Disclaimer: If you haven't read the first 2 parts of this story (Letter of Marque and Letter of the Law) you won't know what's going on. Go read those before continuing here. This story contains violence and crudity associated with most pirates, and I don't tone it down for the squeamish. Oh, and there's that sex thing too. Please see "Letter of Marque" for all other disclaimers. Thanks for reading, and please send any comments, good, bad or indifferent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin squinted into the sky, the sun shining directly into her eyes. She had been sleeping until moments before, and was startled when a sudden shadow fell across her face.
"Well, Cap'n Skinner," drawled the shadow in a lazy voice, "are ye goin' to waste yer entire leave sleepin' or will we be findin' more interrestin' tings to do?"
Even sleep addled, Erin recognized that sultry voice anywhere. Though her eyes had not adjusted to the light, she knew it was Delia standing above her. She smiled up at her lover, only to be hit in the face with a cup of cold water.
Erin sputtered, as Delia began laughing and running down the beach. "Why you, wench, I'll get you for that!" Erin shouted.
Delia replied over her shoulder, "Ye'll have to catch me first, love."
Never one to resist a challenge, especially one issued by a naked woman, Erin jumped up and started her pursuit. While Delia had a head start and longer legs, it took Erin only a moment to catch up, grab her prize, and bodily carry Delia into waist deep water. Dunking her prey under the small waves, she uttered, "I have you now, my pretty! That'll teach ya to wake me up from my nap!"
Delia emerged from under the water with a mouthful, and spit it into Erin's face. Erin fell back into the ocean as if struck, and swam a few feet away before coming back up again. "You know, lass, spitting on the captain is a crime punishable by lashing."
Delia, smiled seductively, and said, "Ohhh, lashing is it? Sounds…fun. When do we start?"
Erin laughed, and could feel warm wetness forming between her legs that had nothing to do with the water in which she was standing. Delia stealthily walked through the water toward her target; clasping her hands behind Erin's head, and planting a searing kiss on Erin's lips. Erin reached around and ran her hands under Delia's bare ass, lifting her up until Delia could wrap her legs firmly around Erin's waist, never breaking the kiss.
Erin carried Delia out of the water, and back onto the blanket they'd spread out on the beach a few hours earlier. This part of the beach was quite secluded, requiring a hike that most of the island inhabitants refused to take. For Erin and Delia, the hike was always like foreplay, and they often stopped to talk and kiss along the would-be trail. The seclusion allowed Erin to completely relax, and neither woman saw the need for clothes while swimming and making love.
Erin thought briefly about tossing Delia onto the blanket as pay back for the rude awakening, but decided against it, and dropped to her knees before depositing Delia gently on the ground. Erin looked down at Delia's glistening form, laid before her like a feast. Erin ran her hand across Delia's hips, smoothly wiping the beads of still clinging water. Delia closed her eyes and reveled in the sensation. Before she could call it back, a soft moan escaped Delia's lips, and Erin smiled down at her, "Like that do you, sweetheart?" Erin inquired. Delia could only nod in response, since Erin's hands had now wandered to her inner thighs.
Abruptly Erin stood up, dusting off her hands, and said, "Well, darlin' we'd best get back. The lads'll wonder where I've wandered to…"
Delia sat bolt upright, protesting, only to catch a glimpse of the smirk that Erin was trying desperately to hide. "Pay backs are a bitch, sweetheart," Erin finally smiled.
Delia growling low, kicked out, and knocked Erin's feet out from under her. Erin had time to let out a quick "Hey!" before she was smothered again in Delia's kisses.N
ot too many moments later, and Erin's loud cries of ecstasy startled birds from neighboring trees, leaving the couple in almost complete isolation from any living thing on the island. Delia, quite satisfied with her work, and still breathing heavily from her recent oral exertions, rolled over on her back. Erin rolled onto her stomach and rested her forehead on her hands, "Now I know I need a nap after that."
Delia opened one eye to look at Erin's prostrate form, "Oh no yew don't. I only get one more day with yew, Erin Skinner, and I want yew awake fer it."
Without looking up, Erin groaned, "Ye'll be the death of me woman! I'm starting to think you're plotting to keep me from the ship. I've had four turns, and I haven't even been able to touch you once!"
Delia smiled, "Ach, yew caught on. Yer right, I don't wantcha to go back to yer ship. And why are ye leavin' here early anyway?" Delia tried, and barely succeeded, to keep the jealously from her voice. Erin had already told her why she had to leave early.
