Pursuing her Pirate – Jaye Peaches

“You come aboard my ship in the dead of night and expect me to show mercy?” He examined the cord around the wrists of his captive and gave the knot a tug. A sturdy boot stomped on the floor; an angry response, and one he expected. “Since you chose to board my ship with your vagabonds and scallywags, you can explain to them what you intended to do. I can send you down into the hold with them.” The croaky voice answered back with the flair of a theatrical actor. “I expect no mercy from the likes of your wicked kind.” Flynn grinned. “My kind? Says the one carrying a cutlass and dagger. Which I might concede you handle admirably for a youth.” “I’m no child.” The gruff tone irked him. Perhaps it was too practised. Flynn drew his small dagger from its scabbard. His prisoner flinched at the sight of the sharp edge of metal. He had only two things on his mind—exposing the truth and concluding their business arrangement.

With a swift slash of the blade, he popped every button on the wastrel’s overcoat. The coat slipped off the shoulders accompanied by a high-pitched screech. He laughed. Then he took out the ivory buttons of the undershirt with another flick of his wrist. What he exposed was deeply satisfying. “So, young man, or should I say young lady, what have you to say?” She, for she was of the fairer sex, stuck out her chin and eyeballed him defiantly. “So what?” she snapped. “Nobody will trust a woman, but only a woman can understand what it’s like to be nothing, unwanted and in need of a purpose.” “And you shall have the recognition you deserve.” He dragged the blade through the bindings around her bosom and tore away the wrapping that had compressed her breasts flat.

Exposed to the waist, she was every bit a beautiful morsel of feminine charm. With her hands bound, there was nothing she could do to stop him. He sheathed his dagger and stood back to admire her. She sighed and raised her bound arms to protect her chest. “Enough of this silly game. We both know why I’m here. I’m not interested in what’s in your hold. Captain Bartoc, I’ve delivered what you asked, now can we get a move on? The tide is turning, and there are rumours of a frigate close by.” The ruse was a good cover—a lithe knave in breeches and boots with a devilish plan to rob ships at anchor in the port’s harbour. She’d done her best to keep her identity secret, but there was no reason to for her to know that he’d known about the disguise before she’d boarded the ship.

“Twelve souls. Twelve men. Aye, you’ve delivered what I asked. How did you come by them?” She rolled her eyes. “The usual way. I go from tavern to tavern, talking loudly about looting, and those who follow me I persuade to join me on a jolly trip out into the harbour, and to this very vessel, so that we might steal from the cargo in the darkness. I tell them all but a handful of the crew are on board, and those who are will be drunk. I’ve done this before for other captains.” Twelve pressganged men, who were currently locked in his hold and awaiting their fate. “Well, we’ll make sail soon,” he said.

She held out her wrists. “These need loosening.” “Soon.” He grinned. “Captain, you promised—” “I do keep my promises. But I’m a curious man, and your strange arrangement needs further questioning.” He stroked his beard. “You refuse payment. For a pirate, a lack of interest in money is highly suspicious.” “I won’t be paid for tricking men.

I have some decency left.” “But you tricked them. You brought them to my ship under false pretences and left them to their fate without a care.” “And clearly I will be punished for my wickedness.” Her eyes sparkled. She had a good measure of him. There was a little time before the tide turned to wrestle more out her. His smooth-skinned foe, who’d made a pretence at trying to rob him while he and his crew slept, continued to stare. Such sharp eyes, and a fine nose, too. The earlobes were pierced, like his own, and as for the ebony hair, it reached as far as the waist—his went no farther than his shoulders.

There was no time to play out the interrogation as he might like. The men she’d brought on board were a mixed bunch—some were good sailors fallen on hard times, others were fighters, and a couple he expected to ditch upon arrival at a safe port. He wasn’t fussy, but since they’d all been fooled by a woman, they couldn’t be the smartest of men. Flynn had heard from other sailors the tale of the demon who came out to a ship in a jollyboat full of men, left them behind, then went ashore empty-handed. He’d seen her walking the streets, speaking too loudly about the gold lying in the holds of pirate ships, and he had made enquiries through a onearmed man who acted as her go-between. He guessed rightly that she was the demon in disguise, moving from port to port, performing her trick, and in return she gained nothing from it but a reputation that would one day catch up with her; the men she duped into following her might eventually see her in a different light. She picked beggars and thieves, the laid-off sailors from the merchant ships or naval fleets, including those released from gaol or made homeless by lack of work. Using her charm as a young up-and-coming adventurer, she brought them to the ship and straight into a trap. They believed themselves to be the victims of deceit, but later they might realise they were better off with on a pirate ship than on land with nothing but hungry stomachs and empty pockets. A voice cried out which was followed by stampede upon the deck above the cabin.

