Chapter One

Charlotte stood on deck, listening to the waves beat against the ship and feeling the salty air against her cheeks and watching the Boston Harbor grow smaller with every passing moment. Today was her seventeenth birthday and her father, Captain John Phillips, had taken her out sailing on his ship, the Stingray, for her birthday present. Normally, even though she loved she ocean, he forbade Charlotte to go anywhere near it. Charlotte never asked why she wasn't allowed near the ocean, because she already knew all to well what the answer was.

Her mother had died when Charlotte was still very young, leaving the Captain as the single parent of two children, a boy of twelve and a girl of six. Charlotte's brother, Will, had grown to be a rebellious son. At the age of nineteen, he stowed away on a ship after a heated argument with his father and was never heard from after that, causing Charlotte to only be able to think of one explanation concerning why she wasn't allowed near the ocean. Her father was afraid she would follow in Will's footsteps.

Charlotte shifted her gaze toward a ship that was heading directly toward her father's ship. She recognized it as the same ship she had dismissed a few moments earlier as just any other ship, but now she saw something unusual. The ship was taking down its flag and replacing it with another.

Her breath caught in her throat when she was finally able to see the replacement flag. It was the skull and crossbones of a Jolly Roger.

Everyone else on the ship noticed this at the same instant she did. She heard her father shouting orders to the crew from above, and she found herself being guided to the Captain's cabin by Paul, one of the younger sailors that had been flirting with her just a little while earlier that day. He handed her a pistol before pushing her into the cabin and ordering her to bolt the door.

Once he had gone, she fumbled with the bolt. Finally getting it shoved into place,

She sat on the bed fingering the pistol. There was no point in Paul giving this to me, she thought, placing it on her father's desk, I don't even know if I could actually use it on someone.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of someone trying to open the door. She felt her hands shaking violently as she tried to think of something to do. She seized the pistol again and cocked it. She returned her attention to the door. She could either wait for the person on the other side to get in, as she knew he eventually would, or she could open it herself and have the advantage of surprise on her side.

Hoping she was doing the right thing, she went over and with one finger on the trigger of the pistol, unbolted the door. She sidestepped and raised her pistol as the door burst open.

The man who entered wasn't at all what she would have expected a pirate to look like. He looked only about nineteen or so, with blonde hair kept tied back, wearing breeches and a shirt and a sword hanging at his side. In one hand he held his own pistol and on his face he wore a cocky smile and eyes that were lit with mischief.

"Well now, what do we have here? Certainly not the captain. His maid then? No, I suppose not. Maids don't wear expensive clothes." He said looking her up and down. "You might as well put that down." He said, nodding at her pistol. "It's not loaded."

Charlotte pulled the trigger and when nothing happened, she threw it as hard as she could at the pirate's head. He caught it skillfully in the air and placed it on the desk.

"Now that wasn't polite. Oh well, do you have a name, or shall I make one up for you?"

When Charlotte only glared at him, he made a quick movement with his hand and a second pirate, one she hadn't noticed until then, quickly grabbed her arms and pinned them behind her back. She struggled to get away, but the man's grip only tightened.

"Bring her on up." The blonde-haired pirate told his companion. "It'd be a pity to leave her in here all alone and let one of the others get to her."

"Yes, Cap'n." The second man replied, forcing Charlotte out the door. She was momentarily speechless. This was the captain of the pirate ship? This cocky boy no more than a few years older than she?

She allowed herself to be forced up to the deck as she thought it over. Maybe it wasn't so impossible. Will had been nineteen when he left which meant he was twenty-three now, but he certainly couldn't still be a cabin boy. He was at least part of a crew, if not a captain himself. She lost her train of thought when she saw her father. He was tied to a pole, with his hands tied behind his back. The blonde-haired captain gave him a mockingly low bow before standing up and saying, "On behalf of my crew, I would like to thank you for your services to the pirates of the lady ship the Treasure Cove. For these services we've decided to lessen your load of supplies and your company." He indicated Charlotte with a wave of his hand. Outraged, Captain Phillips opened his mouth to argue. "Now, now Captain," the blonde-haired man cut in, "There's no need to worry. We'll contact you once we believe it's safe to negotiate for a ransom. Until then, you have the word of Captain Liam St. Derrick that she won't be touched by any one member of my crew."

"It will be a little hard to take the word of a pirate who has just attacked my ship." Snarled Captain Phillips.

Ignoring this comment, Captain St. Derrick bowed low again. "Until we meet again." Standing, he motioned for the pirate holding Charlotte to follow him, and then headed for his own ship.

Twenty year-old Captain Liam St. Derrick boarded his ship feeling both proud and relieved. He had expected the captain to put up more of a fight, but it had been relatively easy to board and overtake the other ship. And there were no casualties from his crew, only a few slight wounds. Even Paul had made it back over safe, even though Captain Phillips surely knew by now that he had been a spy for Liam.

Now his only problem was the girl. What on earth was he going to do with her? If it weren't for the reward from Captain Forth for her, he would've thrown her overboard the first chance he got. He had no patience for spoiled, trouble-making brats. Perhaps he could just lock her in one of the rooms for the entire voyage…

"Cap'n?" He heard Lewis ask.

"Yes, Lewis?"

"Where d'you want th'girl?"

"Take her to my cabin. And Lewis," He said, remembering the pistol she'd pointed at him earlier, "Take my pistol out of my desk."


After checking on the wounded men, Liam steeled himself and headed toward his cabin. Opening the door, he ducked as his water pitcher was hurtled at him and broke against the wall inches above his head. "That was expensive." He remarked, shutting the door behind him.

"What's it matter? You probably stole it anyway." The girl retorted, staying as far away from him as possible.

