© 2013 A. Jane
Feeling it safe to leave the wheel, the other boat no longer within sight, Nova turned control over to his first mate, Chalk Mark, and rushed from the quarterdeck, wishing to formally introduce himself to his captive. Opening the door, pulling his stocking cap off as he did so, Nova witnessed a crewmember backhanding the prisoner only to receive a face full of bloody spittle for the offense.
Nova blinked, shocked to see his prize tied to a chair when he only ordered Krow, the very crewmember who had just struck the captive, to lock him within the captain’s quarters. As the crewman raised his hand to strike him once more, Nova strode over and grabbed the raised fist, forcing Krow to his knees. Never had he felt such a rush of rage come upon him.
He tightened his hold on Krow’s fist, bending the wrist back, baring his teeth when the man yelped in pain, much the predator sensing weakened prey. He felt no remorse, none. He wanted to hurt him, make him feel the pain his…guest had felt. No, he wanted to make him hurt more!
“Touch him again, ye bastard, and nae hesitation will I feel in slitting yer throat and tossing ye to the ghouls for dinner.”
“Capt’n, he…” Krow yelped when his wrist was bent closer to the breaking point.
“It matters not what he did. Our guest he is and he will be treated as such. Now get out and keep from my sight until I give orders otherwise.” Nova threw the lowerling towards the door and gave him his back.
Upon hearing the door close, he turned his attention to the Titledman and found him staring at him. An approving smile lifted the right corner of his mouth as he took in the handsome visage of his captive. The golden-amber eyes were truly enthralling, like that of the majestic spotted jungle cat roaming the jungles of his home. He found he wanted to dip his tongue into that shallow groove marking his chin. “Roban did well when he chose ye.”
* * *
Hearing the exchange, Thrace opened his eyes, which he had closed in anticipation of the strike, first one and then the other, and discovered his attacker subdued, fist gripped in the bone-breaking grasp of the large, caramel-skinned man who had taken him captive with such ease. There had been no chance to study the man when first he kicked down the door of the cabin, only to secure that which was most important to him within his bag, but to see him again, Thrace was certain he had never seen a more intriguing looking man.
Tiny bumps rose up all over his body, shivers racing along his spine, as recognition flared. Was…was this the faceless man from his drawings? His heart skipped several beats, fearing that he was indeed the faceless man, which meant…
He jumped when his captor threw the other man towards the cabin door with the direst of threats, but he could only assume that the man left for he was lost in a pair of striking eyes. Aqua they were, and never had he seen such a color before other than in the jewel-like mosaics lining Nortand’s royal palace. The lashes were so abundant, it appeared as if someone had taken pen and ink and thickly lined his eyes which made the jewel-like color that much more intense—Thrace thought one could easily be struck foolish when held by that gaze, counting himself amongst that number.
When he was able to pull his attention from those eyes the rest of the kidnapper came into focus. His lower face was covered in a beard neatly trimmed into a sharp point just below his chin and his head was hairless. Both attributes gave him a roguish quality and he was certain the man knew it.
He wondered if the large man was from one of the Western or Far Western Archipelagos. He would guess the Far West because of the length of colorful silk wrapped about his captor’s waist—as those set of islands were known for their silk—and the singsong quality to his voice, but it could only be a guess for never had Thrace traveled beyond the Northern Seas. The silk was worn over a pair of black wool breeches, which he thought made sense. His captor would wish to keep his cultural accoutrements, but he would also wish not to freeze in the colder clime of these waters.
Definitely none more intriguing.
“Ye well, lad?” Nova closed the distance betwixt he and his captive wanting a closer look. He grinned when he was treated to a single raised eyebrow. “Fair enough, fair enough. How else would a man be after finding himself taken captive and then struck by…” He swiped a thumb over the drying dribble of blood at the corner of the other man’s mouth. He wanted to find Krow and thrash him further. “My apologies for Krow, he acted against orders.”
“What do you want with me?” Thrace demanded, his gruff Northern Seas parlance nigh a growl. Aye, he was this man’s captive, as he was just reminded, and he need remember that; it mattered little how attractive he found the pirate.
