The Continuing Adventures of a Pirate Queen

Copyright Nene Adams 1998-1999. No portion of this publication
may be reproduced or copied without the author's permission.
 

Chapter Twenty: A Lick & a Promise

...there was a booming knock on the cabin door.

Elizabeth snatched her hand away, heart thundering in her chest, and leaped backwards as if she'd been caught red-handed at burglarly.

Mouth dry, heart pounding, suddenly covered in a sheen of nervous sweat, she swallowed and called weakly, "Who is it?"

From the other side of the door, Miguel's voice sounded hollow. "It is me, Lizzybetta. Are you decent?"

Elizabeth glanced at Graciela's naked form and whispered, "Not exactly." She couldn't believe what she'd been about to do. What kind of pervert was she, to think of molesting a helpless, injured woman? Shaking her head at the depths of her depravity and heartily ashamed, she said aloud, "A moment, please."

She picked up the filthy shirt she'd been wearing and pulled it over her head with a grimace. It stank like a dead dog in the summertime but she'd nothing else at hand.

Tossing the covers back over the sleeping Graciela, Elizabeth crossed the cabin and opened the door.

Miguel stood there with an enormous grin splitting his swarthy face. "I've a gift for you, bonita."

The maid crossed her arms over her chest. "Can it not wait until morning?" she asked. "I'm so tired..."

"I think this will please you and no, it cannot wait," Miguel offered. He stood aside, revealing a group of sweaty, muscle knotted sailors who were wrestling with a wooden tub - the same tub she'd washed Graciela in. More sailors lined the corridor, carrying buckets of steaming water.

Elizabeth blinked, wondering if she was dreaming. "Is this... I mean..." Her voice rose until it was almost a squeak. "Is this for me?"

Miguel chuckled. "Aye, bonita. What's good for the Cap'n is good for the Cap'n's sweetheart, I thought."

Elizabeth made no remark on being called Graciela's "sweetheart" and decided not to correct the nice, lovely, thoroughly wonderful man who'd organized such an effort on her behalf. A real bath! It was all she could do not to let drool slip down her chin. The warmth of shame that had possessed her dissipated beneath a glow of sheer pleasure at the thought of being clean.

It took surprisingly little time for the crewmen to roll in the tub, line it with spare sailcloth and fill it with water. Elizabeth sniffed and exclaimed in surprise; the water wasn't salt but sweet. At her questioning glance, Miguel shrugged.

"Since Cap'n's under the weather, we'll be stopping at Maldemere to load on more supplies before taking sail to the Hag's Chain," he said. His ruby eye flashed in the lantern light. "We've got a good headwind on the run down to the island so I thought we could spare you a soak."

Elizabeth squealed in absolute delight and flung her arms around the Spainiard's neck, giving him a kiss on his bristly cheek. "Thank you!" she said, voice muffled by Miguel's hair.

The first mate's skin was so brown and weathered that it was impossible for a blush to show, yet the girl was certain she saw a faint hint of color creep into his cheeks. "De nada," he replied with a dismissive wave of his hand, obviously embarrassed. "You worked very hard to save our Graciela; this is the least you deserve."

As soon as Miguel and the crewmen exited the cabin, Elizabeth tore the filthy shirt off her body and flung it out the open window, deciding on a whim to be rid of the foul thing rather than try to clean it. Wanting to soak up as much of the heat as possible, the maid took some soft soap and, standing beside the tub, scrubbed as much of the dirt off her body as she could, using a linen rag and working it into her flesh until she felt like she was glowing. Her hair was next; the luxuriously thick red-gold locks were wetted with water and soaped up, Elizabeth using her fingers to comb out tangles and knots. Then she rinsed with cupfuls of water dipped from the tub, not caring that the floor got sopping wet and slick with suds. She'd clean that up later.

Finally satisfied that she was as clean as she could get, Elizabeth lowered herself into the still steaming water, wincing and flinching as her sore and tender flesh came into contact with the heat. As soon as she was seated, however, her muscles began to relax and she groaned softly in near ecstacy.

