A Star Tribune serialized novel by Jane Fredericksen

Chapter 2

The story so far: Bernie gives Kacie her very own boat, the Stowaway.

Kacie chased the meatballs around her plate. They rolled around and around, like the story Bernie was telling.

It was leading up to something, of that, Kacie was certain. It just seemed to be taking an awfully long time.

The three of them were downstairs in the cabin of Bernie's yacht. Kacie never really felt comfortable there. It wasn't like the airy interior of Pete's tour boat, or the cozy wood paneling of the True Wind. Everything here seemed too bright, too chrome, screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!" It was as bright and brash and loud as its owner.

She was trying to concentrate on Bernie's story, but it was hard to follow. Something about some guy he knew — a banker (or insurance person?) — who ran his brand-new, million-dollar boat (at least Kacie thought it was his boat, maybe it was one Bernie was trying to sell him) onto some rocks near Devils Island (or was it Outer Island?) and his important clients (or maybe they were Bernie's?) were forced to abandon ship but couldn't figure out how until Bernie bellowed at them to grab the dinghy.

Gina stared raptly, following every word. Bernie played to her, basking in her attention. "Then I says to 'em, I says, 'I mean the dinghy behind the boat, not the one behind the wheel!' "

Bernie broke into a deafening guffaw. Gina joined him with her light, tinkly laughter.

Kacie forced a polite smile.

Bernie gasped for breath, wiping his eyes. "Ah, Queenie," he finished. "No one appreciates my stories like you do."

"But they're such great stories, Bern!" Gina encouraged. Her eyes roved over to her daughter. "Kacie, are you okay? You seem tired."

"Yeah," said Kacie. "Rough day, right? Maybe I should get to bed."

Gina and Bernie exchanged a meaningful glance.

"Well, now that you mention it," suggested Bernie, "Why don't we cut to the chase?"

Kacie shot a suspicious look at her mother. "What chase? What do you mean?"

Gina fidgeted with her napkin. "Kacie, you know Bernie and I … well, we've been seeing each other for a while now, and — " She took a deep breath and locked eyes with Kacie. "Bernie's asked me to marry him and I've accepted. So … what do you think?"

Kacie stared at her. She looked from Gina's pleading face to Bernie's proud one. Now, it made sense — it was all a set-up. Dinner, the boat. She was being bribed.

"I think … I have to leave." Kacie bolted from the cabin, racing up the steps. On the deck, she stopped to catch her breath, her stomach churning.

Married? Were they serious? It just couldn't be. It couldn't!

Downstairs, she could hear Gina telling Bernie, "She just needs some time to get used to the idea."

Time? She would never get used to the idea! Bernie was no Pirate. Never!

She ran from the deck, from the marina, home to her apartment.

* * *

Kacie threw herself down on her bed, clutching her pillow as if it were a life preserver. The sketchpad lay where she'd left it, beside the pillow. It was turned to a half-finished portrait of the Pirate. Another one where she'd had trouble with the face. Sometimes it came to her, sometimes not. She could always see him in her mind's eye, but she was rarely able to capture him on paper. Maybe that was the nature of pirates. They hated to be caught.

Not Bernie, thought Kacie. He wants to be caught.

She heard her mother's footsteps by the door and caught the concern in Gina's voice. "Kacie? You okay?"

Kacie didn't answer.

Gina sat on the edge of the bed and reached out to stroke her daughter's hair.

Kacie turned away. "You said he'd come back. You promised. You said, 'Don't be afraid to dream.' "

Tomorrow: Chapter 2 continues.