Epilogue

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The afternoon breeze brings the smell of roast goat from the plate up to my nose. It also rustles the nearby bougainvillea vines climbing over the edge of the open terrace, swaying their purple flowers to and fro.

I'm having a delicious meal in a beautiful setting. With a sword at my side, dagger on my thigh, and the man I love across the table, I have everything I need to be happy.

The magnificent view of the aquamarine harbor below us is just an added bonus. Being on solid land has been a much needed reprieve from the last week we've spent at sea.

"Now, I know you haven't decided on a date, or a location, or any other detail for that matter, but I've given it some thought, and I know the perfect person to help you with the wedding plans." Cade skewers a fried plantain with his knife.

"Really now?" I pop a piece of meat into my mouth.

He smiles. "Yes. My mother."

I nearly choke on the goat. Amid coughs, I repeat the words. "Your mother?"

Seeing that I'm not in too much peril, he explains. "Why not? We can take the long way round to Africa. No need really to follow the usual trade routes. We could stop in England, and I could finally introduce you to her."

He must see my dumbfounded expression, because he automatically comes to her defense. "Don't worry, love. She's nothing like my father." He smirks. "Mother actually has a heart."

I smile and continue to eat. His proposition was so sudden, and I'm not quite sure if I'm ready for these change of plans.

Cade, however, is anxious for an answer. Reaching across the table, he puts a hand on mine. "What do you say?"

The bang of a cannon saves me.

"What was that?" Fearing danger, I search his face for alarm, but find none.

Instead, he takes a sip of wine. "That type of welcome is usually reserved for special visitors." He turns around in his chair just as a tall ship – its square sails and Union Jack flag flapping in the wind – comes into view. "Well, this is interesting."

He continues to watch as the magnificent vessel – painted a bright yellow and bearing all its portholes open – nears. Rows and rows of cannons ominously take aim at the island.

"Are we under attack?" I push my plate aside as a second and then third ship enter the harbor.

Cade shakes his head. "Of course not. We're on British land here. They're most likely just stopping to re-stock like we are before heading onward." He motions to a man standing on the edge of the terrace.

The tavern's proprietor hurries to our table. "What can I do for you, Captain Kincade?"

"What do you know of this fleet here?" He nods toward the ships continuing to sail towards the Nassau docks.

The old, graying man scratches his head. "Well, there were rumors to expect Sir Thomas Graves on his way to the colonies to relieve Lieutenant General Cornwallis. The way I heard it, the British troops are still trapped between Washington's armies advancing from the north and the Chesapeake Bay. Supposedly, that French devil, the Comte de Grasse, is holding a naval blockade of Yorktown."

Cade's eyes widen upon hearing the name. "Rear Admiral Francois Paul is assisting Washington, as well?"

"Yes, sir. Believe it or not, those damned Americans even have the Spanish in Santo Domingo on their side, protecting the French merchant fleet and allowing the navy to sail north. From the sounds of it, it doesn't look good, sir. Cornwallis is awaiting Graves' relief both for extra men, but also a way to get back to old Blighty if things turn sour."

"Thank you, my friend." Cade nods toward the man as he leaves us. Stroking his chin, he looks off into the distance. "Hmm. Interesting, indeed."

"What are you thinking?" I frown, knowing very well the answer to this question.

He turns back to me and sighs. "I think we may have another adventure a bit sooner than we expected."

I was right. Leaning back in my chair, I cross my arms. "You want to sail to the Virginia colonies and fight against the revolutionaries?"

"I'm an Englishman, Ana." He stands and adjusts his jacket with a tug. "I must fight for both my king and country."

"But didn't Captain Stokes also sail for the colonies?" I get up from my chair as he walks to me. "You used his identity with Mercado. What if the admiral gets wind of where he is? He'll also be coming straight to us. Plus, Riley thinks we're dead. If he finds out we escaped the gallows . . . well, we should be getting as far away from him as possible for more than one reason."

He shakes his head. "No, darling. Don't you see?" Looking deep into my eyes, he caresses my cheek. "Mercado never saw my face. If he does follow us to America, he'll go directly for Stokes. Unless I find the dear Captain first. In which case, I'll be more than happy to take care of him myself."

I raise an eyebrow. "So, this is about revenge, then?"

"Not primarily, but that would be a welcome consequence." He smiles.

I sigh and try reason one last time. Leaning forward, I wrap my arms around his torso and place my head against his chest. "Your men aren't soldiers. They're suited for the trickery and cunning of piracy, not the needs of war."

"I'm starting to think you don't have faith in me." He strokes my hair.

I look up at his face, his blue eyes and blonde stubble just inches from me. "Of course I do. It's just . . . this doesn't feel right."

"Honestly, the battle will most likely be over before we even get a shot fired." He smiles again, and the mischievous creases at the corner of his eyes reappear. "Fear not, love. The whole British fleet will be behind us. What could go wrong?"

                                                       ~ * ~ * ~ The End ~ * ~ * ~

Author's (Final-ish) Note: Five months of writing and 71,000 words later, this book is over. Thank you all so much for your continued support; I couldn't have finished this without your encouragement. These characters have become very dear to me and I don't think their story is done forever. However, I do have several prior commitments that I must now work on before I can ever consider a sequel. Perhaps I'll have an actual published book available to you all before then. :) Please follow me and add this story to your library if you haven't already done so to get news on my upcoming projects. Thank you again! And now . . . tell me what you thought about this little teaser of what's to come!

Update 1: There are now four BONUS chapters of this book available. They are written in Cade's point-of-view, so you get to see how he felt in certain scenes you already got from Ana's POV. All four chapters follow this one, but they are marked as private and available to read to my followers only. If you're not following me already, then exit this story, follow me, then return to the story. You should now see the chapters marked BONUS. If you don't, then exit your app and re-start it. That should do it!

Update 2: The sequel is now on Wattpad and it takes up exactly where this Epilogue left off. Originally called The Reluctant Pirate Queen, it's been retitled as SCUTTLE. 

 

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