'I love you' is just the beginning of the story.

Hop Against Homophobia – 2 days away!

Two days and counting to the Hop Against Homophobia blog hop!  Come join me and several hundred (yes, really, several HUNDRED!) other writers, reviewers, sellers and publishers of M/M fiction as we talk about the genre we adore and raise awareness of the fight against homophobia.  Each blogger is offering a M/M prize, so there’ll be lots of great writing to go around.

I’ll be posting excerpts from my upcoming releases, talking about my experiences living in North Carolina and homophobia (yes,  the state that just outlawed gay marriage in the state constitution…sigh), and giving away an ebook copy of your choice of one of my Dreamspinner Press books:  “The Dream of a Thousand Nights,” “Blue Notes,” or my soon to be released, “The Trust.”  (That last one is scheduled to be released on June 18, 2012, so you can be one of the first in line to receive a copy if you’re patient.)

So check back here on May 17th for the first of several posts, as well as links to blogs of all the other wonderful folks who are participating.  I can’t wait! -Shira

Free Fiction: “Stealing the Wind,” Chapter Three

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

Chapter Three

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.”

“Aye, sir.” 

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.

The Backlist Strikes Back Blog Event!

Please join me and a dozen other LGBT authors starting today as we talk about our favorite older releases. We’ll be at EM Lynley’s blog for a week of time-traveling fun. Other participants include: Clare London, L.C. Chase, Victor Banis, P.D. Singer, Sean Michael, Trina Lane, Kiernan Kelly and more!
Come check out the stories behind the stories, excerpts, and lots of other cool stuff!
Shira
PS:  Next Friday, I’ll be posting another installment of my smutty paranormal pirate novella, “Stealing the Wind!”  You can find the first two chapters here on my blog or under “Free Reads” at my website!

Excerpt: “The Trust” – A Gay Spy Thriller/Romance

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of my upcoming release, “The Trust,” a gay spy-thriller/romance co-written with my good friend, Venona Keyes.  Release date:  June 18, 2012 from Dreamspinner Press.  Pre-release excerpt, of course, which may change during the editing process.

Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Anders was a college kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Then Trace Michelson recruited him into The Trust, a CIA-backed agency whose “executives” eliminate rogue biotechnology operations. Trace was everything Jake ever wanted in a man: powerful, brilliant, and gorgeous. But Jake never admitted his attraction to his mentor, and Trace always kept Jake at arm’s length.   

Now Trace is dead and Jake is one of The Trust’s best operatives, highly skilled and loyal to the organization.  But the secret agent has his own secret: six years ago, before he was assassinated, Trace designed a Sim chip containing his memories and experiences—and now that chip is part of Jake. It’s just data, designed to augment Jake’s knowledge, but when Sim becomes reality, Jake wonders if Trace is still alive or if Jake really is going crazy like everyone claims. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, let alone anyone else.

To learn the truth about Trace and the chip, Jake embarks on a dangerous mission—except he’s not the only one looking for the information. Some of the answers are locked in his head, and unless he finds the key, he’ll be killed for the technology that’s become a part of him.  

Now, more than ever, Jake wishes Trace were here to guide him.  Too bad he’s dead… right? 

 **************************

Chapter One: The Hitman is Hit

Shit. Shit, shit, shit!

Blood gushed from his leg, and for just an instant, he watched it with growing anger. Watched it, that was, until the adrenaline kick-started his brain and he realized he would die if he kept bleeding like this.

Gotta stop the bleeding, he thought with desperation.

He dragged himself to the women’s bathroom, pushed hard on the door, and stumbled in. Between the sound of the door slamming against the wall and the sight of all the blood, the startled women inside screamed and ran out.

Blood coated everything he touched. He leaned against a stall door, and it swung open under his weight. One hand applying pressure to the gunshot wound, he elbowed the toilet-paper holder. He fell to the floor and the roll sprang free. He placed the cheap one-ply paper over the wound and pressed down hard—it only took a minute before the roll was a deep crimson.

He tapped the microphone on his chest and shouted, “Agent down! I need an extraction, now!”

“Who’s down?” came the calm, even voice in his earpiece.

“I am. Sandoval fucking ambushed me. Caught me in the leg. Hit an artery.”

“Anders, where are you?”

“I—” He broke off, looking up to see a slender man leaning casually against the stall door, grinning at him. The Silver Fox, Jason Sandoval. Sandoval wasn’t Jake’s target, but it seemed as though Jake was his. Jake had always detested Sandoval. Now he knew why.

“So… there you are. Thanks for leaving me a trail of bloody breadcrumbs to follow.”

“Agent Anders, where are you?” the voice in his ear persisted. He ignored it.

“Looks like ya got a bleeder there, Anders.”

They had never been friends, but they had been colleagues. Now, Jake wanted nothing more than to blow the smirk off the other man’s face.

Fucking traitor.

“I’ve had worse,” Jake lied. If Sandoval wanted him dead, he’d probably only have to wait a few minutes for him to bleed out. But that wasn’t Sandoval’s style—he had never been a patient man, and Jake knew it.

“Not sure that’s true, but I admire your bravado.”

Again, the voice in his ear. “Agent Anders, who’s there with you?”

“What do you want, Sandoval?” Jake asked. He’d pretty much always suspected Jason Sandoval was insane. Now he was sure of it.

Who the hell is he working for? Foreign government? Private concern?

They had come here as a team, their mission to intercept a scientist who was in town for a conference. But things had gone horribly wrong. It had been a setup, the entire scenario. Three of their own agents had turned their guns against him and his backup team. But why?

Fucking traitors. All of them.

“Well, I could watch you bleed to death. Or I suppose I could just end it for you now. Seems a shame, though. You really were a first-class ops guy, Jake. Now your life is fading away, and I get to witness it.”

Jake slowly reached inside his pants.

“Now, now, Jake,” drawled Sandoval, “no cheatin’. Take that hand out of your pocket.”

“I’m trying to stem the bleeding at the pressure point.”

“Like hell.”

Jake withdrew his hand and flicked his wrist faster than the other man could follow, impaling him in the right eye with a knife. Sandoval staggered backward and out of the stall without uttering a word. Jake reached for his gun, but it was missing. When had he lost it? He needed to finish Sandoval off before he was the one lying on the floor with his brains blown out.

He heard the distinctive muffled “pflnk” of a silencer. With the last scrap of his energy, Jake pushed the stall door open in time to see Sandoval fall backward, hitting the tile wall and sliding onto the floor. He was dead.

“Jake,” came a familiar baritone voice. “Reduce your heart rate, just as I taught you. It will slow the bleeding.”

Jake closed his eyes, and in spite of the ice that flowed through his veins and the drowsiness that threatened to pull him under, he forced himself to meditate. He envisioned the frantic beating of his heart slowing down, imagined the damaged artery closing, the blood clotting, and the wound beginning to heal. The thundering rush of blood in his ears began to ebb, and the dizziness subsided. He slowed his breathing, and his heart steadied.

“Good work, Jake,” he heard the soothing voice say. “It isn’t your time to be with me. Not yet.”

“Agent Anders! Agent Anders!” He wanted to swat the microphone away, but he didn’t have the strength.

He blinked, trying to focus his uncooperative eyes on the figure that stood before him. “Trace?” he whispered as he passed out.

 

“Fucking traitor Sandoval,” Ryan Roberts growled from nearby.

“If Jake hadn’t killed him, I’d’ve gladly done it myself.” John Carson—Jake recognized the voice.

“He’s a damn lucky bastard.” Ryan’s voice again.

“Un-fucking-believable. Got that tourniquet on and still had the presence of mind to write the time on his leg,” added Carson.

“I gotta hand it to ’im—got Sandoval once in the eye, then turned around and shot ’im to make sure he was dead—all while he’s fuckin’ bleeding to death.”

