Darren half-carried me back into my cabin. My legs wouldn't work, frozen with shock. He set me on my bed and took my hand in his own, running his thumb over my palm. He looked concerned. I wondered what my face looked like.
His mouth moved wordlessly, but I didn't hear anything. I think I was in shock. His voice slowly broke through the fear that had frozen me to the spot.
"Marina?" Darren asked repeatedly, taking my shoulders and shaking me. "Marina, it's okay, snap out of it."
I shook my head rapidly, trying to clear it, and brought my gaze to his eyes. I focused on them, the way they looked like the sea. That calmed me down a bit. He looked relieved.
"Deep breaths," he ordered me, lifting me easily onto his lap. I took one, realizing I'd been holding my breath. "And let it out," he reminded me. I did, and took another one. It helped. The panic curled into an anxious knot in my stomach, but didn't threaten to choke me again.
I hid my face against his warm chest, wrapping my good arm around him. "I thought you said we were going somewhere safe out at sea," I said, my voice muffled somewhat by his shirt.
"We are," he informed me. I looked up at him reproachfully.
"Well, this seems very safe," I informed him. searching his eyes.
He took a deep breath. "We're trying to get to the Hidden Isles." He held my gaze gently, his deep blue eyes seeming to hide more than they expressed. "The Hidden Isles are not easy to find. Captain Argon sailed us there once, but not on The Eagle. We had Stardust then. So the pirates on that ship," he gestured to my porthole, "don't know how to navigate them."
I leaned my head against his shoulder, somewhat less panicky. "Why are they called the Hidden Isles?"
"They're forever in fog," Darren informed me, reaching up to touch my face and brush a strand of red hair behind my ear. His expression softened when he looked at me. "They're rather dangerous to navigate if you don't know the way in."
"Do we know?"
"Yes, the Captain has a chart of the waters. The chart itself is almost as confusing as the path though."
"It has no actual map, just words in ancient Greek that his great great grandfather translated. Most of the sentences don't make sense, but it's supposed to lead to a safe hold that was originally built on the Hidden Isles by an ancient King during times of war."
"Supposed to? I thought you said you'd been there."
"We went to the Isles. We never found the actual safe hold, but the Isles themselves are well enough hidden that we can keep you safe."
I searched his gaze, trying to figure out how he could still be afraid for me if we were in fact going to be safe. "Why are the pirates a problem then?"
"We won't reach the Isles for at least a week. The Eagle is a faster ship. She's gaining."
The fear built up in my chest again, and I forced it down. Panicking helped nothing. I struggled to get off his lap. "I shouldn't be here. I'm putting everyone in danger."
Darren looked surprised, and then stood and swept me off my feet, his eyes furious. "You are staying here," he ordered me. "The men on this ship are well trained, and with luck we can reach the Hidden Isles in time. You will put no one but yourself in danger if you think that no one will be hurt if you leave."
I looked up at him, surprised at the strength in his voice, the anger that I would think of running away. His gaze suddenly softened, and his voice was apologetic.
"I'm sorry, Marina. I just can't lose you. Don't run off, please."
I nodded, not sure I could trust my voice, and he set me back on my feet. Wrapping his arms around my waist, he pulled me close and leaned his forehead against mine. He brushed his lips against mine.
"Don't worry, we'll get there in time." He kissed me again, gently, lovingly, and then pulled away, reaching up to cradle my jaw in his hand. He stared for a moment into my eyes. "We'll get there in time," he repeated, and then moved away as someone called his name from outside. I recognized Captain Argon's voice.
Darren looked to me, and I nodded, waving him towards the door. He kissed me once more and left, and as he did, I wondered whether he had been assuring me, or himself.