Elias strode down the passageway, eager to see the look on Elle's face when she realized just how dire her situation had become. Something about seeing the look of helplessness on her face excited him, and he knew that it would work in his favor. After all, how could she continue to defy him if she had no choice but to obey him?
Elias climbed the companionway and stepped into the bright morning sun. The familiar roar of the ocean filled his ears, and he sucked in a lungful of salty sea air. He smoothed the front of his dark shirt, tugging the sleeves at his wrists before adjusting his collar. He was never one to appear on deck unkempt, evident by the gleam of his boots and the seamless press of his black breeches. And he had to admit, he wanted to look presentable for his bride to be, for if he appeared to her in muddy boots and dusty clothes as he had the night before, what would she think of him?
Elias glanced around the deck, and spotted Elle easily. She was leaning against the railing, her blonde hair swirling around her head, the honey strands catching the sunlight. Elias chuckled as he watched her trying desperately to keep her black shirt from revealing her creamy skin, while at the same time trying to keep her balance against the constant sway of the ship. But Elias knew, in time, she would get her sea legs.
Elias looked around at his crew and felt hot anger bubble up inside him when he noticed that several of his men had abandoned their duties to stare at Elle. He determined then and there, that any man who dared to look at Elle in a way that he didn't approve of would be subject to ten lashes.
"Back to work!" Elias barked. The men jumped, averting their gaze as they went about their various tasks.
Elias gave a satisfied nod, making his way towards Elle. These men knew better than to cross him, so why didn't she?
Elle glared up at him when he stepped beside her at the railing. Elias folded his arms behind his back, flashing her a smug smile.
"Jerk," she muttered, turning from him.
She took the stairs to the quarterdeck, where Mr. Jones stood smoking his pipe, watching the horizon through his spyglass. Elias followed close behind, eager to see what the little hellion was up to this time.
"Excuse me, Captain," Elle said as she climbed the stairs.
Elias watched as Mr. Jones lowered the spyglass and looked at Elle with surprise, no doubt so busy watching the sea that he hadn't even noticed her come above.
"Yes, Miss er" He rasped, his lips tight around the length of his wood pipe.
"Elle," she said, coming up beside him.
He snapped the spyglass closed, glancing towards Elias with a wary expression. "What can I do for you then, Miss Elle?"
"I don't belong on this ship." Elle said, crossing her arms. The shirt billowed up around her waist, giving Elias a nice view of her backside which was covered only by a pair of tight knickers unlike any he had ever seen. She tugged the material down quickly, glaring back at Elias who flashed her a lusty grin.
Elle returned her attention to Mr. Jones, her voice strong and commanding. "I demand that you turn around and return me to
wherever it is that you last made port."
Mr. Jones chuckled, scratching at the gray stubble on his chin. "I'm afraid I can't do that Miss Elle."
Elias grinned and crossed his arms as he watched Elle, who's cheeks had reddened, her eyebrows drawn together in frustration.
"Why the hell not?" She huffed.
"Well for one thing Miss," Mr. Jones said, blowing a puff of white smoke out of the corner of his mouth, "we have goods that need to be delivered before the week is out. And for another, I ain't the captain of this vessel."
Elle ran a shaky hand through her hair, glancing wide eyed at Elias before returning her attention to Mr. Jones. "Well then who is?"
Mr. Jones darted his gaze to Elias before glancing down at his bare feet and clearing his throat.
Elle gasped, her eyes meeting Elias'. "Y-you're the Captain?"
"Welcome aboard the Revenge," Elias said confidently, taking up his usual spot near the wheel. "Your new home."
Elle swallowed hard, casting Mr. Jones a pleading look. He looked away from her, taking up his spyglass and staring at the horizon once more.
Elle shivered, looking panicked. "This isn't happening. This can't be happening." She pressed her hand to the side of her face, looking out over the water.
Elias smiled, turning her to face him. "You will come to treasure sea life as I do. The endless adventure, the wealth to be had, the oceans and land waiting to be explored."
"And what if I don't want any of that?" Elle demanded, tilting her chin up in a way that Elias had learned meant defiance.
Elias laughed humorlessly. "I'm afraid it is not up to you. This is my life, and therefore it will be yours as well."
"I want no part of your life you madman!" Elle shouted. "What is it going to take for me to make that point clear to you?"
Mr. Jones gasped behind him, several men edging away awkwardly, trying to act as though they hadn't heard her insults.
