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-One: Apt Pupil

During the two and a half week journey to the island of Maldemere, Elizabeth proved that she was more than willing to learn... and willing to learn about more than just swordsmanship and battle skills.

By day, she exercised and practiced with Graciela and Miguel, honing both mind and body to a razor's edge. Her capacity for physical exertion and determination not to give up drew respectful looks and murmurs from the onlooking crewmen. Soon Elizabeth was scrambling up the rigging as adroitly as a monkey, running along the yards high above the deck and helping to reef the sails with the more experienced sailors. Dressed in a pair of skintight, yellow doeskin trousers and a billowing white shirt that she kept laced to the neck, her hair covered with a triangular kerchief, Elizabeth began to resemble the salt hardened men who worked with her. Her face, throat and hands turned brown from the sun; she laughed much more and even offered a joke or two herself.

By night, she was growing more used to thinking of Graciela as a companion and potential lover rather than the perverted, heartless murderer she'd originally thought. But Elizabeth wasn't quite ready to take the plunge and admit the pirate woman to her bed and completely into her heart; she needed more time and was grateful that Graciela seemed willing to wait.

The men accepted Elizabeth as one of their own and the girl reveled in the new sensation of finally fitting in. She never forgot Graciela's warning, however; she was careful to extend only a certain amount of trust and never, ever took them up on half-jesting opportunities to "inspect the forward hold" or play dice with her clothing as the stakes.

To Graciela, she grew more beautiful with each passing moment. The pirate was using this opportunity of rare leisure to let her wounds heal completely - a luxury that she'd been denied in the past. After the daily round of chores was over, the crewmen sat about deck, mending sails and clothes, chatting and vying to be the first to teach Elizabeth a new knot or splice. At night, after their bellies bulged with salt beef and biscuit, the men clustered together on the foredeck, playing instruments, singing shanties and ballads. Watching Elizabeth with this rough crew, completely at ease, head thrown back, throat working as her voice spiraled up in a crystalline soprano beauty that could make angels weep, made Graciela glad that she'd chosen such an extraordinary woman as her potential mate.

One night when they were a few days from their destination, Graciela was sitting in a coil of rope near the bow. The stars were so big and bright, she felt as if she could reach out her hand and pluck them from the sky.

After their brief encounter in her cabin - which Graciela remembered with fondness - Elizabeth had taken care never to mention the subject again. It was as if the girl was trying to ignore the feelings that had been stirred up in both of them and that made Graciela more determined than ever to breach the distance and claim the girl as her own.

B'God! I love the wench and she'll do no more than peck my cheek before she beds down on her pallet by my berth. I know there's fire in Lizzybet... I've felt it. She wants me as much as I want her. She's been using my wounds as an excuse not to get close... and I'm mortal tired of it!

Even though she was impatient, Graciela knew better than to press too hard. Elizabeth had to come in her own time, at her own pace. Forcing the issue would only harm them both.

She'd ordered the ship's carpenter to come in and enlarge the box her bed sat in, making it twice as wide and a bit longer, certainly cozy enough for two. This took up precious floor space in her cabin but Graciela didn't mind. She did mind, however, that Elizabeth ignored her broad hints and still bunked down on the floor.

Patience, woman, patience! She'll join you soon enough.

A voice from behind startled her. "Cap'n... we're making good time." It was Miguel. "Should be in sight of Maldemere by tomorrow or the next day, if the weather holds."

"Good." Graciela thought a moment. "Let's make land at St. Agnes. I'll take half the crew ashore for some leave; the other half'll proceed to Whistler's Cove and start careening the ship. We'll switch off every two days until the job is done. Have the quartermaster pick some men to buy and transport supplies as well."

"Aye, Cap'n. I'll have the bosun's mate break out the lottery barrel." The lottery barrel contained enough stones for each man of the crew; half of the rocks were painted white, the other black. When it came to division of labor, as in the major task of careening the ship, the men would draw lots to see which work team they would be on. This was the fairest method and one which the men couldn't claim was rigged to benefit favorites.

