Two

Gabriel Lawrence gnashed his teeth as he gripped the ship’s railing with one hand and balanced the spyglass with the other, watching the enemy ship coming toward them. All the crew on The Avenger scrambled into action as Gabe shouted orders over his shoulder. The Avenger was a fast ship, which is why it was perfect for his needs which was to assist Prince Regent with ridding all of Napoleon spies.

One of Gabe’s best friends, Captain Hawk—also known as Marcus Thorne—had once commanded The Avenger. Now the ship was Gabe’s…as long as he could get away from the French vessel heading right for them. For a few years, The Avenger had taken command over some of Napoleon’s ships. Was it any wonder the emperor’s armies wanted revenge?

“Captain, we are picking up speed.”

Gabe lowered his spyglass and settled his attention on his first mate, Rufus Daughtery. The wind whipped the man’s long blond hair around his face in disarray. Out here in the sun, the strawberry tint to Rufus’ hair was more prominent. Needless to say, Rufus would definitely stand out in a crowd.

“That we are, Rufus.” Gabe glanced at his crew. “It appears Lieutenant Mercer doesn’t know when to give up.

Rufus took a step closer and squinted in the direction of their attacker. “Is that who is after us?”

“It is.” Gabe gritted his teeth.

“If I might say, Captain, that man will stop at nothing to get his prize. He has a reputation that precedes him. Good men quake in their boots when he is near.”

Gabe looked through is spyglass again. “The man has the most wicked eyes I have ever seen.”

“I must agree with you. Mercer is the spawn of Satan himself.”

Gabe blew out an irritated breath. “I feel the wind is on our side today. Let us pray it continues.”

“I know the good Lord will keep it that way.”

Gabe nodded, trusting that all would go well. He turned back to the ocean and lifted his spyglass again. “However, I would truly like to know how Lieutenant Mercer knows we were here in the first place. The Avenger has been out of commission for a few months. How would they know where we were headed this time?”

“Do you think there is a spy among us?” Rufus asked in a lower voice.

Gabe swung around and faced his friend. Rufus’ panicked expression mirrored the way Gabe felt. “I pray there isn’t, but I know not how to explain today’s mishap.” Sighing, Gabe raked his fingers through his hair. “Today’s near capture was too close. I don’t want it happening again.” He glanced over his shoulder at the vessel slowly getting smaller. “If the wind changes, we may not make our escape after all.”

From the other ship, a booming noise shook the air around them. The cannonball landed in the water, splashing water on Gabe and Rufus. Gabe strolled to the railing of the quarter deck and shouted more commands at his crew to pick up speed.

His friend jumped back, his face hard with anger. “What in the blazes do they think they are doing?” Rufus snapped. “Why did they waste a cannonball when they knew it would not get to us?”

“Lieutenant Mercer is arrogant. I believe he truly thought he could hit our ship. Or frighten us into surrendering.”

“They are all bloody imbeciles—every last one.”

“They are.” Gabe scrubbed his hand over his unshaven jaw. “Unfortunately, they did get close enough to see us.”

“What do you mean?” Rufus’ eyebrow lifted.

“They were watching us through their spyglass—just as I watched them.” Gabe sighed with a frown. “Once we are able to hide the ship and go on land, I think they will be looking for us.” His gaze shifted to Rufus’ thick patch of strawberry-blond hair. “And unfortunately, we are both easy men to spot because of our hair color.”

“What do you suggest we do, Captain?”

Another canon boomed through the air, but fell short of hitting its mark. Thankfully, it wasn’t as close as the first one. The Avenger was definitely gaining speed. Gabe was confident the crew would be able to reach their destination without getting caught, but they would all have to go into hiding for a while.

“Once we reach port,” Gabe answered his friend, “I will instruct everyone to go into hiding. I think we all need to stay someplace we haven’t been. That’s the only way. We also may need to alter our appearance.”

“How do you suggest we do that?”

Gabe shrugged. “By any means we can obtain. In fact, I know of a woman—”

“Of course you do,” Rufus interrupted with a snicker. “And a lot of women know you very well, Captain.”

Gabe rolled his eyes and tried not to grin. True, he’d become a ladies’ man in the past few years, but that was neither here nor there. “As I was saying,” he continued, “I know an older woman who can dye hair. Perhaps I shall pay her a visit and see what she can do with mine.” He lifted his attention to Rufus’ head. “And I suggest you follow my example.”

“I shall, Captain.”

With a nod, Gabe ended their conversation and strolled back toward the end of the ship so he could finish watching the French vessel that was almost out of sight now. Over the past ten or so years, there had been many times he’d almost been captured by the enemy. One particular time came to mind. He was working as a servant to his friend, William Braxton. A mysterious woman spy had taken interest in him, which had excited Gabe. At the time, he thought she was trying to help Gabe and William, but she turned out to be evil. In the end, he had to kill her before she killed his friend.

That was when Gabe realized the lengths of dedication and devotion he’d go through for the right cause. Keeping Britain from Napoleon’s hold was worth sacrificing one’s life. One day his—and his fellow comrades would be rewarded for their allegiance.

Gabe had always been one step ahead of Napoleon’s navy, which was why today’s near-capture had him worried. Could there be a spy amongst them as Rufus had suggested? Most of these men he knew from when he was first-mate to Captain Hawk not more than sixteen months ago. Back then, there were many spies, some they didn’t know about until Gabe and Marcus almost lost their lives. So why not now?

Growling, Gabe tightened his fingers around the railing. He needed to weed them out, yet how could he accomplish such a feat while he was in hiding? Regardless, he must find a way. His crew depended upon him. He could not…would not let them down!

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