1 Am I Just Some Girl to You?

The eyes of the pirate king met her lips from across the room.

He never looked at her face anymore. It was as if she had become someone else entirely after quitting piracy, a stranger, or worse, a decent woman.

Daniel merely looked at her the way he looked at every other woman in the tavern. An uncooked steak - that was how he viewed her, at least it looked like she didn't matter anymore. Meat. A pleasantly shaped sack of flesh.

Mariana did try to look good, but not for him. He was sitting there with his tall form hunched over a game of cards, long and perfectly glossy hair swept back into a careless ponytail. His jaw clenched with every card. It was clear that Daniel was losing.

Mariana felt a strange sense of joy over the idea that her ex would suffer at the hands of the poker sharks.

She straightened the hem of her ruffled dress, catching a reflection of his two aces in the mirrorpearl details. It was a frighteningly feminine piece of clothing, as functional as it was pretty. With a corset strapped over it, it could hide three pistols and ten different knives. They were sorely needed in the White Horse, a tavern known for hosting illegal duels in its cellar.

She wasn't bad at cards herself, but she knew when to fold.

No one ever believed her when she talked about her background, when she said that she had been on the high seas with him for three years, from eighteen to twenty-one. During that time, her brunette hair had turned fair from sheer fear.

They had done and seen so many frightening things together, having sailed on all the seas, robbing the fat merchant galleons that sailed in the Karshaan Main.

Mariana touched her hair, her brow and her lips.

Stopstopstop, she thought to herself. She was trying to seduce him without making a conscious decision to do so. Why was she like this? She felt her insides twitch every time Daniel Brandon looked towards her, even though she was a slab of meat to him.

Whatever, she thought. He had to know how badly she hated him. She walked up to him, emboldened by the rum in her system.

"How's it going?" she asked.

She pressed her body against his back so that he could feel just what he was missing out on.

She observed his cards. Nothing much. Ace high, but nothing that would have won him the game.

He sighed and exchanged three cards from his hand to three from the deck. His eyes were still fixed on the game. This enraged her. She wanted him to pay attention to her.

Still no luck, just the two of clubs, and two similar cards with little value. He didn't budge, though, even though she wrapped her arm around his shoulders.

"Don't you wish for Lady Luck to come your way?" she whispered into his ear, feeling his stubble tingling her chin. It took all of her self-control to keep from rubbing her head against him.

"Been a long time since you won anything meaningful," she cooed, smiling, but she felt no real joy.

If she couldn't have him, he couldn't have anything, either.

"Is Captain Brandon losing?" one of the poker sharks asked. "I'll throw in a few coins more."

Now Daniel folded. He threw his cards onto the table and gave Mariana a piercing, hateful look.

Strange…there was something red in his irises, sparkling like hellfire in the dimly lit tavern.

"Hang yourself, woman," he said. "You couldn't handle me if you tried."

She chuckled and walked back into her table.

Daniel Brandon was the best pirate of the fifteenth century. He never missed his mark. He was spectacularly handsome, with cheekbones that had wounded hundreds of women who didn't know any better. He was good with a sword, too, there was simply nothing he couldn't do, but that dark heartthrob specialized in hurting people with his words.

Right now he was shuffling the deck again due to a disagreement about counting the cards. The cursed bracelet that Mariana had gifted him glimmered in the light of dozens of candles.

The White Horse seemed so cozy, but Mariana noticed something that contradicted all this laughter and joyful music.

The people in the middle table were about to start a fight.

The two men at the table were conscious of the movements of the lady of the house. Whenever the woman couldn't hear them, their mouths formed curses and their frowns got deeper, more serious. When the lady visited these wealthy smugglers to check up on them and ask if they needed some more sauce for their potatoes, the frowns disappeared entirely and the men smiled and laughed, patting each other on their backs. The hostility was still there, though. The man - probably a surgeon judging by his attire and cleanliness - who was also sitting at the table looked like he wanted to run before he'd catch a stray bullet.

Mariana was interested. Her heart forgot Daniel for a moment - and the way he smelled like cocoa and leather and all things that were sinfully good, all the ways in which he was the best of all men, a real man - for she couldn't tear her eyes away from the item that seemed to be the root of the quarrel.

It was the simplest thing, a box that had dice inside, with different patterns painted on each side with intricate designs that resembled the Raelia Deco art movement of the thirteenth century. The dice were ornate as well, although there were two of them that were mismatched and not of the same shade of ivory.

It wasn't an item that would have been worth a human life. Mariana knew, she had a prize on her head. The worth of her particular life was two thousand gold coins. The worth of an average human life, well, the prices could vary wildly, but when she adjusted her knowledge to inflation, she got about seventy gold coins, a real bargain. The box with the dice had to be…what, like two gold coins? At most? It wasn't like the materials would cost a lot. While the artworks were nice, they were in no way comparable to real Raelia Deco works. No, there was certainly something magical about the dice.

The smugglers seemed unwilling to part with the box, but neither did they want to handle it directly. They had a piece of a silk scarf between their fingers and the surface of the box whenever they had to turn it around to accentuate their boasts and hostile words.

Mariana smirked. This could be an opportunity.

She wanted to dethrone the current king of pirates.

The hatred she felt when Daniel pierced her through her bosom with his eyes was so strong, so hot that it was unreal. She wanted nothing more than to press her hands on his strong neck and snap his spine like a twig for what he had done to her.

Well, maybe she also wanted to kiss him before becoming the evil pirate queen she wanted to be, to feel his lips on her neck for so long that she would forget everything bad she had ever thought about him. That was a fantasy. She had to give it up.

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