Category Archives: Excerpt

Kayla Jameth’s back with A Tested Love

TestedLove[A]LG

Book two of Kayla Jameth’s epic of ancient Sparta is here! If you started with A Spartan Love, be ready to continue on with Theron and Andreas’ story. And remember, “This is Sparta!” has a lot of meanings, not least that they didn’t share those soft Athenians’ views on a lot of things, including what was acceptable between men.

Thank you, Kayla, for talking about Apollo, who’s very much part of the story.

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Apollo Hayakinthios

While researching Taming Theron (now A Spartan Love) and A Spartan Love (now A Tested Love and A Shared Love), I found all kinds of, for lack of a better word, myths about Sparta. Some are just minor things, such as trying to apply a modern mindset to an ancient culture and one that even its contemporaries considered strange. Others are the result of the other Greek city-states giving them bad press. No one really liked the bullies on the block.

So I thought I would focus on a real myth and explore its origins.

First the myth

Apollo is known for having several lovers—gods, goddesses, nymphs, dryads, and humans. He didn’t limit himself to any one gender.

One of his lovers, Hyacinthus, was a prince of Sparta. Both Apollo and Zephyrus courted the beautiful young man, but Hyacinthus preferred Apollo. One day while Apollo and Hyacinthus were throwing a discus, Zephyrus, the West Wind, blew the disc off course in a fit of jealousy. The discus struck Hyacinthus in the head, killing him.

Apollo was heartbroken. He refused to allow Hades to take the prince to the Underworld. Instead, he gathered the youth’s blood to create a flower, the hyacinth. The Olympian goddesses, Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis carried the divine hero’s body to the Elysium Fields.

The likely origins

A tomb to Hyacinthus can be found near Apollo’s altar and cult idol in the village of Amykles southwest of the modern city of Sparta and dates to the Mycenaean era. Most scholars consider Hyacinthus to be a local deity who predated the Spartan’s and Apollo. His name with the suffix –nth shows him to be pre-Hellenic. (The Greeks called themselves Hellenes.)

When the Doric Spartans invaded the Peloponnesus, they brought their sky gods with them. The Spartans considered Apollo to be one of their patron gods. Since Apollo was one of the gods most likely to take a male lover, Hyacinthus was quickly accounted as his lover. Tying the past to Sparta’s present and legitimizing the Doric occupation.

As is commonly the case when one god preempts another’s place and prerogatives, the older deity had to die to make way for the victor. Hyacinthus met with an “accidental” death at another, although minor, sky god’s hands. Apollo stepped in to fill the religious void, laying claim to Hyacinthus’ sacred site and taking the epithet Apollo Hayakinthios to commemorate his victory.

Apollo’s Men

My series, known as Apollo’s Men, takes place in 5th century BC Greece. Apollo is a POV character in all the novels. Only the short stories do not have him.

As Apollo Hayakinthios, he openly acknowledges he is a lover of men. Apollo is collecting warriors and their lovers (m/m) to provide a band of men to protect his prophet, the Voice of Apollo.

The Spartan Love arc—A Spartan Love, A Tested Love, and A Shared Love—follows Andreas and Theron. Other arcs follow Alexios and Galen, as well as Coridan.

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Lured by seductive promises, Andreas risked his life to be with Theron, only to find himself betrayed. Abandoned and alone, Andreas resigns all hope of seeing his fierce warrior again and resumes his life as a helot.

All too aware of the harsh punishment Sparta demands of men who love other men, Theron reluctantly surrenders Andreas in hopes of keeping him safe. The warrior returns to Sparta to embrace his destiny in place of the helot he has grown to see as a man, not just a slave. Cold but honorable duty will be his new lover.

Duty proves to be a jealous lover when Sparta demands the final test of Theron’s loyalty. Sent to kill Andreas, Theron must find a way to come to terms with his burning desire for his handsome helot before their forbidden love destroys them both.

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Chapter One

Andreas’ heart pounded. Time was running out. If he didn’t find Theron quickly, he would be too late. Somewhere out there his warrior lay injured and dying.
Fearing what he might find, Andreas roamed his klēros, searching his barren holding for his missing lover. His fields stretched as far as the eye could see, blackened stubble growing hazy in the remote distance. No matter how long he walked, he couldn’t find Theron.

He tasted ashes, bitter as blood, on his tongue. Gray smudges covered his once white chiton and discolored his skin. Andreas would never be free of the stain.
Sometimes he thought he’d been wandering forever. Racing against inflexible Atropos, the daughter of night, Andreas was driven to find the kryptes before she cut Theron’s thread short with her abhorred shears.

