The Curse


Part 14

by Anita Louise

copyright 09/98

Chapter Sixty Four

The door opened slowly and by this time their cutlasses were drawn and all were prepared for a battle.

Mary gazed toward Gina she bit at her lower lip. Shrugged as if to say, 'Let's get this over with.'

The woman's eyes widened as she stared at the gleaming steel that was aimed toward her. Bella, raised both hands and turned her attention to Mary. "Peace, mate. I do not come bearing weapons, or enemies."

Mary heaved a long sigh, sheathed her cutlass, nodded to the others to do the same. Then she motioned for Bella to come into the room. Saxton looked at Will he was perplexed at what was taking place. They all stepped further back into the room as Bell entered closing the door behind her.

Mary walked toward her. "Come to lead us to our slaughter?"

"No. I have come to lead you safely out of here."

Grumbling, Mary's blue eyes seemed to pierce Bella's dark eyes. "I saw you with that heathen Asterea. So don't go acting like we don't know what is going on."

"True, I was talking to her. She was already on to you. Since Ann Bounty turned up missing and along with her, the map to some confounded treasure, the woman has been beside herself. I merely told her something that would take her eyes off of me." She eyed the table and the bottle of port. "Mind if I sit, have a drink."

Mary motioned with her right arm, "Go ahead. I am anxious to hear what is taking place out there and just how you plan on getting us off this island."

Gina watched the woman as she pulled out a chair and straddled it, then sit. She walked toward Bella, and as she neared, she asked, "Tell me about Ann?"

Bella looked up, "The Ann Bounty you may know is no longer. This one is more like Asterea than anyone I have ever known. The two women were close it seems but now that Ann has disappeared and with her this treasure map," she took a long swig off the bottle, made a contended sigh then added, "her hide will soon be Asterea's."

Gina shook her head. "Never. The Ann Bounty I know is more than a match for the she devil, and in a fair fight, would win."

Bella looked at Mary then back to Gina. "If you know anything, Asterea is not fair. So it seems she has run off and maybe headed for Osara. I would suggest that is where you go. That is, if you want to see her again. But then she may just run you through."

Tears welled up in her eyes as Gina turned to Mary for consolation. Instead she saw a hardness on the woman's face and a coldness in her eyes. "Bell is right. If we do get out of here, and we do find Ann, you must remember she does not know you."

Nodding, Gina walked toward the bed and sat beside Will. The man's eyes grew tender and he placed an arm around her shoulder drawing the woman to him. Gina fell into his embrace, tears falling down her face.

Mary walked toward the table pulled out a chair and sat. She viewed Bella for several minutes before she said, "Tell me. I want to know how you plan on getting us out of here. I saw all the troops, the people running to and fro. And they were looking for us. I can't see anyway to accomplish this."


They stayed in the room until early morning. When the noise from below had died down, Bella stood, "Time to go."

Mary walked over and tapped Gina, Will and Saxton on their shoulders waking them.

Then she turned to gaze at Bella. "This had better be on the up and up. If you are leading us into an ambush, I will make sure this is the last night you will ever see."

Bell nodded. "I would do the same. It is my intention to get you all off this island but you must listen to me and do what I ask." She was gazing at the three waiting for some sort of confirmation and finally they all nodded in agreement.

In the early morning hours there were not many guards out, most of the people had gone home or had fallen asleep where they stood. Asterea had put them to task and very few were now out and about. They traveled the alleys, staying low and trying to blend in with the shadow's that still held claim to the night.

Bella knew where she was going, and seemed to be avoiding any confrontation. As they neared the inlet, she held up a hand. "This is it. My men are just beyond that rock. They will take you to your ship. I suggest you waste no time getting out of here."

Mary walked up to the woman. "Nope. Could be a trap. You go first."

"Really Mary this is a little ridiculous. Don't you trust anyone?"

She shook her head and motioned with her cutlass to go in front of her. Bella shook her head and mumbled something under her breath. They followed her, slowly and carefully and when they neared the rock. Mary took a deep breath, turned to the others. "If I have led you to you Asterea, you have my permission to kill me."

They looked at one another then Saxton said, "We followed you willingly. There will be no killing that is unless it is with Asterea's troops."

