A/N: Hi all! This is a collaboration piece between a friend and I that we've been working on as a roleplay. I decided to turn it into a full on story to see if people enjoy it as much as we do! So hope you enjoy! I may have to change the rating to M when it gets to later chapters, but for now it'll be Teen!
The Burning Ember gently rocked as the waves lapped at her hull, the salty evening air a balm to her captain's otherwise frustrated heart. The sea was home and with it came a sense of freedom one would never find anywhere else. He wasn't bound by rigid laws or dictators who enforced them only when it benefited them, so Rayth didn't understand why he was here, in this town... Standing lost beside his massive ship in the quickly fading light of day. He wasn't sure why he'd agreed to marry the governor's daughter in exchange for the safety of this little trading town. Sure, the deal benefited his crew and their ability to trade goods, but at what cost? He had never given much thought to being married, because marriage and his line of work just didn't go together. In fact, any sort of romance and his line of work seemed utterly ridiculous, which was probably why he'd never dabbled in the subject. It wasn't that he thought that women didn't belong on the sea, in fact two of his crew members were women who were more than competent in everything they did, but more that a pampered heiress wasn't exactly his idea of an ideal partner. He wanted someone who challenged him and put him in his place when need be. He highly doubted that this Juliet would be able to handle life on the sea let alone him.
Still, here he was, his booted foot falls almost silent as he made his way up the walk to the impressive home, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his black pants, his blue jacket protecting him from the wild wind that was beginning to whip and warn him of an impending storm.
"What?!" Her exclamation caused some of the servants to jump and turn in her direction, but she honestly didn't care. Juliet wasn't sure what emotion she was feeling more at the moment. Confused, because she didn't think she heard her father correctly when he'd just told her she was in an arranged marriage that was to be happening the following morning. Anger, because he'd told her she was to marry a pirate who would be arriving that evening to meet her. Not to mention this marriage agreement was made apparently to protect their town.
"Now, sweetheart. I promise you this isn't as horrible as it seems." Her father said. The man was tall and blonde, a short beard donning his face and flecked with gray, his pink hued eyes watching his daughter a little nervously. It was obvious he was trying to calm her down. It wasn't working.
"Are you out of your mind?! Who are you to decide who I get to marry?! Especially to a man I have never met! And a pirate?! Father what were you thinking?!" She was having trouble wrapping her mind around his words, her long blonde hair falling down her back. Her marry a pirate?! Most girls in her status range were forced into arranged marriages, usually with men of similar or higher ranking. She was prepared for that. What she was not prepared for was to be marrying a filthy pirate!
Rayth could hear his bride to be and her father arguing from his place in the front yard, and the sound made him smile just a little. At least his soon to be wife wasn't thrilled about the match either. He'd been expecting some doe eyed fan-girl that swooned over him the moment he walked through the door, so this was a relief.
"I was thinking of the well being of this town!" her father tried to defend himself. "These pirates promised to protect us if I gave them immunity, and you. I promise he is not as bad as you think. Actually, I think he's finally arrived."
Juliet could hear movement from outside the room, talking from down the hall. The doorman's nervous voice could be heard getting closer, and she turned to the door, ready to meet the man she assumed would be her husband tomorrow. This was not going to go easy for him, that she would make sure of. Her eyes narrowed when the door opened, and two men walked in. One was the doorman, who seemed extremely nervous about this whole situation while avoiding her gaze. Did he know about this arranged marriage too? She was going to have to have a word with the staff and see if all of them were keeping this secret from her. The second man was who she assumed to be her future husband. He was tall, with brown hair and a beautiful chocolate eye-not that she would ever admit that- the other hidden behind his eye patch. He wasn't hideous, so that was a plus. Still, she continued her annoyed appraisal as he approached them, crossing her arms.
