• Prologue

    I remember how we used to spend the summers. Adell would drag me across the fields, out of town into the forest, where we would run over the old log spanning the river. We would climb up into our favorite tree, where a few planks of wood, inexpertly nailed to the sturdy branches, became our pirate ship. That was all we played, because Adell wouldn’t let me do what I wanted.

    She was born first. It didn’t matter that we were twins, identical in every way, except by gender. Adie had seen the world first and that made her the leader. Now that I think about it, maybe it was just her personality, a quirk that I learned to deal with. But I don’t have to deal with it anymore. Not since she disappeared.

    Chapter One

    In the ten years since he had last seen his sister, Alphonse Adams had grown into just the kind of man you would find in those days. Handsome, with curly black hair that he kept cropped short in a farmer’s style and deep gray eyes that seemed to swirl like a storm. There was a soft kindness to his face which matched his gentle nature. His skin was tan, dark against the white cotton of his full shirt, unseen under the forest green of his breeches. Alphonse was the perfect man and the perfect husband.

    His missing sister hadn’t prevented him from having a life. Just a year after she left, he met Lilianna Schultz and they married. A year later they had their first child, Andrea Adell Adams. The couple had two more children after that, and lived peacefully in their tavern.

    It had been a long night. Storms had forced dozens of passersby into the tavern, swamping them with more business than they could handle. Every one of them wanted hot drinks, almost exhausting the supplies. Alphonse would have to order more from London soon. The tavern cleared out around midnight, leaving Lilianna washing tables and the children playing with their dolls on the floor. The noise from the patrons had kept them up past their bedtime. Andrea and Madelyn had their father’s dark hair and their mother’s bright blue eyes, while the youngest, Nathaniel, resembled his father, though fiercer. Alphonse always said he looked just like his missing sister.

    Lilianna and Alphonse moved around the room stacking chairs, so they could all go upstairs and go to bed. Nathaniel was already snoozing on the floor. They all lived in the rooms above their tavern, which were normally rented out. The door slammed open and a woman in long skirts stepped in.

    She wore middle-classed clothing, long skirts of deep plum and scarlet red underneath. Her blouse was more like a gypsy’s, full in the arms while tight fitting everywhere else. Lilianna couldn’t help but notice the perfect shine to her black boots and the very unladylike way the woman walked. She strutted like a male trying to impress the ladies.

    Behind her was a man, a head taller than the woman herself. He was rougher looking. Kind of like…a pirate.

    Lilianna glanced at her husband to see what he thought of these two strangers. He had stopped wiping down the bar to gape with a strange look on his face. She glanced back and saw the woman look up. Two jaws dropped.

    “Trace! There you are, I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” the woman said, strolling casually to the bar.

    “A-A-Adie?” was all Alphonse could pull off. His sister Adell—for of course it was she—smiled and laughed at his expression.

    “It’s been awhile hasn’t it, brother?”

    “You disappeared 10 years ago. I wasn’t sure you were even alive.”

    “Of course I was alive, Trace!” she laughed again. “Why would I be dead?”

    It had been a long time since anyone called him that. Adell, or Adie as he called her, hadn’t thought that Alphonse was a very pirate-like name, so he was always Trace to her. Anxious to change the subject, Trace glanced around for a new topic.

    “So Adie, is this your husband?”

    Adie and the man looked at each other and laughed for an entire minute, before they straightened, wiping tears from their eyes. Her laugh was exactly how he remembered it, a high tinkling of glass. Adell and the man watched each other, communicating silently with an essence of familiarity that made Trace feel bitter.

    “Bo? My husband? Don’t be silly. Billy here, we mostly call him Bo, is my first mate,” she explained, before saying in a very official tone, “Blow the whistle, Bo.”

    Bo produced a golden bosun’s whistle from underneath his worn white shirt. He trilled on it shortly and a troop of rough looking men joined them inside the tavern.

    All the children were very aware of the scary men by now and huddled around their mother. Madelyn looked like she was about to cry, but Nathaniel had an excited gleam in his eyes.

    “Trace, this is my crew.” Adie swept her arm dramatically in their direction. “Gentlemen, this is my brother. A fine young man, if he hasn’t gone a tad bit soft.”

    Neither Trace nor his wife said anything; too busy eyeing the assorted weapons that decorated these strangers. He glanced at his sister, who was still beaming broadly at all of them. She noticed him looking and stopped, her gaze falling on the children.

