Outlander Ch. 06bysirreadsalot10©
Author's note: Some of you who have read Young Wolves may have noticed that there is a lot less sex in this story. Young Wolves was my first foray into erotic writing and I wrote it thinking that if I didn't put sex in every chapter readers would be dissatisfied. I have learned that isn't the case, so with Outlander I wanted to focus on plot and let the sex come when it served the story rather than manipulating the tale to include gratuitous sex. Rest assured, there will be sex when the time is right. As always I want to thank the guild for their support, and give a special thanks to my editor Jillieb.
Ava sat at her dressing table long after the sun had set, staring at her reflection in the mahogany-framed mirror as she pulled a polished-bone comb through her long, black tresses. The mirror, a gift from her father, was a luxury that few had aboard ship. The rhythm of combing always soothed her when she was troubled.
The fault for her troubled thoughts could be laid directly at the feet of Jack Forrester. The man was insufferable. One moment he treated her as though she were some tavern slattern intent on stealing his virtue and the next moment she would catch him devouring her with his eyes. She considered herself good at reading people, but Jack's behavior left her at a loss, unable to grasp his motivations.
Grelik's explanation of why Jack had started the fight with Monch left her more confused about the Outlander than ever. Her initial impression of the plain, plump man needed to be reevaluated. His defense of Charuk had been unexpected; surely he had known he would be seriously wounded for his efforts. This was the second time he had done something selfless. She couldn't decide if he was noble or just plain crazy. The man was a bull-headed fool, that's what he was. Ava gave the comb a tug for emphasis and winced as it caught in her hair.
She didn't even want to think about what had happened earlier when she had healed him, crying like a homesick girl newly arrived at the Covenant University. She tried to tell herself that she had just been surprised and overwhelmed by the amount of pain the Outlander had been silently enduring, but she had never been very good at lying to herself.
After he had passed out, her mother had ushered her father out of the room and bade her help undress the Outlander. She still fumed with embarrassment at the little gasp that escaped her when her mother had removed his strange undergarment revealing his manhood. Where her mother had been matter-of-fact as a Witch of the Covenant should, she had acted like an untrained girl and it galled her.
She had found the sight of his manhood interesting from a purely professional standpoint and for no other reason, she assured herself. She had undressed others before in her duties as a Witch of the Covenant, treating the sick and injured. The Outlander was different from the others in that his manhood had no foreskin. If she had glanced at it a few times as they worked it was just professional curiosity, that's all it was. Her mother had no call to raise her eyebrows at her in that disapproving manner. Regardless, she had turned scarlet and focused on getting the sheets out from under him and covering his nakedness as fast as she could.
The man robbed her of her good sense, rattled and confused her. Why did he affect her so? Was it his destiny that so befuddled her, or was it his dusky, bleak eyes that reflected loss? Was it that he had chosen to go into the sea with her rather than save himself? Or was it his gallant defense of a weaker shipmate and his foolish refusal to yield to the brutish Monch? The answers eluded her.
What had happened to him to make his eyes so sad? She slammed her comb onto the dresser in frustration. Why did she care? Why did her heart race whenever she caught him looking at her? Did he hate her, or desire her, or both? Did she desire him? She sucked in a breath at that last thought. Of course she didn't, she snorted dismissively. Where had that thought even come from? It seemed all she had were questions without answers.
A soft knock at her cabin door interrupted her thoughts. Terrell's impudent but charming grin greeted her when she opened the door. She had been expecting him to appear each night since they had passed the maelstroms, and now that he was here she steeled her resolve.
"Hey, beautiful," he said as he moved into the room. He scooped her into his arms and pressed his lips to hers.
Ava staggered a few steps back, but allowed Terrell's lips to remain pressed to hers for a moment before putting her hands on his chest and gently pushing him away. "Terrell, wait," she said.
He let her slip from his embrace and looked at her curiously.
Nervous, she clasped her hands at her waist. "I want to talk to you for a moment," she said, her demeanor serious.
"What is it, love?" he asked.
She took a breath. "We can't do this anymore," she said and moved a few steps away from him.
