Certainly it made Ryder feel as though he and the other pirates were truly free, truly lawless. As though no one, not even the Doom Empire, could force on them any rules and restrictions. Of course that was merely an illusion, the pirates having to obey at least some sort of guidelines in order to be sanctioned by the Doom Empire. But there was ways around that, loopholes through the constraints, the pirates enjoying a freedom that would have evaded them if they had not been led by the crown prince of the Doom Empire.
That very leader was currently locked away in his private cabin, no doubt spending the last of his energy on a woman or two. It wasn’t as though Lotor would be the only one busy, fucking, sleeping, drinking. Many of the pirates had been partying these past few hours, celebrating the successful raid they had enjoyed. There had been a lot of shouting, screams and moans, laughter and catcalls. The men continuing still to sate themselves on whatever vices they enjoyed, be they women, drink, or gambling.
But not Ryder. And not because he didn’t want to! But he had taken leave of his good senses, fixating on one who wasn’t just a woman, but a holy one at that. He cursed his misfortune, hated on himself for allowing jade colored eyes to beguile him into feeling more than just his groin’s stirring.
He had to have gone insane, at least in part. To make off with a priestess, a woman that was devout, supposedly untouched by man or impure desires. A woman he shouldn’t be near, his very touch corrupt. Every time he laid hands on her, he was soiling her with sinful touches. Marring that which was innocent, and probably damning himself in the process.
And yet he had been unable to resist, the attraction he felt for the woman going beyond the mere physical. Yes she was beautiful, but there was something between them, something she felt too if he judged her reactions right. She had yet to try to fight him, but then Ryder had yet to do much of anything. Cowardly hiding after locking her inside his own private cabin. Left to brood and wonder why he couldn’t have had less scruples, or been one of the more slavering idiots who didn’t give a single damn about the women touched by the Gods.
Ryder wasn’t particularly religious, but even he knew the trouble one courted in forcing attentions on a holy woman. He wanted no part of damnation, and if he had been smarter, he would have left her to the care of one of the other pirates. But he had been unable to tolerate the thought of another touching her, of another kissing all over that voluptuous body, or to imagine them running their fingers through that long sweep of hair, making her cry out in pain or in pleasure.
It had actually made him see red, Ryder fighting a rage back on the yacht, when one of the other pirates had dared to grab at the woman. Why even when his own captain had inspected the woman, it had taken all of Ryder’s strength to hold back from attacking him. It made little sense, the attraction holding a dangerous pull that was making him irrational where other men were concerned. It wasn’t Ryder’s way, and quite frankly he was sure he didn’t want to change into some possessive Neanderthal where the woman, where ANY woman was concerned.
“I must be going out of my mind.” He grumbled to himself. A few looks were cast his way before Ryder’s glare made the Drules turn back to their assigned tasks. The command deck was relatively quiet, save for the beeps and dings of various equipment doing it’s job. The morning crew had yet to arrive, and the midnight shift workers were tired, wanting nothing more than to return to their quarters and sleep.
Ryder needed sleep himself, and yet he was doing everything he could to delay. Lying to himself that someone needed to be in charge, someone needed to watch over the crew while the captain was otherwise detained. But Lotor’s pirates were well trained, the command deck crew needing little in the way instruction. They worked like they were part of a well oiled machine, knowing the ins and outs of their jobs, and able to handle a variety of emergencies. They did not need Ryder or anyone else watching over their shoulders. And yet he stayed, Ryder telling himself it was better this way.
But better for who? Himself? Or the woman? And what would he do when the need for sleep pressed in? Bunk down in the barracks, rather than retire to his own comfortable cabin. And would he really spend the next three weeks hiding from the choice he had made? Even if it had been nonsensical, Ryder driven by impulses he didn’t quite understand.
For that matter, what would he do with the woman once the outpost was reached? Lotor had yet to make a decision about the small group of priestesses they had captured in the raid, but one would eventually have to be settled on. But would Lotor actually be blasphemer enough to sell the holy women into slavery? And would Ryder actually want to part with his own, even if that was the more sensible of options?
“Idiot.” He grumbled, not liking how deep a mess he had stepped into. At the time of the claiming, Ryder had not been thinking much of anything except keeping the woman away from the other pirates. He certainly hadn’t considered any of the trouble that went with holding a priestess prisoner, the woman a spoil he should not partake of.
The problem was he WANTED to. Irrational though that may be, it wasn’t just his dick that was hungering for her. He wanted more than just lusts fulfilled, a part of him wanted to explore the pull between them, the connection that had begun to form. But he knew that would be unwise, Ryder having no time and no desire to truly form an attachment to a woman. He certainly didn’t have room in his life to bond to one, to want more than just sex from one. He was Lotor’s right hand man, had a thousand responsibilities to his name. A relationship that went beyond the physical would only get in the way, and Ryder knew it. Hell, all the pirates knew it, Lotor included. The time for anything more with a woman, would come after Lotor sat victorious on the throne of the Drules.
