As Elizabeth had climbed carefully up the steps to the deck above she had tried to keep her head held high as she felt the crew's eyes on her. Ana Maria, lounging back against the mast, her hat cocked to one side smiled on, and Mr Gibbs was lost for words.
"Well…I…armmmm…" he spluttered as Elizabeth drew closer, digging his elbow sharply into Jack's side, causing him to spin around. Jack's dark eyes swept over Elizabeth's face, taking in every contour as though he had only now seen her clearly, passing down her long, exposed neck and down to the vast expanse of olive skin laid bare on her chest.
Elizabeth tried to steady her breathing but the tight gown was making this difficult and as she felt Jack's eyes so brazenly upon her she felt the way her flesh swelled, restricted by the fabric, as her chest rose and fell. When she had first regarded herself in the oval gilt mirror in Jack's cabin her first reaction had been shock. Never before had she felt so exposed, compromised even, and she imagined first her father's and the rest of Port Royal society's reaction if she had ever dared to wear anything like this. But the shape was so flattering, the colour and fabric alluring in the way it skimmed and then clung to her body, rustling softly as she moved, that Elizabeth couldn't help but feel a thrill of excitement. And now, now she had reappeared above deck, it seemed that Jack had been right in his assessment of what sort of reaction such a dress could inspire.
"'Course it is not what you'll be used to be wearing…" Jack was teasing her, knowing that she knew how striking she looked; knowing too how much she was enjoying the freedom of it. Maybe Jack had been right about what he had said before about the ladies of Tortuga? Perhaps they really were free? Inwardly, Elizabeth rebuked herself. Jack was never right. "But it has an appeal of its own…as it were."
The heat of his appraising gaze was almost intolerable, making her feel uncomfortably vulnerable and she quickly tried to rid herself of it by asking, "What's the plan?"
Roger Goodfellow had taken up residence in one of the rooms on the first floor of The Faithful Bride and waited. He sat down at the low wooden table and listen to the raucous of the streets outside: the crashes of brawls in the street, the smashes of empty bottle. From within he could here the squeals and shrieks of Tortuga's ladies as the men that passed through attempted to purchase themselves a night of entertainment and comfort. It never even crossed Roger's mind to follow suit. He was not that sort of man. Besides, he thought to himself as he uncorked a bottle and cut himself a thick slice of the salt-caked ham, there was something much more valuable that he was in the market for this evening.
"Cap'n," a rich voice sounded from the shadows, concealed on the balcony. Roger looked up to his first mate, a large, African man with a large pink scar down one side of his face that had caused one of his eyes to close. He flicked his head in the direction of the street bellow and, after licking his fingers clean, Roger rose slowly to his feet and walked out into the balcony to look down at what had caught his first mate's attention.
A woman was picking her way through the streets of Tortuga, her clear eyes ever watchful of the lecherous pirates that sauntered drunkenly towards her and leered. She combated their advances with dignified silence before continuing to walk towards her destination of The Faithful Bride. Although her dress was indiscernible from any other woman in Tortuga it was her manner, the way she held herself with such poise, which made her stand out.
"Well, well, well," Roger mused, amused, as he watched until the beautiful woman disappeared out of sight below them.
"Is it her?" his dark companion asked.
"I should think so."
They both watched as the woman, a tall, willowy woman with fair brown hair and a striking face, reappeared, her hips swaying slightly with every step.
"Well wouldn't she be the prettiest piece of skirt that ever deigned to set foot in the streets of Torgtuga?"
Roger gave his first mate a reprimanding look and, watching the woman long enough to see her enter The Faithful Bride, said, "Go downstairs and bring her to me…" The dark man smiled, flashing a multitude of gold teeth, but before he quitted the room Roger grabbed him by the scruff of the shirt and, pulling him sharply into him, cautioned, "Be gentle mind."
Commodore Norrington had been on edge ever since a fight had broken out for the fifth time that evening. A drunken, one-eyed pirate had clumsily stumbled into a table, upsetting it, causing the cards and counters of a game Norrington had never seen before to clatter to the floor. The men who had been at play had instantaneously sprung to their feet, drawing their pistols, sending punches flying and men diving over upturned stools.
For the fifth time that evening Norrington had instinctively reached for his pistol, only to be prevented by Will's hand on his arm.
"I don't think that would be wise."
"I'm beginning to expect that you're enjoying this, Mr Turner."
Will said nothing for a moment as he smiled down into his tankard before asking, "Whatever gave you that impression?"
A large woman with a highly made-up face came flying into them, knocking Norrington off balance on his stool. He turned round to her, his face wrinkled in disgust, as she slurred, "Begging your pardon, sir" before being swept off into the arms of a man with a long black beard.
"Only a pirate could enjoy such a dissolute way of life." But just as he had said this Norrington noticed a woman, quite unlike the rest, pushing her way past the men that crowded round the door. Of course, her appearance was highly indecent, her dress just as revealing as the rest, but she did not look like the rum-soaked hags that swarmed around the men that flashed the promise of gold. She was, dare he admit it even to himself, beautiful?
"You're blushing, Commodore," Will teased, his words very much affected by the amount of alcohol he had consumed to pass the time. "Could it be that you might be tempted by one of The Faithful Bride's eager employees?"
"Elizabeth?" Norrington said, astounded.
"What?" Will gasped, automatically turning to follow Norrington's line of sight. It was Elizabeth, looking as he had never seen her look. This couldn't be right, Will desperately tried to understand; this wasn't part of the arrangement. Why was she here of all places, not only compromising herself but compromising all that he and Jack had planned?
"It seems you were right, Mr Turner." Norrington had risen to his feet and produced a handful of silver coins. "Now if you settle our bill I shall fetch Miss Swann."
He dumped the coins on the bar beside Will but Will had no intention of staying put. Something had happened for the plan to change and, whatever it was, it could not be good. But before he had taken more than a few steps he walked directly into Norrington, whose face was contorted with anger, and whose arm was shaking as he pointed a finger to the place Elizabeth had just been.
"Where is she?"