She was on thin ice, as Elias was just barely keeping his anger in check. If she continued with her barrage of insults, Elias was certain his anger would take over and the consequences would be devastating. However, she did need to learn.
Elias grabbed her by the arm and she shrieked, tears filling her eyes. He loosened his grip slightly, shoving away the guilt that crept up when he realized that he had hurt her.
"Get your hands off me!" She screamed.
She brought her other hand up so quickly that Elias didn't spot the movement until her hand made contact with the side of his face, and all he saw was red.
Everyone on deck was staring at her wide eyed, some with looks of pity while others stood with their mouths hanging open. Mr. Jones lowered the spyglass and shook his head at her, reminding her of her Grandfather, and how he had looked at her when she had gotten mud all over her flower girl dress when she was eight.
The world around her seemed oddly quiet, as though the wind and ocean had ceased their racket to see what her fate would be.
Elle brought her eyes back to Elias, his face a mask of rage, his eyes blacker than the darkest onyx. His jaw was clenched tight as he stared down at her.
She opened her mouth to speak, but could only manage a small pathetic squeak which only seemed to anger him more.
"You dare" Elias began, glancing wildly at the men who were foolish enough to still remain in the vicinity. "And in front of my crew? If you were anyone else, dearest, you would be flogged within an inch of your life."
Hot tears blurred Elle's vision and she tried to look away. Elias grabbed her around the throat loosely and forced her to look at him.
"You may fight me all you want, dearest," Elias sneered, his hot breath whispering along her cheek. "But I will always win."
Elle couldn't suppress the sob that came out from between her lips, which didn't seem to affect Elias in the slightest.
Elias pulled her against his chest, leaning down so that his hot cheek rested against hers.
"And the next time that you lash out against me," Elias whispered against her ear. "I will strike back."
He released Elle and she stepped away quickly, backing up until she met with the railing. Elias turned from her, barking orders at the crew who had, for the second time that morning, stopped what they were doing to watch her.
She walked sideways down the stairs, all the while keeping her eyes fixed on Elias who was talking to Mr. Jones. She wanted to get away from him, to get bellow deck so she could be left alone with her thoughts and, she knew, her tears. Yet there was no escape, no way of avoiding him or hiding from him. She was on a ship after all, a ship captained by a man who scared the hell out of her.
Elle's stomach turned when Elias settled his eyes on her. She quickened her steps down the stairs, terrified of the turn that his mood might take. What if he decided to punish her as he had threatened? What if he decided that he wanted to save face with his crew and give her the lashing he had mentioned? Elle shuddered, her fear and the constant movement of the deck making it difficult for her to control her legs.
Elias strode down the steps, his eyes meeting hers. "And where are you rushing off to in such a hurry, dearest?"
How could he look at her as though nothing had happened? As though he hadn't threatened her just moments before?
"I-I" Elle cleared her throat, fighting back the tears that threatened to shine light on her mounting fear.
Elias raised his hand to stop her before she could start again. "You should get below, you aren't exactly dressed to be traipsing around on the upper deck."
That's because you kidnapped me from my bed you psycho, Elle wanted to say, but didn't.
She nodded, turning her back on him and walking quickly to the door that led below decks.
"And Elle," Elias called, his voice holding a hint of amusement that made Elle's skin crawl.
She glanced over at him, his stance wide and his arms crossed as he stared her down as though she were prey.
"You would do well to consider what I have said," Elias said, his face stern.
Elle swallowed hard, taking the stairs down into the darkness two steps at a time, certain that Elias' soul was as pitch black as the bowels of his ship.
"Can't this damn thing go any faster?" Mias shouted as he paced back and forth across the deck, his hands crammed in the pockets of his charcoal breeches.
"As I have stated several times, my lord, the wind is in our favor," Captain Hayward said, barely able to hide his growing irritation. "We are making excellent progress."
Mias stared anxiously towards the horizon, willing a ship to appear. When none did, he let out a frustrated sigh, running his hands through his hair before continuing his mindless pacing.
"Then why does it feel as though we are crawling along at such a slow pace?" Mias muttered, glaring down at his boots.
"I assure you this is one of the fastest ships ever to sail these waters," Captain Hayward said defensively. "You will find no other ship that can match the speed of the Illustrious."
"Yet we have not spotted a single sail these past hours," Mias growled. "You said we would catch up to the Revenge by noon. Which was, as you may recall, two hours ago."
