It’s a rainy Monday morning here in North Carolina, so I’m imagining a bright sunny day at the coast aboard our catamaran sailboat, Land’s Zen. I’m sure it’s no surprise that my family’s love of sailing has inspired me to write about sailing on several occasions, the most recent of which is Stealing the Wind, the first book in the Mermen of Ea Series to be published by Dreamspinner Press in August or September.
Stealing the Wind and the Mermen of Ea Series are romantic, erotic romances with a touch of mystery and a large helping of adventure. Set in an Earth-like world in the Age of Sail, the books (three planned in the series) follow the story of Taren Laxley, a slave whose dream of going to sea is realized when he’s abducted by pirates. And although the series features a powerful and strictly monogamous MM pairing between Taren and Ian Dunaidh, captain of the mermfolk ship, Phantom, there’s a bit of an MMM relationship at the beginning when Taren is willingly initiated into a sensual and sexual relationship with his captors.
The series consists of sequels, and should be read in order (unlike my Blue Notes Series). And although the stories are more plot driven than my contemporary romances, the focus on romance and characterization is still there. Oh, and of course there’s a HEA for the two men at the end of the first book, although their adventures continue throughout the series. There will be a second MM pairing in the second and third book of the series.
I’ll leave you with a never before seen excerpt from the book. The book is being edited as I write this, and any typos are entirely my own and not my amazing Dreamspinner editors’. Happy Monday! -Shira
Excerpt from Chapter Five:
The setup: Ian’s crew have pulled Taren out of the water, far from any land. Taren remembers nothing about how he came to be floating near the Phantom except that he was lost at sea trying to save a crewmember aboard the pirate ship that had been his home for two years. Now Taren is Ian’s captive and both men fight their attraction to each other.
Taren looked to the door as Ian entered the cabin. His long, wavy hair was windblown, his face ruddy from the breeze. He smelled of the ocean, tangy and sweet. The thought of the open air made Taren long to climb the ropes once more, and his heart ached anew for Rider and Bastian the crew of the Witch.
“Did you eat?”
“Yes.” Taren met Ian’s eyes without fear.
“Good.” Ian unbuttoned his jacket and tossed it on one of the nearby chairs, then untied the high collar of his shirt. Taren couldn’t help but notice the smooth skin of Ian’s chest where the fabric parted. Other than his own body, Taren had never seen a man of Ian’s obvious strength without a dusting of hair on his skin. Even now, Taren couldn’t help but admire that powerful body.
There was a knock on the door and the cabin boy entered with a tray of food and several plates. Salt fish and potatoes. A goblet of wine. Taren’s stomach rumbled its approval, despite having eaten only a few hours before.
“May I get you anything else, sir?” the boy asked.
“You may retire for the evening, Aine.”
Alone once more, Ian studied Taren with apparent interest. “There’s plenty enough for two,” he said. “Have a seat.” He motioned to the table, then sat down and picked up the wine.
Taren considered the offer, then decided there was no harm in it.
“Take what you like.”
“It would be easier to eat if I could use my hands.” Taren guessed it was Ian who had ordered the ropes that bound Taren’s wrists to be replaced by the metal cuffs. At least the metal was lined in fabric and didn’t cut into his skin the way the rope had.
Ian said nothing filled Taren’s plate, then pulled his chair next to his. “Open your mouth.”
“You can’t mean to feed me like some swaddling babe!”
Ian held out a piece of fish between two large fingers. Tarin’s mouth watered with the smell of the food as his stomach growled its response, but he said only, “I’d rather starve.” He wished his hands were free so he could wipe the self-satisfied look off Ian’s face. How dare he? And with his fingers, no less!
“Suit yourself.” Ian picked up his knife and fork and proceeded to make quick work of the food on his own plate, pausing from time to time—intentionally, no doubt—to comment on how tasty it was. Taren thought he saw the hint of a smile on Ian’s lips.
“Sure you won’t have some?”
Taren was half-tempted to lean over the plate and eat like a dog, but he wouldn’t give Ian the satisfaction. Before, he’d almost believed Bastian had been mistaken about Ian, that there was kindness in him. Now, he felt his gut clench with anger. He would not give Ian the satisfaction of reveling in his humiliation.
“What is your specialty?” Ian asked a few minutes later.
Taren met Ian’s gaze but did not reply. Ian merely laughed.
“If you do as you’re told and work hard—” Ian speared another piece of the fish. “—I may decide to let you go.”
This time it was Taren who laughed. “I may be young, Captain, but I’m hardly naïve. What reason would you have to trust me?”
Ian raised an eyebrow. “You tell me.”
“I’ve told you the truth.”
“Part of the truth, yes.” Taren thought he saw the corner of Ian’s mouth move upward with this acknowledgment. Was it possible the man believed him? Fine. He would throw the man a bone.
“Rigger.” Taren watched for Ian’s reaction. Perhaps if Ian let him up on deck, he might find a way to escape.
“Indeed. Borstan the rigger gave you his name, then?”
“Aye. And a roof over my head.”
“I’m surprised he let you go.” Taren thought he saw amusement flash through Ian’s eyes. “Gambling debts?” Taren nodded. “Stupid fool. But the bastard’s one of the best.” Ian chortled, then added, “Rigger, that is. As a gambler, he leaves much to be desired.”
