Letters to the Dead, A Salty Short Story

The lamp on her desk was burning low.  Dinner had been cleared away hours ago.  The hypnotic flicker of the lamp’s wick was aiding sleep in its bid to overtake Grace’s efforts to work a while longer.  She rose from her seat to stretch and revive her sleepy mind.  As she took a turn about the cabin, she could hear the sounds of laughter and talking out on deck.

“A breath of fresh air is just what I need,” thought Grace.

She stepped out on deck under a great canopy of stars.  The night was clear and cool with naught but a new moon to compete with the starlight.  The Siren Song seemed to be suspended in the dust of a billion diamonds.

The breeze was too slight to move the sheets, but the Song was carried along on her course by a friendly current.  The men on watch had gathered together on the main deck to swap stories and keep each other awake.  Many of them were enjoying a pipe as they told their tales, and their faces were set in an orange glow as they puffed.

Grace walked up just as they were all chuckling at the ending of a young sailor’s wild fish story.

“Hands to your stations,” the watch commander ordered as soon as he realized his captain was standing there.

“Belay that,” Grace smiled.  “I too find sleep hard to chase off during these late watches.  Carry on as you were.” She took a spot near the railing where she could hear and still watch as they glided through the stars.

“It’s a wonder we’ve yet to hear of a sighting of the Flying Dutchman in all these mad tales,” Bellamy, the rigger’s mate chuckled.

“I’ve never seen the Flying Dutchman, but I’ve seen a ghost ship before,” piped up one of the young riggers.

“You don’t say,” scoffed Bellamy, egging the lad on.

“Aye, sir, ‘twas several years ago while I was aboard a trading sloop, theCrowley.  Oddest thing I’ve ever experienced, without a doubt.”

The men sitting around him all shifted toward him in anticipation of his tale.

“We had been trading in the Lesser Antilles and set course north forPuerto Ricowhen the weather began to turn foul.  The sun had set into a furious bank of clouds to our west.  Not long after sunset the winds began to pick up and stir a heavy chop.  The captain set course to try to makePuerto Ricobefore the worst of the storm, but by about midnight we were being tossed about in a high sea.  We’d already been knocked around so much in the dark that we couldn’t be sure which direction we were pointed.

I had been below decks helping to secure the cargo that had gotten loose, when the riggers were ordered to haul in the canvas.  We had all gathered on deck when the lookout spotted something off the starboard side.  We all went to the rails for a look, when out of the mist and spray we could see the lights of the aft cabin of a huge merchantman.  Above the railing over the cabins, someone looked to be swinging a lantern to and fro.  To a man, we all thought the ship was signaling us to follow.

Under the circumstances there wasn’t any compelling reason to do so, but the captain gave the order to alter course and follow the other ship.

In about half an hour’s time the mysterious merchantman lead us around the eastern side of an island that we had no idea we were near.  It led us around to a sheltering deep water cove on the leeward side of the island.

As we dropped anchor and made fast to ride out the rest of the storm, the other ship disappeared.  We rode out the night alone and saw no sign of her the next morning.

The next day we sailed all around that little island worried that the ship that had guided us to safety had wrecked during the night.  But, we found no sign of wreckage anywhere.  It was as if the storm had swallowed her whole.  There was nothing more to do, but sail on.

InJamaicawe traded much of our cargo, and the captain decided to carry a shipment of sugar cane back toLondon.  As soon as we made for open water the lookout spotted a ship on the horizon in a direct line of our course.  Throughout the day we gained on her but not enough to make out who she was.

The next morning was shrouded in fog, and the navigator had to mind the compass carefully.  When the cloudy mists finally burnt off in the midday sun, we found we had nearly caught up with the ship from the day before.  We were close enough that she looked much like the ship that had saved us from the storm several weeks prior.

