Rowan stayed out of sight for the rest of the day. Liam kept unobtrusive watch for her, but midday passed and evening came without glimpse of a single freckle.
There were a hundred reasons she might choose to stay out of sight. It was hardly unknown for new sailors and inexperienced passengers to be stricken with seasickness they could only wish was terminal. She might have been shaken by Mr. Tony’s earlier verbal attack. On second thought, he doubted that was it; the memory of the man’s face when she picked him up still caused a mad desire to chuckle. She might be embarrassed by her own unwomanly actions, though he didn’t think being womanly was one of her major concerns.
Liam pulled off the expensive but worn green coat once appropriated from a wealthy French slaver, who was now neither wealthy nor a slaver. He tossed it aside, threw his equally worn hat down on the deck next to it, and paced, the thick leather soles of his boots thudding on the well-scrubbed planks with every step. He wasn’t worried. Truly.
Smelling the savory tang of the crew’s supper stew, Liam replaced his tattered finery and sought out his other two passengers. He found them under the protective raven wing of Jones Smith, where they were avidly listening to a tale of the Riddle’s last battle with another French slave ship. Nicholas was helping Liam’s first mate check the sails and tighten any knots that needed attention and Bianca listened to the story with her light hazel eyes wide.
She always had liked Jones despite her loathing of pirates, privateers, and Liam’s crew in particular. The man could be anywhere from ten years younger to ten years older than Liam, but his polite and protective manner made him a fatherly figure, and he treated her like the most delicate of china, though in Liam’s view she more resembled hard, faceted quartz.
Liam waited for Jones to finish. No one could tell a tale with quite his panache, his voice rising and falling with the action from a low, dangerous whisper to a humor-filled roar. “ . . . an’ th’ slaves freed themselves. They swarmed up on deck, armed with weapons from th’ men below, an’ joined th’ crew. Most of ‘em were weak, starved an’ sick, but they fought like angry bears. One youn’un still had paint on ‘is face, a chief’s son or some such, an’ he got hold of th’ spear ol’ Captain Godenot had in ‘is cabin, taken as a souvenir t’ show off t’ his dandy friends. Th’ boy was screamin’ a language I’ve never heard, an’ sayin’ things I know I’m glad I didn’t unnerstand. The others, men and women both, even a few little ‘uns hardly bigger ‘n monkeys, got behind him and started screamin’ along with him, waving th’ swords and guns they’d taken from those they were s’posed t’ call master. The French were so outnumbered they just threw away their weapons an’ dropped where they stood.”
“What happened after the ship was taken?” Bianca asked, breathless.
Stopping with his hands on a stubborn rope, Jones stared off into the distance in fond memory. “Well, our Cap’n has hisself dead set against a man ownin’ another man, an’ has no use an’ no sympathy f’r those as would make themselves rich on another’s sweat an’ blood.” Leaning a little farther forward, the dark, wiry man grinned viciously, his black eyes glittering. “When th’ crew all refused our gen’rous offer to join the Riddle, we locked th’ dogs in their own brig, shackled like the slaves. A couple of th’ slaves spoke some English or Spanish, enough to talk sense to. A few o’ the young bucks hadn’t anythin’ left t’ return to an’ decided to take up th’ sailorin’ life. Twenty of our crew chose t’ stay on the French ship and take ‘er for the King. We took our share of ‘er valuables onto th’ Riddle an’ left ‘em th’ food, enough t’ make it back t’ Africa with those as wanted t’ return.” A wicked light gleamed in Jones’s expression. “The slavers went with ‘em. Don’t know what they did with ‘em in th’ end, an’ I don’t want to. I do hear tell that Africa be loaded with cannibals.”
Bianca shuddered, half in horror, half in delight. Liam cleared his throat. “Excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Babcock,” he said. “There is a meal prepared, and since you are our guests as well as our passengers, it is only right to extend invitation for you to join me in my cabin for evening repast.”
He could still speak “properly” and formally, and sometimes in times of stress it slipped out if he wasn’t thinking, but it felt falsely stiff on his tongue compared to the more comfortable vernacular he had grown accustomed to. Jones gave him a too-eloquent roll of the eyes; Liam gave a mock bow that made the man chuckle.
