Tin Man: Pirates of the Nonestic

Chapter Ten

DG let Cain hold her while she sorted through her thoughts and feelings. Not even a week pregnant, and how much she wanted this baby surprised her. She had never given serious thought about having kids, but fear had steeled her spine when that creep had proposed an abortion. And the thought of someone waiting to rape her child made her sick.

But then, she knew she would keep the child even if Cain rejected them both when the Sorter had asked her who the father was. She had dreaded admitting it to Cain as much as she dreaded explaining it to her family and Jeb. Cain had surprised her by saying it was his fault, but she doubted anyone else would be so understanding.

Get out of this mess, and send a letter to her parents after the kid is born, an untraceable letter. After all, they did deserve to know about the baby's existence.

She was about to ask how the postal system worked when the guards returned. "Time to ship out."

Cain held her hand as they approached the open door. The guards gave back their boots and flanked them as they took them downstairs. They led her and Cain to the opposite end of the warehouse from their entry point. Other men, women, and children-her heart panged-were being herded into wagons or chained to logs again.

The guards stopped them in front of a long wooden crate. "Get in."

DG stared at the coffin-like box. "You're kidding."

The guard sparked his prod. "Do I look like I'm kidding? Get in."

She started shaking and couldn't stop. Her feet wouldn't take one step closer to the crate. Breathing was getting harder. The guard brought the sparking wand closer, but Cain scooped her up before the guard touched her. "She's claustrophobic."

"Not my problem," the guard snarled. "Your owner wants you delivered in a box. Now get her in there!"

DG stopped breathing as Cain stepped closer to the crate. "Thea, breathe in. Now out." She tried, but not much air trickled into her lungs through the logjam in her throat. "It's alright; I'm here. Breathe in. Let it out." He sat them in the crate and laid her down beside him.

She clutched Cain, not seeing the wooden slats but smooth green marble instead. The coffin was moving, rolling her body against the sides and Cain.

Arms wrapped around her, pulling her against his chest. "Breathe in!" barked into her ear shocked her into inhaling Cain's scent and she felt safer. "Now out. Good, sweetheart, good." His hands kneaded her back as she continued to breathe. "I'm here, it's okay. There's plenty of air."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry." She realized his shirt was wet with her tears.

"Just keep breathing. I don't think we have to go far."

DG did what Cain said and concentrated on making sure her lungs filled. She hated being this pathetic. Cain wasn't going to trust her to walk by herself after this episode.

The creaking of the wooden wagon finally ended and the shouted instructions of men replaced it. The crate moved again. Cain braced himself and she tightened her hold on him. But neither of them was prepared for the drop. Cain grunted at the jolt, but DG shrieked.

"Hey, there's people in this one!"

Sunlight blinded DG when the lid was pried open, and she felt two hands yank her out. "And I thought the Captain didn't hold with the slave trade." She blinked and the speaker's sneering face came into focus. He leered at her body but all DG saw was the scar down the left side of his face from his forehead across his eye and down his cheek. It was so thick only the right side of his mouth turned up into a half-grin. "You boys take care of the rest of the cargo. Me and the slave bitch are going to bugger."

Cain jumped out of the crate before the other men present reacted. He pulled DG away from the scarred man. "Get your hands off my wife!"

She stumbled from them as Cain swung his fist. They were on the deck of a sailing ship with the sails rolled up. Three other sailors gaped at her, Cain, and the scarred sailor.

The scarred man rocked from Cain's punch, but he straightened with a growl. "Your wife? You're a slave, you don't have a wife anymore!" His fist connected with Cain's jaw, followed quickly with a blow to his stomach. Cain roared and tackled the scarred man.

The other three men pulled Cain off the scarred man. "Hodges," said the one holding Cain's shoulders back, "are you okay?"

"Bastard attacked a free man." Hodges backhanded Cain's face. "I'll show you what your place is!" He punched him again, causing Cain's temple to bleed anew.

DG whirled, looking for anything that could be a weapon. She grabbed a long stick out of the pile of boxes and barrels. It had wadding around one end, like a giant Q-tip. But it gave a satisfying thump hitting the man holding Cain's right arm. "Leave him alone!"

