breath of fresh, salty air.
‘We can’t outrun them, Captain,’ the helmsman was saying, leaning
on the wheel with increasing desperation. ‘The Defiance is too
fast—faster by far than we are. He’s going to come around and block us.’
Norton swore. ‘How in hell did he get away this time? Damn him, I told them where to find him—’
Lucinda spun around, ignoring the way Norton’s hand tightened
with such bruising intensity on her arm. Sure enough, the Defiance was
there, just off the starboard bow, so close she could see the snarling dragon’s
head at the prow, drawing closer all the time with an inevitability that was
causing fear to flare in Norton’s eyes. And surely she could see Daniel—and was
that not Owen Chance with him on the deck? Her spirits soared from
misery to pure elation, and she laughed aloud.
Norton growled his anger and raised a hand to strike her, but
before he could there was a whistling overhead, and a shout from one of the
crew, then a terrible, splintering crash as the mainsail was struck squarely
and started to fall like a tree felled in one blow. The ship checked,
shuddered, and lost power, and the Defiance came alongside, almost close
enough for her to jump from one ship to the other.
Norton, a knife in his hand, made a grab for Lucinda but she was
too quick for him. She clutched at a coil of rope, tripping him up, and dived
for cover behind a stack of crates. Bits of broken mast were falling all about
them, and a second later she heard the helmsman’s terrified squeal, ‘Grenades!
There was the crack of gunpowder and the billow of smoke,
followed by the smack of gunshot. Lucinda put her arms over her head, curled
up, and prayed for her life. The Saucy Helen juddered again as the Defiance came closer alongside, and Daniel’s crew lashed the two ships together before
pouring over the sides to board.
Norton’s pirates were fighting for their lives now, hand to hand,
but against Daniel’s crew and a company of soldiers they stood no chance.
Peering around the edge of her hiding place, Lucinda saw Norton take a bullet
in the chest, and covered her eyes.
‘A clean death was too good for him,’ a voice said beside her,
and then she was in Daniel’s arms, and he had wrapped a cloak about her, and
she was clinging to him as he said, in a hard voice she hardly knew, ‘Did he
hurt you, Lucy? Tell me the truth. If any of these men so much as touched you
then I swear I will kill them myself—’
‘No,’ Lucinda said, unsure if she was laughing or crying. ‘No, I
promise…I was too sick, and they were too drunk and…Oh, Daniel, I thought
Chance had arrested you. I am so happy to see you…’
‘Sorry about the grenades,’ Daniel said. ‘I saw you escape Norton
and hide, so I thought we could risk it.’
‘I don’t mind,’ Lucinda whispered. She pressed her face to the
curve of his neck. ‘I love you.’
Daniel took a breath to reply to her, but then she felt him
stiffen slightly and, looking up, saw that Owen Chance had come across them.
‘Mrs Melville.’ He bowed. ‘You are well?’
‘Tolerably well, I thank you, Mr Chance.’ Lucinda tried not to
laugh at the incongruity of greeting the Riding Officer as though they were at
a social occasion.
Chance nodded. ‘Good. Norton is dead and the crew have
surrendered. Topsham is taking the ship into Felixstowe. I take it that Holroyd
will captain the Defiance in your absence, de Lancey?’
Daniel nodded. Watching, Lucinda sensed some sort of message that
she did not understand pass between the two men. Daniel loosed her a little.
‘Lucinda, sweetheart. I must go and help Chance sort matters out.
Do you wish to go below until we reach port?’
Lucinda shuddered. ‘No, thank you! I shall stay here. I will be
Daniel gave her a quick kiss and walked away, and for the
remainder of the time sailing into port she sat and watched the soldiers round
up the pirates, shackle them,