While the round wooden tub had been more than big enough for the petite statured Graciela to be stretched out at full length, Elizabeth's much longer legs just didn't fit. She could have draped them over the sides of the tub in an inelegant split, but that would have meant being unable to soak her aching feet. So instead, the maid tucked her knees close to her body and made herself as comfortable as possible, leaning the back of her neck against the edge of the tub.

She was completely unaware of the picture she presented.  A curling sheaf of wet, dark red hair spilled to the floor behind her, while tendrils as delicate as water weeds clung to her shoulders and floated in the water. Her firm young breasts rose from the surface like islands tipped with coral, and quivered with each breath she took. Her exposed skin was glazed with sweat and steam and glowed like ivory, faintly tinged with pink. Elizabeth had an unearthly beauty at this moment; her eyes were closed, mouth relaxed, face free from its usual guarded expression.

She gave a sigh of complete happiness and surrendered to the warmth, luxuriating in the moment made no less sweet by the knowledge that it would be a long time before she could indulge in such a rarity again.

Believing Graciela to be heavily asleep, Elizabeth forgot her troubles for the moment and just enjoyed the sheer, sybaritic pleasure of being really, truly clean.

However, the maid was mistaken in believing the pirate woman unconscious.

Graciela was quite awake... and from the wolfish grin on her face, hungry for something other than food.

Graciela had been wakened by the rolling of the wooden tub on the decking planks. Recognizing the sound, she'd kept her eyes closed in order to make a mental inventory of her injuries, surreptitiously flexing muscles and trying to pinpoint the source of burning aches and bone-deep pain.

Satisfied for the moment that she'd suffered no permanent injuries - a more thorough assessment could wait since her head felt as if it had pounded through a fine grist mill - she opened her eyes a mere slit, keeping her breathing regular and deep, not wanting to be fussed over or have to make any decisions just yet, happy to relax for a moment in peace and safety, glad to be back aboard the vessel she had bled and fought for.

Wearing only a shirt that, from the smell, had been used to wipe out the bilges, Elizabeth was fluttering around a gang of sailors who were busily pouring steaming water into the tub. Graciela sniffed and identified the water as sweet rather than salt; she nearly objected but a quick glance up at the tell-tale compass suspended above her bunk showed her the ship's heading. The Quartier was making for Maldemere; long experience told her that, as well as the sense of the motion of the ship as she coursed through the water enabled Graciela to make a highly educated guess about their speed. Two, possibly three weeks at the most before they came to land, if the wind held and they encountered no storms.

Knowing their destination, she mentally congratulated Miguel on a job well done. Although they'd picked up some supplies in Port Royale, there were still important things they needed before attempting to find the Sirena treasure - such as more barrels of freshwater, lemon rob and limes to ward off the dreaded scurvey, more boxes of dried beef and ship's biscuits. Now that the hold was fairly empty, they also had room to pick up chickens, a few goats, some turtles - all sources of fresh meat for the voyage. Dried fruits and vegetables could be obtained on the huge island. Maldemere thrived on the pirate trade, supplying passing ships with essentials and luxuries, as well as tempting sailors ashore with whorehouses, taverns, gambling houses and the like.

Her mouth began to water at the thought of delicious, citrusy tart and sweet lemon rob, a specialty of Maldemere. The conserve was made from fresh lemon juice, sweetened and boiled with strips of peel down to a syrupy, thick consistency. A spoonful of the stuff in a tot of the men's daily grog ration not only warded off scurvey, it made a wonderful cocktail. The island also produced huge wheels of hard cheese made from sheep's milk, wrapped in seaweed and cured in salt-air grottos for a year; the resulting product, cut into coin-sized rounds popularly called nannydots, not only lasted well on extended voyages but one or two vastly improved the flavor of bland ship's biscuits.

She idly wondered if the Sans Quartier ought to be laid to in a quiet harbor on Maldemere and careened before undertaking the trip to the Hag's Chain. Ordering the scraping of barnacles, caulking and making repairs to the hull wouldn't make her a popular captain, especially since the crewmen had to do all the back-breaking work, but speed was essential to a pirate's survival. Also, shipworms were a real hazard in the Caribbean waters; the holes they drilled through the bottoms of vessels were a minor inconvenience at the start but could develop into a serious, life-threatening problem if left unattended.

