WARNING: Contains Some Adult Content
Captain Jesamiah Acorne is not really a red roses and box of chocolates type of guy (well what ex-pirate is?) and he's certainly never left me a rose or chocolates on my desk!
The scene below is one of the first I thought of when mulling over the possibility of writing a pirate-based nautical adventure for adult readers. I very clearly saw Jesamiah as a man who was one for the ladies... but then he was to eventually meet Tiola, the love of his life. (He has his lapses - usually only when he thinks she has dumped him though.)
The year is 1716, September
Jesamiah's ship has been wrecked and he has come up with a brilliant idea of how to replace it - by stealing one from Phillipe Mereno, his half-brother who now owns their dead father's plantation in Virginia. The plan has an extra bite to it... as children Phillipe used to bully Jesamiah. Here's a chance for revenge. Only the revenge turns out to be far sweeter than Jesamiah thought!
Disguised as a Spaniard (he is half Spanish) Jesamiah and his French second-mate, Rue, gate-crash a christening party....
The vague plan was to arrive at the house unannounced as merchants, one Spanish, one French, with the offer of an enticing business proposition. Jesamiah was banking on the fact that after all these years his brother would not recognise him. Phillipe would not see beyond what he was supposed to see – a dark-haired, bearded Spaniard who spoke very poor English. Men rarely noticed what was under their noses, not seeing what they did not expect to see. The easiest way to conceal something? Set it in plain sight. All it needed to make a man slide his gaze over you without seeing who he was looking at, was nerve. And since leaving this place, Jesamiah had acquired nerve by the shipload.
To Rue’s mind the plan was the stupidest thing he had ever heard, outside of poking a sleeping cobra with a stick. He appreciated they could not take the ship straight away, for the jetty was busy with slaves loading tobacco. They would have to wait for nightfall when work finished, creep aboard, slip her moorings and quietly sail down river – with only eight of them, the last thing they wanted was a fight. To walk direct into the lion’s den, though? Well, that fellow Daniel in the Bible might have tried it, but Rue would rather err on the side of caution. There again, Jesamiah was never a cautious man.
Dozing, hidden in a tumbledown barn, they waited until dark when the house became filled with light and noise and people. Carriages by the dozen, women dressed in satin and silk, the men as elaborate in powdered wigs and embroidered waistcoats. A lavish evening, where the opportunity to flaunt what you had, or purported to have, was displayed in full.
For all his bravado, the first person they met, aside from footmen and servants, was Phillipe. Jesamiah had not expected that, had assumed they would be shouldered aside into some unobtrusive corner and forgotten. He felt his palms go sticky with sweat, his throat run dry. His heart was leaping in his chest as if dancing a jig there. All the memories flooded back. All those endured cruelties. Mereno approached, a questioning expression on his face. He glanced at the Spaniard, swivelled his attention to the Frenchman who was making a courteous bow and relating the reason for the intrusion in an exaggerated French accent. Intrigued, the lure of wealth being dangled, Phillipe listened.
Jesamiah relaxed, the first hurdle cleared, he had not been recognised. Now all he had to do was keep reminding himself he was a man grown, not a child afraid of his elder brother.
Beyond two false ivory teeth, there was no lingering sign of damage to Phillipe’s face. That battering Jesamiah had finally found the courage to give him had been superficial then. Pity.
“Monsieur, my deepest apologies,” Rue concluded, indicating Jesamiah who removed his three-cornered hat and swept an elaborate bow; “my partner, Señor José Menéndez de Avilés and I, ‘ad we known of your preoccupation, we would not ‘ave interrupted such an occasion.” For good measure Rue added a generous portion of flattery, and Phillipe preened to it.
“My dear fellow,” he chortled, “what you outline is of interest to me. I am, as you rightly presume, heartily sick of my profits falling into some government official’s pocket. Any venture that can retain the balance to my side of the account book I shall willingly listen to, but not this evening!” He slapped Rue’s shoulder, cast another suspicious polite smile at Jesamiah. He did not trust Spaniards.
Gesturing towards the crowd of invited guests Phillipe offered, “Please, take your fill of what you require and enjoy. You are welcome to remain the night, and on the morrow we will talk. What say you?”
Politely blustering a mild protest that they would not dare presume upon such generous hospitality – Rue eagerly accepted.
“What have you named the child?” Jesamiah asked in Spanish, doubting Phillipe would recognise his voice. When he had left it had barely broken, had still been high-pitched. Now, his vocal chords had a deep, husky timbre that could resonate quietly, or bellow at full roar when aboard ship. As for Spanish, his mother had taught him the language and to honour her memory he had never forgotten it.
Translating, Rue added, “My friend understands Anglais, but ‘e finds it somewhat embarrassing to mispronounce many of your more difficult words.”
