Stevie Woods:author of gay romantic fiction

January 31, 2015

Excerpt from gay historical novel, CONFLICT

Filed under: writing — imagine647 @ 10:59 pm
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conflict200x300Here’s an excerpt from CONFLICT, the sequel to my gay historical novel, CANE, as the story continues into the Civil War:

Two men, one war. Can love survive when each takes a different side?

Leaving his lover behind to support the abolitionist cause, Piet Van Leyden finds himself leading one of the first all-black Union troops into the heart of battle. Reuniting with free slave and former love Joss brings some comfort, but will his presence tempt Piet into
forgetting the love waiting for him at home?

Sebastian Cane wonders how he’s able to go on without Piet by his side. When a series of unfortunate events lands him a prisoner of the Union, Seb knows he must rely on his wits and his love for Piet to survive…and get home to him.

Two men, one war. Can love survive when each takes a different side? While Pieter goes to fight for the abolitionist cause, a series of events lands

Sebastian a prisoner of the Union and Seb must rely on his wits and his love for Piet to survive…and return to him.

It was difficult for Pieter to concentrate on Grainger’s words. Of course he had thought on the possibility of running into Joss once it was permitted for blacks to join the army, but he had never really believed it would happen. There were literally thousands of men in the Union army, the numbers rising all the time and the odds must be enormous.

His thoughts faltered again as he heard the lieutenant state the private’s name. Peters? Joss had taken… Pieter didn’t know what he felt about it, that Joss had taken that as his name. Flattered? Appalled? Touched? Oh, Joss!

“Peters?” Pieter queried haltingly, his voice sounding odd even to his own ears.

“Yes, sir,” Joss replied, keeping his voice formal, staring over his commander’s shoulder. Then abruptly he shifted his eyes and looked directly at Pieter. “Named for the only man who ever showed me a kindness, sir.”

Pieter stared at his old friend and ex-lover, emotion running through him to find him looking so well. “I see,” he replied softly. “Thank you, private.”

“Sir!” Joss said smartly, stepping back into line.

Pieter knew he gave orders and passed out praise and criticism in equal measure, but when the day ended the only thing he could clearly remember was the look in Joss’ eyes as they had stared at each other. Pieter just had to talk with him but he couldn’t simply single him out to speak to privately without reason. A company commander would have no cause to communicate with a private soldier without going through junior officers, unless for censure or commendation.

He paced his tent for thirty minutes until he recognized there was a way. Grainger had inadvertently given it to him.

“Grainger!” he called, sticking his head out of his tent, looking round for the lieutenant.

“Here, sir,” a voice floated from nearby in the dark and then the pale face of the lieutenant came into view.

“That private, the one who you introduced?”

“Peters, sir?”

“Yes, that one. Send for him. I want to have a few words and he should be ideal for providing me with background.”

“Yes, sir, immediately.”

Pieter sat in the rickety chair behind the small folding table in his small tent. He was nervous at the prospect of seeing Joss again, and being able to talk to him. Pieter smiled at his own reaction, he knew it wasn’t at all logical.

Presently, the lieutenant brought Private Peters inside the tent and the black man saluted his officer smartly, eyes staring straight ahead, back ramrod straight as he stood to attention.

“At ease, Peters,” Pieter said, a surreptitiously shared look between them at Joss’ choice of surname, and then with a glance at Grainger he added, “Thank you, Lieutenant. I will take it from here.”

Grainger glanced from his captain to the private as if silently asking if he were sure, but he merely nodded, saluted and left.

Pieter just stared at Joss for a long moment and his old friend stared back and slowly smiled. He was suddenly assaulted with images of the two of them together, long years ago when all that mattered were those snatched moments together. Memories of his hands moving slowly as they skimmed over Joss’ ebony skin; Joss kissing him with abandon and each murmuring promises of forever. Those had been naïve times he realized now but they had been good times.

Things were very different now, the love he’d felt for Joss then had been real but he knew it paled into comparison with what he’d learned he was capable of, but he would never regret his feelings for Joss. Suddenly Pieter’s face was split by a grin and he rose and strode around the table, and the two men embraced. They didn’t hold the hug
for long, both being aware of the difficult situation.

