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This story is included in the anthology FORGOTTEN TREASURES…
A Pirate’s Treasure – By Lisa Kessler
Moonlight cast long shadows along the old tree-lined streets as the pirate stalked through the dark tunnel. He didn’t need a light. He’d been making this journey for over a century. His leather soled boots scraped against the rugged stone steps. Right, left, right, left, he trudged up from the dark rum cellar.
Rum. Dear God in Heaven what he would give to hold his Black Jack again, to feel the warm cozy burn of the rum as it washed down his parched throat. His tongue slathered across his lips at the thought. Even while he had been in Davy’s grip, it was rum that he called for.
“Darby McGraw fetch aft the rum…”
But he’d never swallowed that last cup.
Bah. No sense reliving the past. He had this one night every year to visit the present era, not as a damned spirit, but once again as a Captain. He was still trapped inside of these four walls, but thanks to the witch’s conjuring, on all Hallows Eve, he was granted flesh.
He opened the door and nearly bellowed when the noise reached his ears. Did they call that music now? A crew of drunken pirates sang better than the land-lubber who was belting out some horrific version of… Did he just sing “a pirate’s life for me”?
His broad shoulders filled the narrow hallways as he turned into the Captain’s Dining room. The source of the noise gripped a microphone, dancing and singing like a buffoon in a pirate costume. (He learned about those contraptions last Halloween.)
The Captain couldn’t contain his growl of disgust. All eyes shifted toward him, sending a jolt of surprise from his head to his boot straps. They could see him. He had grown so accustomed to walking these rooms as a ghost, that it still shocked him to be noticed on this one night each year.
The singing pitiful-excuse-for-a-pirate stopped screaming into the noisemaker and slowly looked him over before facing the rest of the crowd again and announcing, “Great costume dude!”
The Captain glowered, and crossed his arms over his wide chest. “Best ye respect yer Captain, matey.”
Uproarious laughter and applause was not the reaction he expected.
“Great accent, Buddy.”
“Your costume looks amazing!”
The Captain frowned and stormed through the mob of useless fodder until he reached the more intimate dining room. One night was all he had. He didn’t want to waste it with addle-minded chattel.
There was one person he wanted to see. She was worth waiting for.
He sat in one of the chairs, and drew the candelabra closer to him. His index finger slid back and forth through the tiny flame. He couldn’t be burned. Not anymore. But this one night a year he could feel the heat, a miracle in itself.
While his finger danced in the candle’s fire, he watched the entryway for any sign of her. He rolled his eyes when he saw what staggered through instead.
The drunken not-quite-a-pirate plopped down in a chair next to him and clapped his shoulder. “You’ve got the most killer Pirate costume I’ve ever seen. Where’d you get it?”
Before he could tell the faux pirate to take a walk off a short plank, his breath was stolen away by the raven-haired beauty he had been waiting for. Her eyes sparkled and her barely-there smile seared his cold soul.
“Can I get you pirates some drinks?” She tossed down a couple of coasters shaped like hogshead rum barrels.
The Captain’s mouth went dry at the sight of her, but sadly the man sitting next to him could still speak. The drunken would-be pirate’s mouth contorted into a sloppy smile as he looked up at her. “Fetch us some grog, Wench!”
She rolled her eyes. “Look Blackbeard, I’m not dressed up as a pirate or a whore, so if you call me a wench one more time, I’ll have to toss your ass out. Got it?”
He nodded and she winked at the Captain as she turned to head back to the kitchen.
The drunken sailor shook his head and blathered, “Wayfarin’ wench workin’ womanly wiles wherever she pleases, and then threatens me? I outta show her what happens to smart-mouthed wenches–”
His unconscious body dropped to the floor with a thud as the Captain wiped the blood from his ring.
“Pirates don’ speak like that ye arse,” he grumbled.
One punch. The Captain smiled. That felt good.
Marie returned with two iced mugs of rum. She glanced around for the second pirate and then smiled. “Ok Flint. What’d you do with him?”
“Nothing that ye wouldn’t have done, Lassie.” He pointed to the floor. “He’ll be sleepin’ for a while.”
She brought the mugs around and sat down beside him. “I’ve missed you.”
He brought her hand up to his lips, pressing a tender kiss to her knuckles. Her skin smelled like heaven. Better than a westerly wind billowing the sails in to port.