Captain Hayward opened and closed his mouth, looking like a caught fish. "It was merely an estimate, my lord! Clearly we were mistaken about the hour at which the Revenge set sail, therefore I cannot be held accountable for the error!"
Mias glanced down at the crew, some of whom had stopped what they were doing to stare up at him for daring to question their fearless captain. Mias locked eyes with Mr. Weller, a beefy tattooed man with a bald head and beady black eyes, who had been the one to inform them of the direction in which the Revenge was headed. Apparently, as Mias recalled it, Mr. Weller had spent the evening drinking with a crewman from the Revenge, who had informed him that they were bound for Tearny, an island known for black market trading and other less than savory activities. Captain Hayward used this information to set a course that would get them there the fastest, and with any luck they would even be able to catch the Revenge before it weighed anchor in Tearny.
Mias looked back at the Captain, ignoring the whispers that drifted towards his ears from the spectators.
"I will give you until sunset. If we do not come upon the Revenge by then," Mias said through clenched teeth, his fists balled at his sides, "I am taking command of this vessel and I will fling you to the depths. Is that understood?"
"We are making excellent time, my lord," Captain Hayward sputtered, tugging nervously at his cravat. "I assure you that if you would allow me to continue"
Mias stepped forward so that the man had to look up to meet his gaze. "Sunset. Do we understand each other?"
"Yes, my lord," the man croaked, turning towards the quartermaster and muttering something incoherently.
The man nodded, shouting orders down to the crew which sent them into action on the deck below. Mias looked up to see men rushing gracefully along the ratline, lowering several yards of canvas and shouting to one another over the wind.
Captain Hayward turned his nose up at Mias, then glared out at the horizon.
Mias smirked, looking over the captain with an amused expression. The man was a pompous dandy, which Mias had assumed when he first laid eyes on him. He looked nothing like the captain of a merchant ship, wearing cream color breeches and knee high boots which gleamed in the afternoon sun, his heavy coat of purple velvet straining against the girth of his middle, the large black cavalier hat atop his head tilted slightly over his ruddy features.
Mias turned from Captain Hayward, amazed that he had agreed to commission the man and his tiny ship in the first place. But he had been desperate, knowing that with every second that ticked by Elle was getting farther away. His anxiety was higher than it had ever been, his fear over Elle's safety so consuming that he couldn't eat or sleep, wondering how she was. Was she frightened? Was she being treated badly? Had Elias hurt her? Did she ache for Mias as he ached for her?
The constant onslaught of questions rotated through Mias' head regularly, making it impossible for him to think straight, or even keep his anger in check.
Desperate for a distraction, he sought out Abernos, who he saw leaning over the railing of the ship, his shirt unbuttoned and his brow dotted with beads of sweat.
"It seems as though we are moving along rather quickly, does it not?" Abernos asked weakly from the railing, which he clung to as though his life depended on it. His face was an odd shade of green, his knees trembling as he looked anywhere but the water beyond the ship.
"Perhaps you should go below," Mias said, frowning at Abernos who leaned suddenly over the side and released his breakfast to the depths.
Mias took a handkerchief from his pocket and held it out to Abernos, who took it with trembling fingers.
"I'm feeling much better now, thank you." Abernos said and wiped his mouth, handing the handkerchief back to Mias.
"Keep it." Mias shook his head, leaning on the railing beside Abernos. He glanced at the fawn, who's features were twisted in a pained expression, his skin ashen. "You did not have to come."
"I know," Abernos shrugged, clinging to the railing when a spray of water flew over them.
"I wanted to. I know that I barely know Elle, but there is something about her that is truly extraordinary. She has become a true friend to me. I couldn't stay behind and do nothing."
"Extraordinary indeed. Yet like a fool I managed to lose her. It is my fault that she is in danger." Mias said, staring up at the clear blue sky which warred with the dark feelings that consumed him.
Abernos placed his hand on Mias' shoulder and gave it a gently squeeze. Mias glared down at him, not liking the assumption that he needed comforting. Abernos let out a nervous laugh, then yanked his hand away and wrapped it around the wood railing.
"Elle is strong, and spirited," Abernos said after a few moments, a shadow of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"I know," Mias said. "Both of which Elias will not tolerate. If he lays a hand on her, I'll" Mias left the thought hanging, his knuckles whitening as he gripped the wood more tightly.
Abernos cast Mias a worried look. "He wouldn't harm her, would he?"
Mias ignored him, looking out across the water.