He cocked an eyebrow at her but didn't reply. Sitting at his desk, he took his time looking her over. He had noticed earlier the color of her hair, but he hadn't realized that it was so red it looked almost orange, and the dark blue dress she was wearing made it stand out even more. Under long eyelashes he saw gray-blue eyes snapping with anger. She had a pretty figure that the dress only enhanced. Too bad she's such a brat, he thought to himself. "Actually, it was a gift." He replied, "From an old friend of mine."

"Get to the point." She snapped.

"Very well, the reason you're on my ship is because I've been offered a reward in exchange for you by Captain Forth, and being the greedy pirate you no doubt believe me to be, I could hardly turn down such an offer, could I?"

"Obviously not." She replied coldly.

"The place we're to meet him is a few day's journey from here, and there are a few rules you will have to obey while on my ship. First, you are not to interfere with the work of my crew, second, I am the captain and I expect you to obey my orders, otherwise, I'll tie a weight to your feet, throw you overboard, and let Captain Forth get you out himself. Last, you'll have to make do with what there is. Perhaps we'll go to port and I'll send one of the men to go fetch you a few things, but if that's not possible I don't want to hear any complaining. Got it?"

The girl nodded, her eyes blazing.

"Good. I'll have the cabin boy come show you where you'll be staying." He got up and headed towards the door.

"Wait. I thought you said you'd ransom me to my fa- to Captain Phillips."

He pretended not to notice her slip of tongue. "That's up to Forth to decide." He left the room in search of Dave, his cabin boy. So, she was a captain's daughter. Forth had failed to mention that. He had only told Liam when and where she would be on the ship of Captain Phillips.

How much would Phillips pay to have his daughter back? Liam sighed. It was a little too late to go back on his deal with Forth.

He spotted Dave walking down the corridor. "Dave!" He called out.

"Yes Cap'n?" The boy answered. Dave had been a stow-away on Liam's ship a few months earlier, after confirming the fact that the boy was an orphan, he had allowed him to stay on, and now he wondered what he would do without Dave here to help him run errands.

"There's a lady in my cabin. Show her to an empty room down below for her to stay." He replied, wondering how Dave would take this bit of news.

Dave gave him a surprised look, but answered with an "Aye, Cap'n." before he ran off to carry out his orders.

Liam saw Paul trying to get his attention, so he walked over to chat with him. "Why didn't you get word to me that she was the captain's daughter?" He asked, trying to make it sound friendly.

"I didn't have any time, Liam. I didn't know you were going to attack so soon after they left port. I felt sure someone would see us." Paul replied.

Liam had no answer to this, so he just shrugged and answered with another question. "What's her name? When I asked her she threw that pistol you gave her at me."

Paul grinned. "It's Charlotte. Her father calls her Charla for short."

"Charlotte?" Liam said thoughtfully.

Stepping carefully over the glass shards of the pitcher, Charlotte let the boy, Dave, lead her to her room.

"The Cap'n's actually real nice once ya get to know 'im." The boy said cheerfully. "I snuck on 'is ship a little while back and he didn't even beat me like mos' cap'ns would. He just asked if I had any parents an' when I said no 'e let me stay."

"You're a stow-away?" Charlotte asked, surprised. "My brother was a stow-away."

"Really? What's 'is name?" The boy asked.

"Will." She replied.

Dave scrunched his forehead, as if thinking hard. "Nope. Don' know the name."

Charlotte smiled. "I guess not. He ran away four years ago."

Dave smiled back. "Then I definitely wouldn' remember. I was only nine then." By this time, they had reached the door of a small room. "This is it." He said, swinging the door open. "I know it don't look like much, but it's one of the bigger rooms."

He stepped back as she entered. "Thank you, Dave." She said, turning to face the youth.

He grinned. "Jus' carrying out my orders, Miss."

Filled with a sudden urge to befriend the cheerful boy, Charlotte said quickly, "My name's Charlotte. Charla for short."

Once Dave had left, Charlotte closed the door tightly and then collapsed on the bed. Now that she was alone without anyone to talk to, her thoughts began to wonder. What if this Captain Forth didn't ransom her to her father? What if she never saw her father again? How would he handle it? He had shut himself away in his rooms for months after Will had left. Will. Charlotte let her thoughts drift to her older brother. Even though he had always fought with father, he had always been nothing but loving to her, stopping whatever he was doing to be with her, always taking her out on boat rides at night once she'd turned ten.

Charlotte felt tears burning behind her eyes, fighting to be let out. She quickly rubbed her hands over her eyes, diminishing them before they escaped.

There was a brisk knock on the door, and then Captain St. Derrick walked in, carrying a tray of food. "Here," He said, setting the tray down and handing her a small bundle she had not noticed him carrying. Taking the bundle, she realized that it was breeches and a shirt, much like the outfit he was wearing. She looked up at him, curious.

"Those are for you to wear. It'll be a lot easier to wear around the ship than the dress you have on right now."

"Thank you." She said quietly, folding the clothes and placing them beside her on the bed.

"Also," He continued, handing her the tray of food, "It'll be a lot easier if you simply call me Liam. All of the crew does, and I hardly answer to Captain St. Derrick anymore."

"Fine." She replied, taking a bite of the roll that was on the tray. "Anything else?"

"No." Liam answered, walking out the door and shutting it behind him.

Charlotte finished her meal, which consisted of another roll; a bowl of what she guessed was potato soup, and a glass of water.

Then, standing up, she grabbed the shirt and breeches Liam had left for her. She tried on the shirt and concluded that even though it was a bit large, it would suit. However trying on the breeches, she discovered that they were a bit too long for her.

No problem, she thought, grabbing the hems and rolling them up. I'll sew them later if I can find a needle and thread.

Finished rolling, she tucked her shirt into the breeches, and grabbing the tray, walked out the door and down the hall.

When she came to the deck, she stopped to have a look around. The sun was setting, leaving streaks of purple and orange across the sky. She saw Liam standing at the railing with his back to her and took the advantage to take stock of her captor.

