Stevie Woods:author of gay romantic fiction

October 16, 2012

Cane: today’s 25% excerpt!

Today I am posting an excerpt from the quarter point in my gay historical novel, Cane, a story set on sugar cane plantations shortly before the American Civil War looking at the institution of slavery and one young man’s struggle to cope with the situation.

Turning back, something glinting on the seat next to him caught Pieter’s eye.  He picked it up to find a small silver button and as he looked at it closely he saw the tiny monogram letters: SC – Sebastian Cane.  It must have fallen from the man’s jacket or his waistcoat when Cane took out his pocket watch.  Pieter rolled it around in his palm and closed his hand over it, a slight smile on his lips.  Perhaps Cane had inadvertently left him a ‘calling card’ if fate ever allowed them to meet again.

***

Barend seemed more at peace with his new wife than Pieter had expected.  A few of their other friends were present, too and the evening passed very pleasantly for all concerned, though Pieter’s thoughts kept drifting back to his meeting with the American, Sebastian Cane.  Occasionally, during the evening he would slip his hand into his pocket to check that the button was still there.

Pieter didn’t tell anyone about his encounter with the enigmatic American.  It was something he kept hidden inside. Pieter couldn’t have explained his fascination with a stranger he had only met for a few minutes anyway.  He wasn’t even sure he understood it himself.

Pieter continued to see Josef occasionally, but it was nothing more than scratching an itch.  He liked the young man, enjoying his company along with others of the group of young men he considered friends, but none of them moved him the way Joss had – or as Sebastian Cane apparently did.

During his first months in Amsterdam, Pieter’s dreams had been full of Joss.  Memories of his hands sliding over Pieter’s skin as his hard cock slid inside him, or images of Pieter taking him against the wall of the ruined church, his lover’s dark hands scrabbling at the crumbling bricks as the force of passion overtook their bodies.

More recently though, his dreams had been invaded by a pair of startling brown eyes, suddenly lit by a bright smile; a pair of long legs in tight evening pants; a triangle of pale skin, edged by a white cravat; a pair of full mobile lips, the taste of which Pieter awoke desperately wanting to know.  The first time it happened he snapped awake, gasping for breath.

His dream last night had been the most telling of all.  It began with him pressing Joss against the wall as Pieter leaned into him, his mouth plundering his lover’s.  He knew his lover’s taste so well, even well after a year since he’d last been with Joss, Pieter recognized his flavor.  Then the familiar taste faded and puzzled, Pieter released his lover and found he was staring into a pair of warm brown eyes.  Pieter gasped and Sebastian Cane took the opportunity to thrust his tongue deep inside Pieter’s mouth. Pieter moaned –  and opened his eyes, groaning to find himself alone in his bed.

***

“Piet,” Josef said one evening as Pieter stood with his back with him, staring out of the window at the failing rain.  Josef had invited Pieter over for one of their regular nights together but Pieter was distracted.  “Do you really want to be here with me?  You haven’t even started to undress; it’s as if just being here with me is a habit with you now.  Look, while I don’t want any…complications, but, I do at least want you to be here with me.”

Sighing Pieter turned around, his eyes dipped, “I’m sorry, Josef, it’s not you, I promise.”

Josef stared at him, “No, what you mean is it’s not him, whoever it is you wish you were with.”

Pieter’s head snapped up then, shocked that he was so obvious.  Josef gave him a wan smile.  “I’ve been…sensing the difference in you, you have been…preoccupied more and more the last few weeks.”

Pieter sighed, “I didn’t know I was that obvious.  I’m sorry, didn’t mean to…”

“Forget it; I know how these things happen.  Are you and he?”

“No, it’s not possible,” said Pieter softly.

Josef looked at Pieter and he appeared confused. “I see,” Josef said.  “Do you want to end our…arrangement?”  Josef hesitated, regarding Pieter carefully, before adding, “I understand, you know.  I wanted someone once and it wasn’t to be, and for a while no one else was good enough.  We both knew from the beginning that this was casual, for both of us.  I have liked being with you very much but I feel we are drifting apart.  Don’t feel you have to…be with me if you no longer wish to.”

Pieter met the young man’s gaze squarely.  “I’m sorry, Josef, I don’t really know what is wrong with me.  I want someone I can’t have, someone I don’t even know.  I wish I could love you; I like you and we are good together,”

“But it is not enough,” Josef interrupted.  “I understand.”  He chewed his lip for a moment, before continuing.  “Let’s not force this; it’s not fair for either of us.”  Josef smiled and reached out to squeeze Pieter’s shoulder.  “Shall we call it a day?  You know where to find me if you want to see me again.”

“Sorry, I don’t feel good about this, but…” Pieter sighed and then smiled ruefully.  “You’re very understanding.  God knows why you haven’t found someone better than me!”

Josef laughed, “I live in hope.”

***

As he walked away from Josef, Pieter felt a mixture of relief and sorrow. He really did like Josef and enjoyed what they did together, but the young man realized he had done the right thing, for both of them.  For all Pieter knew, he was keeping Josef from meeting that certain someone.

