"The curse is real. If we stay away from the ship too long we fade until we don't exist," he explains to me.
I just stare at him. I feel sick. All those boys on the ship were so...rough and cruel. How could you not be though realizing that this is your fate. I literally am looking at looking at Bello and he's disappearing right in front of my fucking face. I'm shocked.
"I'm so sorry."
I don't know what else to say. I almost want to cry at that moment. I put my hand down to touch the skin that I can see through but Bello quickly jerks away and covers the area.
"Why the hell are you looking at me like that?" he tells me.
Bello's face doesn't match his personality. His personality is so evil but his face is so damn handsome. Looking at him right now I'm just amazed how he is so brave in the face of this. I would be losing it if I was being held prisoner with this kind of curse looming over me. Bello is stern, strong. I can't stop looking at his clear beautiful eyes. They reflect the light in the most dazzling way.
The guy is beautiful and I realize I'm getting caught staring way too hard.
"Goddam stop fucking apologizing every minute," Bello responds.
He's right. I sound pathetic. He probably thinks I'm so annoying. I find myself getting up at that moment and just standing there. I'm trying to look tough and put on this brave face in front of Bello but I feel like I'm completely failing at it. I look fucking ridiculous.
"I'll talk to my father. I'll see if I can convince him to let you go."
Bello stares at me with his beautiful eyes. He stares at me hard almost as though he's staring right goddam through me.
"Why the fuck would you do that?" he asks me.
He seems honestly confused.
"I don't want to see you die..."
This seems to confuse him even more. Bello turns his face. I notice that sometimes he tries to look ugly like the guys the sailors on the piers in Nassau. He makes these real disgusted looking faces and tries to put on this mean mug. It doesn't work. Regardless of what kind of pissy expression Bello wears it doesn't work. He's still the most beautiful man in all the seas.
"Why not?" he wrinkles his upper lip.
"Um shouldn't you want someone to help you? You're going to die here Bello."
"I don't want SHIT from you!"
He barks at me in the angriest way I've seen anyone bark at anyone else at that moment. I'm kind of thrown back by it honestly. The way he looks at me makes me really think that Bello has it completely out for me.
"Get the fuck out."
"Excuse me?" I ask confused, "I'm trying to help."
"Why?" he asks, "If you did to me what I did to you, do you know what I would do? I would leave you to rot in here. I would laugh. I would enjoy every moment of this. If our situations were reversed this would be the best day of my life. I gave you the Judas chair. Did you forget, you fucking idiot?"
There is so much cruelty in the way he says it. There is so much anger and hate. I don't get why he gets so angry at me. I don't get why when he talks to me it's as though I am his only enemy in the world. I'm literally trying to help him out and he reminds me of the Judas chair. I think about the pain again. I think about the torture.
I get up realizing I can't take the thoughts. I start walking out.
Then I hear a sound. It's this...separation of lips. It's this sound that almost sounds like "Wait." I stop and turn.
"Did you say something?" I ask him.
His mouth is open as though he is about to speak but nothing comes out. Still those eyes of his seem to be the window to a soul that I didn't know he had. I swear in that moment I imagine that he is screaming for me to stay with him just for a little while. His eyes are telling me in a million ways that he apologizes for how he's acting. His eyes are telling me that he wishes more than anything that he can take back what he did to me. His eyes are saying all these things but none of them come out of his lips.
I realize when he turns away from me, avoiding the connection of our eyes that it's all my imagination.
That's all he says and stares at the ground, waiting patiently for me to just leave.
I end up going to see my father right after meeting with him. It's hard not to, even if Bello doesn't want me to. For some reason I would just feel like shit if someone was to die because of me...even if it's my sworn enemy.
"Is our father in there?" I ask.
I was hoping I'd find Jacques up here in the private suite area but instead I find Marius.
"Our?" Marius laughs, "Getting kind of comfortable, aren't you?"
