Here’s an excerpt from the quarter way point in my popular Barbary pirate historical novel, BEYOND THE VEIL!
“Attractive?” Tom interrupted, shocked. “We? How can you talk about him and you in the same breath like…like you are a…a couple? He is a murderer and a slaver. You saw what he did to David and then he had him taken ashore, to sell our friend into slavery. Heaven knows what sort of hell he is facing. God, the monster killed everyone he did not take into slavery! Do you suppose I, or you, are any less slaves?”
“No, I am not a slave!” Suzanna snapped. “As for you, if you use your brains you need not be either. Do you think I do not know the danger we are in? Yes, poor David and every other soul from our ship is in chains, facing God knows what fate. Do you suppose if I had not given myself to the captain, he would not have just had his way with me anyway and then sent us off in chains too? At least here I made a choice. It just so happens I do like him, I do find him attractive and for that I am grateful. You might hate me for it, but you should also be grateful. Do you not see you could have faced the same terrible fate awaiting David?”
“So now I am supposed to be grateful, am I?” Tom retorted, too angry to consider his sister’s question. “It never occurred to you that I might not want my sister’s honour on my conscience? But I suppose I should thank you for the thought. However, I begin to wonder just how well I really know you. You said you were not the perfect sister and I suppose being almost ten years older and strong-willed to boot, I have idolised you, but I cannot understand how you can like that…that brute.”
“I suppose because he treats me as a person first and a woman second. That probably does not mean much to you; I have always just been Suzanna to you. To others, I am a daughter, or a niece, or ‘that young woman’, I am marriage material, a mother in the making. No one ever just saw me.”
“David did,” Tom replied quietly.
She drew in a sharp breath. “Yes, I think perhaps he did,” she agreed sadly.
“What happens now?” Tom asked wearily.
“I do not know. Yet,” she replied thoughtfully.
The door burst open and the captain of the Pearl entered the cabin. Tom saw his face for the first time and was honest enough to admit he could understand why Suzanna might find the man attractive. He was not exactly the kind of Turk that Tom had expected; his features were almost European, with perhaps just a shade darker complexion. Tom wondered what his background really was.
The captain swaggered forward and casually put his arm around Suzanna’s waist, dropping a quick kiss on her willing lips as she leaned responsively into his embrace. Tom was pretty sure that it was for his benefit.
“Well,” he said, glancing at Tom, “and what are we going to do with you?” he asked quizzically.
Tom stood still and quiet, determined not to say anything. He was positive now the man’s overt caressing of his sister’s waist and hip was meant to unnerve him. It was working.
“You will look after him, will you not, Malik?” Suzanna asked softly, looking up at her new lover.
“He’ll have to make himself useful, work his passage. We have no passengers on this ship.”
“Is that what my sister is doing? Working her passage?” snapped Tom, who was immediately annoyed at his lack of self-control; that was a damned stupid thing to say.
Suzanna looked at her young brother, eyes wide with hurt and anger; however, it was the captain who answered.
“Let me tell you something, boy,” Malik said, grabbing hold of Tom’s upper arm and pulling him closer, “and I’m doing you a favour by telling you this. It took me many beatings to learn this lesson. I learned to obey, to do what was required to the best of my ability, I learned to ingratiate myself with those who held my life in their hands and I made sure I was indispensable.
“I started out as you are now, taken as a slave not much older than you. I was slave to a captain who kept me on board because…” He stopped for a moment, gathering himself, until with a deep breath, he began again. “I learned to become a sailor and eventually, after much hardship, I earned my freedom and I learned that even for a slave, freedom has a price. The life I once knew could no longer be mine. I’d seen and done too much.” He was perhaps talking more to himself now than young Tom. “So I had no choice but to embrace my new life. Now I’m the one with the power, I’m the one who controls the lives of others. Never again will I allow myself to be at the mercy of others.”
“So now, you are the master you hated when he enslaved and mistreated you?” Tom interposed quickly.
Malik’s face hardened. “Obey me, work hard, and you may survive. You will be my cabin boy. Learn to satisfy me and all will be well. For both of you,” he added almost as an afterthought.
Suzanna gasped. “Is that all I am to you, a slave with whom you take pleasure? I thought last evening, we…we found something.”
The captain cocked his head on one side, considering her. “Maybe. We shall see.”
* * *
Malik gave Tom detailed instructions on his new duties, which also included basic seamanship under the tender care of his first mate, Achmed. It did not take long for him a earn a few bruises because he was not fast enough for Achmed’s liking and, as much as he might dislike the captain, at least Tom’s duties below deck were less arduous.
Evening found him serving dinner in the captain’s day cabin to Malik and Achmed as they were discussing plans for the next raid. Suzanna had been instructed to stay in the cabin she shared with Tom. Malik would send for her when he was ready.
Suzanna had been irritable and upset all day following the unpleasantness early in the morning, and during breakfast she seemed to be of the opinion that it was all Tom’s fault. By the time he was finally instructed to go up on deck and begin his duties he was relieved to be out of her company. He had been allowed to eat his midday meal with her and she had calmed down a little by then, admitting she was mostly angry with herself. However, at the end of the meal Malik entered and told Tom to return to his work, inviting Suzanna to join him in his day cabin.
When next Tom saw her she was much more relaxed, though she would have preferred to eat her evening meal with Malik.
Tom had been intending to listen to what was being discussed at dinner, but his mind kept wandering to what would happen between Suzanna and the captain and whether he would still keep her, or both of them, on board the Ocean Pearl. He was, therefore, caught unawares when the captain snapped at him.
“Are you listening to me? Clear the table and then come back here,” Malik ordered.
“Yes, Captain.” Tom quickly gathered up the plates and cutlery and hurried off to the galley to deposit them, returning immediately. After the required obedience, one of the first things he learned was that Malik did not like to be kept waiting. He approached the table to tidy away the glasses and wide-bottomed decanter and put everything in their special places on the suspended shelf, sensing Achmed’s eyes on him at all times. The first mate was probably trying to find fault, something he could use against him.
“Leave that and come here,” Malik said harshly.
Tom quickly obeyed, nervous of the atmosphere in the cabin.
“You behaved very well today and Achmed tells me you are learning your lessons.”
“I had no desire to be beaten again; I learned that lesson very quickly.”
“Intelligent too,” Malik commented as he got to his feet.
“Too?” Tom had to ask.
“As well as pleasing to the eye,” said Malik, reaching over to touch Tom, who jerked away, shocked.
“What are…you…doing?” he stammered.
“I did say you’d need to satisfy me,” Malik replied with a brittle smile.
Tom flushed then and shuddered with revulsion. “No! What kind of man are you? You have already had my sister and now you want…God!”
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