All Played Out

Bright Chickens

The infamous Captain Charlie Marsden paced impatiently. It was a vulgar habit but she had yet to break it as her long legs continued to eat up the length of her ship. Her booted feet strode determinedly up and down and it was becoming irritating even for herself.

"Capt'n Charlie, ma'am, land ho" cried her first mate, Ruben Barnes.

Charlie turned to him "Ruben, why do you continually insist on speaking in such an outlandish manner?"

"Darling Charlotte, one must keep up appearances, we are a pirate vessel not a pleasure cruise. Ain't that right, Smithy?" Ruben grinned at the navigator, Daniel Smith as his speech fell back into his coarse pirate role.

Charlotte or Charlie rolled her eyes and looked down from the stern at Ruben "Where be the land, Barnes, or be ye' imaginin' things from ye' time upon Davy Jones Locker?" She mimicked adding an extra "Argh" for dramatic effect.

"Northward Capt'n Charlie" Ruben replied handing over his spyglass to his captain not bothering to conceal his amused smirk.

Smithy the navigator looked at them in bewilderment,

"We can make port in a few hours and be in London by evening, argh" Smithy mumbled the last part clearly confused as to why his Captain and her first mate had seemingly fallen victim to the curse of garbled and inane speech.

Ruben and Charlie grinned.

"Alright, Captain, I am all played out for today" Ruben admitted, slightly chagrined.

Charlie could not hide her triumphant grin.

"Time for business. So many riches to steal, so little time to plunder. Let's get to it"

"Aye Aye Captain" Ruben shot back with a salute "Who shall you be pleasuring with your company this time, Darling?"

"I was considering the Queen" Charlie said breezily before turning back to him "And enough with the 'darling' you'll ruin our image"

She turned and was about to go below deck before she hesitated. Shaking her head she once again turned to look at her first mate.

"The mouth gaping isn't too attractive either"

Lord Alessandro Du Monte looked down at the gold embossed invitation with a mixture of curiosity and horror. Following the length of the arm and hand holding the letter, Alessandro turned to look at his friend.

"An announcement for the ball being held here tomorrow evening" his friend replied, positively beaming.

"Why are you grinning like that, you fool? It is a disaster; I'll be killed by the swarm of hormone driven dresses before I can even think of drinking and dancing the night away"

"Didn't your mother tell you it is rude to drink and dance; maybe being killed is a good thing if it keeps you sober. As to my grin I believe it is for the 'hormone driven dresses' as you so aptly described the darling ladies of the court. Being such a fine pair of purebred stallions we cannot fail to woo ourselves some elegant damsels"

Alessandro looked at Fredrick blankly.

"I insist you attend. Besides it is you duty, since you are a guest of the royal family" Fredrick demanded solemnly.

"I'm going to die" Alessandro groaned before drawing his sword and pointing it at his fencing partner.

"Quite right" Fredrick agreed drawing his own blade with a triumphant grin.

For such an important building, the royal residence was painful easy to infiltrate. Guards snoozed against trees in preparation for the ball which was due to begin in a few hours while the walls had enough indents to provide handholds for a dog or a giant (although Charlie wondered why a giant could not just step over such trivial things as a large wall).

So Within minute the captain had not only dodged at least a couple of dozen guards but scaled a ten foot wall. The hardest part of reach the royal residence was the gardens and that was only because the vegetation was so ill tended it appeared to blend into one big tangled maze. With a couple of vicious hacks from her sword that obstacle was overcome just as quickly. This left Charlie standing at the bottom of the walls of the main building.

In seconds she spotted her opening, or rather some else's open window. Once again putting her climbing skills to good use she shimmed and stretched her way up and across to the open window. Perfect.

She slid through the gap and rolled across the floor in under a second to land directly behind the bed. She peered over the impossibly wide bed and froze. A tall young man stood on the other side of the bed staring at the wall as he pulled off his shirt. She stared at the back of the raven haired man and gawked at the tanned chest.

Oh Dear, she thought to herself, this may be a slight problem.

Taking a deep breath she stood and leant against the bed pole holding up the extravagant bed curtains. Then she said the first thing she could think of to distract her new problem.

"My, my, aren't you a saucy minx?"