She managed a smile then turned to Bella, "Ready to step around the boulder, let's see just what is waiting."

Bell nodded and walked toward the boulder with Mary right behind, her cutlass ready.

A longboat was bobbing in the water, three crewmen were sitting in it. Bella waved toward them then turned to stare into Mary's eyes. "Told you. One of these days, maybe you will be more trusting Ready. My men will row you to your ship. I wish you all a good voyage. Now, get out of here before someone comes along and I have a lot of explaining to do."

Mary reached out and shook Bella's hand. "Sorry about doubting you. I owe you one."

It didn't take them long to quickly walk into the surf, each happy to be heading toward a boat.

Bella stood and watched them board. She waved then turned and left the area.


The ship was cutting through the water, it was as if it too, was happy to put a lot of distance between them and Asterea.

Mary was standing at the helm, her eyes furrowed, her mind on Osara and what they might find there. She could feel knots building up in her stomach. Like Gina, she would be happy to see the beautiful face of Ann Bounty but unlike Gina she knew that Ann would probably kill her. She had done a wrong thing for what she thought was a right reason. There was nothing left to do but to face the woman, tell her she was sorry. Several tears trailed down her cheeks as she murmured, "I love you, more than you may ever know."

"What's that?" Gina's words brought her back to the present as she turned and gazed at the woman.

"Nothing, just me talking to myself. Do you always creep on people like that?"

Grinning, Gina answered, "Always have. I don't see anything around here that would give me reason to tread lightly. Did I startle you?"

Turning her attention forward and her hands on the helm, she answered, "I was deep in thought, words kinda surprised me, that's all."

"You were saying you loved someone. Want to tell me?"

Shaking her head, she tried to ignore the woman.

Gina stepped in front, reached out grasped Mary's right hand. I can feel the pulse in your hand. It beats loudly . . . " Her brown eyes were questioning as she cleared her throat, "Perhaps, you and I are both feeling the same beat."

Mary stood tall, her body had a strong, hard, polished air of authority to it. "You and I feel many things. But what I feel is not the same as you. My thoughts are my thoughts."

Removing her hand, Gina nodded. "True, your thoughts are yours but if it was Ann you were speaking of, we need to talk. Is there a problem?"

"No problem. Ann will welcome you, that is when she finally figures out who you are. And me, she will run through without a thought."

Gina tilted her head to the left and stared at Mary. "Sometimes I wonder if you really know Ann Bounty at all."

"Why do you say that? I know her better than . . ." She bit her tongue and stopped talking.

"Better than anyone? Isn't that what you were going to say?"

Mary motioned for a crew member to take over the helm then she turned to Gina, "Come on, let's go to my cabin. We need to talk."

Gina followed the woman below but Mary was soon out of sight. She was on the last step, when she ran into Will. He smiled, "I love meeting you like this."

Gina grinned, "Since this is the only way up or down, eventually someone is going to run into someone. You look refreshed today."

He stepped back and allowed her to descent to the floor. "I am, we are closing the distance to Osara and hopefully Ann will be found. She will remember you and if my prayers are answered, forgive my sister."

Gina nodded. "I know Ann. She gets hurt but she is a caring woman. And the two of them have a past, maybe not the best in some sense but a loving one. Ann will understand."

He shook his head a doubtful look on his face. "That is, if she allows talk before she strikes."

"Then we will all have to make sure there is no striking, just talk. Agreed."

He reached out and grasped Gina's extended hand. "Agreed. Want to come up top with me? I thought I would get some fresh air."

She shook her head. "Maybe another time but I have a meeting with Mary." Her eyes were looking for some assurance he was not upset.

Will grinned, reached up and brushed the hair back that had fallen on his forehead, his eyes sparkled and he smiled. "I concede to Mary, but I will hold you to another moment."

She watched him take the steps two at a time and soon was out of sight. He was so full of life, so vibrant and she was happy to know William Ready. Sighing she began her walk to the Captain's cabin. Stopping at the door, she felt many things. In her mind's eye she could see and remember many times she stood at that door and when she entered the love that shone from Sea's emerald greens as the woman gazed at her.

"Gina! Is that you outside the door?!"

