posted on 17-Feb-2003 4:18:04 AM
Title: Prisoner of Love
Disclaimer: own nil except my imagination
Rating: R/NC-17(either way it's still gonna contain adult content)
Summary: AU. No Aliens. Liz is a Lady who is wrongfully accused and set prisoner on a pirate ship.
Author's note:Im a major AU/romance adventure kinda gal, thats the reason for this fics theme. I have to say that it is not a 'smut' story, but there will be lovemaking scenes-thank you
Feedback: No protest there!
Note: Just reposting here so ppl can find the parts they want more easily without having to go through too many pages. *happy*

Part 1

"Father I will not be subjected to such foul treatment!"Liz yelled in protest.

"Foul treatment?! how on earth do you find yourself calling that foul treatment!?!" Jeff Parker yelled back at his only daughter. Liz bit back her ever rising temper and replied through gritted teeth.

"You my dear father are making me marry against my will to a man I do not love for which after I would expect myself to live a life of pure misery" she ground out, her fists clenching and unclenching. Jeff stomped his foot in anger.

"That does not equal foul treartment my dear daughter, I honestly don't understand what you find so unwanting about a marriage to a fine Lord who will no doubt offer you a happy life" Jeff's voice became softer yet nontheless angrier. Liz sighed heavily. It was getting more irritating by the time, everytime she had to confront her hard headed father about her arranged marriage to Lord Deluca. It had come to her knowledge that he was not going to relent and the only way out of it is if she ran away. That wasn't really an option though because she would never abandon what has become to be known as her life.

"Father with all do respect I am forced to disagree. I do not love Lord Deluca therefore I cannot possibly be happy and furthermore this is my life you are oh so wistfully arranging and without my consent nevertheless. I hardly think it fair, yet more likely to be foul" Liz retorted with her unsettled temper. Her face was flushed with the anger, her hair tousled from repeatedly running her hand through it with growing frustration and her silk pale green dress very crinkled from the clenching fists of her hands. At the moment they both stood at opposite sides of the large study, occupied by the tarnished woodwork and the huge mahogany desk stacked with paperwork, the large bookcase full of Oxford books and beside it the prescious green lamp that lit the office in a dim gleam.

It was the year 1881 in the remote and beautiful Florence. It was a time when men ruled the world and the women stood by them in servance. Many men were politicians and army men, while many women were protitutes or arranged wedders. Usually the wealthy were politians and marry out of convienience, and the army men usually had enough money to get by weekly,sometimes daily, pleasures of the female kind. Liz found it horrid to make a woman a mere slave, either for a moments passion or for a lifetime of loveless fortune. It simply wasn't fair and she wasn't about to be another innocent casualty it the defiant role of such.

"Elizabeth Parker you listen to me and you listen well for these words shall be the last of this WILL mary Lord Deluca with my full blessing and you WILL commit yourself to the rightful role of a Lady. There will be no more discussion on this topic" Her father demanded in a clear pointed voice. He turned and strode over to his desk and began rummaging through the papers, signaling the end of the conversation. Liz really had to watch her temper because she turned on her heel and stomped out of the room with a loud slam of the door. Her house, or rather her mansion was built by the sea where she could watch the everlasting sunsets. In no time at all she would be hauled off to be imprisoned in the large gloomy castle of the insufferable Lord. As far as Liz knew what was about to occur a few days from now was not considered a marriage, but a binding that is nothing short of shackles and a gag.

'Oh my life is going to be hell' Liz thought with dread as she glumly as she dragged herself back to her chambers.

Throwing herself on her wide bed fit for two made her shuder at the thought of sharing one with Liz didn't understadn why they couldn't just leave her alone to her own life and let her choose her own path. If she happens to stunble upon true love on the way then so be would be hte hands of fate that would bring her her true gallant, not the cold ruthless hands of her father. Liz buried her face in her soft pillow and growled in frustration. She knew her father was better than ruthless and that he only wishes what's best for her but the constant demands made on her to behave like an obedient daughter surelt test her temper indeed.
"Captain!" cried one of the ship mates aboard the 'Cruella' as he rushed down below deck to fetch his captain. Entering a large room with a big round table that had maps and ink all over it, he came to a halt at the two men that seemed to be in a heated conversation.

"Yes Wimsey?" the captain also known as Max, turned his brown eyes to the man in a questionable look.

"We caught sight of a ship a few miles away captain...what do we do?" Wimsey asked with excitement in his voice. He and the others were certainly hoping for another good catch to add more to the booty.

"Do you know who it belongs to?" Max's companion stood and faced him.

"It's another one of them merchant ships, probably carrying food and wine" Wimsey answered Michael who was Max's first mate and partner in crime. Max turned a thoughtful gaze to him.

"Well what do you think?" Max asked him, totally ignoring Wimsey as if his opinion meant nothing. Michael's brows furrowed as he examined the subject carefully in his mind. After what seemed like eternity he met Max's gaze and shook his head.

"It's probably heading towards land to unload. We'll be too close to the approaching city for comfort. I say we simply head to shore ourselves, obtain our own food and wine..and perhaps anything else we wish then head back out." Michael stated his opinion yet kept the authority out of his tone for though he was first-mate..the captain had the final say. Max regarded it for a while before nodding.

"I am inclined to agree. Besides we all could use some solid land beneath our feets after a month at sea. Good thinking Michael" Max gave him a small appriciative smile which Michael treasured for he knew that a mere smile from Max was considered a miracle. Max was nothing short of tempermental, rough, arrogant and sometimes cold.....though he did have his good side. The ship mates wished they'd have more of it though.

"As you wish captain. We shall set anchor in Florence in about an hour" Wimsey informed his superiors and hurried back up on deck.

Part 2

Liz awoke with a start. It took her a moment to recognise her surroundings and groaned. Climbing out of bed she idily walked to the window and noticed that the full moon lit the starry sky and illuminated crowded streets of late night partiers. Oh how she wished she could act as carefree and spirited as them. Ofcourse she did have an idea of what precisely goes on in hte crowded streets of lights and heads. The men went out to drink, dance, fight and get pleasured, while the women went out to offer men drinks, dance for them, fight over them and pleasure them. Liz did find the matter unthinkable but coudln't help but feel the excitement. No man has ever dared look at her, touch her, speak to her or even desire her without her father's permission. Liz gave a shudder. ' Damn you father for having such a hold on my life' she thought bitterly. Turning away from the window she made her way to the door and creaked it open. The halls were empty. Liz guessed they would be all asleep. ' Perfect' Liz thought with a sly smile.

She decided that if she was about to be engaged to a life of uttmost respectability yet uttmost misery, she should at least have one night of wild exploration. Liz knew she was gambling with more than her life by stepping out late at night , unescorted , but also with the wrath of her father if he finds out.

"He won't" she assured herself in a whisper.
After anchoring thier ship in a safe place the ship mates made it offboard. It was just after midnight and as they approached the city they could see the nightlife buzzing about.

"Looks like we made it just in time for some fun" Michael commented as they walked down the main street observing shops, full restuarants and clubs.

"Ok boys you can disperse from here but be sure to be back by six sharp am I clear?" Max asked them in an authorative voice. They all nodded and left their captain's side while Michael stayed by his side.

"Let's go" he said and htey both took off walking towards the biggest club they could find and entered. Card tables were full off gambling men, some playing serious bets and others are laughing with half naked women on their laps. On one side a stage was set up with dancers and on the other a bar. On mutual agreement they both headed to the bar and took the two empty seats. The barman eyed them curiously but they needn't have worried because they would be very hard to recognise at night with drunks all around.

"What'll ya have?" the barman asked while wiping the counter with a piece of rag....which looked dirtier than the counter itself. Before they could order a voice interrupted.

"He'll have a whiskey on the rocks" Michael and Max turned around to see a small blond with green eyes and red lips and a very nice body that fit her petite outfit, showing off a good amount of cleavage and stomach and smooth thighs. Michael was drooling but Max wasn't much of a blond man though he appreciated the view so he turned around and left the floor for Michael to handle.

"I'm not so sure I want that" he told her while eyeing her up and down. She put a hand on her hip and raised an eyebrow.

"Well then what would you like?" she asked with an amused tone.

"You" he simply said and before she could object he snaked his hand around her waist and pulled her to him in a wet yet sensual kiss. After they pulled back she stared dazely at him. His spiky blond hair gave him a wild complexion, his lean body gave him a strong one and that smirk gave him a 'don't wanna get invovled look' which she found quite apetizing.

"Good choice" she said as she took his hand and began guiding him to a private room. Before they were out of sight she stopped and turned to Max.

"Hey, so you don't feel left out I can get you one" she called out to him. Max looked at her and smirked. He saw Michael bend and whisper something in her ear and watched as her lips formed an 'oh'. Then he saw the blond give someone behind him a look and they both continued on with their journey. Before Max knew it a light tap on his shoulder forced him to turn around and be face to face with a another blond. She on the other hand had short bouncy curls, deep blue eyes and a very petite form which was more curved than the other one.

"Hi. I heard you could use a little fun tonight" she purred seductively as she moved her hips to be closer to him. Max watched her full red lips as they moved. His eyes drifted downward as he examined her. Her breasts were too big, her waist too tiny, and her legs too short. All in all she was the typical whore. His eyes went back to her face. They stared at each other for a few minutes before his hand flew out and gripped a breast squeezing it strongly, letting out a yelp of pain from her. He didn't bother to apologize and began kneading it, while locking eyes with her, till her nipple hardened beneath the fabric.As soon as he noticed he assulted it by pinching it and rolling it between his finger as it grew even harder, all the time watching her reaction. Her eyes were closed and she was breathing shallowly. He instantly grew hard and wanted to relieve himself as soon as possible. Without waiting to be in private he yanked her to him, kissed her hard and plopped her on his lap as she straddled him. As his savage assult on her lips continued one of his hand moved to cup her breast and the other moved lower to inspect her readiness. As soon as he touched her his fingers were immediately covered with her slickness. When he inserted a finger she moaned loudly and rubbed herself against his hand and groin which emmited a growl from him. He removed his finger from her and moved it to his breeches. Managing to just pull out his erection, and being grateful she was wearing a skirt with no underwear, he led it to her entrance and plunged into her with no remorse. A yelp emmitted from her then a gasp. She moved to look into his eyes.

"God you're HUGE" she remarked with awe as she felt him fill her completely. He didn't answer only grabbed her hair, pulled her head back making her breasts jut forward and began sucking on a nipple with no mercy as he started to move within her. Following him she began to raise her hips up and down trying hard not to cry out in pain from the way he savagely ravished her. Max didn't want to go steady so he released his grip on her hair and moved both his hands on her hips and watched his shaft disappear in and out of her tight wetness in lightning speed. Panting he didn't wait for her to reach her brink but settled on satisfying his own first so with one last plunge he came.

"Ahhhhh" he grunted as his body spasmed. The vibration from his shaking triggered her own release as she climaxed .

"oh MY!" she yelled jerking through it all as she felt him soften inside her. Max, feeling relieved pushed her off him and refastened his breeches, gave her one last hard kiss, smirked as a thanks and disappeared into the crowd before she even came down from her high. ' Yep, defanitely not a blond man' he thought as he headed to the card tables.

"What a man!" she breathed.

Part 3

Drawn to the crowded card tables Max found himself amidst a band of greedy and ruthless players that would nondoubtedly play for their lives. Max loved those kinds of games for their intensity and unpredictable outcomes. Once he had witnessed a foolish gambler have his ring finger cut off as payment for his loss. It did not frighten him away though for Max was never one to lose and also never one to deny a dangerous challenge. Finding an empty seat through the thick fog of smoke he took his place among several other men. Max observed them and noted how serious they are as they stared with a blank expression on their faces so not to give away their cards. A few were thrown to him as a sign of their acceptance in their game. Taking them Max eyed them carefully and smiled brilliantly inside. It was a lucky hand he had and he knew he should give up full payment upon the table. Reaching for the belt that held up his straight and deadly sword he pulled out a sack and threw it in the middle of the table in a sign of his own acceptance to join. The brown sack jingled and fell half open revealing a dozen cold coins. He could almost feel the drool on his own skin and he was instantly filled with pride for his richness no matter the way he obtained it.

The game progressed and Max was on his last play. As it appeared luck had not gone with him throughout the ordeal and left him reaching for his second sack. As his hand manuevered to his back it froze in place and his eyes widened when he felt no roughness or weight upon his fingers. Shock was immediately replaced with rage and he stood up so quickly the chair he sat on flew through the air . Max saw from the corner of his eyes the displeased memebers rising but he paid them no attention for his eyes simply roamed wildly across the club for any sign of the robber. Max knew he'd never find him and that he was in trouble with the now angry men, yet suddenly as if by chance his gaze fell upon a cloaked shadow that seemed to linger by rich prospects. ' Just like me' he thought angrily. Giving the players no other thought he furiously pushed his way against the crowd intent to get even.

He saw the cloacked person raise their head and look his way. Without warning he bolted in the opposite direction and Max was hot on his heels. During his chase Max saw a disshelved Michael coming out of a cornered door with the young green-eyed whore not far behind. They both seemed to be glowing and Max couldn't help but for a moment to smirk. Michael noticed Max's angry look and furious strides, so by drawing his own conclusion he brought 'Maria' she told him her name was , kissed her hard savoring her taste, whispered a haste good bye and ran to tally the shipmates for he knew there was trouble.

Maria knew she would most probably never see him again but the feelings for him were too strong to deny and she vowed they'd meet again...somehow. "Our paths will cross again my rugged pirate, be sure of that" she whispered to his retreating figure.

Max saw the cloaked robber dart into a dark corner and he followed suit. No sooner had he turned did he slam right into him . Fury and truimph filled his eyes as he grabbed hold of his thief. He would make him pay dearly for sure.
Liz wandered for a while trying to keep a low profile on her identity. She didn't think the jungle was as wild as the animals she walked past in the street. Her heart was pounding against her breast and her pulse was racing in excitement. She didn't know which feeling to revel in.She noticed the men, drunk and sober either talking merrily with their companions or holding a woman close to their bodies. Liz shivered and held her cloak closer to her body. It was indeed a hot night yet the need to keep herself concealed kept her from going practically naked if she could. Sweat began to break her skin and she decided it was time to refresh herself with a cool drink. She noticed many going into a certian restuarant that looked to be described more like a club. She chose to enter this one for the seemingly appriciative cusotomers. Liz's heart immidiately constricted at her mistake. Men lay everywhere with women sprawled against them. Even in the card game area Liz noticed was a man who had a red haired and half naked woman on his lap as he kneaded her bare breast with no shame. The woman seemed to be enjoying it too Liz noted.

Liz did not understand it but the realization of what this place is made her blood boil inside to make her cheeks flush and outside to make her nipples harden and obtain a moistness between her legs. Liz did not like that feeling at all and decided to seek her refreshment elsewhere. Pulling the constricting cloak more tightly against her she began to make her way out when she found herself slammed into a hard object. Opening her eyes Liz took note of the wide broad and definitely hard chest that had previously been in contact with her face. Before she could look up to gaze upon the holder of such a fine body a pair of large hands gripped at her and shook her violently. Liz tried to scream but the shock was overwhelming so she looked up to stare at her assailent. The club was remotely dark so she could hardly describe him other than being tall, with brown hair, angrily thinned yet full lips that Liz had the sudden crazy erge to kiss and a pair of dark eyes that pinned her with what seemed to be a truimphent look.

Liz was confused now more that afeared. Perhaps the man mistakened her for someone else she thought. That fear soon rose back when he gripped her arm and began to drag her outside while stating with the most warming yet frightening voice she ever heard " I have you now cloaksman thief and you shall pay".

Part 4

Liz's heart was going a mile a minute. Here she was being dragged away by a complete stranger who thought her a thief and she could not find her voice to even deny the alligations. His strong hand was wrapped painfully around her wrist and as she tried to pull away it only served her to be jerked forward. As soon as they exited the club the moonlight along with the nightlights bathed her abductor's form clearly and Liz almost lost her breath. Tall with broad shoulders and brown hair that fell across his forehead he seemed quite the man.

Liz shook her head in frustration. She was not supposed to be thinking these thoughts right now. Right now she had to think of what her father would do when he found her gone, right now she had to think of what that stranger would do to her, and right now she had to think if her life would ever be the same again. That final thought scared and she she finally found her strength and jerked at his hand. The surprise of the pull caught him offguard and his hand released her. The moment his grip loosened Liz stopped abruptly and turned to bolt away from him. She had only ran a few feet however before she found herself surrounded by a bunch of other men. They looked as if they'd pounce on her at the slightest movement. That scared Liz even more. They looked angry and since Liz still had her hood on they could not possibly know that she was but a defenseless woman. Slowly she turned back around only to become face to face with her captor's eyes. Goodness they were mesmerizing!

'NO' Liz scolded herself in her head. But perhaps if she met this man under different circumstances........her train thought was interrupted by a lightning grip og his big hands went around her small wrist once again. He jerked her close enough for her to feel his breath on her face.

"Do not try that again cloaksman theif. I warn you for my men will not hesitate....." he left the sentence unfinished leaving her to conclude the rest for herself, then he suprised her by pulling her closer still and hissing " and neither will I ". Liz swallowed convuslively. She wondered if she should tell him who she was right now and have this whole mess cleared up. Obviously some person who wore a similiar cloak had stolen from him and he mistaken her for that person.'Yes ofcourse that must be it, I'll just clear the whole thing up" she thought but before she could speak a word she was being hauled off once again into the night. At first she hadn't thought of were they were going, but right now as she glanced ahead she could only see a drak trail, yet as she sniffed the air she noticed it as salt. The port! they were going to the prt! 'but why?' Liz thought curiously. Surely he would think better to take her to the police.
As soon as Max had grabbed his criminal's wrist a strange sensation of heat spread from his hand to his entire body. It left him confused and as he pulled him away into the night he contemplated it. Too lost in thought he was caught by surprise when he tried to escape. Giving him that warning seemed wrong to him for some reason and Max didn't know why. It was as if threatening this cloaksman was not a highly intelligent thing to do.

However shrugging the feeling off he gripped at the wrist again and ignored the heating sensation again. Perhaps it was simply caused from his anger? ' yes ofcourse' he thought rationally and he would make sure to make his theif pay for his crime. Since he couldn't take him to the law, knowing that he would be hanged himself, he decided to create his own punishment. First he would take him back to the ship, then he would demand his money back and after he would probably give him a wipping or some sort of painful deed and let him go before the ship sails.

His crew was right behind him when they reached the dock where their giant ship lay. Max turned his head and his gaze landed on Michael who came forward in acknowledgement. Without even being asked Michael answered his question.

"All here and accounted for" he stated and Max nodded his head in approval.

"Good then let's go!" he ordered and the men scrambled about climbing aboard and getting about their work. Max walked tentively to the narorw ladder and contemplated how to get them both up there without trouble. He glanced thoughtfully at what he considered his temporary prisoner and looked him up and down. The cloak still shielded his face so Max could not make out his expression. Was he scared? was he angry? was he smiling with a ready plan to escape?.

Max didn't like the last thought. He gave him a more thorough look this time and noticed that this man's figure was quiet small, almost like a woman oddly enough. Max's eyes went back to the hidden face. Without second thought he moved in and wrapped his arms around him and hauled him upon his shoulder. 'Surprisingly light as well' Max thought curiously. Max concluded that he must be dealing with no man, but a young boy, for all blossoming men looked to have a certain woman's complexion. Even he was one.

As soon as he had placed the young boy securely on his shoulder a soft, barely audible gasp emmited from him which Max chose to ignore and began ascending the ladder to the deck Once there he dropped the boy ungracefully to the ground with a thud and without giving him time to gain balance began to pull him to his cabin below.
When the man swiftly pulled her onto his shoulder Liz couldn't help but gasp in surprise. The fear was still there but now it was frightfully replaced by excitement. Who would have thought that lady Elizabeth Parker who was to marry Sean Deluca and become the richest and most respected woman in Florence would be sneaking out in the middle of the night, accused of being a theif in an indecent restuarant and being abducted by a stranger and carried off to his ship. It was rather adventuressly exciting in a way. Liz remained as still as she could as they went up the ladder yet whenever she glanced down to where her eyes would only allow her to see she couldnt' help but notice this stranger's buttocks. Liz blushed and scloded herself again for her train of thoughts. Before she knew it she was roughly let down from his strong shoulder and she landed heavily onto the wooden deck.She had time to regain her balance or even glance up to view her surroundings before she was being dragged away once more.

A few seconds later she realized they were about to descend some steps. She successfully climbed down the first few but his insistant pull made her lose her balance and she lost her footing and felt herself fall against him. She expected to feel herself slam into him so she closed her eyes before the impact.....but it didn't come and she felt two large hands gripping at her shoulders. Slowly opening her eyes she found herself staring into his own. Her heartbeat quickened it's pace and her breath caught in her throat.

"Watch it" he said in an irritated and impatient voice and then turned back around to continue their journey down. After the steps Liz realised they were walking through a narrow hallway and not long after they had stopped and her stranger had opened a door with his free hand and shoved her forcefully inside. Liz quickly turned around when she heard the click of the door. The room was dimly lit by a solitary candle so she could not see much of the room but she could definitely see him as he walked towards her rather menacingly.

Looking her up once again like he did before they boarded the ship he said "Now let us see your face theif" and reached with his hand to tug away her cloak. Liz jumped and moved away. Her move however she noticed did not please her captor for he stepped forward and before she could pull away he had grabbed at her hood and shoved it down.

Part 5

Max just stared. His gaze fixed upon his thief. A woman. His grip immediately loosened and he stumbled back in shock. The first thought that pushed through his shock and confusion was that he had just kidnapped a woman. He studied her features closely. She had a curtain of long brown silky hair that was sticking out of a tight band making it look like she just got out of bed, maybe even ravished. Then he saw her lips. A sensual red combined with an inoccent pink. A mouth made for kissing yet never had it been kissed. His eyes moved down to her body. So petit and slender.

He could not see much from beneath the cloak so without thinking his hand shot out and snatched it off her. She gave a soft gasp. Curves in all the right places. Perfect breasts fit to lay in his palm, a small waist for his huge arms to circle and long slender legs made for him to run his hands over from her sweet little toes to her hard thighs as he reached her most prized femininity.

Max grew hard. The sudden intrusion upon his senses knocked him back to reality and he moved even farther away so she won't see his throbbing erection. he shook his head to clear it and looked up to meet her possessing brown eyes. She was frozen, watching him, as if planning and plotting. She has not spoken and that worried him for it looked like she had something to say.

"Speak woman. It is your due" he said harshly wrapping the cloak into an angry ball and throwing it on the floor. He gave the mysterious woman a look that was supposed to promt her to speak yet she said not a word and only stared right back. This angered Max even more. For not only was she not speaking but she was a woman and a thief.

"Has another stolen your tongue as you have stolen my gold theif?!" he demanded and was rewarded with a widening of eyes and another small gasp. She walked backwards slowly until she hit the wall. Her eyes widened even more.

"I a-am n-not a th-theif"" she stuttered crossing her arms trying to protect herself.

"Do not deny it wench, it will do you no good" he said and walked menacingly towards her. He was only a kiss away.

"What do you want from m-me?" Liz asked fearfully, trying to tilt her head back to avoid his gaze but knowing she'd only succeed in bringing their lips even closer. Abruptly he moved away.

"I want my money wench!" he yelled.

"I do not have it" she replied weakly. He came forward again.

"Do not lie theif. Give me my money NOW!" this time his voice sounded like a boom for all those shipmates to hear and Liz knew that if she screamed for help no one would come for her.

"Please sir. I honestly do not know. You have mistaken me for I am not the theif you percieve me to be" Liz answered with a much surprisingly calm voice. He must've beenshocked aswell because for a moment he stared at her then he approached her. His face grew close to her own as he towered over her.

"A sneaky little creature aren't you. You seek my leniency yet I offer you none. You will submit to me and my demands and I demand my gold." he spoke low.

Liz could not help but feel her short temper rising and she cursed her loose tongue,"I will not submit to you, you cruel villian. If you had not noticed you just kidnapped me for no apparent reason because I have no idea what gold you speak off!"and now she wished she could take it all back.

Max pulled back startled but then a sand storm filled his eyes and without another thought he snatched her wrist and threw her across the bed she had not noticed before. For all Liz saw was him. Max came atop her while she was still shocked but Liz had managed to restore some of her focus and before either of them knew it she bought her legs up and kicked him off her. He was a very large and muscular man so Liz knew it was only the element of suprise that caught him off guard. Either way though she did not abuse her chance and quickly lept to her feet and ran across the room to the door.

Her hand had just touched the knob when she felt her feet give out beneath her. She fell to the ground with a painful thud. Liz felt the hands on her ankle and knew that he had tripped her. She twisted to get out of his grasp but her grabbed her hands as she turned on her back and locked them above her. He lay fully atop her now panting and gazign at her furiously. No matter how much she tried she could not help but feel the exquisiteness of his hard body pressed tightly against her, crushing her. The feeling was soon forgotten however when he rose a few inches atop her to pin her with a menacing glare.

"Were you a man, I would hit you" he hissed. Liz raised her head to meet him challengingly.

"As you can see I am a woman, what shall you do now?" she asked with more confidence than she felt. He only chuckled bitterly. His large hand moved to cup and stroke her cheek, his eyes following the movement intently. Liz froze, feeling the warmth of his skin seeping into hers. She realized that she had stopped breathing and immediately took in a breath. Except it came out as a gasp because right then his fingers had lightly grazed her lips.

"You my sweet theif have stolen from me and now you shall be my prisoner until you hand me back my money...until then you are mine" he whispered into her ear and looked back up to gauge her reaction. 'Mine' such a reaction would have stirred the passion of a woman in heat but the only passion that stirried within Liz at the moment was her outrage.
"Prisoner!?! are you insane! I demand you release me at once" she screamed and struggled to be free of his hands. But he held her strong. Liz couldn't believe it. She was falsely accused of being a theif and she is to beheld prisoner for it. It was simply unacceptable. Her father would send an army to raid his ship and rescue her.

"I assure you, iam not insane...simply..shall we say making sure your debt against me is paid to the fullest" he explained almost casually as if the fact that she lay beneath him, totally vunerable did not effect him in any way. At that moment Liz panicked. For through the haze of the entire ordeal she had forgotten that, now that, that pirate had decided to take her captive, her vitrue was at stake. The question was......would he rape her?

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 17-Feb-2003 6:40:51 PM ]
posted on 17-Feb-2003 4:20:15 AM
Part 6

When her captor forcefully shoved her hood down it literally blew the breath right out her, and not because of the force. Before her stood the most amazingly handsome and rugged man she had ever seen. Straight with long muscular legs under black breeches and knee high black boots, to a lean waist, then a muscular chest behind the linen shirt he wore, broad shoulders that show immaculate authority, a thick neck which was connected to the most beautiful face. Thin lush lips, a straight nose giving his face a profile and the most remarkable set of brown liquid eyes. Those eyes that seemed to darken and light ablaze all at once as they stared right back at her.

Liz stared right back and could not find her voice when he started demanding and attacking her with falsehoods. Amidst the sight before her she was too confused with what was going on to be able to form a question. Suddenly the fact that he was calling her a thief and asking for his gold back unfolded her curled tongue and she began thrusting agruements right back in his face. Obviously he did not like that one bit because in the end she found herself flat on her back with him on top of her declaring her his prisoner. She afeared her virginty and she had no idea if he would take it as a forfeit.

"P-please let me go" she asked of him softly and his hand stopped stroking her cheek. Oddly she was disappointed. He looked at her hard.


"Why n-not?" she inquired her voice coming out in a whine she did not appriciate. His brows knitted and he sneered.

"You steal from me, try to escape and now you think to try and sweet talk your way out of it?! I think not" he said and began to rise off her body.Liz's heart beat so fast she thought he could hear it. Was this it? Was he about to make her pay for something she did not do?

"What are you going to do to me?" she asked quietly excepting defeat for now and hoping to gain more information about her mysterious pirate. He turned and looked her up and down.

"You will work aboard my ship until you have paid your dept or you give up my gold" he said casually as if the fact that he had taken a woman hostage and forcing her to work was just a usual occurance to him. Liz raised an eyebrow. Perhaps it is........well not exactly the kind of work she was about to be put through though. Liz blushed at her wicked thinking.

Her pirate noticed and couldn't help but allow a small smile to tug on his lips. When he spoke his voice was strangely soft.

"I do not do this often you know" then the hard look on his face returned and Liz wondered if the gentleness was there in the first place " do not think to try and lure me with your femininity, I will not be merciful just because you are a woman. You are plain and pale anyway and not my type....but if you wish, I'd be more than happy to oblige" he said the last part with a cocky grin and a suggestive gesture to the bed.

Liz gasped in outrage at his suggestion and also his conclusion about her blush. However his words sent an even deeper, unwanted, blush to cover her cheeks. She turned away trying to calm herself, because heaven only knows she'd try and rip his head off if she allowed herself to.

"No, I do not wish anything from you" she turned back around and said curtly. He sighed mockingly and gave her a pointed look.

"A shame. Its useful to be on my good side at times like these" he said looking too disappointed to truly be.

"I thought my femininity would not change your decision?" Liz reminded him with a glare.

"No but it could change my current state of erection" he said that so bluntly Liz's gasp of horror could be heard miles away as he gaze shifted to his groin area to witness the huge bulge there. She looked back up to his neutral face. He was waiting.

"I thought I was plain and not your type" Liz repeated his earlier words. Her voice shaking with fear and nervousness.

He shrugged " you're still a woman, and I'm a man."

"Not a gentleman it seems" she huffed. He chuckled. The sound oddly erotic.

"No, not a gentleman" he repeated. There was a long pause before he spoke again.

"You may stay here for the night. Tomorrow you begin your chores and you will be taken to another chamber". That splashed a bucket of ice cold water on her as it finally dawned on her that she really was being taken away from her family and home. It brought tears to her eyes and she'd be cursed to cry infront that monster before her.

"How long will you keep me here?" she asked in a low choked voice. He turned to her.

"As long as I want" he replied.

"What?! I thought it was until I pay my dept" Liz yelled in chargin. He did not seem affected by her outburst.

"You are my prisoner-"he started then stopped abruptly "What is your name?" he finally asked.

"Non of your business" Liz replied angrily. His stance grew rigid and he took a few strides to her until he was able to grab her arms. Not roughly but not lightly either.

"Don't start defying me, I dont want to call you theif the whole time so tell me then what I may call you" he said softly. Liz wanted to shout out that she was no theif and argue her case but she knew it would do no good. He would just call her a lier. Perhaps she should tell him that she was the daughter of Lord Parker? that her father would pay his stupid sum and then she'd be free. But free to what? to an unwanted marriage? to a disappointed father and mother? and anyway, if her pirate ever found out she was the daughter of an extremely rich Lord then he would seize the opportunity to demand more and possibly bankrupt her family. She would still be thrust into a marriage, because Lord Deluca only cares about her body and also because of lack of funds, and her father would not only be disappointed but he would hate her for it. She didnt want that. She would not give her pirate the satisfaction.Never.

"Liz" she finally said not wanting to give him her real name and yet not wanting to be the lier he accused her of being. 'Liz' was her nickname and it would do.

"Liz" he repeated still softly. His hold loosened on her arm but did not disengage. The heat from his hand seeped into her skin and began to fan out all around her body and ending between her thighs. She shivered against the unwanted responsiveness to her savage pirate's touch. Liz jerked away from him and he let her. Swiftly he walked to a dark oak chest at the end of the bed and opened it. When he stood a blanket rested in his palm and he set it on the bed. It occured to Liz that he thought she was cold. The gesture felt oddly intimate.

Without a word he crossed the room to the door. he opened it and turned to cast one last look her way. " I shall be back later tonight" he said and the door was shut behind him. As soon as the door clicked Liz lunged at it turning the knob furiously until it turned red, but to no avail. Her pirate had locked the door and it suddenly occured to her that she did not even know his name.

Part 7

Max walked up the narrow stairs towards deck. His destination was the bridge yet his thoughts were right back in his chambers where his theif lay. No, Liz. Ah that name made him shudder. He couldn't believe it. The moment he laid eyes upon her he was completely bewitched. Max cursed under his breath. Looks like she 's not only a cunning theif but a gypsy witch as well. Her magic had surely effected him, because as soon as he shoved that hood down and witnessed the woman before him he was completely lost in the eyes of utter shock.

Who was she? why was a woman stealing in a provocative bar? she seemed well dressed enough from her looks. ' Probably been successful in her robberies' he mused bitterly. Makes a man wonder what other talents a woman like her hides.

Suddenly he found himself falling onto the steps and held out his arms to fend off the approaching stair from his face. He fell heavily with an Oomf and felt the muscles in his shoulder pull amd vibrate. Max supressed the urge to moan in pain. Damn that woman, he looked down at his ever bulging groin. What was wrong with him? one thought of her and he was as hard as a rock.

When he had said she wasn't his type, he thought back, he was only being half honest. As soon as his heart had gone back to beating in an even rthym he had begun contemplating the situation as he stared at her. No doubt she was attractive. Her long slender legs attached to femininely curved hips, followed by a narrow waist, perfectly formed breasts up to a swan like neck then to a beautiful face bearing sensual lips, a pert nose, and eyes that could drown a man in it's chocolate pools or burn him with a feiry passion that exists within and awakens when stirred. Max non doubtedly wanted her, for his breeches proved too tight at the time, yet the blow that this creature was the robber of his gold and possibly the cause for hot persuit from the angry players didn't didn't quite help his position.

She was his now he thought with a smile. His own personal prisoner to do with as he pleases. And oh what he did wish he could do to please himself and her aswell. Max shook his head and started up the stairs again ignoring the pain in his shoulder. Whoever she is she would prove to be one good challenge. One he needed badly. Women fall too easily at his feet. He wanted someone to anger him , reject him, even make him beg...ah no not beg...... Still, as he stepped onto deck and headed for the bridge he reminded himself this was not a challenge he was up to taking. A theif is a theif and he would not seduce his prisoner.It was a way she was his enemy and he never associated himself with the enemy, not in any way.

"Max! what ails you? you seem troubled" Michael asked as Max approached the bridge.

"It's nothing, just my shoulder-AH!" he jerked away after Michael touched him to check the wound.

"You should take care of it. It looks serious" Michael said while gesturing to the purple bruise that lay exposed from the ripping caused when Max jerked away.

Max stepped closer to Michael in an effort to whisper for his ears only " I do not wish to look like a weakling infront of my entire crew Michael. I am after the Captain of this ship" he emphesized the word 'Captain' to make it clear who was boss, and that this boss wanted no arguements.

Michael nodded in understanding and moved aside so that Max may pass.

"What of the theif?" he asked after a few silent moments. Max looked at him with some amusment dancing in his eyes.

"The theif is now my prisoner" he announced casually. Michael's eyes grew wide.

"Prisoner? whyever for? did he not return you your gold?" he asked in suprise.

"No SHE did not, therefore SHE shall be in my custody until SHE gives up my money or until I feel that her debt is paid" Max replied, the word' she' a long drawl on his tongue whenever he said it. Michael gasped in shock.

"Your theif is a woman?!! how is that possible?"

"Well I suppose the attractive mouth, firm breasts and sensual body are a big hint to my theif's gender.....but I suppose one could have doubts" Max answered with amusement. At that Michael chuckled then burst out laughing. Max gave him a look of curiousity.

"What pray tell are you so amused by?" he asked with mirth.

Michael shook his head " what are you going to do about her?" he asked smiling. Max understood his meaning.

"Do not even think it Michael. She is my prisoner."

"You want her"

"I am her master"

"She's a challenge"

"She's a theif"

"She's a woman" Michael countered.

"She-" he said the word tightly "is of no interest to me"

"Ah so she shall not be one of your many conquests" Michael mused. He knew he was raising Max's ire and that he should stop but he couldn't help it " perhaps you can send her to us then" he gestured to himself and the rest of the crew.

Max didn't understand why but the next thing he knew Michael was on the ground rubbing his aching jaw. It angered him to hear men talk about Liz like a peace of meat to share around. She was his and no one shall mistake it.

"My my you land one mean right hook captain" Michael said as he rose to his feet.

"Keep your hands to yourself Michael. No one is to touch her and I mean no one" Max said in a threatening tone which Michael immediately understood and nodded. After that Max walked away pondering his thoughts about the loss of his money the woman down below in his chambers and the sudden urge to be down there with her.

"Set sail everyone, we're moving out to sea!" he yelled for all the members aboard ship to hear and went to stand behind the wheel of the 'Cruella' as Florence's coast began to diminish from view.

"I give him three days" Michael announced quietly.

"Tomorrow night" Whimsey replied placing a generous amount of money discreetly in Michael's pocket.

"Tis a bet" Michael smirked trying to hide his amusement. This shall be one hell of a voyage. Some rough seas and wild winds ahead he mused. He hoped his Captain would be able to handle this storm.

Lord Parker paced his study from wall to wall in agitation. It was past midnight and he couldn't sleep. Twas the hundredth time he had a fight with his daughter about her marriage to Lord Deluca and she was still being stubborn. Infact she was being so ill tempered lately in her arguements that he actaully dreaded she'd run away just to prove her point. That was why he took it upon himself to check her room everynight till the wedding day to be sure she was still there.

He had checked in a few hours ago and Liz was there sleeping like an angel. Jeff had decided to go to sleep but as soon as his head hit the pillow he arose again feeling troubled. Nacy his loving wife reached for him.

"What troubles you my love?" she asked softly.

"Do not fret my sweet tis all this work that makes my head ache" he lied so he wouldn't upset her.

"Elizabeth...?" she asked knowing. He couldn't help but chuckle at that.

"Ah you know me too well dear wife" he replied and bent down to place a kiss on her lips.

"Haven't a choice in the matter really....I am forced to" she attempted humour but Jeff looked on with hard eyes.

"Are you?...tell me Nancy how faired you when we were to be wed" he asked. Nancy was quiet for a while before answering.

"Truthfully I was horrified just as our daughter was. I did not want to marry a man I did not know. I wanted to fall inlove and runaway and live happily ever after" she said wistfully and Jeff sighed in defeat. She quickly added.

"But my dreams changed the moment I got to know that man and I don't regret anything" she said lovingly and Jeff smiled.

"I wish our stubborn daughter would know that" he said with a heavy sigh.

"Give her time my love, she'll come around" and with that she went back to sleep, but Jeff didn't.

Now as he paced his study he contemplated his decision to lead his daughter's life. He was sure he was doing the right thing. After all she was only a child, his child and she needed taking care off. Lord Deluca is a great and powerful...and rich man. He would offer Elizabeth a magnificent home, beautiful dresses an easy life and in return she would offer him heirs and herself as a loyal and loving wife. It was a perfect match. If only she would see it his way.

Soon Lord Parker found himself wandering around the halls to her chambers. He just wanted to ease his mind. Just wanted to see her lying there in bed under the cover in her own dreams like she just was a few hours ago. However when he creaked the door open the bed was empty and Liz was not there.

Part 8

"I give them till tonight"

Michael whirled around in surprise only to be shocked. His feet and body unmoving, his eyes trained upon the stranger....well not really a stranger before him. He even forgot to breathe.

"Is that how you greet old friends now? tsk tsk" Maria sat on the edge of the ship. Her feet dangling off the side as she swayed them from side to side. She was looking straight at him. Waiting for a reaction, and boy did she get one....yet not the one she expected.

"What in the bloody hell do you think you're doing here?!!!!!" Michael burst out waving his hands in the air, anger enfolding him rather than the strange burst somewhere, he thought, in his chest. Maria looked taken aback then quickly regained her senses and pinned him with a glare.

"What I'm doing here?! I came here for you, you inconsiderable fool! why else would I haul myself up this damn ship in pursuit of you" she yelled I chargin.

"You followed me? are you crazy do you know who I am?!" he asked incredilous.

"You a pirate who needs lessons in anger management it seems" she crossed her arms across her chest. Michael's blood began to boil.

"Why did you follow me?" he asked in a low tone, fighting to keep calm. Maria looked down shyly then back up again.

"I wanted to see you" she said in a small suddenly meek voice. Michael viens began to pulse.

"See me?! you wanted to see me?!" he shouted "well you've seen me now get off the ship"



"If you havent noticed you ill concieted oaf-"

"what did you call me?"

"your ship is already-"

"enough talk and leave!"

"AT SEA!" Maria yelled at the top of her voice causing the closest of the crew including Michael to stop dead. Michael's eyes drifted beyond her and widened in realization. His gaze then drifted back to Maria as he took in her appearance. She was still wearing that piece of seductive material but the colour appeared darker, almost black, in comparison to what it looked at the club. Her skin seemed gleaming, as if wet but the moonlight was faint and he could not be sure. Until his gaze came to rest on her face. Her lips were quivering, her eyes glittering and her hair, which once was a golden waterfall, now a mass of brown attached to her head.

"Y-you swam here?" he asked softly, not believing it. Maria nodded stiffly.

"and now I believe you asked me to leave, I shall do so immediately" she said and began to twist in attempt to jump off. Michael recognized her intent in that same moment. As Maria turned with the intention of hurling herself overboard, he leapt upon her. She was pulled against his hard body from behind and wrapped in his embrace.
Maria screamed but the sound did not reach her throat before a warm palm came to rest on her mouth, silencing her.Michael twisted his head and noticed behind them the crew still standning and watching.

"Enough! go about your chores" it was a gruff order and they quickly obeyed although the scene had them confused about who that strange woman was.Micael released her mouth and Maria began to struggle.

"Let go of me! let me go" she twisted and squirmed against him trying to escape his embrace. His iron grip only fueled her anger more and her resistance. She grew so faint from her exertions that she feared she'd collapse in his arms. Finally he grew bored. Abruptly he tightened his arms around her and she stilled.

"Better" he breathed against her neck and ear " I cannot allow you to jump woman" he announced.

"and why not?!" Maria asked.She was suddenly turned around to face him.

"Because I'm not about to have a woman, dead from the shock of the water, on my hands" he answered making the answer seem more than obvious. Maria was quiet for a moment, contemplating.

"What are you going to do with me now then?" she asked slowly.

"Unfortunately I have to keep you here onboard until I can find a way to dispose of you" he answered. Inside though he did not know why that burst suddenly turned into an ache.

"I predicted we'd meet again, but I didnt expect to want to regret it as soon as I did" she said in a low voice, looking beyond the horizon, not really intending for him to hear. But he did and strangely enough, it hurt.

After countless twists and turns the door that held Liz captive still would not budge. An hour passed she guessed before she moved away from it in defeat. That was when her eyes finally roamed over her cage.
The cabin was intricately paneled in teakwood. Dozens of beautiful rugs covered most of the gleaming oak floor. Under one of the cabin's five portholes were some half dozen oversize Turkish pillows, embroidered and tasseled. A large, nearly black, wood dining table, its heavy pedestal boasting four clawed feet , graced the far end of teh room. Six leather-backed Spanish chairs surrounded it. One end of the table was used as a desk for it was covered with maps,charts,inkhorn and quill, and books.
One wall boasted a bookcase almost as high as the ceiling while another wall held an exquisite armoire. At the other end of the cabin was a bed. The canopy was a royal purple damask, the underside pleated with gold silk. The curtains were of a royal purple velvet, pulled back by heavy red-and-gold cords.
Liz shuddered as she remembered the way he had thrown her onto that bed and came atop her with complete masculine abandon. The way he covered her body with his warmth left her quivering. She forced herself to look away and to a large, boldly carved chest at the foot of the bed and lifting her gaze to the walls she saw numerous works of art.

Liz didn't know what to do now. She walked to one of the porthholes and her breath caught in her throat. A tear escaped down her cheek. Florence was nothing but faraway mountains. The ship has sailed, and she would never see home again. Briefly Liz wondered what sort of chores she was to complete. Her gaze instinctively went to the bed.' No' she told herself 'he doesn't want you. He said so himself'. That thought at least brought some comfort to her current position as captive, yet an unexpected disappointment which she chose not to dwell on.
Having nothing else to do Liz paced back and forth trying to find a way out of her predicament. She walked back to the porthhole and stared out into the sea. Would a watery grave be better than a a sudden life of imprisonment? Liz knew the answer to that. No. It would do no good to return to her parents in a coffin.

Finally Liz began to grow tired and sleep began to creep up on her. She glanced around from the bed to the floor. No. She would not succumb to such pleasure as a bed. Especially when it is her captor's. A savage pirate. She walked briskly to the wide bed and picked up the blanket he put there and walked over to a corner in the room. There she laid the blanket down and propped herself onto it leaning her back on the wall. A few minutes later sleep claimed her and she restlessly fell into a dreamless state.

If Max was paying attention he would have heard a woman scream on the other side of the ship. But his thoughts were too centered on the little prisoner below deck. She simply would not leave his mind. Unlike most women, she gave him the role of predator, instead of he being the one to be seduced , to be persuaded to bed them. It was unsettling for him. He was usually in control of his actions, his very feelings but with that theif everything is lost to the waves under his 'Cruella'. He wanted Liz to want him.

Max paused and his eyes widened. He couldn't believe it. He wanted that piece of plain female. It was inevitable, he thought. For she is quite the attractive young thing. He had to remind himself though. She was his enemy in a way and he would see to it that he stayed as far away as he could from her.

Slowly he began to descend the narrow stairs to his cabin. Upon reaching it the door he unlocked it and, taking a deep breath, entered. Immediately his eyes sought her out, but she was nowhere in sight. Panick struck him as he roamed the room wildly for any sign of her. He froze.

She was huddled in a corner, breathing evenly, and he guessed she was asleep. He took the time to gaze at her. Her slender form curled up in the corner, her hair loose and hanging over her face in an attempt to shield her from view. He kneeled down to assess her more. Only the close proximity led his hand to physically assess her as it glided down the chocolate waterfall. 'Like silk' he thought. His fingers then moved down to lightly graze her arms. Her head snapped up. He recoiled. The effort cause him to fall back onto his shoulder. The injured one and he groaned.

Fear gripped at her when she realized what he was doing and she immediately stood and placed her hands before her in an effort to defend herself. She heard him groan. She realized that the simple fall could not really harm a large man such as himself. That was when her eyes caught the bruise. Her gaze shifted to lock with his. There was surprise and a small glimmer of pain etched in them. She also noticed, as her eyes looked at his mouth, that he was breathing hard. She looked back up at him.

"You're hurt" Liz exclaimed softly. He got up and walked away.

"Tis nothing" he said and opened the chest at the foot of the bed, retrieving a plain white shirt. His hands then moved to the hem of the one he was wearing and he began to lift it up.

"What are you doing?"she demanded nervously. He looked at her with amusements.

"I am changing from my ripped shirt to a new one" he answered as if it truly wasn't that obvious. Silence followed as Max paused, his hands on the hem once again.

"I beg you, let me go" her voice was soft pleading. Max steeled his resolve.

"No" was his only answer as he moved his hands up and seconds later was left bare chested. Liz nearly swooned. His chest was magnificent. Fine ripples graced his abdomen, his chest pulsing, his muscles a how of how strong adn fit he was. No trace of hair was found and Liz concluded that he was fairly young. Some twenty perhaps. He seemed quite young for a pirate. Liz began to wonder what drove him to it. He put on the shirt and Liz snapped out of her thoughts. How could she be thinking that. She doesn't to know anything about him. She just wants to go home.

"You may go back to sleep" he announced with a wave of his hand back to the corner she was in a few moments ago. Liz stood her ground.

"I don't take orders from you" she declared icily. He chuckled humouressly.

"I believe you have no choice in the matter" he answered as he moved to his bed.

"You will have to force me to do your bidding" she said in a low tone. He tilted his head, as if contemplating it.

"I must confess I cannot force you to sleep. If you wish to remain awake" he crossed over to the door and locked it, placing the key in his pocket " then by all means".

Liz felt chargined but refrained from doing anything about it. He might now have hurt her before. But getting him all angry again could produce other...worse results. Her first encounter with him wasn't pleasant, she wasn't about to make it worse.

"Godforsaken pirate" she muttered under her breath, but apparently he heard her.

"I do have a name you know" he said matter-of-factly. Liz hardly paid attentoin to his remark as she made her way back to her resting place.

"Savage dirty tongued pirate" she mumbled.

"Its Max" he paused and Liz plopped down on the blanket.

"And I can do more with that dirty tongue than speak" he continued and Liz nearly toppled over as she adjusted herself. She heard him chuckle.

"I'm sure you can wash with some soap" she muttered softly making sure he wouldn't hear her this time.

Max lay on his bed, fully clothed, his sword protectively by his side incase he needed it. Liz tore her gaze away and huddled into a ball on the floor. She had try and escape. She decided to wait until he fell asleep till she could carefully approach him, reach into his breeches,claim the key and rush out. After that she can figure a way off the damned ship.

An hour passed and Liz lay motionless watching her captor,Max. His chest rose and fell slowly, evenly and Liz knew he was alseep. Silently she got up and padded carefully closer to his bed. Her feet noiseless against the thick wool beneath her. When she got to the bed she paused and watched him for a moment. His face held a different texture when he was asleep she realized. Softer, gentler, even innocent. Liz shook her head ridding those ridiculous thoughts. He wasn't innocent. Not at all.

Right now he was at the center of the bed so slowly Liz creeped up the bed making as little movement as possible. As soon as she was as his side he hand began to tentively reach for his breeches. The gesture to her suddenly seemed quite intimate and she swallowed hard. Her fingers touched the fabric at his thigh and Liz could feel the hard muscle down there. They glided up to his waist then down a bit to where the key lay. Biting hard on her lip soshe won't make a sound she parted the pocket and began to reach in.

Suddenly Liz found herself being thrown back and landing her back. A hard body pressed into her side. Max 's arm encircled her waist binding her hands at her sides. His leg lay across both of hers. She was trapped and the breath knocked out of her, that she couldn't speak. He leaned in to breathe into her ear. His breath hot against her skin. She shivered.

"Unfortunately" he whispered " we have run out of soap."

Part 9

Liz was robbed of speech. The sudden force where she found herself beneath that pirate for the second time was shocking. For a moment she could only stare up at him with a degree of amazement. For a moment he appeared the handsome rogue she would have thought him had they met under different circumstances.

What also left her bedazzled was his comment on his lack of soap to polish that wicked tongue of his. How could he possibly have heard her? that didn't matter now because he had just opened his shapely lips to speak again.

"Your talents must be fading my little theif" he said softly. His eyes traced the features of her face. Liz was confused for a moment but him calling her a theif brought her back from her haze and she gasped in chargin.

"I am not your theif!" she cried out squirming restlessly to get out of his grasp. She felt too intoxicated. Max chuckled with little humour and pinned her with an intent gaze.

"Ah but you are my sweet Liz. You are mine, and I must confess you deem more valuable than that sack of gold you stole." he told her, his voice turning husky. Liz sucked in her breath. His proximity was both alarming and reassuring. She did not enjoy the reassuring part. He practically kidnapped her, charged her with theft and made her a prisoner on his own ship. It was outrageous! Now on top of it all, here he was intending to do more than assign her chores. Liz did not know for sure. Being kept under her father's suffocating wing, she had hardly any time to be taught the pleasantaries, or lack there of, of the intimate bonds that occur between a man and a woman. They call it the age old dance of love. Yet as she looked up at her captor's dark eyes, and felt the rock hard object pressing into her thigh, it became clear to her that sometimes such an act was not always based on love. For she did not love that pirate and neither did he her.

"I am not yours and I never will be" she exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. Max seemed unheeded by her declaration. That fire in his eyes did not diminish and they only seemed darker.

"That's a challange" he said and leaned in until his face was mere inches from hers. Liz stopped breathing. She was afraid. No. She was terrified.

"God damn it!!!you dont have to hold me so tight! for god's sakes you're going to dislocate my arm!"

"Well if you'd just speed up alittle instead of tripping all over the place then such an unfortunate event would not occur" a deep voice that Max immediately recognized as Michael's had him off the bed in a blur and running towards the door.

He fished for the keys in his pocket then pulled them out, unlocked the door and yanked it open.

"What the hell...." Max started to exlaim but it died in his throat at the sight that greeted him.

The woman that had caught Michael's attention back at the club had the heels of her feet implanted on the wooden floor of the hall. Her menacing gaze was locked on Michael's glowering one. Her whole body was leaning back due to the fact that Michael had grabbed her by the wrist and was pulling her arm to the breaking point. The only reason that's the case was because, the wench was being too stubborn to move and the only reason her arm hasn't broken was because Michael had been distracted from the final tug by Max's appearance.

Michael immediately let go of her and Maria tumbled backward onto her backside with a thud. He immediately turned to Max's still speechless form.

"Max-" he started but was cut off.

"What the hell is in the matter with you?! you couldn't break my arm so you decided to break another bone in my body!" Maria yelled and Michael turned to her angily.

"Hold your tognue wench. damn it-" he hissed.

"Michael" Max's voice was soft, yet no one could mistake the warning, or the angry venom in his tone. Everyone turned to stare at Max. Maria who had not noticed him before sucked in her breath and immediately quieted.

"What is going on here?" his voice turned quiet yet no less furious.

"Max please, let me explain" Michael pleaded. Max crossed his hands over his chest and leaned against the door jam.

"Im waiting" he prompted.

"She followed me here Maxwell" Michael defended. Max raised a skeptical eyebrow and spared Maria a glance. Suddenly Maria felt angry that he would not believe such a thing, and she most definitely knew it was because she was a woman. She rose ungracefully from the floor and brushed the dirt from her outfit then gave Max a steady stare.

"I assure you, he is not lying" she jutted her chin out with as much dignity as she could muster.

"I couldn't just throw her overboard. The ship had already sailed. She would've died from the shock" Michael went on to explain.

"I see" was all the Max said. His eyes moving over Michael and the blonde woman., contemplating. His gaze finally came to rest over Maria. The way she was staring him down suddenly reminded him of another woman. Except the colour was more chocolate brown than a forest green in those intense eyes. The thought had him turning around to look back into the room and towards his bed. She wasn't on it. His eyes moved to the other end of the room where she was standing staring wide-eyed at him and then glancing at the two people behind him. He turned back around to see them looking into his room and right at Liz. Maria was the first to break the silence.

"Who's that?" she asked loudly pointing her thumb towards Liz. Michael grabbed her arm and started propelling her away.