Lulled by these domestic thoughts, Graciela had almost drifted off again when she was startled awake by the sound of muted splashing, groans and sighs. Cracking her eyelids open again, she saw Elizabeth lowering the long, beautiful length of her body into the tub. Waves of steam billowed from the surface of the water, wrapping the maid in a thin, opaque cloud of mist through which the blazing glory of her hair shone like a fiery beacon.

Graciela was immediately entranced but took pains not to alert the girl that she was being watched. Let her enjoy a bit of peace as well, she thought. My Lizzybet deserves it, b'God. She did yeoman's work getting me off the gallows.

Elizabeth's unselfconscious nudity was arousing in the extreme. Although not much of her body was actually exposed to Graciela's sight, the way the girl luxuriated in the water, breasts rising up from the surface and then sinking without a ripple; long, strong legs lifting up towards the ceiling in a stretch, droplets of water cascading from her rosy toes, made the pirate gulp as a sudden flood of saliva filled her mouth.

Graciela's eyes were mere slits and she was not aware that her breathing was getting shallower, quicker, as she watched Elizabeth bathe.

Finally, she could stand it no more. Although she was still in considerable pain, the sight of a wet, naked woman a mere handsbreadth away was a temptation she could no longer resist.

Graciela rolled over on her uninjured side as quietly as she could, wincing slightly when the deep wound in her thigh gave a sharp pang in protest. Still, it was worth the effort; propping herself up on an elbow, the pirate could crane her neck and look directly into the tub.

Elizabeth's eyes were closed, head resting against the rim. Her legs were drawn up, knees against her chest, feet braced at the other end. From this angle, Graciela had an excellent view of the girl's entire body, including the dark ruby glimmer of the nest of curls between her creamy thighs. Elizabeth sighed, slumping down as far as she was able, totally unaware that she was being watched by a pair of incandescent ice-blue eyes.

Graciela grinned. If she was so inclined, she could reach out and weigh one of those firm, coral-tipped breasts in her palm, fingers curling into silken softness, or trace her fingertips along the finely carved angle of Elizabeth's jaw. She  wondered at the blind cruelty of the life the girl had left behind.

Great Gawk? Christ! She's more beautiful than any of the high-born, blue blooded, cold minded bitches I've ever seen.

Suddenly, Graciela couldn't help but remember the way Elizabeth had reacted to her last blatant overture - the panic, the terror, the shame.

Aye, but t'was my fault for acting like a starving wolf, she thought ruefully. My pretty querida's gently reared and don't take kindly to such rough handling. She's a lady and needs delicate wooing to be won... or does she?

It was a trifle difficult to reconcile the two disparate images of Elizabeth that were in Graciela's mind - the frightened, nervous and sweet natured maid and the snarling, sweaty, thoroughly exciting amazon who'd blown a man's face to bits up on the gallows. Of the two, Graciela frankly preferred the latter - an equal with whom she could share the kind of all-consuming, fiery passion that was only in songs and tales; a sharing of souls that could transcend the squalid and commonplace; the kind of explosive desire and whirlwind romance that could shake the world's foundations.

These thoughts nearly made her sit up in alarm. Cursing silently, she closed her eyes against the biting agony of pulled wounds and curled her hands into fists.

Could she have fallen in love with Elizabeth?

It was impossible. This couldn't be happening. She was the She-Wolf, a confessed murderer and pirate, who'd long ago traded her conscience for expedience. Love was simply not in her nature.

Impossible!

And yet, there it was.

Graciela carefully examined her feelings towards the tall, freckled redhead. She'd wanted Elizabeth in bed since the moment she'd clapped eyes on her. When the girl had almost committed suicide by flinging herself off the ship, the pirate had been furious. When Elizabeth had bravely offered her body to pay for a berth on the Quartier, Graciela's haste and total disregard for the girl's feelings had ruined what might have been a very pleasant exchange.

Still, despite this mistreatment, Elizabeth had bravely risked imprisonment and death to free Graciela from the executioner's rope.

