By Sharon Jarvis
While sucking on a juicy peach bought just moments ago in the bustling London market by the wharf, Elias watched a young woman with interest. She’d caught his attention because she was modestly dressed, unlike the fancy kept women of wealthy men who mingled with the half-dressed whores in the marketplace.
Leaning idly against one of the shanties, his face in shadow under a wide-brimmed hat, Elias saw her hoist an empty basket and then, putting on a dazzling smile, she walked past him toward the nearest greengrocer. She was striking, not beautiful. In fact, she looked nothing like a typical English rose. No blonde hair, no blue eyes. But she did have the most irresistible smile he had ever seen.
The greengrocer had a sour expression as though she was sucking on lemons. But when the young woman approached, the dour woman slowly smiled in return. Soon the two were exchanging pleasantries and the vendor sold her some peaches for a bargain price, which he’d been unable to do.
Elias straightened up, now certain that the lass who caught his attention was no ordinary woman. Her purchase completed, she walked on. He slowly followed, thinking he could use a pleasant distraction before sailing in search of some wizard’s hidden fortune or a cargo ship ripe for plunder. He hung back as she went to another greengrocer who also sold her fruit below the asking price. She had a distinctly bewitching effect on people the likes of which he’d never seen before.
“Sara.” She turned to a young man at her elbow. From her demeanor, Elias guessed she wasn’t open to being courted by him. Elias watched as she placated him with a few pleasantries and favored him with one of her amazing smiles. Seemingly mollified, the young man left.
Now Elias was utterly convinced of her power. And he ought to know. The latest tattoo acquired from heathens along the Ivory Coast itched. It was a protective spell in Latin, one of many spells in different languages that were incised—using a nail and colored paste--over his chest and back. His crew was convinced he dabbled in Black Magic. He didn’t. Not completely…. Elias muttered a spell under his breath, concentrating on influencing Sara for himself.
Elias followed as Sara turned and walked towards the end of the London wharf, past ardent sailors and common whores. Then she abruptly stopped and frowned.
“Excuse me, Miss,” he said.
Sara turned, her eyes widening at the tall imposing man dressed in black, with a gold earring in one ear. He sported a neatly trimmed mustache that grew down the sides of his mouth and formed a small beard. He also carried a sword on each side, the straps crisscrossing his chest, making him look like the pirate he was.
“Yes? Can I help you?"
“I believe so,” he said. Then in one movement he scooped her up and threw her across
his back like a sack of flour. The basket fell and the fruit rolled away as Sara struggled to
break free, but to no avail.
Elias didn’t stop until he’d climbed the ship’s gangplank—cowed deckhands quickly jumping out of the way—and entered his cabin. He set Sara down, then closed and latched the door.
“What—what do you want?” Sara’s brows furrowed but she smiled, perhaps in confusion.
“You, of course. And your smile.” Elias smiled slightly himself, anticipating a brief but delightful dalliance before his ship sailed on the high tide.
“Whoever you are, you must be daft.” Her smile faded and Sara moved toward the door. Elias immediately moved to block her way.
“Let me out of here,” she demanded. “Where is your captain?”
“I am the captain. This is my ship. And you are my…guest.”
He reached out to touch her but she stepped back smartly. Elias sighed. Kidnapping Sara was completely impulsive; he’d never done anything like this before, though he usually took what he wanted, albeit with better planning and foresight. He was used to whores and he really didn’t know how to deal with someone like Sara. He chanted another spell under his breath but Sara stared at him, unmoved, lips clamped shut.
He could sense her heart beating wildly. Slowly she calmed down and said softly, “Captain, you may take me as you please, but know that you cannot take my smile. My smile can only be given.”
They both stood still, not moving until the backwash of a passing ship made the deck lurch under their feet. Elias kept his balance but Sara’s arms reflexively flew upwards while she began to fall backward. He instinctively reached out and grabbed her forearms; she grabbed his arms in return and righted herself.
“Thank you, Captain,” she said, favoring him with her brilliant smile.
That’s when Elias suddenly was struck by what felt like a blow. He realized her smile was akin to the rising sun sending shafts of light through dark clouds. It felt as though one of the rays had speared his chest—stabbing him in the heart. How strange, he thought. He wasn’t supposed to have a heart.
Arms clasped, they stood motionless, dark eyes locked with dark eyes. Sara’s shining smile faded. Elias longed to stroke her smooth skin and kiss her full breasts, but decided her smile was worth more to him than brief carnal knowledge. He would see her again. He could make sure of it with a few strands of her hair and by fashioning a candle in her image during a full moon. But what he really wanted was for Sara to smile at him and come to him of her own free will.
For the first time in his life he said, “I’m sorry, I’ve made a mistake.”
He unlocked the door and pulled her down the gangplank so quickly that Sara had to hold onto him to avoid falling. When they set foot on the wooden wharf, he released her.
“Go home,” he ordered hoarsely.
Sara turned to leave, then hesitated. “I have no supper, thanks to you.”
Elias fished in his weskit pocket for a handful of coins, enough to buy a week of suppers, and held them out in his palm. “My apologies.”
“I wish you well, Captain,” she said solemnly, taking the coppers. Instead of leaving, Sara paused and then said kindly, as though she could feel his longing, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” Then she slowly walked away and did not look back.
Elias waited until Sara was lost in the crowd before returning to his ship. He had found what he was looking for: a woman who was everything he was not. A woman who could balance out his darkness with warmth and light. In the meantime, until they met again, this was another first for him--giving money to a woman without asking for anything in return. But it was worth every penny to know that he was still human.
About the Author:
Sharon Jarvis is a former book editor, literary agent, and small press publisher. She has had her own books published in the past (mostly non-fiction) but is now working on several fiction projects.