I’m working hard on edits for my upcoming Dreamspinner Press releases, “The Trust” (June, 2012) and “Blue Notes #2: The Melody Thief” (August, 2012). In the meantime, I thought I’d leave you all with Chapter 3 of “Stealing the Wind,” my paranormal pirate novella. You can find the entire story to date on my website, www.shiraanthony.com. Special thanks to Thea for her beta help! -Shira
“Stealing the Wind,” by Shira Anthony
© 2012, Shira Anthony
Two years later
Taren swung down off the ropes from the foremast, landing surefooted on the deck. The sun had just begun to rise at the edge of the horizon and he inhaled deeply of the salty air.
“The new halyard’s secured, sir,” he called to the captain.
“Just in time, too,” Captain Rider replied with a nod. “With a little luck, we’ll make port before the worst of the storm.”
The growing moisture in the air and the cool fingers of wind that had begun to intertwine with the warmer breeze spoke of the coming storm. In fact, Taren could sense the change in weather long before the other men aboard the Sea Witch, and Rider had come to rely upon Taren’s instincts to keep the ship out of harm’s way.
Taren had felt the storm’s approach two days before, and Rider had adjusted their course to avoid brunt of it. But Taren knew that this was no ordinary storm, and that they would not be able to outrun it. The best they could hope for was to catch only the leading edge and seek safe harbor to ride out the rest.
“Get yourself some rest,” the captain told Taren. “We’ll need to take shifts on this one. Bastian will relieve me at nightfall, and I’ll want you by his side.”
Taren was sore from his work high atop the mast, climbing up and running the new ropes. He had been working the lines for nearly six hours now, checking all of them and replacing those too worn to weather the storm. And although the work had been exhausting, Taren could think of little he loved more than climbing to the top of the mastheads and looking out over the ocean.
In the two years he had been aboard the Witch, Taren had become an indispensible part of the ship’s crew. And as promised, Rider had treated him well. In return for his loyalty, he had been rewarded with more and more freedom. With enough food to fill his stomach, he had grown from lanky boy to a powerful man, taller even than Rider himself, with shoulders nearly as broad. His dark hair was now long and knotted at the nape of his neck with a leather tie, his skin a honeyed caramel from his time in the sun.
He took the steps down to the aft cabin two at a time, closing the door behind him and shedding his damp clothing. He washed away the salt from his face and hands in the small basin, toweling himself off before heading to the bedroom.
“Lazing around, as usual?” he asked as he drew the curtains aside and climbed between the sheets. Bastian opened one eye, then closed it again with a soft huffing sound. “I can think of better ways to pass the time.”
Bastian drew his arms over his head and stretched. “Indeed. But I have orders from the captain to rest.”
“Then I will make sure you sleep well,” Taren said with a chuckle as he dove beneath the sheets and took Bastian’s awakening cock in his mouth.
“Tempting me from my duty, are you?” Bastian pulled Taren’s hair free of its tie and ran his fingers through the dark silk of it.
Taren said nothing, but put his hands underneath the other man, cupping the muscles of his buttocks and letting out a low rumble. Bastian canted his hips forward to greet Taren’s mouth and Taren smiled his pleasure.
Two years, and Taren wasn’t sure which he loved more—the feel of Bastian’s buttery skin beneath his fingers or Rider’s huge cock in his ass. His days were spent above decks, climbing high on the masts and his nights were spent enjoying the warmth of his two companions. If he thought any longer of his servitude, it was only to wonder how he might live without such joys.
“Ah,” Bastian shouted as he spilled himself into Taren’s willing mouth, “what happened to the little whelp we brought aboard all those months ago? Your mouth is sinful and your body insatiable.”
Taren laughed, his voice now a warm baritone. He loved Bastian’s sleek body and the way he felt buried inside of him and Bastian seemed pleased with his new, more subservient role.
“Shall I take you from behind?” Taren wondered aloud, knowing it would drive Bastian to distraction to hear him speak of his intentions without acting upon them. “Or perhaps, I should have you sit upon me, so I can feel your chest and watch the way your face contorts as I impale your body on mine. Or, perhaps—”
“Stop your babbling and fuck me, you rascal, or I shall have you kissing the gunner’s daughter while I take the cat to your haunches!”
Taren laughed again, as he forced Bastian onto his belly. “From behind, then, since you beg like a dog for it.”
Bastian threw his head back, sending his hair flying about his face and shoulders, then pushed back against Taren’s hard response until Taren was seated deep within.
“You are beautiful, dog,” Taren whispered into Bastian’s ear. Then, thrusting so as to leave Bastian nearly breathless, he said, “Shall I tame the beast?”
“Perhaps,” Bastian said as he shuddered with each movement, “it is I who has tamed you?”
Taren tugged hard on the crimson hair until Bastian cried out with desire. “We shall see about that, shan’t we?”
A gust of salty air blew through the room, causing the curtains of the bed to sway. No, Taren thought, as he climaxed with a satisfied growl, if this is servitude, then I shall happily die thus!