Assuming this Spanish gentleman to be an imbecile, Phillipe regarded the tall, bearded man who stood casually with his left hand resting on the hilt of a cutlass. In deference to supposedly being a reputable sea-merchant Jesamiah had tied his tumble of hair into a neat tail at the nape of his neck. All else was the same, except he had tucked his pistol beneath his coat. There were, after all, ladies present.
Answering disdainfully, speaking loud and slow, not liking this foreigner, Phillipe intoned slow and succinct: “My son is named for my father and myself, Charles Phillip.”
Jesamiah’s loathing peaked; he clenched his fists, the need to lash out difficult to control. How dare this bastard soil the name of their father by linking it to his own? He turned away quickly, pretending interest in a group of ladies who were fluttering their fans and eyelashes at him. A handsome man, he was already creating a stir. Out of the corner of his eye Jesamiah caught one of the ladies staring at him. He turned his head to gaze at her. Blonde, a porcelain face, slender waist, generous bosom. As his stare met hers she coloured, looked quickly away and paid elaborate attention to what the woman beside her was saying.
His heart beating with a mixture of anger and fear, Jesamiah resorted to pricking his brother with insults. In faltering English he said, “Ah, Carlos, a good Spanish name.”
“As it is also a fine English name,” Phillipe retaliated, offended.
Throwing his hands in the air Rue was laughing, easing the sudden flare of sparked tension. “And I claim it also, un nom français, n’est-ce pas?”
An embarrassing pause.
“Ah! There be my wife!” Phillipe declared, glad of the interruption. He had a house full of important guests whom he needed desperately to impress, wanted nothing to go wrong this evening. He beckoned to her with a quick flourish of a single raised finger.
Excusing herself from her companion, the blonde woman walked slowly towards the three men, her fan fluttering, her body graceful in the rouched, close-fitting silk of a red and saffron gown.
“Allow me to introduce Madam Alicia Mereno. My dear, Monsieur Claude de la Rue and Señor Menéndez de Avilés.” He stumbled over the Spanish pronunciation. “They have come with a proposition to double the fortune I already possess.”
The woman curtsied, demure and elegant. Much of the fortune was hers, generated by the profitable Barbados sugar plantation she had inherited from her first husband. Phillipe had already squandered his.
“So you have not come to sample the food spread along the buffet table?” she exclaimed. “I swear, there is sufficient to feed the entire Colony!”
Jesamiah thought her the prettiest thing he had ever seen, but then, he always had. As her eyes, with their long, curled lashes swept up to directly meet his, she knew he had recognised her. As she had him.
Producing a Spanish doubloon from his waistcoat pocket, Jesamiah let its gold twinkle a moment in the flickering light of the many candles in wall sconces and candelabra. “Alas, nothing to offer I have upon me, for the child in a gift.” Deliberately he spoke in very bad English, muddling the tenses and structure, keeping his voice low and deep. “Were I be honourable to place in his crib, this?” At Phillipe’s frowned hesitation added, with a placating bow, “A son, my own, I have in Spain. Two years, soon, will he be.”
“The child will be sleeping,” Phillipe answered curtly, not attempting politeness, not caring for this black-haired stranger to intrude.
“Phillipe,” Alicia Mereno interjected, sliding her arm through her husband’s, “this is the first gentleman who has expressed a wish to see my darling boy. I am flattered.” She smiled alluringly at her husband who about to again say no, was distracted by a group of plantation owners seeking his immediate appearance at the card tables.
Her face flushing, Mrs Mereno conducted the Spanish gentleman up the stairs to the nursery, after Jesamiah had handed Rue his hat.
“Look after this for me,” he had said amiably in Spanish, muttering, quieter in English, “and keep sharp.”
Rue had frowned at him. They had awoken the snake, was that not enough? Ought they not be gone before the thing started spitting venom?
The child’s nurse, dozing in a chair, started guiltily awake as they entered. With a reprimand Alicia sent her away on the pretext of fetching her mistress a shawl. It was a long walk from the nursery to her bedchamber – the length of the house and a flight of stairs – would take at least ten minutes; fifteen or even twenty if the woman dawdled as she was sure to. Alicia had not met a servant yet who hurried.
“Well, you have found a lucky landing for your feet Arabella, my dear.” Jesamiah said, shedding the Spanish accent and folding his arms, leaning insolently against the closed door. “I wonder, does your husband know you were once a Port Royal harlot?”
“Of course he does not!” she snapped, hiding the anxiety that because of Jesamiah he may be about to find out. “And I would thank you to call me Alicia. I have not used Arabella these past many years.”
“Not since you married your first rich conquest, eh?”
She tilted her head, chin defiant. “What of it? He was an old man, I brought spring into his life.”
