“Celia. I will tell you this once. I want information and you have it. If Avery or the other crew finds out who you are related to, you will be killed. Do you understand me? We know very well who your father is. You will be useful to me or you will be killed. You will obey me or you will be killed. You will –“
“You don’t know anything about my father. But I get it. Blah blah or I’ll be killed. Give me back my seal or you will be killed. Slowly and painfully.” She was icy with rage. Her nails were biting into the flesh of her palms and she knew her fair face was flushed a tomato red.
Who dares to speak ill of her father!? He was a diplomat who brought candy to children, laughed with fisherman and bought rounds at the pub. He was her best friend. Celia hated this Merrick already. He was beautiful on the outside and pure evil on the inside. She’d escape somehow and when she did…. he would pay.
Merrick wanted to slap her. She still defied him! Interrupted him even. But her face was flushed and her eyes had this storm brewing that he felt sucked into. Was she aroused like him? Before she could continue her tirade he pushed her back to the bed and fell on top of her. He was a bit rough, tangling his hands in her hair and pulling her close.
Small hands scratched at his chest. His own hands seemed to move of their own accord. He grabbed her chin and crushed his mouth to hers. She gasped and he pulled her closer, devouring her. His tongue pushed into her mouth, tangling with hers. He nibbled her lips with his teeth, then kissed them before moving to her neck and back up to her lips. He wanted to kiss her everywhere. He had meant to teach her a lesson about ordering him around but he was losing control. He knew she was enjoying herself, her scratches turned into clutches and he swore he felt her pulling him closer.
Celia was stunned. She had never kissed like this. Only shy pecks on the lips with guards at the palace. Now she was kissing her enemy, who just murdered countless men, like it was the last thing she’d ever do. She hated herself for the way her body reacted. She had to escape before it betrayed her completely. She had lost herself in his spell until she realized he was going to touch her.. everywhere. He had sat up to unlace her shirt. She bunched up her hands into fists and punched him straight in his jaw, jerking her legs up to kick him off the bed.
Merrick had beckoned her tongue with his. His hand in her hair held her closer. He wanted to explore her body but the second he moved his hand to unlace her shirt the spell was broken. She punched him in the face and kicked him almost across the room! His arousal had blinded him, and she’d gotten in a good attack before flinging herself from the bed and running from his room. This woman was crazy if she thought attacking him had no consequences. He laid back in his bed thinking about her defense of the monster Silvan Grey. He’d always assumed that if Grey would have no family and would just be a power hungry snake of a man. Now, he was faced with another side of his enemy. One who raised a woman to be confident and powerful, and who obviously earned her love and respect. However he also raised his heir to continue his work. Work that had cost Merrick and Avery their homes and souls. Sure, they had done what they needed to do in order to survive but Merrick knew killing another human meant his afterlife would be straight to Hell. Still, he had no regrets about what he did. Did Silvan Grey?
Celia was frantic. They fight, then kiss? Had she lost her mind?! She’d scrambled to the door, wrenched it open and pounded down the hallway to the deck. She’d completely forgotten where she was. The adrenaline had her halfway overboard before hands were grabbing at her.
“Where do you think you’re going?!” She spun around to face a man with actual concern on his face. “The Captain will kill us if we let you get hurt!!” … Concern for himself.
She broke from his grasp and looked around.
Merrick leaned against the entrance to his hallway. “Enjoying the view of the sea? It’s quite nice isn’t it?” Smoke could still be seen from her ship. Debris littering the water. She was afraid to look closely. She knew what she’d find– her crew, dead and burned beyond recognition.
Celia had always prided herself on being a strong woman but it was too much. Her legs couldn’t carry her another step. Her heart felt like it would beat out of her chest. Her eyes were losing vision…. She collapsed.
Avery was watching with careful eyes. She was a mess. Half laced shirt. Frantic. Had Merrick actually taken her against her will? No. Her lips were red, but nothing else. The men were practically drooling but she was not his type, though he could see the appeal. His brother had spotted her from the bow and had to have her. She was ferocious, fighting like a bear to get to safety. No screaming, no crying.
When he saw his brother’s prize begin to faint, he easily caught her. “Oof, Merrick. She’s a bit heavy. You going to help or do you want to watch?” Avery winked.
Merrick laughed. Avery would never step on his toes or steal what he had claimed as his. And he too would never betray his brother. It helped that they both knew Celia was not Avery’s type. He liked them petite and frail. Celia was … juicy. Plump breasts, a soft stomach, wide hips. She was delectable. But she would be better off sold for a profit or thrown overboard. Silvan Grey…. Merrick walked over and gently hoisted her above his head. With a look from their Captain, the crew hurried back to work.
Celia was awake but didn’t want to open her eyes. She’d shown a weakness out there by fainting. She wouldn’t make that same mistake again.. but who could blame her? ‘Enough.’ Today was a new day. She wondered if her father could sense something was wrong in his ill state. They’d always had a connection. ‘Don’t worry father, I’m OK..’ for now.
She strained her ears to hear if anyone else was in the room. Creaks and waves hitting the sides of the ship. Shouts from above. Above? She lifted her lids the tiniest amount to check the room and sighed with relief at the emptiness of her prison. Celia sat up with a headache and hunger pangs. She looked around and realized she was in a new room. Her dagger was on a table! More importantly an apple was there. She’d need more but this would do.
