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Authors Note: Thank you once again to everyone who leaves comments and feedback on my writing, it is much appreciated. Thank you very much to Paul who continues to be my second set of eyes, he is a great friend to help me out so much. I hope you enjoy it. ~ellie
Freedom’s an illusion
Carrie had stayed away from her real life longer than expected, but she had been determined to find out what Stella Davis meant by her comments back in Panama. She hadn’t wanted to talk to Sinclair or Jordan, who would have gotten involved trying to help her, and this was something she had to deal with herself. Jordan was family, and she had trusted him, but he’d been acting strangely since she had become involved with Sinclair, and she didn’t need that additional worry at the time.
The strong maternal resemblance made it possible for her to pass as Robyn when she had to show identification, and she used only the money on the joint bank accounts and credit cards Robyn had set up for her so many years ago before cancer began to take its toll on her. She’d never changed them to her name solely, and had kept Robyn’s access, and credit cards, as an easy disguise should she need it.
Although she had let Jordan believe that most of their wealth was tied up in trusts and bonds, she was infinitely wealthier than she let on, and for the first time since Robyn’s death tapped into that wealth and the liquid funds readily available to her. She rented a cruising yacht and had hired a small team of hackers, with the help of her acquaintances in Charleston, and went about gathering the information she needed.
She didn’t need their hacking skills as much as she needed people with systems and network knowledge who were enthusiastic about staying off the radar. Their ability to analyse data and put together programs to search for links that weren’t immediately obvious was invaluable, and sharing the workload saved her crucial time. They cruised the Caribbean in a relaxed vacation atmosphere, and each time she went ashore for supplies she made sure to be seen and use her personal credit card so Sinclair could check that she was where she said she was when she called him.
Her family tree was significantly larger than she had been taught by her mother. The family history, from Stede Bonnet down through to the last member of the Hats, was as she had always known it to be, but the branches of that tree were all new to her. She became fascinated as each branch holding a male heir with a direct bloodline to the gentleman pirate seemed to come to the dead end of an unexplained death or murder of the man who could have taken the chair. It was as if someone had tried to wipe out that direct bloodline entirely.
Three men on the tree were missing, presumed dead, and one singularly was known to be alive and living in Australia. Though Carrie knew, too, the information about this young man to be dated, because she knew him to be living in London with no real idea of his heritage. She’d always known he was a distant cousin, but she had not even considered that he could, if he chose to, take his seat in the association of Hats. A seat she had been destined to prove she could take and hold as a woman. Her mother must have known, how could she not, with her vendetta against the association. Why would she have lied and filled Carrie’s head with dreams of being the first woman permitted to take a chair in their association? The fact that she had been following through on this vendetta for Jordan’s benefit and not her own was hard to stomach.
Carrie tried to reconcile what she had always been told, and even studied as truth with what she now knew. She struggled with the fact that Robyn had lied to her about her family history, although, when she thought about it, it was more a lie of omission. The fact that she had lied about Jordan’s role in all of this was beyond her comprehension. She must have known. If she could find the links, surely her mother could have with her wealth of knowledge and experience.
The burning question she had was if Jordan knew and if he was playing a game of his own and betraying her trust. He was ten when he was orphaned and started to become indoctrinated by Robyn and her skewed version of the family history. There was possibly only one person who could help her understand it and possibly give her answers, and she knew she would need more than a Skype call to tackle the questions that devoured her waking thoughts now. She would have to do it on her way home; she’d already been away too long.
She sent word to her grandmother, and, once the meeting was set in place, she had her team transfer themselves to a rental house not far from her home in London and flew to Spain to meet Edith.
“Of course he knows, he’s always known. You knew he was a distant cousin, didn’t you?” her grandmother said in a condescending tone. “This has been generations in the making, my dear, we all play our parts, and it’s your part to bahis firmaları be the Fool and see it through to the end, no matter the sacrifice.”
“Why wouldn’t he tell me? Robyn made me believe there was no male heir from Bonnet’s bloodline. She said we were doing this to prove that we, the daughters of that bloodline, deserved their place in the association. She lied to me, and I thought she lied to him as well my whole life!” Carrie hissed.
