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"More Than Words"
**"You and this woman have got some kind of strange connection going on ...."
Mauriri to David Grief about he and Isabelle from "The Locket"**
"David," Mauriri called up from the cargo hold of The Rattler, "When are we shoving off? It's getting late."
"As soon as her highness, Isabelle, graces us with her presence." Captain Grief replied, watching from a distance on the deck as the woman and her friend walked on the sandy beach to the dingy which awaited her. Grief leaned thoughtfully against the ship's sturdy mast, concentrating on what he was witnessing.
Their partner, she who paid the bills and who now scheduled he and Mauriri's current shipping and receiving schedule, was currently very distracted. Isabelle and Samuel Pederson kissed a long good-bye near the shore. Eventually she sat in the dingy and he shoved it into the water. David noted how he waved to her and Isabelle did the same, nearly dropping one of the oars into the ocean water as she stroked.
She was costing them time and money and someone had to tell her about it.
"You told me to tell you if I ever thought you weren't keeping up with your end of the bargain. I'm telling you, you're not." Grief, bent slightly at the waist, was rummaging through his tackle box, taking inventory of his meager fishing supplies. He needed to stock up and soon."It's not all your fault. I know you've been distracted. It happens." Then he added, "Believe me, I know it happens."
"Don't do that, David." Isabelle warned, pulling at the collar of her blue jacket. The weather was unseasonably cool for this time of year. "Samuel is not an obsession for me. I am totally capable of keeping a private life and a business life."
"Then why were you late this morning? You're never late."
Isabelle started to answer then stopped. She couldn't just tell him that she and Samuel had indulged in a little good-bye loving before she got dressed and walked out with him to the dingy. "I'm sorry." she said, "Time just got away from me." Then Isabelle's eyes narrowed as she noted David concentrating a bit too hard on a bottle of three year old fish pellets, "What do you have against Samuel, anyway? He likes you and is very grateful for your help."
Grief dropped the pellets into his tackle box and looked directly at Isabelle, "I don't think he's good enough for you."
The Rattler had pulled anchor at half past dawn, when the weather was good and promised to stay calm at least until the ship brought he and his companions to the island of Tangi. The natives there had set up a rather prosperous trade-sell business and were eager for European business. Most of their items, particularly horse flesh, were reportedly over-priced but with a good negotiator a fair deal could be found. Isabelle Reed was, indeed, a lady who knew how to negotiate her way into a good deal. She could do well for them all.
Isabelle looked up at David with wide, unbelieving eyes, "How can you say that?" she questioned, "Samuel and I are cut from the same cloth. He's trying desperately to change his life, just as I have."
"And he's doing it all with your hard earned money, Isabelle."
"He's making lucrative business deals for me and I'm paying him a commission."
Grief paused and looked at her, "Sometimes I just can't believe how you, the woman of the world you claim to be, can be so naïve. First there was that business with Roger Addison then there was the gold fiasco with Walsh. Now *this* guy who is so obviously using you."
With an effort to remain calm, Isabelle gently bit her bottom lip. It was true, all of it, but Grief was forgetting something. "David, did you have these *same* feelings when you helped me about thirteen months ago?" she asked. "Was *I* not good enough for you? Is that why *we* never ...?"
"That was different. I was involved." Grief responded, turning again to his tackle box, hiding a look of discomfort and slight dread. "Besides, instinct told me you had the strength of character to make it on your own." Then he smiled and glanced in her direction, "You've proven my instincts correct."
Isabelle accepted the compliment with a grin of her own although she was well aware that it was a diversion from her original question, "There are times, David Grief, when you have to go with your heart, as you did with me. You knew what was right for the both of us back then ... about a lot of different matters. It was a great judgment call if I do say so myself."
Now he chuckled, "I often wonder why I *did* help you. You've been nothing but trouble ever since."
Isabelle knew why he helped her. She'd seen it in David's eyes the first time they spotted one another. There she was, in chains, accused of murdering her French lover, and David had been drawn in by desire and a sincere belief Isabelle hadn't committed the crime for which she was accused. There was nothing more alluring for a man like Grief than an attractive woman who needed him. He said himself he had a past that haunted him with regards to this topic. There had been another woman, much like her, who needed him. He didn't help that girl when he could, finding out later she was innocent of her crimes, but he would not make the same mistake again.
David *had* been her knight in shining armor for awhile, pulling Isabelle out of trouble and relishing that feeling of accomplishment when all his tricks and cunning did what they were supposed to do. She was found innocent and released. Then, to his dismay, she had set up shop in Tahiti. Horse breeding, renting and selling. She still found herself amused when recalling the expression on his face when he found she would be about as both competition and temptation.
Still, facts were facts.