He was a good six inches taller than she, with a slim frame that still managed to look muscular and well built, he had shoulder length blonde hair that he kept tied back from his face, and, she knew from their encounter in her father's cabin, eyes as green and bright as emeralds.

As if feeling her scrutiny, he turned around, and once he saw her, walked towards her. "I was looking for the kitchen." She said boldly.

"You won't find it on deck." He replied. "Dave!" The cabin boy appeared as if out of nowhere, by the captain's side.

"Yessir?" He asked.

"Show Miss Charlotte where the kitchen is, please."

"But I'm not done talking to you and I still have a few questions to ask!" Charlotte objected.

"Then hurry up." Liam replied, through gritted teeth.

"How long is it going to take to get to where we're going? What does Captain Forth want with me? How do you know my name?" She asked, stringing all her questions together.

"Five to six days. I don't know. Paul told me. Satisfied?" He answered impatiently.

"Paul?" Charlotte gasped, "But, he was working-"

"For me all along." Liam cut in smoothly. "Dave is waiting to escort you to the kitchen." With that, he turned around and walked back to the railing.

"Are you ready Miss Charla?" Dave asked doubtfully.

"Yes." She sighed, knowing she wouldn't get any more information out of Liam right then.

"Good." Dave replied, back to his cheerful self. "I'll introduce you to Cook. I think you'll like 'im, most e'ryone does."

Chapter Two

Captain John Phillips sat at his desk trying to concentrate on the stack of papers in front of him. Instead, his thoughts kept returning to the kidnapping of his daughter. How long would he have to wait to get her back? How much would the pirate captain want for ransom?

Finally giving up, he brushed the papers off his desk and onto the floor, frustrated. Getting up, he paced back and forth across the room. Maybe if he sent another ship out after the pirates as soon as possible, he could catch up with them and rescue Charlotte. But what if they hurt her once they saw his ship following them?

A knock on the door startled him out of his speculation. "Yes?" He called. Pierre, his second in command, entered, closing the door behind him.

"There are a few things we need to discuss." He said, "The men want to know if we're to sail after the pirates to fetch Miss Charlotte, or head back to port."

The captain sighed. "I don't know. I was just thinking about what plan of action to take. What have the men been saying?"

Pierre shifted uneasily. "Some have been declaring that we should go after 'em, and they've been bullying everyone who thinks otherwise. You know how much the crew adores Miss Charlotte, even if she doesn't normally sail with us."

"Yes, I know." The captain replied. "I think our wisest choice would be to head back to port and wait for the ransom note."

"But, sir-"

"I want to go after her, too, Pierre. But if they see us they might hurt her or worse."

Very well, Captain. I'll inform the crew of your decision." Pierre reached the door and then turned round again. "By the way, sir, dinner's ready. I'll have someone bring some to you if you'd like."

"Thank you, but no. I'm not really hungry right now. I think I'll just retire to bed."

"You know it was Paul don't you?" Pierre asked abruptly, changing the subject.

Captain Phillips sighed. "Yes, I know. You were right for telling me not to hire him, if that's what you're waiting to hear me tell you."

"Not at all. I was just making sure you knew." With that, Pierre walked out the door, quietly shutting it behind him.

The captain sat up for another half an hour trying to decide if his decision had been the correct one, before he turned off the lamp and did exactly what he'd told Pierre he would do.

George Forth sat at his evening meal, thoroughly enjoying his stroke of genius. It had been a couple of months since he had learned about his captain's younger sister, Charlotte Phillips, a couple months since he had started to devise a plot that would get him not only money, but a higher rank on the ship that he now worked.

It had all started one evening in the taverns, when a drunken sailor walked in and began asking Will rude questions about a younger sister that none of his crewmen knew he had. Will promptly hit the man in the jaw with his fist, sending him reeling over one of the tables, but not before George had summed up a few interesting facts.

Not only did Captain Will Collins have a younger sister, but Collins wasn't even his real last name. It was Phillips. Will was the son of the very wealthy sea captain John Phillips, who, to George, had more money than he needed or could handle. It was then that he had started to think up his plan. He would send a letter to the pirate Liam St. Derrick with himself as Captain Forth, promising a large sum of money if he would agree to kidnap Charlotte Phillips and bring her to him. Then he would use Charlotte to get, not only as much money as possible from her father, but also to become captain of the Sea Princess, the ship that Will was currently captain of now. And then, finally, he could do away with the younger man.

Liam was in his cabin, thinking over the day's events in his head while plotting the quickest route from Boston to the designated meeting place with Captain Forth on his map. They were to meet at an inn called the Blue Crab that was placed near the shoreline of Savannah, with the closest port, Port Henry, only a few miles away from it.

His hands working automatically over the map, he let his mind wander. He remembered earlier that evening on deck when he had caught Charlotte looking at him. Instead of being embarrassed, she had pelted him with questions. Not sure how to react, he had answered her questions and gotten rid of her as soon as he could, by making Dave show her to the kitchen. Now that he thought about it, he felt a little silly himself. He could bomb ships and rob people with ease, but he had no idea how to respond to the red-headed Miss Charlotte. One minute she would be asking him questions and talking to him, the next she would glare at him and only answer him if it was necessary.

Deciding to worry about it tomorrow, he put away his map and began preparing for bed.

Charlotte walked back down to her room alone, stifling a yawn with her hand. After she had reassured Dave that she could make it to her room okay, he had hurried off to finish the few chores he had left to do before going to bed.

Dave had been right, she had liked Cook. He was a short, chubby man who looked to be in his early or mid forties. He had a good sense of humor, too. When she had asked why he was called Cook, he had grinned and told her that there were two reasons for this, one, his real name, Harold, didn't strike him as a name that a pirate cook would have, and two, even if it did, it was too long for any of the crew to be able to pronounce anyway.

