Almirante Wadsworth deftly buttoned up her regimental coat over her camisa, taking the time to smooth out the blue wool as she went. She was of the opinion that the regiment prescribed thirty six buttons were about twenty one buttons too many. Four on each cuff, five for each pocket, one on each side of the waist, another at her back, and fifteen down the front. Two of the five required pocket buttons were purely decoration, which irked her more.
Though she had to admit, the uniform cut an impressive figure, and more importantly, a respectable one.
It wasn’t until the task of tying her hair back in a queue with the black ribbon. Normally this was one of the quickest parts of dressing for her, simply a matter of pulling it back, securing it and moving on. But it had been impressed upon her that this particular occasion merited her actually attempting to tie an acceptable bow, a requirement she had thought herself beyond once she stopped wearing her mother’s girlish dresses and started taking jobs at sea at fourteen.
Suddenly, as though the thought of their mother summoned her, her sister appeared, plucking the ribbon from her hair and securing it tightly around the mass of curls that fought to free themselves.
“As untamable as you,” her sister used to tease.
The words did not come to Rebecca’s pursed lips as she fetched the hat and belt from the nearby chair.
Annabelle almost felt like a doll, allowing her sister to dress her. Rebecca wrapped the belt around her waist and secured it, fetching the sword and scabbard to hang from it. The sword was purely ceremonial, belonging to their father. He had sent it from Grenada upon her acceptance of the post.
“Look at the two of us, hermana , we have finally realized the dreams of our parents. Me, father’s loyal Spanish sailor, and you, mother’s ideal bride, wife to a Governor.”
Rebecca frowned at her in the mirror.
“Our mother would have looked at Elijah, spat at his feet and called him a marrano . I have spent every day making certain that I am not the woman she wanted me to be. For a while, you did too.”
With that Rebecca shoved Annabelle’s hat into the crook of her arm, turned and left.
The estate that the British provided their leading officers was not too dissimilar to what the Spanish provided. Modest accommodations, just outside the city proper close enough to walk to market, but not so close that the smell of animals and people crowded the area. It was smart, functional, and respectable.
Admiral Rostova’s estate was nothing of the sort.
It sat on about a hundred acres of land, and on that land, a robust team of servants maintained three gardens, the main house, four guest houses, a greenhouse, and an enclosed forest designed for hunting exotic prey that was brought in for the express purpose.
This was all explained to her by the errand boy sent to fetch them from the front gates where what almost amounted to an entire regiment stood guard.
Wadsworth stiffened her shoulders as she passed. Her own retinue consisted of herself, her sister, nephew, and brother-in-law, and a select group of men she trusted to not attempt to incite the renewal of the war against the British upon sight of their red and white uniforms.
She could not say the same for herself. One of the men at the gate sneered at her and she had nearly cut his lips from his face for the affront. But that was not the action his Highness’s dutiful Almirante would take, so her sword remained sheathed.
Rebecca had not spoken to her since leaving the house, though Elijah had done his best to fill the silence between the two. Adam remained silent, occasionally pulling at the cravat at his neck. Rebecca swatted at him when he did, but not before Annabelle saw the glimpse of bruised skin beneath the white cloth. In light of the situation, she elected not to comment upon it. He was still young and angry at the world, so similar to how Ellie had been at his age. He too glanced at the British soldiers in disdain, though he also scowled at the Spanish men trailing behind them.
The errand boy left them in a courtyard that featured a fountain in the center and vine covered trellises that served to provide both shade and privacy. Within the courtyard, a collection of couches and benches hugged the pale stucco walls. This far outside of the city, the world was almost quiet and serene, if not for the occasional gunshots from the hunting range.
After a few moments, Elijah and Rebecca sat, their heads tilted together in the way that one does with someone with whom you are intimately familiar. Elijah lifted Rebecca’s hand, spreading her fingers with his own and said something that broke Rebecca’s grim mask. Annabelle ripped her eyes from them and focused on her nephew who had found the sole pebble in the courtyard and was kicking it against a wall.
“I hear you’ve had more run-ins with the Nassau rabble.”
Adam glanced at her and shrugged. “Yeah.”
Annabelle frowned. “You should exercise caution, mijo. That life is a dangerous one, built for dangerous people.”
“You would know all about that, wouldn’t you?”