She frowned at herself behind her black mask and gave herself a mental slap. Now what? Maybe she had been wrong before, this was a major problem.

Even as he heard the word they didn't fully register in his mind. It just seemed too implausible. Why on earth would anyone use the term 'saucy minx' it seemed slightly contradicting but most of all, who would say it to him?

Even when he turned and spotted the figure leaning against his bed he couldn't believe his situation. He gaped at the intruder in amazement. The voice had sounded feminine but beneath the cloak and mask he wasn't so sure.

Recovering slower than he would have liked Alessandro pulled his sword and pointed it at the intruder.

"Oooh, I like them feisty" the stranger said, the voice definitely sounded feminine.

To say Alessandro was confused would be an understatement.

"Not even a hint of modesty, how refreshing" continued the women (or at least as far as he knew it was a woman- he hoped it was a woman).

With a frown he looked down at himself. He wore not shirt and only a pair of tight fitting breeches. Deciding to play along he covered his chest with his free arm and looked at the intruder.

"You scoundrel, don't you know it is rude to enter another's bedchamber unbidden" he cried with a mock gasp of indignation.

The intruder straightened in surprise and reeled back slightly.

"But you left the window open so invitingly" she recovered waggling her eyebrows, which we're just visible above the mask "How could I refuse?"

"The cheek, why would I invite the likes of you up here" Alessandro countered, finding he was quite enjoying this little charade. The as-far-as-he-knew-woman grinned and removed the thick black cloak from her shoulders.

Beneath the thick cloth the intruder wore a loose white shirt with a tight fitting corset over top and if Alessandro had had any doubt about her gender they had just been cleared, there was no doubting her subtle curves and womanly finesse.

He stared for a moment at her barely registering her movement until she was right in front of him. There was barely a thread width between their chests. The woman looked up into his eyes and the dark blue pools met his own emerald orbs.

"Why don't you tell me, princess?" she breathed in his ear.

For a moment Alessandro was at a loss for words as he took in the delicate features behind the mask and the glossy chestnut waves which were collected at the nape of her neck in an untidy knot.

"I'm no princess" Alessandro finally whispered straight back dropping his arms to his side and stopping his simpering.

"Prove it" the woman shot back, seeming almost smug.

Alessandro stuck his sword point into the floor (to say the lady in the room below fainted in shock as the knife almost sliced off her high bun would not be far from truth). Then in a motion so swift the intruder barely saw it, he had swung her around and pinned her to the wall behind.

Her mouth opened in a soft gasp of surprise. Alessandro felt his gaze drawn to her mouth and gulped.

Charlie raised her brows at the unexpected situation she was finding herself in. She was supposed to be in control but had somehow ended up trapped between two unexplainably attractive arms attached to a half naked Greek god. Talk about surprising a girl, Charlie felt ready to have a heart attack.

Somehow she needed to regain control and take him out. She considered her limited options and her gaze caught on his lips. She smirked and grabbed the man's shoulders shocking him into the position she had just escaped and attacking his lips in a rough and demanding kiss.

He tasted delicious and the succulent kiss lasted for far longer than she intended as she moulded her body to his. This action elicited a surprising groan from the man as he encircled her waist in his attractive arms.

Then as quickly as she had gained control she lost it as the man pulled her closer and lifted her. Suspended above the ground in his arms she felt them moving before they crashed into another wall and she was once again pinned to against it by the 'saucy minx'.

Finally they pulled away from each other and Charlie sighed.

"Fine, I admit it. I'm all played out" she muttered pulling her mask, already hanging at an odd angle, from her face.

The man pulled back with a small smile and looked down at the woman who had invaded his room in a rather unconventional manner.

"Does that mean you are a typical woman now?" he asked.

"Never!" Charlie cried, affronted at the thought.

"So are you going to start calling me a saucy minx again?"

Charlie raised a brow "Do you want me to?"

"I did find the term rather endearing" he replied with a grin before swooping in to peck her chastely on the lips. Even that small contact made Charlie flush.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it" came the muttered response as Charlie avoided eye contact.

"Yes, but I am rather confused as to why you called me by, what is an undoubtedly true fact"

She snorted at his comment and he gave her a quick glare.