Bianca’s small face stayed neutral while her husband accepted the invitation with equally formal speech. Dropping his moneyed manners with the impatient flick of an eyelid, Liam inclined his head to his first mate. “Well, Mr. Smith, as it seems yer short a cabin for th’ moment, ye are more than welcome t’ join us. T’would be a pleasure to have ye.”
Jones gave his captain a swift, mischievous smile. “Nay, Cap’n. I’ll eat with th’ other men. Best they don’t think I’m favored,” he explained with a dark twinkle.
The bastard was deliberately leaving him alone with this pair? He thought about threatening to have him keelhauled, but Jones would only laugh at him. “Aye, sir. Best not,” he snarled. With one last black look, he led Nicholas and Bianca to his cabin.
Rowan had left it neater than she found it, going so far as to straighten his bunk. Her bag lay tucked underneath, her heavy boots standing next to it. As there were only two chairs, he sat on the folded covers, holding his plate in his lap.
He thought the smell of food might bring the girl out, but she remained in hiding. Bianca gave Liam a long look as he sat poking at his food, barely hearing Nicholas’s discussion on the merits of every kind of ship on the ocean, including a list of what seemed to be every pirate ship ever in existence.
At least his passengers ate hungrily. Bianca was used to more elegant fare, but she voiced no complaint about the less-than-appetizing mess on her plate. She looked pale and drawn, with a gauntness that spoke of too little food for too long a time.
A sudden flash of anger tightened his stomach. He hoped that someday Leopold would discover who had taken his small, pretty daughter, and that he, Captain Liam Magnus, would be there to bear witness.
Catching Nicholas’s look, Liam read his own thoughts in the boy’s innocent face, which seemed less innocent since they’d retrieved his wife. It would be a joyful sight; even if you didn’t know he had a more exciting history than captaining an occasional merchant vessel, Leopold Gower was a bloodcurdling vision when his blood was up.
Those thoughts set him wondering what the less pleasant Harrington sibling had done to his own sister to inspire such anger, and not a little fear. He wasn’t known for his vivid imagination, but the images streaming unwanted in his mind sent his guts twisting. If Leopold ever found the man, Liam was going to help.
Their meal was mostly silent. Bianca finished two helpings of the stew, watching Liam through most of her second plateful. Finally she dropped her fork with a clang.
“Liam, if you’re that worried, go and find her. She must be hungry.”
“I’m not worried,” Liam retorted automatically. He slowly rose to his feet under her lightning stare. “You’re right. She should eat.”
Bianca calmly finished her last bite as Nicholas scrambled away from the table, awkward in his eagerness to please both his dinner companions. The pair followed Liam to the door to join his search uninvited. Liam wouldn’t tell them, but he didn’t mind the company; he wasn’t sure he’d know what to say to Miss Harrington if he found her and another female at his back gave him a bit more confidence.
They started on deck, walking from bow to stern to ask his men about any sightings, except for Tony who fled from a single searching look. Nobody had seen her since she’d gone below, so they took the search there.
The first two decks they checked were empty. For a few minutes, Liam was afraid that Tony in his illogical hatred had thrown her overboard, but in the end she wasn’t hard to find. All the explorers had to do was step into the cargo hold.
The space had gone from disordered chaos to efficient perfection. All the materials
the ship needed were within easy reach—rope coiled neatly, extra canvas rolled into a compact space, tools hanging from hooks or piled conveniently, food separated with the inedible thrown out. Assorted booty taken from carefully targeted ships, namely those owned and/or captained by those Liam didn’t like, was similarly sorted. In addition to the rest, lists detailing everything were tacked up on the wall, one for the goods and one for the necessities.
Taking one down, Liam angled it towards a burning lantern, his two tagalongs clustered around to read it with him. It was written in a neat, squarish, feminine hand, the cultured script speaking of education, the perfect calculations and detailed accounts speaking of more education than most ever received, especially women.
“She’s good,” Nicholas commented. “She should work for your father, Bianca.”
“I’ve picked up a bloody accountant,” Liam muttered. It was . . . useful, he had to admit, but only to himself.
They found the girl herself half hidden in a corner, curled up on a shipment of silks. Liam thought she was asleep, but she spoke before they could quietly leave. “You’re not angry, are you Captain?”
Liam stopped in his tracks halfway out. “Angry? No, sweet. Should I be?”
“I touched your cargo without permission.”