How quickly her thoughts vanished when she heard Mary's voice. Swallowing, she answered, "It's me."

"Come in. I have no desire to talk to a door."

It wasn't long before she had entered the cabin. Her eyes gazing about then seeing Mary sitting at her desk, she walked toward the woman. "Here I am. What is on your mind. By the way I just saw Will, he looks better than I have seen for a while."

Mary nodded, leaned back in her chair. "Sit, I feel I need to talk to you about what is to come."

Feeling a little skeptical, Gina sat on one of the wooden chairs, leaned back and said, "After all that has happened I am fully aware of what might occur."

Mary leaned forward, "Are you prepared for Ann Bounty to try and kill you?"

Taken back by the woman's words, Gina stuttered, "N--Kil-- No."

"Yes, this woman that Ann has become has an evil presence about her. I just want you to be prepared for what might happen and how you will handle it."

"If she finally left the sight of Asterea, this means, she must be getting her memory back."

"Not so, she could have left for many reasons but one seems to be this treasure map. I am sure Asterea is fit to be tied at this moment. Evil breeds evil and there is no worse evil than Asterea.

So you must be prepared to do what you must if it comes to it."

Gina was on her feet and had begun to pace the room. "I could never do what you are suggesting."

"It is either you do or the woman may end your life."

Stopping she stared down at Mary Ready. "I love her with all that I am, I could never end her life if that is what you are saying."

"And if she draws on you, challenges you? Are you telling me you will just lay down your cutlass and let her run you through?"

"If that is the way it is to be, yes."

Mary stood, walked to a cabinet and brought out a bottle of port. "Might as well sit, have a drink with me. Enjoy this while you can. I only hope Ann Bounty has as much love in her heart for you."


The two women, had slipped several horses from their stalls, carefully bridling and saddling the animals. Star's horse was going in circles as the woman attempted to place a foot into the stirrup.

Sea was already on her horse, it took but a quick jump. She was smiling as the woman kept saying, "Whoa, horse, whoa horse . . . They went round and round, but Star would not give up. It was as the animal suddenly changed course and began to twirl the other direction she fell. The horse walked off leaving Star sprawled out on the stable floor. She looked up to see the gleeful face of Ann Bounty gazing at her.

"Funny huh? You think that was funny?" Scrambling to her feet, she dusted off her trousers, then looked at the horse disgusted.

Ann leaned over, "Here take my hand, you can ride up here with me."

"Yeah sure. What makes you think that animal will stand for it."

Thinking for a second before she answered, "Don't. It might throw us both off."

Stepping back, Star gazed at her. "I swear, woman, you have the most delightful look about you. I think you are enjoying this."

Sea threw a leg over the saddle horn and jumped to the floor. "Stay right there."

She walked over and picked up the horse's reins, led it to the woman. "I'll keep it still, you mount up."

Star looked at her apprehensively. "I have never seen such a ornery animal before."

"We are disturbing it. Now take a look at the stall, nice and warm, plenty to eat, would you want some stranger coming in and taking you away from that?"

"Depends on the stranger. I let you into my life and I didn't really know you at first. I mean I let the other . . . This is so confusing to me."

"If you think that you are confused, try spending some time in my head. Now, are you going to mount up or what?"

Giving Sea a look, she walked up to the horse patted it and said, "Look, I need a ride, I promise to get you back in time for supper. Be nice."

The horse turned its head, looked at her and nickered, then began to stomp its front hooves.

Ann handed her the reins and within moments she was in the saddle. Ann smiled and made a running jump and was on her horse. "Let's get out of here."

The horses galloped from the stable and through the streets, leaving a trail of dust behind.


Ann was looking at the swirling mass not far in front of them. "Good thing we stopped back there to pick up a few provisions. Never know just when these things will appear."

Gabrielle nodded. "I wish you could stay longer. I would love to hear more about your world about . . . everyone."

Ann sighed, "Everyone, that is a tall order. Things and people are not all that different. Maybe one day we will meet again."

Gabrielle watched as Ann walked toward the vortex. "I think that will take you back."

Turning to look at her, Ann asked, "And if it doesn't? Where do you think I will end?"