“Ye are Roban’s promised-husband, are ye not?”
“I am Thrace eth Hylex, Grand Dusal Asqa, Prince Minor of Asqala, cousin to the Fair Princess Regál of Nortand.”
“An interesting connection, though it matters little. Ye answered not my question, do I repeat it?”
“Aye, I am the promised-husband to Marsal Xaev of Lakry. Why…?”
“He murdered my sister and ‘tis revenge I seek.” Nova lifted the long white braid at the Titledman’s right temple and rubbed the end between his thumb and forefinger. “Like the finest silk.”
Thrace yanked his head away, gritting his teeth as his hair pulled from his captor’s fingers. “Revenge? Do you plan to kill me then?”
“A cold-blooded killer I am not.” Nova caressed Thrace’s cheek with the back of his forefinger, along his angular jaw. He traced his thumb over the slight bump marring an otherwise perfect nose. It was obvious it had been broken at one point and not set exactly so.
“Then what do you plan to do with me?”
“First, I plan to ruin Roban’s wedding. When the boat once carrying ye limps into port, he will find not his promised-husband, but a note offering regrets that ye will be unable to attend the ceremony.”
“Methinks a fine prize ye make.” He smiled broadly, his body quickening as his captive’s face flushed, those golden-amber eyes darkened. “Mayhap I will take ye as my lover.”
“What is it you wish, to make me fall in love with you?”
Nova continued to smile as he stroked his beard, ending at the point with each downward sweep of his hand. “’Twould be a fine revenge, would it not: make what once belonged to my enemy mine? ‘Twould ruin ye in his eyes.”
“Excuse me?” Thrace began working on the bindings about his wrists, refusing to just sit there and do naught to aid himself. He was a man of Asqala, a man of the Northern Seas. Such an individual did not wait for rescue.
“Doubt I do ye are aught but maiden, for ‘tis the only type of individual Roban ever finds…appealing. Do I take yer maidenhood, to him ye would then be…”
“I would be worthless, is that what you say?”
“To him, lad, only to him.”
“And only have I known Roban to be a considerate man. How do you know ‘twas he who killed your sister?”
“I was there when through her heart he slid his blade. Ambushed we were while going about our business…”
“In that instant, nae, though it matters not—nae cur am I.”
“But still a pirate.” The ropes bit into his flesh and he thought he felt blood begin to well.
“Aye, and a proud one, but that day, my sister and I were legitimately trading various silken goods from the isle of Grand Temos, our home. Never did I act as pirate when she was aboard my boat. Until that day, my sister had nae knowledge that I was pirate, the family secret kept from her.”
He had thought it foolish to keep it from her. Anry carried the Blood from the House of Blast, she should have known her heritage, given the chance to decide if ‘twas what she wanted, for she was so very fierce and loyal, and all traits held dear by the House of Blast, but his father had been adamant: the Blast women did not take up the mantle of pirate. Did he have a daughter, things would be different, she would know. His daughter would be the fiercest pirate of the Grand Western Seas.
“I was beaten and bound with chains spelled to drain magik, helpless to protect her. He killed her because she would not comply with his demands, refused his advances. Because she fought back and injured him when he thought to force her. He then stranded me upon an island and sailed away, dumping my sister’s body into the sea as he did so.”
“I… I am unable to believe such.” He swallowed against the heavy lump in his throat, suddenly feeling ill. Yeryl and Zasara, please, no. He… Please, no.
Nova went to his desk and retrieved a small silver frame. “’Tis her portrait. ‘Twas a gift Anry gave me, commissioned for The Tempter so that always would she be upon the sea in spirit when she was unable to sail with me. She loved sailing, but duties that were hers kept her most oft at home.”
Thrace sucked in a loud, sharp breath seeing the portrait of the lovely young woman with the laughing green eyes. He knew that face, had drawn her death during one of his visions. Suffered so many endless nightmares. He turned his head away, frantically doing all he could not to throw up as his suspicions were spectacularly confirmed. Tears burned. Yeryl and Zasara, why now after all these years? Why could he not have…
His voice was but a whisper, “M-most sorry I am for your loss.”