Liam aimed a raised eyebrow at his passengers, who left with faint smiles. Returning to the shadowed corner, Liam could see Rowan’s eyes gleaming at him oddly bright. “Look, lovely, if ye want to do more work than even m’ men are willing, do it without all the permission ye want, long’s you don’t hurt ye’self.”
She sat up, still moving stiffly. Something big and black slithered behind her eyes for a moment; when she blinked, it was gone, but she wouldn’t quite meet his gaze, keeping hers aimed more towards his chest. “I’m sorry for the way I acted on deck today,” she said carefully.
“The way you . . .” He had to think what she might be apologizing for. “That? No sorry necessary. It was impressive, sweetling, and the man had it coming. Ye did nothing but earn th’ crew’s respect.”
She studied him for a moment, measuring, and nodded.
Liam moved a step closer, smelling a deeper mystery than he had at first suspected.
“Methinks something dark lives somewhere in those pretty eyes o’ yours. The men won’t forget it.”
“You’ve no idea, Captain Magnus,” Rowan answered, her voice soft and heartbroken.
It wasn’t the reaction he expected, and he even felt a momentary pang of guilt for trying to dig. Not knowing what else to do, he lightened his tone. “Come on up, sweet.
Won’t be much food left if ye don’ hurry.”
“Aye, Captain,” she answered, visibly forcing herself to brighten. She followed him back topside, blinking dazzled at the sunset, an ocean of fire reflected off the waves. It gleamed oddly in her eyes, giving them a yellowish cast for just a moment, then it was gone, leaving her looking tired and a little wan.
As they crossed the deck, Liam watched his crew from the corners of his eyes, but his prediction proved true; the men showed her nothing but utter respect, a few going so far as to tip their hats. The girl was just as polite in return, dipping a swift curtsy or giving a shy, girlish smile—so many faces for one average-sized female.
The meal was simple, hard tack, dried meat, and fish cooked together with a bit of lime added for flavor, but Rowan ate hungrily, and finding a bit more appetite himself, Liam joined her. They polished off the last of the meal between them, and it seemed a bit more satisfying the second time around. Sitting back in his chair, Liam raised a bottle of sweet bombo for a swig.
When he was done, Rowan held out her hand, her brows raised in a silent question.
Liam handed the bottle over with a small shrug. “It’s not sherry, sweet. Ye may not find it palatable.”
She gave him an impish wink and tipped the bottle for a long draught, draining a good
bit of it. Handing it back, she licked her lips thoughtfully. “It isn’t bad. Not the best quality perhaps, but whoever spiced it had some talent.”
Liam couldn’t think of anything but to stare. She flashed him a quick grin and left the cabin.
By the time he was composed enough to emerge himself, Bianca had retired to bed and Mr. Smith was shouting directions to Nicholas and, he was surprised to see, Rowan. They were busy at the never-ending task of adjusting and tying off lines, Rowan copying her partner’s movements with some skill. Liam watched for a few minutes, until stars began to appear.
Female pirates were hardly an unknown.
Liam shook off the unbidden thought.
He realized that he was tired, bone-deep weary, and even an overactive mind couldn’t stay it any longer. Fleeting catnaps the night before had done little to alleviate the need for sleep. Finding himself a nice, large coil of rope, Liam leaned back and kicked his legs out, pulling his hat down over his face. The night would be cool but comfortable, hardly the worst to spend under the open sky.
Someone nudged him with a toe. Just dozing, he was ready to be annoyed until he pushed his hat up with one finger and cracked his eyes open to find Rowan standing over him. “Captain, I am not going to take your cabin again, not all night. The men will say you’ve gone soft.”
“Then I’ll prove otherwise.”
A frown battling to be a smile tugged at her lips. “If you’re really that stubborn, there’s a perfectly comfortable chair in there.”
“The men will talk then.”
“Then I’ll prove otherwise. Or at least make them pretend not to notice.”
A picture flashed behind his eyes—the girl holding a man easily time-and-a-half her weight in the air. “Aye. Ye could.”
“Then shift yerself,” she said in a horrible imitation of rough pirate talk. Liam laughed, a deep, full-throated sound that startled Nicholas, who was just passing on his way to a night’s rest. Scrambling up, just outside the pleasant edge of wobbly legs from the extra bombo, Liam entered his cabin at her heels.
She was already curled up in the chair. Liam frowned. “Lass, ye can’t sleep like that. You’ll wake up an old woman, ‘specially with such a wound. Yer doin’ wonderfully well; don’t ruin it on my account.”