Cain wrenched his arm free, landing a haymaker on the black sailor with dreads on his left. Hodges punched him in the side, but Cain landed a blow on Hodges's wide nose. The guy who had held Cain's shoulders pounded Cain's upper back and kicked him onto his knees.

The man with the braided, black beard DG had hit whirled. "Crazy bitch!" He grabbed the stick and yanked it toward him, jerking her along. She pulled back, but he slapped her face. The blow forced her to the deck. Before she could pick herself up, someone grabbed her braid and hauled up her upper body.

She kicked back and her foot drove into a leg. He let go of her hair and she turned, landing on her butt ready to jump to her feet. Hodges grabbed her shoulders. DG kneed his stomach.

He shoved her back against the deck. "Looks like a change in location of the buggering." His hands grabbed the collar of her shirt.

DG smacked her knuckles into skin Cain had already bruised. Hodges howled and slapped her. Her head twisted and she saw the other three men hitting Cain, forcing him down to his knees. It was the time loop projection, only with sailors. Hodges ripped her shirt open, grabbed both her wrists in one hand, and pulled her arms above her head. She thrashed, but couldn't knock him off. "Both you slaves are going to learn your place!"

Cain's bellow jerked her attention back to him. Her Tin Man's bloody face twisted with fury. But his haunted icy eyes squeezed her heart. He screamed again, heaving to break out of the sailors' holds. The black man hit Cain again to keep him on his knees. She thrashed harder. She had to free Cain.

"Breaking the code!" Someone much smaller jumped onto Hodges's back. Hodges released her to shake off the new attacker. DG scrambled toward Cain, but turned to keep Hodges in sight, trying to crab walk across the deck.

He tossed the child off his back, and the Viewer girl in a shirt and Capri's landed on her feet and hands in front of DG. "Damn animal!" he said.

The Viewer snarled, "Breaking the code!"

"Hodges, the Captain!" The man with a long blond moustache holding Cain yelled in warning.

The deck vibrated with running footsteps. Hodges turned to face the runner, and caught the hilt of the sword with the scarred side of his face. He fell back and DG looked up at the new arrival.

Her wavy brown hair fell loose around her shoulders from under a leather hat from a Three Musketeers movie. She wore black pants with thigh-high leather boots, and a red cloth vest worn over a white, long-sleeved shirt. A thick, brass cutlass hilt covered her entire hand; no wonder she didn't mind punching with it.

Hodges spit blood and a tooth onto the deck before rolling onto his back. He drew his head back as the cutlass point hovered under his chin. "What the hell are you shrill-gorged pignuts doing?" she shouted without taking her eyes from Hodges.

The Viewer stood. "Broke the code, Captain. Attacked a woman."

The Captain's brown eyes flicked from Hodges to DG and then the men holding Cain. "What do you have to say about that, Hodges?"

"She's a slave, not a woman."

The Captain cocked her head and the sun reflected off the brooch pinning the brim up on one side. "But she's not your slave."

Hodges gulped. DG crawled to Cain. The other sailors still hadn't let him go. But Cain's haunted eyes didn't seem focused on anything in front of him, not even her. She wrapped her arms around his neck. "Wyatt." His arms strained against the sailor's grips.

"What's the story here?" the Captain asked behind DG. "What are you three curs doing with him?"

The black sailor shook his dreads out of his face. "He went crazy, Captain Blood-rage. We thought he would kill Hodges."

"And you stopped him, why? Let him go." The sailors stepped back. Cain wrapped his arms around DG and hid his face on her shoulder. She hoped they didn't see his trembling. "Sprite, take them to my cabin."

"Aye, Captain." The Viewer girl tugged on DG and Cain's shirtsleeves. "Come with me, Sad man, Scared lady." DG pushed under Cain's shoulders. He climbed to his feet, and circled her waist with his arm. Sprite took DG's other hand and led them around the center mast to a wooden-grate-covered hatch and a set of stairs leading into the ship. They stopped on the first floor down and went into a room lit by a glass-covered skylight. They walked between the six cannons parked in front of shuttered portholes, three on each side of the ship, until they reached the double doors to the room at the end of the ship.

The back wall was a span of windows set above a row of cabinets. A round table with chairs sat in front of the cabinets. A large bed filled the wall space between the left corner and the doors. A small room jutted into the larger space on the right, creating an almost hallway before you reached the table and chairs. Sprite tugged them to the table. DG sank into a chair and Cain knelt in front of her, laying his head in her lap. He shook as his arms hugged her waist.