“Your mother had her ways of doing things, but she was a good girl who did what was required, right up until the day she died,” Edith lectured. “I am sure you would not want her to come back and haunt you for failing in your part of the bigger plan.”
“The bigger plan,” Carrie huffed. “What bigger plan?”
“You didn’t honestly think they would let a woman take the chair?” Edith scoffed. “No, we need Jordan, he will take the chair, then you and he will marry and build a longer, stronger bloodline from the true bloodline of Stede Bonnet. You will teach and train your sons to be the leaders of that association and roll back the years to the full glory of what those men can do on the world stage rather than meddle in the free trade opportunities of hardworking businessmen,” Edith said haughtily. “Their combined influence used to topple governments and large corporations, they have since become do-gooders who couldn’t influence a senator, let alone a Prime Minister.”
“I can’t believe any of this!” Carrie looked around at the wide-open space they had chosen to picnic in. The house some distance behind them belonged to a friend of her grandmothers. She had been more than happy with the arrangement of a picnic, knowing she could talk freely and get some answers, but suddenly she felt very isolated and vulnerable. It was as if everything she had been sure of in this world had suddenly ceased to exist.
“It’s unfortunate that you didn’t finish the job before you found out, but it is what it is now. It’s a shame that awful woman didn’t die along with her father when we halted his attempt to take the Bonnet chair for his branch of the family,” Edith said as easily as she might have talked about swatting an annoying mosquito. “You realise now that you can’t possibly marry Mansvelt. Take the ring and be engaged, if that is the way to get close to the Heart of the Heartless, but marriage is strictly off the table to you. Understand?”
“Yes, Edith,” Carrie said, sounding contrite. “Something needs to be done about Miles Rackham then. He’s hounding both Sinclair and I. The proposal wouldn’t have even come up if he didn’t think it was a way to prove my innocence and keep me safe. Do you know who shot at us?”
“Yes, and it’s unfortunate that you fell, you really should be more careful, dear. The plan is so close to its end, you can’t afford any mistakes now,” Edith chastised Carrie for an accident that was clearly out of her control. “I’ve taken care of the shooter. The bullet was meant as a warning for Sinclair from a businessman who had a deal go sour because of his interference.”
“Well, I won’t be needing the body guards any longer,” Carrie smiled.
“You may as well keep them, or Mansvelt will have some of his tail you. Better to have someone loyal to you and our cause than reporting back to him. I’m sure you wouldn’t want him talking to the team you had with you in the Caribbean, so best to send them home as soon as possible.”
“I guess not,” Carrie said, knowing she was more heavily watched than she had thought. Although she had told Jordan what she was doing, and she guessed he could have passed on the information about the hackers, along with her acquaintances in Charleston. Her grandmother must have expected this meeting, she realised, and had been fully prepared to answer all her questions. “I take it Jordan knows that I am here and why?” she asked.
“I imagine so. My mother entrusted me with our part of the plan, and I, as well as your mother, have sacrificed a lot to see it come to this point. It was Robyn’s decision, not mine, to keep you in the dark about certain aspects of it; Jordan has his reasons as well, which will become clear in time. It’s best if you go back and pretend like everything is just the way it always was,” Edith maintained her lecturing tone, though it wasn’t as condescending now. “Your focus needs to be on the last artefact. You need to get the Heart of Heartless on the date prescribed.”
“I understand,” Carrie said, lifting her face to look her grandmother in the eyes. “I won’t let you or Robyn down.”
“Don’t misunderstand me,” Jordan said with the quirk of a smile. “I get that there’s a lot of pressure on us guys to propose with a grand gesture these days. But, seriously, man, what were you thinking?”
“I thought she’d be home by now,” Sinclair grumbled. “I was just trying to keep her safe. Then she went sailing around the Caribbean, totally ignoring the fact that someone shot at her only a few weeks ago.” He was annoyed that kaçak iddaa she never stayed in one place longer than a day or two, and each time he tried to find her she had already left the point at which she was last seen.
