Part the Two Hundred Ninety Third: Hope Casts Off
“That should do it,” said Samuel as he secured the makeshift mast on the launch. “It’s a lug rig, very easy to trim any way you want, so you should be able to get a good head wind if it holds up to get you where you need to be.”
“The charge is secure,” said Osei as he gave a tug at the sail containing the powder. “She should stay together barring any blow or cut slicing open the covering.”
“If she were hit by a shot,” Hope asked Jukes, “how likely would she blow up before I got close enough?”
“A hot round that breaks the covering could be your doom,” he replied. “I’d advise you not to draw their fire, if you can.”
“I’ll leave that to the Casa’s gunners and hope that they don’t realize how valuable my load is until it’s too late.”
“There is the fact that we’re coming afore you most of the way,” said Goddard. “That should keep them from thinking that clearly.”
“And I do appreciate that, truly. However, I ask that you not take unreasonable risks on my behalf. If her guns come too close to finding their mark, take a heading to put some distance between you and them.”
Hope took a good look at the launch. Her makeshift sail was secure, the powder was packed, and there was just enough room astern for the pot of coals, the wicks, an oar to steer or paddle the craft with, and a place to sit.
“Well, the sooner, the better,” she said, trying not to think too hard about it. “Let me just say, before I go, how much I appreciate each and every one of you. Should there not be another opportunity, I want to say how proud I am to have come this way with all of you.”
With that, she grabbed each member of the crew by their shoulders, and in turn planted a kiss on their brows. The men who joined in Port Royal all were given her brief affection succinctly, a moment before moving on to the next man.
She lingered a bit with Goddard, remembering the time they spent on the sand when they got to Tortuga, how good that was.
“God zij met u,” he said with a slight smile before she let go.
For Osei, she could not find anything more to say, despite feeling there was something that needed to be said. She promised herself if for no other reason, she’d come back to finish this conversation not yet begun.
When she got to Samuel, she held him tightly, keeping her lips pressed against him for as long as she could afford before she felt the stares of the crew. She stayed close in when she finished, brow touching brow, as she stared into his eyes.
“I am coming back,” she said in a low voice, not hiding her deep desire.
But when she finally got to Charity, she grabbed Hope by the shoulders first and planted her kiss between Hope’s eyes, long and hard. The silence was even more deafening during her show of affection.
When she finally stopped, their brows touched intensely as Charity smoldered, “Vous sacrament bien mieux d’être de retour!”
Hope felt her knees knock as she nodded…
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