Thinking it might be the same ship, the captain decided to come along side and hail them.  As we approached we could see more details of the mysterious ship.  The lines of her design were old.  Nothing like her had come out of the shipyards ofEnglandin over 30 years, and yet, she looked as though she were sailing her maiden voyage.  She showed no signs of decades at sea.  The paint seemed fresh and there were no patches to be seen.  All was quiet as we drew

Letters to the Dead

closer.  There was no noise, not even a sign of a crew aboard.  Everyone aboard theCrowleyheld their breath rather than break the eerie silence.  As we came along side, we could see no one along the decks high above us.

The captain hailed, but there was no response.”

The young sailor’s face grew tense as he told his tale to his rapt audience.

To read the rest of “Letters to the Dead” please visit Smashwords.com


A Kidnapping – Part 1 of Revenge of the Siren Song

Revenge of the Siren Song

Danger and adventure await in this tale from the Golden Age of Piracy. As deadly as she is beautiful, Captain Grace O’Malley is not the only threat in the Caribbean. She must strike an alliance with an old flame in order to continue to ply her trade upon the tropical sea. But the burning passions of Liam O’Shea threaten to unravel all her plots and plans.

Chapter 1 – A Kidnapping

Liam O’Shea was first aware of the bright light suddenly shining in his face. That triggered a throbbing headache, which in turn reminded him of all the rum he’d consumed while wenching with a few members of his crew the night before. His instinct was to grab the tattered excuse for a coverlet and try to roll away from the sunlight. But when he did, he discovered a cold sharp blade against his exposed neck. He froze just as he was, his eyes still shut. A silky brush of hair tickled his face and the sweet scent of a woman tickled his nose.

A warm and sultry voice whispered in his ear. “Liam, your entire crew, to a man, is passed out drunk. I could kidnap you and take that sweet little boat of yours and no one would so much as raise a hand to stop me. What a pity.”

The hair brushed across his face again. All of the sudden everything went all black and sideways. Captain O’Shea’s head felt as though it would split open.

The second time he woke up, Liam was aware of his throbbing head more than the light streaming onto his face. His mouth was sticky dry, and the rest of his body ached almost as much as his head.

“Well, I see my guest is finally waking up,” cooed the same sultry voice from somewhere in the room.

Slowly Liam opened his eyes and realized that he wasn’t in the room he’d let for the night but in the captain’s cabin of a ship, a ship that was not his. He bolted upright and regretted the move as soon as he’d made it. Part of the regret was caused by his swimming head, but a better part of the regret was due to the flashing cutlass blade that was suddenly at his throat.

“Don’t be getting any bright ideas, Captain O’Shea. If you don’t behave yourself as a proper guest aboard my ship, I’ll be obliged to tie you up and treat you as my prisoner.”

Liam’s head quickly cleared, along with his vision. What came into focus was truly amazing to the shanghaied sailor. At the other end of a very sharp and deadly cutlass was a dangerously beautiful pirate queen. Shiny raven locks cascaded around her face and shoulders. Mysterious hazel eyes gazed penetratingly into his. A deliciously pouty mouth hovered just close enough to kiss, were it not for the blade between them.

“I would be a fool indeed to threaten harm to a captain aboard her own ship,” he smiled.

“You have been known to be a bigger fool at times,” she snapped as she withdrew her cutlass.

He took advantage of the moment she turned her eyes off of him and grabbed her up in his arms. He kissed her hard as he forced her body against the bulkhead. Holding her there with his hips, he trapped her wrists above her head. He burned his kisses upon her mouth, and his eyes went dark with passion. As he continued to kiss the bonny sea captain, he began to grind her into the wall with his hips. She did the only thing she could to get him off of her. She bit his lip, hard enough to draw a trickle of blood. Again, his instinct for self preservation gave her the advantage she needed. He let go of her wrists with one of his hands. She slipped from his loosened grip to grab the knife on her belt. Once again, Liam found himself on the wrong end of her blade.

“It would do you good to remember who’s ship you are aboard.”

“You seem to be quite adept at threatening me with sharp objects, but what do you really intend to do with that,” he asked as he licked the blood from his lip.

“Assert myself.”

“Really, now, and just what assertions would those be, lass,” he grinned knowing he’d unravelled her a bit.

“Men of the watch!!”