“Your solution for keeping her safe was to bribe her into marriage?” Jordan still couldn’t get over the story Carrie had told him about seeing the Aladdin’s cave of treasure and then having it closed on her when she didn’t agree to marry him.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Sinclair shrugged.
“So, rather than wine and dine her, or the whole flowers and hearts thing, you went with bribing her with a cave full of treasure?” Jordan couldn’t help the chuckle that strayed into his voice.
“You and I both know she’s not the hearts and roses type,” Sinclair grumbled.
“If you had asked me six months ago I would have said she wasn’t the relationship type either, but, despite the business end of it, she seems happy with you. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her happy in that way before,” Jordan mused. “She doesn’t make friends easily, and she’s never had a proper boyfriend before, so it’s hard to tell.” Jordan found it easy to be smug knowing that Carrie walked out on Sinclair and had been giving him the cold shoulder ever since while still maintaining daily contact with him himself.
“Have you considered that the shot may have been nothing more than a stray bullet from an illegal hunter?” he asked reasonably. “Nothing’s happened since, and stranger things have happened.”
“Stranger than you sitting there trying not to show how happy you are that Carrie turned down an engagement ring and walked out on me?” Sinclair asked.
“Stranger than even that,” Jordan grinned. “Unfortunately, Carrie has put me firmly in the brother zone, or friend zone, however you like to say it,” Jordan said. “It doesn’t change the fact that I love her and want a future with her, but you can’t force someone to love you. Guess you found that out the hard way. It’s a shame, really, because I didn’t mind having you around for a little while to curb her self-destructive streak, but I guess you’ll be moving on soon.”
“She told me a little about growing up with Robyn, it’s not surprising that she still pushes herself so hard, it’s all she’s ever known,” Sinclair said, watching Jordan’s reaction carefully. “I’d hardly call it self-destructive.”
“She told you about Robyn?” Jordan frowned. “What did she say, exactly?”
“Just that she never went to school or was allowed to have friends, even you were sent away to school eventually,” Sinclair said. “It must have been very isolating for her.”
“Robyn didn’t let her have friends that she couldn’t control,” Jordan corrected. “Once I toed the Robyn line I was welcomed back with open arms. The tutors were the same; most loved Carrie, and she loved them, in her way. Blake was one of the trainers that stuck it out longer than most,” Jordan explained. “I think he had a casual thing with Robyn, which put him in that father figure category. I liked him, and he always stayed in touch, especially after Robyn died.”
“I see,” Sinclair visibly relaxed. A father figure would ensure she was safe, along with the bodyguards she had assured him went everywhere with her. “She said she was coming back today. She hasn’t changed her plans or anything?”
“Not that I know of, but then she doesn’t tell me everything either,” Jordan admitted. “Anyway, welcome back, it’s good to see you, man, but I have a date, which is not the easiest thing to plan when you have a goon squad following you everywhere. I would like us all to sit down and rethink the whole bodyguard thing. We look a little paranoid now that nothing else has happened.”
“Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you,” Sinclair chuckled.
“Still, it’s a bit of overkill, don’t you think?” he shrugged and went to get ready for his date.
Carrie had stopped by the rented house to see her small team. She sat at a desk doodling as she told them she was ending their agreement but giving them all until the end of the month’s rental to holiday in London if they wanted, and two months’ pay for the inconvenience of moving, only to find they didn’t have a job.
When she left the house, she handed the doodle pad to one of the girls who she had bonded with during their time in the Caribbean and smiled, thanking her for all she had done for her. Then she left without another word and headed home. She was later than she thought she would be, and she knew Sinclair would have been tracking her flight, so she took a deep breath and prepared to argue with him again.
“I don’t want to argue,” she said, tiredly walking up the front stairs to where Sinclair held the door open for her.
“Me either,” he smirked and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her. “Hi, I missed you.”
“Hi,” she said and smiled softly. “I missed you too.” It was true, she had missed his constant presence and the kaçak bahis feeling of security he gave her.