"Don't know. You have told me about the fight that is going on in your world. Sounds like they need all the help they can get. I wish Xena were here, maybe I could talk her into going with me. She is always up for some new challenge."

Ann walked back to Gabrielle. "The time will come when I will take the dive, but for now, I need to gather my thoughts."

"Your world must be wonderful. So much like this one, yet different. Xena is with the Amazons you say. I can hardly believe it."

Ann walked toward a flat rock and sat. "Seems her heart was broken by some stranger and she could not get over it. Her friend Ephiny had invited her to visit and they have been inseparable. Though I must admit, she has changed a great deal. The woman can really fight."

"This stranger have a name?"

Don't recall, I do know her brother has people out looking and has posted a reward. Come to think of it the picture I saw . . . " she was deep in thought. "Minus the boyish charm . . . looked a little like you."

Gabrielle doubled over laughing. "Yeah, and there are no Gods on Mount Olympus."

Thinking for a second she smiled, "I'm serious."

Gabrielle picked up a twig and quickly changed the subject as she began to trace patterns in the dirt. "Will it take a lot of money to overthrow the opposition?"

"Yes, more than we have been able to come up with. As it is, there is a price on our heads as well."

Shaking her head in amazement, Gabrielle remarked, "One day I will visit your world."

"I will welcome you. And with your persuasive powers you just might get Xena to accompany you."

"She will, I will make sure of it." The way the light was hitting her blue-green eyes they were sparkling, sending warmth to Ann.

Ann grinned, "Want to ride into the village, get something to eat, drink? I would like to leave here with a full stomach. Though I hate to leave you again."

Gabrielle tilted her head, gazed away and whispered, "You will never leave me. I will always carry you in my heart."

"I am pleasured to hear that."

Her face flushed as she stammered, "You . . . weren't . . ."

"Supposed to hear that? Even if you had not spoken the words I see it in your eyes I feel it in my heart."

Standing, Gabrielle stepped away. "I will always love you, I mean Ann. But there is love and then there is love."

Ann was on her feet, it took but two steps to make to Gabrielle's side. She reached out and turned the woman slowly. As her hands touched Gabrielle's shoulders, she smiled. "There is love. Only love. Many can interpret it to their liking. But I know love, I feel love and I know you."

Pulling from the woman's gasp, she walked toward their horses. "I'm going to the village are you coming? And you don't know me, you know someone that looks like me."

Ann shook her head and smiled as she sauntered after Gabrielle.


They were all happy to be ashore. It had been a long journey and one that had been filled with many obstacles none the least was the woman Asterea. Mary knew it would not be long before she and her crew made it into port. They would be looking for Ann as well as them. Once again she and the others were marked for death. Only this time they really had nothing to do with the disappearance of Ann Bounty, it seemed someone else got to the woman before they had the opportunity.

Gina walked into the hut, her eyes darted around the room. She was looking for Mary, ever since they had pushed onshore, she seemed to be in a world of her own. Not a good time for something like this to happen.

She walked toward a table and placed the bouquet of flowers in an empty goblet. They were beautiful, each remarkable and each a vibrant hue of the rainbow. Humming as she arranged each one, she hoped that Mary would like them.

Mary Ready had walked toward the doorway, her mind on battle plans and the many things that would be coming up soon. She stopped when she heard the melodic sounds coming from inside the hut. Smiling, she knew it was Gina. The woman had a knack even in the worse of times to try and bring sunlight into a person's heart.

Pushing the cloth aside that hung over the doorway, she gazed at Gina. Tilting her head from side to side as she watched the woman meticulously care and arrange each flower.


Gina turned, a startled expression crossed her face as she asked, "You like them?"

Stepping toward the table, Mary removed her cutlass and set in on the chair. Then she bent over and took a long whiff of the sweet fragrance that was now finding its way around the room.

"Gods could not do better. They are nice." She stood and gazed down, her eyes taking Gina into them. "You did this for me?"

"Yes. You have been . . . Well you have not been yourself. I thought that these might cheer you."

"I love them, I love them even more because you picked each one. Thank you."

Mary leaned over and placed a soft kiss on her forehead, then stood and walked toward their pack. It wasn't long before she brought out a bottle of port. "It has been a hard day. I thought I would have something to whet my appetite, want some?"