"None of your business" he stated, but apparently Maria was not satisfied with that answer. She yanked her arms free of his grasp and turned to look over Max's shoulder at the strange woman. She appeared to be absolutely terrified. Maria could only guess what the situation was when she glanced at the rumpled sheets on the bed.

"Are you alright?" she spoke with concern etched in her voice. The other woman visibly relaxed but did not have time to answer before Max cut in.

"Michael please escort your blonde little spitfire to your chambers, we will discuss things further tomorrow" his tone was authorative and stern and Michael had no qualms about obeying the command. He snaked his arm around her waist and pulled her flush against his side. For a moment Maria forgot where she was and what she had gotten herself into by following the rugged pirate. Memories of the night they spent together, no matter how brief, assailed her and filled her with the wonderous images of being locked in his embrace, passion erupting for both their bodies like fire, setting ablaze their skins everywhere they touched each other. The way they burned wherever their limbs collided and the way their kisses scortched their lips with an intensity that left them breathless. Oh when she felt that hard.......

Maria blushed profusely at the direction her thoughts had taken her and tried very hard to place them in the back of her mind for the moment because she just noticed that the man she had come to know as Michael was looking down at her with a smirk on his lips and his, what she concluded was his captain was trying very hard not to chuckle, turning red in his attempt. For a moment she was confused until her body finally regained full focus and she began to understand. Her body was pressed completely into Michael's side. One leg was intertwined with the back of his. Her hands she noticed most emaressingly were worse. One was gripping his shoulder for support and the other.....Maria immediately let go of her hold on his manhood from his breeches. She did not know what got into her but humiliating herself infront of the two men was not on her agenda. Her embaressment suddenly turned into simmering anger when Michael finally spoke, the laughter in his voice very apparent.

"You proved to be one wild woman by swimming over here, but even wild women have their limits. I on one hand would have prefered to wait until we got to my bed" he bent down as if to whisper but it was loud enough for Max to hear " but on the other I always consider..and sometimes even welcome suggestions to spice things up".

At the moment a tomato couldn't even compare to Maria's face. Max burst out chuckling.

"Faith, Michael you've embarassed her beyond repair" he said shaking his head. Michael only smirked arrogantly in return.

"Let's go my little spitfire" he said adopting the nickname Max had used on her a few moments ago. It suited her he reckoned. He looked up to Max and gave a curt nod which Max returned. They were to speak of matters at a later date. For now sleep was required.....or perhaps other entertainments. As Max started turning to walk back into his room he had concluded that he shall have his little theif. He would seduce her, reassure her, and make her come willingly to his bed. His sudden want for her was simply too demanding to ignore. Before he was interrupted by the distraction outside in the hall he knew he was about to kiss her. The closeness already prompted his arousal to grow and he knew then that he would not have stopped at a kiss. She was afraid though, he could sense it. He wanted her willing.The fact that she was a theif didn't seem to bother him as much as it did when he first captured her, and that was only a few hours ago. Amazing. He was attracted to his little theif and the fact that she was in his custody gave him the advange. All he had to do now was win her over with the age old art of, seduction. He entered and shut the door behind him, slowly turning to face Liz.

"What will you do with me now?" Liz cried, no longer trying to hide the panic she was feeling. He crossed his arms and leaned against the door. " I am going to seduce you Liz". Liz gasped at his blunt declaration. The lightning speed turn of events left her absolutely speechless. First he was calling her a theif and setting about chores for her and the next he was planning on-she swallowed convulsively- seducing her.

"Are you insane?! What's the meaning of this?" Liz asked incredilous, as she instinctively wrapped her arms around herself. Max just smiled slightly in return " I have come to...liking you my sweet Liz. It comes to a shock for me aswell, but" he pushed himself off the door and started making his way towards her "I tend to get over shocks rather quickly."

Liz tensed in expectation as he suddenly moved towards her. He took his time. He was in to hurry, but then, he was confident of his ultimate victory. Liz detested his arrogance as much as she detested everything about him. She clenched her fists at her sides. It crossed her mind that when she struck his handsome face, she would be deeply satisfied, even though she would also be in alot of dangerous trouble.

"I am not going to murder you" he murmured, his tone spun silk.

"No you think to destroy me and make me a slave instead."

"He smiled at her, reached out to touch her face. Liz raised her fist and punched at his cheek and jaw.

He ducked, his relfexes so fast that her knuckles did not even scrape his skin. A second later he had caught both her wrists in his hands, immobilizing her. Amazement showed in his eyes. She did not move, did not speak, did not dare even to breathe. Her chest heaved. She watched his face trying to guess what he would do next. She knew he was considering his options carefully.

But he took her by surprise. As quick as a snake he, he lifted her under her knees, into his arms. Liz began to struggle wildly when she saw that he strode to the bed. This was happening too fast!
He sank down on the plush mattress, Liz still in his arms.

"Sssh" he said. "Be still. I am only going to kiss you."

He lied ofcourse and even if he didn't, Liz had no intention of obeying him. She jerked her head back, so his lips found the soft underside of her throat instead of her mouth. Instantly she knew it was a grave mistake.

Unruly sensations that were hardly pleasant swept her as he nibbled and kissed the sensitive skin on her neck. Liz fought back a gasp. She heard him chuckle, then froze as his hand swept over her breast. Immediately her nipple peaked. Liz cried out trying to pull his wrist away.

He ignored her efforts to dislodge him much as he might ignore a buzzing fly, and shifted her onto her back upon the bed, leaning over her, his mouth claiming hers before she could move or protest. Liz struggled even more, digging her fingernails into his collarbone to keep him away. He did not seem to notice. He was vastly patient. His mouth was exceedingly soft and undemanding, stroking her lips lightly, feathering them, teasing them. How expert he was. Unbeknownst to Liz, her gyrations slowed, then ceased. Her fingers uncurled, her body becoming increasingly pliant. His mouth firmed taking advantage instantly, the tip of his tongue darting against hers. Unwittingly Liz's lips parted.

Max growled low in his throat, the sound distinctly erotic. Liz heard a funny mewling sound escape her as he shifted his heavy male weight on top of her, while deeping his kiss. Liz was aflame, the fire spreading from her heavy limbs to her throbbing loins. Her body was aching now, her blood pounding, insistant, while her mind did not want to function.

He understood. He laughed against her mouth, the sound sensual, thick, raw. He began to rotate his hips languidly, slowly, caressing her with his shaft. Liz flung her head back, tearing her mouth from his, crying out. He pressed himself far more urgently, far more dangerously.

"Liz," he whispered. "my sweet little theif." His hand had insinuated itself under her skirts and petticoats, caressing her thigh through the thin linen of her crotchless drawers. And then his palm swept upward dangerously high, brushing the soft, swollen flesh at the apex there.

Liz was dazed, but his caress was shocking her back to her senses. Dear God. His thumb was stroking the seam of her lips now, tracing the heavy outline, touching her bare skin.

One coherent thought seized her. She must resist. If she did not resist now, he would do far more than stroke her where no one had ever trespassed before- he would steal her virtue before she even knew what he was about, and if wouldn't even be rape! because she would be willing. Dear god help her, she would be. What was wrong with her? What one earth was happening to her? what is she doing?!

He tore his mouth from hers, gasping her name again. " Liz."

Liz inhaled, forced herself to action. She pounded both fists against his broad shoulders."No!"
Startled he froze. His dark chocolate gaze was somewhat unfocused and puzzled as it met hers.
Liz heaved at his body, and when that failed to dislodge him, she aimed her knee at his bulging groin. He understood her intention at that precise instant, shifting his hips just in time for the attack. In doing so he was off-balance. Liz pushed against him hard and rolled and then scrambled away from him, sliding off the side of the bed to the floor.

She herself was dazed and out of breath. She paused only for a moment, but it was a moment too long. As she crouched, about to lunge to her feet, he reached down and gripped a chuck of hair at her nape. Liz cried out. He leaned over the bed, his face close to hers, using her hair like a leash. His eyes were wide, incredulous, furious. His mouth was set in a tight, angry scowl. Liz's lips curled in an answering snarl- but tears filled her gaze.

And as the tears began to fall, unwanted, an affront to her pride, his grip eased. His expression changed. He cursed savagely and released her. Liz sagged to the floor. She heard him get to his feet. She fought for her self-control and finally found it. She looked up. Big mistake. It was impossible not to notice how enlarged he was. Liz flushed and tried to look everywhere but at him, wishing she could forget the excitement he somehow engendered in her own body, wishing she could ignore the rapid pounding of her pulse. " Damn you" she said raggedly.

"You didn't seem to be damning me a few moments ago" he said harshly. The anger and tension in his tone forced her to meet his gaze. The brown fire in his eyes frightened her. Liz had never witnessed such stark hunger before. She shrank back against the leg of the bed. For a moment she couldn't look away.The fact that she had just been manhandled in the most passionate and seductive way nearly caused her to choke. How could she allow this to happen? He's a pirate for goodness sakes.

"I wasn't thinking clearly" she objected in her defense. His mouth formed an unpleasant smile.

"I don't believe that is the intention when performing a seduction" he answered dryly. Liz gasped and glared at him " Damn you, you savage pirate" she hissed.

"You seem to be turning a pleasant seduction into something worse"

"pleasant seduction?"

"Aye, a seduction pleasant for both of us" his gaze darkened " don't try to deny it."

Fear engulfed her as she suddenly replayed the last part in her head " what do you mean something worse? are you threatening to rape me?"

His nostrils flared " Some ladies prefer it on the more forceful side. Perhaps you are in that category."

Liz's eyes widened.

"Oh don't look so surprised. You should know. Especially since I caught you in that club where that kind of handling was most popular. However before you succumb to hysterics I can assure you that I am no rapist. Not before, not now, not ever. Not even if provoked." He said the last part with a pointed look.

Liz wanted to laugh scornfully, having not believed him. Instead a choked pitiful sound escaped her. "You just said that you...were happy to...oblige the women who..." she couldn't finish. She was still shocked to find out that some women actually enjoyed it when a man was forceful, brutal. Images assaulted her, images of her dark haired pirate ravishing faceless women who were very eager.

"I can be rough or I can be gentle. You just tell me what you want" he held her gaze.

"I-I want you to..leave me alone."

He laughed harshly. "You want me inside you my sweet theif".

His graphic words stunned her for a moment. " You are a savage, a pirate who preys on those weaker than himself. You are preying on me like you preyed on countless other women. Infact you probably most likely lied when you said you didn't do this often, most probably kidnapped each and everyone charging them of different crimes just so you can have them in your hands" she accused with renowned vigor.

"Other women have welcomed me into their embrace" she replied calmly. Liz laughed. "Then they are sluts and whores."

He bent over her, angry. " I do not lie with whores. That only happened once and my last mistress was a dowager countess."

Liz was unwilling to believe him though he was so angry she thought he actually spoke the truth. How could a pirate seduce a countess? no matter that he was so strikingly attractive.

"Some women are not afraid of passion. But then they aren't little pathetic theives who obviously are virgins."

Liz cried out and leaped to her feet not listening to the inner voice telling her to retreat. " I am not afraid of passion" she shouted. " I want to be with a man- a good man- a man who is my husband"
He stared at her, unmoving, his shoulders rigid. Finally he said " and who is this paragon?"
Liz lifted her chin " I haven't found him yet".

His laughter was cold and cruel. " and who would want to marry a thief?" he asked his tone tight, his eyes twinkled with humourless laughter.

"You just know this. Whatever and whoever I am I shall not give myself to an ungodly, theiving pirate."

Fire leapt in his eyes. He was holding a bottle of a brandy now and he took a swig from it, never once taking his eyes off of her. Liz regretted her words, knowing she had pushed him too far. She feared he might snap and become the savage beast again, and force his will on her. He stared coldly at her.

"I must be mad" he said " to have embroiled myself with one such as you."

"then release me"

No hesitation. " No."


He did not respond. Liz's breasts heaved. " Then rape me and be done with it."
His glance menacing. His face contorted. The bottle went flying. Liz flinched and cried out as the brandy smashed against the wall. Then to her utter horror, he was upon her.

How she regretted her rash. stupid words! She screamed as he bent down to her. He lifted her and tossed her onto the bed. Liz bounced and came up scrambling away from him. He caught her foot and tugged on it harshly bringing her down beneath him. He was on top of her pinning her in place. Liz froze. He was as still as she except for pulsing of their bodies and the labored breathing coming from his chest. " Shall I rape you and be done with it?" he asked her in her ear.

His breath licked her flesh. Liz shook her head, absolutely terrified and acutely aware of how easy it would be for him to lift her skirts and do the deed. Fear did not override the heavy, throbbing sensation of his flesh wedged against hers.

"Shall I rape you and be done with it?" he demanded.


He rolled off and left the bed.
Liz jerked into a sitting position and hurled herself into the farthest corner away from him. Pressing her back into the wood-paneled wall. He stared at her, unblinking. Steel glinted, flashed. Liz sucked in her breath, her eyes frozen upon the long, lethal dagger that appeared in his hand. Neither moved or spoke. Suddenly the dagger was flying from his hand. It landed only inches from her cheek. Liz stared at the quivering blade, fear coursing through her with maddening speed. Then she blinked and their gazes clashed. His eyes were savage.

He whirled. With long booted strides he crossed the room and opened the door. A moment later it was slammed shut and the lock turning informed her that she was locked inside once again. She covered her face with her hands after a glance back the the dagger imbedded in the wall. His promise was clear. Suddenly the prospect of a marriage to Lord Deluca didn't seem as constricting as the terrible situation she had found herself in.

posted on 17-Feb-2003 4:22:35 AM
Part 10

It was a large,unlcluttered chamber. Besides the low post bed off the left of the door and the large coffer at the foor of it, there was the small table with four chairs around it in the center of the room. Directly opposite the door, another coffer sat between two portholes like a bench. There were no tapestries to brighten the room, or rugs on the floor, but the wall on Maria's right was hung with an assorment of weapons.

She had yet to looks at him, but could feel his eyes on her. Moments passed and still the silence grew. Maria was not one to avoid confrontation, was the opposite in fact. When hse strted from his black polished boots to his hard yet handsome face she was sure to see a scowl there. What she saw though suprised her so much she forgot how to breathe. His wild hair only emphasized his dark eyes that seemed to stare at her...hungrily.

It occurred to Maria that perhaps what happened out in the hall truly did effect his as much as it did her....oh but how it did effect her. She was hot.

And then he was kissing her, and Maria lost all senses but the wonderful feeling of being in his embrace again. His hands, so broad, skillful, and warm, cradled her jaw, her cheeks, tilting her head up to his. She lost herself to the kiss. Her senses began to swim, and from some distant part of herself, she felt pressure behind her legs. A moment later he had swept her off her feet and was carrying her effortlessly toward the bed.

Staggeringly she tried to reclaim control. She had to be in control. " My terms Michael"
He didn't appear to hear her so she said it again more forcefully. He stopped midstride and pinned her with a curious gaze. She caught the glint in his eyes that told her he uinderstood her meaning.

"But ofcourse." he replied.

"So put me down."

He smirked. " Put me down now." she insisted, and with a sigh he did, then stood there eyeing her with a lazy confident smile, that held every promise of uttmost pleasure yet made no inclination they were to be kept, or were even made at all.

"Undress me" Maria said.

He raised a brow, clearly fascinated despite himself. " You men are always the ones to indulge in your sexual fantasies. Well tonight you will be indulged in mine."

"I do like the sound of that" he murmured, deeply amused " I daresay I will enjoy your little.....wildness Maria, and I have little doubt it shall be just as pleasurable as it was outside in the hall, if not more....much more"

Maria blushed a little despite herself in rememberance of her behaviour " I can assure you, you will."

She stood quite still, daring to breathe as he approached her. He came right up to her, then let his fingers graze her cheek. She shut her eyes, her nerves on fire, her knees so weak. The minute they had walked into the room she only thought to burst with anger at his handling of her.....yet here she was, and she did not regret the sudden change of mood one little bit. He reached for her. She smiled coyly and stepped away. Then she faced him and assessed him.

Made a brief circle around him, fingers trailing along his waist. He was eyeing her like some lethal, barely restrained predator.

"Are you hard for me yet Michael?" she purred in his ear.

"I have been ever since I saw you on deck, temptingly wet."

"And what if I disappoint you Michael?" deftly she unbuckled his belt, letting his sword drop to the floor.

"I do not think you will disappoint."

She smiled. He hand drifted back up, unbuttoning his linen shirt, peeling it off him, revealing his broad chest, well muscled and yet lean. Maria's mouth went dry.

"I thought you wanted me to undress you" he murmured, amused.

"Yes, but I am the one in control here, and I prefer to undress you right now." He stood before her in his breeches only.She circled him again. Her fingers trailing all the way above teh waistband of the breeches. She found the button of his drop front, she slid them from their holes and the dropped to the floor. Immediately his manhood jutted out proudly before the both them, in unmistakable arousal. Maria was unprepared for the fierceness of her shock, and the prickly heat that surrounded her. It was all she could do not to have her way with him now, but no, she at least mroe civilized than that.

"You torture me" his voice husky, needy. Maria merely smiled. " Now you may undress me."

He merely smiled and with a skill that unnerved her set to work on her own clothes. SHe was burnin up inside, his touch sending heat waves through her body. Fire. Then he reached and pulled her close, pressing his hard body against her own more supple one. She could feel his manhood pressing into her hip. Maria moaned as his mouth came over hers. Emotions stirred within her and left her momentalrily out of control. SHe pulled back, not wanting to lose such control.

"I think its time you lie down on the bed" she stated a bit breathlessly. He gave her a dangerous smile before moving towards the bed, climbing atop it and stretching out leisurely.

"And now my dear?"

"I shall tie you up."

"Tie me up?" he laughed " do you honestly think I'll be going anywhere?"

"It is part of fantasy" was all she said as she reached for his shirt. Giving him a look and stating " I hope you don't mind" she shred the material right in half, then moved towards him and crossed his hands over his head, tying them to the post behind him. After that Maria only stood watching him for a moment. He shifted. She moved across the bed, her hands beginning to trail lightly over his body. Her fingers moved over his chest, lightly grazing his nipples emmiting a small gasp from him, moving languidly down his ribs, his stomach, dipping into his navel the moving downward until her first contact with the dark hair surrounding her final destination. Slowly circling the base with a finger she explored him. Then she gripped him. He arched off the bed, a sharp gasp upon his lips. She moved her hand up and down swiftly a few times, stopping to caress the tip of him. He only swelled even more. Giving pause she bent over to kiss the bright tip using her tongue to circle it. Michael was now straining against the bonds. She looked up at his face and noticed it scrunched up, eyes tightly shut, as if in agony.

"Are you alright Michael?" she asked in concern. His eyes flew open.

"I'm in bloody agony for wanting you" he exploded " Damn it woman, have mercy." Maria reached out against the side of her cheek. His breath was hot, then his lips, his tongue burning her palm as he turned his face against her palm to his kiss it. Sensation exploded between her legs. Moaning soflt she eased herself up onto him, straddling him just above his arousal.

"Lower" he rasped "don't tease-not now."

"I-I am not teasing....I have to get ready" it was only half true.She knew she was wet, could feel it....but there was-

"Move up then and I'll get you ready." He cut into her thoughts.


"I said move up damn it" his eyes opened menacingly " near my face." Where she a maid she would have blushed as red as a tomato. Gingerly Maria rose to her knees and moved her way up his chest, then hesitated just below his shoulders.

"I will hurt you" she protested.

"You are hurting me more by hesitating. Get up then and balance on your knees. I want to taste you Maria" any moment she felt the bonds would snap and he would be on he like an enraged beast " I want to possess you. By god I want all of you."

Maria washing hot and cold braced herself and raised herself thrusting her pelvis forward. Michael buried his face in her moist curles, found the top of her hidden slit with his tongue.

"Higher" he ordered, his voice harsh. She heard herself whimpering in her throat as she complied- and then his face was totally buried against her. She felt his lips, his hot breath, the hot stab of his tongue, expertly priming her before he settled into a controlled, ruthless stroke against her wide open cleft, her moist folds.

"Dear god" she gasped her thighs trembling for holding up her weakening body. " Oh Michael I never though it could be like this-"

"Dream harder" he snarled before his lips, his tongue closed around that engorged but hidden bud, manipulating it, licking it, suckling it-

Maria let out a scream of surprise. Her legs gave out as she climaxed, her senses exploding into a million pieces. She all but collapsed atop him, mving just in time to land on his chest with an oomph. He stared at her, his eyes wanting, savage, intense.

She knew what he wanted.

Knew what he craved.

Maria moved back, raised herself, and impaled herself on his shaft, gasping as his size stretched and filled her,plainlessly tolerate and pelasurably bear. She had no time to think of the wonderful sensation. His hips were already moving, his skin glistening with sweat. Harder and harder he drove, his breath harsh and fast now as he drove himself farther inside her with every ruthless thrust. Maria was swimming with pleasure, a desperate need to take and be taken, and yes, oh yes. that wonderful splinter apart climax that she could feel rushing down upon her once more-

His black gaze impaling hers he gave a final lunge and sent them both careening out of control. Maria cried out and fell, her body still convulsing all around him as he came in her filling her with his hotness.

"Perhaps having you on board has its advantages" he commented, still trying to breathe evenly. Maria should have been chargined with that remark, and she a very limited extent.

"You may have succeed this time pirate but it does not mean there shall be another victory" she answered, and even then she knew, as he shifted his hips, causing his manhood to move within her, that that was not true. Oh no, not at all.

From her postion on deck, it appeared evern hte horizon had no limits. The beautiful dawn, with the sun rising briskly creating voilet and orange colours to paint the sky, the air was filled with the saltiness of the sea and the freshness Florence would find lacking. They seemed so insignificant against the vastness of the waters. Liz stood at the rail admiring the view, and suddenly wondering.

"Where are we going?" she asked herself, aloud.

"That is hardly a thing you should worry yourself with miss" a voice answered behind her. For a moment she actually feared who it was, but the voice....oh that voice she found she could recognize anytwhere, and so she knew it was not he that stood behind her. She turned and was greeted with the sight of a young man, seemingly twenty or so. He was a huge man though, broad shouldered, long powerful legged. His hair was gold, cropped short. He had one hand on his sheathed sword and the other seemed to be holding a bucket. Liz glanced up at his face, not quite handsome yet very pleasant on the eyes. The bucket dropped. The force brought forth a splash of water from it to land on the floor and what appeared to be a scrub fly in the air and plop back into it.

It dawned on her like a force and she stared, incredilous. The sailor shifted his feet, obviously nervous about ordering a woman about. He tried to be as pleasant as he could...but it was not to be.

"No! no no and no! I will not go down on my knees and scrub your bedamned deck and that is the last of it!" Liz shouted vehemently making the sailor jump back in suprise. Liz too took a moment. She had never sworn in her life! it was all that damned pirate's fault....Liz grimaced. ' Once it never stops' she thought with a tiny shake of her head.

"Miss please, I suggest you do as the captain orders or-" he tried to presuade but Liz would have none of it.

"I will do nothing your captain says do you hear me!? I am not his slave!" she almost shrieked, to her dismay. She hated raising her voice like a mad ninny, but this was too much. Scrub the deck? like a maid?! she was a lady for goodness sake's! ahh...but he didn't know that did he. That angered Liz even more. Why on earth did she not tell him so? because he would decide to ransom you and rob your family of their wealth, she answered herself bitterly. ' Oh papa; she thought longingly.

"What is that trouble here?" it was him. She knew it. Sensed it before he even approached. The sailor turned to his captain, looking helpless and a little bit fearful. Liz felt a moment's sympathy for the chap.

"Captain, sir no trouble, er no trouble at all uh here" the sailor hardly stuttered. Ofcourse Max did not believe him but he too seemed to have noticed the poor boy's fright that he merely smiled and nodded. That did not go unnoticed by Liz, and it unnerved her greatly. Just a savage pirate, she reminded herself. Only loyal to himself, ship and crew, she concluded.

"Right Sam it's alright now. You may leave" he addressed the young sailor now known as Sam who looked greatly relieved , yet hid it well behind his acquiescence to the order and left hurriedly, disappearing amidst the crowd of sailors going about their chores.
Max had now turned to regard her. His eyes intense, his face rigid. Suddenly she remembered last night as clearly as it had left her awake most of the night. The cool air this morning had been refreshing and made it easy to forget it for a while. But now, facing her nightmare, it all came rushing back. Her cheeks bloomed with colour.
His momentarily left hers to gaze down at the bucket.

"I see your chores have been set for you" he remarked, his voice nuetral. Liz felt chargined that he'd make light of such a thing, as if it did not even matter. Scrub his deck indeed! she thought indignantly.

"I will not clean your ship" she hissed between clenched teeth, barely keeping her wits about her. He step toward her. She recoiled, fear driving her back. That dagger that still hung at the bed was a sole reminder of his threat and arrogance.

"You will do as I say wench" he bit out, irritated by her defiance, yet nevertheless amused. Liz stood to her full height, no matter that she was but a petite child compared to his size, and jutted out her chin.

"You may have....imprisoned me aboard your ship pirate but you shall not dictate me your liking, I will have none of it" ever nerve in her body was trembling, every voice inside her head was telling her to shut up yet she was too stubborn and instead pinned him with a steady glare.

Max bent down, frustrated , picked up the bucket and strode towards her depositing it at her feet. Then before she could even think to move away he reached tou to grab her above the elbows bringing their faces closer, until she could feel his hot breath on her mouth, drying her lips, forcing her tongue to sneak out and wet them. His gaze drifted to her lips, to that pink tongue moving seductively over first the top lips then the lower one. It was more than he could bare. Abruptly he bent his head and slanted his mouth across hers, immediately plowing his tongue into her mouth , dominating her own tongue with his, but that only lasted a mere few seconds, because two tiny hands had placed themselfves on the expanse of his chest, yet when he thought the movement seductive. and alluring, he was sadly wronged when those hands forcefully shoved him away. It was only the suprise that actually allowed her to move him away from her.

Breathing heavily he looked at her angrily " That is the second time you have done that, both times succeeding in surprising me". Liz could have laughed at his bitter tone but she was too caught up in that kiss. One more second to spare and she knew that she could not have had her wits about her to actually resist...again.

"And it shan't be the last time" she regained her own breathing to a natural level before stating that vow. Max stared at her for a moment then chuckled,treating what she said with nothing but humour. Liz did not appreciate that. She did not have time to voice it though because he had moved in again, this time though she found herself pushed onto her knees to the floor. Shocked she craned her neck to look up. His face suddenly seemd serious, even angry.

"Do your work wench, and I suggest you make an exception to never scrubbing other people's decks this time" he said that so seriously, no humour that even Liz could not find the will to argue. She did manage a glare though, which gained her nothing but his retreating back.

Brown eyes narrowed with loathing and contempt Lady Parker dipped her slender hands into the bucket, lifted the scrub, squeezed it once, trying to vent some of her frustration from doing do, and set it to the wooden deck. She pushed once, twice, the scrub scalding the wood, almost burning it. For a crazy moment she actually thought of brushing so furiously that she would be able to burn the whoel ship down and escape!

An appealing thought....yet how would she be able to escape the great sea itself, after escaping her pirate's clutches. After a few moments of mulling over the same spot she noticed that the activity around her had suddenly become quiet silent. She raised her head adn groaned inwardly. They were all watching her, either in horror or curiousity or amazement. Too many expressions to count. Some where even looking her up nad down appereciatively. Had they not noticed her before? was it possible the pirate captain had not told his crew that he had imprisoned what he believed was a thief. The chargin of being branded a theif was still there yet not so obvious. It didn't really matter, for nobody would even believe her.

The were all still regarding her closely even though they set about they set about their work once again, not wanting to be distracted too long ere their captain be displeased.

"A pretty hefty lot aren't they" a voice. But what's this?! a woman's voice! Liz sprung around only to be greeted by that blonde woman she had noticed last night. The one who in concern had asked if she was alright, and Liz did not even have the chance to answer before she was bustled away by the captain's mate....Michael..yes Michael was his name.

"Yes" Liz agreed absently still gazing at the woman. She was petite just like her, only with golden hair and forest green eyes with lush red lips. A complete opposite of Liz. She just continued to stare wonderously before the woman burst out, shocking Liz.

"Oh forgive me! where are my manners! I'm Maria. Maria Deluca" she extended her hand. Liz hesitated only a second before taking her hand in hers. Not because she was afraid but because it took her a moment to think and come up with...

"Liz. Liz Valenti" and they shook hands.

"Valenti....hmmm I can't say I've ever heard that surname before" Maria commented.

'I should think bloody not' Liz thought then silently scolded herself for her sudden predictablity for swearing. It was not appreciated.

"No, I can't say it is well known" Liz only said aloud. Maria nodded then she looked to what Liz was doing, her eyes widening.

"What the hell..." she started but trailed off suddenly lost in thought then as if lightning struck she whirled around to face her.

"Oh! What have you done to displease him?" she exclaimed almost as if the question pained her to ask. Liz was utterly confused at the question and stared at her blankly, trying to discern if hse was crazy. Maria caught on and tried to further explain.

"You know...for him to make you work. And it appears clear now since when I saw you yesterday it was not a pretty sight. You did not please him well?" she asked.

It took Liz a few silent moments to contemplate what was just said before she gasped loudly and she stood up dropping the scrub.

"No!" she denied with a shout, then occured to her that she thought she just said not to not pleasing him so ammended. " I mean no it is not what you think..." she paused wondering is she should tell her, then knowing that she needed someone by her side, and Maria was better than Liz had expected. For a moment she was actually amused by her conclusion " I am a prisoner here" she ended.

Maria looked at her for a few seconds before letting her jaw drop and then fom an 'O'.

"What did you do?" she asked.

"Apparently I stole some gold from the captain" Liz replied nonchalantly. Maria said nothing " what about you?" Liz then asked. At that Maria smirked.

"I have come to reclaim my stolen heart" she stated. Liz knew who she meant, for she saw them out in the hall. She shook her head and stared ahead.

"Pirates have a nick for stealing" Liz remarked. Maria laughed. Liz turned to her " and kidnapping" she added. Maria stopped and looked at her.

"Pirates have very different ways of obtaining their treasures" she commented softly.

"Different, savage, whatever you want to call it" Liz shrugged.

"When a treasure is so precious.....does it matter to the pirate the way he obtains it, as long as in the is his?"

Liz did not fully understand her meaning but when she sank back down to her knees and got hold of the scrub once again, she thought ' Yet when that pirate obtains that treasure, is it not what he does with it that matters most in such end?'

Part 11

"Deluca..." Liz contemplated for a moment, then raised her head and stared straight at Maria. "Are you by any chance related to a Lord Deluca?" she asked cautiosly.

Maria blinked. Then laughed. "Oh heavens no.Same surname, completely different relations" she paused then said " and occupations."

Liz paid no particular attention to that information, all that she cared for, for her great relief, is that Maria Deluca was in no way related to the Lord. That thought bought back memories. Liz spared another look in Maria's direction. She is in no way like him. Not in looks, not in personality..not in humanity.

"Elizabeth, allow me to introduce to you Lord Deluca" Liz curtsied politely and rose to confront what she had thought would be her worst nightmare. Blond cropped hair in the latest fashion, penetrating icey blue eyes, a face quite pleasing on the eye. Elegantly dressed in a dark forbidding suit making the aura of cold power even more palpable. She was only a few feet away from him, and she was almost furious with herself for barely restraining the shiver that past through her body.

"Lady Elizabeth, it is a pleasure indeed" he bowed over her hand keeping his cold blue eyes fixed pointedly unto her own warm amber ones. Liz tried her best but her apprehension won out and she looked away.

"My Lord" she returned politely. Managed a smile too, for the sake of her father who stood at her side. Jeff smiled with satisfaction. He thought he had the perfect match.....oh how wrong he was.

"You have a very lovely home my lord" she commented, trying to keep the conversation running, trying to stop from showing any fear. Sean stared at her for a minute, then silently reached out to take her elbow respectably and began leading her away from her father. "A very brave woman" he commented in a low voice, filled with some amusement. Liz caught her breath and looked frantically back towards her father. He was just standing there, smiling waving encouragingly. Liz swallowed.

'This is not happening. This is not happening' she repeated to herself but even as she was lead into the ballroom and swept into a waltz, held trapped in his arms, going round and round, she knew that it was indeed happening.

"I feel like a very lucky man" he said after a while. His mouth near her ear.Liz stiffened, but continued with the dance. Yet she still felt obliged to thank him for the compliment. She was a lady after all.

"You flatter my lord" she replied with a tiny small smile that she knew, he knew, it was fabricated. He continued on nevertheless. "Indeed, you are quite beautiful, soft-" he tightened his grip on her hand and the other hand on her back moved in a rubbing manner for an instant "sweet, perfectly shaped....." he paused "I can very gladly say you'll bore a very healthy heir" he finished and by the end of it Liz had stopped moving completely. She was shocked, and dismayed.

"If you'll excuse me my lord" she made a move to release herself from his grip but he had an iron grip on her.

"Now now my lady why do you leave in such haste? have I offended you in some way?" he inquired but they both know it wasn't genuine concern.

"I will not tolerate being spoken to in such a manner" she replied crisply.

He shook his head slightly " I do not see what is so untolerable about speaking with my soon to be wife" he stressed remarkably on the last word and Liz shuddered at the very thought.

"I am not you wife yet my lord. Until then you will unhand me and speak to me in a respectable manner" she countered and tried once again to get free of his hand. He let go. He then inclined his head in what seemed to be understanding.

"It won't be long till then" he said. Liz drew herself up.

"I'll have you know my lord, that I shall try everything within my power to stop that from happening" she shouldn't have said that, his pleasant face contorted with concealed anger.The he suddenly burst into laughter. "You are welcome to try my sweet, but with everybody else being agreeable to this marriage, including myself, your objections will go unheeded" and Liz had the sinking feeling that it was the truth.

She noticed that people were staring so she forced a smile on her face but spoke with the most venomous tone she could muster. " My lord. The idea of being wife to you may be a tempting prospect to any other woman, but not to me. I will not marry a man I have no feelings for, yourself included, and if I have to steal away on a ship bound to the seas, I shall jump at the chance" she paused then changed her tone to a sweet one " Have a goodevening my lord" curtsied and left his side.

Well she certainly got what she asked for, she thought. Liz sighed.


Clouds hung in the sky. The sun hiding behind their gloom. It was not a nice day, and it fit well with Lord Parker's mood as he alighted his carriage and made the journey to the docks. In no time at all he was on a boat to Venice. There he was to meet the Lord that was to be his future son-in-law and inform him of the most terrifying news. He did not cherish the result of the confrontation. His dear Elizabeth was gone.

He had thought she had probably taken herself off after the argument just as she naturally did whenever they had a disagreement that she did not get her way in. Yet she always turned up by dinner time. Elegantly dressed in her evening gown, giving him the cold shoulder, he regreting it yet glad she was home. She always worried him when she ran away for part of the day, made him think she would not return. But he knew his little Elizabeth, and so he did not let it effect him. For in the end...she always came back.

Now she hasn't. And Jeff was in a rage. He should have known it would happen. No actaully he didn't...because Elizabeth would never abandon her family. Something must have happened. He was sure of that. Something was wrong. It is just not in her character to just run away. Nancy is surely worried and Jeff had decided...after searching every gutter in Florence to seek other help. And Sean would be just the one to help him find his little girl.

The door was opened by the footman and Jeff was ushered in without question. He entered a large foyer. The ceiling was three stories above him, making the entrance more impressive than it seemed on the outside. The foyer was vast, appearing more so because it was unfurnished and the black and white marble floors carried a one's eye relentlessly down the hall. The walls were painted an elegant white. Not a colour to suit the Lord Deluca but fashionable nevertheless, and the lord is nothing if not fashionable.

"Please inform his Lordship that Lord Parker has come to call, and that the matter is very urgent" Jeff instructed the footman at the door as he handed over his coat and gloves to the aging man of about sixty. After taking care of his coat and gloves he disappeared for a few minutes then returned.

"Yes milord, if you'll follow me into his lordship's study...."he trailed off as he led the way down the hall. The walls were lined with royal blue wall paper, along with delicate lamps that hung by a clear golden mirror. An amazing contrast between hall and foyer. But Jeff barely noticed. He was nervous and intent on his mission.

The footman stopped at a large tarnished door and knocked lightly. An answer came a few seconds later. "Enter". The footman lightly opened the door walked in with Jeff following and stood by it, allowing him to continue forward.

"His Lordship Jeff Parker my lord" he announced. Lord Deluca nodded once without looking up and the footman promptly left.

Jeff was apparently shown into a study. The walls where a dark shade of red. A large bookcase lined one of the walls, all neatly sorted. A small chandelier hanged from the ceiling along with a few rare lamps that addressed the walls and a dark wooden commode. The room was carpeted with a rich heavy rug. Two chairs surrounded a small table with a chess board placed upon it. The hearth was glowing with fire. It was barely summer. Jeff wondered at that particularity.

Lord Deluca was seated at a large desk, of finely polished wood. Unlike Jeff, the lord was had an extreme measure of cleanliness. Jeff credited him that, along with the other charms that made him a suitable partner to a woman like his Elizabeth.

Sean looked up from where he was writing some notes and his expression registered momentary surprise then his brows scrunched together. "My lord Parker, this is indeed a surprise" he rose from his leather chair. Jeff stepped closer revealing clearly to Sean the intent and the unhidden fear. The hair on his arms rose. Something was wrong, he could tell. He rounded the desk and came forward to confront Jeff.

"What brings you here my lord?" he asked carefully. Jeff swallowed and looked visibly grave.

"I have come for a matter of great importance and graveness" he started then paused. Sean was impatient. "What matter is that my lord?"

"Elizabeth" the one word was followed by a deadly silence. Sean was confused but he did manage to understand that something was wrong with Elizabeth. He stilled, a certain nervousness, that could be related to fear gripped him. He strove to remain calm.

"Elizabeth?...what is wrong my lord? what has happened?"

Jeff sighed and motioned towards the seats infront of the desk. Sean nodded and strode back to his chair while Jeff took one of the seats. Then Sean leaned forward and regarded him intently. Jeff started uneasily.

"Elizabeth has disappeared. We were...discussing a subject in my study last evening and she left. I went to check later at night that she was safe. She was gone. I have reason to believe that she may have been taken. She is not the kind to run away my lord.
I know my own daughter, something has happened or someone has taken her. Either way my lord I come here to seek your assistance. Your help to recover your future wife." Jeff explained and watched the emotions that crossed Sean's face.

Shock, dismay, resolute.

"Elizabeth has been kidnapped?" he sought to be reassured that this was the case. Jeff nodded. "I have reason to believe so though I cannot be sure."

Sean rose from his chair once again and began prowling about the study. His posture rigid, his face intent. His mind on Elizabeth.

Finally he stopped and turned to face Jeff. "We must begin a search" he declared. Jeff shook his head. " I have already conducted several. Nothing has come up".

"Then we will search again and this time be more thorough" he snapped and Jeff nearly winced.

Sean raked a hand into his blond hair causing it to stand on ends. He started pacing again and when he passed a mirror and noticed the ends he raked his hand again into it and smoothed it out. He turned back to face Jeff.

"Every city in Italy will be searched, from the gutters and up, no place will remain unsearched" Sean continued. "Private detectives will be hired to look into the matter. We shall await any letters or notes that would be sent in matter of ransom. You will bring those to me for reviewing. Also I will be conducting a thorogh search of Elizabeth's room-"

"What? Search her room?! no.Absolutely not!" Jeff interrupted, liking all the suggestion,save the last one. No one will invade his little girl's room.

Sean's eyes narrowed. "You cannot forbid it Parker. Necessary steps must be taken to insure every possible reason for Elizabeth's disappearance." he bit off, impatient and irritated. Jeff stood.

"There is no need Deluca. There is nothing in Elizabeth's room to help in this matter. The captor would not leave evidence there and she is not stupid enough to leave anything behind to lead us to her if she had run away" he argued. Sean remained momentarily silent.

"You cannot know that for sure Parker" he finally said. And Jeff had to admit it was true.

"That may be true Deluca but I will not allow you to invade her privacy" he countered. Anger filled Sean's eyes.

"Your daughter may be in danger for her very life and all you can think of is her goddamn privacy?!" he bellowed into the room and the very sound froze Jeff. He could not deny that the lord also spoke truth in this as well.

"No my lord. I want Elizabeth back as much as any father who loved his own daughter. But-"

"No 'buts' my lord Parker. You must accept this is a serious investigation. Every matter must be dealt with, with the uttmost thoroughness. We cannot afford any blanks in this" Sean interrupted and waited impatiently for the agreement. It came.

"I fear you are correct my lord. A search will be conducted by-" Jeff was about to say himself when Sean interrupted him again.

"Me" he said. Jeff seemed startled.

"My lord I agreed to breach my daughter's privacy but it will atleast be done by her own father and not a stranger" he retorted angrily.

"You call her future husband a stranger my lord?" Sean countered just as angrily.

"No. My lord,no I do not. But you are not her 'husband' yet. You are still by all means a stranger to her." he answered much more calmly.

"And what if you miss something? You are already reluctant to invade her precious privacy. You will no doubt feel to 'invade' as little as possible" Sean snarled.

Jeff was incensed but he was guilty as charged. He would hardly have creaked open a drawer and then closed it seemingly satisfied. He knew that Sean knew that, too. There was no way around this. His little girl was in trouble and he would by any means return her into his safe home where he could watch over her. He finally nodded.

"Very well my lord. A search may be conducted." Jeff conceded. Sean looked pleased. " But I must insist that it be only yourself" he continued. Sean nodded. accepting the agreement.

After a few moments of silence, Sean walked over to the decanters where the spirits are kept and began to pop open one and place above a glass.
"Would you care for a drink my lord?" he asked.

"Yes. Thank you it would be much appreciated" Jeff replied.

Sean nodded and started filling a clear glass with dark brandy. Then another. He crossed the carpeted room and handed one to Jeff.

"Drink up my lord" Sean said " I have a feeling you shall need it."


A clatter as a plate was dropped before her. She looked at the contents. Cheese. Fruit. Bread. Ale. A generous lunch. One that Liz was most grateful for. She looked up at the shadow that accompanied that little peace of heaven. But even before she raised it the hair on her nape stood up with electrifying awareness.

Max stood before her. Arrogant. Unmannered. Outlaw.And..........Handsome..she thought grudgingly. He was not exactly smiling but he was not regarding her ferociously either. Her heart was beating quickly. She was a prisoner. He was her captor. She was afraid.

"It's lunchtime" he stated. She rocked back on her heals and stared up at him. The bucket lay between them. " I can see that" she said glancing briefly at the plate of food. He looked as if he was surveying the deck.

"A good job for a first time" he said, with approval. Liz felt a flare of anger rise within her. " I am so relieved you approve" she bit out. He did not seem to hear her.

"hmm yes you will do even better the next time and with your other tasks" he continued, stroking his chin with a blunt finger. She snapped and jumped to her feet.

"I have had enough sir. You have no right to keep me hear against my will. I have not stolen anything from you and I do not intend to pay for something I did not do." she declared angrily, chargined.

Her anger sparked his own. He reached out and grabbed her arm roughly. "When will you learn thief that I shall have none of your lies? Either give me my gold or serve me till you do or pay it off" he replied.

Half the crew stood watching the display. They had never seen their captain lose his temper like this. It was refreshing, yet frightning. How did this woman evoke his temper so, they wondered.

Liz took an involuntary step back. Recoiling. Remembering his strength, his power. He believed her a theif and there was nothing she could say to change that. Well...there is something...but should she do it? Is now the time to bring up the truth? Endanger her families fortune? Hide behind her father's name?

Liz drew herself up. She could never do that. Would never do that. She was in a sticky situation that was true....but perhaps...well if she...cooperated...For seriously...he would really keep her forever would he. Soon she would have paid her so called debt and he would set her free. He can't punish her forever. She'd work for him, she'd scrub his deck, clean his dishes, do his laundry....and whatever else he requires. She would become his willing prisoner...resolute to her own fate.

He in turn would appreciate her work. And in time she would or he would remark that her debt his paid. He would set her back in Florence and she would return home. A perfect plan. But....Liz shuddered....suddenly she remembered last night. He had said he wanted her. He was attracted to her and this time her father would not be their to chase him with a pistol. She was at his mercy in that area.

She might have been able to salvage some control over the situation, being the gentry lady she was. But in the pirate's case she was nothing but a lowborn theif. He would think himself free to take away her only precious gift regarding her with no more than a tumble in the hay. He would not feel he was bound to honor her with a marriage proposal....And anyway...She did not want to marry a damn pirate! That was ludicrous! She wanted to marry a man. A real honorble man. Handsome, loving, sweet and caring, smart and protective. This pirate was nothing of this, with the exception of being handsome...and she though annoyingly she was recalling that more often than she would have liked.

Was this a risk she was willing to take. There are ways she could surely..unattract him...she could even ask Maria for help. She seemed to know about men and pirates. There was no sign of her reassuring smile now, unfortunately enough...she had gone to seek out her own pirate after their brief conversation.

Liz sighed. " Very well pirate. I shall do as you wish" she said quietly. He appeared momentarily startled but recovered enough to smile faintly and nod.

"Let us hope so Liz" he replied with a suddenly husky voice that sent shivers up her spine. He spun around and walked off taking time to call over his shoulder "Enjoy your lunch".

This is it. Her decision was made.

Part 12

The sunset was incredible. The sun seemed so large it lit up the entire horizon with its dark fading rays. Slowly sinking into the seas depths, extinguished for the day. Never has she seemed a more wonderous sight. Never was dusk so beautiful.

Liz had the pleasure to see the view as she walked tiredly across the ship's deck. She was sulking, and she had very good reason. Her arms were sore, her back ached and her knees scorched from the wood friction where she knelt for the better half of the day. Calluses were beginning to burn her delicate fingers and she even feared she was sunburned.

Never had she had to endure such hardship. She had always led such as easy going life, full of shopping and balls and picnics in the park. This was torture to her. Indeed she always tried to do things for herself, with her compassionate heart, wanting to relieve the servants.But this....this was completely unexpected.

Anyone looking at her now would think her nothing of a well bred lady. Her fatigue had succeeded in misplacing her mind and she found that what she was feeling was utter joy that it was indeed the end of the day. She was now following a stout man who called himself Whimsey. A peculiar name, she thought. Yet one oddly suitable for him. He was reasonably short, his eyes were a care free blue, his hair had grown past his shoulders, a black beard occupied his stubble chin and from what the breeches and shirt,all stained and in terrible need of a scrub, he could see hair everywhere! Indeed it seemed like he cared not a whim! about what he looked like.

Liz followed with a small reluctant smile on her lips.

Suddenly it felt like a dark cloud loomed overhead, promptly turning a beautiful dusk into immediate night. The shadow fell on Liz and she looked up, a chill running down her spine, to face its owner. He stood a good shoulder above her, forcing her to crane her neck upward. The painful movement, after such a hard day's work, made her wince. It did not go unnoticed by him.

Max lifted his hand and ran his fingers lightly at the back of her neck. Liz's eyess widened and she jerked back. He drew back and looked grim.

"How are you?" he asked harshly. Liz's eyes glazed over with hidden pain and anger.

"Fine" she replied stiffly. He nodded, seemingly satisfied. They stood staring at each other. Whimsey who stood, distracting himself from the intriguing sight, was suddenly forgotten. Everything seemed to dim and fade into the background.

Max's eyes glinted. He made to move towards her, hands reaching out, then stopped, turned and strode away. Liz was left in a daze, her heart beating fanatically, her pulse racing. She was also confused. Was this fear making her shiver? Yet when she gazed into those pair of hard and unrelenting brown eyes, she felt her breath catch in her throat.

She watched his confident stride as he moved away. He seemed so strong so wild. Indeed he seemed to dominate his ship just like a true master of the seas. He never tripped, never stumbled on the wobbling deck, instead he seemed to simply...flow akin the water beneath him. A true captain, a master at his own game, a ruthless pirate.

"If you'll follow me" a rough, heavy accented voice cut through her thoughts. She jumped slightly, startled. She turned to see Whimsey looking at her in a curious manner that made her flush. What an be caught staring at ones captor.....albeit a handsome one.

She shook her head once to clear those unpleasant thoughts and followed after Whimsey. As she finally acknowledged their destination,she froze. Whimsey seemed to have noticed the lack of a second footing behind him because he too stopped and looked back at her questioningly.

"Where are you taking me?" Liz demanded, her voice quivering.

"Down below deck miss" he answered patiently, noting the distress in her tone.

"Yes I gathered that" sh replied somewhat sarcastically. "What I want to know is where you will be taking me after that."

He raised a contemplative bushy eyebrow in her direction, his mind analysing the young woman before him. She was no doubt a beauty to look at. She was petite, slender, graceful. There was also this air about her, one of dignity and respectfulness mixed with one with mischief and pride. It gave her a spicy appeal. One that neither he nor the rest of the crew failed to notice. They all surely wouldn't mind having a go at her, uncover her nature in the most delightful way. The captain had in no way made a claim on her....indeed all he did was put her to work like a slavc and throw her in the care of his crew.

"To your room" he finally replied, as they began to descend the narrow steps, and once again Liz was enveloped in the dimness of the small hallway. Suddenly trepidation hit her and fear blossomed from within. Events from the night before flashed before her eyes. Her breathing started to quicken, her legs misbalancing. Suddenly she was feeling faint.

'Oh god no. oh god no' Liz thought dreadfully. 'Oh help me somebody.Anybody. Please...Maria...oh' she chanted incoherently to herself. Her prayer ceased however when they passed the domineering wooden door that had onc held her captive. Liz felt herself tingle at the memory.

It was horrible. To be almost raped.....seduced...whatever he wantd to call it. It was horrible. His touch that inflamed her, had left a burning mark of embaressment and humiliation. How could she have responded to such cruelty? Why did she at that moment seem to forget what he was to her and could only think of what he was doing to her?

It was something about him, she was sure. Was it his good looks? His attractively low voice? His idea of imprisonment and his reluctance of careness...however uncaring he might make it sound? matter...she had brought his upon herself and she must find a way to extract herself from it.

What she could not help but know that he had said that he wanted her. A shiver ran through her at the thought. She had thought herself pleasing on the eyes....even attractive. Her parents praised her beauty and she believed them when she found she could make head turn. That pirate was no different. Falling under he so called spell, as her parents always commented about the hopeful eligible young men that graced their doorstep. Expect this time...there were no honorable intentions.

Liz knew about 'making love' and how that was how babies came into the world. Her mother had sat her down one day and dutifully explained it to her, as a mother should. Liz had however noticed clearly the hesitancy and anxiety in her voice. Liz was sure that her mother did not want to be having this conversation.

Liz had been vastly annoyed at her mother for that. It was as if she did not want her own daughter to know the way she came to be and such details. It irritated her to think about how over protective her parents are. Always treating her like an innocent child watching the world unfold before with wide eyes, and her parents casting a suffocating wing around her.

Let nobody mistake her though. She loved her parents dearly, but sometimes she wished they would simply disappear. Her wish had come true, in a rather twisted way, she mused wryly.

After a few more turns they arrived at another door and stopped. Whimsey opened the door which creaked slightly and led the way inside. Liz followed into the room. A tiny bed, a small rug, a porthhole, and a wash basin were the only occupants. Liz was shocked at the difference between the two rooms she had been in so far. This was so....well she could not really find the words now...but really...what else did she expect? she was a prisoner theif not a lady guest.

"This is it" Whimsey declared and looked thoughtfully at her expression."Not what you expected I gather" he remarked. Liz looked to him.

"Certainly not"

Whimsey nodded. "I bet you're used to the luxuries on land and the comfortable bed for your leisure" he continued. Liz was sure that was a rude comment but it left her confused as she answered truthfully.

"Yes. Indeed" she answered a bit stiffly. Whimsey grinned, to her further puzzlement.

"I am sure though it will be worth your while here too. We will make it so for sure" he declared.


"Why the crew and I 'course"

Liz took a moment "Oh. I see" but she did not see at all.

"Yep, we'll be sure to make you as comfortable as possible" he smiled " makes the ride all the more enjoyable"

Ride? 'I suppose he means the ship' she thought. "Well...uh thank you sir" she replied uncertainly. Whimsey bowed gallantly, as though he were a true gentleman, and started for the door.

"I'll be sure to start tonight miss. I'll go ahead and bring dessert with dinner" he winked and shut the door behind her. Liz waited for the expected key in lock.It came and the man's footsteps began to slowly fade until silence followed.

For some reason her brief conversation with Whimsey left her unnerved and she started to pace restlessly across the room in agitation.

That continued on for the next few hours until exhaustion won out and she landed gratefully on the small bed. Closing her eyes she fell into a deep disturbing sleep with images of amber eyes and a dark handsome stranger.


She stirred. The stranger had her in an embrace. Her feelings enlivened by his tuoch.


Liz sat up abruptly, quickly dissoliving the dream into the back of her mind, as she noted that the door is about to open. Before she had time to gather her wits a young man walked in with a tray of food and quickly set it down on the floor. Liz supposed that he would leave her to her dinner but he just straightened and gave her a look that straightened the hair on the back of her neck.

He was in his late twenties, she surmised. She had spotted him working amongst the crew today. He was indeed a striking figure. Dark brown hair that fell over his eyes and hazel eyes that seemed to look her up and down with just a flick. He was big. A good few inches taller than her, muscles bulging out everywhere. He was frightning at this moment. Slowly a small sly grin appeared on his lips.

"Evenin' miss" he drawled. Liz held herself erect and regarded him stonily.

"Goodevening" she replied with stiff politeness. The sailor, taking his time shut the door behind him and started towards her.

"Enough chit-chat. Figured you'd want dessert first. I certainly do" he said just as he reached her and made to grab her.

Liz panicked and darted awat from his touch crossing quickly to the other side of the room...which wasn't much, but space was space. He turned around and regarded her with amusement.

"Playin' hard t'get are you? Well I don't mind the chase honey but I got no time now so let's get down to business" he paused to retrieve a small pouch from his breeches and throw it at her feet "or should I say..pleasure" and with that he lunged at her.

Without any advantage Liz was captured brutally in his strong arms that crushed her very bones, and pressed her to his hard body. Fear rose within her and triggered a scream for help, which unfortunately was smothered by the sailors wet unyeilding lips. Tears of terror started to roll down her cheeks as she tried uselessly to struggle against him and free herself. She managed a hard punch to the shoulder. He groaned but retaliated by caging her arms between them, rendering them useless.