"Evening," Rayth greeted in his deep husky voice, lifting a brow when his intense gaze settled on Juliet. She was definitely beautiful, he would give her that. Her blonde hair was left long and he debated with himself how long it would take until the silky locks were tangled from the ocean wind, or the way her lovely dress would weigh her down if she ever fell into the water. He made a quick note to buy her a pair of pants the moment they left, but said none of this to her father who already looked like he would jump out of his skin at any moment. "Rayth Lightwood," he murmured, a little smirk pulling up one corner of his lips as he bowed politely to the woman before him, straightening a moment later to greet her father with a firm handshake.
"Ah, Captain Lightwood." Her father greeted the man with a smile, and Juliet shifted her annoyed look to him. He sounded like he was greeting an old friend! "It's a pleasure to see you again. I hope your trip was well? I have made sure the military in the area knows to leave your ship alone, should they see your flag." The older man glanced at his daughter, who did not look happy in the slightest. "This is my daughter, Juliet. She's ah….happy to meet you."
"Not really." Juliet said, earning an exasperated sigh from her father. "Who do you think you are to just come here and take a girl you just met as your bride in exchange for this town's protection?"
It wasn't very often that strangers could make Rayth laugh, but when his fiancé quickly refused her father's claims that she was happy to meet him in a tone laced with venom that would make a lesser man crumble, a bark of laughter escaped his throat without his approval. She was honest and though he wasn't any happier about the situation than she was, he could admit that he liked that about her.
Juliet took a step towards him, having to tilt her head up to look at him. "Women are not things that can be given away! I will not marry a pirate!"
With that the girl turned and stormed out of the room, her long blonde hair flowing behind her. Juliet was not like most girls, something the pirate was obviously figuring out right about now. She wouldn't just let men decide her life for her. Which was why she was so angry right now. She had to cool down, so she made her way to the library, where she would be able to relax.
Her words struck a cord with Rayth though, and his otherwise impassive expression twitched with confusion as dark eyes flashed to her father. Wait, he hadn't told her? He watched her storm off before his narrowed gaze fell upon the governor, his expression almost icy.
"I'm so sorry for my daughter's ah….actions and words." The governed stated with a sigh. "She is very headstrong, like her mother was. I hope you will forgive her."
"I offered my protection in exchange for diplomatic immunity," Rayth stated evenly, "and you informed me that the only way that would be possible would be by marrying your daughter. You never told me that she hadn't agreed to the arrangement." Here he was assuming that Juliet had known and accepted. He had assumed that like himself, she wasn't happy about the arrangement, but that she saw it as a means to an end and gave her consent. Rayth was many things but a man who treated women like property was not one of them.
"Well, I hadn't gotten around to talking to her about it yet." The older man sighed, realizing that was probably a mistake. He gestured a servant over. "Dinner will be ready shortly. For now, I can have a servant show you to your room. I think it best to let Juliet be alone for now."
"I'll find it later," Rayth remarked absently when his room was mentioned. He'd be far more comfortable on the Ember but for now he would play along, "I need to have a word with my fiance."
He shoved his hands back into the pockets of his pants and took a few long strides to the door, allowing it to fall shut behind him as he glanced in both directions down the hallway before choosing one at random and with luck stumbling upon the library where he found her silhouette curled up with a book. He began to step into the room but hesitated. What exactly was he planning on saying to her? Rayth wasn't very good when it came to feelings, because as the captain of his ship, his stability and level head allowed the rest of his crew to feel whatever and however they wanted. He wasn't usually so lucky. His emotions were usually stuffed deep down inside until something happened that wrenched them to the surface. Nervously rubbing at the back of his neck, he finally stepped into the room and cleared his throat so that she'd know he was there, not that she could miss his six foot five inch frame.
Juliet looked over at the door startled when she heard a throat clear, her eyes narrowing almost instantly. How on earth had he found her? She assumed he'd be going over wedding plans and other things with her father. That's what men did right?
"I didn't know that you hadn't consented to the marriage," he murmured a bit awkwardly. He was leaning against the wall and bowing his head a bit, casting most of his face in shadow. "I would never push anyone into this sort of... arrangement without them agreeing to it."
The blonde's eyes watched him intently, though confusion was clear in her expression. Was he trying to pretend to be caring? Somehow she found his words hard to believe, but she stayed silent, continuing to appraise him.