Shaking her head, Gina replied, "I promised Will I would go with him to look at several horses.

Would you like to come?"

Mary had already plopped on the bed. She took her boots off and then said, "Nope, I am going to have a few, lay back and inhale the beauty of the flowers."

"See you when I get back." Gina was gone in an instant leaving Mary to wonder just where the woman was getting so much energy.


Will was getting ready to leave when Gina hurried up to him. He beamed and said, "There you are. I thought you were going to stand me up."

Gina stopped, looked at him, her eyes took in his as she said, "I am . . . here. Now William Ready what kind of a woman do you think I am? I told you I would go with you."

He grinned it seemed to be almost a boyish grin. "You really like calling me William don't you?"

She stepped close and stood on her tip toes, at the same time placing a tender kiss on his left cheek. "Aye Master William, I surely do." Quickly walking away and heading down the path to the stables she called back, "Are you coming or just going to stand there all night?"

He laughed and ran to catch up to her.

The streets were fairly quiet, not many people seemed to be out. There were the few occasional horses trotting by but for the most part it seemed most had found somewhere else to be.

Will had been walking slowly trying to stay within Gina's pace. The port of Osara was in the distance, there were many new ships anchored near. Will, tapped Gina and asked, "Looks like there have been other ships come in. Suppose Asterea has made her way here?"

Gina placed both hands on her hips, her eyes straining to see the outline of the ships. "Wouldn't surprise me. We have to be careful."

They began to walk once more. The walk had been invigorating and Will was hoping it would never end. He felt that he would be happy being in that time and space forever as long as Gina was by his side.

"Will? Oh Will. . . .

He looked sheepish as he gazed at Gina. Her dimples were pulling him in as her light brown eyes taunted.

"Sorry, I was thinking."

Her dimples deepened, as did the glow from her eyes. "Want to tell me what has you so flustered? Just what were you thinking William?"

He shook his head and began to walk away. Gina ran to catch him, reached out, grasped his right arm and said, "Me? You were thinking about me?"

He turned gazed at her and replied, "If you must know, yes, I was kinda thinking about

you . . . about us."

She released her grasp, stepped back scrunched up her nose and said, "There is no us. But I would me most interested in hearing what you were thinking. I hope it is nothing that Ann might call you out over."

He tapped his cutlass, then smiled, "You're beautiful. You are caring, you are all anyone would hope one day to know. I do not think Ann Bounty would need to call me out, if she is smart, she will."

"She will what?"

He continued, "She will know you for the wonderful woman that you are."

Throwing her hands into the air in a futile gesture Gina began to walk once more. "We need to get the horses, and get back. Our final destination is not that far, and we have to find Ann before Asterea."

"Right." He found himself hurrying to catch up to the woman once more.

Walking past a tavern, Will stopped and gazed at it. "Might be a good idea to stop in and have a drink."

Gina reached out and pulled him along, "Not now, horses first, drink later."

He went but his mind was back at the tavern and all the robust sounds that were making their way into the night air.

Buildings were here and there, they seemed to be on top of one another then in other locations there was only a few dwellings. The stable was on the edge of the village. Gina stopped and stared at the wooden fence that surrounded the building. It was old and in need of repair.

"I hope the animals are in better shape."

Will nodded, "Looks like someone has been a little lazy. Come on mate, lets go see what they have to offer."

The two were standing at the fence, as Will gazed around the area. "I wonder if anyone is there?"

"Don't know but we will soon find out. I hope so, hate to have to go looking for the owner."

The large wooden door creaked as Will pushed it open. Inside, there were a few stalls, hay spread out on the floor, but no one seemed to be in sight. Both walked into the building.

Gina called out, "Hello. We have come to bargain for some of your horses."

No answer.

William walked toward the stalls. He was checking out the few horses that were there.

"Not much to choose from. Come tell me what you think?"

Gina approached the stalls, her eyes gazing at each horse. They were old, and they looked like they had been used hard. "Will, I don't know, these poor animals look like they can use all the rest they can get."

