Of all my 17 years, Penzance has never had a pirate ship in its harbour, so the disturbing tales of thieves of the sea didn’t seem real to me. They sounded more like nightmares than something that could actually be real. Still, there was something foreboding about looking at the distant sea, wondering if beings that were so cruel actually existed and if people actually lived these kinds of thrilling adventures.
Despite the fear that came along with hearing the tales of pirates, I always wished I could live a life of adventures. To feel fear and excitement coursing madly through my veins. Unfortunately, I was stuck here, and I never thought I would have the chance of seeing distant lands across the mass of ocean.
Until he showed up.
He swept into my life unexpectedly. Notorious and aggressive, I was his key to fortune. He had to have me. Not only was I taken from my life before, but I was swept and thrown into a life I had never known existed.


13. Hot and Cold

I’m nauseous, my head is spinning. A low gurgle makes it out of my lips as I struggle to open my eyes with no success. There’s roaring in my ears, and my entire body feels cold and heavy, as if I’m being continuously crushed by lead. Tiny needles are pricking my skin.


Come on Rose, wake up, I try to rouse myself, fighting against the invisible fog surrounding me. There’s a strong arm around my center. And suddenly, it’s squeezing the air out of me. I need to breather, to protest, to move.


“No!” I finally manage gasp out, eyes flying open. But I can’t hold back the scream that makes it past my lips as I take in the scene before my eyes, suddenly assaulted by a roar of sensations. My frozen body is swinging several feet in the air, dangling from someone’s arms as he climbs the rigging. The storm is still going strong around us, the sea like a hungry, raging monster beneath me. The crew men go to and fro on the deck and up in the sails, shouting to each other. 


Shaking, I look up to see who’s dragging me up the mast, only to meet Blackheart’s amused gaze.


“Had a nice sleep, lass?” he sneers, water dripping down his hair and face. He shakes his head and laughs, still heaving me higher up.


“Put me down!” I plead weakly, my numb body unable to do anything more than wriggle in his grasp.


“Are you sure you want that?!” he retorts loudly, to be heard over the storm. “Because I’m not sure you’d survive the fall. Your prince charming wouldn’t be pleased to see you broken beyond repair.”


“He’s not my prince charming!” I shout, just as a flash of lightning tears the sky. My head reflexively whips in that direction in fear. Thunder grumbles once more. Another bolt splits the sky, and this time, I can see what’s causing this much activity on deck: Renegade is trailing them. And it’s getting closer.


I barely have the time to register the fact that Zayn has come to get me that I’m none too gently tugged upwards again. I’m harshly flipped around and placed so I’m standing on a small platform on the highest mast, even higher than the lookout’s nest. The wood under my bare feet is slippery and wet. My heart is racing in my chest and the urge to throw up once more is strong. The ship is rocking so hard in every direction, the only reason I’m not being flung overboard is because Blackheart’s cold body is pressing mine to the wood behind me.


“So here’s what’s going to happen darlin’,” the captain whispers in my ear. His big hand encompasses my left one, while he uses the other to keep himself balanced on the small surface. I twist my body away from his, trying to find Zayn’s form on Renegade’s deck through the heavy rain. He follows my gaze, before harshly gripping my chin to force me to look at him. “I’d like to remind you that ran away from him just yesterday, so I wouldn’t hope for a merciful Malik if I were you. But since the bastard has a taste for riches, he needs you and your damn necklace. That’s why I’m dangling you up here for him to see: you’re the perfect distraction if things go wrong.” Next thing I know, he is tying one of the sail’s ropes tightly around my wrist. So tightly, I fear blood won’t be reaching my fingers anymore.


The ship sways, making me lose balance and slam into Blackheart’s hard body. A throbbing headache follows.


“Ah yes. Sweet Calypso shares my foul mood!” Blackheart steadies me, chuckling darkly. “I suggest you hang on with that free hand of yours lass, while we take care of Malik,” he ends, pushing me away from him. The back of my head hits the mast, my weak body unable to oppose to his. “Oh, and one last thing,” he pauses, holding himself on the rigging. “I don’t take kindly to wenches retching all over my boots. So this,” he takes my free hand, “is to make sure you’ll think twice about it next time.”