"The real question, is why you were standing half-naked in a room which should be vacant with the window wide open and an unusually good impression of a swooning young lady up your sleeve"

The man could not hold back a scoff "Swooning young lady? I don't believe it was my feminine wiles that had you falling all over me like a love-sick puppy"

"Me falling over you? I heard you groaning when I kissed you" she shot back smugly.

"Really?" he growled.

"Yes" she said leaning in to him and smiling sadistically at her triumph.

Apparently leaning in had not been a good idea because as soon as the smile formed on her lips his lips once again pressed against hers. In contrast to the previous and demanding kiss this one was long, slow and sensual. Charlie leant into it as it continued. Before their lips parted she found her own throat letting out a soft sound. The man looked down at her with a raised brow and a smug grin. Charlie glowered.

Before anyone else could speak there was shuffling outside and an impatient volley of raps on the door.

"Alessandro! Get your lazy backside out here. Women are starting to wail in distress and I can't comfort all of them about your absence" snapped a harsh male voice.

"Fredrick" Alessandro said with a growl as he shook his head and looked at Charlie.

Charlie found her own brow rising "Well, I believe that is my cue. Time to find a more isolated location"

Alessandro stared at her with a gaping mouth as she moved to the window. She looked back and saw his startled expression. As she realised the implication of her words she frowned.

"I was not inviting you along to a private room" she said through gritted teeth "I was merely saying I need to climb through another window which has no one inside"

Alessandro nodded and Charlie stuck her leg through the window. She was about to follow her foot through when a warm hand enclosed her booted ankle. In a second she was spun by her heel away from the window.

"Wait. I require your services" Alessandro explained.

Now it was Charlie's turn to gape "I am not that type of woman"

"I wasn't suggesting that" He knelt down on one knee "I was suggesting you marry me"

"What?!" Charlie practically screamed in dismay "I only just met you"

"Relax; I only need you to appear downstairs at the ball as my fiancée to ward of the swarm of chattering girls that refuse to leave me alone"

"Why would I agree to that?"

"Because you are an amazing, charming, beautiful and generous woman who will grant mercy to a poor fool like me" Alessandro tried with an endearing grin at her.

She considered for a moment, tilting her head to the side and putting on a thoughtful expression.


With the final word she tilted backwards and made to climb out of the window. Her arms and torso were through the opening before the large hands closed on both her ankles and pulled her back abruptly.

"How about I pretend not to notice when you rob the patrons of this household blind?"

Charlie frowned for an instant and Alessandro's shoulders drop.

"Now that is my kind of deal. Maybe I'm not as played out as I thought"

Alessandro smirked and hugged her. He didn't even care that she lifted his gold pocket watch from his trouser pocket.

Alessandro had agreed to meet the young woman downstairs at the entrance to the ballroom, trusting her to slip into the evening gown and not slip anything else out. However after ten minutes his doubts were beginning to surface. He paced up and down the hallways.

"That is a terrible habit" a soft voice floated from the top of the stairs.

His head snapped up so violently it was a shock he didn't get whiplash. As soon as his eyes fell on the beauty gracing the stairs he frowned. What was taking her so long?

"That is no way to look at your fiancée" the beauty chided.

"My fiancée?" he asked turning to examine the beauty closer.

While she was decked out in a elegant silk gown of peacock blue and her hair was coiled in shimmering rings, her face did look incredibly familiar to the woman who had accosted him upstairs.

"I didn't recognise you without the mask"

She grinned down at him and he felt his a matching grin light up his own face in automatic response.

"Shall we, Alessandro?" she asked as she looped her arm through his.

"We shall..." he trailed off. How could he not know her name?

"Charlotte" she filled in the blank space in his mind.

"We shall, Charlotte"

The pair proceeded forwards and into the ballroom. Upon entering the massive hall the first thing to hit Charlie was the colours. Rich reds and deep purples were spread around the room while huge sparkling chandeliers set the bright colour blazing with life. Beneath the chandeliers crowds of extravagantly dressed men and women milled around, talking and drinking. At the centre of the room more people converged to dance. Circling, twirling and twisting around each other in hidden patterns to the sound of the string orchestra. It was breathtaking.

Charlie looked up at Alessandro in shocked silence "Is every ball like this?"


