Lieutenant Hornblower paced the quarterdeck under a starless and moonless sky- everything silent as death tonight. The only sounds were the soft slap of the sea caressing the ship, the slight clankings and clatterings of metal on metal, and an almost inaudible whisper in the sails. No moon, no stars, no wind. Unable to sleep he had dressed and come topside, hoping that the fresh air would clear his head and relax him, instead this unearthly silence was only making him more restless, some strange fire burning deep in his heart tonight. He felt as if he were waiting for something, although this queer and disturbing feeling of premonition went against his sensible and pragmatic nature.
As he made his fourth or fifth circuit of the deck, he passed Matthews, who had the watch.
As Horatio took yet another turn around the Indy's deck, and he tried to turn his thoughts to more pleasant ones, a vision of the Duchess of Wharfdale, or Kitty Cobham, as she was really christened, popped unbidden into his head. Try as he might, Horatio could not quite banish the rather improper thoughts he had of her from time to time, ever since they had been 'guests' together in that Spanish prison. The memory of a certain way she had touched his arm while they had been walking on the cliffs together, and even stronger, the feeling of her body pressed against his during the time on the small boat after he had rescued her from the shipwreck. He remembered his arms around her wet and shivering form, and as usual when these memories intruded, he could feel his manhood rising, causing him inexplicable embarrassment. Horatio knew he would go below to his cabin and give himself release, as all the men had to do when they were alone at sea with no hope of female companionship, but his youth and innocence still found something slightly- wrong- in this. Still, he had so far resisted the dubious charms of the whores the other men visited when in Port, and also the charms of the other men. This was something not spoken of, and yet everyone knew that certain of the crew took their pleasures with each other in the dark recesses of the sleeping quarters. As young and innocent, and beautiful, as Horatio was, he had already had many subtle offers but had no inclinations in that direction. But he had yet to lie with a woman, either. He stopped his roaming after a few more minutes, stared out at the dark ocean, and then headed back to his quarters.
Horatio is running, chasing some fleeing prey, his breath coming in ragged gasps from the effort, and still he cannot catch the escaping form. He is crashing through a dense thicket, he can feel the briars scratching his face and hands. He has his pistol in one hand, cocked and ready to shoot if he can get one good aim. He suddenly comes bursting into the open, and the figure is standing about ten feet in front of him, his own pistol pointed right at Horatio's heart. He pulls himself up short, shocked and frightened, but then he sees the face of his opponent. Not a man, a woman- flashing blue eyes and a mass of flame red hair- her breast heaving under the man's shirt she is wearing, breathing labored from her own retreat. Recognition dawns on her face, and now it is her turn to feel shock.
"You!" she exclaims- "Oh all the Saints in Heaven- why does it have to be you?"
Horatio woke with a start, not certain where he was for a moment. He lay in the dark, breathing rapidly, unsure of what had frightened him so much. The dream was already fading from his recent memory.
"Horatio? Are you alright?" he heard the voice of his friend Archie, at the door of his cabin
Horatio pulled on his boots and followed the other two men up the to deck, and there out in the distance he saw in the dawning morning light a ship, mast broken and her sails hanging. He put his spyglass to his eye and inspected the wounded ship, but the light was too weak to see much of her deck. Captain Pellew came to stand beside Horatio, eyes straining to see her in the gloom.
"Well, Mr. Hornblower? Anyone aboard her?
"Can't see, Captain. It's still too dark and she's too far away."
"Then we shall have to go closer and have a look. If there are men aboard we can't just leave them here, now can we? Wake the men and raise the sails."
When they had gotten close enough to the other ship to see her in the growing light Horatio could see through his spyglass that there appeared to be a full crew aboard the stranded ship, and soon they had launched the long boat and began to bring the men over to the Indy. Horatio was helping the last of the cold and tired crew of the Mary Patricia aboard when he was startled by the hand that he took in his own, a surprisingly small and soft hand. When he hoisted the person belonging to the hand up onto the deck, he noticed that the body matched the hand, he was small and slightly built, it must be a mere boy. But when the boy removed his sodden hood, a mass of flame red hair tumbled down and Horatio was looking into eyes the color of the sky after a rain. A shock of recognition ran through his body, and he felt as if he had been struck by a stray bolt of lightening. "You!" he cried, and the woman gave him a direct and challenging look.