Night was coming, that time all helots feared—something terrible fast on its heels, death in its wake. Doom now stalked them both, flashes of scarlet in the growing gloom.

He’d never stood beneath any sky without the sun to protect him, protect him from the kryptes and any other monsters roaming the lightless night.
Soon. He had to find Theron soon!

But he was frozen in place, unable to move no matter how he struggled….

Andreas sat up with a shout. He whirled, eyes searching frantically for the red-clad peril pursuing him. His breath came in choppy gasps barely audible above the thunder of blood in his ears.

The stink of soot and fear clogged his nostrils. He took a moment to recognize his surroundings in the almost nonexistent light coming from his hearth. The fire had burned down to little more than a flicker.

Untangling himself from the sodden blanket, Andreas shivered, sweat prickling his skin. He scurried to the hearth. Scrabbling for small bits of wood to add to the fire before he lost any hope of rekindling the embers, he drove a splinter under his nail. “Hades!” But he didn’t examine his finger until the scraps of kindling began to smolder. If the flame went out, he’d have to go to Petros tomorrow and beg a coal from his hearth.

He plucked the sliver free with his teeth and spat it out on the floor. Sucking on the wound, Andreas kept watch as the fire took hold. The mix of coppery blood and wood smoke drew his nightmare back from the shadows.

But unlike in his dream, while awake he didn’t fear the darkness within. The dark without held all the danger for him. Like every helot before him, he’d been taught as a child to fear the kryptes who roamed the night, slaying all helots they happened upon. A helot’s only hope lay within the walls of his home once night fell.

Unfortunately nowhere was safe for any helot who the Spartans determined must die.

The sole requirement a kryptes had to meet in delivering their fate was to remain unseen by anyone other than their victim. Their ability to come and go undetected was part of their mystique, part of what made them so terrifying.

The flames blazed up, filling the single-room hut with light. Andreas sank down to the floor, at first unsure what had brought on the nightmare when he’d gone a month or more since the last one. All those thoughts and feelings he’d refused to give life had come boiling up.

Much too late now, the dream should no longer have the strength to haunt him. Theron was long past his help.

Andreas hadn’t seen the Hekate-becursed man since he disappeared months ago.
How many nights had he sat up worrying about the bastard? How many times had he endured that nightmare? He’d woken with a shout, covered in sweat, too many times to count. And what had he gotten for all his lost sleep? Not a cursed thing.

With his endless searching, Andreas had come to know his lands better than he’d thought possible, but the warrior eluded him, whether in life or in death, he didn’t know.

Andreas chose to believe Theron yet lived. But it was long past time for his fate to matter. Theron should have returned by now if he were still alive. Either his “lover”—Andreas snorted in disgust—had died without him, or more likely he’d left Andreas behind without a second thought. If Theron was alive after all this time, he had no intention of returning. Either way Andreas would never see him again.

Once Andreas realized this, he submerged his grief as best he could. In an effort to avoid his nightmares, he’d worked himself harder than he ever had before. He spent his days tilling his fields like a madman, channeling his frustration into the uncomplaining soil until he was too tired to think of anything while he lay in his bed. Or nursing the wine Myron gave him in exchange for helping expand his vineyard. And his plan had worked, mostly.

Staring into the blaze, Andreas wondered what had driven Theron from him and kept him away. He’d left once, soon after they’d met, but Andreas thought they’d resolved Theron’s concerns about being exposed. Theron had even proposed a solution to the problem of their being together, offering to claim him as his mothônes, his companion.

Theron must have changed his mind.

“He’s never coming back.” Something broke inside Andreas, admitting that. But did he actually want to see Theron again?

Reaching for the wineskin hanging from the head of his bed, Andreas was surprised to find it missing. Glancing around the room, he discovered the half-empty skin where he must have left it on the table when he had stumbled to bed. He needed to refill the flask in the morning.

Without wasting time finding a cup, he drank straight from the wineskin. But the familiar warmth didn’t lull him back to sleep this time.

Andreas rose and paced the short distance between the hearth and his bed. The quick temper he’d inherited from his father came spilling out like one of the plagues from Pandora’s jar. He’d thought he’d stamped the last embers of that smoldering resentment out, but maybe he’d never cared about anything deeply enough to have his belief tested. He punched the mattress a fevered Theron had lain on.

