~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“You are going to love this.”

 

Kristin watched with interest as Nathan held tight to the end of the rope then flung the other end around the base of the large palm tree he was standing in front of.  He caught the free end and then wrapped both ends around his hands and flung the looped end up the trunk.

 

“I’ll be right back,” Nathan told her with a smile.

 

“Be careful… please…” Kristin pleaded in a gentle voice.

 

Nathan nodded and began to shimmy up the tall, straight tree; using the rope to help extend his reach and suspend his body.  When he finally reached the top of the tree, Nathan carefully secured himself to the trunk then went to work on removing the palm’s fruit.

 

“Look out below!”  He called down to Kristin and when he was certain she was out of the way, he dropped several of the large green balls to the ground.

 

Kristin kept her eyes on Nathan as he slowly began to descend the tree then moved over to him once his feet were on the ground.  “Very impressive,” she remarked as he unwound the rope from one hand.

 

“Thank you,” Nathan smiled then winced.

 

“Are you okay?”  Kristin asked, catching the slight grimace pass over his face as he dropped the rope.  She moved her hands over his body to check for any obvious injuries.  “Did you pull anything?  Get any scr… mmm…”

 

She was cut off by Nathan’s mouth covering hers in an ardent kiss as he turned and pressed her up against the base of the tree.  His hands slid over her waist to rest on the tree, trapping her within the circle of his arms.

 

“Ooh…” Kristin licked her lips as Nathan pulled his mouth from hers.  “What was that for?”

 

“For… caring…” he answered and growled low in his throat at the sight of her tongue darting out to wet her lips again.  “And… the feel of your hands on my body… caressing me…”

 

Kristin inhaled sharply at the image.  “I… I was just… making sure you were okay… I didn’t…”

 

Nathan swooped down and took her mouth again in another fervent kiss.  “I like the feel of your hands on my body,” he murmured against her lips.  “I like it when you touch me…”

 

“…Nathan…”

 

“You have soft hands.  I like the way they feel as you move them over me,” Nathan continued as he moved his lips down along her jaw to her ear.  “Your touch excites me in ways I have never felt before,” he whispered against her ear as he nibbled on the lobe.  “I have never wanted anyone the way I want you… my body craves yours, Kristin.”

 

Kristin moaned as Nathan stepped closer and pressed his body fully against her.  She felt the heat from his body light the fire in her own and arched against him as she wrapped her arms around his back, her fingers dancing lightly up and down his spine.

 

“Nathan… I need… you promised me you would make this ache… this need… go away,” Kristin moaned as she felt the blood in her veins begin to heat and race throughout her body, the feelings and sensations converging between her legs.

 

“I did make it go away, several times,” Nathan told her as his hands began to stroke her body through her chemise.  “I just didn’t promise that it would never return.”

 

Kristin groaned as his lips attacked her neck and his hands cupped her breasts.  “True… you didn’t but…oh god…” she bit her lip as he dipped down and captured her nipple through its cotton covering.  “Nathan, please…”

 

Nathan lightly nipped the rigid tip and moved over to suckle the other breast as he slowly gathered up her chemise until it was bunched at her waist.  He pulled his mouth from her nipple, straightened up and brushed a quick kiss over her lips then dropped to his knees.

 

“Nathan… what are you…?”  Kristin looked down to see Nathan staring intently at the auburn curls covering her center.  She heard him inhale deeply and emit a low groan.  Suddenly she realized what he was about to do and felt an immediate surge of moisture flow to her core in anticipation.

 

His name echoed throughout the small jungle as Nathan buried his face in the curls between her legs.  Kristin closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the tree when she felt his tongue dart out to lick up and down her sex.

 

“Nath… an!”   He heard her moan his name again and arch against his face as he sucked hard on her clit.  Nathan brought one hand up to stroke his fingers through her slick folds, circling the tip around the opening of her sheath.

 

“Ooh… oh, Na…” Kristin moaned when she felt him slide a long finger slowly inside her, thrusting it gently in and out of her.  She opened her eyes as the sudden need to see him possessed her.  The sight of his head moving against her lower belly caused another rush of sensation to wash over her.

 

Nathan growled softly as another burst of her juices flowed around his thrusting finger and added a second while he reached down with his other hand to lift her leg and hook it over his shoulder then press his face harder against her.

 

“Mmm… ooh… yes…” Kristin cried out softly as a wave of pleasure spread through her body.  “Na… than… please… I…”

 

Nathan smiled against her and pulled as much of her clit into his mouth as he could and began to hum as he drove his fingers faster within her.  Kristin undulated her hips against him, trying to ease the ache he was creating inside her.

 

“Oh… Na… please… please…” Kristin pleaded with him and reached her hand down to clutch at his head.  “Please…”

 

Nathan heard the desperation and need in her voice.  “Let go, Kris,” he murmured against her wet flesh.  “Give into it… come for me…” He grazed her clit with her teeth.

 

“NA… THAN!!”  Kristin screamed his name as she shattered.

 

Nathan pulled his fingers from her quivering sheath and brought them up to replace his tongue on her clit as he moved his mouth down to catch the stream of Kristin’s juices as she continued to shake above him.

 

“…Nathan… I can’t…” Kristin’s knee began to buckle and she tugged on his hair.

 

Nathan pulled his mouth away from her and looked up.  He eased her leg off his shoulder then with his hands on her hips; Nathan guided her down so that she was straddling his legs.

 

“That was…” Kristin trembled in his arms as another wave of pleasure washed over her.  She cupped his face in her hands, smiling with satisfied eyes at his glistening face.  “Incredible,” Kristin whispered and leaned in to cover his mouth with hers.  “Thank you,” she murmured against his lips.

 

“You’re welcome,” Nathan replied.  “Thank you for letting me…”

 

“I couldn’t have stopped you if I wanted to…” Kristin smiled affectionately at him then in a sheepish voice admitted,  “and I didn’t want to.”

 

Nathan grinned; pleased beyond words at how much she’d opened up with him over the last three days.  He slid his hands up into her hair and brought her mouth back to his for a loving kiss.

 

“So,” Kristin tilted her head to the side as Nathan trailed his lips down the side of her neck,  “what is this fruit you want me to try?”

 

Nathan pulled his head back and smiled at her.  “You’re going to love it,” he told her.  “It’s called a coconut… but there is something else we need to take care of first.”

 

“Oh?”  She grinned at him, her eyes twinkling mischievously.  “And what would that be?”

 

Nathan laughed then wrapped his arms around her and before she knew what was happening, Kristin found herself on her back on the jungle floor, Nathan’s body hard against hers.

 

Kristin giggled as she shifted beneath him then moaned at the feel of his cloth-covered erection pressing against her still sensitive center.  The impish sparkle in her eyes changed to one of desire and she slid her hands down to cup his rear.

 

“The coconut can wait,” she murmured as she arched beneath him.

 

“Oh yeah…”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“I’d forgotten how sticky coconut water can be,” Nathan chuckled as he moved his soapy hands over Kristin’s breasts.

 

“Mmhmm… sure you did,” Kristin murmured as she leaned back against his chest, trying hard not to moan as he paused to circle his fingers around her nipples. 

 

“Honest.”

 

Kristin opened one eye to peer up at him and couldn’t help the small smile that touched her face at the smug grin that was on his lips.  She closed her eye again as she relaxed in Nathan’s arms and enjoyed the feel of his hands on her body as he continued to wash her.

 

“Tomorrow,” Nathan spoke in a low voice as he slid his hands down over her stomach,  “if the ship isn’t here, feel up to doing a little more exploring?”

 

“Mmm… that sounds like fun,” Kristin replied in a drowsy voice.

 

Nathan glanced down at her.  “Hey, are you falling asleep on me?”

 

“Mmmnooo…” she released a deep breath as she shifted back against him in the hot water.

 

“Sure you’re not.”  An affectionate smile graced his lips as he tightened his embrace around her and simply watched her.  He didn’t blame her for dozing off as they’d had a very busy day.

 

After loving her in the jungle against the palm tree then on the jungle floor, Nathan had taken Kristin exploring in some small caves near their camp.  He’d been delighted by her curiosity about everything they’d discovered in the caves and shared with her everything he knew; feeding the insatiable need he recognized in her to learn.

 

They’d spent the better part of the day in the caves, emerging to find the sun low in the sky, on its way to setting and after a meal of baked fish and bananas, Nathan introduced Kristin to the coconut.

 

She’d enjoyed the new delicacy and after she’d eaten her fill, Nathan had eased Kristin back on the cool grass then proceeded to paint invisible designs on her breasts and abdomen with the coconut water, using both his fingers and a piece of coconut as brushes.  When he was finished, he then used his lips and tongue to lick the coconut flavour off her body.  A few rounds of vigorous lovemaking quickly followed.

 

A gentle snore pulled Nathan from his thoughts and he glanced down to see that Kristin had fallen asleep floating in his arms.  He slowly began to move them towards the edge of the spring then scooped her into his arms and carefully maneuvered them out of the bubbling water.

 

Kristin whimpered and fought to stay in his embrace when he knelt at the edge and she slid down to the cool grass.

 

“Easy, my lady,” Nathan murmured as he reached for the blanket he’d brought over before they went into the spring.  “Just drying you off,” he told her as he gently toweled her off then set her down on the damp blanket and used his shirt to dry his own body.  When he was finished he spread his shirt out to dry, moved back to Kristin, lifted her into his arms and carried her over to the lean-to.

 

He laid her down on the pallet then settled down beside her and before he could reach out to pull her into his arms, Kristin rolled over and cuddled into his side; one leg thrown over and between his while she laid her head on his chest with one arm curled up under her chin.

 

“Sweet dreams, my lady,” Nathan whispered, moving his lips over her forehead.

 

Kristin sighed contentedly and snuggled closer.

 

Nathan smiled and quickly fell into a restful sleep.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“We’re going away to leave you now.  Goodbye, fare thee well, goodbye, fare thee well.  We’re going away to leave you now.  Hoorah, me boys, we’re homeward bound.”

 

The sound of Nathan’s rich voice softly singing pulled Kristin through the last layers of sleep and into consciousness.  She opened her eyes then smiled at the sight of a shirtless Nathan kneeling by the lagoon and propped herself up on her elbow to watch him.

 

“Ah, give me the girl with the bonny brown hair.   Goodbye, fare thee well, goodbye, fare thee well.  Your hair of brown is the talk of the town.  Hoorah, me boys, we’re home…” Nathan turned and smiled at Kristin as he felt her eyes on him.  “…ward bound.”

 

“Please… don’t stop singing on my account,” Kristin smiled up at him as he approached.

 

Nathan laughed.  “I wouldn’t exactly call that singing.”  He dropped to his knees beside her then leaned close.  “Good morning,” he said in a soft voice then kissed her.

 

“Good morning,” Kristin murmured against his mouth as she slipped a hand behind his head and brought his mouth back to hers.

 

“Hungry?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“For food?”

 

Kristin laughed at the way Nathan waggled his eyebrows at her.  “Yes, for food.  But,” she paused and ran her hand down his bare chest,  “after we eat… is a whole different story.”

 

Nathan grinned as he moved away from her then tossed her chemise at her.  “I’ve created a monster.”

 

Kristin laughed again as she pulled on the cotton covering then got to her feet and joined him by the lagoon.  “So,” she reached for a piece of banana.  “Have you gone to see if the ship has made it?”

 

Nathan nodded.

 

A worried look crossed Kristin’s features and she sighed.  “Still nothing?”

 

Nathan nodded again.  “If it’s not here tomorrow… I will see about preparing a message.”

 

“And how will you send it?”

 

“That special messenger I told you about,” Nathan replied.  “I have a trained dolphin.”

 

An amused smile touched Kristin’s lips.  “A trained dolphin?”

 

“Yes,” Nathan nodded.  “You don’t believe me?”

 

“Of course I believe you,” Kristin giggled softly.

 

“Fine… just you wait and see.”

 

Kristin giggled some more as she reached for another piece of fruit.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Show me another one.”

 

“That one… the stretched out w… can you see it there?”