Adam kicked the stone rather hard and sent it scattering behind a trellis and into a flower bed. Then he took a moment to stare at the harbor below before, watching the ships as they entered and left the port. Annabelle put a hand on his shoulder, opening her mouth to respond, but he twisted his shoulder so her hand fell and then Adam walked away, back down the path towards the gates.
Somehow in all of her attempts to return to an upstanding life, to rejoin proper society, her family had decided to push her away. But she would not be disheartened. Soon they would see her good intentions, see that she was better than she had been before.
It was then a footman appeared.
“Rostova is awaiting you in the office, sir.”
Wadsworth straightened her spine and nodded.
“Of course, if you’ll lead the way.”
Wadsworth stared at the swirling copper liquid as it filled the squat glass before her.
“The finest rum the West Indies has to offer. Even Philip himself couldn’t get his hands on this vintage.”
It was delivered to her hand with a hand laden in as many rings as there were scars. She looked at the man before her, standing in his gilded office that sat on its perch above Port Royal. More lavish than even Governor Morgan’s own estate on the island. He put on all the trappings of wealth and they melded against his skin with ease. But he wore them differently than any other man she had seen. He was a selkie, prepared to slip his skin at any moment. Though perhaps the land equivalent was more appropriate: a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His teeth glinted the same when he gave her a sharp grin as he took his seat, gesturing for her to do the same.
Not until she watched him drink from his own glass did she take a hesitant sip from hers.
He laughed at her caution.
“Come now, I have not invited you here to poison you. Surely you know me better than that.”
“I know you well enough. And our countries are as of yet still enemies.”
“But you and I are removed from that ruckus, are we not?” Rostova asked, eyes piercing beneath her skin.
Suddenly her uniform felt uncomfortable, harsh wool rubbing against her skin.
“I am not so certain,” she started, only to have him wave her off.
“You and I know that the real problem is not between the both of us. It is not a civilized society that we need fear. No. Though I’m certain you know even better than I.”
Not interested in showing her hand so easily, she simply tilted her head in what she hoped was nonchalance.
“I’m certain I don’t know what you mean.”
“Quite. Just a servant of dear King Philip then. A loyal Almirante? And may I ask how you came into that position?”
“Service to the Crown. Against the English,” she replied, a pointed look at his red and white uniform, trying to swallow the feeling of falsehood.
“Strange, then that I do not remember you. I try to familiarize myself with any opponent who might rise so quickly through the ranks. It seems unfair that they should have all heard my name, and their own names remained veiled in anonymity.”
“A wise strategy, though with all the overturn in the past few years, it is not surprising that I fell through the cracks.”
He tapped his finger on his tumbler, his rings clinking against the crystal. In another life, she might have known the value of each of those rings in any shop in the islands, within a couple pesos. This was not that life, and an Almirante had no need for such knowledge.
Perhaps he would push no further into her past, and instead reveal his intentions for inviting her here.
Instead, he stared at her, and she resisted the urge to shift in her seat like an impatient child.
“Was there a specific reason for inviting me here?”
“Yes.” The smile that spread across his face convinced her that rather than a wolf, he was some great jungle cat, biding his time as he stalked his prey.
“What do you know of Nassau?”
“Welcome to Nassau.”
The city that sprawled before her hardly deserved the distinction. At least not compared to Havana. Instead it seemed like a collection of tents and buildings that looked like they provided little more shelter than tents. Shacks leaned against each other like a house of cards, one stiff wind away from collapsing in on themselves. Colorful paint peeled off nearly every available surface, breaking off into flakes. The people appeared much the same. Rough and weathered, but dressed in every color under the sun. Most had thick dark skin, even if they were pale by nature. The hard sun and seas did that to a person. Sam herself had taken on some browning and formed calluses under the heat of the Carribean sun.
Standing beside her was Caleb Michaels, who she had been surprised to learn was nearly seven years her junior. He was built like a bear and had a voice like thunderclaps, both of which were always in high demand for any ship’s boatswain. Sam herself felt little more than a barn mouse beside him.
His was one of the few names she had already learned on the voyage over from Havana, and her self-appointed guide to the ramshackle and winding streets.
