He lurked around the hacienda patio. Alicia Ortega spied on Captain Harris as she pretended to tidy Mamà’s altar in the sala. Like a fox circling the hen house, she thought. She replaced the candles around Mother Mary who whispered a warning, “Cuídate, Mija,” through a thin glaze of wax.
Harris, and other buccaneers, off-loaded black market cargo at Papá’s secret harbor, Refugio, in Alta California. By 1805 this refuge from Spanish duty fees was not truly a secret to anyone. Even Padre Romo from the Mission bargained at the Ortega’s makeshift dock for linens, silks, and ornaments.
“That scoundrel, Harris, is looking for your sister, Clara,” Nina said. She swept ashes from the hearth below the altar. “I’ve seen them all week, whispering and making marks on your Mamà’s parchments.” Nina was the Mission-trained housekeeper to the Ortega family. She endured endless chores by gossiping and daydreaming with Alicia. The girls grew up together, fifteen lonely years at Rancho Refugio.
Captain Harris was no dreamer. He was after something. Alicia intended to guard all the Ortega family treasures and secrets from him.
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