“Gentleman, Agent Anders needs to rest.” A woman’s voice this time: soothing, no-nonsense, and familiar.

“Sorry, Dr. Carroll.” Carson sounded embarrassed, but Jake could hear the note of concern in his gruff voice. “We just wanted to be here when Jake wakes up.”

“He will regain consciousness when his body’s ready. He’s lost a lot of blood, and he’s been in surgery.”

“We’ll wait,” Ryan replied. Jake almost smiled to hear the stubbornness in Ryan’s voice.

“Agent Roberts, Agent Carson, the director has called a meeting, and you both need to be in attendance.” Stephanie Carroll’s voice was now commanding.

Jake felt a strong hand squeeze his shoulder. “You better get your lazy ass outta here, Anders, or I’m gonna have to beat the crap outta ya.” The sounds of chairs scraping the floor and fading footsteps followed Ryan’s words.

“It’s all right, Agent Anders. They’re gone,” Jake heard a few minutes later.

The dim light of the room was too bright. Jake squinted, blinked several times, and slowly opened his eyes. He had a splitting headache.

“Welcome back to the world of the living, Jake.”

Jake attempted to smile back at the gentle-voiced doctor, but it came out more like a grimace.

“Are you in pain?”

“My head feels like it’s gonna explode.”

“I’ll give you something.”

Jake watched as the tiny woman took a syringe and injected it into the IV in his arm. He felt warmth radiate from the site of the line as his muscles relaxed and the pounding in his head began to lessen.

“Thanks. I think I feel less ‘vincible’ now,” he said, managing a lopsided grin.

She smiled at him. “Jake, I really can’t tell you how impressed I am with the skills you exhibited under the extreme pressure of the situation.”

“I had help.”

“Oh?”

“The Trace Sim. He told me to slow down my breathing and meditate. I imagined my artery knitting itself back together.”

“Impressive. I didn’t think the simulation microchips were so detailed in their programming.”

Jake shrugged. “Neither did I. It’s like he was right there in front of me.”

“When our bodies are under acute stress, we often imagine things,” she replied in a kind but patronizing tone.

Jake guessed that she’d heard the recording of his call for help and had wondered why he’d spoken Trace Michelson’s name.

“He seemed so real. Not like the usual Sim.”  

Her answer was what he’d expected and hoped for: reassuring and kind. “The brain is an amazing organ. In times of severe stress, it can be a powerful tool to ensure survival.”

The tension in his shoulders abated with her words.

She’s right. It was probably a combination of the Sim and my own imagination. Either way, it worked, right?

She offered him a sympathetic smile. “You need to rest.” She checked the IV and made a notation on the chart at the foot of his bed.

She turned to leave, then paused as if considering something. “You know, Jake,” she said with a contemplative hand to her chin, “applying a tourniquet made from the toilet roll spindle and your torn shirt was quite remarkable, given the extent of your injury. But you didn’t really need it—the artery had already begun to heal on its own. It appears Dr. Michelson’s techniques are more effective than we originally thought. Quite fascinating.”

“Tourniquet?” It was the second time someone had mentioned it since he’d regained consciousness. But he didn’t remember a tourniquet, let alone applying one to himself in the heat of the moment.

“The one you placed on your leg before you lost consciousness.”

“I don’t remember that. The last thing I remember is Trace.”

“Writing the time you placed the tourniquet on your leg required true presence of mind, Jake,” she continued, undaunted. “We were able to quickly ascertain how long the circulation had been compromised.”

“I don’t remember that either.” He frowned.

She gave him another reassuring smile. “You really must get some rest now. I’ll be back to check on you later. Would you like something to drink?”

“Something more than ice chips?” he asked with a hopeful expression.

“I’ll see that you get some water.”

“Thanks.” He closed his eyes. He heard her walk out of the room and close the door behind her.

Tourniquet? Writing the time on my leg? And who killed Sandoval? I couldn’t have shot him; I didn’t have my gun….

It made no sense. An image of the man with dark hair and slate-blue eyes filled Jake’s mind. He’d seen that face many times while training with his Sim. He had known the real man himself years before—Trace Michelson had recruited Jake into the Trust. But for years, it had been only a virtual Trace who had inhabited his mind, training him, sharing his knowledge with his host as all Sims did.

This was different. He was so… real.

He forced his eyes open again and stared up at the ceiling. The gray acoustic tiles provided him with no answers.

“Idiot,” he muttered as he fought the overwhelming urge to sleep. “Of course he wasn’t there. He’s been dead for nearly five years.”

Thanks Again and We Have a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by for the Easter Blog Hop and a special thanks to Drea Becraft for setting up the Hop!  I’m so happy you all enjoyed the excerpt of “The Melody Thief,” (Blue Notes, Book #2) which will be published in August.  I’ll be posting excerpts from two other upcoming releases of mine, “The Trust,” a gay spy thriller with an unusual romantic twist, and “Aria,” Book #3 in the Blue Notes series (tentative publication December 2012).  All from Dreamspinner Press!

The winner of the free ebook for the blog hop contest is Krysykat!  Thanks again to everyone who commented.  And if you’re interested in reading Blue Notes #1, it’s available from Dreamspinner Press, AllRomanceEbooks and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Happy Easter, happy Passover and happy spring to all! -Shira

Easter Blog Hop and Contest!!!

Welcome to my blog and to the Blog Hop Spot’s 2012 Easter Blog Hop!  Leave a comment below to be entered to win a free ebook copy (format of your choice) of my latest Dreamspinner Press release, “Blue Notes” or, if you already have that one, of my novella, “The Dream of a Thousand Nights.”  And be sure to check out all the other wonderful blogs who have signed up (and all the goodies they are giving away) on the Blog Hop Spot!

I went back and forth about what to write for this post, then decided to let my “real” writing speak for me.  So, here’s an excerpt (Chapters 1 and 2) from the next novel in the Blue Notes Series, “The Melody Thief,” which is scheduled to be released by Dreamspinner  Press in August.  Enjoy and have a wonderful Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring, or whatever you’re celebrating! -Shira

NOTE:  Usual warnings, 18+ over please for sexual content and language, prepublication excerpt (final version may change).  Enjoy!

Chapter One:  The Melody Thief

Tulsa, Oklahoma

He screwed up his face, trying to ignore the bright lights at the edge of the stage, which burned his eyes and left multicolored imprints on his retinas.  Cary Redding was barely fifteen years old, but he sat straight-backed, his expression revealing only calm resolve.  Unlike some of the well-known performers he had watched on video, he did not move his body in time to the music, nor did he bend and sway.  The cello became a physical extension of his body and he had no need to move anything more than his fingers on the fingerboard and his bow over the strings. 

When he played, he was transported to a place where it didn’t matter that his face had begun to break out, or that he seemed to grow out of his shoes every other month.  When he played, he forgot his fear that he was different—that he was far more interested in Jerry Gabriel than in Jerry’s sister, Martha.  When he played, he felt the kind of warmth he had horsing around with his brother in the back yard, chasing after a football without his mother telling him it was too dangerous and he might hurt himself.

For the past three years, he had studied the Elgar Cello Concerto, a soulful, intensely passionate composition, and one he adored.  His cello teacher had explained that it had been composed at the end of World War I, and the music reflected the grief and disillusionment of the composer.  At the time, he hadn’t been really sure what that meant, but he connected with the music deep within his soul, in a place that he showed no one.  In that music, he could express what he could not express any other way, and somehow nobody ever seemed to understand that, although the music was Elgar’s, the sadness and the melancholy were his own. 

At times, he was terrified the audience would discover his secret: that he was unworthy of the beauty of this music.  But then his fingers would follow their well-worn path across the fingerboard and his bow would move of its own accord.  The music would rise and fall and engulf him entirely, and the audience would be on its feet to acknowledge the gangly, awkward teenager who had just moved them to tears.