The guy has a problem with me. It's clear. He has this real brazen attitude.
"He is my father, too. You do realize that right?"
"You're his half-negro bastard," Marius stops and states, "You ain't never going to be much more than that. Just so we're clear."
The way he looks at me is as though he wants some sort of anger or reaction. I don't get it. First the Sea Wolf hates me for no reason and now my own brother. I figured it would be awkward if I ever met my family but I didn't expect this kind of reaction. Marius is looking at me as though I'm literally the worst thing he's ever seen in his life.
"What's your problem with me?"
"My problem is I'll be damn if I have to split up my inheritance with a curse."
The way he almost spits the idea that I'm a curse seems as though he knew very well about the curse. My father had laughed about it though. Jacques had laughed about it. If they both thought it was jokes why was Marius showing that he believed in it.
We are interrupted before I can get answers from Marius. It's Jacques who walks up from one of the rooms. He looks like he is about to go out somewhere.
"Everything OK here?" Jacques asks.
Marius looks at Jacques then he looks at me. Then he walks past me bumping me as hard as he can in the shoulder as though he is trying to prove some kind of point. He has this grimace on his face the entire fucking time.
"He hates me," I tell Jacques when Marius disappears down the steps.
Jacques doesn't deny it. He sighs a little bit.
"Marius has always been difficult. Don't take it personal," Jacques responds.
"The curse is real...and you know it is. Don't you?" I ask.
"You should talk to Father about that."
Finally. I had so many questions. I had so many things that I wanted to know from my father. Right now I had to definitely find those things out.
Jacques tells me to wait. He disappears into the main suite. A few minutes later he calls me in. A part of me wants Jacques to come in the room to meet my father but another part of me knows that this is something that I have to do alone. When Jacques walks away I find myself going into the room to meet my father and finding him sitting on a grand chair. He is looking down at something. I walk over to the desk and realize that it is some sort of map.
It's similar to the map that my mother gave to me.
"That's the other half," I state.
He looks up at me, wraps up the map silently and shoves it in a jar at the study. He puts the jar underneath the desk. As he stares at me I realize that my father is very much aware of this.
"This map is a map of secret places. Places unknown. Places that the world isn't quite ready for. When I discovered it on your mother I let the church know immediately. Do you know what they said?"
"They told me to burn it," he explains, "I should have, but for some reason I decided not to. I split the map in half. I gave half to your grandmother and kept the other half with me. I should have known one day Holystone would come seeking it..."
He shakes his head angrily. My father still doesn't look me in the eyes. It's almost as though he can't. When I sit down in the chair I notice him staring at my forehead. He stares at my cheeks and my mouth. It's almost as though he's seeing a newborn baby for the very first time.
"You and Holystone had history?" I ask.
"He worked for me at some point. I used him. He was always dark though. He was always evil," my father explains, "And so is that Sea Wolf of his."
"That's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about."
"The Sea Wolf?"
"Yes. The curse is real."
"Lafayette, no true son of mine could possibly believe in those fantasies," he begins to laugh.
He realizes however that I don't laugh with him. My face is serious. It's very fucking serious.
"I've seen it."
His laughter stops. He isn't surprised when I say it. He crosses his arms and leans back in his chair. Why would he go through the hassle of splitting the map in half and hiding a part of it if he thought the curse was fake? That voodoo witch that cursed him definitely got under his skin. I can see it now as he sits there and thinks about it.
"The Baptiste family will not bow to parlor tricks."
There is so much pride in his eyes right now. I can see where Marius gets it. They both have this look of pride almost as though they were born with their heads up high and a silver spoon in their mouth. My father looks so polished and wealthy as though he's never needed for anything in his life. The way he says the Baptiste name has all this pride.
"You're great and mighty," I explain to him, "A Baptiste."
His face is proud, just like I want it to be. He smiles at that moment full of himself.
"You better know it boy. You have aristocratic blood in you," he explains, "You should always be proud of that."