No sooner had she raised her voice than three huge men came busting into the cabin.

“My guest has yet to learn his place.  Put him in the brig until he cools off.  And don’t fail to use the robust irons,” she confidently ordered them.

“Oh, really, now.  Do ye not have the nerve to face me one on one?  Or are these to be our audience,” his Irish brogue grew thicker.

“My ship, my rules,” she breathed in his face.

“I do not think you will have to hold me down to kiss me back, lass.  And I doubt the likes of these could hold me long anyway,” he taunted her back as she walked away from him.  “Why, Jameson here, still owes me a pint o’ rum.  And not that swill he’s taken to drinking, either, a pint of the good stuff.”

The man holding down Liam’s right hand averted his eyes from his captain sheepishly.  Liam took advantage of the man’s embarrassment and, with a flick of his wrist, took the man’s knife from his belt and threatened the guard on his left with it.

“But, as you have already pointed out, this is not my ship and I’ll go, lass, but it will be because I have peacefully agreed to,” he said as he lowered the knife and handed it back to Jameson.

“Wise choice,” she growled.

“You intrigue me, ’tis true,” he flashed another smile her way.

“Watch and learn,” she said as she turned on her heels and exited the cabin.

The men dragged Liam out on to the deck right behind her.  She was already barking orders to the rest of her crew, so his captors just stood on deck with Liam in hand until she gave them further orders.

“Helmsman, turn us to the south.  I have a score to settle.  And someone see to it this fool learns some manners.”

“South, eh,” Liam chuckled to himself.

“Hoist the mainsail!  I want the wind in my face boys!”

“A main heading south in the warm coastal water off the Florida shore,” Liam began to ask a question.

“What is he still doing on my deck? Below with the bastard!”

After several hours alone in the bowls of the dark smelly hold, the lovely captain of the Siren Song finally visited her prisoner.

“Did you really think I’d tell you what was going on while you could still jump ship?  That American bitch is making trouble for us all.  And there’s no way any of my crew would believe you’d come along willingly.  Since you are the damned worst liar of a pirate I’ve ever met, you left me no choice but to kidnap you and explain later.”

“Stealing and sailing requires little lying, I’m afraid. And my eloquent, dulcet tones are lost on most,” Liam grinned.

“Trying them with me won’t work either,” she scowled.  “I assume your crew WILL eventually come looking for you?”

“Unless they suddenly don’t want their part of the treasure I’ve buried and horded, you can assume so.”

“That horde won’t be worth a damn if we don’t stop her.”

“I’m mostly all ears for you… Mostly.”

“And you she will hang from the yardarm and then burn you as look at you,” she continued without pause.  “What you ever saw in her I’ll never know.  But now that she’s added my ships to her merry little game,” she fumed.

“Look, what do you want me to say, Grace?  That I made a mistake?  I didn’t, not about her, anyway.  I made a lot of others since then, more than we have time to count. We both have.  But what can be done about it, now?  What do we have left that we can leverage to take vengeance?”

“She’s been playing both sides. She thinks she’s been so very clever.”

Liam nodded his head and asked, “So, what’s the plan?”

“I’m not so sure I should tell you yet. I need to assess your loyalty.”

“Is this an attempt to get me to swear an oath?  Or are you just going to let me voyage in irons till your suspicions of me wear thin?”

“Up to you, but I’m leaning towards the irons option.”

A smile spread across his face as his thoughts tumbled through what bawdy options the irons could provide.  “Just how do you intend to assess my loyalties?”

“Now would be a good time to prove your devotion.”

He stood up.  “And how would you have me do that?” he asked as he took as many steps forward as his chains would allow and stood so close a stiff wind would have made her touch him.  “Do you want me to drop to my knees, look up at you, and give you lip service?” he asked with a sly suggestive smile.

“Dinner,” she choked.  “We will talk.”

He walked back over to his tiny stool and sat down.  “Dinner it is.”

 Revenge of the Siren Song is available on Amazon.com in print and for Kindle.