"We'd better count out some shares of money to the men. They're going to want to get drunk and whore a bit once we get on land." She chuckled. "From the way they act, you'd think they'd been reduced to humping a cunt-splice on a long sea voyage."

Miguel laughed. The thought of a man desperate enough to scrape his privy parts through a hemp-rope knot was pretty funny. "Aye. They're a damned horny lot, even if they've more salt than blood in their veins."

He sobered a bit. "So... Lizzybetta's training goes well. She's a fast learner, that one."

"Aye." Graciela casually studied the stars as if she found them absolutely fascinating.

"I wonder..."

It was too dark to make out the expression on the Spaniard's face but Graciela recognized the lightly teasing tone in his voice. "What?"

"Oh, nothing. I just wonder what incentive she might have for such an effort."

The way he stressed the word "incentive" was very suggestive and made Graciela's eyes narrow. "I don't know what you're about, amigo, but I suggest you hop to and find the quartermaster before I decide you have too much time on your hands."

"Aye-aye, Cap'n!" Miguel snapped her a crisp, if mocking, salute and marched away, spine as rigid as if he'd been landed back in the Spanish Navy. His barely perceptible giggles gave the game away, however.

"Damn!" Graciela exploded.

"Is something the matter?" Another voice floated out of the darkness.

Whipping her head around, Graciela nearly dislocated her neck. "Lizzybet... what are you doing here?"

"I got to wondering where you'd hidden yourself." Elizabeth sat down cross-legged on the deck. The faint lantern light picked out the ruby highlights in her hair and kept her face in shadow. "You usually sit in the foredeck with the men at this time of night."

"Aye, well... comes a time when a captain needs a bit of peace, a chance to smell the wind and feel the spray without a passel of eyes staring at her every move." Graciela relaxed slightly. "Miguel says we'll be in Maldemere in a couple of days."

"I look forward to seeing it. I've never been in a real pirate town before."

"You were in Port Royale, weren't you? That's about as real as it gets."

"Yes, but I didn't really get to see very much of it. The first time, with Miguel... well, I guess I drank a bit too much. Everything's a blur."

Graciela choked. "A bit too much? B'God, querida! You were lit up like a knocking shop on payday!"

"I never drank before." The girl sounded slightly defensive. "Anyway, the next time I was in Port Royale, it was to rescue you. I wasn't paying too much attention to my surroundings."

"Hmph. Well, I'll see to it that you get the grand tour of St. Agnes town, though you'll probably be disappointed. T'is naught but a row of brothels, stores, taverns and auction houses."

"Really? What do they auction in such a small place?"

Graciela leaned forward, ignoring the twinge of the barely healed scar on her thigh. "Maldemere is a clearinghouse for slaves, Lizzybet. Some blackbirder's ships pick up their cargo in Africa and stop at the island instead of sailing on to Jamaica or Hispaniola. There's big sugarcane plantations on Maldemere and the owner's need a lot of slave labor to tend their fields and see to the making of rum. St. Agnes is the biggest town and gets the most business."

"Slaves?" Elizabeth was horrified.

"Aye. I don't abide by the practice myself. I've seen the holds in a few blackbirds, Lizzybet. Hundreds of those poor bastards packed in tiers like mackerels, chained so they can't lay down or stand up, the dead right alongside the living - men, women and children. T'is a right awful sight, I tell you, and the stench is enough to make a stone vomit."

"God!" Elizabeth shuddered. "Those poor people. That trade is an abomination and should be outlawed."

"I agree, Lizzybet, but as long as there's those what are willing to trade in other folk's misery and turn a tidy profit, I don't see an end to it anytime soon."

Both women were silent for a moment, then Elizabeth sighed. "Well, I think I'll turn in."

"D'ye want any company?"

The girl felt her face getting hot and wished, not for the first time, that she didn't have such a betraying complexion. Fortunately, the darkness hid her blushes. "Oh, whatever you wish. It's your cabin."