Long ago, Graciela had put aside finer feelings in exchange for survival. In the world she lived in, any sign of weakness could be fatal. More than one pirate captain had lost his ship and his life to a mutinous crew when he'd allowed a single chink in his armor to show. As a woman, she'd had it tougher than most; she'd had to be meaner, rougher, more bloodthirsty and show more insane bravado than all the world's heros and villians put together. Her reputation for stone-cold ruthlessness was all that kept her from being regarded as prey rather than a fellow predator by the hard, cold bastards of the sea she sailed with.

Graciela simply could not afford to fall in love.

She'd had her share of willing partners, whores from a hundred ports and dockside towns. Those exchanges had been both business and pleasure, but the illusion of any real emotional connection ended the moment she laid cash on the table. That type of temporary relationship had been satisfying enough in the past, but now? Did she really want to spend the rest of her life skipping from bed to bed, woman to woman, a leisurely fumbling of soft, sweaty flesh in the dark and then off to the next in a long, never-ending line?

Then a realization came that shocked her to the core.

She wanted more than the usual tawdry tumbles. She wanted a real mate, a partner whose passion and lust for life and all the adventure it offered were the equal of her own. She wanted someone she could trust completely, a lover who would guard her secrets and her back - in bed, in battle or aboard ship. Graciela wanted all these things... and suddenly knew exactly where she could get them. It would require great effort on her part and a willingness to put aside the barriers she'd erected long ago, but the pirate knew that with enough determination, she would have the treasure she desired above all else...

Elizabeth Everheart.

God help me... I'm in love with the girl. Nay, that's not entirely true, Graciela thought. in wonder I love the fierce amazon I saw up there on the gallows, so powerful, so strong and fearless. Dios! I am fond of the child but I love the woman she will become. I must teach Lizzybet, mold that potential into shape, and help the Great Gawk turn into the Hawk of the Sun. That is how I see her; but instead of taming a wild bird to my hand, I must release its bonds and help it learn to fly.

I will charm her... woo her... seduce her... teach her... and in the end, I will have a mate worthy of the Sea-Wolf!

The crew would know nothing; they would assume their captain was up to her usual tricks. By the time they noticed anything different, it would be too late. She and Elizabeth would be too strong to be denied.

With Graciela, to think was to act. The inevitable had been accepted, the future planned. The thought of exposing her weaknesses, even to one person, was terrifying in the extreme, but she'd never lacked courage. She would do whatever was necessary to make her dream a reality.

Together, she and I will conquer the world...

But first, I must vanquish Lizzybet's heart.

Elizabeth lolled a while longer in the cooling bathwater, reluctant to end this most pleasant experience. She casually scooped up some tepid water in the palm of her hand and dribbled it over her breasts, watching wet patterns form on her skin, droplets bead up and drip from her nipples, skid down her belly and disappear.

A nearby voice startled her into full awareness. "T'is a long while since I saw so beautiful a mermaid out of the sea."

Elizabeth sat up with a splash, arms instinctively crossed to cover her breasts, and looked wildly about.

Graciela lay on her side, head propped up on her hand, watching with pale blue eyes. A slow smile spread across the pirate's beautiful face; it wasn't a leer but a genuine expression of peaceful happiness.

Elizabeth tried to scrunch further down into the tub but her long legs just didn't fit. Finally, she defiantly tossed her head, slinging wet strands of hair across her shoulders, and asked with all the dignity she could muster, "How are you feeling?"

"Much better than a scarce hour ago." Graciela kept her gaze focused on the girl's face with an effort. "Tho' in general, I'd swear I was dragged through bunghole backwards." She rolled onto her back and winced, face screwing up as her broken ribs grated together, and ground out a heartfelt curse.

Elizabeth leaped out of the tub with a splash, a cascade of water spilling onto the floor, which was already wet, soapy and dangerously slick. "Are you all right?" she asked anxiously, sudden concern for her patient taking precedence over maidenly modesty. As she took a step towards the cot, however, her feet skidded out from under her. Arms flailing, she landed with a muffled "oof!" right on top of Graciela.

