Hope imagined that Charles was still looking at her as he and Akua left the French prize before the crew of the Gale had picked her clean, but she did not look to confirm. The busywork going around her as the rest of the crew grabbed foodstuffs and stores after making sure no treasure was left was too much of a distraction to allow her to check.
She smiled nonetheless at the thought that he might…
She kept a slight smile later on as the Raging Gale left the floating hulk of the French vessel behind. Bereft of anything of value, the prize was cast adrift to float out to sea.
“With any luck, she might miss the isles ‘round the Cay,” said Collins as he watched her go. “Go pass them, end up deep in the ocean to drown.”
“Hmm,” said Hope.
Collins looked at her more closely. “You’re smiling,” he said. “That can’t be good.”
“I’d never thought you able to smile; it’s not your nature. If you found something to smile at like that, then that means the world as we know it is about to end and that God is ready to pass judgment.”
Hope smiled even more broadly, only partly to set Collins back on his heels. “Are you sure it’s such a bad thing that I’m smiling?” she said with a slight tease.
“I’ll want to know what could have so set you against the natural order to-”
“Ah,” said Charles de Normandie, with Osei at his side, “you must be Monsieur Collins, no? The quartermaster informs me you are the master gunner.”
Collins looked Charles up and down as though he was lining up the sights of a piece. “Ever fire artillery, boy?” he asked.
“Well, no, but I am more than willing to learn.”
“Pray well that when it comes time to learn, that your first time is not your last.” He gave a look between him and Hope and said under his breath, “Royals and their whims…”
“Not a man of bon temperament, is he?” Charles asked Hope.
“He’s normally a lot more pleasant,” said Hope. “When Osei introduced me to the rest of the crew my first day, he was not like that.”
“Permit me to note,” said Osei, “that Mister Collins did not assess your skills as a gunner at that time.”
“I would expect you came aboard based more on your musical skills, no?” Charles asked Hope. “Or was it your jolie visage, then?”
Hope waited for Charles to follow up his flattery with further flowery comments. While she had thought she would explode if he went further and touched her, let alone picking up her hand, there was something pleasant in considering that as a way to die…