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Free to Love - Chapter 1

The Chandler’s Daughter

 

Chapter One

 

Cecelia DuPont’s eyes scanned the fog-enclosed surface of the Savannah River, searching for the rowboat that would bring her lover back into the harbor city. A chilled breeze filled the salty air of the brisk November morning. The sun had risen hours ago, but the low cloud cover shrouding the city caused the fog to linger. Awakened from her slumber, Cecelia hoped the dreams of her handsome lover were an omen that Captain Blythe’s ship would return from the Outer Banks.

 

The path running beside the docks and the launches tied there was still lit, as she paced the river front. A young man began to extinguish the oil lamps that had lit the way for thirsty sailors bringing goods into the harbor the night before. She nodded as he passed, his smile making the gloomy morning a bit brighter. Her eyes scanned to the southeast, to the Tybee Island lighthouse guiding ships into the mouth of the Savannah. Yes, the spermaceti candles were lit to illuminate the tower. Lighting the tower in 1791 had allowed Savannah to become a bustling port city.

 

Cecelia’s eyes caught movement on the water, and her heart plummeted when she saw the small ship the crew moored to the pilings. She stared at faces filled with misery, as bound and shackled Africans were herded onto the cobblestone path that would take them to the slave market. She shivered at the ugliness her city harbored, separating children from parents, and spouses from one another, to be sold into slavery to tend the white man’s cotton fields in neighboring states. The despair in their deep, black eyes called to her as she watched them shuffle through the rough streets.

 

An overseer from the market cracked a whip at a young boy no more than ten years of age. “Pick up your feet, damn you, skinny little cur,” he growled. The boy’s eyes shined white with fear, as he regained his feet.

 

“He’s just a little boy,” Cecelia cried out to the filthy man.

 

“Mind your own business, missy.” He growled at her and spit a stream of tobacco juice in her direction.

 

She was uncertain if the enslaved people could comprehend the language, but the looks given to her from several of the adults made her think they understood her intent.

 

“Get your eyes off a white woman,” he screamed and lashed the closest man to him, rending shirt and skin.

 

“Careful with the merchandise, Morgan,” a deep voice called out.

 

Cecelia turned when she recognized the voice. “Merchandise, Uncle Walter?”

 

“Yes, my dear girl. These people are merchandise, just as the cotton they will be picking, which will be baled and sent to market in Virginia.”

 

“But they are human beings, Uncle, and should be treated fairly, not enslaved and sold to the highest bidder,” came her retort.

 

“Without slaves, the southern plantations would not thrive, and our tiny, little family business would die. It’s survival of the fittest. They work the fields, and are given food and lodging. Surely, you don’t expect whites to harvest the crops?”

 

She watched the group shuffle into a barracoon. The cement, tunnel-like structure would house the slaves until they sold at market. Like a herd of livestock. She shuddered at the thought.

 

Cecelia felt bewildered by his response. She had always respected her uncle, who owned the chandlery with her father. She had no idea her family engaged in the practice of selling humans into slavery. The knowledge appalled and nauseated her.

 

“What are you doing down by the riverfront this morning anyway? Are you not working at the shop today?”

 

She looked up at him, a defiant fire in her eyes. “I’m just stretching my legs. I’m not due to arrive at the shop for a little while yet.”

 

“Don’t be long. We have a multitude of shipments coming in today that will require proper inventorying, and a load of cotton to be shipped to Virginia.”

 

His comment made her heart smile. She knew that Captain Blythe would, more than likely, deliver their shipment of cotton. Cecilia walked along with him to the family store on the riverfront. Her father was already bent over a stack of papers when they entered. He looked up and smiled at his only child.

 

“Good morning, Cecelia. I’m glad you made it; we have an awful lot of work today.”

 

“That’s what Uncle Walter was telling me. Where should I begin?”

 

He handed her a stack of papers. “You can start by organizing these orders. Once they arrive, we’ll need to start recording the inventory and arranging for the local deliveries. Captain Whaley has been waiting on this new rudder for weeks now. If it arrives today, please send word he can pick it up, or we’ll arrange for delivery tomorrow.”

 

“Yes, Father, I will.” She took the stack of papers to her small desk to begin the sorting. Her attention perked, when her father asked his brother, “Is Captain Blythe still scheduled to take delivery of the cotton for Virginia?”

 

“Yes, she assured me they would arrive by midmorning and depart on the morrow.”

 

Damn, just one night with her. One night would just have to be enough.

 

Cecelia had first met Captain Hillary Blythe two years earlier, when she began delivering their cotton to Norfolk. The dashing young captain, recently relocated from England, sailed the most modern ship available for commerce in the Americas. When she wasn’t delivering cotton for Cecelia’s father, she was delivering rum, spices, or other products from the Caribbean islands. Her tales of the crystal-blue waters and enchanted isles had seduced Cecelia from their very first encounter. Cecelia dreamed of leaving Savannah one day, to set sail for one of the tropical islands Hillary talked about.

 

“A new shipment of Africans also arrived this morning,” Walter told his brother. “A right sorry-looking lot, but I reckon they will have to do.”

 

Cecelia flinched at the harshness of his words and looked at her father to gauge his reaction.

 

Cecil frowned at his brother’s words. “I understand their plight is a necessary evil for the plantations to prosper, but I do wish the owners would provide better care and arrangements for them.”

 

She was proud of her father for speaking his mind.

 

“They are marginally better than beasts of burden,” Walter said. “From what I hear, the jungles and plains they are taken from provide no better means of survival. Here, at least, they are fed and sheltered.”

 

“Yes, but at what cost? I hear the overseers can be brutal, and the plantation masters take such liberties with the women and girls.” He glanced quickly toward his daughter, apparently remembering that she was in the room. “I’m sorry, darling, I forgot you were here. You should not be exposed to such conversation.”