“Aye. Tis a miracle to touch you again, Marie.” He brought his hand up to cup her face, his calloused thumb caressing her cheek. “Yer smile is worth more to me than any treasure.”
She laughed and shook her head. “You’re a damned fine liar, Captain Flint.”
“Tis no lie, my Beauty.” He smiled and drew back from her, taking a swig of the rum. “So why did I rise to find drunken pirates singing in my house?”
“It’s Halloween, remember? This year we added Karaoke night to the annual costume party.”
He frowned. Although he haunted these walls every day, the future still passed him by on a regular basis. At times he felt like they spoke a different language. “Kara… Whatever it be called, is for singing?”
She took a sip of her mug and nodded. “Yep. We play music and they sing the song into the microphone. Anyone can do it.”
“Aye, but some not so well.” He glanced down at the unconscious pirate, then back to Marie. “Could I steal ye away from the party?”
Her smile could light the darkest storm. If his ancient heart still beat, it would be racing at the sight of her grin.
She nodded, “Of course. My shift was over this afternoon. I only stayed because I was waiting for you.” She leaned forward and brushed a soft kiss to his cheek. “Let me put my apron away and I’ll be right back.”
He watched her go and lifted his mug again. He loved her more with each passing year. But while he watched her each day, relishing every smile, and aching with every frown, Marie couldn’t see him. The rest of the year they couldn’t touch. The only time she heard him during the rest of the year were the rare footfalls that sometimes sounded from his spirit-filled boots. Only on All Hallows Eve when the witch’s curse transformed his ghostly body into flesh, could they truly be together.
How many more years would he still find her waiting for him?
He placed his empty mug back on the table. Rum simmered in his stomach, but the warmth didn’t spread outward. He’d learned years ago that he could no longer feel the drunken effects of alcohol. But the taste was enough. A familiar comfort in a strange world that had left him behind as a myth in old pirate tales. Treasure Island. Bah!
Marie came back with a smile. He took her hand as they made their way outside to the covered porch. The salty night air filled his lungs with memories of an open ocean. He slid his arm around her waist and stared out into the darkness.
He searched the stars for the words to tell her how beautiful she looked and how much he wanted this night to last forever, but he came up empty. Simple words could never translate his feelings for her. Marie moved beside him, one hand sliding up to unfasten the buttons of his coat. Her soft fingers moved up his chest, searing his flesh with the warmth of her touch. He brought his hand up to rest over hers, pressing her palm to his heart.
“I remember the night we met. Ye weren’t so eager to undress me then.”
Marie laughed. “No I wasn’t. I thought you were a kook!”
“I had to haunt ye for the next year before ye believed me to be the true Capn’ Flint. Remember?”
“I do.” She looked back out toward the Savannah coast. “I didn’t believe the ghost stories of The Pirate’s House. I didn’t even know you were a real pirate. I thought Robert Louis Stevenson made you up for Treasure Island.” She turned to meet his eyes again. “But then you started leaving me clues.”
“Aye.” He nodded. “How many years has it been now?”
She resumed loosening the ties on his shirt until her fingers slid inside against his cool flesh, drawing a deep throaty groan from his lips. He took her hands in his, halting her exploration of his chest.
“Ye did not answer my question, my Beauty.”
Her eyes searched his and he felt his heart clench as a tear sparkled on her dark eyelash. “Flint, please. We only have a few hours.”
He nodded. “Ye deserve better than this, Marie.”
“A few hours with you is better than a lifetime with another man.”
She wrenched her hands free of his grasp and tugged his collar, pulling him down until their lips met in a fevered, hungry kiss. He moaned against her lips, his resolve crumbling under the heat of their passion. His arms tightened around her small frame, clutching her to him. As her lips parted, he felt her gasping for air before their tongues caressed and wrestled to be even closer. He could taste the rum on her lips as he lifted her up onto the railing. She wrapped her legs around his waist, her fingers tangling in the back of his thick dark hair.
Finally he drew back with a growl, resting his forehead against hers. “Gods Marie, I have no control around ye.”
Her eyes sparkled. “Good.”
She kissed him again, and he returned the affection. Tender, slow, long caresses, drinking her into his soul. How could he give her up? He couldn’t. But was he selfish enough to let her waste her life away? He already lived his. Why couldn’t he let her live hers?
