by Kuruki (来木)
illustrated by Kin Nori
1659, east of Barbados
I hear shouts coming from the deck. I can’t understand the words. Why can none of these foreign devils enunciate? I acknowledge that I am foreign to this part of the world, but so many of these Englishmen can’t speak their own language, let alone another.
Feet scramble above my head. Something must be happening. The captain walks by my cabin on the way to his, shouting orders that I can’t understand. Something about hiding in the bilge. What and why?
I am naturally curious, but the persona I wear isn’t. Ling is a tiny Chinaman—which to an Englishman means anyone from the Orient regardless of country, although Ling is indeed from the Middle Kingdom. He is exceedingly polite and keeps his head down. He waits patiently to be shown each new wonder and travels on when anyone invites him. I’ve worn him for four years and he’s getting tiresome.
The next persona I wear will, at the very least, be from the Empire of the Sun. Then if I am asked about my home, I can tell of the beauty and poetry that are the Islands of Dragonflies. Not that these barbarians, so far from true civilization, would understand.
A knock sounds on my door. I count slowly to ten as I quietly twitch my long jacket straight and make sure everything is in place. Ling is fastidious. His bed never looks slept in or sat on. I want everyone to think that he sits primly on his knees when he is in his cabin, so they will never guess what I do when they aren’t looking.
I open the door slowly and bow my head to my guest. “Mister Ling, sir,” says Jamie, the young sailor. He has befriended me, I think, because I am the only person on the ship smaller than he is. “I thought you might want to watch. We are about to be boarded by pirates.”
I want to look up and read his expression, but Ling never would. Jamie sounds half excited, half anxious. Why the excitement? Shouldn’t he be scared?
“Honored sir.” Ling is always polite even to cabin boys. “Follow?”
I am quite proud to be able to speak broken versions of more than ten languages. It is one thing to speak a language. It is quite another to not give away how well one can speak it.
I follow Jamie onto the deck as he chatters about what might happen. He says that the other sailors think the ship coming towards us is the Baile, a ship of runaway Irish indentured servants and African slaves. Captain Finn’s crew is much bigger than ours and better trained. Many were soldiers before they were as old as Jamie. We have almost no chance of repelling them. “But,” he assures me, “the captain’s too smart for that.”
A group of men crowd one section of the deck. More are in the ropes above it. How I long to drop stoic, little Ling and become someone who can climb the ropes during the day. I can only do it at night. That is when I practice my skills. I never know when I might have to climb the ropes without them creaking under my weight. A man—not Jamie—yanks me through the crowd and points across the bright blue water towards a ship. “Is this your first time?”
“Honored sir?” Ling would not know what he meant. I straighten my clothes to show that I didn’t like being manhandled and then stand primly, looking out across the water.
“My ship was raided by the Baile last year,” says one of the sailors in an accent so barbaric that Jamie, who has wiggled through the crowd, feels he has to translate. The moment that captain realized whose ship it was, he chose to surrender peacefully. Captain Finn is well known for slaughtering entire crews that raise a hand against him, but if no one lifts that hand, he will just take the easy stuff and no one will get hurt. And that’s what happened last year. The pirates were on and off the ship in less than an hour and the only injury received was a bruised shin when a sailor tripped over a crate while trying to get out of the giant Captain Finn’s way.
The sailor goes on to say just how huge Finn is, but even with Jamie’s help I can’t understand most of his comparisons.
A loud whistle rips though the air. “Get that Chinaman below!” the captain shouts. “All hands on deck!”
I am escorted back to my cabin by the first officer. His hand lingers on my back just a shade too long and too low. Ling never notices this kind of behavior. But this man’s hands have strayed once before. He will have an accident tonight. He will trip on ropes and break his leg or arm or head; I haven’t decided. I’ve gotten good at ship accidents. I can almost always break the limb I am after. I save the falling overboard when drunk for the truly obnoxious.
I bow before I close the door. The man lingers outside my cabin for a moment. Maybe breaking a limb will not be enough.
I sit down on my tiny carpet. My door may burst open at any moment and I don’t want them to see me lounging. Cannons boom. The captain must have decided to defend his cargo. If I am slaughtered by pirates, I will curse the captain and his progeny unto the eightieth generation. My cabin has one small window, but I can’t look out. I must be Ling for a while longer.
I silently recite all one hundred eleven emperors from Jimmu, descendant of Amaterasu, to Nagahito, who hides in Kyoto while Tokugawa Ietsuna rules as shogun. I have long since forgiven the last shogun for sealing the borders while I was on the wrong side. The emperor needs spies abroad. I have just finished a mission for him that took me to Europe. A certain German put his nose too far into the emperor’s business. I’ve made sure he can never do it again.
The ship rocks. I ignore it. I recite the seasons that only exist at home. I recite them again along with the plants and animals associated with each season. I recite my family line and all the brothers and cousins I haven’t seen in a quarter century and will never see again. I recite the elements and their properties. I recite all the gods and then my mother’s favorite poems.