Tonight was no exception.  The Tulsa Performing Arts Center was packed with pillars of the community, come to hear the young soloist the Chicago Sun Times had proclaimed as “one of the brightest new voices in classical music.”  Cries of “bravo” punctuated the applause, and a shy little girl in a white dress with white tights and white shoes climbed the steps to the stage with her mother’s encouragement, handing him a single red rose.

He stood with his cello at his side and bowed as he had been taught not long after he learned to walk.  The accompanist bowed as well, smiling back at him with the same awed expression he had seen from pianists and conductors alike.

In that moment, he felt like a thief.  A liar.  The worst kind of cheat.

Backstage, afterward, he and his mother greeted some of the symphony’s board.  “Young man,” the woman in the red cocktail dress with the double strand of pearls said as she laid her hand on his shoulder, “you are truly a wonder.  You must come back soon and play for us again.”

He knew how to respond; he had been taught this as well.  “Thank you, ma’am.” His voice cracked, as it had on and off for the past six months, and his face reddened.  He was embarrassed that he could not control this as well as he could his performance.

“He’s booked through the next year,” his mother told the woman, “but if there’s an opening, we’ll be sure to let you know.”  She would find an opening, no doubt, even if it meant sacrificing his one free weekend at home.  Janet Redding promoted her son like a woman possessed.

Back in the green room, his mother looked on as he wiped down the fingerboard of his instrument and gently replaced it in its fiberglass case, taking care to secure the bow in the lid.  He had barely looked at his mother since they had left the small crowd of well-wishers who had gathered in the wings.  He didn’t need to see her face to know she was displeased.  Instead he hummed as he often did when he wanted to forget how he had, once again, let her down—this time, a melody from a Mozart sonata he had been studying.

“You rushed through the pizzicato in the last movement,” she said.  “We’ve been over that section so many times, Cary Taylor Redding.  You let your mind wander again.”

He tried not to cringe; she only used his full name when she was very disappointed in him.  “I’m sorry.” His voice cracked again and he inwardly winced.  He didn’t have to fight back the tears anymore.  He had stopped crying years ago.

“We’ll just have to practice it some more.”

He had also long since stopped asking her why she always said “we” would practice something, when he was the one doing the practicing.  The one and only time he had pressed the issue, she had responded with a look of long-suffering patience.  For days after, the guilt had pierced his gut and roiled around inside until he had apologized for several days running.

“Hurry up now,” she told him.  “We have a long drive back home.”

“Did Justin call?” he asked with a hopeful expression.

“Why would he call?”

“He said he’d let me know if his team won tonight.”   He pulled on his thick winter jacket and grabbed the handle of the cello case, pulling it across the floor on its roller-skate wheels.

“He can tell you all about it tomorrow.”

He fell asleep in the front seat of the minivan as they headed back toMissouri.  He did not dream, or at least, he didn’t remember what he had dreamed about.  He never did.


Chapter Two:  Best Laid Plans

Milan, Italy – Thirteen years later

“Oh, fuck, yeah!” Cary shouted in English as he pushed back against his partner’s hips.  The skinny Italian kid he’d picked up grunted and thrust harder, ratcheting up the pace so Cary had to grip the commode to keep his balance.   Sweat dripped down his neck.  He never enjoyed kissing. He didn’t need it. He liked it like this: rough, fast, and anonymous.

Someone in the next stall laughed but Cary didn’t give a shit.  This was how it was supposed to be in a place like this and someone else listening in only made it so much hotter.  Here, he was just another nameless fuck, and that suited him just fine.

“That’s it.  Oh, God, yes!” he cried as the kid nailed his gland again.  He stroked himself in rhythm with the young man’s thrusts, groaning as he came with a strangled gasp into his sweaty palm.  The smell of come mingled with the faint scent of urine and toilet deodorizer.  Years ago, the combination had made him sick.  Now, the seediness of it just made it more of a turn-on.

His partner grunted as he came hard, his body shuddering and his breaths coming in stutters.  A minute later, the kid pulled out. Cary saw the used condom hit the water of the commode and heard the sounds of a zipper as well as the latch being released on the stall door. Caryhad already forgotten the kid’s face.  It was better this way.  He didn’t want anything but sex anyhow, and he didn’t want to be forced to make small talk.  In Italian, no less.

He leaned against the grimy wall and wiped himself with the cheap toilet paper, adding it to the condom in the water and flushing it down.  His stomach rumbled—a few more drinks and he wouldn’t remember that he was hungry.  He’d reheat something when he got back, or maybe just sleep it off and grab something in the morning instead.  It was usually better to nurse a hangover with an empty stomach, as he knew from experience.

He walked back into the bar and sat at a table in the corner, making eye contact with the bartender.  A minute or two later, he nursed a scotch and soda, his fourth that night, and leaned over to the man at the next table.

Sigaretta?” Cary asked.

The man grunted and handed him a cigarette, lighting it for Cary as they leaned toward each other to span the short gap between tables.

Cary hated cigarettes.  He only smoked in bars, and only after sex.  At least that’s what he told himself.  He preferred the unfiltered variety—it gave him a more immediate buzz.  They were easier to find here than in the States. 

His hand shook slightly as he brought the cigarette to his lips and inhaled the acrid smoke.  It was better than the drugs, right?  He’d tried those, too, but he’d given them up because they interfered with his playing.  He could always sleep off the booze and the nicotine.

One of the regulars walked through the entrance and their eyes met.  Silvio.  Nice ass.  Terrific bottom.

It was turning out to be a great night.

At nearly three in the morning, Cary stumbled out onto the empty Milan side street.  His ass was sore and his thigh muscles were tight.  He liked it that way. He needed to feel it in his bones the next morning or he hadn’t gotten enough.

A light fog hung over the city, the fall air cool and damp.  Cary shivered, his thin t-shirt little help against the chilly breeze.  His housekeeper was right—curse Roberta, she was always right—he should have worn his leather jacket.  He looked around for a cab but there were none in sight.  He’d walk over to main avenue, via Padova, to catch one.

Fuck, he thought, tripping over the uneven pavement as he turned the corner onto another small street.  He didn’t notice the two men huddled in the doorway of a darkened building until one of them grabbed him by the neck.  He caught the glint of a knife in his peripheral vision.  Fucking hell.  This wasn’t amusing, even with the buzz of the alcohol.

Soldi,” hissed one of the thugs, the one standing in front of him smoking the remainder of a joint.

“I don’t understand,” Cary said in English.  It was a lie.  He was fluent in Italian.  “I’m American.”

“Money,” the man repeated, in English this time.  “Give.”

“Don’t have any.”  He didn’t pull his wallet out and hand it over.  Maybe it was the after-effects of the alcohol.  Or maybe it was the rough sex and the feeling of empowerment that still lingered at his frayed edges.  Either way, he wasn’t going to let these assholes push him around.

The man’s response came in the form of a knee to his gut.  Cary doubled over, coughing and spluttering.  Shit. Was that blood he tasted on his tongue?

“Money.  Now.”

“You’re fucking insistent, aren’t you?” he blustered.  This time, the arm pressed against his Adam’s apple tightened and Cary’s vision swam with tiny specks of silver.

The man standing in front of him nodded.  A hand reached into Cary’s jeans pocket, pulling out the soft calfskin wallet and holding it up to the light.  “Expensive,” he told his partner in Italian.

“You come with us.” The other thug’s expression was one of triumphant glee.  He pulledCary’s ATM card out of the wallet and waved it in his face.  “Bank.”

“No fucking way.” Cary shouted.  He wrenched himself out from the head-hold and backed toward the curb. 

