Chapter 15: A Damsel in Distress
The Fortune was not waiting for them in the hidden inlet on the Isla
Jack was outwardly calm, saying, "She's kept to the Code, 's all. She can't
outrun the Pearl. We'll catch up with her in a few days time."
However, he made short work of walking to the island's highest point, taking
his spyglass with him. Elizabeth was not invited, but he did not seem to
mind when she followed along. On top of the hill, they looked down at the
Fortune anchored off the southern shore of the island, alongside another
frigate, flying British colors. On the beach, a large group of men were
building a fire and butchering a wild pig.
"It's that damn Hawkins. He's got himself a letter of marque to hunt pirates
and he's turned traitor on all his mates." Jack kicked at the ground in
disgust. "It's true. We have absolutely no luck at all. Do you remember us
stealin' any Aztec gold? Because I think I'd remember it if we'd done
something to get ourselves cursed." The plaintive quality in Jack's voice
did not quite hide his true dismay.
"What should we do?"
"We should hoist sail, and hightail it out of here while they're occupied
with Anamaria and her crew."
"Jack! We can't leave them to hang."
Jack sighed. "No, I s'pose not. It's a damn nuisance though."
As they walked back to the inlet, Elizabeth mulled the situation over.
Presumably the privateer had no idea that they were on the island. They
could wait until nightfall and sneak up on him, but he had two ships to
their one. This required sabotage, rather than a direct attack. What they
needed was a way to get onto Hawkins' ship.
Elizabeth stopped in her tracks. "I have an idea."
"Shoulda known. You and your plans." Jack shook his head in mock
exasperation, then peered at her intently. "This one doesn't involve burnin'
all the rum does it?"
Elizabeth was too busy chasing down the details of her plan to acknowledge
this. "I think it will work, but I'll have to convince him that I'm a damsel
Jack whistled softly. "I think I see where you're goin'. They'll never know
what hit 'em."
Nothing in Elizabeth's wardrobe was suitable for the role she had to play.
She'd let out all of her dresses when she was expecting, and had worn
nothing but men's clothes since she returned to the Pearl.
"Jack, are there any other dresses on the ship?"
He opened a trunk in the corner of his cabin and produced, with a grandiose
gesture, a vaguely familiar looking pink dress - the one Will had brought
back for her from his first raid, a lifetime ago. The color was even worse
than she remembered. She shook her head vigorously. Jack picked up the
rhythm, nodding instead.
"It's all we've got. You'll look a treat in it, the very picture of assailed
"If you like the damn thing so much, why don't you wear it?"
Jack appeared to take this at face value. "Well there was that time in
Madagascar. But it was uncommonly dark and I was still a youngish lad.
Unless they're a good bit drunker than I think they are, you'd best do the
Resigned, Elizabeth began stripping off her shirt and breeches. With Jack's
help - which mostly consisted of lacing her corset painfully tight - she
struggled into the dress. It occurred to her that, despite the various
intimacies that they'd shared, he'd never seen her completely undressed
before. If she hadn't been in such a hurry, she might have blushed.
Once she had the dress on, she spun around and presented herself to Jack for
his approval, smoothing her skirts nervously.
He cocked his head and eyed her critically, then reached over and ripped the
bodice, revealing an indecent expanse of cleavage. "Perfect," he declared,
with a leer. He gripped her arms tightly. "Do me a favor and don't get
yourself killed, aye?"
Verisimilitude was preserved by Elizabeth's long walk across the island. By
the time she arrived at the opposite beach, the hem of her dress was muddy
and torn, and her loose hair was tangled and damp with sweat. The act of
putting on the dress had worked like a charm, reminding her of what it was
to be a lady, to be helpless and dependent - not that she'd ever been very
good at that - and encumbered with ridiculous clothes that made it hard to
move and even harder to breath.
She took a moment to prepare herself and then staggered onto the beach. The
men on the beach gawked at her ruin of a dress and her gasping, futile
attempts to catch her breath, then crowded around her, bombarding her with
questions. It wasn't quite pretense when she claimed to be too lightheaded
to tell her story. She faked a dramatic faint and kept her eyes closed while
she was carried to a longboat and rowed out to the ship.
