Before ten minutes had passed the sounds of combat died
away and hundreds of footsteps seemed to pound the deck.
Celia remained in the cabin, longing to open the door and
see what had happened. But all she could do was wait with
She stiffened with alarm as heavy feet walked the length of
the companionway and the door rattled. "Locked," a voice
growled. Celia jumped as a blunt object crashed against the
other side of the door, splintering the fine paneling.
Swiftly she readied the gun to fire. Another sharp blow,
and the hinges creaked in protest.
Celia used her palm to wipe at the cold sweat on her face.
She raised the barrel of the pistol, pressing it to her
temple. At the touch of the metal to her skin, thoughts
raced through her mind. If Philippe had died, she would not
want to live. And if she did not use the gun on herself
now, she would face a horrifying fate at the hands of the
sea bandits. But something inside rebelled at the thought
of pulling the trigger. She took a deep breath and steadied
The door crashed open. Frozen, she stared at the two men
who stood there, both swarthy and unkempt, their matted
hair held back with kerchiefs, their faces sunburned and
stubbled. The shorter of the two held a cutlass in his
hand, while the other clasped a bloodstained boarding pike.
Dropping his cutlass, the small but sturdily built man
stepped over the sill at the bottom of the doorway. He
licked his lips and watched her with keen eyes. "Put it
down," he muttered in a thick American accent, gesturing to
Celia couldn't utter a word. Now, her mind insisted, end it
now ... But her arm lowered to her side. In a flash of self-
hatred, she realized she was too much of a coward to take
her own life.
"I'll stake me share of th' spoils now," one pirate said to
the other. His mouth split in a yellowtoothed grin as he
walked toward her.
Automatically Celia raised the gun and squeezed the
trigger, feeling as if some force outside herself was
guiding her actions. The bullet that should have ended her
own life buried itself in the man's chest. A crimson flood
spread over his unwashed shirt. Blood spattered everywhere,
and Celia heard herself scream as the body crumpled at her
"Little bitch!" Enraged, the other pirate grabbed her and
threw her against the wall. The pistol fell from her hand
and clattered to the floor. Her head hit the hard surface,
and she halffainted, sinking into a world filled with gray
mist. She moaned as she was dragged through the
companionway and up to the main deck, where she was dropped
to the yellow planking. The ship rang with the sound of
voices, and barrels and boxes being moved across the deck.
There was a strange smell mingling with the scents of salt
water and sea air.
Blinking hard and pushing herself up to a sit ting
position, Celia saw one of the pirates drop a crate of
chickens, some of the live cargo taken aboard to allow the
crew of the Golden Star occasional rations of fresh meat.
The crate broke open and the frightened birds scuttled in
every direction, causing an outbreak of laughter and
swearing. As she looked at the scene around her, Celia put
a hand to her mouth, afraid she was going to be sick.
There were bodies everywhere, with gaping holes, partially
severed limbs, and glassy stares. The deck was coated with
blood. She recognized some of the Iifeless faces ... the
ship's Cooper, always so cheerfully busy with his hoops and
staves; the sailmaker; the cook; the boy who had served as
tailor and cobbler; some of the officers with whom she and
Philippe had shared meals. Philippe ... Frantically she
crawled toward the bodies, desperate to find her husband.
A booted foot shoved her back to the deck. She cried out in
pain as a hand tangled in her hair and jerked her head
back. Motionless, she stared into the cruelest eyes she had
ever seen. The man was smooth-shaven and darkly tanned, his
jaw thin, his nose a decisive point in a sharp-featured
face is hair was dark reddish-brown, pulled back in a neat
braided queue. Unlike the othersof the boarding party, he
wore well-made clothes that had been tailored to fit his
"You cost me a good man," he said in a crisp voice. "For
that you'll make amends." He inspected her slim-hipped,
small-breasted body with an asexual glance. She tried to
push down the hem of her gown, which had ridden up to
expose her bare feet and calves. He smiled, revealing a
jagged line of teeth. "Yes. You'll serve as entertainment
for my brother André." His hand tightened in her hair,
bringing tears of pain to her eyes. "André needs a steady
supply of women. Unfortunately they never last long with
One of the pirates approached them. He was a stocky young
man with heavily developed arms and chest. "Captain Legare,
the best of the cargo should take well nigh an hour to
unload. Not much gold, sir, but some fine dry goods,
cinnamon, brandy, oil in jars --"
"Good. As for the remainder of their crew, lock them in the
hold. We'll set fire to the ship when we put away for the
island." Legare shoved Celia at the young man. "Bind the
wench and put her in with the spoils. We're taking her with
us. And tell the men not to touch her. She's for André."
At the mention of the Star's crew, Celia had begun to
struggle. "There are some still alive?" she gasped.
The young man dragged her away, seeming not to hear her.