As they surveyed the last of the cargo unloading, up swaggered a man who even among the colorful Nassau crowd stook out like a dandy in an almshouse. Caleb greeted him with a wide grin, a cheery ‘ wasson me cock’(a phrase Sam had quickly learned was a greeting and not at all as untowards as it sounded) and a stiff slap on the back before he turned them both towards Sam.
“This is Mark Bryant, quartermaster to Captain Damien Gorham of the Mariner’s Revenge. They specialize in a brand of seamanship known as ransoming.”
Sam laughed as Mark gasped in mock offense, pressing his hand to his heart.
“Why Mister Michaels, you say that with such disdain. As though you have not personally benefited from our valiant efforts at lifting the heavy burden of coin from the powers that be.”
Caleb rolled his eyes. “I don’t need your help to have a roll in the hay.”
“Oh then I suppose we shouldn’t have made that extra special stop in Port Royal on our most recent trip.”
Caleb’s eyes widened. “He’s here?”
“He’s still with Damien on the Revenge.”
Caleb glanced at Sam with such remorse in his face that Sam couldn’t help but laugh. Thankfully Mark stepped in to put him out of his misery.
“Look, you go on ahead, and I’ll make certain Miss Barnes gets shown all the pleasures our little city has to offer.”
Caleb shot him a warning look, “I’d be careful if I were you, Joan-”
“Yes, yes, Thou shall not covet thy sister’s paramore. I know, I know. Get on with you.”
It was strange for Sam, to finally meet the character that had featured in so many of her lover’s stories. Joan’s brother was, as promised, larger than life. He paraded her around the town as though he were it’s Governor and she his latest mistress. Sam found herself deeply entertained by the fanfare of it all.
The long nights of conversation with Joan did not prepare her for the way the people shied away from her as soon as it was revealed that she was here with Joan. The speed at which one man went from heavily implying that should she find time to herself she might find her way to his tent to a profuse apology and the removal of his cap could not be measured by any timepiece of which Sam was aware.
The mystery continued when they made it to the open tavern which was crowded save for the back corner, directly beside the bar. There two figures sat, the table before them empty of glasses or bottles, a strange sight for any tavern, though especially this one, where the patrons seemed to think that the only drink worth drinking was an alcoholic one.
She had seen the same two figures hunched together in Havana, the night before Sam’s entire life had turned upside down. When Sam and Mark approached, both looked up at them.
“Joanie!” Mark exclaimed, embracing his sister as she stood to greet him. “So, Green finally convinced you to come back into the fray, aye?”
Sam glanced at the other figure, who remained seated. Captain Green of the Calico, the ship that had brought Sam into Nassau a few hours before. He was an imposing figure in his own right. Tall and dressed all in black despite the heat. The only bit of color on him were his bright green eyes, framed by his large brimmed hat and black mask. In Havana, he had travelled with two loaded pistols on his hip, a shortsword, and a dagger. Here, he had only a single gun and two knives. His posture was more relaxed as well, back in territory where his head was not actively being sought after. Though he still sat with one hand on that single flintlock pistol.
Joan however, looked the same as she had in Havana. A cool white blouse beneath a thin cotton jacket and tan trousers that tapered neatly to her ankles. She turned her attention from her brother to Sam, reaching out her hand. Sam took it in her own and Joan smiled at her.
“I’m sorry I haven’t had the time to show you around myself, though I trust Mark has been accommodating?” This last bit was directed back at her brother.
Sam smiled. “I couldn’t ask for a better guide. And I’ve been promised some embarrassing stories of your youth as well.”
Joan rolled her eyes.
“The only embarrassment from my youth belongs to Mark. I was the level headed child.”
“Ah-not always. Who was it that stole the pork pies off of the baker’s window?”
“Yes, but you ate it.”
“That’s because I didn’t know where it came from. If I had-”
“Doesn’t matter, Joanie.”
Joan sighed, a smile on her face.
“We have more to discuss before tonight. But I shall see you both at the meeting tonight, yes?”
“See you then.”
Joan cupped Sam’s face and pulled her in for a chaste kiss before sitting back down and turning her attention back to Green.
Mark tugged on her arm, “Come now, let me buy you a drink. Mags is always delighted to make a new acquaintance.”
With the meeting about to start, Sam had two drinks in her stomach, but based on the men and women around her, she was behind schedule.