"Aye, that it is."

More silence.

"Good night, then," Elizabeth offered tentatively.

"Good night, querida. Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

With that cryptic remark ringing in her ears, Elizabeth got up and sought out the comfort of the captain's cabin... alone.

It was the first time that Graciela had rejected an opportunity for the two of them to be alone together and Elizabeth was more than a little confused.

Have I done something to anger her? the girl thought, huddled in her pallet on the floor, staring up at the empty bed. She'd grown used to Graciela's presence in the cabin; the woman might have a petite stature but with the sheer force of her personality, she could fill a room all by herself. That vitality was missing

Elizabeth wasn't sure what to do, if anything. Her training was proceeding apace and to her surprise, she discovered that she had a natural talent for sword play. It may have had something to do with the claymore that Graciela had given her; the Scottish weapon felt so good, so right in her hands that she knew she'd never want a better.

Hard, physical labor and hours of practice on deck had hardened her hands, callused her feet, polished off some of the softness of Court life. Elizabeth's height gave her an advantage; she was still young enough to be highly flexible and a lot of the awkwardness she'd been plagued with had vanished. She wasn't a being composed entirely of deadly grace, not yet, but if she persevered, she would accomplish her goal. She was sure of it.

When it came to her own feelings towards Graciela... she wasn't so sure.

I don't know what I'm feeling anymore, Elizabeth thought, resisting the urge to reach up and touch the bed that Graciela slept in. I've never in my life been so confused. One moment, I can scarcely bear the distance between us and my blood runs so hot its nearly scorching. I want her... I think. And the next I'm so frightened that I want to bury myself deep within the earth and pray she never comes near me again. Do I love her? I don't know. I just don't know!

The biggest part of her problem lay in Graciela's attitude towards her. After that never-to-be-forgotten moment in the cabin - oh, sweet Jesus! Her mouth was so warm! - there had never been another such display of passion. Graciela had not pushed her away but hadn't encouraged her, either. She'd accepted Elizabeth's tentative gestures, like a chaste goodnight kiss on the cheek, with more cool equanimity than true lover's impatient heat. Elizabeth was grateful to be given the chance to make up her own mind without pressure but by God! Part of her wanted to be taken, desperately desired to be swept up in the other woman's strong arms and smothered with raw, white-hot passion. Like a princess in a fairy tale, she wanted to be given no choice but to submit... and therein lay the rub.

The thought was exhilarating... and terribly, terribly frightening.

Elizabeth didn't know what to do. She was happy but miserable; in heat but possibly not in love; scared and unsure and confused.

When she'd realized the ship's carpenter was enlarging the bed in the captain's cabin, she'd been excited, exhilarated and so fearful she'd wanted to puke. This was a broad hint on Graciela's part about their future together and the implications weighed like a stone around Elizabeth's neck. It was with no small amount of sweaty relief that she'd realized Graciela wasn't going to force the issue but allow Elizabeth to decide when the time was right.

And that brought her right back to the beginning. If only Graciela would make a statement, declare her intentions boldly, shout or scream or at the very least quietly announce her feelings, Elizabeth wouldn't be in such a quandary. She was fairly sure that she was in love with Graciela - she'd read enough romances to recognize the symptoms - but her fledgling self-confidence was too new, too frail, to let her push herself forward and risk getting hurt. Sure and certain knowledge that Graciela did not return her feelings would be so damaging that her mind retreated from the very thought.

So Elizabeth tossed and turned, stared and sweated, cursed and prayed for a solution to this sticky problem.

Finally, she got up, tossing aside her blanket. It was really too hot to sleep and with her brain chasing itself in circles, she just wasn't going to get tired enough to find any rest at all.