The lights of via Padova were visible a scant block away.  If he could just make it there, he might be able to get help or maybe scare them off.  He turned to run, but something hard hit him in the kidneys and he fell to his knees.  He struggled back to his feet.  Before he could defend himself, a fist connected with his chin and he fell backward onto the concrete.  He tried to maintain his balance but failed miserably.  He hit the concrete, hands first, and something in his left wrist snapped.  He vomited up what little food was left in his stomach as a wave of intense pain washed over him.

“Asshole,” he spat.

“Get away from him.”  The voice came from nearby, but the pain in Cary’s gut was still so bad that he couldn’t manage to look up at the newcomer’s face.  He heard a noisy scuffle, the thudding sound of a fist connecting with bone, a groan, and then footsteps running down the pavement.

“Are you all right?” 

He pushed the hand on his shoulder away without thinking.  The world spun and the pain in his wrist shot up his arm.  “Oh, shit,” he groaned, clutching the wrist.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” the man said, this time in lightly-accented English.  “You need help.”  The voice was calm, reassuring.  “You need a hospital.”

“No hospital,” Cary gasped and tried to stay alert.  “Leave me alone.” 

He got back to his feet and the lights from the boulevard blurred at the edges.  The last thing he remembered before he passed out was two strong arms as they caught him. 

Cary awoke in an unfamiliar bed with the muffled sound of voices speaking in Italian at the periphery of his consciousness.  “…found him off via Padova.  No identification.  The man who brought him says he’s an American.”

He forced his eyes open and saw the metal sides of the hospital bed, the IV hanging from the pole and taped to his hand, and the light yellow curtains at the sides of the bed.  The place smelled like disinfectant.

The last time he had been in a hospital was when he had watched his mother wither away and die, her body wracked with pain from the chemo and radiation.  He remembered his own guilt as he had sat by her bed, helpless to do anything.  It had been the final insult—a coda, as it were, to their tumultuous relationship.  He had never done anything right by her.

He reached for his right earlobe, jostling the IV but not caring.  The small diamond stud in his ear was still there, thank God.  It was a gift from his brother on his twenty-first birthday, and the only piece of jewelry he wore.

As his vision cleared, the shadows in the room shifted.  No, not shadows—a man, seated in the corner.  “How are you feeling?” he asked in English as he stood up and walked over to the bed.

Carystudied the newcomer through a haze of pain killers.  Italian, judging by his accent, although his appearance was not classically Italian: blond hair, blue eyes, about the same height as Cary, early thirties, and hot as hell.  Not that a man like that would ever look twice at Cary.  Guys like him never did, and who could blame them?

“Do I know you?” Cary’s voice was hoarse and his mouth felt full of cotton.  

The man looked back at him with a mixture of concern and humor.  “You could say we’ve met.”

“You… you’re the man from the street.” Cary recognized the voice.  “How long have I been here?”

“A day.  Perhaps I must introduce myself,” he added.  “I am Antonio Bianchi.” 

“C….”Caryhesitated. “Connor Taylor.” 

It was the name he used in the clubs.  Or at least it had been ever since his agent had bailed him out of jail, when a not-so-rainbow-friendly gendarme had caught him quite literally with his pants down outside a shithole of a Paris bar. 

“What you do with your life off the concert stage isn’t my business,” Georges Duhamel had told him after he’d bailed Cary out, “but you must at least use another name.  I won’t have you toss your career in the toilette.

            When all was said and done (and after he’d had a fake New YorkStatedriver’s license made under the name, “Connor L. Taylor”), Cary enjoyed being “Connor.”  Unlike Cary, nobody gave a shit if Connor liked to fuck men in the restrooms or alleyways behind rundown bars.  Why would anyone care?  After a few years, “Connor” had become Cary’s excuse for the late nights and anonymous fucks—when he wasn’t practicing or performing, Cary Redding was Connor Taylor.

“A pleasure to meet you,” Antonio said after a slight hesitation.

“Thanks. For last night, I mean.”

His wrist ached, throbbing to a dull beat like an insistent drum.  His head felt like it was filled with jagged rocks.  He looked down and saw the cast on his left arm. He vaguely remembered falling.  Right, he had tried to catch himself before he hit the pavement. 

Oh, God. 

“My wrist.”  He spoke the words aloud and his voice cracked.  He tried to move his fingers, but the pain was so bad he gasped.  A broken wrist meant he couldn’t play.  Without his cello, he was nothing.  His stomach clenched and his eyes burned.  In an effort to master his emotions, he turned away and bit his cheek.

“The doctor says your wrist will be fine,” Antonio said, perhaps sensing Cary’s distress.

This can’t be real.  I’m going to wake up and….

“I need to get out of here.”  The hospital room was suddenly too small. Panicked, Cary tried to sit up, but Antonio put a firm hand on his shoulder.

“The doctor… He says you may leave when you are ready, but you have this”—he struggled to find the word—“commozione cerebrale,” he finally said in Italian.  He pointed to his head.  “You know, from falling?”

“A concussion?”  It explained the killer headache. Cary lay back in the bed.  He felt overwhelmed, defeated. He went to lift his hand to his face and the IV line caught on the edge of the bed.

.  A concussion,” Antonio said as he freed the line for Cary. “He says you must not be alone tonight.  Is there somewhere I can take you?  A person who can look by you, then?”

There was no one.  No family or close friends.  He had no one, really, except his housekeeper, Roberta. 

“If you wish, you may stay with me.”

Cary realized Antonio had guessed that he had no one to stay with him. 

You shouldn’t be surprised.  You look like street trash. 

He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.  He knew he looked like one of the hustlers he sometimes paid for sex, and he wondered what kind of man would willingly take someone like that in, knowing nothing about him.

But then again, it’s not like someone with a broken wrist and a concussion would be a danger to a big guy like him.

He considered the offer for a moment.  It wasn’t as if he had anything to fear from Antonio, either.  The guy had brought him to the hospital, after all.  The offer was far more tempting—no, make that Antonio was far more tempting—than asking his housekeeper to play nurse and mother. 

“I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“Not at all, Signor Taylor.  It would be my pleasure.” 

“Are you sure?” 

“I’m sure,” Antonio said.  Then, as if realizing why Cary might hesitate to accept the invitation of a complete stranger, he added, “But if you are not confortevole—ah, what is it?—comfortable with this, I think you can stay here longer.  I will not be insulted.”

Was it any different to go home with a stranger for a night of fucking?  Guys who come charging in on white horses don’t usually rape you the next day. 

He closed his eyes and saw his mother’s face.  She had predicted this.  “You won’t be happy living that way, Cary,” she said when he came out to her.  “It’s not natural.  It’s a… perversion.  It’s sinful.  An addiction.”

He had defended himself.  “I’m not a pervert, mom.  This is me.  This is who I am.”

“How can you say that, Cary Taylor Redding? How can you risk everything we’ve worked so hard for?” 

Funny, how he’d starting cruising the bars to show her that he didn’t give a shit about what she thought.  But he’d come to crave the sex, booze, and smokes.  They satisfied a hunger which his music could not.  She hadn’t wanted to listen, and in the end he’d just proven her right.  He had lost the only thing that really mattered to him:  his music.

It’s not forever.  It’ll heal.  The thought did little to allay his fear and he moaned softly.

“Are you all right?”  That voice again.  Right.  Antonio. 

“Sorry,” Cary said, embarrassed.  “I guess I’m still a little sleepy.”

“It’s okay.  I will ask about getting you to leave this place, and perhaps something for the pain.  You must rest now.”

“Thank you.”  Cary watched as Antonio pulled the covers back over him and walked out of the room.  His white knight.

And you’re about as far from a princess as they come.[TN1] 

A few hours later, having spoken with the doctor, Cary was released from the hospital with a bottle of pain killers and instructions to come back in six weeks to have the cast removed and begin physical therapy.  While Antonio went to retrieve his car, Cary quickly provided the hospital staff with his home address.  He was grateful that the police had taken him to a public hospital and that there was no bill to speak of for emergency patients.  He wasn’t sure how he’d have felt if Antonio had insisted on paying for his stay.

