“The need for absolute secrecy ashore means we can only vouch for half the crew. Our Billy Boy, as Barnaby calls him, could have planted a spy as insurance. Everything so far, indicates he’s fallen for the ruse. We don’t want anything to alert him and a spy on board could bring us undone. Guillaume d’Ardenne must not escape to prey on other ships and the destruction of the privateers-turned-pirate is a valuable blow for England before hostilities resume.”
Isabella relaxed back in her chair with a nod and Tristan rose to his feet, a signal for the others to rejoin them. She was aware of two searching examinations of her face, but chose not to respond, her mind racing to adjust to this new situation. She had to admire Nepean’s cunning. The Spritely wouldn’t have been the only one to sail under sealed orders. He’d dispatched at least one frigate to carry the messages and pay chest to the Admiral commanding the West Indies station. The Spritely would draw the pirates north and clear the normal shipping lane to the Caribbean, freeing yet another patrolling frigate. This was no last second plan, but a carefully constructed stratagem with everything taken into account. Her presence onboard would give credence to using the Spritely as the pay chest carrier. Guillaume d’Ardenne would suspect Nepean of being over-clever, because it was how he would have acted in his place, willing to sacrifice anyone to achieve his goal. Barnaby had hinted as much in his description of the man as a modern day Kublai Khan.
The American provided the expertise in getting the best from the Spritely and Tristan was its fighting heart. Nepean had given them the men and the tools to succeed, with Barnaby as his reliable messenger, his friendship with Tristan a plus. She was just window dressing, although Nepean had checked her out to see if she’d be a burden or an asset. It wouldn’t surprise her to learn Nepean knew of her childhood friendship with Tristan. He was a spider, spinning webs of entrapment from his store of knowledge.
Were it not for the threat to her burgeoning love, she might even admire him.