My little room darkens even further as the other ship passes the window. Guns fire and men scream, but I am beyond caring. I miss my home.
Footsteps thunder across the deck. My door is wrenched open, but the man in the doorway hesitates. I turn to him slowly. He is one of the red men like the Dutch sailors whose ship carried me to Europe four years ago. His hair is copper and his skin sunburned to a lobster red, but neither is as bright as the blood that drips from his shirt sleeve. Although he doesn’t move like he is injured.
“Finn,” he calls so loudly that I wish I had covered my ears. “I think I found what they were protecting.”
I am lifted to my feet and the red man nudges me towards the deck. He doesn’t try to talk. I’m not even an exotic pet in his eyes. The air smells of gunpowder and blood. The deck is a crimson sea with corpses for islands. I have never been in a battle before. They all might look like this.
I step out gingerly; blood is slick and hard to remove from my cloth shoes. The man behind me snorts and lifts me up with an arm around my waist. I lean back against his shoulder, so I am upright rather than hanging like a rag doll. The deck is full of men both living and dead. Several of the uniformed sailors including he-of-the-roving-hands are standing by one mast while red and black men with bloody swords watch over them. Other sailors are nearby on their knees with their hands on their heads.
The pirate carrying me makes a show of cleaning a spot before setting me down, but all he really did was smear the blood around. The man I am set before laughs. I’m not sure I like it.
His knee-high boots are shiny black and his breeches are in good condition. He does not wear a long, many-buttoned coat like the merchant, but his shirt cuffs are just as ruffled. His collar probably is as well, but I won’t look that high. His belt buckle is gold with a four leaves on it attached at the center. This giant’s waist is even with my shoulders. He is very glad to see me, or so his body says.
All this I notice in the seconds between the time my feet hit the ground and a callused finger runs along my jaw, lifting it. “My, you are a pretty one,” his deep voice rumbles. “Are you their treasure?”
His hand slides off my chin. He spreads his fingers as they move down my neck and ribs. I look up past his wide chest and loose, lacy collar. His hair is nearly as dark as mine, but wavy and just past his shoulders as European fashion dictates. His chin is in need of a shave and his upper lip is stubbly unlike most of the hairy men I’ve seen lately, who seem to favor huge mustaches. He is younger than I am unless I am very much mistaken. And his eyes are the deep blue of the sea behind him. I find I can’t look away.
“He must be, Finn,” says the first pirate. “Look how fine his clothes are. And this hair…”
I startle at his touch. My master would punish me if he learned that I had forgotten an enemy behind me. The pirate lifts my braid, which is as long as my jacket—hanging to just above my ankles. I don’t want to be touched. I have a spit second to decide what to do. The wrong decision might cost me my life.
I look up into Finn’s eyes, open my mouth just a bit, and step away from the other pirate. I give Finn my best do-you-really-want-him-touching-me look. He gets the message and waves the other man away.
The knot in my gut untangles a little. I enjoy being one man’s lover; I spent a year once as lover and assistant to a Qing official, which gave me the opportunity to assassinate one of the Qing emperor’s nephews. But I’ve never been with one of these foreign devils. They seemed to think such dealings are only for the shadows instead of simply not spoken of in public.
I draw a line, though, a being any man’s whore. I am not bought or borrowed. One of my lovers finally realized that as the poison took away his ability to breathe. Poison is less messy than a blade, but blades are easier to get a hold of. Hands are better still, but an assassin’s best weapon is his mind.
“What is your name, pretty one?” Finn asks, sliding a hand behind my neck. I relax against it, letting my head loll back. His grin is worth all my effort to relax. I snared him. I just need to pull him in.
But then he looks past me. “Lugh, I’m thinking that this boy, as pretty as he may be, isn’t a treasure worth dying over. Notice how no one’s tried to save him.”
Lugh, the red pirate, nods. “Who do you think will know?”
He strides over to the officers and holds his cutlass against the first officer’s neck. “Your captain’s dead. You will die, too. Or tell us and you and your crew will sail away.”
The first officer spits onto Lugh’s boot. A moment later his head falls to the deck several feet from his body. I get some satisfaction from seeing his blood spill onto the already sticky deck. That’s one man whose hands will never wander again. Lugh looks over the others, “Anyone ready to talk?”
Whether from fear or stubbornness, no one is. Lugh looks back at Finn, who shrugs. Lugh lifts his cutlass again. “Then we’ll just have to kill everyone.”
He starts with the officers. Two fall to their knees, babbling. One man tries to run but he only makes it a few feet. The men on their knees babble harder. I am only two arm lengths from a rope. I could escape from Finn and be among the sails in seconds if my movement catches him by surprise, but the pirates will find me eventually. And then they will surely kill me.
I don’t want to die.