Her smile faded as she remembered something else about the kitchen. When she had gone in, she had come face to face with Paul, who had just been leaving. He had given her an apologetic smile that she had pointedly ignored, before he walked around her and out the door.

How dare he smile at me after such a dirty trick! She thought to herself. I don't know what kind of response he was expecting, the stupid man. It's not as if I'm grateful to him for any of this!

Still fuming about this, she made sure the door was shut tightly before she shed her breeches and, with the needle and thread she had gotten from Cook, began sewing the hems.

Once she had finished, she realized just how exhausted she was and, barely able to turn off the lamp, lay down on the bed, pulled the blanket over her, and fell asleep.

The next morning, Charlotte woke to the sun shining through the tiny window in her room. At first she was disoriented and didn't know where she was, but her memory returned to her slowly and she groaned when she remembered the previous day's activities.

She stumbled out of bed, snatching at her clothes. I'm going to have to corner Liam and find out exactly where we're going and how long it's all going to take, she thought, pulling on the breeches and shirt.

While pulling her hair back in a hair tie, she lazily decided to go barefoot instead of putting on her stockings and boots. She grabbed the handle and swung the door open, looking down the hall to see if anyone was there. The hall was deserted, but she could hear noises coming from the deck, so she quickly shut the door behind her and headed towards the noise.

Once on deck, she quickly realized that Liam wasn't there yet and decided to go see Cook, and maybe help him out in the kitchen if he would let her.

"Ah, it's the carrot-top!" Cook said, grinning cheerfully when he saw her. Charlotte glanced around and saw that there were a few other men with the cook today. Warily, she walked over to one of the chairs and sat down.

"Ye slept well, I hope?" Cook asked her.

"Yes." She replied, brushing a loose strand of hair from her face.

"That's good. Mos' people are always gettin' seasick their firs' few nights out on th'boat." Cook said, grabbing an apple and beginning to slice it.

"I've never gotten seasick." Charlotte told him proudly.

"Never?" One of the men she didn't know asked her.

"No. Not even my first time on a ship."

"Ye're a natural, then." He replied, his eyes twinkling. "Do ye often go sailing?"

"No." She sighed, "My father doesn't allow it."

"But ye were on the boat earlier." The man pointed out.

"It was a birthday present. Yesterday was my seventeenth birthday." She explained.

"Seventeen, eh? Do you s'pose your old enough to marry now?" He teased.

She blushed, and Cook said cheerfully, "Jus' ignore him. He's still trying to get o'er the fact that 'is wife left 'im. This here is Little, he's the firs' mate."

Charlotte examined the man and saw a tall, good-looking, dark-haired man who looked to be a few years older than Liam and who had an infectious smile. "If ye like what ye see, we can run off and go get married right now." He teased. Charlotte laughed along with the others, suddenly feeling as if a large weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

"What makes you think I'm not already married?" She replied.

"Are you?" He asked promptly.

"No." She answered.

"In that case, nothing makes me think you're already married." This drew another laugh from the small group.

She was introduced to the rest of the men, which consisted of Bromm, a tall portly fellow with wispy blonde hair; Smyth, Little's half-brother, who had the same tall figure and good looks, but with hair almost as red as her own, and Harper, a short, skinny fellow who looked older than he really was with gray hair streaked with black. All of the men were addressed by their last names, which surprised Charlotte a little.

She joked around with them for a little while longer before excusing herself to go in search of Liam. Not finding him on deck, she walked to his cabin and knocked on the closed door.

"It's open." A voice from inside said. Charlotte opened the door and felt her breath stick in her throat. Liam was sitting at his desk, leaning over a map wearing nothing but breeches.

Without showing the slightest sign of embarrassment, he looked up at her and said, "Can I help you?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact you can." She said, thinking, if he isn't embarrassed there's no point in me being so. "I want to know where we are going and exactly how long it's going to take to get there. Also, I want to know what will be done when we get where we're going."

Sighing, Liam leaned back in his chair and studied her. "Fine." He said, after what felt like and eternity to Charlotte. "Sit down and I'll tell you."

Quickly, before he could change his mind, she took a seat on the opposite side of his desk. "Well?"

"We're going to Savannah. It will take about a week to get there from Boston Harbor. After we get there, I'm to take you to the Blue Crab Inn, where we will meet Captain Forth. I will collect my money, and you will stay with Forth. What he is going to do with you after that I have no idea."

Distressed, Charlotte quickly went through the list of Captains that she knew, to see if she could recall the name of Forth from anywhere. When she couldn't, she turned her attention back to Liam, and caught him studying her again.

"What?" She demanded crossly. "Trying to figure out just how much money you'll get for me?"

His lips curved into a smile. "No." He said, in a voice that made Charlotte's fingers itch to slap the cocky look off his face. "I already know how much I'm going to get."

Contenting herself with shoving back her chair as she stood, Charlotte stormed out, without bothering to shut the door behind her.

Liam leaned forward and groaned, rubbing a hand over his face. He couldn't believe it. His first well paying job in months and he was actually feeling sorry for the red-headed girl.

He looked up as Dave walked in. "The crew feels the same, Cap'n" He confided knowingly. "Little's already proposed to 'er twice. Says 'e won' stop 'til she says yes."

Liam tried to hold back a chuckle but failed. He had known Little for years, and he didn't doubt that he could, and would, keep proposing to Charlotte.

"Can I get you anythin' 'afore you go back to your brooding?" The boy asked, pulling Liam out of his thoughts.

"No," Liam sighed, I think I'll finish getting ready and then join everyone in the kitchen."

Dave shrugged. "Whatever ye say, Cap'n." With that said, the boy stepped out the door, closing it behind him.

Stretching, Liam stood and went to find a clean shirt, his thoughts wandering back to a certain crimson-haired beauty.

