It took a while to calm Denise down enough for her to curl up in her hammock, but Terri managed. She turned to Danny and motioned him toward Cale’s room. Once they were both inside, she shut the door and faced her friend.
“Okay, talk.” A tired hand swept down her face.
“Serone’s already cost us two people, and we need to stop him before we lose anyone else. I figure the two of us can come up with a plan, catch him unaware, and overpower him.”
Terri shook her head. “He would never let you get that close.”
“He would if he was distracted,” Danny retorted, eyebrow lifting meaningfully.
A look of disgust passed over her face. “I can think of only one way to do that. The creep’s been leering at me ever since he was brought onboard.” She shuddered. “But, what if that fails? He has a gun and could shoot you.”
Danny stroked his chin. “You’re right. We’ll need to have extra insurance if the distraction doesn’t hold up long enough.”
“Denise is too traumatized to help us out, and Steve’s still unconscious.” Terri’s head tilted to the side. “What about Westridge?”
Danny nodded. “You know what? Earlier, I wouldn’t have considered him an option, but after what Serone just did? I bet he’d be eager to get some revenge.”
“Let’s go ask if he wants in.” Terri opened the door and walked out. As she rapped her knuckles against the wood of Westridge’s door, she sensed Danny come up beside her.
A curse sounded from inside the room, and, a few moments later, the door opened to reveal a tense Westridge. He glanced over their shoulders, and some of the tightness around his eyes eased when he didn’t catch a glimpse of Serone. His shoulders lowered a smidge, and he refocused on the two before him. Uncertainty lingered in his eyes as they flitted between the pair. “Did you need something?” The usual smooth cadence he employed had been replaced by a rougher timbre.
Terri’s thoughts paused as she took in the man’s disheveled appearance and hangdog expression. Despite her earlier irritation with the Brit’s pomposity, she found herself upset and unsettled to see the effects Serone’s humiliation had on him. “We were wondering if you’d like to help us end this nightmare,” she proposed.
Westridge’s hand tightened against the doorknob. “Do…do you really think we have a chance?” Cautious hope warred with fear in his eyes.
“I think so,” Danny said, “if we all work together. Now, do you want to keep talking out here, or let us in?”
Wordlessly, Westridge stepped aside and gestured for them to enter the room. He closed the door behind them and took a deep breath. When he faced them again, a fire burned in those hazel eyes. “What do you need me to do?”
Danny grinned as an idea came to him. “How do you feel about putting those golf skills to work?”
Westridge’s face twisted in confusion. Before he could ask how that would be relevant, Terri piped up.
“I’ll distract Serone, and, while that’s happening, Danny will enter the room and try to overpower him. However, we think he’ll suspect something like that and be ready. That’s where you come in.”
Following the plan and line of thinking, Westridge dipped his head in understanding. “I’m the failsafe.”
“I can find something to use as a weapon, and you’ll use one of your golf clubs. There are a few doors that lead into the pilothouse. I’ll sneak through one of them while he’s distracted, and you’ll be at the next one. If he spots me, his attention will shift to me, and you’ll have an opening to break through the window and knock him out,” Danny explained.
The right corner of Westridge’s mouth turned up. “Hence my golf skills.” Solemnness replaced the levity, and he met Danny’s eyes first and then Terri’s. “You can count on me.”
“I need some time to get ready for my part,” Terri sighed, dreading her role in the operation.
As a question occurred to Westridge, his head cocked to the side. “How are you going to distract him?”
Terri grimaced. “Have you ever seen Aladdin?” At Westridge’s hesitant nod, she continued. “Think Jasmine with Jafar.”
“Oh, god, you poor thing!” Westridge recoiled. “It seems the most unpleasant task has fallen onto you, and I’d be remiss if I allowed you to do that sober.” He crossed over to case containing his wine and pulled out a bottle. Holding it in one hand, he retrieved a corkscrew with the other. “I’m afraid I have no glasses with me, so I hope you don’t mind it straight from the bottle. I imagine Serone would notice a visit to the galley, and the less suspicious he is the better.” The cork pulled out with a pop.
“Out of the bottle’s fine. Thank you.” A helpless giggle left Terri’s throat. If someone had told her at the start of the trip that she’d be planning a coup on a poacher and have Westridge offer her some of his expensive wine as sympathy for her role in it, she would have insisted said person get checked out for malaria. In the present, she accepted the bottle of Bordeaux and took a swig. Tangy citrus danced across her taste buds and burned her throat on the way down. She wiped a hand across her mouth and pushed the bottle back to Westridge. “I see why you like that stuff. It’s good.”
“Well, ‘that stuff’, as you refer to it, is a fine, expensive wine from France, so I should think so,” Westridge commented, eyes dancing. His fingers enclosed around the bottle. He paused a moment before offering it to Danny. “Liquid courage?”
“Wine’s not typically my thing, but I’ll make an exception.” Danny reached out and took the wine. Tossing his head back, he downed a couple mouthfuls. A pleasant warmth settled inside him, and he passed the bottle back. “Not bad – for wine. It’s not beer, but it’ll do.” A teasing grin formed.
Westridge rolled his eyes good-naturedly, muttering, “casting pearls…” He knocked back some of the wine before pressing the cork back in. “When are we doing this?”
“I think we should let things settle down a bit, so Serone’s less on edge.” Terri weighed things out in her mind. “Maybe half an hour?”
Danny shrugged. “Sounds good to me.”
Westridge bobbed his head in agreement.
“Then it’s settled.” Terri breathed in deep through her nose and let it out slowly. “If it all works out, we’ll have our boat back and get Steve to a hospital.” She glanced over at Westridge, who was putting the bottle away. “Thanks for doing this, Westridge.”
His eyes rose to meet hers, and his back straightened. “The man’s caused two deaths, and I don’t think I have the stomach to deal with any more, especially when my assistance can perhaps prevent it.” The sincerity morphed into levity. “Besides, I’m not the one with the most harrowing task - ” he gestured toward Terri and then Danny – “nor the most dangerous one.”
Danny cut in. “Regardless, we appreciate that you have our backs on this.”
A small incline of the head indicated the Brit accepted their gratitude. His eyes flitted to the side, and he coughed. “Of course…we are in the same boat after all.”
Terri groaned, but a smile tugged at her lips.
“Did you just –?” A startled laugh burst out of Danny, and he shook his head. “On that note, I’m going to check on Denise, and then find something I can use against Serone.”
“Yeah, I should see how Steve’s doing before I get ready.” Terri walked over to the door, and turned to look between the two men. “Until then, gentlemen.”
“Good luck,” Westridge returned.
Giving a two-fingered salute, Terri opened the door and exited the room. Danny said a farewell to the other man and followed suit.
Once the door clicked shut, Westridge sauntered over to his golf bag and picked up the wedge. He took a few practice swings and smirked as he imagined it striking Serone. His cheeks still stung from where he’d been slapped, and he planned to return that pain tenfold when he had the chance.