 

Walter slammed his fist on the table. “You are beginning to sound more and more like those northern sympathizers, Brother. Slaves provide necessary labor to produce the fabrics to allow those damned Yankees to parade around in all their fineries. Without them, southern plantations would revert back to mere sharecroppers, barely able to keep their families fed and clothed.”

 

“I understand your plight, but have you truly no moral compass left or compassion for fellow human beings? Certainly, our mother and reverends taught us better.” Her father’s face grew red with anger.

 

“Our reverends greedily scarf up every gold and silver piece that gets tossed in the offering plate on Sunday,” Walter argued back. “They, too, benefit from the plight of slave labor.”

 

“I cannot argue that.”

 

Her father had so easily given up the argument with his older brother. Cecelia was relieved when the door opened and Anthony Page strode into the shop. Page was Hillary’s first mate.

 

“I understand there is a load of cotton to be delivered to Virginia.” He smiled at her father.

 

“There is indeed, sir.” Cecil pushed a stack of papers aside and offered his hand to Page. “It has been a few weeks, I trust the crew has stayed out of trouble,” he teased.

 

“We’ve just returned from the islands, taking a load of rum and spices up to Boston. The seas were a bit rough, but we were not shipwrecked. Captain Blythe knows these waters better than any man I’ve ever sailed with.”

 

“She is a steady captain and a good businesswoman to boot,” Cecil said. “Will she be coming ashore?”

 

“That she will. She has new wild tales to spin for Miss Cecelia,” Page said with a wink to her.

 

“Tell her not to be filling my daughter’s head with all those fanciful voyages. She’s much too precious to go sailing off into the sunset on a grand adventure.”

 

“Now Father, you know I wouldn’t do that,” Cecelia protested.

 

“Ha! I’ve seen the sparkle in your eyes after she’s woven her whimsical tales.”

 

She sighed. It was a good thing her father didn’t understand that the captain herself made his daughter’s eyes sparkle, not her wild tales. “You have to admit, Father, it tends to get a bit boring around here, staring at bales of cotton and equipment for ships and such.”

 

“I won’t argue on that. Maybe if you’d settle down with a good lad, that might add some excitement to your existence,” he teased.

 

“I’m not prepared to become an old brood mare for anyone just yet.”

 

“Careful. Your mother would die if she heard you talking such nonsense,” he warned. “She’s got several fine candidates already selected for you.”

 

“Hmmmfffff,” Cecelia groaned and resumed her paperwork.

 

“Has your crew dropped your ballast stones?” Walter asked.

 

Page smiled at him. “We’ve dropped a fair amount in anticipation of a good load of cotton. I’ll be bringing the crew ’round to begin loading shortly, if you’re prepared.”

 

“That we are,” Cecil answered. “We’ve got big shipments of supplies arriving soon, so we could use the extra space. When you return, Cecelia and I will come out to supervise the loading.”

 

“I shall see you soon then.” Page bowed slightly and left the shop.

 

 

Time slowly tormented Cecelia, and when the door opened for Hillary and Page’s return, she felt time stand still. She could gaze into Hillary’s blue eyes forever.

 

“Good to see you again, Captain Blythe,” Cecil said, as he walked around his desk and shook her hand.

 

“Likewise, Mr. DuPont, I trust that you’ve been in fair health.”

 

Her fine English accent was music to Cecelia’s ears. Her focus drifted to Hillary’s blond hair, just brushing her shoulders, as she animatedly spoke with the owners. Cecelia wondered if the handsome captain had grown even more beautiful in her absence. The deep tan of her exposed skin spoke of long days spent at sea and further accentuated her brilliant, blue eyes.

 

Hillary’s gaze met Cecelia’s. “I hope you will allow me to take you to dinner tonight, Miss Cecelia?”

 

“I’ll look forward to that. We’ve a great deal of work ahead of us this afternoon, but I’d love to join you later.”

 

“I guess we’d better get to loading some cotton then.” Hillary’s eyes sparkled. “Mr. Page, let’s get our crew moving.”

 

“Yes, Captain.” He grinned.

 

“We’ll see you in the warehouse.” Hillary tipped her hat to Cecil and spun on her heel to follow Page from the office.

 

Walter watched her leave, then growled to his brother. “That woman irritates me with her cockiness.”

 

“She’s the best captain we’ve ever worked with. By far, the most reliable and fastest to deliver our loads,” Cecil reminded him.

 

“I know. It’s a sad state of affairs when the best is a woman, a foreigner at that,” he grumbled and went back to work.

 

“You could always purchase a ship, Brother.”

 

“That may be an option in the future, but not for now.”

 

Cecil winked at Cecelia. “I prefer being a landlubber, but you’re more than welcome to try out your sea legs, if you think you could command a ship.”

 

Cecelia could barely restrain her laughter, as her father taunted his brother.

 

“Let’s get this damned cotton on the ship.” Walter growled and walked out of the office.

 

Cecil grinned at his daughter. “Somehow, I just can’t see him on a ship. He turns green whenever we take a ferry across to South Carolina.”

 

“Be nice, Father.” She snickered, and followed him to the warehouse.

 

 

Cecelia watched, as Hillary supervised and assisted her men in moving wagons filled with large, cotton bales to the docks. She’d been impressed with the speed and efficiency of the crew as they cleared a large space in the warehouse. When the final wagon emptied, her crew left it at the dock to be loaded with the supplies anticipated later in the day. Hillary walked over to Cecelia.

 

“It is good to see you, my friend. I’ll be taking the ship just out of the docks to anchor down for the night. When we are all settled, I’ll return to take you to dinner.”

 

“I’m looking forward to hearing some of your new tales.” Cecelia smiled.