 

“I… yes!  I can see it.”

 

“That one is called Cassiopeia.”

 

“And…”

 

“And Cassiopeia was, according to Greek mythology, the wife of Cepheus, king of Ethiopia, a vain woman who boasted of being more beautiful than the Nereids.”

 

“The Nereids?”

 

“They are the fifty beautiful women who dwell in the Mediterranean Sea and who belonged in the retinue of Poseidon.  They were friendly and helpful to sailors fighting storms.”

 

“Ah.”

 

“Anyway, Cassiopeia boasted about being more beautiful than the Nereids and in retaliation, Poseidon sent a flood then a sea-monster to ravage the country.  In trying to find a way to save his country, Cepheus consulted the oracle of Ammon for a way to stop the monster.  He was told that the only way to stop the sea-monster was to sacrifice his daughter, Andromeda.”

 

“Oh my…”

 

“That one… there… that one is Andromeda.  See it?”

 

“Yes, I see it.”

 

“Andromeda, who’d been chained to a rock, was saved from the sea-monster by Perseus.  He killed the monster and married Andromeda.”

 

“And is there a constellation for Perseus?”

 

“Yep, right… over… there.  Can you see it?”

 

“Uhm… yes!  Oh, Nathan… this is so fascinating.”

 

“I wish I could tell you more, but I’ve always been more interested in the sea… now my friend, Scott… he can tell you everything you ever wanted to know and a lot of stuff you never wanted to know about every constellation up there.  In fact, he thinks that someday, man will be able to travel between the stars.”

 

Kristin laughed softly; shifting and snuggling into his embrace as they lay on the pallet Nathan had dragged out from under the lean-to for the impromptu stargazing that had followed their lovemaking.

 

“Now, I know that as a sailor, you use the stars at night for navigation, but how did you learn so much about all the constellations?”

 

“I read a lot of books on them,” Nathan answered.  “Very often at sea, days would go by before we’d spot any ships, so I would grab a book then climb up to the crow’s nest and read.  Needless to say, I’ve read a lot of books.”

 

Kristin smiled against his chest as they fell into a comfortable silence, both once again staring up into the night sky.

 

“Nathan?”

 

Nathan tilted his head toward her at the soft call of his name.  “Yes?”

 

“What’s going to happen to us if the ship doesn’t show?”  Kristin asked in a quiet voice.

 

“I… don’t know, Kris,” Nathan answered her honestly, stroking his fingers absently along her arm.  “But… I haven’t given up hope yet and neither should you.  Anyway,” he rolled them over so that he was leaning over her,  “it hasn’t been all bad being here alone with me, has it?”

 

Kristin smiled up at him and lifted her hand to cup his cheek.  “No… it hasn’t,” she answered.  “It’s been… quite wonderful…”

 

“For me too,” Nathan lowered his lips to hers in a gentle kiss.  “For me too.”

 

They held each other’s gazes then after several long moments, without a word being spoken, Nathan shifted his body over hers and settled into the cradle of her legs; a soft smile touching his lips as she gently rocked against him.

 

‘I love her,’ Nathan thought as he slowly sank into Kristin’s welcoming body, his eyes holding hers the entire time.

 

Kristin kept her eyes locked with Nathan’s and moaned as she felt him press inside her.  ‘I love him,’ she thought.

 

After several minutes of simply enjoying their joining, they began to move together, loving each other slowly beneath the watchful eyes of the constellations.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

‘I really am getting too used to this,’ Kristin thought as she once again awoke to the comforting feeling of Nathan wrapped around her, his chest firmly against her back, one hair-roughened thigh situated between her legs and pressed up against her center.

 

“…mornmly…” Nathan murmured sleepily into her hair as he tightened his arms around her.

 

“Good morning,” Kristin replied then moaned as he moved his leg up, rubbing it against her curls.  “When did we move back under the lean-to?”

 

“Sometime in the wee hours of the morning,” Nathan replied, his face still buried in her hair.

 

“Oh.”

 

“We should…” Nathan trailed his hand over her hip,  “get up and check to see if the boat is here.”

 

Kristin nodded but made no move to leave his arms, instead she wriggled around to face him and brought her hand up to run her fingers through his beard.  “You need a trim,” she told him in a quiet voice.

 

“I need a shave.”

 

“Oh no… I like the beard,” Kristin said as she continued to stroke the graying hair on his face.  “Although,” she looked thoughtful for a moment,  “I would be curious to see you without one at some point in time.  I suspect you have a very strong chin… maybe even a dimple.”

 

“One day…” Nathan smiled at her.  “I will shave it off for you.”

 

Kristin returned his smile.

 

“Now,” Nathan slid one hand up her back into her hair, the other on her and urged her closer.  “How about a proper good morning?”

 

“Mmm… sounds go…” Kristin moaned as Nathan brought his lips to hers in a loving kiss.  “…good,” she finished several minutes later when the kiss finally ended.

 

“That’s better,” Nathan murmured against her lips.

 

“Mmhmm,” Kristin slid her hand behind his head,  “much better.”

 

Their lips came back together in a deeper kiss as Nathan rolled Kristin onto her back and moved his body over hers.

 

“We’ll check for the boat in a little while,” Nathan muttered as he broke off the kiss and dipped his head down to pull a taut nipple into his mouth.

 

“You won’t… ooh… catch me arguing,” Kristin moaned and arched beneath him.  “The boat can wait.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“So what happened?”  Nathan asked Crocker as he disassembled the lean-to.

 

“We were attacked, Cap,” Crocker answered as he helped Nathan take apart the small shelter.

 

“Who was it?”

 

“Zellar.”

 

“Did he get anything?”

 

“We were able to fight them off before they could board us proper,” Crocker told him.  “It was a short fight.  I don’t think he expected us to fight back… so it didn’t last long.  Although, he did get a good shot in, cracked one of the masts… we lost a sail, which is why we’re late in getting back here.”

 

“Did you make it to port?”

 

Crocker shook his head.  “No.  I figured by the time we went to port, got the ship fixed and made it back here, you’d be worrying something fierce.”

 

Nathan nodded then regarded his friend closer.  “So what aren’t you telling me, Gator?”

 

Crocker glanced around and when he spotted the countess with Lucas by the lagoon, he answered.  “McLeary got away during the ruckus.”

 

“What!?  How!?  The bastard was in a holding cell!”

 

“One of Zellar’s men must have freed him,” Crocker replied.  “A few managed to climb on board and cause some damage before they got away.  When Kreig went down to check on him, he saw that the lock had been shot away.”

 

“Damn!”  Nathan swore and shook his head.

 

“I’m sorry, Cap.”

 

“It’s not your fault, Manny,” Nathan told him and clapped him on the back.  “You couldn’t have foreseen this happening.”

 

“I know that, but I still… he’s out there now…”

 

“Yes, he is…” Nathan’s voice trailed off and he looked over towards Kristin, a soft smile coming to his face as she glanced over at him and grinned.  “Do me a favour, Gator… don’t tell the countess that he’s escaped.  Let me tell her…”

 

“All right, Cap.”

 

“Thank you,” Nathan replied then called out to Kristin.  “You about ready over there?  It’s time to go.”

 

“Aye, Cap!”  Lucas called back.

 

“Aye, Cap!”  Kristin parroted and tossed off a sloppy salute.

 

Nathan laughed at Kristin’s antics and shook his head.  “Come on you two.”

 

“This is a great island, sir!”  Lucas said as he galloped over.  “The countess was telling me there’re caves and everything here… and the mountain is actually a volcano and…”

 

“Breathe, Lucas,” Nathan held his hands up to stop the boy’s rambling.  “I know all about the island…” he glanced over Lucas’ shoulder to see Kristin walking up behind him.  He smiled then turned back to the teen.  “And I tell you what… once our mission is over, I’ll bring you back here and we’ll explore it together.”

 

“Really?!”

 

“Yes, really.”

 

Lucas beamed at him.  “That would be… oh wow…”

 

Nathan’s smile grew at Lucas’ excitement.  “Grab something and let’s go load the boat.”

 

“Yes, sir!”  Lucas responded as he grabbed the sack holding the pallets and took off through the jungle.

 

“Oh to still have that much energy,” Crocker commented as he loaded up his arms then followed the teen.

 

Kristin moved to stand beside Nathan.  “Part of me is sad to be leaving here,” she said softly.

 

Nathan turned to her.  “I know,” he reached up to tuck a loose lock of hair behind her ear.  “Part of me is too.”

 

“But you have to find your friend’s son,” she said and Nathan nodded.  Kristin glanced around the small meadow, her eyes resting on the hot spring and the lagoon for a moment before meeting his eyes again.  “Thank you… I will never forget my… our time here.”

 

“Neither will I,” Nathan replied as he reached out and pulled her into his arms.  He covered her mouth in a loving yet passionate kiss.  Several minutes later, he broke the kiss and wrapped his arm about her waist.  “Come on, my lady… our ship awaits.”

 

Crocker watched with interest as Nathan and Kristin stepped out of the jungle, arm in arm, and slowly made their way to the rowboat.  He couldn’t help but grin at the obvious change in their relationship.

 

“We’re all set to go, Cap.”

 

“Thanks, Gator,” Nathan said then turned to Kristin.  “May I?”

 

“What?”

 

“This…” he said and scooped her up into his arms.

 

Kristin laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck as he waded into the shallow water.  “Thank you, good sir.”

 

Nathan grinned at her and brushed a quick kiss to her lips as he helped her into the boat.

 

Lucas looked over at Crocker.  The two nodded and shared knowing smiles.

 

“Let’s shove off then, Gator,” Nathan said.

 

“Aye, Cap,” Crocker said and leaned into the boat.

 

Once the boat was off the sandbar, both men jumped in, grabbed the oars and rowed them back to the ship.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“So?”

 

“So what?”

 

“How was it?”

 

“How was what?”

 

“You know bloody well what!”

 

“I know nothing…”

 

“Did you bed the captain?”

 

“KATHERINE!”

 

Katie laughed at the shocked look on Kristin’s face.  “What?  I’ve seen the way you two look at each other, and the air fairly sparkles whenever you’re around each other.  So… come on, tell me…”

 

“Katherine Marie Hitchcock!  You have been spending far too much time with these ruffians!”  Kristin exclaimed.

 

“That good was he?”

 

Kristin blushed furiously then in a small voice,  “Yes.”

 

Katherine laughed happily and clapped her hands.  “I knew it!  I could sense the change between you two the moment you came back aboard.  You’re absolutely glowing, Kristin.”

 

Kristin smiled and gazed out onto the ocean as the ship cut through the water.

 

“Love is grand, isn’t it?”  Katherine commented after a couple of minutes of silence.  “Especially when it happens unexpectedly.”

 

“Yes it is,” Kristin said.  “And I hope Mister Kreig is aware of how lucky he is,” she commented, turning to see a blush rising up on Katherine’s face.

 

“He is,” Katherine replied quietly.  “In fact, he’s asked for my hand.”

 

“And you…?”

 

“Accepted,” Katie answered.  “I love him, Kristin.  And Ben has told me that once they complete this mission of theirs, he is going to leave the boat and settle down in a legitimate business.”

 

Kristin nodded then hugged her friend.  “I am so happy for you, Katie.”

 

“Thank you,” Katherine returned the embrace.  “And what about you and the Blue Rogue?”

 

Kristin let go of her friend and wrapped her arms around herself as she shook her head.  “I… I don’t know.”

 

Katherine opened her mouth to comment but the sight of the captain approaching stopped her.  “Good evening, Captain.”

 

“Miss Hitchcock,” Nathan nodded his head at the young woman then turned to face Kristin.  “My lady.”

 

“Captain,” Kristin smiled up at him as he stepped up beside her, his hand brushing lightly against her hip.  “Beautiful evening, is it not?”

 

“Indeed,” Nathan replied, his gaze riveted on Kristin.

 

Katherine watched the interaction between the two with interest and couldn’t help but smile at the way they continued to stare at each other, the rest of the world ceasing to exist for them.