Each ship captain sat on a chair in a ring, and first mates and quartermasters sat on either side of them, a few feet behind, but close enough to lean in and offer their thoughts. Behind them, their crews stood gathered, though those lines between ships intermingled and shifted.
The only exception to the setup was the Calico, which had two chairs, the first of which Captain Green took, still in his full mask, hat and coat. The second one Joan sat in and immediately leaned in to whisper something to Green who nodded.
Sam let her gaze wander to the others gathered.
Mark was the only one she recognized and he gave her a cheeky grin when he noticed her looking. He still wore the gaudy red tunic from earlier in the day, tucked into a belt which held three pistols and a cutlass. She didn’t recognize the man in front of him, his captain Damien presumably, a man who managed to look glum and cross at the same time. Like Captain Green, he had opted for the all black outfit, from his hat to his boots. Mark slapped a hand on the man’s shoulder and made a comment, which was apparently a joke because the man scowled and Mark laughed.
The man next to them was concentrated on working dirt out of the creases of his boot with a long curved knife. His hair was dark and shaggy on top but shaved close on the sides and he had a deep scar running from his eyebrow towards the back of his head, barely above his ear. The tip of that would have intersected the scar was missing. The hand that didn’t hold the dagger was covered in burn marks which ran up along his arm past his elbow and beneath the rolled up sleeve of his linen shirt. His head tilted towards his second, who leaned over his left shoulder with a hand resting there. His second was spectacled and looked a few years older than the captain. He also sported burn marks, though his peeked out from the collar of his shirt and appeared less severe.
Beyond them was a female captain who had a severe expression on her face as she looked around at the collected group. All of her weapons were slim and precise. Three long daggers, and a slender rapier, as well as the requisite pistol. Her eyes were cold and quick, as though she had already calculated the value of every person in the collective and found them wanting. Her second was an older woman and both of them wore their hair in strict buns, pulled tight to the base of their necks. Neither spoke and their facial expressions barely shifted.
Next was a smiling woman, older than the others who wore a loose orange blouse, faded by the sun and wear. She was flanked by a man in a deep purple kaftan and a younger woman in yellow. The younger woman was a spitting image of the first, with the same thick dark hair, bright eyes and lips that seemed to tug upwards instinctually. They wore matching blades too, two sets of a sword and a wicked long dagger.
The final chair was occupied by a man with a well-kept beard that was trimmed close to his face. He had no second. His clothes were multicolored and bright. Sam was noticing a theme among the outfits: either you wore no colors, or the brightest ones pilfered money could buy. His pants too, were strange, wide and billowing. His leg bounced up and down without pause and his fingers whipped a short blade between them, the light catching on it in brief flashes.
Once every captain had taken their seat, Green stood, raised his pistol to the sky and let off a shot. The smoke from the gun curled around his fingers as he handed it off to Joan. The entire bar fell silent as the dead and no one dared move.
“Let’s call this meeting of equals to order, shall we?”
“Aye!” the chorus responded in unison.
“First order of business,” the captain in the orange shirt said, standing, “is extending a warm welcome to our sister, Captain Bright, who after a time on land, has finally decided to return home to us!”
This started up another raucous cheer, led by Mark who managed to be the most rambunctious in a room full of lawless mercenaries. It was at this time that Caleb managed to reappear at her side.
“And where were you?” Sam asked under her breath to the younger man. His hair and clothes were mussed and there was a bruise forming on his neck. He gave her a bashful smile and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Look here, did you want the introductions or not?”
Sam rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to the woman who currently stood in the center of the circle.
“That was Captain Turner, her boat is the Jolly Maiden, a brigantine. She used to be the wife of a British naval captain, travelled with him when he left India for the West Indies. No one really knows why she left, but they say she took his heart and his boat too. Though her biggest asset is her daughter,” he said, gesturing to the woman in the yellow blouse and long red skirt. “Chloe serves as a spymaster for the Republic. She’s responsible for tracking the movements of every ship, naval or merchant who enters these waters. At any given point she can tell you what cargo a ship is carrying and what the market value for it is at port. She has a way of knowing what any given officer is thinking before they even think it.”
Sam watched the woman, saw the way her eyes scanned the crowd, soaking in the information. Her eyes caught on Sam’s and she grinned and winked before continuing on her survey.