Proud, he says. I should be proud that I have a father who shipped me away when I was just a child and never came to visit me. I should be happy that he's never written me or acknowledged my presence. I was the child he was ashamed. I was literally a bastard without pride but all of a sudden he was considering me a Baptiste.
"I am proud to be Baptiste," I explain to my father, forcing a smile, "As a Baptiste, what's a sea wolf to you? Why not just...let him go?"
"Let him go?"
There is a long pause.
"So what?" he asks, "Do you know the kind of things the Sea Wolf has done? Do you know the kind of human being he is. He's going to die. If the curse doesn't get him, I am going to hang him myself in front of timesquare. He has a bounty on his head that could add three ships to my fleet."
I don't think my father was lying. What the hell could the Sea Wolf have been doing that was so bad that he had such a high bounty. Then I remember? He's an cruel pirate.
"Does he deserve to die though?" I ask.
"He deserves much worse. Do you know what Holystone did to your grandmother? Your uncle?"
"That was Holystone. Bello is different..."
Different? Was he really different from Holystone or did I want Bello to be different from Holystone.
"I'll kill every last one of them. I'll hunt them down no matter where they go. I can't show my face among my colleagues They KIDNAPPED my son Ashton and turned him into..."
He stops. He doesn't finish his thought. The pain in his voice lets me know that Holystone taking Ashton was a blow to him. The look is clearl;y something that is breaking him. I wonder at that moment though. Is it a blow because he missed Ashton or was it a blow to the pride that was associated with the Baptiste name?
"You seem too emotionally invested in this. With your grandmother gone I'm going to leave you my property in Nassau to do with as you like but you'll have to manage my name better..."
"Wait you're leaving me? Here?" I ask.
"Of course. What did you think?"
"I figured...now that we were reunited," I start off, "I figured you'd take me with you."
The way he looks at me makes it clear that this thought hasn't crossed his mind at all. My father now all of a sudden looks at me and I can finally see HOW he stares at me. He looks at me as this pathetic thing.
"I couldn't possibly do that," he explains, "I've come here to hunt down Holystone, kill all the pirates on that ship and Ashton home. I didn't come to bring you home...this is your home. That's just how things are. You do understand don't you."
My heart feels like I'm getting stabbed a million ways.
"I'll make sure you'll never need for anything of course. Anything you want I'll give you."
"Good. I'll have you escorted home in the morning. If the Sea Wolf is here then Holystone can't be far. Tonight we are going to send armed men to raid the Screaming Dagger and kill every last one of them. And bring my poor Ashton home."
I didn't matter to him. I wasn't even in the vocabulary.
"Ashton will die if he gets off that ship."
My father shakes his head, "It's better he be dead than dragging the Baptiste name through the mud as sea rat pirate."
It's at that moment I see just what kind of person my father is. This man was willing to sacrifice Ashton for the name. He was willing to drag Ashton off of the Screaming Dagger even though he knew damn well that it would mean death for him.
It's the middle of the night and I hit the guard with the back of the bucket. I grab the keys off of him. Within a matter of seconds I open the door and I take a look at the Sea Wolf. He looks up at me as though surprised that as hell to see me.
"What the hell are you doing in here?" he asks, "I specifically told the guard that I didn't want anymore visits from you."
"I don't think he's doing very much listening lately..."
I grab the body and drag it into the cell. I look over at the Sea Wolf's face and notice that he's surprised. I can't help but to smile when I see his reaction. He definitely wasn't expecting me to be the kind of guy to knock out a guard.
When I drag him in there I start unchaining Bello.
When he's released I give him a nod, "Come on."
"Why are you doing this?" I ask him.
"You want to stand here and talk or you want to get to get out of here."
He answers that by leaning up against the wall. Bello is acting so cool right now that it pisses me off! He won't move one step until I answer his question. He's crazy. This place was crawling with my father's personal mercenaries.
"Why are you helping me?"