 

“If you’ll excuse me,” Katie said, catching their attention.  “I think I’m going to turn in now.”

 

“Pleasant dreams, Katie,” Kristin told her young friend.

 

“Thank you.  Same to you,” Katherine replied then nodded at Nathan.  “Good night, Captain.

 

“Katie.”

 

“There’s something I’d like to show you,” Nathan told Kristin once Katherine was gone.

 

“What?”

 

“It’s a surprise,” he said as he grasped her hand.  “Come on.  You’re going to love it.  Trust me.”

 

Kristin smiled.  “I do.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Oh, Nathan… this is incredible.”

 

“Didn’t I tell you?”

 

“It’s like being in a whole other world… it’s… oh my…” Kristin gasped as she leaned back in Nathan’s arms.  “The view is just spectacular.  I can see why you like it here.”

 

“I knew you would,” Nathan said as he nuzzled her temple.  “And if it weren’t for my crew being able to see us…” he nipped her earlobe as he brought his hands up to cup her breasts,  “I would be making love to you right here, right now.”

 

Kristin swallowed as the image of them in the crow’s nest, their bodies entwined in the intimate dance he spoke of, filled her mind and she moaned.

 

“One day…” Nathan teased her nipples through the material of the shirt she wore,  “I will make love to you up here.”

 

“Nathan…”

 

“In fact…” he thrust his more than obvious arousal against her bottom.  “I want to make love to you right now.”

 

“Let’s go back to your cabin…”

 

“Wonderful idea, my lady.  Wonderful idea.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Nathan stirred and raised his head at the gentle tapping on the cabin door.  He slid carefully from beneath his lover, a sleepy smile touching his lips as he watched her murmur in protest then cuddle into the warm indention left by his body.

 

“I’ll be right back, my lady, I promise,” he whispered as he shrugged into a long shirt.

 

Nathan fixed a deep glare on his face before he swung the door open, glowering intently at the person on the other side.

 

Crocker chuckled.  “Sorry to… interrupt.  I just wanted to let you know that we’ve sighted the harbor and we should be dockside in less than two hours.  Just in case you have… anything… you’d like to take care of before we land.”  He finished off his words with a wink.

 

“If you weren’t my friend, Gator, I’d…” Nathan shook his head, knowing that Crocker had only his best interests at heart.

 

“And if I thought that you were just toying with the lady’s affections, I’d return the favor.  So… go take care of… things… and I’ll send Lucas with your breakfast in about an hour.”

 

“At least an hour,” Nathan warned as he closed the door and slid both bolts home, realizing only then that his shirt did little to hide his bulging morning arousal.

 

“What in the hell do you do to me, woman?”  Nathan dropped the shirt to the floor and climbed back beneath the covers to wake Kristin and show her exactly how she affected him yet again.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Do I look presentable?”  Kristin asked as she smoothed the skirt of her gown once again.

 

Nathan laughed.  “You look stunning.  I like you in a dress.  Of course, I like you in trousers as well… and I like you best in nothing at all.”

 

Kristin glared at him but a smile tugged determinedly at the corner of her mouth.  “It’s been so long since I’ve worn a dress; it feels strange… I feel very… constricted.”

 

“Not as constricted as you would be if you still had that damned corset.”

 

“Perhaps that’s it.  I’m not used to wearing just a chemise beneath my gown.”

 

“Mmm…” Nathan moved slowly toward her, lust in his eyes.  Kristin backed away.

 

“Oh no… you’ll wrinkle me and I am already wrinkled enough.”  She feinted left but Nathan caught her, pushing her solidly against the wall as he pressed into her. 

 

Kristin pushed at his shoulders halfheartedly as he slid his hands down her back to cup her bottom.

 

“Nathan…” she warned as he began to gather bunches of fabric into his hands causing the hem of her gown to inch slowly upward.

 

He pressed his lips to hers as one hand made its way beneath the yards of cloth and moved unerringly to her center.

 

“Cap!  It’s time to throw the ropes!”  Lucas’ voice echoed from beyond the locked door.

 

Nathan reluctantly broke the kiss and withdrew his fingers, allowing the skirt to fall back into place as his forehead rested against Kristin’s.

 

“I adore that kid but if he ever interrupts us again I am going to make him walk the plank.”

 

Kristin lifted her hand to Nathan’s cheek.  “Agreed,” she replied somewhat breathlessly.  “But you do need to go ashore.  Before you know it we will be back on board and we can bolt the door again.”

 

Nathan pulled away and with a smile, lifted his hand to his mouth and slowly tasted her essence on his fingers.  “Of that you can be sure, my lady.  Let’s go topside.”

 

Once they reached the deck Nathan negotiated Kristin through the working men toward the rail.  She gasped as she stared at the busy port, dozens of ships congregated in a horseshoe harbor, the island a lush green backdrop.

 

“I never dreamed that it would be so large.”

 

“Port San Luis is one of the biggest harbors in the Caribbean.  They have a market place beyond compare.  Once my business is done with the port authority I will take you there.”

 

Kristin smiled hesitantly.  “That is very kind of you but… we don’t have to go shopping.  You can show me the scenery instead.”

 

Nathan was surprised.  He thought that all women loved to shop.  “But there are things that you need… we can find them at the market.”

 

Kristin blushed.  “Captain… I don’t have any coin.  The things that I have will be fine.”  Her back was stiffly arched.

 

“Kris… most of your things have been ruined because of me.  I want to replace them… please?”  Suddenly he understood the look on her face.  “It isn’t like that… I am not… keeping you.”  His voice dropped low so that he wouldn’t be overheard.  “You are here because of me.  Your dress is beautiful but it is too heavy for this climate.  You need something lighter.  You need slippers and a sturdy pair of boots.  Consider these things a gift.”

 

Kristin nodded noncommittally.  “Perhaps… but just a few things.”

 

Sensing her reluctance, Nathan let the conversation drop although he knew that they would revisit it later.

 

“Countess, you look lovely.”  Crocker snatched his hat off as he approached the couple.  Nathan glared at him.

 

“You sent Lucas down to summon us,” Nathan bit out.

 

Crocker hooted loudly.  “You think I was stupid enough to go myself?  You would have me walking the plank.”

 

Gator didn’t understand the look that passed between the couple or the resulting giggles but he was happy to see them smiling at each other.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

The marketplace was beyond anything that Kristin had ever seen.  Most of the stalls were open to the air but a few brightly colored tents dotted the commons area, sharing their hues with a vast array of exotic birds and flowers.  Birds with vibrant plumage called out welcoming hellos as Nathan led Kristin into the maze of vendors.

 

Her eyes were bright with excitement, as she tasted previously unknown fruits that Nathan purchased and sliced, feeding them to her piece by piece as the juice ran down his fingers and her chin.  Kristin laughed as she tried to brush the stickiness away but Nathan caught her hand and lowered his lips to her chin, his tongue rubbing over her as he consumed the sweet syrup.

 

When he lifted his head, Kristin’s eyes were dark with arousal, her nostrils flaring as she struggled to control her breathing.  “You shouldn’t… all these people…”

 

So caught up in each other were they that neither noticed the narrowed gaze that watched their movements with undisguised interest.

 

Nathan nodded, knowing that Kristin hadn’t gotten used to the sudden rush of feelings now assaulting her, much less learned how to control them.  “I’ll behave,” he winked and gave her a boyish grin as he took her hand.  “We need to find you a hat.  The sun can get to you out on the water if you aren’t used to it.  I think I see some pretty bonnets over there.”

 

“A bonnet?  On a ship?  I want a sailor’s cap,” she replied tartly.

 

“Then a sailor’s cap you shall have, my dear.”

 

Before long Nathan held a plethora of small bundles containing several caps, a pair of slippers and boots that fit Kristin’s tiny feet reasonably well.  They were searching for a stall carrying something that might remotely resemble a chemise when Kristin stopped in front of a large striped tent, her eyes drawn to the brightly colored fabrics hanging inside. 

 

“Oh, Nathan!  Isn’t this beautiful!?  The colours remind me of the ocean.”  Kristin fingered the green fabric, admiring the way blue hues burst forth in the sunlight.

 

“That is one of my best.”  A bent old island woman approached the table.  “You have a very good eye, ma’am.  This would look beautiful on you.”

 

“Oh… no… I couldn’t…” Kristin stammered as she realized that the cloth was actually one of the colorful but very revealing sarongs that the island women wore.

 

“Perhaps not in public,” the old lady continued with a knowing glance at Nathan, “but for your man… You would appreciate… no?”

 

“I would appreciate… yes,” Nathan replied with a gleam in his eye.

 

“I wouldn’t know… I don’t know how you wear it.”

 

“Come to the back.  I have a small room.  I will show you how to drape the fabric and tie it.”

 

“I wouldn’t be comfortable in it.”

 

Nathan moved in close to her side and bent his lips to her ear.  “You wouldn’t be wearing it long enough to be uncomfortable in it.”

 

Heat suffused Kristin’s face as she nodded to the old woman.  “I’ll try… if you are sure that the room is private.”

 

“No one can see you, child.  Come with me.”

 

Kristin followed the old lady through a maze of lively colors, Nathan trailing close behind.  He stopped as the two women entered a small canvas room.  The old woman turned and pulled down the flap, a knowing smile at Nathan. 

 

“You stay right there.”

 

Nathan struggled not to laugh when he heard husky murmurs of protest followed by raspy coaxing.  He had little doubt who would win the argument.  As stubborn as he knew that Kristin could be, the old grandmother had already proven her persuasiveness.

 

Several minutes later the flap moved and a wrinkled hand beckoned Nathan closer. 

 

Nathan gasped as the proprietress pulled the curtain back and he viewed Kristin in the island sarong.

 

The old woman had wrapped the green and blue material around Kristin’s body and secured the two ends in a knot on her right shoulder.  ‘Over her chemise,’ Nathan noted with an amused smile.

 

“You look… there aren’t words to describe how beautiful you are.”  He reached a hand out toward her then let it fall. 

 

Kristin dropped her head but Nathan could tell that his words pleased her.  “I… it’s so revealing.  I really need something more…”

 

“Proper?  You go to George Street.  There is a dressmaker there that will fit you.  My granddaughter works for her.  You tell her Nell sent you.”

 

“That would be much more practical.”  Nathan watched as Kristin’s fingers ran regretfully over the soft fabric.  “I need a lighter gown that I can wear in public.  I’ll go get dressed…”

 

Nathan caught old Nell’s eye as she pulled on the canvas flap and nodded.  She smiled, several black gaps showing through her yellow teeth as she winked in understanding.

 

Kristin apologized profusely as she hesitantly handed the wrap back to Nell.  With a knowing look at Nathan, Nell wished Kristin luck in her dress search and soon the couple were on their way again.

 

“You looked… do you have any idea what seeing you in that did to me?”  Nathan whispered in her ear as they pressed close together to work their way through the crowd.  “Imagining you in it without the chemise… knowing that all I have to do is find the fold and slip my hand in…” He laid a hand on the firm buttock pressed into his growing erection and squeezed her bottom, his fingers pressing material between her legs.

 

“Nathan!”  Kristin hissed but he felt her press briefly back against him.

 

“I know…. I am behaving.”

 

They wondered through the market for another hour before Nathan realized that noon was approaching.  “Why don’t we go to the inn for a bite to eat then find that dressmaker that Nell mentioned?”

 

“I am a bit hungry.  Do you think that they might have something besides… stew?” Kristin wrinkled her noise at the thought of their every day meal.

 

“I suspect they might.  Wait… Lucas!” Nathan called out to the boy he’d just spotted wandering a few feet away.

 

Lucas quickly approached them with a broad smile on his face.

 

“Tsk tsk, you desperately need a hair cut.”  Kristin ruffled his hair.

 

“I need you to do a few errands for me then if you get done in time you can join the lady and I at the inn for some lunch.”  Nathan started naming off inane tasks, pleased when Kristin lost interest and moved to gaze at the stores of a nearby stall.

