[This is a multi-part story. We previously read that Miko, the pirate commander who had originally captured Liana for his Queen, planned to prove she wasn’t special in order to have her to himself. When that didn’t work, he came up with a new idea.
If you’d like to read the chapters in order, please follow this list. Thanks!
Liana paused in the secluded garden as a disturbance suddenly fluttered through the morning like a swarm of bats. She didn’t see anything, but she felt a presence and, already unstable in her ninth month, she stumbled over a stone.
“Careful.” Miko emerged from the shadows of the coconut palms. “Mustn’t let anything happen to the babe.”
“What are you doing here?” Aware that she was alone except for Sura, Liana felt jittery in the presence of the large, looming pirate. All the other warriors had left to capture a trading vessel from Australia. “Aren’t you supposed to be gathering more wealth for our dear ruler?”
Miko grinned. “That’s what I have trained men for. I have come to protect you. The Queen would be distraught if you were to have an accident.”
“I have Sura to help me.” Liana knew Miko would be the cause of any accident and tried to find a way to get him to leave. “It is bad luck for a man to be around this close to the baby’s time.”
Miko put his powerful hands on his hips and laughed, his white teeth sharp as a cat’s. “Sura is gone. There was a family emergency. Her father is badly injured and may not live through the day. I just gave her the sad news myself and watched her rush away. I told her I’d stay with you.”
“Oh no!” At once, Liana grieved for Sura and felt terrified for herself, alone here with Miko. Then came the certainty that Miko had engineered this predicament by hurting Sura’s father. The warmth of her lovely garden began to feel oppressive and her skin grew sticky under her loose cotton dress.
“No worries, little sea witch.” Miko stepped closer to her, swatting away a bee. The hard planes of his bronzed face were just as frightening without war paint. “Your secrets are safe with me, as long as you grant me a small favor in return.”
Quickly, Liana turned and put her small herb basket between them, though it scarcely was a barrier. “What could you possibly need from me? I’m about to become a mother. Sura says such babies conceived from the Sea Gods need all a mother’s attention.”
“That may be so,” Miko said. “But you and I both know that prisoner spoke true. You’re just an ordinary island girl, the daughter of a so-called oracle, who couldn’t even save his people from a volcano. Your baby was created the usual way, not at sea by a god.”
Liana didn’t reply. She was searching for a certain plant… ah, here it was! She broke off a stem full of shiny berries, careful not to touch them.
“If you marry me,” Miko continued, “you will still have the Queen’s favor. But then so will I, as your husband. I will protect the babe as well as you, though it isn’t mine.”
“You already are a favorite,” Liana said, laying more flowers in her basket. “You’ve brought lots of wealth to the kingdom.”
Miko shrugged. “For now. If a season passes with no captures, she’ll turn on me. I’ve seen other commanders put to death and eaten after being favored. But as your husband, I will have the blessings you do. The Queen will look upon both of us with favor. And our children.”
Liana suppressed a shudder at the idea of creating children with this massive brute. He was so unlike the sweet, slender, soulful island boy she’d loved. The one she’d made a baby with. Gone forever. Her heart was broken. No other man could take Ken’s place… the first time she’d felt their baby move, she vowed to live the rest of her days as a widow.
“I see.” She forced herself to gaze up at Miko and smile alluringly. “Would you like a cup of blackberry tea?”
[to be continued]
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