Dawn on a Distant Shore Page 108

"Tell me."

"I don't know what he meant."

"You're lying!" Her voice cracked and wavered.

"Is that so? And what could you do about it if I was?"

The ship rolled hard, and Giselle was thrown up against him. Hawkeye put both hands on her shoulders and pushed her away, feeling the heat of her through the thin shirt, feeling too much, his gut lurching like the deck underfoot.

"Mac's not watching, little girl," he said harshly. "Rubbing up against me won't get you what you want from him."

She curled a hand into the fabric of his shirt, her knuckles pressing against his chest. "Did you think I wanted something from Mac Stoker?" She laughed. "Your famous eyesight is failing you."

Hawkeye pushed her away again, feeling his temper flash and slide, ready to break its bounds. "I don't know anything about your mother. But if I did, I wouldn't tell you. I ain't a boy to let himself be sucked dry and cast off."

All around them the ship was in a dead rage as the Tory frigate gained on them, Stoker ranting, Granny screeching, the whole crew shouting as they struggled with the jibsail. But Giselle stood there pure deaf to it all. The blood left her face, and Hawkeye saw that he had struck too hard, hard enough to put her back against the wall.

"Daniel Bonner." Her mouth worked silently for a moment. "All these years I've had something of your son's, and none of you ever knew it." Her voice had dropped, but he could hear every word, more clearly than he wanted to.

Here it is, now. Finally. The first shot in the battle, or the last?

"And what would that be?"

Her mouth worked again, trying to spit out what lay so long and heavy on her tongue. "Your firstborn grandson. He turned sixteen the same week that bluestocking of an Englishwoman gave birth."

He kept his peace; anything he could say would serve her purpose better than his own.

"It is true. I see you do not believe me, but it is true."

Hawkeye braced one arm against the longboat and stared at the deck. Giselle might be lying; it came to her easy enough. He shook his head to clear it.

"You're on your way to find this boy of yours, is that right?"

She pushed out a sigh. "Yes. He was taken from me when he was born and sent to my mother."

"In France."

She nodded impatiently. "My mother is in France. Yes."

Hawkeye considered his own hands. Skin like overworked leather, but the tattoos around his wrists were still the same deep indigo they had been when they were new, in those days when he hadn't yet learned to think of himself as white.

Giselle was watching him warily, things moving behind pale eyes that were beyond his understanding. She had borne Nathaniel a son, and kept the boy away from him all these years. One part of him wanted to laugh in her face; the other did not dare.

"Does he have a name?"

The muscles in her throat worked. "Luc," she said. "The woman who attended me baptized him Luc."

Baptized. Some small connection flickered far away, and Hawkeye reached for it. A midwife, a Catholic.

"That would have been Iona," Hawkeye said.

"You know her?"

He had made her uneasy. Iona is Robbie's good friend, he might have said. But he kept it to himself. A grandson who had never set his foot on Hidden Wolf, who knew nothing of his forefathers. Hawkeye said, "Does the boy look like Nathaniel?"

She frowned, her suspicion digging a furrow between her brows. "He had my coloring when he was born, but he was long of bone."

"Fair and light eyed, about eighteen." He spoke these words out loud, and each of them seemed to draw her closer, until her raised face was no more than a few inches from his own. But Hawkeye was far away, remembering the night of the fire at the garrison gaol in Montréal, and the boy who had led them to the river. Luke, Robbie had called him. Iona's grandson, he had called himself. Hawkeye closed his eyes and tried to draw a picture of the boy in his mind.

"Well grown. Big boned, but he moves cleverly. Like Nathaniel at that age."

Giselle's mouth contorted. "What are you talking about? Who are you talking about?"

"I ain't sure," Hawkeye said. "But it looks to me as if Rab MacLachlan has some explaining to do."

She pointed to the men working so frantically on the jibsail. "There he is. Call him over."

"You, Bonner!" screamed Granny Stoker, waving her cane at him. Hawkeye didn't know how long she had been calling his name.

"Are you deef, man! Come here!"

It displeased Giselle, and maybe that's why he did it, simply walked away from one angry woman to another one, and was whacked twice with her cane for his trouble.

"Wake up, man." She jabbed toward the stern with her chin. "Look!"

The Tory frigate was closing fast, no more than fifty yards off now and bearing slightly away to come up broadside. Overhead the Jackdaw's sails still fluttered and snapped, snatching at the wind but getting no purchase.

She thumped Hawkeye's shoulder. "Lift me up so I can see!"

Hawkeye did as he was asked, lifting the lumpy bundle of fidgeting woman out of the sling, taking in her smells: the dry rot of oldest age, sour tobacco, sweat. Her baubles slid and slithered around her chest; her legs flopped like sticks.

"Capting!" Behind them Jemmy was shouting shrill as a whistle above all the confusion. "Hulls down the horizon!"

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