“This is perfect.”
Stubborn little chit. Shedding his hat, coat, and belt, leaving him clad in beige canvas trousers and a no-longer-white linen shirt, Liam sat on his bunk. The old thing felt wonderful after the last days, but he couldn’t get past the quirk that was actually concerned for her well being. She wouldn’t budge, he knew. So . . . “It’s a squeeze, but there’s room for two,” he offered.
The look that suggestion drew made him fear for his life. “I’ll be good. Hands to me’self,” he said hastily, palms held out at shoulder height.
“You are a liar,” Rowan snorted.
“Promise what? That you’re a liar?”
Liam grinned at her, waiting. Finally, shifting uncomfortably, she huffed. “You’re
just going to sit there and stare all night, aren’t you?”
“’F I have to.”
Face screwing up in an unsuccessful bid to hide a smile, Rowan relented. “All right, but you sleep on the inside. I want an open escape route.”
“As m’lady wishes.”
Curling up facing the wall, Liam didn’t bother to kick his boots off. He was awake long enough to feel Rowan’s weight settle on the bed and her warm back press against his, but not much longer.
It wasn’t the snoring that woke Rowan. She was used to her brother, who did worse things at night than breath noisily. It wasn’t the pervasive odor of bombo wafting from the open bottle and saturating the room, or the cool night whispering a breeze through the open window. Liam’s heart beat steadily against her back, his slow breaths rising and falling in rhythm, his body heat seeping through both their shirts as a source of comfortable warmth. None of it made her eyes slide open and her pulse speed with tension.
It was the smell of blood.
She’d noticed Liam rubbing his shoulder all morning. He must have scraped himself when he hit the rough planks of the boat while they were fleeing her brother and his men. It was an older smell, not fresh, but she could taste it on the back of her tongue like salty wine, heady and rich, making her stomach tighten.
She had to get out. Her mouth was damp with saliva, forcing her to swallow and spread the wonderfully meaty odor down her throat. Moving slowly, she eased one leg off the bed, then the other. When Liam didn’t stir and his soft, raspy snores remained steady, she pulled herself to the edge and slid off, an inch at a time.
Still no response. Relaxing, Rowan padded barefoot across the sudden close, humid stuffiness. Opening the door an inch at a time, she crept outside and eased it closed behind her, freezing when it gave the slightest click. Leaning against the door, she pressed her ear to the carved wood, but still Liam was lost in dark and dreams. Relieved, she tiptoed up the stairs to the upper deck, away from the three men on duty. If they noticed her, they were careful to ignore her. She couldn’t keep the tiniest of smiles from curving her lips, for just a moment.
Rowan took in gulps of salty ocean air, the smells wild enough to raise the hair on the back of her neck. The swollen moon hung heavy in the sky, gilding the world silver and white. It set her blood aflame, but the ship creaked and groaned under her feet, solid and real enough to shield her from the night. Sitting on the well-scrubbed deck, she slid her legs between the rails and let them dangle, feeling the tickle of salt spray on her skin as the clean wind whipped at her skirt. She watched the waves sparkle like living jewels all around and looked up at a sky filled with so many points of light that she ran out of words for the numbers.
The day’s tension and emotion, so eroding to her self-discipline, faded with every rocking wave. It was strange to feel so peaceful. More than strange, it felt unnatural. She’d lost the safety of her family’s arms too young, left alone with a twin who carried enough madness for two men. When she was a little girl, the Sphinx’s Riddle, her grandfather’s great love, was the thing her mind fixed on as her ideal of freedom, fed by stories of the ship’s creation, and later of the adventures of her captain and crew. Over years of using dreams of this ship as her only escape, they’d become real to her, at times more real than anything around her, and still this reality was a thousand times more than she could have imagined.
She focused on that reality surrounding her, cradling her against the rest of the world. The creaking and groaning of timbers should have sounded eerie; instead, the sounds were comfortable, serene, almost homey. Closing her eyes, Rowan inhaled. When new, the wood would have had a sharp, tingling scent. Now it had matured into something richer and more subtle that wafted its way through her olfactory center and seemed to settle at the base of her spine.