I fall against Finn and grab his shirt with both hands, babbling idiotically in my native tongue. If this doesn’t work… Finn stiffens, but relaxes immediately. “Are you frightened, my pretty one? You should not see such blood.”
I pretend like I cannot understand him. I slide down his chest, pressing firmly against him as I pass his waist. He still wants me. I better keep it that way. I intend to fall to my knees and rest my forehead against his boots, but he throws me over his shoulder. “The deck is dirty. I don’t want you to mess up your pretty clothes.”
Jamie risks Lugh’s cutlass to shout. “Mister Ling! I’ll save you!”
Finn stops and turns around. He pats my ass. “I see you have an admirer. Hey, boy, is he worth dying over?”
We are so close to the edge of the ship that I see the water beneath me. The ships are several feet apart with a wooden plank between them. I hold my breath. Please don’t say anything that will get me killed. An age passes before Jamie says, “Uh, Mister Ling is an important person. He’s dined with kings.”
Kings have the worst table manners. Even the very poor are better about keeping their mouths closed while they eat if only to keep the food from being snatched out of it.
“Is that so?” asks Finn.
“And Mister Ling is very nice. He won’t like what you are going to do.”
“And what am I going to do?”
“Uh, you’re gonna… You’re gonna have your way with him, uh, sir.”
His way with me, is he? I think I’d rather have my way with him. My way is a life of freedom and luxury in exchange for keeping him happy in bed. And I know I can.
“And who says he’s not going to like it?”
“I do, sir,” says the boy. “He isn’t that kind of man.”
“Oh, isn’t he now?” Finn says, hefting me higher on his shoulder. “Well, he will be soon. Lugh, keep the boy alive. He’s a feisty one.”
“That he is, Finn. That he is.”
Finn is agile for a big lug and he strolls gracefully to the pirate ship where he hops down to the deck. I knew that was coming so it didn’t knock all the air from my lungs. He ambles across the deck like he’s the king of the world. He probably is, of this one.
“Finn!” someone shouts as we near the door under the upper deck. “Finn, quit walking when I’m talking to you. And I am talking to you.”
To my surprise Finn stops. I lean farther over so I can peek under Finn’s arm at the man shouting about the Articles and how Finn’s broke one and now the ship will sink. Do Europeans have a sea god? And why would he sink a ship just because a woman was on it? The last ship I was on carried not just the captain’s wife and daughter, but also two of his nieces.
“Wait, Cian, this is not what you think.”
“It is!” shouts the little man. He’s probably at least a hand taller than I am, but his head doesn’t reach Finn’s shoulder. His red hair flies around and his sunburn stops in a straight line across his forehead as if he normally wears a hat. “Do what you will on the other ship. Take her until hell freezes over, but no woman is ever going to set foot on my ship.”
“But Cian,” says someone from above me, “she hasn’t set foot. The captain is carrying her.”
“That’s not the point and you know that’s not the point! Finn, get that woman out of here! Throw her overboard if you have to! Feed her to the sharks! That’ll teach her.”
“Cian, this isn’t a woman.”
“Finn, I have eyes. I’m not blind. Cover her with whatever god-awful getup you have, but I know a woman when I see one.”
“I say, you are blind,” Finn’s amused voice rumbles.
“I’ve got eyes, I tell you!”
Cian freezes, his arms still in the air. He lowers them slowly. “What?”
“How much are you willing to bet?”
“Finn,” Cian says, suddenly contrite. “We can’t bet. It would be bad for discipline.”
“You don’t have to put up anything. If this is a man, then his possessions are added to my share. If it is a woman, the loot gets divided out and she will swim with the fishes tonight.”
Cian sucks in a breath. “All right, Finn, but who officiates?”
“The other ship has a doctor. If you can catch Lugh before he finishes…”
Cian pushes past Finn before he’s done speaking and shouts at Lugh. Either Cian is enunciating very poorly or he’s speaking an entirely different language. I wonder how long it will take me to learn it.
Finn slaps my ass. “I’m not worried.”
He is talking to the man in the ropes. Finn opens the door and my last sight of outside is Cian pushing the doctor across the plank, explaining an illness. The door closes and I blink, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the semi-darkness. I should have closed my eyes back on deck. My master would wallop me a good one for my sloppiness today.
Finn sets me down and pushes me along in front of him. “Come on, pretty one. Just a bit further.”
I must think of a strategy. Is Finn the kind of man who wants his boy innocent? Will he want it hard and swift? Or will he want me to enjoy his touch? I will regardless. And I will show him that getting there is half the fun. I must make sure he is satisfied, but not completely sated. I need him to want more or else he might just toss me overboard, although he probably wouldn’t want Cian to win their little bet.
The doorway to Finn’s room is smaller than he is. He has to duck and twist a bit to follow me in. He mutters something in a language I don’t know, but I’m sure it is a curse. Maybe against people who build such small doorways.