The pirate's face turned a sickly greenish white, her eyes bulged and her lips tightened into a thin, straight line as pure, white-hot agony seared through her body. Elizabeth's feet scrabbled futilely for purchase on the wet floor and finally, she managed to push herself up off Graciela by bracing her arms against the cot.

The maid's emerald eyes were wide. "I'm so very, very sorry!" she blurted. "Did I hurt you?"

With an effort, Graciela managed to croak, "Nay, not at all. You're light as a feather, querida."

Elizabeth felt her cheeks growing hot. "Let me try..." She sucked in a breath, shoved against the cot and managed to push herself off Graciela's body, landing with a wet splat on the floor. Immediately, she got on her knees and hovered anxiously over the stone-faced pirate.

"Are you hurt? How are your ribs? Did that cut on your thigh tear open?" Elizabeth fumbled with the broad bandage on Graciela's leg, keen embarrassment making her more clumsy than usual. Scalding tears slipped down her face and she kept her blurry gaze focused on her hands rather than risk looking at the pirate directly.

Graciela took a cautious gulp of air.  Despite the pain, she didn't think any real damage had been done. "Nay, I'm all right, querida. Don't cry. T'was not your fault."

"Yes it was." Elizabeth began to sob miserably, shoulders slumping as she sat back on her heels, heedless of her nudity. "I'm such a bloody great clumsy cow! Jesus! I could have killed you!"

Graciela knew she would have to tread very carefully. A wrong move would send Lizzybet flying and widen the gulf between them to an impossible extent.  She cleared her throat after a moment's thought. "Nay, listen to me, querida. None of my hurt is your fault. T'was not your betrayal that sent me to that bastard governor's dungeon or nearly got my neck stretched  in a hemp-rope dance.  You didn't almost kill me... you saved my life."

Elizabeth sniffled, tears dripping onto her bare breasts. "You're the captain and I'm part of the crew now. I had to help Miguel and the others."

"Aye, and don't think I didn't see you up there on the gallows, Lizzybet." Graciela smiled. After the first initial agony, the pain was sinking to a more manageable level and she could ignore it. This conversation was too important for any distraction. "You were so brave, to risk yourself like that. You still know so very little of the brigand's way and you've had only a little training, but you did your best nonetheless. I admire that; it showed true courage of a kind I've little seen these days, even among my own."

Elizabeth wiped her face with the palms of her hands while Graciela continued speaking. "And I don't just mean when you protected my back in Port Royale, either. Do you think any of my rascals could have treated my wounds so well? Aye, Bonny Reid's the ship's cook and sometime surgeon, but he's altogether too fond of the bleeding basin. I doubt I'd still be among the breathing had you not been so skilled a sawbones."

"My aunt was an herbwoman," Elizabeth admitted softly. "I learned a lot from her before I went to Court."

"And that's another thing," Graciela said. "You're gently reared, querida. Why, I'd imagine most petticoat-pigtails your age would never dream of making their way alone in the world, much less signing onto a ship like the Quartier! You've steel in you, Lizzybet, even if you don't know it yet. But I see it shining there, that strong strand of courage in your soul, and... well, I find it quite attractive."

This was her opening gambit and to her delight, seemed to perk up Elizabeth's spirits a trifle. "Attractive? Me?" She turned her face aside. "I'm naught but a Great Gawk."

"Nay." Graciela's voice was seductively soft and gentle, her eyes closed to mere slits. "Oh, I'll admit you're a bit clumsy on your trotters but so's a high-blooded colt. And when it's trained proper and learns and grows, why, that long legged colt that was stumbling about the pastures turns into a proud, fine fettled racer of such grace and style that any man worth his salt would weep to touch. Proper grace is an art, Lizzybet. If you're willing to learn, why, I'd wager a full pouch of golden reals that by the time we reach Maldemere, you'll be turning more heads and breaking more hearts than the sauciest coquette in old Paree!"

"Do you... do you really think so?" For the first time, Elizabeth looked Graciela full in the face and the other woman felt an unexpected ache at the look of sheer desperate hope that shone from the girl's emerald eyes. "I'll do anything. I'm strong and fairly tough; life as a lady's maid isn't exactly easy, you know. I'm used to hard work. Miguel's been teaching me how to use a dagger and a flintlock but I'd really love to learn..."