“Yes, but enough niceties let’s get to the real matter at hand,” said the other female captain coldly, her voice cutting through the din. “A Spanish squadron has been spotted docking in Havana.”
“That’s Sharpe,” Caleb whispered. “She’s the captain of the La Conquistadora, a repurposed Spanish brig. She comes from a powerful Jewish family in Jamaica and is a trained doctor. Years ago, a captain forced her into service as a ship doctor, but after two months, she and her first mate, Pierce, staged a mutiny and took control of La Conquistadora.They joined the Republic just under a month ago.”
“They’re likely here for Philip’s annual treasure shipment,” Chloe said.
“Then let’s make certain they don’t receive it,” this was the man with the scar on the side of his face.
“Captain Alex Chen. His is the Flaming Tannin.”
“What’s his trade?”
At Sam’s stricken face, Caleb laughed.
“He’s a smuggler. He takes people out from under the noses of the Spanish and puts elsewhere, where the Spanish don’t have reach. Like here in Nassau. Oliver, his first mate, was one of the first he smuggled out of the Netherlands. He swore loyalty to Alex, and they’ve rarely been seen without the other ever since. Their main focus is putting a wrench in Spanish plans whenever possible.”
Sam nodded and looked to the spectacled man who was watching Alex pace back and forth in the ring.
“We can’t let good King Philip take another horde. Would it not be better suited in our pockets, building up this city, rather than in his, lining his coffers so he can start another war?”
A cheer rose up from the crowd. Chen turned his attention to Captain Green, who had his head tilted in interest.
“So Green, what do you say, shall we call for a vote? Shall we take the coins right from the coffers of the tyrant to fund the Free World?”
Every word was hollered over the din of the gathered crowd.
Standing behind Green, Sam couldn’t see his face. So for the long minutes while he waited for the crowd to quiet enough to speak, she had no idea what he was thinking. Not that she would know much more to see his face, with the mask covering most of it.
Green stood and the area silenced itself, waiting in anticipation for his answer.
“I would not call for the vote now if I were you, Alex.”
The crowd began shouting and booing immediately, but Green simply waited, his arms crossed across his chest.
When they had settled again, lost their fervour, he continued.
“Going after the treasure fleet now would surely be an act of suicide. If you could even manage to take the ship, and bring the treasure back to Nassau without incident, we’d have the entire Spanish Armada on our shores within a fortnight. They would roll right into that harbor and fill our beaches with enough shot to equip all of our ships for years. What chance do our flimsy wooden homes have against a man-of-war’s hundred and twenty some guns? What can our couple of hundred men do against their thousands? If you cut of one of Philip’s main sources of income, he will not hesitate to use the full might he has to send us all to the bottom of the sea.”
If humans were capable of combusting from rage, Alex Chen would have been a ball of fire. His eyes sparked when he stood, entering Green’s space while the other captain simply looked down at him.
This time Damien stood, cut between them to face Green himself.
“So what, we just sit back and let the two kings fuck us bloody? What are we? Cowards? I hereby call for a vote!”
“Second!” shouted Alex.
Green sighed, waved them off.
“Very well, let us have your vote.”
Green took his seat once more, tilted his head to the side, watching.
“All those who want your names written down in history as one of the few to stick it to the Imperial Pricks who lord over us from their faraway castles, stomp and shout ‘aye’!” Damien yelled.
The crews all voiced their agreement, but as Mark had explained, in an official meeting, the only vote that mattered was that of a captain. So instead of watching the mass of bodies crowding the circle, Sam watched those in the inner ring of chairs.
Unsurprisingly, Damien and Alex both vote for the movement. The other vote was cast by the man in the colorful clothing, sitting beside Joan.
“A tie then,” Damien announced, pleased. “In which case, the vote passes.”
“The Code states that you must ask for votes on both sides,” Vanessa stated loudly over the din.
Alex sighed. “Very well then. All those opposed cower and whimper ‘nay’.”
Four hands rose.
First Green’s. Then Vanessa. Then Sharpe. Then Joan.
Damien turned on Joan.
“You,” he shoved a finger at her, “are not a captain. According to the Code, only current captains may vote, not former ones.”
Joan batted him away.
“I was one of the few who wrote the Code.”
“That means nothing,” Alex cut in.