Cary’s face was tense as they rode the elevator down to the ground floor.  “This broken wrist,” Antonio said, perhaps sensingCary’s dark mood, “it will make it difficult for your work, no?”

“You could say that.”  Impossible, really.  He pushed the thought from his mind.  He would get through this.  He reminded himself again that the doctor had said his wrist would be fine, in a few months.

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m between jobs now.”  The truth, although not the entire truth. It was late October, and his next gig was in Rome in four weeks.  He had also been scheduled to teach a series of master classes in early December.

It could have been worse, he reminded himself as he climbed into Antonio’s car a few minutes later.  A hell of a lot worse. 

So why was his gut tense?  He tried to focus on something else.  It wasn’t that difficult.  Antonio’s broad shoulders were an easy distraction.

Antonio’s apartment was nearly as big as Cary’s own.  The high-ceilinged rooms were tastefully decorated in an eclectic mixture of modern Italian furniture and antiques.  Photographs of smiling children and adults adorned the tabletops and bookshelves.  From the abundance of blue eyes and blond hair, Cary guessed these were Antonio’s family.

“You look tired,” Antonio said as he shut the door behind them.  “Perhaps I make dinner while you sleep?”

“Thanks.”Carycaught a glimpse of a large bed through a doorway to their right.  He rubbed his arm above his broken wrist without thinking and winced.  The dull ache had now become an angry throb.

“May I get you some pills?  For your arm?”  Antonio held up the doggie bag of chemicals that the hospital had sent home with him.

“That would be great.”

“Perhaps you like to use the telephone while I get it for you?”Carystared blankly at Antonio.  “You know,” Antonio continued, “if there is a person who might…ah—” he struggled to find the word “—worry for you?”

“No,” Cary answered as understanding came.  “I’m fine.  There’s nobody.”

Worry about me?  Other than a geezer of an agent and a brother halfway around the world? 

Justin would care.  In fact, he would worry a lot.  They were brothers, after all.  But Cary didn’t want to bother him and his family.  And Georges, Cary’s agent, would have a cow when he learned that Cary had broken his wrist, but only because he’d need to cancel a few months of gigs while it healed.  Yeah, he’d have to tell the idiot at some point, but why rush it?

He thought briefly of Roberta.  She’s your housekeeper.  What does she care if you stay away for a few nights?  It’s not like you haven’t before.  But he knew he was lying to himself—Roberta was far more than an employee.  He’d call her after he’d had a chance to rest.  He’d tell her he was spending the night out so she wouldn’t worry.

Something akin to compassion or pity, perhaps, flashed through Antonio’s eyes, but he said only, “Please.  Use the bed.  I will bring you the medicine.”

Carywas almost asleep when Antonio came back into the room with a glass of water and a few pills.  “This will help with pain,” he toldCary.  “I will arouse you when dinner is ready.”

“Mmm,” Cary murmured, repressing a grin in response to Antonio’s faulty turn of phrase.  It wasn’t all that difficult to control himself, since he was damn near asleep already and his wrist hurt like hell.  Still, the thought made for some very sweet dreams.

 Shira’s Website     Shira on Twitter    Shira on Facebook  Shira on Goodreads

Welcome Carson Douglas!

Today I have with me a very special guest blogger, and one of the folks I nominated for the Kreative Blogger Award, Carson Douglas.  Carson runs the terrific Guys Like Romance, Too blog which promotes gay romance.

So a warm welcome to Carson.  And be sure to check out his blog! -Shira

____________________________________________

Hello followers of Shira Anthony!

I want to her for inviting me to her blog. For the record, it’s a nice looking place. I have come to share a little about myself, so here goes.

My name is Carson Douglas. I grew up in NYC and now live in ATL. I write for a popular magazine that circulates my city. I’m not going to mention which one because Carson is my real name and I don’t want them knowing this much about me. I know they are all over blogger and word press because they told me about it. LOL

I love to read and have always loved romance, the whole chase thing set my blood on fire every time. I kept passion a secret for many years reading my many Thea Devine and Bertrice Small books with a magazine covering them. I was plagued by that whole macho thing. Seriously, how macho can an ex college football player be with a spicy romance in his hand? In recent years, however, I’ve adopted a motto a friend my friend Jaxx has had for years. Want to know what it is?

Fuck em! If they don’t like me as is, it’s there loss. J

There you go.

In 2006 I picked up my first M/M and was absolutely hooked. Unfortunately I had to hunt for books. Over time it got easier, but geez! It really was work and I had to have them!

To feed my reading addiction I came up with my blog Guys Like Romance, Too! It is a place where gay romance writers are allowed to pimp their work. To keep the blogs different and exciting I have given each month a different theme so all genres have a chance to be spotlighted. The only things I ask, rules if you will, is that they tell the reader how they came to write the book and how the book fits the theme and those who have the first date of the month introduce the readers to the new theme. That’s it!

Guys Like Romance, Too! has lots of openings from June until December. Stop by the site and check the theme schedule if you’d like a spot. It is located on the November, 2011 post. May is dedicated to lesbian lit. So if you know any authors that write lesbian romance send them my way to blog on the site for May. No specific them just as long as he main characters are females in an intimate relationship they’re good!

Here are 7 things about Carson Douglas that you might be surprised to know.

  1. I was born on leap year, 1968 (that makes me 11 years old for those who are counting)
  2. I am a semi-vegetarian. I don’t eat land animals at all, only sea creatures.
  3. I did nudie shots in college to help pay the bills LOL
  4. I take pictures of strange, weird or interesting everywhere I go and send the pics to my friend Jaxx Steele. They sometimes inspire book ideas for him.
  5. I stole cars to teach myself how to drive when I was a teenager. LOL
  6. I like drink my water room temp and my alcohol ice cold.
  7. I am participating in a blog called It may be new to you. (launches April 1st) There will be 4 of us blogging about our experience on trying 52 weeks of new things. Every week we will try a new food, drink or activity then blog on our day about how we liked or hated it giving people a firsthand look so that they may try it too. J

Thanks again for having me, Shira.

On March 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

Stealing the Wind, Chapter Two

Here’s Chapter Two of “Stealing the Wind,” my paranormal pirate erotic novella.  Warning:  This chapter is unabashed and explicit M/M/M loving with a bit of dubcon, so 18+ only, please! 

Enjoy! -Shira

**************************

Chapter Two:

Taren awoke in a large four-poster bed hung with heavy drapes.  His body felt strange, as though he were a babe being rocked in his mother’s arms.  A slow rolling that in his sleep-clouded mind, reminded him of waves on the ocean.

We’re at sea! 

The jolt of excitement at this realization was tempered only by the next revelation:  he was completely naked beneath the linen sheets.  He tried to sit up, but his head spun and his vision clouded once more.

He struggled to remember how he had come to be here aboard the ship.  The vague memory of serving dinner resurfaced, along with a jolt of heat to his groin.  He remembered the pirate captain—the deep blue of his eyes, his rugged features, his large hands…. 

“Good!” came a bright voice from the end of the bed.  “You’re awake.  Captain’s been asking about you.  Said you’d been sleepin’ like the dead.  Wanted me to make sure you wasn’t.  Dead, I mean.  Said old Shin gave you a bit more of Doc’s sleeping draught than he should.  He was mighty angry with ’im, too.”

Taren started at the voice, pulling the sheets up over his chest.  He still felt strange, as though he’d been sleeping for days.  Perhaps he had.  He needed to learn more about why he was here, why he had been taken from the inn.  About the captain. 

“What ship is this?” he asked as his eyes focused on the newcomer, a waif of a boy with shaggy black hair and freckles.