"The cutlass." Graciela patted Elizabeth's hand where it clutched the cot blanket. "I think that particular weapon's not for you, querida. But..." she added hastily as the girl's lip quivered, "I've something more suitable in mind. Take a peek in yon chest. You'll find the key in my desk."

Elizabeth got up and crossed the room. Halfway there, the reality of her nudity struck her and she suddenly stopped, hands going up in a futile attempt to cover herself. Then she realized how silly that would be - after all, she'd been sitting there without a stitch on this whole time and besides, wasn't Graciela a girl, too? It wouldn't be the first time she'd been naked in another woman's presence and probably wouldn't be the last. Deciding a sudden attack of modesty was ill-timed and, all things considered, rather stupid, she dropped her hands and continued to the desk, feeling horribly exposed and incredibly seductive, all at the same time.

Graciela stifled a chuckle at this silent little by-play, making an accurate guess as to Elizabeth's thoughts. She contented herself with admiring the girl's taut, heart-shaped buttocks as she paced across the room, eventually squatting before the indicated chest with the key in her hand. The view from her angle was delightful; the long, straight length of Elizabeth back, the spread of her hips and buttocks, the tight muscles of her thighs with a tiny fringe of red, fluffy curls barely visible between. It made Graciela wish she was hale and whole again immediately, and even despite the lingering pain, she felt her pulse begin to beat a little faster.

Elizabeth unlocked the chest and threw back the lid. Laying on top of the stacks of clothing and shoes was a sword. Reaching inside, she curled her hand around the hilt and drew it out slowly.

Graciela said, "T'is called a claymore and comes from the hills of Scotland. I took it off a mouthy highlander a few years ago but to be honest, querida, I don't have enough reach to do the thing justice. But I think t'is about right for you."

Elizabeth stood up, the claymore dangling from her hand. The wide, hand-and-a-half blade was spotted with rust but seemed of excellent quality and the hilt fitted into her palm as if it had been custom made for her alone. The balance was perfect; it seemed an extension of her arm when she hefted it and slashed through the air experimentally. A broad grin spread across her face. Holding this weapon made her feel powerful, confident, assured... all the things she'd sensed in other people but never experienced herself.

Graciela nodded wisely, knowing exactly what the girl was feeling. She'd had her own love affair with a sword years ago. "The claymore's yours, Lizzybet, yours to keep and care for. T'would be a sin and a shame if something happened to such a pretty thing. I'll teach you to clean it, hone the edge and wield it 'gainst your foes. B'God, you'll be something when you're polished up proper and ready to fight!"

Elizabeth smiled so widely her cheeks began to ache with the strain. "This is incredible!" she said in excitement, taking another swing. Abruptly, a dark thought intruded and she let the tip of the sword drop, overcome with shame. How could she gush about a weapon whose sole use was to kill? Shooting a man was one thing, but would she ever have the courage to stand face to face against another human being and deliberately hack him down in a welter of blood and screams? She shuddered slightly, remembering her victim on the gallows.

Graciela called, "Come here. There's aught more I wish to say to you."

Reluctantly, Elizabeth returned to the cot and knelt down, laying the sword across her thighs to keep it from getting wet. "I don't know... I'm just not sure I could... do it again."

"Listen to me, Lizzybet." Graciela did her damndest to project her earnest feelings on this subject. "We're women trying to survive in a man's world. Even those who say they are our friends would, given half a chance, betray us at the first opportunity. That's just the way of things and you know this is the truth, don't you?"

Elizabeth nodded. It was indeed a man's world; even in the so-called sheltered Court life, noblemen routinely raped, ruined and abused the women around them. It was a miracle that Elizabeth had escaped such a fate and an even greater miracle that she'd remained so innocent in a world so steeped in vice and sin.