“According to the Code,” Sharpe began cooly, “founders, even those currently without possession of a ship, retain their right to vote, until Davy Jones takes their bones.”
Despite all the noise from the outside, the space felt quiet as each captain stared the others down. Eventually, Alex swung to face Green.
“You brought her here to turn the vote. You knew we would call for it.”
“I did. And I was not prepared to have everything I’ve worked a decade to build here ruined because of some child’s lust for gold. I gave you the chance to make your case, and it proved ineffective. Perhaps you should take your time to rethink your strategy.”
Alex glared at him and spat at the ground at his feet.
“This meeting is adjourned,” Green announced.
Adam waited on the beach, rolling an empty bottle of rum between his hands. While he understood why he wasn’t privy to the meetings, he couldn’t help but feel like he belonged there. He wanted to see the way this Pirate Republic functioned. What were the debates like? How did they cast their votes? Privately or publicly?
He knew that the captains themselves were selected by the crews, voted in by popular majority. But did the crews get a say in the debates themselves? Did the captain serve as a representative, taking the crew’s opinions into account before casting a vote? Or was the captain trusted to make what they thought was the best decision for the crew, regardless of the opinions?
Caleb always tried to answer as many of Adam’s questions as he could, but it wasn’t the same as being there. Adam couldn’t help but feel he was missing out on history being made while he sat alone on a beach, tending to a fire.
He scooped up some sand and watched as it poured out, slowing at the bottleneck before spilling over his fingers and to the ground. He could hear pounding and stamping from the open tavern where they held their meetings, but couldn’t make out whether it was positive or negative.
He hated this, all of this. His parents and aunt thought him too rebellious, and this band of criminals thought him too obedient to the whims of the Imperial state. Adam couldn’t care less about King Philip or his bloated empire.
Adam was drawn from his thoughts when he heard the sounds of the tavern emptying out. He stood, brushed off his trousers and tried to look like he hadn’t been twiddling his thumbs for the better part of an hour. The crews filed down to the beach in droves, which Adam took as his opportunity to make his way up to the tavern where the captains and mates generally stayed after.
He had to climb up the side, clambering up the rickety wooden frame and swinging his leg over the rail, prepared to hop onto the wooden deck of the wooden porch that wrapped around the tavern proper when he stopped in his tracks, straddling the rail. Normally this way was empty, but two figures stood there, close in conversation. One was Alex Chen. Alex was one of the youngest captains currently sailing the seas and had made a name for himself as the Fiery Demon with his ship, the Flaming Tannin. Adam hadn’t seen his crew in action, but they were supposed to be a fearsome lot. Chen’s temper supposedly matched his sobriquet. He was certainly angry now.
He attempted to jerk his arm from the other man’s grasp but the second figure held firm, digging his fingers in deeper.
This was a figure Adam had heard stories of long before the first time he found himself held for ransom, back when the practice had been in earnest. One of a trio of infamous pirates, and the only one of the three still possessing that title. Captain Green cast an imposing figure, impossibly long and tall, draped entirely in black. There was not a sailor in port who would not claim that they had seen his black figure on the bow of a passing ship, though none of the descriptions matched. Adam had been stricken with awe his first time seeing the man of legend. Some of that same awe still lingered now, years on.
Captain Green was one subject that Caleb refused to touch on. His was a tight-lipped loyalty to the man, and no matter what Adam did, he could not pry the secrets from his lover’s mouth.
From Adam’s position in the shadows, he knew he had little time before they noticed him, but his heart thudded at the prospect of learning something of this conversation that needed held out of earshot of the other captains.
“Do that,” Green said, “And you can be certain the next vote will turn in your favor.”
Alex grit his teeth together and nodded. Green dropped his grasp, but extended his other hand out. Chen grasped the older captain’s elbow and they shook solemnly before Chen broke off, headed back towards the main area of the tavern, Green watching after him.
Adam slowly lifted his other leg over, hoping to slip in without notice.
“Careful you don’t slip when you climb like that, or your aunt will have all our heads.”
Without further comment or waiting for a reply, Green disappeared, headed for the stairs that led to the docks. It was rare that he remained for the social gatherings after meetings. He was a man with secrets to keep.