He leaned against the wooden door, "Never can tell just what you might get, not everything is measured in looks. Take that black over in the corner. First glance he looks old and tired but watch this." He opened the gate, walked in, whistled a tune Gina had never heard before but the horse immediately came alive. Muscles rippled along strong legs, as the animal reared into the air then came high stepping toward the man.

"Get out of there!" Gina exclaimed fearing the animal might trample him. Instead it lowered its head and nuzzled Will. Her mouth flew open, "What? Will do you know this animal?"

He looked at her all the time, petting the animal and making cooing sounds in its ear. "That is for you to wonder about. For now, pick out two horses and I will get one more. We can bridle, saddle them and then talk to the owner."

She shrugged and walked toward one of the stalls, still trying to figure out just what kind of magic Will seemed to have over the animal.

The owner never did return so they left a note and enough dinars to pay for the animals and began their way back. Gina was riding a palomino and leading a sorrel. Will rode the black and led a chesnut. No one paid them any mind as they made their way through the dusty, streets.

That is until they reached the tavern it was at this time a huge man stepped out onto the street, he held up one hand. "Whoa there you two! Those are my horses, just where do you think you are going with them?"

Will motioned for Gina to remain quiet and so she sat back and watched.

"No one was in the stable, so we left a note and payment there," Will spoke with authority.

"Get down! Those animals are not for sale. I have already sold them to Chintakas forces."

Will's body tightened as he sit up straight, one hand on the hilt of his cutlass. "These animals are no use for an army."

The man threw his head back and guffawed, "Not to ride but they will make good stew."

Gina's stomach just turned a flip flop as she urged her animal forward. Glaring down at the man she snarled, "Not this animal and not those. We left you good money now get out of our way!"

He glanced at Will then back to her. "What kind of man are you, letting a woman talk like that?

A real man would make sure his wench keeps her mouth shut!"

He never saw the woman as she somersaulted from the saddle. Within an instant both feet found their way onto the man's face. He groaned and fell back staggering. In two somersaults, Gina's feet struck him again and again. This time he went down hard. She stood over him, he didn't look so threatening anymore. The man began to plead for his life.

Will called, "Come on let's get out of here before some of his friends find there way outside. I have no desire to get into a battle this night. By the way, that was some move."

She dropped to her knees and drew a small knife. Holding it to the man's throat she whispered, "We left you payment, I want your word you will not come after us."

His eyes darted to the knife and he muttered, "Yes, yes, you have my word. But the woman pirate will not be happy."

Her eyes grew dark as Gina asked, "Woman Pirate? Who is this pirate?"

He glanced toward the tavern, "She and her men are in there, they arrived this day. Never have I seen a woman like this one." He thought for a moment then said, "Come to think of it, she is looking for someone like you . . . Yes, by the Gods it is you."

Gina's grip tightened on the knife before she struck out hitting him across the face, her fist knocking the man unconscious. Turning to Will she said, "We have to get out of here, Asterea is in there and she will be coming." Running, she easily bounded onto the horse's back and they left a trail of dust in their wake.


Chapter Sixty Five /P>

Mary was fast asleep by the time the two returned. Even the sound of horses outside did not wake her from her dreams. It had been a long and sometimes horrible voyage. The one thing she always wished she could have changed was the way she and Ann left things on that day.

As the fates would have it, they were destined to meet again, this time, she almost lost her life but for the courage of a woman she thought she would never see again. The day she finally opened her eyes to gaze upon the beauty of Ann Bounty, was the day she felt reborn. Ann had forgiven her transgressions.

After all they had been through, to know the woman still held compassion was more than she thought would ever be. Things were different now, it was not her those emerald green's gazed upon with love, it was the young woman, Gina.

All she ever wished was happiness for Ann Bounty and a good life. It seemed this is the way it was to happen. That is, if the woman had never purchased a certain statue. From the beginning of their voyage to Egypt to return the statue to its rightful place, it seemed problems prevailed.

Ann was facing her own demons from a past encounter with the pirate known as, The Scourge of the Ocean. A fitting name for the woman, Asterea. Her brother William . . . She smiled as she envisioned the tall strapping man. So much had occurred, she would always be grateful to him for having gone to Ann for help. She felt her body shiver as the pain still found its way into her dreams. Had they left her to the hands of her captors, Mary knew she would now be but a name passed in the wind.

