He shifted. The angle of his head gave her a full view of both narrowed silver eyes. “Why are you so eager to return?”
Before she could answer, the captain’s shoulders tensed and his attention whipped around to focus to the right of the trail ahead. Broad leafy shadows crossed the moonlit path. Nothing moved, no sounds.
No noises at all.
No beetles buzzing, no night creatures rustling in the underbrush, no chirping tree frogs. Her lungs tightened. Jamaica wasn’t without its dangerous beasts, both human and animal.
“What is it?” she whispered, gripping the edge of the cart seat, staring wildly into the dense flora.
“We’re being watched.” Easing a pistol from his belt with one hand, he pulled the reins with the other. The mule’s ears twitched; he stopped abruptly, attention forward, listening. The captain spoke in a low voice. “Easy.”
A lone figure stood on the trail a few yards ahead of them. “Why you be travelin’ dis time o’ night, Sistah Eva? You gots troubles?”
She slumped with relief. Miss Kalia. Next to her, the captain froze, his hands gripping the reins as if they kept him from falling into a burning pit of lava.
“I’m taking a sick child to the caves.”
“Girl-child then. Who wit you?”
She swallowed. The premonition. “Capitaine Gamponetti.”
Kalia grinned then cackled a short laugh. “Ah, yes, yes. Last time him saw I, him come from da red house. Long night wit da rum. Bad day next, eh Drago?”
The captain turned to granite beside her, likely embarrassed (as well he should be) that Miss Kalia had seen him leaving a brothel. Eva chewed her lip. Maybe she misread the man. Allowed desperation to dictate her impressions.
The old woman approached the wagon, swaying like seaweed with the tide, perhaps due to aching joints, but on a night like this, it was bewitching and unnerving, like an adder mesmerizing prey. The moonlight subdued her brightly patched skirt into shades of grayish-reds, greens, blues, and yellows. Colorful feathers poked out in every direction from the silver hair piled high on her head. A streak of white paint trailed from one ear, ran along her jawline, across her chin, ending at her other ear like a gruesome grin. Eva fought the strong desire to squirm closer to the pirate for protection. That would give her as much reassurance as jumping from an alligator’s jaws to a lion’s mouth.
Kalia hummed as she peered over the side at Jacqueline. “T’ought so. Eva, see I in a vision just now. Surrounded by thunder and frost, perched next to a jaguar black as night. Woke I wide up.” Before she could respond, the woman scampered up into the wagon bed bringing with her a strong tang of wood smoke.
Julian didn’t take his eyes from her but still leaned away as she bent over his sister. She placed her palm against the girl’s cheek, her brown hand contrasting sharply with the pale skin, even though it was still flushed with fever. She tilted Jacqueline’s head back, pressed her chin down to open her mouth. Sniffed her breath.
Unsure what to say or do, Eva dragged her gaze from the old woman to the captain. How long had those two known each other? His storm gray eyes followed the crone’s every move.
Miss Kalia hopped down and slipped to Eva’s side. The old woman grasped her hand and pressed a cluster of herbs against her clammy palm. “Her need dis. It make best tea for dee girl. Him,” she nodded toward Captain Gamponetti and lowered her voice until it was barely there. “Him must to drink dis.” She caught her gaze and held it, as she slid a small flask under the herbs. “Den dat what you want by him, you get.”
Eva shoved them into her bag, afraid to refuse them, and unsure of what else to do or say.
The old Jamaican woman stepped back from the wagon and lifted both hands in farewell. Or some sort of blessing?
Maybe a curse?
A white witch. A “good” witch, if there was such a thing. Sister Beatrice would say there was not. But Eva had seen too many things to denounce anything outright. There was no telling what spell Kalia incanted or bestowed upon them. The pirate slapped the reins and clucked the mule forward, none too soon.
As they passed, Kalia spoke again, but this time to him, her voice both smoky and chiseled, eyes black and white. “Change in de wind, Drago. Time come near for you to make a choice. Choose wrong way and die. Before de tree flowers bloom, you betray an ally and aide a foe…break a vow. Light beckons you, but de dark always a seductress.” Her wild stare locked with Eva’s. “Which voice will him follow? Him heart or him head?”