A table stands to the left and a bed to the right. On the floor between are bags, barrels, and crates. Brightly colored silk slides out of a bag like Finn just threw it there and left it. I want to draw my fingers across it and see if it is really as heavy as it looks. It can’t be. I haven’t seen any of the really good stuff since I left home. But all the same…
Finn lifts me and dumps me unceremoniously in his bed. I manage to twist around so I can sit up almost as soon as I land. The sheets smell of him. The scent isn’t too bad, although if I’m going to keep him, I better teach him to bathe. Without the sour of old sweat he might smell very pleasant.
He stalks around the bed like a tiger watching its prey. Does he want me scared or turned on? I can do both if he prefers. I take tiny breaths and follow him with just my eyes. When I’m sure I have his attention, I lick my lower lip. His growl rumbles through the room.
I imagine him on me, his lips on my skin, his shaft pulsing against my thigh, and the feeling as he pushes inside me. I gasp. My face is flushed with pleasure and I’m so hard that three layers of embroidered silk can’t hide it.
His eyes caress me. “Tell me, pretty one. Is this what you want?”
Does it matter? I think it does to him. He wants me to say that I can’t live without his touch. I’m quite turned on at the thought that he wants me to enjoy him. I moan and run a hand down my silk covered chest.
His eyes eat me alive. “Take it off.”
He is a tightly coiled mass. His control will break at the slightest provocation. How long has he been without? Four years like me or even longer? What will he do when he does explode? I want to find out.
I tug at the neck of my jacket, pretending I do not understand him. He growls again. He is a tiger who I wants to eat me. I open the frog fastener at my neck. He stops breathing. I slide my fingers to the next frog and let them linger, but when I move on the fastener is still closed. Finn moans in frustration. I slide my hands further down, overlapping my fingers at my waist then pulling them apart to caress my hips and thighs. I pull on the fabric just enough to show off hard I am.
Finn’s eyes do not leave my hands. When he thinks I’m about to open a frog, he catches his breath. When I run my hands close but not touching my groin, he groans. When I open my jacket and expose a few more inches of white undershirt, he gasps as if he can’t get enough air. I make sure he can’t.
His eyes are half closed and dark. His fists clench in time to his breath. I have him where I want him; now I just need to draw him closer. I didn’t expect him to hold himself back this long. I lick my lip again. His gasp heats me. I want his hands on me. Soon I will be too hot to think, which could get me killed if I fail to give him what he wants.
I am harder than ever. Who would have thought that balancing on the brink of life and death was arousing? Compared to today, I don’t think my life has ever been in danger before. I let out a low moan and tilt my head back, exposing my throat, as my hands pass my groin. Before I can blink, Finn is on me, pushing me flat on the bed. He really is a tiger.
His mouth covers mine. His tongue invades, seeking conquest. I welcome him as one might welcome a god: with fear, awe, and want. His hands hold my wrists against the bed. I whimper and struggle just a bit to add some spice. My movement rubs our bodies together, but he is such a huge creature that my shaft brushes his lower chest. Why did the gods make any man so huge?
Finn’s hips are between my legs and even though they are significantly slimmer than his shoulders, my knees are spread far apart. My body is ready for him. I writhe and moan into his mouth, begging him without words. I must get him inside me. I must make him want to be there, want to return.
A door slams and he freezes. In the hall outside Finn’s door, Jamie is yelling something in a fierce voice. Between his atrocious accent and my lust-addled brain, I have no idea what. A thump, and then Jamie falls silent as if the air was knocked out of him. Lugh’s voice rings clear. “Don’t trouble yourself trying to get out. The ocean’s a massive thing. You’re too smart for that, I warrant. And don’t try any of your granny’s hexes on me, sweet pea. I’m immune.”
A door closes and then a lock clicks into place. Jamie doesn’t even bother to bang on the door.
Finn’s blue eyes are on me. “You’re a witch; that’s what you are. You put me under a spell.”
He rolls off me, but not all the way. One thigh traps my knee against the bed. He yanks at my jacket until he can get his hand under the hem, but he can’t get my pants undone. He can’t find the fastener. He shifts again, this time straddling me. He really is a massive man, and his shaft, as it tries to bust from his breeches, looks proportional. I can’t wait to see it bare.
His fingers tug on my jacket’s frog fasteners, which come apart easily, even the stiff one by the hem. He spreads my jacket open and looks at me like he’s seeing me for the first time. “You’re quite the little present, aren’t you? Like Christmas and my birthday rolled into one.”
He runs his hands up my chest. I gasp appreciatively. His hands are big and warm and firm, but at the same time gentle. Then instead of moving back down my chest, he chooses to caress my arms. No lover has ever done that before. I gasp as he brushes my inner wrists. He smiles like the sun. His fingers caress my palms and I am overwhelmed. I arch my back and he laughs like I gave him a special treat.
If he can laugh, then I’m not working hard enough.
