Oh My Shelves welcomes author Elliot Cooper to the blog with his latest release Prince & Pirate. Along with an giveaway he’s also brought an exclusive excerpt of Prince & Pirate! Please welcome him aboard!
Prince Gavin is powerless to refuse when his father demands he secure an alliance with a distant kingdom. At first, he sees the journey as a chance to prove his worth and indulge in the grand adventures of his dreams. Yet nothing seems right about his father’s paranoid insistence he travel by merchant ship while disguised as a diplomat. Once out on the open sea, Gavin learns he’s been tricked into boarding an infamous pirate ship: the Ebon Drake.
Captain Marcas Drake is delighted to discover the courtier he’s kidnapped is really a prince. Acquiring such a hefty ransom will prove once and for all he’s a brilliant pirate in his own right, not riding the coattails of his father’s fame. And using his charms to seduce his prisoner makes for an entertaining pastime. But unfortunate events turn the Ebon Drake’s crew against their captain before the ransom can be carried out.
Marooned, Marcas and Gavin’s new equal footing turns the pirate’s sensual game into something else entirely. However, being stranded on a tiny island becomes the least of their worries when rescue arrives in the form of the bloodthirsty Crimson Queen, a pirate who’s been chasing Marcas for years. Working together to escape the queen is their only hope of freedom and a chance their growing love might outlast their misadventures.
The distinct smell of smoke woke Marcas from an already fitful sleep. At first, he wasn’t sure if he was imagining the smell, but then Morris burst through the doors to his cabin in a panic.
“Cap’n! Cap’n! There’s a fire on deck! Fire!” Morris squawked, his voice cracking as he shouted.
“Damn it, boy! Get out there and help put it out!” Marcas commanded. He jumped to his feet and didn’t bother to put on his shirt or coat.
He chased after the cabin boy and saw a coil of rope near the mizzenmast was ablaze. The remnants of a shattered lantern were strewn off to the side of it. Kerosene. Some idiot had dropped the lantern. Or maybe the wind? Whatever had happened, Marcas decided while shouting orders to all hands on deck, he would find the culprit if there was one and give them twenty lashings. There was no question about his mood this night.
“The wind’s makin’ it spread!” Morris shouted, still panicked and not doing much to help save the ship or his fellow crew members.
“Stow your gab and help Canker and Bones with the bloody buckets!” Marcas shouted, gesturing angrily. He shoved the boy towards the line of pirates pulling water up from the waves before joining them himself. He wouldn’t lose his ship because of some adolescent who wasn’t worth a damn in a crisis. And he wouldn’t lose his ship to some damn fire!
A calm in the wind allowed the men to douse the final embers. The coil of rope and much of the deck were soaked, but the fire was no more. A cheer sounded on board as Mr. Dawkins shouted back down the line.
“She’s saved! Good work, mates!”
“Excellent work!” Marcas shouted. But any relief he felt was hidden by the rage still evident in his voice. “Now! Who’s responsible for this mess?”
The crew looked around at one another. Some busied themselves with checking the damage done to the ropes while others set about cleaning the mess itself. No one spoke.
“Did no one, not a one of you, see what started the fire?” Marcas snarled. Someone had caused the fire, accidentally no doubt, but that recklessness would not be tolerated. He had his suspicions, but he wanted a confession. He was not in the habit of punishing the wrong crew member.
“Most’ve us were below decks, takin’ our turns to sleep, Cap’n,” Bones said. He shrugged apologetically at his captain.
“Most,” Marcas parroted his bosun. He looked around at his crew again, attempting to look each one of them in the eyes as he spoke. “I know whose watch it was, so don’t count your captain a fool! If it was an accident of the wind, just speak the truth and be done with it. I can’t fault nature for her whims any more than I can the sea!”
Some of them laughed, but a good majority didn’t. An awkward silence settled on board until, finally, Morris walked up to his captain with his head bowed.
“I uh… ’Twas me, sir. I tripped an’ dropped my lantern. I din’t mean—”
Marcas grabbed him by the throat and lifted him up off the deck, cutting short whatever apologies he’d been trying to make.
“The next time I ask whose fault it is,” Marcas growled through his teeth, “I expect the culprit to answer me straight away. I have no time for blundering fools who bite their tongues!”
Morris whimpered and made a strange coughing sound. Captain Drake dropped him and let him splutter for all of two seconds before pointing at the bosun and the quartermaster.
“Bones! Mr. Dawkins! Give young Mr. Morris here twenty lashes!”
The boy cried out and then shoved his fist against his mouth. He knew he’d earn more lashes if he made so much as another sound.
Marcas wasn’t interested in watching the proceedings. He knew the boy would be days recovering, but it would be well worth keeping him below decks and out of everyone else’s way. The boy was a hazard, not only to himself, but to everyone on board. If he kept it up, he’d be dropped off at the next port with his cut of the gold they had, which was nothing to crow about.
Elliot Cooper writes speculative fiction featuring queer characters. His novels and novellas come with hopeful and happy endings, though his short fiction runs the gamut of styles and genres. He strives above all to make his readers feel, while also increasing positive representation of LGBTQ characters and their stories.