An excerpt from Chapter 23 of the new novel. The girls (disguised as boys) are sailing on Captain Swiftfoot Darkrunner’s frigate Velocity. Erin is known to captain and crew as Aaron Spotsworth; Sophie, as Michael Claude. The day after they’ve been promoted to midshipmen, the ship enters a terrible storm. Mr. MacLeish is the boatswain.
“Well done, Mr. McLeish,” Darkrunner told him.
“Oh, thank you, sir.”
“Is there anything you need?” Captain Darkrunner asked.
“Only a dozen more sailors, Sir,” MacLeish said. “But we’ll do with the ones we have. I don’t wish to give them airs, but they’re the best I’ve ‘ad the honor to sail with.”
“Good man, Mr. MacLeish,” said the captain. “But if you have a deck hand to spare, I think we need two more hands at the wheel. I fear Mr. Short won’t be able to hold her steady alone through his watch.”
“Aye, Sir.” Mr. MacLeish said before descending the companionway.
Erin shielded her eyes from the rain as she watched two men trim the foresail above. “It’s amazing they can hang on in this weather.”
“Sadly, not all do,” he said staring off at the ragged gray clouds advancing from the north. “A boy not much older than you was struck by a loose boom a fortnight ago and plunged to his death right where you’re standing.”
Erin quickly shifted from the spot and searched the boards for signs of blood.
“It was appalling to see the lad splayed out like a broken doll.” The captain hesitated a moment before he was able to continue. “He was French — a prisoner shipmate of Mr. Petit’s until they joined the mutiny. Poor Petit scrubbed the deck furiously for an hour, sobbing like a child.”
Erin felt frozen where she stood. She felt uneasy staring down, but didn’t want to look up into the captain’s face.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Spotsworth,” the captain said swiping his hand across his eyes. “I didn’t mean to burden you with my woes.”
“Oh, no, sir,” Erin said lifting her eyes. “It’s quite alright. I know how awful it is to lose a friend.”