He kneels over me—looms over me. I whimper, but instead of pouncing, he draws back. I scared him away.
One would think that a criminal, a murdering, thieving pirate would get his highs off a thorough rape now and then. But I can’t survive on preconceived notions. I need him to desire me above all else, to want me so much that he can’t live without me.
I run my hands up his thighs. He is so far back that I can’t reach very high, but he seems to understand. He bends down and his mouth takes mine. His demanding tongue leaves me gasping. He leans on one arm as the other hand tries to find its way into my pants. I roll my hip until the small lump from the toggle is under his fingers, but he doesn’t seem to notice. I fight the urge to sigh. I want to strip all my clothes off then seek his skin, but I can’t make it too easy. He has to work for this. He has to want me so much that tossing me overboard will never occur to him again. He has to need me like he needs air.
I moan in frustration but it turns to something much more pleasant as his fingers find their way into the slit beneath the toggle. His thumb rubs the sensitive skin in the hollow of my hip and I can’t hold still. I need him on me. Why is the big lug still on his knees? I need to rub against this dimwitted fool.
I bend my knees, rubbing my legs against his. When I’ve brought my knees against the backs of his thighs, his ass is still out of reach. What a fool he was to grow so large! But he presses against my legs like he enjoys my touch. He tugs on my waistband again. “How do I get these off?”
I pretend I can’t understand. Although only an idiot could fail to see what he wants with how he keeps tugging at my waistband. I run my hands up his arms as encouragement. He kisses me again, softly this time. I lick my lips as he pulls away to show that I can’t get enough of his taste. He growls again. I smile lazily, but my body is painfully hard.
He cocks his head. “Like that, do you? There is more where that came from once I get you bare.”
I moan and roll my hips. He has his fingers near the toggle which finally slips out of its loop. He growls again and his eyes darken as my waistband opens. He yanks my shirt out of my pants but doesn’t pull them down. He doesn’t even look. Doesn’t he want to know what I look like? Isn’t he interested at all?
He pushes my shirt up my chest and then he leans down and tenderly kisses my lowest ribs. His whiskers rasp against my skin. I never knew that gentle scratching could feel so good. I moan, running my hands through his hair. It needs to be washed, but I’ve got other things on my mind. His lips move down lower, lower, sending me higher. His chin brushes my waistband and moves it aside. I can’t breathe. I want his touch too much. Don’t stop! Don’t stop!
He looks up me without taking his lips from my skin. He eyes are questioning. I spoke, didn’t I? I spoke in my native tongue. “Please,” I gasp in the same language. “Please, more.”
He understands me well enough. His eyes smile and his lips move further down. I encourage him with noises and my hands. But then he pauses at the hollow of my belly. He lifts his head. I moan in distress. How will I ever feel his body within mine if he keeps stopping?
Then all at once he pounces. His tongue forces his way into my belly button. I scream incoherently. My fingers clench into his hair. I arch my back, seeking to rub against him. He is just out of reach. I lift my hips, hoping to rub the head of my shaft against his chin, but he tilts his head to delve deeper into me. His mouth is hot against me, inside me. The wet noise he makes as he delves and sucks and licks and kisses only add to the feeling. I need him. I need him in me now.
I try to spread my legs, to invite him in, but they are trapped. I am caught. I can’t move. I beg. I beg incoherently in a smattering of languages. Nothing works. He is in me and on me, but not enough. Never enough.
I need this. I need him. This isn’t about life or death anymore. I don’t care if I die. I just need him to make my last day the best in my life. “Finn,” I beg. “Finn…”
At the sound of his name, his hands slide beneath my waist. I writhe and moan and scream in pleasure withheld. His fingers dig into the fabric of my shirt and his legs slide down the bed. I spread my legs wide and rut against the top of his chest. I am need and want and desire. He is my world. He is everything.
I come so hard that I forget to breathe.
A painfully long time later I come back to earth. He made me lose myself and forget what was important. That has only happened twice before and both times drugs were involved. He is a drug. He is opium. With Finn I don’t care if I’m going to die.
When my eyes clear, he is still laying over my hips. His fingers play in the seed on my belly. He catches my eye and licks his finger. I turn my head and study the jewels that tumbled across the table. He snorts, but like a cat, I pretend I never lost control.
I am not the man I thought I was if the simple touch of a hairy devil can make me forget he holds my life in his hands.
His fingers continue to swirl in the slick stuff. I am hard again. I recite the emperors, but that doesn’t soften me. I remember the bitter sorrow when I found, at age ten, that I could never go home, never see my mother again. Finn leans down and licks my belly clean. All my efforts were for nothing.
I give up sulking and look at him. His expression is indefinable. He meets my eye. “It tastes better than I thought it would.”
I am so far beyond Mr. Ling, that I no longer need to pretend I can’t speak this devil tongue. I run my thumb across his cheekbone. “Am I your first man?”