"Well would he?" Abernos pressed. "Is he one for torture, maiming, murder? Or is he one of those psychological warfare types, the kind that enjoys"
"Dammit, Abernos!" Mias roared."You're useless blathering is not helping!"
Abrenos cringed away, but still managed to hold onto the railing. "Of course, Mias. M-my apologies."
Mias let out a shaky sigh. "In truth I don't know what he'll do."
And that realization scared Mias more than anything.
Elle wiped at the tears streaming down her cheeks when she heard a light knocking on the door.
"Who is it?" She asked, her voice sounding weak and pitiful to her own ears.
She hated feeling sorry for herself, hated the feeling of helplessness that consumed her. Fearing that it was Elias who was waiting on the other side of the door, she tried to put on a brave face and hoped that her skin wasn't too blotchy from the tears that had fallen freely for the past hour.
The door opened slowly, and a small face smeared with dirt peeked around the corner, a mop of dirty blonde hair hanging in a tangle around his face.
Elle watched as the boy, no more than nine years old, stepped into the room holding a silver tea tray. He looked at her with awe as he walked to a small round table in the corner and set the tray down carefully. He stepped back, placing his hands at his sides as he watched her expectantly.
Elle looked at the tray, which held a steaming plate of biscuits which smelled heavenly. Her stomach responded to the welcome scent immediately, making her realize for the first time how hungry she was. She sat at the table and quickly poured herself a cup of piping hot tea, biting into one of the warm biscuits with a satisfied sigh.
She glanced at the boy who stood by watching her, his eyes fixed on the biscuit she held in her hand.
"Would you like one?" She asked, holding a biscuit out towards him. He stepped back quickly, looking down at the floor.
Elle frowned, taking in his tiny frame and tattered clothing, his big blue eyes peering at her through strands of hair.
"Come now, I won't bite." She urged him to come closer, and he stepped nearer cautiously. "What's your name?"
He hesitated, still eyeing the biscuit. "Thomas."
"Well Thomas," she said, eager to put the boy at ease. "I'm Elle. And I insist that you join me for a biscuit and a cup of tea."
Thomas grinned, revealing a wide gap between his front teeth. He grabbed the biscuit from her as though he feared she would change her mind, and took a seat across from her at the table.
Elle laughed as he took a large bite, crumbs sprinkling down on the front of his dirt stained cotton shirt.
"What is a young boy like you doing on a ship?" Elle asked, taking a sip of tea.
"I'm a cabin boy, Miss," Thomas said, his cheeks puffed out from the biscuit still rolling around in his mouth. "I clean the Captain's cabin and wash his clothes, make sure everything is just as he likes it."
"I see," Elle said, helping herself to another biscuit. She smiled when Thomas did the same. "And what about your parents?"
Thomas' features took on a sadness that was far beyond his young years. "My Pa died in the war when I was just a baby, and my Mum died a few years ago."
"I'm so sorry, sweetheart," Elle said, hoping she wasn't going to start again with the crying.
"It's alright," Thomas said. "I'm lucky to be free and not forced into the workhouse like so many others."
Elle placed the last of her biscuit back on the plate, her appetite fading. Here she was, crying over her situation when this innocent child had lost so much! She felt so ashamed for complaining, she couldn't stand to be in her own skin. She watched Thomas as he ate the last of the biscuit she had set aside, wondering how the kid could even function when his whole life had been filled with grief.
"Is this what you want, Thomas?" Elle asked, leaning forward. "To work onboard a ship for Captain Elias?"
Thomas frowned, swallowing the last of his biscuit before his big eyes met hers. "What choice have I got?"
Elle's heart sank, and she knew in that moment that Thomas was just as trapped as she was. With a new sense of purpose, or at least something to divert herself from the depression that was creeping in because of her situation, Elle decided then and there that she would do all she could to help Thomas get off this ship.
The door to the cabin flew open suddenly, making both Thomas and Elle jump. Elias stepped into the room, his features twisting when he saw Thomas sitting at the table across from Elle.
"What's this then?" Elias asked as he stepped into the room.
Thomas jumped up from the chair quickly, bumping the table and causing the tea tray and its contents to spill to the floor. The china shattered on the wood floor, glass bits scattering across its surface.
Thomas sucked in a breath, his face going ghostly pale. He got on his knees and quickly began picking up the broken shards of glass, wiping up the spilled tea with the dirty cloth he had tucked in his waistband.
