Stealing the Wind[*]
By Shira Anthony
© 2012, Shira Anthony
Taren huddled beneath a tattered blanket as an icy wind blew through the cracks of the building. The mortar between the bricks had crumbled and the fire was a good twenty feet away, providing him little warmth. He didn’t dare move closer—he had been beaten more times than he cared to remember by the other, more powerfully built men with whom he shared the tiny sleeping quarters.
He had lost track of time since he had come to this place. Had it been a year, perhaps two, since the old sail rigger had sold him to pay a gambling debt? The living quarters at the inn were far less comfortable than Saren’s hut on the edge of the docks, but the work wasn’t nearly as strenuous. Still, he longed for the freedom of climbing the ropes of the incoming vessels and standing atop their masts with the wind in his face.
More than anything else, Taren of Laxley dreamed of sailing aboard one of the great ships. He closed his eyes and imagined the spray against his face, the rocking of the vessel beneath his bare feet. He imagined crouching on the masthead, looking out through the spyglass, trying to spot approaching ships. He imagined hoisting the sails and watching them flutter in the wind and the feel of the ship as she caught the wind.
He had to imagine all these things; he had never been to sea.
“You, boy,” a sturdy woman snapped from the doorway. “What’s your name?”
“Taren, ma’am.” He got to his feet and repressed a shiver. It would do him no good to irritate Madame Marcus at such an ungodly hour—she would see his weakness only as a complaint, and he didn’t want another whipping.
“Cook’s needing you in the dining room. Seems a new ship’s put into port. He wants an extra pair of hands.”
“Of course, ma’am,” Taren said, dropping the threadbare blanket by the wall.
Dining room duty was better than some chores. Cook might even let him scrape the dregs from the pots as they cleaned up later. Taren’s empty belly growled at the prospect and he followed the woman across the open courtyard, past an angry rooster who pecked at him when he strayed too close, and into the warmth of the kitchens.
“Cook, sir,” he said to the large man standing at the ovens, face dirtied with soot from the fires. “What do you need?”
“Grab the soup from off the counter, boy, and ask the gentlemen if they would like more.”
Taren nodded and pulled a potholder from beside the smallest of the ovens. The padding was, as with everything else, worn thin, and he felt the heat from the iron handle as he reached in to lift the pot off its hook. He ignored the pain as the metal burned his palms and scurried out into the dining room, retrieving a large ladle hanging near the doorway.
The light in the dining hall was far more subdued than in the kitchen, the gas fixtures on the walls burning a warm yellow and making the faded red fabric walls appear tawdrier even than in the daylight. Long wooden tables ran the length of the room, several of which were filled with men, laughing and shouting, some singing off-key, most with large pints of ale in their hands.
Taren’s gaze met Serita’s. She was one of the other servants and old enough to be his mother, but her inclinations were hardly of the maternal kind. 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, cackling when the men handled her ample bottom and leaning over as she poured their drinks so they could easily see her full breasts. 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 Serita 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?”
“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.
Pirates, thought Taren, judging by their looks and their rough manner.
The man seated at the head of the table—the “captain”—pursed his lips in appreciation. As his gaze raked 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 the beginnings of a fine man. He now stood taller than the women, and although most of the men were larger than he, Taren guessed it was only a matter of time before he would reach and perhaps surpass their stature. This transformation had come as an enormous relief. He had no idea how old he was—sixteen or seventeen, perhaps?—nor did he know his parents. For so long, 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. Until, that is, his body had begun to assert itself.
“Come here, boy!” the captain shouted over the din.
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. Powerful and attractive, his weathered skin spoke of the sun and the wind, and his eyes were a piercing blue. And yet the weight of that gaze upon him made Taren feel slightly dizzy. It was a frightening thing, and the desire he saw in the older man’s eyes was raw.
The master won’t abide a servant taken without consent, Taren reminded himself as he 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 of Laxley, sir,” he answered, his trembling hand the only outward sign of his fear.
“Moran’s right. You are a pretty one.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The man’s hand rubbed Taren’s ass before he realized what was happening. He couldn’t move away, or he’d spill the soup, nor could he put the pot down on the table and risk Cook’s wrath. He felt his shirt pulled from the waist of his pants before he could protest, and the same hand that found his ass now found his hardening cock beneath the fabric.
“Now there’s a tempting treat,” the captain rumbled appreciatively.
Taren’s legs shook with the contact. The captain’s hand was practiced, the touch of the rough palm sensual. Taren tried to repress the moan that issued from his lips, but with little success.
“You like that, don’t you, Taren of Laxley?” The pirate removed his hand and Taren’s disappointment was obvious. “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 how he now stood in front of the pirate with his back against the table, or the stain on his cheeks he was sure was as bright red as the feathers of the rooster in the courtyard. He swallowed hard but he did not move away, the realization that he wanted the other man’s touch a shock.
“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 it under his pants and over his buttocks. This time, however, the 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 pirate’s other hand found the soft flesh of his sac and rolled it around. Taren shivered as a large finger probed to find the sensitive ring of muscle between his ass cheeks. He nearly fell forward, but the other man’s muscular thighs held him upright.
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 pirate’s rough jaw, to feel it beneath his fingertips.
The man’s finger breached his opening, while he took Taren’s erection in his other hand, pulling and stroking until Taren had to bite his tongue to keep from crying out. Taren no longer saw the room or the other men as the captain’s hand traveled up over his tip and probed the slit.
“Ahhh…,” Taren groaned. He didn’t care if anyone else heard. He couldn’t hold back anymore. And when the finger in his ass pressed completely inside, he 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 was thankful that his long shirt covered the front of his trousers and the wet spot there. He escaped from between the pirate and the table, and picked up the soup. A heated flush still on his cheeks, his breath came in stuttered gasps as he stood at the entrance to the kitchen, trying to calm his racing heart.
Oh, God! Had Serita witnessed the entire sordid act? And what of himself? Had he enjoyed it?
No. Anyone would respond to such a touch. The thought was hardly comforting. And yet the warmth that he felt, having been satisfied by a hand other than his own, still lingered. A man’s hand, no less!
He set the soup back down on the fire to keep it warm and glanced over to Cook, who was happily tasting an aromatic stew in large spoonfuls, oblivious to Taren’s return.
“I’ve finished, sir.” Taren set about to doing the dishes while he awaited further instruction. Perhaps he might be able to explain the embarrassing stain as water from the sink. As it happened, however, Serita 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, nor did she 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 Serita vanished after the tables were cleared, mostly 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 called loudly 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’s face he saw—it was one of the men from before.
“What can I get for —” he began to say, but his words were cut short by a hand, clamped tightly over his mouth from behind. His eyes grew wide in 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 remember nothing more.
[*]When two sailing ships were engaged in battle, the attacking ship would try to get upwind of the enemy vessel and spread its sails out full, literally catching all the wind and leaving the enemy “dead in the water.” The attacking ship could then ram the enemy, cutting it in half and sinking it.