Pirate Novella, Revenge of the Siren Song

That time is almost here … AT LAST!!!!  I am down to the last few scribbles on the manuscript and then it’s off to a few key people.  I have a retailer, two published authors, and a member of my target audience all set to read it and let me know what needs to be tweeked.  My plan is to have the work published in early November.

So, to celebrate, I’m sharing a preview of the book cover with you.

Cover Art Revenge of the Siren Song

I hope you are as excited as I am for the upcoming release.  More to come as the publishing day gets closer.


Beyond the Veil for NYCmidnight Flash Fiction Challenge

Maggie’s worries about her sister’s wedding seemed to be unfounded.  It looked as though they might make it through the day without incident, when a familiar voice whispered against the back of her neck.

All of Gran’s tales of leprechauns and other wee folk had never prepared her for the likes of Aiden the Fair and Wise, as he liked to call himself.  It was traumatic enough being able to see beyond the veil between worlds, but he seemed to enjoy demolishing Maggie’s self control with childish pranks. 

“Why Maggie McGee, you look splendid in your wedding finery.  You should dress up more often.”

Maggie’s heart sank like a stone in the pit of her stomach.

“Congratulations,” he said as he took Liz’s hand.  “I’m afraid I’ve surprised your sister beyond words.  I only knew but a few hours ago that I would be able to come.  I hope you will forgive Maggie’s date for his poor manners.”  He flashed Liz a charming smile and kissed her wrist.

Liz beamed at Maggie.  “You never mentioned a date.  Maggie, how splendid!”

Forced to play along, Maggie found her voice.  “Liz, this is Aiden.”

Liz pulled him closer and kissed his cheeks.  “I’m so glad you’re here,” she whispered as she released him to the groom and his family.

“Maggie, I don’t know whether to be angry with you or proud of you.  How could you keep such a dark and sexy guy like that all to yourself?  I had to fight the urge to nibble his ear just now.”

“Liz!”

“You’d better hang on to that one.  His kind can’t be found just anywhere.”

“You have no idea.”

As soon as she’d seen him, she began to  tremble and break out in a flop sweat. 

“Do you get some kind of sick thrill from tormenting me,” she hissed at Aiden as he took his place next to her at the table.

“Why, Maggie, whatever do you mean?” 

“Do you have any idea how much self control it takes just to live a normal life?  Most of your kind walk around in full glory, assuming that the poor mortals are clueless.  My own kind would think I’m completely bats if I reacted to things no one else could see.”

“I could help you put aside all that anxiety for a while, Maggie,” he offered as he laid a hand across the top of hers.

A sweet, calming warmth spread from her hand across her body.  She immediately felt at peace.  Then the comfort became intense pleasure.  Maggie jerked her hand away from him.

“Stop that!”

“I was only trying to help.  You’re far too uptight and not enjoying yourself.”

“I was enjoying just fine until you showed up.”

“I meant the way you live your life in general.”

“I live my life this way because I can SEE you!  If you really wanted to help, lift this curse from me.”

“You know that I can’t.”

“Some all powerful immortal you are,” she seethed just as the Best Man rose to give the first toast.

It would be her turn next.  Her heart pounded fiercely against her chest and her hands broke out in a sticky sweat.  As she reached for a napkin to dry her hands, she realized that it wasn’t perspiration but a white foam coating her palms. 

She shot a hard look at Aiden.  He smiled and raised  his glass to her. 

A clean soapy scent began to permeate the air.  Her hands had broken out in a sheen of shaving cream.  She wrapped her napkin around her glass.  It only helped a little.  She barely got the first two comments out of her mouth when the shaving cream began to foam up around the glass and drip.  She carried on a moment or two longer as if nothing was happening.  Then the build up of suds became too much, and the glass slipped from her grip.  She blurted out something like “to the bride and groom,” and bolted from the table.

Aiden rose before Liz could and assured her that he would look after Maggie.  He found her on a garden bench outside the hall, her face buried in the foaming pile in her hands. 

She looked up at him before he could touch her. 

“Did you enjoy your little prank,” she hissed.