“But why believe the word of a pirate, aye?” Nova returned the miniature to his desk, but not before pressing it against his heart, his eyes closed as if offering a silent entreaty. He then returned to his position in front of his captive, arms crossed over his chest. “Once I believed Roban my finest friend. We fostered together, nigh brothers. His father friend to mine as they fought alongside each other during The Great Pirate Clash.” His brows went up when Thrace went still, confusion filling those jungle cat eyes. “I see. Ye knew not that Roban be pirate himself, that long has his family tree been decorated with such individuals. I know not regarding the rest of his family, if my House was led false, but this I can tell ye: Roban is not just pirate, but the cur pirate, Soul Shredder.”
Thrace swallowed multiple times as the rising sickness in his stomach refused to abate, only growing worse with each reveal. There had been rumors about Roban, about his activities upon the sea, his connection to the one called Soul Shredder, but all were convincingly explained when Roban first came calling. His stepfather believed Roban and his mother unsurprisingly complied and so gladly was contract made with Roban, though never were Thrace’s thoughts taken into consideration, expected, as Thrace was, to just comply.
And he had, just complied.
“Still refuse to believe?”
“I know not what to believe, other than you have kidnapped me and offer threats of making me your lover to gain vengeance upon your enemy. If you think I will allow you to rape me…” He frantically tugged at his bonds as he watched his captor’s face darken and twist in disgust. The need to vomit was suddenly no longer a worry, just escape.
“Never would I commit so a vile deed,” Nova spat, “nae matter the situation!”
“’Tis a valid concern when you speak of making me your lover. I know naught of you or your desires. Who is to say that you would not use force…”
“Never did I say I would force ye, lad.” He leaned over Thrace, his hands resting on the back of the chair. He brushed his lips against his captive’s, gently sipped. “’Twill be a seduction I offer for I want ye most willing.” He jerked back laughing when Thrace snapped his teeth at him. “A fierce one ye be. ‘Tis a fine trait that. Exciting.”
Shock filled Thrace as his lips began tingling from the pirate’s kiss. He pressed them together and bit down upon them hoping to erase the sensation as it continued on, concerned that he was experiencing such sensations, certain it had to be wrong. For so many reason. And yet to his shame, he wanted to experience it again.
Instead, he snarled, “I will fight you!”
“’Twill be part of the fun, but rest easy, nae force will there be, and certainly nae threats will be made against ye or yers to make ye comply.”
“How then do you plan to seduce me? It sounds as if you mean to leave me be.”
“Now, never did I say that. Seduction entails contact, ‘twill just not be forced.” Nova stole another kiss despite the threat of teeth sinking into his lower lip, having enjoyed the first kiss so well. “Soon ye will desire my kisses, wish to have me touch ye, and I await the time such words are delivered.” Viewing him at such close proximity, he noticed for the first time that the lad’s face was quite smooth in appearance. “What be yer age?”
“Yer age, lad, what is it?”
“A score and five I am. If you claim me child, I must object.” Too much had happened in his life for him to think of himself as young.
“I make nae such claim, but ye appear far younger and I see nae lines of life lining yer face.” He snorted. “Of course it surprises me not to learn that Roban sought one such as yerself to marry; he most likely thinks ye younger than ye actually be. He is one who would crave a spouse with very little experience of the world, and despite yer age, ‘tis apparent ye lack such experience.”
“Mayhap I have not left the Northern Seas, left Nortandian soil, and mayhap I look young, but that means not I lack experience.”
“Curious I am as to why ye agree to marriage when the world there is for ye to see. And aye, to not have ever left yer home…”
“If my age appalls you, why would a man your age attempt to make a man my age your lover?”
“Far am I from old and nae issue do I have with yer age.” To prove his point he again kissed Thrace, moving away before he could bite him. “Only do I worry about yer inexperience and the interest Roban has in it. And ye avoid my question. Why did ye agree…”
“’Twas a contract made betwixt my stepfather and Xaev the year previous and approved by the Regent.” For reasons he was still trying to discover, but that was his business and not the pirate’s.