Terrell flashed his insolent smile. This was a game he knew well. He had charmed women out of their clothes in ports all across Aramoor and knew that women enjoyed the wicked surrender so much more after a half-hearted protest or two. "Ava," he said and took a confident step toward her. "You know I love you and would be lost without you." He took another step and reached out to take her in his arms.
"No," Ava said and retreated from him.
Terrell stood for a moment with his empty arms outstretched before dropping them to his sides. His face wore a look of disbelief, understanding now that this was more than just a game of cat and mouse. "Why are you doing this?" he asked, confused.
"It's complicated," she said.
"Tell me, damn it!" he said, his voice tinged with anger.
Ava's chin lifted at Terrell's harsh tone and her eyes flashed. "Don't raise your voice to me, Terrell," she said.
"I don't understand," he shot back, flustered. "I love you."
"No, you don't," she said and raised her hand to stop his protest. "You use those words to seduce, but you don't really mean them."
"But I do mean them! You don't know how I feel," he said.
"Prove you love me then," she challenged.
"How?" he asked.
"Go to my father now. Inform him that you intend to seek my hand in marriage," she said, watching his reaction closely.
"That's what I thought," she said.
"Ava," he said in a tone that suggested she was being unreasonable.
"If you love me, why do you insist on keeping our relationship a secret? Why do you sneak into my room like a thief in the night?" she asked, driving her point home.
"Only to protect your virtue," he spluttered indignantly.
"Do you take me for a fool?" she demanded. "I know about the other women, Terrell, the ones you seduce with your pretty face and fancy words. Don't insult me further by denying it. If you truly loved me you would have stopped pursuing others. You would have spoken to my father and announced your intention to court me. But you didn't do either of those things, Terrell. I have gone along with this longer than I should have because since we were children our mothers have held out hope that we would marry someday."
"You brought me into your bed for our mothers' sake?" he asked. His expression of astonishment was easy for her to read.
"That's not what I meant. You are deliberately misunderstanding me," she said.
"Why then?" he demanded.
"I thought you were what I wanted," she answered. "You made me a woman, but as a woman I see now that I will never love you. To pretend otherwise would not be fair to you or me."
Terrell opened and closed his mouth as though unable to find words. "You used me," he finally spluttered.
"Terrell, it's not like that. I have always considered you a dear friend and I honestly hoped I would grow to love you," she said. "I'm sorry if you feel I used you. That was never my intent."
Terrell's handsome face contorted into a mask of rage. He clenched his fists and strode toward her. Ava retreated from him until her back met the wall of her quarters. She winced when Terrell's hands slammed into the wall on either side of her shoulders, caging her between them.
"I know what this is really about," he snarled, his breath washing over her. "I've seen the way you look at the Outlander."
"What? No. That's not it," she protested, disconcerted by his accurate echoing of her earlier thoughts.
"Shut up!" he snapped.
"Terrell, let me go," she pleaded and turned her head away from his angry gaze.
"You're nothing more than a common whore," he spat, his mouth close to her ear. His breath and words washed over her and the blood drained from her face.
Terrell yelped in surprise, his feet leaving the floor as an unseen force hurled him away from her. He hit the deck hard, his breath exploding from his lungs. He tried to rise but something pinned him like a scuttle bug beneath a man's foot. He managed to turn his head enough to see Ava standing over him, her hand outstretched in the air before her, her green eyes blazing with fury. She lowered her hand slightly, and Terrell groaned as he was smashed harder into the deck.
"You go too far," she said, her voice as cold as an icy winter's night. "You, who have planted your seed in tavern wenches and lonely hearth maids from Panaar to Keldan, dare to call me a whore? Until this moment I have always thought highly of you despite your womanizing. It may be that my affection has led you to forget what I am. Perhaps that is my fault. But know this now and never forget it: I am a Witch of the Covenant and you will never manhandle or speak to me in such a manner again."
Terrell's face was turning a dark shade of purple. Ava raised her hand slightly, reducing the pressure on him enough for him to breathe. He sucked in a huge gulp of air. He was wracked by a fit of coughing as his lungs tried to suck as much air into them as they could. After a moment he got his breathing under control and tried to rise but Ava's power still held him down.