"Are we acquainted, Sir?" she asked him.
"No- I, I thought you were someone else for a moment, I'm sorry," Horatio said, recovering from the shock of seeing the woman from his dream of that morning.
The Captain of the doomed ship, Captain Chambers, related to Pellew and Hornblower how the Mary Patricia had been caught in the storm of two nights previous off the coast of Ireland and had her mast broken, and how they had been adrift with little hope of rescue until spotting the Indy that morning.
"Bloody Irish Sea, it's a killer for sure, just like the barbaric inhabitants of that cursed island. We were all lucky to survive."
"What of the lady, how did she come to be aboard, and in such a state?" Pellew asked, with a glance at the woman in question, standing a few feet away shivering in her wet men's clothing.
"That's no Lady- she's our prisoner," Chambers replied.
"Prisoner? What has she done?"
"Murdered an officer of his Majesty's Army."
"What? That can't be…" Horatio interjected.
"Don't be fooled by her beauty, Mr. Hornblower, she's a cold blooded killer. She stuck a knife in the man's gut and left him there to bleed to death. I only hope I can be there to watch her hang. Stinking Irish Whore."
Horatio looked again at the small figure, pale skin like alabaster in the cold early morning light. So hard to believe that such a delicate seeming thing could be capable of such violence. She looked up then and met his gaze- and in her eyes he saw the strength that would enable her to commit such an act. She held his eyes with hers and he was unable to look away, despite the flush he could feel growing not only in his face but his entire body.
"Again I give you fair warning, Mr. Hornblower, do not be seduced by a pair of fine blue eyes and even finer tits- or you may find yourself lying belowdecks in a pool of your own blood." Horatio blushed scarlett now- at his own apparent transparency and at the sudden heat he felt in his loins at the mention of her breasts. He could not quite restrain his eyes from travelling there, the wet cotton of the man's shirt she wore clung to her bosom, and he had a slight glimpse of one breast not covered by the cloak. He looked away, guilty.
"Still," Captain Pellew said, "she is a woman, and she is wet and freezing. No matter what she's done we must see that she does not die of the cold."
"God no- I would not want to cheat the hangman's noose. By all means take her below and put something dry on her. Take your pleasure with her if you like, Mr. Hornblower, if you're a brave man. Just never let it leave your mind that she is set to swing from the end of a rope, and swing she will."
"Sir, criminal or no, it does you no credit to speak so crudely. Think of my own sensibilities if you will think of nothing else." Horatio said, bristling.
"Ah yes, Mr. Hornblower, I can see your "sensibilities" are easily offended. I beg your forgiveness." And with that the Captain laughed and began to descend the stairs. "She's all yours, Mr. Hornblower, consider yourself her guardian angel while I have myself a bit of grub and a sleep."
Hornblower glanced at Captain Pellew, who nodded his approval and followed Chambers below.
He walked nervously over to where she was standing, shivering and clinging to the railings. "Miss," he said softly, "if you will come with me I'll show you to your quarters."
"I have a choice then, have I?" she said, and her voice made him shiver himself. Soft and lyrical with her lilting accent, low and yet so feminine.
"Miss, please, I only want to help…"
"Then take that cutlass and slice my throat with it, that's the only thing that would help me now."
Horatio looked down at the deck, unable to answer her.
"I'm sorry," she relented, "you're being very kind, Mr,…."
"Hornblower, Horatio Hornblower, Miss."
At this she even laughed a bit. "Well, that's a mouthful of porridge, isn't it? Your parents had a sense of humor, at any rate. Doesn't your mum worry about you, Mr. Hornblower, so young and out here in the thick of danger? "
"My mother is no longer living, Miss."
"I'm so sorry. And you address me incorrectly, it's "Missus". Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Ciara."