“And always are ye the dutiful son?”
“A scandal my sister caused when she ran away with a merchant ten years past.”
“And so always are ye dutiful.” Nova stepped back and offered a sweeping bow. “From one dutiful son to another, I welcome ye to The Tempter. Yer host I am, Capt’n Nova Blast, feared pirate of the Grand Western Seas.”
“Dutiful?” Thrace again started working on his bonds, his attention having been diverted by those stolen kisses. Fuck, his lips still tingled. “You?”
“Aye. Also am I contracted to marry one not of my choosing, but I comply because ‘tis expected of the first born son of my House to make the proper marriage.” Again Nova placed his hands on the back of the chair, once more leaning over his captive. “Do ye even prefer men?”
“Would it matter if I did or not?”
“Certain I am I could arouse ye, but unless one holds even a secret desire, ‘twill gain neither of us aught. Mayhap this eve we will undress and explore each other, discover what brings the other pleasure, if we bring each other pleasure.” He moved around the young man to untie him and tsked seeing the raw and bloody marks on his wrists. “Now, lad, did ye do this?”
Thrace once more tried to free himself from his bindings. “Mayhap I am dutiful, but the sort to remain captive I am not.”
“’Twas not my order for ye to be tied, only to be placed within my cabin.” Nova untied him from the chair and held up his hands when Thrace spun around, fists held at the ready to fight. “Aye, fierce ye are. It stirs this pirate to see such fire.”
Thrace looked about him, seeking a weapon. “Where is my dagger?”
“I hold it.” He brought the dagger from behind him, having placed it in his belt next to his own dagger at the small of his back. “I will continue to hold it until I feel certain ye mean not to gut me with it.”
“’Tis mine, given to me by my grandfather. I would have it back.” The dagger was only ever passed to the one holding the Title of Asqa. Pedar onm Dola, the previous Grand Dusal, had been the last of his House. Pedar’s son, Geffan onm Dola—Thrace’s uncle—had entered The Everafter when Thrace was three. So upon his death six years prior, Pedar bequeathed the Title of Grand Dusal Asqa to his only grandson, despite not carrying the onm Dola name.
“Do ye plan to gut me with it?” Nova laughed seeing the stubborn look upon his captive’s face. “Aye, I can see ye would try. ‘Tis my promise I give to return it when nae longer is there such a threat.” He returned the dagger to his belt. “Now, if ye would allow me to aid ye…”
“Keep your distance, pirate.” He brought his hands back up, prepared this time to defend.
“Very well, there are healing supplies under the washbasin do ye desire to use them.”
Thrace picked up the chair and threw it at Nova, running from the cabin when the pirate tried to block the thrown object, but found there was nowhere to go, only the sea about them.
“Far we are from any help.” Nova rubbed his shoulder where the chair hit him. He had to admire his captive’s quickness, as well as his fighting spirit. He grinned. Definitely exciting.
Thrace rushed up to the quarterdeck, but Nova followed him. He faced the pirate, again prepared to fight. “’Tis unfair that you do this when I have naught to do with this fight.”
“Fight?! He murdered my sister. Mean I do to gain vengeance any way I can; my sister will know justice.” Then mayhap he could forgive himself for his inability to protect her.
Not knowing what else to say, Thrace changed the course of the conversation. “What happened to my escort?”
“Ye need not worry over such things, ‘tis done.”
“Did you kill them for naught but sailing under Xaev’s banner?”
“Being pirate is not always a simple thing, there are shadowed corners and darkened halls that one must occasionally traverse. Roban killed much of my crew that day, sank my boat, and left me stranded upon an unmarked island without way of mercifully ending my life as ‘tis the proper and decent way. Three days passed before my sister’s body, ravaged by the sea and her creatures, washed ashore. ‘Tis not something a doting brother should see.” He rubbed a hand over his head only to realize how cold it was. He yanked his stocking cap out of his coat pocket and pulled it over his head, making certain to cover his ears. “Over a year was I stranded; sixteen months and twelve days before I was found. Never could I be considered the same man afterwards.” There were still mornings he awoke in a sweat certain he was still upon that island.
