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After rising, dressing and sending Finn topside to scrub the quarterdeck with Ennis, Iñigo relaxed in the quiet of his cabin. He was still annoyed at himself for his damnable reaction to Finn's washing him. He'd been fine at first, until the boy leaned in to wash his right thigh. Much to his chagrin, he noticed the lack of whiskers on Finn's smooth cheek. In fact, the delicate curve of the boy's jaw and flawless reddish-bronzed skin looked decidedly unmasculine.
More irritating still, Iñigo's eyes, acting entirely on their own, shifted to the boy's lips. Soft and full, they were most definitely flushed. He couldn't help but suck in his breath when the tip of Finn's tongue darted and his eyes flicked up to meet Iñigo's. His body responded at once to the heat swirling in those silvery depths. A strangled groan choked him even as his blood smoked through his veins.
Disgust flooded him and he couldn't stop himself from grabbing the soap and cloth, and shoving Finn. Iñigo would never forget the look of utter shock on the boy's face. Hell, his reaction had surprised him. But at the time, all Iñigo cared about was putting space between them. Even now, disgust twisted his insides. The boy must have wondered if he was in the presence of a catamite. Attracted to a boy, for Christ's sake! What the hell was wrong with him?
Determined to simply pretend it never happened, he shoved it from his mind as he sat there at his desk. Reaching down, he opened the topmost drawer and lifted out a rosewood box. He inserted a small brass key into the lock, twisted, and then lifted the lid to gaze down at the dagger he'd confiscated fromFinn the first day. It was finely crafted, with an ivory hilt and a blade sharp enough to sever a head from the neck.
Taking it from the box, he noticed the unusual hilt, which bore an unfamiliar cross etched in gold. The intricacy of the detailing rendered the weapon a work of art. The circular plate behind the top half of the cross was decorated with an elaborate pattern of angled swirls and loops. The sun glinted from the beveled edges, almost blinding him with its brightness.
The dagger clattered to the floor. Bending over to retrieve it, he frowned as he caught sight of something beneath his bed. "What the devil?"
The dagger forgotten, he knelt down to take a closer look. Wads of cloth had been shoved under the bed. Reaching into the semi-darkness, he caught hold and tugged a wad free.
He'd obviously only pulled out part of the wad, for he'd seen much more than the narrow strip he now held. The linen was stiff, freshly washed, but by no means clean. He surmised it had once been white, but time, dirt and sweat had permanently stained the long strip a dull, dingy brown. He passed it through his hands, muttering, "What the devil is this about?"
Peering under the bed once more, he saw what remained of the wad stuffed into the shadowy recess. Bit by bit, he pulled them out. They were similar in length, badly wrinkled, and even more badly stained. Dark splotches, very much like dried bloodstains, mottled parts of the strips, and he slowly nodded. He stared down at unrolled lengths of bandages.
He retrieved the dagger, locking it away again. Setting the strips on the table, he studied them and frowned. Something else caught his eye, and it took several moments of rearranging the bandages until it made sense.
When laid one atop the other, overlapping the edges, each strip had two curious indentations aligned almost perfectly. A slow smile lifted his lips and a sigh of relief rose in his throat. Shaking his head, he dropped into a chair. "I'll be damned."
There was only one explanation for those curious indentations and it meshed perfectly with the lack of whiskers, the lack of depth to the voice and the all-over sensuality of the stubborn cabin boy.
His new cabin boy was a woman.
He was still at the table when Finn returned later in the day. When the door closed, he looked up and couldn't help but glare at her. Finn. What was her true name? Would she offer it up if he confronted her with the truth?
Nay. He'd not let on. Knowing the truth about her lessened his discomfort. His body reacted to her presence not because she was a delicate boy, but because she was a delicate woman, and he was man enough to sense it, no matter what togs she wore. Without it troubling him any longer, it was time to make a bit of sport out of her deception.
He wasn't angry. Not at all. It was quite clever, actually. How many of Beauregard's crew knew the truth? She was most convincing as a boy. Of course, he was grateful he hadn't let the cat fall when she fainted. It would have been a crime, to lash this clever girl. And if she was as lovely as he suspected, it would have been unforgivable, much like destroying a fine work of art.
"Satisfied about how you spent your day?" he asked, lifting a cup to his lips and taking a long drink.
"As a matter of fact, I am. I thank you for allowing it, even if I did scrub ten pounds of salt from the deck. It was well worth choking down that tasteless mush you forced upon me this morning."
"After so many days without food, I thought it unwise to offer up anything heavier, and it was nourishing, which was far more important, considering how you spent your time. As you saw by your chore, I prefer a clean ship. I take pride in the María." He shrugged. "I can see how you might not appreciate it, judging by Beauregard's floating pigsty."
"Ah, he could issue the orders, but all knew he'd never enforce them. He was as slovenly as the rest and because of his sloth, they rarely obeyed his every command. However, I can assure you, I would never allow my ship to be quite as filthy."
He smiled at the smugness in her voice. Finn seemed quite certain she would one day captain her own ship. Amusing enough when she was a he, downright absurd now. He held her steady gaze, but couldn't keep the disbelief from his own voice. "Is that so?"
"It is," came her pert reply.
"I see." As he spoke, his eyes wandered over her, wondering how curvy she truly was. The dents in those bandages were modest and her large shirt did much to hide any vestige of womanhood, as did her mannish coiffure. What had she looked like prior to hacking off her thick hair? What she would look like once it grew back? Somehow, he didn't think he'd be at all disappointed. "And what shall I fetch for supper?" she asked, averting her eyes, as a proper servant would.
He smiled at her bowed head. Oh, yes. Things were going to become most interesting in his cabin.
Most interesting indeed.
Posted April 9, 2012
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Posted March 1, 2011
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