Horatio started at this revelation. "Your husband…"
"Dead. Shot down like a dog in the street by some bloody English bastard for being so bold as to have a mind of his own."
"I'm sorry, Madam."
"Yes, I'm sure you are, and I daresay you would have done the same given the opportunity."
The day passed without further incident, the guests settling into life on the Indy as well as could be expected. Horatio's duties kept him busy, but as he moved about the ship he kept his eyes open for any glimpse of Ciara, as she had been given free run of the Indy by Captain Pellew, much to the annoyance of Captain Chambers. But he saw no sign of her until that evening, as he was strolling about the deck after the evening meal. Ciara had taken her meal in her cabin, but had sent it back nearly untouched, after that Horatio had given up hope of seeing her again at all that day. But as he paced the deck he spotted a lonely figure standing in the fading light, leaning over the railings, looking out to sea. Inexplicably his heart began to pound at the sight of her, he could see the outline of her shapely bottom through the breeches he had found for her to wear, borrowed from one of the cabin boys. The shirt she was wearing was one of his own, and for some reason the thought of his shirt touching those round and full breasts was pleasantly- distracting. He casually strolled over to stand beside her.
"Well, good evening Mr. Hornblower, have they set you to watch me, in case I should fling myself over the side and cheat them all of the fun of seeing me hang?"
Horatio was slightly stung by her tone, having hoped she would seem rather more happy to see him. It made him sound more harsh than he would have liked when he answered her. "No madam- thankfully I have not been given that duty. I was merely enjoying the evening air. Should I be concerned that this is a possibility?"
"No Mr. Hornblower, you needn't worry- in my faith it's a great sin to take your own life."
"It's a pity there isn't the same restriction on taking the life of another, then." He immediately regretted his remark, but it was too late to take it back.
"Oh, there is- but if I go to Hell for killing that English pig then I'll sit and share a brandy and an auld chat with the Devil himself!" He could see her eyes flash at him in the fading light.
"God, you're a right proper little British soldier, aren't you? Just when I was thinking you might actually be human. Well, I have to go below and use the chamber pot now, Mr. Hornblower, would you like to come and watch in case I decide to use it as a means of escape?"
Horatio flushed full scarlet at this, and stood silently as she stormed away from him.
A while later Horatio still stood in the same spot, looking up at the now dark sky, his thoughts far away. So lost in his own musings was he that he did not notice Archie walk up to stand by his side, he jumped at Archie's greeting.
"Lord- you startled me, Archie!"
"Sorry- you were miles away. Or perhaps only a few feet below decks, eh?" Archie said softly.
Horatio did not answer his friend, it was no good denying his insight.
"The Captain wants you to guard outside her cabin tonight."
"At the request of Captain Chambers- it seems he suspects she might attempt escape whilst we all sleep"
"That's ridiculous, we're miles from land- leaving the ship would be suicide for her."
"Better than facing the hangman, perhaps. Horatio, a bit of friendly advice- be careful. This woman is no Mariette, but you may end up with your heart in more pain than after her death."
Horatio winced at the mention of Mariette- her name was never spoken between himself and Archie, and in truth he did not allow himself to think about her often.
"My heart is safe, Archie," he answered softly.
A few minutes later, Horatio rapped softly on Ciara's cabin door. She opened it and looked at him, hurt and anger still in her eyes.
"I will be waiting on you tonight, apparently, so if you are in need of anything I will be just here outside the door."
"Ah, so they have set you to watch me, after all. Obviously they've chosen you because they know you're the only one with enough honor in him to stay on that side of the door."
"Madam- I would like to beg your pardon for my earlier rudeness. It was uncalled for and did me no credit."
Ciara looked at him for a few moments, this shy and awkward young man, with a character and manner more noble and gentlemanly than any man higher born than she had ever met. She softened immediately toward him, and felt the stirrings of something other than admiration in her own heart.
"Mr. Hornblower, would you come in and sit with me for a short while? I know it will offend your sense of propriety, but it has been so long since anyone has spoken to me civilly. I would be so grateful for just a few moment's companionship."