Her other option was her legs, which she used quite forcefully and aimed it right at his shin.His lips tore from hers and he howled in pain. Liz took the opportunity to disentangle herself from him and run to the door. Her heart froze. It was locked.

Her next instinct was to scream, but before she was able to the sailor was back and his large hard palm silenced her. Hot tears ran down her cheeks. She had never been so afraid. He looked so menacing now she wondered what he would do to her.

"So you want to play the innocent victim now you do?" he growled " well I won't have it" he spun her around dizzly and through her ungracefully onto the bed. Her back smacked the slightly hard mattress cause her to wince in pain, coupled with her earlier exertions. She tried to sit up but he was atop her in an instance, thwarting her efforts,forcing her back down onto the bed.

Liz cried out at his painful weight but he silenced her with a harsh slap across her cheek. For a minute it left her stunned and dazed. The force affecting her perspective, and in that time the sailor had hiked up her dress and was presently holding both her hands against her mouth with one hand of his and attempting to open his breeches with his other.

He was excited. The chase, the anger, the voilence, the resistance had all proved to stimulate his desire and he was now hard and ready. The whore was crying, he thought harshly. There was nothing to cry about. She knows her proffesion, she ought to learn to act it.

"Stop crying damn you. You're gonna be paid handsomely fo' this so stop complainin'. Ya look pitiful and its all your fault ya hear? Yous probably upset the captain and now hes punishin' you " he finally freed his bulging erection and pushed himself between her thighs, ready to plunge in.

Liz screamed into his hand, terrified of the knowledge that she was being raped. Praying in her mind for someone to save her. Her struggles proved useless. He was perfectly positioned and Liz knew what came next. Despeair washed over her, creating more tears.

"Stop it I said. It ain't gonna be bad woman, I'll make it good fo' you" he tried to convince her but Liz was not listening. The sailor had enough. The whore was a beauty and the honor...after drawing straws...had gone to him to be the first of many on this ship. He would have her. Willing or not.

"You just better be more friendly to the rest or they'll be worse than me" he grumbled and prepared himself to thrust.....and suddenly the sailor's body was lifted from her.

It was a blur. The sailor flying across the room and slamming headfirst into the wall. Liz's vision cleared from the mist of tears and she saw Max yank the sailor to his feet and send his fist into his face with a mighty crack. The sailor grunted, crumbling, but Max hoisted him up again, and this time sent his fist into the man's abdomen. The breath whooshed out of the sailor. A moment later he lay in a battered heap upon the floor.

Max's dagger appeared in his hand. He rolled the sailor...who he had identified as Hugh....who was groaning and only partly conscious, with his bare foot onto his back. He turned to Liz.

"Command it and I will kill him. Or castrate him if you prefer."

Liz jerked her skirts down, staring. Her heart still beat wildly and uncontrollably. She was shaking. She felt close to vomiting. "N-no"

He straightened, the dagger disappeared. He looked at her.

Liz sagged against the wall. Then she turned and leaned across the bed and retched. Max retrieved the chamberpot from beneath the bed and held it beneath her. Liz's heaves were dry. He put the pot aside and laid a hand upon her back.

At that gesture Liz suddenly turned and threw herself into her rescuer's arms, not caring who it was, only caring that he had saved her. She could feel hia warmth envelope her as strong arms encircled her. Oddly enough after her voilent experience she did not feel fear, nor did she recoil. She felt safe.

Her tears flowed freely and wet the linen shirt beneath her cheek. Her hands clasped behind his neck, entangling in his soft hair.She pressed herself even closer, as if to flee the danger outside the protective walls around her. A big hand, that she had just thought unforgiving was surprisingly gentle as it started smoothing hair in a soothing manner, as did the other hand that rotated across her back.

Liz sighed, the sobbing slowly ceasing, until only her hard breathing and her rescuer's warm one could be heard in the silence. After a few moments the silence was broken.

"Liz" his tone was sharp and Liz looked up into his handsome face. "are you hurt?"

Liz stared at him for a moment before shaking her head negatively. He pulled away from her a bit and clasped her hands in his. "Did he hurt you?" he asked again.

Fighting back another flood of tears Liz managed to stutter "N-no"

She saw Max's jaw flex in the candlelight. He hesistated, their gazes locked. Then he lifted his hand and very gently he touched her face. His thumb stroked her jaw. Liz stared into his solemn brown eyes and could not move.

Then his eyes chilled. He turned her head to one side. "He hit you"

Liz nodded. His temple pulsed visibly. Max studied where Hugh had hit her. SHe was aware now of how her cheek throbbed and ached. She winced when he touched her jaw. Max released her, standing.

"I think I will kill him after all" he said.

"No!" Liz grabbed his hand and noticed how bloody it was. She dropped his palm."I...please. Enough." she pleaded in a small voice.

Max regarded her for a long moment. Finally he nodded. " You are brave Liz. Most women would be in hysterics by now" he said softly.

"I hysterics"

He smiled slighly and it was as if it brightened the whole blackness of the night."You are hardly hysterical." Then he sobered."Come. You shan't stay here" he said and pulled her to him. Liz did not argue, especially now that she was in his protective arms again. Gone was her animosity to him, he was her hero tonight, she would treasure that.
And then he was leading her to his room once more.

Part 13

Max walked swiftly into his chambers with the light bundle in his arms. Pure fury molested him and proved to be big enough to burn him inside out. Today's events troubled him deeply and struck a chord deep within which he chose not to dwell on. He had just been walking down to her cabin to check if everything was satisfactory when he heard a scream that stopped him cold. The another that brought him out of his trance, and then another that he interpreted with shocking recognition and then another that sent him on winged feet to his prisoner's door.

What he saw there made him panick for a moment then anger won out and he started beating the pulp out of the molester. He sighed. The images still in his mind going on like a never ending play.

Liz stirred into his chest as he strode purposefully into his room and headed straight to the bed. Gently as he could he laid her on the covers. Immediately she started to shiver at the loss of heat and Max quickly moved to pull a blanket on top of her body. He sat there for a few minutes by her side, the darkness emcopassing them as if to shield the harsh reality of the outside world. His eyes roamed over her body, searching for injuries, caressing....

Almost unconsiously his hand moved to smooth her hair from her face, feeling it's silkiness between his fingers. His knuckles brushed her soft cheek. Her eyes fluttered open and he jerked away, stiffening.
They stared at each other for a bit and Max couldn't help but noticed how the chocolaty depths drew him in, how the fear and panick that he witnessed a while ago faded into apprehension yet peace.

Liz's eyes darted around the darkness and she swallowed visibly as her gaze rested on him again. Her mouth opened and it came out in a shaky voice.
"T-thank you"

Max got up off the bed avoiding her expressive eyes and ignoring her gratitude. He moved to the bedside to light a lantern and bathe the room with light. It was as if they were back in reality now.

"I do not appreciate my crew touching what is mine" he replied harshly. He stood with his back to her. There was no answer and after a few moments he turned to see her sitting up, her eyes flashing in anger. He smiled an ugly smile.

"I prefer to keep the things that belong to me uncorrupted" he stressed the last word and the double meaning was not lost on both of them. Liz stiffened with shock and fury. She swallowed with difficulty.

"Y-you-you bastard" she managed and while she strove for a clear deadly voice, she was frustrated to hear her voice still shaky from her attack. His mocking smile told her he knew it too.

"Damn you" she sputtered and watched his smile harden. His eyes roaved over her and came back to her face.

"I'm already damned" he replied then walked over to the chest at the foot of the bed, opened it and withdrew a long nightshirt. He unceremoniously threw it at her then nonchalantly walked to the decanter of brandy and started to pour himself a cup. His knuckles ached from the thrashing, his head kept ringing with distressed famale screams and having that certain female on his bed was threading his control. He drained the cup.

Then he turned around to find Liz huddled on his bed, his nightshirt clutched protectively to her. He raised an eyebrow. An angry flush stole over her cheeks and her eyes lowered from his scrutiny. It occured to him that she looked like a helpless child. It reluctantly allowed him to relent a bit.

"Dress yourself and sleep. It will do you good" he said gruffly.

"I am not going to wear your clothes and sleep in your bed" Liz spoke up defiantly. Irritation stirred him. If she wanted it that way then....He didn't even want to be gentle.

In a flash he was by her side, and Liz could only gasp in surprise. Max towered over her and swept a hand over her torn dress. Liz flinched. His eyes hardened at the movement. He trailed his fingers lightly down the silken material of her gown, his eyes following the path in speculation. Involuntarily, Liz's breathing began to quicken, with something that was not fear.

He slowly moved from her arm down to the side of her breast. She could not find her voice to protest. Down to her waist. Still no words burst forth. His hand spread upon her stomach, barely touching. Her breath caught in her throat.

Max caught a loose fabric and rubbed it between thumb and forefinger, slowly. His eyes worked the trail back up to her face. His expression inscrutable. Liz began to feel an uneasiness in the pit of her stomach. He stared hard at her for a moment. Studying her face and eyes, watching. Then,with a glance back down at the silk in his hand, looked back up.

"I do not see how you could wear stolen silks of an innocent lady but not agree to wear a nightshirt of a notorious pirate who is even giving you permission to" he remarked softly.

Liz felt like exhaling so she could inhale again and inhale at the same time. That resulted in a minor choking and a widening of eyes. Before she could control herself he was already off the bed and headed back to the chest. From within it he took out a fine dress, of deep yellow and smooth cotton, embroidered with delicate lace.

"Perhaps this will do more for the lady's taste" he remarked sarcastically and threw it to her. Liz inspected it and drew flashing eyes to him. Barely restraining herself she brushed the dress away disdainfully.

"I will not wear your whore's dress" she said acidly. Far from erupting with fury Max drew back his head and laughed.

"Ah my sweet, tis no whore's dress. My crew do have wives who do come to visit you know" he told her as if he was explaining to an ignorant child. That piece of news threw Liz off. Surprise left her bereft of speech. Wives? A pirate's crew had Families? It was impossible to even think. Especially when they were prepared to rape her. And she did not hesistate to tell the captain so. Max appeared to stiffen, his fists clenching, his eyes flashing like brown steel. It appeared his next words were tight and clipped.

"Hugh is new here and he has no wife. He has learned the first lesson upon my ship and the others will heed that lesson aswell"

"That what is yours shall not be trifled with?" Liz asked bitterly. Max gave her a small smile.

"For a time my sweet little theif" he replied softly. Her fists clenched and she jutted her chin out but brooked no arguement. He gave a small chuckle. " Smart woman" he remarked in that same soft voice. Liz said nothing. She knew her position. Her sacrifice. Follow the leader and be discharged. It was her only option, other than a death by a sword or a watery grave. She would not die at that vile pirate's hands and she would live to see her family again. At that thought she could not help wondering what her parents wre doing now. She could well imagine her mother's distress and worry, her fathers wrath and concern and.....her betrothed...Liz started. She would not think of him now. She did not want to add to her already distressing thoughts.

Reluctantly Liz picked the dress back up to inspect more closely. It appeared decent enough and she did need to get out of her own gown. The tears did nothing to allow her to forget the past event and she wished to dispose of it as quickly as she could.

Liz was very consious of the captain that stood a few feet away watching her. Slowly she looked up.

"Shall you give me privacy sir?" she asked stiffly. He lifted a brow

"Tis my chamber lady" he answered in kind. Liz bridled.

"I expected much of the likes of you" she retorted, aiming to sting him. Max only smiled sneeringly.

"My you do know how to act the lady my sweet thief. Is there no end to your talents" he remarked sardonically. Liz choked on her protests and reined in her temper. She only stared. Finally sighing with exasperation he put a hand on his hip and cocked his head to the side.

"And how do you propose to get out of that multi-buttoned dress on your own?" he asked pointedly and Liz was forced grudgingly to admit(to herself ofcourse) that she would indeed have a very difficult time undressing.

"I thought so" he replied in her stead and started moving towards her. Liz immediately backed away.

"W-what are you doing?" she asked startled, finally finding her voice.

"I am going to help you undress" he answered simply and in flash his hands were on her shoulders and he was twisting her around so her back faced him. Liz immediately began to struggle, trying to release herself from him hold.

His hands tightened considerably on her shoulders, digging into her soft flesh. Liz winced and she stopped. Hot air stirred the back of her neck, travelling up behind her ear. Hot breath licked the hair there.

"Better" he whispered. An involuntary shiver passed through her body. Her breath caught and then erupted in quick short ones. A few seconds passed and the only movement in the room was her stirring hair, the only sound his breathing. Suddenly Liz jumped slightly. Max's tongue had snaked out and lightly licked her lobe. The wetness delightfully cooling against the air. No words wre uttered. The hands on her shoulders started moving lightly. Treading. One hand moved to her slender neck molding it in his clasp then up to her hair, entangling his fingers in the rich silky curtain, savouring its touch.

His other hand leisurely skimmed from one shoulder to the other, slowly kneading the muscles, releasing the tension. Liz unconciously arched her neck in pleasure. Suddenly it abandoned the massaging and traced a path down to the top button of her dress. Before Liz could even register the sudden change of course the first button was popped open.

She gasped and opened her mouth to protest once again but was once again interrupted in a most shocking way. On the soft flesh that was revealed to the eye Max bent his head and placed a light kiss on the inviting flesh. Suddenly Liz found it very hard to breathe and that held breathe, surprisingly, was not held in apprehension, but in anticipation.

Button after button. Kiss after kiss. One more button to go. By then Max was on his knees, his lips on the small of her back, his hands spread across her waist. Instead of following the same procedure, his hands moved up and around to her back, sliding beneath the open folds of her dress. At the same time his mouth enveloped the button and he wrenched at it with his teeth, sending it flying across the room and bouncing to the floor. Immediately after that Max rose to his feet, keeping his mouth locked on her spine,trailing his tongue back up to the base of her neck. A low moan escaped her lips.

His hands still within the folds he slowly slid them up, revealing the whole of her back, up and over her shoulders, and stopped. At this moment they were in a world of their own. A world of pleasure. Max's hands tightened convulsively. A silent battle raging within him.

Abruptly he released her, wrenching them both back into reality. Liz watched with wide eyes as he briskly walked to the door. Twisting the knob, he turned for a moment to regard her with dark expressionless eyes.

"Sleep well" was all that was said before he was out the door. Liz waited. The bolt sounded and she released a shuddering breath. Not daring to examine what had happened she mechanically undressed and put on the yellow gown.

Just as she was tying the ends the bolt opened. Liz looked expectedly at the door. It burst open, but not by whom she thought, and, to her utter disbelief, hoped.
Maria ran in and crushed her to herself. Liz found it hard to breathe for a few seconds before she was put down and eyes critically up and down. The frown between Maria's features faded and relief was evident on her face.

"Oh Liz! oh you're alright, thank god because I was terribly worried. You won't believe it but the blood drained from my face when I heard, from my Michael ofcourse although he was reluctant to share but you know I do have my tricks, I'll teach them to you sometime, anway when I heard what happened to you and I just came as soon as I could. Are you sure you're alright? you're awfully pale? anything happen? do you need anything?" by the end of that Liz was looking bemused and Maria was breathing lungfuls of air.

"Do you always talk so fast?" Liz asked.

"always" Maria replied.


Max walked up to deck, breathing in the night air, letting the cool breeze lay a damper on the heat inside. Slowly he strolled to the rail and leisurely observe the beautiful vastness. It never failed to raise admiration and awe from him. The sea was the best part of his work. All the treasures in the world could not compare to such beauty- he stopped abruptly as a certain picture entered his head.

"Evenin' captain" Michael approached his friend and looked out to the horizon.

"A beautiful evening it is Michael" Max replied. He looked up to the starlit sky.

"What be your predictions tonight fine sailor?" he asked. Mciahel looked contemplative for a moment. Then appeared to decide on an answer.

"Smooth sailing ahead captain"

Max smiled then looked grim. "I can't help but feel there will be a few storms raging ahead" he remarked.

Part 14

"So tell me about yourself Liz Valenti"

A short pause.

"There's nothing to tell really."

Maria halted in mid combing. The brush rested halfway down Liz's long sliky hair. SHe regarded the back of her head with a steady stare.

"Surely there is. Like who are you, where do you come from, what do you do..." Maria trailed off in question.

Liz hesitated. They sat on the bed, Maria behind her combing her silken falls. The movement soothing, caring. She could feel the tension fading, her shoulders drooping in relief. After the ordeal she had been through a gentle hand was more than welcome. Ah what had she gotten herself into? she should have just told them who she really was, allowed her father to pay the ransom and she'd be home now being coddled by her mother instead. She should have spoken about her identity, yet...she had the distinct feeling they would not believe her. For she was branded a theif who would do anything...even lie. She aught to have said something nevertheless. Her plan so far.....well she did not even know if it was working.

SHe never did anything without thinking it through, and she had thought about her actions for as long as her time limit permitted and it seemed plausible. Now she wasn't so sure. For she did not have any friends to seek help from should the need arise. With the exception of Maria.

Liz turned around and faced Maria's understanding face. Is it possible? Could she tell her of her plight? Could she tell her who she was and the wrong that was done to her? She seemed to understand...even care. forging a friendship was not impossible. Infact it was already underway.

A moment of silence passed while Liz studied the blond's openly friendly expression. Indeed a friendship was possible, but a confidant...Liz sighed inwardly. Here sat before her the lover of a pirate. Loyal in life and love to the end. And that pirate was loyal in life to the captain. The way these loyalties forge them together, one slip of the tongue and they can be brought to good use.No...if she told, regardless if Maria promised not to tell, these pirates have their ways. Hell....she shouldn't even forget Michael. For he could trick Maria into her confidence just like she did to him.

No. It's too dangerous. Liz supressed a sob. She was on her own in who she was. An ally and a friend was deeply wanted though. No matter that it is to be based on lies. For what are a few lies when they could mean her life?

"I am Liz Valenti. I am twenty years old. I was born and raised in Florence. My..-" she broke off abruptly then steeled herself to continue "...mother died giving birth to me and my father..he went abroad when I was twelve and never came back. My nurse tol dme it resermbled my mother so much he couldn't bear it"

"Oh Liz I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have asked, it must be painful to talk about" Maria rested a hand on her shoulder comfortingly. "What happened after that?"

Liz swallowed and searched wildly in her mind then answer in a subdued voice "We weren't a rich family, but not exactly poor. When my father left he took the money which we had with him to pay for his trips and I was left with my nurse. SHe took care of me, but she was old and died a few years later. After that....well lets just say I had to fend for myself" she finished and held her breath.

As she hoped Maria went into a fit of sympathy and questioned her no more. It pained her to lie to someone like Maria, but undfortunately she had no choice. Her situation did not help any. As Maria enveloped her in a comforting embrace, Liz waveringly thought that perhaps, perhaps there is hope yet.

The dawm broke. The ship rocked the sleeping sailors awake. Liz's eyes fluttered open. Somehow during the night it appeared she had crawled beneath the covers, yet she could not recall exactly when or how. Disconcerted of that fact she sat up and looked around.

A knock sounded and Liz jumped. The knock came again.

"Come in" Liz called out hesitantly. The door opened and Whimsey walked in with a tray. The aroma of breakfast wafted through the air and Liz's stomach grumbled. She was famished.

Whimsey walked into the room and Liz noted a slight hesitancy in his step. Looking at him she also noticed that he was avoiding looking at her. He walked over to the table and placed the tray there then turned and for the first time looked at her straight in the eyes.

A flushed somewhat but his voice and gaze were steady when he spoke.

"I would like to apologize for the misunderstanding last night. We did not know what to make of you and you must understand that it too peculiar having a woman aboard for no reason he made known " he paused then continued after a few seconds " Our captain has informed us now of your position and the crew and myself apologize again" he stopped and regarded her intently.

Liz cleared her throat. She could understand their mistake. She didn't know why the captain didn't make it clear from the beginning but didn't stop to dwell on that. With a jerky nod Liz indicated that the apology was accepted. It was only after he was gone that she wondered where he learned to speak such impeccable english. She had noticed that it was only a few who spoke brokenly.

Forgetting that for the moment Liz rose from the bed and rushed to the tray. Coffee, butter, scones and fruit. The assortment looked so appetizing her mouth watered. Without a second thought she began to dig in.

SHe was almost through went the door opened and the hairs on the back of her neck stood. She was immediately aware. She looked to the doorway to find Max leaning negligently against the doorjam. His broad shoulders filled the doorway, his male scent assailed her. Strong, virile, and damn but if he isn't handsome.

"Aren't you afraid there's poison in there?" the low seductive timbre of his voice drifted towards her.

Without thinking and annoyed at his teasing she replied "No,who'd scrub your floors then?" she stated matter-of-facty and a little bitterly.

Max chuckled and entered the chamber with lithe grace that Liz couldn't help but admire. He came to a stop behind her and Liz felt all her senses become aware of the male behind her. He dominated the entire place. He even dominated her.

A warm hand settled on her shoulder and Liz started.

"Did you sleep well?" his soft question was directly against her ear. Liz shivered.

"Y-yes very well thank you" she managed to get out but all she was aware of was the strong capable hand that slowly and gently knead her shoulder and moved to stroke the side of her neck. Her pulse was racing and she knew he knew.

She tried to move away but his hand clenched around her shoulder and held her still. Her breath caught in her throat as she waited for his next move. She felt him bend his head down and kiss her shoulder then spread those kissed up towards her neck and up to her ear. Her breathing turned ragged and she shivered with excitement and fear.

"Are you alright?" he whispered. It took a moment for Liz to understand what he was asking and knew that he was referring to last night. The reminder clogged up her throat and she could only nod.

He straightened and she could not help but feel disappointed. Something she didn't understand.
She twisted around somewhat to see him move away and pace back forth then halt.

"It was something that shouldn't have happened and my crew now know that" his tone grew taut and angry. From his voice came a sudden vision of how he made them understnad. One she did not appreciate.

"What did you do?" the question was out before she knew it. Max looked startled but he recovered enough for his mouth to curve in slight amusement. But that soon turned into grimness.

"They were simply made to understand that you are not to be touched or mistreated" he answered.

"What did you do with Hugh?" now that she asked the first question she decided it wouldn't hurt to finish. Ofcourse she regretted it the moment she asked it as she witnessed the menace that clouded his face, making his eyes glitter and give him an air of danger that was always there but magnified.

"Thrown to the sharks" came the taut answer. Liz gasped in horror and shot up from the chair.

"The sharks?!!" she repeated trying not to faint from the horrible image in her mind.

Max regarded her for a moment answering her with a contemptouscurl of his lips "No my dear I am not so cruel as that"

Liz didn't know what to think. She did think that he was the kind of man to do such a thing, but for some reason she believed him.

"W-what tben-" she swallowed "did you do?"

"I gave him an adequate punishment" he replied with a tone that suggested the end of the subject was closed. Liz looked dswn to avoid his piercing gaze. A moment's silence passed then his boots crossed the floor and stood before her. A finger hooked under her chin and lifted her eyes to his. She gasped at their intensity.

"His attentions were unwelcome. He got what he deserved" he finally said. Liz tried to maintain a steady gaze but couldn't and her eyes drifted downwards. Unfortuantely they landed on his firm and sensual mouth. And being in such close proximity to his heat did not help any.

"Are my attentions unwelcome Liz?" a soft whisper. One that held her. Captivated her. Forced her to answer, yet the words would not come. Were they unwelcome? he is nothing like Hugh. He stirrs strange things within her, makes her burn. He was her enemy and a pirate. Yet what was he doing to her.

Slowly. Ever so slowly he lowered his head. He closed her mouth with a kiss.

His kiss was urgent, rough, consuming-and she couldn't help but moanfrom pleasure. It was the kiss of a man who wanted more that just a kiss. And heaven help her, at this moment, so did she. The kiss deepened, and she felt herself rapidly losing track of time as the chamber faded around her and was left with the sensation of flaoting in the pirate's arms, surrounded by nothingness.

Gasping they came up for air. But that was all she had time for, for he kissed her again, and she felt a tingling between her thights. What was she thinking? She had to put a stop to this...
His hands roamed her body freely and aggressively, leaving behind a trail of fire wherever he touched. His arms then snaked around her and brought her flush against him. Her breasts were crushed against the solid wall of his chest, her hips pressed intimately against his, thighs intertwined. And Liz could also feel the hot,hard erection against her stomach. It was enough to bring her back to reality, but when she placed her hands against his chest to push away his tongue plunged more deeply into her mouth caressingly and they obtained a mind of their own, snaking up his shoulders and around his neck.

That brought them even in closer contact, their heat seeping into each other. Suddenly they broke apart, breathing hard and shallow. Max brought a finger up to stroke her cheek and swollen lips. My but she was kissable this woman....just begging to be taken. His eyes glittered with unfulfilled desire, and hers clouded with fear and excitement.

"Ah what you do to me, sweet" he moved his finger against her lips. Unconciously her tongue snaked out and touched it with it's moistening sweetness. Max sucked in his breath. Then as if calling upon a greater strength he pulled back. At that moment a knock came.

"Enter" his voice was rasping. Whimsey came in with an acknowledging nod to them both before taking the empty tray, and without asking questions or making comments, walked out again. Neither said anything for a moment, then as if waging a silent battle within and losing Max walked briskly to the door. His hand on the knob he turned to her, his eyes glinting dangerously, his face expressionless.

"When you are ready come up on deck for your duties" he ordered with a cold voice as if no heat from the heat he showed before even existed within him. Liz stiffened and swallowed a retorted, remembering her plan.

"Yes sir" she bit out but he was already out the door and she doubted her even heard. 'It seemed the captain wanted business with pleasure' Liz thought angrily. She needed help. For it took her less than a minute to figure out she was not immune to him. She hated him for imprisoning her, but she fingured what she was feeling was akin to desire. And that was a dangerous, dangerous emotion.

Part 15

He was unlike any man she had ever met. He was so magnifisant, so mysterious, fascinating in every line of his body and mind. Who was he truly? All she knew was his name. 'Max' she tasted the name on her tongue. Short, sweet. It rolled off with an endearing yet a frighteningly dangerous quality. It was true that she had never met anyone like him before. Ofcourse she had never seen a pirate before either. All she heard were tales. Tales of treasures and plunders and bloodthirsty men. Somehow though as she gazed solemnly around the deck of the 'Cruella' as she heard the crew call her, she found she could not believe this of this particular pirate.

There was no deck scrubbing today. Infact she was made to polish weapons. Heaven help her the moment she witnessed the offending objects her frame shook at the deadly swords and knives. Her throat choked her. She tried not to scream or faint.

It was not the fact that she was squimish of sharp objects. It was only the image of blood dripping from the tips and ends. An enemy or a poor victim sliced. Liz swallowed as she grapped one and took a rag in the other. Who knew?...they were pirates after all...Liz shuddered and decided to ignore that last thought as she labourously worked until each one was shining magnificantly.

She had spent that whole time in a dhaded spot on deck. No one bothered her. Maria had came by just to bid her good day then disappeared. She did not see Max anywhere either. She did not know if she felt relieved or disappointed.

***'I am in a nightmare. I feel trapped, caged. I can hardly breathe. I feel so betrayed. How could he do this to me? How could he subject me to such a revolting and unbearable position. Do I mean so little? Am I simply to be a possession that is to be handed on from one person to another. No second thought. No regards to my feelings or desires. I hate him for it, yet I love him. He is after all only after my own wellbeing and happiness. Unfortunately the poor man cannot see the error of his ways.

'...My loyal book. I am betrothed to Lord Deluca. A man I despise. One I can never come to care for in any intimate manner. This handsome devil in desguise does not fool me. I can see his soul through his very icy blue eyes. I do not love him. I cannot marry him. I feel that I owuld defy the sea and skies just to escape.I will be miserable I know. Yet, even as I think it, I think aswell 'let it not be known I defied my father's will'. I t would destroy him. My family, and me.

I truly wish it were different. In desperation I wished that I was not me. That I was no lady born in iron bands of propriety and passed on in shackles into matrimony. It's such a dismal thought. I want to be free. I want my own will and mind, and heart and soul. That man will deprive me of that I know. I must try. I musr run if I can. I care not which way or how but if I can get away I would.

I must say if that plan is unsuccessful I would not mind even being taken away. It's a desperate thought, however I am desperate. There is so much I want to see and do. I am still so young. I want freedom, it's as simple as that. I want adventure. I want to live life to the fullest with the greatest pleasure. Perhaps even a little romance. Ah my dear loyal book, I even dream of meeting a man and falling in love. Love...thats is what I crave and I know I cannot find it here....'***

Sean flung the journal from him in disgust. He had searched high and low in her room for any sign or clue but found nothing but neatly stacked drawers, some which he was not allowed to look into because they contained her undergarments, a neat bed and nothing else but the journal which he found stacked on the underside of one of the drawers he could look into. Drivel. That was what this all was. Half a book which contained nothing but words of dreams, wishes, and stupid folly. He had tolerated these pages. Even found them amusing. She is so young and naive, he thought. Yet these passage he had just read fuled him with rage and resentment. It irked him that she should think of him so.

Who did she think she was anyway? She should infact be gracious in light of his offer. It was the best of the lot and Lord Parker had accepted without qualms. Sean did not know for sure if it was simply greed on the parent's behalf or quick insurance of their only child's security. Either way it mattered not at all to him. Elizabeth is a very beautiful young woman. She possed the most perfect virtues inside and out. In short she would make the perfect wife.

Many eligible men obviously agreed with that fact because the lady never lacked for suitors. They worshipped the ground she stood upon and were enchanted by her. Sean, though the hard man that he is, like ever man saw a most desirable woman and decided to pursue her. To him she was perfect too.

On their meeting however, well they did not exactly get along. She was a cold fish and he, was a relentless fisherman. He vowed he would have her and he had succeeded. And now only a precious month before their wedding she had slipped through his fingers.

He clenched his fists in supressed frustration and anger. He did not know for sure if she truly lived up to the words in her journal and run away or if she was kidnapped. Neither thought reassured him. If she had run away he would pursue and he would find her, and if she was taken, he will track down the ones responsible and kill them.

"Jeff oh my dear Jeff oh dear-" Nancy broke off choking on her tears. It was not true, her daughter was here, safe and sound. She could hear the gay sound of her laughter. Elizabeth was not gone. It could not be true.

"Hush now my love" Jeff held his wife and enveloped her in his arms, comforting her "do not fret yourself my dear, it is alright, it will be alright, we will find her I promise you" he ran a soothing palm up and down her spine, then reached into in pocket and produced a snowy white hanky.

"There now sweet, dry your tears" he handed her the piece and proceeded to kiss the top of her head.

"Oh Jeff who could do such a thing? Who could even think of taking away Elizabeth. She's so innocent, she shouldn't suffer, we shouldn't suffer" Nancy sniffled and pulled back to look into her husband's set face.

"I will find her. She will not suffer." he said reassuringly. When Nancy had quieted down she allowed her mind to rule over her heart for the moment.

" said that it could have been a kidnapping" she swallowed " but you also said that she could"

"Yes, my dear it is a possibily" Jeff sighed deeply and looked down and away from his wife's searching gaze.

Nancy gave him a questioning look. "Why would she run away Jeff?" her voice was soft and sad.

Jeff gave a frustrated painful growl and snapped his head up to stare grimly at his wife. "You know why Nancy. She ran away from me, from us, because of her betrothal" he bit out bitterly.

Nancy was the one comforting now. "I had been thinking on that for a while, perhaps...well perhaps it was not right of us to...interfere. She should choose" she said quietly.

Jeff sighed in resignation. " I cannot admit I was wrong in doing what I did Nancy. She's so young, she can't possibly make these decsions on her own. People these days can never decide or be responsible enough to grow up. It is up to us, the parents to guide them and give them a life" he replied heatedly, pulling away from her and pacing to the window of their bedroom.

"Elizabeth is not like that. She may be young but she knows the reality of things. All the youthful dreaming she might have is confined in her mind "

"That may be so, but..." he trailed off, but Nancy knew what he was about to say. She was their only daughter. They both loved her so very very much. If Jeff had been any other man he would have scorned her for the son and heir she could not produce. Unfortunately after the birth of their first born it was impossible to concieve any more. Nancy had had a very difficult pregnancy and then labour.

She had come close to death during that time. She had bled alot. And after the physician examined her after the birth he had sadly concluded that due to complications during the labour it is now impossible for her to concieve any other child.

Nancy cried for a week while Jeff tried to console her, telling her it didn't matter, that he loved her and he loved his little daughter. Nancy believed him but it depressed her that she would not be able to offer him his heir.

She told him so one night as she lay her darling baby Elizabeth to sleep and Jeff only looked at the peaceful little babe and replied that he already had his heir. Nancy could not help but burst into joyful tears. From then on both parents raised and doted on sweet Elizabeth.

She was a young woman now though as they both seemed to realize and it was time to let her go. Yet they were finding it harder and harder to part with her. Nancy wanted her happiness and dulfillment but wanted her baby beside her and Jeff wanted Elizabeth to be secure and lack for nothing.

He had thought that Lord Deluca was the best man for Elizabeth. He was a good man with wealth and looks and other things. Liz was probably too stubborn to see past whatever she sees in the way. Perhaps if she got to know him a bit better.....Jeff halted his thoughts. Jeff had allowed the man to search his daughters room because he could do nothing else. Sean came out and said he found nothing. Jeff hesitated then accepted that verdict. It would serve no good to look again. He knew his daughter well. She is not careless.

It is not the time to dwell on such things, he thought. Now he had to find one of the two females he loved more than anything in the world, other than his mother god rest her soul.

If she had run away, he sighed, he hoped she would come to her senses and come back, nevertheless he would search for her, and if she was taken, he drew in a deep breath, he'd kill the people responsible.

The sun was setting. The night was creeping up on her. Her duties were over and it was time to get up and walk down the narrow stairs to her room. Liz looked back at the vast sea and twinkling stars. For the second tome she wondered where they were headed. She must remember to ask someone. She was tired. Carely treading down the passageway she softly passed the great oack door again and shivered involuntarily. Without any thogh she hurried to her chambers and shut the door firm on herself.

It was the first night she would be spending in her new room. Memories assailed her from last night and bit back on her terror. Something inside her new for sure no one would disturb her anymore. She looked towards the door. One man could though....was that a shudder of fear or excitement that just ran through her?

posted on 17-Feb-2003 4:27:48 AM
Part 16

“What is this?” Liz asked as she was drawn into a chair. Before her lay on the table what she could only describe as a banquet. The aroma of steamy food and sweet smelling flowers wafted into her nose making her dizzy with sensation and her throat dry.

The food was assembled at almost every spacious part of the table and wherever there wasn’t food there was a bouquet of exotics. From what she could see there was a variety of steak, fish, potatoes and vegetables, a large salad and little treats on the side.

Her stomach grumbled and her mouth drooled, but her eyes narrowed suspiciously at the man who was already moving to take the seat opposite her.

“I thought simply to offer my thanks for the well done job you have been doing on board. It certainly is tough work but you seemed to tackle it magnificently” he finally said a bit airily, at the same time waving his hand and a young man who was standing in the corner before , now moved forward and began piling delicacies onto their plates almost like a professional footman.

He was young Liz noticed. Perhaps sixteen. A lithe body and crisp golden hair atop his head. Bronzed skin from his days in the sun. He had an innocent face and Liz couldn’t help but wonder how he ended up on a pirate ship. He looked like the captain’s cabin boy though she had never seen him on the ship before.

He had finished and she observed him as he seemed to look adoringly at his master and captain and ask if anything else is needed. How could a boy hero-worship a pirate?

“Shall you eat this delicious food or spend your time staring at Tom?” the question jerked her eyes around to the steely depths of golden brown ones. Their eyes met and held. Liz flushed. Max’s lip’s twitched upward.

A week had passed. seven days of wrenching work in the deck, in the galley with the cook and in the cabins. Always awakening at dawn and going to her cabin at dusk. Breakfast, lunch and dinner trays delivered at the appropriate times. Day after day of weariness and confusing emotions.

The crew seemed to have accepted her presence on board, some going far enough to nod their head in greeting or bid her good morning and goodnight. Through all this she had hardly seen the captain of the ship. She caught glimpses of him as he issued orders or stood at the wheel, looking in such command. Rolling above the waves, swaying, being part of the ship itself. It awed her.

He always ignored her. When he needed something of her his words would be curt an he would barely glance at her. Liz was perplexed. What was wrong with him? What is warranting such behaviour? Only a short while ago she was affected by his touch and tantalized by his kisses. Now he treated her like any servant on the ship. She didn’t know whether to feel relieved or annoyed.

She had finally admitted to herself that his effect on her was very strong. Pirate or not he was a man. A very attractive man at that and she couldn’t help but feel attracted to him. She had never felt this way with any man before. Her parents had hardly explained in all her nineteen years.

Liz was determined nevertheless and had sneaked around and bribed servants to get hold of books and information. What she had read frightened and fascinated her. She stared at pictures of nude women and men together and read all about the deed. She knew it hurts the first time but wasn’t sure if their was pleasure in such an act….until she met Max.

Liz knew without doubt that these moments of stolen pleasure on his bed were a part of making love. She coloured every time she recalled the incidents. It was so pleasurable though…very sinful and wrong but she couldn’t help but feel euphoric in his arms.

Now suddenly here she was sitting facing him eating the most mouth watering food she has eaten for a long while and drinking the wine that has been poured as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.

Dinner was a quiet affair. Neither talked or thought to make conversation. The air was fraught with tension. After she had finished, Liz sat squirming in her seat letting her mind wonder. What is this all about? Something brought this on. What is he up to?

Suddenly he looked up from his plate and pinned her with his gaze. Liz almost stopped breathing. His eyes bored into hers making her thinking he could see right through her soul. She shivered involuntarily. Max noticed and in one movement was out of his chair and striding to his big chest.

For all his largeness and strength he was quite graceful. He quickly returned with a dark velvet rode and placed it about her shoulders. Liz jumped at the contact of his hands of her. She dared not move. He kept them there a few seconds longer than necessary then walked back to his seat. For the first time he looked directly at her and spoke.

“I have noticed that you have been in that god awful dress ever since you came aboard and that judging from the way you smell you also have not had a proper bath either” He paused and Liz could think of nothing to say “ You are lucky that I have an abundance of material here, along with a needle and thread. I’m sure you know what to do. In the meantime I have obtained a set of other dresses which you will wear and tonight you will take a bath.”

Liz took a moment to absorb what he said. The sudden idea of changing from this dirty and sticky dress that she had been cursed with for a week and soaking in a warm bath sounded luxurious. She sighed in content as if she was already beneath the waters basking in its splendour.

“Your eyes are already glazed over in anticipation” came a husky deep voice. Liz came back to the present and cleared her throat trying to compose herself. She braved it and looked him in the eye.

“I thank you for your considerations captain-“



“Or Max if you prefer” he interrupted again, his voice sharp “ Let us dispense with such formalities Liz” he placed emphasis on her name “call me Max” he finished softly but Liz could detect the order underneath.

Liz swallowed and looked away.Max.Max.Max, her mind repeated. She tried her voice. “Max” she barely managed to whisper.

“Now that wasn’t so bad was it?” he mocked with a lazy smile on his face. Liz glared at him. “ I was saying, thank you for your consideration……Max…..I will benefit from it greatly in my condition” she finished her speak with a strain. Politeness never came easy in such company.

Max could read her thoughts all over her face. He inclined his head in amusement “You are most welcome.” Then his expression turned blank and he got up once again. Liz clutched at the robe in apprehension. He didn’t appear to notice. He was walking to the door. He swung it open and motioned with his hand outside.

Before she could think two bulky men walked in carrying a large heavy tub. Max pointed to the far corner of the room and they deposited it there. When they left around ten men walked in and out with water filled buckets dumping them in the tub until the water almost reached the brim. It was a wooden one but looked in great condition.

The men left and Max shut the door with a force and locked it. He slowly turned toward her as she stood up apprehensively. He began moving toward her. Her heart beat faster and faster with every step he took until he stood inches from her. She was afraid he could hear the beat of her heart against her breast. Was it fright? Anticipation?excitement?…oh Lord she did not want to think about that.

Max leaned toward her until their noses touched. Liz gasped. “Time for your bath” he whispered softly, huskily. It took Liz a moment to catch her breath and find her voice.

“Then would you please remove yourself so that I may enjoy it” she requested, her voice trembled and she hated it. His eyes turned thoughtful then he stood back and walked away. Liz released a relieved breath but caught it again when Max did not head for the door but to one of the tables and removed a chair from beside it walking to the tub and depositing it a few feet away. He plopped down on it.

“Come now Liz. Come take your bath” he ordered in a silky voice that mesmerized her and almost compelled her to do what he asked.

“I will. As soon as you leave” she steeled herself to answer. He lifted a brow.

“’Tis my room Liz. If I want to stay, I’ll stay” he said simply.

“I am asking you please…. Captain… to allow me some privacy” she retorted in an almost pleading tone.

“Max” he snapped, annoyed. “Privacy is something you do not need at the moment Liz. I have already seen some of you, it would be no new thing..” he smiled when she flushed and stifled an indignant remark, choosing to turn away instead. “However…”he sounded regretful “ I will turn away so you may undress and enter the tub.” He suited actions to words.

Liz was in turmoil. She desperately wanted a bath and a change of clothes. But what of Max? She could not possibly do it. No she decided in less than a second. It would be improper and anyway she did not want to be naked and in a tub in his company. She was about to refuse when his voice came to her shocking her to immobility.

“If you do not agree, I will not take no for an answer and strip you of your dress myself and deposit you in the tub…I can go further by bathing you too” he turned his head to look over his shoulder at her stunned self “which I assure will be a pleasure.”

Liz hesitated for only a second. His threat was no joke. He would do I and he would take great satisfaction in it too. She hoped she would be forgiven for this act of shamefulness and began to strip.

Part 17

First, she unbound her hair. Then she stepped out of her slippers. Her breath hitched in her throat then abruptly started coming out in short spasming gasps. Her pulse raced and her heart pounded like thunder against her breast.

She feared he would turn around. His broad shoulders were relaxed but Liz could not be sure that he wouldn't glance back and catch her unclothed. That thought sent her working her fingers at the back of her dress hysterically. If she hurried she could walk across and settle into the tub in just a minute.

When her drawers and chemise were shed she could not help standing there for aminute. In the nude. The soft breeze from the open porthhole caressing her skin while the knowledge that an attractive man was sitting just a few feet awaycaused a red heated flush to creep up her body.

The feelings were dizzying. She was breathless with fear and excitement. The fact that she found the situation erotic....'strong domineering man, captive woman'....was very disconcerting. She was also worrying at the moment about his upredictibility. For he surely was unpredictible. She didn't know if he would turn or not, or when. She only knew that she had to run to the tub.

She didn't run though. That would cause his attention to turn to her, thinking she was escaping out the door....actually she hadn't really thought of that, perhaps she should. Then she looked down at herself. Bad Luck this time my lady, she thought wryly. If she had to risk it, she would end up showing the whole crew an unadulterated view of her naked body and then since there was nowhere to run she would plunge into her watery grave. She chanced a peek at the true danger....

Then again perhaps she was plunging into worse waters-she looked at the tub-shark infested- she looked again to the corner.

She walked cautiously towards the tub until she could feel and see the appealing steam rising. Warming her skin, causing bumps to develop on her arms from the cold, hot air colliding. For a moment at she stared at the delicious water she managed to forget where she was and her she was only a woman, very much in need of a bath.

"Are you ready?" his voice came out low and made her jump, jerking her back to reality. She panicked for a second, then, as he did not turn around she took a deep breath and stepped into the sweet welcoming water.

She was about to clear her throat sufficiently enough, so her voice wouldn't croak, and say she was when he rose swiftly and turned around. Liz swallowed. His gaze raked her from one end of the rub to the other. His eyes flared with an appreciative gleam.

"Magnificent" he breathed and Liz shivered at his seductive tone.

Max feasted his eyes. Then feasted some more. Magnificent hardly described what lay in full glory, yet hardly modestly hidden by water, was a goddess. Indeed not a tall, golden raving beauty. No. A petite woman. Silken hair or smooth melting choclate, cascading over her shoulders, eyes wide and innocent yet behind that veil lay a molten passion eager to awaken and learn. Her skin not a pearly white or a golden tan. It was a mixture of both. Olive skin perhaps. Smooth skin taut over attractively high cheekbones, a pert little nose and a small yet luscious little mouth. Begging to be kissed.

She was a goddess. A theif that has stolen his money and stolen her way into his life. He did not care about the money anymore. It was all hardly significant but he had wanted her to pay. When he thought her a lad he thought a few lashes would teach him, yet when this woman stood before him he knew that he wanted to punish her with pleasure. Revel in the satisfaction of hearing this rebellious woman scream his name in total esctacy.

His loins tightned at his thoughts and his eyes pierced through her. Ah she was a challange that one. He could take her if he willed but no..A pirate,a plunderer and a thief he may be, but never a murderer or a rapist. His punishment for her was to make her want him. Yes, he thought as his brilliant plan formed in his mind. He would make her want him till she was begging for his touch. He would take her then, lavish her sweet body with his caresses and thrusts. She would scream his name and satisfaction would be his in way of punishment and pleasure.

Watching her now he had to control himself immensely so as not to lunge at her like an overheated bull. What was it about this woman that simply the look of her aroused him to the point of pain? Never had he felt this way with any other woman. He had wanted women, took them, took and gave pleasure and proved to be so virile he was considered a miracle lover.Why? because what other men could not imagine to bestow upon the ladies he supplied.

Not grudgingly either for he did take satisfaction in giving pleasure as well as recieving it. He was not a selfish man He was confident in his masculine attraction. As many women as he had hunted and had hunted him he knew without doubt that this little beauty in the tub- who although may be difficult to win over,and his whole being delighted in the challange- would yeild to him in the end.

Purposefully he walked to the tub. He saw her tense, fear and apprehension flickering across her eyes. Her fear irritated him for some reason. He did not want her afraid. Almost angrily he stalked to the side of the tub and picked up a few items off the chair next to it.

Liz followed him with her eyes and the items in his hands. A rag, and a bar of what seemed to be soap. He turned back towards her and she saw a wicked glint in his eyes as his mouth curved in a grin.

"This will be my pleasure Liz" her name rolled of his lips like a caress and it took her a moment to realize his intent. However it was too late and he beind her, his electrifying hands gripping her neck forcing her to bend forward.

"What are you doing?" She nearly screamed and she winced when his grip tightened. He relaxed it immediately. She could feel her emotions churning within her. She was afraid and excited. She knew why she feared him yet did not know why she felt drawn to him. Like she could walk into his arms and she would be safe. It greatly disturbed her.

Yet she held still. Stiffened but held still, waiting, knowing there was nothing she could do. He must have noticed the change in her for he bent over and bought his mouth close to her ear. "Just relax my sweet I will soothe you" his voice ran across her like honey.

She heard him moving around and picking something up. She dared not turn around. Some rubbing. She almost jumped out of her skin when a cool rag with a substance on it connect with her back.

"Hush" he said softly and Liz obeyed him. Somehow she knew. Knew she would be safe tonight. She warmed to the feeling of the soapy rag moving languidly across her back. Her tensed muscles easing into soft submission her skin delighting in the cleansing.

The rag suddenly left her back and in its place a warm palm that without hesitation continued its rubbing , this time kneading, easing the tension that had returned in a matter of seconds. Suddenly Liz didn't care. She just didn't care that she was a lady who was on a pirate ship, sitting naked in a tub with the pirate captain bathing her.

She was so heated. His hands drifted under water to the small of her back, moving from one hip to the other. She shivered. His palms moved to span her waist. She gasped. They inched upward. Liz braced herself for hte final contact. She didn't know if she would cry out in pleasure when they did or in frustration because they haven't got there yet.

In the end frustration won over but she didn't even manage to sound it aloud because it wan't because he was taking his time, but because he had abandoned them completely from her body. She held the sound back though, biting her lip to mask it.

There was silence for a few minutes and Liz had the idea that he had left, without a sound. That would not have surprised her. Her emotions shocked her. It was unbelievable. How could she have acted so wanton? why didn't she fight? how could she let him touch her like that, see her like that? It was all so confusing.

She hated him for the postion he'd put her in yet she felt like she wanted him whenever he touched her. It was desire she knew. What she did not understand was how she could desire him in particular. Couls she hate someone and want them at the same time? Did he still want her like he declared before or did his withdrawl tell her he wasn't interested anymore.

She didn't know if that should relieve or disappoint her. He affected her deeply. His strong presence, his heated gaze, his electrifying touch. Her position on the ship neither pleasant nor unpleasant. She had gotten used to the beautiful sea, the gentle swaying of the ship, the commanding presence of the captain. It was seeping into her blood.

Ridiculously she thought of it as an adventure whenever she wanted to boost herself. Liz shook her head. She didn't even know where they were headed. It had completely slipped her mind. Can it be she was still in shock of what had happened? for a full week though?...she had no idea.

A fingertip touched her furrowed forehead and Liz's startled eyes jumped to twin dark liquid pools. There was no coldness, no steel or desire. She could have sworn it was the candle lighting but what looked like a tender inquiry flickered across them...a trick of the light surely.

She shook her head, trying to get her jumbled thoughts together. She couldn't believe he was still here.
"Where are we going?" she asked abruptly into the silence. She stared at him in her own silent inquiry. Max raised an amused brow then his lips twitched as if aching to form a smile.

"We are docking at Venetti port in France. We arrive on the early morrow" he answered shortly. He removed his hand from her hair where it landed from her forehead and stood. " I doubt not you can finish you bath unassisted. A new gown lays on the bed..I am afraid you will have to disregard you underthings for a duration of a time " Liz blushed a tomato red " then you may return to your cabin" the last words were spoken sharply, almost angrily.

Liz had no time to answer before the door was slamming after his retreating back. If she didn't know better she'd think this would become a habit.

Max was so frustrated and angry. She had melted in his arms, why had he not taken her? he stopped his contemplation and strode purposefully to the deck. He had seduced her, but he wanted her to try to seduce him. He wanted her to want him...he was too blind however to see he would not need to work overly much to achieve that goal.
Michael and Whimsey watched their captain stride in the opposite direction on deck, clearly in a sour mood. Michael turned to the crewman and innocently opened his palm. With a snort of disgust Whimsey set his losing wager into and huffed. Michael chuckled.

"I cannot believe he lasted that long and still going" he complained.

"Whimsey my good man every woman has her place and time. Maxwell is just abiding by it, albeit a bit moodily." Michael informed him with an amused grin.

"What about yer woman then?" Whimsey inquired.

Michael's eyes unknowingly softened as he thought of Maria. At the moment she was asleep in his bed, sated. All of a sudden the air was too chilly and he wanted to be back in her arms. His Maria's arms. He started moving toward the stairs with a determined look on his face.

"Her time and place is my own" he declared then without noticing added under his breath 'as my own is hers'

Whimsey heard nevertheless and when Michael disappeared allowed a tender smile to touch his weathered face. 'Ah me arrogent lords ye've met yer matches' and he chuckled into the darkness.

Part 18

The first thing that Liz noticed when she woke up was that the swaying that hse had gotten used to was not there. The ship has docked.

She stumbled out of the cot and made her way to the porthole. The world came alive before her eyes. The sun was barely over the horizon and already it was shining with stark clarity on the happenings of the french dock. It was littered with people;sailors, drunks, soldiers-Liz's eyes widened-women like the ones she saw in that club. After about two weeks of being imprisoned on a ship with nothing but the vast sea as her view, she felt more that relief to see land and any kind of human being.

Suddenly a thought came to her. What is going to happen now? Max had spoken nothing of his business to her, not that he should, and she does not even know what is to become of her. Surely he would not keep her with him. That small sack of gold could not have meant so much to him. He's a pirate, he'll get more.

She'd worked for him as he'd told her she would and he had to let her go. She could reach an inn and request to send an urgent message to Florence. Her would have, without qualm, she suspected sent word far and wide to countries about her diappearance. Someone was bound to know something here in France. Now if only she could get the chance to question them.

Turning from the porthole she made her way to the door determindly and opened it. She walked straight into a brick wall. A solid breathing wall. With a warm scent and flexing muscles. Automatically Liz placed her hands on Max's chest, first to steady herself, then to ward him off but his arms, like bands of steel, stole around her and drew her fully to him.

"I should come more often if this is the greeting I shall recieve." His voice laced with amusement. Liz huffed and struggled.
"Let-go of-me" She ordered but her voice came out muffled when he pressed her face into his chest. His scent intoxicated her and she promptly forgot her request.
"Much better" he said with satisfaction. Max could suddenly smell wildflowers in her hair. Must have been the soap. He inhaled deeply.

Liz felt like she was enveloped in a blanket of warmth and security. She was so content it never occured to her to question her choice of words when she said like an irritated child trying to get comfortable " Will you move your sword out of the way if you insist on crushing me so? it is piercing me sorely."

There was a moment's silence then she felt the low rumble of laughter emanate from his chest and he moved his hips against her. Heat shot through her. "My sword would pierce you wench, but not sorely...most pleasurably in truth." Liz's eyes widened considerably at the implication and what it meant. Now without the drugged senses she could feel it more accurately and clearly. Not irritating or sore. But hot and hard.

Liz sucked in her breath on a sharp gasp. Immediately she tried to pull away. She only managed to push at his chest as far as being able to move her head away. She looked up to demand he release her, but never got the chance. His mind-drugging mouth was already working wonders on her. Like magic. He tilted her back and arched her neck to gain deeper access to her mouth. His tongue delved in and out, first in hot quick strokes and slowed considerably to sweet leisurely thrusts that sent heat pooling down there.

Liz gave in to the feeling. All of a sudden there were no pirates and prisoners, and it was only Max and Liz. Kissing passionately. His hands pulled her closer. Crushing her. They moved up and down her back sending delicious shivers down her spine. It was a heady feeling. This kissing. No man had ignited this burning fire within her and no man other than the one who started it can sate it.

Liz's virtue was her pride. She had decided long before learning it was a neccessity, that she would save it for her husband. It is a precious gift that she would present him and indeed he would cherish it . Yet right here. Right now, Liz felt she would lay down on a bed and offer herself to this man, who is not her husband,and send them both spiralling into fulfillment.