 

“Forget everything I just said. There is a fabric stall in the next aisle run by an old lady named Nell.  She is holding a package for me.  I want you to go pay for it and make arrangements to have it delivered to the ship.  You must be quiet about it because the package is a surprise for Lady Westphalen.”  Nathan spared a glance at Kristin and saw her fingering a silver brush.  The matching comb and mirror lay nearby.  “Once we move away come back here and buy that set she is looking at.  Go to the perfumery and purchase some sweet smelling soap and perfume… and maybe some candles… something in lavender.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

The observer’s eyes narrowed as the auburn haired woman fingered the cold metal of the mirror longingly.  He’d been stalking the couple since he’d first seen them, attracted by the attention the man’s oral caresses had caused.  He’d maneuvered himself carefully into position so that he could have a brief glimpse of the way the blue and green fabric had hugged the lady’s well-proportioned curves.  He had to fight from intentionally knocking the man down when the stupid oaf she was with had surreptitiously groped her bottom. 

 

He grudgingly turned his head to check the position the woman’s companion then moved casually toward her.  He drew near her just as a group approached and he used their arrival as an excuse to press his body intimately against hers for just a moment.

 

Kristin jerked away, a small scream escaping her lips as she felt an unfamiliar body rub against her… an unfamiliar hand move up to grasp and twist her breast.  The pressure disappeared and she whirled around just in time to see a group of five or six men moving away from her. 

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Nathan heard the low shriek over the din of the market and immediately began to scan the crowd.  He saw a scruffy man move away from Kristin’s last position and she came back in to view, searching for her assailant as he blended into the crowd.  Nathan was by her side in seconds.

 

“Are you all right?”  He wrapped his arms around her, uncaring of who was watching.

 

“I’m fine,” she replied automatically, still stunned.  “How… how did you…?”

 

“I heard you scream.  I saw him move away.  Did he hurt you?”  Nathan ran his hands over her shoulders and back.

 

“No… he…” Kristin shuddered.  “He pressed against me… he grabbed my…” her gaze fell to her chest.

 

“I’ll get Lucas to stay with you while I go find the bastard.”

 

“No…. don’t leave me, Nathan.  Perhaps it was just an accident… only…”

 

“Only what?”

 

Kristin shook her head.  “I’ve felt… it’s probably silly but I have felt like I did that day on the ship… like someone has been watching me for quite a while.”

 

Lucas hovered nearby, anxious to make sure that Kristin was unhurt before he left on his errands.  She beckoned him closer and gave him a hug and a smile.

 

Nathan gave him a reassuring wink.  “Go… I think we will go to the dressmaker’s first then we’ll be at the inn eating.  Meet us there. If you see Crocker or Ford ask them to join us as well.”

 

Lucas nodded in understanding and took his leave.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“No no… that’s much too impractical.  I just need a simple day dress that is wearable in this warm climate.  The design is lovely but this dress would be for a formal occasion,” Kristin told Madame Beaudoin.

 

“But it is my newest design and Madame has the perfect figure for it.  Do you not think so, Monsieur?”

 

“The design is indeed perfect for my lady.”

 

Kristin cut her eyes at Nathan.  “Why do they always turn to you for support?”

 

“My dashing good looks?  My devilish charm?  The gown would be lovely on you, Kristin.  We could have it done up in the blue silk.”  Nathan’s thoughts grew lustful at the memory of Kristin wrapped in the length of cloth.

 

Her eyes sparkled for a moment before she resolutely shook her head.  “I can’t accept… Something more practical, Madame.”

 

After looking through more designs Kristin finally settled on a pattern and the dressmaker sent her to the back room for her assistant to take her measurements.

 

“We need this finished as soon as possible.  I’ll pay extra.  Our ship leaves port in two days.”

 

Madame shook her head.  “So soon… I don’t think… we do have this pattern almost finished for another client.  It could be altered to fit your lady, perhaps in just a few hours.  We have time to make another before the dress is to be picked up and the color would go well with your lady’s skin.”

 

Nathan poured a generous amount of coin into the woman’s palm.  “Have it delivered to our ship.”

 

“But sir!”  The woman protested.  “This is too much.  This would pay for five or six dresses.”

 

Nathan nodded and glanced toward the curtain.  He beckoned the woman toward the corner of the room.  “I am going to have a length of blue silk delivered.  I want you to make the formal design Kristin liked.  You’ll have her measurements and I admire your taste so pick some fabrics and make up a few more dresses as well.  She also needs other things… chemises, stockings, and petticoats.  No corset, though.  Make sure the dresses don’t require one.  And don’t say anything to the lady.”

 

Madame Beaudoin smiled knowingly.  “I understand, sir.  What shall I do with the goods once they are completed?”

 

“There will be a ship in port in a few weeks to collect supplies for my property, the Wayfarer.  Do you know it?”

 

“I am familiar with the vessel.  I should have the clothing delivered there?”

 

“That’s right.  Tell the captain that the packages should be delivered to Bridger’s island,” Nathan held out a few more coins.  “I appreciate your discretion.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“This is delicious!”  Kristin sighed as she took another bite of roasted chicken.

 

Nathan laughed at her obvious delight with the meal they were enjoying.  Although the food was simple it was flavourful, well prepared and best of all it wasn’t stew.

 

“Lucas obviously enjoyed it.  Did you notice how much he ate?”

 

“I did… I also noticed how quickly he ate it.  I also noticed Ford, Ortiz and O’Neill eating at the table by the door.  You sent Lucas to get them on purpose, didn’t you?  Just in case that man tried to bother me again.”

 

Nathan shrugged then nodded sheepishly.  “I just thought having them nearby would be prudent.”

 

Kristin went back to her chicken and silence stretched between them as they finished their meal.  After several minutes, Nathan realized that Kristin obviously had something on her mind so he waited patiently for her to speak.

 

Kristin took a deep breath and readied herself for a disagreement.  “I was wondering… Would you be willing to let me write a note to my daughter?  I know that I am still your prisoner but I would let you read it.  All I want to do is let her know I’m alive.  I won’t give her any further information if you don’t wish me too.”

 

Nathan’s face fell as silence reigned between them again.  Finally he spoke, his voice low.  “Do you still think of yourself as my prisoner?  After everything…”

 

He pushed his chair back from the table and pulled some coins out of his pocket, scattering them across the table to pay for the meal.

 

“Stay here,” Nathan commanded then stalked away from the table.

 

Kristin watched him go, unsure of what to do.  She had expected him to be angry over her request, not over a slip of the tongue.  She hadn’t really thought of herself as a prisoner in several days but in reality that is what she was.  When he didn’t return quickly she began to get to get nervous.  Surely he hadn’t abandoned her.

 

Finally Nathan reappeared, his hands holding paper and an inkwell.  He slammed them down in front of her.  “Write your note, Countess.”

 

Kristin quickly scribbled a few words of comfort and reassurance to her daughter then folded the paper and addressed it.  Nathan provided a blob of sealing wax to finish off the process. 

 

“I’ll see that this goes out immedia…”

 

“Captain!”  Lucas burst through the door of the inn and raced towards the table where Nathan and Kristin were.  “Mr. Crocker needs you… the boat… now.”

 

Nathan grabbed the gasping youth’s shoulders.  “What’s wrong, Lucas?”

 

“Crocker sent me to get you.  He needs you on the ship now.  There is a message coming in.”

 

“A message… this could be it!  Tell any man you see to canvas the area for our crew on shore.  They need to check back in… they have two hours.”

 

Lucas nodded and left just as hastily as he had come.

 

Nathan turned back to Kristin.  “I’ve arranged for a room for you and I’ll see to passage on the next ship departing for England.  Consider yourself a free woman, milady.”  He dropped a small purse bulging with coin in front of her then turned and stalked away.

 

Kristin stared at the money pouch, stunned by Nathan’s unexpected rejection.  ‘He doesn’t want me any more… after everything we… how can I go on without him?  Why doesn’t he want me?’

 

‘Silly woman.’  Kristin jumped as her subconscious answered her.  ‘You hurt him.  By calling yourself a prisoner you insinuated that you were an unwilling partner to his loving.  He never said he didn’t want you.’

 

Kristin grabbed the purse and jumped up from the table to hurry after the man she loved.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Nathan reached the top of the gangplank and yelled for Crocker, a heavy scowl on his face.  The first mate appeared instantly, his eyes searching the deck.

 

“Where is Lady Westphalen?”

 

“I’ve freed my prisoner,” Nathan bit out.  “Let’s see to the message.”

 

“Captain,” Crocker’s voice called Nathan’s attention back as he reached the entrance to the living quarters.  He turned just in time to see Kristin step onto the deck, her arms hugging her sides as she struggled for breath.  He took a step toward her then stopped, stamping down the hope that had briefly flourished.

 

With another scowl he turned and disappeared through the door.

 

Crocker inclined his head at the now empty space.  “I’ll give you a few moments.”

 

Kristin nodded and moved after Nathan, working to regulate her breathing before she confronted him.

 

The door to the cabin wasn’t locked as she half expected it to be so she pushed it open and walked in.  Nathan stood at the window, his back to her.

 

Kristin walked up beside him and stretched to plant a kiss on his cheek.  “Thank you for the lovely day in town.  You were right.  Port San Luis is an interesting place to be sure and the market was very educational.  Could you get my buttons please?”

 

Nathan stared dumbfounded as Kristin turned her back to him.

 

“What in the hell are you doing?  I freed you!  Go back to the inn.  Go back to your damned England.”

 

“If I am no longer your captive I have the right to go where I want… do as I choose.  Well I choose to be here… with you.”  Kristin turned slowly to face him.  “Unless… you don’t want me anymore.  Is that it, Nathan?  Are you tired of me?  Do you want to be rid of…”

 

Her words were cut off as he grabbed her against him and caught her lips in a searing kiss.  His hands ripped at the fasteners running along the back of her dress until he finally took the two sides and pulled.  Buttons flew across the room as he stripped the gown from her and pushed her back against the wall.

 

“Oh god…” he whispered between passionate kisses.  “I will never tire of you.  I’ll die wanting you.”

 

Nathan’s hand fell to Kristin’s bare thighs then moved up, pushing the chemise with them.  When he reached her bottom he lifted and she brought her legs up to wrap them around his waist.  Nathan kept her pinned against the wall, raining kisses over her face and her upper body as he slipped a hand to his trouser placard and quickly freed his iron rod then rammed it into her.

 

There was nothing gentle or loving in their joining; it was pure unbridled lust.  Kristin’s hands pulled at Nathan’s hair and she bit his neck as he sucked her skin to the point of bruising.  She met him with every frantic thrust, her nails clawing into his scalp as his fingers dug into her rear.  Sounds and scents of passion filled the room as they fought toward completion.

 

Release came quickly, a triumphant cry emerging from Nathan’s lips as he spilled into her, her own spasming inner muscles and relieved cry telling him that she was joining him.

 

“I’m sorry,” Kristin said in a breathless voice as she rested her forehead against his.  “I… it wasn’t my intention to upset you… I… I’m just worried about my daughter.  I don’t feel or think of myself as your prisoner any longer… my words came out wrong…”

 

“I’m sorry too,” Nathan told her.  “I know that you’re worried about Cynthia.  When you said… referred to yourself as my… it hur…” he brushed his lips over hers.  “I have a temper.  You know this.”

 

Kristin laughed softly.  “I know.”

 

“Am I forgiven?”

 

“Yes…” Kristin answered and lowered her lips to his.

 

A knock on the cabin door prevented the kiss from spiraling out of control.

 

“Cap… are you ready?”

 

“Uh… not quite, Gator,” Nathan called out.  “Give us a moment or two.”

 

“Aye, Cap,” Crocker called back, amusement very evident in his voice.

 

Nathan brushed another kiss over Kristin’s mouth then withdrew from her body, holding her securely until she lowered her legs to the floor.  He glanced down at her attire.  “I’ll get you a shirt and some britches,” Nathan told her.  “I want you to come with me to meet Darwin…”

 

“Darwin?”  Kristin asked as Nathan stepped away from her and hurried over to his trunk to pull out the clothes.  “Is that the dolphin you were telling me about?”

 

“Yes,” he answered and handed her the clothes.