Elizabeth roused a bit when she was deposited on a bunk in one of the
cabins. What she saw when she fluttered her eyelids almost startled her out
of her charade - Captain Verdooren, staring down at her with watery blue
eyes, and a perplexed expression on his bloated, red face. Fortunately, he
didn't appear to recognize her. Beside him stood a short, fat man with a
"Hawkins, who is this lady?"
"The devil if I know. The men say she wandered out of the jungle as you see
her. She fainted and has not yet come to."
This looked to be the opportune moment. Elizabeth fluttered her eyelids once
more for good measure and then moaned prettily, heaving her bosom as she did
so. "Oh! What sort of men are you? Am I saved?"
Hawkins made a courtly bow. "Captain Hawkins of the Kestrel, at your
service, madam, and this is Captain Verdooren of the Roos."
For all Hawkins' chivalrous words, Elizabeth noted that he seemed to be
thoroughly enjoying his view of her breasts.
"Oh, tell me I am not aboard another pirate ship!"
Hawkins' hand covered hers in a barely decent familiarity. "Madam, I assure
you this is nothing of the sort. I am a privateer hunting pirates for the
crown. Verdooren's ship was taken by pirates; I rescued him from the island
where they marooned him and his crew and just yesterday I recovered his ship
Verdooren gave her a dubious look. "Have you also been set upon by pirates?"
"It was awful! They killed my husband-" Elizabeth felt real tears in her
eyes as the pretense veered dangerously close to reality. She turned her
head aside, allowing her hair to curtain her face. "They. . .they. . ."
"My dear lady, have you been ill-used?" Hawkins' voice was lascivious, under
its veneer of respectability.
"I beg you, do not make me speak of it!"
"I realize it must be painful for you, but if you can tell us your story,
perhaps your honor and your husband's death may be avenged."
Elizabeth hesitated and then raised her tear-filled eyes and squared her
shoulders. "My name is Elizabeth Bird. My husband and I were sailing to the
Bahamas, where my husband had purchased some property." She gave another
bosom heaving sob and clutched Hawkins' hand for good measure - it was
imperative that he be distracted at this point, or he might see through her
"Our ship was attacked by pirates. They killed everyone but me. They forced
me to accompany them to their ship and . . ." Hawkins was breathing heavily
and hanging on her every word. The lust in his eyes was disconcerting, and
made it difficult for Elizabeth to continue her performance. She finished in
a somewhat flatter voice, "Afterwards, they abandoned me on this island."
Hawkins looked as though he were ready to take up where her supposed captors
had left off. Elizabeth shuddered at his greedy stare. Verdooren just looked
bored and impatient.
"Hawkins, I must remind you that we have unfinished business. You have
recovered my ship and my cargo, but you still have pirates to hang."
"Verdooren, I've explained this to you before. I don't have the authority to
hang them here. They must be brought into Port Royal, which we will do, as
soon as the carpenter judges your ship capable of the voyage."
"Very well then. But don't you go haring off after this lady's attackers
before you've seen justice done for me."
Hawkins made an impatient noise. Elizabeth judged him to be a self-important
man who didn't care to take orders from others. Ideal for her purposes.
She pleaded exhaustion and Hawkins surrendered his cabin to her, taking his
business with Verdooren out onto the deck with a promise to return to check
in on her.
She closed her eyes and made herself comfortable on the bunk, but sleep
would not come. She was in the lion's den indeed this time, and she was
uncomfortably aware of how Hawkins' eyes had lingered on her figure. The
knife she'd hidden under her skirt would do her no good without the element
of surprise. She thought of Anamaria. Surely Verdooren had told Hawkins that
she was a woman. Had he forced himself on her? Normally, Anamaria would be
more than capable of looking out for herself, but outnumbered and stripped
of her weapons? The thought turned Elizabeth's stomach and she reflexively
felt for her knife.