Thrace could never fully imagine the anguish and horror Nova went through that day and afterwards. His visions had not shown the aftermath, only the death, which had been awful enough seeing his drawing of the sword plunging into the young woman’s chest, the pain upon her face, the screams that filled his mind.
There had been one drawing of the aftermath. Even then he could picture it, despite the distance in years, the many visions since: a faceless man sitting in front of a crude grave, a clump of long hair in his hand, several missing patches upon his head; his once luxurious mane of hair dying along with his innocence.
He twisted the silverin promise cuff encircling his wrist, feeling as if it was burning his flesh. Of course that could be from having rubbed himself raw on the ropes, but he did not think so. He had accepted his impending nuptials because he was dutiful, but he had wanted to find his own spouse. He had wanted to see more of the world before settling. He had wanted…
“You said Xaev ambushed you. Did you not state you were the finest of friends, nigh brothers? Why would he…” Why was he even trying to fight the truth?
Nova shoved his hands into his coat pockets. “Admit I do that we had begun to grow distant after I gained capt’ncy before him. Always have I been the better sailor though by three years was he older. Only had I turned twenty and two when I received my first boat, only seventeen when I finished my fostering. He cared little for either milestone.”
“You claim jealousy on his part?”
“I know not what his issue was, only that he became more distant after I gained boat first. Then he began to look at my sister as if he would possess her, gain the Title of Prince that marriage to her could gain him, but not in any way that declared he would love her, treat her as the gift she was.”
“Prince? Then pirates and royalty openly marry within the Far Western Seas?”
“Nae, such things are kept secret. ‘Tis why my sister knew naught of it.” He offered another sweeping bow. “Prince Nerak ryk Baj, heir to the throne of Grand Temos, at yer service. And why I told ye such, I know not, but ‘tis done.” He held out his hand. “In need ye are of tending yer wrists, do allow me…”
“Keep from me or I become violent.”
Nova held his hands out. “Only do I wish to tend the raw wounds, keep them from becoming infected. I can do so here, back in the cabin or… If ye find yerself hungry, I can aid ye in the galley while ye wait for a meal.” He sighed when Thrace offered no response. “Would ye care to gain yer coat? ‘Tis rather cold…”
“’Tis hardly that.” He turned away and stood at the railing watching the long wake as the boat sliced through the water. He breathed deep of the sea air, the need to throw up finally, fully, dissipating, though his guilt remained, would always remain. “’Tis quite pleasant actually. A fine early spring day.”
“’Tis freezing, lad.” Nova came to stand directly behind Thrace, bracing his hands on the railing, keeping the lad from moving. “Offer nae struggle. Do ye fight me the crew will become agitated. ‘Twas disappointing…”
“You stated you would offer no threats to gain your seduction, do you break your promise so soon?”
“Nae threats.” But he moved to stand at Thrace’s side. “Correct ye are, I promised. Though the warning is sound: ‘twould be best not to fight me in front of the crew. Ye wish to tussle, ye may attempt to thrash me out of their sight.”
“Most capable I am of fighting.” Thrace kept his eyes straight ahead, disliking how attractive the pirate was, afraid he would find himself staring at those lips. He would not give his kidnapper reason to think he was interested. “’Tis not done to allow a lad from Nortand or her provinces to go about without knowing how to use his fists.”
“Know yer way about a sword?”
“Of course. The Title of Champion is mine in Asqala for the short sword.”
“We will need fence during our journey, if ye mind not such exercise. In the time mean, we should take care of yer wrists. If I need sit upon ye to do so I will, but rather would I not.”
Thrace glanced at Nova, keeping the fact that the man intrigued him off his face. “I would mind not a meal.”
“Then follow me. Afterwards, if it pleases ye, a tour I will give of my beauty.” He lovingly patted the railing before stepping away, motioning Thrace to follow him.
Longing for adventrue, Thrace never expected to be kidnapped by a wild and lusty pirate seeking vengeance.
Looking to avenge his sister's death, Captain Nova Blast steals his enemy's betrothed only to find his treasure.
But time is short for both men as duty to home and hearth complicate everything.
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