 

Kristin smiled at him as she quickly pulled the britches and shirt over her chemise.

 

“Let me help,” Nathan said and stepped in close.

 

They held each other’s eyes as Nathan slipped his arms around her and began to tuck her chemise into the britches, his hands caressing the firm, bare skin of her bottom as he did so.

 

“Gator is just outside the door,” Kristin told him in a husky voice.

 

“I know,” Nathan replied as he pulled his hands out of her pants then reached for the length of rope and quickly looped it around her waist and knotted it.  He lowered his head and brushed his lips against hers.  “But tonight… tonight is ours,” Nathan told her in a voice filled with desire.  “I am going to make love to you until we both lose consciousness…”

 

“…Nathan…” Kristin whispered, her eyes dark with need.

 

“Tonight…” he confirmed and gave her a brief but promising kiss then stepped away from her and moved over to the window.  “Come on in, Gator.”

 

The door opened and Crocker walked in.  If he noticed their flushed skin, or the small marks on their necks, he made no comment instead he merely kept a smile on his face and moved to join Nathan at the window.

 

Nathan climbed out the window onto the small balcony then reached back in to give Kristin a hand.  “Come on, Kris…”

 

Kristin nodded then with Crocker and Nathan’s help; she climbed through the open window and joined Nathan on the ledge running the width of the back of the ship.  “Now what?”  Kristin asked him.

 

“We go down closer to the water,” Nathan answered and gestured at the rope behind him.  He smiled at the uncertain look on her face and reached out to cup her cheek.  “Trust me.”

 

Kristin nodded.

 

“Good.  Now, I’m going to go down this rope to another ledge.  Once I’m there, I want you to pull the rope up and tie it around your waist then Gator will lower you down to me.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Nathan turned to Crocker who nodded then grabbed the rope and climbed down.  Once he was on the ledge, he called up for them to pull the rope up.  Several moments later, he grinned at the sight of Kristin’s bare feet appearing above him.  Nathan reached up to guide her down, his hands sliding up her body.

 

“Now I know why you wanted me to come down this way,” Kristin said as she found her balance on the small ledge.

 

“Why’s that?”

 

“So you would have an excuse to run your hands over my body,” Kristin replied.

 

Nathan’s hand slipped down from her waist to cup her bottom and he gave her a broad smile.  “I’d prefer to run my hands over your body without the hindrance of clothing.”

 

Kristin’s reply was cut off by the sound of a shrill whistle from the water lapping at their feet.

 

“Hello, Darwin m’boy!”  Nathan knelt down on the ledge, gesturing for Kristin to do the same.  “Kristin… this is Darwin,” he introduced her to the bobbing mammal who’s melon he was currently stroking.

 

“Hello, Darwin,” Kristin said to the smiling dolphin.

 

Darwin whistled in response and sprayed them with a light mist of water.

 

“He likes you,” Nathan told her.

 

“How can you tell?”

 

“He only sprays people he likes.”

 

Kristin smiled and watched with interest as Nathan reached down and removed a corked glass cylinder attached to a leather strap hooked in the dolphin’s mouth.  “You weren’t joking, were you?  You really have trained him as a messenger.”

 

“Yes,” Nathan answered as he worked the stopper from the cylinder and pulled the rolled paper out.  He quickly scanned the contents then rolled the paper back up, replaced it in the cylinder and slid it into his pocket.  “Manny!”

 

Crocker’s head appeared over the side up top.  “Yeah, Cap?”

 

“Make ready to sail!  We leave in an hour.”

 

“Aye, Cap!” 

 

Crocker’s head disappeared and moments later Nathan and Kristin heard indistinct shouts from above deck.

 

“So, how did you and Darwin meet?”  Kristin asked as she continued to stroke Darwin’s head.

 

“I found him injured near my island,” Nathan answered.  “I patched him up as best as I could then kept an eye on him while he recovered.  When he was better, he continued to hang around and so… I decided to see if I could train him.”

 

“And his name?”

 

Nathan chuckled.  “I had a childhood friend, Ernest Darwin… guy swam like a fish and was fascinated by marine life.  When he got excited, he’d talk real fast… he sounded like… well, like Darwin here.  So… it seemed kind of appropriate.”

 

Kristin smiled and watched as Nathan turned his attention to the dolphin, talking and petting the mammal with undisguised affection.

 

“Feel like a quick swim?”

 

“Now?”

 

“Yes,” Nathan nodded then a slow smile formed on his lips.  “Sadly… it won’t be like on the island… we’ll have to keep our clothes on…”

 

Kristin blushed then smiled.  “Yes, that is too bad,” she moved closer and trailed her hand down his chest.  “I rather enjoyed seeing you naked and wet.”

 

“Is that so?”  Nathan asked, his smile turning into a wolfish grin as Kristin reddened even more.  “The feeling is mutual, my lady… I very much prefer to gaze at you without the encumbrance of clothes.”

 

They shared a look then Nathan leaned over and caught her mouth in a hungry kiss.

 

“Or we could forget the swimming and just sit here and kiss until it is time for us to set sail…” Nathan murmured against her mouth.

 

“Mmm…” she flicked her tongue against his lips.  “I like that idea better.”

 

Nathan chuckled and sat on the ledge, dangling his feet in the water as he pulled Kristin across his lap.  “So do I,” he agreed as he lowered his mouth back to hers. 

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“They seem to do that a lot.”

 

“They sure do,” Crocker agreed with the teen peering over the ledge with him.  “Does it bother you?”

 

“Actually no… I think it’s great,” Lucas admitted.  “The captain has been so much happier since Lady Westphalen came aboard.”

 

“Yes he has,” Crocker smiled then motioned for Lucas to step back.  He leaned out over the edge a little further and took a deep breath.  “Cap!”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Nathan pulled his lips from Kristin’s and smiled when she buried her face in his chest.  He looked up.  “We’ll be right up, Gator.”

 

Nathan waited for Crocker to step back before he looked back down at the woman in his arms.  He brushed his fingers through her hair and smiled at her when she looked up him.

 

“Time to go,” he told her softly and cupped her cheek.

 

“I know,” Kristin nodded.  “You have a godson to save.”

 

“Oh, Kris… I pray this is the right ship.  Time may be running out for Will,” Nathan said as she moved off his lap and carefully stood on the ledge.

 

“I pray it is too,” Kristin replied as Nathan climbed to his feet beside her then wrapped the rope securely around Kristin’s waist.

 

Nathan smiled at her, brushed his lips across hers then tilted his head back.  “Pull her up, Gator.”

 

“Aye, Cap!”

 

“Watch your hands,” Kristin told him with a smile, laughing softly at the lecherous grin that formed on his face.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Lucas, have you seen the captain?”

 

“No, milady,” Lucas answered.  “He was here a few moments ago.”

 

“Hmm…” Kristin glanced around the deck of the ship.

 

“He might’ve gone below.  I know that he likes to check every inch of the ship before we engage another.”

 

Kristin nodded.  “Thank you, Lucas.”

 

“You’re welcome,” the teen responded and watched her walk away.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Is everything set?”

 

“Yes, Cap.  And everyone knows what they have to do.”

 

Nathan looked up at his first mate with an anxious expression on his face.  “I have a very strong feeling that this is the ship, Manny.”

 

“I do too, Cap,” Crocker replied.  “Even the men are convinced this is the one.”

 

Nathan nodded then began to pace across his office.

 

“Nathan… you need to relax.  We’re still a day’s sail from the Interceptor.”

 

“I know… I know…”

 

“Why don’t you… spend some time with the countess?  Take her up the crow’s nest again.” 

 

“I can’t… I…” Nathan began then stopped, a smile forming on his lips as he remembered his earlier promise to Kristin.  ‘But tonight… tonight is ours.  I am going to make love to you until we both lose consciousness…’

 

“Cap?”

 

“That is a very good idea, Gator,” Nathan said.  “In fact… I did promise her…” he stopped then turned to Crocker.  “I have a favour to ask.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Countess?”

 

Kristin stopped and turned to see Crocker walking towards her.

 

“Where’re you goin’ if I might ask?”

 

“I was looking for Nathan,” Kristin answered.  “Lucas said he thinks he may be down in the cargo hold but I don’t really want to go down there,” shadows of fear briefly flitted across her face.

 

“Actually, he’s in his cabin,” Crocker told her.

 

“He is?”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” Crocker nodded.  “He sent me to find you and escort you there.  He has a surprise for you.”

 

“A surprise?” Kristin’s eyes lit up.  “What kind of surprise?”

 

“I’d be keelhauled if I revealed any more.  My instructions are to bring you to the cabin and that is all.  After you, milady.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Kristin called out to Nathan as she entered but received no answer.  She stepped into the room and closed the door securely behind her and slid the bolt home then turned. 

 

The last rays of sunlight were fading from the horizon but a row of lanterns above the window provided plenty of light.  A large bowl of water sat on the table, steam and the scent of lavender rising from the surface; a towel waiting beside it.

 

Her fingers trailed through the water as Kristin continued looking around the cabin.  The bunk had been freshly changed, the blanket and sheet folded down in anticipation of the coming night.  The stark whiteness of the sheets was broken by a ripple of blue and green.  Kristin moved closer and stroked the delicate silk; a smile touching her lips as she realized what Nathan and Lucas’ surreptitious whisperings had been about.

 

‘Could I?’ Kristin lifted her hands to the buttons of her shirt as she stared at the cloth.  She thought of the way the silk had felt against her skin then she thought of the look in Nathan’s eyes when he’d seen her in it.  Her chemise fluttered to the floor on top of her shirt and britches as she strode across the room.  Once she reached the table she dipped her hands into the water and splashed it on her naked body.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Nathan took a deep breath from his vantage point in the shadowed hallway when he heard the bolt slide back.  He pushed away from the wall and moved down the corridor, stopping for just a moment to lay his hand on the door as he pictured the woman inside.  At the sound of approaching footsteps he moved further away to intercept the encroacher.

 

Lucas appeared at the end of the corridor, a heavy tray in his arms.  “I’ve brought your dinner, sir.  Everything was done just as you requested.”

 

“Thank you, Lucas.  I’ll take the tray from here.”

 

“I don’t mind carrying it into your quarters, Cap.”

 

Nathan lifted the tray.  “That won’t be necessary.  Tell Mr. Crocker to continue with the preparations as we discussed.  I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

“Shall I come back for the tray later?”  Lucas asked as Bridger moved away.

 

Nathan rolled his eyes then turned back to face the boy.  “Go to bed.  This corridor is off limits to the crew for the rest of the night.”

 

A huge grin split Lucas’ face.  “Aye, Captain.”

 

“Guess they’re gonna do some more kissing,” Nathan heard the boy mutter as he disappeared.

 

‘I have to have a talk with that boy.’  A quiet chuckle escaped as Nathan shook his head ruefully.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Kristin fingered the edge of the silk nervously, fully conscious that only the two ends of the sarong tied behind her neck held the cloth on her body.  The thought that Nathan could simply slip a hand inside the front drape to reach any part of her body that he desired sent a rush of heat to her center and a blush to her cheeks.

 

She knew that Nathan was outside the moment before the handle turned and the door swung open.  She stepped back against the corner window and watched as he placed a tray on the table then picked up the damp towel she had spread over a chair and inhaled.

 

He lifted his eyes toward the window and she stepped forward into the light, forcing her hand to release its grasping hold on the open fold and fall to her side.

 

“Oh, Kris…” Nathan’s voice was husky with undisguised desire as his eyes raked over her.  “I thought I knew… but I never dreamed that you would be so…”

 

Her eyes fell to the floor as a pleased smile touched her lips.  “I… I can’t believe that I’m so embarrassed… This covers me even more than my chemise in many ways… I guess that it is just different…”

 

“Kris…” she stopped when Nathan spoke her name and lifted her eyes to look at him.  “Come here.”

 

She moved willingly into his embrace.

 

“Are you hungry?”  He murmured against her hair.

 

“Ravenous.”  Kristin bit his neck lightly.

 

Nathan pushed away slightly and moved toward the table, his hand holding hers as she followed him.

