Chapter 19: Parley

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“Who was that?” My voice cracks, as I consider the unimaginable. Surely, this can't be Luciana's mother. Why, she was lost years ago on the long journey from Spain to Panama and is presumed dead.

Cade hesitates to answer and the door opens again. Amid a fog of tobacco, a man steps out.

“Alestair, my boy!” He embraces my companion.

Cade rolls his eyes above the man’s shoulder. “Hello, father.”

I gasp. Finally, the original Pirate King himself.

Unsurprisingly, the elder Kincade is tall and well-built. His skin is tanned with just a few wrinkles on his forehead. His short, light-brown hair is also tinged with only a touch of gray at the temples.

These subtle signs reflect his age, but they also lend him an air of authority, which he displays by pulling away and reprimanding his son. “It’s about time you showed up. What kept you so long?”

Cade steps back. “Oh, you know: shipwreck, mutiny, near escape from the gallows. The usual fare, really.”

The elder Kincade laughs and pats his son on the shoulder. “Well, you’re here now. That’s all that matters.” He turns to me. “And this young lady, of course.”

He smiles and I can fully see the family resemblance.

It’s a bit unnerving that the same, blue eyes as Cade’s look down at me. However, unlike his son – who is once again sporting a full face of stubble – the elder Kincade has a neatly trimmed moustache connected to a small beard covering just his chin.

“Welcome to my home, Luciana. I hope this rapscallion has treated you well on your journey here.” He takes my hand and gently kisses the back.

My face flushes and I hesitantly nod.

"Come. Come." He guides me into the room. "We shouldn't keep the lady of the house waiting."

Lady of the house? Does that mean whoever’s waiting inside is also his wife?

After stepping over the threshold, the enormous chandelier made of antlers hanging from the extra tall ceiling grabs my attention. Although its candles sparkle like dozens of stars, it's not the main light source. Much stronger are the red and yellow flames that flicker from a massive stone fireplace on the left, warming the otherwise surprisingly chilly space.

On the walls, there are several large, framed canvases depicting battles on both land and sea, along with trophy heads from exotic looking animals. Their dead eyes appear to follow my every move and I quickly look away.

The center of the room holds a large, rectangular table. Seeing us enter, a woman gets up from one of the six equally sturdy chairs.

She approaches with slow, long steps and passes two shiny suits of armor, which reflect her graceful movements. Stopping at an arm's length away, she surveys me silently.

I can feel the hair on the back of my neck stand on end as her almond-shaped eyes look me up and down. I casually try to do the same, and even with brief, sideways glances, I can tell she's breathtaking.

Her skin is smooth and golden; her mouth is shapely and wide. Tall, but curvy in both her bosom and hips, it’s as if I’m looking at Luciana, but twenty years in the future.

There's no question that this is Señora Leonor Mercado.

My breathing becomes rapid as I piece together the timeline. Luciana arrived in Portobelo some five years ago. That’s almost as long Cade has been filling his father’s shoes as Captain of the Phoenix Rising.

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