 

“Alas, the islands are so beautiful. I wish I could show them to you instead of telling you about them. Their beauty, like yours, is well beyond mere words,” Hillary whispered to her and watched as the color flushed up Cecelia’s neck and into her cheeks.

 

“You’re such a smooth talker, Captain Blythe.”

 

“But, it’s the truth on both accounts.” She smiled. “I’ll see you soon.”

 

Cecelia watched the handsome captain leave, then decided to make contact with Captain Whaley about the pending arrival of his rudder. “Father, if you don’t mind, I’ll go speak with Captain Whaley. I would like to stretch my legs a bit.”

 

“Would you mind some company?”

 

“Why, of course not.”

 

“We’ll be back soon, Walter,” he called out to his brother.

 

He held out his arm for Cecelia, and she looped her hand around his elbow. “Is everything all right, Father?”

 

“Yes, darling, why do you ask?”

 

“You don’t usually accompany me on my errands.”

 

“Can’t an old man take a stroll with his only daughter?” He feigned a pout. “Besides, it has turned into such a pretty day.”

 

“That it has. May I ask you something, Father?”

 

“Of course, you can.”

 

“Are we now involved in the selling of slaves? Uncle Walter calls them merchandise. I wasn’t aware we were doing that.” She watched the frown cross his face.

 

“We are only providing temporary housing in one of our older warehouses. I pray that is the only involvement we have in that business. I don’t agree with it at all, but Walter jumped all over the money offered for a barracoon.”

 

“Those poor people. Half of them looked starved, and they all were terrified. I can’t imagine the horrors that await them in our world.”

 

Cecil sighed. “I agree, but there’s nothing we can do about the practice. It’s too ingrained in the South.”

 

“That still doesn’t make it right.”

 

“No, darling, it doesn’t, but if we don’t provide them shelter, they will be out in the elements until they are sold on the block, or housed in much worse conditions. While I can’t guarantee the warehouse is weatherproof, it has to be the best option.”

 

When they reached Captain Whaley’s office, he turned to her. “Do you want to enjoy the sunshine while I go take care of business?”

 

She smiled up to him. “Thanks, Father.”

 

She sat on a small, rock wall outside the office and enjoyed the feel of the sun and soft breeze on her face. In the distance, she could see Hillary’s ship slowly make its way from the docks, leaving room for a large, heavily loaded ship to enter the port. That would be the shipment they had been awaiting. The larger ship crept into the harbor.

 

The door to the office opened, and her father returned. “That looks like our delivery.”

 

“I was thinking that too. She’s riding low in the water, so it must be a heavy load.”

 

“It will take most of the afternoon to get it stored and inventoried.”

 

“I guess we should get ready then.” She smiled at him and took his arm.

 

 

The afternoon heat and the activity in the warehouse made a trickle of sweat roll down Cecelia’s spine, as she climbed carefully through the stacks of goods to confirm the inventory of delivered supplies. She was relieved when Captain Whaley arrived to take delivery of the rudder. She returned to the office to retrieve the invoice for him to sign, while the men loaded the rudder onto his wagon.

 

“All set,” she said, when she took the invoice back from him.

 

“I can’t wait to get back on the water.” He smiled.

 

“Safe travels.” She returned the invoice to the office, before resuming her inventory. Her father and uncle were busy inspecting two loads, when the final wagon was drawn into the warehouse. Cecelia walked to the stacks of supplies she had been working on before the rudder delivery. The diminishing space and the hustle had increased the heat in the warehouse. A fine patina of perspiration covered her skin, as she looked up at the large stack of burlap rolls used to bale the cotton.

 

 

Hillary ensured the safety of her ship and cargo, before returning to the waterfront with the majority of her crew. Two men remained onboard to protect the cargo, but she promised to relieve them so they could join their mates for some relaxation and more than a few pints of the local ale. She planned to bring Cecelia onboard after dinner, enabling them to spend some time alone in relative privacy.

 

“I can return to the ship if you’d rather stay in town,” Page told her, as they walked to an Irish pub.

 

“Thanks, but Cecelia and I will return, so I can tell her of all our adventures.” She smiled at her first mate. Her smile was short-lived, as moans of pain grabbed her attention. Her eyes followed the sound to the barracoon they were approaching. The falling darkness dulled her vision into the dark tunnel, but she could see movement inside, the momentary flash of white eyes as they looked away from her gaze.

 

The smell of human waste reached them, exacerbated by the heat of the crowded building. She turned to see Page looking too, before he turned back to her. “No human should be treated like that.”

 

“I agree, but there is nothing we can do for these unfortunate souls.”

 

“If only there was another way to harvest the crops, then this degradation of humanity wouldn’t be necessary,” he growled.

 

Calls from her crew walking ahead of them pulled her attention from the barracoon. The disgust she felt didn’t dissipate as she walked away. Instead, it boiled deep in her soul. There has to be something that can be done.

 

Page held the door for her, and she walked inside to lay down the coins to buy her crew’s first two rounds of ale. They cheered heartily, as the mugs passed around. Hillary took one in her hand and followed Page, away from the noisy men, to a quiet table.

 

She took a deep drink from the frosty beverage and placed the mug on the table. The plight of the slaves weighed heavily on her mind. She looked at Page. He knew her well enough to know she was scheming.

 

“What’s on your mind Captain?”

 

“Have you ever given thought to becoming a pirate?”

 

“A pirate? Whatever do you mean Captain?”

 

“Page, I’m sure you know exactly what a pirate is. I’m talking about taking something from someone that does not belong to them. Very dangerous to even think it, but I admit the thought is running rampant in my head right now.”

 

He leaned in closer, so only she could hear. “You’re talking about the slaves, aren’t you?”

 

She nodded. “I can’t stand to think about the plight that awaits them. No man has a right to enslave another for their profit.” To her surprise, Page didn’t reel away in horror.

