Gay historical romance from the Golden Age of Piracy
Ben fled England for Port Royal, where he hopes to build a life free from his past. But in the wickedest city in the world, he falls prey to a gang of rogues.
A mysterious pirate, dangerous and sexy as sin, saves his life. But there’s a price.
Can Ben have a future with a pirate? Or is he just a bit of pirate booty?
The second book in Radcliffe’s epic Pirates of Port Royal series.
RHYTHMIC RUSH OF WATER. Cool breeze tickling his skin. Jesu, why was it so cold? Ben groped for the blankets. A soft, grainy surface yielded beneath his searching hands.
Not his bed at the Feathers. Not a floor either. He cracked open his eyes. Pale blades of grass poked up through sandy dirt. He was outside. Had he passed out in the street?
Groaning, he rolled over and sat up. Pain skewered his skull, taking a sharp path down his spine. He yelped, clutching his head, panting as he fought the urge to spew. The nausea subsided slowly. He rubbed grit from his eyes, taking stock of his surroundings.
Grey sea, touched with silver by dawn’s tentative fingers, spread to a dim horizon. Just beyond his toes, clear waves lapped golden sand. Behind him, lush bushes and palm trees dotted the higher ground. To his right, empty beach disappeared around a headland. More beach stretched to his left, and in the distance rose dark mountains. This was not Port Royal.
“Where the hell am I?” he muttered under his breath. “And how the hell did I get here?”
Closing his eyes, he cradled his aching head. Last night he had left the Feathers for a punch house on the other side of town. And then? He searched his fractured memory for clues.
A crowded room, thick with smoke, echoing with music and chatter. Rum punch, tangy on his tongue with sweet pine and sour lemon. A handsome man, all smiling blue eyes and wandering hands. Leaving the tavern arm in arm in search of privacy. A dark, noisome alley, a shove in his back. Sprawling face first. Hands inside his coat, the chink of coin as his purse was taken. A low laugh, the swish of a cudgel, and then black nothing.
The memories made him grimace. He should have known better than to trust a stranger in a town like Port Royal.
“Only got yourself to blame, Ben,” he groaned.
Well, himself and the local kill-devil rum, which had led him to throw his usual caution to the winds. Or rather, had unlocked his shameful needs. All things considered, he was lucky to be alive. Being robbed, knocked out, and dumped in the middle of nowhere was a fitting punishment for both his folly and his sin.
He had to still be in Jamaica, but where? He should search for a house or a settlement where he could ask for directions to Port Royal. But which way should he go? He cocked an ear. Naught but the hush of the waves and the calls of birds greeting the rising sun. He sniffed. Briny sea air and the nutty scent of vegetation filled his nose. No scent of wood smoke or cooking food came on the faint breeze.
He was alone.
Yet he could not rid himself of the notion he was being watched. He tried to shake off the sensation. The sheer loneliness of this deserted beach was affecting his imagination.
Licking dry lips with a tongue that felt like a piece of leather, he cast a longing glance at the sea. Undrinkable. He needed to find water, if nothing else. He knelt, wincing when the sharp edge of a shell stabbed his knee. He looked down.
He fell back onto his arse. Seeing his bare toes had not sunk through his foggy thoughts, and now he touched his torso to reinforce what his eyes had already told him. That slimy shit-sack thief had not just taken his purse. His new boots and every stitch of clothing on his back were gone.
He cradled his head again, cursing himself. If only he had the strength to deny his sinful desires, he would not be in this position.
“If only you had, you wouldn’t be in bloody Jamaica,” he told himself savagely. “Seems even exile can’t teach you the lesson.”
But there was no point bemoaning his fate. Naked or clothed, he had to find his way back to town. Limbs stiff, head aching, he staggered to his feet.
The light was growing, although the sun had not yet risen above the rolling line of the distant mountains. Movement caught his eye. Two men, one carrying a burlap sack, the other wearing a bright blue doublet, ambled through the brush. Heart lifting, he shouted and waved. Blue Doublet waved back, and they altered their course to head in his direction.
Feeling as exposed as a bishop caught in a brothel, Ben looked around for something to cover himself. A fallen palm leaf was large enough to protect his dignity, and he held it in front of his groin.
Blue Doublet called out, “Are you lost?” His accent was strange to Ben’s ears.
“Ay,” called Ben. “And, er—” He gestured to the leaf sheltering his privates. “I was robbed.”
They were closer now, and Ben could see their faces. They looked foreign, somehow. Not English, anyway. Spaniards? A frisson of fear trickled down his spine. While England and Spain were finally at peace in Europe, treaties mattered little across that invisible line separating the Old World from the New. Here in the Caribbean, Spaniards were the enemy of all.
Mayhap his apprehension showed in his face, for Blue Doublet smiled and splayed his hands to show he had no weapon. “Never fear, we shall help you.”
Ben let out his breath, his shoulders relaxing. Suddenly, a waist-high thicket nearby shook wildly. Ben’s heart seized. Was some deadly creature hidden within, leaping out to attack?
A musket roared, splitting the peace of the morning.
Ben choked off a scream. Blue Doublet reeled backwards, clutching his chest. He crashed into his mate, and they both fell to the ground. Ears ringing from the shocking explosion, Ben turned to run.
“Stop!” barked a voice.
A man rose from the bush, freeing himself from tangling twigs with a curse as he stepped onto the bare ground. With his tall boots and weapon-heavy baldric, he looked like one of the infamous pirates that infested Port Royal. Or used to, before most of them fled Jamaica. Ben was too busy staring at the dark eye of a pistol in the pirate’s hand to take in much else.
“Don’t you go nowhere,” said the pirate.
The sensual growl echoed through Ben. Warmth swirled in his blood while his skin prickled as if teased by a feather. Distantly, he noted an oddity. Most English sailors, pirate or otherwise, hailed from port cities like Bristol or Portsmouth, but this pirate had an accent straight from the streets of London.
Blue Doublet lay facedown in the sand. His mate was scrambling to his knees. Seeing the pirate approach, he cowered and held out his hands in supplication. The pirate rolled Blue Doublet over with a booted foot. Blood bloomed on his white shirt, a macabre red flower, and his jaw sagged open.
He was dead.
Copyright © Jules Radcliffe