A Fortune for the Outlaw's Daughter(6)

By: Lauri Robinson



 “I’m sure she is,” Trig answered.

 “How’d you know about this one?” Cole asked. They’d barely arrived in port when his uncle told him of the mission. Usually there’d been cargo to load or unload and he’d always assumed word had been sent during that time. This time, glancing toward Maddie standing near the wheelhouse, he was curious to know how Trig knew Hester—Jasmine’s housekeeper—had this girl hidden and ready for an escape.

 “Two lanterns.” Trig waved a hand in the general direction of Cole’s gaze. “I hung a hammock in my cabin for you to bunk with me until we get to Seattle.”

 That wasn’t new, either. He often gave up his sleeping space for the girls, but not satisfied with his uncle’s answer, Cole questioned, “Two lanterns?”

 “If there’s only one, all is well. If there’re two, we’re needed.”

 “Where?”

 “Warehouse number seven.” Trig, his skin wrinkled and weathered from the sun and sea, squinted thoughtfully. “You thinking about changing your plans?”

 Cole shook his head. “You know I’m not. Sailing’s been profitable, but not enough to cover what the family needs now. Robbie’s waiting in Seattle. He’ll take over the rescues.” There was a fleeting ounce of regret inside Cole, for he had enjoyed the past four years with his uncle, sailing the seas, mainly the West Coast. They had gone around the cape once and back again. That had been his greatest adventure so far—and most profitable. The funds he’d acquired from buying and selling highly sought after merchandise had allowed him to send a considerable sum home. Yet as much as that had been, he’d heard the family needed a whole lot more. Trig had contributed, too, but the hurricane that had wiped out the family shipyard and warehouses west of New Orleans had done a number on the entire coast, and his uncles back home said Gran was struggling to rebuild the family empire to its former glory.

 Cole had set his hope and goal on gold. It would show to his mother that following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps had been the right choice, and prove every man had his own fortune to seek. If his mother had her way, Cole and his brother would still be living under her roof, married to the women she’d handpicked.

 He’d left, though, to his mother and Rachel’s dismay. So had Robbie. His younger brother by three years had escaped their mother’s clutches two years ago, just as Cole had three years before that. It wasn’t that they didn’t love their mother, just that a man has to live his own life. Gran knew that, and said it, though their mother never listened. Gran had seen through Rachel, too. Even before he had.

 Cole let his thoughts skip right over Rachel, as he had for years now. He was glad Robbie had joined him and Trig. It was his brother’s turn now to learn the ins and outs of being a sea merchant. He’d stepped off the ship last fall to spend the winter in Seattle in order to drum up cargo he thought they could make a profit from. Trig had given instructions, just as he’d given Cole the first time he’d let him wander on his own, striking deals.

 It had been then, when they’d dropped off Robbie, that they’d heard about the hurricane—a message had greeted them when they’d arrived in port. His father’s other two brothers, though neither had been overly involved in the shipping industry, had sent a wire saying everything had been lost, but Gran was insistent upon rebuilding.

 That was the other reason he needed to find gold, and lots of it: Gran. She’d dedicated her life to the shipping industry and had used her profits to see her sons set up in businesses, and now, as life was catching up with her, she deserved to have her family come together in order for her to rebuild her one true love. DuMont Shipping.

 As kids, he and Robbie had loved spending time at her place. They’d sneak away from the house to pretend they were sailors, maneuvering little rowboats around the bayou, both of them dreaming of the day they’d join their father or Uncle Trig on the seas. Their mother had been dead set against that and whipped them soundly the one time she’d discovered where they’d been and what they’d been doing. She’d forbidden them from spending nights at Gran’s after that. Even as a young child he’d been torn between the adventures calling him inside and the pain of seeing his mother cry, claiming the sea had stolen her husband. She’d cried when he’d left, too.

 Cole sighed. He hadn’t wanted to hurt her, but the calling had grown too strong, and now, well, now he had to save the family business. A man lucky enough could make money in Alaska—lots of it, and that was what he needed.

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