Elizabeth tossed and turned for several hours until Hawkins came in with a
plate of food. It was simple fare - salt pork and a hardtack biscuit, with a
bruised pear - but it refreshed her, and the brandy served with it calmed
her nerves considerably.
"Captain Hawkins, I must tell you how I admire you for defeating those awful
Hawkins puffed up with pride. "My dear, it is a privilege to do my duty to
"Well, I'm so grateful to you and your brave men. I wish I could
thank them personally, but it seems few of them are about."
"I've allowed most of them to sleep on the shore. With two ships at our
disposal, I have little fear of an attack."
Elizabeth endeavored to look particularly stupid. "Oh, so you have crew on
the pirate ship as well?"
"Yes, my dear. We must have a prize crew to sail her back to Port Royal.
Captain Verdooren is eager to have his ship back, but we cannot hand her
over until the crown's percentage has been paid."
"Captain, I am so relieved to be rescued; I must ask a favor of you for your
men." Elizabeth batted her eyelashes. "Surely they deserve some extra reward
for their hard work. Could you not think of some way to honor them?"
Hawkins patted her shoulder. "A capital suggestion, Mrs. Bird. I suppose an
extra ration of rum would not be out of place to celebrate our victory and
Hawkins left the cabin with the assurance that he would be nearby. "Just
call for me if you need anything," he purred, in what was probably meant to
be a seductive voice.
The sun set and darkness shrouded the cabin. She did not light a lantern,
but allowed her eyes to adjust to the dark room. The new moon rose in the
sky, just a thin sliver. The human sounds on the ship quieted to a murmur
and then a barely detectible whisper, drowned out by the sounds of water and
wind. Elizabeth watched the sky through the cabin window, looking for the
signs that Anamaria had taught her during long nights of shared watch.
Midnight, or close enough for her purposes. Elizabeth padded over to the
door and called softly, "Captain Hawkins?"
"Mrs. Bird?" He opened the door. "Are you unwell?"
"Captain Hawkins, I'm feeling so restless. I thought a walk on the deck
might help me sleep. But . . ." Elizabeth looked down coyly. "I'm too afraid
to go by myself. Would you mind terribly accompanying me?" She held up the
bottle of brandy he'd brought her earlier. "Perhaps we could share a drink
in the moonlight?"
Hawkins took her arm and walked with her out onto the deck. As Elizabeth had
hoped, there appeared to only be two men on watch. Hawkins surreptitiously
waved them away and led Elizabeth up to the quarterdeck.
"It's a lovely night, Captain Hawkins."
"Not as lovely as you, my dear." He moved to close the space between them.
Elizabeth started and gasped. "Is that a ship? Surely it's not more
Hawkins turned to look out in the direction Elizabeth had pointed and she
brought the heavy brandy bottle down on his head. It's amazing, she thought,
he really is as stupid as he looks. The bottle shattered with a ringing
note, spraying brandy everywhere, and Hawkins collapsed. Elizabeth looked
around, but the noise did not appear to have alerted anyone. Working with
desperate speed, she tied his hands to the rail.
She took both Hawkins' pistols and moved quickly and quietly toward the bow
of the ship. The two sailors on watch were chatting and looking toward the
shore, oblivious to her approach. She cocked the pistols and came up behind
them, resisting the urge to say "Stand and deliver!" like a highwayman from
a novel. "Gentlemen?"
The sailors turned and looked at her, identical dumbfounded looks on their
"Look 'ere, little lady, what're you playin' at?"
"I'm playing at pirate. And I would advise you to play along, or it will go
very badly for you."
One of the sailors reached for one of the pistols and she made as if to
squeeze the trigger. He backed away and she gave a little sigh of relief.
Truly, she did not want to kill anyone if it could be helped.
"You are going to use that rope to tie up your companion. And perhaps a
handkerchief for a gag? Good."
He did as she asked and then looked at her expectantly. Now what? "Are you
sure his bonds will hold? Check them." When he bent down to do so, she
brought the butt of the pistol down on his head and he fell on top of the
bound sailor. She set the pistols down, rolled him over and tied him up with
the remaining rope.