Elizabeth padded across the cabin and poured herself a cup of water from the ever present jug. A tin plate with leftovers from dinner sat on the desk; she picked up a cold chicken leg and began to munch, more out of a need to do something than because she was hungry. The bird was tough and chewy but well spiced; Graciela believed in the maxim that "an army marched on its stomach" and never allowed her men to go hungry or eat slop unless it absolutely couldn't be helped. Her men rarely suffered from the tooth-loosening and gum-bleeding disease that often afflicted sailors on long sea voyages; plenty of limes and lemons, apples and oranges, both fresh and preserved, were the key to keeping the dreaded scurvey at bay.

Oddly, there were never any outbreaks of yellow fever or bowel-blistering dysentary on board the Quartier, either. Graciela attributed this unprecedented success to her insistence that the men wash their hands after squatting in the heads. Buckets of seawater and jars of slippery soft soap were provided for this very unusual activity and the men might have grumbled but they obeyed, having lost mates to putrid fevers before. Graciela said she'd learned the trick in the South China Seas. The captain was still having less luck getting the crew to rinse their mouths with cold tea to keep their teeth from rotting but, as she said, you couldn't win every battle so concentrate on the important ones, first.

Elizabeth had learned a lot. From how to hold a sword properly to the proper methods of star navigation, not a day went by that Graciela didn't patiently try and impart new knowledge, always answering questions and not too impatient to repeat herself two or three times if necessary. Elizabeth knew she wasn't the world's brightest pupil but she tried her best and didn't think she embarrassed herself too badly.

This thought led to another and the greasy remains of the chicken leg fell from Elizabeth's suddenly nerveless hand.

She couldn't believe she'd been so stupid and wished she could kick her own arse hard enough to make her teeth rattle.

Of course Graciela had been patient! Of course Graciela had been waiting! Of course, Graciela had been gracious enough to step back and allow her breathing room!

Why would the She-Wolf of the Caribbean, a woman dreaded by so many, with a reputation of utter ruthlessness and a heart of pure granite, patiently wait - despite delays and numerous frustrations - for thick headed Elizabeth to finally admit she was ready?

Why, because Graciela was in love, of course!!

Elizabeth didn't know whether to laugh or cry. All this time she'd been so terribly frightened of revealing her feelings because she didn't know if they'd be returned. And Graciela had been so terribly patient, waiting and waiting for the stupid girl to realize what was right in front of her face all along!

Elizabeth sat and thought a while, trying to get this discovery into perspective. She realized that, since the gallow's rescue, Graciela had been subtly altered. Once or twice Elizabeth had caught the pirate staring at her from a distance and she'd foolishly dismissed that look of longing as a trick of the imagination. Now the girl realized that her fierce pirate captain was probably undergoing a similar struggle, keeping her feelings in check because she was afraid of revealing them.

Was it possible that Graciela, too, feared rejection?

Of course it was!

Elizabeth gulped another cup of water and slammed the tankard on the table with a satisfying crash.

For a moment, she thought about taking a tot or two of rum to help bolster her courage, but decided it wasn't necessary.

If I can't do this by myself, I won't be able to do it at all. Screw your courage to the sticking place, girl and for once in your miserable life, grab the opportunity that's passing you by with both hands and squeeze till it yells for surrender!

Armed with this new knowledge and determined to end this ridiculous farce once and for all, Elizabeth hastily donned some clothing and went out on deck in search of Graciela.

Tonight, if she had anything to do about it, the She-Wolf would not sleep alone.

Graciela listened to the waves splashing against the hull; it was a pleasant, soothing sound, almost like a lullaby. The smell of salt, the moonlight splashed water, the clouds scudding across the star-peppered sky all combined to create a bubble of perfect, absolute peace...

Which was shattered by a female voice coming from behind. "Graciela, I want to talk to you."

With a muffled curse, the pirate untangled herself from the rope coil and turned around. She really wasn't in the mood to deal with Elizabeth right now; she'd thought the girl gone and to bed already. Graciela really wanted nothing more than to sit and think and be alone for a while.

"What is it, querida?" Graciela asked with a heavy sigh.

