"I told you that your father had no idea what he was talking about," Alexander raged against Sebastian. The Three had returned after they had seen Scarlet walking away from them and James had wasted no time in telling them what had happened. Now the four of them all stood, shoulder to shoulder, facing Sebastian and scowling. "But because you were more willing to listen to him instead of any of us…She may never forgive you, you know that right?"

He wasn't given an opportunity to answer. Nate's chilling voice cut through the air. "I had hoped that she might be willing to see where your father was coming from in his concern for his daughter but I knew that she would not take well to being told that she wasn't a good mother." A slight pause, then an explosion. "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU LISTENED TO HIM!!"

"Gentlemen, what seems to be the problem over here?" Came a cautious voice from behind the solid wall in front of Sebastian. Nate glanced back at Montanan and a man who he had never seen before but looked more like a pirate than Scarlet ever could. Montana and his friend positioned themselves at the end of the line but faced both parties not just Sebastian.

There was a quick exchanging of glances but then James turned to Montana and spoke quickly. "Scarlet's Uncle John, Sebastian and mine's father, sent the two of us to find Scarlet because he believed that Scarlet was…being careless in her parenting, to say the least, and that he had dragged Jasmine, her children, Harmony, and Harmony's fiancé Nic along with her."

Montana and Tom exchanged a glance of confusion. After a moment's pause, Tom spoke. "Umm, I'm sorry but didn't the girls tell you what had happened before they left for America?"

Five heads quickly shook in his direction and a few even looked sheepish. Tom rolled his eyes and then stepped back, refusing to have anything else to do with these men for the moment. Montana found the situation slightly funny. For the longest time now, he was the one being kept in the dark but now he knew something that these men didn't and instead of taking pity on them he decided to rub that fact in.

"Are you telling me that your cousin," he looked at James and Sebastian, "and one of your closest friends in the world," he glanced maliciously at The Three, "didn't tell you she was leaving the country? And," he continued before they could speak, grinning broadly at the scowls he was now receiving. "She hasn't told you yet why?"

His booming laughter could be heard across the deck when five heads once again shook in denial, though not so quickly as before.

"Now that is quite enough, Monroe." Logan Jennings's voice sounded from behind him. Just as Montana was opening his mouth to tell Jennings where to go, the captain continued. "Let the rest of us get some ribs in before they become violent and we have to fight for our lives."

More laughter from both Montana and Tom came from this remark and Montana found that he didn't dislike the man that much after all. Logan moved to stand on Montana's other side and Tom had stepped forward to resume his previous position.

"Now, gentlemen — and I use that term loosely, I am not ashamed to admit that I have been eavesdropping on this conversation for quite some time and I would just like to say that I am appalled that anyone, let alone family members, would say that Scarlet is a bad mother. That woman means the world to those kids and you all know it. So I'd like to ask Sebastian myself why the hell he believed that rubbish his father was spouting when he knows good and well what a great job Scarlet is doing with those rascal boys?"

His only answer was for Sebastian to hang his head and take a deep shuddering breath. No one else seemed to be willing to speak on his behalf either so the group of men all stood, staring at a strong man beginning to break down. Montana could only stomach the sight of it for a few minutes and then he sighed in disgust.

"Get a hold of yourself, man. This isn't irreparable." His voice seemed to jar Sebastian out of whatever hell he was putting himself through. The other man raised his eyes and looked at the stranger who seemed to be the only one willing to talk to him. Then something seemed to shift inside Sebastian's head and he stood up straight and looked Montana directly in the eyes.

"What the hell are you doing on this ship, Monroe?"


As soon as Scarlet had walked away from her cousin's she felt her pain beginning to evaporate and be replaced with rage. She walked blindly, without responding to any of the greetings coming from her men. Once she got below deck, she was able to control her feelings. Or at least hide them. Systematically, she woke Harmony and Jasmine and had them follow her to her cabin without telling them what was going on above deck. As gently as she could, she woke Jake and Will. Jake was always ornery when he first woke but upon seeing his aunts he suppressed his usual morning tirade. Will was just as quiet as usual and didn't ask questions as he got dressed.