Charlotte leaned against the railing of the deck, watching the waves crash against the side of the ship. A feeling of déjà vu took over and sunk her into quiet depression. She had been doing just this when her Father's ship had been boarded by Liam and his crew. She frowned slightly, realizing suddenly that she didn't even think of most of these men as pirates anymore. She had become fond of them, especially Dave, Little and Cook. Each of which did anything they could to please her. That's ridiculous, she thought to herself, I've only known these men for a day.

The sound of footsteps behind her caused her to turn. She felt a slight feeling of annoyance and an even stronger feeling of spite as Paul walked towards her.

"May I join you?" He asked, once he was next to her.

"She waved her hand carelessly. "Why ask me? I'm not the captain of this ship, as you well know."

She thought she saw his face turn a slight shade of pink, but he quickly gained his composure and shrugged. "I am sorry about tricking you and your father, you know, but it was my job. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would. I really do like you Charlotte."

Not sure how to reply, Charlotte simply returned her gaze to the waves that surrounded her no matter where she looked.

Finally, she replied, "I suppose I can understand that you had a job to do, but I still don't appreciate the fact that it was my father your job required you to trick."

Relieved that she was at least talking to him, Paul placed his arms on the rail and said, "After I met your father and you, I didn't exactly appreciate that fact either. But," He shrugged, "I've worked with Liam for years, and I knew he wouldn't hurt you or ask me to do something that didn't have a purpose, so I followed my orders."

Charlotte gave an ironic grin, "I guess the question now is this: who was the more loyal of us two? You were loyal to Liam even though you were tricking my father, but I was only loyal to my father for a little while. Now I find myself growing fond of a lot of Liam's crew."

"I don't like the sound of that." Little's voice broke in. "You're only supposed to be fond of me." Charlotte laughed as the second young man came over and did his best to wedge himself between her and Paul.

Moving over slightly so that all three of them could stand together comfortably, Charlotte linked her arm playfully through Little's.

"Now that's more like it." He commented, throwing her a teasing grin.

"By the way," Charlotte asked. "Don't you think it's about time I knew your first name, since we're supposed to be getting married?"

"Not 'til ye start talking like a pirate." Little replied, as seriously as he could while still grinning.

"Aye, aye, sir." Charlotte retorted, using the same accent she had heard the sailors at Boston Harbor use. This drew laughs out of both, Paul and Little.

Chapter Three

Liam had slowed his pace to a walk when he'd seen Paul talking with Charlotte. He had stood close enough to hear their conversation, but not close enough to be noticed. He couldn't suppress a slight smile as Little had approached them and quickly stolen Charlotte's attention. Oh, what he wouldn't give to have her smile at him the way she did at Little right now. She had a smile that would make a blind man happy.

Gathering his nerves, he approached the three of them. Paul and Little greeted him warmly, but Charlotte only greeted him by a slight nod of her head, which caused her fiery hair to shimmer even more in the sunlight.

Little needlessly filled Liam in on the events of the past few moments, ending with Charlotte's ridiculous imitation of a sailor's accent. He noticed that Charlotte now barely smiled when the last bits of the story were mentioned, causing Liam to cringe inwardly. Had his presence been the thing to make her withdraw? He didn't like that thought at all. He also realized that if that was the case, there was hardly anything he could do to fix it but to leave.

With what was left of his pride, Liam excused himself and headed to the kitchen to talk to more welcoming company.

It took a moment for Charlotte to register that she was the reason Liam had left, and once it did, she wasn't sure if it was too late to follow him and apologize for whatever had made him leave. For a few seconds, she was torn between staying with the familiar surroundings of Paul and Little, and following Liam into an unknown territory.

Hastily reaching a conclusion, she said a quick good-bye to both the young men with her, and followed the path she had seen Liam take only moments before. The path led her to the kitchen, where Liam sat talking to a Bromm and Smyth.

More boldly than she had ever thought she could, she walked over and sat down next to Liam. He looked at her with surprise written on his face while Bromm and Smyth greeted her, Bromm telling her how lovely she looked, and Smyth teasingly warning her about spending too much time with his flirtatious brother.

After returning their greetings, she turned to Liam and said, "May I speak with you for a moment?"

"Of course." He replied standing and leading her to his cabin. Once inside, he shut the door and looked at her expectantly.

"Why did you leave so soon earlier?" The question burst from her lips before she had had a chance to think them over, and she felt heat rush to her face.

"Because you seemed uncomfortable around me. You hardly responded to anything Little was saying." He replied, as if the answer should have been obvious.

Charlotte felt even more heat rush to her face as she realized the exact moment he was speaking of. She had been upset with herself at that moment because that was when the image of Liam without his shirt, as she had seen him earlier, had popped into her mind.

Blushing furiously, she managed to say, "That had nothing to do with you being near me. I had had something else on my mind right then."

Liam cocked a questioning eyebrow but didn't comment.

Charlotte looked up at him to continue speaking, but the words died on her lips as her eyes caught Liam's. For a few moments she found it hard to breath. Almost as if he felt the same thing she did, Liam stepped closer to her. Placing one hand on her waist and one hand on the small of her back, he pulled her in towards him. Feeling as if she was in a trance, Charlotte placed one hand on Liam's shoulder and the other gently behind his neck, pulling his lips slowly to hers. She closed her eyes as their lips met, the pressure of his mouth on hers making her dizzy. Liam broke away long before she wanted him to, and gently pushed her back.

"No." He rasped, still short of breath. "You should leave now."

Not sure how to reply, and suddenly shaking all over, Charlotte quickly fled to her own room.

She sat on her bed, still trembling. She lightly touched her fingers to her lips, which were still swollen. What had she been doing? Why had she let him kiss her? Why had she kissed him back? He didn't care about her anyway. Thoughts swirled through her head, ending with the only sensible explanation she could come up with: Liam had never really meant to kiss her. It had no doubt been a blunder on both their parts.