Her fingernails slid up his back and fire scorched his soul. He gripped her tighter, carrying her back inside the Inn. He would never be strong enough to leave her. He needed her, wanted her.
He loved her.
Pulling back from their kiss he whispered, “Tell me where we can be alone.”
“Upstairs,” she answered against his neck.
As her legs slid down from his waist, he caught the back of her knees and swooped her up into his arms. He carried her up the back stairs and into one of the cordoned off bedrooms.
He kicked the door closed behind him, and carefully lowered her down onto the bed. Marie opened her arms to him. She was a vision with her raven hair fanned out over the white satin bedding. Her lips glistened, flushed from their passionate kisses, and her eyes shined up at him, beckoning him closer. He stared down at her searching his soul for the strength to let her go, to send her back into the world of the living, but he was weak and selfish, and completely unable to resist the promise of her arms.
He lay down beside her and drew her into his embrace. Pressing a tender kiss to her silky hair, he whispered, “I love ye, Marie.”
He felt her arms tighten around him as she pressed a kiss to his chest. “I love you too, Flint.”
He lost himself in her, feeling her hands free him from his clothes while he explored every curve of her flesh. In the candlelight, sweat glistened on their bodies as they moved together. Their limbs tangled, until even their souls were entwined. When their passion reached its peak he drew back, his gaze locking with hers as he gasped her name. Her arms tightened around him along with the rest of her body, and he kissed her again, deeply, with every ounce of emotion that he carried in his ancient heart and soul.
Breathless, she pulled away, and he noticed her eyes shone with unshed tears.
“Why couldn’t we have met before?” She whispered. “This isn’t fair to love someone so much, and see him so little. We only get a few hours. I can’t touch you or talk to you enough. I want to fall asleep in your arms and know that you’ll be holding me when I wake up in the morning.”
A tear spilled down her cheek and he kissed it away, tasting the salt on his lips. “Aye. Tis cruel this hand fate has dealt us, Love.” He kissed her again and whispered, “Never have I loved as I love thee.” He met her eyes again. “I love thee enough to let ye go, Marie. It will kill me not to see yer smile each day, but I am already long dead.” He brushed her hair back from her forehead and forced a tender smile. “My Beauty, ye are very much alive, and deserve a man who can love ye and treat ye like the priceless jewel ye are everyday, not just one night a year.”
A sob escaped her rosy lips, and his heart broke at the sound. “I don’t want anyone else, Flint. Knowing that you’re there with me, watching me, even when I can’t see you comforts me. It’s enough.”
He shook his head. “Not nearly enough.”
“Stop it.” She pushed at his chest. “Don’t you dare try to tell me what’s best for me.”
He sighed and shifted off of her. Marie rolled on her side, resting her head on his chest as he stared up at the ceiling, his fingers absently sliding through her soft hair.
“I don’ know what to do, Marie. I hurt ye if I go, and I hurt ye if I stay. I wish I could live again, to be the man ye need, but even if I could, I don’ belong in this world filled with Kara…”
“Karaoke,” she said. The soft chuckle in her voice soothed him.
“Right. Where would an old salt like Capn’ Flint fit into this world?”
Silence fell over them and in his mind he could hear a phantom clock ticking away their precious minutes together.
Marie lifted her head to look down at him, wiping away her tears with a determined smile. “This sucks, Flint.”
“Aye.” He brought his hand up to cup her soft cheek. She was a vision. His angel.
His. Yet not.
“Any chance that witch would come back and give you flesh more often?”
Flint laughed, he couldn’t help himself. That was yet another of Marie’s gifts. She was a ray of sunshine in his darkness even when he was certain he may never see the sun again.
“I think she is long dead, Love. She didn’t know what she had done anyway. She was only tryin’ to make contact with me. Never knew she got her incantation wrong.”
“Well maybe this year I’ll find some sort of time machine and go back to 1745 and stop you from drinking so much rum. We could be alive together, at the same time.”
He chuckled and shook his head. “Those days were not kind, Love. I wouldn’t want ye to have to live through that.”
Her smile faded away as her voice lowered to a whisper. “Then there’s only one solution.”
His eyes widened. “What? That be no solution, Marie! No!”
“Just hear me out. I’m growing older, dying slowly every day anyway. I want to be with you. I don’t have any family here or obligations. No one would miss me.”