By nightfall, the ship bucked like a filly with the waves. Rider had gone below decks to rest, but Taren was pretty sure he’d be back soon enough if the swells continued to grow in height. Bastian had steered the ship on a course to avoid the worst of the storm and give them the best speed, but the vessel now took each swell nearly head-on. It was a devil’s choice, no doubt, for the danger was still great upon this course. But the crew was well-seasoned and the Witch soundly built; they would rely upon the strength of her sails as well as the fortitude of the men to pull her through.
“Fiall!” Bastian shouted over the deafening seas. “Why aren’t you below decks?”
The gangly teenager forced a smile, but his face was pale and Taren guessed the boy was seasick.
“I wanted to help, sir,” Fiall replied, doing his best to straighten his back and keep his balance without holding onto the rails.
“Stay away from the rails, you fool.” Bastian shook his head and nodded to Taren, who grabbed a rope and made his way toward the railing. At least if the boy were going to stay up on deck, Taren would make sure he didn’t tumble into the waves. Fiall would, Taren knew, make a good hand when he put a little more meat on his bone, but he had be growing so fast of late that he was awkward in the extreme.
Fiall shot Taren a pained smile, and Taren could see the boy’s pallor even in the dim light. “I’m sorry,” he moaned. “I tried to stay below.”
“Even the best of us feel ill when the swells are this high,” Taren said, knowing he was one of the few aboard who had never experienced the slightest sickness, even in the roughest of seas. “You need not fear. I’ll just wrap a line around you so that if you stumble—”
Taren’s words were cut short as the ship pitched and Fiall turned back to the rails, vomiting overboard. Taren moved forward to secure the line around the boy’s waist, but at that moment the ship was tossed to starboard by an especially monstrous wave. Fiall was gone in the blink of an eye, into the inky waters.
“Man overboard!” Taren shouted toward the other men. It was useless, he knew. In this storm, by the time they dropped the sails and circled back to find him, Fiall would have drowned.
Without a second thought, Taren wrapped the rope around his wrist and dove over the side of the ship.
“Taren!” Bastian yelled over the howling wind. “Don’t be daft! It’ll be both your deaths!”
Taren hit the water with surprising grace, slicing through the surface. He struggled upward to fill his lungs, then dove once more. He could see nothing beneath the waves, but his instincts told him the boy was not far away, perhaps a few yards from where he had surfaced. He clutched the rope in his hand and knew that Bastian had brought the ship about when the rope did not go taut in his grip. It was a testament to Bastian’s skill as a sailor that he was able to turn the ship so quickly in the midst of the tempest.
Fiall! He had to find the boy. Taren knew Bastian and Rider would have his head later for his foolhardy rescue attempt, but that both men would forgive him his folly when he made it back to the ship with Fiall in tow.
He heard the boy’s screams over the sound of the waves and swam toward him. A flash of lightening illuminated the darkness, and he saw Fiall slip beneath the waves, his strength giving out at last.
No! Taren dove beneath the water with all his strength, taking in a breath so deep it hurt his lungs. He saw nothing in the darkness, and yet he became strangely aware that he knew where the boy was. He swam deeper still, to where the storm no longer buffeted him.
He reached out with his arm, certain that Fiall was close, and was surprised when his hand touched the boy’s belt. He tied the rope around the Fiall’s waist, struggling to secure it. It was difficult to tie the knot as he held the boy and kicked with his feet to propel them to the surface.
Taren yanked hard on the rope and prayed that someone on the ship would feel the tug. When the rope began to lift them toward the surface, he smiled in relief and hung on tightly, continuing to kick his way upward, knowing he had no air left in his lungs.
He should have realized the ship was far closer to them than he had imagined, but he didn’t see the dark bulkhead approach. Fiall was no longer breathing, and Taren was too distracted to notice the danger. Just as the boy broke free of the waves, hauled out of the water by the crew, Taren’s head hit the wooden keel and the rope slipped from his hands. He sank downward into the blackness of the waves.
He dreamed he was swimming beneath the water, breathing it in like air, his limbs like those of a powerful animal, cutting through the current and driving him forward with ease. He wanted to laugh, so powerful was the feeling of the water on his body. It was as if he had never truly lived before, as though he had been reborn in the moment he surrendered himself to the darkness of the sea.
He was going home! Home to the place he had always known existed in his heart. It called to him with surprising clarity. He did not need to see it to know it was there. He need only follow that call, and he would find it.
“Hey! Look what the tide dragged in.” The voice was rough, unfamiliar.
“Is he dead?” asked a second voice, more distant than the first.
Taren felt a foot connect with his gut, rolling him onto his belly. He coughed and vomited salt water, gagging on the foul taste of it. His head spun, and he realized he hadn’t the strength to lift even his head from the sand.
“Nah. But he looks pretty bad. Get the horse. Eoin’ll be wanting to see how he came to be here. There’ll be hell to pay for the breach in defenses.”
A vague memory stirred at the sound of the name, “Eoin,” but Taren was too tired to think. He tried to protest as his hands were bound and he was tossed over the backside of a horse, but his mouth would not cooperate. His mind slipped back into the warmth of the darkness.