Horatio hesitated, and not only because her suggestion did seem, inappropriate, but he also remembered Archie's warning and was reluctant to be alone with her. However, the need to be close to this woman outweighed his good sense, and he answered her, "Well, only for a moment, Madam."
He entered her cabin, but stood stiffly and awkwardly against the wall as she shut the door. She sat down on the bunk, and looked up at him.
"You will make me nervous as a cat standing there like that, Mr. Hornblower- won't you please take the chair?"
Horatio hesitated for a moment and then sat. He and Ciara stared at each other in uncomfortable silence for a while, and then he asked her, "Where do you come from, Miss- Mrs. Fitzpatick?"
"Please, call me Ciara. I come from a place called Wexford, on the South Eastern coast of Ireland. Have you ever been to Ireland, Mr. Hornblower?"
"No- I have not had that pleasure."
"Ah, you must go someday, it truly is God's Country- green and lush and beautiful, with the patchwork fields and the mountains and the emerald rivers. That's the worst part of dying- that I know I'll be thrown in a criminal's grave in dirty stinking London and won't rest under the green sod of my home. That is truly a punishment worse than death."
At the mention of her coming fate Horatio felt a stab of almost pain in his chest.
"Did you…" he blurted out, then stopped himself.
"Did I kill him? Yes- I stuck the knife into his belly meaning it to cause his death, sure as we're sitting here." Her voice took on a far off quality and her eyes clouded over, remembering.
"We were in Dublin on a Holiday- the first time John and I had ever been away together in the whole 5 years of our marriage. We were walking back to our room at the Inn after going to the theatre to see a play. We came upon a group of British Army men tormenting a poor simple girl. To make a long and painful story short, John got angry, he tried to stop them and ended up with a hole in his chest for his efforts. The men's Captain decided to make an example of my John and hung him on a gibbet outside the barracks for everyone to gawk at- here's the fate of an Irishman who dares to have the audacity to question a British Army man. I went to The Captain's house to beg him to let me take my husband's body home with me to Wexford and bury him with his family in our local churchyard. There was no reason he shouldn't have allowed me to, no reason except for his own evil pleasure at seeing me suffer. After I killed him I ran, but they caught me a few miles outside the city and put me on a ship bound for London. The rest you know."
Horatio sat, shocked silent by her story. He knew firsthand how barbaric and lacking in chivalry men could be, but it still always wounded the delicate part of his nature to have it brought home to him.
Ciara looked at him, sitting silent only a short distance from her, this handsome and sensitive young man, his beautiful soft curls, strong jaw and soulful dark eyes, and she impulsively reached out and softly touched his cheek. He didn't start away from her touch as she had feared she might. Instead he looked into her eyes, and she once again felt that strange sense of recognition as she had the first time she had set eyes on him.
Horatio felt he had been burned when her hand touched his cheek- it was all he could do to keep from gasping, and he was confused by his simultaneous desire for her to leave her hand there forever and to remove it immediately. He broke the spell by saying, more harshly than he had intended, "Still, wouldn't it have been better for you to walk away, now there will be three deaths instead of one."
She did not remove her hand, even then, but continued to look into his eyes and said "Have you never killed a man, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Well, yes, but…"
"And you felt you had to do it, that the fates had left you no choice?"
"Yes, but if you had just walked out of that room…"
"I would never have walked out of that room, Mr. Hornblower. I hate to hurt your innocent sensibilities, Horatio, but the Captain raped me."
"He took me against my will and meant to silence me forever afterwards. I only beat him to the mark."
Horatio was speechless at this- he reached up and took her small hand in his. "Ciara," he said, using her Christian name in his shock and hurt, "Ciara, I'm so sorry! You must tell Captain Pellew about this, he won't let…"
She cut him off- "It's no use, Horatio- they didn't believe me before and they won't now. Who would believe anything an Irish Whore said?"