Flint sat upright, taking her with him as he held her shoulders, forcing her to meet his gaze. “Ye don’ know what yer askin’ Love. To be a ghost, haunting these walls is no life. It’s a curse. An’ I would never bring it upon ye. Never.”
“You told me once before you can see the other ghosts that are trapped here. We could see each other. Don’t you see? I’d never get old. We could be together now and always. That’s not a curse. It’s an end to one.”
He rubbed his calloused hands down his face, fighting the temptation of her argument. With a sigh, he met her eyes again. “Don’ ask me to take yer life, Marie. Please. This is not our answer.”
She took his hand and he stared down at her slender fingers against his sea-weathered knuckles. Giving his hand a squeeze she kissed his cheek.
“I’m sorry, Flint. I just hate being apart from you. There has to be a way to be together.”
“Aye, I wish it were so, but maybe this was never meant to be. Tis probably why the living cannot see the dead. We have no future together.”
“Don’t say that.” She wiped a stray tear. “Please. Your love is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Pulling her back into his arms, he rested his cheek on her head, closing his eyes and breathing in the scent of her hair. Memorizing every sensation, every caress, every curve, bracing himself for another year of seeing her without being able to talk, or touch, or smell, or taste. Another year of being a spirit trapped in The Pirate’s House Inn.
She sighed and pulled back from his arms. “How can the night already be over?”
He looked at the clock, his heart clutching at the time. “We still have the better part of an hour, Love.”
“Just give me a second, ok?”
He watched her disappear in the bathroom, and when she returned she wore only an oversized captain’s coat and a smile. He raised a brow with a crooked smile of approval.
“I thought you might like it. It’s a replica of yours. We had it stashed in the bathroom here so the Halloween party-goers weren’t tempted to try it on.”
“It looks perfect on ye, my Love.”
She got back in bed beside him, pulling him down to kiss her again. He hummed at the feel of her cool lips against his. Apparently she’d brushed her teeth while she was gone too. He could taste the mint covering the flavor of rum.
After they made love again, she drifted off to sleep in his arms. He stared down at her, watching her sleep as the morning light started to filter through the window. He reached up to touch her hair as his fingers gradually became translucent. He couldn’t feel her skin any longer. Their night was over. He growled in frustration, knowing he wouldn’t wake her.
She could no longer hear his voice.
“Lord why do ye curse me so? Why bring our paths to cross only to deny us? She wanted me to kill her tonight, for Godssake! What am I to do?”
“Just love me.”
He jumped back and gasped when Marie sat up.
Only she didn’t sit up. Her body was still lying on the bed. His brow furrowed as he met her eyes again.
“Are ye dreaming, Lass? How can this be?”
She looked over her shoulder at her sleeping body and back to his eyes. “I broke the curse.”
She reached out and took his hand. He felt her touch. His gaze snapped from their hands to her face and then back to her sleeping form on the bed. Gradually he met her eyes.
“If I couldn’t live in your arms,” she whispered. “Then I wanted to die there.”
He shook his head with tears in his eyes and reached up to caress her cheek. “What have ye done?”
“I was pretty sure you wouldn’t kill me when I asked, but I didn’t know if I’d be brave enough to do it myself. I stashed some sleeping pills in the bathroom and mixed them with rum. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you, but I was afraid you’d try to stop me.”
“Aye, I would have.” He shook his head. “Twas a crazy chance ye took. What if ye were wrong? What if yer spirit had gone? I would have lost ye forever.”
“It was a chance I had to take. I couldn’t face another year without you. I’ve thought about this for a long time. I knew what I wanted.”
He scooped her up into his arms and carried her out of the room. Someone would find her body soon enough, and he didn’t want to be there to see them zip her in a bag and carry her out like unwanted garbage.
Once they were downstairs, he lowered her to the ground and smiled as he looked down into her eyes. “I hope ye never regret yer choice, my Love.”
“The chance to spend forever with my favorite pirate? Never.”
He grinned in spite of himself. “I be yer only pirate, Lass!”
She laughed and his heart soared.
“Maybe my only Captain.”
“Ye be a terrible liar, my Beauty!” He raised a playful brow and inside his soul wept for joy. He’d been alone for so long. To be able to laugh and smile, and touch, was a priceless gift. His grin softened as he whispered, “Ye be my greatest Treasure, Marie.”
She answered him with the most perfect kiss he’d ever received on this or any side of eternity.
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