A strait-laced lieutenant.
A free-living pirate.
Bitter enemies, fierce lovers.
Lieutenant Thomas Peregrine is outraged when he’s ordered to leave his ship and join the Brethren of the Coast. But Perry knows the folly of disobeying the tyrannical Commodore Pobjoy. He enlists with the Audacious, a pirate ship bound for the high seas in search of the Spanish treasure galleons.
Aboard his new ship is sailing master Gabriel Quinn, the most beautiful man he’s ever laid eyes on. Perry, a devout Puritan, is dismayed by his desire for a godless pirate, and an Irishman withal. He blurts out a shocking insult. And though he tries to apologise, it’s too little, too late. There can be nothing between them but bitter hatred.
Then one night, in a rowdy Port Royal tavern, Quinn stops him from making a stupid mistake. But there are consequences for carelessness. Perry’s orderly world is about to be turned upside down.
Port Royal, 1664
Perry set down his empty mug and picked up the glass onion. He shook the bottle and then held it up to the light. The scattered lanterns did their best in the smoke-filled tavern but failed to penetrate the dark glass. He lifted it to his lips, tipping his head further and further back. Naught but a dribble ran into his mouth. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he contemplated the raucous crowd with a sullen eye. To get more rum, he would have to push his way to the bar.
He was summoning the energy to bother when a stranger plumped onto his bench. Perry blinked owlishly, dragging his eyes up a lean body. Comely face, sparkling eyes. Lips made for kissing. The stranger spoke, but his words were lost in the clamour of music and chatter. Perry shrugged and shook his head.
With a flirtatious simper, the stranger slid across the bench seat until they pressed together. Perry gave a stiff smile but did not object. The stranger slipped a hand beneath the table. It strayed to Perry’s thigh, stroking up the inside. From a pitcher he had brought, he poured two drinks. He gestured at Perry’s now full mug and lifted his own in a toast.
Bringing the mug to his lips, Perry gulped a mouthful, but it was not the punch he expected. Liquid etched a burning path down his throat. He coughed. The hot sweetness of rum dominated, but under all was a musty, bitter taste, unfamiliar to his tongue.
A hand landed on his shoulder with a startling thump, and a voice said in his ear, “Captain’s asking to see you, Mr Peregrine.”
He knew that lilting brogue all too well. Turning his head, Perry met a pair of sardonic eyes. A strand of hair, escaped from the riband at the newcomer’s nape, grazed his face. He flinched from that intimate touch.
“Your captain or mine?” He paused and then continued more aggressively, “If it’s yours, I’ll not stir. She can go to hell. And you can too.”
Master Gabriel Quinn grinned down at him. That condescending smile, as always, sent Perry’s pulses into a frenzy. “Yours, boyo. Best be coming along. ’Twill not do to keep himself waiting.”
“God’s blood, I’m two-and-twenty; I’m not a boy. I need go nowhere with you.” Perry’s voice was petulant, but his obedience to authority was too deeply ingrained for him to ignore. He lurched to his feet, clutching the table for support.
Standing at a whisker over five eleven, his body well-muscled, Perry was hardly little, but the master was built on magnificent lines. He certainly made no bones about mocking Perry’s slighter stature. And though Quinn was only two, mayhap three years his elder, Perry did feel like a boy next to him. Short and scrawny and insignificant.
Perry threw his shoulders back and stood tall but still had to look up to meet Quinn’s eyes. His head spun, and he swayed. He must have drunk more than he thought. Or perchance his lack of appetite these last few days betrayed him, for he had scant food in his belly to soak up the rum. The master put an arm out, holding him steady. All unconscious, Perry leaned into it, but as he did so caught a glimpse of that mocking sneer. He collected himself and shook off Quinn’s hand.
Perry’s new drinking companion rose and latched on to his forearm. His mouth a sulky pout, he pulled Perry away and stood nose to nose with Quinn. The two men bore a superficial similarity: tall and dark, dressed like sailors in loose shirt and belted breeches tucked into boots, armed like buccaneers with sword and pistol. There, however, the resemblance ended.
Perry could never pin down exactly what made Quinn so beautiful. Was it the finely chiselled jaw topped with a determined chin and a shapely yet masterful mouth? The fascinating eyes an autumnal forest of green and copper and brown? The thick hair of rich mahogany? Mayhap it was no particular feature, but chance that combined all into perfection.
The other man would be handsome in lesser company with his pleasing face and pretty eyes. But next to Quinn, his boyish chin looked weak, and the smile Perry had thought beguiling was insipid. Gaze going from one to the other, Perry wondered that he had found the stranger so fetching.
“Hoy!” said the stranger heatedly. “This one’s with me. You’re Gabe Quinn of the Defiant, ain’t you? No poaching.”
“And you’re Peter Forker of the… Oh, you don’t have a ship, do you?” Quinn added tauntingly.
Forker scowled. “Just acos some French shrew made you her sailing master don’t make you no better than me. I paid for drinks and all for him, so bugger off.”
“You’d best be stowing your gab, Mr Forker. That French shrew has many friends, even in the Ingleside. Are you not knowing who your new chum is?”
“Well, he ain’t one of her men. Don’t nobody care about him, else he’d not be drinking alone.” Forker’s lip curled scornfully. “And he ain’t so joyful to see you neither.”
Forker recoiled a little at Quinn’s smile, all perfect white teeth and diamond-hard eyes.
“Allow me to introduce Mr Perry-grin of the Audacious. I may no longer berth on his ship, but you know the custom of the coast—the Brethren watch out for each other.”
Dread overtook the chagrin on Forker’s face, and his voice was hoarse with fear. “Jesu, he never said… No coin ain’t worth that!” Without another word, he dived into the crowd.