Yet another way he would have disappointed his mother had she been here to see him.

For a while after his father died, Andreas had been every bit as angry as his father before him. Father had spoken out against the annual “war” the Spartans had waged on the helots, so when Andreas had railed on about his father’s death, his mother had grown fearful.

“You’re too much like your father! And what did his anger gain him? Is it not enough I have lost a husband? I will not lose my only child as well!”

Even the tears spilling down her cheeks couldn’t keep him from insisting, “But killing someone just because you can is wrong. What did Father do to deserve death?”

“Never forget we’re what the gods made us—slaves. That is our lot in life, Andreas. What we were born for. We are not, and will never be, their equals. The Spartans can do whatever they want to us. A slave’s duty is to endure. Anything else is rebellion and results in many more deaths. Do you want to be responsible for bringing destruction down on us?”

“They murdered him!”

“The Spartans are very careful to avoid murder. They declare war on us instead.”

“It’s still murder.”

“Ah… Andreas, my heart, the gods agree with them.” Then as if to forestall him, she pulled him into her arms. “It’s hubris to think you know better than the gods.”

Hubris. That ultimate of all sins. There was no answer he could make to that.

Andreas had learned to force the anger down, hiding his feelings under obedience and hard work. And the mask had served him well, until the day a thieving kryptes arrived to set his world and his hard-won composure on its ear.

Now the anger and resentment worked their way to the surface like the fires in Hephaestus’ volcanic forge, ready to spew molten fury and rain down disaster on anyone who crossed him. If Theron were here now, Andreas would be tempted to do more than just yell at the kryptes like he had in the past.

“Foresworn godless bastard! He said he’d stand by me and protect me, but where is he now?” Andreas spat. “Oaths to a helot obviously mean nothing to a kryptes. Pretty little promises to get me to do as he wished.”

As he stomped back toward the fire, Ictis darted under the table to escape his feet.

“Couldn’t even be bothered to let me know.” Another turn back to the bed. “The coward said he’d be back and then disappeared, walked off and left me, letting me think he’d died.”

Once more at the hearth, Andreas glanced down at his gods and picked up the figurine of Apollo. “I can’t believe I asked the Lord of Light to watch over a kryptes, of all people!”

Andreas clenched the clay god tight. The terracotta form dug into his palm, Apollo’s bow pricking the skin. He stared at his fist. After a moment’s hesitation, he carefully returned the likeness to his hearth before he did something unforgivable, like crush it. He didn’t dare incur Apollo’s enmity.

“Still allowing that sneaking murderer to control me. Honorless warrior!”

The fire snapped, and a handful of embers cascaded to the dirt floor. One landed on his knee, flaring amid the scent of burned hair before he hurriedly brushed the cinder away. The small red patch stung and throbbed in reproach.

No longer hiding under the table, the ferret’s black bead eyes regarded him from atop one of the stools. Andreas pursed his lips, trying to expel all the bitterness in his mouth. “What was I thinking, Ictis? Theron would come and take me away with him?”

On the next swing, he flung himself down on his bed. “I’m a fool, aren’t I? To believe there can be anything from a kryptes other than a knife in the back.” He lay there, his harsh breaths slowing. Too angry to sleep.

Ictis pounced on him. “I know you like him. I used to like him. But that lying kryptes didn’t abandon you to your fate after placing you in danger.”

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Now you need the rest. 😉

The author’s giveaway is a $25 certificate to ARe, (which I suggest is best spent on as many novels of ancient Sparta as you don’t already have 😉 plus some tidbits from your wish list). My platform won’t show the Rafflecopter form, but one click gets you there.

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Why did the bear walk into the bar?

Bear200x300 Please welcome Eden Winters, whom you all know as one of my favorite authors. In honor of her new, very sexy, quite erotic release in the Naked Tails universe, I asked her to spend a few minutes telling us about the book. Which is sexy. Very, very sexy.

Here’s Eden to tell us how she gets her inspiration from unlikely sources.

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My “shiny” is information. I’ll spend a lot of hours not writing while I pursue the details of this or that if it’s caught my interest. My education isn’t terribly formal, but I’m dangerous at Trivial Pursuit.

My second most dangerous lure is a challenge. Some folks just know how to push my buttons, teasing me to write something I hadn’t even thought of. Bear shifters hadn’t crossed my mind until someone poked. Poked hard. Or erotica: I like plots. But people poke.