It wasn’t just the ship, either. Her small crew was diverse of age, race, and background, and as a result was a group of jolly, fun-loving men, not at all matching the French, Spanish, and Dutch description of vicious, murderous, and in some documents cannibalistic criminals. Mr. Tony wasn’t at all fond of her, but Thomas O’Hara was almost worshiping at her feet, and the others, Sebastian Kyle, Jamison Thorpe, Stephen Newton, Donatello Vasquez, and the first mate with the unlikely name of Jones Smith all ranged from politely considerate to friendly.
Then there was the captain, Liam Magnus. He was too young to be part of her grandfather’s stories, but she’d heard of him, of course. She listened to every bit of news of the Sphinx’s Riddle her brother’s men brought in, especially after she figured out why Roark was so interested, and the stories surrounding him were at least as unlikely as those of his predecessor. The man seemed a perfect match for the ship, clever and quick, and dangerous to his enemies.
No, that was a bad way for her thoughts to go.
“Cold to be out here all alone and lost in thought,” Liam’s voice floated out of the dark.
Rowan’s chest constricted, her heart clamping down until her lungs froze. She would never learn to be careful enough, no matter how many lessons life taught. The pirate should never have been able to take her unawares, yet there he was, directly behind her, and she’d not sensed a single breath. How had she survived life with her brother and the brutes he hired? She should have been dead long ago.
“No need to look so frightened, sweet.” His voice was soft, almost worried. “You’re as safe as it’s possible to be out on the water.”
His scent washed over her; man, rum-and-honey based bombo, work, and, mostly, the concentrated odor of sea salt and ocean. She didn’t look at him, afraid of what he’d see, but he sat beside her in a similar position to her unseemingly casual pose, his coat draped loosely over his shoulders. Leaning his hatless head on the rail, he gave her a cockeyed grin, his shoulder-length coal-dust hair waving loose in the breeze.
Arrogant, infuriating, domineering—how could the man be so appealing? He wanted people to think that if he still had a mother, he’d sell her for a half empty bottle of grog, and still they followed him of their own free will, sailing proudly under his command. They liked him. It was distinctly odd, yet she felt herself getting caught up in whatever spell he wound about the people around him.
She shook herself; such thoughts from one who was trained, at least in her early years, to be a proper lady. “It’s beautiful,” she said, gesturing towards the moonlit waves.
Liam’s eyes shifted outward, glinting with reflections of pale, silver-gold light. “Aye.
It is. It’s been a long time since I’ve just sat and looked.”
“I’m sorry if I woke you,” she murmured, her glance drawn to his face by the soft, unconscious wonder in his tone.
“You? It’d take more’n you. Though it did get a bit chilled in there alone. What happened?” He grinned, but it didn’t match his serious eyes. “Found that like so many others, ye couldn’t trust yerself to resist ol’ Captain Liam Magnus, eh?”
He was teasing, that was all. Rowan dropped her head. She hadn’t meant to look at him anyway, so it wasn’t a retreat. “No, I couldn’t.”
She could feel the darkness in that one simple sentence chilling her throat. Liam paused, uncertain, then apparently decided he’d imagined the deep ring in her voice. “Sure ye want t’ stay out here? Even in th’ Caribbean, the wind can bite comin’ off th’ water.”
The irony pulled out a reluctant smile. “I’m all right. Thank you, Captain.”
The next thing she felt was his coat slipping over her shoulders, tucked around her against the night chill.
It had been so long since she was in truly human company. She couldn’t fight it any more; she felt her ice walls begin to crumble under the weight of buttons and thin, worn cloth. Tears of fear and old hurt rose in her eyes, leaking past the uselessly melting barrier that struggled to hold them back. She tried to turn away, but Liam was keen-eyed and aware. “Eh, no need for that sort o’ thing. ‘Tis a beautiful night, we’re floating free on the ocean, an’ nothin’ can touch us here.” His arm wound around her shoulders companionably; laughing a little, Rowan leaned into it, though she didn’t mean to. Bloody pirates, stealing everything from under your nose, even yourself.
Rowan continued to stare out to sea, but at least the tears had stopped. After a few minutes of silence during which Liam was careful not to notice that she did not pull out of his arms, she looked at him sidelong, searching his face. The light reflected oddly in her eyes, turning the aquamarine a brilliant emerald shade. Odd, but hardly unattractive. “Captain Magnus?”
“Why does Mrs. Babcock hate you so much? Especially after you came here to rescue her? Nicholas seems to like you, so you can’t have done anything too horrible to his wife.”