 

“You’re serious about this aren’t you? You realize, we could end up on the wrong end of a lynching, hanging from that big oak tree if we’re caught.”

 

“I know, I’m just thinking.”

 

“If you are investing time to think it through, I know this is something you’re passionate about. I’m a young and single man, with little to lose. Count me in on your plans. I can’t speak for the rest of the crew. Especially those with families.”

 

“That does play huge in any consideration. We can’t do this with just the two of us.” She grinned. She finished her drink. “I’m going to check on Cecelia. I’ll see you later tonight. Enjoy yourselves, but remember we have a delivery to make.”

 

“We will, Captain. You too. We won’t be late.”

 

Hillary left the pub and walked to the chandler’s office. The warehouse was dark as she passed by, but lamps were burning in the office. As she approached, the door swung open and Cecelia and her father stepped outside.

 

“Good evening, Captain. You have great timing; we’ve just finished for the day.”

 

“I hope you’re still interested in dinner and conversation, Miss Cecelia.”

 

“I’m famished. Father worked me hard today.” Cecelia smiled at her father.

 

“Indeed, I have. Enjoy your meal, ladies. I’m heading home.” He tipped his hat to them and started up the steps leading from the riverfront.

 

“Let us go find something to feed that appetite of yours,” Hillary said, as they began walking the riverfront path.

 

Cecelia looped her hand around Hillary’s arm as they walked. Hillary led them to a path as far away from the barracoon as possible, but the sound of moans still drifted across the air.

 

Cecelia recognized the source of the sound. Tears glistened in her eyes when she looked up at Hillary. “My heart breaks for those unfortunate people.”

 

“Mine too.” Hillary nodded and kept them walking. “The islanders are much like those imprisoned here, and they are such a delightful people. No man should be treated in this manner.”

 

“I agree, but I know of nothing that can be done. They are such an integral part of the survival of the plantations.”

 

“I understand your feelings about their plight. Maybe something good will change for them soon.” Hillary sighed. “We can only hope.”

 

“I hope you are right.”

 

 

Hillary led them to a small boarding house that also hosted a simple tavern. Wonderful aromas met them at the door, and Hillary breathed deeply. “I smell good food. I bet they have fresh shrimp cooking.”

 

“That we do, good captain. Come inside and we’ll get you a seat. Hello, Cecelia. Aren’t you worried about your reputation, being seen with this scallywag?” The woman teasing them chuckled and waddled toward an empty table.

 

“I think my reputation is intact, Ruth. Just don’t tell Mother I’m going to have a pint of your ale.”

 

“My lips are sealed. Make it two?”

 

“Yes, please, Ruth.”

 

Ruth returned with two mugs and placed them on the table. “We have a special treat tonight, if you’re interested. One of the fishermen who boards here caught a small tuna in his nets. They make beautiful steaks for grilling.”

 

“I haven’t had fresh tuna in a long time,” Hillary answered.

 

“I’m not sure I’ve ever had it.”

 

“We must remedy that then. We’ll have two please, Ruth.”

 

 

After dinner, they returned to the riverfront and rowed out to the ship. The two crewmen assigned to protect the shipment were relieved of duty to join the rest of the crew at the pub. Hillary tossed them each a silver coin to buy their first rounds.

 

When the men had left, Hillary lifted Cecelia onto a bale of the soft cotton and climbed up beside her. “Such a beautiful night to share with you,” she said, as she settled next to her.

 

Cecelia sighed. “Not a cloud in the sky, and the moon is bright over the water. Even a nice breeze for us to share.” She looked into Hillary’s blue eyes. “Thank you for a wonderful dinner.”

 

“It was my pleasure. I love my crew, but they aren’t near as beautiful to share a meal with as you.”

 

“Such a smooth talker, my dear captain.”

 

Hillary’s lopsided grin filled her face. “There is so much I’d love to share with you about my world. The many wondrous places I’ve traveled. I’m sorely tempted to kidnap you and take you to live at the islands.”

 

“I’m not sure it would be kidnapping. I’d willingly go anywhere with you.”

 

“I’m sure your father would not approve of that decision.”

 

Hillary felt Cecelia’s soft touch stroke her face. “Do I need to remind you that I am of age to make decisions that impact my future?” She laughed softly.

 

“No, my dear, you don’t.” Hillary leaned down, and her lips brushed Cecelia’s with a soft kiss. “However, I don’t relish hanging from the town tree, when he claims I’ve kidnapped you.”

 

“Father would never do that.”

 

“I’m thinking about doing something that, very easily, could lead me down that path.”

 

She saw the confusion that crossed Cecelia’s face. “What are you thinking?”

 

“Those poor slaves. They did nothing to deserve their plight.”

 

“I agree, but what does that have to do with you?”

 

“A seed of thought has been planted in my brain, and I can’t help but nurture it when I see them or hear their moans of agony. I know I have passed more than one slave ship in my travels.”

 

“I still don’t understand.”

 

“Under the right circumstances, it wouldn’t be that difficult to overtake a slave ship and confiscate their human cargo. I have a fast ship and could deliver the captives to the islands, to safety, to begin new lives in freedom.”

 

Hillary watched, as Cecelia realized what she was saying. “You would become a pirate and risk your life for them?”

 

She nodded. “Someone has to do something to change their plight.”

 

“But it would surely lead to a hangman’s noose if you were caught.”

 

“I do have to take that into consideration. I’m not completely convinced, but I am leaning in that direction.”

 

“It’s an admirable thought, but it comes with great risk. I’d die if anything bad happened to you.”

 

“I have made enough fortune to live comfortably in the islands, and have already bought a parcel of land with a small villa.”

 

“Why not retire then?”

