Chapter 1

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Every female pirate was once a scared little girl fleeing from something. However, in time, even small girls can become death on the horizon and make grown men tremble in fear.

"Mercy," cried the broad-shouldered man and begged for his life. But it was too late. The pirate Queen wanted her revenge and fed him to the sharks a piece at a time. In doing so, she wiped away the last bad memory of her former life.

***

Casey shook her head at the reflection in the large wood-framed mirror. For half an hour, she had tried to decide if she wanted her hair tied in a knot at the back of her neck or left hanging down over her shoulders. It was her wedding day, and like every other girl, she had dreamt of this day her whole life and of how beautiful it would be.

Casey had been in love with Jack, the blacksmith's son, for more than two years. Jack was two years older than she was, and at the age of seventeen, he was in many regards already considered a man. Their children would be gorgeous, Casey often thought to herself as she watched Jack hammering away in his father's workshop. Jack always worked without a shirt on, revealing his well-trained upper body, which years of forging had chiseled into shape. Casey knew he most likely took off his shirt only to impress the girls, and especially her, but she did not mind. She could sit for hours on the stone fence across the street from the blacksmith's shop and admire Jack working the bellows or shaping a piece of iron into a tool or a horseshoe on the big anvil. Just watching him gave her a warm sensation in her stomach that spread through her chest and up her neck until it made her blush. She was sure it was the feeling of true love.

Their feelings were mutual, and Jack had promised her that they would marry as soon as he became a skilled blacksmith. With his savings, they would buy a small workshop on another island. He would be the only blacksmith on the island with plenty of work to do, and she would give birth to a lot of babies. Just a few months previously, they had kissed for the first time. It was a kiss of promise, Jack had told her.

Casey stared into the mirror. She did not look anything like she had imagined in her dreams. Her long blond hair was a mess, and her usually clear blue eyes were swollen and red from crying. Her skinny body trembled and she breathed rapidly, unable to calm herself.

Today, Casey was not marrying Jack. Her father had been lost at sea a few years previously and he would not be there to walk her down the aisle. Instead, her mother's new husband, Mr. Stevens, would give her away. Mr. Stevens had also decided whom Casey would marry and it would not be Jack. In a few hours, she would be Mrs. Johnson, wife of Alfred Johnson, the Governor's son. Casey burst into tears as she thought of the life awaiting her.

Casey's mother had resisted the marriage between her daughter and the Governor's son for a long time. She dreaded the thought of Casey marrying Alfred Johnson, who had a reputation for being a hot-tempered gambling man and a drunkard. However, Mr. Stevens had worn down her resolve over the months until she gave in and agreed to the marriage.

Mr. Stevens' pressure had started with heated arguments where he angrily insisted that the wedding between Casey and Alfred Johnson was most sensible. When Casey's mother did not give in to his persistence, he became violent. He started slapping her across the face with the back of his hand whenever they had an argument and she disagreed with him. Sometimes, he also punched her hard in the stomach, sending her to the floor unable to breathe for minutes. Mr. Stevens would stand above her, roaring like a wild animal hovering over its prey. The bald, broad-shouldered merchant with hairy arms and a potato-shaped nose was not a man who accepted a woman's refusal. Besides, he had his own vested interest in the marriage that gave him direct access to the Governor's ear. A family relationship with the Governor, albeit a weak one, would make it much easier for him to secure the lucrative contracts to transport goods across the ocean to the Old World in the east.

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