Five of Swords symbolises fighting, surrender, even losing. -- The card represents how we deal with these more than the action itself. – Dhyan Manik: Tarot, the Guidebook.
Tessa was determinedly not questioning her motives in returning Grisham's uniform. It was simple: she needed to get rid of the incriminating evidence, preferably before Marta decided she would like that explanation after all.
Unfortunately, her mind kept pointing out the obvious: if she really wanted to get rid of the clothes, why didn't she just burn them?
Marta would have called her insane if she knew the Queen was riding into the town in the middle of the night with a bundle of clothes strapped on Chico's back. She was courting trouble for no obvious benefit.
It wasn't just to meet him again. Whatever the Captain said, she was not attracted to him, and the quiver in her belly when she thought of the mine and all that had happened inside it was probably just indigestion.
But... there had been a connection there. Before what they had thought was the end, they had even reached a kind of truce.
And the Captain had not removed her mask when he'd had a chance.
She still didn't understand his restraint. He'd been trying to unmask her every moment they had been trapped in the mine. But when the air ran out and she had passed out first he could have easily done so – if only to die with the satisfaction of learning her true identity before Colonel Montoya.
Then again, maybe there hadn't been a conscious decision, after all. Maybe he had merely passed out too soon after her to even make the attempt.
Maybe it was all about paying him back for that one consideration, trying to make amends for the fact she had embarrassed him in front of his soldiers. Or to remind the Captain of their ever so brief truce to make her own life easier in the future.
She wasn't actually looking forward to trading more double entendres with him, things she'd never say to other people.
At least, she'd never say them as Tessa Alvarado. Tessa was protected and quite innocent. But Tessa was the one who had learnt the words, and the meanings behind them, to protect said innocence in the court of Spain. It had been protective colouring for her: if she talked the talk the would-be seducers left her alone, and no one needed to know she didn't act on her veiled promises.
She had thought she'd left that game behind when she came to Saint Helena, but something in the Captain had made her revert to the old ways.
Was it because he threatened her on a whole other level than Colonel Montoya or anyone else?
It was all too easy to sneak into town, despite the soldiers supposedly patrolling. They were lazy and tired, and all too unwilling to die on her sword. She left Chico hidden in an alley close to where she was heading, and sneaked in. The rooms were in darkness, their occupant obviously in sleep.
It was then that she realised she had no idea what to do. Just leave the uniform and boots somewhere and sneak back out before he woke up? Wake him up with a sword to trade a few witty lines?
Had she really been hoping to actually talk to him? To spar with him with words and maybe even swords? Like there wasn't enough excitement in her life!
What was wrong with her?
She took a step closer, suddenly realising the bed was empty, despite the late hour.
Before that fact had time to sink in, the door opened and there, holding a candle, was the Captain.
The shirtless, ruffled, and sleepy-looking Captain.
Tessa froze and clutched her bundle closer. Time stood still for a moment while they stared at each other. Then the Captain lunged for his sword, all signs of sleepiness gone, and she dropped the clothes to reach for her own sword.
"Well, well, well," he drawled, placing the candle on a nearby table without taking his eyes off her. "Couldn't stay away from me?"
"I felt sorry for you," the Queen said, taking over from tongue-tied Tessa. "Thought I'd return your property. After all, they are good boots." Then, as if as an afterthought, "Besides, they were stinking up my bedchamber."
She almost bit her tongue off after saying that, especially when the Captain's grin widened.
"You kept them close to your bed? My, my."
"Don't flatter yourself," she said with a haughty tone, suddenly realising she had. But that was only to hide them from Marta's view and censure.
They stared at each other in the candlelight, swords drawn, but neither one was making a move to attack, or retreat.
"Well, it's been really fun but I have to go," the Queen said, taking a step back.
That's when the Captain attacked, and she moved on instinct to block his blow. In seconds they were engaged in yet another sword fight.
As they fought around the room, swords clashing and furniture toppling over, the Queen had to admit it was exhilarating. This was what she had hoped for when leaving home – the challenge, the adrenaline, the sight of the sweaty, intensely focused man...
Wait, where did that come from?
The shock of realisation made her falter, just for a fraction of a second, but it was enough for the Captain to press his advantage and make her retreat against the wall, trying to overpower her with his strength.
This time she didn't have a dagger handy to threaten his... bits.
She was still in shock over the late realisation of her motives. She had wanted to see him again. She had wanted to see him sweaty and focused on her. She did, despite all her words to the opposite, want him.
Some of this must have been showing on her face, or perhaps their proximity was equally distracting to him because, in a heartbeat, his lips were on hers.
He was kissing her! He was kissing her roughly, in a way no one else ever had. Her kisses with Tonio had been tender compared to this. And whatever her mind knew about the way things worked, her body was quite innocent, not at all prepared for the feelings the talented mouth against hers was creating.
It had never felt like this. The violence of the kiss woke up something in her, something she had only glimpsed during time of battle, the exhilaration, the fire... before she knew her own intentions she had opened her mouth, inviting the invading tongue to stroke the flames higher, meeting it with her own to continue their duel.
In the back of her mind a quiet voice, sounding a lot like Marta, tried to tell her this was just another ploy to remove her mask by the Captain, but she found it hard to believe the warning. Especially when a clattering sound told her Grisham had dropped his sword to free both of his hands to touch her, one hand caressing the bare skin on her chest, her neck, tracing the line of her corset, while his other other hand cupped her waist on the way to her back, pulling her close to his hard body, rubbing against her in a way that she thought would drive her crazy, would make the fires consume her.
Her own sword dropped, unheeded, and she tangled her fingers in his hair, pulling his head closer, letting her feelings take control despite her earlier denial.
Then his hand sneaked up, and was stroking her face, the mask... she used the hands in his hair to pull his head back, breaking the kiss, regretting the loss of that hot mouth instantly.
They stared at each other in the dim light of the candle, and she though she saw equal astonishment on his face. But surely he wasn't as innocent in the ways of passion as she was.
His left hand was on her waist, keeping her close, and the right one still against her cheek, caressing her face with tenderness she hadn't thought to expect.
"Don't worry," he whispered, sounding sincere. "I'm not interested in removing it. Not tonight." Then he grinned, but for once it didn't look infuriating to her. Instead the sight of that smile created that familiar little quiver in her insides. "I'm kind of looking toward to seeing you wearing nothing but the mask, to tell the truth. It's quite sexy."
It should have frightened her, that certainty of her surrender in his tone.
Then again, he had a lot of experience in women surrendering to him in this way. The reminder made her feel cold despite the heat of his body still wrapped around her.
"What about Senora Hidalgo?" she asked, remembering at the last second not to refer to her by her Christian name.
"Vera?" He frowned. "She's not you," he simply said.
She couldn't help adding, "And Senorita Alvarado?"
He laughed a little. "Definitely not you."
He tried steering her toward the bed but she fought back.
"I won't be just another woman in your life!" she said determinedly, struggling to leave his arms.
He forced her to meet his eyes. "You wouldn't be," he said, with conviction. He shook his head, looking frustrated and maybe a little self-deprecating. "Look, I don't understand it myself. I thought this was all just about you being a beautiful, infuriating woman, someone I could bed... but it's not. It's more. You are more. You're not like them. You're not like anyone."
He pulled her closer, some unnamed emotion replacing passion in his eyes. "I know you can't trust me yet but... give me a chance. Please," he whispered in that sincere voice, and suddenly she realised he wasn't asking for her to surrender, but to join him. She smiled and leaned back into the kiss.
It felt like another truce. Maybe even a treaty.