Elizabeth hesitated. It was past midnight and the ship's lanterns had been extinguished, except for a small one on the quarterdeck where the second mate kept the Quartier on course. There was no one else above deck; all the sailors were tucked into their hammocks, snoring and sleeping away the night's hours in anticipation of a new day.

She took a step forward, hands awkwardly dangling at her sides. "Actually," Elizabeth said so softly that Graciela had to strain to hear, "I didn't want to talk. Not exactly. With words, I mean."

Graciela pushed damp black bangs off her forehead and struggled to keep a rein on her temper. What in the name of God was the girl babbling about? "I'm very tired, Lizzybet. Can this wait till morning?"

"No." Elizabeth took a few quick, nervous steps in Graciela's direction and ended up so close that the other woman could feel her body heat. "I need to know now."

"Know what?" Graciela's tone was sharp and snappy and she instantly regretted it.

No need to vent my spleen on her head, Graciela thought. Lizzybet's done nothing to deserve that. Aloud, she said in a much more gracious tone, "What can I do for you, querida?"

"Um... this..."

The next moment, Graciela felt herself embraced in a pair of long, strong arms that pressed her face so tightly to Elizabeth's firm bosom that she couldn't breathe. In another heartbeat, she felt the tall girl pull back a little, then Graciela literally saw stars when Elizabeth's head banged painfully into her own. Nothing daunted by this tiny accident, Elizabeth seized the opportunity while Graciela was still stunned to plant an inexpert but enthusiastic kiss on her mouth.

Their front teeth clashed and Elizabeth felt her lip split open but she was beyond caring for such trivial hurts. Instead, she squeezed Graciela so tightly that the smaller woman wheezed and continued showering her face with kisses in a frenzy of unleashed passion until it finally dawned on her that Graciela was choking, "Stop! Stop!" and futilely kicking her shins.

Elizabeth let go and stepped back, panting. Wiping a trickle of blood from her chin with a hand, the girl gulped, "I want you. I need you. Oh, Graciela, I know what you've been hiding and I want you to know that I love you, too."

Graciela rubbed her aching head and pressed her tongue against her teeth, checking for looseness. As much as she wanted to bed Elizabeth, the girl's enthusiasm was like being attacked by an overgrown puppy. And then there was the matter of "love." She wasn't sure if she was ready to let Elizabeth know her true feelings.

Finally, she took a deep breath and said, "Er... I love you, too, querida. Wait!!" She held up both hands to ward off another attack and retreated a step backwards. "Lizzybet... p'raps we'd do better to talk about this in the cabin."

The red-headed maid nodded, eyes glowing, face wreathed in a huge smile. Her lip was still bleeding sluggishly but she didn't care. Elizabeth Everheart was in love!!

Heart swelling until she thought it would burst with happiness, Elizabeth followed Graciela to their cabin.

Once there, Graciela had to fend off another burst of enthusiasm from Elizabeth. Finally running out of patience, she shouted, "Stop! Please!"

Elizabeth halted in her tracks. Slowly, the ecstatic expression on her face turned to one of sadness and crushing disappointment. "You... you don't like it? You don't like me?"

Graciela shook her head. "T'isn't that, querida." She sat down on the bed and patted the space beside her. "Come and sit with me a while. There's no hurry."

Her stomach quivered as if it contained a thousand butterflies. Elizabeth approached the bed and sat down as close to the edge as she could get without actually falling off. "I just... I mean... well, I'm sorry if you didn't..."

"I know." Graciela put an arm around Elizabeth's waist and leaned against her, other hand going to the laces of her shirt. "I was just surprised, that's all."

"Oh." Elizabeth didn't appear to notice the way Graciela's clever fingers pulled the lacing cord on her shirt from one hole to the next until the garment gaped open from neck to waist. "I love you," she repeated firmly, determined to get that straight once and for all.