Cross these two quirks and the next book I write comes out with a title like “A Bear Walks Into a Bar.”

Three quirks—because what was supposed to be an erotic romp went and grew a plot on me. Then all sort of tidbits I’d picked up while writing Naked Tails surfaced. Things like animal group names and behaviors. Throw in my experience in construction, adoration for Harleys, and love for the Rocky Mountains, and the plot takes a certain shape.

The society itself, a hierarchy of different shifter groups cobbled together for the greater good, lives under the direction of the lone bear shifter on the mountain. The animal qualities of these shifters run very close to the surface of their human forms. The wolves would overthrow Sawyer if given half a chance, and the elk want to hone in on his territory for reasons of their own.

In stroll four young shifters: a bear, two wolves, and a fox, cast out from their families and having only each other. For Dillon, Kevin, Jerry, and Brad, sex is comfort, bonding and fun.  Meanwhile, Sawyer uses sex for discipline, reassurance, punishing, and to establish pecking order.

Why yes, there were days where my pursuit of the shiny led me to learn about bonobo apes.

This story was originally intended as a sexy bit of fun, but the characters took on characteristics like loyalty and caring, deviousness and determination, ambition and neediness. Sawyer found himself with his paws full, not just of four young shifters who needed help, but a mountain of creatures with a common enemy in the humans they sometimes resemble. Another bear, wolves, elk. We have some cameos from badgers and bobcats, and the cougars remain a distant danger.

And yes, somewhere, a possum faints.

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Thank  you, Eden, and thank you for this snippet of Sawyer and crew.

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Bear200x300Sawyer growled, “I’m going to take care of four shifters who haven’t asked permission to cross into my domain.” Besides, the elk might have sent them, and the message he’d gotten only said four shifters, not what kind. They must be desperate or stupid.

“I still don’t like you traveling alone.”

No, you don’t like not knowing what I’m up to. Sawyer’s fist and Rudy’s face were seconds away from meeting again. Sawyer cracked his knuckles.

Rudy winced, but persisted. “You’re the last bear on the mountain. As you said, maybe I can lead the wolves, but do you think for a moment that the deer, beavers, otters, coyotes, and foxes will accept my lead if you don’t come back?” The Lobo folded his arms across his designer-shirt-clad chest. “The possums are stubborn, you know.”

“So growl at them, and when they fall over and play dead, make any decisions before they come to.” Sawyer so did not need this shit right now.

Rudy tapped his foot. In alternate form he’d have his ears laid back, snarling.

“I’m just going to take the long way home. You and the guys go on ahead.” Sawyer added the sinister smile known to get him his way—and make the rabbits shit their pants. “Leave the lights on for me.” What he really wanted was to get laid—repeatedly, to tide him over while he stayed close to his den and spent most of his time sleeping, and waking up with the hard on from hell with only his own paw to solve the problem. Damned hibernation.

“But—”

“No buts, Rudy.” Sawyer turned up the heat, physically driving Rudy back with shifter energy. “You’re the leader of the largest predator group under my protection, and my employee. You keep the business going when I can’t be too visible. I need you. But at the end of the day, my word is law, got it?” If not for the weight of responsibility, they might have been friends.

Sawyer couldn’t afford friends. Rudy hadn’t been party to the extermination of Sawyer’s clan, but he was still a wolf.

Rudy nodded, eyes downcast. Asswipe needed to alpha up before some upstart kicked his butt and seized power—like Brian.

Of course, that might prove interesting. This close to winter, Sawyer’s animal instincts were spoiling for either a good fight or a good fuck, and wasn’t too particular about which.

“Where exactly are you going? Would you at least tell me that?”

“A town nobody’s heard of about thirty-five miles from home.” If Sawyer needed to hide, he’d find a similar out of the way spot. Too bad this particular spot sat on the border between elk and predator. Just because they lived off vegetation didn’t mean his rivals weren’t a threat—an expert marksman had joined the herd a few years ago. He’d been tough and stringy, but ceased being a problem.

Conversation grew impossible when Sawyer fired up his bike. Mother Moon, but he loved the rumble of the big Harley between his thighs, the wind on his face, tempting his sensitive nose with a million different scents: moss, pines, rabbit, clover, chicken barbecuing on a grill at a campsite downhill, all awaiting him once he reached his mountain.

Fluffy clouds overhead cast shadows over the scenery, and the crisp scent of snow drifted over the highest mountaintops. Colorado. No greater place existed on earth.

