Rhain Morgan is desperate to leave London and move his ailing sister to a climate that will save her life, so he books passage to their Caribbean plantation on the only available ship, captained by Alastair Breckenridge. Rhain fights his attraction to the alluring captain who looks and acts like a pirate, but the man’s fairness wins Rhain over. The trip that once seemed endless is now too short.
For years, Alastair held people away from his heart, until Rhain. Finally admitting his feelings to himself, he tries to convince Rhain to stay on board, but it’s all in vain.
Despite his own burgeoning feelings for Alastair, Rhain wants to prove himself and refuses to let go of his dream of making a home for his sister and himself on their plantation. But as Alastair’s ship sails away, Rhain is left alone to make the best of disastrous circumstances and overwhelmed by regret, nurses his broken heart.
When all seems lost, could they dare hope for a second chance to set things right and love again?
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Publisher: Excessica Publishing
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Word Count: 48000
Setting: sea, ocean, city, Caribbean, England
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Rhain draped a comforting arm around Lydia, who clutched a handkerchief, twisting the tortured cloth this way, then that. Occasionally the cloth was used to wipe angrily at her wet cheeks.
Breakfast had been a quiet affair as they tacked around the leeward side of Dominica. Alastair ate little and stared into his tea. Rhain, for some unforeseen reason, was ravenous and ate his share and more. Neither of them talked until it was time for Alastair to perform his captain’s duties.
Dressed and looking finer than a five-tier cake, Alastair said, “We will have little privacy above deck, so I will say good-bye now.” He held out a strong, elegant hand, and they shook, slowly. “I have enjoyed your company beyond imagining, and hope…” His voice broke. “We will see each other again soon. My dear, dear prickly bastard.” He smiled a slow half smile and stepped gently into Rhain’s embrace. “Be happy.”
Rhain nodded, terribly close to tears.READ MORE
And then Alastair was out the door, off to his myriad mysterious duties.
For an hour, he and Lydia stood watching Dominica grow on the horizon, neither mentioning that Dominica looked nothing like the paradise they’d envisioned for the past several months. The port town was flat for many miles until steep peaks shot up with pale lavender and brown streaks. Nothing was green. A dry yellow-brown that looked like mud engulfed the majority of the island. A disturbing, ugly haze blanketed the town all the way to the slopes of the mountains.
Surely, they would not live close to this town. The air in London would be considered clean compared to that of this humid, stewing, smoke-clogged location.
“Rhain? I am somewhat worried about this.”
Truth be told, he was as well and could do nothing but squeeze her shoulder. “Don’t worry, dear. Our plantation will be miles away from this…place.”
Lydia sobbed, and Rhain’s heart clenched for her pain, and his own.
An hour later, they were smoothly slipping into a dock surrounded by the sooty miasma belched from a sugarcane rendering factory.
The port appeared lawless. Whores flashed skin, white, brown, and black. Breasts on display. A handful of sailors on the ship docked next to theirs sent taunting jeers, vulgar gestures, and bare arses wiggling at them.
Lydia tsked and turned from the view. “This place is vile. Resembles a madhouse. It is lawless. Are you certain we are in the right place?”
He kissed her knuckles. “You can be assured that I will make certain of that before you have to dirty your pretty dress.” His flippant tone was meant to amuse her, but next he said seriously, “Stay on board, Lyd. Until I ascertain the situation. Yes?”
“Yes,” she agreed.
He wound his way through the crowds, past bedraggled men and women, many struggling with handcarts, some with wheels that wobbled precariously; other carts were pulled and limped sideways, like they were about to topple, pivoting on a center axle that chewed small chunks out of the planking of the dock.
Poverty permeated the very air here, with the grim and desperate looks on the workers’ faces. It was apparent they lived from one moment to the next. No work, no pay, no food.
One man strutted across the wharf with a mission. Long gray hair under his cap bounced in the breeze. His jaunty step suggested a recent windfall. Or perhaps he was on his way to meet a lover.
All of a sudden his lungs clenched tight. It was impossible to take a deep breath. The realization that he would likely never see Alastair after today nearly sent him to his knees. Leaning against a pylon, he tried to regain his bearings. One breath. Two. Three.