Max pulled back abruptly and they both gasped for air. They stared into each other's eyes for a moment before he extended a hand and softly trailed a finger down her cheek. She didn't know why,but this show of tenderness made her want to burst into tears.
"You will come to me before this night ends. You may depend upon it." He stated softly with a voice oozing confidence.

Liz recoiled, as if struck. The significance of his words hit deep. Could it be? Was she truly wanting to bed this man? Her body responded pasionately to his, her senses ignited when he touched, kissed or caressed her. Her attraction seemed to have grown to passion. And Liz knew one result of that. Bed. She knew that if he increased his efforts she would not even lift a finger to protest. And that unsettled her greatly.

She was capable of losing control to her passion and he was capable of sating it. Damned if that idea was not appealing. Liz licked her suddenly dry lips. Max watched her pink tognue dart out in fascination. He hardened to the point of pain at the mere thought of what that tongue could do to him. On him.

He scolded himself on his lack of control on the inside and mentally shook himself to clear his head. This was not the time for this. He had business to take care of and He had to figure out what to do with this delectable prisoner of his. Leaving her on hte ship seemed the most logical thing to do if he did not want to risk losing her yet he wondered what she would have to say about that. His lips twitched in amusement. Yes, he could well imagine what she would have to say.

In that moment he made up his mind. His business would not take the whole day. If there was time enough, he would indulge her. When he came back he'd take her out. Perhaps enojoy some french food and music or look around the shops. He would buy her some new dresses he thought with a mental nod. She needed clothes. The image of dressing her up in silks and laces and pretty gowns filled him with a strange feeling. He smiled.

Liz was still in a half state of shock at her own thoughts and inner revelations of her feelings and desires. A minute of silence passed then a shout sounded from the dock and they both snapped back into reality.

Max stepped back to in an attempt to place some distance between. He gazed intently at her. Liz shifted uncomfortably.

"What is going to happen now?" she blurted in an attempt to break the silence. Max eyes her for a second before answering.

"I have business to conduct in town. Me and half my crew will be gone for half the day. You will stay here and when I return you may step off the ship with myself as your escort" he said in a that-is-final voice.

Liz's lips thinned in displeasure. Max wanted to kiss that anger away and turn it into so much more.

"I did not think that would be neccessary" she said slowly, trying to comprehend the situation. Max eyed her curiously and a slight frown marred his forehead.

"Why would you think that?" he finally asked.

Liz spread her hands around the room in emphasis. "I have worked off my debt. I have a right to go free now."

Max raised an eyebrow. "You may believe that yet I see differently" he replied crypticlly.

Dread washed over her suddenly. "What do you mean?" she was afraid of the answer.

Max's hand reached up and gently gripped her hair. Their eyes locked and Liz refused to let his touch distract her.

"That was my gold sweet theif-"

"Gold you can easily replace" she interrupted furiously. then bit back her tongue. Had she just said that? But Max only gave a wry chuckle.

"So my little enchantress has a temper." He leaned forward. Their lips a mere breath away. "I look forward to channeling that energy to something more...pleasurable"

That was the second time he'd he'd countered her reactions into sexual implications. She didn't know if she felt excited or appalled. She willed herself to be strong.

"Stop it. Just stop it. We had a deal. I demand that you let me go." she said forcefully attempting to push him away but only succeeding in gaining a few inches. Max was through arguing. He didn't have the time at the moment. No matter how glorious she was in her anger. Too glorious to miss.

"No" was all he said before he released her abruptly and made for the door. Liz stumbled back a bit then regained her footing.

"You can't do this Max. Dammit" she cried in frustration. He turned at that. "Tut tut ladies shouldn't swear my dear."

"I thought you did not consider me a lady" she countered angrily. Max just grinned.

"Let us just say your origins are still a matter of question" he replied leaving her stunned for a moment. Before he was out the door he looked back and fixed her with a warning glare.

"Do not attempt to leave this ship until I return. I will find you and if I don't" his voice lowered omniously, "someone else will" Liz did not pretend not to understand what he meant. If she tried to escape he wold either find her or a stranger, or strangers, would prey on her and then God knows what would become of her.

She swallowed nervously. Could she do that? Could she risk her life for the sake of her freedom? She still had something to live for. Finding her parents. Getting back to her friends and old life. Being safe....saving her virtue. Max had made no more advances on her excpet with heated looks and lingering touches, and stolen kisses. She shook her head in amazement.

Only two weeks at sea and already she was being lured by the magic of the sea, the beauty of the ship's captain. A pirate. Oh dear.


"My lord there is no sign of a petite brunette with your description"

That was all they had been hearing for the past two weeks. With each day their desperation and desolation grew. Where was Elizabeth? It was as if she had disappeared from the world.

Then came the next day. With renewed hope.

"You have information for us?" Jeff asked the voluptuous blond seated before him.

She nodded. "I'd like the money first though"

Jeff retrieved a stack of bills from his desk drawer and placed them before her. She ws his only hope and he would do anything if she had information about his daughter.

A red nailed slender hand shot out and grapped them stuffing them unceremoniously into the front of her low necked dress.

"Saw a small brown haired woman two weeks ago. It was about midnight. At the club. Wearin' some fancy heavy cloack to cover herself. Not a bad looker if you ask me. There was a chase and she got snagged by a man and 'is crew"

Jeff felt his heart pound. His daughter. With a strange man. No. Men. Oh god. He clutched at his chest, silently praying she was alright, because he knew without a doubt that it was Elizabeth.

"Did you regonise the man?" he struggled to ask. The woman smiled saucily.

"Sure did. Captain. Named Max. Is what I heard his friend call him. His friend was with one of the other girls. She'd run off with him. Good for nothin.." she drifted off, mumbling to herself.

"Is there anything else you can tell me" he interrupted anxiously.

The woman eyed him intently then grinned wickedly, "Don't worry bout nothing. Your daughter'd be in good hands. MMhhmm." and with that she was gone.

Jeff all but panicked. He kept his head. He couldn't find this man alone. He needed help. Reluctantly, he ordered a carriage to be brought around then made his way to Deluca House.

Part 19

Weaving through the crowd Michael glanced in askance at his long lasting best friend. They've been through this many times, yet he always questioned the captain as to their orders. It was his mission after all. A quest to find someone. A man. An italian man to be exact. Disomano.

That was italian for 'inhuman', and that was what he was known as. It described him perfectly. For six months they have sailed the seas, raided the ships of italians and questioned every part of the continent. Disomano was known for his ruthless ways. His reputation not so wide, yet enough to satisfy their curious questions.

It was said that no one dared face him. Well...Michael looked again at his friend's grimly determined face. There was one man who was not afraid of death at his hands. For he would not be the one pierced in the heart. Max had every intention of returning to his true home the victor, and his revenge complete.

Max...or indeed, Maxwell was in truth a gentlman. An honourable and fair man. Respected by men and adored by women. It was devestating to witness the dramatic changes to a man of smiles and laughter into a man of cynical views and deep, hidden pain. All because of two women. Loved and lost. Sister and once upon a time love of his life. Both ruthlessly taken away by one man. Disomano.

"Where do we begin?" Michael asked, his expert eyes roving over the crowd. When no answer came he turned toward Max to find him standing still, staring aimlessly at a point beyond Michael's shoulder. He turned and glimpsed long golden tresses glinting through the crowd. Just like Isabel's. But not Isabel. He whirled back quickly enough to see the deep sorrow that lay within his friend's eyes.

"Hey Max" he walked toward him and gave him a gentle shake.

Max's gaze moved abruptly to him and he was cold determination once again.

"Direct the men to investigat every inn in and near this port. They have already memorized the shape and form, and name of the object under investigation. There can be no mistakes. I want sailors, captains and whores questioned. If they have anaswers, make it worth their while," he paused to throw a sack that jiggled when it landed in Michael's palm, "try the magistrate too. Wherever Disomano goes there is always trouble." He stopped to take a deep breath.

He had done this so many times before. So many questions with no answers. Countless faceless interrogations. Everytime they sailed from a port with no further success, the heart that he so feared turned to stone, constricted with rage and pain. His hope dwindled, yet he never allowed it to affect him. He would search till his dying breath. He would see his revenge completed. He would never give up.

A comforting hand rested on his shoulder, snapping him from his reverie.

"Are you alright?" Michael asked. Michael...his best friend. His only friend. He did not know what he would have done if it were not for him. Wild Michael and Level-headed Max. That was how they were once known. Now they have both changed. After that fatefull night, Michael realized what it meant to stick around and care, and Max burned with rage and madness. They both began to face the real horrible world.

"No Michael," he looked at him squarely, "but when this is finished, I will be." and with that he preceded to get lost in the crowd. A lost soul, among many souls.

"I hope so my friend." he whispered to the disappearing figure.
Liz sat in the cot for half an hour before she jumped up with a frustrated breath, feeling as if she would explode. It was simple. She was bored. He she was kidnapped, imprisoned and full of conflicting emotions towards her captor....and she was bored.

Actually what was more amazing was that she hasn't tried to escape yet. She did not know if it was Max's warning, he sudden reluctance to see the last of him or the fact that hse did not have a plan. But, she thought to keep her mind sane and blame it on hte 'no plan' part.

She looked towards the door. 'Oh sure I can just open that door and walk out, no one will stop me, no one at all.' The porthole was too small. Perhaps walking out isn't such a bad idea. She could plead the need to use the uh...neccessary. No..she disregarded that. There was a perfectly useful chamberpot under the bed. She could plead sick. But they maight panick and send for a doctor. She could simply ask for fresh air. Hell, they probably won't risk it and tell her to stick her head out the hole.

She could plead hunger, but they'll only send some to her room. She could scream hyterically that there is a rat under the bed, but they'd barge in with swords, knives and pistols, only to find herself. Liz sighed in exasperation.

"Why is this happening to me?" she fairly yelled as she looked beseechingly at the ceiling and spread her hands. "I didn't do anything wrong. I'm a good girl. I love my parent and respect them, and I'm religious. I was never bad!" there she paused and her face scrunched up in annoyance and resignation..."Well...okay so there was that incident with the tree, but pawing nobleman deserved it." she declared, then paused again, putting her hands down.

"Ok so there was also the bucket incident, but how was I to know his head would be exactly the right size? and plus that was an accident," she raised her hands again, and paused yet again, "and so was the horse incident, the tavern incident and the fork incident.." she corssed her hands over her chest and look down in rememberance " I should have aimed it somewhere more efficient..there was a repeat and I almost choked him with my petticoats."

She looked up again "He deserved it too. And anyway I was only a child then, well onto puberty but still a child. I was energetic." she offered, then sighed deeply and told herself to stop acting like a nincompoop. What was done was done and now she had to deal with 'now'. What had she to lose?

With a sudden sprout of spirit and courage she gathered herself and marched determindly to the door. Heaven help her she would crack if that door was locked. Preparing herself for the battle of her freedom she grabbed hold of the latch and pulled.

The door swung open and before the shock could wear off at that easy almost-escape, she screamed at what it held on the other side.

No, not a guard or a killer or a theif or even a rescuier.

"Shhh geez Liz will you tone it down. You nearly gave me and everyone else on board an apoplexy" Maria declared, her hands covering her ears.

Liz looked at her, "You're too young to be facing that possibility Maria" she then said.

"Well I'm flattered but I say you're never too young to have a heart attack from a woman's scream, or atleast that's what the men say" she said with some amusement.

Liz smiled grimply. "Whatt's going on? What are you doing here?"

Maria gave her a full blown smile " I'm here to keep you company chica. We can brush each other's hair, change dresses, talk about how men are idiot, share fantasies. The whole shabang" she declared as she strode in hands in the air.

Liz defeatedly shut the door. "You're here to watch me" she smiled weakly. Maria's smile never faltered.

"You're a precious gem" she laughed, Then " so what on the agenda?"

'Escape' Liz thought but aloud she said "I am open to suggestions."

Part 20

"In truth I am quite vexed with Michael. He is quite accomodating as a lover but such a nitwitted man in the matters of the heart." Maria sighed as she for the hundredth time-for the was how much it felt-list Michael's faults.

Liz sat in contemplative silence. An hour can indeed feel like a lifetime. For these past sixty minutes she had indured Maria's non-stop rambling and complaining of Michael from the way he pleasures to his table manners. Surely she has heard what no lady of good breeding would deem to even comprehend. Liz had flitted from being shocked, appalled, intrigued and amused all at once.

Ooh the things she had heard would make her mother swoon and her father shoot himself-Heaven forbid. "Is that truly possible?" Liz cut in disbelievingly as Maria explained some delicate matter concerning the 'bedchamber romp' as Maria phrased it.

If Liz had expected a simple answer for her simple question then she was decidedly mistaken as Maria launched into a most intricate description of exactly how it was possible. Liz immediately tuned out.

She allowed her mind to wander. Most particularily about her 'escape'. Was it still possible? even with Maria around? Liz sneaked a peek at her 'jail guard'. Not six feet. No overly bulging muscles. No hairy burliness. Easily evaded......If one underestimated a perky, talkative, petite blond named in particular, Maria. Liz did not.

She could not knock her over and run past. Because for one thing, she would still have the crew that was still on board to reckon with, and for another, she did not want to hurt Maria. Physically or emotionally. She was the only thing close to a friend she had on the ship. She could not bear it if that animated face discussing bedroom theatrics turn away in disdain.

Unless.....she did not resort to the usual kind of escape.......

"Maria" Liz interrupted suddenly. Maria stopped abruptly in the middle of her latest-most fascinating no doubt if Liz had been listening-chapter of her affair de couer with non-other, and looked at her questioningly. Liz cleared her throat. Lord how she hated to lie.

"It's getting very hot in here and I'm feeling very cramped in my position. I realise I must not leave the ship....but may we please go up on deck? I could benefit from the cool, fresh air" -ok not entirely a lie, she felt like strangling herself in here-she cast what she hoped were pleading eyes to her.

Maria immediately broke into a smile. "Nobody said anything about having a stroll up there. Why not!" she hopped off the cot where she was lying next to Liz .
"Let's go!" she piped making a grnad gesture towards the door. Liz took a deep breath. and preceded her into the hallway.
Sean Deluca swiped angrily at his desk , sending his orderly paperwork scattering into the air and onto the floor. It has been a week since his 'dear' fiance's disappearance, or rather, kidnapping, and he had accomplished nothing. Nothing!

A deadly coldness wrapped around him as he remembered Lord Parker's latest visit with important news. And what news it was! So the innocent daughter had run wild into the night, sneaked into an even wilder club and-that's not all- was spirited away by the wildest of men. A pirate.

"How nice" he sneered softly to himself. He burned with rage and humiliation. After the public announcment of the kidnapped of Elizabeth the entire town would be gossiping about poor Lord Deluca what is going to do, poor Lord Deluca can't keep his future bride within his grasp, poor Lord Deluca his fiance is now ruined.

"AAAARRRRR!!!!" he rose from his chair and with all his strenght, toppled the exquisitely carved desk onto the heavily carpeted floor. No harm doen, but Sean didn't care. Because he knew, that his humiliation would not end there. Gossips were not simply like that. They would pass from one person to the next, each time the tale growing longer and larger and more extra-ordinary.

He knew that by tomorrow evening the whole town would be buzzing with the newest versions of the tale. Poor Lord Deluca that wanton child ran off with a penniless rogue. Poor Elizabeth, I heard he threatened her with a whipping if she was not an idealic wife. Poor Elizabeth and curse that Deluca, I heard he murdered her to get her dowry without the complication of wife. A bit early I'd say for that but who knows what goes on in his twisted mind.

Poor him. Poor her."I've had ENOUGH!" he shouted, and the words bounced back across the fall surrounding walls. If it took him forever, he would find that girl. Dead or alive, however state she is in. He will not tolerate this much longer.

In truth he was a ruthless man. His past was notorious, poisonous, and dangerous. How blissfully ignorant some people were of the true happenings on this earth. He knew many of them. He had witnessed and executed manay of them. He was the devil incarnate. He broke many a woman's heart and who knows how many bastards he has sired in his years. Some people doubted he possessed any human feelings at all.

"I will find you Elizabeth" he murmered to himself, "and your pirate Max."
Liz felt like she could see the entire world from her point of view. Perhaps because of her confinement and Maria's endless prattling- she she thought of that as an endearing trait rather than an annoying one. One would never grow bored with Maria.

"You have not spoken in a while Liz. Are you troubled?"

'You have noo idea.' "No Maria, I was merely thinking." Liz replied. Maria waited for an elaboration-since she did not believe in short sentences. When none was forthcoming she turned to prodd it out of her companion and saw her leaning over the rail, staring into the water. She followed her gaze.

"Yes. 'Tis nice water. Look 'tis blue, and it lolls." she observed sarcastically to catch her attention. It worked but Maria was not prepared for the passionate, vehement words.

"No Maria 'tis not just blue and it does not simply loll," she gestured an open palm towards the horizon, "the sea is so wide, so deep. It is endless." she turned her gaze back to the water and spoke softly, "It harbors so many wonderous creatures beneath its folds. It carries mircales, danger and fascination all around the world. No Maria. 'Tis not just water. It is freedom in liquifying form. It dribbles through your fingers here and scatters somewhere across the world, to be held in the palms of another." she drifted off into silence.

Maria was stunned, but recovered quickly. "You speak so passionately Liz of the sea. Why do you describe it so? I had thought you cannot bear it after this week" she raised a meaningful eyebrow.

Liz chuckled then smiled. "Whta can I say in my own defense? It has..affected me."

"That!...I can believe" Maria made a dramatic pose "just observe what the salty airs and burning sun has done to my treasured skin. Oh and look at my nails, " she held a finger up in Liz's face and looked as if she was going to burst into tears "I broke it" she whined.

They both promptly burst into laughter.

"So truly Liz. What of the sea?" she asked after they quieted. Liz looked at her seriously and retored with a question of her own, "Have you ever been taught how to swim?"

"Me? oh yes, I thought it necessary. Infact if you recall me telling you, that is how I got to Michael" she giggled.

Liz didn't but made no comment. Her plan was very dangerous and practically, 'not good' still....

She forced a bright smile on her face. "I feel like dangling my feet over the sea. What say we sit upon the rail?"

Maria's eyes widened. "Liz are you out of your mind. We cannot do that!"

Liz gave her a pleading look. "Oh come. It is wide enough and we can hang on to those ropes, whatever they're there for, it will be an adventure on the ship" she cajoled.

Maria couldn't help but laugh. "Indeed". Liz looked enquiringly. Maria appeared to think it through. After a few minutes of enless beseeching and Maria's vehement denials, they were both climbing onto a cargo box to get their feet over the railing. Maria stationed herself securely and turned to Liz.

Liz was, she saw, swinging precariously as she held onto the rigging rope. Maria felt a spurt of apprehension. "Liz, please be careful or you'll fall" she cautioned. Liz smiled again and nodded. Then praying silently for forgiveness......let go of the rope.

Part 21

"LIZ!!" Maria screamed in terror, as she witnessed her companion's slender fingers slide abruptly from the rope. Hopelessly, she watched as, for an instant, Liz faltered mid-air then the next, begin an awful descend from the side of the ship to the infinite blue endlessness. She did not even know if Liz knew how to swim. The thought bounded on her through her horror stricken mind.

In a feeble try, she attempted to slide over and ,grasping the rope, reach out bodily, arm and hands stretched out wide, and grasp Liz's flailing arms. All she came in contact with was the bellowing wind.

Her breath caught as she witnessed, as if in slow motion, as Liz fell farther and farther away towards the deep blue.

Liz saw Maria make a desperate attempt to grab her from certain doom. Their hands were several inches apart, and Liz did not know if she was truly grateful they had not connected and held. As she let go of that rope she had set her plan into action. Thank heaven she had taken it upon herself to learn how to swim. Her lessons were taboo to her mother so when they made a trip to their country house, Liz would sneak to the lake beyond the pastures , behind the pretence of going out for a ride.

According to her mother, a lady's place is in her husband's household, directing the servants, embroidering and entertaining. Liz found that idea abhorrent. Ofcourse, not the kind of girl to upset her own mother she had acted the perfect daughter in her presence, while every chance she got she swam, learnt how to shoot a pistol(for her own self protection ofcourse) and how to ride like a man. Truthfully the side-saddle was a most terrible instrument of backside torture.

And she was able to do that because of one person. The only man she ever cared a whit for. The childhood friend that could refuse her no request and vice versa. They had known each other ever since she paid her first visit to his humble abode in England. It was her first trip overseas when she was six years old and her parents had informed her that they were visiting friends.

In the countryside of Yorkshire she met Alexander, informally known as Alex. He was the only son of Sir Charles Whitman and-heaven rest her soul-Pauline. Alex was about her age when they met and they became as close as brother and sister in their years together. He was the one who taught her how to swim, ride and shoot. And she would be forever grateful.

Dear, dear Alex. He also knew how to make her laugh when she was in the worst of situation. She would not have minded his odd sense of humour at the moment. Yet he was not there. She had left England a year past. At the dock, they had promised each other they would always be there for each other.

He was not here now, when she needed him. Infact a letter had arrived only a few weeks after arriving in Italy, that Alexander has been enlisted into the army. He was to become one of her Majesty's, the Queen Victoria, regiments. It was considered a great honour to the Whitmans to be held in such high regard by the queen. His parents were so proud. Liz was proud too. Yet in her heart, she knew Alex was no fighting man and she prayed God kept him safe.

It was jarring when she finally hit the water. She hadn't counted on it being so cold. Immediately salty water surrounded her everywhere. She had anticipated it though and already held her breath so no water invaded her lungs. The icy liquid trickled across her skin and soaked through her muslin gown.

Before she could grow numb, and certainly before she drowned, she began to move. stirring her legs in a bicycle motion and flailing her arms mechanically to reach the surface. It was not much of a struggle on a calm day such as this. Ignoring the pressure that was driving her under, and the being hampered by the gown she drove up with the physical professionalism she had gained from all her lessons.

Liz broke the surface with hardly a ripple. She dismissed the water running down her eyes and face and immediately looked up towards the ship. Maria was no longer perched there and Liz could only conclude that she had gone to seek help. With that in mind she knew that she did not have enough time. She twisted around to look for a direction to head for.

The ship was anchored little away from the dock and Liz figured that the captain and crew had taken a rowboat. Turning to the direction of the dock could possibly prove a mistake. Who knows who she might bump into? Knowing she should starting moving she began swimming expertly away from the ship. Looking ahead she saw a small cove away from the action and knew she had found her temporary haven. Exhilarated by her successful attempt she found herself smiling brightly and rushing to it. She would worry about any repercussions her hasty idea would provide later.

Now...freedom was at the tips of her fingers.


Max entered the 'Le Blanc Cheval' after he made a quick perusal of the surroundings. Always on the look out for an impeccably dressed criminal. As he stepped in his nose caught the powerful scent of whiskey, and a heavy fog of smoke hung in the atmosphere. His lungs exhaled with the effort not to go in a fit of coughing. He'd been in worse places than this. Yet he never seemed to get used to it.

His dark assessing eyes gazed around the run down club. In the corner an intent group of players were settled in a game of poker. A boisterous explosion of laughter jarred his senses and he wheeled around to watch a crowd of drunk men sharing large jugs of some kind of alcoholic brew. In the arms of a few men were common waitresses. Both were being groped roughly and he would have intervened, yet paid them no mind. They were enjoying it.

Ignoring the other customers he made his way to a solitary table and with a brief look of distaste at its condition he took a seat. The one candle provided gave him little light to observe the area around him, yet he did not mind it. It kept his face somewhat concealed. That was what he needed. Not to draw attention.

Gingerly he leaned back in the wooden chair, half afraid it would collapsed beneath his weight. Seconds later a young waitress came to serve him. She was a pretty little thing. Red hair, green eyes, from what he would make out. Suddenly he found himself imagining long brown silky hair and deep brown eyes. He shook himself mentally. He continued his assessment of the rest of her body.

Quite tall, possibly she came up to his chin,large full breasts that almost popped out of her tight fitting bodice. Long lithe legs that would wrap around his body at passion's peak. Unbidden came the picture of firm hand fitting mounds that ache for his suckling. A small petite body that only came up to his shoulders. A body he ached to bury and lose himself in. The reason he suddenly had the most painful aching in his groin.

He marvelled at the way she seemed to control him.A mere slip of a woman, whom he'd only known a week. A very desirable woman, he'd concede that. Yet she seemed so innocent as he looked upon her gentle, flawless face. It baffled him that he should find that attractive. He made it a rule to himself never to involve himself with virgins or married women. Only widows, top mistresses and common wenches when he had the urge. Ofcourse he still was not even sure if she was indeed a virgin or simply playing the innocent. He almost grinned. He promised himself to find out.

This girl. No,woman he thought as he remembered her pressed against his body, her lips beneath his own. She mystified him. No ordinary thief, he though with a sudden smile. He wondered about her. Liz. An apt nickname. Yet what was her real name? Where has she come from? He had caught her in the heart of Florence yet her accent seemed more foreign. A combination of Italian and English, come to think of it.

Either way in that week he had been resisting the urge to sweep her off her feet and lay her atop his bed, and make love to her. All throughout the day and night. Savour every touch and taste. Wrap himself inside her and hear that siren's voice breath his name in ecstasy, as he reached his own completion. He'd never wanted anything more. And the most frustrating part was that he did not even know why.

Attempting to rid himself of the disturbing thoughts he turned his attention to the buxom woman who was standing enticingly before him, giving a look that he could not misinterpret. He had a mind to made use of her services yet he felt no need to be in her arms and anyway, he had more pressing matters to attend to.

"Vat vould you like?" she asked in a sultry heavy accented English. She apparently knew he was not French. He hated it when people could distinguish him as different. He wanted to blend in, especially to gain answers.

Giving her a strained smile he answered "I do no wish for anything. Merci" and tried to dismiss her. She moved, but not away, but to him, and pressed her pelvis to his side in a seductive way. He stiffened at her touch yet controlled himself enough not to move away. It would do no good to fire up her temper and get on the bad side of the inn. He could tell she had one by her red hair. A superstition but one he did not choose to test at the moment.

He choose to act the aloof rogue. He slowly looked up at her, his eyes not revealing his inner feelings, his face wreathed in a bedevilled smile. One that made any woman he set it on feel like putty. It proved to work once again, when he saw her eyes widen and a red flush creep up her cheeks.

Making sure she caught all his movements he raised his hand carefully and with his finger, lightly trailed it along the said of her breast and waist, down to her hips. She shivered.

"I mean it." he said softly, in a rich deep timber yet with a force that brooked no argument. For an instant she seemed unsure whether to go further or back off. She gave him a once over for the hundredth time. He had attracted her the moment he set foot in here and she hope to have that Adonis in her bed for a while. She looked back at his eyes and then suddenly decided against trying her luck. Who knew what that foreigner's business was here. It was better that he was not interested. With a shrug, she left.

Max relaxed back into his chair glad to have had that taken care off. After a minute of glancing around he slipped his hand in his front pocket and retrieved a gold watch. He checked the time. Noon. He should be here by now. He wondered what was keeping him. Then the door at the front opened again and a figure walked in. He glanced about before spotting Max, then walked straight towards him.

Max prepared himself, as the man took the seat opposite himself. For a moment there was total silence as they both studied each other.

"You be the Hawk?" he questioned cautiously. Max prided himself on his chosen name. It befitted a pirate and gave the impression of danger, which was just what he required.

"I am him." he answered . The man before him appeared to relax somewhat.

"That be good. I was afraid I gots the wrong man" he replied then straightened in his chair and looked ready for business. "What can I be of service of sir."

Max leaned in across the table and gave in an intent stare. "I am looking for man."

The man, who Max already knew as One-eared John. Not hard to miss, since he truly is one eared. It was rumoured that nothing happens here without One-eared John being aware of it. Max counted on that.

"What man be that?" One-eared John asked.

"Italian man. Rich. Pretty face.Was here about a year ago. People call him Disomano." he said, then waited for second till One-eared John digested that piece of information. "What do you know about it?"

One-eared John appeared to be contemplating then, "I heard of such a man....but I don't know if I ever saw him....." he said very slowly. Max refrained from rolling his eyes. He reached into his pocket and threw out two gold coins. One-eared John's hand shot out and collected.

"Well, now that you mention it I believe I do remember a man like ye describe. He was all noble like, that he was. Had the coldest stare that would freeze a man in 'is boots, that he will. I remembers he be here on business. Stayed no more than a few days....." he trailed off looking like he could not remember anything besides that.

Max, impatient, reached again into his pocket and threw him another two coins, which he swiped even faster than the last two. He smiled in satisfaction and Max witnessed a mouth with back rotten teeth.

"No one knows what 'es been doin' 'ere. He was all private like. 'Is crew were real talkative. 'specially after a whole bottle 'o Whiskey." he chuckled to himself. "They says he was in one awful hurry to git outta...England..yea England, that be it." he appraised Max with a compatriots wink. "Sounded mighty fishy ta me, but me I don't care, only ta make me sum cash." He shrugged, and Max sick of the game, threw him another two.

One-eared John smiled gratefully and swept them away. 'Probably going to buy himself more of that Whiskey' Max thought with disgust, smelling the scent on him.

"Anyhow they have a few more drinks an' the only thing they says is that their captain says theys going home to wherever country theys'-" but before he could continue a loud commotion sounded outside. Everyone in the place stood and rushed out to watch the scene.

Max growled at the interruption and rose to inspect what the trouble was. He was angry as he made his way out the door. He had been so close to finding out some valuable information. At least he knew where he is now. He was furious by the time he pushed through the crowd to witness what was going on.He glanced back behind him to see where One-eared John was. He had disappeared. Max swore forcefully.

He boiled to a rage when he witnessed a group of drunk men laughing and molesting a hysterically screaming, soaked Liz.

posted on 17-Feb-2003 4:29:42 AM
Part 22

Max felt his breathing grow shallow, his chest too constricted with rage to breathe properly. He watched with a predatory eye as the crowd grew larger, drawn in by the spectacle. He watched Liz as she twisted and turned within her molesters' grasps.

He felt rooted to the spot, afraid that if he attempted to move he would charge like a beast and tear them apart. He took a deep breath, steeling himself for control, knowing he had never felt so violently about anything before. It unnerved him greatly, and he didn't even know why. His breathing grew laboured. He knew he was wasting precious seconds.

Yet he took a moment to compose himself. For as much as he wanted to rip those bastards' hands off from her body, his first impulse was to push them away and strangle her. His second was to drag her away and show her how a real lover performs his seduction, leaving no room for hysterical behaviour. He shook his head, sending those thoughts away.

Questions bombarded him. How did she get here? what was she doing here? how did she even manage to get herself in this situation? He didn't stop to think of answers. He'd rescue the troublesome wench from their clutches, but he wasn't sure she'd be safe within his. He was that furious.

The grab of one of the men's hand to her breast and Liz's outraged shriek snapped him out of his stupor. His eyes narrowed and glittered dangerously. His hand on the handle of his rapier, he forgot his inhibitions and charged ahead.

He pushed his way into the crowd making his way to the center. Without further thought he marched to the most threatening of the men. The one who had his hand on her breast. He would indulge in shock and scolding later. He had never gone to any kind of battle without a plan. Hell......right now he didn't know how many of the thugs there were. His mind only on Liz. As soon as he was within reach, he made for the man most menacing to Liz's safety.

Liz cried out in fear and outrage when the horrible man grabbed her breast. He squeezed, rough and hard. Liz gritted her teeth, shuddering at the touch. Max's touch was nothing like this.

Liz froze for an instant, blinking rapidly. She couldn't believe that she was fighting for her life and all she could think about was how Max touched her. More in shock, she couldn't believe she could think that in any situation.

The thought of him unexpectedly brought tears to her eyes. She suddenly wished he was here. Looming, large and masculine. He would keep her safe. She wouldn't have minded so much to burrow herself in his strong arms. A shocking thought. She must be too delirious with fear. Yes that must be it. No wonder she couldn't think straight.

She could not believe how she got into this mess. She had successfully jumped overboard and began to swim to the other side. Freedom with her reach. Then, curse her bad luck, a nearby ship had spotted her and sent a rowboat after her. It held those brute, damn them.

Praising themselves for "saving her life". Liz snorted inwardly at that. She tried however to play it out by pretending gratitude and bidding them good day.
"Gentlemen I cannot thank you enough for your rescue. If you had not come in time I do not what would have happened to me. I could have died." Liz had trilled in a maidenly despairing voice. The men had puffed out their chest and smiled smugly.

Yet her plan was not destined to succeed.

After a closer perusal of her person, the look in their eyes darkened and lit with lust. Liz swallowed in dread realizing belatedly that she was a woman, alone, and her dress was clinging to her like a second skin. She knew without a doubt what they had in mind. Her panic rising she attempted escape, yet she was outrun, outnumbered, and outweighed. She ended up being hefted like a sack of potatoes on one of their shoulders.

She couldn't help but remember a time when she was in a similar position, when she had begun her so-called adventure. Max's shoulder was definitely more appealing that the present one. The previous one had smelled musky warm and masculine with a hint of soap, while this one smelt like whiskey, fish and a heavy body odour. Liz opted to breathe through her mouth.

She then caught herself. She was being kidnapped again and about to be raped, and here she was comparing shoulders. Liz almost rolled her eyes.

While struggling she heard them discuss the more suitable comforts of an inn bed than a cabin for her to "repay" them. Managing to kick her holder in the stomach as a last desperate attempt to break free only served to earn her a throbbing toe and a smack to her backside before he secured her legs so she wouldn't try anymore tricks. Her pounding fists at his back went unheeded. She doubted he could feel them at all through that thick muscle. She stopped after they began to ache badly.

At the moment being dragged into the street towards a convenient inn as she was, she decided resolutely not to go down without a fight. So, as they did not take the time to gag her she began to struggle anew and opened her mouth to scream at the top of her lungs. The men stopped in their tracks startled by this turn of events, stricken by the awful scream erupting from her. Obviously they did not count on handling a shrew.

People stopped and stared, some staying put to watch in curiosity, some torn, not knowing if this was a distress call or not. Liz regained her breath and sent another scream. This time in utter frustration. What are these people doing?! why won't someone come save me?
The men tried to subdue but it was as if a demon possessed her. She would not surrender to them. To anyone.

She was thrown off the shoulder and grabbed again in an attempt at more forceful domination. She was acting like a she-cat but she knew compared to them her efforts were puny. She knew they had figured that out when they started to laugh. They moved in to crowd her. The brute holding her reached up and gripped her breast. His face was then inching towards hers.

Liz drew back in disgusted horror, realizing that he was about to put his filthy mouth on hers. Quickly she sent a silent prayer, asking for help. For a saviour. The sailor squeezed her breast, she cried out. His face was inches from hers. She closed her eyes in expectant defeat.

Then she was let go. He eyes opened in the momentum and she watched as he was thrown away from her savagely. He landed on his back and a pair of black boots moved to stand over him. Liz's gaze moved up the boot-filled calves, the strong thighs, to the flat belly and muscular chest. Before she reached the beautifully corded neck she knew who it was.

Her body vibrated with the knowledge. When she reached that oh so familiar face, she felt like fainting, in relief and so as not to see that ferocious look on his face. Then their eyes met. Liz wasn't sure but she thought they softened a bit. Must have been her imagination because they grew hard and cold so suddenly Liz wished she could just disappear into thin air.

It was with a feeling of relief to find out that the brunt of that look was not on herself. The fact that as soon as the look returned he twisted to glare at the groaning man on the ground, tipped her off. Suddenly she was feeling exhilarated. Her saviour had come, and it was even more welcoming in the form of Max.

Max had the most intense urge to howl. He watched as the sailor moaned and rolled onto his hands and knees, slowly rising to his feet. He swayed. Drunk. Typical. He won't have the satisfaction to challenging the man sober but in the current situation he couldn't complain. He would be easier to take down. If his friends didn't interfere.

"What the 'ell" Rafe growled as he shook his head in an attempt to clear it. So Rafe was it...he though when he heard his companion ask him if he was alright.

"Stand up Rafe. You're about to regret your actions today." Max's deep threatening voice echoed through the hushed crowd. From the corner of his eye he saw Liz swallow. He would deal with her later. After a short examination with his eyes, though he imagined his hands and lips there instead, he was satisfied that she was virtually unharmed.

Rafe looked up towards Max. Confusion clouded his vision then anger sprang forth when he seemed to realize Max was the culprit disrupting his entertainment.
"Just what the hell d'you think yer doin'" he moved towards him, meaty fists clenched, ready at any moment to connect with any part of Max's body.

Max seemed unconcerned, "I was maintaining what was mine." he replied darkly, sending him a dangerous glare. Rafe still looked confused after a moment, but when he glanced at Liz his face cleared.

"Don't tell me yer talkin' bout this wench 'ere," Rafe waved in her general direction while chuckling,"If she's yours mate then why aint she with you?" he continued with a smug look. His friends cheered him on,probably awed by his 'intelligence'.

Max glanced at Liz and he thought he saw her wince. Good. He raised an eyebrow at Rafe. "That 'mate' is none of your business." He said that in such a condescending tone that it rankled Rafe. He snarled his anger.

"You do what ye want with yer business, the wench is mine." he stated and made to grab Liz once again. Max took a threatening step forward while Liz reflexively stepped back from Rafe's hand,

"I wouldn't touch her if I were you."

"Well ye aint me." he replied and he and his friends broke into drunken laughter at his retort. Perhaps his first ever smart one. While he was drunk at that. Max moved like a cat and deflected his hand with his own when he made to grab her again.

Rafe growled and in a rage turned to aim a fist at Max's face. Max successfully ducked out of the way and aimed his own clenched hand at Rafe's side. He stumbled back and groaned in pain but rallied and retaliated by swinging his arm out as he turned and hit Max in the shoulder.

Max twisted on impact but didn't cry out. He would betray no sound of pain or weakness. Steeling himself he launched himself at Rafe with a swift right hook to the nose. Rafe's head snapped up and blood began to spurt from his nose. With a yowl he charged at Max.

Max being lighter and swifter on his feet easily dodged the oncoming charge and waited till Rafe turned back around, black with rage. He did, and when he made his way at him again Max extended his foot in a kick that sent Rafe stumbling over along with the momentum and onto the ground once again.

Now oblivious to anything but Rafe Max made his way to him, waited until Rafe regained his feet before bombarding him with a series of hard punches.
"This is for being a drunk" he aimed for his jaw. "This is for abusing the weaker" he hit his eye. "And this is for messing with what's mine" he raged and aimed at his abdomen sending Rafe stumbling back.

Being a big man however it didn't take long for him to regain balance. With the look of drunken rage he jumped onto Max, sending them both onto the ground. The crowd closed around them as they watched, cheering, the men tussle and struggle on the ground, rolling over trying to gain control of the other. Punches and kickes were exchanged. It was unclear who was being injured the most however.

Suddenly Rafe pulled back his leg and hurled a god-awful kick straight at Max's lower anatomy. Max's couldn't help his cry of pain as he rolled into a fatal position cupping his loins, trying to lessen the pain. Rafe laughed and got to his feet. Blood smeared his face and he appeared to have a broken nose and swollen eye. In any event he looked much worse than Max. He deserved it the bastard. Especially for playing dirty and gaining an unfair advantage on Max. It was pathetic, and a failed testimony to his strength and whatever honor he had.

Without another thought he had turned his attention back to Liz and with a leer made his way to her. Liz couldn't move from the shock, and her own sudden pain at seeing Max suffering. Especially because he had tried to save her. He was lying there and it was all her fault. She was too oblivious to Rafe's intentions as she watched him approach because he mind was still on Max.

She didn't even realize the crowd had hushed. Rafe had barely touched her because there was the sound of ripping wind and a hissing sound.Wonderingly Liz saw Rafe freeze. She turned her head.

Max was but a foot away. His deadly rapier drawn and aimed directly at the back of Rafe's neck.

Part 23

The stillness was prominent as the crowd their breath in anxious anticipation. No one expected such rapid recovery. Half the men had unconsciously placed their hands on their lower area as a sympathetic gesture. Liz blinked several times in breathless awe. She looked upon the magnificence of Max standing before her. His feet planted wide apart, strong thighs and calves encased in tight fitting trousers. The billowing, half open shirt showed off the wide muscular expanse of his chest. The fabric was stained with blood but it did not thing to lessen his appeal. When she reached his face she gazed at the beautifully windswept and tousled dark mane, the sensually sculpted mouth that was compressed in a tight unyielding line. The powerful jaw locked with tension and his dark glittering eyes breathing amber fire.

He took her breath away.

Rafe appeared frozen to the spot. His eyes grew wide, his pupils dilated wildly. His lips looked suddenly parched and beads of sweat began to appear on his face. His hand trembled where it stopped, only a hair's breadth away from her arm. His Adam's apple bobbed in convulsive swallowing as he and the rest of them waited for Max's next move.

"Turn around." Max's voice was low and dangerous. His hand on the rapier never moved. Rafe hesitated only a second before complying. Slowly he turned. The rapier never moved, and as it was at the back of his neck when his back was to Max, it now hung in the air before him, the tip right at the center of his throat as he faced Max.

The crowd grew even more hushed if possible. Because they knew, as Max knew, as Rafe knew, and as Liz knew that one slight tremble with a twist in the right direction, the tip would neatly pierce him. So Rafe stood as still as a statue.

Max never wavered. He spared a glance at the people around them and wanted to roar at them and send them scuttling to their houses. This was not entertainment to bring into their useless and boring lives. Rape and death were nothing to so candidly observe in anticipating awe. But then he dismissed them with a blink of an eye. He truly did not care who was there at the moment. All he could think of was that he now had the chance to rid the world, and himself, of one more vermin.

Yet, mused with disgust, he would rather leave that pleasure to the greater power. That scum did not deserve to die at his hand. In Max's eyes, his crime today was too great.

A logical thought, yet even then the fire within him burned and roiled, sparking the devil within him. Seeking gratification. Revenge, for what he'd done to Liz.

Without further thought Max's upper lips curled back in a snarl, his teeth glinting in the sun. His eyes mirrored steel. As if in slow motion his arm began to pull back. Rafe's expression slowly changed from fear to relief. But then it immediately changed back to terror, because as soon as the rapier's tip left its mark at his throat it began to return with a vengeance.

The crowd gasped in anticipation of the killing they were about to witness. Rafe's eyes shut, so he would not watch the sword that would seal his fate. And then it happened, swift as the wind. The rapier ripped through the air and with a hiss of tearing cloth it slashed from above his knee to his inner thigh.

A heartbeat passed. Then the crowd grew confused as they observed Rafe still standing, eyes shut tight. All they could see was the tear in his pants and blood gushing out.

Rafe stood still, wondering if he was dead, or if in his fear the moment simply stretched too long. But then nothing happened. His eyes snapped open and he saw Max standing a little away from him, his sword at his side. He glanced more carefully at the steel that was to sink itself within him. After a closer inspection he noticed a red substance dripping from the tip.

Immediately he looked down at himself, and finally saw the rip from the knee to his inner thigh, where a steady flow of blood seeped out. The painful sting finally registered then and he winced and looked back up at Max's hard expressionless face.

His buddies stood at the dies unsure and in conflict with what to do. They watched their friend face his opponent and they knew there was nothing they could do for now. Their mouths hung open in awe of the fact that Rafe was still alive. They had no idea what to do.

"Next time I do this, make no mistake," Max stated ominously, "my rapier will sink deeper and not stop there."

It took Rafe a moment before he recognized the threat to his lower anatomy. Humiliated and outraged he spied his friends in the crowd.

"Well?What are you waiting for? Get 'im!" He yelled and they jumped a foot in the air, then grasping what he demanded of them, clenched their fists in the air and began to advance on him.

Rafe regained his control and fisted his own meaty palms, ready to bash the bastard's skull for the ordeal he put him through. He was not afraid of him anymore. His rapier was not on guard and he had retaliated quickly enough so as not to give Max enough time to issue more threats or warnings. He doubted he could take him and his friends all on at the same time.

"No!" Liz screamed. Oh god no. This was not the way it was supposed to happen. It was all going to fast. Max beat Rafe. Rafe and his buddies were supposed to slink away into the shadows deeply humiliated and chastised. And then....and then......well she really didn't know 'what' then. Attempt to lose herself in the crowd and escape, and chance facing others like Rafe or even Rafe himself? Or go back to the ship and face Max's wrath?...

It took her only a moment, but she knew she would rather face Max than have him get killed at this moment The thought sent a sense of despair within her that she chose not to question at the moment.

In a moment of impulse she launched herself in Max's direction, suddenly desperate to help him in some way. Only she was held back by one of the spectators.

"Now Lady, don't go doin' nothin' foolish. There ain't nothin' ye can do. Leave 'im be." he said as he tightly grabbed her arm.

"Let me go!" she yelled and struggled against his hold, but knew it was useless. He was right. Max would not benefit from her help. She was weak and puny. Max would have had to worry about her as well as those thugs. It was for the better that she leave him to work it out on his own, as much as that thought pained her. So she stilled. And prayed.

Max perhaps was foolish in what he had done. But somehow he could not regret it. He wanted to make Rafe pay. He wanted to pierce his flesh and watch his face contort with pain, and then become lifeless. He wanted him to never again do what he had tried to do with Liz. Liz. She was the only thing that had broken through his blood-lusted mind. And that was why he had stopped at the last instant from taking a life. Because he couldn't kill a man. Not because it was not honorable to kill a defenceless man. Not because it would torment his soul, because he would gladly face such torment. No, none of those. He didn't do it, because Liz was there. Because he didn't want her to see something like that. Did not want her beautiful wide eyes to gaze at him in fear. Did not want her fair complexion to grow pale and drawn. He would not have her witness him commit a crime such as this. He couldn't stand that, and he chose not to think too closely on why. Today......he would be her hero once again.

As they approached he wondered if he should retain a measure of honour and discard his rapier and fight like a man, then thought better of it. Desperate times required desperate measures, and beggars really couldn't be choosers, especially when their lives were at stake. So he raised his sword and got ready. He might not manage to take them all on, but he'd be damned if he didn't go down before breaking a few noses and draw some blood. Preferably not his own.

As soon as they reached him, there was a sudden commotion and suddenly they were caught by the backs of their necks and flung back onto the ground. Max stared at Michael and his crew as they stood there. Then he smiled and bowed graciously, ignoring the pain in his bruised ribs. Michael smirked and returned the bow. They looked as if they did this every day.

"Trouble Maxwell?" Michael asked casually.

"Now where did you get that idea?" Max replied.

The fight only lasted a few moments. Max and his crew emerged victorious.

Liz breathed a sigh of relief and thanked the Heavens for answering her prayers. As she wished, Rafe and his buddies slinked away into the shadows. Throwing her inhibitions to the wind she sent Max a most dazzling smile, grateful more than she'd like to admit that he was alive and well. Max looked at her, his eyes boring into her with their intensity. Then he scowled darkly and Liz swallowed nervously. Uh-oh she was in for it, she knew.

When he strode over to her and grasped her arm she did not resist. Infact she revelled in his touch no matter how much she tried to deny it. His palm was large, warm and very very much alive. That was all that mattered at the moment. They spoke not a word to each other although Liz had the distinct feeling that he would be saying a hell of a lot in time. She had the urge to grab him and repeat over and over again how sorry she was, but was wise enough to know that she should keep her mouth shut at this particular moment.

Max was glad that she said nothing, because right now he had so many angry things to say he couldn't even say them. And if she started talking then he would surely strangle her and then all those words he wanted to say would go unsaid. That would not do.

All he wanted to do at the moment was head for his cabin, tend to his wounds and lose himself in the oblivion of sleep. Because the pain from his bruised body could not compare to the sudden pain in the suddenly swollen part of his body. He did not understand it. It was incredible. He had just come out of a beating and as soon as he grabbed her arm all he could think about was losing himself in the oblivion of her.

Luckily no one in the crowd decided to call the magistrate so they made a quick escape back to the ship with no mishaps. The crowd of people had cheered and congratulated them on their victory. Max did not spare them a second glance and hurried Liz along with him.

As soon as Michael's feet hit the deck of the ship a whirlwind launched itself at him and had him stumbling back a few steps, almost falling backward over the said. His arms instinctively wrapped around Maria before she could do further damage to any of them. He was immediately attacked with wet yet passionate kisses that endeared him to her.

"Oh Michael Michael Michael I am so glad you're back!" Maria exclaimed. Michael smiled smugly.

"You have to help me find Liz she fell overboard but she didn't drown because I saw her swimming in the opposite direction though god knows why she would be doing that but I'm afraid that something must have happened to her I tried to get the crew to help but they couldn't find her anywhere when they went in the rowboat and I've been waiting for you to get here forever we have to find Liz she could be hurt or dead or....LIZ!" she did not even bother taking a breath before she entangled herself from Michael's arms and rushed to where Liz was getting over the side and hugged her tight. Michael scowled.

Liz felt so guilty as she returned Maria's hug. Maria thought that it was an accident and that Liz never meant to escape. She did not want to lose her friendship and so she decided not to confide in her that her true motive had been to run away.

"I am well Maria, do not worry yourself. I faced some trouble but Max found and saved me. He was hurt but I am quite grateful for his timely help." Liz tried to placate her . Maria gasped at that piece of news. but before she could demand more details a deep voice interrupted her.

"Yes, and because she is so grateful, my dear Liz is going to aid me in tending to myself, are you not?" Liz whirled her head to see Max standing by the rail his hands crossed over his chest as he leaned back. He cocked a brow when she did not answer immediately.

"Y-yes that is so," she replied without thinking, then her eyes widening at what she just implied. Max's lips quirked up, a visible telling of his amusement that she had not even registered what he said before answering. But he was by no means complaining.

Liz could not believe that she just agreed to take care of him. She was outraged. Taking care of him meant undressing him, cleaning his wounds, heck perhaps even tucking him into bed. She watched as he started walking towards her and observed the almost unnoticeable wincing every time he moved, and Liz immediately felt contrite. He had suffered so much because of her and this was how she repaid him? By feeling outraged that she take care of him? she would have to remedy that. She owed him that atleast.

Max neared her and without pausing raised his arm to softly grasp her upper arm. His fingers caressed where he touched and he felt Liz shiver slightly. He looked into her eyes so see them beautiful and wide. Not in fear. And that absurdly, pleased him greatly.

"Let us go" he said softly and she nodded dazedly. As if on a cloud she allowed him to propel her down the steps and across the hall to his cabin. When he opened the door, already there was a steaming tub of water waiting for his aching body. His crew worked fast, he'd credit them that.

Liz snapped herself out of her dream world as soon as she saw the tub. She knew it was for Max but she could not help the sinful thoughts that arose from their last encounter with a tub. She glanced apprehensively at Max and saw his gaze directed at her. He was remembering too. She could see it in the slight darkening of his eyes. Strangely enough it did not frighten her at the moment.

He moved quickly infront of her, and Liz gasped as he loomed, all masculine above her. She craned her neck to look at him. Their eyes caught and held. His golden pools mesmerized her, drew in like never before. They asked questions which her eyes answered. Questions she did not understand, answers she was not aware she was giving. She was drowning and it felt amazing.

"Undress me." He commanded softly. Liz blinked startled at the request. Undress him?...she couldn't possibly....

"You promised to make it up to me...undress me." he commanded again, just as softly yet more forcefully.

She forced herself to relax. She could undress him. He was hurt after all. All he wanted to do was have a bath....and so she slowly reached trembling hands without further protest to his already half open shirt. Nervously she unbuttoned the last two buttons and swallowing hard moved her hands up his chest in a bold move and over his shoulders, sending the fabric to fall to the floor. She heard him moan softly and looked up to see his eyes closed as if in total bliss.

And suddenly, she felt powerful. It was like nothing she ever felt before. The shy good daughter Elizabeth realized that she held a sensual power over a strong and handsome man and it was a heady sensation. Growing bolder she spotted a darkening bruise on his chest and rose on tip toes to run her lips on it very softly. Max hissed his pleasure, his eyes snapping open in surprise. Liz could do nothing but stare back, incredulous that she could do that.

Max raised a hand to gently wisp her silky hair back from her face. Then before she knew it he moved away and started walking to the tub. As he did that he took off his boots and began undoing his trousers. When he got to the edge, Liz watched in horror and fascination as Max, as casual as if he was eating dinner, dropped his trousers over his hips down to his ankles and stepped out of him.

He was wearing no underclothes.

Liz stared in awe at the magnificence he presented to her, in all his naked glory. Her mouth dried and she wet her lips with her tongue. An unconscious gesture as she openly appraised his well sculpted buttocks. The candle light cast a glow over him that made his skin turn golden and his dark brown hair shimmer in dark contrast.

She almost audibly moaned her disappointment when he raised one muscular leg and then the other and settled into the water. He sighed at the same time Liz did, and she was thankful for that cover-up.

It was terrible. It was unthinkable. It was sinful. And Liz did not care, about anything else, when Max turned his handsome face toward her and requested she come bathe him. She could only obey. Picking up the sponge she sat by his back and slowly and nervously moved it over his smooth back. She noticed a few bruises here and there and went over them very gently so as not to hurt him. A she continued to knead his back her mind began to drift, and she could do was feel.

The texture of his skin was so soft yet so hard. It was a delicious combination. It made her dangerously want to keep on touching him. She kept telling herself that she was doing him a favour. That she was repaying him. But when he asked her softly to stop she knew it was not so. She was enjoying it. That made her blush as red as a beetroot and was thankful that she was behind him.

She wondered if she was supposed to move to the front and do his chest. Her heart pounding wildly , her pulse racing she shimmied into his line of view where he gazed at her with fire in his eyes. Liz swallowed. Sponge still in hand she began moving it over his shoulder and down his chest. Her movement automatic, her eyes still gazing into his.

She sucked in her breath when his hand moved to cover hers. She thought he would stop her, but instead he moved it with her. Together they bathed his chest . Then slowly began moving down to his stomach where she felt it jump at the contact of her fingers. They kept looking into each others eyes. Their hands moved lower. And stopped.

Liz's eyes widened. She felt him grow restless, felt his breathing grow faster.Her gaze moved down to his lips. They were parted looking so moist and delicious she wanted to feel them on her own. Suddenly she wanted to kiss him. Needed to kiss him. To feel him like she had felt him before. Intimately. Her mind grew foggy as the palm of is hand underwater caressed her own hand and arm. Her was driving her insane.

