Luck of the DevilBy: Meghan March
“Seventeen. Almost eighteen. I can work. I work hard. Just give me a chance. I swear, I won’t fuck it up.”
Once again, his gaze flicked to the doctor and the guy in the coveralls. “Everyone out. Don’t say a fucking thing about this, or I’ll toss you overboard.”
The two men nodded, and they filed out of the room. When we were alone, the captain pulled up a chair and sat down beside my cot.
“How old are you really, kid?”
“I told you—”
“No, you lied to me.”
I pressed my chapped, peeling lips together. “You can’t send me back. I won’t go. I’ll run again. I don’t care where.”
“Then tell me the truth. How old are you?”
I released a long breath and crumpled the white sheet in my fist. “Fourteen. Almost fifteen. But I’m smart. I’m strong. I can work. I’ll outwork every man you have on this boat. I swear to Christ. Just give me a chance.”
“You should be in school. A cargo ship is no place for a kid,” the captain replied, crushing my hope that he’d let me stay.
“What about cabin boys? Don’t they have a place on a ship? I can do that. Whatever you need. Scrub floors. I’m good at cleaning. I can work in the kitchen. Do whatever. Please, just don’t send me back.”
The captain rose and dragged a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair. “What’s your name, kid?”
“You got balls, Jericho Forge. I’ll give you that.” His jaw shifted, and I knew he was considering what might end up being my death sentence.
“Please, just give me a chance, sir. I swear, I won’t make you regret it.” I gripped the sheet tighter, my palm sweaty.
As he stroked his beard, I swallowed, my scratchy throat burning for another sip of water as I awaited his judgment.
“I joined the merchant marines when I was eighteen. Fast as I could get out of my house. My pop liked his liquor too. Got nasty when he got deep in the bottle. If I let you stay, you’re going to have to work and study. We’ll get you GED books, and you’ll have to pass, because every real man needs at least a high school education. A strong body isn’t shit without a strong mind.”
My mouth dropped open. “Thank—”
“Don’t thank me yet.” He crossed his arms over his wide chest and lifted his chin. “Get healed up and you’re on probation. You can’t hack it, we send you back, and I’ll send a letter stating your condition when we found you and that your uncle was responsible. Maybe they’ll put you in foster care instead.”
“I can hack it. I promise. You won’t regret it.”
He nodded. “We’ll see about that.” He held out a hand and gripped my good one. “I’m Captain Isaac Marcos. This is my ship, the Fortuna. Welcome aboard, Jericho Forge.”
My business is my life. That’s one thing that never changes, no matter what. But today, I let myself get sidetracked. Because of her.
I never forget meetings. Especially not meetings when one of my business partners has flown halfway across the world to meet on my turf. Today, though, I did. Because of her.
India Baptiste—no, India Forge—is a distraction I didn’t predict, but only because I’m a fucking idiot. I can’t even remember the last time I went out of my way to make a woman smile or laugh, let alone change my plans for one. But I did today . . . because of her.
Stopping in Saint-Tropez meant screwing up my timeline, and to add insult to injury, I forgot my meeting with Creighton Karas.
I toss the keys of my tender to the valet at the pier. “Don’t move it. Don’t drive it. Don’t fucking touch it.”
The young blond Brit looks at me slack-jawed as he realizes who I am. “Yes, sir, Mr. Forge. Not a problem, sir. We’ll use the other dock for everyone else.”
“Good. I’ll be back in less than two hours.”
He nods again, his brows rising as I peel off a few hundreds from my money clip and hand them over. “Thank you, sir.”
As I walk away from the quay, I already want to loosen the tie from around my neck and head back out to sea. For years, I’ve spent more time on the decks of ships than I have on land, and I like it that way. On the deck of a ship in international waters, the captain’s word is law, and he might as well be a god. On land, there are too many variables shifting constantly. Like wives who smile at you like a hero when you cook her dinner.