Then why then, couldn't she get the picture of Liam sitting shirtless at his desk or the phantom pressure of his lips on hers, out of her mind?

She felt tears of confusion and hurt over the last day and a half build behind her eyes and blinked fiercely to keep them from spilling over. It would do her no good to lose her head over something like this.

However, the tears returned, and Charlotte let them fall liberally while still mentally chastising herself for her foolishness.

Liam paced back and forth in his cabin, not ready to see the crew and not willing to face Charlotte. What had he been doing? It was dangerous getting attached to the girl, especially when he wasn't the one who had wanted her in the first place. It could pose as a danger to both, him and Charlotte. It didn't help that he had only known her a few days, and they hadn't exactly been getting along all too well.

What if things had been different? The traitorous thought entered his mind before he could stop it, and left Liam with a sinking feeling of regret in his stomach. Girls like Charlotte were the exact type that he would never know the joy of being in the company of. Both, his job and his position on his own pirate ship made that impossible.

Berating himself for trying to figure out the "what ifs" of his past, Liam sat back down at his desk and, just for the sake of doing something, looked back over his map.

His mind, unfortunately, was still very much thinking about Charlotte. How on earth had he become attached to her over the past day or so? He couldn't think of any other time that this same scenario had occurred, and it bothered him. Surely he had just as foolishly become fond of other young women in a short amount of time? What was it that made Charlotte so darned special? He knew the answer to this before he even asked himself the question. It was her fiery personality as well as her beauty. He loved the way she could keep him guessing what her next move might be, or her next remark. Her personality seemed to change as abruptly as the waves of the ocean.

Suddenly realizing exactly what he was thinking, Liam shot out of his seat and decided to see if there was anything he could do around the ship.

As he opened the door, he came face to face with Little, who had been just about to knock. Grinning, Little said, "I always knew ye had a sixth sense."

Grinning back, Liam replied, "Knew I couldn't hide it from you for long. What did you want to talk to me about?"

"Well, seeing as the other day was Charla's birthday, Cook was wondering if he could make a cake for her and if we could all celebrate?" With a wicked grin he added, "I'll bet she's never celebrated anything on a pirates' ship."

Liam shrugged. "I don't see any problems with that." Then, eying Little he continued, "As long as you behave."

With a falsely innocent look, Little answered, "Who? Me? I'm still as innocent as I was the day I was born; it wound's my pride for you to believe I'm capable of such a thing as mischief." Liam rolled his eyes and then shoved his companion down the hall toward the kitchen.

Captain Will Collins sat at the table in the corner of the tiny restaurant feeling impatient and uneasy. He'd noticed over the past few days that George Forth had been sneaking around a lot more than usual lately, and that worried him

Sighing, Will took another sip of ale and began sifting through the small stack of letters that he had just received. His whole body went still as he recognized the penmanship of one of the addressed envelopes. He hadn't seen that signature for four years and it was no sudden comfort to be seeing it now. With another sigh, he reluctantly opened the letter from his father. He read it once through, and then, disbelieving, read it again.

Captain Will Collins,

This letter is to inform you of recent events concerning your sister Charlotte.

The mid-morning of Charlotte's birthday, her father's ship, the Stingray

was boarded by the pirate Captain Liam St. Derrick and the crew of the pirate

vessel the Treasure Cove.

Any information on the whereabouts of the before said captain and vessel

will be greatly appreciated, and any news found by Captain John Phillips

will be sent to you immediately.


Captain John Phillips

Will tossed the letter on the table in a mixed feeling of hurt, anger and disgust. He couldn't believe that his father was going through such lengths to still distance himself, even when Charla was in trouble. His heart filled with pain as he thought of his little sister. She had been the only reason that Will had ever bothered to try to be happy at his father's house. He would do anything for her, but he had lost his patience and his common sense after he and their father had fought, and by the time he had come back to his senses, it had been to late for him to go back.

Instead, he had snuck onto the first ship he came across, and from then on had been known as Will Collins. He had tried to write to Charla once or twice, but she had either decided not to reply, or the letters had been kept from her.

After that, he had kept her as far from his thoughts as possible, not even letting on to his crew that he had a sister. Yes, sometimes if there was an idle moment, he would find himself thinking of her, but for the past few months, he had been successfully forgetting about his distant family. Now, knowing that Charla was in trouble, he felt irrationally guilty. Hastily gathering the rest of his letters, he stood and, after paying for his drink, left the restaurant with plans of how to find his sister firmly embedded in his mind.

Charla sat in her little room, trying to think over what her plans would be after she was deposited into the hands of the mysterious Captain Forth. Suppose she tried to run away once they reached land? Or what if she tried to get one of the men on deck to help her? She almost laughed out loud at this last thought. There wasn't one man on this ship that would disobey Liam. Maybe if he had bought their loyalty with money things would be different. But these men practically worshipped Liam, with or without money.

With a sigh, she collapsed onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling. Maybe she should just forget about escaping altogether, and let whatever happened happen. Maybe it wouldn't be as bad as she thought it would. Maybe she would simply be ransomed and go home as simple as one, two three. "There's too many 'maybes.'" She muttered quietly to herself.

The knock on the door startled her and made her jump. She quickly got up, and when she opened it, she found a smiling Little looking down at her. Smiling back, she said, "Hello, Little. What can I do for you?"

"Well actually," He replied, "There's lots of things I can think of, like marrying me, or-" He was interrupted by a hand that reached out and gently smacked him on the back of the head. Smythe appeared next to his brother, and put on a show of impatient waiting. "I was getting there." Little scowled, before he shoved Smythe back out of sight. "What that annoying fellow wanted me to say, was that Cook wants you to go visit him in the kitchen. And I am to escort you." Charla laughed, and then linked her arm through Little's to allow him to lead the way to the kitchen.