Occasionally he caught a whiff of human emotions: anger, fear, sorrow, lust. Especially lust.

Damn, he needed to get laid.

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Thanks, Eden! Good to know that Sawyer gets what he needs. Boy does he get what he needs.

Find the rest at Rocky Ridge BooksAll Romance e-BooksAmazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo, and settle in for reading. You can get your favorite file type (mobi, epub, or pdf) and print.

 

 

 

Six Sentence Sunday–Into the Mountains

With almost too much to look at, Kurt Carlson had to focus on this one—“rock” was too small a word, but “monolith” didn’t convey the grandeur. He’d stood atop Half Dome, feeling small in the majesty of Yosemite where the bones of the world lay bare to men. The thanks had formed a lump in his throat then, and now, at the base of the titan, Kurt could barely swallow.

“If you really wanted to get to the top, we could have hiked up the valley by the falls.” Carabiners loaded with pitons, hex nuts, and “friends” clanked against each other on the webbing harness slung over Benji’s shoulder.

Trust Benji Shaffer to blow a hole in the poetry of the moment.
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This is from the bonus short Into the Mountains, which will be available June 22 along with my novel, Fire in the Mountain. Jake and Kurt will return this summer in an expanded Fire from Dreamspinner come June 22, 2012.

A Sexy Excerpt from “Fire on the Mountain”

Jake and Kurt have managed to drop all their perishable food in the cold mountain lake during their attempts to rig a wilderness fridge, and have to fish it out.

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“Did you find the mayonnaise?” I asked, once we’d both been down and back twice empty handed. The water was not clear enough to find anything by sight; we were hunting by touch.

“No, I thought you did,” Kurt said, as he treaded water.

“Damn, I really wanted that mayonnaise,” I said, as I resigned myself to another chilly trip downwards. Kurt twisted in the water and did a tucked surface dive, shooting to the bottom as he uncoiled his legs, which gave me a brief look at his package before he submerged. That couldn’t have been intentional, and I was grateful for the cold water that would hinder me from getting hard. I’d seen him naked before, but that was before. Now I was noticing, and I was as naked as he was.

Almost oxygenated enough to go down again to help hunt, I started to turn in the water when Kurt surfaced next to me. Actually, he’d nearly come up underneath me, and he stroked the length of my body as he rose to the air. Pushing off me to gain a little distance, he planted a foot on my thigh, dangerously close to my groin. The cold water was my ally, I reminded myself, as I caught a faceful of splashing.

“Success!” he crowed, waving the jar around. “Is that everything?”

“I think so,” I said, and we swam to shore.

“Careful,” he warned as we pulled the dangling box over to land. “I don’t really want to go after all that again.” Me either, though if he brushed against me again, I wouldn’t mind. I just wished he’d done it on purpose.

We rigged a cradle for the box, using more of the thin rope that Kurt had used to secure the pulley to the tree. Kurt hadn’t put his clothes back on, which meant that I couldn’t either, without calling attention to my nakedness. Chilly enough to not embarrass myself, I bit the inside of my cheek when I got too much look at Kurt’s body, as he squatted to tie the cord with some complicated climber’s knot that he assured me would not come undone accidentally. Then we secured the box around with the forgotten bungee cords, a move that would have saved considerable trouble had we done it half an hour earlier. Satisfied that the box wouldn’t tilt now that the rope went through a few of the drain holes, no matter how badly unbalanced it was, we lowered our fridge into the water.

“That box is on belay,” he said with a grin. “It goes nowhere now, unless we move it.”

“All right!” We high fived each other and then Kurt flopped onto the grass in a sunny spot, on, dear Lord, his back.  He put his hands under his head after selecting a stem of grass to chew on, and raised one knee. This was nothing new; the only new thing was how much I wanted to run my hands over him.

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The new edition of Fire on the Mountain will be available shortly. We could ask the Magic Eight Ball when…

An Extra Scene – “Cannons and Honor”

Cannons and Honor got two opening scenes, one of which was a little late for inclusion into the final ebook. It restates information in the opening paragraphs, just differently- compare it to the more period-flavored opening of the story.

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“I knew we should not have taken passage on such a small ship, Leigh.”  The fresh-faced little blond in the wide bonnet held onto her companion’s arm as they stood at the taffrail of the Dutch brigantine De Zigeuner. “The East India Company ships are seldom taken by pirates.”