Michael, however, refused to get up. The poor boy was so tuckered out that he simply turned over when Scarlet nudged him. She gave up trying to wake him once her other two boys were dressed and ended up carrying him in his dressing gown out the door. She led the way up the stairs and onto the deck.

Even from that distance, she could plainly see that everyone had ganged up against Sebastian and were openly yelling at him… Similarly, Montana, Tom, and Logan were also standing around her cousin and frowning. She couldn't help but feel pleased that everyone was willing to defend her now, but at the same time she wondered why no one had done that with her uncle.

"Come along, everyone, we have some unexpected company that I am sure you are all anxious to see." Scarlet said cheerfully and began moving toward the small crowd. Tom was the only one who saw her coming and immediately rushed forward to take Michael from her.

"Scarlet," Tom began a worried expression on his face.

"Not now, Tom. Right now I have to orchestrate a family gathering while acting disdainful toward Sebastian but not with so much disdain that people will notice." Scarlet smiled up at him but he refused to smile back.

"That man has no right to claim ties to you, Scarlet. You deserve better." Tom said quietly but with feeling.

Touched that he so obviously cared about her, she could only gripped his arm for a moment. Then she turned away, expecting to see the two groups of people greeting one another enthusiastically, so was speechless when she saw that Harmony had stopped Jasmine, Jake, and Will from moving forward and was apparently demanding to know what was happening from Alexander.

Scarlet hurried forward. "Harmony, shouldn't you be hugging Alexander and not interrogating him?"

"HA! You think you are that good at hiding it, don't you?" Harmony asked Scarlet but not meanly. "Oh, sweetheart, Jasmine and I knew immediately that something was horribly wrong when you woke us up and then seeing everyone verbally attacking Sebastian only confirmed it. Now someone please explain what is happening so that Jasmine and I can have our turn shouting at Sebastian for being the stupid fool that he can sometimes be."

James moved forward and kissed Harmony lightly on the cheek. "Hi, sis, good to see that you're in good spirits."

"James, you have exactly five seconds to start talking before I start screaming." She 

spoke crisply and Scarlet felt so proud of her that she could hardly contain herself from hugging her. "One…Two…"

"Okay, okay. Jeez Harm, no need to start having a tantrum." James spoke heavily as he ran a hand through his already disheveled hair. "To make a long story short: Father sent Sebastian and me to get you, the kids, and Jasmine away from Scarlet because he thought that she had gone crazy or something."

Silence.

Then, "I'll kill him."

Scarlet's eyes were not the only ones that widened at that statement but Scarlet thought she should clarify. "Who, Harm? Your father or your brother?"

She stomped her foot on the deck before answering her voice filled with anger. "Father, of course, I can't kill Sebastian for being an imbecile. That's inhumane."

Everyone but Harmony and Sebastian burst into uncontrollable laughter and surprisingly, Scarlet felt better about Sebastian's betrayal. She couldn't really blame him for believing his father because his father had never lied about something like this before. Scarlet had always thought that her Uncle John had liked her but she supposed she knew better now.

Once the laughter had died away and people were feeling far less hostile, Scarlet beckoned her children forward; Michael had been awakened by the loud laughter, to greet everyone. She wasn't at all surprised to hear her boys call each of The Three "uncles." As soon as Michael was done being hugged by everyone he began rubbing his eyes and looking around for something. Scarlet watched him closely, wondering what he was up to, and so was just as surprised as Tom when Michael ran over to him and demanded to be picked up again.

Once Jake was done shaking hands and receiving crushing hugs, he attached himself to Logan. Scarlet couldn't help but smile over the absurdity of the situation. Will was the only one who preferred the company of some of their newest arrivals. He had squeezed himself in between Nate and Alexander and was smiling like she hadn't seen in a long while.

"I guess explanations will have to wait, so why don't we all go eat some breakfast instead." Scarlet announced once things had quieted once more. Everyone immediately turned and began walking toward the galley, everyone except Montana. She knew that he wanted to talk to her so she patiently waited for them to be alone.