Turning, she saw Verdooren, his sword in his hand, watching her with a
contemptuous look on his face. "Ah, Mrs. Bird, is it? I have finally
placed your face. You were with that Sparrow who stole my ship. And I
suppose this is some dastardly trick to save your comrades?"
He was standing between her and the pistols. She picked up the sword her
captive had been wearing. "You know, I really don't like you." She
stabbed the sword forward, getting a feel for the weapon.
Verdooren stepped back, a little surprised, and then advanced. "I shouldn't
be surprised that a man like that would send a woman to do his work for
Elizabeth parried and retreated, a trifle slowly due to her heavy skirts,
wishing she had a clever retort. Jack always seemed to have a witty remark
to throw off his adversaries, but Elizabeth found that avoiding Verdooren's
blade without miring herself in her skirts took all her mental energy.
Verdooren's sword swished across her front, tearing a long piece of silk
from her skirt. Not wanting to trip on the trailing fabric, Elizabeth
reached down with her left hand and caught it up. As she wound the fabric
around her hand, she recalled the trick she'd seen Will use to defeat Jack.
She feinted back, and then lunged forward, catching Verdooren's blade in her
left hand. He cried out in surprise and then she neatly kicked his ankle,
sending him to his knees, his sword skittering across the deck. He opened
his mouth to yell, and the butt of a pistol cracked against his skull,
rendering him unconscious.
Elizabeth looked up to see Jack standing behind Verdooren, a rapacious grin
on his face.
She wiped the sweat from her brow. "You're late."
He looped a length of rope around Verdooren's wrists. "The tide was against
us, darlin'. Seems there was one thing your plan didn't take into account."
Elizabeth cuffed him lightly on the arm. He grabbed her hand and hauled her
to him, then kissed her full on the mouth, hard and fast. "Knew we could
count on you."
The Kestrel's sleepy and half-drunk crew was no match for the
pirates. But when they'd taken the ship, they discovered that Anamaria and
her crew had not been moved to the Kestrel, but were being held on
their own ship.
When the sun rose, the Fortune found the Pearl on one side of
her, and the Kestrel, flying an improvised black flag, on the other.
The sailors on the beach discovered that their boats had gone missing,
leaving them stranded on the shore.
The small crew on the Fortune called for quarter and ran up a white
flag, but Jack wanted a guarantee before he boarded. "Release your prisoners
and then we'll talk," he called across to the Fortune. A short while
later, Anamaria was waving at them from the bow, looking only slightly worse
for wear, to Elizabeth's great relief.
Jack and Elizabeth rowed over in a boat, and ropes were thrown down for
them. Anamaria leaned in and yanked Jack up. Elizabeth reached up and felt a
familiar hand grasp hers. Her breath caught in her throat, and before she
could question what was happening, she was in Will's arms and he was kissing
her as though he'd never get enough.
Chapter 16: And All Shall Be Well, And
All Shall Be Well, And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well
Will had never been so relieved in his life, as to see Elizabeth and Jack
rowing over. His relief turned to pure joy when he finally felt Elizabeth in
his arms again.
Elizabeth pulled away to look at him, tears streaming down her face. She
brushed her fingers along his cheek. "We. . .I. . .we thought you were
Of course, they would have thought that, even the Spanish had left him for
dead, running off after Jack and Elizabeth and leaving only the two soldiers
to dispose of Will's body. It was a good thing too, or else Anamaria would
never have been able to rescue him by herself.
"I'm here, thanks to Anamaria. I was shot, but my baldric took the worst of
it and I'm already healing up nicely. Look. The ball missed the bone
completely." Will pulled down his shirt to reveal the wound on the right
side of his chest.
Elizabeth's crooked smile made Will's chest ache. He hadn't realized how
much he'd missed her, or how much he'd feared he would never see her again.
Will looked over Elizabeth's shoulder at Jack. He was gobsmacked, his eyes
full of wonderment and his lips curled into a stunned half-smile. Jack
reached out and touched Will's arm tentatively. "You are alive, right
mate? Not goin' t'go all bony in the moonlight?"