Ryder couldn’t force that time to come any faster. Just as he couldn’t push the technicians to make the ship fly any faster. The journey to the outposts stretched out before him, a travel that would take three weeks minimum, provided Lotor didn’t get the bright idea to stop along the way.
The three or more weeks spread before him, Ryder imagining the private hell he would have to endure. He almost groaned out loud, but was too conscious of the strange looks the midnight crew kept giving him. Just from his soft grumblings, and the fact he was here, rather than with the woman, gave the crew more than enough to speculate on. They’d all be wondering why the great seducer, wasn’t living up to his name, why he wasn’t right at this instant cradled between pale thighs.
Despite himself, he imagined it. Imagined the woman free of her gown, her pale skin his to admire, to touch, to kiss. Would she sigh softly and let out the sweetest of moans? Or would she try to resist, actually push him away, forcing Ryder to use all his acquired skill and knowledge to seduce from her a more favorable response? Was he crazy enough to even try to woo a holy woman to lay beneath him? Was it even possible to get a woman devoted to the service of the Gods to give up her chastity, or was it like Lotor had stated. An impossibility?
The odds certainly seemed stacked against him. She was too good, too untouchable to consider bedding one who would not, could not offer her any type of commitment beyond the fun of the next three weeks. Certainly Ryder didn’t expect her to break any vows for a man, a pirate, who could be nothing more than a temporary lover. And as much as Ryder was lusting, he wasn’t close to considering using outright force to get what he desired.
It left him with his hands tied, Ryder unable to puzzle out a solution to the problem he had brought upon himself. Without even realizing it, he was making faces, the frown furrowing even his brow. Anyone could see by looking at him, that Ryder was deep in concentration. Most would have chosen not to interrupt, but then most weren’t Cossack the Terrible.
“Gods but you look like shit warmed over.” Cossack’s voice was loud, intrusive enough to jar Ryder out of his own thoughts.
“What the hell are you doing up so early?” Ryder demanded, nose wrinkling as he got a whiff of the rum that seemed too ooze off of Cossack’s body as a potent aroma.
“What makes you think I’ve been to sleep yet?” grinned Cossack.
Ryder grumbled then. “So glad to know at least one of us is being responsible while the captain is otherwise busy.”
“Hey, he didn’t say anything about not partying.” pointed out Cossack. “If he was worried, he would have said something.”
“Maybe he trusts us enough to rely on us to do what he doesn’t ask.” countered Ryder. “Someone has to take charge around here when the captain is off duty. Especially when we’re still in enemy territory.”
“Ah but with that weapon onboard, they’d be stupid to attack us.”
“They don’t know we have that weapon, and the Doom Empire would like to keep it that way.” Ryder reminded him. “At least not until we’ve completed testing of it.”
“Don’t think we have to do much more…” Cossack said thoughtfully. “You saw how it decimated that ship’s defenses.”
“I hardly think a lone yacht out on a pleasure cruise yields enough of the required data.” Ryder’s tone was dry. “We’re going to have to test it again…find a better challenge.” And that would surely delay their journey to the outpost, a sudden realization that made Ryder all the more glum.
“We can manage whatever challenge is out there.” An overconfident Cossack boasted. “Sides, I’m thinking the captain is not that eager to hand over the weapon after seeing what it is capable of.”
“You think he’ll try to keep it from the King?” It made sense. Lotor’s chance of taking the throne from King Zarkon, would diminish in likelihood if the weapon was turned against the pirates. If Ryder was Lotor, he would be doing everything in his power, making every excuse in the book, to keep from returning the weapon to King Zarkon.
“Oh you know it.” Cossack grinned. “With the only completed, working prototype in OUR hands, the captain would be a fool to hand it over.” He winked then. “Mark my words. The captain will keep making excuses. Zarkon will have no choice but to begin production of a second model, and that will take months if not years.” He laughed then, taking joy in the aggravation this would cause the Drule King.
“He can only give the King the run around for so long…” Ryder pointed out. “In keeping this weapon, eventually….it will be considered an act of treason. And when that happens….”
“We go to war.” Cossack’s amusement had sobered up.
“We’re far from ready.”
“But with the weapon we don’t need much more.” Cossack said.
“We don’t know if that weapon is reliable.” Ryder protested. “It worked this time, but what about next? Or three times from now? It could fail at any time.”
Cossack looked uncertain then. “I’m sure the captain has taken that into consideration.”
“But has he considered we might be better off breaking the weapon.” Ryder wondered. “It would keep it out of Zarkon’s hands for just a little while longer.”