"I believe you,"
She smiled, "If only everyone was as innocent and uncorrupted as you…"
"I'm not so innocent as you think, I've seen things that…." His voice trailed off. "But this is the life I've chosen, I am bound by duty, although I may not always like what I see." Ciara wasn't sure whether he was talking to her or himself when he made this statement. She removed her hand from his and said, in a lighter tone, "If you ever tire of this life you've chosen, Horatio, go to Ireland and join the True Cause. Something tells me you'd make a fine Rebel. And the Colleens would find you an interesting diversion. Much nicer than the English Trollops you're used to."
Horatio blushed and stammered "I don't….I haven't…."
"Ah, a boy's boy- what a pity."
"No! I'm not inclined that way!"
"Don't tell me you're still a virgin? And you so beautiful, has no one ever offered to show you the ways of Venus? These British women must be a cold blooded lot indeed."
Horatio looked Ciara full in the face then, suddenly not as embarrassed as he should have been. He felt the heat rising in his body, spreading from his loins into his chest and making his head feel light- like the sensations he had felt with the Duchess, only stronger. He looked then at Ciara's bosom, now discretely covered by a waistcoat, but he could see her breath was coming faster, making her breasts rise and fall under the rough cloth. He tentatively reached out a hand and touched her gently on the spot just under her collar bone, soft skin not covered by his borrowed shirt, stroking with the tip of his finger. He slowly ran the finger down her chest until it was resting on the soft swell of her breast, and he felt her sharp gasp of indrawn breath. This broke the spell and he looked again into her eyes, snatched the finger away and stood up quickly.
"Madam! Forgive me! I forget myself. I'll be outside if you need me."
"Ciara- I wouldn't have you think I was like the other, I would never do that…"
"But there's a difference between taking what isn't yours and taking what is offered, Horatio," she said, placing a hand on his arm. He shook his head.
"I'll be just outside," he repeated, opening the door, he turned in the doorway and said, "Sleep well" Then he shut the door behind him.
Horatio sat on the small uncomfortable stool for hours, his thoughts tormenting him. He was on fire remembering the soft warm feeling of her skin, like silk held too near the fire, and her eyes as they looked into his- seemingly straight into his soul. He wanted to know how it would feel to hold those round white breasts in his hands and kiss those beautiful red lips, and in his mind he did so, again and again, until he finally could hold his eyes open no longer and drifted away.
He was pulled from his slumber by a soft cry- he started up from his seat and looked around, momentarily unsure of where he was or what he was doing there. Then he heard the sobbing again. He knocked softy on the door and called out to her, "Ciara? Ciara- are you all right?" When she didn't answer he tentatively opened the door. He could see her there in the gloom, sitting up in the bed, arms clutching her middle as if in pain, rocking back and forth and crying. Without thinking he hurried to her, sat beside her on the bed and held her in his arms. "Shhhh…it will be all right," he said to her, as he stroked her back. Her arms came around him and she clutched him tightly to her, like a woman falling from a cliff. Her sobs gradually calmed and she was still, but neither made any effort to break the embrace. Horatio realized with rising discomfort that he could feel her breasts pressing against his chest, feel her warm breath on his neck, and the sensations were arousing him even though he tried to stop it. Her hand slowly began to stroke him, very lighty tracing lazy circles across his shoulders and then trailing down his spine to the small of his back, and he thought he might go mad with the pleasure of it. Her soft lips placed a gentle kiss just under his ear, lingering there.
"Ciara, you shouldn't.."
"My soul is damned anyway, Horatio, please give me one more night of love to remember when I'm in hell. I need you Horatio." The last was barely a whisper.
"I've never been with a woman, Ciara," he admitted.