“And his bed I warrant. Poor beggar. What did he die of? Exhaustion, or the pox?”
The insult stung. Alicia crossed the few yards between them and slapped his face. “As I recall,” she said acidly, “you owe me for a night’s pleasure. You left in a hurry when the militia came searching for the crew of a pirate ship anchored in the harbour.”
He remembered it well. “We had to fight our way back aboard; escaped without our breeches.” He tapped his fingernail against two gold-capped teeth. “I had to get these fitted, thanks to that brawl – and because of the interruption it was only half a night of pleasure.” With his callused forefinger he stroked her cheek. “I suppose you would not be knowing who betrayed us?” He ran the finger lower, across the swell of her breasts, leaned closer, whispered, his voice huskier than usual, seductive, “Was it you, my pretty?”
Indignant, she slapped him again. “And why would I? Because you left in a hurry I never got paid!”
Smiling, Jesamiah produced the gold coin intended for the child, tucked it deep into her cleavage. “Will this settle the debt?”
Stepping past her he walked to the inner room where the boy slept, gazed down at his nephew, said over his shoulder in a lowered voice, “Do not get me wrong, sweetheart, I admire your enterprise. Good luck to you.”
Behind him, holding an oil lamp high to illuminate the dim-lit room, Alicia answered in a curt whisper. “I do not need or require your patronising luck, Jesamiah Acorne.”
“I am sure you do not. You seem to be managing quite well without it.”
Delicately, Jesamiah folded aside the top cover hiding part of the baby’s face. He had his grandfather’s nose and chin.
Unable to hold her anxiety any longer Alicia hissed, “Why are you here? To expose me?” Her head tilted upward, only the rise and fall of her bosom betrayed her agitation. “I can as easily endanger you. In these parts a pirate is treated with a great deal more contempt than a one-time, now very rich, whore.”
“I assure you I was unaware of your presence or your marriage. I came on business, nothing more.” Jesamiah looked directly at her, “Ensure your son grows to be a good man, Alicia. One bully in the family is quite sufficient.”
He walked past her into the stronger light of the outer room, the woman following, setting the lamp down on a table, her expression puzzled. “You know Phillipe?” she asked.
Interesting. She knew of whom he spoke when he talked of bullies.
“I know him. I’ve known him a long time. All my life in fact.” From the far side of the room, Jesamiah shrugged, looked at her. “Although he has not realised he knows me.” He spread his hands, apologetic, defiant. “I am his legitimate half-brother. I’m a Mereno, we share the same father.”
Her hand flying to her mouth, Alicia gasped. “I had no idea!”
“Nor would you.” Jesamiah tossed an ironic laugh into the air. “That makes you my sister-in-law. How quaint.”
She did not return his amusement. Did not truly know whether to believe him or not, but, yes, there was a similarity about the angle of the jaw, the slant of the eye. The same self-assured arrogance?
“He has never spoken of a brother.”
“We were not exactly friends.” In two strides Jesamiah crossed the room, stood before her his finger beneath her chin tipping it upward. Her eyes had the bluest sparkle. “You keep silent about my identity, Ma’am, and so shall I about yours. If not…” He let the implication fall like a dropped cannon ball.
He smelt of the sea. Of tar and hemp; of leather, molassed rum and masculine sweat. Of the carefree life she used to know, and occasionally missed. “You promised me the moon, Jesamiah, and I believed you would give it to me. I so loved you.”
“I’m a pirate, pirates never speak the truth. I thought you knew that.” His finger was still beneath her chin. She really was very beautiful. He tipped her head higher, dipped his own and put his lips to hers in an intimate kiss. One which she as passionately returned.
As he pressed his body against hers, she twined her arms around his neck, her breath quickening, needing him as much as he suddenly wanted her. Tugging at the lacings of her bodice he cursed beneath his breath to find tightly strapped whalebone stays penning her breasts. Unbuttoning his breeches, he pushed her against the door and lifted her skirts, fumbling beneath the layers of lace-edged, under-petticoats, running his hand up the silk of her stocking, over the tie of the garter and along the smoothness of her inner thigh. Her urgency for him to enter her as demanding and insistent as his own, he slid in easily, his hands on her buttocks, his mouth covering hers, silencing her gasp as he thrust hard. He was so ready it was done and finished quickly. The door rattled. Alicia squeaked, alarmed, her hands pushed him away to straighten her gown, her face flushing crimson.
Hastily making himself respectable, Jesamiah indicated she could move away from the door, said as the nurse entered, “You have a fine son, Señora.” He fell back into his role of a Spaniard. “I wish him the same fortune in life as his grandfather had.”
Smiling a polite goodnight at the nurse, he took the shawl and draping it around Alicia’s shoulders, gestured for her to precede him from the room. Surreptitiously patted her backside as she swept by.
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