“God, it’s good to see you looking so well,” Pieter commented as he retook his seat. “Grab a stool,” he said as an afterthought.

Joss did as he was asked and sat opposite his captain. “Oh yeah, I never expected to see you here.” He hesitated a moment, giving Pieter a long look.


“I didn’t know if you were still in Louisiana,” Joss explained, his voice low.

Pieter nodded, dropping his eyes as he said, “I didn’t want to leave Sebastian. I remained as long as I could, but I just wasn’t able to stay among those people down there. I was… I couldn’t keep bottling up my real feelings and it was starting to…to. I didn’t want to damage what we had by staying,” his voice barely above a whisper as he spoke.
He looked up at Joss then, attempting to smile at his friend, but it might just as well have been a grimace.

Joss recognized the sorrow in Pieter’s eyes that his friend was trying to hide, the ex-slave knew him too well.

After a moment, Pieter continued, “I tried to persuade Seb to come up north with me, not that I really expected he would. He has too much of a commitment in Louisiana.”

Reaching across the small table, Joss laid his hand over Pieter’s and gave it a small squeeze, attempting to comfort him. “I’m sorry, Piet, but I can’t say I’m surprised. His family have lived there for generations, don’t suppose he feels he can simply walk away from that.” He didn’t add that he also felt that if Cane had loved Pieter as much as he claimed he ought to have had different priorities. It would be no kindness to Pieter to voice that thought.

“I know and also in the few letters I did manage to receive from him before the mail stopped getting through, he admitted to feeling a greater responsibility to his slaves now and that…” Pieter stopped, as if remembering just who he was speaking to. He shrugged an apology.

Joss looked Pieter square in the eyes and commented, “Well, we know who to thank for that change in outlook, don’t we?”

“Enough about me,” Pieter said decidedly. “How about you?”

Joss gave Pieter a quick rundown of his life since they had parted in New Orleans, admitting that after a slow, difficult start the life he now had was good. He explained a little about Nathaniel and how the old Negro had helped shape his new outlook. Joss told him that Nathaniel had even taught him to read, and he reminded himself that he should show Pieter the letter he’d written when he got the opportunity.

He admitted he was glad to be able to accept responsibility for his own life, though it had been hard at first to get work and he had felt so lost and unsure most of the time until Nathaniel had taken him under his wing.

He gave a deprecating laugh. “Strange as it sounds,” Joss confessed, “I have felt happier since I joined up. Even after a year or so of freedom I was used to the,” he sought for the word he wanted and smiled wryly when he remembered it, “constraint of slavery and oddly I missed the…structure it gave my life.” He shook his head at his own confused thinking and Pieter smiled sadly at what had been done to people like Joss.

Joss regarded Pieter, giving his old friend a long assessing look. A little unnerved by the stare, Pieter asked, “What?”

“You’ve changed,” Joss said quietly and as Pieter frowned, he explained. “You’re more…comfortable, more sure of yourself.” Eyes lighting up as if Joss suddenly understood, he smiled broadly and added, “You know who you are.”

<end excerpt>

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January 30, 2015

Excerpt from historical novel, CANE

Filed under: writing — Stevie Woods @ 3:08 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

CanePhaze(200x300)CANE, a novel set on a sugar plantation just before the beginning of the American Civil War:


Privileged young Pieter may have grown up on a sugar cane plantation, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with the way his father runs things. He falls in love with Joss, one of his father’s slaves, and their affair sets off a chain of events that is destined to tear them apart.

When Pieter’s father dies, he returns home hoping to find Joss. It’s too late for their love, but maybe it’s not too late for Pieter to find happiness. As he makes his way to America, Pieter realizes old conflicts still rage, and even as he finds a new love, danger stalks his every move. Can Pieter learn to overcome the hate and fear that threaten to tear his world apart?


“You can’t sell Tillie and Joss, you just can’t.  They’re like family to me,” Pieter stated fervently.

