Chapter Nine

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Refuge Cay town wasn't its usual cacophony of drunken laughter and bawdy behaviour tonight. The wedding festivities were still ongoing, keeping the inhabitants busy.

I was more than glad for the peace and quiet though; moments like these were so rare. Ambient noises from nocturnal creatures and the ocean surf lulled us as we walked, side by side.

Dark was unusually quiet, too. He'd barely said a word since we left the beach. I realized he had been following my steps, and that my feet had no destination in mind.

I curled my fingers around his. He glanced down at our joined hands, then stared resolutely ahead. For the countless time, I tried to divine his thoughts from his face.

"It's been a long time since we had a night like this," I said. My voice was by no means loud, but it shattered the silence.

Dark's eyes flicked to my face. A smile curved his mouth. He knew the nights I was talking of. He pointed to a cluster of palm trees up ahead, breaking free of the jungle to shade the street.

"There's just one thing missing," he said.

With a chuckle, we detoured for the trees, sitting down at their base. For a flash, I was back in my father's garden, sneaking out late at night to meet my friend under our favourite tree and talking long into the night.

Dark kept his distance, so I scooted closer, looping my arm through his. I stared up at the stars, pretending not to observe his profile from the corner of my eye.

"It was a lovely wedding."

"'Twas," he agreed "I think they shall make each other happy."

Grinning, I said, "I had thought Sykes might weep."

"He did." I laughed. Dark snorted. "At least in private."

"They will be happy," I pronounced when my laughter subsided. "I know it."

A smile ghosted across his face so fast I almost missed it. He covered the lower half of his face with his hand.

"What is it?" I demanded, nudging him.

Silently, he raised an arm and pointed across the way, into a darkened alley. The hideaway's occupants, as unaware of us as we'd been of them, were half-hidden by a large barrel, but still clearly visible to Dark and I.

Dark was already guffawing next to me as I recognized the shape of a man's broad back, a woman's long, slender legs, and a mane of tell-tale red hair.

I flushed so badly I feared my cheeks had become two red spotlights, giving me away. Dark bit his hand to muffle his laughter. In a panicked jerk I tried to stand up.

"Wait," Dark said, urging me back down. "They'll be gone soon."

Once again I studied the stars intently.

"I remember when you told me you never wanted to get married." There was a sliver of amusement in his voice.

I turned to him. Our past had been coming up in conversation a lot lately. I wondered what brought his mind there.

"Speaking from experience," I muttered. "I didn't find being a wife all that pleasant." I exhaled sharply. "But I know Sykes and Tallera will be different."

He squeezed my hand, silently apologetic for bringing up bad memories.

"You needn't worry about that anymore," he reassured me.

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