His palm and fingers excruciatingly slowly crush my hand. I hear the bones snap before i feel the pain. The screech that comes out of my lips is nearly inhuman as he undoubtedly breaks every single bone in my poor hand. The scream loses itself amidst the storm. I can’t breathe. I can't think. I can't do anything but let out a series of wrecked sobs. Tears of agony sting my eyes, mixing with the rain water. 


“Enjoy the show darlin’” he says with a flourish and sadistic smile, before climbing down the rigging easily.


My vision is hazy, and all shapes are blurry in front of me. I’m unsure if it’s due to the rain, nausea, or the agony resonating in every single part of my body making me see things. I feel faint.


I can't faint. If I faint I'll fall to my death.


Death wouldn't be so bad considering my current situation….


I shake my head, wincing. I can't think like that.  Think of William and Alice, who’d want you to hold on. Think of Niall who cares for you, even though he went wenching—


A thunderous boom echoes nearby, followed by a deafening crack. Blackheart’s ship brusquely rocks sideways, cannonballs tearing through the bow. My left arm is nearly ripped out of its socket following the blow, the sail’s rope flailing harshly in the harsh wind. Another pained sob escapes my lips. My whole body is shaking, unable to stay balanced on the tiny platform. The rope has torn my left wrist to shreds, and my right hand is unable to function.


If another cannonball hits, it’ll be the death of me.


Biting my lip, I attempt to find a better position on the mast, trying to see through the rain anything that could allow me to live through this storm.

A lightning bolt lights up the sky for a fraction of a second, long enough for me to witness Renegade’s hull smash into the other ship’s stern.


I’m flung sideways, my feet slipping off the wood. I scream as my body swings wildly in the wind, dangling in the air by my left arm. I wish I could faint now.


I’m harshly slammed into the mast, the side of my body receiving the hit. I think a rib or two might have cracked, but I’m not sure anymore. I’m numb all over.


My eyes shut as a fight erupts below me, Malik’s crew undoubtedly boarding Blackheart’s ship and vice versa. Loud pistols and metal hitting metal rings through the air despite the thunder and the roaring sea. I feel sick. Again.


I must’ve lost consciousness for a few seconds because when I open my eyes a moment later, it’s only because someone is touching me. Tapping my face lightly.


“Rose!” A voice shouts, nearly lost in the wind. “Roselina wake up! Rose, please!”


I recognize the accent after a few seconds.


“Niall?” I murmur, blinking. Everything is still blurry. We’re still in the storm.


“I need you to hang on a bit alright? We’ll get you out of this!” he yells, trying to be heard over the thunder.


I realize I’m in the crow’s nest, the platform I’d been previously on towering just a few feet above us. Niall lifts me up to a sitting position.


“Stay here alright?!” He shouts, pulling out his cutlass from its scabbard. He doesn’t even give me the time to answer before he’s turning around and climbing back down the rigging.


Breathing hurts. I wince, unable to do anything but stare at the crying sky and let the rain soak me. I cradle my broken hand to my center. Well at least you’re not cold anymore, I encourage myself.


I glance downwards for a few seconds, observing with curiosity the battle below. I see mostly shadows fighting against one another, and I can’t tell who’s in who's’ crew. A gleaming sword catches my eye. I find Zayn and Blackheart fighting on the quarterdeck. It’s difficult to tell who has the upper hand, their figures moving quickly and hitting the other relentlessly.


“Ahoy there Rosebud!”


I jump in surprise as another zig zag of light fills the dark sky, long enough to show Louis’ outline hanging in the shrouds beside me.


“Aww don’t look at me like that!” He says, jumping into the nest beside me. I wince as the impact of his weight makes the wood beneath me move. “I have strict orders to bring you to the captain’s quarters, little runaway.”


“Don’t touch me,” I warn meekly. “Hurts.”

HIs head cocks sideways, exposing splatters of blood on the side of his face. I shudder.