 

“For now… food.  I had a few… special things… loaded while we were in port.  I hope that you like them.”  Nathan pulled the towel covering the food away and lifted dish after dish onto the table.  “Oh… I almost forgot…”

 

Kristin watched with interest as Nathan moved to the window and climbed onto the small balcony, returning a few minutes later with a chilled bottle of wine in his hand.  He took two goblets out of a padded shelf in the credenza and poured a glass for each of them.

 

“This is very good.” Kristin told him as she sipped her drink.  Nathan dragged the chair from the other side of the table around so that he was sitting next to her.

 

“I’m glad you like it.  I bought it just for you.  Do you like oysters?  These come from a small bay in the Gulf of Mexico.”  Nathan picked up the half shell and held it out for Kristin.  She eyed it suspiciously.

 

“That doesn’t look like what I see in my stew.”  She observed.

 

“Try one.  If you don’t like them I’ll finish the rest.”

 

“I haven’t really noticed that you need them but…”

 

Nathan chuckled.  “So you know that oysters are considered an aphrodisiac.”

 

Kristin placed the shell against her mouth and tilted it.  She sputtered as the soft mollusk hit the back of her throat but quickly recovered.  “That was… interesting.” She observed as she sipped her wine.  “I believe I’d like to try another.”

 

Nathan wolfed down one of his own then held another out.  When Kristin reached for it he pulled his hand away, guiding the shell toward her mouth himself as he leaned in closer.  Kristin parted her lips, her gaze locked with his, as she accepted his offering.  As soon as she had swallowed Nathan caught her mouth with his.

 

Kristin broke the kiss and offered Nathan an oyster, her thumb rubbing sensually along his lower lips to catch stray juice as he swallowed.  They continued in this manner, oyster then kiss, until the entire dozen were gone.

 

The empty plate was pushed away and Nathan replaced it with a platter containing a delicious smelling roasted loin of pork surrounded by a variety of vegetables. 

 

“You really did plan a sumptuous meal.” Kristin gasped as he carefully sliced the meat and offered her a small bite.

 

“I know how tired of stew you are.  I thought that you might enjoy something different.” He held out a piece of buttered white bread to her. 

 

Kristin bit into the bread and laughed as butter dribbled down her chin.  Nathan caught her hand before she could wipe it off and lapped his tongue over the yellow stream, tracing it from the tip of her chin back up to her lips.  Kristin opened her mouth to him immediately, her tongue seeking his.

 

Nathan pulled back, recognizing the building desire in both of them.  “Dinner first,” he whispered as his lips brushed her forehead.  “We need our strength.”

 

“Tell me… something.  Anything.  I want to know everything about you.” Nathan told Kristin as they ate their dinner.

 

She giggled self-consciously.  “What would you like to know?”

 

“Tell me about your shipyard.  You must admit that a woman in charge of a shipyard is most unusual.  How did you become so closely involved?”

 

Kristin shrugged.  “One of my father’s estates overlooks the ocean.  I remember sneaking away from my nurse once to go play in the water.  I must have been about five.  When my absence was noted a massive search was called while I played on the water’s edge, oblivious to the furor my disappearance had caused.”

 

“I can only imagine.” Nathan laughed.

 

“I remember my mother weeping when they found me and my father proclaiming that I had to be taught to swim in case I pulled the same trick again.  From that point on I spent all the time I could near the water.  Father had a small boat built for my brother and I and taught us how to sail when we were teenagers.”

 

“So you have the sea in your blood?”  Nathan asked, quite seriously.

 

“I must have.  When I’m in London I long for the taste of a fresh salty breeze and the sound of crashing waves.”

 

“And you married a ship builder.”

 

“I married a Scottish laird who just happened to own a shipyard.  Although the majority of Oliver’s holdings were in the north he inherited the yards and an estate in Cornwall from an English uncle.  I actually met him for the first time when I was about fourteen.  James was coming into his majority and father decided to buy him a larger boat as a gift.  I went with him to the yard and Oliver was there.”

 

“Fourteen is a bit young…”

 

Kristin shook her head.  “Nothing happened then.  I thought he was very handsome and I must admit that I did have a few girlish fantasies about him but he was nearly forty.  I never dreamed that he would notice me.”

 

“But he did.”

 

“I debuted when I was seventeen.  Oliver offered for me six weeks into the season.  Father thought it was an excellent match so we married.  I wasn’t under any great illusion that my new husband was madly in love with me.  That isn’t why society matches are made.”

 

“Why was your match made then?”  Nathan asked quietly, his blue eyes peering at her intently.

 

“As I said before… Oliver needed heirs and I was expected to find an appropriate husband and marry.  I was young, presentable and of the correct social class.  He said that he had decided on me the first time he had seen me and been waiting for me to grow up.”

 

“He taught you about ship making?”

 

Kristin laughed as she sipped her wine, causing it to bubble in the glass.  “Heavens no!  Wives don’t have anything to do with matters of business.  My job was to run the house, manage the children and be a credit to him in public.  Don’t misunderstand me… Oliver and I had a good marriage.  He was kind and gentle… everything that I had been taught to expect in a good husband.  The only unhappiness in our marriage was my failure to conceive a son.  We’d been married almost three years when Cynthia was born so we didn’t worry when I didn’t get pregnant again immediately but as the months and years slipped by… Oliver desperately wanted a son.”

 

“I can imagine.  An English Lord would want someone to pass his title to… his estates.”

 

“The Kilhairn title is actually a bit strange.  It was granted three hundred years before the unification of England and Scotland and given an amazing exception.  The title is allowed to pass to a daughter if a son isn’t born so Cynthia is actually the Countess of Kilhairn.  The line will continue through her children if she ever pulls her nose out of a book long enough to fall in love and marry.”

 

“How did you end up running the yard?” 

 

“When Oliver was murdered, men came out of the woodwork.  The most vile disgusting creatures you could ever imagine… all offering to marry me and take over the management of my estates.  I knew that they only wanted my daughter’s inheritance so I determined that I would learn how to manage the properties myself.  I went to John Peterson…”

 

“The old captain of your ship?”

 

“That’s him.  I convinced John to teach me.  If he hadn’t I would have had to sell the yard.  I think he finally agreed because he didn’t want the men to lose their jobs.  He was a hard taskmaster.  John told me outright that a woman had no business on a ship but I stuck with it and I think that over time he came to accept me.  We’ve been lucky with our designs and the business has grown.”

 

‘The man admires the hell out of you.  Now I understand why your men are so loyal to you.’  “And you sail with your own ships?”

 

“We normally take a newly completed vessel out for a few days test run.  If I can, I go with them.  I like the feel of the waves beneath my feet.  I like being able to wear plain dresses and wear my hair in a braid.”

 

“But you still kept the corset?” Nathan’s eyes sparked with amusement.

 

Kristin drained the last of her wine.  “Never again, my captain, I can assure you of that.”

 

Blue eyes made dark with desire fell to the abundant curves so beautifully outlined by the green silk.  Nathan’s tongue darted out to lick his lips as he watched the tips of those breasts peak beneath his gaze.

 

He stood abruptly and moved to the window to adjust the shades of the lanterns hanging there so that the bright light in the room dimmed to a romantic glow.

 

“Dance with me.” Nathan extended his hand to Kristin.

 

She glanced around the room.  “There isn’t any music.”

 

“Do we need it?”

 

Kristin’s throat went dry.  “No… we don’t.” She stood and moved slowly across the room, her hand slipping into Nathan’s.  He pulled her closer and laid his free hand on her waist.

 

“I presume you have permission to dance the waltz, milady?”

 

A laugh bubbled delightfully in Kristin’s throat.  “Indeed I do, Sir Rogue.”

 

Nathan guided Kristin around the cabin in a slow dance as he hummed in her ear.  The tempo was half what it would have been in a London ballroom and the lack of girth in Kristin’s dress allowed Nathan to press his hips fully against hers.

 

“My daughter is never waltzing with a man again,” Kristin murmured as her free hand slid to Nathan’s shirt and began to unfasten the buttons.  He lowered his limbs to allow the garment to slide free then tossed it across the room and wrapped both arms around Kristin’s back.  Her arms slid up and around his neck as she pressed her breasts into his hard chest.  The feel of his chest hair tickling her aching nipples through the thin silk brought a low moan to her lips.

 

Nathan’s hands slid down a few inches to cup Kristin’s bottom and hold it firmly while he pulsed against her.  Kristin whimpered.

 

“Nathan… please…”

 

“What do you want?”

 

“I want you,” she moaned as Nathan tilted his head and ran his tongue caressingly along her ear lobe. 

 

“You want me how?”  He moved to the tender flesh of her neck.

 

“I want you deep inside me.  Make the ache go away, Nathan.”

 

Kristin clung to Nathan’s neck as her feet left the floor.  Seconds later he deposited her in the middle of the bed. 

 

Kristin lay back on her elbows and watched Nathan as he sat down on the edge of the bunk.  His eyes roamed her body as he worked his feet free of his boots, his gaze lingering on the proud thrust of her breasts.  He didn’t break his gaze as he stood, his hand falling to his waist.

 

Kristin rolled and came up on her knees in front of Nathan, her fingers stilling his.  He dropped his hand away and stood motionless as Kristin shyly worked the buttons of his britches free.  Her hands slid beneath the waistband and around to his sides as she carefully worked the fabric down, gasping when his rigid manhood sprang out.  Nathan’s trousers broke free, sliding down to pool around his ankles then Kristin sat back, her fist clenching as she stared at the hard muscle pointing at her.

 

Nathan knew what she wanted and held his hand out to her once again.  She laid her palm in his and he guided it to his arousal, wrapping her fingers around his length then thrusting gently against her grip as he encouraged her curiosity.

 

“You’re so hard… but your skin is soft as velvet,” she murmured in awe as she carefully ran her fingers up and down the shaft.


Nathan felt his juices begin to rise up his shaft and hastily stepped back out of Kristin’s reach.  “Not yet.  I want to be inside you when I come.”

 

“You mean you… that you could… just from my touch?”  Kristin’s eyes filled with amazement as she stared at Nathan’s member.

 

“This part of the body is just as sensitive on me as it is on you.  I react to your touch just as you react to mine.”

 

“But the feelings when you touch me… when you kiss me there… I could do that to you?”

 

Nathan groaned at the mental image Kristin’s words caused.  “Oh yes… most definitely.”

 

Kristin’s eyes fell as her face flamed at the thought.  She reached for him.

 

Nathan caught her hand and pushed her back against the soft feather bed as he climbed in beside her.  “I don’t want this to end too quickly and I assure you that if you did that I would be done immediately.  Just lie back and enjoy.”

 

Nathan kissed Kristin gently, his lips tugging and teasing her lower lip as her tongue sought to mate with his.  His hand found the edge of her sarong and worked between the layers until he came to the bare skin of her side and began a leisurely up and down trek from breast to thigh and back.

 

Kristin arched into him as he finally gave in to her seeking tongue and allowed the kiss to deepen into a wild mating.  Her hands fisted in his hair, trying desperately to pull him back as Nathan broke the kiss and moved lower, his lips nibbling down her throat and across her bare collarbone.

 

When she realized his intent Kristin moved her hands to the back of her neck, her fingers seeking the knotted fabric.  Once again Nathan stopped her.

 

“But… I want you to kiss me…”

 

“Where do you want me to kiss you, darling?”

 

“My mouth…” She shook her head.  “Everywhere.  I want you to kiss my breasts and I want you to kiss me… there.”

 

Nathan knew how aroused Kristin must be to give voice to her feelings.  “I will kiss you everywhere, I promise.”  His mouth fell to her breast and he flicked his tongue lightly over one silk covered peak then pulled back to watch the nipple distend even further.  He brought a hand up to circle the areole, watching as the sliding silk enflamed her even more. 

 

He lowered his head again, this time pulling the marbled crest completely into his mouth.  Nathan worked both breasts with hand and mouth.  His index finger flicked the hard nipple of her right breast as his tongue did the same to her left.  When he suckled her right nipple his thumb and forefinger tugged with equal pressure on the other.  His teeth nipped while his fingers pinched.

