Pirate's Heart Ch. 07byopels©
Catherine sat in her cabin staring at her breakfast. Porridge again. She never wanted to see another bowl of porridge as long as she lived. She had reluctantly lifted the spoon to her lips when Burnham walked into her room. She glanced up at him and then turned her attention back to her breakfast.
"Good morning, Miss Veleslav," he said, staring at her legs.
She ignored him and took a mouthful of porridge.
"Are you enjoying that breakfast?" he asked his voice taking on an angry edge. "If you continue to forget your manners in my presence it can be removed," he threatened.
She pushed the bowl away, not looking at him. "Go ahead. I'm beginning to hate porridge almost as much as I hate you," she said finally looking at him, her amethyst eyes flashing.
She saw him swallow his anger. She knew he was only tolerating her abuse of him because if she reported that she had been badly treated as a prisoner, he would be severely reprimanded. After all, she was still innocent, until she had her trial. At least that's how things ideally went. She knew her trial would be a perfunctory matter, just for appearances. The gallows would be prepared as soon as she walked into the court room.
"I just wanted to let you know that we should be reaching England in approximately two weeks. I hope you enjoy the time you have left in this world," he said with a chuckle.
"I'm having the time of my life, can't you tell?" she responded sarcastically.
"You may not be enjoying your time here on my ship, but I most certainly am." His eyes again swept over her, hungrily taking in her half naked body.
She also knew why he didn't touch her. He could easily have her held down while he took his pleasure of her, and his crew as well and then just have her thrown overboard, but he desired the celebrity that her capture was sure to bring him and that was stronger than his desire for her.
There was a sudden eruption of noise on deck followed shortly by her cabin door bursting open. A breathless crew member stood on the threshold. "Captain, come quick!" he said quickly.
"What is it lad?" he asked, annoyed that he had been interrupted.
The young man glanced at Catherine. "Pirates, sir! Two ships!"
Her heart leapt in her breast. She smiled widely and let out a whoop. "Oh, now this is getting good!" she remarked.
Burnham glared at her and ran from the cabin. Catherine ran to her porthole and looked out. She couldn't see anything. She looked about for something to break the glass with but there was nothing. Soon the ship heaved and shook beneath her as the cannons fired. She then felt the ship shudder heavily as she was fired upon. There was a great deal of yelling and shouting going on above her and she could tell the battle was being fought on the Eagle. Her heart soared, hoping against hope that it was her crew returning to rescue her.
Nathan swung over to the Eagle and landed on the deck his sword already drawn. He knew that Catherine was most likely being held in the bottom of the ship. He fought his way to a hatch leading below deck and slipped down the steep steps. With his sword brandished he ran through the dark passageways. The entire crew must have been up on deck for he encountered no one. Until he turned a corner and saw two guards standing outside a door. They looked nervous and anxious, their faces turned to the ceiling, listening to the battle being waged above them. Nathan crept through the shadows towards the two men. They were both well armed but did not have their weapons drawn. If he managed to surprise them, he could take them both. He drew nearer, his heart pounding in his chest.
Catherine paced in her cabin. She looked through the porthole on every round she made, but couldn't see anything. On one pass she caught sight of a ship sailing past but it wasn't hers. She didn't catch the name on the side and didn't recognize the vessel. What if it was just a random attack and they weren't looking for her? They might just transfer the cargo to their ships and burn this one, unknowingly leaving her to die. She had done that in the past, not bothering to thoroughly search the ships. She vowed that if she ever got through this, she would never do that again.
Her head suddenly whipped around, staring at the door. She had heard a sound, she was sure of it. A scuffle broke out on the other side of the door and she couldn't tear her eyes away from it. She braced her legs, her hands curled into fists, ready to fight if she had to.
Suddenly the door burst open and she couldn't believe her eyes. Nathan stood in the doorway, his shirt torn, his ebony hair loose, his silver eyes blazing into her amethyst ones. She let out a cry and rushed into his arms. He held her tightly, hardly daring to believe it was really her and that she was alive. He pulled away and taking her face in his hands, he looked at her again.