 

“I’m not sure I would be happy, knowing I refused to help even a small number of them to live freely again. My conscience would eat away at me, knowing I could have helped at least a few.”

 

She felt Cecelia shiver. “Are you cold?”

 

“No, I’m sorry. A chill ran down my spine at the thought of the peril you are considering.”

 

Hillary moved to sit behind her and pulled her close, wrapping her in strong arms. “There’s no need to fear. I think this is part of my destiny.”

 

 

Cecelia turned her head, looking up and pleading for a kiss with her eyes. Hillary lowered her face to Cecelia’s and kissed her deeply, eliciting moans from Cecelia. A caress down her arm and a brush along the curve of her breast, just beneath her dress, and Cecelia gasped at the feel of Hillary’s palm cupping an ample breast with a gentle squeeze. “I wish there was time and privacy for more of your sweet intentions,” Cecelia spoke in a near breathless voice.

 

Cecelia felt Hillary’s hand move down the front of her dress as her tongue plunged deeply inside her mouth, making Cecelia’s head spin deliriously with desire. She felt Hillary tease the dress upward to reveal the many layers of undergarments, she teased aside to explore the bare skin and soft mound of her womanhood. The panic of such exposure receded, as Hillary’s fingers located the wetness that revealed Cecelia’s desire. Gentle fingers entered her opening, sliding deeply between her walls. She felt her muscles clench against the invasion of her core, adding more wetness, encouraging deeper penetration. She kissed Hillary passionately and guided her hand to knead her swollen breast.

 

Hillary’s groan felt as deep in Cecelia’s mouth as the fingers moving deep inside her body, and her tongue danced wildly in response. She felt her inner muscles grasping for Hillary’s touch as fingers slid in and out of her, moving faster and deeper. Her hips arched up with each stroke, and as the convulsions began, pleasure overtook her restraint. Hillary’s kiss swallowed the loud moan that ripped through Cecelia as her release exploded. Hillary stilled her hand and kissed Cecelia more tenderly, as she began to calm.

 

“That felt so good,” Cecelia whispered.

 

“Yes, it did.” Hillary smiled, her blue eyes sparkling. “Can you stand?”

 

Cecelia nodded. “Yes, I think so.”

 

“Good.” Hillary jumped down from the stack and walked Cecelia to the back side of the stack of bales, facing the open water. “Sit here, and lean back.”

 

Cecelia leaned back on her cotton-bale seat, her legs dangling over the edge, and stared up at the sky full of stars. She gasped when Hillary lifted her dress, lowered, and removed the undergarments allowing her to duck her head beneath the skirt to move between Cecelia’s spread legs. She felt Hillary’s fingers parting her lower lips and thought she would die when Hillary’s tongue lapped at her juices. “Oh, dear God,” she cried out.

 

“Quiet now, my dear,” Hillary spoke in a brief pause, then returned to her feast. She buried her face in Cecelia’s wetness, her tongue exploring deeply, as her hands reached up to knead Cecelia’s breasts. She drank greedily, seeming lost in her own passion, until Cecelia clamped her thighs tightly around Hillary’s head and erupted with pleasure, then collapsed onto the bale.

 

Smiling through the juices that coated her face, Hillary looked upon Cecelia. Her breasts were heaving, as she gasped for breath, and her eyes were glazed with pleasure. Hillary took her hands and pulled her to a seated position, pulling Cecelia into her arms for a deep kiss.

 

Cecelia was beyond bliss when Hillary kissed her. She could taste her own pleasure on Hillary’s tongue, as she kissed her hungrily. The sensation was beyond description. When she broke the kiss, Hillary was still smiling. “You’re quite pleased with yourself, aren’t you, my captain?”

 

“I cannot deny that I am, sweet miss.”

 

Cecelia slid down from the bale, slid her undergarments back on and took Hillary in her arms, spinning her and pressing her backward into the stack of bales. “Now it’s my turn,” she growled, as her fingers freed the belt from Hillary’s trousers, and her hand plunged inside. Her fingers sought the heated wetness between Hillary’s thighs and slipped easily into her center. Her mouth found Hillary’s, as she began thrusting her fingers deep into her, eager for Hillary to feel the intense pleasure she had just given Cecelia. Hillary’s hips began to rock into her hand, as the kiss grew hungry with passion.

 

 

Hillary was enjoying Cecelia’s aggressive nature as she drove her backward into the bales and her hand hit the desired mark. Her hips instinctively rocked into her lover’s hand, as their tongues danced passionately. She felt her climax rising rapidly, with each thrust of her hips. The taste of Cecelia’s passion in their mouths was delicious, feeding her desire. She felt her body coiling for an explosion that triggered when Cecelia’s thumb started brushing across her swollen pleasure pearl. Hillary could no longer hold back and released her climax into Cecelia’s waiting hand.

 

Once their breathing returned to normal, Hillary fastened her trousers and retrieved a bucket of water to rinse their faces and hands. She had just dumped the bucket overboard when she heard the first of her crew returning. “That was good timing.” She grinned. “I guess it’s time to walk you home.”

 

“I hope my legs hold out.” Cecelia grinned back at her.

 

She led Cecelia to the boarding plank. “Welcome back boys,” she called out, as the first group stepped on board, still merry from their reveling.

 

“Good evening Captain,” Page called out to her. “I hope that you’ve had an enjoyable evening.”

 

“Indeed, we did Page, but now that you’re back on board, I think it’s time I walk Cecelia home.”

 

Page smiled, noting the flush on Cecelia’s cheeks. “Do you want me to row you back ashore and wait for you?”

 

“Thanks Page, but I can manage this. Stay and make sure the crew returns safely.”

 

“I’ll see you when you return, Captain.”