Perry watched him disappear, bewildered at the man’s sudden change of heart. Blinking, he tried to marshal his fuddled thoughts into order. May as well find Captain Black—no reason to stay now. He glared at Quinn and staggered from the tavern.
Lime Street heaved with buccaneers. Most were drunk, intent on celebrating the victories which had lined their pockets with Spanish silver and gold. The strumpets who inhabited the port were also out in force, equally intent on separating the men from their booty. Some leaned out of brothel windows to entice the pirates inside; others plied their trade in the streets and alleys. One or two called out to Perry, showing off their wares in a manner lewd enough to bring a blush to his cheek. Instinctively, he moved closer to Quinn. The ladies shrieked with laughter and sought other prey.
The sailing master sneered at his discomfiture. “You ever need protecting, do you not? But for myself, you might be in an alleyway right now bent over with your breeches about your knees.”
Perry glowered. “I can look after myself.”
“Oh?” Quinn’s eyes sparkled with derision. “You’re a rose waiting to be plucked, boyo. Fancy, a good Puritan lad like you carousing in such a den of iniquity as the Ingleside!”
“I’m not carousing.” He did not bother to correct Quinn on the matter of his religion—the crew had stamped him a fanatic long since. His natural reserve only encouraged their error.
“Are you not?” Quinn’s smile mocked. “God forbid your virtue should be defiled.”
Perry scowled. “I never laid claim to any particular virtue, Master Quinn.” He always strove to make the man’s title sound like an insult. Quinn, of course, always lovingly returned the favour. “I desire a drink, and—and convivial company.”
“Perchance not the convivial company you bargained for, Mister Peregrine. Was no one after warning you what sort of a place this is?”
Perry glared at him mutinously. No man on the crew would speak to Perry of aught that did not affect ship’s business, a thing Quinn knew well. Not that I need warning; I know exactly who patronises the Ingleside. But he preferred the master to think he came here in error, so he said nothing.
“So why was Forker buying you drinks?” asked Quinn. “I’d expect it to be the other way around. Has someone lifted your purse already?”
“Of course not; it’s in my—” Perry broke off. He had no wish to tell Quinn it was hidden from thieves in the safest place he knew of. He shifted, and the coins pressed uncomfortably on his balls.
Quinn gave him a sapient look. “Ah. That accounts for the odd way you’re walking. And why that diver was cosying up to you like a port doxy.”
“Not everyone finds me hateful, Master Quinn.”
Quinn shook his head, that infuriating, patronising grin curving his beautiful mouth. “As long as you’ve the coin, Mr Peregrine, you’ll not be short of love. But if a sweetheart for the night is what you’re wanting, the Ingleside is not where you’ll be finding her.”
Perry cursed his foolishness in going to the Ingleside. In England, men like himself had every motivation to be discreet and kept their liaisons secret. In Port Royal, the settlers turned a blind eye to the flagrant sexual practises of their allies, the Brethren of the Coast. And as they could openly be sodomites, no buccaneer who preferred liaisons with men bothered with secrecy.
But Perry did not have that freedom. And if Quinn knows what I am, he might guess what I really want from him. He was unsure he could live down the humiliation.
“I don’t need a sweetheart,” he said in sullen accents. “I but wanted a drink with someone friendly.”
“Friendly?” Quinn gave a scornful laugh. “Mayhap Forker was interested in your friendship, or mayhap your beaux yeux, but I’ve seen him pull a pigeon before. Upon my honour, if you’d so much as gone for a piss with him, you’d have woken on the morrow with a splitting headache and not much else. If you were lucky, he’d have left you your kerchief so you had something to cover your cods with.”
Perry rolled his eyes and mumbled, “A pox on you,” under his breath.
But the master heard him. His eyes flashed, and he buffeted Perry’s shoulder. Not hard, but enough to rock Perry on his unsteady feet.
“Enough of your shit. God blind me, you’re not a stupid man, Mr Peregrine, whatever else you are. You know fine you might not have woken up at all. Not that you’d be much of a loss.”
Perry glowered. Considering their history of enmity, he failed to see why the master had any concerns for him. And after his own fine speeches to the crew about temperance, self-denial, and morality, Perry was annoyed that Quinn, of all men, was witness to his drunken folly.
“Captain Black never ask for me, do he?” he said truculently, lapsing from his painfully correct accent as his anger mounted.
Quinn sneered, lifting his shoulder in a careless shrug. But when Perry turned to go back into the tavern, the master grabbed his arm, stopping him in his tracks.
Perry tried to shake off the brutal hand but failed. Fingers dug into his flesh, and an arm locked around his chest. He struggled, to no avail. Quinn was too strong. He was helpless in that powerful grip. An unwanted heat fired low in his belly, and panic surged.
“Leave go o’ me!” he panted. Blood rushed to his cock, leaving him lightheaded and breathless. The master’s groin pressed to his arse, and he knew a humiliating urge to rub against it.
“Devil take you, boyo, I’ll not have you going back in there.”
Quinn’s voice was a command, one Perry found hard to disobey. He stopped struggling, his mind in chaos. He mustered his will, determined to protest in some fashion.
“K-kiss my arse,” he stammered.
“Well now, some men might be taking that as an invitation.”
Hot in his ear, the very timbre of Quinn’s voice enticed surrender. Promised ecstasy. Lured him into temptation. A shudder cascaded through him, starting at his ear and running down his neck. Like falling dominoes, in swift succession his nipples peaked, his stomach fluttered, his cock swelled, his balls tightened. A faint whine of protest escaped his lips.
Copyright © Jules Radcliffe