"Terrell," she said, her voice softening. "We have been friends our whole lives so I will forgive your hasty words. Please don't let this be the end of our friendship." She lowered her hand and released him completely from the wall of air she had created.
Feeling the unseen force dissipate, Terrell slowly climbed to his feet, his wide-eyed gaze never leaving her. He stood erect, rigid, and glowered at the witch. She waited for him to speak, hoping that he would see the truth of her words, worried that she had lost her oldest friend.
"May I go, Adept?" he asked, unable to mask his bitterness.
Ava sighed. "Of course," she said sadly.
Terrell bowed his head to her, turned, and left, shutting the door behind him. It closed with a finality that left Ava feeling despondent. She stared at the closed door for a moment before returning to her seat at the mahogany mirror. She picked up her comb and resumed pulling it through her hair.
* * * *
Jack opened his eyes and sat up. He glanced around his quarters then slumped back onto the bed. It was morning. He couldn't precisely define how he knew, but the feel of the air, the scent of the sea, the cries of circling gulls, and the warm light cascading through the porthole combined in a way that said morning to his senses.
He grimaced as he ran the confrontation with Monch through his head. "I sure showed him," he said aloud then laughed, mocking himself. He vaguely recalled being carried to his quarters after the disastrous episode. The last thing he remembered before he had slipped into unconsciousness was Ava's soothing voice and a tender look in her beautiful green eyes.
Jack's stomach growled suddenly. He had not finished his last meal and now he was ravenous. He fervently hoped he hadn't missed breakfast. Though he had lost some weight and seemed to not need as much food as he used to, a whole day without a full meal was pushing it.
He swung his legs off the side of the bed and sat up. Someone had undressed him after he had passed out. He flushed with embarrassment at the thought of Ava seeing him naked. "And the indignities just keep on coming," he said aloud.
His own clothes were nowhere in sight. A tattered brown coat hung on the back of the room's lone chair. A white cotton shirt and tan trousers that appear to have been made from sail cloth were folded on the seat. Parked beneath the chair was a pair of brown leather boots with the cuff turned down at the top.
He grimaced at the sight of the native clothing. He hated people giving him things that he hadn't earned, but had to admit that having an extra change of clothes was welcome. Wearing the same thing every day was getting old fast, not to mention the smell when you only got to bathe and wash clothes every other day.
Suddenly he remembered that Barbara's earrings were in his missing pair of pants. He started to panic and then saw them, along with his wallet, sitting on the table. He relaxed then felt annoyed at his reaction. The earrings were the last representation of a life where he had been happy and he was reluctant to let them go.
He grabbed the bundle and dressed, but not without a few problems. The shirt had three long tails with buttons and eyelets. It took him a few minutes to figure out that the shirt served as underwear as well. After a few moments of trial and error he figured out how it buttoned around his thighs and pulled up over his genitals to button at his stomach.
The trousers were simple enough, though they laced at the sides rather than the front. He imagined it taking ten minutes to get his dick out every time he needed to take a piss. He found a pair of socks tucked in the boots made of some springy material that he didn't recognize. The boots fit well and were surprisingly comfortable.
He finished lacing the second boot, stood up, then froze. Something felt different, out of place. It was not the new clothes. Something else had changed. He cast his gaze around his small cabin but could not pinpoint the cause of his unease. He strode to the porthole and squinted against the sunlight as he looked outside, but the limited view of the sea and the horizon provided no answer.
He turned from the porthole and paced restlessly around the small cabin, ignoring his empty stomach's protests. He couldn't shake the feeling that something had been altered, that something wasn't quite right. He halted suddenly as realization dawned. He should have been in agony, yet he felt no pain.
"She healed me," he said in wonder.
Several feelings washed through him in rapid succession. First, he felt jubilant but indignation followed. How dare she do this without permission? As he resumed pacing and became more aware of how easily his body moved, he felt thankful but just as quickly felt violated. Who did she think she was, mucking about in his body? He was elated that it was her touch that freed him from his pain, but guilt-ridden for thrilling at the thought of a woman's touch that wasn't Barbara's.
