A fine looking wench. she will bring a good price. He stated as he rested the tip of his saber on her shoulder, almost caressing her with it, as he slid it casually towards her throat. Then he quickly and expertly, with almost imperceptible flick of his corded forearm , he sliced through the rope about her neck, dropped the razor sharp point once more to the deck, and leaned again on the pommel. ”That is, unless you treat her as roughly as you usually do your women. Its so unfortunate that fairly used goods do not sell well, not even in Maricabo.

Ill use her any damn way I please, De Lessops snarled.

The other pirate shrugged and turned away as if the subject had began to bore him. ”of course you may. That will be your right — as soon as you have paid for her.

De Lessops snatched at the mans sleeve. What do you mean by ”pay for her ”? She is mine, I told you!

One chilling glance from his fellow pirate was all the warning De Lessops needed, he dropped his hand quickly.

The smile was gone from the tall pirates face and his body tensed. ”As you pointed out earlier, De Lessops, we made no agreement about the passengers. She must be considered part of the booty and any ramson or sale money must be shared by all according to the agreement we all signed. ”

And in the meantime? De Lessops screeched?

in the meantime, she must be treated with every consideration. Any abuse would lesson her value and I am sure you would not want to cheat your men of their prize.

A growl and several muttering came from the pirates who had gathered around, attracted by the heated. discussion and the presence of a woman of uncommon beauty. Raven would have jumped at the sound had her bound allowed her the freedom to do so. the glittering eyes and yellow teeth ,the pressing, greedy bodies made her feel as if she were surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves ready to fight over every last one of her bones.

But ramson is often hard to collect and Maricabo is a long way off. The lean captain cast a meaningful glance at De Lessops and then turned his attention to the crew. ” The only way to insure that these good men will not be cheated is to give them payment for the girl now. ”

De Lessops evil grin returned and he chuckled. He almost clapped the other man on his back. For a moment he had been close to real hatred for his smooth tongued partner but now he saw a way to satisfy his desire without facing a confrontation with his men. All he had to do was toss a drink to his crew and the wench was his. And when he was through with her, he would gain their favour further by having them have a little taste of her by sharing her with them. If there was anything left. ” Thats fair, ” he agreed.

The ice blue eyes again turned to study the ashen faced Raven. By now she felt faint after hearing the ongoing discussion between the two. All her hopes had been raised and cruelly dashed so many times in the last few minutes that she did not know what to think. And the tall pirate Captain was an enigma which her battered sensibility could not fathom. First he had criticized De Lessops for his bad treatment of women the he seemed to be smoothing De Lessops path to her. When he help her to cut the rope from her neck, she thought he was helping her. But now she wondered if he had done it only to make his point with De Lessops. The man she had at first hoped would rescue her now seemed to be the coldest, cruelest and the most evil of them all. Again, what was she expecting from a pirate. She asked herself why she had ever thought he was any different from the other pirates leering at her. But when her eyes met his she thought she saw a momentary thawing of those icy orbs, a brief flicker of warmth in his smile

And then he was again turning his back to her and she wondered if it was only he imagination and desperation that made her imagine that his look was one of encouragement.

He spoke to De Lessops but he raised his voice to ensure that every greedy man there heard him clearly. ”Aye, she is a fine looking wench. She should bring at least three thousand pounds on the back market.*

De Lessops good mood evaporated, incredulity etched into every grimly line on his face. ” No woman is worth that amount of money, ” he spat.

The broad shoulders in the front of her shrugged indifferently, ” I admit it is not often one goes for so much, but we have all seen it happen ” There was muttering of agreement from the gathered men. ” In my opinion, this wench could easily fetch that much. of course, if you are trying to cheat us of our rightful shares….

The scrawny captain glittered with hate, and his fingers clenched just a bare inch from the pistol stuck into his worn silk sash. ” I don have that much and you know it. Not until we dispose of the cargo we have taken. Then I will pay for her.

Now the look of incredulity was on the pleasant faced captain- incredulity and amusement. Are you asking us to trust you for our shares? To let you enjoy your prize now, then when she is worn and spend and your pleasure is done, then you will pay three thousand pounds?

There was a rising chorus of protests and angry muttering. Not one of his crew will trust him that much and De Lessops knew it. ” Then we will all have to wait till we reach the port, ” De Lessops growled ” None of us have that much amount on us here ”

” I have. ”

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