The Viewer child dug into the cabinets talking to herself or to them, DG wasn't sure. "Sad man, Scared lady need food. Bad men no feed. Captain has food in cold box."

DG turned back to Cain, whose deep breathing was calming his shaking body. She combed her fingers through his short, blond hair. "It's alright. It's over, Wyatt."

"Why can't I keep my wife away from men who want to hurt her?" His voice was muffled but it still came out too clearly.

Her heart pounded. "Wyatt, who am I?"

He looked up at her in confusion. "My darling girl." He kissed her on the lips. He wasn't flashing back and turning her into Adora, so what the hell had he meant? Her hand caught his stubble-lined cheek as he eased apart her lips.

Sprite dropped a metal plate onto the table. "Kissy face later. Feed bellies now."

Cain ruefully pulled back from DG. "Bossy little girl, aren't you?"

"Yes," she answered as she set two pewter goblets on the table next to the platter of cubed cheeses and fruits. She pulled a pitcher out of a cabinet and filled the goblets with water. "Eat. Don't you know you're hungry?"

DG took a bite out of an apple to appease the young Viewer. But the sudden clenching in her stomach kept her chewing. She hadn't realized how hungry she was.

Cain picked up a cube of cheese as he stood. His haunted expression was replaced with concern. "You okay?"

"I'm having a lovely vacation. We really should thank our travel agent." She knew retreating to sarcasm was an iffy proposition, but damn it; she was pregnant, sold to the highest bidder, locked in a coffin again, almost raped again, had to see Cain get beaten up in person, and now he was way too close to the edge of a breakdown, and calling her wife in front of people. She was entitled to sarcasm.

He rolled his eyes. "I'm sorry for worrying about you and the baby."

"Baby?" Sprite darted to her side. "You're having baby? Can I see?" The small hand touched her belly before DG finished nodding. She was younger than Kalm by a couple of years. The cool tingle of magic flowed between them. "Baby fine, but not much of a baby."

DG grinned at Sprite. "It just happened. The baby has a lot more growing to do."

Cain choked on his cheese and washed it down with the water. Sprite addressed DG with mischief in her golden cat eyes. "Sad man thinks I'm too young to know about mating. He'll learn. Sailors never stop thinking about mating, last time, next time, perfect time."

"My name is Thea. What's yours?" DG didn't look at Cain's brick red face.

"Sprite 'cause waters sing to me and the Captain says easier to spell than Oceanid."

Sprite didn't have a collar, but no one had said if Viewers lived outside the O.Z. either. "The Captain named you?"

"Somebody had to. Humans can't say real names." DG filed that under something to ask Raw about when Sprite touched her chin to turn her head. "Make face better? Make Sad man feel better too."

Now with her attention on it, she felt the throb of the bruise across her cheekbone. "Yes, please." Sprite cupped her cheek and DG closed her eyes, feeling the warmth seep into her skin. She opened them when Sprite removed her hand. "Thank you."

"Welcome." Sprite craned her neck up at Cain. "Fix you too?"

Cain shook his head. "I'm fine."

"Red stuff should stay inside." Sprite turned her incredulous expression to DG.

"Can you bring a clean, wet cloth and some soap?" Sprite nodded and opened the door into the room across from the bed. DG brushed her hands free of any crumbs before giving Cain a gentle push to sit. He did and pulled her closer by her hips. "What's wrong?"

"My head's not a good place for a child to be in right now."

DG tilted his head back to take in his bloody temple, lip, and cheekbone and the bruises along his jaw and cheekbones. His stubble prickled her fingers.

The icy blue eyes watched her face. "You that bothered by the damage?" he asked.

She stuck her tongue out at him and took the washcloth from Sprite. "I'm sure you've had worse injuries but I don't want to hear about them right now." She tilted his head to clean the temple first.

He closed his eyes. "I can't believe you found a stick."

"Stop picking on my weapon of choice." She huffed and he smirked. The doors opened and he jumped up, blocking DG from the arrivals. She craned her neck to see the woman the sailors had called Captain and an older man with shoulder-length, white hair enter. She held her damaged shirt closed.

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