Warwick was being a pirate again which, he decided, after having a lot of money, reminiscing about his secret love affair with Margaret of Anjou and running England, was just about his favourite thing. Behind his ship, like the rather splended tail of a kite, rode a string of prizes that he’d wrested from the foreign hands of Burgundian and Spanish captains. He was quite pleased with himself.
His pale and insipid countess, Anne, was in her cabin being seasick again and this made him feel particularly contemptuous of her. Margaret wouldn’t give in to the mere whim of her stomach, even in a storm! He was sure of that. She would stand up, her hands on her hips, and face it like the fiery french filly that she was. What they couldn’t achieve together, he thought! He sighed as he leaned over the rail, a spray of water spraying into his face, and thought She is the perfect woman! The only one who can match my wit, power and charisma.
He looked over to the small knot of sailors that had gathered on the deck. He knew what had their attention, a young jack tar, currently on his hands and knees swabbing the deck, who had signed on for this voyage under an assumed name. The poor sailors were dazzled by him and none of them could have told you why. Warwick could see that it was embarrassing them all, but they were powerless to break away from the boy’s aura of charm and beauty. Warwick knew why. He headed over to them and, shuffling their feet, squinting up at the clouds and whistling, they all reluctantly broke away and went about their business. He leaned against the railing, pretending not to notice the young man, still swabbing a way, a strand of hair, black as a crow’s wing, hanging over his eyes.
“Ebony,” Warwick said quietly.
The sailor straightened up, the sponge in his hand dripping water. “Dakota,’ she said.
“Got a job for you. Meet me in the usual place.”
Dakota nodded, brushed the errant strand of hair from her face and went back to her swabbing. They’d be flittering around her again as soon as the earl was gone. She sighed heavily. At times her beauty really was almost a curse!
In her cabin, the countess of Warwick’s seasickness was making her even more even more pale and insipid than usual. She thanked God for her younger daughter Anne, who was delightfully sweet and caring. Who sat beside her bed, laying cool damp cloths upon her mother’s forehead.
“I just want to die!” she groaned.
“No you don’t,” the calm and pragmatic Anne said. “We’ll be putting in to harbour soon so that Dad can sell the string of prizes that ride behind the ship like a rather splendid tail of a kite. You’ll feel better then.”
In the cabin next door, the young Duke and Duchess of Clarence were finding out that it was indeed possible to make love in a narrow bunk on a heaving, rocking, plunging ship without falling onto the floor more than a few times.
The Bastard of Fauconberg stood with one foot on a crate holding onto a rope and staring out to see. He liked being a Bastard and a pirate! Sometimes, when he met a girl in a tavern and she coyly asked him what he did for a living, he’d look her in the eye and say. “I am a Bastard! and a pirate!” And it never failed. Before he could blink the girl would be semi naked and quivering. He had a great deal to thank his cousin the Earl of Warwick for, not least the amount of extreme action he got!
He shifted his gaze so that it fell upon the startlingly beautiful young sailor currently swabbing the deck. I’d hit that! he thought. The idea made him feel rather jolly and he started to think up ways he could get the stupendously gorgeous young sailor alone. I might ask him to come to my cabin, he thought cunningly. Then I’ll have him at my mercy! The Bastard of Fauconberg didn’t usually find himself planning the seduction of a young man, but there was something about this one, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on…
Dakota sighed and stood up, arching her back against the pain, much to the delight of several hardened seamen who happened to be wandering past. So, she thought, the earl has a mission for me. She emptied the bucket over the side of the ship and began to slouch nonchalantly towards the usual place. She hoped it would be an interesting mission. She was starting to feel rather cooped up and if she had to defend her honour one more time with her surprisingly agile karate moves, she feared she would scream!
The countess of Warwick listened to the sounds coming from the next cabin and pressed her pillow over her ears. If only her older daughter wasn’t so enthusiastic about it all she thought she might cope.
Sitting demurely in a chair nearby, young Anne also heard the squeals and moans. One day that will be me, she thought primly. But instead of George it will be Richard or Dickon who carries me to such dizzying heights of delight. I just hope he’s strong enough. She closed her eyes and pictured his frail and angelic® face. She loved him so very much!
In the usual place, the earl of Warwick was waiting impatiently for his protege and spy. He could tell by the ripple that followed her that she was on her way, and by the sound of the flat of a hand cracking against flesh that either her perfectly shaped bottom was being slapped or someone’s face. If he was a betting man, he’d put money on the latter. She arrived, breathless and indignant.
“Ah, Madison,” he said, brushing aside her protests that this wasn’t her name. He pulled a wad of letters out of his jacket and handed them to her. “I need you to deliver these to the king of France, Louis IXI, the Duke of Exeter, the Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Somerset. Do you think you can manage that?”
Not without at least one of them trying to seduce me, she thought sourly. Allowed she said, “I will do my best, sir.”
He nodded and grunted. “We will be putting into harbour soon so that I can sell my kite tail of prizes. You can go then.’
Making her way to her cabin, Dakota started to plan her mission. First she’d make her way to the French court, deliver the letter to king Loius, then she’d find the others. It shouldn’t be too difficult.
“Boy!” She stopped in her tracks and looked around. Lounging in the doorway of his cabin, looking stunningly gorgeous and quite unequivically heterosexual in his black breeches and white shirt, black hair curling on his neck, the gold rings in his ears sparkling against his brown weathered skin, a boyish grin that nonetheless barely hid the predatory nature of a shark, was the Bastard of Fauconburg. Dakota sighed and turned towards him. He sauntered up to her. “I’ve been watching you.”
She lifted her chin and looked him in the eye. He grabbed her arm and pulled her close. “I thought so!” he said, grinning, one arm about her waist, the other tracing the line of her jaw. “I thought you were to beautiful to be a boy! I wonder what price you’d pay for me to keep your secret!”
“Unhand me!” she said through gritted teeth. “Or your cousin the earl will hear of this. I am under his protection!”
The Bastard grinned again. “I shall have a kiss at least!”
Pressing her even more tightly to him, he kissed her. Dakota struggled to free herself, finally managing to bring her knee up hard and fast into contact with some soft squishy bits she didn’t want to think about. The Bastard swore and let her go, doubled up in agony. Dakota looked at him contemptuously, turned on her heel and flounced away. How dare he! She was saving herself for someone. She didn’t quite know who yet, but she knew he was out there. Perhaps someone she’d known all her life, who loved her desperately and was prepared to wait until her adventuring days were done. Maybe it was a currently hard hearted cruel man called Dayne or Keiran who would be cured and softened by his love for her and vow never to be mean to another soul as long as he lived, so long as he could be with her. A tiny part of her, hidden away in the darkest recesses of her soul, kind of hoped it might be someone like the Bastard of Fauconberg. For all her protests, and the knee in the knackers, she’d been almost undone… that kiss had been something else!