Countdown to “Stealing the Wind” and NSFW Excerpt!

StealingTheWindFSTwo more days to the release of Stealing the Wind, the first in my Mermen of Ea Series from Dreamspinner Press, on Monday, August 12th!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to share Taren and Ian’s adventure with you all.  And, unlike my contemporary romances that take place in the international music world, the world you’ll get to know in Stealing is full of sailing ships, sexy pirates, and mysterious mermen shape shifters.  Honestly, I love both universes, but having just spent a wonderful few days on my family’s sailboat on the ocean, August just feels like the perfect month to release the first in a series about mermen!

Stealing the Wind has a bit of all of my favorite tropes.  There’s a sexual initiation scene where young Taren learns the pleasures of another man’s body.  There’s the secret Taren’s own body hid from him for nineteen years that he discovers when he is brought aboard the mysterious ship, Phantom, and meets her equally mysterious captain, Ian Dunaidh.  There are mages and magical gifts, a mystery to solve, and a great truth to be discovered.  Did I mention mermen sex? These aren’t your frilly mermen, and their bodies are anything but fish-like.

Stealing the Wind is the first book of a series of books about the world of the mermen of Ea.  Yes, you can count on a happily ever after, of course.  But you can also count on mysteries revealed throughout the books and a destiny fulfilled.  High romance, high adventure, on the high seas.

I’ll be running some giveaways over the next few weeks.  And congrats to Renee S., who was the winner of the Romantic Tropes contest I ran a few weeks back.  I’ll leave you with a taste of the first chapter of Stealing the Wind.  Interested in reading more?  You can pre-order the book at Dreamspinner Press now. -Shira

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Excerpt from Chapter One

THE light in the dining hall was far more subdued than in the kitchen. The candles burned a warm yellow and made the faded red fabric wall coverings appear less tawdry than in the daylight. Men crowded around the long wooden tables that ran the length of the room laughed and shouted, some singing off-key, most with large tankards of ale in their hands. The warm smell of sawdust and the sour tang of sweat mingled with the scent of the stew. At first, Taren had found the odors overwhelming. Now they comforted him.

Taren met Verita’s gaze. She was one of the other servants and old enough to be his mother, but her inclinations were hardly maternal. Still, she had always been kind to him—as kind as could be expected in a place such as this. She nodded and got back to filling tankards, leaning over as she poured the men’s drinks so they could easily see her full breasts and cackling when the men fondled her ample bottom. Later, he guessed, she would offer her services in their rooms, as many of his fellow servants did for the paltry coins they might receive in return. The master never complained about such activities, but Taren knew he expected half of what Verita and the others earned with their bodies. Taren had never been tempted to follow a guest to his or her bedroom, although he had been presented with the opportunity on many an occasion.

He felt a rough hand on his forearm and nearly lost his grip on the pot. “You’re a pretty one,” the owner of the hand said in a low voice. “Ain’t he, Captain?”

Pirates, thought Taren, judging by their looks and their rough manner.

“Please,” Taren said in a trembling voice. “I must serve the soup.” Another hand grabbed his buttocks and squeezed. He couldn’t pull away or he’d spill the hot soup on himself and possibly the man seated to the left of his antagonist.

The man seated at the head of the table—the “captain”—pursed his lips in appreciation. He raked his gaze over the open collar of Taren’s shirt and the tight fit of his too-small britches; Taren felt hotter than he had under the blanket only minutes before.

In the past year, Taren had begun to grow from a boy to a man. He now stood taller than Verita and the other women at the inn, and although most of the male servants were larger than he, Taren guessed it was only a matter of time before he reached and perhaps surpassed their stature. This transformation had come as an enormous relief. He had no idea how old he was—eighteen or nineteen, perhaps?—and he didn’t know his parents. For as long as he could remember, he had been the smallest of all the boys at the inn, and he had been given no reason to expect that it would ever be otherwise.

One of the men at the other end of the table laughed as he squeezed Verita’s bottom. “Nice ’n’ meaty,” one of the men said as Verita cackled and wiggled her hips. “Nice tail on ye’, woman.”

“I want me a mermaid,” another man interjected. “Now that would be a nice tail. Hear you have a few ’round these parts.”

“Only a fool believes those stories,” the first man said. “Don’t you think we’d’ve seen ’em if there were any?”

The captain, whose eyes hadn’t strayed from Taren, shook his head. “Something so beautiful wouldn’t go near the likes of you, Charlie.”

“They’d’ve swum away from you!” shouted another man.

Taren had long heard the stories of mermaids here in Raice Harbor. One of the other boys at the inn swore there had been a woman with a tail like a fish found near the water’s edge. Taren spent enough time down at the docks to know that if the merfolk existed, they would hardly be whiling away their days in the filthy water of the harbor. Still, he often imagined what it might be like to swim beneath the water without having to surface.

“I heard tell of a mermaid who led a pirate ship full o’ gold to wreck upon a reef,” Charlie said as he emptied his tankard of ale. “They say the pirate Odhrán keeps merfolk as pets. Like dogs. Uses ’em to lure ships.”

“Come here, boy!” the captain shouted, interrupting the men.

Taren did as he was told, trying to ignore the lecherous gaze of several of the men seated nearby. “What can I get for you, sir?” he asked as he’d been taught.

The captain, middle-aged with a coarse beard peppered with gray, was a broad-chested bear of a man whose relaxed manner and intense gaze spoke of confidence and power. Taren had to admit he was attractive. His skin was weathered from the sun and the wind; his eyes were a piercing blue. The weight of that gaze and the raw desire in his eyes frightened Taren and made him dizzy. The master won’t abide a servant taken without consent.