"Are you alright? They didn't hurt you, did they?" he asked, his eyes traveling over her. He saw what she was wearing and rage bubbled in his chest. "Is this what they insisted you wear?" he asked. He fingered the buttonless front edge, fury burning in his eyes.
"I'm fine. They didn't touch me. Not much anyway," she said with a smirk recalling Burnham laying on the floor, curled into a fetal position.
He pulled off his frock coat and pulled it around her shoulders. She shoved her hands into the sleeves as he pulled her from the room. He paused by one of the bodies of her guards and yanked off his boots while Catherine grabbed the man's sword and dagger. She thrust her bare feet into the boots and buttoned up the coat as they ran down the passageways. The fighting was still going on above them and Nathan stood beneath the doorway leading up to the deck. He looked at her quickly. "Ready?' he asked.
"Ready," she replied, unable to keep the smile from her face.
He pulled her close for a quick but deep kiss before they burst together onto the deck. They were in the thick of the battle and fought their way towards the railing. The crew of the Perun saw her and created a path for them. They reached the side of the ship and each grabbed onto a rope and swung over to the Perun. Nathan saw the rifle barrel rise into the air but before he could shout a warning, the gun blazed and he saw Catherine arch back, one hand dropping from the rope. She managed to hang on until she was over the deck of her ship before dropping. She fell heavily and Nathan rushed to her side. She had been shot in the shoulder and was bleeding heavily. He scooped her up in his arms and ran with her to the ship's surgeon.
Even though she had been rescued, the crews of the two pirate ships continued to fight, knowing they would win. The Eagle was a big ship, surely carrying a valuable cargo. They would split the proceeds once it was all over.
Nathan ignored all that as he ran down the steep stairs to the cabin that held the sick room. He kicked in the door and the ship's doctor looked up. He was preparing to receive patients as he always did during a battle but was very surprised by his first patient.
He looked into Catherine's pale face. "You found her," he said, his eyes shining. "God bless you son." He began to cut away Nathan's jacket and the shirt she had been wearing. She moaned as they pulled the clothes away but otherwise remained unconscious.
Nathan sat in a corner watching as the doctor removed the bullet from her shoulder and patched the wound. It immediately bled through. A bundle of bandages were thrust into Nathan's arms and he was ordered to take her to her cabin. "Keep changing the bandages whenever they bleed through," he was told and was then ushered out as men began either stumbling through the door on their own or were carried in by others.
Nathan ran through the passages of the ship with her in his arms. The bandage on her shoulder was already soaked and she was dripping blood by the time they reached her cabin. He lay her on the bed and changed the bandage. He kept tending to her and didn't even notice when the sounds above ceased and they were quickly moving through the water.
He was nearing the end of his supply of bandages when her bleeding finally stopped. He gazed down into her deathly pale face. He stroked her hair back and leaning down he placed a gentle kiss on her lips. He said a prayer for her and then sat back, holding her hand.
They sailed back to the island, the first mate Thornton, taking over as Nathan stayed with Catherine. She spent the voyage drifting in and out of consciousness. Her wound became infected and a fever set in.
A week after her rescue, as the sun was setting, the ship sailed into the protected harbor and the shoreline was already crowded with the crews of both ships as well as the household staff. A boat was already waiting for them and Catherine was slowly lowered to it. She was burning hot and delirium was beginning to set in. Nathan rode with her and insisted on carrying her to the infirmary himself.
He laid her on a bed and Maria arrived with sheets soaked in cold water and began draping them over her. She inspected the wound and began to clean it. The housekeeper could see that Nathan hadn't slept much in the past week and ordered him to his rooms to sleep and have a good meal. She also told him he needed a bath. He saw that Catherine was in good hands and staggered up to his rooms and promptly fell asleep.
When he awoke it was light outside and he ordered a hearty breakfast and a bath. An hour later he returned to the sick room to check on Catherine. Her fever had risen and she was in full delirium. He sat next to her bed and took her burning hand in his. Maria was sponging her forehead with cool water. Nathan looked at the housekeeper and told her to go get some rest, that he would tend to her. The older woman left and Nathan took up the sponge, bathing her lovely face, trying to keep her cool. She was turning her head back and forth, muttering. She mumbled his name and his hand stilled for a moment. He couldn't make out what she was saying but she said his name again. She kept turning her head, mumbling his name.