Graciela continued, "There are times when you will have to kill to keep from bein' killed. Don't think about it too much, querida; don't let guilt eat you hollow inside.  It don't pay to have too fine a conscience. Now, I keep a pretty tight rein on my crewmen - don't let 'em rape hostages or torture prisoners, don't let 'em kill each other instead of the enemy. I'm pretty respected, or so you'd think. But if ever I let my guard down one time - if ever I showed the slightest weakness - every man jack among 'em, including Miguel, wouldn't think twice about either raping me to death or feeding me to the sharks. Why? 'Cause I'm a woman, of course. And the same thing goes for you. If it wasn't for me, you'd be dead or crazy or forced to whoring in some buccanneer's glory-hole and no mistake. They only respect strength and in their world, the only way to prove you've got the juice is to be willing to kill when the time comes. Understand?"

Put that way, Elizabeth couldn't muster up an argument that wouldn't sound too feeble to be borne. She nodded; although the specter of guilt would still haunt her to some degree, she'd have to make a deliberate effort to put it aside, if she wanted to be an independent woman in this man's world she'd chosen to inhabit.

Graciela smiled. "We'll talk some more later." She cleared her throat painfully. "I'm mortal dry, querida, from all that jawing. Is there anything to drink?"

Elizabeth hastened to put away the claymore and fetch a tankard of clean water mixed with a tablespoon of brandy. Balancing herself on the edge of the cot, she easily lifted Graciela with one arm, cradling the woman's head against her bare breasts as she put the tankard to her lips.

Graciela drank deeply, twining her own arm around Elizabeth's waist. This was an opportunity she wasn't going to let get by so easily.

As soon as Elizabeth pulled the cup away, Graciela dipped her head down and planted a wet, warm kiss on the gently curving slope of the girl's breast, using the tip of her tongue to trace a pattern on the soft skin.

Elizabeth stiffened, gasped, but didn't pull away.  She was ashamed, frightened and thrilled to the core. On the one hand, she wanted to tear herself from Graciela's grasp, but on the other she desperately wanted to feel more. Trembling, she turned more towards Graciela, her erect nipple brushing the pirate's mouth.

Instantly, Graciela latched onto the nipple and suckled gently. Elizabeth gasped again as waves of pure sensation coursed from her breast and gathered in the moist core between her thighs. She groaned, fighting the urge to grab handfuls of Graciela's black hair and press her closer, smothering her in warm, quivering flesh.

Graciela let the nipple pop out of her mouth and said hoarsely, "Let me lay back, querida."

Figuring the pirate's ribs must be aching in protest, Elizabeth quickly but carefully laid her back onto the cot. She was breathless, nervous and embarrassed, excited and confused, but above all she felt a sort of sizzling heat in her loins that was blazing brighter than a star. She was wondering what to do or even what to say when Graciela solved the problem for her.

"Lean over, Lizzybet. I can't reach you proper without some help."

For a bare second, Elizabeth considered obeying the command. Then common sense reasserted itself and she shook her head. "Nay, not now. Your wounds are too raw by half." When Graciela protested, Elizabeth put a hand across the pirate's mouth. "If I listen to you about buccanneer business, you'll have to obey me when it comes to doctoring. And I say you need rest more than anything else right now. I'll just go to the galley and make sure Master Reid's assault on cookery aren't as life threatening as his attempts at surgery."

Graciela's eyes spat sparks for a moment, then she laughed, the sound muffled by Elizabeth's palm. When the girl pulled her hand away, the pirate said with a good natured grin, "Aye, you've the right of it, querida. My stomach thinks my throat's been cut and it's clinging to my spine for dear life. Besides, I doubt I'm up to any real sort of action at the moment."

"Exactly. You need to rest and recover." Elizabeth stood up, her knees decidedly shaky, and hunted around for something to wear. She found a pair of pants that were far too large in the waist and too short in the leg but managed to make a decent fit by winding a leather belt around her hips. She topped that with an old silk dressing gown, tying it firmly closed with a sash.

Graciela said, "Querida... I aim to take up our unfinished business later. I won't forget." Her voice was a soft burr.

Pulling her red-gold hair away from her face and securing it with a pin at the back of her neck, Elizabeth answered, "Believe me, I won't let you forget."

Even she was astonished at the boldness of her reply. A flush creeping up her neck and across her face, Elizabeth fled the cabin before she could damn herself further with her treacherous body and mouth.

Graciela chuckled.

Her plan was coming together very nicely, indeed.



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