Pushing away from the supporting post, he stood on his own feet, took a breath, then continued on his quest. It did not matter what his body desired; what mattered was making a home for Lydia and himself.
Once determined, it took no time at all to find the local acting port authority among the querulous crowd; he simply looked for the cleanest face in the throng, which turned out to be a young man by the name of Thomas Green. A soft-spoken and highly competent man, he assured Rhain that the situation on the island was calm, except at the port town. Apparently, the storm brought all the people with damaged homes and injuries here for help. The excitement of the storm and the crowding turned some people rough and loud, the man said. Once outside town, everything is orderly and reconstruction is underway.
He hated to ask, but he needed to know. “Was anyone killed?”
“I’m afraid so. We don’t know how many yet, but my guess is several hundred.”
“Thank you for your help, sir,” he said as he fought the tightness in his neck and shoulders. He hoped his plantation and foreman were undamaged and unhurt. He wished he were a good enough person to say his concern stemmed from compassion to the people harmed, but he knew deep down that he was not such a good person. His main concern was for Lydia’s continued comfort.
Forcing his worry away, Rhain admitted the man impressed him with his helpfulness, even sending a wagon and driver to convey them and their belongings to the plantation. Rhain set aside his concerns and directed the unloading and reloading of their belongings onto the large, two-horse wagon. The thing did not seem all that sturdy, but it did hold up under the weight of their crates.
That done, there was nothing left to do but gather up Lydia and wish a farewell to the crew. At the thought, Rhain’s optimism died a bright, vivid death.
* * * *
Alastair stood by and watched the whole exchange. Rhain, that young fool, was really going to leave and take his fragile sister with him. The damn, damn fool.
He met Rhain as the man came up the gangplank. “A moment of your time?”
“Certainly, Captain. In fact, I came to see you and to collect Lydia.” He smiled and looked much too young to be going off alone with no one to protect him and his sister.
He came to say good-bye? A brief painful lurch occupied his chest, and he could not speak momentarily. He took that time to steer Rhain to a more private location so they could talk quietly.
Behind a few well-placed barrels, he pulled Rhain close and caressed the silky surface of his clean muslin shirt. “The environment here is not right. I have rarely seen a town so out of control.”
“Not to worry, the mayhem is only due to the storm damage and the plantation workers swarming the city for help. The port authority told me all about it; he is quite accommodating in fact, and said things will settle in a few days.”
“Don’t worry, Alastair. I will whisk Lydia out of town right away, and we will be safely at our plantation and away from the rabble in no time. I was assured all is safe.”
“Be that as it may, I think it will be safer for Lydia to stay here, with your belongings. I can send an armed escort with you until you make certain all is well at your estate.”
The infuriating boy laughed. “Says the man who scoffs at storms and chases other ships. I thought you were fearless.”
He allowed that compliment to fill his aching heart, but he would not be distracted. “I must admit I am worried about the two of you.”
“You think I can’t take care of myself and Lydia? That we need a governess? We don’t need your services any longer, Captain. But if truth were told, I worry at times that I’m not capable enough. Right now, I want to fall into your arms and let you take care of everything. But I cannot do that. I belong on land, Lydia belongs on land, and I must get this plantation working for both our sakes.”
“Damn you, boy. You are not thinking clearly; your head is in the clouds about your land, so you can’t see the danger around you.” Not the best thing to say, especially after Rhain had just opened up and expressed a weakness. Exposed his underbelly, so to speak.
Rhain’s temper and pride obviously got the better of him. He puffed his chest out and scowled.
No one would be able to convince him at this point. Alastair knew him well enough to surmise that much.
So all he said was, “We will be here for seven days if you have need of anything.” Or if you just want to see me, he thought. “The crew needs some shore leave.” He lied. The only reason they would stay in this hellhole was to make available a safe retreat for the two underprepared landowners.
In the end, they parted in anger. The last thing he hoped to accomplish. But perhaps in the long run anger would make it easier for both of them.