“You have no one but yourself to blame for that.  Your fear is so strong we can feel the atmosphere vibrating with it.  If I hadn’t been around, you would have most likely burst into flames rather than harmless soap bubbles.”

“So I guess you’re some sort of guardian angel sent to save me from myself?”

“Of a sort, maybe.  You won’t survive long as a seer if you keep trying to control every little element around you.  The beauty of life is in the unexpected.  Do you think your sister Liz would have met the wonderful man she just married if she controlled her life the way you do?

You aren’t broken or cursed, Maggie.  You are of a very rare and gifted sort, and you need to learn to embrace it, rather than fight it.  Take pleasure in what you are.”

He was going to go on when Liz came toward them.

“Maggie, there you are.  Everyone is asking for you.  The whole party was about to go comatose thanks to dear Ewen’s droning toast.  That little shaving cream gag saved the day.  They all want to know how you did it!  Finish cleaning up and come back inside.  We are about to cut the cake.”

Aiden smiled and with the slightest gesture, the sticky mess was gone and Maggie looked even more radiant than ever.

“What say you, Miss Maggie McGee, will you return with me and give life a try?”


Vicious Editing

Challenge #2 did not come nearly so easily as the first one.  An idea popped into my head right away, but executing it was much more difficult.

The first draft was over 2200 words.  More than twice the maximum allowed.  Granted, I had rambled my way through much of the story, but by the time I’d trimmed it down to 1500 words, I felt like I would have to start sacrificing meat along with the fat.  I liked very much my solution for the need to mention shaving cream in the story, though.  I just hope that the judges can find something to love about it too.

My submission for the NYCmidnight Flash Fiction Challenge #2 is in with two hours to spare.


Pondering the Prompt

The NYCMidnight.com Flash Fiction Challenge continues this weekend.  After a month of waiting, the results of the first challenge are out and a new challenge is about to be issued.  Several of the writers I’ve gotten to know were very pleased with the way the first challenge went and are excited to get to writing again.

Currently a topic of discussion is the prompt.  What genre, setting, and object will we each be writing about this time?  What genre is each of the writers hoping to draw?

Personally, I could get excited about several genres.  At least I have ideas rattling around in my brain for several.

Science Fiction would be the top of my list, I think.  I’d like to explore some of the nuances of what it would be like to live with cybernetic limb replacements.

I think I could roll with a Political Satire, too.  I’m a bit of a pot-stirer, and I certainly have a firm grip on American political history.  Would be interesting to see what would happen when I put some unlikely people in a room together.

And then I got to thinking less about the genre and more about the object.  If I drew a Drama, I could certainly use the object as a “McGuffin” in the story.  Some of my favorite books and films use the “object of desire” device to great effect, like The Maltese Falcon or any of the Indiana Jones movies. 

A horror or ghost story would probably push me furthest out of my comfort zone, but I appreciate a challenge.  Could Ms. Hearts & Flowers pull off something scary?  Mmmmmmm…. could be….

Whatever the next writing challenge brings, you can be certain I’ll keep you posted.  For now I will try and be a good girl and wait for the prompt at midnight.


Dinner and Devotion — Part Two of Revenge of the Siren Song

Liam’s stomach was growling by the time Jameson came below decks. Hew as wearing a scowl on his face and carrying a bucket and an armful of linens.

“It’s about time someone remembered I was down here,” Liam growled. “What’s with the bucket?”

“Captain says you have to clean up before dinner,” Jameson growled back. “She won’t dine with smelly sailors, she says.”

“She wants me to bathe just to eat?”

“Aye, sir, and she sent me down with clean clothes, too.”

“Clean clothes and a bath? I think I’d rather starve.”

“Her ship, her rules, sir.”

“So she’s told me.”

“She’s waiting, sir. And if she has my hide lashed because you kept her waiting, you can forget that pint o’ rum I owe you.”

“I hate losing a good pint o’ rum far more than bathing. Hand it over.”

Jameson handed the captured captain the bucket and clothes and stood a respectful distance away. Once Liam was as respectable as he was ever going to be, Jameson unlocked the manacles and led him back to the captain’s cabin.