“You’ll have to ask him yourself about THAT.” Cossack said. “But I’m willing to bet a fair share, that the captain won’t like the idea of doing away with such a valuable tool.”
“I’d be a fool to bet against you on that.” sighed Ryder. But that exhalation was more exaggerated than the conversation deserved, Cossack looking at Ryder intently.
“What’s with you? What’s got you so down?”
“Nothing.” grumbled Ryder.
“Don’t tell me that. You’ve been making faces since I arrived, and I get the feeling you are worrying about more than just the weapon and what we’ll do with it.” Cossack scratched at his nose. “So come on. What gives? Why are you even here and not living it up like the rest of our crew?”
“I already told you…”
“And don’t expect me to believe it’s you being overly cautious and standing watch over things while the captain and his third is busy. We’ve got a good crew, they’re more than capable of holding things together should an emergency happen before one of us can get to the command deck.”
Ryder held in his sigh. “You ever do something so stupid…”
“All the time.” grinned Cossack.
“No, I mean stupider than usual.” Ryder said. “Stupid enough that you should regret it, and a part of you does, but another part of you doesn’t see how you could have done it any other way?”
Cossack looked confused, and said as much. “Afraid you lost me on that.”
“As big an idiot as you are, I’m beginning to think I’m an even greater one.”
“Hey!” Cossack snapped in protest. “Friends we may be, but even I can take offense at such words. If you’re not careful…”
“You’ll what?” challenged Ryder, who then snorted. “We both know in a duel I’d wipe the floor with you.”
“Maybe, maybe not. But I know one thing I am better at than anyone on board this ship.”
“Somehow I am not impressed with the amount of liquor you are able to hold….” Cossack made a scoffing sound at Ryder’s grumble.
“I can do a lot more than out drink anyone on board and you know it!” He said, puffing out his chest proudly. “The captain wouldn’t have made me his third if there wasn’t more to me than first looks suggest.”
“I suppose you do have your moments.” Ryder grudgingly conceded.
“More than you’ll ever appreciate.” Cossack shot back with a smirk. “And I know what people think. They think me dumb, that I get by on my friendships. Hell even women don’t appreciate me at first….but they soon learn to look past my face and enjoy what I can do to them.” He frowned when Ryder didn’t respond to the last, Cossack stepping close enough to tap fingers on the dark haired Drule’s head. “Something’s wrong if the great seducer lets me get away with boasting about my appeal to women.”
Ryder slapped Cossacks hand away, but his own look was more morose than scornful. “Somehow today, I don’t feel it.”
Cossack was clearly stunned by Ryder’s admittance. “What? What happened?”
“Nothing? You mean…?” Cossack shook his head, as though having difficulty processing the idea that had run through it. “Don’t tell me you met the woman who could say no to you?”
Ryder just shrugged in response, hating the sympathetic look Cossack gave him.
“Shit man. Thought this day wouldn’t come for a few more years.”
Ryder gave Cossack a sharp look, his voice angry. “What is that supposed to mean?!”
“Hey now, don’t get mad at me just because some woman is finally refusing your bed.”
“She didn’t refuse.” Ryder said stiffly, earning a surprised look from Cossack. “She didn’t get the chance to.”
“Don’t tell me you…?”
“I didn’t.” Ryder stood. “I didn’t get to do anything at all.” Agitation coiled his body tight, an unwanted tension to his walk.
“What? Nothing?” Cossack frowned. “That’s so not like you.”
“I know that!” snapped Ryder. “But that…woman has an effect on me like no other.”
“An effect eh?” Cossack sounded doubtful of that. “And you know this after spending how much time with her?”
“You wouldn’t understand…”
“Probably not.” Agreed Cossack, looping an arm across Ryder’s shoulders. The dark haired Drule wrinkled his nose, the stench of Cossack’s preferred drink all the more potent now that the two were close. “But I do know a thing or two about pleasing women.”
“The day I need to take advice from you about pleasing women…” Ryder began, tone cold as he attempted to jerk away from Cossack. The drunk Drule took it all in stride, grabbing onto Ryder’s arm instead.
“Couldn’t hurt.” Cossack insisted. “I might have a few tricks that even you and Lotor have never heard of.” He ignored the mocking sound Ryder let out. “And even if I don’t, at the very least you can relax and toss back a few. What’s the worst that can happen, aside from loosening you up a little?”
“What’s the worst indeed…” Ryder muttered under his breath. But he allowed Cossack to drag him off, even allowed him to lead him to the captain’s private reserve stock of drink. By the time the pair was on their second bottle, Ryder was past protesting, too busy drinking in an attempt to forget. But the memory of jade colored eyes wasn’t as easy to vanquish, the priestess and the memory of how she had felt in his arms continuing to haunt Ryder.