 

 

They left the ship and after securing the rowboat, started walking through town. Hillary intentionally took a route that would bypass the barracoon, unwilling to spoil the pleasant evening they had shared. She enjoyed the feel of Cecelia’s hand on her arm, as they casually strolled through the squares in the heart of Savannah. The moonlight made shifting patterns across the cobblestones, as it bled through the leaves of the large oak trees. “Thank you for a truly marvelous evening.”

 

“I would say it was all my pleasure, but I know differently.” Cecelia chuckled at her mischievous quip.

 

“Indeed, it was as much my pleasure as yours. I hope it won’t be long before we shall have the pleasure again.”

 

“When do you think you shall return to our fair city?”

 

“It may be several weeks, depending on the weather. After we drop your father’s shipment in Virginia, we’ll be heading back to the islands for a cargo to return to Boston. Maybe by then, your father will have another shipment of cotton ready.”

 

Cecelia held tighter to Hillary’s arm. “I certainly hope so.”

 

As they entered a rather dark section along their path, Hillary stepped away from the street and took Cecelia in her arms for a final deep and passionate kiss. Her home was merely another block away and this would be their last opportunity for a lover’s embrace. “I will count the days until my return for more of your sweet kisses.”

 

“I will be eagerly awaiting you. Please, come back to me safely.”

 

“I will do my best, dear lady. Now, I must escort you home. We will be gone by first light, but your kisses will linger on my lips to urge me to return as quickly as I can.”

 

When they reached Cecelia’s home, Hillary turned to her. “Thank you again for a lovely evening.”

 

“Likewise, I look forward to hearing about more of your adventures.”

 

“Good night, Cecelia.”

 

Hillary turned to walk away, then stopped to ensure Cecelia had made it safely inside. A fresh breeze had picked up, bathing her face. She strode confidently back through town to the riverfront, a decidedly energized bounce in her step. What a beautiful evening.

 

She stepped back onto her ship and found Page. “We need to set sail at first light. Do we need to go rescue the rest of the crew?”

 

“The last two returned just moments before you did, Captain. All of the crew is safe and secure in their bunks.”

 

“I think we should follow them and get some rest. We have harrowing reefs to navigate in the morning.”

 

“I’ll be right in, Captain. Good night.”

 

“Good night, Page.”

 

Hillary retired to her private quarters and stripped down before slipping a nightshirt over her head. With the faint taste of Cecelia on her lips, she would fall asleep wearing a smile on her face and dream of her beautiful lover.

 

 

Forbidden Love

 

Chapter Five

 

Elizabeth Allen sat on the floor with her skirt gathered around her and the book propped in her lap. The children’s eager faces turned toward her, riveted to every word. She knew she should be reading from the Bible, but she couldn’t help pulling from her treasured stack of books when they begged her to read another adventure. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift was a popular choice.

 

Teaching the innocent children was something innately suited to her temperament. Children did not see color as they played together or listened to the stories she read to them. The mostly dark faces sat alongside the pale-skinned children; their only care in the world was to listen to Elizabeth spin her tales. Sometimes, she would set aside her books and make up stories for the children.

 

Beyond the walls of the church and on the large sugar plantations, this peace and tranquility did not exist. There were two Antiguas, in her opinion; the cruel Antigua that continued to perpetuate the mistreatment of human beings by the ownership of slaves, and the world inside the walls of her church. Elizabeth was appalled to learn that not only the British and Loyalists owned slaves. A fair number of former slaves, now free and prosperous, also maintained the abhorrent institution of slavery.

 

The heavy wooden door banged loudly against the wall. Cissy’s generous lips often revealed her gleaming white teeth in a mischievous smile, but today the whites of her wide-open eyes remained prominent in the dim light of the church, as she blew through the door.

 

Cissy was a former house slave, rescued and now free to work side by side with Elizabeth. She’d been brought over from Georgia and retained the languid southern drawl learned on the cotton plantation. Cissy wasn’t known for her discretion and often passed tales along as a favorite form of entertainment. She seemed to hover for a chance to learn the most up to date news from the port. For greater effect, Cissy would embellish to the point of relaying untruths or distortions that often scared the young children and garnered harsh words from Elizabeth. While Elizabeth’s stories were full of adventure and romance, Cissy enjoyed spinning tales of a more ominous nature.

 

“Miss Allen, Miss Allen, Captain Blythe has slaves on her ship.” Cissy rushed her words. “I seen ’em with my own two eyes.”

 

“Cissy, don’t you dare tell tall tales at the expense of the good captain,” Elizabeth admonished.

 

“I swears I’m not tellin’ tales, Miss. This time it’s true. Theys young too. All women and children. I seen them frightened white eyeballs peekin’ out on the deck. They was tryin’ to hide, but I seen ’em.”

 

Elizabeth frowned. Normally, when Cissy was challenged, she would amend her story closer to the truth or back down and admit to telling a tall tale. Cissy was a curious young woman and paid close attention to the comings and goings of the harbor, especially after Captain Blythe had given her the spyglass. She was enamored with the handsome captain and always wanted to hear her stories of harrowing adventures at sea. Cissy would embellish the stories with sea monsters when retelling them to the children.

 

“Cissy, did you use Captain Blythe’s spyglass?”

 

Cissy nodded. “Yes’m.”

 

Elizabeth had a bad feeling. “Cissy, did you talk to anyone else about this?”

 

“No, ma’am,” she answered.

 

Elizabeth pierced her with a look of challenge. “No one?”

 

“Well maybe Mr. Clarke. He was comin’ out of the tavern and asked me where I was runnin’ to. He mean, so I’s got scared and tol’ him what I seen.”

 

“You wait here with the children, Cissy, and don’t move. Understand?” Elizabeth picked herself up from the ground and gathered her skirts.

 

“Yes’m.” Cissy’s eyes were as wide as saucers.

