Excerpt from His Wicked Seduction

     

     One English boy shackled to the mast. That's what Kit Frazier saw as he crept over the side of the slave ship. One boy of about seventeen years, feet tied with rope, arms shackled with iron. There was blood dripping to the deck, too, but Kit couldn't see from what wound.
     Bloody hell, this was a trap.
     He wasn't sure what tipped him off. Everything was silent. The man on watch stood like a statue on the foredeck. Kit cocked his ear toward the hold. No moans. So, no slaves trapped below either. Just the one English adolescent, his dirty blonde hair a mat that obscured his face.
     Kit crept around the edge, slipping through shadows. He'd spent years on this boat as a slave, and coming back now made his hands slick with sweat. If he had any sense, he'd turn and run now before it was too late. What did he care that another English aristocrat had been abducted for ransom? But once, long ago, he'd been chained to the mast, waiting for a ransom that never came. He couldn't leave this boy to the same fate.
     A flash of yellow teeth caught his attention. Kit froze, peering into the blackness. It was Abdur, the one who like to whip children. Kit smiled. Suddenly he didn't care if it was a trap so long as he could strike against the nightmare of Venboer's slave ship.
     Kit struck. After two years as a free man, he was faster than Abdur. The bastard collapsed to the deck, though Kit cushioned his fall so that all was done in silence.
     Not quiet enough. The boy had raised his head to listen. Sharp ears that one, but was he smart? Taking a huge risk, Kit slid Abdur's knife across the deck, wincing at the sound. Not so loud, but not so quiet either. And sadly, no help against the shackles. But at least the boy would be able to defend himself while Kit went for the key.
     He was creeping toward the forecastle when three figures stepped out of the shadows, two large men flanking their very large captain. Kit spun around. Two more men stepped behind him, one of them the watchman who had jumped down to join the fray. Five to one with the boy still chained to the mast.
     Hell.
     Then a miracle happened. The boy stood up, his iron shackles dropping to the deck with a clang. Apparently, Kit was rescuing a lockpick.
     Meanwhile, Venboer was gloating. "I knew you would come. He looks like you, yes?"
     Kit shifted into the cocky drawl that irritated Venboer. "We English are a pretty lot."
     "He will do well in the dens, I think. Pretty enough for the women, but strong enough for the men."
     To the side, the boy stiffened in horror, his jaw clenched tight. Kit too, had to repress his visceral response. "No one paid the ransom then?"
     Venboer shrugged. "Not enough."
     "How much? Maybe I'll buy him." It was a ruse. He didn't have near enough to buy a slave, but it gave him an excuse to catch the prisoner's eyes. With a tiny flick of his eyes, he indicated the far rail. That was their best escape, assuming the boy could swim. He took a step forward. "He looks a little sickly—"
     Venboer's men attacked. The bastard never had been one for idle chat. Kit had been ready for it, but hoping to get in a better position first. No time now as the back two men suddenly lunged. They were trained sailors, well versed in sea fighting, and armed with cutlasses. Kit had only his daggers, but at least the boy could escape.
     Kit leaped aside, doing what little damage he could, but it wouldn't take them long to finish him. He had to strike while he could. Kit abruptly spun and threw. Venboer's first mate fell to the ground, a knife sticking from his throat. Then while the others were gaping at the first mate, Kit spun back and threw again. The one closest to the boy dropped.
     The boy? Bloody hell! The idiot was supposed to be swimming for his life. But no, in an admirable show of bravery, the kid was lifting the dead man's cutlass—in the wrong kind of grip—and closing to Kit's side. Damned English honor. Now they were both going to die.
     Except they didn't. The boy had a special genius for interfering at just the right time. First it was a rope, kicked beneath one man's feet. That gave Kit time to use his last throwing knife and thin their opponents to two.
     Then the boy tossed Kit the cutlass. No small feat given the weight and heft of the blade, but Kit was able to snatch it out of the air in time. Better and better. But two against one was still hard fighting, and Venboer was smart.
     "Go!" he barked at the boy. "Swim!"
     There was a moment's hesitation, then the boy abruptly spun on his heel and ran. A moment later, Kit heard a telltale splash and felt an inner release. If he did nothing else in his misbegotten life, at least he had saved one boy. He grinned at Venboer.
     "Your prize has escaped."
     The bastard actually grinned. "The boy is nothing. You are the prize."
     "That's what I meant," Kit countered with a maniacal laugh. "I'm leaving." It was a bluff. Kit threw himself into a rush of speed and ferocity that would never win him freedom against these two, but it was his only hope. With luck, it would force Venboer to kill him. He'd rather die than be enslaved to this bastard again.
     Luck was on his side. Venboer hated the sound of joy, especially a slave's. So while the bastard flinched away from Kit's bizarre laughter, Kit was able to press close and slice him across the chest. But he paid dearly for that victory. The other sailor struck before Kit could move aside. A crippling blow to this leg that had him crumpling to one knee. He felt the slick wash of blood and knew the gash was deep. He was done for, but maybe he had one more swing left in him. He took it gleefully.
     "For Jeremy!" he bellowed, then stabbed upward. Throwing all his weight behind his thrust, he pierced Venboer like a fish on a stick.
     Victory! And now... death. In order to make the thrust, Kit had to exposed all of himself to the other man's swing. And yet in that moment, a sense of satisfaction entered his soul. He'd saved a boy and ended Venboer's reign of terror. All in all, a good way to die.
     Except the blow never came.
     Confused, Kit pulled his guard back up, scrambling for footing while trying to figure out why he wasn't dead. What had happened?
     The boy! The damned stupid, honorable, wonderful boy had not swum away! He'd merely pretended to jump overboard, then had grabbed a cutlass from somewhere. He'd used it to cut open the bastard's spine.
     They would live! They would both live!
     Kit tried to grin. Instead, he dropped to all fours, his breath shallow with pain. Looking down, he saw his leg was slick from blood. Not as bad as it could be. He'd live if it could be stitched up and he didn't die of fever. But he was sitting on the deck of Venboer's slave ship with no surgeon in sight.
     He eased himself to the side then stripped off his shirt to bind his leg. And as he worked, he listened for a human sound. Nothing. No pounding feet. No screams. Just the himself and the boy. Was it possible? Was Kit now in possession of a fully sea worthy galley ship?
     Kit suppressed a grin. A dozen things had to line up perfectly for this to work. But he'd just cheated killed Venboer, the worst of the Barbary pirates. On tonight of all nights, he was feeling lucky.
     "What's your name, boy?"
     "Alexander Jacques Morgan, sir."
     "Well, Alex, can you row? Can you row a boat straight and for a mile?"
     The boy blinked then nodded. He was coming back to himself, clarity finally entering his eyes as Kit gave him something new to focus on. "I'm a damned fine rower, sir."
     "Good man, Alex, now listen. See those two lights over there? You're going to row straight there. Up the beech two yards is a shack that serves the best rum in Africa. There's a man behind the bar knows English. Give him this, and tell him we sail tonight." He yanked a chord off his neck and passed it to the boy who blinked down at the ugly broach.
     "Tonight? For..." He couldn't even say the word, so deep ran the desire.
     "Yes," Kit answered, his own voice cracking. "For England." After seven years, Kit was finally going home.

 

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