Elle got down beside him, helping him clean up the mess. She could see his little hands trembling, noticing the rough calluses and blisters on his palms as he worked.
She glared up at Elias, no longer feeling the urge to cry. Anger replaced her fear, and she relished it because it would fuel her desire to fight. Elias had worked the kid tirelessly, it was clear by the dark circles under his eyes and the worn look of his hands. Not only that, but Thomas was also terrified, which led her to believe that he had faced punishment at the hands of Elias.
Elias reached down and grabbed Thomas by the ear, urging him to his feet.
"I'm sorry, Captain!" Thomas screeched. "I'll clean it up, straight away!"
Elias pressed his hand roughly across Thomas' mouth and looked at his hand. "And I see you've been stealing food again."
Thomas looked at Elle, panic clear in his eyes.
Elle got to her feet quickly and prepared to face off against Elias, not because she wanted to but because she knew she had to.
"I gave him a biscuit, Elias. I didn't see the harm in it," She said as calmly as she could, though hate laced her words. "So let him go. Now."
Elias frowned at her, but finally let go of Thomas ear. He kept his eyes on Elle, and she tried desperately to keep her face unreadable.
Thomas dropped back to the ground and quickly cleaned up the last of the mess and set it on the tray, casting Elle a look of gratitude before he disappeared out the cabin door and down the passageway.
Elias closed the door and turned on Elle, grabbing her by the collar of her shirt and dragging her towards him. She grabbed his fists where they clung to her shirt, trying to pull herself out of his grip.
"Not more than an hour ago I warned you to behave," Elias grated, "and you have already defied me. And in front of my cabin boy, no less."
"Can you blame me?" Elle demanded, her voice trembling. "Am I just supposed to stand by while you unleash your cruelty on an innocent child? What kind of man are you?"
Elias tightened his grip on her collar and forced her back until she was pressed against the wall, making Elle's breath whoosh out of her from the force.
"Are you sure you want to know the answer to that question, dearest?" Elias breathed, brushing his lips against hers.
Elle shuddered, turning her face away from his and pressing her eyes closed as tightly as she could, willing Elias to disappear.
"You will look at me when I speak to you," He ordered, his tone so cold that Elle was afraid of what might happen if she didn't do as he asked.
She opened her eyes slowly and turned her face towards his once more.
Elias smiled, but it didn't touch his eyes. "Why must you defy me at every turn, dearest? Why are you so unwilling to do as I ask?"
"Because you're not Mias!" Elle blurted before she could stop herself.
Elle let out a shaky breath, letting her statement sink in. For the first time since she had been on board her thoughts drifted to Mias. She had been so consumed with the realization that she was trapped on a ship with Elias that she hadn't given much thought to Mias. She would give anything now to have things as they were, to have Mias sneaking in on her during a hot bath, or flinging her over his shoulder like a caveman. Because in spite of those things, in spite of his innuendos and the dark look that sometimes appeared in his eyes, he would never hurt her. He would never treat her with cruelty, would never force himself on her, would never make her cry.
Elias shook his head and laughed. "You foolish girl. Do you honestly think you meant anything to my brother? Do you think you are the first woman he has ever brought to his home?"
Elle shook her head, not wanting to hear anymore. It had to be a lie, a cruel lie.
Of course Elle had no delusions that she was the first woman ever to catch Mias' attention, but for Elias to stand there and say that she was just a meaningless pursuit to Mias, well, that cut deep.
"Mias was just looking for a quick toss. And then once he was done with you, he would have dumped you back wherever it was he found you." Elias sneered.
"You're a liar!" Elle hissed, angry tears pooling in her eyes.
Elias pressed his lips against hers, a bruising cruel kiss devoid of passion or true affection. Elle felt bile rise in her throat as she struggled against Elias, keeping her lips pressed firmly together.
Elias pulled away slowly, his eyes clouded with a lust that Elle did not share.
"You will be the death of me," Elias murmured, smoothing the front of his shirt.
God, I hope so! Elle thought angrily.
Elias threw the door of the cabin open and glanced at Elle, who was still leaning against the wall for support.
"Forget him, Elle." Elias said coldly as he opened the door. "For he has surely already forgotten about you."
He slammed the door, shaking Elle to her very core.
She slid down the wall and pulled her knees up under her chin, hoping that Elias had been lying. But what if he had been telling the truth? That meant that Mias had truly abandoned her.
And Elle was alone.