Will clasped Jack's arm firmly, drawing him in. "I'm alive, Jack."
"Aye, it's a good thing too. We've had hell to pay with your wife - no one
and nothin' can keep her in order, 'cept you."
Later, the pirates celebrated on the Pearl. They'd regained the
Fortune and her cargo, and won the Kestrel as well. With a fleet
this size, they'd be a formidable force.
As the evening wore on, Anamaria said, "Well, Turner, what're you gonna call
Will was shocked by this. He had no desire for his own ship, no desire to
leave the Pearl.
But before he could protest, the calls started out. "The Lady Elizabeth,"
"The Bonnie Bess," countered Marty.
"The Black Vengeance," said Anamaria. She threw Gibbs a sly look. "We
have to keep with the black for luck."
"The Blacksmith's Revenge!" Tommy shouted, obviously quite pleased
with his wit, and there was a general explosion of laughter.
Jack stood, a little unsteady on his feet. "To Will and Elizabeth, and their
new ship, the Conqueror, for as we all know, love conquers all. Of
course, I'll demand the same percentage from you that Anamaria and I
negotiated. Commodore Sparrow. Has a nice ring to it, don't it?" He
tilted his head, as if he were listening, and his tricorn hat tipped off.
Catching it, Jack frowned. "But I think I'll need a bigger hat."
Ever since their reunion, so early that morning, Elizabeth had been waiting
patiently for a moment alone with Will. Well, relatively patiently, barring
the increasingly frustrated set of her mouth, and the way she clung,
limpet-like, to his side, and the nasty looks she shot anyone who tried to
get close to him.
She sat silently through all the nonsense about the ship, tapping her foot
against the deck, but when Jack disappeared, she decided she'd had enough.
She stood, and in a tone that broached no argument, said, "Will, it's been a
long day, and you're still recovering. I think it's time we got you to bed."
She had the grace to blush at the knowing laughter that greeted this
statement. "To sleep, you daft lechers!"
Will grinned, and in a perfect imitation of Jack's drawl, said, "Is that
what they're callin' it these days, Mrs. Turner?" And, playing to their
audience, he dipped her low and kissed her until she had no breath to
complain, leaving no doubt that he was up for much more than sleep.
When Elizabeth saw Jack sitting in their cabin, drinking and balancing
Will's sword on his fingertips, she felt a pang of guilt. In her excitement
over Will's return, she'd spared no thought for how Jack might feel. Surely,
he was as thrilled to see Will as she was, and yet he'd held back and
allowed her to be with Will all day.
Her joy at Will's return left no room for jealousy or possessiveness.
Elizabeth touched Jack's shoulder lightly and pressed Will's hand into
Jack's. "I think I'll have another drink after all, Will."
As she turned, Jack said, "Stay."
Elizabeth's heart was pounding, her whole body responding to the imperious
note in his voice.
Will's voice was softer, but the velvet was lined with steel. "Yes, stay."
He untied the sash that wound around Elizabeth's waist and with a jerk,
pulled it off her, sending her spinning into Jack's lap. Jack caught her,
his hand hard and firm against the small of her back. Then Will bent down
and kissed Jack, sliding his tongue into Jack's mouth and biting at his
lips, and Elizabeth was glad that she was sitting down, because the sight
made her dizzy with longing.
No, no jealousy at all, but perhaps a possessiveness of a different kind - a
grasping need to have them both, a dawning awareness that it was not only
possible, but urgently necessary.
Two mouths kissed her neck and mouth; two pairs of hands pulled off her
clothes. Jack upended the rum bottle, spilling the golden liquid all over
her body and the two men lapped and sucked it out of her curves and
crevices, suckling and biting and sending her into a state of blissful
Elizabeth went to pull off Jack's shirt, only to find Will's hands already
there. Placing her hands over his, she guided them along Jack's exposed
chest and grazed Jack's nipples with her fingernails, making him gasp in
Jack reached up and pulled both sides of Will's shirt, ripping it down the
center. Will jerked away and made a noise that was closer to pain than lust.
