Chapter 22: Anchors Aweigh

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I tuck the broken necklace into the top of my corset, slipping it in between my bosoms. Reaching with both hands behind me, I tug on the ribbon holding the upper skirt in place. As it falls to the ground, Kincade approaches. Grinning, he stops at the nearest crate and smashes his weapon's hilt against the top.

It takes several hits for the wood to splinter enough to create a sufficiently large opening. When it does, Kincade reaches in, pulls out a shiny, rectangular object, and laughs. "Well, I'll be damned."

I'm not sure if his comment means he doubted the gold's existence, so I refrain from responding. Instead, I also undo the petticoat and let the excess weight slip off my body.

Sighing, I momentarily close my eyes at the relief. When I open them again, Kincade is staring at the dagger strapped to my thigh.

Anxious to cover my half-naked body, I attempt to step out of the underskirt too quickly. Putting too much weight on my injured foot makes me unwittingly cry out in pain.

"What's the matter with you?" Kincade widens his eyes at the unexpected move.

I fumble to pull up the red, satin fabric. "I twisted my ankle while dancing."

"I knew you'd manage to cock up something." He throws the gold bar back in with the rest before approaching me. "Sit down, girl."

I finish dressing and take a seat on a barrel. Kincade crouches in front of me and takes my foot in his hands. He gently tugs on my boot, but it won't give.

"Oww," I indicate my disapproval at his actions.

"Quit your complaining. The ankle has already begun swelling. Leaving the boot on any longer will just make it worse. Now, take a big breath and hold on, so I can get if off."

Although I don't appreciate his tone, I know the man's right about his appraisal. Doing as he says, I make my preparations. This time, Kincade pulls much harder, and the boot begrudgingly slowly slips off my enlarged ankle.

"Can't do much more for it now. Just stay off it as long as you can." He stands and picks up the discarded petticoat before dropping it in my lap. "You can start with this."

I pull out my dagger and get to work. Slipping the tip against the temporary stitches, I remove the woven baskets from the underskirt. Meanwhile, Kincade ties up the unconscious guard.

Taking an empty bag, he proceeds to fill it with gold bars. Only about the length of my hand and barely thicker than my finger, each piece is stamped with a decimal notation of a number in the low thirties followed by the "oz." unit, indicating its weight.

Based on size, we could fit almost twice as many in a bag than its actual heaviness will allow. Because of this, Kincade tries several different arrangements before settling on one that maximizes the fit, without breaking the woven container.

When I'm done with my own task, I join Kincade with his.

Besides the gold bars, we also find coins, jewels, and silver in the treasury's crates. There's also a stack of fancy swords in the corner, but we're limited to just the most precious bounty, so we leave all these behind. After packing all eight bags in the same manner, we can temporarily relax.

Now, we just wait.

Hopefully, Leonor is still successfully preoccupying the admiral so Charlie can woo Luciana. As the night progresses and everyone's inhibitions lower even more, he'll invite her to the waiting boat at the docks. Because his father is now here with me, it most likely will be Cade's job to make sure the girl is secured on board.

Just a few hours before daybreak, he'll send the waiting men to us in the fort. By then, all the sentries on duty should be at their least attentive, making an unexpected intrusion possible.

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