Dinner aboard the Siren Song was served in a manner to rival any table in London or Paris. Captain O’Malley’s steward had cleaned and rearranged the cabin to accommodate the mistress’ guest. Linens, china, crystal, and sliver adorned the table. The steward lit the last of the candles and decanted a bottle of fine red wine when Liam entered. As the steward was seating the bewildered captive, the captain entered from an adjoining chamber. Gone were the practical trappings of a pirate captain able to hold her own among the men of her crew. The mistress of the Siren Song was dressed for dinner in a rich velvet gown and gold brocade bodice. Her wild raven hair had been pinned up, exposing the long line of her neck and the graceful curve of her shoulders. Around her neck was hung a handsomely crafted emerald necklace, as dainty gold earrings swung merrily from her ears. No lady in all her finery could match Captain Grace O’Malley for her beauty. And no man could defend himself against it.

“I think I like you better in your sailing clothes. At least I understand the rules of engagement under those circumstances,” Liam said as she seated herself across the table.

“Are you telling me that you do not understand the rules of good manners at a civilized table?”

“Since when have I ever been civilized?”

“Fair enough.” Turning to her steward she added, “you may begin serving.”

For a time they sat quietly and ate. Liam very carefully followed her step by step through the courses. Although not a word was said, the strategic contest was begun.

“You catch on quickly, O’Shea,” she smiled.

“Your ship, your rules, m’ lady.”

She raised her glass to him, “well said.”

“Would it be rude of me to ask at this point why I was shanghaied?”

“As I said before, I’m not certain I can trust you.”

“Then why involve me and my crew at all?”

“Because Captain Shireland has managed to secure the protections of the British Royal Navy. I cannot protect myself from her and them all on my own,” she was loath to admit.

“So I became a necessary evil,” he smiled.

“It is to your benefit to stop her as much as it is mine.”
“Maybe . . . Maybe not. Thus far she’s left me well enough alone.”

“And how would you calculate your benefit if you knew that the British agreed to this happy little arrangement with the scheming captain of the Ocean’s Whore because she assured them that she could bring them your head on a platter? It would seem you’ve been taking a great deal of taxable goods off the colonial market lately.”

“Hell truly doth have no fury like a woman scorned, then.”

They both lapsed into thoughtful silence as they picked at their meal. Liam had no doubts that if Captain O’Malley had gone to the effort to track him down and take him, that things were very bit as dire as she had indicated, knowing her, more likely far worse than she let on. She really had left him with no other choice but to offer to aid her and her men in any way he could.

As he looked up to address her, he noticed her glass was empty. The steward had left the cabin to get their next course from the galley. “Would you care for another glass of wine, m’ lady?” he asked, breaking the silence.

“Yes, thank you.”

Liam rose and retrieved the decanter of wine from the steward’s serving table and did his best to pout out just as the steward had. Just as he had the glass half full, he allowed his eyes to wander. They landed on the pair of full creamy mounds rising from her bodice. That steward was not only one of the luckiest men aboard ship, but he must have also had nerves of cannon iron to carry out his duties with such distractions, Liam thought to himself as he allowed the wine to overflow her glass.

“O’Shea, there is nothing to see there that is worth wasting such fine Italian wine,” Grace broke into his reverie.

“Sweet Mother Mary and all the saints,” Liam muttered to himself, “I’m sorry, Grace. Did I spill any on you?” He started to reach for her lap to check when she slapped his hand away.

“Really, Liam, do you think I would fall for such a juvenile lubber’s trick?”

“Not at all, m’ lady,” he reverted back to formalities. “My mind was elsewhere.” To quickly cover himself, he added, “how did you know so much about my recent activities, anyway?”

“Simple, Captain O’Shea, I have found that a few gold coins are much better spent on eyes and ears anywhere I may make port than on rum and pleasurable company. As a matter of fact, more often than not, information now comes looking for me.”

“Clever.”

“What I cannot seem to get at any price, though, is the kind of detailed information that would only be found aboard the Ocean’s Whore.”

“You mean the kind of information that would convince the British authorities that a certain ally was double crossing them?”