"And I love thee, my glorious Hawk of the Sun," Graciela crooned, gently pushing Elizabeth down until she lay flat on her back. Bracing herself up on her arm, Graciela blew gently across the girl's exposed breasts, making the pert nipples crinkle even more. Elizabeth sighed and squirmed a little.

"Oh, that's very nice," she whispered, suddenly wishing she were completely naked. The sinfulness of that thought made her flush. Then it struck her what they were about to do was nothing less than fornication and Elizabeth turned redder still but didn't falter.

Graciela grinned. "T'would be much nicer if you took your trousers off."

Elizabeth reared up and Graciela had to move quickly to avoid having her nose collide with the top of the girl's head. "Easy, querida! Easy!" she laughed. "Let me help."

As she shyly pulled off her trousers, Elizabeth began to worry. It was all well and good, boldly marching up to an experienced woman like Graciela and declaring her love, but the precise mechanics of who did what to whom were beyond her imaginative skill.

Palms wet and mouth suddenly dry, Elizabeth felt the rumble of bitter acid in her belly. She was so nervous that she felt like she was going to throw up, piss herself or just sink down dead on the spot. She was horribly aware of the pimple on her arse that had been painfully sore all day and found herself wondering with a sense of growing panic if the quick rag bath she'd taken before retiring earlier had taken entirely removed the stench of sour sweat from her armpits and crotch. Equally alarming, was her breath at all sweet? Oh no, that damned chicken leg!

Elizabeth ran her tongue around her teeth, praying there were no shreds of meat stuck in her smile. She was terrified to breathe, terrified to move and mortified that she might belch, fart or do something so offending that Graciela would order her from the cabin and never, ever suffer her to come near again. She trembled on the knife-edge of tears and wished she were anywhere at all but sitting next to the woman she loved.

Elizabeth was hideously certain that nothing was going right. Why, oh why, did she have to be such a stupid, clumsy cow? What could Graciela possibly find in her that was at all attractive?

Oh, God! Why am I doing this? She's going to hate me, I know it!

Graciela smoothed the red-gold curls from Elizabeth's forehead. Knowing the girl most likely had no idea what she was about to get into, she smiled and said kindly, "Lay back, querida. Let me do all the work this time."

Work?

There was actual work involved?

Things were going from bad to worse.

Elizabeth's stomach rumbled again, this time audibly. She flushed so hotly that her face was pure scarlet.

Graciela chuckled. "Don't be nervous, Lizzybet. I don't bite." She found the girl's hesitant and trembling demeanor very charming and was glad that she would be the first to introduce Elizabeth to the arts of love. Better me than some ham-fisted plowboy with the sensitivity of an ox, she thought.

Elizabeth was paralyzed with indecision. Graciela was stroking her back gently and kissing her shoulder. It should have felt very nice but she was too worried, too caught up in horrendous visions of potentially embarrassing scenes to relax enough to enjoy the sensations. When Graciela curled a hand over her bare thigh, barely brushing the nest of curls that guarded her mound, Elizabeth jumped and nearly fell off the bed.

Graciela sighed. "You're as nervous as a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs, querida. See?" She patted the center of the bed. "Sit up here and don't be frighted. It's very comfortable. Don't worry... I won't hurt you."

Elizabeth scooted up onto the indicated spot and sat cross-legged, arms across her breasts. The posture was so defensive that Graciela frowned.

"Here, let me get undressed, too." Graciela stood up and peeled off her shirt, tossing it into a corner. Her trousers followed just as quickly.

A single oil lamp burned in the cabin, shielded by rose tinted glass. This light lent a burnished glow to Graciela's skin, deepened the color of her nipples and allowed long, dark shadows to highlight the rounded muscles of her arms and legs, flat stomach and boyish hips. Her dark hair barely brushed her shoulders and the fringe of bangs on her forehead served to emphasize her large, pale blue eyes. Graciela stood still for a moment, allowing Elizabeth to appreciate her nudity, knowing the girl had probably never looked upon another woman with desire before.

