Woohoo! Captain’s Surrender is back!
I’ve had a little hiatus recently where I only had one book out – False Colors. But today is the day for Captain’s Surrender to relaunch in its spiffy new ebook version from Samhain. The one with the fabulous cover 🙂
In addition to the new cover, it’s been extensively edited by Anne Scott, who did a thorough and brilliant job. Also it has a couple of expanded scenes where I’ve been able to put back some stuff I had to take out to get it under LBR’s tight 60K word limit. I’ve also been able to take out the embarrassing big historical anachronism in the first paragraph, which is an enormous relief!
So, if you’re in the market for an ebook at all, I can definitely recommend this version. It’s much improved 🙂
“Well, Mr. Kenyon,” Walker said in a more amiable tone, “you are very welcome. Since Comptroller Summersgill and his household are to travel with us, I have ceded him the Great Cabin and taken the first lieutenant’s cabin myself, but I’m sure we will find somewhere to lodge you where you will be appreciated as you deserve. Do not hesitate to call on me if you find anything…irregular. I like to run a clean ship.”
Noting the limpness of Henderson’s corpse, Walker swept the assembled company with a glare, calling them to attention. “We sail with the tide. On board, the lot of you. Dismissed.”
Josh turned to run back to the ship with the other boys, hoping to get away, just for a few moments, just for enough time to collect himself. But he was certain in the pit of his stomach that he would not be allowed.
Stopping, he concentrated on looking innocently surprised. “Take Mr. Kenyon’s dunnage to your cabin, Andrews. I’m sure you will have no objections to him as a bedfellow, eh?”
Don’t blush. Do not dare. But he could feel it, flooding up his fair skin from neck to brow like the mark of Cain. Please, God, let Kenyon only think it was a reaction to the innuendo. He did not dare to look. “Aye aye, sir,” he said instead, and with the help of Kenyon’s footman, he got the sea chest off the ground and up the gangplank to the ship.
Josh’s cabin was larger than the fourth lieutenant’s coffin of a room by virtue of having one of the great guns inside it. The cannon was a familiar presence, tied up tight to the wall and used as a clotheshorse. When he had put down Kenyon’s sea chest as snugly beside it as was possible, and had removed his spare shirts and his shaving gear from its top, the cabin no longer looked so homely. The blue painted chest—silhouettes of three frigates carefully drawn in roundels on its sides—was disconcertingly real. Touching it again confirmed that it was as solid as ever, and that its owner, therefore, must also have some reality beyond Josh’s nervous imagination.
Sending one of the boys to request a second hanging cot, he sat on his bed and stared at the box, his mind in turmoil. How could this be happening? They would be a month at sea, if not longer, and he would be shut in here every night with a man who had already made him betray himself worse than he had managed to do in the whole of his seven-year service. Josh had no illusions—having tasted one success, Walker wanted Josh’s neck in the noose next and was counting on Kenyon as the way to achieve it.
And there sat Kenyon’s sea chest, as colorful, as neat and as large as life as the man himself. The man who might even now be heading here from the quarterdeck or the wardroom, to whom Josh would have to make polite conversation, while his mind raced and his pulse thundered from the glory. Josh could imagine—oh, how he could imagine—what it would be like to lie close in here with that tall, elegant form sprawled in the cot above him. Maybe an arm dangling down into his space, the scent of cologne and new linen, and himself lying beneath with a guilty conscience and an aching prick, wanting to feel the long fingers on his skin, suck each one into his mouth and…
Oh, now look. Damn it—that was all he needed. Could he not control his wandering thoughts at all? Think of something else! Perhaps living together would wear the edge off this infatuation. All he knew of Kenyon, after all, was that he moved like an angel. Suppose he snored, and his feet smelled, and his politics were abominable, and he never shut up? Suppose he was all flash and show, as Walker seemed to think? Being closely confined with him then might be a cure.
Would be a cure. Josh ignored the part of himself that clamored for some sort of fairytale ending. There was no hope that his affections could be returned. Even if he liked Kenyon, he would not be able to trust him. Not with such a secret as this. As Henderson could attest, such things did not happen to men like himself, particularly not when Captain Walker was stalking them. No. Josh was no man’s victim. He could not afford to hope for love. He wanted to live, and he would.
The wooden edges of his cot dug into his thighs, making his feet go numb. Through the gunport he could see Mr. Summersgill’s party making their final farewells, his wife clutching her many shawls and weeping with fright at the prospect of the voyage.
His ward, a fair-haired, vivacious girl—orphaned daughter of some cousin, if wardroom rumor was to be believed—gazed up at the ship with inquisitive intelligence, and Josh leaned forward to see better as Kenyon came up beside her. It was a thrill merely to watch him as he passed unawares along the quay beneath. He spoke. She laughed in return, and they walked up the gangplank, out of Josh’s sight, looking beautiful together. Josh clamped his teeth closed so tightly that pain lanced through his face and into his eyes as he tried to tell himself that this, too, was what he wanted.
It was better that love should die, rather than that he should. Better that Kenyon should be inaccessible, paying court to someone else. It was better for them all that this should end before it could even have been said to begin. Of course it was.
The decision made, lying heavily within him, he rubbed his eyes and was about to put his hat back on and return to work when there came a knock on the door, and the man himself leaned in, his eyebrows raised and his extraordinary eyes almost hazel in the between decks’ gloom. “Hello? May I come in?”
Josh scrambled to his feet, forgetting everything, even his name. He cracked his head against the reinforced beam above him, his sight going interestingly gray and silver for a moment. “Um…” he said. “I… Oh, I…” And Kenyon came in.