“The Witch,” the boy said, his face lighting up with obvious pleasure.  “The Sea Witch.  Captain Rider’s pride ’n joy.”

“Who are you?”

“Fiall.  Practically raised aboard the Witch from a baby.  And you’re Taren.”

Taren blinked in surprise to realize that the boy knew his name.

Fiall giggled.  “Didn’t think I’d know that, did ye?” he asked.  “’Course I would.  You being the Captain’s new woman ’n all.”

“Woman?  I’m not a wo—”

“Aw, I don’t mean nothin’ by that.  It’s just what we call the Captain’s favorites, is all.  You know,” Fiall lowered his voice conspiratorially, “the special ones.  The ones he keeps for himself.  There’s only one other.  Bastian is his name.  You’ll be meeting him soon, I expect.”

“Special ones?”  Taren’s head was fuzzy, his brain slow.

“The ones that sleeps in his bed,” the boy answered with surprising bluntness.

“Oh.” Taren’s cheeks burned with embarrassment.  It was one thing to imagine what it might be like to find himself in the captain’s arms, but it was quite another to learn that everyone aboard the ship knew about it.

“It’s nothin’ to be ’shamed of,” Fiall persisted.  “I’d be right happy to be in your shoes.”

“You… you’re not a…?”

“Nah.  I’m just the cabin boy.  Besides, Captain don’t like ’em young.  Not that I’m young, mind you, I’m eleven years old now,” Fiall said with obvious pride.  “Maybe in a few years….”   His voice trailed off and Taren guessed that Fiall realized he’d probably said too much. 

When Taren remained silent, Fiall added, “I brought you some food.  Captain says you’d be growin’ more if you ate better.  It’s not much.  Some bread and cheese.  We’ll get more supplies when we put into port in a week or so, seein’ as we had to leave pretty fast on account of you.”

“On account of me?”

Fiall smiled.  “Seems like the captain took a likin’ to you.  Tried to buy you from your masters, but they weren’t havin’ nothin’ of it.  Somethin’ about you being ‘special’ or what have you.  Captain got a few of the men to bring you aboard.”

That explained what had happened on his way back across the courtyard.  But “special”?  Taren wondered if his former master had other plans for him.  Maybe he’d planned to sell Taren to a merchant ship because of his rigging skills?

What difference would it make now?

“I’ll leave the food on the table for you,” Fiall continued, undaunted by Taren’s silence.

“Thank you, Fiall.”  Taren was rewarded with a crooked smiled.  “Before you leave, can you tell me where I can find my clothes?”

Fiall blinked in surprise, then laughed outright.  “You really are a one, aren’t you?”  When Taren continued to look confused, Fiall said, “You don’t need no clothes down here.  Later, maybe the captain will let you out on deck.  If he decides you’ll be needin’ them for that, well, that’s up to him.  Nobody will touch you without his permission.  The crew all know who you are.”

And with this pronouncement, Fiall closed the drapes around the bed.  A moment later, Taren heard a door closing.  He was alone.

No clothes?  It wasn’t as if he were uncomfortable being naked—he’d worn rags that barely covered him before.  Still, he couldn’t help but feel vulnerable, especially when he thought of the captain.

Captain Rider.  What did the man want with him?  Taren wasn’t so naïve as to not understand what it meant to be Rider’s “woman.”  And after the other night, well, he was pretty sure that whatever that job entailed would be more pleasant than anything he’d been asked to do at the tavern.

Look at yourself! Thinking that being bedded by the captain might be enjoyable.  He’s a man and so are you.  What good can come of it?

He’d known men who’d preferred the company of their own sex, of course.  But it wasn’t right.  It wasn’t natural.  At least, that’s what he’d been taught.  And yet Captain Rider’s touch had aroused him in a way that he’d never been aroused with a woman. 

He brushed these thoughts from his mind.  His empty stomach was far more demanding than his half-hard cock.  He’d eat his fill and explore the cabin.  Later, he could think about his predicament.  What more could he do, anyhow?  There was no place for him to escape if they were at sea, and even if he could escape, where could he go?

He ran his hand over the soft sheets and wiggled his toes beneath the blankets.  At least here, he’d be fed and sleep in a real bed.  Would it be so terrible to stay?

********

Taren awoke to the sound of the cabin door as it closed.  He’d dozed off in a seat by the large aft windows, his full belly and the gentle rocking of the boat better than any lullaby.

“That’s a sight for sore eyes,” came the rumbling voice of the captain.  He walked toward Taren, his eyes taking in Taren’s naked body curled up in the chair.  “Makes me wish I hadn’t left you alone quite so long.” 

Taren swallowed hard and did his best to not look afraid.  Because, no matter what he told himself, he was afraid.  He just wasn’t sure what he was afraid of.

“Do I frighten you, Taren?”

“I… I… yes, I suppose you do.”  Taren hadn’t planned to admit his fear, but there was something in Rider’s expression that told him he’d not suffer for telling the truth.

Rider smiled.  “No need.  I’ll not be hurting you unless you disobey me.”

“What do you want from me?”  Taren knew his words were too bold, but he couldn’t help himself. 

Rider only chuckled.  “They said you were special,” he said.  “I daresay they were right.  So what is it you do?”

“Sir?”

“Do you read and write?”

“Yes, sir.”  Taren had never thought much of it.  He knew the other servants at the inn could do neither, but it wasn’t as if his master there had taken advantage of his skills.

“Anything else?”

“I can rig a ship,” Taren said with obvious pride.

“Indeed?”  This appeared to surprise the captain.

“If you would give me my clothes,” Taren continued, “I can help out on deck.”

This time Rider’s laugh was deep and throaty.  “In time, perhaps.  For now, the ropes are well manned, and none are in need of immediate repair.  My plans for you are far more… urgent.”

Taren inwardly cursed himself as his cheeks grew hot once again.  But it was not just his cheeks that responded to Rider’s words.

“Stand up.”

Taren hesitated, afraid to let Rider see his traitorous erection.

“I said, ‘stand up’, boy.   You’ll not be making trouble so quickly with me, will you?”  Rider’s expression was stern, but Taren was sure he’d see a spark of amusement in the other man’s eyes.

Taren did as he was told.

Thankfully, Rider’s expression was inscrutable.  He neither smiled nor laughed, nor did he look at Taren with disgust.  “There is no shame in your desire,” he said after a moment.

“But I’m a man.” 

Taren hadn’t meant to speak the words, but he couldn’t help himself.  “One of these days, boy,” Saren had admonished on many an occasion, “I’ll whip you for that lip.”  The old man never had whipped him, and for that Taren had been grateful.

“Aye.  That you are.  And a fine man, at that.” 

“But—”

“Who were your parents, boy, that you fear the touch of another man?”

“I never knew my parents.  Saren of Laxley took me in as a baby.  Fed me, clothed me, taught me to read and write, and gave me my name.”

“And the old fool sold you.”  Rider shook his head.  “What faith do you put in the morals of such a man?”

“I was his property.  What choice did I have but to put my faith in—”

Rider frowned and wrinkled his weathered brow.  “A slave is free to choose in whom to place his trust, even if his body belongs to his master.  A good man will not mistreat a slave or sell him to pay for his own stupidity.”  Taren just looked at the floor, unsure what to say. 

“You will be treated well here, Taren of Laxley.  If you obey me, I will care for you, feed you, and clothe you. You will pay me with three years of your life, and then your freedom is your own.  If you choose to leave after that, I will not stop you.”

Taren’s lips parted in shock.  Three years and he’d have his freedom?  He could barely comprehend it.  He’d lived his entire life knowing that he would be an old man before he’d be able to pay off his indenture.  He was nothing more than a slave.  And yet this man—this pirate—was offering him freedom in return for three years of his life?

“You would set me free, if I choose it?”