Erin rolled over onto her side, propped her head on her elbow, and began stroking Delia's cheek. "You know I'd stay of I could, lass. We've been here only a fortnight, and I had planned on staying one more week, but I've made a promise I've got to keep."
Delia rolled away from the captain, interrupting Erin's caresses. "Seems to me like yer doin' an awful lot for some stowaway."
Erin realizing Delia was still jealous, tried to reassure her, "Delia, darlin', you know I don't go back on my word."
"Oh yeah, only too," Delia muttered.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Erin questioned.
Delia paused a brief moment before she began to cry in earnest, "Only that yew said yew couldn't say fer sure if yew'd ever love me, and it's plain yew don't."
Erin paused, not sure how to respond. She finally said softly, "Delia, you know I love our time together, and I love you more than anyone I know. I just…."
Erin continued lamely, "I don't know, really." Erin again rolled on her back, "I don't want to hurt you, lass. But it seems I do is just that every time I come here. It doesn't seem to matter why I'm leaving, every time I go we say these same words." Erin looked to see if Delia was listening, but Delia had her eyes closed, so that Erin couldn't tell if Delia was listening or not. Erin pushed on, "Delia, I wish that your place in my heart were enough for you. It's not fair, I know, and I would understand if you found someone else. I won't stand in your way if that happens."
A long silence ensued, and Erin was about to suggest they head back. Delia finally replied, "But dontcha see, my love, I wish yew would stand in the way. It's yew I want. There ain't anyone else."
Erin sighed, "I know, sweetheart, I know. I wish I could give you more. After all this time, all these years, and my feelings have not changed. I don't think they will change. I'm not trying to be harsh, lass, I'm only telling the truth." Erin leaned over and planted a soft kiss on Delia's lips, and brushed away some of her lover's tears.
Delia swallowed and nodded her head, "I know, love. I always ask for more hopin' each time yew come back I'll get it. It's only because I love yew that I even try. I promise not to do to yew wot Gisele done to Will. There will always be a place for ya here."
Erin was touched at the announcement, but replied, "No, lass. You cannot make that kind of promise to me. If you find someone who loves you, and whom you love in return, don't let anything, especially me, stand in the way. You're too good for that, ya know?"
Delia laughed bitterly, "Oh don't I know it? I'm quite the catch."
Erin cupped Delia's chin in her fingers, and forced her to look into Erin's eyes, "You are, by far, the kindest, most generous person I've known in my life. Don't ever think you aren't good enough for anyone. Hell, girl, I'm not fit to shine your shoes most of the time."
Delia laughed, "If I wore shoes, which I don't, yew would be following me around with a rag and oil, AND yew'd be washing my clothes as well."
Erin tipped her head in a small bow, "I am at your service, m'lady. What is your pleasure?"
Delia arched a suggestive eyebrow at her, "Oh, I can tink of a few things we can do before sundown."
Erin and Delia had returned to The Blue Ray just as the sun set. The sky, full of clouds, cast light from the sunset and painted a golden hue on the entire island. While Erin wanted very much to accompany Delia upstairs for one last kiss, she knew that to prolong their goodbye would only increase Delia's sorrow. So before they entered the front door of the establishment, Erin reached forward, and circled her hand around Delia's upper arm, halting Delia's progress. Delia turned, a questioning look on her face, until she saw the set of Erin's jaw, and knew good-byes would be said downstairs.
"I'll not give yew the satisfaction of cryin' over yer leavin'," Delia sniffled.
"Do you really think me as hard hearted as that, love?" Erin replied sadly.
Delia paused, looked into Erin's eyes, then shook her head no, "I know yew tink it's best, Captain Skinner, that we say good bye and yew make no promises. I know yer not tryin' to hurt me on purpose…" With that Delia turned, and ran through the bar's open door, and up the stairs. As much as Erin wanted to go after her and try to smooth the waters, she knew that nothing she said could make up for unrequited love.
With a heavy heart, she turned and walked back to the beachhead to await the last dinghy. She made it there, the last of her crew to show up, and waited in the coming twilight with her men. No one spoke, no one was rambunctious. Quite a departure from when they had first arrived.
"Penny for your thoughts, lads," Erin spoke to the 5 remaining crew on the island.
All were silent for a moment, before Mr. Harding cleared his throat, and spoke up, "Beggin' yer pardon, Cap'n. Not a one here would question yer decisions, but…"
"But what?" Erin asked.