“Wait there.” He pressed her back into a chair and dashed up the stairs outside his cabin. On the fo’cs’le, he sought out his quartermaster and longest-serving companion of the seas, Darius. “Well?” Flynn asked. “Navy frigate coming around the headland. We’d best weigh anchor smartly.” Flynn snatched the eyeglass out of Darius’s hand. Moonlight exposed the frigate, and lamp lights lit up its bow. Approaching the port, the frigate wasn’t expecting trouble, but the twenty-eight-gun ship could easily make it. Flynn’s barque flew the flag of a privateer, but the cargo would expose him to be a pirate—there was plenty down below that belonged on other ships’ manifests.

As for his guns, twelve cannons were no match for a ship of war. To its advantage, the Flying Cutlass with its shallow draft could outrun the frigate if the favourable winds held. “Damn,” Flynn muttered. They’d little time to manoeuvre before the frigate gave chase. “Why today? Eh?” Darius tittered in sympathy. “The bellicose lass you dragged into your cabin, I thought you’d be sending her ashore?” Darius knew of the deceit. They’d been shorthanded for weeks since their last scuffle with a merchant ship off Hispaniola. Sailors came and went for many reasons, not just death or injury, and Flynn paid off those who had served well as a reward. He preferred the navy-trained hands, those who at least had experience of ships. The ones he pressganged were kept back until they earned their release.

He believed he turned society’s dregs into useful citizens. Pickpockets became sail makers, wall-climbing burglars became sailors who clambered up the highest masts, and even those with one eye or a missing ear could load a cannon. Good honest labour awaited them back on land, once Flynn was finished with their transformation. The stealing funded his endeavours, and given the poverty on land, he believed in a little redistribution of wealth, but on his terms. However, no judge would form the same opinion as Flynn; he would dance a jig on the end of a rope if caught. “No time to send her packing. We’ll make for the usual waters, you know where I mean. Weigh anchor and get those topsails—” Darius was already shouting orders, and the crew scurried out of their cubby holes and hammocks to obey. “Dammit,” Flynn said. He had news to break to his passenger.

She was by the stern window of his cabin. “What’s going on?” “A frigate of His Majesty’s navy. We must make sail. With luck we’ll be away before it can turn to follow.” The wind at least was in his favour. “Leave!” She held out her wrists. “Untie me. I’ll row myself ashore.” “It’s too late.” “Nonsense.

” He folded his arms across his chest. “Don’t argue with me.” “I’ll swim—” He laughed. “The current will drag you out to sea. It’s called the tide.” She stamped her foot. “I know about tides, and the stars and the leeward winds. I know how a ship tacks and wears. I can read a chart.” “My, my.

You have been well-schooled, but by whom?” She bit her lip. “Nobody,” she said, surly. “I thought as much. Getting grand ideas will not serve you well aboard my ship.” “You can’t keep me here—” “What do you propose I do with you? Let you wear a dress among my men or have you continue your disguise?” Her lips trembled. “I do not want them to know.” Her bare breasts, which she’d tried to cover with her buttonless shirt, were topped by the prettiest of nipples. Firm little pebbles that caught his eye. She tossed her long hair off her shoulder. Another tease that invigorated the hardening member in his breeches.

Now that she wasn’t going anywhere, there was plenty he planned to do once they were safely away. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. He’d have to tread carefully, though. His men would be quick to envy him if they knew that he had a woman in his cabin every night. They’d chosen him to be captain because he was considered lucky, and dangerous. He was also making them richer, and in their hearts, they would give him whatever he wanted if there was gold in their pockets. Outside the cabin, Darius and the coxswain shouted orders; the ship was making swift progress towards the horizon. With luck, they’d lose the frigate. Flynn knew the safest passage through the straits. “A good lass like yourself will no doubt appreciate that a captain must take his spoils seriously.