She was dizzy. He face was growing flushed. Her breathing more erratic. And that dampness between her legs was there once more. Max's eyes also moved to her lips. She watched his head grow closer, and closer, until their lips were only inches apart.

Suddenly Max's hand underwater gripped her arm fiercely and at the same time yanked them both up. He stood in the tub while she beside it. Things were going crazy. He was supposed to be angry at her, punishing her for her folly, locking her in her room until she learned some sense, shaking her until she learned never to do it again. But instead he had heard what she told Maria. His desire for her was still great then, and he had jumped at an opportunity like a lust-filled stallion on an unsuspecting mare. She was supposed to be helping him with his wounds. She was supposed to be awe struck by her attraction to him, and realize that she wanted him as he had wanted her to do. But, he realized, he was under her spell as much as she was now under his.

He gazed into her eyes for but one more moment. Her deep brown eyes said it all. He pulled her savagely to him and his lips descended on hers.

Everything around them exploded.

Part 24

Or so it seemed. Yet it was how it felt like. The world crumpled into a thousand pieces and only Max's lips and tongue existed as they created havoc within her mouth. Usually so hard and unrelenting, yet so achingly sensual, these lips, she was surprised to note, where soft and firm. As soon as his mouth touched to hers she could not attempt reason to save herself.

It was wrong. Oh so wrong. These shocking tingles down her spine. These lips crossing gently with hers. Yet like any sword play between her and Max, his skill and expertise in the art of loving would deem him ever the winner. She attempted to resist. Tried to detach her mind from her body and summon up enough strength to push him away. It was as if he sensed her thoughts, but to her amazement he did not venture to hold her captive. Instead his mouth moved more firmly on hers as if trying to lock their lips together as one so she would not escape.

It was tempting but she knew this was too illicit, too sinful. Yet oh so wicked. And daren't she say again, oh very tempting. But she was resolved to end this. It was not right, so she steeled herself and started to pull back. And that was when Max's tongue leaped out and lasciviously trailed across her bottom lip. Liz froze as the unexpected move brought shivers to her body, inviting her to respond kind. To give in.

Oh so Tempting. Jerking her head back her lips were released with gasp. She did not know how much she needed the air till that moment. Did she not even realize that she was not breathing? Could she have died from a kiss? A simple More than simple, for right now, nothing was as straightforward and 'simple'.

Her breathing was quick and shallow as she tried to regain her balance. It was then that she realized she was standing at the edge of the tub with Max's powerful, and very naked body standing in it. His hands still gripped her arms, yet she doubted it would leave a bruise. It was a firm but caressing touch. Gliding across her skin enveloping her in a strange warmth. She also realized that she breast to breast with her seducer. Her gaze shifted involuntarily to where their bodies barely connected.

She did not know a chest could look so erotic. It glistened golden, tiny dew drops shimmered on a broad chest. The muscles were made to fit his skin. Not an ounce more or less. So perfect. She recalled how she had glided her hands across it, feeling the surprisingly soft and taut skin. The wetness only served to heighten the feeling as her palm easily slid over it wonderingly. Almost caressingly. She would never admit outloud just how much she had enjoyed that.

And now, being so close to it again. Watching it rise and fall with his every breath. That seemed as fast and shallow as her own. Fleetingly she she thought with pure feminie satisfaction, that he was just as affected as she. But then sense came back jarringly to her and she noticed they were still way too close for comfort. She also noticed that he had said not a word yet, had not attempted to draw her back to continue his kiss.

Feeling a strange fluttering in her stomach she allowed her eyes to drift upwards, over the mouth that was slightly parted and miost from their shared fluids. Rather than distasteful it was deliciously appealing. So appealing she had the distinct urge to taste them again. But no...she forced her gaze up till she could meet his eyes. What she saw caused her to gasp.

Max's eyes, leaded with long thick lashes, that contrarily suited him, where half closed. And from what she could see his amber eyes were so dark and prominent against the whiter boarder.If magic truly did exist, Liz would say that a dark molten fire was churning within their hidden depths. She instinctively recognised passion, and she knew that this was a dangerous, dangerous moment.

Still he said nothing, and she held his gaze, somehow unwilling to look away. Confusedly she attempted to draw back so she could retain some measure of intelligent thought. She could hardly form an idea, as close as he was. Taking a deep breath that unexpectedly and startlingly raised her breasts, making them brush more closely at his chest. Liz flushed and abruptly jerked on the arm that was still held by him. His hand released her, and it fell to her side, strangely cold and numb without his heat.

Her feet felt heavy as she started to take a step back. Swift as a cat, and just as agiley Max took a step out of the tub and forward, pressing against her once more. Liz's eyes widened as water sloshed over the side and onto the floo, lightly splashing her gown. Slowly he raised the leg that was still in the tub and carefully brought it down to meet the first one. Liz alarminly took another step back, and he followed. Her hands raised to his chest, as if to ward him off. Her palms connected with warm flesh. The muscles beneath jumped at the contact and Liz heard his faint intake of breath.

Still no words were spoken. It seemed as if none were needed. Their bodies and instincts were comunicating to each other. It was not clear what was being exchanged, yet the feeling was there. Around them. And Liz desperately wanted to ignore it. But apparently he was not going to let her.

"Stop." she finally voiced. Her voice low and soft, not loud and indignant as it should have been. Not angry or outraged. From the look in his eyes, he knew that. Max gently leaned against her palms, bringing his face inches from her own.

"No." he whispered just as softly. Before she could form a reply, he brought his lips to her once again, in a gentle butterfly's kiss. An involuntary moan escaped her throat.That seemed to snap something within him. The kiss now no longer gentle. Instead his mouth started moving more firmly upon hers, his tongue sneaked out again and licked her lips, urging a response from her. She did not know what he was requesting. He seemed to understand her confusion and after a particularly intense lick at her bottom lip his teeth attacked it and bit into the tender flesh.

When Liz's mouth opened in protest his hot tongue immediately slid between and into the hot and sweet cavern of her mouth. He reveled in the taste of her.His sensitive tongue could feel and taste everything. In truth she tasted like any mouth would. Yet in his mind. This one was somehow different. She had a certain taste that attracted him sense of taste like nothing else. Perhaps it was his imagination but it was as if she had eaten some bittersweet fruit and he was sampling the clinging fragrant remains. It was so very addictive.

His mouth savagely ravished hers. His eyes closed in the simple esctacy of kissing. Never had the touch of lips to lips affect him so deeply. And now he could not have enough. He could feel her lips swell from his impassioned advances and he switched to a more gentle and deeper tactic. He found he enjoyed this more, for his mouth molded more closely to his, his teeth intimately grazed hers, his tongue delved deeply and langurously, gaining more knowledge of every tooth and crevice.

Her tongue lay immobile as she stood in shock at the intrusion. Unwilling to be the only one playing this game he began massaging the top of her tongue with his own, trying to illicit some sort of response. He could feel the battle going on inside her. Passion versus common sense. He intended that passion win over. So without further ado he brought his hand up and wrapped his arm around her waist and dragged her unceremoniously against him. The feel of her soft supple body as it molded against him drew a sharp hiss of breath him as he reacted violently.

He heard her gasp and swallowed it with his mouth.His arm tightened around her as he allowed her the leisure of feeling herself against him as he did himself with her. Her fingers spread across his chest and he reveled in that simple pleasure. Moving ahead he raised his other arm and encircled her body within his embrace, bringing her even more flush up against him. His eyes tightened in a gesture of pleasure.

Liz was absolutely shocked at she felt herself plastered against his bare body. She could feel damp spots on her gown from where he stained her. She could also feel however another spot growing increasingly damp and at the moment she was more intent on that particular one. It was so..wet and growing ever more so. The area down there was also giving her this deep ache that she did not know how to get rid off. It was giving her the urge to rub her legs together just to ease some of the pain. Or pleasure?...that thought was lost as soon as Max brought her against him and her throbbing center came into contact with his thigh. She almost sighed in relief if the sudden burst of pleasure did not interrupt.

She could feel his arms, iron bands around her body. Holding her captive. Though heaven knew, at that moment, at that sinful and wicked moment, she did not wish to escape. On their own volition her arms began to creep up his forearms, tracing his well built biceps, leaving bumps in their wake. Slowly and innocently sensually they moved up to his shoulders and entertwined around his neck.

His mouth devoured hers in the truest sense. Liz was in thrall. Sparks of pleasure shot within her as the kiss turned wild and as she did, and began to respond passionately and eagerly to his carnal touches. She thought at any moment she would combust, she found, with frustration. But frustration with what? And then he surprised her once again. His hips began to rotate erotically against her sex and Liz disattached her lips from his and threw back her head in a silent gasp.

Her throat lay exposed to Max and he took the opportunity to fasten his mouth to her neck. He showered fevered kisses all over and then located the pulse that was going a mile a minute and began to nip and suck hungerily, as if he was attempting to penetrate the skin and consume her.

His hands started to move up from around her waist, and up towards her rib cage. Liz knew what was coming. And it thrilled her. She could feel her breasts grow heavy with need and her nipples hardening against the fabric of her dress. They needed release, they needed something. They needed his touch and Liz arched her back uninhibitedly in urgent pleading for what only he can satisfy.

His hands moved up and paused at the underside of her breasts. His mouth moved down to hte hollow of her throat and between her collarbones where he distributed his heated kisses. And as she waited in impatience for his fingers to move those final inches, his hands slid to the side and skimmed up and down the sides of her breasts, his thumbs barely brushing her aching nipples.

Liz's control suddenly snapped. She forgot convention, she forgot her long ago vow. Her eyes grew wild and her pupils narrowed. Her teeth bared in a hiss and her arms untangled themselves from his neck and grabbed at his own hands, forcefully shoving them up to cup her breasts. When his palms enfolded them, his thumbs moved over her nipples and rubbed them, causing her to sigh in relief and pleasure.

Her head lowered to gaze at him when his lips unttached from her body. He was staring at her. Triumph shining in his eyes. But she cared not. She had a terrible ache that was both pleasure and pain and she knew, just knew that he could soothe it for her. He stopped his ministrations and Liz almost screamed in frustration. She wanted to tell him not to stop, to help her. But she knew that if she spoke her need aloud somehow the spell that was woven around them would be broken, so she pleaded with her eyes.

Max sucked in his breath at the vision that stood before him, practically begging for relief. He knew what he was doing to her. For she was doing it to him too, and it pained him to stall what he would not wait to do, but he knew he could do nothing. Not yet. He could take her now, aye that was true. But he did not want to take her. He wanted her to give herself to him. Suddenly it was really important that she do. And not just so he could ease his own ache. His manhood grew even harder as he again thought of what lay just a few moments ahead for them. But no, he had to hear her say it. And so he stopped, and waited. She begged with her eyes but his own eyes asked for the words. He would wait all night long if he had to untill she said them......or perhaps not but that was beside the point. His patience, however much he extended, paid off.

"Please" he heard her say softly. He leaned forward until his forehead touched hers and he could feel her sweet breath across his face. His fingers swiftly tweaked her nipples through the fabric. She jumped and sighed.

"Please what?" he asked huskily. Say them, he demanded silently. There was a moment's paused where he feared she would not, then.....

"Help me" her voice was faint and pleading. He wanted her to say she wanted him. But hell....this was definitely close enough. Max moved his hands to her back and deftly began to unbutton the back of her dress while she waited with bare supressed impatience that he chuckled. As each button lay open, more delightfully smooth skin was exposed, and his hands reached inside to caress her bare back. She shivered and pressed against him. He growled. Reaching up he brought his hands to her shoulders and moved slightly back to peel off the dress.

Inch after exquisite inch was exposed to his hungry view. First the chest bones and then the tops of her high and firm breasts, and then the dark nipples popped into view and he almost sighed in relief after all that anticipation. He resisted the urge to rip off the dress and be down with it but slowly and gently releasedher arms from the dress and then allowed it dropped with a whoosh to the floor.

Liz was completely naked beneath. And now lay open for his appreciative gaze. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever encountered. Her body shone against the candlelight. The flames surrounding her in a ureathal glow, that accentuated the thrust of her breasts, the curve of her hips and the beautiful features of her eyes. They looked like melted pools of dark sand. He would gladly sink into their depths.

His eyes moved up and down, exploring the lean graceful legs, the flat belly and tiny waist. Her arms lay at her sides, making no attempt to hide herself. He looked into her eyes once more. She was looking at him. Her eyes were moving up his body, examining as he had done. He saw her halt for a few seconds where his manhood hung hard and proud in its nest of dark curls. He hoped she liked what she saw. He certainly did. He liked alot.

He stepped closer to her. "You're beautiful" he whispered and he had never meant anything more in the world. He saw her swallow and look up at him. Her eyes were bright, passionate and his excitement grew.

"So are you" she replied in a husky voice he had never heard before. He looked startled for moment as he registered what she said,then slowly began to smile. Never has a woman called him beautiful. They called him many flattering things, aye that was true, but now, this woman, whatever came out of her mouth fascinated him.

He could contain himself no longer. Closing in on the final inches between then he gathered her into his arms and started kissing her anew. He reveled when she kissed him back. Without another thought he bent and lifted her into his arms. Liz did not even seem to notice. Her arms came back around his neck and played with the hair at the nape of his neck. That simple action sent ripples of pleasure through him.

Striding briskly to the big bed he knelt onto it and deposited her gently onto the covers. When he straightened he took a moment to look upon her once more. Reclined on his bed as he had many a night imagined her. Now it was a reality. He gloried in it.

Liz almost burst into tears when he lay he so on the bed. It seemed so against his nature. But she should not have been surprised. He, after all, was nothing at all like her expectations. And he called her beautiful. She heard that word so many times before. But when Max said it. It meant something. And she was not lying when she complimented him. He was indeed one of a kind. And for now, he was hers. Gone were her maidenly concerns and ladylike outrage. She was a passion filled woman and she would never be content until she was sated. Her mind was too much like mush to take in what was happening. So she allowed her body to lead. Surely what her instinct demands could not be wrong. But......

And then Max was there again. Pressed against her, lying beside atop her on the bed, and she forgot her 'buts'. His fingers delved into her hair and held her head in place as he plundered her mouth again. She accepted with joy and treaded his own hair with her fingers. She sighed inwardly. She'd been wanting to do that ever since she'd seen it. It felt wonderful.

"I showed you one kind of pleasure before Liz," he whispered against her cheek, " now I am going to show you another." he kissed his away to her nose and pecked her eyelids. Liz remembered the kind he was talking about and blushed. She wondered briefly if anything could be as good as what he had done to her before.

"It will be rapture." he said huskily as if he could read her mind. And then he raised himself on his elbows so he could look into her eyes. One of his legs moved up and in between her thighs.Liz held them tight in sudden nervousness.
"Open for me my lovely flower" he asked softly. Liz hesitated for a moment longer."Trust me" he said. And with that....she parted her thighs. He moved in between them.

Liz stared down where is shaft lay on the bush of her that hid her secret treasure. When she had first seen it, it had fascinated her. She had never seen a real man naked. Tentively she reached out between their bodies and touched the tip with her finger. She saw it jump and felt Max go rigid. It was so hard, yet so smooth. Like steel within a velvet glove. And it was so big she suddenly realized with belated alarm, what if...

"It will work" he said, his tone humourous as if he could read her mind once again. Liz blushed and decided to say nothing. He had asked her to trust him. He was a pirate ofcourse so she would not truly trust him, but somehow in this matter, she felt that she could, and she did.

His hands moved to cup her face and leaned down to softly kiss her lips. He shifted. And Liz felt something entering her. It reminded her of his fingers that previoust time, except this time it was much, much larger. She tensed. Max stopped.

"Shh relax my sweet. It will sting at first but then....." he bent to kiss her again "rapture." he said again. She felt him start again . It was a strange feeling, being filled. It was not precisely painful but it was..odd. She looked into his eyes for reassurance. He smiled and collected her in his arms, raising her, and bringing his mouth to her breast.

Liz gasped at that unexpected move as his lips encircled her nipple and he nibbled and suckled, sending pleasure throughout her body. She almost reproved him for not doing that before. But as he moved to her other breast she forgot all and enjoyed. His hand left her face and ventured down to where their bodies connected. It all happened so quickly.

He looked into her eyes as he rose once again. His fingers pushed that familiar jewel that made her gasp. Ans he thrust deep inside her. The pain was quick and it hurt. Her eyes squeezed shut and she struggled against him trying to disengage him.

"Oh that hurt" she wailed " get off. Get off me." she pleaded and tried to throw him off.

"Shhshh sweet. Be easy, the pain will pass, the pass will pass" he crooned and started kissing her everywhere he could reach to get her mind of the pain. It seemed to work because Liz suddenly forgot it and reveled in his attention. His kisses delighted her and distracted her. In the back of her mind she felt the pain fade away, and then she felt something filling her to the hilt. It was......indescribable. Suddenly she realized that indeed he was inside her. Sheathed within her and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world. She forgot the world around her and surrendered to her feelings.

She looked at Max and saw that he had his eyes tightly closed, as if he was in agony. Gently Liz rasied a hand to softly trace the line of his jaw. Max's eyes snapped open and she saw the deep passion smoldering within and felt herself responding just as wildly once more. All those savage feelings in her rose once again and the ache in her center demanded attention. She shifted beneath him, wordlessly telling him to continue. She needed.....she needed....

Ahhh. Max pressed a hot kiss to her lips and moved his hips upwards and Liz felt him withdraw. No this was not what she wanted. She groaned in protest but only choked on a gasp when he entered her again. Oh the pleasure.

Max could not contain the hiss of pleasure and pain. She was so tight. Just like a glove. A hot and wet glove. The feelings were so intense he had to grit his teeth so he would not spill his seed like some youth with his first woman. It was amazing that this woman made him feel so. He could hardly contain himself. Cold hardly stay in control. He was always in control. But now.....he pulled out till only the tip of his penis remained within her and surged forth once again. He lost any grip on sanity.

And with that she was lost. Lost in a haze of passionate pleasure. She gripped Max's hair as he rose up and gripped her hips. And so it went. In. Out. In. Out. He thrust and Liz met him. At first it was slow and deep, but then Liz began feeling frustrated and strarted moving more desperately against him. Max took the hint and started moving faster. His hips pumped fast against hers. The feel of him moving in and out of her was exquisite. He filled her so completely, so fully.

"Oh Liz. Oh Liz" he repeated with each thrust. He was going wild. His shaft glided in and out and their groans and moans filled the cabin.

"Max" Liz breathed, instinctively following his lead in her innocence. He did not seem to mind that she was not an expert in this art. It only spurred him on. He was her first lover, he thought to himself. Sweat slicked their body and they slapped against each other. Liz's legs went around his waist as his pace increased as if to hold on to dear life.

And she was. It nothing like she had read in those forbidden books. Indeed in those there was much passionate voilence between the lovers. Too much frenzy. But this....she screamed when he hit a particularlly sensitive spot. This was beautiful. And then Liz felt it. The build up. Higher and higher. Growing in cresendo. It was unbearable. She was reaching for something. Soemthing that was just beyond her fingertips. Max brought his hand down again to her jewel and flicked it once. The heavens scattered across the sky. Liz screamed out his name.

Light flashed before her eyes and she felt the most intense pleasure of her life. The heaven's sand. Bell's rang. Just like in the books. Only it was so much better in real life. Her climax triggered Max's and she felt him pump a few more times savagely and then he grew rigid. His back bent, his neck arched. His mouth lay open, his eyes shut tight. And then he shuddered voilently. Her name hoarse on his lips. He collapsed on top of her.

They lay there for a few minutes, allowing the air to cool their heated skin. Liz was still floating in the realm of pleasure. Mmmm pleasure. It had sucha lovely ring to it. Without knowing it she reached up and threaded her fingers through Max's damp hair as they both regained their strengths. Now was not the time to return to reality. Nor was it time to face the consequences of what just happened. She would only think that she had the most amazing experience of her life. It was.....Liz searched for the right word as she felt sleep and exghaustion begin to claim her.

It was just as Max said, she thought sleepily, her eyes drifting close, her breathing becoming deep and even.

It was rapture.

posted on 17-Feb-2003 4:31:23 AM
Part 25

Sleep was no haven for Max. Unlike Liz who fell into blissful slumber. He raised up and looked down at her. She looked so peaceful thus. Long thick lashes rested upon smooth delicate cheeks, brows straight and relaxed, mouth curved upward. Softly he smoothed a lock of hair from her fair, dapm with perspiration. A reminder of what had occured between them. He smiled at the remarkable reminder and reached up behind his neck to disengage her arms from around him. Then he gently moved to the side and adjusted himself so that Liz's head rested on his shoulder and her body fit within the circle of his arms.

He marveled at that sudden thought. She moulded so perfectly against him it was as if her petite figure was made for his body. Never had he felt so with another woman, but htis woman. Ahh this woman had entranced him from the moment he had shoved that hood down. She had aroused in him a desire he never knew existed.

He could remember that first time when he got his first taste of paradise. When he got his first look at heaven. His little theif had responded so passionately he knew that that taste would not leave him sated for long. And it hadn't. It had simply wetted his appetite and he determined to have more.

But she had rejected him that first night and he content to wait. He put her to work. And he watched every move she made. He observed every graceful movement as she scrubbed and cleaned, and the look of those gentle hands working upon the deck was almost ludicrous. Yet he couldn't help but admire her stamina and pride. Even as she knelt on her hands and knees her back was rigidly straight and her eyes wide and defiant.

He smiled as remembered that confrontation when he presented her with her lunch. She reminded him of a furious little sprite. And quickly after that she had turned into a terrified one. He remembered it all too clearly. He had barged through her door just as he saw one of his crew memebers mount her, ready to rape her. His rage was fast and furious. He saw red and his control snapped. He had approached them, fury and pain whirling within him. Instead of brown cascading hair he saw shimmering gold, instead of petrified wide brown eyes he saw ocean blue with tears streaming down a delicate face. His vision grew distorted as he relived a day not so long ago. A day that cost him his sister. He charged towards them.

Later as he had held onto Liz all thoughts of the past vanished into the dark corners of his mind. All he could concentrate on was the slender woman that clutched him with terror, as he gingerly wiped away her tears. That moment when he was transported back in time disappeared and all he could think about was the here and now and the woman in his arms. After comforting her he had determindly gathered his crew around and threatened anyone who came near her would recieve one hunderd lashes and if Max happened to be in a foul mood then, a good beat up.The crew had heeded his warning after watching his demonstration on Hugh as an example.

But then there was the time after that. He was determinded to hold back and give her her space to recupricate from her ordeal. He contented himself with heated looks and fleeting touches to feed his growing hunger. When he had ordered that bath for her, it was all he could do not to rip her clothes off and join her in the tub. Instead he restrained himself to a sensual taste of her as he helped her out of her dress and to remind her of just how pleasurable it could be. With the right man. And he was that man.

She drove him crazy. And when he spotted her being molested by those men on shore he thought he would go insane. He swore to himself that she was sent to him to set the world off its axes and cause more trouble than she was worth. He almost laughed as he remembered. He should have been angry. He 'was' angry. But all that pent up anger and frustration and fear had erupted into a delirious fit of passion. And she had surrendered. It filled him with pleasure and satisfaction. She had responded and they had both felt the most unbelievable pleasure. He was sure she felt so. He made sure of it.

He had never been with a virgin before, but he knew well enough of the initial pain. He had made it one of his rules never to get invloved with virgins. But somehow, with this woman, it seemed the choice was not his. And to be truthful, this lack of control on his part disturbed him. Disturbed him very much. Frowning slightly he looked down again at the woman in his arms.

He was too restless. Gently he unentangled himself from her clinging arms and moved off the bed. Liz immediately moved, anxious to retrieve the heat that had abandoned her. Max moved away and stood. Liz shifted to his side and sought the remaining warmth of his body. Max lifted the covers more securely over her. Liz burrowed within their warmth and stilled. Max stood staring at her for a moment, his expression unreadable. Then he leaned over and smoothed back once again a lock of hair from her forehead and lightly kissed her temple. Turning away he then dressed himself in his shirt, breeches and boots and made his way across the room and made sure to shut the door softly behind him.

Once on deck Max noticed the stillness and quiet that was always there after the crew stopped lingering about. Grateful for that fact he made his to the rail and looked out to the inky painting before him. The sea below churned dark and deep in its depth, the night a cloak of shadow around him and the sky scarcely full of stars black and almost lifeless if not for those few twinkling points. The wind was warm as it blew and Max let his thoughts drift.

He tried to put them out if his mind. Every day and night he was reminded of why he was here and what he was doing, but he tried to not dwell to much. But now, after his physicaly exhausting encounter with Liz- he smiled briefly at that- he was not strong enough to stop the images as they flitted through his mind. He could remember the day as if it was yesterday. The death of his beloved sister. The betrayl of the woman he had pledged his heart to. All because of one man. The reason he was here. Disomano.

He wished for a moon he could howl is rage and pain at. He wished he could summon scalding tears for his loss. But no. It was not possible. He could not indulge. He was not Maxwell anymore. respected gentlman, charming, sensitive, soft and with a heart of gold. No. He was Max now. Pirate of the seas. Plunderer of ships and women's hearts. Feared, cold, hard and no longer with a heart. He was the Hawk as people called him. Watchful, strategic, ruthless, proud and always gets his killings. It was like tradition, every pirate had a name. His was the Hawk.

Disomano. Inhuman.

A hand laid itself upon his shoulder and Max was snapped out of his painful reverie. He realized then that he was gripping the rail until his knuckles had turned white in an unconsious effort to break it. His body was trembling with supressed emotion.

"Maxwell" he knew immediately who it was and relaxed slightly.

"Michael" Max greeted his friend without looking at him. He did not want even his best friend to see him in such a state.

"Don't let it trouble you too much Maxwell" Michael spoke, instinctively knowing what Max was thinking of. At other times Max found it amusing that they always knew what the other was thinking but in this instant it was very irritating.

"Trouble me? I do not have any idea what you speak of Michael" Max said in a light tone he hoped was decieving enough. But Michael was not fooled.

"Do not try and mislead me Maxwell." his tone was slightly reproachful.

Max sighed. " I know. Forgive me" he said in defeat.

" not let your hate consume you" Michael's voice was hesitant. Max suddenly felt incensed and angry and he jerked away from Michael's hand to spin around and glare at him.

"My hate is completely justified" he bit out between clenched teeth. Michael dropped his hand and gazed at him steadily.

"Aye I have no doubt it is. It is for me too. I was there remember?" he reminded him quietly and Max could say nothing to that.

"Then why make that remark?" he asked instead.

"We may have a purpose here and now Maxwell. To exact revenge upon this man for what he had done. To hate him for the crime he commited. But not to let it distort out life" Michael said.

Max gave him a puzzled glance. "You speak in riddles Michael. What is the matter with you? You talk as if I shall leap off a cliff in if it meant taking him with me" he tried for a light tone.

Michael only looked at him. "Wouldn't you?"

Max didn't answer directly. He pondered that for a moment. He wanted to say yes. He wanted to think of his sister and his ex-love. He wanted to think of the death and betrayl, but it was not so. Unbidden came the vision of Liz sleeping peacefully in his bed.

"No" he replied and he knew it was the truth, even if did not know why. Or did not want to know.

Michael looked surprised and Max bit back a chuckle. His friend expected him to be 'consumed with hate' as he had put it so much that he would sacrifice his own life to end another's. Perhaps at one time. But now, no more.

"Do not look so shocked Michael. I still have my common sense you know" he said, eyebrow raised.

Michael raised his own. " I was begining to doubt that. Thank god I was wrong."

Max suddenly turned somber. "That doesn't mean I don't want to inflict the worst torture upon him possible" he said omniously, then twisted around and gazed wildly at the dark horizon. "I want to kill him Michael. I want to kill that bastard" his fist connected with the rail but he was unconcious of the throbbing of pain.

The hand was there again on his shoulder. "I know Maxwell."Max spun back to face him."Do you Michael?Do you?Damnit!" he swore and threaded a shaking hand through his already ruffled hair, making them stand up to dishelved attention.

"We'll find him Max" Michael reassured quietly. "We'll fins him and we'll make him pay. Then we'll regather our faith in life, and live."

Max's mood suddenly changed and he looked at Michael with some amusement. "I say Michael, pray tell me where this newfound belief and love in life has come from" he oaused and gazed at him almost wickedly.

Michael only smiled slightly and shrugged.

"Ahhh. So that green-eyed spitfire has finally rode you to submission aye?" Max asked, oh so innocently.

Michael's eyes bulged out and he reddened. "I-I....that is to say-" but Max interuppted him with a wave of his hand.

"No need for apologies my good man, you may have kept me up half the night but I'm always a charitable person for a good cause" and he choked back his laughter as Michael turned into a choking beetroot. He waited for the coughing to subside. When it didn't his own eyes widened.

"Good God Michael you're really choking" he rushed to his friend's side and pounded him on the back, ordering him to bend over and take deep breaths. Still, he could not help an escaping chuckle. Michael looked up, eyes teary and glaring. Max backed away and raised his hands in surrender. Still he grinned.

Michael straightened and composed himself, " I trust you will go back to bed tonight and wake up in the morning completely refreshed and unaware of our present conversation...." he trailed off and looked at Max pointedly.

"Consider it done" he reassured, unable to keep that grin off his face. Then the mood abruptly changed as they suddenly both recalled what other conversation they had.

"You are justified Max in you cause, careful" Michael said softly into the darkness. Max turned away and tried to think it through but found he was suddenly too tired.

"Aye Michael. Worry not" he said, and when he turned around Michael was gone. Gone to his little spitfire Max thought humourously. And then his mind was filled of Liz. His own brave sprite. He grinned to himself all thoguhts of his revenge and pain gone. He pictured her in his cabin burrowing in his warmth and was all too eager to return to her and fall asleep with her in his arms. Strangely he knew tonught his nightmares would not come to haunt him. They would be vanquished as would gather her to him, rest her head on his chest and his chin on the top of her head.

He would inhale her scent and fill his dreams with her. A crazy thought but he paid it no mind as he strode off the deck, away from the darkness.


"What information do you hold for me?" Sean aske grimly as he studied his man of affairs who was standing uneasily, fidgeting and sweating. He was afraid. And so he should be.

"My lord, it appears the pirate and the lady had sailed out into the ocean sir" he paused to swallow " their destination is unknown...." he trailed off when Sean broke into expletives not even known to the common sailor. He shoved out of his chair and began to pace angrily.

When there was no other utterance from the man he turned on him and demanded impatiently" Well?" is that all?"

The little man jumped and almost scurried away like a frightened rabbit but he did not feel like he should risk it. For indeed he did have more news.

"N-no my lord, there is also another matter" he began.

"Well get on with it then" Sean stopped to glare.

"One of your ships was taken by pirates over a week ago" he said quietly, and waited for the explosion.

It came without further delay.

"WHAT?! am I hearing you right? Are you saying that one of my ships was plundered by pirates a week ago and no one has thought to tell me?!" Sean yelled and stalked towards him. looming, dark and furious. Almost a deadly look in his eyes.

"Y-yes my lord, I cannot say why it was not reported till now but-" he started but was cut off.

"I do not want excuses. Just tell me, who is it? Every pirate has a name they like to go by" he said grimly. "Who is it?"

The man of affairs swallowed nervously again before answering fearfully, "The Hawk my lord."

Part 26

The cheerful rays of the sun filtered through the porthole and shone upon the sleeping figures in good morning. None stirred as the heat warmed their bodies and the glare directed itself upon their faces. There were no birds to sing them to wakefulness and the ship fairly glided on the calm waters.

Liz shifted in her sleeping position. She could smell and feel the morning, but she was somehow unwilling to open her eyes to the new day. Indeed she only wanted to burrow deeper in the lovely warmth that surrounded her and fall back into contented sleep. Perhaps she could return to that wonderful dream she was having. It was slightly hazy now after she had awakened but she could still remember the particulars. Eyes closed, she blushed mightily.

She could not believe that her imagination could have such extents. Maybe it was those books she had read. Or the, and she was reluctant to admit, the most unfaltering attraction she harboured against the captain. Whichever it was it had given the most satisfying and gratifying illusion she could hope for about the deed. She knew without a doubt that her cheeks had just grown redder. Oh what scandalous thoughts! No proper lady would have the faintest idea of what Liz had experienced in that dream. Oh but what a dream!

If this was how it truly was then she could understand why some women forgot propriety and surrendered themselves to-as the 'ton' of the society would call them-the baser instincts. Truly it was both inaptly named and aptly names. It was just so...primitive, yet in a most-Liz giggled inwardly as she remembered a certain uttered word-rapturous way. However that wasn't really what she was most concerned about. It was the fact that she had dreamt her experience with Max that unnerved her. And suddenly he seemed even more dangerous than she first assumed. Liz forced herself to shut out the images of the soft seduction, the deep and lustful kisses and touches, and the final initiation.

When she could still see the images playing before her closed lids her eyes snapped open to dispel them. It worked ofcourse, because she promptly forgot about everything except what was right before her. But then, she was expecting the view of the wall, the porthole, the stool, and heck and definitely an empty and unoccupied side to her bed.

Which wasn't necessarily what she got. indeed, she found herself right smack at a solid breathing chest. A male chest to be exact as she gazed at the flat nipples that contrasted darkly with the golden tan of the rest of the flesh. How odd. Perchance she was still dreaming. Because whatever was before her eyes could not possibly be real.

It was then that she started to become more aware of her surroundings and her body. It seemed she was laying on her side, her hands bound before her in an unconscious attempt to huddle into the radiating warmth, her body pressed intimately with..something else that felt suspiciously like another body. But she didn't think about that. Oh not at all, she was too busy marvelling at the iron bands he could feel clamped around her back. Or at least he felt like bands, but Liz knew with sudden absolute certainty that those were just very strong male arms that, she guessed, were connected to that very male chest she was still staring at. Liz thought hazily that they felt rather nice.

It was like they wrapped her up in a warm cocoon that made her feel almost secure. Now she knew how butterflies felt. It was a most lovely sensation. Especially when that cocoon begins to rub your back softly and massaging. It sent tingles down her spine, and when she attempted to huddle closer the chest that she was imagining moved and a deep sigh reverberated around her. No, it was not her. She was sure of it. Because she saw that chest inhale and expand. Because she felt the hair at the top of her head move slightly. And most definitely because, that sounded most definitely like a very, very male sigh.

It took Liz a moment to digest what was. literally right before her eyes. She closed her eyes briefly, not even daring to believe. When she opened them again her fervent wish did not come true. That chest was still there. Liz swallowed nervously. Her hands clenched before her to stop their sudden shaking. No. Impossible. The heat that once suffused her cheeks now drained away. She wanted to touch it. To see her hand go straight through it. To prove to her body that what her eyes see is absolutely a mirage. An illusion.

Tentively she unclenched a fist and shakily started to reach out. She was both terrified and full of anticipation. It was a most uncommon combination. Her fingers burned as they neared their destination. Liz held her breath. Her palm landed, and Liz breathed in a sigh of relief that it was finally over and done with. That was, before she realized the implications. It was pure solid rippling muscle and warm smooth flesh. And definitely, definitely, not her imagination.

And just as quickly her sleepy haziness evaporated and her head was bombarded with various assaults or visual, physical and very emotional images that sent her body in a heat, her heart pounding and her pulse racing. But before they could cloud her common sense, her head assessed the situation. Her conscience leaped at her accusingly. What have I done?

In her bewilderment she shook her head helplessly. Max-she knew it was he like she knew her own self- groaned and his arms tightened even more around her. Any tighter and he would constrict her breathing. She could not go into hysterics now. She must stay calm. If only to preserve her peace of mind and dignity. Trying to separate her mind from her body so she wouldn't have to do battle with following instincts and staying in his arms or pulling away in anxious fear and righteous anger. She needed only her mind for this. She must take this one step at a time. Her brain was too addled at the moment to think straight and so she decided-belatedly- to move out of his arms for more security, and breathing space.

Carefully Liz glanced up beneath her lashes and what she saw caught her breath.

Golden eyes with fire within their depths gazed at her with such intensity that her own eyes widened in wonder as she was momentarily caught offguard. There was a brief silence were none of them spoke as their eyes locked in a strange dance of awe and battle.

"Good morning" Liz's eyes instinctively and without volition moved to his lips as the words came out, full of husky and satisfied sleep. Liz blinked when those lips turned up into a semblance of a smile. She did not answer as her thoughts frantically scattered around and all she could do was swallow.

The arms tightened around her and she let out a surprised gasp and her eyes flew back to his. Those amber pools were unreadable but it was very clear that he was awaiting a response. Taking a deep breath, or as much as she could manage, she opened her mouth not sure what will come out when she did.

"Your arms are too tight and I can't breathe" it came out so primly and yet so breathlessly, and she watched in fascination as he threw his head back, his neck exposed, and a deep and strangely musical laugh echoed about the room.

"Ah sprite, you are such a joy to wake up with in the morning" he commented and Liz blushed to the ends of her toes, not sure how to respond to that. Not sure she wanted to at all. Nevertheless he loosened his hold but did not relinquish it completely. Relieved, Liz moved away from him. Or as far as she could go, which wasn't far at all. But she was glad at the space. Silence once again reigned the room. And Liz began to feel very nervous, and apprehensive. Her gaze slid from his and shifted downward to avoid his penetrating stare.

It was then that his hands began a slow, almost sensuous movement up and down her back. She shivered as the pads of his fingers slid upon her bare skin. And then she froze.Because for the first time, she realized that she was naked. Her cheeks bloomed with intense colour and her eyes flew once more to his. Only to find him watching her with an almost devilish grin tugging upon his lips. As if he knew her thought exactly.

The hands now began to drift upward and around and Liz tensed as she realized what he was doing. Involuntarily she felt heat pool between her thighs and her blood surge through her veins. His fingers were sending delightful shivers down her spine and trailing little shocks over her skin wherever they travelled. And right now they were travelling over her ribcage towards her breast. Unconsciously she strained toward him, waiting for the final touch, much against her will.

In an attempt to struggle against those drowning emotions she squirmed and pushed away from him. She kicked with her legs and used her hands to push away from his chest. But that did not deter him in the least. His legs purposefully tangled with hers until he had them trapped between his own. His hands left their voyage and went ahead to grip her own hands and effortlessly lift them away from him to pin them over their heads.

Liz gasped in outrage and began to struggle in earnest, but Max would not give an inch. She stopped, breathing raggedly, and glared at him. Max had the audacity to chuckle at her helpless condition.

"Truly I find I fancy this situation very much" he whispered huskily and then pushed his muscular body against hers. Her breasts became crushed against his chest and the lower half of his torso fitted intimately with hers. Liz's breath hitched in her throat when she felt the evidence of his desire. She could not deny her own sudden pure desire as she recalled the pleasure she had experienced the night before. And a part of her, a wicked, very wicked part of her could not help but wish for a repeat.

But then the practical side of her resurfaced and she realized the folly of her thoughts.

"Let me go" she hissed and tried once again to escape his embrace.

Max looked at her for a long moment without answering. That short pause drained away her burst of angry confidence and indignation. Ofcourse that wasn't the only reason. There was also that look in his eyes again. Those flames were much stronger now. And they were burning straight at her.

Liz gulped. Max began to slowly and sensuously against her. The movement made his chest to graze her nipples over and over again causing them to stiffen to pebbles in response. Hid pelvis thrust into hers in a telltale motion, that was oh so familiar. His manhood pressed against her thigh. Hot hard and smooth as silk against the bare skin of her leg. Liz squirmed in growing arousal and discomfort. What was happening to her? It was as if she was growing drunk with the simple rotation of his hips in time with hers. Her body moved on its volition. She could not fight it. Now she knew for sure the night before was no dream of hers. It was real because she was experiencing it now again. And if that were possible, it felt even better than the first time.

At that time it was sweet, seductive, full of sensual promise. Now as Max looked down at her with savage hunger in his eyes and as their bodies strained and moved frantically against each other, it was different. More primal, primitive, instinctive. Passionate.

Lost in the heady drug, her head flung back and she gasped as they locked eyes once again. Satisfaction shone within the depths of his eyes. Before Liz could accumulate what it meant his head swooped down and he caught her lips in a deep intense kiss. Acting on instinct-her body to be exact- her mouth opened and Max's tongue wasted no time in claiming the sweet nectar of the cavern.

He thrust it in and out, in imitation she knew of the real act. Infact his hips were conveying very clearly what they wanted as they too thrust against her. His tongue then stopped and settled atop hers. Bewildered of what he was doing and feeling like wrenching her mouth from his and demanding to know why he was stopping, Liz waited impatiently to see what he would do next.

It was not long before it moved again. This time it began to massage slowly and sensually over her tongue, flicking it here and there. As if wanting to illicit a response. It came to a particularly ticklish spot and Liz's tongue snapped up to counter it, sending it away. The contact was shocking to her senses. But he came back with a vengeance, darting and thrusting while she finally got the hang of it and started to parry his blows. It was a savage duel. One she knew she was bound to lose. And the notion not bothering her in the least.

She was too caught up with the feelings he was evoking within her and she would be a prude and a liar, if she said she was not enjoying every minute of it. The hands that held hers so tightly slowly began to loosen, and were soon sliding down her arms and to her shoulders which were gripped as well. With her hands now free Liz gave no more thoughts off pushing him from her, instead they too travelled downwards to land atop his head, her fingers threading through his already ruffled hair. Heavens that hair was such a joy to ones touch. Her digits delighted in them and she cradled his skull within her palms abandoning all thoughts of horror and conscience.

In an instant she was rolled fully onto her back, Max's body weighing her down into the mattress. She revelled in the contact. His skin was hot and already perspiring as the air around thickened and grew hot. Liz gasped in dismay when Max's lips broke away from hers. Only it didn't last long, for they quickly latched onto her neck were he started sucking and nibbling, almost ravaging it as he attacked it with relish.

"Max" Liz sighed his name. Her grip on his hair tightened as he ministered to a most pleasurable spot. Max growled roughly and rose up to plunder her lips once again. Liz, lost , returned his actions with fervour. His hands moved from where they gripped her shoulders and journey downward, palms searing her flesh and before she knew it, they cupped her breasts and weighed them. Liz moaned in pleasure, her nipples stood out, her mounds heavy and aching with need. His thumbs grazed her nipples.

"Oh-oh please" she whispered on a hitched breath, not sure what she asking for but knowing she wanted it terribly.

"Liz, oh Liz" Max rasped as he broke away from her once more, coiled his frame, and before she could form a single thought,ducked his head and latched onto an aching nipple, lavishing his complete attention upon it. Liz keened and almost screamed with pleasure. His mouth was hot and wet, the suction hard but gentled by the occasional soothing flick of his tongue.

His hands travelled down to grip her hips and he ground his pelvis once more against her, as he switched his ministrations to the other breast. Liz's hands became restless and she moved them down his neck, over his shoulders, across his back, feeling the raw and smooth power emanating from his frame. Her body would not stop moving. She squirmed and then bucked beneath him. Wanting. Wanting. Pleading for what only he could give. Begging for the ultimate release.

Max appeared to have reached the end of his endurance as well for he raised himself up once more and claimed her mouth again. His knee thrust her knees apart, but Liz was not alarmed. He moved between her legs and settled snugly. As if in instinct, her legs rested themselves around his waist and her arms wound around his neck and held on tightly. Her body bucked up another time. Demanding.

Still lost in their kiss Max surged forward and sheathed himself within her. Liz's lips were wrenched away from his with bruising speed and she threw back her head to cry out at the deep fulfilment that came hand in hand with the mind blowing pleasure. The feel of him inside her then registered and she felt him stretch and fill her completely. Liz's eyes flew open and she found herself staring into his blazing eyes.

And then he began to move. Just like before and this time, Liz followed him completely, revelling in the emotion it evoked. Their bodies slid together easily with their combined perspiration. Their heavy and fast breathing filled the room. The coil at her core began to tighten. Their eyes never left each other. She felt herself swirling higher and higher. Ultimate pleasure just beyond her fingertips. She knew. And then the coil sprung loose. And she cried out. Exultant. Max expanded inside her and then shuddered mightily, his satisfied shout filled the room.

He collapsed atop her, burying his head in the side if her neck, breathing hard and attempting to regain his strength. Liz floated in the haze of pleasure for long moments before coming back down to earth. That was when it hit her. And her eyes widened in horror.

Oh Heaven above. What had she done?

She felt Max shift and sigh on her, and Liz's insides, once burning with heat now froze with fear. She felt Max's lips kiss her neck and she jumped at the contact. A deep chuckle vibrated against her and she almost sighed in utter relief when Max moved off and to the side. Trying to stop trembling she surged to the other side the moment his weight left her. But it was not to be. An iron hand gripped her wrist and was rolled back across to his side. Liz grew dazed for moment before being able to see straight.

Max's eyes were twinkling. With amusement.

"where did you think you were going?" he asked seriously but his voice was tinged with humour. Liz swallowed nervously but did not offer a reply. His upper lip curved and he lightly touched her nose with his finger.

"You do not have to play the shy maiden with me any longer" he said matter-of-factly with a smile. Liz recoiled from the touch as he said so. She could not bear the thought of what she had done. WHAT HAD SHE DONE?! She couldn't it was not her. She would never do such a thing. She was a virtuous lady. How could she have acted in such a...disgraceful manner? What had she done.

The action did not go unnoticed by Max and a frown immediately marred his handsome face.

"What is this?" he demanded and started to pull her toward him to draw her into his arms. Even after her shameful guilt Liz could not help the little devil inside her that whispered just how good those arms felt around her. But she gathered her strength an resisted with all her might.

"No, stop it" she ordered and strained against him, not willing to touch an inch of him. More for her own piece of mind than disgust. Max stopped and his frown turned into a scowl.

"What is the matter with you woman?" he asked roughly.

"N-nothing I simply do no want you..." she was going to say 'to touch me' but Max raised his brow in a way that appeared sceptically amused. Ofcourse it belied the sudden steel in his now shuttered eyes.

"How absolutely contradictory of you" he stated softly "When just moments ago you were begging for my touch". At that Liz flushed in shame and guilt. She started to tremble as she relived the past minutes. A lump rose in her throat and she made another desperate attempt to move away.

But Max held fast. His eyes slashed over her and she caught the first flash of carefully controlled anger before it disappeared.

"Well?" he demanded, his voice even softer. Liz was not fooled by his voice for a minute. "Do you deny you were aching" he moved closer "burning" and closer "exploding in ecstasy" he growled, his face only threatening inches from hers.

If it was possible the heat in her cheeks intensified. Could she deny it? Shameful she recalled everything. No. She couldn't. But she did not tell him so. Her silence was answer enough. it would be too humiliating to say aloud how much she enjoyed committing this pleasurable sin.

"Please, let me go." her lips trembled helplessly as she pleaded. Careful not to look at him.

"And what if I will not?" he countered and Liz was forced to raise her eyes to him. His expression was blank and drawn. His eyes no longer glowed, but glittered and she could not help the feeling of foreboding that crept up her spine. She tried to extract her hand from his grasp, and when he would not let go, ridiculously she started to get angry.

"I do not appreciate being handled with brute strength" she replied as she continued to jerk on her hand. After a beat of tense silence her hand was abruptly released and Max muttered an intelligible oath. Before she could move he had rolled away and sat up on the side of the bed, his back to her. She watched the muscles contract, and she could not help but stare. She did not know whether to feel relieved or disappointed. Either way she chose not to ponder upon it and hastily grabbed the sheets to cover her nudity. She watched him carefully and apprehensively. Who knew what he was capable of doing at the moment.

When he stood Liz whipped her head away, blushing in embarrassment. It seemed so strange that she should feel that way after what they had shared but she could not help it. She could hear him moving around and the rustle of clothing. There was another muttered oath after she heard a low thump and then complete silence.

Liz was too nervous. She did not know what to do. She did not know what she had done. How could it have progressed so out of hand? Perhaps he paid it no mind because he thought her a woman of low class but she was a lady. She knew that. And she should have put a stop to it. But she didn't. And she did not want to answer why. She was too embarrassed. And nervous. Indeed she did not know what was going to happen now. They had woken and made love. She had been a willing participant. So indeed neither time was rape she had to admit . Not when both people were equally as eager. And she had been that. But soon after she had realized what had happened and she had recoiled. And in turn so had Max.

He had not expressed any rage yet. Anger or at least frustration. He did not display a hint of any emotion she expected. But ofcourse, that fact worried her even more. The silence had become too tense and she hesitantly turned around. And caught her breath. It had become a habit every time she looked at him. He was standing in his boots, breeches and shirt. He was stock still and his eyes were gazing intently into hers. And then he started to move toward her.

Liz jerked back and clutched the covers around her like a lifeline. She was paralysed with dear. What was he going to do? Somehow, in the back of her mind she was not so alarmed because she knew for some reason that he would not harm her.

Indeed when Max reach her side, he stood staring at her, his eyes perusing her hidden form. And then in a flash he jerked the sheets away to leave her naked and vulnerable to his gaze. Liz shivered and bit back a gasp. Defensively she crossed her arms over her breasts. But he did not nothing more than look.

"Beautiful" he whispered, but Liz was not sure she heard him right. Then his eyes moved to stare at something at her side and after a moment Liz could not resist a peek. There in the middle of the bed was a circle of dry blood on the sheets. She did not she could flush so many times in less than an hour. It was him ofcourse. He had that affect on her. And for once she resented it.

She looked back to see him looking at her once more. "Perhaps you will think twice now before bestowing such a precious gift on a brute like me" he said flatly and Liz visibly winced.

"I cannot anymore now can I? It is already given" she found the will to reply. She stared steadily at him, trying not to waver, her chin tilted upward. Max's jaw clenched and she could almost feel his teeth grinding against each other.

Menacingly he leaned down. "Aye so it is. And just you remember how freely it was given."

Liz paled at that bold and shamefully true fact. Indeed she did not offer one ounce of resistance. She was not sure what to answer. But she felt sure of one thing at this very moment. She could not allow it happen again. She had a deep feeling that this could prove very dangerous to her very sanity.

"Well...regardless. It will not happen again" she stated with more bravery than she felt. Max immediately straightened and she saw his mouth tighten, his eyes flash, but assumed he would just walk out now.

Before she knew what was happening he had bent down again , gripped her hair and pulled her toward him. his lips ravaged hers and she was too surprised to offer resistance. But when the shock wore off, all she did-or rather all her body could do- was melt, and return the assault eagerly. Her mind screamed in protest, but she paid it no heed. It was this man. He did things to her. She would fear and deny him one moment and then he would kiss her and she would become pliant to his will.

"We will see" was whispered like a promise in her ear, then a door was open and slammed shut.

Liz was left alone, stunned at the events that had just occurred. She was afraid. Oh so deathly afraid, and her emotions were too raw for her to do anything but obtain some respite by letting all those pent up tears since her capture to fall freely down her face. She wanted to go home. She wanted her parents back again. She wanted to be on safe ground and secure. And worse, she wanted with every fibre of her being to sin again with the same man who took her virginity, out of wedlock. No matter what her honour demanded. She was weak. And she was wanton. She could not allow herself to surrender. She had done so twice and somehow she knew, just knew, that the next time, would cost her her soul.

Part 27

Max stalked up the steps and onto the deck. Immediately he was assaulted by the early morning winds, blowing across his face and threading wildly into his hair.His shirt billowed away from his body, leaving his chest almost bare. He had not taken the time to dress accordingly. Infact he had not taken the time to do anything else but make himself decent and get out of his cabin.

Just to get away from the bewitching little beauty encased beneath his bedcovers. Just to distance himself sufficiently away from temptation. A very powerful temptation that was a strain on his control. He was still aching. His manhood still throbbing for further release. It seemed that once...or even twice, just wasn't enough where she was concerned.

And for Max this was a definite first. He had never felt this way about another woman before. It was confusing. Bewildering. Exhilarating. And most definitely satisfying. She had made him feel things that have never affected him before. He didn't know what they were exactly but he knew that she could inflame him to masterfully, whether angrily or passionately, by just a look, a touch and the promise of absolute fulfilment in her eyes.

He could avidly remember the feel of her skin as he traced his fingers over her body. The taste of her lips as he drank her sweet nectar. The silken falls of her hair as he thread his hands through them. And he could also recall the way she had so passionately responded to his lovemaking. It had driven him to new heights of pleasure that had sent them both spiralling into something just like heaven.

And they would come together again.

Max smiled slightly at the thought of Liz refusing to give in to the passion she had shown she was capable of feeling. Not all women had her spirit, he knew from vast experience. Some were cold, or hesitant, or too rough, or ignorant. But Liz......she was a complete definition of passionate. And he'd be damned if he was going to allow it all to go to waste. And what amazed and stunned him the most...was that she was a virgin. Untouched. Pure. And now, his.

He would have her in his bed again.

"Maxwell." Max was shaken out of his thoughts by Michael's voice as he called to him from across the deck. Quickly he strode toward him.

"Morning friend. How goes the Cruella this morning?" he asked immediately, dismissing all thoughts of his sprite for the moment. He was captain first and foremost and his duties preceded his pleasure.

Michael answered amicably, "Still sailing captain. The weathers been kind, it's going to be a smooth journey...."he paused, then gave Max a slow and deliberate look," for wherever it is we're going."

Max ignored the hint for the moment and look toward where they still docked at the French port. They most definitely had to get out of here soon. It would do no good to stick around. Already they had caused trouble and it will not take long to connect his ship and crew to the Hawk's, even though the telling flag was nowhere in sight. He had a certain reputation that followed him through certain circles and Max had learned it was never good idea to stay around one place too long.


"I spoke to One-eared John." he finally spoke abruptly. He didn't like remembering just how little he had managed to learn from him. And he didn't like it even more to remember the reason why. No matter that the day had ended in a more likable atmosphere. He had had his chance to get vital information for his mission but inexorably failed and was left with bits that hardly come up to anything but is all he has to work with.

Michael knew what and whom he was talking about and asked, "What happened?"

Max sighed slightly and said,"I couldn't get enough out of him.." he paused and looked at Michael before saying dryly, "we sort of got..interrupted." And Michael immediately knew just how that happened as he recalled the events of yesterday.

He nodded, "Yes, I'd call that an interruption," he agreed, "So what were you able to find out?"