"Why is it that we're leavin' a full week before we're s'posed ta?"
Erin thought a minute. She had guessed that the men were not happy about leaving early, but didn't think anyone would question her decision to do so. She could not come right out and tell her men that she was being kind to their uninvited guest, Cecile Rembert. Will's words about her appearing weak before the crew echoed briefly in her ears. Then, she hit upon an idea.
Erin barked crisply, "Mr. Harding, do you speak for all the men here? Do they all question this decision?"
There was general rumbling of agreement amongst all five men there. "I see," said Erin drolly, "and the men aboard the Argonaut, do they share your concerns?" All five men nodded again. "Well, if you'd had concerns, I wish you'd gone through proper channels to get your answers. Mr. Morgan or Jonas could have answered just as easily as I. I don't like it when I am forced into justifying one of my decisions, is that clear boyos?"
Mr. Harding again spoke up, "Cap'n Skinner, we weren't questioning yer decision, we was just curious like is all."
"And curiosity killed the cat," Erin stated. "Well, lads, I'll let you all know my reasons in the morning. In the meanwhile, I won't stand for any idle gossip bantered about, and I won't assuage any man's 'curiosity.' To do so would have put the ship and the crew in terrible jeopardy, do you understand me, gentlemen?"
General murmurs of "Oh, aye, Cap'n" and "No disrespect" were heard from the group, just as the first man started wading out to the dinghy. Another man soon followed, and pulled the small boat nearly out of the water. They held it steady, as Erin jumped in first and took her pick of the seats.
There was no more discussion as the dinghy was slowly rowed across the bay and tied against the side of the Argonaut while each man climbed aboard. Erin did not stay to oversee the dinghy being hauled on board, and asked Mr. Harding to ensure all was secure before retiring. Afraid he had offended his captain, Mr. Harding readily agreed, and set everyone in the immediate vicinity to work.
Erin strolled to her cabin, hopeful that her current 'captive' would play along with her plot. If not, she reasoned, the lie could be quickly turned into the truth, and Cecile would have no say in the matter. Erin didn't want it to come to that, but she put her crew and her ship before anything else.
From the quarter deck, Will Morgan hailed his captain, "Ahoy, Cap'n!"
"Ahoy, yourself, Will!" Erin detoured and climbed the stairs up to chat with Will. "How goes it, Mr. Morgan?"
Will turned to the two men working close to him, "The Cap'n and I will have a private word, lads. Get busy some wheres else." The men scrambled quickly away, and Will turned his attention to Erin. Grimly he said, "I've heard tell that some of the men ain't happy we're leavin' this early."
Erin laughed, "Some of the men? That's putting it lightly, Will. I just had a chat with Mr. Harding and some of the boyos, and not a one was pleased."
Astonished, Will replied, "I dinna think a man had the courage to ask yew themselves. Scurvy dogs! How dare they…."
Erin laid a soothing hand on Will's arm, "I'm not worried, Will. No need to defend me. Remember? I'm supposed to be able to take care of myself."
Will dropped his adopted angry posture, looking almost as though the wind had left his sails, "Aye, Cap'n. I know. Wot will we do?"
Erin smiled slyly, "Oh, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve, Mr. Morgan. Don't worry your pretty little head."
Will smiled, "I shoulda known. Care to fill me in?"
Erin thought a moment, "Naw, I think I'll surprise you." She slapped Will on the back sharply, "Have a fine evening, Mr. Morgan. I'm bushed, so I'm turning in."
Will shook his head, silently laughing to himself, "No orders to sail, Cap'n?"
"You know the drill, Will. Not a man to know the plan until we've cast off. Just weigh anchor, and get us outta this harbor. Sail in a generally nor'westerly direction until dawn. I'll have our course and plans laid out tomorrow at sunrise. I want every man on deck for it too. Got it?"
"Yer wish is my command, Cap'n Skinner," Will replied drolly.
Erin laughed, "Oh, if that were only true, bucko."
Erin awoke the next morning well before sunrise. Her conversation with Miss Rembert the evening before had gone surprisingly well. Especially considering she'd had to wake up her stowaway and explain the plan to Cecile's sleepy countenance. Being a levelheaded woman, Cecile could see the plan was advantageous to both her and the captain, and readily agreed to go along.
