Who needs Pan, if you can get swept away to the Jolly Roger by a drool-worthy Capt’n Hook instead? Are you ready for the biggest adventure of your life?
Excited, I walk faster, my eyes almost popping out with wonder. Jamie, who matches my stride, chuckles next to me. When we reach the plateau closest to the ship, I hesitate and crane my neck to stare up, taking in all of it. He pokes me gently in the ribs with his elbow. “It’s a mighty fine ship, eh?”
“Stunning,” I breathe.
“Then what are you waiting for? Come on.” With one hand placed on my back, he leads me around to the long narrow gangplank and has me step on it first. Watching my feet, I warily make my way toward the main deck. The farther I walk, the more the wooden board wobbles under my weight. I can hear Jamie’s footsteps right behind me, which gives me a little comfort.
With a quick glance, I assure myself that we’re already closer to the ship than to land. But at the same time I catch a glimpse of a very dirty sailor on deck. He wears a torn shirt and a black bandana. A real saber is attached to his belt and a black patch covers his left eye. I stop dead.
Jamie bounces into my back at my sudden halt. His hands come to my waist and keep me steady. “What’s up?” he asks into my ear.
I turn my head just slightly, not letting the man out of my sight, and whisper, “Are you sure this is the ship you talked about?”
“Did you see what they’re wearing? I think these men are pirates.”
“Don’t worry,” he replies with a chilled laugh. I do worry, though. Goosebumps rise on my skin. I want to get off this gangplank and back on land, but Jamie pushes me forward.
A few more steps and I stand on the wide deck, earning the greedy looks of more men dressed in shabby clothes. One of them flashes a gold-toothed smile at me.
“Jamie?” I croak, my knees turning to rubber. “I think we are on the wrong ship.”
“Relax, Angel.” He makes my name sound like a mocking endearment. The tip of his finger glides down the back of my neck in an uncomfortable caress. “We’re exactly where we’re supposed to be.”
Sucking in a sharp breath, I spin around. Jamie pulls off his brocade coat with now obvious disgust for the cloak and tosses it over the railing. “Ah. Much better!” He flexes his shoulders and releases a deep sigh.
He’s only wearing a plain off-white linen shirt now with long sleeves and a laced collar. Jeez, how could I have missed before that this was totally out of character with the fine purple coat? “You—you’re one of them,” I hoarsely state the obvious. “You’re a pirate.”
Amusement glistens in his eyes. He gives me a taunting half-smile that freezes the breath in my lungs. “And the ugliest, meanest and scariest of them, too, I was told.”
The man with the gold tooth steps up to Jamie and hands him a wide black hat with a single black feather, then he cups his hands around his mouth and shouts, “Get up, ye mangy dogs! The cap’n is on deck!”
“Hook,” I breathe.
Jamie rakes a hand through his hair and puts the hat on his head, gazing at me with a wicked gleam in his eyes. His smile turns into a dangerous promise. “Welcome aboard the Jolly Roger.”
Yeah, Angelina McFarland really got into trouble. She had better stayed with Peter and the lost boys. Or not…
“Any last words?” he asks me.
“Go to hell, you freaking…filthy…godforsaken…”
With a single step, Hook closes the distance between us. Our noses almost touch as he dips his head and brushes a strand of my hair behind my ear. “Darling, the word you’re looking for is pirate.”
A sassy girl imprisoned on a pirate ship? That can never work out well? Not for her, and not for the pirates either. 😉
To my right, I find the gold-toothed pirate who announced the captain on board yesterday. He sits shirtless on a barrel, cleaning one of his boots. Spitting onto the tip, he rubs it with a smudgy cloth. Gross. But he’s the perfect member of the crew to tease into mutiny. He seems like someone who the others would listen to. Well, after Hook and Jack Smee.
As inconspicuously as a butterfly, I take a few swaying steps toward him, rock on the balls of my feet a few times and finally sit down on a heap of white linen and fishing nets. “Well, hello there,” I say innocently enough, though I can hear how my voice trembles.
The man gives me a greedy sideways glance, but he doesn’t return my greeting.
“What are you doing?”
“Cleanin’ me boots, lass,” he tells me in a rumbling deep voice and spits again. His saliva is tinted brown from tobacco and I have to take a deep breath in order not to puke.
“Is this all you do the entire day?”
“It’s enough for now.” Apparently he’s done with this boot, because he puts it on and pulls off the other, starting the disgusting procedure anew. I watch, transfixed. “Why are ye so interested in me boots, lass?”
“Hm? Oh, I’m just wondering why you’re spending time here, cleaning them, when you could be out doing, I don’t know, pirate things?”
“Pirate things?” he repeats in an amused tone.
“You know like ransacking other ships…fighting with other pirates. Isn’t this what you’re supposed to do after all?” Yeah, good tactic, Angel, I encourage myself.
“We would. But the Jolly Roger is the only ship out on the sea.” His eyes zero in on a spot of seagull poo on his boot and he gathers some real nasty phlegm from his throat. The sound raises goosebumps on my arms and makes my scalp prickle. He spits slime on the spot then polishes it off with the cloth. “There’s not much to pilfer in these waters.”