Taren remained silent.
“Were you born on the mainland?”
Taren saw little harm in sharing what little he knew of his origins. “Aye. At least that’s what I was told. I came to live with Borstan when I was a baby. Sold to him.”
“And your parents?” Ian spoke the question as if it mattered little, although Taren guessed it was quite the opposite. Certainly a man like Ian would not have forgotten he’d asked the question before.
“Why do you care to hear the answer?”
Ian scowled and speared another piece of fish. “I am merely curious.”
Taren just shrugged. He’d not press the issue now. Perhaps later. “I remember nothing of my parents. I doubt they cared much what happened to me after they sold me. I’m told they died not long after that.” Ian appeared to consider this, then shrugged.
The rest of the meal passed in silence, Ian apparently uninterested in learning more about his guest. Ian stood and walked to his bed after he’d finished. When Taren made no move to follow, Ian turned around and pointed to the bedroll. “Make yourself comfortable. Should you have thoughts about wandering the ship, think no further than the guard outside the door.”
Taren thought of how easily he might cut Ian’s throat with one of the knives on the table, even with his hands bound, and of how unconcerned Ian seemed to be for his own safety. Then again, even if he could overpower Ian, what then? A ship this size would have at least three dozen men aboard the ship. He was wily, but not so wily that he could hope to defeat an entire crew by himself. No, the best hope for escape was when they pulled into port. He would bide his time and wait for the right moment to flee.
Ian dimmed the lamps in the cabin and pulled off his shirt before tossing tossed it on a chair. The sinews of Ian’s back caught the light from the moon outside and seemed to ripple as he moved. Taren couldn’t look away. His cock, too, seemed unconcerned that the object of its attention was an enemy and captor. Gooseflesh rose on the back of Taren’s neck as he contemplated the captain’s powerful build. Even his rumbling belly was forgotten.
Taren forced himself to turn his attention to the bedroll and set it out on the ground by the door, using his feet to position it. The breeze was stronger here so he would sleep more soundly. The location also afforded him a clear view of the large four-poster.
When Taren looked up again, Ian was completely and comfortably naked, or so he appeared to be, judging by the slow pace of his ablutions. How long did it take to wash one’s face in a bowl of cold water? The ache in Taren’s groin became an uncomfortable pain. He began to wonder if, after their brief kiss hours before, Ian had shed his clothing in an effort to achieve just such a response. But when the captain made no move to approach him or even speak, Taren decided that Ian was simply unconcerned by his nakedness. Next thing he knew, Ian had climbed into his bed and pulled the blankets over himself.
Ian lay in his bed, unable to sleep. Perhaps he should wear a nightshirt as long as the prisoner slept nearby. He couldn’t help but wonder why he’d undressed in front of Taren if knowing that the boy’s eyes were upon him aroused him so. The feel of the sheets against his naked skin had never caused his body to respond in such a way before. He considered visiting Barra’s cabin to find his release—Barra had never complained. Quite the contrary, he’d always welcomed Eoin to his bed.
Tonight, however, the thought of bedding Barra did nothing for Ian. Tonight Ian’s more animal nature craved the coupling and sought a mate. The need to dominate was as ancient as his people, yet Ian despised it. From the moment he’d seen Taren, he’d wanted to possess him and make him his own. Tame him to his hand, even feed him like a pet just to relish that feeling of control. And then that kiss… When he’d kissed Taren, he’d sensed Taren’s need to submit. What was it about Taren that had awakened the beast with such intensity?
Enough of this. It’s none of your concern. Your duty is clear. He must face the Council.
Minutes passed, then hours. He slept fitfully, only to awaken to the call of the sea. He would transform. Better that than give in to his physical need. He would not take his prisoner by force, even if it was his right.
No. Tonight, he would embrace the water and his baser nature. He would release his less human self, but he would do so where he would not risk harming the boy.
He slipped out of the bed and walked through the cabin to the large aft windows, where he climbed up onto the sill, shivering as the cool night air caressed his naked skin. He breathed deeply of the ocean, filling his lungs, the tang of salt on his lips. With one graceful movement, he leaned over and plunged into the waves.
Taren shifted in his sleep, eyes opening just a bit, still heavy with dreams. He gazed up at the man teetering at the window with his bare skin reflecting the starlight. A moment later, the man seemed to soar into the air. Then he was gone.
Taren smiled as his eyes closed again. It only took a moment before he was asleep. He dreamed of the ocean and Ian, of their bodies tangled beneath the surface, and of finding Ian’s mouth with his own.
“Come,” Ian called silently as he swam away, his voice an echo in Taren’s mind. “Follow me. Your life awaits.”
Taren watched as Ian’s lean body cut through the water faster than any sea creature Taren had ever seen. He marveled at the way Ian moved, at the sinews that rippled with each thrust of his arms, at the powerful tail where his legs used to be. Taren knew he should be surprised to see Ian’s transformation, but he was not. It seemed as natural as breathing in air or feeling the warmth of the sunlight on his skin.
Please. I want to follow, but I don’t know how.