He cleared his throat before he began. "Scarlet, I want you to know that I had planned on saying quite a few things at the first chance I got." He paused and so she nodded to let him know that she understand that he had been a bit thrown by the sudden appearance of so many men who had all been very friendly with her. "But once I learned what that uncle of yours said, no don't interrupt," He said forcefully when she tried to defend her family. "When I heard what he had said and thought about you I completely forgot everything that I wanted to say to you. I forgot because at that moment I wanted to beat the hell out of that man for saying such terrible things about you."

Scarlet stared, wide-eyed, at him. He didn't think she was a terrible mother! She tried not to get overly excited because he didn't actually know about how she had often had to leave her boys behind to go on raids. But she couldn't stop it.

"He was so wrong, Scarlet, about that and about you having to drag either one of your cousins with you. Anyone who knows Jasmine or Harmony for a day knows that neither could be forced to go anywhere or do anything that they didn't want to do." He paused again and rubbed the back of his neck, looking over her head at something. "I just thought you should know that Tom and I didn't believe a word of it."

Montana turned and began walking away toward the galley. He had only gotten a few steps before Scarlet shouted out his name. Turning immediately, he barely had time to steady himself before she was throwing herself into his arms. He hugged her tightly until he felt the wetness on his shirt. Pulling away a bit roughly, he saw that she really was crying.

"Is it such a shock that I believe in you, Scarlet?" He asked gruffly as he wiped away the tears.

"Please, Montana, please remember what you just told me. Remember forever, because some time soon you may have a hard time believing it. Oh, God." She was gasping for breath now and needed to get a hold of herself. She tried to pull away from Montana, to hide away in her cabin until her eyes weren't red and her nose stopped running but he wouldn't let go of her arm. She struggled with him for a moment and then suddenly he let go and exclaimed:

"What the hell?!"

Scarlet quickly wiped her face and saw that three of her loyal men had knives to his back and were waiting for her to confirm the kill. "No! Put them away!"

"But, Miss Lakewood, he made you cry." Protested a big man with no hair. His name was Colin and he had been with Captain Scar since Captain Scar was a man.

"We can't stand the sight of you cryin', ma'am." Replied another man, named Frankie, who wore a patch over his left eye because he thought it made him look tougher. Scarlet had never thought he needed it since the poor man had so many scars on his face he could give a child nightmares. "So we was thinkin' that we should just gut him for ye, right here. Ye can turn away if ye want to."

"I won't be turning away Frankie, because there will be no gutting of Mr. Monroe! Now put away your knives." Scarlet was close to laughter but she didn't want Montana to know so she tried to frown very hard at the sailors as they put away their weapons grumbling.

"We was only trying to help, Miss Lakewood." Colin's brother Timmy said after they had all hidden away their knives. He was relatively new to the ship, compared to his brother, having only been aboard for the past year and a half.

"I know, now go about your business boys, I'm just fine." Scarlet ordered before looking back at Montana. Looking at his stunned face made it impossible for her not to laugh. When she could finally control herself she spoke with a smile on her face. "Oh, don't look so surprised. They didn't mean anything by it."

"The hell they didn't, Scarlet! Those men would have tried to kill me if you hadn't stopped them."

"You're right, but the point is they didn't…And what do you mean 'tried?'" Scarlet asked feeling indignant for her men.

"Just what I said. If you hadn't spoken up right away then I probably would have ended up killing them instead." He shrugged and then smiled. "Are you thinking that those men were superior to me in any way?"

"No," Scarlet answered quickly realizing her mistake. "I just think that you may have had your hands full. I'm sure that Captain Jennings is very thorough in his training."

"And I'm just as sure that you know exactly how thorough he is in training." Montana said with a suspicious glint in his eyes. "There is something you're not telling me, Scarlet Lakewood, and it has to do with this ship. But worry not, I will figure out what it is."

Hi all! Hope you enjoy how the stories going. If so, or if not, let me know!NC