Max sighed again and moved away to pace the deck next to Michael. His black boots clicked on the hard wood, while his hands raked restlessly through his hair as he began," all I could figure out from what he told me was that he left England about a year ago, came here for a few days and then was going to go home to his own country."

There was a silence. When no more words were forthcoming Michael exclaimed," That's it?"

Max stopped his pacing and looked impatiently at Michael, "I told you I couldn't get enough out of him." he snapped, gesturing with his hand .

"Damn." Michael muttered and raked a hand through his hair, then moved farther away and started pacing himself, then stopped abruptly and looked seriously at Max."So..?"

Max didn't say anything as he walked to the wooden rail and looked out to the sea. A frown marred his forehead. "So..what?" he turned and leaned back staring at Michael without expression. "We go to England."

Michael looked at him for a second, as if trying to judge if Max was joking or has lost his senses. "What?!"

Max continued to look at him with an unreadable expression on his face. "You heard me."

"Aye I heard you alright and you better be joking or out of your mind because I refuse to believe you!" He slashed his hand in the air and shook his head.

Max pushed off and walked toward his friend. They stood inches apart and just looked at each other. Conflicting emotions passed between them. Then Max slowly raised his arm and placed his hand gently on Michael's shoulder.

"It doesn't matter whether you believe me or not. I'm going to go back."

Michael pushed away from him and whirled around, "But Christ Max. England!" he exclaimed as if that should explain it all. And it did. It explained so many things. Things that have driven them to what they are now. Things that have taken them from what they used to be. Things that destroyed a part of them.

Max exhaled a deep breath. He too knew what Michael was referring to. But right now it seemed so insignificant to the fact that going back there would bring him one step closer to his objective and he would face anything. Even his own demons to achieve it.

"I know." was all he said, quietly.

But Michael was not finished yet, "And why England anyway Maxwell? He's not even there anymore. One-eared John said that he's gone to his own country...that's-"

"Enough Michael!" Max interrupted. He was starting to get angry and annoyed. His temper rising with Michael's objections, he silenced him and watched him proceed to fume silently.

"I know what he said," he finally began, gently, " and I will follow him, but this is something inside me that is telling me to go back." He paced away and threw his hands in the air. "Who knows what might have happened since we've been gone. It is necessary that I return and sort out my affairs and get some more information." He turned to Michael, "What we couldn't find here must be figured out in England..." he paused, his face suddenly a mask of unreadable emotion.

He turned to look out to sea once again, watching the sun hover gloriously above the reflective clear sea. "Where it all began."

And so they stood, in silence and contemplation. Each in their own hidden torment.

"I hope that One-eared John was telling the truth." Michael finally conceded with a slight shake of his head.

Max's lips quirked up in a dry smile and he looked toward Michael. "Parting with 6 gold coins was no small feat." and then, " I hope so too."

Liz sat there on the bed, naked, for a quite a long time. Her feelings in utter turmoil. Her mind replayed over and over again the events of the past night. Her face grew hotter and redder with every repeat. Her skin still tingled where he had touched. Her lips still ached where he had kissed. And her body still throbbed where he had possessed her. Taken her. Consummated with her. Made love to her.

Made love? It couldn't have been. To make love, there had to be love. And Liz knew there was no such thing with the two of them. If she wanted to give it an emotion she would have to say it was lust. It couldn't have been anything else. Well atleast on his part. As for her....well she really did not know.

Lust as well? something completely different? but if so....what? But as she sat there she thought about her morals. She remembered how she promised herself that she would only ever give herself to the man she loved and married. She had told herself she would never feel the..desire to if she did not love him or want him. That she had to if she was to make love with him.

So what did it mean now? She did not love him. Ofcourse not! She was not going to marry him...that idea was absolutely hysterically laughable. So what then? She 'wanted' him?.....Liz paused for a moment in her thoughts to experiment with that idea. Want him? oh aye, that could be said. Certainly every time she even thought about him she would picture him once again, bare and reclining beside on the bed..doing inexplicable things....

Liz shook her head to clear her impure thoughts. So she wanted him. Yes, that was the answer. Nice and simple. And very explanatory. And straightforward. But somehow, even she had to admit that the whole idea seemed...lacking.

Diverting herself from her contemplations at the moment she got up off the bed and, with the sheet still around her, hunted for her discarded dress. She found it pooled on the floor, by the still full tub. She forced herself to block out further images of the night. Dressing silently and hurriedly she then rushed toward the bed and looked down at the evidence that was unavoidable.

Without a second thought she grabbed the sheet and pulled with all her might. Quickly she balled it up and made sure the red mark was hidden within the folds. She stood with it for a moment, not sure what she should do with it, looking around the room. She couldn't stuff it in the chest at the end of the bed or in any of the drawers or cupboards. And then her gaze landed on the tub. Slowly she walked to it. Looking into it she saw her reflection in the water, holding the bundle.Without a second thought she dropped the linen into the water. She watched it soak and start to sink.

And suddenly there was a knock at the door.

Liz jumped away. Her face heated and her eyes widened as if in guilt on what she had done. She wondered apprehensively who it was. First and foremost in her mind she thought it was Max. But then she quickly dismissed it as absurd. The man wouldn't knock. He'd break the door down before he had to perform that courtesy she thought disdainfully. Then she thought it might be one of the crew bringing breakfast.

Very possible, and so she walked to it and slowly turned the handle. The door flung open and a very bright Maria stood on the other side. with a tray of some delicious looking breakfast.

"Morning Liz." she said and without waiting for a response entered the room. Liz watched her walk to the table and place the tray there, then turn around and put her hands on her hips, giving her a pointed look.

Liz started and realized that she was still holding the door open. She quickly shut it and whirled around to greet her in turn. "Good morning Maria. How do you do?" she walked slowly to her and past her to sit on one of the chairs. Maria took the hint and deposited herself on the other side.

"Lovely morning isn't it. I'm good and how're you? here have some breakfast," she pushed the tray toward her and stated, " I already had mine and I just thought I'd come over for a little chat." She leaned her head on her hand on the table as Liz started to dig into her food.

She was feeling very very hungry this morning.

"Whew Liz, you're mighty hungry today. What were you up to last night?" she raised her brow and exclaimed in a teasing tone that told Liz she was not being serious. But ofcourse joking or otherwise, Liz blushed the most furious red and sat very very still in a silent panic. Was it possible they were heard last night?

Maria's eyes rounded in shock. Then she gasped and placed a hand to her mouth to stifle the sound. Her eye brows rose even further. "Oh Liz, dear, don't look so mortified please," she jumped up from her seat and hurried toward her, " I was only teasing you Liz. Honestly I know that all you did last night was sleep. Forgive me please" she pleaded.

Liz's colour slowly began to fade back as comprehension slowly dawned on her. Maria was only joking. She thought she was asleep in her own bed last night. She was just innocent Liz Valenti, prisoner on a pirate ship for stealing. But in reality, she was not innocent-not anymore-, she was not a Valenti and she was a captive of her own stupid folly. Definitely not the same impression she has left Maria. But better.

"Oh Maria, " Liz forced a gay laugh out, "Stop, I beg of you. There is nothing to forgive." she shook her head.

"But I insulted you." Maria countered and frowned at her.

Liz reached up and patted her hand and smiled a small smile as she shook her head again. "No you didn't. I was simply surprised and a little embarrassed to be eating alot. " She laughed again and looked towards her plate. "I didn't even realize I had so much."

Maria seemed to relax finally and grin with her. " You certainly are hungry." she agreed.

And the next half hour was spent in companionable silence as Liz dove into her food and ate with apparent relish. When she was done Maria was talking about Michael and how sometimes he makes her feel on top of the world and then the next make her wish to throw a delicate vase at his head, at the same time. Somehow they always ended up with Maria discussing Michael. Just like last time, Liz thought ruefully. It was as if he lived in her system. But she was only half listening as she herself thought about a certain pirate that affected her in whole different way. Except for throwing a vase at his head. That, she would not mind doing.

"Ofcourse, he doesn't mean to do it you know." Maria was saying. Liz finally turned to her.

"Why do you say that?" she inquired.

"Well tis just his character and who he is, I suppose. He tries mind you and when he does he can be so wonderful," Maria leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes dreamily, her voice trailing off.

"It sounds as if you find him very agreeable." Liz commented with a tilt of her head and a slight smile. Maria opened her eyes and beamed at Liz.

"Oh aye!" she exclaimed, and they both burst into laughter.

When they quieted down, Maria was suddenly looking very serious as she stared at Liz and Liz was beginning to get very disconcerted. Maria looked on gravely and Liz was about to ask what the matter was when Maria finally spoke.

"And what about you Liz?" she asked. Liz's brow furrowed in confusion.

"What about me?" she asked.

"What about you and your captain?" she asked patiently, her expression kind and inquiring at the same time. Liz stilled at the question and swallowed painfully.

"Nothing."was all she said and then after a moment of silence, "and he's not my captain."

It pained Liz to deny all that has happened to her last night but she found that she just could not tell anybody. Not even Maria. Maria was her friend, and she was experienced. Ofcourse she could tell her. Maria would know what to do. How to act. She could solve Liz's conflicting problem. She could help her. She could save her.

But she didn't say anything. She just couldn't. What happened was too soon, too recent. Too fresh. Too raw. If she told Maria she would probably congratulate her and give her tips. Liz didn't want that, and while she knew Maria was a wonderful ally in her current predicament, that problem she was facing now was not one for Maria to solve. She would just give her all the wrong solutions. She would help her alright. Right back into Max's bed.

And it was not a place she wanted to be. Not at all.No,,no,no. Perhaps is she said it long enough her body would finally start believing her. It was just not possible. It cannot happen again. The consequences would be too great.

She just has to save herself.

Maria laughed. "Whatever you say Liz." she said humorously.

"That's what I say." Liz said firmly,with a nod.

Maria got up from her seat and wandered over to the porthole as Liz sat there lost in her own thoughts. "Oh!"

Liz turned around at the sound of Maria's surprised exclamation. She saw her looking out the porthole, her eyes wide, her hand to her cheek. "What? What is it?" Liz jumped up and asked her anxiously. What could have happened? Was there something wrong?

"We've set sail." Maria said.

"Oh!" Now Liz was surprised. They've set sail? Pray tell WHERE?! what on earth was going on around her. Was she bound on this ship until she has travelled the world before being set free? Would she ever see home again? Is this goodbye for freedom and family forever? She didn't even know when or where or why they sail! She began to feel her heart beat faster, her pulse quicken and her breathing grow uneven, as she realized that she knew absolutely nothing about anything right now. And it was starting to get frightening. Questions swarmed in her head. Unanswered questions. Suddenly she was feeling not too well.

"Liz?Liz!" Maria was quick to come to her side, her expression concerned and worried. She gripped her shoulders and steadied her as Liz began to stumble."Liz, what is the matter? you look awfully pale!"

"I-I.." her voice was too soft, too breathy "I'm fine"

"No, you are not!" Maria admonished " you look like you're about to faint." She clutched Liz closer to her. She looked around the room for a wild moment as if unsure what to do. The she spotted the door. At that moment Liz started gasping slightly and her eyes started rolling back into her head.

"Oh no Liz, come do not faint. I will take you up to the deck. The fresh air will do you good." and with that she started to drag Liz out of the room and up to the deck. Liz followed her step by step without really comprehending where she was going. She had not heard clearly what Maria suggested. And then her eyes were assaulted by a bright light that flashed and made her raise her arm and shield her eyes from the intense glare.

She could feel wind in her hair and on her skin. Warm wind that wrapped around her. Slowly her eyes began to adjust and she suddenly realized that she was up on deck. The salty smell of the sea immediately refreshed her and sobered her. She thanked heaven she did not faint. She really should not have panicked so. It was too nauseating and daunting. So she forcefully shoved any ideas about drifting off forever away from home firmly from her mind. It would not happen she told herself.

It was then that she began to notice things around her. Maria was beside her, asking if she was alright and holding on to her. The deck was swaying beneath her wobbly feet. The sky was a clear bright blue. The warm wind was sweeping around her in an embracing manner. Slowly, she turned her gaze upward and looked in the general direction of the bright fireball. And the sun, well...its fires could not compare now to the sudden heat she felt from Max's gaze behind her.

Part 28

Liz looked away from the morning sky. Her eyes riveted away from the bright light. Her body stilled, against the beating heat. Her skin tingled and her breathing grew scarce. The wind blew across her features and attempted to cool her suddenly hot skin. But she noticed none of these. All she felt were his eyes. On her. Roaming over her body. Sending signals of fiery intensity that made her tremble. She could feel them. Moving up and down. Taking it in. Taking her in.

Unbidden, came the will to turn around. It gripped her and sensually persuaded her. Her body moved on its own volition. She turned. And was met head on with pure, and hot amber. Golden slits that slashed over her. Enveloping her with their heat. The emotion was sucking her in. Drowning her. She was helpless to resist the burning.

And then he blinked.

And Liz was shaken back to reality. She avoided his eyes, instead taking the rest of him in. He was magnificent. White shirt billowing against a wide smooth chest. Black breeches that fit against tapered waist and lean hips. And shining black boots, that moulded snugly to a pair of well muscled legs. A sight that any woman would dream of. A character out of the most seductive books. He was a man. A real man, standing right before her. In the flesh.

A force greater than her will made her glance upward to his ruggedly handsome face. His soft dark hair was wind blown. A tantalizing lock hung over his forehead. The sensual mouth tight. And then it curved, and Liz was startled enough to jump slightly. Her eyes widened and she shook her head at the thought of staring at his mouth.

She chanced a glance at his eyes from beneath her lashes. The devil was amused. Sniffing indelicately she whirled around and tried to ignore him. But ofcourse to no avail. She heard the click of his boots before he even took a step. And they were coming straight at her.

"To what do I owe the great pleasure?" was breathed huskily from behind her, right against her ear. She couldn't suppress the shiver that ran through her. Her throat grew suddenly dry.

"Good morning to you captain. We just came up for some fresh air." Maria spoke up. Whether she was oblivious of Liz's inability to speak at the moment and she just happened to speak first or she knew of her trouble and stepped in for her, she didn't show.

The hot breath left her ear as she heard him straighten up. " it not?" he asked sounding faintly amused. Maria simply acknowledged him with a nod and a smile. And after that Liz knew he had dismissed her from his mind. For the heat from behind her grew closer and she was sure, should she move an inch backward she would be pressed right up against him. Somehow she didn't know how she made her body resist the urge.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" the last word was purred, as he repeated his question to her. Liz glanced helplessly at Maria, who was watching the display between the two of them. Maria was looking up at Max, and appeared to read something in his eyes because she backed away with a muttered excuse about Michael waiting for her. Hardly daring to glance at Liz.

Liz panicked for a moment, then came to the realization that they were in everyone's view and he was deliberately unnerving her. Steeling herself to be calm, cool and collected-or so she made it appear on the outside-, she stepped forward, and away from him. The heat immediately left her and Liz could not suppress a shiver as the wind beat against her heated back. Grabbing her swishing skirts with trembling hands, she swung around to meet his direct gaze.

"You owe nothing,," she began, then turned cowardly, and shifted her eyes from his penetrating ones. " I simply wished for some fresh air a-and a walk." she spoke lightly and tried to sound dismissive.

He nevertheless took a step toward her. Until she was once again flush up against him, but now from her front. Even more dangerous to her senses. Her eyes remained riveted to the blue horizon that stretched out forever. She dared not look at him again. His very presence played havoc with her soul. But should she drown within the depths of his brandy liquid eyes...

She couldn't withhold a gasp when he leaned into her, pressing their chests closer together. Her breasts fit against his hard chest. She could feel them involuntarily tingle and harden at the intimate contact. But before she could protest or even think to push him away, he further assaulted her senses.

His large warm hand was suddenly enveloping hers. The fingers held on tightly, when she would have attempted to break away. Slowly. Ever so slowly, he raised it. Liz stifled a shocked gasp when he started to drag it up, all the while keeping it in full contact with his side. She could feel the hard texture of his muscles as they bunched and flexed. The tight fabric of his breeches appeared to offer no barrier to the flesh she could feel beneath. Her protesting words hitched in her throat, and all she could do was feel.

And then he brought her hand to his front, and Liz jerked. Her startled gaze swung to his and she stared, open-mouthed,into his face. The amber eyes held controlled fire and a gleaming amusement. The beautifully sculptured lips curved in a lazy, yet sensual smile, that took her breath away. Their hands moved farther up, and when she would have though he would do continue as they reached the most crucial part....He leaned away and swiftly brought her hand up to his lips.

He held it there as he stared at her. The fire had appeared to spread and the gleaming pools were suspiciously glowing now. Liz held her breath, her fuzzy thoughts unable to take anything in clearly. And then he brushed a feathery light kiss to her knuckles. And Liz almost swooned. Max leaned in close once again, but this time not only his chest, but his face was inches from hers. Their noses touched. Their lips barely apart. Liz was frozen in her place.

"It's a pleasure nevertheless." he whispered huskily. Liz tried to resist, truly she did. But then he was weaving such a hypnotic spell around her , she was powerless to resist. And he wasn't even making an effort. His mere presence rendered her weak with a sudden longing she did not understand. One inch. That was all that was needed for their lips to touch. Their eyes drank each other. Max's dark and intense and hers melting with surrender. He looked about to lean closer. Her lashes fluttered and then closed softly. She waited.

She could feel his hot breath fanning her lips. " Enjoy your walk."

And then he was gone. Striding purposefully, with all the predatory grace and litheness. Away from her. Leaving her standing on the deck, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open in utter astonishment. She shook herself out her stupor. What on earth just happened? Had she just went against all her present convictions and almost begged for his embrace? Liz did not like the answer. She liked his rejection of her offering even less. If she was not at the moment immersed in purely feminine piqu¨¦, she would have noticed the perverseness of it all.

In no time Maria was back by her side and stating that Michael was busy after all so she was going to spend the rest of her time with her. Liz believed that, except for the part of her going to look for him in the first. Somehow she knew a certain dark-haired devil prompted her to excuse herself and leave them in solitude. But she did not press her or demand an explanation. She didn't blame her in the first place. Who wouldn't be intimidated by! She resisted the urge to take another look at him, now standing farther away and expertly guiding the ship.

It was amazing the things she had gone through the moment she had been deposited like a sack of grains in his cabin. What fate had brought her here?She gazed at the bright blue sky, seeking answers from the unknown. And when will it end?

When will she be free?

"Why are you here Maria?"

Maria looked startled at her question and gave her a quizzical look. "What ever do you mean Liz?", she questioned as they sat in a far off corner of the ship, where they would not be disturbed or gazed at.

"Why are you here," Liz repeated, she frowned and looked around the ship," on this ship?" then looked back at her, "What brought you here?"

Liz was taken by surprise when Maria burst out laughing." I brought me here Liz." and at

Liz's bewildered look Maria chuckled and shook her head. "I came here on my own free will."

Liz's eyebrows rose. "But why?! And how was it permitted?"

Maria shrugged. "It was not." and when Liz once again looked lost, she elaborated further, " They did not I was onboard when they set sail. I swam."

Liz's eyes widened. Her mouth opened and shut several times. Indeed, she was not sure what should come out of her mouth. She looked at Maria closely. Really looked at her. She realized that she was not some crazy, talkative person that is always complaining about her man. She saw determination, courage and an 'if you want it go get it' motto clearly stated around her. Her aura was loving.

"Why?" Liz asked. "Why go through all that?"

Maria just looked at her and smiled, a secret smile."Because of him." she answered.

Liz had a fair idea who she was talking about, but she still didn't understand. Why sacrifice everything you are, your life, for a pirate? What made her want this? What made her take the chance on a man who would never live a normal life? It was too fantastical and so improbable. What could posses a woman to abandon everything she had ever known for a risk?

And when she voiced her question allowed, she saw Maria's eyes glaze over and then take on such a glow that left the green in them sparkling like emeralds. " I have asked myself this many times believe me but every time it always comes back one thing. Him. It was just him. From the moment I've met him it was like an explosion and when I looked into his eyes I positively melted, and I knew that this man was something special." She gave a soft smile. " So I took a chance. Haven't you ever met a man that made all your senses explode with just a glance? Made you heart beat faster and you stomach feel all fluttery inside?" she looked intently at Liz, "Have you ever felt this....magic feeling that made anything possible? Made you want to do anything just for another taste?"

Liz knew she was trying to tell her that Michael made her feel this way and that she had given up her life for another taste. She just wondered how long it would last. Maria seemed confident and Michael...well she hadn't really met the fellow yet but she hoped he deserved Maria. Because it was clear of her feelings for him.

As for her....Yes to everything. Her senses came apart because of his very presence even. Her pulse still raced from their recent encounter and every time she thought of him her heart missed a curious beat. His eyes held such delicious mysteries that where ever so hypnotic. They drew her in and held her captive. She wondered if it was magic, this feeling that consumed her entire being and almost made her burst with endless possibilities. Whatever they were, she knew one thing. She must resist another taste, because somehow she knew, the fire that he burned within her, could rise to consume her. And so she resolved to stay away from him. It was the only way and the only solution. She would do her best ignore him and keep her distance.

But that resolution did not last long.


Max turned from his position and gazed at Michael as he made his way hurriedly to him.

He sensed it already. It was in the air. Swirling around him. The wind blew in all directions, teasing him. Enticing him. The scent filled his nostrils, the dampness clinging to him like a second skin. He could feel it. Coming toward him. In all his experience as a Captain his instincts never faltered. And he knew what was coming.

"I thought you said it was going to be smooth sailing." Max blew out an exasperated breath.

"Yeah well, my instincts back then needed some tuning." Michael muttered and refused to meet his eye.

"You got distracted." Max was clearly not amused. He had just cost them valuable information that could be a danger to their lives. And the ship.

"Whatever." It was as close to an apology tone that he was going to get at the time, and then sobered immediately, " What do we do?" They could deal with his stupidity later.

"What else can we do Michael." Max shrugged then turned his gaze up to the clear blue sky. " We ride it."

"It feels like a bad one." Michael predicted and he too cast a glance skywards. "How long?"

Max thought for a moment. And felt. " About an hour at the most."

"Christ! we don't need this now." Michael raked a hand through his hair and paced a few steps before Max caught his arm to halt him.

"Calm down Michael. We have time to prepare." he assured. "Inform the crew. Get them to bolt every single object that needs it. We can't take any chances on having something hitting someone or falling off. Make sure the crew are tied down. I don't want to lose any men over this." he stated before consulting the sky again.

"It's going to be one hell of a storm."

Liz watched warily as Max made his approach. She didn't like the look on his face. It was intent. And grim. Something was wrong. She could tell the moment he came within view. His strides were abrupt, tense and clipped. He was not happy. And from the way she observed the crew running about bolting things to the deck, and tying things down, she wasn't feeling very happy either. She wondered why she had allowed Maria to go search for Michael. She suddenly needed her her.

She tried not to let the sudden fear and apprehension show on her face as he came to a stand before her. He was frowning as he eyed her, and Liz felt he did not appreciate her being here at the moment. For some inane reason she didn't like it that he felt that way. Shoving that thought from her mind she faced him bravely. She waited for him to speak.

"Go down into the cabin." He demanded.

Liz leaned back in surprise. This was it? He was demanding she go down there. Was he at the end of his patience and was now going to use brute strength to force her?! Her stomach lurched at the thought. Well she won't go down without a fight.

"Go down to your cabin? I think not." she raised her chin and eyed him defiantly.

At first he gave her a blank look, that made her start for a moment. And then his handsome face contorted with anger as he looked her up and down. " I do not want you in my bed!"

Liz bit back a stunned gasp. Did she just hear him right? He didn't want her? He didn't want her. He posture relaxed slightly. He wouldn't be talking her to his bed again, not today. He was not going to force his will on her. They were not going to make love. She didn't like it that she had felt a slight of disappointment at his declaration. She should well be relieved!

"At least...not now." he added with a wicked grin. He must have seen her betraying expression. She turned sour at the thought and crossed her arms over her chest, as a tiny measure of defence against him. She did not want him knowing that despite all, she had enjoyed the experience. Both times.

"Why should I?" she asked, changing the subject and referring to the demand he had issued her.

"Look there is no time for me to argue with you. Time is critical now and you are going to the cabin." and before she knew it he was grasping her arm and dragging across the deck toward the stairs.

After the initial shock she regained her composure and stubbornly dug her heels and yanked her arm. She stumbled, as his own surprise caused him to release he abruptly. She set herself upright and glared at him.

"You have no manners at all you know that?"

Max was taken aback for a moment before raising a brow at her. " I didn't think so. I believe I behaved just as supposed."

Liz's mouth opened wide at his answer. "By being rude and a brute?"

Max shrugged. "I use whatever manners that befit the situation."

Liz bristled. "This situation did not warrant such an uncivilized act."

"Ahh but you forget sprite, I'm not civilized." he displayed upon her a lazy smirk, and then he was grabbing her and dragging her toward him. Flush up against him.

Liz struggled to get free. When his iron band hands closed even more tightly around her she knew she had no way of getting out of them. She huffed and glared up at him. "Let me go!"

"Tut tut now who's being rude." he admonished teasingly.

Liz's eyes narrowed, " I use whatever manners that befit the man" she sniffed haughtily. To her chagrin he craned his neck back and let out a loud bellow of rich laughter that filled her ears to the brim.

But still he didn't let her go, "I said let me go." she said between clenched teeth.

Max leaned down and smiled teasingly at her. "Say please." he whispered. Liz felt her ire rise once again. Why of all the-

"Say it."

The arrogant, selfish barbari-

"Please." she hissed out.

He gave her an innocent look. "Please what?"

And before she could roar her rage like a lioness and tear is head off he moved away with another bellow of laughter. He kept his hand around her waist and carried her and her outrage down the steps and into his room. Once he set her down she moved away from him and took in her surroundings before turning back to face him. A glare in her eyes.

"What am I doing here?" she asked icily.

Max disregarded her coldness with a shrug. "This is the only place that is safest for you."

Liz just had to raise her eyebrows. " I don't think the word 'safe' is an appropriate adjective." She refused, refused to even glance at the bed. Max must have caught her meaning because he chuckled and looked meaningfully there.

When his gaze returned to hers it was dark and full of banked fires. "Aye. Definitely not safe." he growled and almost started for her before checking himself. He muttered something under his breath before forcing himself to wall over to the chest.

She watched as he rummaged through it and wondered what it was he was doing, or looking for. When he produced a length of rope Liz's heart leaped to her chest. She attempted to swallow the lump in her throat. What did he intend to do with that?

But her frantic had hardly any time to make up horrid scenes of him tying her up and doing inexplicable things to her-she would hardly admit that half of them were no tortures that included pain-, before he was throwing it at her and shutting the chest.

Liz stared dumbly down at the rope in her hands then looked up to see him striding toward her.

"I want you to tie yourself up to something." Oh Lord, images flashed through her mind. Erotic images. She did not need this right now.

"Why?" she demanded. Tie herself up? Most certainly not! What on earth was he thinking.

He muttered underneath his breath something she was sure was a curse. "You ask too many questions you know that?"

Liz gripped the rope more tightly and held back an unladylike snort. "I think I'm entitled to, considering the circumstances. "She jiggled the rope for emphasis.

"It's for your safety." he was annoyed and answered shortly.

"I gathered that captain." she answered patiently and then raised a brow. "But safety from what?"

Max sighed and raked a hand through his hair and gave her a look. " From a storm."

"A storm? A storm!?"

"You heard right."

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with my hearing. I'm just shocked. When? How? Why?" She really should try not to panic.

She tried even more when she saw his look gentle. " In less than a hour. Mother nature, and I really don't know the reason. Just tie yourself to the bed and stay on it. Or else you'll be rolling around." That was not comforting.

"Is it that bad? Is Maria safe? I can't stay here I have to go to her." She didn't want to admit but even in the prospect of a storm the idea of being on that bed unnerved her greatly. But he seemed oblivious.

"Yes, Maria's taken care of and you're staying here." he ordered and moved to cross to the door. Liz was a little slow and he was already at the door before she could think of anything else to protest to. "And don't forget to tie yourself up." Without another second's miss he was gone, door slamming behind him.

In a fit of nervous temper she burst out, "Well you could have said please!" and it was the most ridiculous thing to say. Ofcourse he wouldn't say please. It wasn't in him. He was a pirate after all. No manners. No manners at all.

At the moment she dismissed him slightly- because for some reason she never could fully- and looked back down at the rope. A storm was coming. There was going to be rain, and wind and large waves. The ship could be flooded. They could even sink! That thought terrified Liz and made her quickly tie the rope around her and walk determinedly to the bed. This was no time to have an aversion to it. She climbed atop it and crawled to the headboard. She tied the other end there securely.

Liz sat there for a few moments, not sure what to do. The room was quiet. To quiet. She couldn't even hear any movement above her. And then a low rumble sounded from far away. Instinctively she turned her gaze to the porthole. She could see the dark black clouds approaching. The wind was already howling. She shivered. And suddenly realized that she forgot to close the porthole.

15 minutes later she was clutching in terror at the head board, as the ship began the powerful swaying. At first it was barely noticeable but was growing more and more forceful. The first drops of rain started to cascade from the sky. And soon it was absolutely pouring. The swaying became violent bucking and Liz huddled more closely and clutched the rope with a death grip.

None of the other furniture moved because they were bolted to the floor. For that she was thankful. Although a chair toppled and started to slide from side to side. She could barely hear the stomping and shoutings of the men up on deck. She wondered how they were doing up there. It must be really horrible. She closed her eyes and buried her face in the pillow trying to dismiss the terrible images that arose within her mind.

And then she heard quick footsteps coming down, and approaching her door. She sat up just as the door smashed open. The terrified scream got stuck in her throat. Max stood there. His clothes plastered against his body. He was absolutely drenched. His boots squished as he crossed the room, with scant regard to her, to the chest and began to go through it once more.

She stared open mouthed as he discarded his shirt and donned another one. It was then she realized how torn it was and wondered in fear what happened to him. He glanced at her then hurried to a cupboard and retrieved from it a slicker that he immediately donned as protection from the rain. He spared her no other looks and went back to the door.

"Wait! What's going on? Is everything alright?" her nervousness and panic made her stammer slightly and her voice came out hysterical over the roar of the thunder. He paused and looked back at her. He gazed from her to the rope.

"Just stay like you are!" he shouted and completely ignored her other questions. He was out the door before she could form a thought. She guessed he didn't have the time. She looked up and wondered once again what was going on up there.

Suddenly the wind blew murderously and rain and cold splattered over the room. She had not found the courage to go close it yet. She was too scared. But now she realized that if she was ever going to survive the night she had to shut it. Carefully she untied the rope from the headboard as the ship gave another heave. Unfortunately she could not manage a grip in time so she went sliding off the bed and onto the floor with a loud thud.

She groaned at the slight pain but shook it off. This was not the time. Determinedly she crawled to the closest piece of furniture which was a chair and hung on to its leg as the ship rolled beneath her. When it quieted for a moment she pushed herself up and stumbled onto wobbly legs.

The floor moved beneath her once again and she fell back and hit her side with the arm. Liz gritted her teeth at the pain. She looked toward the porthole and found she only had to walk a few feet before reaching it. She gripped the chair strongly as she suffered another heave and then the instance it stopped she leaped for it.

Liz slammed against the wall and her head pounded achingly. She almost slid to the floor if not for the panic that swept through her and kept her alert and oblivious to the pain. Reaching an aching hand she clutched the porthole and slammed it shut with all her might. That done she breathed a sigh of relief and started to make her way back to the bed and safety.

She was halfway there before lightning struck, thunder rumbled, rain splattered more sharply, and the ship lunged mightily and then rolled back aggressively. A scream form her lips came out mute, as she toppled over and slammed her head against the edge of the bed. Pain flooded through her. And then blackness consumed her.

posted on 17-Feb-2003 4:37:40 AM
Part 29

The howling wind wailed in restless abandon. Swirling into the black oblivion. The once bright blue sky now thunderous with angry clouds. Rain splattered like icy knives across the deck. The wind carried it to and fro, making the air cold and relentless in its cause of natural destruction.

Boots pounded against the thunder, hurrying from one place to the next. Fighting to keep the big ship in control. The white sails that once blew proudly against the gentle wind now were lowered quickly as they flapped dangerously , threatening to tear.

Yells emanated through the thick fog of rain and fog. Feet thumped from here to there. Slick bodies of men fought against the storm to perform their duties and save their lives. The heavy darkness offered little reprieve from the difficult task.

The storm raged on. The ship heaved and crashed against powerful waves. Some of which washed on board, soaking the drenched sailors even more. Unsteadying their precarious balance, blinding them. Drowning them. Mercifully they all managed to hold on.

In between the chaos and frantic manoeuvring Max gripped the wheel with white knuckled tightness. His expression determined, his jaw clenched. His drenched clothes plastered against his body,chilling him to the core. He took no notice however. He grew detached from his surroundings. His firm concentration on navigating his ship safely through the furious storm. He could not afford to be cold.

Lives depended on him. He was their leader to safety. He was responsible for the welfare as well as the ship's...and his own. Mother nature would not send another wreck into the bottom of the sea. Not this one for sure. He would not be a victim. No one would die on this night.....

Flashes of warm brown eyes and a petite body came to mind. One that was now tied and huddled below, most probably praying they would get through this. And they would. Clenching his teeth he twisted the wheel to the right with all his speed and might. Rain stung his eyes, briefly robbing him of sight. He fought against it, putting his head down as a measure of protection.

He tensely observed the running shipmates around him, each engrossed in their own live saving work, and all working together. He tried to watch them but knew it was of no use. He had to keep his eyes ahead. He couldn't keep count and watch for any accidents. Any men overboard. He hoped there would be none. He probably would not be able to do anything about that...but his conscience would forever plague him. He would not be the cause of anyone's deaths.

Turning with all his might to the left he vowed to himself. They would get through this.

"Maxwell!" The shout came from far away and he recognised the voice as Michael's. Keeping a steady hand in the wheel he twisted around and gazed through the foggy distance. He saw shadows and forms, but could not discern where Michael was.

Then he saw him, Hanging tightly to the ropes at the rail as he staggered toward him. Thw harsh wind blew against him, making his trek that much harder to bear, but Michael endured. His arm slung over his eyes as he got closer. Max watched him tensely, willing him to arrive to his side.

A final lunge brought Michael to the stairs. Eagerly he climbed them up and headed straight toward him. Clutching a beam beside them he heaved mightily, his breath coming out in shallow wisps.

"Michael! What's the matter?" Max demanded, Michael took a moment to regain some of his breath before he attempted to speak.

"We-Have...-trouble." came out and Michael bent down at the waist whilst closing his eyes in reprieve.

Max's heart began an even more furious beat at the declaration. "Christ! What is it?!"

Michael opened his mouth and closed it as a particularly large wave assailed them drowned his words. When it passed they were both shivering with the impact but spoke naught of it. It was no time to complain.

"Lower deck- cannons- trapped." Was all Max could make out over the yowling. But the meaning was evident and Max felt his body truly grew cold for the first time. He needn't ask to be clarified what was obviously clear. Someone was trapped against a cannon on the lower deck.

Quickly he surveyed the it as it stretched out before him. The vision was slim but he could still make out the bodies. No one would die today. He had vowed that and he would not break that vow. Turning to Michael he clasped his shoulder tightly to gain hi attention.

"Michael! Listen to me," and when he was sure he was doing so he went on, shouting at the top of his lungs to be sure he was heard clearly. "Take over for me. Quick!" He did not wait for Michael to acknowledge him. He only shoved him in his placed and slammed his hand to the wheel. Whether or not he heard it was clear what he was supposed to do.

Max wasted no time in plunging into the whirling mass of angry nature. His steps sure, his grip tight, his foot sure. It would not do to hesitate even for the briefest moments. At all costs he must get to the trapped sailor.

It was hard to see where he was going. The deck was slippering, the floor out of control beneath his feet. Grasping the rigging his hid his face-downwards and started to pull himself in the general direction. He could hear the crew's yelling and movements mote clearly now. His vision was blurry, but when he made himself look up he saw three large mate standing in a line, pulling with a rope at the slanted cannon. Upon closer inspection he could see the sailor that sat in agony, squashed against it's weight.

Facing Mother nature's fury he lunged toward them. The sailors were not surprised to see him there. Quickly he started to shove them here and there to gain a position at the rope.

"Grip tightly men! Don't let go!" he yelled through the sputter of rain in his mouth.

But they heard them and did as he commanded. Max knew that if they let go, that cannon was going to roll more against the poor man and he would surely be doomed. The rope was rough and slick in his palm, but he held it firm and sure. His boots slippery on the deck but for now planted in a secure stance. The wind blew mightily. His body involuntarily shivered. Willing his body's agony to subside he clenched his jaw and closed dark, fiery eyes tightly.

"Hold firm! On the count of three I want you to use every bloody ounce of you strength to pull!" He shouted with a strong commanding voice. He waited a moment to make sure they were all ready.

"One..." His fingers tightened.

"Two..." He tensed. His muscles flexed.

"Three!" He screamed at the top of his lungs to counter the now equally screaming wind. In the next instant, his muscles bulged and his palms began to burn. As one they used their combined strength to pull. The wheels couldn't be heard but as their backward steps increased the farther away the cannon drifted from the wounded sailor. As soon as it was safe enough two other sailors rushed to his aide, hefting him up and dragging him to further safety.

Max let go of the of the rope and he watched it roll forward and bang against the wall. The others scattered once more, unto more important things. Max grimly turned around to head back to the helm. He was immediately assaulted by icy pins and billowing that numbed his body. Lighting struck and illuminated the sky. Thunder roared overhead.

The ship gave a sudden lurch to the side. Max never heard or saw it coming. The cannon hit him with a strength that sent him sprawling. If he wasn't so numb he knew his leg would be searing with agonizing pain. Briefly he thanked the gods he couldn't.

Quickly he made himself roll until he hit the wall. Grabbing onto something solid he thought of nothing else but dragging himself to that he may then lead the others.

"Damn it Maxwell hold still!" Michael growled as he attempted to push the stubborn captain back down on the bunk in one of the sailor's cabins.

Max struggled against his hold. When his arms were held in resistance he tried to use his legs as leverage.

"Ahhh" he gritted his teeth so the shout came out only as a deep moan. Searing pain travelled from his leg up to encompass his entire being.

"I told you to hold still." Michael muttered as he warily released his hold from his arms. When Max made no further attempt to rise he relaxed somewhat and then turned to motion for one of the men to bring the bandages and cleansing tools in.

Max said nothing as Michael took scissors to his breeches and began to rip them apart. His shirt had been long since taken off to offer him more warmth and comfort. When the breeches too were disregarded Michael covered him with a sheet but only left his leg to his open view.

Whistling in exclamation he gently touched it with his finger. He didn't miss Max's wince.

"Dammit Michael have a care!" he hissed and shifted on the mattress to get more comfortable.

"My pardon captain, "Michael apologized and then continued to prod more gently so as not to cause him too much pain.

The silence stretched as Michael worked then getting impatient and frustrated Max demanded, "Well? How is it?"

Michael frowned then turned to reach for a basin of soap and hot water. " I don't see any broken bones. Your leg isn't dented, "Michael smirked, "But there's a hell of a bruise from your thigh down your legs. A few cuts here and there."

Max tried to raise his head to see for himself. The action however slightly shifted his leg and he moaned and flopped back down onto his back. " Christ" he swore softly and in exasperation. "I do not need this now."

"Yer lucky yer not dead captain so don't ye start complaining, " Whimsey walked in with a plate. The delicious aroma flooded the room. "Here's something from cook, ta make you feel better he said."

Max huffed, gave a muttered thanks and waved Whimsey out.

"He's right you know that cannon could've killed you." Max turned his head to see Michael surveying him seriously. Had Max not known him so well he would have missed the flash of fear in his eyes.

Softening slightly to his friend he tried to joke, "Oh aye and who's bad steering caused that. "He arched a brow.

Michael flushed a deep red. In anger and in shame. He swore under his breath and ran a hand threw his hair, looking away guiltily. "Hell Maxwell we were in a bloody storm!..."

A strong hand came to rest on his shoulder and halted his speech. Max smiled gently at him. " No worries Michael. I am alive and well. It was no one's fault. Certainly not yours to bear. You did well." This time Michael's flush was one of embarrassment and relief.

After that Max allowed his friend to gingerly cleanse and bandage his leg. On his request he also dressed him in breeches once more. It was a difficult task but Max gritted his teeth and accepted it.

As Michael was approaching with the steaming food Max sat up and suddenly frowned. " Is everybody here and accounted for?"

Michael nodded his head." I also checked on Maria. A little bruised with the tossing around but well."

Max straightened in alarm. "And what of Liz?" he demanded.

Michael's eyes widened suddenly. He opened his mouth then closed it again. He turned bewildered and apologetic eyes to Max. " I must have missed her, but I presume she's faring just as well."

Max had no such thoughts. Suddenly his blood was pounding furiously in his veins. His pulse raced, and his heart beat like a large deafening drum within his chest. The signs were all there. His body would respond so on several occasions. One of sexual pleasure and the other.......of fear.

Hastily he flung the covers aside, and quick as lightening, he swung both his legs to the side of the bed. He cursed loud and long, biting back his groan of pain.

"Maxwell! What the hell are you doing?" Michael rushed to his side to try and push him back. Max shoved him aside with surprising strength.

"Damn it all Michael. I have to go to her!" he tried to stand up but knew he wouldn't be able to without assistance. He glare at Michael. " Help me up." It was a command. His captain had issued an order, it was there in the tone of his voice. He knew his protestation would serve no purpose.

In resignation he strode forward and pulled Max up who leaned heavily onto his shoulder. They stood there for a moment until Max found his footing then proceeded to the door. With every step he cursed silently, until they arrived at her door. Wasting no time Max flung open the door and stepped inside.

His heart stopped.

She was not on the bed. His eyes registered the rope that was still tied there, but there was no brown haired beauty on the other end. In a panic he glanced about the room. A few toppled items, the closed porthole...and the still figure lying as still as the dead on the ground.

Max saw red. Unheeding of his own pain he pushed Michael from him and hopped his way to her. Dropping to her side, he raked her with her eyes before reaching out trembling hands to turn her to him.

She was deathly pale, and unmoving. He briefly wondered what happened but paid that thought no mind. Clasping her more firmly to him he bent down to put his ear to her chest. Her heart still beat. He released his held breath.

Michael rushed after him. He saw her there and bent down to try and take the burden from him. But Max held her more tightly to him and refused to allow her to be pried from his hold. He raised deadly eyes to Michael...who backed away.

With agonizing pain Max held her in his arms and determinedly raised himself to his full height. He buried her petite body against his chest and revelled in her closeness. Then without further thought or speculation he turned, and painfully limped toward the bed.

Darkness swirled around her. She felt herself waking. Her black vision began to dim. Light filtered through her lids and slowly she revived. Confusion assaulted her. Pain stabbed at her and she groaned. Where was she? What happened? Why was she in so much pain?

Parts of her body ached greatly, but mostly her head throbbed as if she was hit over and over again with a wooden block. Her eyes slowly began to lift. It was still dark, of that she could see. At first she wasn't sure if was still unconscious but before she could contemplate that further, her vision began to blur slightly and then she was able to see shadows and forms and a soft light emanating from somewhere.

It hurt to open her eyes but she was determined to find out what on earth was going on. Patiently she waited until she could see clearly. It was dark...night she surmised. She turned her head to one side carefully and observed the view around her. From what she could see it looked like a room.

She felt beneath her. It was soft and silky. Beneath her head lay something fluffy. A bed. She was on a bed. Somehow the feel of it beneath her was very familiar. But dismissing that thought for the time being she tried to recall what happened. Apparently she must have been in some accident of a sort to be lying in a bed and feeling all achy.

A slight groaned came from beside her. Liz's eyes grew wide and her heart started to beat faster. Fear flooded her. Who was there? It sounded like as if it came from right beside her. She panicked and tried to jump up and move away, but the pain stopped her effectively. She dared not moan however for fear of alerting whoever it was to her wakefulness.

Carefully and fearfully she turned her head to the other side. It was darker there and she waited until her eyes adjusted to the blackness. It was then she saw it. It was sitting in a chair that was pushed close to her bed. It was bending over and it's upper half was lying on the bed. A she looked more closely she saw it was human. The upper body was on the mattress, hands under its head. The head itself was dark...and short. So it must be a he.

Disoriented as she was, she sensed something about him that gave her paused. It was like she knew him....and suddenly she was not afraid of him..... Curiously she gently lifted her hand. Her fingers barely reached but she managed to touch his hair. It was soft and silky. She sighed.

She saw him shift, and groan again. It was like he was restless about something. Not sure what to do she touched his hair once more. One of his hands shot out from beneath his head and gripped it. Liz started.

His palm was big and warm. He settled. Liz sighed again and nestled more comfortably. She realized she was tired. Perhaps when the morning came everything will be clearer. Right now, she wanted to sleep. Her eyes drifted close and slowly he faded from view as she fell into a fitful sleep.

When next she awoke Liz saw that it was day through the small window. Feeling lethargic she twisted her head in time to see the door open. Her head still hurt terribly and the sound disturbed her.

A man strode in though that distracted her. He limped as he carried something. He was staring grimly at her. He was so handsome. When he neared her she opened her eyes fully to view him completely. He sat down in a chair and turned toward her.

Their eyes locked. She saw the shock in his. She didn't what was wrong but she frowned when she looked closely at him. Those eyes of his were hollowed and bleary. His jaw had a few day's growth of beard. His clothes were in chaos.

"Liz." he whispered raggedly. A had came to rest at her cheek. She closed her eyes briefly at the contact. It sent delightful shivers down her spine. Her arm raised toward him. His other hand reached for it, enclosing hers with his.

Liz smiled softly. He sat back and brought forth what he was holding before. He dipped a cloth in it and then squeezed water out of it. Gently he brought it to her face. Liz revelled in the contact.

"Max..." she sighed softly as her eyes blinked dreamily. His lips quirked up slightly.

"Shhh sweet sprite. Rest yourself." his words were low and soothing. Caressing her back to slumber. He needn't have tried twice. Her lids shut and she once again slumbered. This time, peacefully.

"Liz?" the words came from far away.

"Liz." they were clearer, coming closer...drawing her somewhere.

"Liz!" Her eyes opened and she groaned at the interrupted. She had been having the sweetest dream. "Welcome back to the living sweetie."

It was then she saw Maria hovering over her, smiling brightly. Liz shook her head to clear it and rubbed at her eyes. "Wh-what?" her voice came out soft.

Maria's look gentled. "Oh darling what an ordeal you have gone through. How do you feel?"

Liz struggled to sit up. The pain in her head had ebbed. She raised a tentative hand to explore. She felt the bandage that was wrapped neatly around her head. She tried to recall most of what happened but it was all a bit blurry. All she remembered was that she was trying to close the porthole, and on her way back to the security of the bed she blacked out.

"I-I'm fine Maria. A slight pain in the head and other few place but I am well." she relied to reassure her.

Maria smiled. "That is well. He took good care of you then."

Liz frowned at that. He? Who?..."Who took care of me?" she asked.

Maria simply gave her a triumphant smile and a wink. "Why out dear captain ofcourse." Liz started. Captain? Max? Max took care of her? But..... "He was truly ferocious too! Wouldn't let anyone else help. No one could come near you. He said he would take care of you." Maria sighed as if that act was so heroic and romantic.

Liz's head was reeling. She couldn't believe it. But then snippets of several nights came back to her in that instant. Her eyes widened as she remembered and her heart started to beat a fast rhythm. She remembered the clasp of his hand, the touch of his palm to her cheek. His sweet soothing words. Liz flushed at the memories.

Casting Maria a sly glance she noticed her looking curiously at her. She would most probably probe if she thought Liz could provide any information. So she did the only thing she could. She fell back on the pillow and groaned. Maria was immediately on guard.

"Liz? sweetie what is the matter?" she asked anxiously.

"N-nothing, tis just I suddenly feel a little weary. I...." she let her voice trail away to prove her fatigue. Maria took the bait. Immediately she stood up, ordered her to sleep some more and told her she would leave and visit her when she is feeling better. Liz felt bad at the deception, but at the moment she couldn't handle any more shared information. Especially after what she had learned.In the meantime however, she decided to take advantage of the situation and rest some more.

A door opening and shutting awoke her next. Liz's eyes opened and then grew wide as she watched the approaching figure. Again she noticed the limp he had.

"How do you feel Liz?" Max asked softly and Liz looked at him. He looked better than she last saw him. She wondered briefly if he knew she remembered those nights. He'd shaved and the hollowness had disappeared. His clothes looked more presentable.

"I am well." she cleared her throat once. Her eyes then drifted toward his and there they stayed. There were so mesmerizing. Hypnotic. But this time, there was no deep hunger or desire that emanated from them. There was something in there that made her blush, her heart flutter and melt.

"I am glad." he replied and Liz was surprised that for the first time, Max stood there in the middle of the room, shifting from one foot to the other, awkwardly. Unbelievably it made her smile softly and gesture to the chair by the bed.

"Please sit down." and hesitantly he approached. When he sat they said nothing for a long time. For the first time since meeting him....she suddenly felt shy.

She looked down and blushed again. Her hand fiddled with the covers. Another rested over hers. Immediately she looked up. His hand enclosed hers in a warm embrace. One that made her wish he had all of her wrapped up against him.

His eyes held something she didn't quite understand. Then he smiled, and she forgot about his eyes and turned her attention to his mouth. Such a beautiful mouth. Liz gulped. She looked back at him again.

His other hand moved to caress the side of her face and her hair. She shivered. This man...pirate, barbarian and thief.....the one who forced her to give her body to him, the one who took her prisoner with him under false accusations, the one who spoke savagely and seductively to her.

The one who cared for her. Didn't allow anyone else near her. The one who beared the responsibility of her healing. The one who touched her so tenderly and gently. Who spoke soothingly to her and stayed by her side throughout the nights she needed him.

Liz swallowed painfully as she felt something important shift inside her. She wasn't sure what but......something did.

"How long did I spend here?" she asked to distract herself.

"5 days." he replied.

"5 days?!! good heavens, that long!" Liz exclaimed, unable to believe it. Five days he'd spent with her......

A knock sounded at the door.

"Enter." Max called.

The door opened and Whimsey entered. He gave Liz a once over then smiled slightly and nodded to her. Liz hesitantly smiled. Then he turned his attention to Max.

"We'll be dockin' soon Captain. Just thought I'd let you know." he said.

Liz noticed Max's expression tighten and turn very grim. She wondered what was wrong. He nodded and dismissed him. When Whimsey had gone he rose himself.

"Where are we?" Liz was quick to ask. he gave her a look, but not a harsh one.

"England." was his curt reply. He started to head for the door as Liz was trying to grasp the fact that they were in England.

He hesitated a step before turning back to her. His expression less dark. "Stay here and rest some more Liz. You have suffered quite a bit. We will not be long here. Business needs attending to..." he paused then looked as if he decided to go on, "I will be going to shore for a while. I will however be back the next day." He strode over to the door.

"Take care of yourself little sprite. " were his words as he went out the door.

"Well? What news do you have for me?" Sean demanded of his informant. He paced back and forth in front of his desk in impatience. When the man didn't answer fast enough to his liking he stopped and glared at him. "Well! Speak up you insolent fool! Whatever do I pay you for?"

The man realized the threat and immediately set forth, " To summarize my report sir it appears that the Hawk has recently been to France. On what business I am not aware of or any other person that I have questioned. It is my belief that it is the usual piracy milord. I believe he is simply gone to catch some game."

Lord Deluca strode to the window of his town house and contemplated the view. "Game is it? Well..." he turned to smirk evilly at the inferior man. " Tis game he shall receive."

And with that he ordered the man out of sight and set forth to plan a trip to France.

Max got ready to hop into the longboat before Michael detained him with hand to his shoulder. "Are you certain you don't want me to come with you?"

Max shook his head. "No. I want you here to mind the ship." and then started to climb over the side. He met Michael's gaze squarely before jumping out of view. " Trust in this Michael. I know what I'm going." and with that he was gone into the night.

There was quite a trek for them from the ship to the centre of London. The need for safety required that they dock a long way from an spotting sights. Clad in simple breeches and shirt Max held a bundle in his arms and made the journey alone. None of the crew was to accompany him. This was a mission of the gravest secrets. No one knew of it except for Michael.

It did not please him what he had to do, but he knew he had no choice. Once a good distance away he stopped and stripped off his clothes, opened the bundle and donned the ones in there.

He hoped he looked good. Straightening them slightly and brushing the dust away he threw his other clothes away and continued on with the walk. It took him half the night but he finally made it.

Walking through the cobbled stones and lamps of London Max was struck by memories. Memories he would rather he forget, forever.

He got to a point where he saw the cobbled streets and lamps of London. They reminded him of whom he sued to be a long time ago. Whom he still is....but so far away from it. They were so familiar. The feel of the ground beneath his boot heels, the soft glow of the lights as they illuminated the way. Max shied away from further investigation in his mind.

A hackney suddenly rolled by. Without thought he hailed it, and once inside gave the driver the address and then sat stiffly in his seat, refusing to even think about where he was going.

When it stopped, it was too soon for him. Max stepped out and paid the driver before he could even open his mouth. Without a word he strode on, up the stone steps and to the large polished door. In the distance he heard the hackney move on but he paid it no mind. He prepared himself. He could feel the effect to the very core of his being. But he refused to let it show in the outside just how affected he was by his return. He must endure it however. If only for the sake of his mission.

Facing the man, becoming the man he used to be and still is...if only for a short while...was necessary. It had to be done. So without further ado he banged on the knocker. And waited.

He allowed his mind to go blank .He thought of nothing else expect his goal this night. His memories were held at bay. His pain, disregarded for now. The door opened. An elderly man stood there. He was shorter than Max, thin and with white receding hair. He wore elegantly cut livery with impeccably white gloves that shone in the darkness. Obviously he was the butler.

He stood there looking solemnly at Max as if he'd never seen him before. They both gazed intently at each other. Neither spoke a word. Then.....the butler bowed slowly, head down, hand to waist. His words echoed into the night.

"Good evening Your Grace."

Part 30

It took Max a moment to absorb the age-old title, that was addressed to him. It brought back memories. Ones that seemed so far away, yet were only a whisper away. More precisely, less than a year. But somehow, looking now at the aging man looking solemnly at him, it felt like a lifetime.

