His words from the previous night came back to her again, as they had over and over as she tossed and turned despite the liquor and food she’d consumed.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he’d said. “It tickles me something ferocious that the first thing you did when you heard about the Cass going down was to pick up your father’s gauntlet and come running with your proverbial guns a-blazin’. But first, you need to know what Lindsey gets up to, when there’s no one watching.”
Acacia’s blood started to boil, as it always did when Baron Bloody Lindsey was mentioned. “Go on.”
“What few people know or suspect is how badly the Indian Rebellion hurt the East India Trade Company. Their finances aren’t doing so hot—in fact, I’d say they’re lukewarm at best. So, on the down low, they started engaging in the African slave trade off the books. And people like Lindsey make a killing keeping it hush-hush.”
The boiling in her veins stopped, until she was downright chilled herself. “Are you telling me my brother got stuck in that?”
“I won’t lie—it’s a distinct possibility.” Drew’s eyes uncrinkled, and his smile faded. “There’s a reason Lindsey seems to go through so many officers. He loses recruits, too, but he still collects their payroll from the Company and, by extension, the Crown. But his favorite trick is recruiting folks by promising generous pay and bonuses, and rumors of fine working conditions—the best food and living quarters, that sort of thing.”
Acacia angrily set her whiskey aside, no longer in the mood for it. “It’s a bait and switch.”
Drew nodded. “The crews leaves port with an empty cargo hold, everything’s gravy until they reach their destination, generally on the Ivory Coast, and reality sets in. And here’s the rub: because of Lindsey’s royal charter, he can accuse anyone who doesn’t go along of mutiny.”
Acacia paled. She actually felt the blood leave her face. “Mutiny’s a hanging offense.”
Drew sat back, his lake blue eyes dark. “Tantamount to treason.”
Later, as he walked her back to the Icarus, he sought to reassure her. “I don’t aim to discourage you, Ladyship. But I’d be doing you a disservice if I let you gallop off without a proper lay of the land.”
She shook her head. “Don’t ever apologize for telling me the truth, Captain. It’s the only way I can make the decisions that will bring Archie home.”
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