Moaning and thrashing about the bed, Mary fought the demon's that were trying to make their way into her mind, each one lashing out with pain and terror. Her face was damp with perspiration, and her body cried for release.

Gina left the horses with Will. She knew he would see they were watered and fed. She had to talk to Mary, the woman had to know that Asterea was already there. Stopping to get a drink and let the water soothe her thirst, she then headed toward the hut.

Pushing the cloth back, she stepped into the room, immediately stopping as her eyes fell upon Mary Ready. The woman was rolling about the bed, her low cries sent chills up and down Gina's spine. Glancing toward the table she could see several bottles setting, it was obvious the woman had drunk herself into a stupor.

Gina knew it would do no good to try and talk to Mary, if anything it would just bring out the wrath of woman. So she shook her head and left the room. Stepping out, she stretched, it had been a hard ride, her body ached, her clothes were dusty. Gazing up, she viewed the many stars that were twinkling down. A deep sigh escaped her lips as she walked toward the path that would take her to the hot springs.

Gina lay back in the warm water, relishing the way it caressed, and eased, each touch was relaxing and she thought she might just lay there forever. Smiling as she sensed each tight knot give way to heavenly sensations.

She was so relaxed so deep into her thoughts she did not hear the footsteps, that is until she heard the words, "Looks refreshing. Seems we left something unfinished."

Opening one eye, she gazed toward the sound. Treading water, her eyes widened as she stared at the statuesque woman that was standing near the water's edge. Her hands were on hips, curvaceous hips that mesmerized Gina. Her eyes traveled the length of the woman's legs. She wore black leather trousers, and dark boots that matched, giving the woman a regal look. The red sash around her waist as well as the leather belt that held a very large cutlass in its sheath, also gave note this was not a woman to fool with.

"How's the water?"

Gina felt flushed and it was not from the warmth of the water. Her eyes moved over the woman like a soft touch. A leather tunic, held together by strands of leather, graced the material. And full breasts were just waiting to make their presence known. The moonlight gave way to flaming red hair and eyes that were sparking in its glow. Gina went under, hoping the water would wake her. Resurfacing she knew that it was all a dream. But when she came to the surface the woman was still there.

"Ann? Is it really You?" Gina asked, as her voice cracked.

Haunching down, the woman gazed at her and replied, "That is what they tell me. Want to tell me what happened?"

Gina looked frantically for her clothes and spotted them near the woman's right boot. Swimming toward the edge, Gina spoke, "If you will allow me, I need to get dressed."

Ann stood, stepped back as she gazed at the clothes on the ground. "Anyone else about?" She asked as Gina neared.

"No, just me. Would you mind turning around?"

Ann tilted her head, her eyes gazing at the woman. "No, I don't mind. As long as I can hold your cutlass in my hand."

"Not very trusting are you?"

Ann turned, as she answered, "To be too trusting, a person might not live till the next light. After our last encounter I woke with a splitting headache."

Quickly getting out of the water, Gina dressed, all the time her eyes taking in the woman she thought she might never see again. "You had a headache as did I. I never saw you after that. I guess we were both ambushed by Asterea and her cohorts. You can turn around now, I'm done."

Ann turned, her eyes gazing at the dimples that beckoned to her. "Alexandria? I was told you led me to a trap and if not for Asterea, I would be dead."

Gina looked appalled. "That is a lie. I have never been happier to see you. All I wanted was to get you away from there, somewhere safe."

"Woman told me you were Silver's whore."

It was apparent the words hit a nerve as Gina fumed, "Whore?! If that she devil was before me this instant, I would make her pay for those lies!"

Brushing her golden hair back from her face, Gina motioned for her cutlass. Ann handed it to her then moved away.

Sheathing the cutlass, Gina now turned her full attention to the woman. She could feel the blood pulsing though her veins and she felt she just might pass out at any moment.

"I have been looking for you since you . . . " she stopped as she contemplated whether to tell the woman what she knew or not. "If you are Ann Bounty the Ann Bounty known as Sea Troll, we are, we were . . . "

"By the Gods! Woman, quit your stuttering, 'we are, we were' what?"

Swallowing before she spoke, Gina managed a smile. "We are lovers, we have a past and I pray a future."