"They are going to attack Holystone. They are going to attack the Screaming Dagger. You need to get back to the ship and warn Holystone."
I think the mention of running back to help his lover would get Bello up to task but that doesn't do the trick. He actually squats right back down. Nothing quite seems to matter to him at that moment.
"I'm not doing it for you. My father is going to drag Ashton off that ship if he gets his way. Ashton is going to die. I need you to get back on the Dagger and warn Holystone so he can escape."
"So this is about saving your Ashton," he responds, "This isn't about anything else."
"What else would it be?"
"Nothing...more between us."
"WE NEED TO GO!"
"Answer. I need to know you're doing this for other reasons and NOT for me."
He was so serious. He was willing to sit here and either disappear because of the curse or die from being hung to make sure that I wasn't doing this to help him.
"That scares you doesn't it? For some reason the idea of me not hating you scares the fuck out of you...why?"
"I don't need you to analyze me. I need to know you're doing this for Ashton. Not me."
I hear footsteps. People were coming.
"Yes. It's for Ashton. I hate you," I tell him, "Is that what you want to hear? I fucking hate your guts and the first chance I get I'm going to kill you."
He stares at me for a moment. I'm saying whatever I need to tell him to get him moving at this point an d this is the only thing that would make the Sea Wolf get up and leave with me.
"Good. Let's go."
We walk into the hallway.
I'm surprised when I see Marius and a few of the mercenaries working for my father there. They seem to have been patroling for something. Or maybe they were up to something else. I'm not quite sure why Marius is bringing these guards to Bello's room. Either way I stop them in the middle of the floor and I can see this look that Marius is wearing.
"I knew it. I knew you were a traitor," Marius states seeing me with the Sea Wolf.
With that I see Marius draw his sword. He isn't the only one. Almost immediatley the three men with Marius immediately draw his sword.
"Stay back..." Bello tells me almost in a sweet, protective way but immediately catches himself by adding, "You'd be useless in a fight and only slow me down."
I roll my eyes realizing that this man couldn't help but to be cruel to me. I take a few steps back however and watch as Bello walks forward. He doesn't even seem to be scared of the fact that my brother Marius has a full weapon drawn.
"Stop him," Marius orders his men.
Several men attack Bello. One of the men slashes with his cutlass barely missing Bello. Bello is too quick. He backs quickly away from the man leaning up against the wall, kicking at the man's wrist when he misses and sending the blade through the air. The man dives to catch the blade but again, he's too slow, because Bello quickly trips the man grabs the cutlass and slashes the man across the chest with it.
The other two men are shocked by how quickly this happens. One second Bello was unarmed and now he was squaring them up with a weapon of his own.
"I SAID KILL HIM!" Marius barks.
They run forward. Two men slash at Bello at the same time. Bello counters both their attacks, sweeping his cutlass to swipe the attacks away. They back him off as Bello beats away every sword attack. I can't help but to look at Bello and just be fucking amazed. He was shirtless and his muscled body is glistening with sweat. He is so strong and yet has this elegant glide to the way that he fights. I can't help but to think just how SEXY he is...especially when he was in his element.
I swear I get a hard dick just watching Bello take block their attacks. When he's done playing with them he counters making an attack of his own. The first man he attacks can't counter. He get poked right in the chest and falls over. The other man realizes that he can't fight Bello fairely so he rips up the carpet and from underneath Bello causing Bello to stumble a little.
He rushes forward ready to stab Bello but before he gets there I find myself tackling the man to the ground when his back is turned. I hit him so hard that I knock him out.
"WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!"
Bello grabs me by my collar and lifts me up. He presses me up against the wall. When he screams at me his breath is in my face. We've never been this close. I've never noticed how good his breath smells. The whole time he was fighting I hadn't seen a lick of anger from him but all of a sudden he was beyond pissed. You would think I had betrayed him instead of saving him.
"He was about to kill you..." I state.