When they arrived, she was shocked to see the rest of the crew standing around the table, where Cook had placed an iced cake. She looked around, puzzled, trying to figure out what was going on. Little removed his arm from hers and stood on one of the chairs, commanding everyone's attention.

After making a scene of clearing his throat, he said, "Thank you all for joinin' us this evening. It is a great pleasure-" Little no doubt would have continued in great lengths on his dialogue, had it not been for the shoe that someone threw at him and almost knocked him off balance. Looking extremely insulted, he wished Charlotte a quick happy birthday before jumping down off the chair and into the crowd that was laughing heartily at his expense.

Charlotte had no idea how to react to the idea that these people she had only just met had wanted to celebrate her birthday. She quickly blinked back the tears that were stinging her eyes and went to give Little a short hug as Cook was cutting and handing out pieces of cake.

"I'm glad someone appreciated my speech." He joked.

Suddenly, one of the crew members yelled for Liam to come inspect another ship that was headed straight for them. The whole ship seemed to come alive as the crew quickly retreated to their assigned areas to accomplish whatever command Liam would give them. Charlotte quickly made her way over to where Liam was standing. "What is it?" She asked, searching for the other ship that was too hard for her to see in the dark of night.

"I'm not sure yet." Liam replied, gently moving her in front of him and guiding her face with one hand so she could see the approaching vessel.

When she spotted the other ship, Charlotte felt a knot grow in her stomach. It was easily twice the size of Liam's, and it was obviously not used for pleasure rides. There were outlines of two or three cannons on the deck.

"Little!" Liam yelled over his shoulder. Little appeared out of nowhere, and Liam quickly shoved Charlotte in his direction. "Take her down to my cabin and make sure she stays hidden. Have Dave stay in there with her."

"Yes, Captain." Little replied. For once, there was no humor in his voice. Little took Charlotte's hand and began to walk in the direction of Liam's cabin. On the way, he grabbed the back of Dave's shirt as the boy was getting ready to bolt out onto the deck to join the rest of the crew and, ignoring the boy's protests, towed him along.

All of a sudden, Smyth ran up to Little, a relieved grin on his face. He quickly detached the boy from his brother's grip before saying, "It was only a false alarm. It's Lady Heather." Little laughed, obviously as relieved as his brother.

Turning to Charlotte, he said, "In that case, allow me to escort you yet again to the deck."

When they reached the rest of the crew, Charlotte watched as two men from the other ship helped a woman wearing a cloak onto the deck of Liam's. As Liam walked toward her, the lady pulled back her hood, revealing a beauty containing bright blue eyes, delicate lips, and a face framed with cascades of golden hair. Charlotte felt a twinge of jealousy as she watched Liam hug the stranger. She leaned over to Little and whispered, "Who is she?"

"She's Liam's twin sister." Little replied.

"Oh," Charlotte said, feeling foolish at once over her jealousy of the other woman. Curiosity replacing contempt, she asked, "How come she's here?"

"She just visits from time to time. She can always find Liam, no matter where he is. It's a bit spooky, but she's almost as good a sailor as Liam, so we all like her. She's not a bother, like most other women."

"How come you didn't now it was her ship that was approaching us?"

"She must have gotten a new one," Liam explained, "We've never seen her use this one before."

"Oh," Charlotte replied. Her curiosity satisfied, she remained silent.

"Are you all right?" Little asked.

"Yes, I am a little tired though, so I think I'll retire now." With that said, Charlotte quietly and slowly made her way down to her cabin.

Chapter Four

Charlotte was almost asleep when there was a knock on the door. Forcing herself out of bed, she quickly ran her fingers through her hair and then opened the door a crack. Liam stood outside, accompanied by his sister.

"I hope we didn't wake you." Liam apologized, "But Heather wanted to meet you and she wasn't content with waiting until tomorrow morning."

"Oh, no, it's okay." Charlotte assured them both, "I wasn't asleep yet."

Liam smiled slightly as she stifled a yawn with her hand. Heather laughed out loud. "May I come in?" She asked.

"Of course, just a moment." Charlotte quickly made sure her clothes were modest, and then opened the door so that Heather and Liam could enter.

After a round of greetings and introductions had been made, Liam said, "If you'll both excuse me, I want to go get some sleep." Both girls wished him good night before they shut the door behind him.

Charlotte was suddenly uncomfortable being alone with Heather, and began to fidget with her fingers. What should she say?

Heather beat her to it, and said, "So, how long have you been here?"

"Only a few days." Charlotte answered, wondering how much of her story Liam had told his sister.

"And you're going to…"

"Savannah." She responded, deciding to play along and act as if she wasn't a pirate's hostage.

"So how did you get stuck with Liam taking you?" Heather asked, sitting down on the bed. Charlotte noticed that she too was now wearing breeches and a shirt instead of a dress.

"It's a long story." Charlotte answered, joining Heather on the bed.

"We have time." The other girl replied.

"Haven't you asked Liam?" Charlotte inquired, trying to stall.

Heather rolled her eyes. "Liam never tells me anything, no matter how many times I ask." The thought suddenly occurred to Charlotte that maybe she could just tell the other girl no, and she would have to leave. Instead, she tried to change the subject.

"So, what is it exactly that Liam does as a profession?"

"Actually," Heather said, "He's never home much and when he is he's even more secretive, so I'm not completely sure, but I know it has to do a lot with this ship."

Charlotte fought the urge to roll her eyes. Heather was starting to strike her as the kind of girl who would faint if she heard that her brother was a pirate.

Charlotte was eternally grateful for the quick knock that interrupted their conversation. Opening the door, she came face-to-face with Little, who stepped inside and then handed her the cake that he had in one hand. "Now," He said seriously, "One thing that my future wife will never be able to do, is to forget all about her birthday cake. After all," He added with a grin, "Cakes are the only reason to have birthdays in the first place." Charlotte laughed.

"Well, in that case, would you care to join me in eating this cake?"