A sudden flood of saliva filled Elizabeth's mouth and she gulped. When Graciela had been injured, she'd tended her wounds and even bathed her, but the vision that filled her eyes right now was several steps beyond mere nudity. Graciela seemed to flaunt herself boldly, every movement a graceful dance of seduction, every heated glance an invitation.

Graciela slipped up onto the bed, crawling on hands and knees like a tigress, undulating her hips shamelessly from side to side. Seeing Elizabeth's eyes widen, she growled playfully and nipped the girl's knee. Elizabeth started but didn't otherwise didn't move, mesmerized by the sight and sound.

Graciela reached out and grabbed Elizabeth's leg, strong fingers curling into the calf muscle. Slowly, she pulled the girl's leg out straight and clamped her hands around the ankle. Then, without any warning whatsoever, Graciela dipped her head down, thrusting her hips up higher, and pulled one of Elizabeth's toes into her mouth.

Elizabeth whimpered and fought the urge to pull away. It tickled but, at the same time, felt really, really good. Graciela sucked gently then began licking the girl's toes, working her way up the entire foot until she reached the knee. Each flick of her tongue sent tingling shockwaves through Elizabeth's body and she fell back onto the bed, a helpless victim of lust, all worries submurged in the rising, raging tide of desire that was surging through her veins and firing her blood.

Graciela switched tactics. Crawling up until she was straddling Elizabeth's body, she lowered her head and began licking the girl's throat and ears, still growling softly. To her delight, Elizabeth's hands circled her back and caressed her shoulder blades, gliding down to waist and hips, fingers probing and massaging instinctively.

Worrying the girl's earlobe gently with her teeth, Graciela lowered her body until her breasts brushed against Elizabeth's, rubbery nipples bumping together. The sensation made both women moan softly, almost simultaneously.

Licking her way along the angle of Elizabeth's jaw, Graciela suddenly moved and thrust her tongue deep into Elizabeth's open mouth, sliding past her teeth and forcing her lips open even further. At the same time, she dropped her body completely on top of the girl, her weight holding her to the bed, grinding their hips together, hands tangled in Elizabeth's red-gold hair.

At this precise moment, when Elizabeth didn't think she could stand anymore, the wind shifted, heeling the ship over drastically. Both women slid out of the bed and landed hard on the floor, Graciela still on top.

The pirate looked down into Elizabeth's flushed face, noting her glazed eyes, and quipped with a smile, "See! The earth moves already, querida."

Elizabeth opened her mouth to reply... and to her extreme embarrassment and utter mortification, did nothing but belch loudly, right into Graciela's face.

Graciela laughed... but the mood was broken.

Elizabeth shoved the pirate away and scrambled up, breathing heavily.

"I... I need to pee," she mumbled. This was partially true - her bladder was crying to be emptied - but mostly, she wanted to get away, run far away from this cabin and this woman before she heard the mocking laughter, felt her soul crumbling beneath the lash of her would be lover's scorn.

To her further discomfiture, Graciela shrugged and got back on the bed, the picture of ease and confidence. "You know where the thunder mug sits," she said, adding sotto voce, "I'll lick you clean after, if you like."

Elizabeth looked wildly left and right, as if seeking a means of escape. Finally, moaning with acute humiliation and distress, she bent over, snatched her discarded shirt from the floor, tossed it over her head and fled, feet hammering up the ladder until she burst out onto the open deck, wishing she was dead...

Wishing the ocean would swallow her whole...

Wishing she'd never dared try and reach so high for an unattainable dream...

Wishing with all her heart she'd never met and offered her innocence to the cool and confident She-Wolf.

Hawk of the Sun?

Never!!

Hot tears of shame coursing down her cheeks, Elizabeth ran blindly to the foredeck, cursing herself for a fool.

She'd never change. She was the Great Gawk, always ruining any chance of her own happiness.

She hated herself.

Sobbing, Elizabeth sank to the deck, crying as if her heart was breaking.

Which it was.


Aargh, matey, that be all !
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