“Exactly.”

“And you have designs on how to get such information?”

“Have you ever known me not to have a plan?”

“No doubt at all that you are the finest schemer your fair sex ever purported to be, but have you thought it completely through?”

“Watch it that you don’t turn your bow right into a storm, O’Shea.”

“My apologies, Captain, if I have run afoul, but I do recall many planning sessions full of passion and energy, give and take. I was merely endeavoring to recall those days, mistress.”

Captain O’Malley drew a slow calming breath. She had missed those days herself of late. The strain of operating her normal business and avoiding her new enemies was taking a toll on her. She had begun snapping at anyone that got in her way like a foul humored sea turtle. She needed to unwind and relieve some of that tension.

“If I may be so bold, I do recall a trick or two that always inspired you,” Liam purred as his brogue grew thick. “Often times a pleasant distraction from the thoughts tumbling through your head is just the thing to sort them all out,” he continued as he began to pet her hand that was resting on the table.

She closed her eyes and drew another deep breath. She did not move or speak to stop him. He trailed his fingertips lightly up her hand, across her wrist, and all the way up her arm. She did not move, but sat there very still, eyes closed, taking in every slight sensation. He stood up and walked around the back of her dining chair, making certain not to break the physical contact he had established. Drawing his fingertips up her shoulder and onto her neck, he began to stroke and massage the tight little muscles he found there. Her warm sweet scent lingered around her like the heat of a candle flame. One deep breath of her stirred his desire for more than just a chaste gentle touch. With both hands resting on her shoulders, he bent down to her and kissed the base of her neck. A soft sigh escaped her. He trailed kisses and nibbles up the column of her neck into her hairline and then back down the to the other shoulder. As a measure of tension left her body, her head lolled forward and to one side. She was becoming warm clay to be molded in his hands.

The pile of warm hair atop her head drew his attention. He ran his fingers from her neck up into her hair along her scalp. To his rough and calloused hands, it was like a soft pile of fine silk ribbon. He gently pulled out each little pin he found as he stroked her head, until it all came tumbling down in a cascade of midnight waves washed in the shimmering moonlight of a cloudless night. She released a deeper sigh and relaxed her back against the chair.

Then he took a firm grip of her chair and turned and pulled her away from the table. She looked up into his face, and he was lost in to mysteries of her hazel eyes. As he leaned closer to her face, she wrapped her small hands around his scruffy jaw and pulled his mouth to hers. They shared a long sweet kiss, before he pulled away from her.

He sat in the floor at her feet and removed her soft brocade slippers to pay homage to her feet. At first he just rubbed and caressed, drawing more of the long held tension from her body. As she relaxed a little more, he drew a foot up to his face and began to kiss her toes. Once he had satisfied himself with that, he hiked her heel up onto his shoulder and began to kiss his way up the inside of her leg from her ankle. As he worked he way closer to her knee, he continued to push and roll the soft velvet skirt ahead of him, exposing more and more of her legs.

The steward returned to her cabin and could hear her softly moaning on the other side of the door. He was loath to enter, but was carrying two large platters of fresh fruit and cream and could not return to the galley with them without explanation, so he quietly entered the cabin. To his mortal shame, he realized that he would not be able to traverse the cabin and set down the fruit without disturbing them. He feared he had no choice but to stand quietly in the shadows of the nearby bulkhead and wait.

Then the lady found her words again. “Oh, yes, that’s it,” she purred. “Oh . . . ,” and then she paused, for out of the sweet oblivion came a spark of thought. “Oh, yes, that’s it!” All the sudden she bolted upright. “That’s it, that’s it!” she continued to exclaim, even though Liam sat in the middle of the floor, disengaged from her and looking like a bewildered mess. Then she spotted the steward waiting in the corner of the cabin.

“We are done here. Please clear away the dinner and show Captain O’Shea to his quarters. I have work to do.”

And with no further words to either man, she stalked back to her adjoining cabin.

The steward just shrugged, put the platters down on the table, and lead Liam to his sleeping quarters down below.


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