“Yes.  I would.  If it is your choice to leave.”  Rider studied Taren with a look of patient understanding.

“And if I refuse you?” 

Taren knew his words were far too bold for someone in his position and he wondered if the pirate would beat him for his audacity. 

“If you refuse, I’ll return you to the inn.”

Taren wasn’t sure if Rider were lying, but he was certain he didn’t want to find out.  What were three more years of servitude compared to his freedom? And would it be so terrible if the pirate were to use his body for pleasure instead of putting him to work on deck?  His face grew warm at the thought of such “service.”

“I will submit to you.  I won’t fight you.”

At this, the pirate laughed and shook his head.  “I told you, boy, I’ll treat you well.  But I’ll not have your submission without your soul.  Tell me what you want. If you wish me to touch you, you must say it.”

Taren released a slow breath.  He knew his body had long ago betrayed him, but he understood that Rider needed him to speak the words.  He also knew he needed to say them for himself.

“I… I wish for you to touch me.  I want you to touch me, as you did before.”

A gentle smile lit Rider’s face.  “Come, then.” 

“Where are we going?”  Taren’s heart pounded against his ribs as Rider offered him his calloused hand.

“You’re not going to sleep out here tonight, are you?  The floor is mighty cold.”

Does he mean for me to sleep in his bed?  The thought both thrilled and terrified Taren.

Rider led him into the bedroom, where a small oil lamp provided a warm, orange light.  Pulling back the drapes of the bed, Rider said, “Climb inside.”

The bed was not empty.  Its current occupant was a young man who Taren guessed was a few years older than he: a beautiful young man with shoulder-length red hair that reminded Taren of the sunset.  His eyes were a bright green, his face dotted with freckles.  He was completely naked and stretched out on the sheets like an exotic cat, every inch of his skin visible in the lamplight.  Taren could not force himself to look away.

“This is Bastian,” Rider said knowingly, no doubt noticing the desire on Taren’s face.

Without warning, Bastian reached for Taren and pulled him fully onto the bed.  He wrapped his arms around Taren’s waist and kissed him, his tongue snaking its way into Taren’s mouth and probing it with eagerness. 

Taren was dizzy with the contact, the heat of their bodies pressed together almost more than he could bear.  It was as if he were entranced, held spellbound by the feel of Bastian’s skin against his own.  Taren had never kissed anyone like this, even the girls who had offered themselves to him.  He moaned as he felt Bastian’s hard cock against his own.

Taren gasped as the kiss broke.  He was bereft, wanting more and yet afraid to ask for it.

“You were right,” Bastian said as he slid lithe fingers over Taren’s smooth chest.  “He’s perfect.”

“It was Bastian’s idea to bring another man into our bed,” Rider explained to the still speechless Taren.  Taren’s stunned expression betrayed his surprise, and the captain laughed. “Bastian is not a slave, Taren.”

“He’s not?  But—”

“He was once my slave, but he is now master of my heart and my body.”  Rider glanced at Bastian with a look of pure lust and obvious affection.  “He is also the Sea Witch’s first mate.”

First mate?”

“I gave him his freedom, much as I promised you yours.  He chose to stay, and I rewarded his loyalty.  He is also a fine crew member.  The other men obey him as they would me.”

“Oh.”  Taren wasn’t sure which revelation had surprised him more—that Bastian had chosen to stay aboard the ship when given his freedom, or that the ship’s first mate willingly and gladly shared the captain’s bed.

“Tonight,” Rider said, bringing Taren back to the here and now, “you will watch and learn.  If you wish, you may join us, but I will not force you.”  He winked at Bastian, then added, “Not yet, at least.”  He pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it onto the floor, then waited patiently as Bastian crawled over Taren and began to unfasten the large buckle on Rider’s belt.

Taren’s erection, which had begun to soften, reasserted itself with a tap to his belly as Bastian pulled Rider’s trousers down to reveal a substantial cock, thick and hard.  Taren had never seen anything as large, not amongst the other servants or even the guests when he had bathed them.  It was both a frightening thing to behold and an object that held great interest for Taren.

 Rider, noticing Taren’s unabashed stare, caught Bastian’s eye and murmured, “Show him how it’s done, love.”

 Bastian laughed and took Rider into his mouth, swallowing him down so deep that his nose brushed the curls at the base.  Slowly, deliberately, he released Rider’s cock, then sucked it down again, repeating the movement as he hollowed his cheeks to increase the pull.

Rider slid his large fingers through Bastian’s silky hair, pulling on it until Bastian cried out.  At first, Taren feared that the larger man had hurt Bastian, but a muffled cry of pleasure told him otherwise.

“Touch yourself,” the captain commanded Taren.  “I know you want to.”

Taren swallowed his fear, then did as he was bidden, taking his cock in his hand as he often had when he thought no one would see, and fisting it.  But the sensations he had felt in the darkness of the tavern were nothing compared to this.  He mimicked Bastian’s movements as he bobbed up and down on Rider’s cock, matching the rhythm of his hand to Bastian’s sucking. 

It took only a moment before his release came with a stifled cry.  Ashamed at his lack of control, he looked away, only to feel Rider’s hand on his shoulder.

“You’re young.  There will be time for more later, if you wish it.”

From his position at Bastian’s side, Taren watched the redheaded man roll Rider’s sac around in his hand as he continued to suck.  Bastian ran his teeth over the other man’s cock, teasing and nipping at the edge of the swollen tip.  Taren imagined the feel of Bastian’s lips on his body, biting at him, taking him deep inside.

“Touch him, if you want,” Rider instructed Taren.  Taren hadn’t even noticed that his eyes had strayed from Bastian’s mouth to the smooth, honeyed skin of his back.

For all that he was beginning to believe in Rider’s promises, Taren could not immediately comprehend what the captain had offered.

Why would he, my master, invite me to pleasure myself?

“Go on, boy.  Touch him.”  Then, as if understanding Taren’s hesitation, he added, “Do you not understand that seeing your pleasure increases my own?  Go on.  Touch him.”

With a shaking hand, Taren reached to touch Bastian’s skin.  It was as soft as he’d imagined it would be—softer, even—and he explored the smooth surface of it with a measure of reverent awe.

“May I… taste him?” Taren asked.

Rider nodded his approval, and Taren leaned over and kissed Bastian’s back, then licked it with his tongue.  It was slightly salty, warm to the touch, enticing.

Rider’s groan of satisfaction as he came awoke Taren from his reverie.  Bastian licked his lips and turned to look at Taren over his shoulder.  “I want to fuck you, Taren.”  The coarse language did nothing to quell Taren’s rekindled yearning.

“Y- you want…,” Taren stammered, painfully aware of his lack of experience.  He wasn’t even sure he understood what this meant between men.

“Lean back,” Bastian instructed.  “Let me pleasure you.”

The next thing Taren knew, Bastian’s hands skated over his sensitive skin.  It was if every pore of his being wanted this, needed this.  He could not speak, so overcome was he by the feeling of those fingers.  And then Bastian leaned over and took one of Taren’s nipples between his lips, sucking on it until the flesh pebbled in reply.

“Oh,” Taren whispered.  He hadn’t meant to speak, and did not realize that the voice was his own until Bastian’s gentle laughter filled the air.

By now, Rider had climbed into the large bed and lay on one side, watching them.  The curtains were still open, and a vague thought flitted through Taren’s mind:  Rider wanted to watch them.  The thrill of understanding coursed through Taren’s blood like fire and, this time, his moan was louder, less controlled.

“Spread your legs,” Bastian murmured.

Taren complied without a second thought as Bastian’s hands found Taren’s cock and then explored beyond, to that place that Taren himself had never dared to touch.  Instinctively, he moved to close himself, but Bastian stroked him gently and looked into his eyes.  Like a falconer might soothe an anxious bird, Bastian’s expression was a balm to Taren. 