Caleb’s eyes found him from across the tavern, aided by his sheer height. Adam was relieved that he would not have to make his way over himself. Caleb dragged a woman along behind him, despite her protests.
Sam, Adam guessed. Caleb had briefly mentioned her earlier that day, something about abandoning her on the docks. She seemed fine enough. Both of their cheeks were rum red and Caleb’s eyes sparkled.
“Me’ansom!” Caleb shouted, the alcohol thickening his Cornish accent. He released Sam to crush Adam to his chest. Adam laughed and pushed away, looking at the woman.
“Adam Hayes,” he said, offering his hand to her around Caleb’s mass. She laughed and took it.
“Samantha Barnes. Sam.”
“Hayes, you said? As in Governor Hayes?”
Adam grimaced. The bar of Nassau was not generally a safe place to have it made known that your father is the governor of one of the heaviest guarded ports in the West Indies.
“Aye,” he said.
“I’m from Havana. Well, not originally, but who is?”
Adam had been born there, though neither his mother nor father had. Perhaps that’s why he was constantly itching to leave.
Sam smiled, wide and open.
“What brings you this far from home, and in this company no less?”
“Can’t you tell? I’m a captive, I’m to be ransomed off as soon as my parents recieve word.”
“You don’t look like a captive.”
“Well Damien and Mark aren’t actually very good hostage keepers. But they’ve found that having me on board every once in a while ensures a steady stream of income.”
“Good man,” she said before her attention was turned away, Mark Bryant appearing to entice her into a dance.
Strange. Few here had a kind word about anyone in a position of power.
Adam turned his own attention back to Caleb, who was watching another woman across the tavern who was speaking with Captain Crawford.
Caleb glanced back at him, the dopey smile returning to his face.
“That’s Joan. Captain Bright.”
Adam couldn’t help but stare at her. She was too small for the massive reputation that hung over her head. She had made herself a name alongside Green all those years ago, captain of one of the three crews that founded Nassau.
He almost didn’t recognize her from when he saw her as a child, had swung off her arms. All things considered, she hadn’t changed that much, but he doubted she would recognize him.
“Are she and Jackson-” he began, but Caleb laughed.
“No, Jackson’s simply enjoying the chance to meet the woman who inspired him to mutiny himself. She’s with Sam,” Caleb said, pointing to where the woman in question was spinning in dizzying circles with her arm hooked into Mark Bryant’s.
Adam looked around for Damien, knowing he wouldn’t take well to the sight. But the Revenge’s captain was deep in conversation with Alex and Oliver as Alex spoke, his hands moving in tight circles.
Not for the first nor last time, Adam wondered as to what Green had said to Alex. Was that what he was talking to the other two about?
“Was there a vote today?” he asked Caleb.
“Aye, there was.”
“What was it about?” Caleb opened his mouth to answer, but a hand dropped on his shoulder.
Adam looked over to see Owen Thompson standing there, an easy grin on his face.
“Adam, good to see you. Staying out of trouble?” Owen asked as his soft Irish accent bended around the vowels.
“As much as possible with this lot.”
Owen was one of the few from Caleb’s crew that Adam actually knew fairly well. The Calico tended to sail the waters at night to avoid naval ships, but that kind of sailing required someone who knew the waters inside and out, with hardly any landmarks to go by. Thompson was one of the few with that particular talent, and he had been with the crew for as long as Caleb could recall. And while Caleb spoke little of Green, he made up for it with his talk of Owen.
The reason he hardly emerged during the day, even when on land, was reportedly due to the fairness of his skin, which Adam might have questioned, had he not been present to see the redness of his skin after a couple hours out of the shade. Red as a boiled lobster, and sore to the touch for days after. Mark had enjoyed poking at him.
Caleb tilted his head at the collective gathered around Alex Chen.
“What do ye think they’re on about there?”
Owen cast his eyes towards them and shrugged.
“Isn’t my place to say.”
Caleb rolled his eyes towards him.
“Do ye think we ‘ave anything to worry about?
“I wouldn’t get your panties in a twist, I’m certain we’ll find out sooner or later.”
Owen squeezed Caleb’s shoulder and made his way over to where Captain Sharpe stood, conversing with Pierce.
Adam noticed that Caleb was still frowning.
“Owen said you’d find out.”
“Aye, that’s what I’m worried about.”