    “These can’t be your little ones, Trace,” Adie said, kneeling down in front of them. “I couldn’t have been gone that long.”

    “Long enough,” he said quietly with hidden ire. She didn’t hear him as she straightened.

    “Well, I expect we should get going, brother,” Adie said nonchalantly. “I want to sail on the morning tide.”

    “Go? Go where? What’s going on, Adell?”

    “I thought you said your brother was bright, Captain,” a gruff voice from the back of the room said. “Don’t look so smart to me.”

    “Quiet, you cur!” she snapped, before regaining her sweet composure. “Trace, surely you’ve realized by now.”

    “You’re pirates,” the quiet voice of Lilianna said, pushing her children protectively behind her.

    “Ah! The little mouse figured it out first,” Adie was clearly amused. “How delightful. Shall we go then?”

    “I can’t go, Adell. I have a family here to take care of,” Alphonse said softly, trying not to make her angry. “You go on.”

    The men of the pirate crew laughed heartily. “Oh, lad thinks he’s got a choice! That’s funny!”

    Alphonse expected a response from his sister, but the triumphant look on her face told him they were right. He didn’t have a choice. There never was a choice with Adell.

    “What about Lilianna and the children?”

    Adie scoffed. “What about them? She’ll find herself a nice replacement. We don’t need a housemaid or rug rats running all about the rigging.”

    “I’m not leaving them behind, Adell,” he crossed his arms stubbornly. “Don’t even ask me to.”


    “Adell Marie.”

    She sighed. “When did you get ever so stubborn? It’s not very endearing…I like it. Well, I would let them, but I’m afraid that women are very unlucky aboard a ship.”

    “But captain!” the gruff voice said again. “You’re a woman.”

    “Quiet, idiot! The captain’ll cut your tongue out for saying such things!”

    “She never.”

    “Think about it, have you ever heard Ol’ Bo talk? Poor bugger said something against the captain and that was that.”

    A glare silenced the men. “Trace, if you want to risk their lives, I’ll take them aboard. But you are responsible for any disruptions they cause on my ship. Most of all, for your woman. Long months at sea tend to make a man a tad bit lonely.”

    Lilianna shuddered at the thought of it.

    “Now men,” Adie clapped her hands and turned to face them. “I do believe I promised you a night on the town.”

    They hooted and hollered, racing for the door. Only Bo stayed behind, loyally at the side of his captain. She clapped her brother on the back and smiled.

    “It’ll be great to have you back, brother, even if I have to deal with your family in order to have you. I’ve been meaning to come get you for years, but it ain’t easy, getting your own pirate ship. Trust me, it’s a lot more work than we thought it would take.”

    Trace didn’t say anything.

    “Well, you should go pack then. Make sure to bring extra clothes for the rug rats, they’ll be sea sick for days once we get going. By the way, my crew won’t be cleaning up their mess,” Adie said all this casually. “I’ll wait here while you get your things."

    Trace trudged upstairs after his wife and children, eyes watching the stair in front of him. He had half a mind to run, but how could he possibly do that to his own sister, whom he hadn’t seen in a decade? Knowing her, those men hadn’t actually left for a night of drinking and low company. They were surrounding the building, making sure he didn’t leave. The moment his foot hit the top landing, Lilianna was glaring at him, stubborn hands on her hips.

    “What is going on here Alphonse? Your children are scared half to death and now we are apparently going on a pirate ship?”

    “There isn’t much to be done about it, Lili. Adell has made up her mind,” he replied wearily, dreading the fight to come.

    “I thought you said your sister was the sweetest girl you’d ever meet, that she wouldn’t ever harm anyone?”

    “She is, you just haven’t really gotten to know her yet. Adell is a truly good person.”

    “Then why is she forcing you to go to sea and become a renegade? Actually, why are you agreeing to go in the first place?”

    “Well, you see…I’m going because…well Adie told me to.”

    “That is a pathetic excuse.” Her hands moved from her hips to cross in front of her chest.

    “Lili, I haven’t seen my sister in ten years and with our parents gone she’s all I have left. You must understand. This is something we two have been planning for a long time.”

    “Something you’ve been planning?” she laughed exasperatedly. “Do you mean to tell me that you have been planning this all along? Did you know she was going to just show up like this?”

    “No, we were children. We would come up with all these elaborate ideas and Adie wrote them down and kept them. It was our dream.”