 

Kristin’s body pulsed beneath his touch, the air filled with her moans of pleasure accompanied by her pleas for release.  “Nath… an!  Please!”

 

Nathan gasped when he felt Kristin’s hand move over his hipbone and grasp him firmly.  The skirt of her sarong fell open as she slid a leg up and around his hips.

 

“Kris… honey… oh god!  That feels so good!”  Nathan’s back arched as his hips moved instinctively into her grasp.  Kristin’s touch was tentative, untutored, but it enflamed Nathan’s desire.  When she found the drop of moisture escaping the tip and captured it with her thumb he jerked away from her before he exploded in her palm.

 

Kristin groaned her frustration as Nathan pinned her arms to the mattress and shifted over her.  With one last hard suckle at each pointed nipple he trailed his lips down the lower swell of her breast and over her belly.

 

Kristin’s thigh moved to rub the hard erection traveling along her bare skin as Nathan continued his downward trek.  He shifted and slid his knees between her calves, pushing her legs wide apart, taking the silk with them.  His large hands curled around her now bare thighs, gripping her tightly as he lowered his mouth and tasted her, exploring her with slow deliberate caresses.

 

He licked her soft flesh, feeling her open more to him with each stroke.  His tongue pushed deep inside her wetness, delving further and further with each stroke.  Kristin cried out, her hands grasping at his shoulders.

 

Nathan withdrew.  Using the tip of his tongue, he circled her heated entrance, seeking and teasing. 

 

“Please…” Kristin was desperate for Nathan to enter her, to fill her.

 

Instead he drew back and blew gently, his warm breath a gentle caress to her throbbing sex.  Her hands threaded through his hair as she tried to turn his face back into her, demanding his touch.  His tongue skimmed over her bud, back and forth until her flesh quivered.  His lips fell to the tender flesh of her inner thighs to touch and taste, making her wetter still.  He moved upward, his tongue mapping and exploring every soft fold until Kristin was ready to burst.  He pulled her fleshy lower lips into his mouth, kissing and suckling them gently until he felt a trickle of moisture slide from her.

 

“Again!” She demanded as Nathan dipped to taste her, lapping her juices into his mouth like a man dying of thirst.  Finally his tongue settled back on her needy sex, causing Kristin to cry out as a wave of pleasure engulfed her. Her hips rolled against him, enhancing her pleasure and easing the pressure building within her.

 

Nathan skimmed his hands down the back of Kristin’s buttocks and thighs, pressing her up into his mouth.  He lifted one of her legs, settling the naked thigh on his shoulder, then returned his hands to her bottom, grasping and parting the firm globes.  One long digit dipped into her moist channel from behind.  The roll of Kristin’s hips increased as her pleasure grew still more.

 

The sound of a ringing bell barely penetrated Nathan’s senses, so overwhelmed was he by her smell and taste.  His barely voiced curse sent another wave of electricity shooting through Kristin and her body went rigid as she strained against his pressing hand.

 

Knowing that he couldn’t last much longer himself, Nathan drew the swollen center of Kristin’s desire into his mouth and suckled.  Her back arched as she thrust her pelvis forward, demanding more.  A second finger joined the first and after a few deep strokes Nathan pressed both fingers firmly into her inner wall as he pulled unrelentingly on her clitoris.  Kristin shouted his name as waves of ecstasy flowed from her full center throughout her body.

 

Kristin trembled as her orgasm slowly faded.  Nathan continued to love her with his mouth, laving her swollen tissue and stroking her gently as he slowly eased her back to earth.  She was unaware when Nathan left her, climbing from the bed and dashing to the window.  He was back before her last shudder was completed.

 

“Where…?”  She managed to gasp as his hands returned to her body, stroking her from breast to thigh.  

 

“Darwin… He’d keep ringing the bell until someone showed up and I definitely don’t want anyone else in here.”  Nathan’s lips joined his hands.

 

“I knew I heard bells.  I just thought… you have to go below?”  Kristin’s hands locked into his hair as she pressed into him.

 

“No,” Nathan murmured against the hollow of her throat.  “I’m not going anywhere except over the edge with you.”

 

The sarong parted and fell away under Nathan’s deft fingers, revealing her to his gaze.  Kristin held her arms out.  “Then come with me.”

 

Nathan quickly settled between her parted thighs, seating himself within her warmth with a loud moan into her mouth.  He loved her gently; keeping the pace slow and steady until her over sensitized flesh was able to handle more. 

 

The pull of Kristin’s flesh told him that she was ready for him to increase the pace, her inner muscles clinging to his erection while her fingers dug into his bottom.

 

“Where did you… oh sweet… Kris!” Nathan moaned as she clenched him rhythmically.  She stopped instantly.

 

“Did I hurt you?  I’m sorry… you seemed to like that,” she apologized.

 

Nathan cut her off with a kiss.  “Believe me, my darling, you didn’t hurt me.  That feels so… wonderful… but I can’t hold out if you keep…” A loud groan bubbled forth as Kristin tightened around him again.

 

“Let me watch you, Nathan.”  Her fingers stroked his face softly as she brushed light kisses over his lips.  “I want to see you come.”  Nathan couldn’t resist the feel of her clamped so tightly around him or the pleading look in her face.  He pulled up to his elbows and pistoned rapidly in and out of her sheath, his body jerking as he peaked and emptied himself within her.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“There… yes… Nath… ohgodohgodohgodohgod… NATHAN!”

 

“KRISTIN!”

 

Screams of completion filled the cabin as the couple collapsed to the mattress; their limbs still locked tightly around each other.

 

Perhaps they did lose consciousness because when Nathan came back to himself he was surprised to find that he was lying diagonally across his bunk with his head near the foot of the bed.  Kristin lay sprawled out naked on top of him, the fulfillment of a fantasy he remembered from several weeks before.  The air was heavy with the scent of their passion.

 

An attempt to shift his foot brought resistance and Nathan raised his head slightly to find the sheet wrapped around his ankle.  Further looking showed that the bed was in complete disarray.  Sheets and blankets were untucked and the pillows were nowhere to be found.

 

Kristin murmured her disapproval as Nathan rolled her to her back and carefully disentangled his legs from hers.  He slipped off the mattress and did his best to tuck the bottom sheet back in.  A quick search of the floor yielded the pillows then Nathan lifted Kristin and turned her back to the head of the bed before climbing back in and dragging a blanket over them.  Kristin immediately snuggled into his embrace.

 

Nathan stared down at her face illuminated by moonlight, enthralled by her beauty.  “I thought I had lost you today.  Halfway back to the boat I wanted to turn around and find you; throw myself at your feet and beg you to forgive me… but my pride wouldn’t let me.  Thank God you came back to me.”

 

He brushed a loving kiss across the top of her head as he cuddled her closer, enjoying the rhythmic sound of her breathing until exhaustion overcame him.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

The sheet beside her felt cool to Kristin’s touch as she reached out.

 

“Nathan?”  She whispered his name softly as she sat up, clutching the sheet to her naked breast.  She scanned the room and found him, his nude form silhouetted in the moonlight as he stared out the window at the ocean.

 

Kristin slipped from the bed, grabbing the blanket from the foot to wrap around her shoulders as she moved silently across the floor and up behind Nathan.

 

She leaned her cheek against his back as she opened her arms and closed them around his chest, draping them both with the bedspread.

 

“Come back to bed,” she murmured.  “You need to rest.”

 

Nathan lifted one of her hands to his lips and lovingly caressed the palm.  “Soon.  I always have trouble sleeping the night before a confrontation.”

 

She brushed a kiss across his skin, savoring the salty taste that was uniquely his.  “I know how important this is to you.”

 

“This has to be the right ship, Kristin.  Will has been lost to us for over six months.  How much longer can he last?  I won’t let his parents lose him like I lost my son.”

 

Kristin caressed his chest comfortingly.  “You will find him.  You haven’t come this far to fail now.  You seem very sure that your friend’s information is correct and this is the right ship.  Tomorrow you will board it and get Will back.”

 

Nathan grabbed Kristin’s wrist and tugged, pulling her body around his until she faced him.  He wrapped the blanket around both of them and tucked it in then dropped his joined hands to the small of her back.  She snuggled into his neck.

 

“Tomorrow… once we engage the enemy… you will be left here with Lucas and a guard, just like before.  Will you give me your word that you won’t try to leave this cabin until I come for you… no matter what you may hear?”

 

Kristin leaned back slightly to meet his gaze.  “You have my word.”

 

“Thank you.” He brushed his lips across her forehead.

 

“How will you… when my ship first sighted you we had no indication that you were a pirate ship.  How do you manage to keep your identity hidden so well?”

 

Nathan laughed.  “Thanks to an observation by Lucas.  One day he remarked in passing how nice it would be if we could just stretch the blue sails out over the white ones when we needed them then take them down and put them away.  That set me thinking.  I designed a system where we can hand crank the various blue coverings in place in just a few moments.  We wait until we get close enough to our target then up they go.  Once the battle is over we roll them back down.  The holding rod is tucked up under the edge of the regular sail so no one ever thinks to look for it and we aren’t chased by every navy on the ocean.”

 

“That’s rather ingenious… to come up with that just from a boy’s comment.”

 

“Lucas helped me design the system as well.  He’s really got a brilliant mind.  He is fascinated by the way things are put together and he is very good at visualizing new ideas.  Once this mess is finished I want to get him into a proper school.”

 

“We could get him a tutor to help him catch up to his age level then…” Kristin’s voice faded away as she realized what she’d said.

 

“I think that’s a wonderful idea.” Nathan smiled down at her, his lips seeking hers out for another kiss. 

 

Kristin felt Nathan’s hands tighten in anticipation as he broke the kiss and turned her toward the glass.  “Watch…” he told her.

 

At first Kristin saw nothing but gradually the rippling water behind the ship became more pronounced then a sleek gray form broke the surface.  The moonlight turned Darwin’s skin to silver as he arched high in the air.  He seemed to stay suspended forever before falling back to the water with a loud splash.

 

“What does it mean?” Kristin asked; her voice filled with awe.

 

“It means we are keeping pace with the British naval vessel.  They are forty-two minutes away as the dolphin swims.”

 

“You timed him?  How can you be sure?”

 

“I trained him.  I trust Darwin more than I trust most humans.”  Nathan picked up a shaded lantern from the window ledge and opened the covering.  He waved it across the window.

 

“Now what?” Kristin was fascinated with the communication between the man and the dolphin.

 

“Now, we go back to bed.  I’ll get up just before daylight and signal him again so that we can have a last minute check.  Come… back to bed now… you must be cold.”

 

Nathan yanked the blanket free and scooped Kristin into his arms, carrying her swiftly across the room.  He laid her on the bed and climbed in beside her, dragging the sheet and blanket up to their waist then rolling so that he was settled between her thighs.  He held his upper body on his elbows as he stared at her, one thumb carefully smoothing riotous auburn curls away from her face.

 

“Kristin… if anything should happen tomorrow…”

 

She shook her head vehemently; her hands moving up to cup his cheeks.  “The only thing that is going to happen tomorrow is that you are going to succeed in your mission and reunite that boy with his parents.”

 

Nathan nodded as he struggled to find his words.  “Yes… but if something should… I want you… I want you to know how… happy I’ve been these last few weeks… with you.  You’ve brought joy back to my life.”

 

Unable to speak, Kristin answered him by raising her lips to his.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Heave ho!”

 

Nathan indicated his agreement with a brief wave of his hand.  That gesture spread across the ship as the crew quickly moved into place.  Crocker, Kreig and Ortiz grabbed their respective cranks and began to turn.

 

Kristin gasped as the heavy blue cloth, the exact color of Nathan’s shirt, slow rose over the white sails.  She spared a glance at the ship in the distance, knowing that the sudden appearance of blue would have the sailors scurrying to prepare.  But it was too late.  The Blue Rogue and his ship would be on them within a matter of minutes.

 

“It’s time for you to go below,” Nathan told her, motioning toward O’Neill.