"I can understand why people have so many. It is extraordinary"

Alessandro was about to reply when a dazzling beauty interrupted their conversation. Tall and lithe in a regal gown of dark green the red hair woman stood purposefully in front on Alessandro, a smirk playing on her lips.

"Alessandro" she practically purred the name.

"Lady Rodmilla" he said formally with a stiff nod in her direction.

"Why so formal? Not that I mind, you can call me anything you want"

Charlie snorted and tried to contain her laughter.

"Who is this new acquaintance, Alessandro?" the lady asked, turning her nose slightly. AS she spoke more women edged closer to their group, listening intently but pretending to gaze innocently at their hands.

"This is my fiancée, Lady Charlotte"

The women collective gasped and began murmuring to each other at the word 'fiancée'.

"I see" Rodmilla said coldly "A pleasure, Lady Charlotte"

"I can assure you, the pleasure is all mine" Charlotte said as Rodmilla excused herself and left.

As the pair stared at her retreating back Alessandro caught a glimpse of a madly gesturing Fredrick.

"If you will excuse me dear, Fredrick seems to be having a fit"

"Of course, Alessandro"

In a second he was beside his friend who was looking at him like he was the one waving his arms around like a baboon.

"How did you manage to get a fiancée within the space of two hours?" Fredrick hissed at him.

"She was in my bedchamber" Alessandro said simply before walking back to his 'fiancée' with a grin, leaving the stunned Fredrick behind.

He found her within a swarm of young ladies. The look on her face was of complete outrage.

"Excuse me but are you suggesting Captain Charlie is a weakling" she demanded of one lady in a lilac dress.

"No, I was saying how wonderfully sweet and sensitive I imagine he is"

"Where are you coming up with these ridiculous notions? Captain Charlie is a fearsome pirate with the swashbuckling skills of a god and the ability to plunder any jewel from beneath the very nose of the owner"

"The Captain wouldn't hurt a fly"

"Excuse us ladies" Alessandro cut in, taking Charlotte's arm.

"Captain would hurt her" Charlotte spat out under her breath.

"What was that?"

"I said I wouldn't be opposed to hurting her. The crazy woman was suggesting that I am some kind of pathetically sappy poet"

"I thought you were talking about the pirate captain of the Harbinger"

"Yes. You know I don't understand why everyone thinks just because I use the name Charlie I must be a man? Did you know I saw a poster in the tavern which suggests Captain Thorag the Blood-bucket was most likely to be a woman than any other pirate? It was terribly offensive" Charlie was warming to the subject and continued her rant "You know, I've met Thorag and he was a complete pig, smelled like it too. No woman would let herself fall into such a state of unhygienic festering. Beside the man tried to sell me a sunken ship, how idiotic can you get? I mean, I was the on who sunk the ship in the first place"

Slightly shocked to hear his 'fiancée' was really the infamous pirate, Captain Charlie, Alessandro just nodded and tried to think of something to say.

"Do you want to dance?" he finally managed.

Diverted from the subject of her pirate-ness, Charlie nodded. He took her hand and led her onto the floor. The music started and his arms slid around her. They moved close and began to sway with the song, turning when the beat called for it and returning to each other's arms after.

Looking down at the shiny brown locks, Alessandro realised he didn't want the night to end. He had also realised another disturbing fact.

"Is that a dagger in your hair?"

Charlotte had also noticed the disturbing fact (no Alessandro didn't have a dagger in his hair) that she felt comfortable with the strange man she was dancing with. It was an odd feeling and she felt other new sensations struggling to puncture her mental defences. Ignoring them she just relaxed into the music and thought of the booty she had taken from the girls that had demeaned Captain Charlie (Ha, it served them right – nobody talked that way about Charlie).

Despite the happiness of the moment, in no time at all the evening had come to an end. When everyone else had left Alessandro escorted Charlotte back to his chamber.

He waited outside while she changed back to her pirating clothes and then it was time to say goodbye. Neither quite knew what to say and they shifted awkwardly.

"I stole your watch" Charlotte finally admitted holding up the gold circle.

He laughed "I know. You can keep it"

"Thank you...but, I should be...going. Places to go, People to see, Bedroom windows to climb through"

A pang of jealousy shot through Alessandro at the thought of her climbing into somebody else's window. It was ridiculous.