His nimble fingers raked through his messy brown locks and pushed them out of his eye patch, as if it would somehow allow him to see better. It was an old habit that hadn't died even after the orb had been damaged beyond repair from a rival pirate captain. "My crew and I will be in town until sunset tomorrow. If you choose not to leave with us no one will force you to board my ship. I'll see to it that your father tears up the contract before we pull anchor and we'll simply find a new city to trade in." He wanted this to be her choice, because even if he wasn't happy to be married off to someone he didn't know, this was a business arrangement, and she wasn't a pawn that he would use as a means to an end. Women were not property and it actually angered him that her father had used her as such.
Juliet still couldn't believe the situation she was in. How could her father do this to her?! Of course, deep down she realized he did it to protect their home. Edgewood wasn't the richest town on the coast, but they were pillaged and attacked a lot more than other port towns. At least that she had heard of. If this pirate was as strong and feared as her father had told her, then his protection was greatly needed. Still….could she marry him just to protect the town she loved?
She sighed as he finished talking, shutting the book in her lap. "Tell me something, Captain Lightwood." There was clear annoyance in her tone when she spoke his name. "Why would you agree to marry a woman you had never met? All just to protect a town like this? I'm assuming you get more than a wife out of this arrangement my father made without my knowledge, but it still seems a little strange to me. Unless that's just how your kind does things." She'd heard of pirates kidnapping young girls, or keeping them as servants. Or even keeping some consenting women around for fun. By the looks of him, she assumed he was able to get any woman he wanted easily. So why did he agree to marry her of all people?
"I…." He lost his train of thought almost immediately and blinked, temporarily rendered speechless by the fire in her eyes. He tried not to focus on the fact that she was so unlike the other women of privilege that he'd had the displeasure of meeting, because if he focused on it he would admit to himself that he found her appealing when she glared at him and her cheeks flushed with anger.
Rayth had been sailing the seas for a long time. If he had to count, he'd guess that it had been at least ten years now when he'd ran away from home and his responsibilities. He could easily recall being in a situation very similar to this before he'd left. His father, a man of great power, had insisted that he marry simply to continue the family name. He had adamantly refused and when his father chose to force his hand, Rayth had escaped to the sea without looking back. He didn't like remembering his home, not because he didn't love his country, but rather because he hadn't seen his mother or his sister since then, though they did write to him often. It was ironic that he now stood here in a stranger's house and agreed to hand himself over without question to the woman glaring at him haughtily.
Juliet stared at him as he seemed stumped on what to say. His silence was a little annoying, especially because he kept staring at her like he was surprised by her words. Of course he was. He was just like all the other men who thought women should just bend to a man's will and do whatever he says. All of her friends were like that, which was why they were all married, some having children already. Whereas she couldn't get more than one outing with a man because none of them could handle her. She'd heard a lot of the suitors that had come to court her complaining about her to her father, telling him he better get her under control or he would never get rid of her.
"You already know that I'm a pirate," he finally managed to rasp, "when we come across something of value we need a means of trade to re-supply the ship. We already have diplomatic immunity and deals in several major trade cities but none in this area. If I marry you it gives my ship safe passage to and from the harbor to do business." He stamped down on a blush when he noticed she was still looking at him. It unnerved him to no end that she could so easily get under his skin, because Rayth was not easily rattled. He tried his best to avoid being the center of attention around females because he just didn't have the time for that sort of thing, but this particular female made him shift his weight awkwardly again, as if being under her scrutiny made him nervous, and if he was honest, it did.
Juliet continued to watch the man from her seat on the couch, noticing he seemed a little uncomfortable. Good. Making men squirm was one of her favorite things to do. She did want her hometown to be protected, but if she went through with this, what kind of life would she have? Certainly she'd have to leave and sail with him, though that may be a little entertaining. Not to mention, at the rate she was going, she was going to stay single forever. If she didn't marry before she turned 25, she would be considered a spinster and too old for men to want to court. She only had 5 more years to go. If she married this pirate, she wouldn't have to worry about that.