He sat by her for hours, bathing her face, dipping her hands in the cool water. Food was brought to him and even though he wasn't hungry, he ate anyway. Maria came to relieve him but he refused to return to his rooms and slept on a nearby bed.
He awoke to find the ship surgeon checking on her. Her delirium had gotten worse and she was crying out.
She thrashed her head from side to side and muttered loudly, "Nathan, it's no use, it's no use." He stared at her confused, as she repeated it over and over again.
Four days after they arrived at the island, her fever finally broke. Seeing that she was finally out of danger, he dropped his head onto her bed and still holding her hand, fell into a light sleep. He awoke to the feeling of fingers in his hair. He gently lifted his head and looked at her. She returned his gaze with half opened eyes and gave him a small smile.
"Hi, welcome back," he said, returning her smile.
"What happened?" she asked, her brow furrowing.
Nathan gulped, recalling the terror he had felt when he saw her arch back and drop a hand from the rope. "You were shot swinging over to your ship during your rescue," he said gently.
She stared at him, her violet eyes brimming with tears. "You rescued me," she said simply. "You came and rescued me."
"Well it wasn't just me. I had a lot of help. Some of my crew, some of yours and the Windfire helped as well."
She smiled widely and chuckled, wincing at the pain it caused. "Burrows helped you?" she asked, surprised.
"You know him?" he asked, it now being his turn to be surprised. "He said he had never met you. Only knew of you by reputation."
Still smiling, she closed her eyes. "No, I've never met him. I know him too by reputation. He is notoriously selfish and not at all friendly to other pirates. I'm quite surprised he helped you."
Maria arrived at that point and chastised him for making her talk and tiring her out. "She just came out of her fever. Let her rest. You could do with some rest too. Now, go, get some sleep," she said, practically shoving him away.
Catherine drifted off to sleep as Nathan glanced back at her and then staggered up to his rooms to fall asleep as well. When he awoke, hours later, it was still light outside. He requested a bath and while he was waiting he stood by the windows and stared out at the sky. Now that she was safe and well he would be allowed to take the Themis and leave. He supposed he should be happy but he wasn't.
Finally, he admitted to himself that he loved her and wanted to stay with her. But how could he possibly do that? Even if she wanted to there was no way that she could return to any law abiding country to live. She would be hanged for her crimes immediately. If he wanted to stay with her, he would have to do it here, with her, leading her life.
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts. His bath had arrived and after the steaming water was poured into the tub he gratefully sank into it, his muscles sore from sleeping in a cot by her bed.
Catherine awoke to find Maria by her bedside. "Where's Nathan?" she asked.
"I sent him off to sleep. He's been by your bedside practically every minute since you arrived back. I tried to make him go to his rooms and get some sleep but he refused," she replied, shaking her head.
"He stayed by me the whole time?" she whispered.
Maria looked down at her Mistress. She saw the surprise and the wonder in her eyes, along with a spark of hope.
"Yes, miss, the whole time," she replied, reassuringly. She hesitated, before continuing. "While you were in your fever, you were delirious and kept muttering 'Nathan, it's no use, it's no use' over and over again. What did you mean?"
Catherine closed her eyes and sighed. Her plan to leave and never see him again had backfired and the moment he had burst through the door of her cabin on the Eagle she had known that no matter where she went or how long she stayed away, she would never be free of him. She loved him, but of course it was no use.
"I love him Maria. But he is who he is and I am who I am." She opened her eyes and looked at her housekeeper. "That's what I meant. It can never work between us. It's no use."
Maria looked down at Catherine with tenderness in her eyes. She had hoped for so long that someone would come along who could break through the wall she had built around herself. And finally it had happened. "You must have faith, child. You would be surprised how things turn out sometimes."