“That must be a boring life for you and the men on board then. I wonder why the captain doesn’t let you sail farther out and have some real fun.”
A soft laugh sounds from the sterncastle above. I tilt my head up and find Hook leaning casually against the railing on the bridge, obviously listening in on our conversation. He must know where I’m going with this and still he just laughs? I guess I’m safe then.
To show I don’t care in the least that he’s been eavesdropping, I flash a tightlipped grin back at him then return my attention to the shirtless man. “You should make him understand your needs as a pirate. What captain forces his crew to bob around a small island for years?”
“One who’s after a treasure.” When his boot is as shiny as can be, he slips it on again, stands up and shakes out the cloth. Only now I notice that it’s actually a shirt. His shirt. And he puts it on. Jeez!
“Ye sound like ye don’t approve of our cap’n’s decisions,” he states then and strokes his chin. “Are ye applying for the job yourself, lass?”
I stand up and shrug. “I’m just saying that pirates should be out doing something. Well, something other than cleaning decks or their shoes all day.”
“A fine cap’n ye would make, pretty lass. All skinny ‘n well-dressed.” He gurgles a laugh and places his hands on my hips. Whoa, not how I planned this conversation to go. When he strokes his thumb across my cheek, I’m sure he leaves a trail of grease behind. I back away, but he wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me close. “All the men would be at your feet.”
Suddenly he stiffens and it takes me only another heartbeat to realize why. The slim, sharp blade of a sword is pressed to his throat. “Take your hands off the lass, Brant Skyler,” Hook tells the man with venom in his voice. “Smartly.”
Mr. Skyler turns pale and jerks his hands away. “I was only jokin’ with her, Cap’n.”
“The joke is over. Leave her alone.”
Immediately, the pirate scuttles off to the group of his rum-drinking friends. Hook throws them a warning glare over his shoulder, then he shouts so loud everyone on the ship turns and listens. “The girl is not to be touched! The next man who puts a finger on her is shark bait! Understand?”
There’s a collective murmur of aye’s from all sides.
With a tight grip on my upper arm, Hook drags me toward the stairs leading to the bridge. He didn’t come down this way, I know because I’d been watching it. Did he just jump over the railing to come to my rescue?
Puzzled, I tilt my head to search his face. His eyes gleam with irritation, surprise and amusement. I can’t figure out which outweighs the others when he asks, “Why are you seducing my men, Angel?”
“Right. Unless I’m very much mistaken, you just tried to start a mutiny, which isn’t very nice either.”
For a brief moment, I stand on my toes to be on eye level with him. “Well, it backfired. Happy now?”
He pulls me closer until our noses touch and I gasp. “Do I look happy?” he growls.
No, he doesn’t. But nor does he look as angry as he should be. In a caress-like gesture, he places the blade of his sword into the crook of my neck. I don’t know what exactly he intends, but strangely enough it doesn’t scare me.
“Are you going to slice my throat?” I tease him.
“No,” he answers and even smiles a little. “But if you ever bother my men again, I’ll be forced to lock you up in that cabin.” With a brief nod in the direction of his bedroom, he makes his point clear.
But what about Peter Pan? Is he going to save Angelina?
And if he does…does she still want to be saved?
Hook lifts both his brows in a challenge. “And just what makes you so sure about that?”
Swiftly, I move forward. Pulling the dagger from my pocket, I press the point to the base of his throat. There! Stunned speechless, he stares at me wide-eyed and with his chin lifted. “My little friend here!” I snap. “Convinced?”
Amusement replaces his surprised expression and he starts to chuckle. “Not quite.” Wrapping his hand around mine on the dagger, he moves it away from his throat. Simple as that.
My mouth falls open.
He straightens from the desk and steps closer. I don’t have a chance to back away, because he’s still holding my hand. My fingers would tremble if he wasn’t pressing them together so firmly.
“Let me explain one thing to you, Angel,” he says in a darker voice than before and dips his head so we’re gazing at each other’s eyes from only two inches away. “Never point a knife at a pirate, if you’re not one hundred percent sure you’ll use it.” He brushes a strand of my hair out of my eyes and hooks it behind my ear, resting his hand in the crook of my neck and shoulder. “If you only had a little bit of the ruthlessness in you that you’re trying to feign here, you would’ve already used the information about the treasure’s lair to buy your freedom.”
His breath smells of rum, but his eyes are sober. Did he just offer me a deal?
He starts to stroke the sensitive spot beneath my ear with his thumb and, all of a sudden, I find it hard to concentrate. His blue eyes look so much warmer than when I saw them the last time. Even though our foreheads don’t touch, I can feel the tickling of his silky hair against my skin. Where is he going with this?
“I don’t trust you,” I whisper and try to blink myself free of his suddenly unbreakable spell.
“I know you don’t,” he whispers back.
Now tell me if this love story isn’t a hell of a lot better than a movie with no romance in it at all. 😉
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Enjoy the journey!