suzette noticed Jack staring at her.
"You're staring," She rebuked lightly.
Jack shook himself as if from a trance. "Do not judge me too harshly, Lady. If I forget myself, it is only because your beauty holds me enthralled."
"When you first captured me, I was a thing beneath your notice. A means to an end. You commanded me as you would command a man just hired. You toyed with me just to prove you could do it. And now what has changed, that you are so enchanted?"
Jack thought a moment, then, as if he had reached some great decision, began to speak, "At first I did not know you. Though you should have been terrified you were arrogant, yet I found I liked your spirit. Then you fell ill and I cared for you, and in the caring I found a compassion for you. When the Spaniards attacked, you joined in the fight and carried me to safety. When Jeremy attacked you, I knew rage and jealousy. When you accepted me in the morning, I knew desire and lust, but when you refused me in the evening, I knew the pain of loss. Much has changed since you joined us, Suzette, and I am not sure that it is not I who have changed."
An intense silence followed, that was broken only when Jack got up and left to begin his day.
Though the sky was ominously dark all day, the feared storm did not materialize. Jack returned that evening, optimistic that fortune might indeed smile on them.
He was on his bunk, removing his shoes, when Suzette finally made her decision.
"Jack, you said that nothing worth having would ever happen, unless I reached out and took it."
Jack nodded as he fought with the boot.
Tentatively she reached out her hand and placed it on his chest, feeling the warm heat of his flesh against her skin. Fearfully, she asked, "Even you?"
The last boot pulled free just as she said those words, and for a stunned moment his eyes searched her face, probing, considering.
"Even me." he answered as he pulled her into his arms.
Their lips met, hesitantly at first, then with more force, more passion, more need. When Jack rested his hand on her breast, Suzette finally pulled back, her eyes never leaving his.
The mood, so fragile and easily broken earlier, was an unwavering torrent of desire within her as they undressed. Jack paused frequently to gaze at her as he removed his clothing, keeping his pace with her, for her dress was designed to frustrate moments such as this. But her desire for him sustained her. Though she had seen him before, as the last of his clothing was cast aside, she saw again as if for the very first time.
She sat on the edge of the bed, and he joined her. She expected him to lower her onto the bed, to mount her as her mother had told her. But he did not. Instead he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her anew. She melted into his arms as his lips touched hers, as his tongue tasted her, as her nipples pressed against his chest.
Lost in the pleasure of the passionate kiss, she barely felt his hand on her knee until it began to caress her, moving slowly up her thigh. He lingered at the highest part of her leg, gently pressing his fingers into her sensitive flesh.
When he parted her folds, she inhaled sharply with pleasure as his fingers explored her, as Marie had touched her. She collapsed and allowed him to hold her, support her, _touch_ her. Supported by his strength she surrendered totally to the pleasures of his kiss and his touch. When he found the spot, he caressed it in a way that was different than Marie, but was just as pleasurable.
She pulled away from the kiss, breathing deeply, as pleasure built upon pleasure. Jack lowered her to the bed as if she were a most delicate object, his fingers never losing a stroke. He stopped only when he raised himself over her, his manhood poised before her.
"This will hurt, but only for a moment."
When he saw the determination in her eyes, he pressed forward. When he filled her, the pleasures already given suddenly seemed so trivial next to this grandeur. She felt herself clench around him, pulling at him. More. Deeper. More.
He moved slowly, ever so slowly, each movement a pleasure beyond all pleasures. And then he stopped. But as quickly as he did, he let his weight fall against her and tore away the last barrier between them. Pleasure shattered around the sharp pain only to re-manifest itself. Pleasure and pain flowed together.
Jack had stopped, fully embedded within her, as he watched her carefully. Slowly he withdrew, feeling her constrict around him. Pain reasserted itself as he withdrew but only briefly. When he moved forward again, the pain became less, the pleasure became more. On the third stroke, she rose to meet him.
As he moved within her, each stroke brushing against that sensitive spot, each down-stroke filling her, completing her, her pleasure grew until it knew no bounds. She writhed under him in her orgasm, an orgasm like she had never known before, a thing which consumed her, ravished her, and left her whole and complete.
As the intense pleasure faded, it was replaced by the more gentle pleasures of feeling him as he continued to move within her, faster now as he sought his own release. Suddenly he tensed, his face grimaced as if in pain, and she felt his hot seed within her.
Gasping for breath, he lowered himself and kissed her lightly on the cheek.
In the dead of night, as they slept in one another's arms, thunder rolled in the distance.
Jack shook Suzette awake.
"The storm comes. I most go prepare the crew. Whatever you do, don't leave the cabin. The air is thick and the thunder frequent. This will be a very bad storm, and if you try to come up on deck," he paused as if the thought were too horrible to contemplate, "you might be lost to the sea."
"I'll stay in the cabin. But promise me, you'll come back safely."
"I never make promises I can't keep." Jack said. Then he turned and left her alone in the cabin, thunder rolling ominously in the background.
Suzette tried to go back to sleep, but sleep eluded her. Gradually she became aware that the gentle rocking of the ship had grown more violent. Suddenly, the ship lurched sharply as if some great hand had slapped it, and Suzette was thrown from the bunk. As she was attempting to stand, another lurch forced her back to her knees. Scared and alone, Suzette’s fear became an uncontrollable thing. The ship groaned and listed so badly, she was thrown against the far wall.
For an eternity, it seemed as if the ship would roll, the wall now almost becoming her floor, but slowly the ship righted itself. Several more times, the ship listed violently, but never as severely. And after two hours, it seemed better.
Her heart fearing the worst, Suzette huddled on the bed and waited for Jack to return.
When he did not return, she waited some more.
Finally, the door opened and Jack entered. He was soaked from head to foot, and looked as if he had just gone over a waterfall, but Suzette's heart soared at seeing him alive.
"We made it." he said, as if he didn't really believe it yet.
Suzette rushed over to him and hugged him for all she was worth. She found him returning the hug with equal vigor.
"We made it!" Jack cried, laughing as he allowed himself to believe the impossible.
He pulled away from her and walked over to the bed. He sat down, and instantly exhaustion claimed him. Tenderly, Suzette removed his wet clothes, dried him, and then joined him in slumber.
Suzette woke to find the cabin flooded in sunlight. Jack was still asleep, pressed against her back with one arm draped over her. Yet, somehow during the night he had worked himself inside her, and as she drifted in the nether region between daylight and dreams, his presence was warm, secure, and comfortable.
"What a pleasant way to wake up," she thought.
As Jack stirred to wakefulness, he whispered in her ear, "I fought the abyss itself last night, but to wake like this with you, I would fight the very legions of hell and the promise of your favor would sustain me."
Suzette sighed as she placed his hand on her breast. "Haven't you had enough fighting to last ten lifetimes? Can you ask me to give my heart to a man who dances with death every time he sets sail? Must I always wait for you, wondering if you will return to me, the way I did last night?"
His only answer was the gentle movements inside her and a long lingering kiss on her neck. As his hand cupped her breast, another hand sought out her clitoris and he began his caresses.
Suzette's worries and fears dissolved as her senses exploded into pure rapture.
"I once had a friend who told me he loved a woman so much he would die for her," Jack said softly as Suzette shuddered at his touches. "I don't think he loved her very much. I don't want to die for you. I want to live for you."
Every worry, fear, and anxiety Suzette had ever felt ceased to exist with those words, and as a dam bursts from behind its walls, the pleasure Jack gave her burst forth free from all other constraints and the world went white in pure rapture.