I keep the best for myself. No other man on this vessel will lay a finger on you, I promise.” She was no angel; he was sure of that presumption. “Spoils?” Her bosom flushed, and those pretty eyes darted from the door to the cot bed with its drapes hung around it. She returned her attention to him and proudly stuck out her chin. “I am a scoundrel and one who has a reputation to maintain. What do you propose to do with me?” She had courage, too. But lacked discipline. Flynn the pirate was a risk-taker, but Flynn, the captain of a ship, had a crew’s welfare to consider. A woman on board was a loose cannon—she would have to learn her place and not overreach herself with romantic notions of piracy.

“If you stray from my side at night, I will punish you. If you speak to the men about your treachery, you will be punished. You will learn to curb your tongue and be the silent rapscallion. Would that not be appropriate under the circumstances?” “You cannot mean to treat me so deplorably? A woman cannot be pressganged into the service; therefore, you cannot discipline me.” “Neither can she be a pirate, and this is a pirate ship.” She snorted. “Did I not board this ship with a dozen at my back, and do you not recall a few of your men suffered bloody noses and cuts before you took us down?” “You were caught, and you well know I knew of your coming, even if my men did not. It was a good exercise, one that will serve them well. Those beggars you plucked off the street with promises of gold will find it tough at first. Do you have any sympathy for the hardship you’ve brought to bear on them? They shall be worked to the bone.

” “I don’t believe you. I think you mean to make me feel guilty. I provided you with a service, and I would do so again when you are next in port.” “But not this port. Your deceit will be known.” “I planned to make it the last time.” “Still too risky.” He shook his head. “Will you not untie me now, sir? I can hardly go anywhere but overboard, and I’ve no intention of heroically sacrificing myself to the seas.” He sliced through the wrappings.

“You’ll have to repair these. And bind your bosom once more. You’re too slight to fit into any of my men’s clothing.” “Quite frankly, I’ve no wish to wear smelly sailors’ garments. Give me a sailmaker’s needle, and I’ll put buttons back on them.” Kneeling on the floor, she collected the buttons rolling along the boards. She darted about, using her nimble fingers, and ignored his light chuckles. “Until we reach a safe port, you can help the cook.” “The cook!” “Aye. He’s a menace.

You’ll do well to keep your sharp tongue to yourself, or he’ll take a cleaver to your fingers. The last cook’s mate lost his thumb for his foolish gibe about the biscuits.” Flynn tightened the buckle of his scabbard belt and pressed his captain’s hat onto his head. “You’ve not told me your name.” She pouted. “I’m Esteban—” “Don’t play your games with me. You real name.” “Esmeralda Dido.” “Dido? A fake name, also. But we’ll not argue for now.

So, Esme, off you go below, and keep out of mischief until I summon you back in here. Call yourself Esteban and keep that squeak out of your voice. You’ll do what comes naturally for a woman—you’ll swab, stitch, and cook. Be off with you. I cannot wait here all day; I’ve a ship to navigate through the straits, and a crew to bark orders at. They do like to know who is in charge. I fancy a flogging might grab their attention, too.” “You can’t mean me?” She looked afraid. She needed that fear. She’d been too confident, and a ship load of men was not a suitable prison for a solitary female, even one called Esteban.

At night, while he slept, he’d have to keep her locked in his cabin with the key around his neck. For now, she needed to know he meant business. “I am the master, judge, and executor on this ship. There is nothing I cannot do. Do you wish the fools you tricked to suffer terribly under my command?” Flynn hadn’t flogged a man for insubordination in months, and then it had been for an act that endangered the life of one of the crew—foolish antics on the yardarms were not to be ignored. The last act of discipline he’d ordered was to have a young land-lover stand upon a barrel and sing. The poor lad was mortified. Holding back on the grog was often sufficient punishment, or reducing a share of the spoils. Everyone on board had a stake in the takings. As he left the cabin, he heard the curses—a flavoursome stream of the worst kind a sailor might utter under his breath.

Flynn grinned. She’d little idea what awaited her if she carried on with her disguise. Only men had the resourcefulness to fight and plunder without getting caught.

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