Her revelation shocked Ann as she stepped further away from the woman. " 'Lovers,' " she scoffed. Her hand was now on the hilt of her cutlass as she continued, "Asterea told me you were not to be trusted."

"Asterea is an evil woman. You can trust me." She motioned to several rocks. "Let's sit and talk. I have missed you so much. I have been so lost without you."

Ann walked over and sat, she dug her left boot into the ground and said, "Talk. I want to hear all about this."

Star, was keeping to the shadows of the trees as she watched the two women engaging in conversation. She wondered just what was going on. Finally stepping into the open, she announced, "Here I am. I have been looking for you."

Both women looked up to see her approaching. Gina smiled, "By the Gods! Ann is right, you are a vision of Gabrielle."

Star glanced toward Ann then back to Gina. "And you would be?"

Gina held out her right hand, "My name is Gina. Ann Bounty and I are . . . " she was at loss for words.

Ann stepped forward smiled. "Gina tells me the two of us, are old friends."

Star seemed skeptical then she grasped Gina's arm in a friendly gesture. "Any old friend . . . " Her eyes surveyed the woman. "Must be some friendship. Name's Star."

They motioned for the woman to join them and so she sit and eyed the two women.

Turning her attention to Ann she asked, "Seems you found someone from your past and from the look on her face a very happy someone. What does she know about me?"

Gina made a disgusted sound in her throat. "She is sitting right here."

Grinning, Star acknowledged this then continued, "Well?"

Ann rolled her shoulders. "Told her all I know. I think she is telling the truth. It is time I started to listen to others as I have done with you."

After Star seemed to be comfortable with Gina she smiled toward Ann. "I see a different light in your eyes. I Suppose this is the woman that has captured your heart?"

Leaning back on her hands, Sea let out a low sigh, "I only know I feel comfortable being around her."

"Hey you two, I am right here." Gina was still trying to get them to acknowledge her.

They both laughed as Ann spoke, "You are, and you are also someone a person could never forget."

Gina's eyes lit up as she exclaimed, "Then you remember me?"

"I remember the woman that walked up to me in Alexandria. I felt something then and I do now."

She reached over and brushed Gina's hand softly with her own. "There is truth to your words and I do want to get to know you."

For a second it seemed Gina would cry but she caught herself and sat straight up, gazed at Ann and said, "To know you is life, to have you gaze at me as you are, is love. I will be here for you, as your friend, your mate, your . . . "

Star cut in, "Hate to break up this touching moment but I need to ask, Ann did you find the vortex we heard about?"

Shaking her head, Ann replied, "No. But it is nearby."

Suddenly Gina blurted, "Gods! Ann, she is here!"

"She who?" Ann looked confused.

"Asterea, I found out she and her crew is in the village. She is looking for you, as well as Mary, Will, Saxton and me."

Ann raised an eyebrow. "Mary, Will, and Saxton?"

Gina began to fill both women in on what had happened. When she had finished, Ann stood and began to pace. "Seems this Mary Ready and I have something to discuss."

Gina stood, walked up to her, and reached out touching her left arm. "Ann, you and I have a past, a beautiful loving past, so do you and Mary. She is a wonderful woman, please try to think about what happened. Try to think what she was going through at the time. I know she cares deeply for you and has been living her own hell since all of this happened."

Sea gazed into Gina's light brown eyes, then reached out and held her hand. "I will. I have no desire to start a fight with someone I cannot remember. If you tell me she was doing what she thought was right and has regretted this . . . " I promise I will not be the one to strike first."

"Thank you. She is not far from here."

Ann bit at her lower lip, before she said, "We must go to these people you speak of, tell them what is happening and prepare to face Asterea. The woman and I have some things to straighten out. She kept me in the dark as to who I am. She played with my soul. For this I cannot forgive but she also helped me in ways you may never understand. I knew the minute I took the treasure map, she would be after me."

Star got to her feet, gazed at the two women. "I will be happy to be back in my world and the first thing I am going to do is give my Ann Bounty a hug and never let her out of my sight again."

They laughed as Ann said, " Then the sooner we find the treasure and get you back the better. Let's go."


continued in chapter sixty six

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