“They’re our slaves, Pieter, nothing more.  Your poor mother was unwell when you were a baby and Effie helped in your upbringing, but that shouldn’t make her anything more to you than what she is.  I admit I allowed you too much freedom growing up and you made attachments that no well brought up young man should have.  It is wrong and you know it!”

“Who says it is wrong?  They are people, just like you and me…”

“No, they are not!  They are slaves, born of slaves and that is all they will ever be.  They will never be your equals and you do the girl no service treating with her as you do.  I knew she was part of the problem with…”

“No, no, you don’t understand.  I had already thought better of my stubborn attitude about marriage.  I have already decided that you are right and that I should…”

“It makes no difference anyway.  I have to pay the debt.”

“Please, Father.  I’m asking you, if you must sell slaves then so be it, but not Tillie and Joss.  Please, I have agreed to what you want.”

Nicolaas looked at his son, saw the pleading in his eyes.  Pieter said he had already decided before he knew of the gambling debt and Nicolaas knew his son would not lie about this.  It would only be fair to relent a little.  “Very well, I will keep the girl; sell someone in her place but…”

“And Joss?”

“No, Joss is one of the best field hands.  A good strong lad, he’ll fetch a good price.”

“Please, not Joss.  One of the others.”

“Enough!  I have given you the girl, what more do you want!”

“Joss, I want Joss!” Pieter’s voice was shrill, his eyes wide and Nicolaas stared, unable to understand.

“Don’t be a fool!  I told you he must…”

“No, no!  God, don’t you understand?  It’s not Tillie I need, it’s Joss!”

His voice was no longer shrill.  Pieter spoke quietly but with such intensity that Nicolaas finally understood what he was trying to say.  His mouth dropped open with shock and Nicolaas stared at the son he thought he knew.  Now Nicolaas realized he didn’t know him at all.  His Pieter, his pride and joy, the boy whose intelligence had been a source of delight, he…?  He… instead of women?  Oh God!

“You…you have…relations with that slave? With that man?  How could you?” Suddenly overwhelmed with disgust, Van Leyden declared, “You…you’re depraved, you godless sodomite!”

Looking remarkably calm in the circumstances, Pieter said, “Yes, I have relations with Joss, because I love him.  And I don’t believe I am godless, after all, God gave me the heart to love a man.  I hardly think my being a…a,” Pieter stumbled over the word his father had called him, “a sodomite is any worse than you being a slaver.  At least I show him kindness not cruelty.”

Nicolaas couldn’t believe what his son, his son, was saying, and comparing him to such depravity.  Fury added bitterness to his tone.  “If it’s the last thing I do, I will ensure that both he and his sister are removed from this property immediately and sold as soon as I can arrange it.  If I can sell them off the island I will do so.  I will do everything possible to ensure you never see him again!  Now, get out of my sight!”

<end excerpt>

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July 15, 2013

New excerpt from historical novel, CONFLICT!

conflict200x300Here’s a new excerpt from my historical novel, CONFLICT, sequel to CANE, which takes the story into the Civil War.


Two men, one war. Can love survive when each takes a different side?

Leaving his lover behind to support the abolitionist cause, Piet Van Leyden finds himself leading one of the first all-black Union troops into the heart of battle. Reuniting with free slave and former love Joss brings some comfort, but will his presence tempt Piet into forgetting the love waiting for him at home?

Sebastian Cane wonders how he’s able to go on without Piet by his side. When a series of unfortunate events lands him a prisoner of the Union, Seb knows he must rely on his wits and his love for Piet to survive…and get home to him.


It was cold in the tent; damn it, was cold nearly all the time. It seemed forever since Pieter had actually been inside a brick building. He pulled the blanket off his cot and wrapped it around him. Pieter could hardly remember the last time he had felt really comfortable and cozy. Then he suddenly remembered one warm day, sitting on a veranda eating a picnic lunch. It had only been a couple of days after he’d arrived at Morning Star. Sebastian had been showing him around the vast plantation when they took a rest and ate. They’d sat comfortably on the wooden veranda of the old Blue Bayou plantation house, sharing a basket of food, while his new employer had told him of the history of his family and the plantation. Even then, Pieter had known he was in love with the man.