 

“I’m going to the harbor to see about this. Don’t scare the children with any of your tall tales of sea monsters.”

 

“No, ma’am, I won’t.” Cissy sat on the wood floor and grinned at the children.

 

Elizabeth wished she had time to be more specific with her directive. She heard Cissy beginning a story of the sugar cane monster. “At night, when it’s as dark as my skin…”

 

She had to get to the ship and find out what Cissy was talking about. Determined to find a place for the women and children in her vast network of ex-slaves, Elizabeth hurried to the port. Each household could surely handle one or two more mouths to feed if it meant none of the ex-slaves would end up on one of the sugar plantations. She would talk to her father about housing another person in their comparatively meager holdings. The large plantations had overtaken nearly all of the smaller parcels of land, but her father managed to retain his assets, working alongside his freed slaves to make ends meet. Too many slaves on the prosperous plantations had died of disease or simply disappeared. The callousness turned her stomach every single time she listened to the scandalous chatter.

 

 

Elizabeth clip-clopped along the old wooden planks of the harbor on Antigua, grabbing the hem of her long skirt and lifting the many layers. In the heat, she wished she could bypass the formal dress, but her father had not loosened his stance on what was appropriate for a young, unmarried woman hoping to catch the eye of an eligible man. At least the fashion of the day allowed a loose-fitting neckline gathered over her ample breasts with a simple drawstring.

 

Her father was a good man, driven by his deep faith. As Loyalists, John Allen and others had received land grants from the Crown after the American Revolution. Unlike their neighbors on Antigua, Elizabeth’s father did not have the stomach for running a plantation if it meant owning slaves. His ideals aligned more with the new Methodist church.

 

He would approve of her actions because of the welcoming stance of their church toward everyone, regardless of the color of their skin or their gender. She lamented that his progressive stance did not extend to her preference to never marry. Her work with the church was too important to divert any of her valuable time to a husband and children.

 

Elizabeth never knew why she rejected the terms used for the beautiful, dark-skinned people. Calling them Negroes or coloreds set them apart in a way that made her uncomfortable. Her father reasoned that descriptions were a necessary evil and perhaps Africans might be acceptable as that was no different than British or Colonial.

 

Elizabeth knew that talk spread quickly. If Mr. Clarke discovered the female captain was carrying Africans in her hold, he would try to purchase them at a bargain. She was determined to reach the port before George, the overseer of the Clarke plantation, tried to lay claim to the women. Elizabeth didn’t believe the handsome and imposing captain would sell the women and children, but she wanted to provide a viable option; her mission would bring the women into their fold and teach them the word of the Lord. She refused to believe that Captain Blythe was now involved in the slave trade.

 

Breathing a sigh of relief, she hurried past the rotund, red-faced man huffing and puffing his way to the harbor, as Captain Blythe was directing her crew. Catching a whiff of his foul body odor combined with the strong smell of the sea caught her off guard, and she held her breath until she was well past the uncouth man. Elizabeth looked right and left in desperation. She hoped she was not too late. None of the African women and children were in plain sight. George was still working hard to catch his breath as he made his way to the harbor, so she knew they had not been sold to the cruel man.

 

“Captain Blythe,” Elizabeth called out.

 

The piercing blue eyes turned in her direction and a smile grew on Captain Blythe’s face. “Miss Allen, you have saved me from attempting to seek you out. I was about to come see you and your father. I was hoping you may be able to provide assistance with a delicate matter.” The tall woman took several purposeful strides to meet Elizabeth.

 

“I do hope this has to do with the rumors about the African women and children on your ship who require assistance.”

 

The captain’s gleaming white teeth flashed at Elizabeth. “Indeed it is, Miss Allen, indeed it is. I knew this was the best option for them. They have been through a harrowing experience.” She looked away, and Elizabeth caught the glistening in her eyes. “We were unable to save two of the children. They were all left shackled together as their ship went down. Drowning was inevitable. I could not allow that to happen. My cook, Mary, has helped to settle them, but their English is very limited. She could teach them only a few words on the short journey here.”

 

“I know a few African words, and there is another in our congregation who speaks many of the different African dialects. I believe, between the two of us, we will be able to help them transition to island life.”

 

“Captain Blythe, Captain Blythe.” George was breathing heavy, as he hurried to greet the captain. “I will pay you handsomely for the merchandise. You are a businesswoman. Surely you can appreciate receiving fair payment for those goods.”

 

Captain Blythe narrowed her eyes, and Elizabeth heard a raging storm in the captain’s measured question. “What merchandise are you speaking of?”

 

“The Negroes,” he answered. “The condition they are currently in is not a problem for us. We will whip them into shape in no time.”

 

“Mr. Mitchell, you have received incorrect information. There is not enough money in the world to entice me to sell one human being to another. I abhor slavery. Surely, you know of my position on the matter.”

 

“But, but,” he blustered. “You have Negroes on your ship. Why would you carry that cargo if not to sell them?”

 

“That is none of your concern. This matter is closed. I will not reconsider my position. Be off with you. I have business with Miss Allen and her father that does not involve you.”

 

“You will regret this, Captain Blythe.”

 

The captain stalked toward George and towered over him as she closed the distance between them. “Are you threatening me, Mr. Mitchell? Because if you are, I believe my honor is at stake. The only reasonable solution would be a duel. I look forward to a duel with you.” Her eyes roamed up and down his body. “You’ll make for a very large target, easy to hit.”

 

Elizabeth covered her mouth in an attempt to hold back her laughter.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous,” George sputtered. “You are a woman.”

 

“A woman who possesses a much sharper eye and skill with a pistol than you. You are a coward, Mr. Mitchell. If you make trouble for Miss Allen or her father after I leave, I will return and ensure that my honor is avenged. Do I make myself clear?”

