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Candace slammed her telescope closed on her palm with a snap, hissing. Dawn had broken, the fog of night just lifting when the cry came from her spotter, high above in the crow’s nest. There was no mistaking the ships that closed in on her now and there was nowhere left to hide. She had gambled and lost and now would have to fight for her life to avoid paying the price of crossing Black Bette.
All around the small crew scrambled, preparing swords and canon balls and hiding treasure but there was a panicky feel to the motions. Bette had snuck up on them in the middle of the night, the black sails of her ships hiding their approach and now they were closing in like sharks circling bait. Candace knew it would all be over by noon. She cursed, smashing her fist on the rail, calling for her sword, swallowing the bile that rose in her throat.
It had all been too easy, she now realized. Much too easy to slip away in the middle of the night, untie the ropes and slide out into the darkness after midnight, leaving the sleepy town behind. But everyone knew Bette owned the black of night, Bette was never caught sleeping and to betray her was to suffer certain death.
She had seen Bette nail the tongues of her rivals to the head of the dark ship, drag her victims in the swells of her wake, throw grown men overboard to drown. She reduced strong warriors to begging, sniveling piles at her feet and laughed at their tears.
Candace thought back to the night she hatched her plan, the night Jodie cunningly convinced her that leaving was her only option. That death was waiting for her if she stayed.
They had been in the dark recesses of the smoky, dank bar, most of the crew too drunk to walk straight. Captain Porter was at her table with her inner circle, ignoring everyone around her in that way she had. That way of appearing relaxed and at ease… when in reality, she was coiled like a spring, ready to strike at the first sign of danger.
Bette’s focus was on the group at the table, a large cup of wine in her hand. She was listening to a story, the laughter coming at the end as the storyteller told the punchline, her table roaring with glee. The mood was high, the day to come would be filled with selling of treasure and a new adventure would be plotted. They were old friends, having grown up together, working hard to build the wealth and position they now shared.