“Make yourselves at home, guys,” Sinclair told the two bodyguards. “There’s coffee brewing and snacks on the bench in the back room, I need to make sure you’ve done your job and inspect her for any damage myself,” he grinned at them. “It won’t take too long,” he chuckled.
“Put me down!” Carrie admonished, as Sinclair picked her up, threw her over his shoulder and headed toward the stairs.
“No,” he said in a matter-of-fact voice and kept walking.
“It’s okay, guys, I can handle it,” Carrie said, seeing the two burly men looking at her inquiringly as Sinclair carried her away from them. “Make yourselves at home.”
Sinclair walked on determinedly, regardless of the fact that the men remained watching him carry her upstairs without any choice in the matter. Once in her room, he locked the door before placing her on her feet and stepping back to look at her.
“What are you doing, Sin?” she took a step toward him. She had missed their physical connection, possibly more than he had.
“Inspecting, just like I told the guys downstairs,” he smirked, reaching out for her again and wrapped a hand around the back of her neck to draw her closer. He kissed her deeply, his other hand pressing on her back so they melded together. He broke the kiss and stepped back only slightly this time, his hands going to the buttons on her blouse, practically ripping it open in his eagerness to feel her soft skin against his. With a snap of the clasp her bra joined the blouse on the bedroom floor, and he moved her forcefully to the bed where he proceeded to rid her of the denim jeans she wore. He grasped the tops of the denim with both hands, raking his fingers over her skin so he could drag her panties down her sexy legs with the jeans, leaving her naked and fully exposed to him when he stood up to gaze at her.
“I should probably shower,” she began to speak, feeling uncomfortable under the intense gaze he had fixed on her as he unbuttoned his shirt.
“No, stay where you are!” he commanded in a tone that said volumes, along with the intense gaze. Carrie knew she should argue with him, fight his dominance, but the truth was she needed this, she wanted the harsh dominating Sinclair right now and the intensity that brought with it. She bit her lip and watched as he stripped in front of her, once again feeling her desire rise to match his. It had been far too long for either of them.
Sinclair crawled onto the bed and hovered above, but to one side of her. His hand curled around the back of her neck again, running up into her hair as his other hand smoothed down over her body, teasing her breasts before moving lower and curling between her thighs.
“No more talking,” he murmured and clenched his fist into her hair, forcing her head up to his in a kiss that swallowed her soft whimper as he pulled her hair around his clenched fingers.
Carrie struggled half-heartedly, thrilling to the power and strength he had and could use so liberally to inflame the need she felt for him. She knew she could struggle more and begin an elongated battle of wills, but, feeling his lips and his hands take possession of her, all she wanted right now was to revel in the sensation of being his, if only for the short term.
Sinclair was surprised to feel her submit so rapidly to his need. He would never force her, but he didn’t want to give her the opportunity to resist him tonight. He felt the uncertainty of their time apart and had determined to bridge that gap between them both physically and mentally as soon as she was back in his arms. He hadn’t planned to give her choices or the time to think about what they were doing, and his dominant side went into action as soon as she had said hello with the same longing and desire that he felt at seeing her again.
Carrie felt Sinclair’s hand insistently force her thighs apart as he rubbed over her pelvic bone and his fingers teased at her inner thighs. Slowly and lightly his fingers traced over the curve of her lips, teasing her, only occasionally delving and parting them to play with her clit for the briefest of moments before pulling back to tease again. Her thighs widened further, and she lifted her hips seeking greater contact and, as she did it again, his hand pulled back and lashed down over her pussy, making her yelp.
“You walked out on me without any warning!” he growled. Not giving Carrie time to respond, he brought her lips to his again, and his hand went back to the teasingly slow movements of a moment earlier. He felt the tension from the slap leave her, and her body respond once again in need before he smacked her again. “You didn’t tell me you talked with Gianna, or what occurred between you and Stella,” his voice was a deep rumble as his hand smacked her pussy twice more.
“You weren’t talking to me at the time, remember?” she hissed back at him as tendrils of mild discomfort ran through her body.
“I remember, but walking out on me was not the best solution to the problem,” he slapped her again, making her mewl and arch her back as the pain from the spanking of her pussy increased.
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