"David, if you hadn't helped me," Isabelle reminded with a humorous smile, "if you hadn't taken that risk, you would currently be out a ship and your best friend." Then she quickly added, "No need to thank me." Isabelle turned her head, the wind blowing random strands of her dark hair about her neck and shoulders. Again, she hid a smile. Yes she had helped him in return, a sort of compensation for all he had done for her. Months ago Isabelle was instrumental in David mending fences with Mauriri after it seemed the two friends would never speak and partner again. A terrible time helped by several large bottles of brandy and an all night talk, instigated by both Isabelle and Lavinia. She also paid up Grief's debt while he was on a one man quest to find the truth about a piece of baggage he had no business ever falling in love with. Isabelle did it all for more than one reason but mostly because she valued David Grief and didn't want to see his life ruined because he, like her, had made feeble-minded mistakes.
Unfortunately, despite an obvious attraction, when all was said and done Grief once again pushed Isabelle away. She expected it. Early on David had been deeply in love with Lavinia but even when he and the beautiful bar keeper split up he could not see himself with Isabelle. It hurt a little, especially when he began to take up with other women. First, Veronica Gray then the deplorable Jenny Duval.
Isabelle grimaced once again at the thought of Jenny. "He thinks the world of you." she had said to Isabelle. Strange how from that woman's mouth it sounded so incredibly insincere. Yet David had believed everything she told him. He loved her. Even now, once in awhile, Isabelle would spy David looking out into the ocean, deep in thought, and she wondered if he was thinking about Jenny. They had never found the woman's body.
"Do you really trust him?" David suddenly asked.
"What?" Isabelle blinked, jousted out of her thoughts.
"Pederson. You really haven't known him that long but you're trusting him with a lot of important business matters. You better be careful Isabelle."
"You know me better than that, David. I'm not going to put myself in a financial hole over a man. I'm too selfish. But I must say," she suddenly beamed in a dreamy fashion, "he was very concerned when I told him I was going on this hop to the island. Samuel's a thoughtful man."
"So why isn't he here with you?"
"I told him to stay at the stable, to keep an eye on things while I'm away."
"Did you tell him or did he tell you?"
Samuel Pederson had shown up at the bar one morning, just over a month ago, recently released from prison. He told Grief a tale of woe. He was looking for work. He seemed a nice enough chap and David felt sorry for him. He suggested he look up Isabelle. She might have an odd job for him to do around the stable. Little did David know the former inmate was going to wheedle himself into her heart and bed. Certainly he was good looking enough but there was something cold in his eyes that made Grief believe, unlike Isabelle, the man was not yet ready to give up his thieving ways. He made it his business to keep an eye out on Pederson.
Still, weeks had passed with no problems. The man cleaned up well, tall with blond hair and piercing green eyes, and Isabelle hadn't a single complaint. Still, David couldn't get past the idea that Pederson was a cad. He was sorry he had ever introduced the man to his friend. Grief, more than any other, was well aware how love could blind a person to their lover's true objective.
Isabelle was growing weary of the conversation. "David, you've never taken an interest in my personal life before so why are you acting like a jealous school boy now?"
"We're partners, remember? What affects you affects me."
"That's only where The Rattler is concerned. He is strictly my horse-man." she reminded.
"Isabelle," David straightened, forced to confess and looking slightly uncomfortable doing it, "I don't want to see you hurt again. Marcel Pinette ..."
"Ancient history, David."
"History has a way of repeating itself."
Mauriri, at the wheel of the Rattler, watched and listened as his partners argued back and forth. He shook his head at the futility of it all. They bickered like a married couple. Sometime he wondered why David didn't just take the plunge with Isabelle. Maybe there really was something there. At least if they slept together, even if it was just one night, he could get her out of his system and move on. Yet, having thought that, Mauriri reconsidered. There had always been something strange between these two, an odd bonding they couldn't see but he felt right away. Early on it disturbed Mauriri because he felt Isabelle bad news. Not only had she lied to them but she threatened David's relationship with Lavinia. However, the better he got to know Isabelle the more Mauriri respected her. Hell, she had saved his life! Often times Mauriri would think back on that time when the Rattler had been grounded and he managed to get himself stabbed with a sharp length of wood. The fever and hallucinations were all he recalled of that time but later, when he found it was Isabelle who took care of him, pulling the wood-dagger from his side and making sure all was well both internally and externally, he had been grateful. She was a good person and, as much as he hated to admit it, she and David were well matched. If only Captain Grief himself could see it.
Unexpectedly distracted by a rumble in the distance Mauriri looked up, his dark Polynesian eyes noting a change in the atmosphere. Black clouds were beginning to drift in and the wind was making it hard to steer the Rattler. "David," he called, "I think we're heading into a storm."
Grief looked up at the sky, also noting the change. "Dammit." he murmured, "What's the closest island?"
"Baritonga." Mauriri answered.
"Oh David, do we have to go there? Can't we just continue on or go around it?" Isabelle asked.
"It's not safe and I don't want to risk the Rattler."
Disappointed, Isabelle nodded.
"Let's head on in and drop anchor." he called to Mauriri then looked to the woman, noting her regret. "The storm will probably blow over in a few hours, Isabelle. Tangi will still be there when we arrive."
"Whatever you say." Isabelle said, unhappy and crossing discontented arms under her breasts. "After all, who am I to question the great Captain David Grief?"