Cali’s locket was heavy on my neck as I stood at the wheel. I’d left many things behind in my life, but leaving her there alone was about the hardest thing I’d ever done. She was more than just a spoiled, rich girl. I’d seen it in her eyes when I met her—uncertainty and hopelessness, and when I trained her, she had lit up, like a wilted flower bursting to life. If anyone understood how she felt, it was me, and I’d not shown her the compassion she needed.
The sun dipped under the horizon. Shyler joined me at the helm. We had set off, the wind pushing us along, farther away from Faewood, farther from Cali. My body slumped over the wheel, and I pulled her locket out, rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger.
Shyler slapped a bony hand on my shoulder. He and Bob had sailed with my father all those years ago when they were still in their teens, and I was grateful they had agreed to join me when I started his business again. They had aged considerably, and I owed them a comfortable life at sea, not a frenzied life on the run with a noble woman I’d foolishly fallen in love with.
I looked down at Shyler and smiled. He smiled back at me. His spindly fingers squeezed my shoulder. “Tis a good night to sail.”
“Mm-hmm,” I agreed.
“I’ve known ya a long time, Cap’n. You’re about a decent a man as I know, like yer father was.”
A lump settled in my throat, and I stared out at the darkening sea. “Sometimes I wonder if he’d be disappointed in me.”
Shyler shook his head, his sun-bleached hair swishing above his ears. His hunched shoulders sagged even further. “He’d not be disappointed with ya, not for what happened back then. There weren’t a thing you could do about that. If I remember your father correctly, I’d say he’d be right proud, except for one thing.”
I raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”
His squinty eyes met mine. “That you didn’t follow yer heart and go after the woman ya love.”
“But, I can’t just—”
Shyler grabbed the wheel and nudged me out of the way. “Time’s wastin, Cap’n. She might get ate up if ya don’t hurry.”
I stared back at the shoreline. Not quite a half-mile yet. I took off my boots and grabbed a waterproof leather sack, one of many we kept nearby on hooks, in case we had to abandon ship. The boots went in the sack, along with my dagger and a good bit of gold. I cinched it tight and tied it on my belt.
When I reached the railing, I yelled over my shoulder, “Send Razor to shore. Head to Arkis. I’ll get word to you there.”
Bob joined Shyler as I climbed atop the rail. They both saluted me.
Bob yelled, “Aye, Cap’n! Go get ‘er!”
I saluted, then dove in. The water was fine.