This morning, Erin took extra time with her daily toilette. She wanted to appear as commanding as possible, and dressed with special care. Remembering that both her jacket and pants were spotted with sand and dust, she took a rough butler brush from a cubby above her desk and gave both garments a vigorous cleaning. She had very little light in which to work, but hesitated to wake Cecile. They had gone over the plan into the wee hours, and Cecile would certainly need her rest in the coming days. Still, Erin reckoned, perhaps having her 'captive' seem tired might aid in their plot. Erin finally settled on a compromise, and moved a lantern to her desk. Her body would block most of the light from Miss Rembert's sleeping form, but Erin could still see what she was doing. A few more swipes with the brush, and Erin declared her suit as clean as she could get it. She then reached into her trunk and removed an undershirt she did not often wear. It was quite frilly and lacy; it would turn any dandy green with envy that he did not own such a garment. Having already put on her pants, she wrapped a bright blue scabbard around her waist. She again took the brush and some boot black and shined her boots before putting them on. She zestfully brushed her hair, pulling it back into a single ponytail, rather than her usual braid. Last, but not least, she took her captain's hat from the hook next to the door. It's deep blue fabric and bright blue peacock feather set off each other nicely. One major change from her normal attire was the addition of her pistol in the front of her scabbard. She had never actually fired this armament at anyone, and displayed it only as a show of strength.
She took a quick glance at herself in the small mirror over her desk, declared herself presentable, and finally turned to awaken Cecile. The captain bent over and gently shook Cecile's shoulder, "Miss Rembert, wake up." Instead of the sleepy face that had greeted Erin the evening before, Cecile snapped awake this morning, causing Erin to stand back quickly. The first shafts of sunlight were just beginning to shine through the open port window, and Erin was wrapped in long shadows and bright light. Startled from dreams she could barely remember, Cecile only gasped at the sight of Erin, whose face was hidden under the shadow of her hat.
Concerned, Erin asked, "Are you alright, Miss Rembert?"
"Wha'? Oh, yes, sorry Captain Skinner. I was dreaming…nothing." Cecile wiped her eyes, yawned and stretched. The flimsy white fabric of the blouse that Cecile wore to bed sharply outlined her breasts, and Erin looked away quickly lest her imagination get the best of her.
For Cecile's part, though Erin was still cast in long morning shadows, she was quite a fetching figure in her 'dress uniform' and Cecile inexplicably found her heart racing at the sight.
Erin smiled, "Sorry to have startled you. Now, would you rather remain here while I make the announcement, or do you wish to join me on deck?"
Cecile thought a moment, then said, "No, I think your plan will work best. The less I'm seen the better. I'll stay here all day. Besides, I don't know if I can keep from laughing when you talk with your men."
Concerned, Erin said, "You think you can carry this off for the next few days while we sail to Jamaica?"
"Oh, don't worry about me. When the time comes, I can keep up my end of the bargain. I'm just so tired this morning, I'm a little on the giddy side."
"Good. Then I'll have food brought to you shortly after I finish, and I'd like you to pretend to be quite upset when the food arrives."
Cecile mock saluted Erin and said, "Aye, aye, mon capitan! I'm am at your service."
Erin smiled and winked, "And don't forget that either."
With that, Erin left her quarters, and climbed the stairs to the quarterdeck. Will shouted a hearty, "Good mornin', Cap'n Skinner."
"Good morning, Mr. Morgan." Erin looked around, the ship was sailing smoothly, not a speck of land could be seen on any side, and the sun had finally risen fully into the sky. "Anything I need to know?" Erin inquired.
Will removed a scrap of paper from his jacket pocket, "Night watch reports nothin' out the ordinary. Men are grousin' about leavin' early, but tha's to be expected. And we've stocked the larder to bursting, so we shan't need of port for some time."
"Excellent. Would you sound general quarters so I can set these lads straight?"
"Aye, aye, Cap'n." Will whistled loudly, drawing the attention of the crew. "Yew lads, Cap'n wants every man on deck NOW."
Eager to learn why their captain had left behind the pleasures of The Blue Ray so early, it took only moments for the men to assemble on the main deck. Doing a quick head count, Will noted everyone present, and bowed slightly to Erin for her to begin speaking.
Erin walked slowly to the edge of the quarterdeck, and placed her booted foot up on the railing in front of her. Seeming to take a moment to gather her thoughts always brought her rowdy crew to a semblance of quiet, and this pause had again the same affect.
