Gay historical romance from the Golden Age of Piracy
Secret friends. Forbidden lovers. Some bonds aren’t meant to be broken…
When Titus Kandel meets Sir Henry Polglase, an irrepressible fire smoulders between them. But Ty can’t act on his feelings—he is owned by another man.
Affronted to learn Ty is property, Sir Henry swears he’ll free Ty from his master’s clutches. Ty is elated. Finally he’ll have the freedom he’s always longed for.
And then he discovers what really brought Sir Henry to the Caribbean…
A story set in the world of Radcliffe’s epic Pirates of Port Royal series
TY PLUNGED INTO THE organised chaos of the Bridg Town dock. Quartermasters shouted orders to laders, who hauled supplies onto waiting lighters. Sailors haggled for last minute purchases, comforts to take aboard ship. Vendors cried sales pitches, their goods ranging from local fruit to crudely knitted socks. Tempted by a stick of sugar cane, which he could gnaw once his work was done, Ty felt in his pocket for a coin. Jonkheer van Wyk was visiting the governor, a safe enough distance away. But if his master found out Ty had dared purchase himself a treat… Besides, he ought to save the money for a purchase sweeter than the fleeting pleasure of sugar on his tongue.
Out in the harbour, a fluyt rode at anchor, crew swarming over her sheets and sails to prepare for an imminent voyage. She looked an ungainly craft compared to the sleek sloops Ty was familiar with, but a fluyt was built for cargo not speed. Nor for passenger comfort. He dreaded sharing quarters with his master for the next two weeks. Below decks would be cramped, and he would take the blame for every little thing that went wrong. If he was lucky, the jonkheer would be delayed and miss the tide, leaving him safely aboard. But he had never been a lucky man.
“Is that ship the Batavia?”
Lost in thought, Ty had not heard anyone approach, and started at the voice. Deep, from the chest and not the nose. Musical. It resounded through him like bass notes, travelling down to his toes. He turned, curious and fascinated in equal measure.
The voice’s owner was a little shorter than he, but not by much. Ty was impressed. Usually he towered over these pale men of Europe.
And a pale man this one was. As yet unspoilt by the tropical sun, his face looked to be carved of choice ivory. Ty resisted the urge to discover the texture of the fine-grained skin with his fingers. Eyes of an indeterminate shade between blue and grey sparkled with vitality, looking upon the world with indulgent humour, matching the smile twisting the man’s firm mouth.
“The Batavia it is, sir,” said Ty.
“And a lovely sight, I declare. I hope you’re enjoying the view as much as I.”
A teasing look came with those words, making them ambiguous, and Ty realised he was still staring. He tore his gaze away. But eager to learn more of this stranger, he continued his study covertly.
The man was English as far as he could tell, though to him all accents in that language sounded the same. The suit marked him as a gentleman, a discreet dark green silk with touches of lace. Not enough for a vulgar display, but enough to show he was a man of means.
Behind the stranger, a carter wheeled a loaded barrow. He squeaked to a stop and unloaded a large chest. He then dumped several sacks on top, but not before Ty saw a monogram, the letters ‘HP’ intertwined, burnt into its wooden lid and picked out with gold. The gentleman flicked him a coin, and Ty drew in a sharp breath. It looked like two reales, a generous sum for the carter’s service.
The man tucked the coin away, his face beaming. “Thank you, good sir!” Tugging his forelock respectfully, he took himself off.
Ty weighed the gentleman up with new eyes. If he was looking for the Batavia, he must be a fellow passenger, and one who might throw a coin or two his way. And Ty needed coin—every peso, every real, every meagre maraved he could get his hands on. One day he would save enough to purchase his freedom.
“Are you sailing with this ship?” asked the gentleman.
“Ay, to Port Royal.”
“Excellent, for I too am bound for that fair city.” The man made a leg, a polite courtesy. “Sir Henry Polglase at your service. May I have the honour of knowing your name?”
Ty was surprised. Seldom did gentlemen speak to slaves but to give an order, let alone ask for a name. This one, however, showed every sign of wishing to indulge in conversation. Ty bowed, but without Sir Henry’s genteel flourishes.
“I am Titus Kandel, sir. At your service.”
“I’m obliged, Mr Kandel; much obliged. Do you think it is too early to board? I would like to settle myself.”
Ty bit his lip. “Please, sir, don’t call me Mr Kandel. My master would— Jonkheer van Wyk will dislike it. I am Titus.”
The carved nostrils twitched a little, and Sir Henry’s brows drew together. He had not known Ty was a slave, then. Staring at his sandal-shod feet, Ty waited for a rebuke, even a blow. Masters were apt to punish slaves for their own errors.
“Then, Titus, I shall ensure Jonkheer van Wyk has no cause to be displeased,” said Sir Henry lightly.
He might have been a slave since boyhood, but Ty had never become accustomed to the humiliation. When a personable man smiled at him, he was all too aware that he did not have the luxury of doing as he would. The freedom to associate with whomever he chose. For once he was grateful for his dark skin, hiding the hot shame that flowed to his cheeks. Sir Henry’s skin would have shown it, though. For a fleeting moment, Ty imagined how the gentleman would look flushed with arousal, lips red from kisses. He shook the sinful thought from his head. With such a devil inside him, it was little wonder his master beat him so often.
Copyright © Jules Radcliffe