Catherine only sighed and closed her eyes. She didn't realize she had fallen asleep again until she opened her eyes and saw Nathan sitting by her bed. Their eyes met and they just stared at each other, not saying anything. He was holding her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
She dropped her eyes and whispered, "I suppose you will be leaving now."
"Simpson told me that if I brought you back safely that I could take the Themis along with my crew and leave," he replied still gazing at her.
So that was the reason he came for me, she thought. It made sense of course. Why else would he take such a risk. Maria arrived at that moment with some thin broth for her and took over. Nathan rose and left the sick room.
He wandered down to the harbor and stood on the dock, watching his ship bobbing in water. He stared at her with great fondness. His gaze then swept over her two ships. They were both in a frenzy of activity, especially the Veles. They would soon be ready to go back out on the ocean, prowling for merchant ships to raid. And so would Catherine. It would take a few weeks, probably a month, and then she would be back on the deck of her ship.
He sighed deeply and walking back up the drive to the house, he recalled the attack on the Eagle. It had been exciting, he grudgingly admitted. He could see how that sort of life would appeal to a young, adventurous woman like herself. But he hadn't been doing it for profit, he had done it to rescue her, there was a difference.
He also recalled her words during her delirium, that is was no use. He wasn't sure what she had been referring to but for him they were true. It didn't matter what his feelings for her were, it was no use.
He sat in the shade under a tree, pulling of his jacket. He leaned back against the trunk and closing his eyes, enjoyed the cool breeze ruffling his hair and let it sweep away his worries of her. After awhile, he heard a polite cough and squinting up he saw his first mate, Thornton standing by him. "Yes, Thornton, what is it?" he asked.
"The ship is ready sir, and the crew is well enough to travel. I was wondering when we would be leaving."
"Leaving," he replied in a low voice.
Puzzled, the other man looked down at him. "You do want to leave, don't you sir? I know this is a lovely place, but it's a pirate's lair and we can't stay here."
"No, no, of course not. Tell the men to start getting ready. We'll leave in a few days," he said, rising to his feet.
He walked back to the house, convincing himself that it was best if he left. He didn't love her, it was just infatuation, that was all. She was different from any other woman he had met and that was where his fascination lay, in the novelty of her. He kept repeating this to himself, ignoring the little voice in the back of his head that was telling him the truth, that he loved her.
He climbed the steps to his rooms and began gathering his clothes, placing them back in his trunk. He should find Simpson, he thought, and find out what condition his ship was in. If it was indeed fully ready to go.
He ran down the stairs and was told that Simpson was aboard the Perun, supervising the repairs. He decided to row out to his ship on his own and take a walk through her.
Fifteen minutes later he was pulling himself up the rope ladder on the side of the Themis. He climbed onto the deck and looked about. The damage during her attack had been minimal but what had needed to be done was done well. He strolled about the deck, looking up at the sails. He came across the box that held the ship's flags. The British one was on top. He crouched down and fingered the heavy canvas, painted with the King's colors. Standing he continued his inspection. He went down to his cabin and found everything in its place. He had to give credit to the pirates, nothing had been taken. The kitchen was cleaned out of food of course and he assumed it would be restocked before they sailed.
He finished his inspection and was satisfied with her condition, when he realized that they could sail that very afternoon if he so chose. He climbed back down the rope ladder to the small boat and returned to shore. He walked up to the house and into the infirmary.
Catherine was awake and sitting up in bed. Her hair had been washed and the damp waves lay about her shoulders. She saw him enter and her heart leapt. As he strode across the large room she was once again struck by how handsome he was. She had been captivated by him from the moment she first saw him, as he surrendered to her on his ship. Images of her seductions drifted through her mind as he drew nearer to her. She looked into his eyes and her heart sank back down. He looked grim and determined.
He sat by her bed. "My ship is ready and the crew is eager to go," he said not looking at her.
"I see. Of course, they would be," she replied softly. She took a deep breath. "So, when will you be leaving?" she asked.
"I told them in a few days." His voice was tight and he willed himself to not look at her. To not look at her beautiful face and glimmering amethyst eyes. He abruptly stood and left the room. She watched him leave, her eyes brimming with tears.
...to be continued...