"Right then. You lot want to know why we left safe harbor so early. Normally, I'd not let any of you know my plans because it puts every man here in jeopardy. I know none of you would deliberately place this vessel in harm's way, but many of you have a loose tongue given enough rum. As a Captain, it's my right and responsibility, and you'll do well to remember that from here on. I won't be so kind the next time I'm questioned." Erin paused for effect here, and could see more than a few shamed faces in the crowd. She continued, "However, you all deserved a longer rest than you were given, and I think you deserve an explanation."
"As you know, we had a stowaway on board this trip. A very determined woman who needed to get to Jamaica to see about her home and her family. I did promise to find her passage to Jamaica, but first she had to work off the debt she owed this ship. I am sorry to report that she was not able to work the debt to a sufficient level to be given leave of our vessel."
"I have decided, therefore, that it would be in OUR best interest to ransom the woman back to her father. We are sailing to deliver said cargo and pick up a sum of money rather larger than the amount she owes this ship. If we deliver her in record time, Miss Rembert has assured me that her father will gladly pay several hundred guineas to the ship that 'rescued' her and returned her to her home. In addition, we will partake of the plantation hospitality until such a time as we feel rested enough to leave."
Before Erin could close her remarks, Mr. Harding spoke up from the deck, "Three cheers for Cap'n Skinner. The best damn Cap'n on these high seas. Hip, hip…"
And the crew finished thunderous "hoorays" before Will could quiet them down. Erin continued, "This won't be easy pickings, lads. Jamaica is under a Spanish flag at present, and we're now Her Majesty's privateers. I'll be making plans to slip onto the island, and will initially only take selected crew with me. Once we've secured safe passage from Miss Rembert's father, I'll allow more crew to partake of his hospitality."
Erin assumed her most stern countenance, "I'll say it one more time--I'll not be subject to such questions again. I should not have to remind you that every man here pledged himself to me before joining this crew. Consider this your only warning. Next man questions one of my decisions gets the whip. If you have problems with that, take it up with Jonas or Mr. Morgan, is that clear?"
There were murmurs of agreement and rapid head nodding, particularly from the 5 men with whom Erin had returned to the ship on the previous evening. "Dismissed!" barked Will, and each man eagerly went back to his duties.
Will turned and looked admiringly at Erin, "That went well, Cap'n. I'm impressed."
Erin laughed, "It's the peacock feather in my hat, Will. Gets 'em every time."
Will laughed, then turned and requested the nearest crewmember to run and get Mr. Kensington. The young junior cook returned rapidly and Will instructed him to take two plates of breakfast into the Captain's quarters.
By the time Mr. Kensington knocked on Erin's door, she had already managed to remove her hat and coat, and was discussing the voyage with a now dressed Cecile.
Erin said, "Come" and the young man entered carrying a large round tray. "Ah, Mr. Kensington, would you put the food here on my table."
Cecile, who had moments before been having an animated conversation with Erin, remembered to play her part, and hung her head in seeming shame.
As for Mr. Kensington, he was disappointed to see the young captive so downcast. After a couple of weeks of working with Cecile, he had grown fond of her, and tried unsuccessfully to catch her eye. He was working so hard at it, he failed to notice his captain looking directly at him. Erin cleared her throat, and the young man still didn't get a clue. Finally, she said, "Something else, Mr. Kensington?"
The young pirate looked up quickly, "Huh? Uh, not Cap'n. Thank ye Cap'n." And bolted from the room.
Cecile could hold it in no longer, and burst into laughter when the door shut behind the young man, "Oh, that poor lad thinks I'm in such trouble. Can't we tell him, Captain Skinner? Tell him I'm ok?"
Erin shook her head, "I maintain order on this vessel by not showing any weakness. Telling anyone that I'm letting you go before your debt's paid wouldn't be a wise course of action."
Cecile sobered quickly, and cast a sympathetic look at Erin, "Is it hard to live this way, always careful of what you say and do?"
Erin shrugged, and looked Cecile in the eye, "To me, it's worth that small sacrifice. I'll not be at anyone's beck and call again."
Before Cecile could inquire further, Erin continued, "Now, I don't know about you, lass, but I'm famished. Let's eat some of this before it gets cold, shall we?"
Hmm, diversionary tactic, Cecile thought as she took the proffered bowl of porridge from Erin. I'll have to see if I can get her to open up later.
Completed March 9, 2003
To be continued in "Letter of Discovery, Part II."
Hello, dear reader! Sorry it's been so long between postings of this story. Nothing worse than being hung out to dry, eh? I've recently changed jobs, and I've been very busy with that. I promise to write more quickly now. I want to find out what happens to Cecile and Erin just as much as you do! Thanks for your patience!