12 - Almost

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By the light of one of the oil lamps, Nora had started to read James's book. It was exiting and thrilling, keeping Nora on her toes as she turned the pages. She was utterly trapped in the words, her eyes never straying from the story in front of her. In fact, Nora was so caught up in the book that she didn't even hear the muffled sound of music coming from deck, or the sound of footsteps, telling her that someone was coming down to her door. Soon the lock turned and Jack jumped in, happy as ever, apparently the storm hadn't shaken him up as badly as it had Nora.

"Come on, Ginny! Come and dance!" Jack almost ran across the room, grabbing Nora's hand dragging her out of her chair. Nora turned an unwilling eye towards the young boy standing in front of her, grinning from ear to ear. His blonde hair was tousled and his freckles prominent even in the dim light.

"Dance?" Nora echoed, feeling very sceptical. Jack only nodded eagerly, his smile even wider than before.

"Yes! Old boatsman Bolder is playing the lute and Arthur is playing the violin. Please join us, it will be really fun! And I promise that everyone will be nice, we're celebrating tonight." Jack talked quickly, so filled with joy and eager that it made Nora smile as well.

"Celebrating?"

"Yes! Since the storm passed and the ship is whole and no one went overboard, we're celebrating." Jack rolled his eyes a bit, as if she was asking to many questions, and started to tug on Nora's hand. "Please, Ginny, it will be really fun!" Nora sighed and put the book on the desk, making sure no pages were crumbled, before giving in and letting Jack drag her out of the cabin. Well up on deck, the music was louder and even though Nora didn't recognise the cheerful tune, she found that she liked it. In the middle of main deck, pirates were dancing and clapping their hands, others sitting on the sides, drinking and laughing. Even the most scariest pirates in James's crew seemed relaxed and happy, their usual hard, cold faces were warmed up with a smile. Nora sat herself down on a barrel next to Harry, who greeted her with a smile. Jack took the place on the other side of her as soon they were enjoying the music and clapping along, watching as the crew danced and sheered. Soon Belmore joined their little gang, putting a cup in Nora's hands.

"What is it?" Nora asked somewhat suspiciously, glancing down at the contents of the cup. Belmore gave her a rumbling laugh and took a gulp out of his own cup.

"Honeywine, puppet. Drink it." Again, Nora looked at the dark liquid, smelling it slightly. It smelled like herbs, grapes and just a hint of honey. Carefully she took a sip and was surprised by the rich but sweet flavour of the wine. Nora had never been much of a drinker, as she'd never had the time, working everyday of the week at the Governors. But sitting here amongst people she liked, she found herself drinking more and more of the tasty liquid, soon emptying out her cup.

"That's the way to go, puppet!" Belmore roared and immediately gave her a refill. Nora laughed and watched the ones who were dancing, feeling how the alcohol turned her cheeks red and her head a little light. She didn't feel bad though, quite the opposite. For once, Nora felt happy and fearless, the wine washing away any painful thoughts, leaving only happiness and excitement. Soon, Nora was dragged up on her feet by a happy but also quite drunk Jack, and before she knew it, they were dancing among the crew. The music surrounded her and Nora felt free as she twirled and jumped with the music. For a while she lost herself in the cheerful tunes, dancing and drinking some more wine. When Jack grew tired, Harry took her hand and soon they were twirling around, Harry being a surprisingly good dancer. As time went by, more of the crew wanted to dance with her, and soon she was flung around, dancing with everybody. Even the men who scared her the most just smiled at her, dancing with her and the others without trying anything inappropriate. As she danced, Nora lost track of anything but the music. In one twirl, with her dress spinning around her feet, her hair wild and undone, a pair of strong arms caught her. A little surprised, she looked up, as the crew had only held her by the hand or rested a hand on her back, but these arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her in close. The gaze she met was icy blue and Nora felt her heart skip a beat. James smiled down at her and continued to spin her around, grabbing her waist and lifting her so it felt like she was flying. Nora let out a happy squeal as she was spun around, raising her hands high above her head and laughing as James continued to dance with her. Looking at him while they danced, Nora only saw happiness. He didn't look distraught or tense, but instead relaxed and at ease. His blonde hair ruffled and a smile constant on his lips, his strong hands sending shivers down Nora's spine where ever they touched her. Even though it had been fun to dance with the rest of the crew, Nora never wanted James to let her go. Everything about him was intoxicating and as they danced, everyone else seemed to disappear, leaving only the two of them on the dance floor. James met her gaze as she studied him, and there was a new look in them, a look Nora hadn't seen before. His arms went around her a little tighter than before, and soon he was leading her away from the main deck and the dancing, and up the stairs to the upper deck. There, with his hand clasped over hers, he dragged her to the very end of the boat. The music wasn't as loud there, causing them both to be able to talk. The wine made Nora a little dizzy and she leaned against the rail, trying to catch her breath after all the dancing. Now and then she looked at James, and every time, she found that he was looking at her too.