Tension radiated from the captain in waves of heat. Kalia had managed to slither past his, steely, rugged aura to poke the tiniest gap between courage and unease. The muscles in his jaw tightened, but he did not look at the old woman as they passed.
“I…I don’t know how to answer her question.” Eva looked over her shoulder, but the witch had disappeared. An awkward silence followed. The jungle remained paralyzed for several minutes.
He could have taken Jacqueline to Kalia, but he didn’t. Most island people would have sought the Obeah healer first. She peered at him again, understanding now why he hadn’t. A rigidity thrummed through his broad shoulders; he had a flare in his nostrils, a fierce glint in his eyes.
Then it hit her; she terrified him. Her curiosity flared. “Have you been acquainted with her long?”
The captain released a long breath. “Everyone knows Kalia. And Kalia knows everyone.” A wry smile seeped up to his eyes. The edges crinkled and a dimple settled in his cheek, giving him a roguish, but more pleasing look. Much like an unapologetic child holding a stolen cake. “In truth, I found there’s no way to avoid her even when it’s your intense desire.”
She learned much the same. A strange sense of balance lodged between them. Kalia unnerved him as much as he unnerved her. The vulnerability the old woman raked out of him made him less threatening. “The people here have great respect for Miss Kalia. It would be foolish to dismiss her or her methods. To do so would also betray the islander’s trust.”
The captain slapped the reins again and muttered, “Kalia’s black medicine attracts too much attention, especially from the white man. They do not understand it. White men fear what they don’t understand.”
“It’s not black medicine.” She corrected him. “Obeah is a very ancient healing practice.” Trying to ignore the twinge of foreboding they sent through her chest, she shifted the tea and the tonic to the bottom of her sack.
“Call it what you will, the white settlers and plantation owners fear it,” he rumbled.
How should she approach the last premonition? He had to be familiar with the old woman’s visions if indeed he knew who she was. How would he react? Surprise? Disbelief? She plunged ahead anyway.
“Miss Kalia stopped me at the market two days ago and told me a man would come to the abbey with a sick girl-child,” she blurted it out before she could stop herself. He would think her a ninny. Talking about an old woman’s premonitions as if they were gospel, which they were not.
Yet, a flicker of surprise shot across the captain’s face. “She did?”
So he was familiar with Kalia’s visions. “Yes, and here you are.”
“Indeed.” His brows dropped in thought, or perhaps concern.
She couldn’t, wouldn’t confide what Miss Kalia had said next. That was something she dared not repeat.
“Him not what him seem to be,” the old woman had whispered. “But den, so not are you.”
adventure romance novels about scoundrels, pirates, and spunky,
independent heroines. She likes to challenge her characters by
tossing them the middle of actual historical events, or with real
Writers and The Beau Monde Romance Writers group, where she serves as
secretary. In 2011, she formed the Sunshine Critique Group so that
she and other aspiring authors could motivate and challenge each
other to become better writers. Six members have been published. She
has given workshops and presentations on creating a critique group,
how to provide effective critiques, story structure, and
self-publishing lessons to writers groups, library patrons and
children. In 2014, she started her own small publishing company,
Flowers & Fullerton. Currently, she’s the publisher of record
for authors Sheridan Jeane, H.O. Knight as well as herself.
rainforest, or racing ponies, Chloe’s always looking for the next
adventure. Her pets have always been named after favorite characters
or action heroes: Indiana, Luke, Gimli, Thelma, Rocket, Forrest, Al
Giordino, Severus, Mushu, Mérida, Gibbs, Jack…Dead Pool (he’s a goldfish).
in response to a call for aid or a double-dog-dare to hike home
through 30 acres of a snow-covered forest at midnight…during a full
moon. It was early morning during said adventure when she came upon a
group of sheriff’s deputies searching for a lost girl. So, of
course she offered to help. Turns out, they were searching for her.
red wine, dark chocolate and brown-eyed guys with beards, which is
probably why she digs pirates and treasure hunters and writes about
action and adventure, pirates and romance (which is the greatest adventure of all).
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