"I told you to stay out of this," Bello repeats.
He throws me to the ground like I'm a piece of shit. He just tosses me to the ground. He is so pissed that I can hear his breathing. For some reason I have gotten underneath his skin in the worst way possible and it's pissing Bello off.
Bello turns to Marius. He picks his sword. The two men begin to fight squaring off but Marius doesn't stand a chance. The fight doesn't even last a minute before Bello slaps his sword away with pure strength. He draws his sword and is about to hack Marius to pieces.
"Do you have any idea who my father is? You lay a finger on me and he'll have an entire NAVY after you and your tug boat you call a pirate ship," Marius states, "I am a Baptiste..."
I'll have to give it to Marius. He might not have been much of a fighter but he was definitely brave. The look in the Sea Wolf's eyes right now would have most men shitting themselves in fear.
"Does it look like I give a fuck who you are?" Bello asks him.
"Don't..." I state.
"You don't tell me what to do..." Bello says to me.
Marius seems to be just annoyed as Bello is by me interfering.
"I'm Marius BAPTISTE. A real Baptiste. You think I need pity from my father's nigger bastard," Marius tells me.
As if that isn't enough Marius spits in my face. You would think me asking Bello to spare his life was the worse thing that I could have ever done to him. As soon as he spits on me Bello punches him. He punches him right in the face.
"Actually I think death will be too good for you," Bello responds.
I look at Marius confused on why he just spit in my face.
Marius is heated. He has that Baptiste pride and it is something crazy. I'm shocked at how proud he actually is when I see him on the floor. It's at that moment that I know Bello is right. He would probably rather die than have me help him.
He continues to talk shit to me even as I walk away and he's bleeding out from a busted nose.
"You're a fucking curse!" Marius tells me, "The first moment he gets that pirate is going to tell Holystone you are the youngest. And there's no where you'll be safe."
I sneak out of the back after a few more minutes.
"What did you have to go back and get?" Bello asks me.
We are walking through the streets of the Nassau back to the piers. I pull other half of my father's map out of my pocket.
"You have it. Do you know what Holystone would give for this?"
"Well you can give it to him. He'll be happy with you."
He stops walking. He stops again. I can tell something is heavy on his mind.
"Why are you helping us?" he asks me.
"I told you. For Ashton. I may not like Holystone but I don't want my father to get his way. If Holystone has that second half of the map then maybe he can find a way to break the curse."
"There's only one way to break the curse," he explains to me, "Sacrifice the youngest Baptiste boy. That would be you..."
"Yeah it would be."
"Holystone would want this map...but he would want me to drag you back to the ship as well," Bello states.
"You wouldn't do that, would you?"
"I saved you."
"I'm a fucking pirate. What part of that don't you get?" Bello asks, "Why the fuck do you think I have some honor. I'm no Baptiste. I don't have a name that I need to maintain."
Clearly I wasn't much of a Baptiste either. Not a real one according to my brother Marius. I sit there and look at Bello. I wonder who he was. I wonder where he comes from. All of a sudden I see a parrot flying overhead. I notice at that moment just what that parrot is.
"He probably brought a team to find help find me," Bello states, "I think I see them down the hill..."
Sure enough there is a group pirate looking people headed our way on the pier. It's crowded where they are but isn't so much where we are. Bello looks at me. I look at Bello. Regardless of who is around when he looks at me I swear I think that we are the only people in the fucking world. I swear I think we are the only people in the world.
"Yeah. You're a pirate..." I state, "I get it..."
I can't say I wasn't hoping that Bello wouldn't have dragged my ass in afterward. He looks at me. I get all these shivers when he stares at me. A part of me doesn't even know what I would be leaving to go back to if I didn't come with Bello.
My father would probably be pissed at me. I don't think he would be mad enough to turn me over for releasing a fugitive. It's not that he cared about me. He probably didn't want to further stain the Baptiste name. Marquis would probably still hate me. Jacques would do his best to start a relationship but even he would be gone as soon as my father was ready to sail away.
