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A Star Tribune serialized novel by Jane Fredericksen

Chapter 25

The story so far: Kinney has the birthday party of his life.

Later that evening, long after the party, Kinney insisted on heading to the marina. He had to confirm everything for himself; it still didn’t seem real.

He was in a walking boot now and able to get around fairly well. He didn’t object when Ronnie offered her arm, however. He could play the sympathy card when he wanted.

“I still don’t know what happened to Kacie, though,” he told her. “Right after the party, she lit out. It’s probably that Micah kid. She’s been hanging out with him a lot lately. You think that’s a good thing?”

Ronnie laughed. “You sound like a father already.”

That worried him. “I do, don’t I?”

“Well, here we are. I asked for a closer slip, at least for now.”

Ronnie stopped at the edge of the pier. “Bernie had some people patch the hull. Says you can settle with him later. Pete fixed the engine. I mended the sail. She floats, but still a lot of work to do inside. That part’s up to you.”

Kinney nodded. He turned to the boat. His boat. Not just his, he knew; it seemed like everyone in Bayfield held some claim to her.

Redemption seemed enormous, far bigger than he remembered. A sudden wave of panic washed over him. “I’ve never had this many responsibilities before, Ronnie.”

“You’re a captain,” she reminded him. “You’ve always had responsibilities. And, like a captain, you’ll adjust.”

She placed her hand on his.

Deep breaths.

Together, they admired the boat.

“She is beautiful, isn’t she?” murmured Ronnie.

Kinney’s eyes moved from Redemption to Ronnie. “Classic beauty. A dream come true.”

She turned to him. Her eyes were the shoreline before him. Her smile was the sun. The wind played her hair like a melody.

“Don’t be afraid to dream, Kinney.”

They were close, very close. And very aware of it. Kinney dove in, trusting the wind.

Just before he reached land, a shrill voice sang out, “I’ve traveled this wide word all over/And now to another I’ll go …”

Kinney and Ronnie pulled away, laughing, embarrassed.

“For I know that good fortune is waiting …” Kacie broke off, grinning from the cockpit. “I thought you guys would never get here. What took you so long? I’ve got coffee in the galley.”

“Come on, Kinney,” Ronnie urged, but he held back.

“You go ahead. I’ll catch up,” he promised. “I’ve got a couple of things to do first.”

“OK.” Ronnie gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “Don’t be long.”

“I won’t.”

As Ronnie began to board, Kacie warned, “Right foot first, remember?”

Ronnie laughed. But she obeyed.

The two headed down into the cabin. Kinney watched them go, until he was sure they were inside. Then he said softly, “Don’t think I don’t see you. I’ve seen you all along.”

A throaty chuckle rose behind him. He turned.

The Pirate sat, lounging, on a bench by the pier. “Ye know me better’n most, lad. Still time to run, y’know.”

Kinney shook his head. “Not this time. I’ve got this. I can handle it.”

The Pirate scoffed. “Oh. Like ye handled that mast climb. Real fine. Look at ye. Yer a mess. Ye’ve never been a father. Never owned a boat.”

Kinney looked back at Redemption, and for a moment, the old fear gripped him.

A sudden peal of laughter broke from the cabin. He could see Kacie and Ronnie joking and talking together in the galley.

Kinney relaxed. “A new voyage.” He faced the Pirate. “But not alone.”

The Pirate stood and stretched. “I’m leavin’ these parts, then. But ye might see me again. Mind the sails, lad.”

“I’ll be ready.”

The Pirate guffawed. “We’ll see.” He disappeared.

Kinney knew he was right. There would be storms in years to come. Some he might see coming, others not.

He’d be ready.

He turned to study the signs: Fair wind, gentle breeze, for now. The sun glimmered on the horizon, a brilliant diamond in a magenta sky. It would be a beautiful sunset, one to remember.

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”

He turned to see Kacie, now on the cockpit, sketchpad in hand. “Who were you talking to? I heard a voice.”

“Old friend.” Kinney corrected himself. “Acquaintance.”

He changed the subject. “What are you drawing?”

“Pirates,” whispered Kacie. “Want to see?”

She held up the pad to show a sketch of Kinney, at Redemption’s helm. “I finally got the face right.”

She had, Kinney realized. “Homely cuss, though.”

Ronnie hopped into the cockpit. “Come on, Kinney. We’re burning daylight.”

She and Kacie both held out their hands.

Kinney looked at each of them. His family. He wanted this moment to last forever. He wanted his luck to hold.

He started to lift his foot, then stopped.

Right foot first.

He gripped their hands and stepped aboard Redemption.

The end