His dark eyes watched her as she mulled over his words and the pirate wondered for a moment what he was getting himself into. He could admit that he liked that Juliet was so sure of herself. She was stubborn, a bit hot headed and quick to speak her mind. He liked all of those qualities but still he wondered how she would handle being aboard the ship for weeks and sometimes months. He tried not to think about the fact that she would be expected, as his wife, to share the captain's quarters with him, and he almost audibly groaned when he realized that he'd probably be spending a lot of nights on the floor instead of in his huge cushy bed. They weren't even married yet and he was already allowing her to bully him into whatever she asked, and the funniest part was that she hadn't even demanded anything of him yet, it was all in his head.
With another sigh, Juliet placed the book on the couch and stood up, brushing off her skirts before walking over to him. She stopped in front of him, giving him a defiant look. He watched with rapt attention when she suddenly stood to approach. His lazy posture quickly straightened to his full height as he pushed off of the wall when she stood in front of him, again reminding him of the fact that she only reached his chest as she craned her neck to look up at him. "If I go through with this…..you promise my home and this town will be safe? No harm will come to them? Ever?" She needed to be sure of this before she agreed to this absurd arrangement.
Rayth thought about her words for a moment. He never gave his word unless he was certain that he could keep it, but he doubted she would believe him seeing as how she seemed to consider pirates beneath her. He was almost excited for her to meet the crew, a smile almost flitting across his stoic features when he imagined her meeting Aria, his resident navigator and another woman who had never quite fit in with the other heiresses due to her brash nature and refusal to take a husband. They would probably get along well. Wait, why was he already thinking about her meeting his crew mates? She hadn't even agreed yet!
Juliet watched him quietly as he thought over her words. It unnerved her a little at how much taller than her he was. Her head only came up to his chest, so she had to tilt her head pretty far just to look up at him. None of the men who had ever courted her were ever quite that tall. Regardless of the height difference though, she wasn't letting him intimidate her. For a moment she thought she saw a smile come over him as she watched him, but the next second it was gone. Maybe she imagined it…
Finally he nodded, removing his right hand from the pocket of his pants and extending it to her in a clear gesture of sealing the deal with a handshake, and Juliet stared down at it in confusion. It was an entirely male tradition but it didn't even seem to faze him that she was a woman instead. "The lowlifes in this area wouldn't dare to attack a town flying my jolly roger. They value their lives too much for that." He promised, his good eye holding hers without wavering. If she would allow herself to trust him on his word, he would show her that he would keep it, without question. He could only stand there with his hand held out in invitation. It irritated him to no end that this woman he didn't even know had the power to make him wait, a feat that no one else could easily accomplish. Rayth was patient but he had his limits.
Juliet's eyes found his again before she reached out and took his large hand in her own smaller one, and Rayth tried to ignore the little jolt of electricity that ran through him. "Good." Juliet said, taking her hand out of his and stepping back. With a sigh, she continued. "I will…..agree to this marriage. If it will keep my people safe, then I will marry you." Besides, its not like there was any other guy that wanted to marry her after they met her. This guy had seen her personality and still was willing to make her his wife. Plus she was running out of time to marry, and she didn't want to be a spinster. This was the best option at the moment. Not to mention he wasn't horrible looking, so she decided she could do worse.
"I will go talk to my father. I'm sure he will want to talk to you after dinner." She said giving him a small bow and after a moment, a very small smile. "I will see you at dinner, Captain Lightwood." With that, she turned and left the room, heading back to the drawing room where she was sure her father still was, freaking out internally about what she had just agreed to do.
When he caught a barely there smile pulling at her lips, his good eye widened. He hadn't thought that she could get any more attractive, but he'd clearly been wrong because her features lit up under the smile before it was gone in an instant. The urge to make her smile again slammed into him and he stamped it down in annoyance. He wasn't here to like her, he was here on business. He gave her a nod and tried not to focus on the way she said his name as she left the room.
A/N: Okay so let me know what you guys think and if I should work on the next chapter!