Her dagger held a folded note in place. It was addressed to ‘Princess’. She crushed the note in her hand. ‘Princess’ was was getting old. At least the note showed Merrick was educated, and probably Avery too. It was rare for lower classes to write more than simple measurements and records. Something she hoped to change if she survived this.
‘It’s fine, keep showing your hand, assholes.’ Her father had always hated her sailor mouth but she had spent so much time on boats. She smirked. So Merrick didn’t respect her. That’s fine, she’d been in this situation before and come out on top. This was literally her job as diplomat. She smoothed out the crumpled up letter. What else did he reveal?
This is to be your room. If you escape, that’s fine. You will receive punishment from Avery. He prefers the whip. Today you will be working. I’m so sorry to ruin those lily white hands of yours. A crewman is stationed outside your door to guide you. Crew are never to enter your room. Do not defy me. You dagger is here to aide in your work. If you use it against me, I will kill you.
Celia rolled her eyes at his assumptions and looked for her clothes. These ‘lily white’ hands were callused from weapons training. She was no stranger to work. They’d given her a selection of what seemed like hand me downs from smaller crewman. She wasn’t going to think about why she was in a makeshift nightgown instead of her clothes. There were so many more important things to think about. She donned a pair of olive green knee high trousers ruched below the knee and tied at the waist. They were big but comfortable. The shirt was a difficult decision. Her choices either swallowed her or fit her waist but not her chest. She’d take the giant shirt and cut the sleeves off. Using her dagger she cut most of the length down as well and then tied the front in a knot. Loose hanging fabric would only get in her way. She skipped wearing her boots; everyone on deck was barefoot.
Celia drew a deep breath. She was dressed and ready… for whatever was beyond that door. She cracked the door open and saw a tall dark man. He looked at her with contempt but more bored than menacing. She could live with that.
“Hello. I’m Celia.” He began walking. “Excuse me! Does my room lock? I’d like to lock it when I’m not there so nobody surprises me from inside…”
He stopped and turned. “Miss. Nobody would dare. Please follow me. You’re late.” He had an accent but she couldn’t quite place it. His deep voice was comforting somehow.
They went down a set of stairs, through a series of hallways, and up another set of stairs. Celia was dizzy with all the different passageways. This was definitely a customized ship. Not impossible considering the amount of money they probably stole from merchant ships. These pirates were well funded and supported to have a ship like this. Did they have a sponsor?
The man stopped. “You’re here. You will work with Stella. ‘Work hard or starve.’ Words from the Captain.”
He turned to leave but Celia called out, “What’s your name? If I am to be one of you then I should know your names.” Silence dragged on.
“You will never be one of us…but I am Khalil.” His reply was not unkind, if anything he was simply stating a fact.
She wasn’t surprised by his response, it was expected even. Celia knocked on the door Khalil had indicated. An older woman’s voice came through. “Enter!”
She opened the door and… was in the kitchen. Great. This was such an insult. At nineteen Celia was extremely educated in ships, law, maps, fighting, all sorts of things. Cooking? Over a campfire, yes. In an actual kitchen, no. Her face must have shown some hesitation because the old woman began laughing.
“You can start by washing pots and then I’ll show you how to peel potatoes. You must be what all the commotion is about.”
Celia looked at the massive dish pile. Did they leave big pots like this for an old lady to wash by herself? She was outraged! “Excuse me, but do you do this alone? Washing these big pots? You need to talk to the Captain and set up shifts for men to help you with these. It’s not right!!” Was this Stella another prisoner? She was just too old to be in here alone.
She’d never met her grandparents but she had an extreme respect for the elderly. Stella stood up slowly. “Let me get a look at you. Kidnapped but kind. What is your name?”
Celia wasn’t sure about kind. She still planned to escape and pocket some extra knives but she’d never fight an old woman. “I am Celia. A diplomat on her way to Ala Qitar. I am here to negotiate the end of piracy and growth of business between Ala Qitar and my home country, Minkerra.”
The old woman’s face showed nothing. Hmm, a worthy opponent then. “I am Stella but you will call me Baba. I get help every now and then. I am much stronger than I look though, no need to worry.”
The last part seemed like a warning to Celia. Baba turned and continued chopping and peeling. Still, it was nice to be working with a woman. Celia didn’t mind the work. Cooking was a skill she could stand to learn and serving food gave her the chance to serve poison. She’d wait a while for that though.
Stella was much shorter than Celia, and she seemed frail, though as she chopped away Celia noticed lean muscle working. So she was elderly but not as frail as she appeared to be. Her white hair was a silver that caught the dim light beautifully. Tan like Merrick and Avery, her skin had wrinkles and spots showing her age, but her eyes were a bright blue that showed a clear mind.
After a few hours of washing and idle chit-chat she heard Stella say, “Celia. Your work is done. You may leave. I will report to Merrick you worked hard and without complaint.” Baba’s expression softened. “I am a pirate, young lady. However if you need something, I am also a Baba. Work hard and they may forget you are here.”
Celia wondered if that’s what happened to Baba and chuckled. “Thank you Baba. I will return to my quarters. Please send for me if there is more to do.”
Celia ducked through the door and straight into another door? Something hard.. warm. She looked into familiar chocolate eyes and stepped back. “Captain. I was just leaving.” She tried to sidestep him but he blocked her path.
“Princess. I need a word. You will join me now.”
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