Smiling, Pieter knew it was the emotion inside that had made him feel warm that day as much as the sun beating down on them. That feeling was still there, deep inside, and as he allowed the sense memory to flow over him, Pieter’s heart beat faster. His cock filled as he imagined Sebastian’s lips on his, and his hands caressing his body. It had been so long and he missed his lover terribly.

Sighing, Pieter couldn’t deny that he regretted leaving his lover back in Louisiana, but he was honest enough to admit that he could never have stayed there in the circumstances. He wished every day that Seb could have come with him, but as much as he wished it could be otherwise, he couldn’t blame Sebastian for clinging to the only life he knew.

Belatedly, he realized that yet again his hand was in his pocket and he was running the small silver button between his fingers. He stopped the movement, grasping the button tightly and pulling it free. It rested in the palm of his hand, glinting slightly in the flickering candlelight. It was all he had of Sebastian with him and it had long been a kind of talisman. A constant reminder of the man he loved, the man he missed so very much.

Pieter could still see the look in Sebastian’s eyes as he dropped the button into his hand when he left to travel north. He had never forgotten the trust Sebastian placed in him, knowing that he would come home some day. To Pieter, wherever Sebastian was, that was home.

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July 14, 2013

CANE, a new excerpt from my historical romance

CanePhaze(200x300)I thought it was past time I posted a new excerpt from my popular historical novel, CANE:

Privileged young Pieter may have grown up on a sugar cane plantation, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with the way his father runs things. He falls in love with Joss, one of his father’s slaves, and their affair sets off a chain of events that is destined to tear them apart.
When Pieter’s father dies, he returns home hoping to find Joss. It’s too late for their love, but maybe it’s not too late for Pieter to find happiness. As he makes his way to America, Pieter realizes old conflicts still rage, and even as he finds a new love, danger stalks his every move. Can Pieter learn to overcome the hate and fear that threaten to tear his world apart?

Joss was working hard with the other field hands, trimming the young cane plants. He had just straightened up, stretching to ease the ache in his back, when he heard Pieter call to him.


“Joss, I need some help.”

“Yes, sir,” he replied, hurrying to do his master’s bidding.

Not that Joss really thought of Pieter as his master, though he had to behave as if he did. Joss never called him master, the way some of the other slaves did. Pieter did not ask it, but the slaves were used to giving the title to the older Van Leyden and automatically used it with Pieter. To Joss, Pieter was his boyhood friend, his mentor…his lover. Joss knew he was living in a kind of limbo, knowing that his time with Pieter was temporary. Joss hated that because he really loved Pieter. He had thought at first the feelings had just been the love of a surrogate brother, but when Pieter had embraced him on his return from abroad, it wasn’t brotherly feelings that stirred deep within him.

It had been a surprise to find that Pieter had such feelings toward him, too. Joss could still remember that first time Pieter touched him. Even though he had wanted his friend’s touch, Joss had been afraid that Pieter would only be using him. The prospect of the Master exercising what many slave owners considered to be their right was a fear his sister, and the other pretty young slaves lived with constantly. Boys and men were less susceptible, and though such couplings were rare and shrouded in secrecy, they did happen.

So, when Pieter touched him with such tender reverence, Joss had been shocked. He learned then that he hadn’t been mistaken about the friend from his youth; Pieter was showing that he cared, that it wasn’t just the use of a convenient body he wanted from Joss. Pieter was seeking an emotional connection and Joss was more than happy to give it to him.

They had enjoyed each other many times since that first night almost two years ago, but Joss never forgot that first time, when he had learned that not all slave owners were the same.

He knew Pieter cared for him, loved him in a way, but also that it was not with the soul deep emotion Joss felt himself when Pieter took him, driving deep into his body. Joss didn’t know how he could sense the difference in their emotional attachment but he knew he was right. Pieter said things to him when they were having sex and Joss was sure when he spoke them aloud, Pieter believed his own words, but Joss knew that what his lover promised could never be. There was no way that he, a black slave, could ever be with a white master as anything but property to be used, a catamite. Joss had heard the word for the first time a few months back, read to him from a biblical story. He couldn’t remember which story it was, but the word he would never forget—catamite, a boy or young man kept by a sodomite. That was the reality of what Joss was, not that Pieter would ever accept it, but it was better for Joss to do so. As odd it as might sound, it was better for his peace of mind. Dreams of anything more would only destroy him. 