 

Kristin swallowed hard.  “Please… take care of yourself… promise me…”

 

“I’ll be back with you soon,” he whispered for her ears only.  “Now go.”

 

With one last glance Kristin stepped away, only to find her self being hauled back into Nathan’s arms.  He ravaged her lips, as his crew looked on then thrust her away.  “Go!”

 

Kristin fled toward the door, turning back only when she reached it to share one last look.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

“Won’t you sit down, milady?”  Lucas asked, unnerved by Kristin’s constant pacing as the cannons boomed above them.

 

“No… I can’t sit… what do you think is happening now?”

 

Tim O’Neill pulled his glasses from his face and wiped them for the fourth time.  “The cannon fire should stop soon.  We are too close for it to be effective any more.  The cannon needs to fire at an arc and once your target gets too close you just shoot over it.  If they try to shoot straight the ball falls too quickly or they risk shooting a hole in their own deck.”

 

As if on command the roar of cannon fire died away. 

 

Kristin stared at the ceiling as though she was willing the wood to disappear so she could verify Nathan’s safety.

 

“What would you be doing, Tim?  If you weren’t here, I mean.  If you could be doing anything in the world what would it be?” Kristin asked, desperate to distract herself.

 

Tim thought for a moment.  “I can’t imagine anything I would rather be doing… any place that I would rather be.  If the captain hadn’t rescued me I’d still be suffering as an unwilling member of the British navy.”

 

“Rescued… of course!  Nathan didn’t steal you… he rescued you just as he rescued those men on the last ship… as he was trying to do to my crew!  Why didn’t I realize that?”

 

“That’s why I am a member of this crew, Countess.  I volunteered.  We all did.  Many of the men have sailed with the captain for years… Crocker the longest and Kreig from the time he started wearing long britches.  But the rest of us… we sail because we were rescued or we have family who were rescued.”

 

“Don’t you miss your family, Tim?”

 

“Of course, but I saw them less than a year ago.”

 

“You did?  I… I guess I assumed that you had not…”

 

Tim nodded.  “… that I hadn’t been home since I was taken.  I was back at home within a month from the time the captain rescued me.  I spent a few weeks with my folks then rejoined the ship.  I’ve been home several times since th…”

 

O’Neill’s words trailed off as the boat lurched, the sound of wood scraping wood filling the air.  His fingers closed around his firearm.

 

“We’ve made contact.”

 

“Now what?” Kristin asked fearfully.

 

“Hand to hand combat.  We board their ship and fight.”

 

“Pistols?”

 

“Swords.  Pistols are too difficult to constantly reload… although the captain does carry a six-chamber revolver.  Bayonets are also a possibility.”

 

Kristin closed her eyes and shuddered as a series of gruesome mental images swept through her mind.  “Dear Lord, please protect him…” she mouthed, not realizing that Tim and Lucas were watching her intently.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

Nathan’s attacker deftly dodged the slice of his sword as Nathan lunged forward but didn’t expect the man clad in blue to counter with a swift kick behind the knees.  The officer fell forward, hitting the deck with a loud thud, his sword skittering across the planking.

 

“Captain!”  Nathan whirled to see Ortiz standing in the middle of the ship, his sword held at the throat of a plump older gentleman wearing captain’s strips.  Nathan quickly fought his way through the sea of sailors to join him.

 

“Tell your men to stand down,” Nathan ordered.

 

The British officer refused to meet his gaze.

 

“Order your men to stand down immediately or I will have my second mate cut your throat.”  There was little doubt that Nathan wasn’t serious about the threat.  The order was quickly issued.

 

The British captain continued to glare at Nathan defiantly as his sailors slowly surrendered their weapons and moved into the formation Crocker commanded.  Jonathan Ford came to stand guard over the captain while Nathan helped to canvas the crew. 

 

Crocker approached him with a shake of the head.  “No sign, sir.”

 

“Ship wide search.  He’s here, I can feel it.”

 

Three of the crew had been pressed into service so they were carefully culled from the larger group.  Nathan loudly ordered his crew to clear the deck of dead bodies and the three limp men were tossed overboard, only to be picked up by a boat and rowed to the opposite side of the seaQuest where they were taken on board in secret.

 

“We found him.” Kreig’s low whisper in Nathan’s ear caused a shout to bubble up but he quickly suppressed it. “He’s in a berth down below.  He’s hurt, sir.  A saber wound and it’s serious.  But he’s conscious.”

 

Nathan quickly motioned for several men to follow him as he moved toward the lower deck entrance, barking out an order for the ships stores to be plundered along the way.  Once they were out of range he sent Ortiz to ransack the captain’s quarters, ensuring that the older man would think that he’d been robbed.

 

The crew quarters were one deck lower and Nathan practically leapt down the ladder then sprinted through the deck until Ben stopped him. 

 

“Here, Captain.”

 

A big smile grew on Nathan’s face as he knelt beside the rough wooden bunk and clasped the hand being held out to him.

 

“Hey, Billy Boy.  You don’t know how glad I am to see you again.”

 

“Not half as glad as I am to see you, Uncle Nathan.  I knew that you would come for me.”

 

“What about that leg?  Can you walk?”  Nathan pushed the blanket aside and stared at the bloody rag wrapped around his godson’s thigh.

 

“I can make it.”

 

Nathan helped Will stand but quickly recognized that despite the boy’s determination he would have a difficult time making it all the way to the other ship. 

 

“Ben, knock a hole through the side of that wall.  Send one of the men up to have the small boat brought along side.  We will lower Will down then use the hole to load some of the stores.  Have the men joke about throwing a wounded limey overboard.”

 

“That could work, sir.  Come on, men.  Let’s get started.”

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

A fist pounded the door sharply and Tim raised his rifle but quickly lowered it as a familiar voice drifted through.

 

“It’s me.  I’m coming in,” Nathan yelled then Lucas quickly slid the bolts back then pulled the door open.  Nathan’s foot had barely crossed the threshold before the force of Kristin’s body slamming into him knocked him back.  He wrapped his arms around her and eased her back into the room as she wept against his shirt.

 

A quick jerk of his head had Lucas and O’Neill quickly disappearing.

 

Nathan guided Kristin toward the bed then sat down on the edge, pulling her into his lap.  His hands roamed her back, comforting her as she snuffled against his chest.

 

“Hey, I know that you enjoy seeing me wet but I still have my shirt on,” he ventured.

 

Kristin giggled through her tears as she lifted her head to stare at him.  “I was so scared for you.”  Fear was still evident in her damp eyes.

 

Nathan dropped his lips to hers and kissed her tenderly.  “I am all right.”

 

Kristin slid from his lap and pulled him to his feet then started running her hands over his body… shoulders, chest, waist then urged him to turn and did the same with his back.  Nathan bit back a moan when he felt her hands caress his tight buttocks before sliding down his thighs and calves.  At her command he turned again to find her kneeling on the floor as she carefully checked the fronts of his legs.  When she reached his groin she paused, staring at the massive bulge there.  A delicate finger reached out to stroke him as her tongue darted out to moisten her lips.

 

Nathan swore and hauled her back to her feet before tumbling her onto the bed and climbing on top of her.

 

“That still works too, as you can see.”

 

“And feel,” she gasped as his hips settled between her thighs, the thin fabric of her new dress doing little to disguise his every contour.

 

“Unfortunately I can’t prove it to you right now.”

 

“The naval ship?  You have to stage another show?”

 

“No.  I decided to deal with the problem more directly this time.  We threw the men overboard then picked them up in the boat.  I had the men lift enough of their supplies to make the raid legitimate then disabled their cannon and cut them free.  Once we were out of sight we changed course just in case they are foolish enough to pursue us.  We did sustain some more damage so I’ve got the men working on repairs as well as strengthening the mast.”

 

“And…?” Kristin asked.

 

“And Will is being settled into Crocker’s quarters even as we speak.”

 

Kristin threw her arms around Nathan’s neck and embraced him.  “I knew you would find him!”

 

“I need to go check on him.  He’s hurt; a saber wound to his thigh.”

 

“That could be dangerous.  Could I help?  I do know some methods of fighting infection that might be useful.”

 

Nathan grinned.  “I would welcome your help.  Thank you.”

 

“CAP!”  Nathan jumped off of Kristin as the door to his cabin swung open so forcefully that it bounced off the wall behind it.  Crocker burst into the room.  “We’ve got trouble!”

 

“What is it?”

 

“Ship approaching, running full sail.  From the lines of her I’d guess that it’s Zeller, come back for another go at us.”

 

“SHIT!  We don’t need this right now.  Let’s try to outrun him but get the men ready just in case.”

 

“I’ve already given the order to pass out fresh ammunition.”

 

“Good.  Go, Gator.  I’m right behind you.”

 

Nathan turned to see that Kristin had moved off the bed to stand beside him.  He took her shoulders firmly in his grasp. 

“You have to stay here.  If this is Zeller… he’s a killer.  He’d have no qualms about killing you… but not before he… I won’t let him harm you!”  Nathan swore vehemently.

 

“I know that, Nathan.  I’ll lock the doors and stay here.”

 

Heavy footsteps pounded across the deck above them.  Nathan glared up at the ceiling for a moment then, with one last hard kiss; he turned and ran out of the cabin.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

The battle was going badly for them… that Nathan knew.  He swore as a second cannon ball screamed through the air, this one scoring a solid hit on their main mast.  Although the thick timber held it splintered badly.

 

“Get us in closer!”  He yelled.

 

Crocker spun the wheel wildly turning the ship back into their rapidly approaching attackers.

 

“Ready your swords and pistols, men!  We’re going hand to hand.  Remember what is at stake!”

 

Although the crew fought valiantly they were already tired from their previous encounter.  As hard as they tried to prevent it the pirate ship was able to come along side and tie itself to them.  Hordes of burly cutthroats poured over the railings and soon the air was filled with sounds of metal on metal.  Nathan had just killed his second attacker when he saw a familiar figure making toward the entrance to the lower decks.

 

“McLeary!”  He hissed and took off after the man. 

 

Kristin’s attacker sensed the approach of his former rescuer and turned just before Nathan reached him, sword drawn.  He lunged and Nathan parried, their swords ringing as they fought their way across the deck.  As they neared the far railing McLeary made a devastating misstep and Nathan neatly disarmed him, the pirate’s sword clattering against the deck as Nathan threatened to slit his throat.

 

Before Nathan could follow through with his intended action his sword suddenly fell, a horrible feeling running up and down his spine.  ‘KRISTIN!’

 

Even as his mind screamed her name he heard her voice answering.

 

“NATHAN!”  He whirled to see a tall balding pirate emerge from the lower deck, one arm wrapped firmly around a struggling Kristin’s waist.

 

“NO!”  McLeary’s full weight caught Nathan in the small of his back, forcing him to the deck.  Nathan rolled before the man could grab his sword and lashed out with his foot, catching McLeary in the stomach.  He went down with a loud huff.  Nathan jumped up and scanned the deck; finally catching sight of the man he knew instinctively was the pirate Zeller attempting to force Kristin over the ship’s railing.

 

Kristin fought him every step of the way.  She locked her arms around the railing and refused to let go, swearing as well as any of Nathan’s crew as the flowing skirts of her gown hindered her attempts to kick her captor.

 

“Crocker!”  Nathan screamed as he fought his way past his first mate.  “Standard procedure!”

 

Crocker turned, his dispatched opponent sliding to the deck.  His blood ran cold as he watched two pirates grab Kristin and forcibly yank her free.  He heard Nathan scream as he launched his body at the pirate captain.  He scored a glancing blow, drawing first blood from a slash at Zeller’s arm but then Zeller yelled and his crew quickly withdrew, circling in together as they retreated in toward their captain.

 

Several of the pirates grabbed Nathan from behind and quickly rendered him unconscious.

 

Nathan’s crew followed but too many of them were hurt to be very effective and soon the marauding crew had abandoned their target, the bonds connecting them quickly cut as the pirates sailed away with the captain of the seaQuest and his lady as their captives.

 

~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~

 

sail ahead...