“Close your eyes and relax your thighs.”  Bastian’s voice was husky with lust.

Taren complied.

“Beautiful.”  Bastian’s whispered praise was followed in short order by the wet warmth of his tongue, tracing a line back beyond Taren’s sac until it found the secret place between his buttocks.  When Taren tensed once more, Bastian muttered, “I won’t hurt you.  Let me show you what you have waited to feel.”

Taren breathed deeply and willed himself to relax.  The heat of Bastian’s tongue found the tight ring of muscle and probed at it, coaxing the release of tension there.

“Oh, yes…,” Taren moaned, unable to contain himself.

Bastian’s tongue breached his opening.

“Relax, boy,” Rider said, his voice a soothing rumble to Taren’s ears.

The wetness from Bastian’s mouth dripped between Taren’s cheeks.  “That’s it,” Rider intoned. “Relax.  He won’t hurt you.”

Bastian’s finger probed Taren’s tight opening, gently caressing it, then pressed inward so that the very tip of his finger breached Taren’s hole.  Taren keened beneath the touch, lifting his hips to allow the other man easy access.

“That’s it.  Have I hurt you?”

 “No.”  Taren’s voice sounded as though it were someone else’s, as if it came from far away.  “Please.  Oh, please. I want…  I need… more.”

Rider stroked Taren’s hair as Bastian pressed his wet finger inside.  It was slick, but the feeling was different from before, and as the scent of rosemary and lavender filled his nostrils, Taren realized that Bastian had covered his hands in fragrant oil.

“Relax, Taren.  I promise you, this will feel good.”

Taren did not protest as Bastian’s finger slid past the tight muscles.  It felt so good that Taren whimpered in response.  “Oh… yes… oh…”

Rider looked on in pleasure as Taren’s body yielded to a second intruder, then a third.  Each time, Bastian pulled and stretched the muscles to open Taren wider.  Then, without warning, Bastian rubbed against something inside that made Taren shudder—something so wonderful that he could do nothing but pant.

“Like that, do you?” Rider said with a smile for Bastian.

“Yes.  Oh, yes.” 

“Do you want me?” Bastian asked, his lips nearly touching Taren’s ear.

“Yes.”  Taren could barely breathe, his fear was so great.  But he knew he could not resist, the siren call was too strong.  He needed to know.  To feel this.

“Roll onto your belly and tuck your knees underneath you,” Bastian instructed.

It felt strange, crouching like a dog, his ass splayed so that both men could see his most private of places, and yet he did not object.  More than anything, he wanted this.  He wanted to understand.  He had not expected Bastian’s fingers to thrill him so, and the thought of the other man’s cock in their place sent shivers through his body.

Rider lay, watching them with an intensity that surprised him.  He no longer felt shame beneath that lustful gaze.  He knew only his desire, his hunger, and his aching need.

“Please.  Oh, please…,” he begged.

Bastian pushed his hard cock against Taren’s opening.  “Relax.  Just let me in.”  Bastian’s voice was soothing, and Rider’s hand once again caressed Taren’s head, comforting his fears.

The moan that issued from Taren’s lips as the other man breached him was tinged with pain, but as Bastian seated himself inside, the heat from within erased all but the heady sensation that Taren was being filled.

It was at once glorious and frightening.  To feel himself impaled and completely vulnerable sent shockwaves throughout his body.  As if drawn by invisible strings, he moved to meet Bastian with each, increasingly powerful thrust.

Taren looked to Rider for approval and the captain moved toward Taren, on his knees and offering Taren his own cock.  Taren understood.  Although he had never tasted another man, he put his lips to the tip and licked.  Rider roughly pulled his head down to mach each of Bastian’s thrusts, creating the same, delicious rhythm.

“Close your lips around me.”  Taren was too enthralled to think about his lack of experience.  His lips tightened around the captain’s cock and he allowed his mouth to be filled just as Bastian now filled his ass. 

Taren gagged and spluttered, instinctively turning his head so that Rider’s large organ slid against the inside of his cheek and he no longer choked on it.  Rider rumbled his approval and reached underneath Taren to pinch a pink nipple and twist it about.

Bastian’s orgasm was fierce, and he cried out his pleasure with abandon.  At nearly the same moment, Rider emptied himself into Taren’s mouth and Taren spurt onto the sheets beneath them.  This time, he did not hold back his cries and the captain’s warm release dribbled over his chin.

A moment later, he was clasped tightly in Bastian’s arms, gasping for breath, his body still shaking with the aftershocks.  He saw the look the other two men exchanged and he knew he had done well, that he had served them as they had hoped.  The thought warmed him as he lay awake long after Rider extinguished the small lamp.

Taren didn’t understand how it had happened.  He knew only that something deep within his soul had been unleashed and allowed to emerge from the confines of his servitude.  He was no longer just a slave.  He had given and received pleasure. And he knew he would never be the same.

© 2012, Shira Anthony

On March 23, 2012 in Free Fiction, Uncategorized, WIP

Kreativ Blogger Award!

Many thanks to my friend and fellow DSP author, Beka Tinsley, for nominating me for a Kreativ Blogger Award!  As Beka explains it (far more articulately than I!), the award is “passed on from blogger to blogger, and encourages networking and communication” and comes with a few “rules” to keep the idea going and growing:

Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

So thank you, Beka, for the nomination.  I first met Beka on Writing.com a few years ago, and she’s been an inspiration to me with both her energy and commitment to the GLBT genre.  She’s the ringleader (*g*) of the wonderful Rainbow Writers Group there.  The group’s mission is “to highlight and reward writers of the GLBT genre in the hopes that they will gain confidence in their writing,” among other things.  Check them out if you’re a newbie to writing, or an experienced writer looking for inspiration.

Next requirement:  List 7 things about yourself that readers might find interesting.

1. I was a professional opera singer for about 16 years.

2. I love Japanese manga, especially yaoi (M/M).

3. I lived in France for two years when I was in middle school and speak French (a little rusty these days, though!).

4. The “best man” at my wedding was a woman (a close friend of my husband).

5. I’ve been writing stories since I was ten, but never finished one until I was in my 40s.

6. For me, the most interesting part of a story is character growth.  I love to see how relationships and events in a character’s life shape him/her as a person.

7. My parents (82 and 77 years old) and inlaws (82 and 85 years old) read my stories, although they admit to skipping over some of the explicit sex!

Last requirement:  Nominate 7 bloggers, notify them of their nomination, and post links to their blogs.

E.M. Lynley – terrific friend, terrific writer and collaborator who is a sharp as they come (and can give you advice about your taxes to boot!) and kicks my writing into shape.

Rhys Ford – fabulous writer with a killer sense of humor.

Andrew Ashling – blows me away every time with the depth of his characterizations and the intelligence of his writing. 

Helen (H. B.) Pattskyn – wonderful and creative writer who has helped me more times than I can count and who’s been willing to share her own experiences to enrich my universe.

Tom Webb – reviewer and all around wonderful person whose beautifully written reviews shine with his love for the craft of writing.

Dawn Roberto – what can I say? I have no idea when Dawn sleeps!  She’s out there, plugging away for romance writers on her blog, her  fabulous Yahoo Group, LoveRomancesCafe, and on Love Romances and More Blogspot.

Carson at Guys Like Romance, Too – because what’s not to love about a blog devoted entirely to writers so they can pimp their M/M books and share excerpts with readers.

So spread the word about these wonderful people and wonderful blogs!  And don’t be afraid to try your hand at blogging – that’s what the Kreativ Blogger Award is all about.

Peace!

Shira

On March 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Stealing the Wind,” Chapter One

Stealing the Wind[*]

By Shira Anthony

© 2012, Shira Anthony

Chapter One:

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.

On March 8, 2012 in Free Fiction, Uncategorized, WIP
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