“ABSOLUTELY NOT,” Hugh placed his fork down firmly beside his plate.

“Well, what do you propose we do then?” Elouise stuck her spoon at him.

“Well, something else!” his eyes widened. “I refuse to entertain the idea of you gallivanting among those brutes,” he picked his fork up again.

“I won’t be among them, I will be with the slaves,” her shoulders raised.

“Even worse! You’ll be trapped with fifteen other girls in a crate and I’ll have to watch you get flogged?” Hugh leaned across the table towards her.

“It’s part o’ tha risk!” her faux accent completely dropped. “No other plan is gunn ta work as fast as from ta inside, and this is ta only way we can map out their entire trade route!” she spat that out so fast in her normal accent it was almost hard to understand.

But Hugh already knew her reasoning, and unfortunately, she was right. Eight months of the police trying to apprehend and cut off the human trafficking ring from here to the Americas and nothing.

But now with Elouise and these rather helpful pirates, things seem like they would finally progress. With absolute discretion from his superiors, of course.

He sighed. “And you, Captain? Have you any say on this?” he poured himself another glass of wine.

The young man who had been quietly carving an apple at the far end of the table looked up from under his wide hat with rather excessive plumage. A slice of apple stuck out of his mouth half-bitten.

His gaze lingered on Elouise for a while, who diverted her attention to the remainder of her gruel. Sighing, he finished his apple slice.

“This pains me too, but she’s right, copper,” he took his legs off the table. “The fastest way out is from the inside,” he leaned forward. “I can have some men trail the shipment, but the only way to really know is if she’s one of them, leaving us signs,” the captain drummed his ringed fingers on the table. He sighed again, but more quietly this time, as his eyes fell on Elouise.

She met his gaze, a rather fierce thank you, and looked back at Hugh.

Placing both her elbows on the table, she stared at Hugh directly in the eyes. “I can do this, Hugh. I’ve been in fights before,” she tried to reassure him.

“I know,” he faltered. “But this isn’t a fight. This is you keeping your mouth shut to them for as long as we map out this route,” he shuddered at the thought. Between what he had learnt from the girls who had came to them for help and the general information obtained from the navy in correspondence with the land policemen, the picture before him was terribly grim.

The pirate captain scratched his eyebrow and pushed his hat back.”Know this, querido; they are going to try and sell ye off at every stop. Ye have to keep yerself close, and that’s gunna be mighty painful,” he angled his head at her.

“Wouldye’ stup scarin me? We are saving those girls. Alrite?” Elouise leaned back in her chair.

“Alright,” the captain resumed a polite sitting position, like a child complying an elder’s orders. Comical, but that was just how he was.

Hugh gave a curt nod and took a long draught of the port wine the pirate captain had procured for them. Elouise however, had eased herself right in and took to swigging rum like the rest of the seamen.

She was tough, he admits, but this case needed a different kind of strength. Elouise was definitely not one to just receive a hit and not retaliate. Hugh’s opinion aside, Elouise already had a hard time playing Lady. Even now he could see her struggling to prepare to remove the instinct of returning a punch from her personality. If they were gracious enough not to give her a bloody lip, she would do it herself trying to maintain her scared and whimpering state.

But nothing meant more to her than breaking this syndicate, even if it meant taking down the entire ship by herself. He could only hope that resolve could stand whatever she was about to face head on.