"Then I'm honored to be your first, honored to receive such a beautiful gift." Her hand came around his back then, caressing first his strong thigh and then pressing where he was on fire, almost causing his breath to stop. Any restraint he had maintained before was lost in the feeling of her warm hand stroking him- he kissed her then, a passionate melding of lips that made his chaste kisses with Mariette seem like a light summer shower compared to a pounding, throbbing thunderstorm. He devoured her lips and allowed himself then to finally touch her lovely breast- resisting the urge to grab her as hungrily as he wanted to, instead lightly caressing with his thumb through the cotton of the shirt she was wearing yet. She moaned softly and arched herself into his hand, her lips returning his passion, and her tongue seeking his. They stayed this way forever, lips and tongues exploring and tasting, hands finding all the most sensitive places and teasing through their clothing. Then she broke the embrace and slowly pulled the shirt over her head, exposing her beautiful white and silky skin. Horatio looked at her body, awed, and carefully reached out a hand to stroke first her neck, then her collarbone, and finally her breasts, making her already erect nipples stand up even higher. He lowered his head and took first one, then the other between his lips, gently sucking and teasing with his tongue. Her breath was coming in panting gasps now, and he felt a surge of power at his ability to effect her in this way. Her arousal emboldened him and he began to explore the rest of her body with his hands, returning his lips to hers. He stroked her arms, running his long fingers down the length of them, caressing the fingers and retracing the trail back up to her shoulders. He slid his hand down her belly, past the place he so badly wanted to touch, to her soft naked thighs and then around to stroke her soft bare bottom. When their lips parted for a moment she pulled back and whispered to him, "Why Horatio, you have a remarkable instinct for this. I think you'll make an excellent lover after all." She began to unbutton his waistcoat, and when he made to assist her she gently pushed away his hands and continued herself. Her undressing him was slow torture, he longed to rip away his clothing, unmindful of buttons and laces, in order to feel her warm silky skin against his own. But she continued to torment him, removing first the waistcoat, then the shirt, and slowly kissing his bare smooth chest for an eternity. He tangled his fingers in her hair while she slowly brought him near to the point of madness with her lips and her tongue. When she began to unbutton his trousers he felt close to explosion, but she stood and pulled him upright with her, then slowly lowered his trousers, as her lips burned a path down his thighs. Moments later they were both naked, and she guided him onto the small bed with her, pressing the full length of her body against his. As she grasped his manhood tightly in her small hand he cried out, and she smothered the sound with her lips. 'Shhh, Horatio," she said, lips moving against his, "don't make any sound that will cause alarm. We don't want to be disturbed, do we?"
"No, but Ciara…I, I can't wait much longer…"
"Yes you can, love, go slowly, nice and slowly."
Once again they began to stroke and caress each other's bodies, and she brought him close to the point of release over and over, until the anticipation was almost painful. Finally she pulled him over her and guided him into the place where he had been so eager to go. As he plunged into her warm wetness he felt a sharp stab of pleasure burst through his entire body, and he began to thrust with an intensity that would have surprised even himself if he had been able at that moment to think about anything except his ultimate eruption. She rose to meet him with every stroke, and he had to crush his lips against hers to stop himself from shouting out. Her legs wrapped around his hips, pulling him to her even more tightly, and he could faintly feel her nails scraping the flesh of his back, such exquisite pain. Their movements became faster and harder, until finally he could wait no more and he allowed himself release. He lay there, lips still pressed to hers, while his breathing returned to normal and his heartbeat slowed. In all his imaginings about what this act would be like, he hadn't come close to the blissful reality, he felt empowered and drained at the same time. He kissed her softly on her lips, moist and slightly swollen from his frenzied kisses of before and whispered simply, "Thank You." She held him tightly and kissed him back. "Thank you, Horatio…. Such a lovely memory I'll take with me to London." At the mention of her inevitable fate he winced and clutched her to him harder, and they stayed this way for several minutes, neither wanting to break the embrace.
They spent the entire night making love, Horatio was young and strong, willing and able to pleasure and be pleasured, and though she was more experienced, his natural enthusiasm served him well. After two or three hours (time ceased to hold any meaning for him), they slept.
Horatio heard a sound and awakened, unsure for a moment where he was, what he was doing naked in some strange bed. Then he remembered, smiling, and felt the stirrings once again of wanting her. But when he opened his eyes the sight which greeted him served to cool his ardor instantly. Ciara was standing before him, fully dressed, with his own pistol pointing between his eyes.