Is that why he wouldn’t touch me? Is that why he isn’t inside me already, sowing his seed within me? Woman are few on the high seas and the men haven’t been pretty, Jamie aside, but surely if he had a need, men would stand in line to fill it.
Finn looks away and licks his lips then slides off the bed. “You can tell.”
“That was just a guess,” I say to keep his feeling from being hurt. A very good guess with how timid he is despite being turned on. I want him to come back. I want to touch him. I want him to touch me. As I sit up, I slide my arms out of my sleeves. “If it is true, I am surprised but rather pleased.”
He looks back at me, his eyebrows lifted.
I can’t fight my grin. “Let us become one.”
He glances at me again before looking through his window out across the sea. “I don’t think I can do it.”
Finn looks so beautiful, so sorrowful standing there. I need to comfort him. I crawl to the edge of the bed. Should I refasten my pants? No, Finn took forever unfastening them in the first place. I glance at Finn before sliding a hem over my foot. He might need to be led to where he wants to go, but I shouldn’t be too obvious about it. I need him to think it’s his own idea.
I pad softly across the floor, making just enough noise that he knows I’m coming. He lifts an arm, and I slip under it, wrapping my arms around his waist. I rest my elbow innocently over his shaft. It isn’t hard anymore. I need to get him to think of better things, but if he opens up to me, perhaps he will want to keep me.
“I’ve had offers, but when a captain is sleeping with one of the crew, problems are bound to arise. Cian was very particular about such things in the Articles. On Cian’s last ship a seaman stole away the captain’s lover. The crew took sides and during the fighting, a fire started. Ships like this go up real quick. Less than half the crew survived.”
Finn runs his finger tips along the back of my hand. I have been in and out of men’s beds for two decades; how come I never realized how sensitive my hands were? Finn lifts my hand and kisses my palm. “If I take you, you cannot be with another as long as you stay on the ship.”
“I can live with that.” I reach up with my free hand and pull his face down to mine as I stand on my tip toes. He responds eagerly. I wrap my arms around his neck then lift my legs and wrap them around his waist. His hands slide along my legs and under my shirt and then rest on my ass. I rub my shaft against him. “I want you.”
“Do you, pretty one? Are you sure you aren’t just trying to stay alive?”
I need to drive the amusement from his voice with lust and desire. I cling to him, digging my fingers into his shoulders. “Kill me tomorrow, but take me now.”
I don’t really mean that, but it has the right effect. He growls and takes three steps to the bed, where he pulls me from him and drops me again. I fall in such a way that my shirt barely covers my groin and my legs are spread, inviting him in. He growls and tugs his clothing from his body, tossing it away. Someday I hope to take each item off him with care, stoking his fire so hot it burns us both. Maybe tomorrow. Today I just need him inside me. I urge him on with gasps and pants as he wrestles with his boots, but when he’s finally bare he doesn’t seem to know what to do.
I love his innocence. He is the tallest and strongest of men, as well filled out and manly as I could ever wish. Twenty men died by his order just minutes ago, but now, presented with a willing lover, my pouncing tiger is too skittish to touch me. I lift my arms and invite him close. He sets his knees against the bed, leaning slightly forward. His eyes are in me, but not his hands. I need his hands. Who would have thought bedding a virgin would be so aggravating?
I sit up and slowly pull off my shirt. “I am willing. Haven’t I proven that already?”
I hold out my hands again. This time he comes. But instead of sliding his knees between mine and taking me, he lays his head down on my chest. He pulls my hand to his face then makes love to my wrist and palm. I can’t keep quiet. I can’t even think. I writhe under him and gasp his name. He makes me crazy. What is his problem? Why can’t I make him want me as bad as I want him?
“Please, Finn, please,” I beg incoherently. No one has ever made me feel like this and all he’s doing is licking my palm. I want to feel his mouth on my nipples and my shaft and my balls. I garble his name as I rut against him. I am a trying to win the love of a wall. Nothing I do will make him want me.
“I shouldn’t.” Finn’s voice is devoid of lust. He might as well be talking about the weather. No, even the weather stirs more passion.
I know he wants me. What is holding him back?
“I’m so big and you’re so tiny. I’ll hurt you.”
Is that his problem? I fight back a sigh. “Finn, let me.”
When I push him off me, he goes easily, too easily. I roll him onto his back then straddle his waist. His shaft is hard against my back. Now, if I can just get it inside me. I slide from the bed. I have a small flask of oil inside the lining in my jacket. One never knows when one will need lubrication. I quickly straddle him again, but this time, his thighs.
I pull the cork and rub the oil on my palms then slick his shaft from tip to base. His breath catches at my touch, and his eyes never leave my hands. I slide my hands back up then scoot back and lean down so I can taste his balls. They are each as big as a plum and just as luscious. I take as much of one into my mouth as I can. He moans and writhes a bit, but not as much as I want him to. I sit up and look him over.
Improbably, he grins. “You have done this before.”