Liam looked away, trying to decide on an answer. The truth seemed easiest, even if the truth itself was a hard one. “Bianca’s mother was murdered by pirates. Bianca was young, but she was old enough to know, and to form a deep hatred for all of us.”
“And being a privateer doesn’t matter. You’re still a murdering pirate,” Rowan murmured.
“Aye. Letters of Marque are but a technicality, thin as paper. We are all one, even though the man who killed Juliana Gower flew a flag red as the barrels of blood he spilled, interested in neither surrender nor prisoners,” Liam agreed, an edge of bitterness entering his voice. “Even though she was murdered as an act of revenge against h . . .” He stopped himself from saying too much. “ . . . against someone else.”
Liam didn’t think the tiny hesitation was obvious, but Rowan gave him a solemn, searching look. “Against you?”
“Partly. I was . . . involved.”
Rowan was silent for a time, swinging her legs in the air like a restless little girl in a too-big chair. “How did you get involved with someone who would harm an innocent woman for revenge? Did it have something to do with the Riptide? Everyone knows he had the Riddle before you, and you were his first mate. Did he have something to do with Mrs. Babcock’s mother?”
Damn. He should have expected the quickness. Or had he done it on purpose, knowing she would pick up the tiny hints? Liam gazed at her open, honest face out of the corner of his eye and still wasn’t sure what made him speak. Perhaps he sensed that she had already guessed, perhaps it was something else. “Best not to mention this to anyone. Bianca has no idea, and I don’t want Nicholas to know; his misplaced sense of honor wouldn’t let him keep silent. The Riptide was—is—Leopold Gower, Bianca’s father. He had no choice but to send me to fetch his daughter. He didn’t want wrong connections to be made by the wrong people to the wrong moments in his past. Me men weren’t happy, most of them have no idea that th’ rich, mostly respected merchant from the Colonies is a pirate whose name they invoke weekly. It wasn’t easy t’ talk ‘em into it, but I owe the Riptide more than I can repay in a lifetime, or two. He was th’ man who gave me m’ life and my ship.”
Her jewel-hued eyes were wide. “What? Really? Her father? And she doesn’t know?”
“Don’t say anything. She’d go mad.”
“I would imagine.” Rowan cuddled unconsciously closer. “What kind of low coward would kill a wife and mother?”
Liam closed his eyes against the memories, his jaw clenched. “His name was Girard Craven. He was captain of the Red Death, a ship feared by everyone, other pirates as much as any honest sailor. He had . . . done some things an’ got a price on his head, one that his fellow pirates were particularly keen to be the ones to collect.” A sneer of anger and disgust bared his teeth. “Riptide knew where he would be. His ship was there, we sank it, but he’d gotten word of the bounty, as well as the old “friend” who planned to collect, and wasn’t aboard. While we were chasing crimson shadows, Craven took his revenge, taking Juliana Gower just before Leopold managed to make it home.”
It still made him sick. “Bianca was there. She was the first to find Juliana’s body. Bianca looks very much like her, you know, except for her eyes. She has Riptide’s eyes . . . Juliana was even smaller, though, always delicate . . .” He trailed off, his throat working. “Riptide caught him and killed him, his last act as a privateer. He retired to raise his daughter.”
Rubbing his forehead, Liam shook his head sadly. “I think he lost his taste for it all. I had been his first mate for two years, and was elected captain on his advice.”
After thirteen years it was still hard to talk about. Rowan shifted uncomfortably, quiet for a time. “How did you end up on the Sphinx’s Riddle in the first place?” she asked after a long stretch of tense silence.
The question was an utterly transparent attempt at a subject change, and Liam flushed with a pleasant kind of gratitude. Smiling, he began his tale.
Rowan listened without interruption. He told her the whole sordid lot of it, from a titled father who disappeared and a mother who couldn’t support him, finally dying of fever, leaving him alone at the age of eight. At ten, he stowed away on a ship bound for the New World, and by eleven, he was a cabin boy and powder monkey for a cruel pirate captain, until Leopold Gower, then an English privateer known only as the Riptide, encountered him in Port Royal, recognized his potential, and took him in.
His audience didn’t say anything when he was done, just went back to staring at the water, but she seemed satisfied. After a while she grew drowsy, her weight settling steadily more firmly against him until her eyes closed.
Liam felt heavy and slow himself. He thought about carrying her back to his cabin, but in the end it was too much work.