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June 6, 2013

New excerpt from gay historical, STONE BY STONE

StoneByStone_medHere’s a new excerpt from my gay historical novel, Stone by Stone, which is set around the dissolution of the monasteries in Tudor times:

When they had left the refectory and were out of earshot of the other monks and the servants, Andrew asked, “Do you really want to show me the books?”

Mark looked over his shoulder, smiled and answered, “Among other things. There are some remarkable books in the abbey library, Master Cheyne.”

“Won’t you please call me Andrew?”

Mark inclined his head. “I would be honoured.”

“So I will see these remarkable books and some of your handiwork?”


Andrew sighed. He ought to have known he was reading more into Brother Mark’s interest than was reasonable.

Andrew realized his sigh had been louder than he thought when Mark slowed and turned to him. “You do not wish to visit the library?”

“Yes, of course. I would very much like to see the books and I’m very interested in what you are working on.” Andrew smiled and was unaccountably relieved when Mark smiled back.

It was only a minute or so later when Mark halted at a pair of heavy wooden doors. Grasping the handles, he pushed them open. A dim flickering light, which Andrew realized came from a tall, lit candle in a wall sconce, greeted them. Mark picked it up, lit a branch of candles from it and then led the way inside. Andrew was aware the abbey library had some old rare books and they also had some very new ones. Tavistock Abbey was one of the very first places in England to have a printing press and some of the newly produced bibles in English were being created here.

Like most everyone else, Andrew was very impressed with the idea of books being printed. It was remarkable how swiftly a new book could be ready when compared to the old method whereby each book had needed to be laboriously copied out by hand. However, neither could he deny the beautiful work produced by generations of monks. Andrew had a love of such things—he was proud to have collected a small number of books himself—and it was very hard to think many of the books he admired for their aesthetic beauty would have to be destroyed because of their religious content. He knew he would have to steel himself to such things, however, because he did truly believe that the Catholic bible in Latin was anathema and the people would be better served with an honest, open bible in English.

Brother Mark led the way through the shadowy passageways towards the large windows in the opposite wall. They passed many shelves of books of all shapes and sizes, some so large it was difficult to believe a man could lift them, let alone be able to read them. The room was redolent with the smell of leather and parchment. As they moved deeper inside, Andrew saw different shaped shelves with narrower, deeper openings and he realized they were filled with scrolls, some of which were very ancient and obviously made of parchment, though there were also some examples on paper, which had been produced during the last couple of centuries.

Brother Mark had obviously followed his gaze. “They are remarkable, aren’t they? Our librarian is very proud of the collection.”

Andrew met his gaze. “They will have to be inspected. Sir Richard needs a complete record of everything here.”

Mark nodded. “I know, and I fear what may happen in the future,” he said sadly. “I try to cling to the belief God has purpose in everything he does, but this is difficult.”

For the first time, Andrew wished he didn’t have to be part of this. Part of destroying this man’s private little world—until his own thoughts registered and he acknowledged it was exactly this kind of existence that was at the heart of the problem. These men, and many hundreds like them, existed apart from the reality of life. Supported and served by those whose lives were much more difficult and all too real. Brother Mark may be an honest, sincere monk, but Andrew knew there were many others who lived a life of luxury with no regard for their fellow men. Where was their God in that?

“What did you want to show me, Mark?” Andrew asked, aware his tone of voice was much different from earlier, hard and cold.

Mark glanced at him, a slight frown marring his features. “Why are you angry with me, Andrew? Have I offended you? Please, I had no intent.”

Andrew sighed. “I’m not angry with you, Mark. I allowed myself to forget, for a short time, that we are on opposing sides. I should not have done so. It does neither of us any good.”