Over the next few weeks his social life slowed down dramatically. His surrogate family seemed somewhat puzzled by this, but they didn’t push him for an explanation when Pieter made it clear that he did not wish to discuss the matter.

He hadn’t been seeing quite as much of his group of friends anyway, spending more of his time with Barend and Femke, and on occasion Barend tried to weed out what was wrong with him, but for once, Pieter kept his own counsel.  Most of the time now, he only socialized with the Van Leydens, or spent more and more time on his own. Willem tried harder to get him involved with the family’s round of invitations but Pieter refused more frequently than he accepted.

So it wasn’t a surprise when early one evening he arrived home from the office to be informed by Closson that his cousin wished to see him immediately in the salon.  With a sigh at having to face yet another unwelcome request, Pieter went in.

“Evening, Willem, what can I do for you this time?  Please don’t expect me to go with you tonight.  You know I can’t abide the so-called musical evenings of the der Falk’s.”

“Sit down please, Pieter.” Willem’s voice had a very serious tone, which was unusual for him and Pieter was confused and curious.  Pieter sat down carefully on the edge of the seat of one of the armchairs.  “We have received some news from Spinnaker.”

Pieter knew without being told anything further that the news was bad; just the look on his cousin’s face, the hesitation with which he spoke, was enough.  “What’s wrong?” Pieter asked directly.

“I’m sorry, Piet, there’s no easy way to say this.”  Willem took a breath, “Your father is dead.”

Somehow Pieter had expected that, but to actually hear the words was more shocking than he could have suspected.

“Dead?” Pieter breathed.  “How?  He wasn’t that old.”

“No, he wasn’t,” agreed Willem thoughtfully.  “He was two years younger than me.”  Willem swallowed and continued, “This explains it all,” he handed a folded sheet of paper to Pieter who held it arms length, as if it might burn him.  Recognizing Pieter’s distress, Willem carefully explained what was in the letter.

“It seems your father was out riding, he’d been visiting a neighbor and on his way back home a sudden storm blew up.  It is suspected that his horse shied from something and Nicolaas was thrown; he broke his neck and died immediately.  He didn’t suffer, Pieter.  I’m so sorry.”

Feeling numb, Pieter nodded and stood up, clutching the paper against his chest he left the room.  He never heard Willem calling to him, saying he needed to talk to him, ending softly with, “anything I can help with”.

Retreating to his room, Pieter collapsed on his bed.  It was almost a shock to realize how much he had still loved his father and now he was gone.  Pieter couldn’t even attend his funeral. It would have taken place long since.  It would have taken weeks for the message to cross the vast Atlantic Ocean to reach him in Holland.  It seemed unreal that his father had been dead for weeks and Pieter hadn’t known.

He regretted now that he and his father had parted on such bad terms.  Pieter had only communicated with Nicolaas Van Leyden once since he had arrived in Amsterdam, a few days after he’d arrived.  It had been obvious that Willem expected him to write to inform his father of his safe arrival and when, on the third day, his cousin pointedly asked him if his letter was ready yet, Pieter had retired to his room to write a short note.  He wrote simply and directly of his safe arrival and how welcoming the Amsterdam Van Leydens had been.

Almost as an afterthought, he’d added a sentence asking after the whereabouts of Effie and her children, hoping they were being looked after.  He’d hesitated before even writing that but Pieter was desperate for news of his ex-lover and the people he still thought of as his surrogate family.

His father replied eventually, all but ignoring the news about his own safe arrival and acceptance in Holland, but instead answering his query about Joss and the others by stating quite plainly that Effie and her family had been sold off the island, and that he would never mention them again.  Of their whereabouts Nicolaas was conspicuously silent.

That cold missive hardened Pieter’s heart against his father and he had never written to him again, trying, in fact, to put the intractable man out of his thoughts.

Now Pieter felt a measure of guilt because, until that fateful night when Nicolaas had discovered the truth, he had been a good and loving father.  True, they had disagreed volubly on the subject of Pieter’s attitude to slavery and, of course on a more personal level, his proposed marriage but the young man was honest enough to admit that the elder Van Leyden didn’t know all the facts, didn’t understand why he’d been so vehement against taking a wife.

That night his father had finally understood and Nicolaas had never forgiven his son for what he saw as a sin. Pieter wondered if his father would ever have reconsidered his opinion, if he even regretted banishing his only son.  Now Pieter would never know.

Pieter sat up as realization set in that he could go home, he could do what he wanted.  Spinnaker belonged to him now.  God, he could have freed them, if only Effie, Tillie and Joss still belonged to the plantation.  Oh God!  Pieter had no idea who owned them, how they were being treated.  Effie and Tillie had never been field slaves and yet it was common practice on many plantations for women to work alongside the men.  The odds were they were suffering and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it!

<end excerpt>

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and if you want to know the rest of the story, you can purchase the book in ebook or print here

http://steviewoods.com

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