    “I don’t believe this!” Lili threw up her hands and shooed the children into their room, helping them grab things and toss them into a trunk in the corner.

    Alphonse gave up and went into the room that he and Lilianna shared, putting clothes for the both of them neatly in their shabby suitcase. He glanced out the window and saw Adell and that man, Bo she had called him, laughing at some secret joke. There was no sign of the rest of the crew. Perhaps Adie had told the truth and they were off drinking and whatnot. He watched her converse for a while, noting that her curly dark hair was still cut short, like she had always worn it, no matter how many times mama told her to grow it out like a proper lady. Even in the dark, her hurricane grey eyes were bright and cheerful, almost eerily so. Booted heels stomping ran past him down the stairs, followed by softer pitter-pattering and Alphonse picked up the suitcase to join his family.

    Adell watched Lilianna walk out of the tavern with her head held high, leading her daughters with the trunk and holding the little ones hand. Trace came not long afterward.

    “Look at you all, a proper family ready for a life at sea. Bo and I discussed the living situation while we waited and he will gladly give up his cabin for you,” Adie patted her first mate on the shoulder. “Such a generous man, our Bo.”

    “But I thought he couldn’t talk,” a high pitched, suspicious voice said from somewhere near the ground. Adell looked. It was the oldest girl.

    “And what is your name, sweetheart?”

    “Andrea Adell Adams.”

    “Oh, Trace. You did miss me,” Adie smiled at him, then his daughter. “You see, Andrea, I didn’t really cut Bo’s tongue out.”

    “You didn’t?”

    “Nope, he’s just shy.”

    “Then why do those men think you did?”

    “Because it helps if I frighten them. They are likely to listen if they think I’ll punish them severely.”

    “Think? You will Captain,” Bo spoke in a low, rumbling voice.

    “True enough, Bo my boy,” Adie straightened and looked at the other two children. “And your names are?”

    The boy ran forward, eyes shining bright. He stuck a proud thumb to his chest and exclaimed, “My name’s Nathaniel Neville Adams!”

    Trace nudged the other girl forward. She looked absolutely frightened, clutching her doll to her chest.

    “Go on,” he said encouragingly.

    “Madelyn Marie.”

    “Two of your little pumpkins with my name, Trace! I’m flattered by far. I think you’ll like the ship. She’s a beaut, that’s for sure.”

    Adie ignored the wife, not really interested in her or her name, and led them down the dirt path, past the taverns ringing with song and the quiet shop fronts closed for the night. The not so jolly group went together to the docks and there floated the family’s fate.

    A rowboat.

    “You understand that we couldn’t dock. The Eternally Damned isn’t welcome in most ports,” she climbed in and extended her hand to help the children. Nathaniel tried to rush forward to join her, but was held fast by his mother. “We don’t have all night.”

    As if prompted, unhappy hollers and shouts erupted in the darkness, followed by several gunshots. Lilianna and the two girls tensed and looked frightened, while Adell only rolled her eyes.

    “What have the fools done now?”

    A quick glance was exchanged between first mate and captain, and Bo picked Andrea up and sat her gently in the boat. Adie jumped out nimbly, drawing two loaded pistols from their hidden holsters strapped to her legs.

    “Bo will take you all ahead so you won’t be harmed. The rest of my men and I will follow shortly.”

    “Adie?” Trace was looking from the guns in her hand to the riot coming from the dark, getting ever louder. “Are you sure?”

    “Just go, Trace. I’m only going to cover them while they get into the boats. I’ll be fine, you shouldn’t fuss.”

    Frowning, he turned to help his other children into the boat, along with the luggage and his wife. He had wondered if Adie would still know him well enough to know what he was thinking. Trace watched her figure get smaller as they rowed away, his suspicion that she could confirmed.
    Adie raised her first pistol and watched for a head to emerge from the darkness. She ignored the splashes and pants that echoed around her as her men climbed into the other three rowboats. The first enemy appeared, waving a club and screaming obscenities at the escaping pirates. He stumbled, her bullet in his thigh.

    The next disregarded his fallen comrade and kept sprinting towards them. She promptly stopped him too, his right arm falling limply to his side. They realized that someone was picking them off and stopped at the shore as Adell stepped into the last boat. They started to row away from shore.

    “Gentleman,” she said in a raised, but gracious voice. Adie bowed grandly to their exasperated faces. “Don’t despair; no one has ever captured my crew. And they shan’t, not while they are under the command of the incomparable Lady Scarlet.”