A Fortune for the Outlaw's Daughter(7)

By: Lauri Robinson

 With another friendly slap to Trig’s shoulder, and more determined than ever that Alaska was where he needed to be, Cole took a step. “I’ll show our guest to her cabin.”

                       Chapter Two

 To Maddie it seemed only hours had passed, not days, when a voice on the other side of the door said they were heading into port. At first she’d been cautious, nervous even, but Trig DuMont—Captain Trig—reminded her so much of Smitty, her reservations had disappeared. He was always grinning, and carefree and happy. So was his nephew Cole—although she continued to call him Lucky, still hoping it would rub off on her.

 Both Lucky and his uncle acted as if the sun never set, that the world was a glorious place, and all they had to do was flash one of those eye-twinkling smiles and all their dreams would come true. Though comfortable talking with either of them, she still didn’t trust men, any of them, and kept to herself most of the trip. The boat was full of other men and she’d readily agreed when Lucky had suggested it would be best if she stayed inside as much as possible. Which wasn’t hard.

 The cabin was remarkable. Not only did it have a bed—she’d only slept on one of those a few times in her life—but it was full of books and newspapers and magazines—all about gold mining. Due to her limited abilities, reading them had been difficult at first, but the more she kept at it, the easier it became and she found herself wishing they’d never arrive in Seattle. Or better yet, sail right past it. Her luck had shifted—she could feel it deep inside—and she knew what she had to do.

 The books she’d read filled her with additional excitement. Alaska was full of gold. There were ways to get it out of the ground, too. Frozen or not, it wasn’t so different from what she already knew in a lot of ways. Smitty had taught her all he knew about mining.

 Settling the last book back to its rightful place, just as she’d done with all the other ones, Maddie swallowed, forcing her heart to slide back down her throat to where it belonged.

 Alaska. That was where gold was, and she wanted gold; therefore, Alaska was now her destination. She wouldn’t have to look over her shoulder every step, either. Mad Dog would never follow her all the way to Alaska.

 Freedom and gold. Her luck had definitely changed.

 Captain Trig smiled brightly as she opened the door. Much shorter than his nephew, the captain wasn’t much taller than she. The top of his head was completely hairless and a ruddy red from being exposed all the time, and he had a jagged scar that wrapped around one ear. Yet, like Lucky, his glistening brown eyes made him appear less dangerous than a woeful pup looking for a home. Though her luck had changed, Maddie continued to tell herself she still had to be cautious. Wolves were once pups.

 “We’re pulling into Seattle,” Captain Trig said.

 Maddie stepped out of the cabin.

 “Hope the trip wasn’t too rough for you.”

 “Not at all,” she answered, pulling her eyes off the gray skies. Seattle didn’t appear any more excited to see her than she was to see it. “I could sail for days yet. Months even.”

 Trig’s laugh was low and choppy, but not frightening. Pleasant in its own right. “It would get old to you long before months were up, girlie.” He gestured toward the busy shoreline. “We’ll dock here. No need for a rowboat this time.”

 “I didn’t mind the rowboat, either.”

 He laughed again. “Trying to finagle yourself a job?”

 Maddie glanced his way.

 His eyes sparkled, even as he said, “A ship’s no place for the likes of you, darling.” Taking her elbow as they walked, he continued, “There’s a good woman here in Seattle. She’ll provide you with the training to become a nursemaid or servant girl and find you a good family to work for. You’ll never have to worry about men like Ridge again. Just follow her instructions.”

 Maddie bit her lips together. He was right in saying she wouldn’t have to worry about Mad Dog ever again, but she’d never be a servant—she’d have servants. Now wasn’t the time to share that, so she asked, “For free?” Her father had never figured it out, but she had. Nothing in life is free.

 “The cost is covered,” Trig answered. “Nothing you need to worry about.”

 Worry wasn’t what she felt. There wasn’t a word, not one she knew, to describe how her stomach soured at the thought of being beholden to anyone. She’d given Hester the gun Smitty had given her as payment for getting her out of town. A tiny derringer not worth much, but next to her nugget, it was all she’d had. She’d repay Trig, too, and Lucky, for their parts. The Mary Jane was sailing to Alaska when leaving Seattle, and Maddie would be on her. This was her chance and she wouldn’t give it up. Once she found her gold, she’d clear her debts and finally be in complete control of her life.

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