“You clearly won’t be able to take yourself down there, Rosebud. I have no choice, lassie,” he reasons, hoisting me up to a standing position. His touch is burning hot on my skin, which doesn’t make any sense due to the sheet of rainwater covering him. “You’re going to have to hang on to me,” he states in my ear. “Or we won’t make it down to Renegade before the Wicked Wench is set on fire.”


He reaches for my right hand and I flinch away from his touch, shaking my head rapidly. I extend my aching left arm instead, breathing in and out carefully. He tugs it softly and wraps it around his shoulder, forcing me to lean on to him for support.


“Always knew it was me you wanted,” he smirks. He squeezes me closer to him, grabs a wandering rope, and jumps off the main mast. I shut my eyes and hold on to the best of my abilities to Louis’ wet, scalding form. We soar through the air for mere seconds before Louis lands on his feet on Renegade’s deck.


I release my hold on Louis, only to have him holding me up. I push him away from me with my good arm.


“Rosebud?” he enquires, looking at me up and down.


“You’re too hot,” I get out.


“I know I am darling, but I need to get you to Zayn’s quarters.” He approaches me once more and I wince as his fingers graze my arm.


“Your skin is like fire Louis!” I protest, grimacing.


“Damnit. That’s not a good sign,” he states, worry creasing his forehead.


The ship shifts underneath us, turning sharply to starboard side. I hear men yelling all around me. A strong wave licks up the side of the ship, drenching me in saltwater. I lift up my gaze, only to see small flames licking up the sails of the other boat.


“There’s too much rain, the fire won’t start! Every man to his station, we need to make it out of the storm!” Someone yells out.

“Tomlinson!” another intervenes. “I need everyone on deck if we want Renegade to make it out in one piece!” Zayn. “You’re in charge! Send Liam to my cabin immediately!” he ends. “I’ll take care of the wench.”


I gulp. Great. He’s still mad. And I’m in no shape to deny his requests.


“Zayn please, “I beg, my voice a hoarse whisper. I trip on my own feet and fall forward. The Captain catches me in his arms.


“You're going to catch your death in these wet clothes,” he declares. He hauls me in his arms, his body hot too.


Seconds later, Zayn’s storming inside his cabin, our dripping wet bodies creating a puddle of water around us. He sets me on my feet and proceeds to rip my dress off my body hastily, not giving me the chance to protest. Next thing I know, I’m as naked as a babe in front of him, unable to cover myself.


“Let’s get you warm.”


My gaze drops to the place Zayn’s hand connects with my arm, and I find myself shocked when I realize I can't feel him at all anymore. My skin has been completely numbed by the cold. But I come to realize that my bones are very much sensitive, and with the earlier adrenalin gone, pain starts flaming in my crushed right hand. It's so acute I find myself losing focus. I want to scream.


The captain is quick to make me lie on his bed, eyes rapidly taking in the damages my stay with Blackheart done to my body. I must look positively horrible because next thing I know, Zayn pulls the small cover over me, and becomes a cursing tornado. It’s only then I start shivering.


“God dammit to hell! LIAM!” Zayn roars, pacing in his cabin. “I’m going to kill that bastard!” I'm shaking so hard I nearly don't hear him, my hearing impaired by the sound of my teeth chattering and my heart pounding loudly in my ribcage. “And then I’m going to kill you for attempting to run away!” he continues, spinning towards me. “What the hell went through your mind?!”


“Capt’n?” Liam enters the cabin warily. “You’re needed at the helm: Saxon has been hit.”


I don’t see Zayn’s glare, but judging by his stance and the tone of his voice, I’m pretty sure it could’ve sent Satan running back down to hell in fright.


“I’m surrounded by incompetent landlubbers! You better make sure she lives to see another day, or I can promise you you won’t!” he threatens darkly, shooting me one last glance before storming out of his cabin. He slams the door so loudly, the whole ship shakes. I feel faint and barely hear anything over the chatter of my teeth.


Liam is quick to kneel beside me, eyebrows pulled together in concentration as he touches my forehead.


“Hot or cold?” he asks, voice void of emotion.