What am I doing wrong if he can still smile? I scoff. “I’ve been taking men since you were a babe at your mother’s breast.”
His smile widens. “You are not that old. I’m twenty-five.”
“You are right. I am only nine years your senior.” I get to my knees and crawl forward until my knees are outside his hips. Then I look him in the eye as I reach back to prepare myself.
He clearly does not believe me about my age, but I’ve got his mind busy thinking about something other than what we are about to do. He can’t see what I am doing, so when I grab his shaft and angle it into me, he does not have a chance to become timid again or think of another excuse. I push hard against him, swallowing him up. I have always enjoyed men with big shafts, but I have never experienced anything close to Finn.
I am fuller than I have ever been. I gasp as his shaft pushes against my sensitive spot. He is like no lover before. His hands grab my hips and guide me down. I wrap my fingers around his wrists for stability. Then I lift up and push down again. The grin is off his face, replaced with concentration. I let him take control of our rhythm. I will ride him today since he seems to need me to, but if I’m going to keep him, I’ll need to teach him to pound me into the mattress.
I find it hard to stay upright with his giant shaft inside me hitting all the right places without any effort. I scream as he grinds into me. Every thrust takes a year. I have lived a lifetime with him inside me, an eon, and still he thrusts his hips up as he pulls me over him. May he never stop.
I am in the clouds, higher than the clouds, floating between the stars. My throat is sore from all the noise I am making, much different than my life among paper walls. I don’t care. I scream his name, and then scream again as he thrust deeper inside me. He stops and I whimper, “More, more.”
I don’t know what language I spoke in, but he seems to understand. He rolls us over and ruts into me in a pounding rhythm. I lose sense of time and space. His hot sweat drips onto me. I smell him and the sea and the faint odor of blood. The bed squeaks with each thrust like ropes rubbing together. He lifts his chest off me and I scramble to keep him close, but he isn’t trying to get away. His mouth takes mine and we kiss fiercely until we are out of breath. I can’t get enough air, even when I gasp, open mouthed. His breath is hot on my cheek. His stubble rubs me, sending me higher. His hands grasp the sheets on each side of my head. I want his arms around me, his body pressed against me, his shaft so deep within me that his balls drum upon me with each thrust.
I claw at his sides. He shifts a bit so each thrust presses deeper. I open my mouth to scream his name, but no sound comes out. He thrusts deep again. I scream incoherently against his chest. Why is this great oaf so huge? He slides his hand between us and pumps me while rubbing his calloused thumb into the slit on my shaft’s head. That is why he is big, to match his hands and shaft.
I am beyond the stars. I am burning brighter than the sun. I scream and beg and moan and writhe. His shaft inside me and his hands on me and his body against me feel so good that I want to have them forever. The white wave overtakes me before I am ready. I scream Finn’s name, but I can’t hear my own voice. I can hear nothing and see nothing and feel nothing for the longest moment in my life.
The world unfolds before me. Finn is still thrusting deep into me. The scent of sweat and seed fills the air. Liquid slides down my ass. Finn must have come and I missed it. That I will never forgive, but maybe I will have the chance to see the next one. Young lovers are much better than the old men whom I’ve been stuck with. Or at least Finn is better. He is hard as a rock and seems in no hurry to roll over and sleep.
I want to enjoy myself while I wait to watch him come, but my body is even more sensitive than before. Each of Finn’s trusts sends me double the sensations, maybe triple. I fall into incoherency embarrassingly soon. I am so far past speaking that I can’t even hear my gasps. I am past breathing, past sight. He pushes me to greater heights. He is all that exists, his grunts in my ears, his sweat on my skin, his taste in my mouth, his shaft inside me.
Even that world begins to fade.
He comes. I know he does by his caught breath and the way he freezes before thrusting into me three more times. I know this, but I am so far away, so high above the clouds, above the stars, that it can’t stop me from letting the white take me away.
I come down, faster than before, or maybe slower. I can hear the bed creak as Finn shifts away. I smell his scent on my skin and it heats me, but my body can’t respond. I am a half filled sack of rice, limp and languid. I can’t even open my eyes.
A cool wet cloth presses against my cheek. Finn whistles softly as he cleans me. He cleans all of me, even between my toes. He lifts me gentle and slides me between his sheets. He is really very considerate for a huge, hairy, barbarian pirate.
I sleep, I think. Anyway when I can force my eyes open, Finn is gone. I let the world fade.
The room is shades of gold when I next open my eyes. I hear something outside Finn’s door. I pull the sheet to cover more of me. I must have kicked off the blanket in my sleep. Not that I really need the blanket. The sea breeze through the window is warm. Water splashes against the side of the ship, so we must be at anchor somewhere, but I don’t hear any birds.
A door creaks opens, but it isn’t Finn’s. Lugh’s voice rings loud and clear, “Sweet pea, are you ready to be civil?”