"I thought you would never ask!" Little joked, handing Charlotte a knife that he pulled out of his pocket.

"So…" Heather asked, her gaze shifting from Charlotte to Little and then back, "Are you two..."

Little shot Charlotte a wicked grin and then responded, "Actually, we plan to be married quite soon. Our first baby is already on the way." He nodded toward Charlotte's stomach. Charlotte almost burst out laughing when Heather's jaw dropped and her eyes widened.

"Oh!" She said. "Um, Charlotte, it was wonderful talking to you, but I'm extremely tired and I think I'll go lay down now, if you don't mind."

"That's okay; I should probably get some rest as well. I hope to see you tomorrow."

Heather nodded and then quickly left the room, shutting the door behind her. Little and Charlotte looked at each other and then both started laughing. They continued laughing and joking so long that Catherine's stomach hurt by the time they stopped.

"Well," She said, yawning and placing her now empty plate on the bedside table, "I'm going to bed and even though you and I are expecting a child, you aren't allowed to stay." She gave Little a quick hug and then walked him to the door. Once it was shut behind him she realized just how tired she was and could barely crawl under the blankets before she fell asleep.

The next morning, Charlotte was awoken by a sharp knock on the door. Groaning, she pulled herself out of bed and to the door. She opened it enough to see Liam standing there. "Go away." She moaned, walking from the door back to her bed. She lay down and pulled the blanket over her face. "If this is about last night it's all Little's fault. Go bother him."

"Is there a specific reason my sister believes it's bad for your health to be sailing right now?"

"Don't ask me, ask your sister." She replied, rolling her eyes under the blanket.

"She was too mortified to tell me." He replied in a grouchy voice.

"Fine, I'll tell you if you promise to go away." Charlotte pulled the blanket off her face to look at Liam.


"Last night I was talking to your sister and Little came in and announced that not only were we getting married, but that I was expecting a child." If Charlotte had been awake enough to care, she would have thoroughly enjoyed the look on Liam's face.

He opened and shut his mouth a few times before being able to say, "And you just went along with that story?"

"Yes, now go away." Getting up out of bed, Charlotte walked to the door, opened it, and looked at Liam expectantly.

Instead of leaving, Liam glared at her and said, "You're going to have to tell Heather the truth."

"I don't have to tell your sister anything." Charlotte snapped, glaring back. "If you want her to know the truth, and I do mean the whole truth, you tell her. Now leave. You said you would."

They would have gotten into a yelling match if at that moment Heather hadn't come down the hall to visit Charlotte. "Am I interrupting something?" She asked, looking form her brother to Charlotte and then back again.

"Of course not." Charlotte answered, plastering on a false smile. "Liam was just leaving."

Walking slowly past her, Liam glowered at Charlotte and said, "We'll talk about this later."

"That's what you think." She snapped, "I'm tired of discussing anything with you."

Heather shoved her brother gently down the hall before he could reply, and then turning to Charlotte she said, "We need to have a serious talk. I do know what it is that my brother does for a living, and therefore I can guess how it is that you happened to be on this ship, but you aren't going to get anywhere by annoying him."

"You didn't seem to know very much last night." Charlotte snapped.

"It's easier for me to act like I don't. That way no one asks me odd questions. I wasn't sure about you last night because this wouldn't be the first time that Liam has had women on this ship who didn't know he was a pirate, but after that little exchange a few seconds ago, there was no question."

Grudgingly, Charlotte had to admit that Heather had a point. "He's so obnoxious! How can you stand it?"

Heather smiled. "He's my brother, I have to stand it. I'm going to go eat breakfast now, but if you want to join me you're welcome." Halfway to the door, she turned around and said with a grin, "So I'm assuming this means that you're not really pregnant?"

Charlotte rolled her eyes. "No, of course not."

"That's a relief." Heather laughed and then left, shutting the door gently behind her. Charlotte sighed and then flopped back down onto the bed. She was already beginning to become bored with the lack of adventure her situation supplied, and had no idea what to do about it. Finally getting up after a few minutes of thought, she flung the door open and went in search of Liam. When he wasn't on deck or in the kitchen, the two places she most often had seen him, she turned around and walked to his room. The door was slightly open when she got there and she could see him sitting at his desk pouring over a small pile of papers. She knocked swiftly and then let herself in.

"Is there anything at all interesting on this ship of yours that I can do?" She complained, as he looked up from his reading.

"Do you normally barge in like that?" He complained in response to her question.

She shot him a glare before saying, "If you had left me on the other ship I wouldn't be a problem right now, would I?"

"I suppose not, but then I would be broke." He replied. "Or close to it." He amended a few seconds later.

"You-" She began, her eyes flashing with anger.

"Save your insults, sweetheart. They don't concern me at all." He interrupted.

"How dare you call me that! You arrogant, stupid, self-absorbed-"

"If you're quite done, I'd appreciate it if you left." He interrupted, standing up and shooting her a glare of his own. "Or are you just trying to get on my nerves?"

"I could ask you that same question." Charlotte retorted.

His expression changed as he walked around the desk, shut the door and then turned to face her. "You know what I've been thinking about?"

"No, and I don't-"

"This." He replied. Grabbing her arms, he pulled her against him and kissed her. He felt her body, tense and shocked at first, slowly relax in his arms. A second or two later, she was kissing him back. He slipped his arms around her waist, and the feeling jolted Charlotte back to the realization of what she was doing. Spreading her fingers, she placed her hands against his chest and shoved him forcefully away.

"Don't do that!" She yelled, her hands shaking.

Liam stared at her with a mixture of shock and impatience. "I wasn't the only one doing it!" He yelled back, feeling a need to justify himself.

"You started it!" She accused, pointing a finger at him.

"And you weren't exactly complaining!" He snapped, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at her. She glared back for a few seconds, couldn't think of a response, and then quickly walked out the door, slamming it behind her.