 

George spun around and scurried away muttering, “Unnatural woman.”

 

“I’m sorry Captain, Cissy was using the spyglass you gave her and saw them on your ship. That is why George came waddling along so quickly.”

 

The captain smiled. “How is Cissy?”

 

“Scaring the young children with her horror stories. She hangs on your every word and twists them around to make the stories bigger and more frightening.”

 

“That one has an imagination. Perhaps you should have her write them down. The older children might appreciate the tall fables and not cause you to chastise her so.” Grinning, the captain stepped forward and held out several silver pieces. “Please, take these to help with the care of the women and children.”

 

“Thank you for your generosity, Captain.”

 

The captain tipped her hat. “No, thank you, Miss Allen. I am relieved they will have a better life in the care you and your father will provide. I’ll have Manu and Joseph ferry them ashore.”

 

 

Elizabeth tried to hold her emotions in for the sake of the frightened women and the small children clinging to them, their thin, frail bodies adorned in rags. She suspected the captured slaves had been in far worse condition prior to Captain Blythe saving them. That thought nearly broke her heart.

She attempted to calm them with words of assurance, but was grateful when Abraham Gilbert met them on the beach and translated for her. She didn’t have the luxury of gathering others at such short notice.

 

Although Abraham had an imposing presence (he stood well over six feet tall and had broad, heavily muscled shoulders), his voice had a smooth, soft timbre that often lulled the most frightened child. He was a handsome man, with warm, brown eyes and a wide, welcoming smile. Many of the island women had hoped to catch his eye, but none stood a chance against Rebecca. Her beauty, both inside and out, as well as her quiet intelligence and insight, had captured his attention from the first moment he laid eyes on her. After only a short time, they had married and continued to be a stable presence on the ten-acre plantation her father owned. Abraham worked the small parcel of land John Allen encouraged him to tend for his own profit. Elizabeth often saw Abraham gently making suggestions to her father on how to endure the many challenges of harvesting sugar cane.

 

As she walked along the path to the church, the ugliness of the situation was in such contrast to the beauty of the island. Since Elizabeth had first set foot in her new home, she thought the chain of hills in the distance beautifully romantic. The luxuriant vegetation and tall sugar stalks were liberally sprinkled on those very summits. The assemblage of mountains dotted the landscape as far as her eyes could see, more picturesque than the rolling hills in England.

 

When they reached the wooden church with its gray weathered boards, Elizabeth turned to Abraham. “Mr. Gilbert, would you please gather as many of our congregation as you can? Any who would be willing to take in one or two of these rescued Africans. And perhaps you could find my father, as well.”

 

“Yes, Miss Allen, I can do that. The missus and I have room for one, maybe two, if there is a little one that needs to stay with their mother,” Abraham answered.

 

“Are you sure? I know your house is small. Isn’t Rebecca expecting?”

 

Abraham’s toothy grin widened. “She is. Her belly is large, so it should be any day now. But we have room.”

 

“Bless you, Mr. Gilbert, for your kindness.”

 

“Miss Allen, it is your kindness that shines bright for us all. I’ll be back shortly.” Abraham quickly exited the church, and Elizabeth turned toward the others.

 

The group of women and children huddled close together, avoiding Elizabeth’s gaze as they looked to the ground. She had almost forgotten about the children in the story circle, until she saw small faces looking curiously in her direction. Cissy was uncharacteristically quiet.

 

“Oh dear. I’m sorry, children. Today’s lessons will need to be shortened. There is a new group of worshipers that we need to help settle. Cissy, you’re always quick to add chatter to a room; perhaps you can welcome them.”

 

“Yes’m.” Cissy stood and began speaking in low tones, encouraging the eighteen new congregants to come further into the rustic sanctuary. Their simple church might not compare favorably to the beautiful English bricks of St. John’s Cathedral perched atop the hill. Before the big fire, St. John’s was not much different than her own church, but today, its grand remodel overshadowed all other places of worship.

 

The newcomers maintained their tight pack and chose to sit on the floor next to the children, rather than scatter throughout the wooden benches. One regal young woman remained standing, curiously observing Elizabeth with round chocolate eyes set above full lips on a face of smooth, ebony skin. The swell of her breasts was barely hidden beneath the rags draped over her thin body.

 

Had this young woman been sold into slavery, she would have been repeatedly violated by some overseer, or at best, ended up as mistress to one of the plantation owners. The owners fancied themselves gentlemen and would not consider taking liberties with their slaves barbaric or inappropriate. Having an African mistress to satisfy their needs was commonplace. A proper wife could not be expected to serve this purpose.

 

Elizabeth felt compelled to reassure this young woman and took several steps to close the distance between them, touching her on the arm. The woman tentatively reached up to run her fingers through strands of strawberry-blonde hair that had escaped their pins. Elizabeth held still and closed her eyes to the touch. The woman had likely never seen light hair and eyes. Captain Blythe’s hair was always pulled back and hidden under her hat.

 

Elizabeth pointed to herself. “Elizabeth.”

 

The young woman let her finger slide through the strands of Elizabeth’s hair and pointed to herself. “Kia.”

 

Elizabeth nodded. “Kia is a beautiful name. I won’t be giving you another.”

 

Looking away to hide an immediate sense of revulsion, Elizabeth realized what she’d just done. The arrogance of the Americans and her own countrymen took away everything from these beautiful people: their pride, their freedom, and their given names. She’d so easily fallen into the trap of treating grown women as children and replacing their beautiful tribal names with Christian ones.

When her gaze returned to the curious brown eyes, Elizabeth felt a strange stirring inside. She knew she needed to make a place for Kia. She could not expect the other free Africans to make room in their small houses for these rescued slaves, unless she was willing to open her own home. Father will understand.

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