Chapter Ten

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Tallera's tangle of red hair whipped around her in the strong wind, making her head seem like a ball of fire. I stepped into a farewell hug, brushing crimson tendrils out of my face.

My heart ached to see my friend leave, but the winds were strong and the seas more cooperative than they had been in weeks. It was now or wait further until the end of the storm season. In spite of the danger, the risk had to be taken.

Tallera's arms squeezed tightly around me, then released me. "I will miss you," she murmured through the unruly mass of hair.

"And I you," I said with a laugh, trying to push back her tresses long enough to see her face.

She scowled and muttered, "Blasted wind."

As she moved on to the next well-wisher, I turned to Sykes, who had been hovering at his new wife's side. I hesitated a bit over how exactly to say goodbye, shifting from foot to foot. Sykes made the decision for us.

He chuckled. "Come here, lass." He wrapped me in a suffocating embrace and patted my head with one enormous hand. "Let's have none of tha' foolish dancin' about."

My next words were muffled against Sykes's ribs.

He let me go. I filled my lungs with air. "Sorry, lass what was that?"

"I'll miss you," I told him.

The corner of his mouth twitched. Sykes bent down to my level and winked. "I'll miss you too. Keep it a secret from the rest of the lads, aye?"

Grinning, I winked back. Sykes bid farewell to the rest of the pirates, who treated him to a good-natured goodbye ribbing. Finally he turned to say his goodbye to Dark. Tallera returned to my side as I observed the pair from the corner of my eye.

To my surprise, Dark held out the folded piece of parchment that contained Grimm's secrets. Even more perplexing was Sykes' refusal to take it.

"He thinks he's uncovered everything he needs from it." Tallera answered my inner questions. "He doesn't want another mystery to distract him from finding the real Grimm."

"They all seem quite real to me," I countered.

Duncan had played the part of Grimm's decoy frighteningly well. And the Captain Grimm who Dark had known was as terrifying as any monster I could conjure up. I didn't want to imagine what the real, or perhaps original, Captain Grimm might be like.

I watched Tallera and Sykes board their ship—courtesy of Barton—alongside their temporary shipmates, with the bittersweet knowledge knotting my stomach that our probable reunion was a long way off.

I wanted to trust Tallera when she told me that Sykes and Dark would reconcile after a time, but I also knew how stubborn Dark could be. Sneaking a glance at him while he waved to our departing friends, I fervently hoped he would fight to win back Sykes's trust.

~oOo~

After weeks of sleeping in Barton's comfortable guest quarters, it was disconcerting to find my bunk aboard the ship comforting. I sank onto the spare but familiar mattress and thin blanket with a sigh. It felt odd to think of my little hidey-hole as home, but that it was.

I had just checked that all my belongings were secure when there was a knock on the wood on the other side of the curtain I used as a door. Keith and Johnny poked their heads in, crowding my already tiny space.

"All settled in?" Keith asked, squeezing in next to me to allow Johnny room.

"Aye," I replied, tucking my knees into my chest to give them space to stand.

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