"Did you enjoy the book?" James asked, leaning against the rail as well, his hand still over hers, his thumb stroking her palm absentmindedly.

"Yes, very much. Thank you for giving it to me." Nora looked out at the water, not wanting to meet James's gaze as she feared it would cause her to blush. James nodded slightly, a small smile on his lips.

"You know", he said after a moments silence. "You're a constant surprise to me." Nora tensed up a bit, still looking out at the ocean.

"How come?" She asked, voice low and careful.

"Well, from what I've heard when being told stories about you, Guinevere Monroe was a bitch quite frankly. Being described as a cold hearted shrew without a kind bone in her body. They warned me that having you on this ship would be a fate worse than death and that no treasure was worth it." Nora started to feel uneasy, scared of where the conversation might lead them, but as she didn't want to give away her secret, she stayed silent.

"When we took you, I was prepared for the worst. A snobby, rich lady that would nag the whole trip. But you, you're the opposite of everything I've been told. Despite your sharp tongue that comes out now and then, you're kind and thoughtful, funny and not at all snobby. I've never seen a lady who would so wholeheartedly help out a crew of pirates, working along side them, never backing down. I thought I knew who you were, but this journey has changed every thought I've ever had about you." James turned towards her, no longer leaning against the rail, but standing in front of her, his towering height making Nora tilt her head to meet his eyes. His face was gentle, his eyes soft flames of blue, his fingers still stroking her hand.

"You've surprised me too you know", Nora said and gave him a small smile. "I never thought I would actually enjoy the company of pirates, but you, Jack, Harry, Arthur and even Belmore has shown me otherwise. You're not just killers and thieves, but something more. And even though you scare me, I still see good in you, under that pirate facade." Afraid she had spoken too bluntly, Nora looked down, adverting her eyes from James's intense gaze. Slowly, James raised his hand and placed a few strands of hair behind her ear, his fingers lingering a bit before tracing downwards, lifting her chin, making Nora meet his gaze again.

"I don't want you to be afraid of me."

"I'm not afraid now." Her words were a mere whisper, her eyes locked in his. She could feel the warmth of his fingers on her skin, and even though she shouldn't want his closeness, even though his words shouldn't have any affect on her, Nora couldn't get enough. She knew who he was, what he'd done. But in the moment, as James slowly traced his fingers over her jaw, Nora didn't care about anything but him getting closer.

"Good", James said, voice husky and seductive, sending chills down Nora's spine. Without breaking eye contact, he let go of her hand to place his on her waist, slowly turning her so she had her back against the rail, James standing in front of her, so close that she could feel warmth radiate off his body. Confliction should've filled her body and soul as they stared into each others eyes, breathing shallow and hearts beating fast. The rational part of Nora's brain screamed at her that she shouldn't want the man before her. That he was her captor, and that he would most likely kill her if he found out the truth. But the rest of her body muted her rational brain as James leaned closer, his breath washing over her face, her lips longing for the touch of his. His hand on the small of her back pushed her closer against him, their bodies pressed against one another, their foreheads leaned against each other. Slowly, as if James still wanted to make sure that she wasn't afraid, he leaned in to kiss her. But just as their lips were about to meet, footsteps were heard running up the stairs and soon a bell started to ring, loud and booming.

"Captain, Captain! There's a ship approaching! An English ship!" Young Jack yelled at the top of his lungs, his eyes wide and scared. Nora froze up and James leaned away from her, still holding her close to his chest.

"How far?"

"Not far at all, we will have impact in twenty minutes, maybe less." Nora could feel James tense against her, his strong arm bringing her even closer as he clenched his jaw, suddenly back to being James Haddock - the pirate captain.

"You need to go", James turned his attention towards Nora. "Go down to the cabin, lock the door and blow out all the candles. Do not open the door no matter what you hear. Even though it's an English ship, they will never believe who you are and they will most likely kill you for associating with pirates, do you understand?" Nora stared at James, feeling fear creeping up her body. She slowly nodded and felt James press the key in the palm of her hand.

"Run." And she ran. Down the stairs, below deck and into the cabin where she waited in the dark as the crew prepared for a fight.

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