Pathfinder's Way(173)

By: T.A. White

Still, she could decide to stay. Take her chances. She’d given the men who’d come for her more bruises and pain than they gave her. They knew she wouldn’t be an easy mark if they came for her again. But even as she thought it, she knew it wouldn’t work. They had the advantage of numbers. Next time there would be more until there would be no way she could fight them all. She’d never get a full night's sleep for fear of attack.

No, it was better to leave. She could control the risk better that way.

She savored the feel of the ship under her boots as she followed the sailor to the boat. It was unlikely she’d walk its decks again.

The small oar boat bucked against the ship as waves rolled gently under it. Several crewmen had already climbed in, eagerly anticipating shore leave, no doubt. She threw her leg over the side. The crewman standing next to the ladder grabbed her wrist tightly. His grip was firm and unyielding. Tate refused to let any sound of pain escape her. Weakness was a luxury she could ill afford.

“Remember, witch,” he whispered harshly. “This ship is no place for you. If you’re on it when we set sail we’ll consider you fair catch. Perhaps you’ll have a little pleasure before we throw you overboard.” His gaze darted down her body in case she missed his meaning.

She jerked away, her skin crawling. She more or less slid the rest of the way down. The rope ladder swayed jerkily under her weight, the hemp cutting into her hands as she raced down. Seawater made the rungs slippery, and she almost slipped. Arms steadied her as she stepped into the boat and sat down.

She didn’t look up, not wanting to see the cold eyes glaring down at her in anticipation. Tate folded her arms across the sick feeling in her stomach and hunched in on herself. He hadn’t been part of the group that had attacked her. Anger at the unfairness of it all churned within her.