I see the pirates heading over our way. It looks like Holystone himself has come out. He hasn't spotted us yet but I see him. Any moment now Holystone or someone with him was going to see us.
"Get the fuck out of here..." Bello states.
I'm surprised when he says it.
Bello shakes his head, "Leave."
It's the first second of kindness that I've seen from him. It's the first time he's showed anything like that. It's a small thing and he's staring away the entire time he does it but he is telling me to leave. He wans't going to tell Holystone who I was.
I turn and start to walk the other way but I don't get far.
I run into someone.
"Lafayette!" Ashton states, "Oh my god it's really you! HEY I FOUND THEM! CAPTAIN!"
"Shut the fuck up..." Bello states pushing Ashton off me before he can touch me.
I think about running at that moment but then I think against it. It didn't matter. Holystone promised I could leave anyway and there was no way that he was going to find out that I was the youngest Baptiste. Bello keeps sort of signaling for me to run away but I don't. I reach back over to Ashton and give him a pat. I honestly missed the guy.
Before I know it I'm joined by O'Malley, Black Jack and Skyrat. There a few other boys that are with Holystone as well but these guys surround me. They seem kind of happy to see me.
"I went and got help as soon as I can," Skyrat states.
O'Malley winks at me, "Man I missed that ass...literally."
He takes a look at my ass as he does it. Ashton literally kicks the guy in the stomach. Literally. I guess that's just how pirates are though because it causes everyone else to laugh at that moment, including O'Malley.
That leaves Black Jack to explain what just happened, "Ashton was in a funk since you left. That boy had it bad..."
I look over at Bello. He knew Ashton was my brother and how awkward this is for all of me. He doesn't show any signs of giving away my identity though.
"Baptiste is going to attack tonight. We need to leave."
"I'm not leaving without the map," Holystone responds.
"This map?" Bello responds.
Holystone holds the map. You would think this was gold by how he was looking at it, "You boys head to the ship..."
"Can I just say goodbye to---" Ashton starts off.
Holystone barks at Ashton with an anger that causes Ashton and he others to head off immediately. The pirates are unruly unless it came to their captain. They listened to every word their captain said without the slightest bit of unruliness. Almost immediately he looks at the map like this madman.
Holystone smiles at that moment, "I should have known that you didn't need help. You are the Sea Wolf after all."
I watch as Holystone walks over to the Sea Wolf. He kisses him on the lips. I swear I notice Holystone look over at me just for a second after kissing the Sea Wolf.
"It was the kid. He broke us out," Bello states, "He got the map."
I'm surprised he's giving me credit. Something seems to be annoying him though. I wonder if he's annoyed that I didn't run when I had the chance to get away.
"Is that right?" Holystone asks me, "Well I owe you. You have your freedom kid. And I want to thank you for saving the most valuable thing to me."
"Sir...scouts...we should leave now, " Skyrat states returning out of no where with his parrot with him.
"I guess this is goodbye," I state.
I look at Bello as I say that.
A part of me is hoping he wuld say it back to me. He doesn't.
Holystone does however, "Goodbye..."
Just at that moment something weird happens. Skyrat's parrot just starts to talk. He just starts saying something over at over.
"He's a little happy tonight," Skyrat states.
"What's he saying?" Holystone asks.
"The parrot keeps repeating the same thing, " Lafayette is the youngest Baptiste. Lafayette is the youngest Baptiste. Lafayette is the youngest Baptiste. Lafayette is the youngest Baptiste. Lafayette is the youngest Baptiste. Lafayette is the youngest Baptiste. Lafayette is the youngest Baptiste."
I remember the words. When my father recognized me. The parrot was there. THE FUCKING PARROT WAS THERE!
I turn to run at that moment. I don't get far.
"You're not going anywhere..." Holystone says grabbing my arm and putting a knife to my throat...
To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com