"Shhh, my love, don't even consider calling out or I will be forced to ruin that beautiful head of yours with your own gun."
"And no one would hear the shot?" he asked her.
"Yes, they would, but I think I would get away anyhow in the confusion. My friends are just behind us now and I can easily make it to their ship on the small boat. Or by swimming if I have to."
"You wouldn't shoot me."
"Oh, but I would, love- I would hate so to do it, but if you forced me, I would."
"Was it all a lie then? Was it all done to aid your escape?"
"What would you do to aid your own escape in my place, Horatio?" she asked softly, and he had no reply.
"Did they really kill your husband then, or was that part a lie?"
"They hung him for a rebel. Murdered him for wanting to be treated as a human being and not just another piece of property owned by the local Lord. And for wanting to worship his own God and not the God of the English. Do you think that's right, Horatio? Is this the kind of action your duty bids you defend?"
"You killed the Captain as revenge then."
"No- that British bastard raped me, along with half the dogs on that cursed ship. God sent that storm to punish the devils, but then He in his infinite mercy spared them. It's more than I would have done given the chance."
"I'm ashamed of them, Ciara. I'm sorry."
"If only more were like you, fool that you are. I wish we hadn't met like this, Horatio, truly I do. I would have loved for you to court me and walk with me along the seafront of the Wexford coast, hand in hand like two innocent lovers. But life hasn't been kind to either of us in that direction. We are both slaves to our duty."
He still did not answer her, but only looked into her eyes, somber brown eyes boring into her sad blue ones.
"Will your sense of honor allow you to give me one last kiss?" she asked. Against his better judgement he allowed her to lean close and gently press her lips to his, and when he felt their familiar touch he responded greedily, his arms going around her and tasting her mouth once more with his tongue. When she finally drew away she looked at him and said "You could have easily had the pistol from me then."
Horatio stared back at her and the tiniest of smiles played on his lips.
"Goodbye, Ciara," he said, knowing then that he would not raise the alarm when she had left him. He said a silent prayer that Matthews had the watch, he was slightly deaf and would be easy to slip past.
When her escape was discovered a few hours later, Captain Chambers was livid. Horatio was called before Pellew, who stood staring silently at him, with a strange kind of look on his face.
"So Mr. Hornblower," Pellew said, in a much softer tone than Horatio would have expected, "are we to believe that this small woman, who could not be half your size, overpowered and somehow disabled you so that you could not even call for help?"
"I, I fell asleep Sir."
"I fell asleep at my post. I'm sorry, I will accept any punishment due me, Sir."
"Oh will you? That's mighty bloody noble of you, Mr. Hornblower, mighty noble all the same. Where is your pistol?"
"I see. You must have been sound asleep indeed."
"Go away now, Mr. Hornblower. I'll decide what is to be done with you later. Captain Chambers wants you hung as a Rebel Sympathizer, and I have to say after such a pathetic report I have a mind to agree with him."
Horatio stood, unable to look up at the Captain's face.
"The sea is quite calm, Mr. Hornblower, is it not?"
Horatio looked up at him then, puzzled at this statement. "Sir?"
"But the wind is blowing to the West, towards the coast of Ireland. Get that uniform pressed, you look a disgrace."
Later, when Horatio removed his jacket, readying it for the steward's attention, he noticed a strange rustling sound in the breast pocket, and there found a note he had overlooked in his hurried dressing. He looked around and deciding he was alone, he opened the small piece of paper, covered with a neat feminine hand, though obviously hastily written. It read:
Mr. Hornblower, Horatio- I am sorry to have used you in this manner, you are a true gentleman and a kind soul and did not deserve it, but all's fair in love and war, and to us this is a war. We are fighting for our home and our souls. Please do not deal with me too harshly in your thoughts. Your lovemaking was sweet and the memories of your lovely young body will keep me warm on many a cold night. Do not forget all that I taught you, Horatio. Ciara
He smiled to himself at the memory of her own lovely body, and anyone who had been watching Hornblower at that moment might have remarked upon a change in his features, although they may not have been able to name a specific item.
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