Like this was not his home, and he was an intruding stranger. it hurt to have these thoughts. While this stone building was only part of his upbringing, he'd horsed around its halls as a child and worked diligently in his study as a man. When he closed his eyes, he could clearly see the very intricacies and details of ever corner.

"Hello Ives." he responded to the butler he thought had weathered before his eyes.

Respectfully Ives bowed again and moved aside to allow Max entrance. He did not look at him questioningly, and he did not utter a sound. If he had any desire to ask what he was doing here, he hid it well.

As soon as Max stepped over the threshold, he was assailed with visions and the familiar scent of what was. His boots clicked on the polished marble. Max blinked several times, as if to adjust to the blow of seeing his life as it used to be. Candles littered the front hall, paintings and gilded mirrors hung over exquisitely carved tables that sported delicate tapestries. The light of the candles cast a soft glow over shadows and the smooth floor.

He turned toward Ives. Ives approached him and held out his gloved hands. "May I take you coat, your grace." It was a request encroached in a question. Perfect tact from a perfect butler.

Max gratefully shed his coat and handed it to Ives who turned to hang it by the door. While he did that Max took the opportunity to look around more clearly now. While everything appeared as it used to be in his eyes, it now however held a tinge of coldness. A chill that settled in the now seemingly barren stones.

"Where is everyone Ives?" He asked frowningly. He couldn't even hear a kitchen-maid tiptoeing quietly along to and fro from the kitchen.

Ives turned blank eyes toward him. " The servants have all retired your grace. It is past midnight."

"Oh ofcourse." not as if he had time to pay attention to the time as he made his way here. "I presume mother is asleep as well?" The only good thing about this trip was the fact that he would see his mother once again. They had been separated too long. He missed her dearly. She was the only family left to him. His father, the former Duke of Everington had passed away some years ago. That left him with his mother and little sister.

Emotion clogged in his throat. Now he only had his mother.

"I am afraid your grace, that her grace has departed for the country. She left a month ago stating the country air would help aid her health."

Max reared sharply a that and turned to pin Ives with a glare. "Her health? Why? Is she ill? Why was not informed?" The edged worry in his voice was carefully concealed behind a glaring mask.

Ives's face lay in shadows and so Max couldn't catch the sudden, but brief softening features. "Nay your grace. Her grace is well enough, she simply thought it would benefit her to..get away for a time."

Max could never describe the deep relief that swept through him at that piece of information. He nodded in agreement to his mother's wishes. If he had the chance he too would go along with her and relieve himself of all this disgusting wretchedness. But no....let his mother grieve in peace. He would keep it inside, face it like a man, and seek his revenge. "That is just as well. I do not wish her to be distressed about my arrival."

Ives, knowing her grace would not be in the least distressed by her son coming here knew that was not the true reason. "You are not to stay long your grace?"

Max shook his head and started to make his way down the hallway to where his study was. "No. I stay for but a while. I leave once again tonight."

When he got to the door he paused as Ives followed him quietly. "Would you care for anything your grace?"

Max turned and bestowed a small smile at the old man who had served them for generations. He turned the knob and opened the door. "No Ives. I will have all I need in the study, thank you." And when he bowed respectfully and slowly made his way back down and disappeared into the shadows, Max stepped inside the door and shut it behind him.

A solid gold coin landed across the mold ridden table. "So tell me what you know."

It was snatched up like lightning. "Not much sire. No thing real been happenin'. Jest some fellas sniffin' around. Actually one in particular, he be real fearsome...." another coin hit the table.

"I'm looking for a pirate. They call him the Hawk. What do you know about him?"

One Eared John beamed, his rotten teeth gaping at the other man. "Oh yessir I know 'im sire. He be the gent that be so fearsome." His brows furrowed and he looked curiously at the man sitting across from him. "Now if that don't beat all, well be was lookin' for you too."

Before John knew it a strong hand shot out and gripped his filthy collar and hauled him halfway over the table, until he was almost inches away from the fancy pant's face. Blue eyes glinted with steel and a hidden violence that made him tremble.

"You will tell me all that he has asked and all you have answered or I will make sure..." a flash of silver landed at his ear. "That you will lose that name of yours." John gulped and sweat began to fall in rivulets from his brow.

"Aye aye ya fop I'll tell ye I'll tell ye!" His hands clutched frantically at the stranger's, trying to dislodge them so he could move away from the dangerous threat.

The man only laughed deeply and threw him back. John landed heavily back in his chair and clumsily reobtained his balance. Rubbing his neck as if the man's hands had actually been around it, he coughed and attempted to compose himself.

"Well?" Impatience tinged the sophisticated voice. Obviously the man was one of them rich lords and such. He certainly looked rich. One eared John eyed the silver buttons of his vest greedily.

"Oh aye aye. 'e came in 'ere' askin' if some rich lord docked here someplace. Said 'e was Italian and I said you was the only lord I seen. Said you came here on secret business and you left in a mighty 'urry to yer 'omeland." John spread his hands helplessly. "That's all I said, I swear by me mother's grave, god rest 'er soul. We were interrupted before he could ask for more."

The man appeared to be considering what he said. Then without another word he rose from the table, dusted himself off from the stench of the tavern and made for the door. But before he went he flicked a disdainful glance at One eared John, then as if coming to a decision he tossed another couple of coins on the table.

They were swapped up in a blink of an eye.

A steady fire burned in the fireplace, and more candles lit the spacious chamber. It was as if someone still lived here. Like it was sued everyday and hasn't been abandoned for months. The bookshelves looked dusted, and his large mahogany desk was polished and still littered with books and paper, and other straying objects he used.

Moving toward the brown leathered chair that was behind it Max noticed the large pile of letters in between the mess. Ives has obviously been very attentive and Max was very grateful. Ignoring the gut clenching as he seated himself like in the old days, he repeated over and over to himself that it was not time to reminisce and bring back pleasant memories. He had work to do and he had to complete it tonight.

He'd soon have more nights than he could count to close his eyes and remember.

Quickly he sifted through the large pile. He made a frustrated sound as he carelessly disregarded every single one. Invitations to ball and parties and soirees.......he mentally cursed the ignorant and silly ton . That was all they ever thought of, and while he sued to attend every one of these balls-for his sister's sake- he was disgusted now.

Then suddenly, one caught his eye. It was a letter from his man of affairs. He was told to a long time ago to thoroughly search into the background of the Italian swine. He never received a reply with the information...until now. It must have come right after he left to set sail. The envelope looked rather worn out.

Carefully he picked up his letter opener and sliced it open. Taking out the sheets of paper he unfolded them and began a close perusal of their contents.

You Grace the Duke of Everington,

As you man of affairs I have diligently researched the man in question and I have discovered from various sources that the Earl of di Galvani has is indeed Italian by heritage, his family lineage goes back a hundred years. The title was bought and whatever fortune that the family possessed was gambled away. The last of that line is the man in question. Records indicate that there is not a single cent that belongs to him and he has made his way, unfortunately, by operating as a smuggler. On the side he is the charming Earl that young debutantes swoon around. He captures the hearts of many and uses them as a means to extract more funds.

It is a dear misfortune that your grace has been victim to this crime. You have my sincerest sympathies. Enclosed in this letter as well is a list of the other victimized families and the exact figures of how much was embezzled from your grace.

Faithfully Yours,

Brian Adders

When Max flipped over to the next page to scan the numbers and names he swore loudly. Bleakly he thought of the money his sister had already wheedled out of him, claiming her desire or need for a new item of clothing or some other feminine things he didn't know about.

"Oh Izzie. " he moaned mournfully as the image of a smiling blonde flitted through his mind. Why?Why?!

Setting down the letter down he rose and walked over to the small table that held a decanter of swirling brandy. Pouring a hefty amount Max drank deeply and revelled in the fiery liquid that trailed down his throat and warmed his stomach. For a moment he considered drinking himself to a stupor....just to make the pain go away. Forget, if just for a short while, the dark void his life had become.

But he only took that one drink, just enough to fortify himself against the cold night. He could not stay any longer here. He glanced around the room, and the life he used to live rushed back at him. He could almost see himself concentrating on his work when a loud knock would sound at his door, and before he could reply Isabel would flounce inside looking as if it was an insult to her to even have to knock.

Max swallowed hard and took a smaller sip. She would cross her arms across her chest and demand his attention. And he would give it willingly. Always.

The glass cup almost shattered with the intensity of his slamming it down. Running a shaking hand through his hair he fought to get a hold of himself and quickly walked out of the room. Immediately the cooler, darker shades of the hallway relieved him.

Marching back down the same way he came he quietly called to Ives. He appeared immediately asking what he could do for him, looking solemn as always.

"I am departing, my business is finished here for the time being. Inform her grace that I send my regards but do not tell her that I have come here. I do not wish to have her anxious." He didn't wait for Ives to get his coat and help him into it. Rather he did it himself and quickly made for the front hall.

At the door he paused and turned back to Ives. " Tell no one I was here. If anyone asks I am still abroad and you do not know when I would be due back. If they persist to know the reason for my sudden disappearance, I am away on urgent yet secretive business." He repeated the same order he had spoken a mere 6 months ago. He knew Ives wouldn't forget or slip up, but he couldn't help but be sure.

Ives drew himself up and nodded, which stated he fully understood and he would not mess up.

As Max was halfway out the door he suddenly turned around and gazed deeply into the butler's eyes. An old man that had been with him since the day he was a little babe. One lip curled upward in a semblance of a smile. "Take care of yourself Ives." and then he was gone, leaving the old man to quietly shut the door behind him and listen to his young master's footsteps fade into the night.

As soon as Max's boots hit the deck Michael came bearing down upon demanding to know everything that he did and what happened. His dark eyes shone in the light of dawn, reflecting a furious worry.

"Easy Michael. As you can see I am well enough. I did naught of real importance." Max stated and when Michael gave him a sceptical look he added, " What could I have done in the dead of the night that would be of any true significance?"

Michael appeared to mull that over and then realized that that was indeed true. Carefully he then raked his eyes over his friend to check for any signs that Max was perhaps hiding something he didn't think was significant. Like tears or even a wound. When he was satisfied that Max was whole and hearty he clasped his hand to his shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

"How was it?" he asked gruffly, eyeing him. Curiosity and concern mixed in his voice.

Max released a long breath and silently requested Michael with his eyes to walk with him. What needed to be said could not be said infront of the entire crew. Michael followed without complaint to the other end of the ship where it was deserted. It wouldn't have been, but it appeared the sailors understood that the captain and the first mate wanted to a have a private talk.

"Well?" Michael asked as soon as they were out of hearing and seeing distance. Max sighed and leaned against the rails. " I could find nothing of extreme importance. I went back to the house. Ives informed me mother was in the country. All I could do was go to the study and see if I could find anything."

"And did you?"

Max's eyes turned hard and cold. "Oh yes. I did." his tone was deceptively soft but as deadly as the swift thrust of a rapier. Whatever it was Michael knew it was not good.

"And will you share?" he ventured, cocking a brow up, but speaking gently and softly, as if afraid to scare a wild beast.

"A letter came from my man of affairs stating what di Galvani has embezzled and from whom, there are various families I assure you." He glanced briefly at Michael. " He also explained that he is the last of his line and has no fortune."

"No fortune? and what of his tailored suits and shiny boots? Where did he get those." Michael demanded, frowning mightily at that puzzle.

"Why he bought them ofcourse." Max replied calmly.

"Bought-" Michael cut himself off as he digested that piece of information that totally baffled him. He turned to glare at Max. "Christ Maxwell speak bloody english. How the hell did he get the funds to do all that?"

Max looked at him, a dangerous gleam in his eyes. "He's a smuggler."

"Jesus Christ!"

"My sentiments exactly."

On their walk back Michael finally broached the subject again, too impatient to wait until another time to tell him what he found out while he went about his mission.

"While you were gone I took it upon myself to scourge the port and try to find some information." At that Max gave him a sharp look.

"Why did you do that? I expressly asked you to stay aboard and take care of things." He said more harshly than he intended. Michael took no notice. He knew that Max went through a lot this night and it was taking its toll on his temper.

"I know but it was a quiet night Maxwell and I thought it would be beneficial." he explained. The way he stressed 'beneficial' made Max suspect that he was somehow successful in that.

"Why here? We have already investigated all the possibilities and nothing has come up." He said finally, thinking of the days and nights he had spent on the hunt for the man responsible for his sister's death. It had been hell. The fury of his hatred and anguish no new bounds. He'd lost track of life, intent only on dragging the son of a bitch back with him and inflicting upon him the most torturous pain. The kind he'd had to suffer.

Michael shrugged. "It could do no harm to try."

"And?" Max didn't realize his eagerness to finally get a real lead until Michael had spoken. He felt this was his chance.

Michael did not leave him in suspense for long. " The kind of information I received required no drugging of the sense or alcohol plying to get the tongues wagging. It was relatively easy infact. All I did was ask around about an Italian man who perhaps was doing business here and if they knew anything about him." Michael gave Max a direct look. " I was told that a French ship carrying Italian cargo sailed from here just yesterday. It was apparently heading to Italy, though I do not know why a French ship would go there and not to France."

Max appeared thoughtful for a moment at this revelation. His quivered with repressed excitement. He sent Michael a purposeful look. " Neither would I Michael. Neither would I."

"We are proceeding too fast Maxwell. We have barely arrived in England and you are ordering we set sail back to Italy. You are absolutely insane." No man has ever dared to speak so to his captain, but at this moment it was an exception. Max had just issued that ridiculous order when he barely touch English soil with his toe.

Max grabbed Michael's collar and pulled him toward him forcefully. "Heed me well Michael. We have no time to lose. We must act quickly if we are to get anywhere. I cannot lose him!" he shouted in his face.

Michael's eyes grew wide at the hysterical light in his friend's eyes. " Jesus Maxwell. Relax you are losing your mind." Max glared and shoved him away. His chest was heaving with every laborious breath. His fists were clenched and his eyes closed. Michael stumbled backward and slowly righted himself, watching Max warily.

Slowly Max opened his eyes. The wild flames that had consumed them were now doused and gone. He blinked several times, as if just realizing who he was and what he was doing. The dark pools that looked at Michael now held a deep anguish that was hiding within their depths.

"Michael-" he started but abruptly stopped, as if unsure what to say. He looked away and then back at him. All Michael could see was an expressionless mask. "Forgive me.." he moved in agitated steps and ran his hands roughly through his hair. He paced back and forth, restless. "I do not know what came over me. It was all uncalled for, I-"

But Michael understood. And so he shushed him with an upraised hand. " Forget it Maxwell. yourself." Those words went deeper than they sounded, and they both knew it. Slowly Max nodded and then started walking away. He passed by Michael and paused to put a hand on his shoulder for a brief instant.

Liz struggled upright in the bed. Her limbs had fallen asleep on her. Ofcourse it was no shock since she had been confined to the bed for the past 2 days. It was absolutely horrendous! She was positively dying here!

The fact of the matter was she was bored. Pure and simple. She had nothing to do, bedridden as she was-involuntarily ofcourse. She felt perfectly fine. Her head hardly ached any more and she could move her body without feeling like she was still swaying in that storm.

But Captain stubborn-as-bull would not be swayed on the subject. If she didn't dislike him before-which ofcourse she did- she certainly disliked him now and his stupid rules. Liz beat the bed covers in with a frustrated sound.

She hated that he refused to allow to even get up. She needed to move her body for heaven's sake. Ever since he had returned that night from his errand or whatever it was he had been in a strange mood. She couldn't even begin to understand it. He didn't do anything physical to disturb her peace of mind or violate it, she give him that. He only however, prayed on her with his simple brooding presence. Everywhere she was, he was there, standing in the shadows, watching her. It both unnerved and excited her. But mostly, it annoyed her.

She didn't really know what of make of his behaviour. A few conversations with Maria made it even more confusing. She spoke absolute nonsense and Liz tried not to dwell on her words. They were too impossible. Too improbable. But she couldn't stop herself from having her own ideas. Many came to mind, some made him a dark angel, others a.....well dark devil. But the one thought that kept coming back to her, over and over again....well she didn't really know what to make of it, but it just kept coming back.... Did he care? She wanted the answer to be yes.

Finally today was the last day she was going to take any more of this. Enough was enough. She wanted to feel like a human being again. Alone in the cabin she glanced toward the porthole. The sun was up and shining brightly, and it was nowhere near dusk...which was about the time that Max came down to check on her.

Eyeing the door carefully as if someone might suddenly burst in and catch her in the act, she stealthily pulled the covers off her and gingerly began to move off the bed. Carefully she started to scoot sideways until she was at the edge. Sitting up she looked at the floor below and then at her feet. She could do this. Her body will be a little clumsy at first but she'll get life flowing back into them.

Determinedly she threw her legs off the side and sat at the edge. She was surprised at feeling a little breathless, but figured it was normal. Testing the boards beneath her toes she felt the cool oak side over the soles of her feet. She shivered. She bounced a little on the mattress. Instinctively she glanced toward the door and breathed a sigh of relief.

Gritting her teeth she pushed herself up and stood. Every muscle in her body screamed and protested and Liz bit back a moan. It was worth it she thought with a strained smile. She was balanced and standing. Perfectly regained of her strength.

That only lasted a few seconds before her body gave out on her with a suddenness at the same time the door opened.

With a cry Liz found herself collapsing to the floor. She closed her eyes tight against the oncoming collision with the hard coldness. Except it didn't come. Infact when she thought about it, she was rather suspended in mid air. And the only things holding her up were a pair of strong warm bands-which she belatedly realized were arms- wrapped tightly around her waist.

Startled eyes flew to that of her rescuer and she gasped. Boiling pools of liquefying amber glared furiously at. She didn't know if it was the feeling of fear that made shivers race down her spine.

"Max" she breathed, clambering to find an explanation for the situation he had found her in. She didn't stop to think why she even wanted to explain in the first place. But she never had a chance to open her mouth again, much less think.

She was dragged forcefully against his rock hard chest, her breasts pressing intimately against him, making her nipples hard. Her breathing stopped. And then his lips were on hers ravaging, punishing. His tongue pushing into her mouth, thrusting harshly. His hard lips moulding her softer ones with devastating brutality.

And Liz opened her mouth and gave back as good as she got.

His hands rubbed up and down her back, moving further down to roughly cup her buttocks and haul her against him more closely. Her softness slid against his manhood and he groaned raggedly in her mouth. Liz moaned as he indecently rubbed her against him.

Liz moaned again, though mournfully when he suddenly wrenched his lips away from hers. His chest heaved and his breath came out in short gasps. Liz was no different. She looked up at him with unknowingly pleading eyes.

She saw instant desire flare in his own eyes and darken. His head lowered once again. She readied herself for the next assault on her senses. Only it never came. When she opened her eyes, he was still looking darkly at her, except it had nothing to do with desire.

His hands moved until he was cupping her upper arms and he brought her face inches from his. Furiously he breathed against her. "What the hell did you think you were doing you stupid girl?! Trying to kill yourself? Be free of me?!"

Liz's eyes grew wide, and she gaped.

Part 31

Liz stared at him, shock rippling through her. Her brain would not function properly.Especially when he was holding her tight enough to prevent her from breathing deeply and evenly. His arms were like warm iron bands, wrapped around her,pressing her hard against his solid chest. She could feel the heat of him, where her skin touched his. It was heady, but in a way, it was also frightening. For at the moment, this was not a passionate embrace, no lovers caress. Not one she could lose herself in and pretend the real world did not exist, as had happened those times before.Right now, her senses were most definitely attuned to the harsh reality that was now holding her in its claws. She now truly felt like the prisoner she was told she was.

She did not stop to digest the implication of his words. Words that would have made her think, and wonder. Words that would have probably changed her view of him completely. She felt too trapped, held there in his arms. Too frightened from the onslaught of his anger. She trembled in reaction. Her mouth worked several times, looking for something to say, anything to make the awful 'calm after the storm', disappear. For while everything stood silent, in his eyes, she could see, lay turbulent emotions that would equal any squall.

His fingers bit into her arms, and she cried out, springing into action.

"No! let me go...." her voice trailed off, unable to think of anything more to say. Nothing that would appeal to him in any case. She doubted he would listen to her pleas. He looked as if he had come to a decision, and was quite determined to carry it out. She also guessed that whatever it was, it did not include letting her go.

"Let you go? Tell me....where would you go?" he asked in deceptive softness that belied his earlier outburst. Liz swallowed and tried to think of an answer to his question. In truth, should he allow her to leave now there was no place she could go. It would be virtually impossible to get anywhere, given the circumstances she was in.

"Home." she answered simply. For even if she couldn't really get there, it was where she wanted to go.

"Home." he echoed, as if the word was foreign to him. "And where is home Liz?"

And there she could not answer him. For what could she say? That home was in Florence...particularly the Parker house, because-oh yes- her father was Lord Parker himself and she was his beloved daughter for whom he would pay a fortune to have restored to him? She gazed defiantly into the stormy amber eyes of the man who was every inch the pirate at this moment. Never.

"I thought so." He spoke so quietly she doubted for a moment she heard him right. But she had no time to even think about it because his hand was wrapping itself around her neck and pulling her head towards his. Her lips, towards his. Inch by slow agonizing inch, until they breathed the same air. Until his breath puffed hotly against her tingling skin. Until she could see the moistness that covered his lips making her throat parched for a sip.

And right now it was something she wanted to do more than anything. If only to drown herself in his embrace as she knew she would. To give way to the passionate fever that always burned low within her with him and lose herself in a world made only for the two of them. For no other reason but to forget the real and horrible world existed, with this vast chasm between them that could not possibly be bridged.

"My sweet sprite, what do you do you to me?" was whispered huskily right before his mouth crushed hers deliciously. She yielded to his mastery and eagerly joined in, forgetting for now the rage that had taken hold of him, the pain as he gripped her and the fear that made her shiver. She was shivering now, but it had nothing to do with fear. She was lost.

Her arms snaked around his neck and her fingers threaded through his thick hair, marvelling at the softness. In turn his own arms came around her waist to draw her firmly to him, molding her curves against his own hard male angles. His hands began to rythemtically move over her, from her back to her waist, up to her breasts. Liz gasped in pleasure when he held them in his palms, weighing them. Applying sweet torture to their sensitive tips, his thumbs moving in never-ending circles.

Liz threw her head back in absolute pleasure, giving him complete access to her throat, which he took advantage of completely. His mouth disconnected from hers, only to latch on hungrily at her neck, devouring the swanlike column. His tongue licked at her jumping pulse. Liz shuddered and caressed the shoulders and back, feeling the hard muscles flex and contract beneath her fingers. She inwardly was in awe of the great unleashed power that she knew lay underneath his flesh.

The hazy pleasure she was in made her blind to reality and anything else. So when he suddenly pushed away from her and gripped her arms roughly, she was damned confused. Owlishly she blinked up at him, the glaze in her eyes slowly clearing. It was then that she saw the anger, swirling in frustrated whiskey whirlpools . It was only when he finally spoke, that she understood it.

"Do not think to distract with your sweet kisses and melting touches little sprite," he still spoke softy but she heard the anger underlining it. And wondered at it.

"D-distract y-you...? she repeated dumbly, unable to fathom the very idea. She didn't know what he was talking about.

"yes, little witch. Distract me from my anger at finding you attempting to throw your life away but a few moments ago..." he bit furiously and then stepped away from her, raking a hand through his hair. making it stand up at an odd angle. Liz had the ridiculous urge to laugh.

"Throw my life awa....." she began faintly as she considered his words, and then stopped. Suddenly she remembered the first words that he had spoken at her. Shaking with so much anger and a suppressed emotion she couldn't understand.

What the hell did you think you were doing you stupid girl?! Trying to kill yourself? Be free of me?!

And also suddenly, out of nowhere, she felt the most powerful anger rise within her. It almost choked her. Furiously she glared him, brown eyes spitting fire, too angry to keep quiet and face whatever blows he chose to hurl at her. Enough was enough!

"Be free of you?! I very much doubt I ever will be Captain. I rather think you will haunt me for the rest of eternity, and I would have to endure it." She spoke in contempt, aiming her mot lethal look at him. She saw his eyes narrow, and his lips tighten until they were white around the edges. But she was beyond the point of caring.

"That is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard! You speak as if the mere act of getting out of bed is the equivalent of signing one's own death warrant!" She was shouting, she realized. And it felt damn good!

"You have suffered a great injury to you head. I suppose in you own temporarily deluded mind you wished it so!" He shouted right back. Fighting the urge, she knew, to grab her and shake her until her teeth fell out.

Hands on hips she glared at him. "And why, pray tell, would I wish death upon myself?" she asked in an icy voice.

His jaw locked and nerve ticked. "Perhaps, because you reasoned it was your only escape." he finally said in a deliberately low voice, struggling not to shout it.

Liz's eyes widened, stunned. "You talk nonsense!" she exclaimed, " Escape?! I wouldn't go as far as killing myself to obtain my freedom I assure you.." she crossed her arms. "And besides, I haven't exaughsted all my attempts. What makes you so sure I have lost all hope?" she hadn't meant to, but it came out softly anyway, instead of haughty and confidently.

He reached for her hand. Liz tried to jerk away but the pressure was insistent and she thought it safer in the end not to fight him. His strength by far surpassed her own, she definitely knew that from past experience.

She watched warily as her held her small hand in the palm of his own larger one. Distractedly she wondered at the great difference between every part of her body and his.......Liz suddenly blushed a furious red and looked down, hiding her face, hoping he wouldn't notice and demand a reason for it.

But he didn't seem to be paying close attention to her face. Instead his entire concentration was on her hand. He raised it for closer inspection. Slowly turning it this way and that, watching the way it slid over his own. He turned it until it lay palm up. His thumb moved and began to gently and every so softly move in small circles in the centre. Liz shivered, nit too happy at the moment about the feelings he was evoking in her at the moment, but somehow helpless to do anything but anticipate what he was going to do.

Before she could begin to speculate, he raised it higher, until it was inches away from his lips. Those tempting lips. Was he going to kiss her hand? Did she want him to? Would she stop him anyway? All those questions went unanswered as he bent his head and lifted his eyes to stare right at her. His eyes hypnotized her.

And then he was tilting her hand and placing a butterfly kiss, so quick and soft she barely felt it, at her upturned wrist. Huskily he spoke, " I am sure, because I know, I will not let you go."

He yanked her hard against him once again, and Liz had no time to fight. "Ever." he growled.

It would arouse the passion of any woman to hear a man like him say that. But in Liz it only raised her indignation. Forcefully she pushed at him. He was caught offguard by the action and let her go. Probably expected her to be small and helpless in his arms. Well- she jutted out her chin- she'll show him.

"That," she began in deliberate tones, " was the most arrogant, presumptuous, and possessive remark I have yet to hear from you. " She shook a fist at him. " Just who do you think you are? I may be your prisoner here but you do not own me! And therefore you cannot keep me if I wish to go! You are nothing but a greedy pirate who wants everything and will not be denied. You are selfish and heartless!" Liz regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. They may be what she truly thought of him, but that did not mean she had to foolishly recite them to his own face. She was doomed!

But to her infinite surprise he only asked quietly. "And do you wish to go?"

The question was so unexpected that she did not know what to say. It took her a moment before she gathered her wits and answered decisively. "Yes." She would purposefully ignore that strange and unfamiliar reluctance.

Max laughed softly and shook his head, eyeing her with bland amusement. " Then you may go."

Liz started. Her eyes flying to his, full of incredulity. Did she just hear him right? Had he truly just said that she could go? Just like that?! Liz thought the anger and hurt she felt at his quick dismissal from his life was very irrelevant. She wanted to go home. Back to the safe haven with her parents and live once more in innocence and simply happiness. With money at her disposal, balls to go to and a pair of gloves to buy. She wanted to go back to the security, even if boring, of her home, with parents that smothered her with love and protection.

Didn't she?

Ofcourse! Liz shook her head mentally. What absurd doubts. A pirate's life was no life for her. She needed land beneath her feet, stability. A home, a family. She proudly raised her head and opened her mouth to bid him farewell, then march out with dignity and be out of his life.

One thing stopped her however. The fact that the first thing her feet would touch was thin air, and then water that would last for eternity. Abruptly she closed her mouth. She gave Max a covert glance and found that his eyes were now laughing. At her. Why of all the insolent-

"'Tis as I thought sprite. You cannot go." he laughed.

Her eyes narrowed and she stared steadily at him, gathering up her calm and courage. "Not now, I confess I am rather stranded with you. But soon, when we touch land. I will go." It took her a moment before she suddenly realized that in truth she had no idea what land they would be touching next. They had gone to England and now have left it in less than a day. She didn't have time to register it, no time to walk to the deck, or even the porthole and look at it. It was gone in the blink of an eye. It didn't help ofcourse that she had also been bedridden-not by her own choice.

"You are a stubborn little thing aren't you." he murmured softly, eyeing her in speculation. His eyes raked over her form and she felt herself blushing.

She shook her head. " Not stubborn. I simply know my own mind." she refuted.

"Unlike most women." he added, speaking what she had indeed been thinking.

Liz straightened her shoulders regally and gave a proud toss of her head. " They do not have a choice do they. Men seem to think they rule the world. When indeed, they would not even exist, were it not for the women."

"You cannot argue though, that men are a very important part of human reproduction. " he arched a brow at her. "Not to mention....very pleasurable part." Liz could have sworn her entire body would have combusted, if it were able to, from the heat that assailed her. Especially the one coming from his eyes.

"Indeed-I cannot argue with that- I suppose-" she broke off, her attempt to show that that remark did not affect her not working. She shook her head. "How can one argue from first hand experience?" she asked softly, a sensual look clouding her eyes.

She head his sudden indrawn breath, saw his eyes grow dark and his body tense. If he could unnerve her with his words then she could atleast return the favour. It pleased her immensely to see that she was not the only one affected by this strange.....thing, that she could not even describe. Whatever it was between them.

She must have looked too smug for he broke into wry laughter and shook his head. "Vixen." he murmured softly.

Strangely..........she found herself laughing along with him. Something she knew she had never done before, and it warmed her.

Three days have passed since the confrontation in his cabin and Liz felt that there was some uneasy truce between them. He had firmly ordered her to rest for a few more days to be sure there is not real injury, especially in her head. She had obeyed in the end, on the promise that she would get to get up and walk around the deck to exercise her body and get it used to movement.

She revelled in the sweet breeze that blew across her face and the wonderful heat of the sun that caused her skin to tingle warmly. She had already gotten her sea legs and moved easily about the deck, smiling everywhere and at everyone. She felt strangely happy and content. It was a weird feeling, but one she chose not question. If she was feeling that then all the better in the circumstances. It helped her disposition.

She stood at the rail, watching the sun now setting over the horizon. A hand snaked around her and she gasped as it drew her back against a solid warm chest. She tensed. The arm relaxed slightly, to give her space.

"Liz." a low voice in her ear. One she knew so very well.

"Max" she gasped in surprise. After that day, he had virtually left her alone. Other than the polite greetings and questions he hardly came near her and was always off doing something else. Always busy. At night she always expected him to walk in and start making love to her once again. But he never did. And she couldn't deny, that in her heart, she felt disappointed.

But now he was here.

"I like how you say my name." he growled. "Say it again."

"Max." it was a sigh on her lips.

And then she frowned slightly as she repeated his name in her mind several times. It was not an odd name, yet she never wondered before if it stood for a longer name or even where he came from to be name so. Now she really wanted to know. She wanted to know everything she could about the enigmatic captain Max.

"Tell me, what does 'Max' stand for? I have wondered-" she broke off and quiet ensued. She dared not turn around and confront him head on. If he didn't like the questions then she would rather face his wrath from behind.

"Maxwell." he finally said. Liz tried the name on lips silently. It was a elegant name, a gentleman's name. Somehow, she didn't think it fit a pirate's. 'Max' was most definitely more suitable.

"It's a nice name." she offered.

"My thanks." his voice was amused, and she wondered if he had guessed her thoughts.

"And what of you? I have hardly head a of a 'Liz' before. And an Italian one at that." he questioned and Liz saw no reason why she shouldn't tell him her full name. After all....what harm could it do?

"It stands for Elizabeth. 'Liz' is simply a nickname. And I am not Italian. I simply live there." But that was all she was willing to disclose. For some odd reason, she thought he knew that.

"A lovely name," he said, his breath tickling the hair at her ear, " But I prefer 'Liz' better. Elizabeth is just too formal for a little sprite like you." His fingers splayed open over her stomach. Liz sucked in her breath.

"I shall take that as a compliment." she replied lightly, trying to ease the sudden tension that sprang up between then. This was the first real, unthreatening conversation they have had and for some reason, she did not want it ruined. She really wanted to find out more about him. For heaven's sake she'd been with him for days and days and she hardly knew anything at all about him.

She did not know why. But she desperately wanted to reach him. In every way.

"What is it Liz?" he whispered and Liz closed her eyes, wondering for the millionth time why she wasn't fighting him. Why she wasn't pulling away from his touch and trying to find words to describe him as the rake and pirate he was.

The sunset was just too beautiful she guessed. The water like crystal.

"Nothing..." her voice trailed off. His arm tightened for second around her. "Don't lie" he muttered into her hair. "Tell me."

Liz swallowed. "''s just that I- simply wondered...about-your-life and....." she didn't go on. She guessed that he understood what she meant to ask. Before she knew it, she was spun around and was looking up at him with wide guileless eyes. She was relieved to see there was no anger in his. But they were blank and she would derive nothing from them, nor from his expression.

His hand came up to push a stray hair back behind her ear. The darkness began to swirl around them. His lips curled, in smile that wasn't really a smile. " I am a pirate sweet Elizabeth. I plunder ships for their treasures and ravish innocent maidens. I am a thief and a cad and I am never to be trusted. The sea is my haven and the ship, my home. There is nothing more to say about the life of a pirate." His words ended, softly mocking.

And then before she could even blink he leaned forward and brushed his lips to hers, then straightened, his lips curled again and whispered, "Sleep well sweet Elizabeth." He turned on his heel and Liz heard them clicking on the hard wood, turning faint, as he disappeared from view.

Liz didn't know how she managed it but she slept throughout the night. Peacefully even. She'd thought the disturbing events of during that quiet setting of the sun would keep her awake all night, but she was wrong, and she wondered at the peace and calm that had settled over her.

She was carefully getting out of bed- she was back in her own room now so the captain can have his cabin back- before the door smashed open. Liz jumped, startled and for a fleeting moment of panic thought it was going to be just like the time before. With Max barging in, kissing her senseless and then demanding to know why she was trying to kill herself.

It wasn't Max however. It was Maria, and she was as hysterical as ever.

"Liz! Oh goodness Liz you must get up, you must come! No wait you mustn't or you'll be killed, I'll be killed!" Maria shouted as she came toward her gripping her hands and pulling her toward her.

Liz saw the fright in her eyes and the strange excitement and knew instinctively that something had happened, or was going to happen. Mentally she revised Maria's words.

"KILLED?!" she squeaked. "Whatever do you mean?"

"Well," Maria began, "I don't know if we are to be killed but it is a possibility since we are on board a pirate ship and when a pirate ship attacks another there are bound to be fatal consqe-" she never got to finish because Liz was up in an instant, still dressed in her dressed because she hadn't bothered to change last night, grabbing at Maria's dress and twisting the material.

"What do you mean attack! speak English woman!" Liz demanded.

Maria frowned. "But I am-"

Liz twisted the material more. "No I mean explain it coherently." she bit off.

"Oh well," Maria shrugged and looked ruefully, "In my current state I might not be able to do that so you might as well go up on deck and see for yourself."

The moment the words were out Liz wasted no more time, instead rushed to the door and ran frantically up onto the deck. Everything and everyone was moving around at once. There was not an unmoving object or man laying about. Everyone was in a flurry of activity.

She only noticed half of that, because what she was really looking at were the black cannons that were being rolled from place to place and the cannon balls being placed strategically next to them so that they can be reached quite easily-

Oh heavens! She need to find Max. She didn't stop to think. She just had to find him. Immediately she saw him on the quarter deck speaking to one of the sailors, giving orders. He looked bright, alert and full of grim determination. She didn't like that look. Not at all.

Quickly she rushed to him and without bothering with being subtle or polite she came up behind him and grabbed his arm, turning him towards her, her eyes frantic as were her movements.

"Max!," she exclaimed. "What is going on? Please tell me, what's happening?"

Max only looked at her for a moment then smiled in a way that Liz did not like. Without answering her question he turned away and pointed. "Do you see that?"

Liz turned swiftly to glimpse what he was showing her. And caught her breath.

It was another ship.

Her brow furrowed. She was confused. "I don't understand." she turned questioning eyes toward him again.

This time she interpreted his smile as wry. " Do you remember what I told you last night sweet Elizabeth?"

It took a moment for that to sink again. Then she caught her breath on a loud gasp. Her eyes grew wide, her mouth hung open and her body began to tremble at the implication of his words.

"You can't mean-you can't mean....." she swallowed with great difficulty, "You cant mean-!!" it came out as a terrified squeak. Max seemed to notice this. He opened his mouth, intent on further explanation of his actions but a sailor approached him then holding something black in his hands.

"Beggin' yer pardon Ca'ptn but when would ye like ol' jolly Roger up?" he questioned, shaking the material for emphasis.

Max studied the close ship for a moment then the black material. Finally he nodded. "We're close enough. We ought to atleast give them fair warning of what's to come. Pull him up." he answered decisively.

Liz watched in numb shock as the sailor tied it to something or other then began to lift it up. She gazed with glazed eyes at the nearing ship wondering briefly what ship it was and who was on it and what was on it. She wondered if there was any treasure.

Her face contorted in sudden dismay. This couldn't be real. It couldn't be happening! But she knew it was, as she looked up to were the black flag flapped vigorously in the wind. Crossed swords clashing. Skull, with hollowed eyes flashing with deadly intent.

posted on 17-Feb-2003 4:39:23 AM
Part 32

She knew however that it was all too real. She watched in a haze as they neared the other ship. She watched as Max shouted orders to the sailors that stood near the ready cannons, armed with their own swords and guns. They gleamed in the bright sun, making the sharp blades look even more deadly.

Liz swallowed, as an unbidden image of them stained with red blood. Infact, too many horrifying images were clouding her mind and she could do nothing to stop them. She was too panicked. Liz thought she was surely going to be sick. This was a nightmare!

"You can't do this!" she burst out. Max turned and raised an arrogant brow at her.

"And who are you to tell me what I can or cannot do?" his voice was threaded with steel.

Liz flushed angrily at his words. It was true that in respect she was just the prisoner with no rights. But curse the man, he was making her so afraid!

"Why?" she demanded desperately. It was a stupid question to ask a pirate, because they don't have reasons for plundering a ship, but somehow-and she didn't know how- she knew Max was different. There was something too unusual about him, things that didn't fit right with who he was supposed to be. That was why she was asking. Because for Max, there had to be reason.

Max's expression turned unreadable and his eyes hardened. " That" he bit off " is none of your damn business."

Liz's eyes widened and she stared at him, surprised at the anger in his voice. All because of a simple question. And the way he had answered that question was all Liz needed to know that this was no attack on a whim.

This was planned.

And ofcourse, she didn't know why. Or how. Infact, she didn't know anything at all! Nothing but the fact that she was stuck here with a pirate that hardly acted like one and harbored dark secrets. She felt so helpless!

"Please!" she made a mad grab for his arm, gripping it and eyeing him imploringly. She just had to be told something or she'd go mad! This was all so terrifying to her. She knew what happened in attacks like these. Guns were fired, swords were drawn and blood was spilt. People died.

She couldn't even stomach the thought, let alone see it happen in truth. And the fact that the man standing beside her, the man who made love to her and made her feel so many turbulent emotions that she couldn't even understand, was about to instigate the entire thing made it even worse.

That wasn't the only thing however. The one thought that stood out as clearly as the sun in the bright blue sky was the fact that while the crew could kill and be could the captain.

Max could die today.

And get what he deserved! the voice of justice spoke inside her head. But it was impossible. She just couldn't see Max as a fallen man. A dead man. While he was a pirate and had stolen and killed and kidnapped her....she didn't want him to die.

The thought stunned her, and confused her. Because if she didn't want him dead, then she didn't hate him so much. She was supposed to hate him! It was her right! The only kind of feeling she should have toward him. Hate.

But she didn't want him to die.

Max looked down into her eyes. They seemed to melt and soften as they moved over her. As if he finally understood her misgivings.

"Sweet Elizabeth." He whispered, as if to himself. His hand reached up to caress her cheek. Liz didn't stop him. She knew then that he would not offer any explanation as to his actions, but his touch, and his next words gave her unexpected reassurance.

"Worry not sprite. My day has not come, neither has any other man's. " a soft, butterfly's kiss landed on her forehead, and Liz almost cried at the tenderness. It was ridiculous to feel so, especially at such a time...but she couldn't help it.

It embarrassed her greatly. The tears built up in her eyes, ready to burst, and she didn't want that to happen in front of him. Her insides were in upheaval and her throat was choked up. She didn't know why it was difficult to speak.

He was a pirate for heaven's sake! She was not supposed to feel this way. They tore at her, these mixed emotions that she could not identify. She wanted to be free of him and go home, but she also did not want to lose him. Not to death.

The turmoil shone brightly in her eyes, glassy from the unshed tears. Without a word, she turned from him, wishing to make a good escape. She could not face this now!

A strong hand wrapped itself around her arm. She knew who's it was and she struggled against it.

"Let me go!" she could barely choke that out. She was afraid he would twist her around and force her to meet his gaze. Force her to see what she should have realized the moment their eyes met, full of stormy emotions, that first night.

But to his credit, he did not. He only brought her back hard against his chest, his lips near her ear. " Go below to my cabin and lock the door. Stay there until it I come for you. Close your eyes and ears my sweet sprite." his head moved, and he buried his face in her hair, inhaling. "Christ Liz! You're so innocent, so tempting.." his voice was muffled.

Liz had no time to react before she was spun around and his lips came crashing down on hers. She had no fight left in her and so she surrendered to his embrace, giving back with everything she had. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she couldn't help but wonder if this was to be the last time she would be held in his arms, willingly or not.

It had her wrenching out of his arms and nearly tripping on her feet, as she hurried away from him, to find solace somewhere, anywhere else.

Max watched her go, his eyes glowing with a fiery emotion that was never there before. He raised his hand to his cheek. His fingers touched the salty wetness of her tears.

"She's trying to outrun us." Michael observed casually as he stared at the ship, labeled with the name "Morning Lark"

Max shrugged. " I enjoy a good chase." The light of battle danced in his eyes.

Michael watched with narrowed eyes and clenched hands that were more than prepared for battle. " Do you think it is armed?"

"I doubt it. It's a cargo ship. While they might be adequately armed for some kinds of situations-"

"Ah like pirates set to plunder their fortunes?" Michael's voice was amused as he raised his brow.

"Indeed," Max went on with a straight face, " there is that...." his tone held a confident dismissal that Michael didn't doubt. Come hell and fire.

The next few minutes went by in a blur. They caught up with the ship. It fired one cannon that didn't reach it's target. The pirates shouted their battle cries, drawing their weapons, ready to pounce onboard the other ship. The two ships crashed against each other.

Max raised his rapier high in the air, playing the role of 'pirate' perfectly. " Let's get at them men!" He shouted heartily and with a slash of his weapon against the glinting sun. The blade sliced through thin air.

And might yet slice through flesh.

The Morning Lark had a few passengers aboard, some men, some women. It wasn't a big vessel but large enough to carry precious cargo. For a certain man. Which Max, was about to thwart.

The women screamed and uttered rapid prayers in their terror. A little boy clutched fearfully at his mother's skirt, looking about to burst into tears. The men tried to look courageous, but their trembling hands gave them away. They were scared. And rightly so, since they were being taken over by pirates. Who by reputation are to be ruthless killers that raped the women, murdered the men and stole the treasures.

The Morning Lark fought as valiantly as it could, considering it's inexperienced sailors and lack of military support. Swords clashed and clanged. Grunts of male efforts filled the tension filled air. Passengers cowered, and sailors of both ships littered the deck,fighting and cursing in the same breath.

With Max's crew overtaking the Morning Lark's meager one, and their own slightly superior strength and experience, there was no question as to who would win. That was what scared a woman, who saw that she was doomed, and who raced across the deck, in full panic, to clutch at one of the pirate's shirts.

"No!" she screeched, " Please, please don't kill us! I beg you. Have mercy, spare us!"

The pirate turned to look at her with leering eyes, looking her up and down. His sword lowered and grabbed at her to take her in his arms. "Well well, lookie what a pretty thing we 'ave here. All ready to do anythin' to live." His voice was suggestive.

A thump, and then the man's hand was snatched away from her in a blink of an eye, and his arm twisted behind his back until he cried out with pain. The woman looked wide eyed as she stared at what just happened. She also couldn't help but notice the very man who handled the current situation.

Max twisted the man's arm a little tighter before letting go abruptly. " I told you no one is to be touched. I meant it." his soft words spoke volumes, and the sailor nodded frantically and got away, afraid he'd be in for a whipping later.

Max turned slowly to the frozen woman and smiled charmingly. He made sure his rapier was hidden from view as he bent over to gently grab her hand and raise to his lips. That seemed to jolt her somewhat, because she jerked, her eyes grew wide an she gasped. But not with fright it seemed, because she was too much in awe.

"My apologies dear lady for my sailor's reprehensible manners. I try to keep them in line, yet some seem to insist to be lead astray, and cause distress such as to a lovely woman like yourself." He spoke smoothly and attached a beguiling grin that has captured many hearts of women. This one was no exception.

He noticed that she wore a black dress of some fine silk. It was very appropriate for widowhood and her elderly features. What contradicted that, were the sparkling rings on her fingers and the pearl necklace.

She blushed and immediately demurred. "You are too kind sir. And please do call me Mrs. Crofton. I am a widow," she hastily added, just to be sure he knew he need not worry about a jealous husband. She looked up at his through her lashes. " And what do you call yourself good sir?"

Max hid the amusement in his eyes. He sketched a formal bow, then turned, allowing his long sword to gleam into view. " The Hawk, madam, at your service..." His teeth showed, straight and white as he grinned , " Or should I at mine..."

While she was still speechless he brought a hand caressingly up to her neck. She did not even have time to feel his touch, because too soon he took it away.
"I'm much obliged Mrs. Croft." and without a word walked off into the silence. The fight was over. The Morning Lark was now the Cruella's prisoner. It was up to Max now, to decide what to do with that.

Mrs. Croft still stood astounded, watching his back. She brought a hand to her neck in a flutter. And not only discovered that it was bare...but so was her hand.

Max walked over to the elderly man with the captain's uniform. His head was high and his shoulders thrown back as if prepared for yet another battle. His sword bound to his hip.

Max nodded toward him. " Captain."

He gave a stiff jerk of his head in acknowledgement.

"Captain Bradley at your service sir." He introduced himself and his voice was flat and toneless. But his eyes were flashing with fear and hatred.

Max knew that a scared and angry man was a dangerous man to deal with, so he attempted to sooth him as best as he could and be calm about the whole matter.

"I am sure you understand then Captain Bradley, what I'm doing here?" He asked formally.

The man gave another nod. Max saw his hand clench and move mere inches toward his sword. " What do you plan to do?"

"Well first," Max nodded toward his sword, " You, as the Captain are going to surrender the ship to me-"

"And then? Will you steal and kill us all?" He cut in impulsively. His hand clenched and moved again. Sweat began to form on his forehead.

"Only," Max said, his eyes hard, his voice soft, " If you force me."

Bradley swallowed. His pupils dilated. Slowly he moved his hand fully onto the grip of his sword and began to carefully take it out. Max watched his every move. When it was out, Max made to stretch his hand and take its grip.

It was not to be however when Bradley did not relinquish it, but raised it and took aim to strike Max.

Max saw it coming, and his own sword was out like lightning, easily deflecting the blow. But Bradley was not intimidated yet. He continued to send blows that Max parried without any difficulty, considering the man was half hysterical.

"I won't let you win you filthy pirate! You'll die before you touch anything! I'll kill you!"

Max wasn't troubled with those remarks. But he was getting tired of this game. He aimed a crushing blow at Bradley's sword. It stunned everyone, especially because it snapped the metal in half. The man stood frozen in place. His entire body trembling in violent reaction. His unbelieving eyes fixed on the broken blade. It dropped with a resounding clatter to the floor. The knowledge that he was beat hit Bradley and created mixed feelings. While he was terrified, he was also totally unbalanced in that feeling, making him rash. He was too scared and figured that now he would receive his punishment from the damn pirate for attempting to kill him. So he had nothing to lose.

Bradley charged at him. Max tried to stop him but ended up being pushed back along with the momentum. He stumbled and they both fell. Michael and the rest watched on, trying to decide whether to interfere or not. But in the end he didn't, knowing that Max could handle himself. And besides, it was his fight.

Bradley managed to land the first blow to Max's eye, but Max soon recovered and took charge of the situation. He didn't allow Bradley to even graze him with his hand. They rolled around on the deck, each trying to get the upper hand on the other. Max was surprised to see that the old captain was stronger than he realized. Quickly he aimed his first at his mid section to knock the wind out of him. While he clutched at his stomach in reaction Max managed to stand up and grab Bradley by the collar, dragging him up as well.

"You have done yourself a great disservice sir, by tangling with me." He growled menacingly, enough to make any man shake in his boots. It looked like the captain wanted to.

Instead he appeared to gather all his courage and look unafraid. " Did you think you damn pirates will just be able to steal from us and leave us stranded? I think not! We will fight till the end!"

Max was very amused, his anger forgotten. " be at ease old man. We won't leave you stranded." and laughing he turned away, ready to get on with the day's business.

But it appeared that the Morning Lark's Captain was not ready to be dismissed so quickly, because, before anyone would detect, he had withdrew a gleaming knife that was hidden in his breeches and threw it at him. Max sensed it before he turned, but he wasn't fast enough and it grazed his side. Blood flowed from the wound and immediately stained his shirt. He grunted and bent to pick up the knife that had fallen at his feet. His eyes raised to Bradley, smoldering with absolute fury.

Without acknowledging anything around him, he strode toward him and grabbed him by the neck, barreling him backwards until he cried out in pain when his back hit the rail. Max's hand almost squeezed the breath out him of, and he began chocking and turning red and blue in the face. The bloody knife now aimed directly at his throat. This time, there would be no chance for misses.

"Noo!" Max heard the voice, but in his haze of rage, it took him a while to decipher it. And then he didn't have to. Because a soft but urgent hand was grabbing at his, trying to pull him away. The same voice pleading for him to stop. When Max turned, his eyes suddenly cleared and he stared, incredulous at Liz. Her hair was disheveled and her eye wild with fear.

Max dropped Bradley to the floor fast and without regard to anything else gripped Liz by the arm and marched her away before turning her around to confront her. " What the devil do you think you're doing here?" he bit out furiously. " Did I not tell you to stay in the cabin?"

Liz shook convulsively. " I couldn't. I had to come." her words made no sense.

"No you didn't! I wanted you safe!" he almost shouted.

"And I couldn't let you die!"

They came out before she could stop the words. And now they both stared at each other, she trembling, he so still one would think he was made of stone. Then he whirled around and swore beneath his breath.

Liz tried to fill the silence that followed. With a change of subject. " Please. Please don't kill him Max. Please."

Max looked back at her pleading tone and she waited with an anxious breath as he stared at her broodingly. Then, so slight she almost didn't see it, he nodded. Liz was so relieved that she didn't question the desire to rush to him and wrap her arms around him. Max grunted as she touched the wound but didn't care. He only grunted

"Well that is indeed a first." Bradley's voice sneered from behind him. Max set Liz from him and turned to face him. When he said no more, Max raised an arrogant brow questioningly at him. Bradley bristled.

"It appears that you are a weak pirate, to be so easily swayed by the whims of your whore." Liz gasped and Max's teeth ground together and a nerve ticked in his cheek. His eyes darkened, but he said nothing. He only beckoned Michael to order him to start unloading the cargo. As he walked towards him Max turned to another sailor and called to him.

"I want you to take Miss Elizabeth back to my cabin Danny. And make sure she stays there." He was looking straight at her, the order that she not argue with him clear within their depths. Liz held her tongue. Nothing else mattered now. Now that she knew that he was safe, and that the man he was fighting with wouldn't die.

Maintaining eye contact for as long as she could she began to walk away, over to the plank that had been placed between the two ships. The one she had crossed, unable to withstand waiting in a closed cabin. Just wondering. Then he turned and sent a fist flying right against Bradley's nose.

"Never," he hissed," speak about her that way."

Bradley suffered greatly from the force of the blow. But when he turned to look back at Max, his nose spurting blood, his eyes glittered.

Liz could hear the chaos going on above on deck from where she sat waiting below. Waiting impatiently for Max's return. She really hoped everything went well and no one got hurt. Never did she even think, to ask the other ship for help.

And then suddenly she heard something. Words. Urgent. Some swearing.Michael was bellowing left and right. Asking for a doctor.

A doctor?!

Liz's feet were flying below her as she struggled to the deck, instinct taking her where she should be. She looked around frantically. And then she stopped dead, her breath frozen in her lungs.

Max was being carried by Michael and another man. His body limp, His shirt was ripped open, and blood oozed out in great volumes across his chest. There was a ringing in her ears, an unearthly calm over her body, she did not even blink. She registered nothing but the fact that Max looked utterly lifeless. He couldn't be dead. He couldn't be dead!

"NO!" she screamed , her body jerking in movement as she propelled herself forward. He couldn't be dead.

She saw Michael look up at her. Maria appeared, opened mouthed with wide eyes at the sight. She too was in shock.

The sailors stepped out of her way. He couldn't be dead.

Liz didn't even hear her own running steps, or Michael's shout to stay away and to get a doctor, anyone to help. Whatever had happened was of no consequence. Just a few moments ago she had left him, arrogant and sure of himself. And safe. Alive. Breathing, his amber eyes open and full of swirling emotions that always left her enthrall.

He couldn't be dead. He couldn't be dead. Couldn't be dead........

Part 33

She screamed on the inside. Her throat wouldn't work well enough to allow her voice through. All she could was swallow convulsively. Her legs where running before she even took the folds of her dress in her hands and held the up to make her way quickly to him. Her heart had stopped beating for one awful second before it began its endless beating again, fast and irregular. Her breathing grew labored, her eyes never left him. Her steps echoed along the deck. Almost there.