* * * *
Every single piece of him hurt, from the inside out. Including his hair. Even so, he held his head high as he helped Lydia leave the ship. Why had he held on to his pride and left Alastair furious instead of kissing the man stupid?
“Ouch,” Lydia said and tried to yank her arm out of his viselike grip.
He let go immediately. “I am very sorry, dear. Wasn’t paying attention.”
She glared at him for what must have been the twentieth time that day.
God, he felt awful. He didn’t realize leaving Alastair, knowing he would likely never see the man again, would be so difficult. He wanted to turn around and head back up the gangplank to the man, grab him, and take him directly to bed. He ran a shaking hand over his sweat-slicked face.
The man said he loved him. Of course, the words were uttered during a heated fuck and meant nothing. Alastair had been carried away by the intensity of the moment, that was all. However, at the time…it meant the world to Rhain. He wanted, needed, more time. Time to enjoy, time to see where this could lead. Time they didn’t have. So there was no chance to determine how deeply he loved. After all, he thought he’d loved Robert once.
They reached the wagon where two of Alastair’s sailors stood about, making certain nothing was stolen. He handed Lydia up on the wagon seat. She slid to the middle next to the driver and fluffed her skirts, still not looking at him.
Knowing it was a monumentally bad idea but unable to stop himself, he looked back at the ship, at Alastair. The man looked as stoic and beautiful as he had the first night they’d met. Now, standing at the quarterdeck, one foot propped on the lowest rail, a hand holding an overhead rope, he could have been the King of England himself, for all the power he held over Rhain at that moment.
He couldn’t breathe. Blinking rapidly, he rubbed at his constricted throat.
Alastair leaned forward a few inches, his hand flexing on the rope.
Call me back. Call us both back.
There was no last-minute declaration of love or even longing. Which was for the best. Rhain turned, climbed into the wagon, and told the driver to, well, drive.
There was a bounce of the boards. He looked back. One leathery sailor had hopped on the back. Looking up in time, he saw Alastair point to another, toothless, sailor, who immediately jumped on the overloaded wagon as well.
Rhain glared at the seamen as one of them started singing an off-key ditty about an amply chested woman.
They rolled away, leaving the Hurricane behind.
* * * *
Alastair clasped and unclasped the rough rope and watched the stretch of road where Rhain and his ragtag group disappeared not five minutes before, telling himself no one would follow them to murder, rape, and steal all their belongings.
“I can’t believe that young fool,” Dunn snarled in Alastair’s ear. “The damn foul air is already starting up Lydia’s cough.”
Alastair whipped his head around at the slur on his lover’s name, but Dunn continued.
“And I don’t like the feel of things. Too much riffraff peddling and sneaking about. Tells me there is no or very corrupt law and too much poverty.”
“Poverty leads to violence. Why did you let them go?”
“What choice did I have? What? You want me to cuff Rhain—Mr. Morgan—in irons and leave him shackled with Balls?” His response was much too heated, he could tell from Dunn’s startled expression, but damn, he had never felt so helpless.
“We are staying for seven days. Arrange the crew’s watches.”
“I want to be here if those two need help.”
“Captain, this place is a powder keg. You certain we can safely stay for seven days?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not leaving those two young lambs in this wolf’s den until I know they have a safe place to retreat if needed.”
“Good idea, sir.” Dunn squeezed his shoulder in a rare show of support.COLLAPSE
I did not read the fist book in this series (I had started the preview and got sucked in before I realized it was a sequel), but it did not impact my understanding and unless I really missed the mark, I believe this can be read as a stand alone. Though, based on the writing style and the quality of this one, I will definitely be looking into other books my Stephanie Lake.
Now, as for "His Pirate." The characters were great, Alastair was wickedly suave. He was a confident and clever. Rhain, while a little temperamental, was a total teddy bear. I'm a fan of the stories where they MCs meet and don't like each other (instant attraction, aside) and "His Pirate" definitely had that in spades. This set up of two very passionate men culminated in some very steamy scenes.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and was able to finish it rather quickly due to the very dynamic caste. The final struggle fit into the narrative and it resolved into a happily ever after (presumably) and the location of being out on the open sea for the majority of the story makes it a unique historical novel.