“Nu-umb,” I gasp out between shivers.


I nearly jump out of my bones as the cabin door opens again, this time to reveal Niall.


“I want to help,” he explains, walking in. “What can I do?”


“You’re supposed to be helping on deck,” Liam retorts dryly.


“You won’t be able to take care of her alone. Her right hand is crushed to pieces, her body temperature must be excessively low and there’s no doubt half her body is bruised, considering I found her dangling from the high mast by her left arm. I’m doing this to keep both of you alive,” Niall retorts, dripping onto the cabin’s floor.


“Fine then,” Liam gives up. “Don’t go blaming me if the captain hits you with the cat for disobeying him repeatedly. Fetch me as many blankets as you can,” he continues, “as well as dry pieces of clothes and pieces of wood from the infirmary. If you can get Cook to warm some broth and mix it with laudanum, that would help her too. She’s in a lot of pain.”


“Alright,” the blonde nods.


Liam turns to me again as Niall jogs out the door to get the demanded items.


“I’m going to need to see the damage,” he states. “May I?” he enquires, fingers on the cover.


The question is highly improper. That and I’m embarrassed beyond measure, knowing very well the current situation is mostly my fault. If I’d’ve stayed calmly in Zayn’s cabin, even after Liam’d fallen asleep, I probably wouldn’t be in this situation right now.


I finally nod, knowing I have no other choice if I want to make it.


To my surprise, the pirate simply moves the sheet to the side, keeping my chest hidden all while exposing the left side of my body. I feel his fingers this time, as he gently pokes my ribs.


I flinch away from his touch.


“You have a broken rib. And it’s moved. I’m going to have to put it back in it’s place, or it might sever some of your organs.”


He doesn’t even wait for an answer before he holds me down with one hand, probes my skin, and pulls on on a specific part of my ribcage. I feel the pop, and I scream.


Liam hastily proceeds to silence me, his hand clamping over my mouth. I lose focus for a few seconds, blinded by the pain. The pain doesn’t fade, it only grows.  My mind shuts briefly, and I find myself back in the estate, taking care of William and Alice. Consoling William when he’d scratch his knee. Urging him to eat breakfast. Combing the tangles out Alice’s soft hair. Reading them a bedtime story. I wish I could go back. I don’t want adventure anymore. I just want to go back to Penzance, where it’s safe and nothing hurts. I want to go back please.


Niall’s voice pulls me back into the present.


“You should’ve waited until after the laudanum’s effect!” he points out angrily, a steaming bowl in his hand, and the blankets underneath his other arm.


“Too late now.”


The bowl is pressed to my lips, urging me to drink the steaming liquid. I barely drink a few gulps, wincing and grimacing at the taste.


“Come on Rose, it’ll make you feel better,” Niall encourages. The ship swerves harshly portside, sending me rolling sideways and into Niall’s arms. “She’s frozen stiff,” he remarks worriedly, rapidly setting me back down on the bed before wrapping me in the blankets. A chill runs through me, and my head is pounding. I want to sleep.


“I’m afraid these blankets won’t be enough to heighten her temperature,” Liam sighs. “The best heat for her at this moment would have to be body heat,” he adds. “But the capt’n won’t like it at all--”


“Fuck him. Roselina is dying,” Niall seethes. I barely have the time to blink that Niall is stripping off his drenched clothes, leaving only his undergarments on.


“No Ni--”


“Shh.” He slides underneath the covers with me, making sure skin is touching skin before rearranging the blankets around us. “I’m just going to keep you warm.”


“It’s your life mate,” Liam shrugs, standing up. “Your hand Roselina. I’m going to immobilize it,” he continues.


But I don’t take in what he says. Whatever was in the bowl must’ve been strong, because next thing I know, I’m craving his warmth, wanting it all around me. Colors explode in front of my eyes.


“Niall,” I utter softly, scooting closer to him. He’s as hot as a furnace.


“She’s delirious.”


“Laudanum must be taking effect.”


“Ni I’m tired,” I whimper.


“Sleep Roselina. Just sleep. We’ll take care of you.”


I do just that.


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