Chapter 23

The story so far: Kinney begins to see the truth within Kacie's story.

Images flooded in like breakers on a rocky shoal, ghosts from the past, nightmares remembered.

"What if they surprised him?"

A teenaged Kinney sank to the deck, blood spilling from a wound in his side. Rough hands dragged him to the mast, bound him tight.

"What if he couldn't save her?"

A teenaged Gina ran toward him, but stopped when she saw the shadowy figures surround him. Then they turned and saw her.

"What if he told her to run? And she didn't."

The boy mouthed the word, but Gina stood defiantly, knowing the only way to save him was to stand her ground, to distract them.

"But she did what she had to do … to save him."

It worked. The men moved toward her, leaving the anguished Kinney, alone.

"What if once it was all over and she felt they were safe, she made him promise never to tell what happened?"

• • •

Kinney's head bowed. A tear spilled from his eye. "Could you ever forgive him?"

"Yes," Kacie whispered. "It wasn't his fault."

Kinney lifted his head, and his voice hardened. "He found them later. Made them pay. Eye for an eye."

"At Thea's." Kacie caught her breath. "Blood everywhere."

"But it was too late. She told him to run. To trust the wind. He couldn't save her." His voice shook with rage. "He was the captain and he couldn't save her!"

He ripped the chime from the latch and, with all his strength, flung it against the wall. It clanged harshly and slid to the floor, silenced.

Kinney sank under a wave of grief. He surrendered to the darkness, let it swallow him like a void and pull him under. He buried his face in his hands and wept.

Kacie watched. For the second time in her life, a strange sense of peace filled her. It wasn't the story she knew. It wasn't the story she wanted. Yet she knew in her heart it was true, and that set her free.

It was time to set everyone free.

"But he saved her daughter," she said. "The captain saved her daughter, Kinney. So they're even. He can go now."

Kacie turned to the wall beside her. Very carefully, very deliberately, she began to peel away each of her pirate sketches, corner by corner.

Tomorrow: Chapter 23 continues.