“Andrew,” Mark said, his tone soft, beguiling, “we have differing points of view on more than one subject, but surely it doesn’t have to make us enemies. I have already seen you have a taste for the aesthetic, as do I. I did not mistake your pleasure at the stonework or your interest in these books. That is at least two points of view we share. Can we not just share the similarities and try to forget our differences?” Mark stepped closer. “I felt an affinity with you when we met. This is rare for me, and I don’t wish to lose it if I can help it. Will you allow me to be your friend, Andrew?”

Andrew stared at this man, who he now acknowledged could so easily mean more to him than Mark could possibly know, or accept if he did know. Mark might be talking about friendship, but Andrew’s reaction was much more personal, as his stiffening cock could attest. But like Mark, it was rare for Andrew to feel such an acceptance of another being with such speed or ease. He knew he likely wanted more than was possible, but he was willing to take whatever he could have. He could take himself to task later.

“Yes, Mark,” Andrew said. “I would like that.”

Available in Ebook and Print from Amber Quill Press:

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April 10, 2013

5 star review for Lust In Time anthology!

Lust_in_Time_Cover200x300Great new review for the gay historical anthology, Lust In Time. Hearts on Fire Reviews gave it 5 stars!

“I hope readers will pick this up and read Lust In Time. It’s definitely a worthwhile read and my favorite anthology thus far.”

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February 25, 2013

Lust In Time anthology now for sale at Amazon!

Lust_in_Time_Cover200x300The Lust In Time anthology, including my short story set in Britain during the Viking incursions, 794 A.D., is now available in Kindle format from Amazon!

History and fiction meet at the crossroads in these erotic tales of love and lust. From ancient Israel and Greece and Rome, to the time of the Vikings, the Wild West, Woodstock, and all points in between, witness the steamy encounters, lurid battles and tender moments of couples who span the centuries. Get swept up in the lives of the biblical David, Emperor Hadrian, barbarians from Britannia, a 19th century physician, Jewish immigrants, cowboys and Indians, Bill the Kid, Civil War, World War I soldiers, hippies, and so many more, all in search of adventure, passion, and yes, even fame.

794 A.D., by Stevie Woods, BLURB:
When the Norsemen attack the Northumbrian coast, the local farmers are called by the liege lord to help defend the Jarrow Priory. Two close friends and lovers pray they live to meet again at the end of the day.

Aland waved goodbye to his mother and sister one last time, struggling to keep a smile on his face when inside he was concerned for their safety. They stood in the doorway of their small farmstead, in the shade of the thatch roof overhang, and Aland noticed that the thatch needed some work; when he got back, he promised himself. He glanced from the roof to catch his mother’s eye and couldn’t help but see the fear lurking there. He wished he didn’t have to leave them alone and unprotected. If they failed, God forbid!

As a vassal he had no choice but to answer the call to arms from his feudal lord, Baron Lander, but he couldn’t help worrying over his mother who hadn’t been the same since father had died the year before last. In some ways his sixteen year old sister, Fira, was the one who looked after both of them, and Aland had to trust her to watch over things while he went with his lord and helped to fight off the Norsemen.

He turned away from his family and saw his dear friend and neighbour, Garrick, waving at him to hurry. Up on the hill overlooking his small fief, Aland watched as all the other vassals of Baron Lander gathered together under the watchful eye of the baron’s sergeant-at-arms, Ricker. Aland quickened his pace, smiling and nodding at Garrick as he approached the man. Garrick was a might taller than Aland, with darker colouring lightened by his bright blue eyes. Working on the land made both of them strong and muscular. Garrick was carrying a heavy axe slung over his shoulder, while Aland had brought his pitchfork, its tines sharpened enough to despatch any enemy to whatever hell he deserved.

“Good day to you, Aland. Enough to make one worry for the family, though, my friend,” Garrick said, leading the way to join the waiting throng.

“’Tis one time I envy you not having any family to worry about,” Aland replied.

Garrick nodded in response, though the look in his eyes as he glanced at Aland told a different story. “Up to us to make sure them murdering Norsemen don’t get this far.”

Available now from MLR Press in eBook, and shortly in Print:

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September 23, 2012

25% excerpt – m/m historical novel, Beyond The Veil!

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!”

<end excerpt>

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