"Really? What people and places?"

"Well I have been meaning to pay a visit to the Tsarina of Russia"

"I've heard she is a very nice lady"

"I'd better not make her wait then"

Alessandro smiled at her and sighed. He pecked her forehead and stepped back.

"Better not" he replied.

Then she was gone, out the window and into the night like a ghost. It was almost as if she had never been there at all. Apart from she had robbed his heart. Not to mention a large portion of the English nobility of their precious gems.

The next morning Alessandro charged from his room like a crazed flamingo. He had not slept, instead lying awake and staring at the window as if expecting Charlotte to climb right back through his window.

"FREDRICK" he bellowed.

The scruffy young lord fell out the door of his own room and onto the floor in front of Alessandro.

"What's going on?" he muttered groggily rubbing sleep from his eyes.

"I need a ship"

"That's nice"

"NOW" Alessandro shouted pulling his sleepy friend from the floor.

"But I wanna' sleep" whined his supposed-best-friend.


"Fine, fine, I'll go back to bed and dream you one" he said reasonably before trying to crawl back to his room.

Alessandro shook his shoulders. He yawned.

"Oh, if I must. Let me put some boots on"

Months later – Tsarina's Palace

Charlotte looked up at the open window with a wide grin. Every single time. The nobles hired so many guards they seemed to think that made their open window impenetrable. Charlie was only too pleased to prove them wrong.

She looked at the sheer wall suspiciously for a moment. Then she jumped. She landed lightly on the wooden beams outlining the building for support. A second jump and she was below the window then her hands grasped the sill. With a quick push off of the wood she was through the opening and inside the Tsarina's room.

She rose from the floor and looked around. Before she could register her surroundings she was trapped against the wall by a pair of very familiar arms. A swift kiss landed on her lips and then Alessandro pulled back.

"Why are you here?" she asked her mind barely registering the situation.

"Because after you left I realised I was all played out and there was only one thing on my mind and only one person who could help"

"Who?" she whispered.

"You" Alessandro replied as he stepped closer to her.

"How can I help you?"

"Well a kiss would be nice but to be honest it was more your hand I was after"

Charlie looked at her hand. It didn't look special to her "Why couldn't you have asked someone else to give you a hand? In case you didn't notice I am busy plundering Russia"

"I don't need a hand, Charlie. I just want your hand. I want to marry you" he admitted sounding slightly annoyed at her density.

"But, but...why?"

"Because you played your way into my heart and then ran off with it"

"I thought it was a fair exchange, since I left mine with you"

"Is that a yes?"


His face fell and a horrified gasp sounded from behind the pair. Neither of them noticed the gasp though.

"It is a 'definitely, you saucy minx'"

Then she launched herself into his arms. Shocked he managed to catch her but the speed knocked him off balance and they fell backwards to the floor.

Sudden applause filled the room.

On the floor Charlie and Alessandro looked at each other.

"Can you hear applause?" she asked puzzled.

He nodded slowly and the pair twisted their heads back to see a party of three gathered in the doorway. One a regal woman with greying hair and a tiara on her head, the other an older man with his arm around the woman's waist and the third...

"Ruben! What are you doing here? Who is looking after the ship?"

"Smithy had it in hand. But I saw this boat further down the coast and I smelt a trap so I came to check on you. Didn't realise you would be getting engaged."

"Indeed I was quite shocked to find the lady robbing me was being proposed to by another man who had broken into my property. However I find the whole situation rather endearing, don't you darling?" the Tsarina asked her husband.

"Yes, although I would advise you not to break into to our palace for every major event in your life. The housemaid would be quite shocked to find a wedding taking place in our bedroom"

Charlie smiled and nodded to them snuggling against her new fiancée's chest.

"I told you the tsarina was a nice lady" Alessandro whispered in her ear.

"Maybe we should get married in the Emperor of China's living room, I have heard he has some very nice terracotta statues in his garden"

"Must you climb through everyone's windows?"

"How else would I have met you?"

"You know the conventional way, knocking on the door"

"Nope never heard of it"

I apologise for any bad grammer ( i admit i am rubbish at it) and any spelling or other random mistakes.