“True, but the cost of the passage on an Indiaman was beyond our means, darling. We could have sent you to Bangalore, where the Major will reimburse your passage as a wedding gift, but then I could not have accompanied you.” The young man patted the hand that she slipped through the crook of his elbow.  “They did say we would go in convoy and be safer, but losing a yard cost De Zigeuner time and company.”  He had fretted about this very thing, without troubling his sister with his worries, though he, too, would have preferred to sail in a larger, more heavily armed merchantman.

“Once we were well away from Madagascar, we should have been safe enough,” commented the purser, who had returned above decks to watch the ship that had been pursuing them for several hours. It had grown larger as it drew closer, but still did not appear to be an active threat. “If His Majesty’s frigates still plied these waters in number, we should not have this worry.”

“There might be one or two, but most of them have been recalled to blockade duty. Dreary work, that—back and forth and back and forth off the harbors, keeping Boney’s fleets bottled up. Important though, don’t want ships of the line boiling out of Le Havre or Brest.”  The brigantine’s second lieutenant paused to add a note to the conversation.

“Small consolation to us now.”  The purser shaded his eyes to watch the pursuer more closely. “Who do you suppose is chasing us?”

“Pirates. Does it matter?” asked the young woman, scorn in her voice.

“Indeed it does. With some upstart, you can’t predict what will happen if they catch us. If it’s Captain John Bull…”

“John Bull! What kind of a name is that! How dare he take it! He’s no proper representative of England if he’s a pirate!” The young woman very nearly quivered with indignation. “And will they catch us?”  Practical concerns could bubble into her mind at times.

“Possibly not. We’ve been tacking through some dangerous waters. Most pirates would have given up by now, but Bull will chase us all the way to Calcutta. The lieutenant hurried on, perhaps because escaping the conversation was as important as the task he was engaged on. He disappeared below deck and could be heard shouting to the men to clear for action.

“He’s John Bull because he’s everything about England gone wrong,” muttered the captain, once he’d taken the spyglass away form his eye. “He fights like an Englishman, he treats his prizes with English courtesy, and he speaks with a Kentish accent, damn him.”  A quick glance to one side. “Begging your pardon, miss.”

“His crews love him, so I’m told,” the purser carried on quickly, before the young man could object to the profanity used before his companion. “A motley of  Malays and Somalis—it’s said he speaks the rogues’ languages.”

“Call them what you like now, but speak softly if they catch us.” The captain looked again through his glass.

“Speak softly to pirates?” the young woman scoffed.

“Speak softly or not at all,” the captain warned her. “They’ve been known to take tongues.”

“Do you think he’s really a deserter from the Royal Navy?” asked another passenger, a portly Englishman with extravagant whiskers.

“Perhaps. Possibly he fled the East India Company—he’s got astonishing abilities to find the best bits of the cargo, no matter where they’ve been stowed.”  The captain had met Bull once before and did not cherish the memories.  “His jackdaws will take whatever appeals to them.”

“To think that he’s of the same nation as Bolitho and Ramage,” the purser mourned.

“He’s as fine a sailor as Aubrey,” the captain said before he shouted more orders to his men. “We might be able to keep enough distance on him to evade. A mixed blessing, that, because we haven’t the armament to shoot back at this distance.”

Puffs of smoke appeared around the trailing ship, pre-empting the question of shooting first or shooting back.   A fountain of water flew into the air. “And as fine a shot, too,” commented the purser. “He’s got the range on us already.”

“What can one cannon ball do?” the young woman asked with grave skepticism. “It’s small. The ship is large. They don’t explode.”

“One cannon ball can turn the decks, boats, and railings into oak splinters that mow down everyone nearby.” The captain shook his head at this astonishing display of naval ignorance. “Nor does it need to be ball shot.  For instance, chain shot can do a great deal of—“

The captain never did finish that statement, because the distant ship had puffed again, though the sound of the cannon did not carry. Something whistled through the air and holes appeared in the sails, which had been set for speed. A terrible cracking sound filled the air—to the horror of all, the mizzen mast came down to drag the sails and yards in the water. A sea anchor could not have slowed the ship more effectively, and the pursuer drew closer.

“What should we do?” the young man asked, not that he could have assisted the crew.

“Stay,” advised the purser, for the captain had stumped off toward the fallen mast to direct his crew. “They know we’re here, going below will not save you. In fact, you especially do not want to be caught below, Miss Westman. I am sorry, my friends, but you are going to have more adventure than you could wish.”

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Want to read the rest? Get it here.