She felt Michael straighten. He was reaching for her, to draw her back and away. Determinedly she pushed past him, hard enough to make him stumble back slightly. No one was going to get in her way. Before she knew it, she was on her knees beside him, her shallow breaths puffing against his lifeless one, her entire body trembling horribly, while his was as still as death.

She sniffed loudly and reached unsteady hands to his face. Her hands cupped his cold cheek,as she turned him towards her. She silently prayed he would open his eyes, and then stare at her, until she drowned within their amber depths. Until she praised and cursed the unmistakable power he had over her. But he didn't and she shook him, trying to draw him awake.

"Max," she whispered hoarsely, she shook harder. " Max." Wake up! Open your eyes and don't leave me like this you beast of a man!

But he didn't. Before she knew it her hands were at his chest, checking to see his wounds. When she looked down she saw her fingers stained with blood. Max's blood. The arrogant brute who was so full of power and confidence, so full of life. Liz sniffed again, trying to keep the treacherous tears at bay. This was no time to cry, no time to face the pain.

The man she loved was dying before her very eyes!

With anger in her eyes and voice, she looked at Michael who was standing beside her, his own eyes asking, pleading, if there was anything she could do. There were no physicians around she knew, or else one would have been brought to them, a sword at his neck threateningly if need be. She herself had to do something, and fast.

"What happened?" she choked out, afraid of the worst.

Michael answered in a wavering voice, " Bullet." was all he said.

"Hurry! I want him stripped, and put in bed. Then I wish for clothes, bandages, hot water and anything else I might need." she almost spat. She was just so afraid. She knew what she was capable of. She just hoped, and prayed, that it would be enough. A bullet, god help us.

No one hesitated to do as she requested. Immediately two men came to carry Max, as gently as they could, down to his cabin, with Michael and Liz hot on their heels. The rest went took care of what she needed.

In the late hours of the night, Liz sat beside him, praying that he would not succumb to the fever. She hoped that she had done well. She taken out the bullet successfully, without taking out her insides. She's bathes it with alcohol, which was abundant, to disinfect it, and then she'd had Michael heat up a knife and place it on the wound as she stood out side, unable to bear the sight. After that she'd cleansed and bandaged the wound. They could only leave it to god now.

They weren't so lucky. When she later checked his temperature, Liz found that it was soaring. Immediately she panicked, calling for Michael. He brought in a bowl of ice cold water and Liz quickly started to bathe him, to keep him cool. It seemed to be doing little good because before long Max started thrashing, and then mumbling incoherent words. It looked like he was having a nightmare.

"Isabel!" Liz jerked when he suddenly called out her name. Isabel? Who was this Isabel? A lover? A wife? It was ridiculous at this times but Liz felt a great jealously ripping through her.

He murmured a few other words as he threw his head from side to side. " Isabel," he whispered. " What do you want the money for honey?" His hands flapped out, as if trying to reach something, or someone. " Don't you have enough clothes?" he sounded exasperated. He thrashed a bit more.

Liz tried her best to soothe him, murmuring unintelligible words, continuing to bathe his forehead, his face. And then suddenly she almost jumped off the bed with the force of his jerk. Liz sat back with a yelp of surprise. And then he began to fight in earnest. Liz choked back a sob as she tried to calm him. Tears threatened to roll down her cheeks as she lay half on top of him, trying to still him.

"Damn you! You bastard, sonofabitch..." Liz wanted to close her ears against the assault but she couldn't because she was doing her best in subduing his flailing fists.

"I'll get you for this! You'll pay! Arghh," he mumbled a few other things that Liz couldn't make out and thrashed around some more.

"Oh Max please. Calm down. Shhh, shhh. It's ok. Shh." she whispered, staring at his fevered face.

As if by miracle, he quieted somewhat, as if he heard her. " Isabel." he whispered, and Liz's heart clenched.

"Isabel?" he asked now, louder. Liz swallowed the lump in her throat.

"I'm here Max. It's alright. I'm here." she sniffed slightly. Her hands caressed his hot cheeks. He shuddered.

"Isabel," and Liz's heart broke at the immense pain she could hear in that one word.

"I'm here, " she whispered.

"I'm sorry.." he mumbled a few other things, " ..should've protected you...." he muttered something. Liz continued to calm him and bathe him. " revenge..."

Liz stared at him in the early hours of the morning, wondering, about pirate Max's life. And the pain and anger that seemed to haunt him. But then she briskly covered him and told herself it was none of her business.

4 days later

Liz sighed dreamily as she sat in the tub of warm water. It seemed like a lifetime since she'd had a decent bath. And now that Max was going to be alright she decided to enjoy the sweet luxury. As she bathed she thought of how well he'd recovered those past days. It was as if he had never been shot at all. But he was still slightly weak, and was advised not to do anything too straining for his physical strength. Max stared at her when Michael said that, and Liz's blush was as bright as a beetroot.

After that, Liz tried to stay away from him. He was still confined to the bed, to his immense frustration, but she was still cautious. Now he was asleep and Liz was quietly relaxing, after setting up a screen between them so he couldn't see.

When the water grew cold Liz slowly stepped out, the water sloshing gently. Quickly she went to reach for the towel that was draped on the chair. But she was unavoidably detained when an arm snaked around her and she was brought back against a hard male chest. She knew who it was, before he even spoke.

"A more beautiful sight I have never seen, " he whispered hotly in her ear. Liz shivered.

"Max," she breathed, " I thought you were asleep."

"I was too full of thoughts of you," he murmured, " of wanting you." His hands moved to caress her bare skin.

She shivered and belatedly realized she was naked. She shivered again, and tried to move away, but he held her to him.

"You are cold," he kissed the curve of her shoulder, " Let me help..."

Liz resisted, " But Max-" She got to say no more because he twisted her head around and his lips met hers in a kiss that nearly took her breath way. It was a while before he broke away, his hands bringing her to a state of such wanting that she was ready to burst. And this man had been shot only a few days ago!?

He made her begin to ache for him. She almost protested when he left her. She wasn't the only one, because she could feel his growing erection brush her buttocks as he moved away. He was naked too!

Max turned away to take up the towel. He faced her, his lips set in a small smile, murmuring incoherent words. Liz's breasts heaved, begging to be touched. Max gently wrapped the towel around her shoulders, the cotton side against her skin, then began to rub her firm flesh dry. He swelled even more in reaction.

"You're an incredible woman," he murmured. He moved to stand behind her, his hands sliding the towel down her arms. Liz was frozen, but her breathing was heavy. She knew she should, but she just couldn't stop, or make him stop. She was hypnotized, and she wasn't even looking into his eyes!

"Everything about you entices me-excites me," he said low, kneading her strong yet slim arms. Oh heavens! It was a shameless seduction and she was willingly going along.

He paused, looking down over her shoulder, at her petite breasts. Liz was shaking, although he knew it was no longer from the chill. " Your breasts are beautiful, wet and gleaming like this," he said.

She made a slight, strangled sound. No woman should endure this sensual torture.

"He reversed the towel and pulled the silk side over her breasts, drying them at first briskly, then slowly. He watched the hard peaks engorge. Liz began to sway as Max's hands splayed, cupped her. " I love your breasts," he said thickly, kneading them. Then a strange thought occurred to him. It wasn't just her breasts he loved-

"Oh god," Liz gasped, interrupting his disturbing thoughts. He realized that his thumbs had grazed her nipples.

"You are shaking," he whispered in her ear, well aware that his breath was hot and erotic. " You are so wet Liz." He rubbed the towel over her belly languidly. Liz shuddered, whimpered. And as he did so, for the first time, he allowed his erection to brush the cleft between her buttocks. Although he wore his breeches he was so large that the fabric was strained to the breaking point.

"I am going to make you very very warm." he whispered against her neck, watching his hand on the towel as he pushed it lower and lower still. " I love looking at you Liz." And he knew he meant it. He knew he could look at her forever. He knew he could do lots of things with her forever.

Liz stood as straight as an arrow, aware of the amazing feelings of pleasure that were spreading through her and welcoming them with everything she had. She wouldn't think of the consequences now, or that they might part ways soon, or the way they live their lives, or who he is and who she is. Tonight they are simply a man and a woman who-at the way things are progressing- are going to make passionate love. It didn't matter that the 'love' may only be one sided, she wouldn't even worry about that fact right now. All that mattered was that she was going to wrap him around her and make them both lose themselves in the wonder of it all.

"Spread you thighs," he ordered,"so I can dry all of you."

Oh god, the man left her no room to even think! She was too enraptured. Too far gone.

Liz moaned, obeying him. Max molded the silk over her sex, used it to separate her folds, and finally, his own body shuddering, he thrust his thumb up against the silken towel and began to manipulate her clitoris. Liz sagged against him and cried out. He felt her convulsing. Quickly he turned her around to face him, his lips attacking hers with desire and a remarkable tenderness that left her breathless. She wrapped one arm around his neck and the other drifted downward, exploring.

It slid against a hard , smooth chest. Her fingers drifted over his male nipples and stayed there for a bit, toying with them, fascinated by the slight shivers that wracked him. When her palm touched his stomach, the muscles there clenched. Liz dipped her index finger into his navel. Max let out a groan. She knew where that hand was headed, and she knew she wanted it to get there. She needed to touch him, to explore him, find out about the amazing piece of him that could bring her such pleasure. Yet she was hesitant. She had come this far, there was no reason, or will to turn back, but she couldn't manage to do it.

Max seemed to sense her distress and desire. He reached down and opened his breeches, allowing his phallus to spring free. Liz gasped at the sight.He took her hand before she could make a move, and molded it against his naked manhood . Her eyes widened and she stifled a yelp of surprise and instinct made her pull her hand away. Only Max gripped her tightly, making her stroke his huge, hard, slickly swollen length. Liz was fascinated as she watched, the feel of him, like steel encased within a velvet glove, and so gloriously powerful and male. She wondered how it would feel against her lips. Her face burned like fire at the erotic thought.

She looked up and saw his eyes closed, his face strained and rigid. Without thought, her grip tightening, Liz bent down low and kissed the ripe, plumlike tip. Max gasped and arched slightly. She straightened quickly and let go of him, afraid she had done something wrong. But when he opened his eyes and looked down at her, Liz almost choked on the black and potent desire she saw swirling within their depths. He reached for her, the towel dropping from his fingers, and Liz went blissfully into his open arms.

Liz sat on the edge of the bed, watching Max sleep. How boyish and innocent he looked, not like the worldly pirate he was when he was awake. Tenderly, her fingers brushed the hair from his temple. Tears gathered in her eyes. She couldn't believe it yet, still found it hard to conceive, just how much he had come to mean to her. It was unbelievable, it was beyond understanding, but it was so true. She should have known it the first time she looked into his eyes, the first time they touched...but she had been in denial then. For, how could she ever love a pirate? Did she not want an honest and fair and kind gentleman to lay claim to her heart? Max was the complete opposite to what she had envisioned, and she loved him.

It was so wrong, yet it sounded so right. She did not know when hate had turned to love. Was it when he saved her from that villainous group? Was it when he made such tender love to her for the first time? Was it when he cared for her through all the days she was wounded? Or perhaps when he honored her wish and took mercy on the captain of the other ship? The feelings he churned in her were so euphoric and yet to agonizing, it was enough to tear her apart. And she did not know what to do.

Much much later

She didn't know where the man got his stamina from! They had barely left the bed to get dressed before they were in each other's arms again!As she buttoned the last button on her dress, with a little diffuclty she glanced back at Max, who had only his breeches on. He was staring at her.

Liz blushed and looked away. " You should stay in bed. Regain your strength."

The moment it was out of her mouth she knew she'd made a big mistake. No matter that she only said it out of concern for his wound. Max's eyes flared with a strange but familiar light and he walked toward her.

"Regain my strength eh?" he intoned provocatively." Let me show you just how much energy I have left."

And before Liz could protest, she was in his arms, and being taught a most sensual lesson. One, she predicted hazily, that would rival all others.

Max pulled her to him almost savagely and began to really show her. Devour her.Liz dug her nails into his shoulders, lost in the pleasure. He held her hair in his fist like a rope, high up on her nape, close to her scalp, so she could not turn away from him. Not that she felt she had the willpower to. His lips were demanding, Liz parted hers in response. He thrust his tongue between them, just as he thrust himself erotically against her, making her aware of how hot and hard and huge he was against her own swollen sex.

Max jerked on her head once, and pushed her up against the wall. Pinned there Liz felt the last of whatever resistance she felt, ebb away. He nipped at the corner of her lips and he ducked lower,tearing down her bodice as he did so. His mouth claimed her nipple and Liz cried out, and tried to bring him closer. She held him close, gasping as he tugged and sucked, using his teeth so skillfully. When he pressed on her shoulders, urging her to the floor, Liz followed willingly. His name escaped her lips.

Her bodice was down around her waist, torn. Now Max pushed up her skirt, glad she had no drawers of which to dispose of. Liz could not stand the anticipation, not for another instant. Her hands found his breeches, brushing the massive bulge there, fumbling with the tiny buttons. Max laughed hoarsely, thrust her hands away, and freed his erection from its confines. Liz moaned at the sight of him. Unable to resist, she touched him, a long, caressing stroke upon his velvety flesh.

"You're mine Liz," Max said harshly, " always. Do you understand me?"

"Yes," she whimpered, hardly knowing what she was saying. She whispered, " I'm yours Max, always-Ohh!"

Max thrust all the way into her. Liz bucked, meeting him as savagely as he took her. Their cries sounded in unison, their breaths mingled, as he plunged into her repeatedly. Liz's explosion came very quickly. Dazed, shuddering still, Liz felt him withdraw his hardness from her. She protested. He hushed her, lying atop her fully, panting and shaking, kissing her ear, her neck. Liz moaned, and despite the return of partial sanity, she was hardly replete.

"Max," she whispered, stroking his back. Using her nails, letting him know what she wanted yet again.

"You are insatiable," he muttered thickly, " but then, so am I."

He eased his bulk into her again, this time slowly. Liz shifted restlessly, wanting so much more. But he only smiled at her, his eyes dark, gleaming. His withdrawal was so long and slow it was painful. Liz hissed. He laughed huskily, bent to nip her nipple, and began to rub the ripe to bursting head of his penis against the folds of her sex. Liz jerked, crying out, but not in protest, only in need for far more.

"We have hardly had the chance to explore each other Liz," Max murmured, rubbing back and forth so languidly that Liz thought she might day. How could he say that, when he knew every dip and curve in her body and she every muscle and angle in his? They'd spent the better part of the night doing do, and this time was no exception. At that thought she found herself responding, exploding. Her sudden release took them both by surprise.

Max hugged her, panting, still stiff and throbbing between her legs. " Greedy witch," he whispered in her ear. " I can feel you still want more."

"Oh god," Liz whimpered, unable to contain herself, " I do. I want you. Every single inch of you." It was half the truth that she couldn't help but finally blurt.

He laughed the sound arrogant. " You cannot take every inch of him, treasure." Was there a hidden meaning in that?

She gazed up at him, unable to find answers in his eyes and deciding that whether there was or wasn't she would meet that challenge. And hope he knew that she could take him,all of him. For all he was, and with everything she was. Her eyes grew dark, defiant, wicked and challenging. " No?"

He smiled slyly. " I think not." He raised up on his hands and knees. Liz looked at what he displayed. She met his glittering, arrogant gaze. Bold as a snake, she reached for him, and gripped him. Max threw his head back, sliding into her hand, moaning now. The veins stood out on his neck, his biceps rippled and flexed. Liz's pulse quickened as she realized, that she now controlled his power, it now belonged to her, and she had never felt more triumphant-or more female.

Max thrust into her palm, his temples throbbing, his manhood pulsing, his eyes still closed. Liz heard herself laughing softly. Two could truly enjoy this game. But her laughter had hardly died when Max rose up over her, breaking her grip swiftly. Stunning her once again, controlling her once again, he rubbed himself first against one taut nipple, and then the other. Liz lay as still as she could, watching, panting. He was so red and so swollen, larger now, that she thought he might very well explode there between her breasts.

Liz began to whimper, to wriggle her hips, wanting him again. Her loins were on fire. Finally she couldn't contain herself. "Max, please, oh, please!"

With a deep, guttural cry, he thrust between her legs, a place now slick with her body's secretions, slick and pulsing. Liz wrapped her legs around his waist, begging him for more, begging him to go deeper, thrust harder. Max complied, plundering without mercy. Their bodies made slapping, sucking sounds. Liz wept as her peak neared. When she began to keen, Max jerked mightily, collapsing atop her, shuddering with his own release. Her name on his lips.

Then he rolled over and gathered her in his arms as they caught their breaths. No words were spoken as Liz fell asleep within the circle of his embrace.

She opened her eyes and found herself staring at bright amber ones. Immediately images assailed her from the night before. A deep blush stole over her cheeks as she recalled the wanton way in which she had behaved. And how much she enjoyed it. Suddenly she was very shy. Her lids lowered in an effort to avoid his direct gaze.

His finger brought her chin up gently.

"Why so shy sweet?" he asked.

Liz blushed slightly again and looked downward. " It's just that-that I have never=" she faltered, unable to maker herself say what she wanted. It felt too embarrassing.

Max just bent to brush his lips with hers briefly, before rolling away from her and getting out of bed. Liz watched him as he moved around the room, stark naked. His magnificent body never ceased to amaze her, or fill her with the most potent desire. She couldn't believe she could want him again so soon. It was as if she could never get enough of him. She didn't know whether to embrace the idea or fear it.

"Worry not, love," Max spoke distractedly as he bent to put his breeches on. " After a while you will stop feeling so. " He raised hot eyes at her. " I plan to make sure of it."

Liz didn't like what his words implied. After a while? Was she to stay with him? And if what? Warily she looked at him, clutching the sheet to her bosom, and repeated the questions verbally. Max stopped and let go of the shirt he just put on. He looked back at her with unreadable eyes.

"Yes," he said, every inch the arrogant pirate now, " I have decided to keep you." He left it at that.

Liz felt anger at his words. " As what?" she asked again, this time in a stronger, more assertive voice.

He took a long time to answer, but Liz could read it in his eyes. " Mistress," she whispered to herself. " You want to keep me as mistress." she faced him with furious, accusing eyes. " You want to make me your whore!" The crude word slipped from between her lips before she could stop it.

Max was at her side in an instant, his strong hand gripping her arm fiercely. Liz struggled but to no avail. " Never," he growled, " refer to yourself as a whore. That is not what you are."

Tears threatened to fall from her eyes. She desperately tried to keep them at bay, but it was no use. First one escaped, then another, and another. She trembled as she stared at him. " You could have fooled me."

For a second they stared at each other, then Max muttered something she did not even want to know and jerked away from her. Furiously he yanked on his boots and made for the door. The moment he left, Liz had to acknowledge to herself, that what she said was only partly true. Because while he wanted her for a mistress, she had had no qualms in obliging him. And taking pleasure in it too. Quickly she got out of bed, the cool air attacking her nude body, and she got dressed, feeling a little more secure. Although she knew that mere scraps of cloth would be no barrier from Max.

After spending half the day agonizing over what to do she decided to atleast go on deck before the closed cabin stifled her to death. Just as she neared the door however it opened and Max walked in, sweating and breathing hard. He stopped when he encountered her. Liz was shocked as she stared at him. Her eyes met his in dismay, completely forgetting what had occurred between them earlier.

"What have you been doing? Do you forget that you were shot?" she demanded. She fisted her hands on her hips tightly, so as not to give into the impulse to run her hands over him and make sure he was still alright.

Max glanced at her irritably. He had spent the better part of the day immersed in physical labor in an effort to forget the woman that haunted him in a way that made a specific organ in his chest ache, who was now standing before him." No I have not forgotten, especially with a hole in my shoulder to remind me," he muttered, and without further ado went directly to the decanter of Brandy. He felt he needed it as he faced her open concern and his own mixed emotions.

Who was she? What made her so special..that he wanted to make love to her for the rest of his days? that he wanted to have her by his side, in his bed?What made her so different from the other women? Her sweet innocence? Stubbornness, courage, spirit? Her beauty?..Nay, he'd met many beautiful women, but none of them could seem to compare to the one with him now, inside or out. It scared him dammit! How could she ensnare him so completely, that,he felt, she even reached his soul? He had doubted before that he even possessed one. Now ,he looked at Liz feeling something powerful tug at his heart, he knew. And he was afraid.

Liz followed him anxious. " You should be resting-"

Max whirled on her, glass in hand. " Don't presume to tell me what to do," he growled menacingly. He couldn't take this now!

Liz was not perturbed. She glared at him. " You foolish man, do you want to die after all?"

Max advanced upon her, leaving the glass on the table. Liz was cursing herself inwardly, but she stood her ground. Her took her in his arms. There was amusement in his eyes that relieved and angered her. Did he take death so lightly?

"Nay," he whispered huskily, and pulled her flush up against him, giving her absolute evidence about just how alive he was. " Life is much much better in my estimation." He wouldn't have thought so before they met, but now, she seemed to be turning things around for him, in a way that amazed him. And they had barely known each other! But perhaps the greatest of things, always happened unexpectedly, and not on a time schedule.

Liz groaned at the desire in his voice, but at the same time flapped her arms in exasperation. " I give up!"

Max's eyes burned into hers. " Do you?"

Liz swallowed hard when she realized how took that last remark. She did not know what to say, and either way, he did not allow her to. Because he silenced whatever words she might have uttered in the most effective way. " Nevermind sweet, you don't have to tell me," he murmured, " just show me." And heaven help her, Liz thought as she wound her arms around his neck and molded their bodies together, she did.

Max held her in his arms, and Liz figured that if she were a cat she would be purring in contentment now. Moaning slightly she raised her head from his solid chest to gaze at him. She realized she might always be catching her breath every time she laid eyes on him.

Max was watching her, with a strange expression on his face. Almost, thoughtful, and determined. Liz frowned slightly at that, wondering what he was thinking of. His hand reached up to cup her cheek.

"Max?" she questioned.

"Liz," he began, but appeared to be hesitating. Liz's heart began to thump wildly. What was he going to say? Somehow she knew it would change her life forever. Her breath caught in her throat as she wondered if that change would be for the better or worse.

"Yes Max." she gazed at him with wide guileless, and warm, eyes. A wild hope fluttered within her breast.

Something of her feelings must have shown in her because Max stiffened and sat up away from her. He had seen the hope alright! A hope she most definitely harbored to be free of him. A hope that he would tell her that she could go home now, her debt was paid! Max cursed savagely, inwardly.

He did not look at her as he spoke, his voice toneless. " I have decided to let you go." He heard her intake of breath. " We are almost back to Italy. Your debt has been officially paid." He glanced briefly at her. " You have gone through much, you are free." He waited expectantly for the delighted smile that would break over her face.

Liz's eyes did not even flicker. " I see," she said with a calm she did not feel, " so now that you have used me and had your fill of me, you are going to toss me away."


"Like a common whore!" she spat, looking up at him with eyes as cold as ice. Max swore softly.

"Dammit Liz, you are not-" he began furiously.

"But I am! I am! Look at me," she gestured to herself, naked, on his bed, " This was not what I had planned for myself. Only I met you, and somehow you made me forget the kind of woman I am. You made me feel things that I shouldn't even feel till it was legal! And I succumbed, willingly. Because I wanted more. " She paused on a hitched sob. " Because I wanted you."

Max's eyes glazed over and he made to got to her. " Liz-"

"No! Go away! Just go away. Leave me alone. I can't take it anymore. All this, " she exclaimed angrily. " I'll leave captain. Gladly."

A knock sounded on the door before Max could say anything. He stalked over to it and yanked it open. " What?" he snapped.

Michael stood on the other side, and respectfully did not look at Liz who was embarrassingly trying to get adequately clothed. He looked at Max. " We're here captain. The crew await your instructions."

Max stared at the coast of the inlet. Every instinct he had told him not to go ashore. These past months at sea he had learned that he was a hunted man as the pirate Hawk. A few times a few ships came close to gaining on him and foiling him plans and capturing him. All those times he had successfully outsailed, outmaneuvered, and outraced his pursuers, engaging only in the shortest exchange of canon fire.

He was a hunted man now. Wanted for piracy on the high seas. As he had indeed committed his share of piracy, he was not surprised. He had known that the chase would come down to this. He had been prepared to live the life of the hunted for a while. He had been prepared to live that way, and successfully defy all pursuit.

Now, he no longer felt he cared. Everything seemed suddenly too bleak, whether he survived or not. And all because of woman. Max wanted to curse at everything for making him face this. But he couldn't. Because for what it was worth, it meant more to him than anything. And now it was gone. She was gone, or will be, and there was nothing he could do about it. He had given his word. He would never go back on it. Max cursed to himself for a long time at the thoughts in his head.

His instincts warned him strongly not to go ashore, but Max climbed in the long boat anyway and ordered the oarsmen to proceed. His jaw tightened.

Liz's image invaded his mind, but he ruthlessly shoved it away. He stood in the prow, surveying the approaching shoreline. The night was dark, with no moon to lead the way. There was no sign of any life or movement, but his pulse was pounding now with a certain excitement. He could feel the danger. The impending attack.

He spoke mainly to Michael but to the others as well, " Ready yourselves, we are not alone." He figured they had a hell of a fight on their hands, without even knowing with whom.

But they never stood a chance.

As soon as Max had walked a few paces up the shore, a light,so blinding he had to shade his eyes, shone on them. And it seemed to be coming from everywhere. Max blinked a few times, his hand on his sword in preparation. When he could finally see straight, he realized that the light was actually several torches lined in a semi circle around them. And holding those torches where heavily armed soldiers, pointing their weapons determinedly at him and the crew.

Max froze, his eyes narrowing as he looked around him at the ensemble. And he cursed his sudden recklessness that made him ignore his instinct. This was battle they could win. Not in the end. He wondered what they were going to do. If they were here to arrest him and have him hanged with the rest, and be rid of one more pirate, or simply throw him in prison to rot with the rats.

His eyes were suddenly drawn to two men who were on foot. They approached him. From what he could tell from their attire, he knew they where noblemen. One seemed to be an aged gentleman, perhaps less than double his age, and the other one...Max squinted slightly to see him in a better light because the other man was in shadow. Max didn't know why, but something about that man left him cold. Almost freezing. A hammer of a pistol cocked. His ears twitched at the faint sound.

Max glared at him as he stepped forward. And then his eyes reflected shock as they grew wide, that then transformed into a murderous rage that made the pools of amber burn darkly.

The Earl of Di Galvani looked back at him for a long, long moment, before raising one golden brow and curving his cruel mouth. He inclined his head, in mock salute. The pistol he held in his hand aimed right at Max's heart.

Part 34

The rage that flowed through Max's body was blaringly evident to anyone who could see. A muscle ticked repetitively in his jaw, his teeth were grinding together madly. His long body was tensed and coiled, ready to strike in an instant, and his fists were clenching and unclenching rapidly, almost aching to smash the arrogant lord's face in.

He stood his ground, staring murderously at the man who held the pistol aimed at him. He watched his every move, the confident steps he was taking, the unwavering hand that was extended toward him, the icy blue eyes that flashed with astonishment and disbelief, and the wicked grin that appeared soon after.

Max wanted to smash his fist right through that arrogant face and hear the satisfactory crushing of bones, but he held himself in check, knowing he was in a very dangerous situation that could end up with him dead.

By the hand of his sister's murderer.

"Well well well. What have we here....." Di Galvani started as he approached, taking a very good look at the man standing before him, unable to believe his eyes. " Why hello Maxwell."

Max's teeth gnashed together. " Sean."

Sean lowered the pistol briefly, feeling safe in doing so since there were over a dozen rifles trained at him should he try anything. Max knew that too, so resisted the deep urge to attack.

"This is a....surprise," Sean quirked a brow in question, intrigued.

Max's eyes smoldered. " A surprise," he repeated almost automatically, " Yes."

It was indeed a surprise. Although 'surprise' was hardly the word he would have used. It was definitely more than that. A shock, would have been more appropriate. It still wouldn't register completely in his mind. The fact that the man he had been searching for, for the past months, was standing right infront of him. For a moment he actually thought he was but an illusion.

But then he smiled. And Max knew that smile. He would never forget the countless times it was bestowed upon his love struck sister, and how it took away her life. A smile was all it took. One he would dearly like to wipe from his face, forever.

"Although, I must say. It is rather a shock to know its you." Sean continued and Max's eyes narrowed.

"I was the one what?"

"The one who has been raiding my ships," he informed him matter-of-factly, with angry inflection in his voice.

At that Max finally managed a twisted, satisfied version of a smile. " Believe me." he said with a dangerous gleam in his eyes, " it was my extreme pleasure."

Sean's eyes narrowed at him, as angry red heat stained his cheeks. " You were a great nuisance I must admit."

"I intended to be." Max stated.

"Well you won't be for long." Sean gestured at a few soldiers, " Get to the ship, search it up and down and bring back anything legitimate you find with you," He gave Max a hard measuring stare, " Who knows what, stolen, goods could be hidden there." He emphasized the word 'stolen', as if to make sure that he knew the true reality of the situation.

Max knew. There was no doubt about what his foolhardy recklessness had gotten him into. Right into the scheming hands of the one man with whom the roles should have been reversed. Damn it and Curse it! Was this all he got after months and months of agonizing, and searching, or trying to avenge his innocent sister's death?!

Fate was cruel.

As the soldiers hurried to obey Sean gazed at the rest of the crew, that stood motionless, afraid that one move and they would end up with a bullet in them. His eyes alighted on Michael. His eyes widened briefly before he turned his gaze back to Max, where his expression turned bland.

"How predictable. I should have guessed." He glanced back at Michael. " So good to see you Michael. " He looked back and forth between them. " still gullible and weak as always? or has reality blown up in your faces yet?" He bit back a chuckle.

Max snarled, baring his teeth, seconds away from striking hard and fast. " Max no!" Michael called in warning, fearful Max's temper would get the better of him and they'd all end up dead.

"Lord Di Galvani, do you know these men?" an old voice broke though, and the other man stepped forward, looking at Sean questioningly. Then glancing at Max, a bit wary and nervous. His timely intervention effectively stopped Max from making his move.

Sean looked at him. " Ah no my Lord. I do not know them in the slightest. No man of worth would." he said arrogantly, casting a sly look at a simmering Max and Michael.

The lord turned anxiously toward him. " My Lord you said that these men have my daughter."

Max's ears perked up at that suddenly. He peered more closely at the man. He was of medium height, with graying dark hair, his features where regular...yet there was something about his eyes. Something that reminded him very much of-

"Elizabeth!" He shouted and all heads turned to looked out to sea, where the guards were returning in the row boat. Liz and Maria seated near each other, shivering slightly in the cold night air, staring with wide eyes at the scene that was enfolding before them.

Max gazed at her hungrily, in the darkness of the night. The faint moonlight cast a urethral shade to her beauty. The dimness showing off the dazzling brightness of her wide eyes.. His eyes moved down to where her delicate hands were clenched tightly in her lap, the knuckles white from the strain to avoid the trembling. He looked back into her eyes, and they were staring straight at him.

There were so dark, so wide, delving deep inside him, creating sensation he never thought existed within him. Remarkable, how she could make him forget all the chaos around them as soon as their eyes met. The boat approached the shore and the soldiers jumped out and turned to help the women.

Max felt the strongest urge to just rush over there, span her small waist with his hands and let her slide down his body, making sure ever inch of them touched, as he set her down. And then to hold her close and claim her lips with his, drink from her and replenish his soul.

His eyes narrowed and darkened when he saw one man hold her and help her down. No man had the sight to touch but him. He caught himself before he charged over there to plant one right in his face. He shook himself mentally, attempting to even his breathing, which had become quite erratic. He couldn't believe he was thinking such jealous thoughts, and now of all times!

Liz had been staring at him the entire time the soldier had grabbed her and escorted her to the beach. But then they all heard the shout and Liz instinctively turned to where she heard her full name being called out. Her breath caught in her throat. She was frozen to the spot as the man that had stood beside Sean hurried toward her.

And then in the next instant she was in his arms. She still could not believe her eyes. She could only manage a hoarse whisper.


Liz stared in utter amazement at the happiness and relief that was evident on her father's face. Her father! Her father was here. How? When? Where? Why? More questions buzzed around in her head, making her almost dizzy and faint. Everything was happening too fast. What on earth was going on? What's happened?

"Oh Elizabeth darling. I thought I had lost you!" Lord Parker exclaimed hugging her to him once again then pulling away from her to inspect her. She seemed healthy and whole for all the terrible experience she had been through. His little girl was always a brave one. He couldn't believe she was safe and sound here in his arms finally. Thanks to Sean's diligent search and dedication his baby girl was back where she belonged, and the criminals that took would pay for their crimes.

Carefully he tucked Liz beneath his arm and turned slowly to face Sean. " I thank you very much my Di Galvani for saving my daughter. She is precious to me, and I do not think I would have found her had it not been for your help. You have my eternal gratitude."

Liz's eyes were now directed to Sean. he looked at him as if for the first time. It was as if she could hardly remember anything about him. But now as she saw him in the dark light of night, she remembered everything about him. Liz shivered in reaction and Jeffery rubbed up and down her arm, thinking she was cold, when in fact, she was too numb to feel anything right now.

"You do not need to thank me so Jeffery. I would do anything for the sake of my fiancée." He spoke the words deliberately, eyeing Liz with hard eyes that glittered almost maliciously.

Liz wanted to recoil from him, run from here as fast as could, and find safety. And the only place she could manage to think of was in Max's arms. At that she turned to look at him, her eyes begging. Max's face was expressionless, but he was staring so hard at her, like this was the first time he's ever seen her, like he did not know her.

And perhaps it was true. He didn't know here. And now he was finding out, and Liz was absolutely terrified of what he was thinking. On the other hand, Michael was staring at her like he couldn't believe his eyes, or ears. His eyes grew wide and his mouth hung slightly open. He gave a brief stricken glance at Max, who's expression still had not changed.

"Ahh Elizabeth! It is so good to see you so well." Sean walked toward her, and grabbed her stiff form to him. She stared at him, unmoved. " We were all so worried. I could not believe it when I realized you were kidnapped by a bunch of bloodthirsty thieving pirates." He looked at Max, who was giving him a deadly look.

Liz appeared to be discomforted and tried to escape his grasp, but he only held on tighter. " P-please my lord" she murmured weakly. This was all too much on her.

His arm moved intimately around her rib cage, beneath her breasts as he and Max locked eyes. The air was full of tension and hostility. " Remove your arm from around her Di Galvani." Everyone jumped at the sound of his voice. It was soft, dangerous. He wanted to fling Sean from her, so as not to have him taint her. He could see she was in no fit state to be handled by the swine.

Sean raised a brow at that." Oh?" slowly, lingeringly he slid his arm from around her, his fingers caressing her. Liz shuddered at the contact. " And who are you to tell me what to do?" he asked in a dangerous voice. He walked over until they were face to face, staring each other down.

Max leaned forward slightly and hissed to his ears only, " Since you are nothing of what I am."

Sean's eyes darkened and his face flushed at the indirect insult. " That is true." he whispered darkly, " for while I stand, you are a fallen man." and with that sent a fist right into Max's gut. Max grunted in pain.

"You son-of-a-" Michael attempted to attack but was immediately held back by several guards. When he continued to struggle one of them brought his rifle down over his head, knocking him unconscious.

"Michael!" Maria shouted in fear as he collapsed, she tried to rush to his but she was restrained. A cloth was tied around her mouth to stop her yelling and screaming. Wide and fearful eyes began to tear up as she struggled helplessly.

Sean hit him again. Max tried to smother the groan but unfortunately he had aimed exactly where he had hit him at first. He

managed to stay upright however and held his head up to glare at Sean. His eyes were full of contempt, that also clearly stated, 'is that the best you can do you bastard?'

Enraged Sean smashed his fist into his face. Blood spurted from his nose. Liz screamed. "Stop!"

But no one paid any attention to her. Sean hit him again, sending his face from side to side with the power of his blows. Max was swaying on his feet, his vision blurry. He looked away, and glimpsed the hazy figure of whom he knew to be Liz. She was pushing against her father, looking at him with anguished eyes. Max looked his fill, storing in his mind what he could make out.

Sean hit him again. Two soldiers came to grab him. One of them twisted his arm. "Arghhh" Max grunted and moaned in pain.

"Maaaaaxx! Nooo!" She broke away from her father and almost made it to him before she was held back again. " No, let me go. Let him go!" It was just registering with her what was happening. Her father and Sean had figured out who kidnapped her. They found out where Max was headed. They ambushed them. She was safe, home in her father's arms where she should be.

But she only longed for the pirate that was taking a battering on her behalf. And there was nothing she could so about it. "Elizabeth sweetheart, do not be so distressed. You are safe now. You are home." No I am not, she thought desperately.

She turned toward her father, her eyes wild. She gripped him fiercely. " Please father. Make him stop! Please! I beg of you."

Jeffery hesitated for a moment before looking at the pirate who was still, remarkably on his feet, but swaying dangerously. Sean's hand was smeared with blood. Liz shivered and held back a sob at the scene. She couldn't believe this was happening. It couldn't be. Only moments ago they had made sweet passionate love, were arguing like fools...This was a nightmare!

Sean grabbed Max by his shirt collar and hauled him close. " I know why you are Maxwell. I know why you are filthy and dressed up like a common man. But what I want to know, is why you stole my fiancée." Max's blood ran cold at the word.

Black fire burned inside him. " Perhaps. " he hissed, " because you stole mine." Sean brought his breech clad knee up forcefully against his stomach. Max fell to knees from the force. His arms hung over him, still held by the two men.

"Max" Liz whispered, defeated in her father's arms. She couldn't take all of this in. It was so surreal. She looked at Maria, who was looking back and forth between Michael and Max and the rest of the men, unable to believe what was happening either.

"What are you doing here Maxwell? Hmm? Come to get the bad man? Be a hero? " He leaned closer, "absolve yourself of the guilt?"

Max snapped his head up at that. And groaned at the man it caused him."What guilt?"

"Oh come now, you know what guilt. You were the cause of her death."

"No!" Max lunged at him, his muscles and bones making him groan in agony. The soldiers held him back, pulling at his arms forcefully, almost out their sockets. Max growled like a beast. " It was you."

Sean chuckled. "No. You are guilty Maxwell. Guilty of not being there, to protect her, to stop her. And I bet that's just gnawing at you like the very fire of hell." He laughed at Max's stricken expression, then with a final yank at his hair he walked away to Liz.

"Elizabeth, my dear, so sorry you had to witness this terrible scene. Come my love, I will take you away from hi. He will not harm you anymore." He grabbed her arm. Liz resisted, trying to pull away, panicked eyes seeking out Max, who had turned to watch them. Still on his knees, battered and bruised.

Liz glared up at him, still trying to pull away from him. " You are despicable!" she said coldly. " Let me go." she demanded.

Sean's hand tightened around her at the insult. His face flushed. " I'm afraid I can't do that my dear," He looked up at a worried Jeffery. " With your permission I would like to escort my precious future wife back home."

Jeffery hesitated for a moment. He didn't see the pleading look in his daughter's eyes. He only knew that Sean was a strong capable man and he would keep her safe along the journey home. Then reluctantly he released her. " Ofcourse." He sent Liz a loving, relieved look. He still couldn't believe that she was safe and sound, standing before him, with nary a scratch on her and unharmed. He then glanced at Max, who was staring back at him with deep unfathomable eyes that made him nervous.

He turned to Sean. " What is to be done of the culprit?"

Sean hardly spared Max a glance. " The pirate will be sent to jail, where he will be put on trial. Ofcourse, he will be found guilty and most probably hanged for his crimes. One less criminal for the world to suffer from."

No! She screamed the word inside her head. It couldn't be. He couldn't die. Not now! Not when she knew she couldn't live without him. Couldn't possibly marry Di Galvani. Why just days before he was on the brink of death. She had managed to save him though. But now....there was nothing she could do. And she was filled with rage.

Damn the fates that did this to her!

"No" she whimpered. She clutched her father's arm. " Please, papa. No. Do not let him die. He cannot die!" she looked imploringly up into his eyes and then at Max who was groaning as he was made to stand. His hands were being bound tightly together. Scoundrels! The man could hardly stand, how could they think that he would try anything.

"Hush Elizabeth, you do not know what you are saying. That man kidnapped you and ill-treated you." He soothed his daughter. " Heaven knows what else he has done."

Sean walked over and interrupted. " Now now. Your father is right my dear. Come, let me take care of you." His grip was too hard for her to try to resist. Tears stung her eyes as she took in what was happening. Her tear stained face stared at Max. He was slipping away. Inch by inch. He would be gone from her life forever if she did nothing to stop it. And she didn't know what.

"Max" Her lips moved, but no sound came out. But he knew that she said his name. It hit him right in the gut, hurting like the blows hadn't. He was losing her. He was losing her before he even truly had her. Curse it all, it couldn't end this way. He saw Sean grab her arm, Liz's face contorted in slight pain. He began to drag her away, Liz was unwilling. She turned to look at him, tears rolling down her smooth cheeks, eyes glistening brightly. Max saw red.

"Damn it Deluca you bastard!" With a strength he didn't know he had he pulled away from the guards with a primitive growl. His eyes fixated on Liz. He started toward her, ignoring the pain and the agony that was shoot through him. " Let her go! Liz!" He shouted before he was thrown to the ground, three men landing atop him throwing punches made for causing pain. But he never felt any of them.

All he could see was Liz being dragged away. Her beautiful brown eyes engraved in his mind. His last rational thought before darkness claimed him, was that he may never see them staring deeply into him again.

"Elizabeth!" Lady Parker screamed as she saw her daughter cross the threshold of their town house. " Oh my darling girl! You are safe." She lifted her skirts and ran to her, clutching her to her. It felt so good to have her daughter back in her arms. Unharmed and healthy. It was a miracle.

"Mother." Liz murmured, for once in this horrible, horrible night, happy. She was so glad to see her mother again. To hug her and hear her voice, after all this time. But somehow, through all the hustle and bustle, she retreated into a shell. She did not smile, she did not laugh. She hardly spoke. She was pining, and longing. And so terrified of the thoughts running through her head that she stayed up all throughout the night. Staring into the darkness, wishing it could just swallow her up.

The next morning, she could stand it no longer. She had gone one whole night without the presence of Max. It was as if he was in her blood now, as well as her heart. She did not think she could survive, especially knowing that he would be gone forever from her in no time at all.

Dressed in her father's favorite gown she descended the stairs. A main brought her breakfast in the dining room. She barely ate a bite. Quietly she asked about where her family was to their butler, who stood loyally by the dining room door, waiting for any instructions. He had been ordered to stay close at hand, as well as the rest of the stuff. They all knew of what happened to Elizabeth. They liked her and felt sorry for what happened to her. Therefore they are there at her beck and call whenever she wished to make life a little easier for her.

"Stokes?" Liz asked quietly. He bowed and walked forward. " Yes miss?"

Delicately she laid her napkin on the table after wiping her lips. " Where are mother and father today?"

Stokes signaled for a footman to come forward and remove the dishes and cups from the table with a flick of his wrist. " Your mother, the lady Parker is still abed, and Lord Parker is at present occupied in his study. Is there anything else you require miss?"

Liz shook her head and gave him a half hearted smile. Although anyone with eyes could see the dark circles beneath her eyes, her pale skin and the subdued air of sadness around her. The smile did not even reach her eyes. " No thank you Stoke. You may leave." she made it sound like an order more than a request. She knew what was going on, with the servants following her around, everyone treating her like a porcelain doll that is about to break. She did not wish to be followed or overheard when she went to see her father.

Stokes nodded, bowed, and swiftly walked out of the dining room. Liz immediately rose from her chair and started to make her way to her father's study. She geared herself with her best dress, her best smile and hoped her performance would pay off. She needed to see Max and her father was only was she could do that. He had forbidden her to go out at all, afraid for her safety. She just had to convince him that nothing would go wrong and that she would be fine.

Her shoulders back, her head high she stopped at a great oak door, and raising a fist, softly knocked.

"Come in." came her father's muffled voice from the other side. Taking a deep breath she prayed silently that it will work and hesitantly opened the door. When Jeffery saw her, she made tears deliberately come to her eyes as she shut the door behind her.


It worked. It worked, it worked, it worked! Liz was giddy with excitement and relief. He father had bought her act and now, heavily cloaked and hiding her face, she was in a closed carriage, on her way to where Max was. She couldn't wait. Her heart beat like a great drum within her chest. She was nervous and afraid of what she might be met with. Of what she might see. She really didn't know what to expect.

She had told her father that she was too overwrought from her experience. She wished for some peace and solitude. She knew that the entire city would now have known of her return and all the people would be lined up outside the house wanting to take a look. Ask questions, and most probably brand her a fallen woman, be full of pity and false sympathy as they then snub her and fill the gossip trails with the best lies.

Perhaps that..she had been kidnapped and raped by the entire crew. Or that the captain had been bewitched by her and spirited her away to keep her prisoner for his own pleasures. Or maybe, that she had fallen for the pirate and had willingly fled with him to live aboard his ship in sin.Or maybe- Liz's thoughts abruptly stopped and she couldn't help but manage a slight giggle.

Oh what fools they are. If only they knew the truth. She had snuck out in the middle of the night to experience what no lady should even know about. She had walked into a provocative bar, had been grabbed by a man, been declared a thief and taken on board a pirate ship and set to work off whatever debt she was supposed to have owed. wasn't as simple as that. Oh noooo....she had to get into trouble, get her life and virginity threatened..and then....the biggest complication of her experience....she had to make love with the captain- a handsome, strong captain- in a burst of passion.

But that wasn't the end of it. She also had to save his life and then- fool that she is- actually fall in love with him. And then he had wanted to get rid of her, and she in her hurt and anger had wished him gone too. What was it that she had heard before? 'Beware of what you wish for'

Liz groaned and leaned her head back against the cushions. She knew that she should be basking in her parent's love and attention now, instead of trying to see the one man that she should not even be thinking of being near to. It was too soon, only the morning after. But she was desperate, and she knew, that in the case of a pirate, there wasn't much time that can be wasted.

He could have even been hanged this morning.....Liz closed her eyes and bit her lip hard. No, she would not even let a thought like that enter her head.

The distant gaol loomed in the horizon. The carriage stopped just at the gates. The door opened and the driver helped her down the steps. She shivered as she caught her first sight of the dreadful place. So large and dark it was. And very filthy.

Tearing her eyes away she walked toward the guard that stood at the post. Hoping she sounded confident and anonymous she approached him. She drew the cloak more securely against her. " I am here to see a prisoner." she said.

The guard looked at her with lewd eyes, then turned his head away to spit. " And what 'ere pris'ner would that be?" he asked with a heavy accent.

"He was brought in last night..." she hesitated, about to say his name. But that would have made it look like she was associated with him in an intimate way, and that was not the impression she wanted to give. " The pirate."

He suddenly broke into a grin, showing off his rotten teeth and missing ones. " Aye the 'ol pirate. Came in late last night 'e did." He peered down at her trying to see past the shadow of the hood of her cloak. " What would a lady like you want ta see him fer?"

Liz blushed, not knowing for sure if he was implying anything indecent. " That is non of your business sir. I wish you would allow me entrance."

"Well see 'ere now. I can't jest let you in-" he broke off when Liz dug into her dress pocket and retrieved a jingling sack. She waved it infront of him.

"I will pay you handsomely for your cooperation." she stated confidently, knowing for sure, he would not refuse a bribe like that. And true enough, he didn't. Pretty soon she was walking down filthy, dark halls. She began to breathe through her mouth just so she wouldn't have to endure the awful smell.

A rat scurried past her and she squeaked, jumping out of the way. Male laughter echoed over to her and she raised her head from inspecting the ground for anymore rotten predators to see a man sitting at a table. A jug of drink and a cup, along with a candle on a table beside him. He was leeringly at her. Her gaze moved over him. She caught the keys that were dangling from his pants. He was the jailor. He would lead her to Max.

"I am here to see a prisoner of yours." She started once again to this man,and just as before, money was dangled, taken, and in return she was walking behind him as he led the way to the cell.

"What condition is he in?" she whispered.

"Beaten up an' all. Not too good." he replied with laughter, thinking it amusing the way Max was treated. Liz bristled but said nothing in return.

Down through the dank halls of the gaol she was led. From behind blackened, dingy doors came noxious smells, and the sounds of despair; moaning, sobbing, futile singing, a tin cup clanging against the bars of a window. Liz couldn't bear it.

At last they came to a door at the far end of the building. The jailor unhooked the keys from his belt,inserted one into the lock, and, jiggling it, finally unlocked the door. It swung open to reveal gloom.Silence.

When Liz's eyes adjusted to the darkness she spotted him. He was in the corner, his head back, his eyes closed. He wasn't moving. The door clanged shut behind her. Liz jumped, startled. She was alone with him now.

Nervous, she approached slowly. Briefly she wondered if he was asleep, or perhaps even dead.....

"Max" she whispered.

His head snapped down, his eyes flew open. They stared at each other for a long time, not blinking. They were so brilliant, his eyes. So bright and full of a deep smoldering fire that was ready to burst.

"Liz," his voice was hoarse, his throat parched. Liz heard him. Half of her was giddy when her name rolled of his tongue, and another was appalled at the way he sounded. He did not look either. Black and blue everywhere. He looked hardly able to move.

Then she saw that he was attempting to stand. On a gasp she rushed forward,falling on her knees before him, her hands on his knees, stopping him. " No. Do not get up." She could see him much clearly now and her heart constricted at the state he was in. He look terrible.

Tenderly, she lifted a hand to barely graze his throbbing cheek. " Oh Max." she murmured, her throat convulsing at the pain he must be in.

His eyes hypnotized her. " Liz. " he said again." What are you doing here?"

Liz tried to smile, but hardly managed one. " I came to see you." she replied with all sincerity.

"Oh? And why? So you can watch him crumble? so that you may happily see me suffer for what I have done to you?" His eyes blazed, his voice full of fury. Liz leaned back from him, shocked and dismayed at what she was feeling. How could he think she felt this way?...but then..she thought could he think she didn't? She had to prove to him that it was not so.

"No Max. No. That is not how I feel." She implored him to listen. When he said nothing more she continued. " I was so afraid," she whispered, " When I saw you surrounded by guns I could hardly breathe." she leaned close, looking deep into his eyes. " I couldn't bear the thought that you might die."

He said nothing.

"Whatever may have happened between us. I did not want you dead." she said.

His eyes were unreadable. " Then what do you want..Elizabeth?" he said he name with a great emphasis. Liz winced, but she looked at him determinedly. Her chin lifted defiantly.

"What I want, is for you to understand that whoever I am and whoever you are does not matter to me. I-"

But she didn't get to finish, " Does not matter? Ofcourse it damn well matters!," he took a deep breath and stared hard at her. " You lied to me."

Liz opened her mouth to protest but he did not let her. " You led me to believe that you had stolen my money and never said anything to contradict my assumption-"

"And would you have believed me if I did?" she burst in impulsively. When he didn't answer she knew the answer was 'no'.

"You are the daughter of a Lord." He said deliberately.

"And you are a thieving, plundering pirate." she threw back. Max's jaw worked, he turned his head away from, so as not to look at her.

"Christ! But fate has been cruel. It was not supposed to happen this way." Liz was confused at what he said.

"What wasn't?" she ventured to ask. He turned back toward her.

"You." he said and Liz still didn't understand. She frowned.

"Max," she began, changing the subject, " What have they said of your fate?" she held her breath for the answer.

"Why do you wish to know? Would you like to be there for my hanging?" he asked sarcastically.

Liz gasped. She wanted to rage at him for his careless words but couldn't find it in her. " Oh how could you say such things! this is your life we are talking of."

Max shrugged. " I shan't have one starting dawn tomorrow."

Liz grew cold inside. "What?" she whispered.

Max looked at her, then something in his expression changed, softened. " I am to be hanged tomorrow at dawn, my crew to be sent to prison for life." he said.


"Why have you come to see me Liz?" He asked abruptly.

Liz hesitated before answering. " Because I," she paused, " because I care for you."

He appeared slightly startled at that. "You care for me?" he asked softly. Liz could only nod.

His hand reached up to gently graze her cheek, then the tendrils that lay beside it. " You are one unique woman." he observed. "I have never met the likes of you before. Many emotions rage within me when you near. I do not know what to make of you." he said, almost talking to himself, wondering to himself.

Liz couldn't believe what she had heard. Her hand trapped his where it lay on her face. She reveled in his touch. She closed her eyes briefly. " Somehow, and I do not know how, I have stopped hating you for what you have put me through captain." she swallowed the lump in her throat. " I wish for you to understand why I had lied. I know it is quite a shock, but please know that it was for my own protection. I was afraid you see. And then when I wasn't," she stopped for a second. He was staring at her quite intently, she knew he was taking in ever word that was coming out of her mouth. " I had completely forgotten who I was." she said softly. " There was only you and me. Not a pirate and a lady."

"What I did was a mistake. I should never have taken you with me when I realized you were a woman. I should have released you." Max said with anger. " I knew something was wrong about you. You did not act like thief. You did not even attempt to steal anything while onboard. I think I knew the truth inside me, but I did not want to admit it to myself, lest I'd have to let you go." there was self disgust in his voice.

He looked at her with stormy eyes. " You have not been wise in coming her lady. I want you to go, and never come back. Never look back. I want you out of my sight. Go back to your precious home and your darling parents. That is where you belong, where you will be safe." He yanked his hand from beneath hers. " I remind you again. You are no longer a prisoner" he said coldly, his eyes dark and chilled.

Liz drew back. She would not allow the tears to fall. Atleast not in his presence. Faintly she heard the jailor's footsteps coming back. She was about to be taken away from him once again. And this time, she thought with utter despair, she will never see him again. Ever.

She looked him over, taking in every feature, every detail. Branding him firmly in her memory. " You are wrong in that captain. I will always be your prisoner." she said softly. The jailor was coming closer.

Max frowned. " Prisoner of what?" he demanded.

She stared at him with tender, love filled eyes. " Of love."

And before the implication of what she had said could sink in-that she loved him- the door flew open and the jailor loomed in the doorway.

"C'mon lady. Yer time's up." and she was taken away. The door of the cell banged shut. Darkness shrouded him once more.