Taren began to ladle the fragrant soup into the captain’s bowl. He would endure the wanton looks and the fondling in silence, as he had done in the past. Then he would retreat to his duties in the kitchen, safe once more behind the wall that separated servant and guest.

“What’s your name, boy?” The captain’s voice was a deep rumble that seemed to work its way through Taren’s ears and into his body.

“Taren, sir,” he answered as he did his best to control the trembling of his hand. “Taren Laxley.”

“Charlie’s right. You are a pretty one.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The captain rubbed Taren’s ass before Taren realized what was happening. He couldn’t move away or he’d spill the soup, and he couldn’t put the pot down on the table and risk Cook’s wrath either. The captain pulled Taren’s shirt from the waistband of his trousers before he could protest, and moved his hand from Taren’s ass to Taren’s hardening cock.

“Now there’s a tempting treat,” the captain rumbled appreciatively.

Taren’s legs shook at the contact. The touch of the captain’s hand was practiced, sensual. Taren tried to repress the moan that escaped from his lips. Taren was surprised that the captain’s musky scent aroused him even more.

“You like that, don’t you, Taren Laxley?” The pirate let him go and Taren sighed in disappointment. “Don’t worry,” the captain added, “I just wanted to make this a bit easier for you.” He took the pot from Taren’s hands and set it on the table, then pulled Taren closer to him by his shirt.

Taren looked around the room. No one seemed to notice that he now stood in front of the pirate with his back against the table, or that his cheeks were surely now as bright red as the feathers of the rooster in the courtyard. Whereas before he’d have tried to escape the touch if given the chance, his own growing desire to experience the captain’s touch once more had him frozen in place. He swallowed hard and trembled not out of fear but with desire.

What is wrong with me?

“I won’t hurt you,” the captain said, his voice low, his expression unfathomable.

“I know,” Taren whispered. He shuddered in anticipation as the captain reached around him and slid his large hand under Taren’s trousers and over his buttocks. This time, however, his hand was slippery. Taren caught the faint whiff of butter from the table and saw the smile on the pirate’s face.

“Better like that, isn’t it?”

Taren nodded, too overcome to speak.

The captain found the soft flesh of Taren’s sac with his free hand and rolled it around. Taren gasped as he pushed back the foreskin with his large finger and swept over the crown. Taren nearly fell forward, but the captain held him upright with his muscular thighs.

He had never known such pleasure. The captain’s scent was powerful, adding to the intensity of the sensations that ran through Taren’s body like fire. The man’s eyes held him captive as much as his hand. Taren fought the urge to reach out and touch the captain’s rough jaw, to feel it beneath his fingertips.

The captain continued to play with Taren’s balls, caressing the sensitive skin behind them and straying close to the hidden opening between his ass cheeks. Taren moaned and shuddered with each slippery tug on his cock. The captain pulled and stroked until Taren bit his tongue to keep from crying out. Taren no longer saw the room or the other men as the captain rubbed his hand up over Taren’s tip and probed the slit.

“Ahhh,” Taren groaned. He didn’t care if anyone else heard. He couldn’t hold back anymore. The captain found the tight ring of muscle with a buttery finger, not breaching it but stroking it tenderly.

“Lovely,” the pirate captain said. “You please me well, boy.”

Taren relaxed at the man’s appreciative smile and reassuring words. He closed his eyes and gave in to the heady sensations, spellbound by the touch. He wouldn’t have moved if he could have stayed there; he didn’t want this pleasure to end. And when the pirate pressed his finger so that it barely breached Taren’s opening, Taren came hard, his body shuddering with his release, his head reeling from the intensity of it.

“Thank you, sir,” he managed to croak as he came back to his senses.

The captain chuckled and licked his hand as if it were covered in honey. “No need to thank me, boy,” he said. “The pleasure was all mine.”

Taren tucked himself back into his trousers, escaped from between the captain and the table, and picked up the soup. Thank goodness his long shirt hid the evidence of his release! He walked back toward the kitchen with a heated flush still on his cheeks, and he stood at the entrance, trying to calm his racing heart as his breath came in stuttered gasps.

Oh gods! Had Verita witnessed the entire sordid act? And what of himself? Had he enjoyed it?

No. Anyone would respond to such a touch. The thought didn’t comfort him. And yet the warmth he had felt, having been satisfied by a hand other than his own—a man’s hand, no less—still lingered.

He set the soup down on the fire to keep it warm and glanced over at Cook, who was happily tasting an aromatic stew in large spoonfuls, oblivious to Taren’s return.

“I’ve finished, sir.” Taren set about washing the dishes while he awaited further instruction. Perhaps he might be able to explain away the embarrassing stain as water from the sink.

He needn’t have been concerned. Verita returned a short while later with a stack of bowls for washing, then left with the stew on her arm. She didn’t say a word; she didn’t even attempt to catch his eye.

 

MORE than an hour later, the dishes dried and replaced on the shelves, Cook gave Taren leave to return to the sleeping area. Taren had avoided any further contact with the pirates, and Verita had vanished after the tables were cleared, most likely to spend what remained of the night with a guest.

The faint color of dawn lit the horizon as Taren stepped into the courtyard. The rooster who had scolded him before crowed from atop a stone wall. Taren yawned deeply and strode with purpose across the dirt, taking care to steer clear of the other birds that were already pecking the ground in anticipation of breakfast.

He was nearly to the doorway of the building when he heard footsteps from behind him. He turned in surprise, confused as to why any other servants were up before the morning call. But it was not a servant he saw—it was one of the men from before.

“What can I get for—” he began to say, but a hand clamped tightly over his mouth from behind, cutting short his words. His heart pounded with fear as the hand pressed a piece of cloth against his mouth and nose and he inhaled a pungent odor. The world seemed to dim, and he remembered nothing more.

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