It was his empty belly that finally snapped him out of it. His stomach growled, reminding him that sustenance was priority number one. He grabbed the worn coat and put it on. The sleeves were turned up at the wrists and folded back over the forearms. It flared out at the bottom and had buttons and loops up the front. Jack doubted he would be able to fasten those unless he lost a little more weight. All he needed now was a powdered wig and one of those triangle-shaped hats and he would look like George Washington's poor step-brother. He chuckled at the absurdity.
He shot out of the room, faster than he had moved in years. A grin split his face as he ran up the short stairwell, and burst onto the main deck. With his pain gone, he felt euphoric, as if life was suddenly filled with possibilities.
He was relieved to see that breakfast was still being served, and quickly joined the serving line. His good mood lasted until he heard the whispers of those near him in line. Apparently, his beating at the hands of Monch left quite an impression. The consensus appeared to be that Jack was not only a complete idiot, but couldn't fight worth a damn either.
After getting his food, which consisted of a bowl of something that looked like oatmeal and a hard biscuit, Jack looked around for a place away from the rest of the crew to eat. He pretended not to see Charuk waving for him to join him, and walked away from the group. He wanted to be alone to think while he ate. He sat and began eating, hardly tasting the food, his mind on other things.
It was evident to Jack that he would not be going home anytime soon. If he was going to be stuck here then he would have to learn to survive. This place had shown itself to be a world full of danger. He'd been kidnapped, thrust into a sea battle, nearly sucked into a series of giant whirlpools, and beaten within an inch of his life, all within the first week of coming here. He needed to take charge of his own life as best he could under the circumstances.
The hard truth was that he was helpless, subject to the charity and kindness of Captain Liaman and his crew. Any one of them could run him through with a sword and there was nothing he could do about it. That needed to change, so when Lieutenant Kairn and the sea dogs assembled for their daily practice session, Jack was determined to join them.
He stood nearby as the sea dogs began their sword drills. He caught Kairn's eye and with a nod at the rack that still held a few extra practice swords asked permission to join them. Kairn looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded his assent. Jack picked up a wooden sword and joined the end of the line.
Over the next few hours Jack lost himself in the training. Sweat rolled off him in waves and his legs and arms trembled with strain as he moved from position to position, Kairn frequently correcting him, adjusting his stance or moving his grip. None of the sea dogs spoke to him, but they seemed to accept his presence.
When the sea dogs paired up to spar, Kairn took Jack as his sparring partner. "Defend yourself," he said and immediately launched an attack. His practice sword sailed at the Outlander's shoulder but was stopped by a parry. "Good," Kairn said, nodding. "Now, faster."
Jack found it difficult to block more than one or two of Kairn's strikes before one slipped through his guard and landed with a resounding smack. Every time a blow landed, Jack gritted his teeth and tried even harder to not let the next one through. He couldn't even think about mounting an attack of his own. It was all he could do to stave off Kairn's rapid assaults.
"Don't over-extend," Kairn said after Jack had reached out too far to block a swing aimed at his chest. Kairn had simply changed the swing mid-arc to hit Jack's exposed leg instead of his torso. Jack rubbed his thigh where the blow had landed. He grunted an acknowledgement and raised his practice sword to the ready position.
The air was filled with the sound of wood clacking together as the men traded blows, the members of the crew being careful to avoid the combatants as they went about their duties.
Above them, standing at the rail of the poop deck, Garek and Ithos watched with interest as the Outlander strove to fend off Kairn's onslaught.
"He has a long way to go before he'll be any good in a fight," Ithos said after Kairn landed another underhanded swing on the Outlander's midsection.
"True," Garek said, "But it is good that he learn the way of the sword. I fear it is a skill he will be in sore need of."
"When do you plan on telling him the whole truth?" Ithos asked nonchalantly as though he didn't care one way or the other, but his sidelong glance at his Captain betrayed his interest.
Garek wrinkled his brow. "That is a question that weighs heavily on my mind."