"Ah, sorry 'bout that, love. I'm a mite bit overeager. Completely forgot
you're still hurt."
Will smiled his forgiveness and, with gentler hands, Jack pushed the shirt
off Will's shoulders and set to work on his breeches.
The three of them were unpracticed and clumsy together, hands colliding and
bodies shifting awkwardly to make room for a third in what had been a
two-person dance. And yet it was a joy beyond any Elizabeth had ever
imagined - playful and comfortable and thrilling all at once.
She dropped to the floor and took Will's cock in her mouth as she'd seen
Jack do once before, giggling at the shock on his face. Jack reached around
her to cup her breast and rub her nipple with his thumb. She could feel his
hard cock pressing into her back, and then Will's hand sliding over it,
eliciting a delightful whimper from Jack.
She stretched her mouth around Will's cock and bobbed her head
experimentally, taking as much of him in her mouth as she could. He gasped
and clutched at her hair and she ran her tongue along each ridge, savoring
the musky taste of him. As she slid her mouth up and down, she was dimly
aware of Jack's hands drifting over her body, of his voice whispering curses
and endearments all mingled together, of Will's hands, one wrapped around
Jack's cock, the other wound in her hair, and Will's moans, a counterpoint
to Jack's more guttural tone.
She recalled the vow she'd sworn to Will; "With my body I thee worship," and
she thought, this is what that meant, to minister to someone with
body and mouth and hands and cunt, until all boundaries were erased and two
people became one flesh and one soul. To achieve such a state with one
person was a blessing; it was nothing short of miraculous to have it with
Jack's movements became urgent and he cried out sharply. A warm splash hit
her back and then he was still, slumped against her, his head heavy on her
A few moments more and Will stiffened and thrust forward. Her mouth was
full, running over. Jack turned her head so he could lick the mess off her
face, and Will knelt, lapping at her face and kissing her and Jack in turns.
Elizabeth was aching for release, her body wound to the breaking point. Jack
picked her up and set her on his knee again, then slid his fingers into her
wet cunny, making her squirm and plead. When Will's tongue slipped around
his fingers, licking and teasing, she threw back her head and very nearly
howled. Only Jack's timely kiss stopped her scream from calling the entire
crew down on them.
Elizabeth leaned against Jack's chest and Will propped against his leg, all
three of them dazed and breathless. Then Will sighed and said, "It's good to
be home." And they all laughed at the inadequacy of this statement.
Elizabeth was half asleep in Jack's arms when Will spoke again. "Jack, about
Jack tensed and clutched Elizabeth a little tighter. "Which one?"
"The Kestrel, the Conqueror, whatever you've named it."
"What about her? She's yours, fair and square."
Jack ignored this. "You're the quartermaster since Anamaria left, so you get
dibs on any ships we take."
Jack continued to talk over Will. "She's a pretty thing. Lots of firepower-"
Elizabeth put her finger over Jack's lips, silencing him. "He doesn't want
Jack caught her hand and pulled it away with a bemused look. "You don't?"
"No, I don't want the damn ship. Give it to Gibbs, give it back to Hawkins,
give it to the devil for all I care. I want to stay here, on the Pearl,
with you. This is where I, where we, belong."
Jack chuckled, relief and surprise evident in his voice. "Well, when you put
it so pretty, how can I refuse? Amor vincit omnia indeed."
Will and Elizabeth's bunk was a narrow fit for two people, much less three,
but they piled into it anyway, crammed into the tiny bed, wrapped up in each
other's bodies, limbs and hair and bedclothes all tangled together.
Elizabeth wanted to stay awake and treasure the moment; the wonder of having
Will again, solid and real under her; the delight of Jack in the bed with
them, his arm around Will and his breath hot against her neck; the rare
knowledge they were all safe and sound, exactly where they belonged. But the
gentle movement of the ship and the slow breathing of her bed-mates was
irresistible, and she was soon asleep, perfectly placed between the two
fixed points in her spinning, shifting world.