Jamie must have nodded or gestured in some way because Lugh asks, “What changed your mind?”
“Mister.” Jamie’s voice is just above a whisper. “Mister Ling liked what the pirate did to him.”
“I’m a pirate, too.”
“I… I guess.”
The silence drags on. I strain to hear more.
“And,” Jamie sighs, “if Mister Ling, the gentleman that he is, likes it then I guess I will, too.”
“Here now!” says Lugh, his voice losing its amusement for the first time. “Finn isn’t the one who will be touching you. Finn and I don’t share or trade. He’s going to keep his pretty princess and you’re mine, sweet pea.”
Finn’s door opens and he steps in followed by the ship’s doctor. “So Doc, do I win the bet or does Cian?”
The doctor rolls his eyes. “All right, let me finish this farce.” He steps up to the bed. “May I?”
I let him pull the sheet back as I try to seem neither innocent nor sullied. Just because I’m in Finn’s bed, doesn’t mean I want other men getting ideas. The doctor looks me over for a moment then turns to Finn as I covered myself.
“Male, obviously. In his twenties, at least. From the Orient, as I’m sure you know. Healthy. Wealthy, too, if rumor is right. Outshone his hostesses on numerous occasions. Smarter than he looks. Speaks better English, too, I warrant. Never supped with Queen Dick, so you needn’t hold that against him, although it doesn’t look like you would in any case. Along the same line, the winds of change are blowing. Charles might be on the throne as we speak. Not that that matters much to you anymore, now that you’re outlaws.”
Finn laughs in a way I don’t like as he ushers the doctor out the door. “Not even the king can bring my parents back to life or return my youth.”
Before Finn closes the door, Lugh steps in, pushing Jamie in front of him. Jamie blushes crimson when he sees me. He doesn’t even look at me as he passes me my shirt. I stay under the sheet as I slip into my clothes to protect his youthful sensibilities. Even after I’m dressed he keeps his eyes averted.
I slide out of the bed and pad across to Finn. He lifts his arm and pulls me against his waist without looking up from the drawing on the table. “And you’ve searched everywhere?”
“Everywhere I can think of.”
They are speaking of the other ship’s treasure, or at least the reason the captain chose to fight. I rest my head against Finn’s chest. “Have you searched the bilge?”
Jamie squeaks in the background, but Lugh gives no indication that he’s surprised at how well I speak English. He shrugs, “It’s full of stones. I don’t want to move them if I don’t have to.”
“The captain told someone to hide something there.”
Lugh sighs. “Then we will look.” He turns to Jamie. “Can I trust you, or will you need to be locked in my cabin again?”
“I… I’ll be good,” Jamie says, looking younger than ever.
Finn runs his finger along my jaw, and I tip my head back to meet his lips. The kiss is short and sweet. I lick my bottom lip as he pulls away. He grins broadly, but I can hear the growl in his throat. How long before he can join me in bed? Will our next encounter wipe me out again? I think I’m out of practice.
But that can be remedied.
Jamie follows Lugh and Finn out the door. I glance around then nearly dive for the booty. I wrap a length of emerald silk around me before the gems catch my eye. The door opens and Jamie steps in carrying one of my trunks. He sets the trunk down without looking at me and leaves. He follows this procedure until all my belongings rest against the foot of Finn’s bed, my bed.
Then Jamie sits down on my biggest trunk and watches me for a minute before saying, “I’m going to be an Able Seaman here because I’ve been sailing for three years. Lugh says I’ll make Mate easily if I’m half as smart as I look. They are breaking up the crew, for now at least. They’ve, uh, we’ve got two ships now and a crew and a half. Lugh didn’t kill the men who surrendered. Half the crew are going to man the other ship, but Lugh is sticking by Finn, because they are cousins and Finn came back for him after he escaped.”
Jamie prattles on for some time about how this ship is different from the other as I look though the booty. I set a length of peacock blue silk on my growing pile of precious whatnots. I believe that is enough fabric to make myself an outfit to wear as I climb the rope during the day. I will be the jewel of Finn’s ship.
I hold up a diamond as big as my thumb and tilt it to check that the burst of golden light is in the very center. It isn’t. I place it in the discard pile. I don’t need to be stingy. I’ve got lots to choose from.
“So,” says Jamie. “What are you going to be?”
I pick up a ruby. The fire is at the center. I set in on top of the silk. “I will be Finn’s concubine.”
Jamie makes a choking noise. I gaze at him as his face grows pinker, but before I can say anything the door opens and Finn steps in. I throw myself in his arms. When we break our kiss, the door is closed and Jamie is gone. Finn tugs at the green silk I am wrapped in, but doesn’t pull it away. “Now, beautiful, I think you should sew yourself something that is easier to get you out of.”
I show him that I agree with my lips, tongue, and fingers. I hope he doesn’t have to take a watch tonight. I’m going to make him too tired to keep his eyes open.